In the story of “Horton Hears a Who!”, Horton, an elephant, tries to convince the other animals that there is a community of people, the Whos, living on a speck of dust. He is met with curiosity, then disbelief and ultimately rage from the animals, who scorn his pleas. It is not until the Whos gather their resources and scream as loudly as they can, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” that the animals finally recognize the countless people living on the speck.
In many ways, the people of Armenia and in the Armenian diaspora today are a lot like the Whos, except they have very few Hortons in the world to advocate for their lives. With every passing day, Armenians’ screams go unheard as they die in an underreported war of aggression.
With the backing of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijan has launched a full-blown attack on the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), a sovereign Armenian-governed and ethnically Armenian republic. Not only has there been minimal coverage of the attacks by Western media, but any attempts to cover this violence have been exceedingly meager and grossly incompetent. For instance, this article from Reuters fails to mention that Armenians are indigenous to Artsakh and also fails to attempt to confirm any of the claims it makes.
Artsakh is a historically and ethnically Armenian republic living today within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders. Artsakh’s population is 99% Armenian, it has its own constitution, it uses Armenian currency and it is independent of Azerbaijan with its own Armenian president. Despite their similar ethnic compositions, Artsakh is not part of the Republic of Armenia due to Stalin’s arbitrary boundary designation in 1921 as a part of the Soviet divide-and-conquer strategy.
In 1988, in an attempt to squander efforts of reunification between Armenia and Artsakh, Azerbaijan launched an attack on the Armenians living in Artsakh. This conflict lasted for six years until a ceasefire agreement in 1994. However, Azerbaijan has since breached the ceasefire numerous times. It not only shells the Armenians living in Artsakh continuously and without provocation, but it also refuses to pull back its snipers, add monitors along the line of defense to oversee the magnitude and direction of attacks or add monitoring equipment along the line of contact.
On Sept. 27, after another attack by Azerbaijan, both Artsakh and Armenia deployed their troops to protect their people and their land. Armenian volunteers from around the world boarded planes to fight alongside their brothers and sisters. People, both in Armenia and the diaspora, began fundraising, collecting military supplies and sending direct aid to the troops on the front lines. Like the Whos, they are pooling their resources in a cry for help, but this is not a Dr. Seuss story — these events are happening right now, to real people, and no one is hearing their pleas. We are here! We are here! We have been here for over 3,000 years!
It is wrong for foreign governments and media, including the United States, to ignore injustice merely for the sake of preserving a tactical political relationship with a corrupt leader. Erdogan, who has on multiple occasions expressed his hatred toward Armenians, is known for his unjust treatment of his own country’s people and of Armenians. He has Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev swimming in his pocket and wrapped around his finger all at the same time. Together, Aliyev and Erdogan have breached customary international law with their planned and deliberate attack on Artsakh, and still the Armenian calls for recognition of Artsakh as a sovereign state and public condemnation of these deliberate attacks are not heard.
I have been to Artsakh twice — once in 2012, and a second time in 2018. I have never felt more at home, welcome or happy than when I was there. Artsakh’s people are connected to their land as if it is their lifeline. They would rather fight and die than see it taken from them. It is their home — it is where they have grown up, gotten married, raised their children, sent them to war, welcomed them home from war and grieved losses. No one should ever be denied the right to live in their home.
All people deserve the right to live in peace, without the threat of war being waged against them at any moment. These are real people going to war without question in order to defend what has long belonged to them. Foreign governments must recognize Artsakh as a sovereign republic for the people of Artsakh to take a meaningful step toward justice and peace.
Tamar Gharibian is a graduate student in the School of Continuing Studies.