Ethnic Cleansing Posed as Peace: Azerbaijan Targets Armenians

By Araz Bedross

We are now living in a world where ethnic cleansing and war crimes have become the order of the day, where human rights and international law no longer matter, and where the so-called “global order” turns a blind eye towards injustices committed by powerful nations when it suits their geopolitical interests. In a series of events, a process that began with Azerbaijan’s aerial assault on Artsakh in 2020 and ethnic cleansing of Artsakh in 2023 may soon culminate with an attack on Armenia proper.

Currently, a supposed peace deal is being negotiated between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with harsh compromises demanded from the Armenian side and none from the Azerbaijani side. But it is likely that this peace agreement will instead open the stage for more injustices and mass destruction.

It seems that for Armenians, the tragedies and genocides will never end. Last year saw the traumatic departure of 120,000 Armenians from Artsakh, mass evacuated from their ancestral homeland following a 9-month starvation blockade by Azerbaijan’s military, which was carried out openly in front of the whole world. These men, women, and children left behind schools, churches, cemeteries, monuments, and museums, which begs the question of what will happen to these places. Sadly, we can already see the answer; they will be erased from existence.

We all know what happened historically in Naxcawan (now the exclave of Nakhichevan), or Jebrayil (which is now a ghost city), and more recently to the Ghazanchetsot Cathedral in Shushi (soon to be converted into a mosque). In all of these places, Armenian tombstones were erased from the face of the earth, churches were destroyed, and any traces of Armenian culture were wiped out. But these were not mere stones; each one was a living monument and testimony that generations of Armenians had lived there, which is why they were destroyed. The goal is to eradicate history itself, first physically and then mentally. These actions make Armenians believe that they cannot live next to a neighbor like Azerbaijan that threatens their very existence on a daily basis, especially because they are allied in this mission with Turkey, the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide, who still refuses to accept responsibility.

The Armenian diaspora protests in front of the Turkish embassy in Los Angeles, USA (October, 2020).

As peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue, Azerbaijan has been demanding the handing over of four border villages as a precondition for an agreement (Voskepar, Kirants, Barkaber, and Baghanis). The Armenian government has surprisingly agreed to hand over those villages, thus returning to the old Soviet borders that once formerly ran between the 2 republics. The villages in question are among eight border areas, most of them exclaves inside Armenia, which were populated by Azerbaijan during the Soviet era.

The four villages are inside Armenia’s northern Tavush province, bordering Azerbaijan, and strategically located along one of the two main Armenian highways leading to Georgia, as well as the pipeline supplying Russian natural gas to Armenia via Georgia. This is concerning as Azerbaijan could then cut the gas at any time, a tactic they already used to depopulate Artsakh by depriving the Armenians living there of fuel to heat their homes in the winter.

However, even more worrying is that this agreement might just be the first step towards Azerbaijan’s main goal, which is to create a land corridor connecting their capital of Baku with Turkey. Referred to as the “Zangezur corridor,” this can only be achieved by passing through Armenia’s Syunik province, but if it were achieved, it would allow Azerbaijan to export their natural gas through Turkey. As a result, Azerbaijan is already declaring “today Tavush, tomorrow Syunik,” indicating the relationship that these first demands have to their eventual corridor goal.

All of this has Armenians asking themselves if Azerbaijan’s claims on their territory will ever end. From Karvachar in 2020, Berdzor in 2022, and Artsakh in 2023, Ilham Aliyev’s regime spends millions of dollars in the international arena on propaganda to deceive public opinion that all of Armenia proper is actually “Western Azerbaijan.” Since 2010, Aliyev has made regular reference to Yerevan (Armenia’s capital city) and Lake Sevan (its largest lake), as past and future “Azerbaijani lands.” How can the people of Armenia trust and sign a peace deal with an aggressor that has an eye on the sovereign territory of Armenia? As an indication of this desire to invade and annex Armenia, the existing geographical names for provinces, lakes, etc. have all been changed on Azeri national television, on their newly opened “Western Azerbaijan” channel. Even the traditional foods of Armenians are now being renamed and appropriated by Azerbaijan.

Armenians need peace and less bloodshed, but if Azerbaijan was serious about peace, they would stop the illegal detention of dozens of Armenian POWs in Azeri jails, who continue to endure brutal conditions. Azerbaijan should also vacate the Armenian villages they occupied in 2021 (parts of the Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces) and free the Artsakh governmental officials who are being held as de facto hostages in Azerbaijan. Any peace deal should benefit both parties and not just the offender, but such an agreement is not possible with a party that only uses pauses in the fighting to reload and plan for their next attack.

“Observers should expect any genocide against Armenians in Artsakh to be accompanied or followed by aggressions against Armenia proper, particularly the southern Syunik region where Azerbaijan and Turkey would like to build a ‘Zangezur corridor’ linking the two countries and excluding Armenians. This corridor would cut Armenia off from its southern border, further weakening its geopolitical position and rendering it even more vulnerable to attacks from its hostile neighbors.”

— Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, red flag alert warning

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention recently made another statement about the alarming Azerbaijani territorial claims and its enduring policies against Armenians over the past decade. These remarks came after the speaker of Armenia’s Parliament made another concession to Turkey and Azerbaijan, calling for a change in Armenia’s national anthem and coat of arms to please Turkey. On that issue, Erdoğan’s regime in Turkey wants Mount Ararat removed from the Armenian coat of arms because of its presence in present-day Turkey. But the mountain, which visibly looms over Armenia’s capital of Yerevan, is the mythical birthplace of the Armenian people and holds a powerful place in the national imagination. The fact that Turkey believes they can make demands on Armenia’s national symbols is insulting by itself, but even more so when one considers that they carried out the Armenian Genocide to remove the Armenians who would still be living around Mount Ararat within Turkey today.

This concession followed a statement from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urging Armenians to free themselves from the 1915 trauma of the Armenian Genocide and move on as a way to avoid a new war against Azerbaijan (Turkey’s closest ally). But these requests are viewed by most Armenians as an attempt to erase their national identity in support of a reality where the powerful can discard international law and not face any consequences.

The true reality is that Armenia has existed for two and a half thousand years since the 6th century BC, while Azerbaijan was created in 1918. But this will not stop Azerbaijan from seeking to occupy more of Armenia’s territory with Turkey’s military support and assistance. A cultural genocide is being planned in Ankara and Baku while the world remains silent.

Is this the price Armenians have to pay for peace? Where they suffer ethnic cleansing, killings, and watch their heritage destroyed, while Europe does nothing because they want access to Azerbaijan’s natural gas to counter Russia. Artsakh has now been emptied of Armenians, but the real question is whether Armenia itself will be next.


  • Araz Bedross

    Araz Bedross is a Lebanese-Armenian political activist and researcher, specializing in Armenian genocide recognition and advocacy. Her work predominantly focuses on raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide. She has made significant contributions to both local and international newspapers and news outlets. Her writings, which have been translated into multiple languages, reflect her dedication to this critical field of study.

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