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 Friday, September 22 2023 18:12
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Risk factors for genocide have been present for many years in  Nagorno-Karabakh - Melanie O`Brien

Risk factors for genocide have been present for many years in  Nagorno-Karabakh - Melanie O`Brien

ArmInfo. In an exclusive interview for Blankspot, genocide researcher Melanie O'Brien explains  why the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh can be considered an ongoing genocide.

Already two years ago, Melanie O'Brien, Chair of the International  Association of Genocide Scholars, warned that the developments in  Nagorno-Karabakh could be likened to genocide. Two years later, her  concerns have been repeatedly confirmed to the extent that she and  her colleagues have appealed to the UN to stop what is happening.

Despite this, the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh has turned into a  full-scale offensive where the Armenian civilian population is given  no way to flee.

In an exclusive interview with Blankspot, she explains why  Azerbaijan's actions constitute genocide.

In addition to being the chair of the Genocide Studies Society, she  is currently a visiting professor at the Center for Holocaust and  Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota in the USA.

What are the legal arguments for calling it genocide?

"It is clear that Azerbaijan is attacking the Armenians of  Nagorno-Karabakh because they are Armenians.  Therefore, the group is  being targeted as an ethnic and, or, national group, both of which  are protected groups under the Genocide Convention", says Melanie  O'Brien.

She continues to argue that the genocide process excelled with the  blockade of the Latjinkorridor.

"However, since the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the deliberate  starvation and denial of access to healthcare demonstrates an intent  not just to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh of Armenians, but to  physically destroy them. Denial of food and healthcare only leads to  death, and these actions are a crucial part of genocide, which we  have seen in other genocides including the Holocaust, the Armenian  Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide and the Rohingya Genocide"

How do the developments of the last few days affect this?

"Azerbaijan said it would open the Lachin Corridor to let residents  of Nagorno-Karabakh out. However, they won't be able to return. Thus,  the choice of those 120,000 people in Nagorno-Karabakh is: stay and  suffer genocide through starvation and lack of healthcare. This is  despite the fact that the International Court of Justice in The Hague  (ICJ) has made it clear to Azerbaijan that the blockade of the Lachin  Corridor creates a direct risk to Armenians."

Melanie O'Brien also argues that Azerbaijan is fully aware of this.

"Azerbaijan is aware of the order from The Hague but continues the  blockade. In addition, Azerbaijan has bombed civilian areas in recent  days, which is also considered a war crime. Thousands have fled from  villages that Azerbaijan has taken and occupied without anywhere else  to go but to other parts of Nagorno- Karabakh. Azerbaijan is now  killing by bombing, starvation and denial of healthcare."

She points out that Azerbaijan has committed to delivering fuel and  food.

"Azerbaijan has said it will deliver food and fuel to  Nagorno-Karabakh, but it remains seen as to whether this will be  done, after 9 months of denying such humanitarian needs."

You warned several years ago that it was beginning to resemble  genocide, what has happened since then?

"The risk factors for genocide have been present for many years in  Nagorno-Karabakh, including hate speech and destruction of Armenian  cultural heritage sites such as churches. Hate speech and  demonization have occurred, among other things, from leaders in the  country, in the media, and in school education.  However, from  December 2022, when Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Corridor and  subsequently other roads out of Nagorno-Karabakh, this is when we saw  the risk of genocide rise, and once this blockade continued, it has  become genocide. This is because the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have  been unable to leave the enclave".  

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