#WHYNOWANDHOW: Why is it important to be aware of the situation in Artsakh?

By Gayane Kortian - Armenia Media | Wednesday, 29 September 2021

An Op-Ed by Gayane Kortian

As a tourist in overseas countries, curious locals would always ask me: “Where are you from?”

As an Armenian-Australian, the instinctive response would always be Australia. But once that question was answered, the locals would prod further with the predictable: “But where are you really from?” To this, I would say I am Armenian.

The pride I have in identifying as an Armenian-Australian tends to be incredibly strong, especially when overseas. But that pride has gradually diminished as a direct product of recent inaction on behalf of the Australian government in response to the escalating situation in Artsakh and Armenia.

The Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) lies precariously between the countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and is home to 150,000 indigenous Armenians. Facing the constant aggression cruelly, yet proudly, fuelled by Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev, the violent situation in Artsakh falls short of the attention of representatives of national governments, attention sorely needed for those in Artsakh being herded out of their homes and kept as prisoners of war.

The lack of attention given to the unrecognised nation has led to its slow and steady crumble, unbeknownst to a vast majority of the world. With Artsakh’s inhabitants, as well as the entirety of the Armenian diaspora battling for its recognition, along with the recognition of the severe injustices being carried out against the cornered nation, Armenians are left wondering why our cause isn’t being sufficiently heard? And why don’t our voices seem loud enough?

The most recent escalations were reported in the final days of September in 2020, with Azerbaijan beginning a coordinated attack and invasion of Artsakh. Becoming the most significant violations of the ceasefire since its establishment in 1994, Azerbaijan intentionally targeted civilian populations of Artsakh, classifying its actions under the guise of it being an attempt to reclaim land that it falsely asserts was once historically theirs. Revelations of the use of illegal cluster munitions in civilian areas by Azerbaijani forces, as well as the military targeting of cultural heritage sites, further pushes these actions into the realm of severe international war crimes.

But why now? Why are we still pushing for recognition and attention more than a year on? And what has the country I find myself calling home done to address blatant violations of international law?

A small, recognised nation and an even smaller, unrecognised nation, still find themselves sandwiched between its two purposeful aggressors, Turkey and Azerbaijan. When combined, these two states, one nation amass 30 times Armenia’s population and are motivated by their genocide-committing Ottoman ancestors.

While certain Federal parliamentarians have expressed support and solidarity with the ongoing issue in Artsakh as part of the Armenian National Committee of Australia’s “Australian Friends of Artsakh” network, there is yet to be any purposeful action and recognition from the Australian government.

As Azerbaijan maintains strong ties with Turkey, any form of recognition or action, for both the Armenian Genocide and the situation in Artsakh, is closely followed by threats from both countries leaders to sever international relations.

Filled with threats from Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan entailing the denial of entry of any Australian citizen to the Gallipoli War Memorial in Turkey, Australia’s government has been tactically gagged from any involvement or support in regard to Armenia.

Sporting a gagged government, the Armenian diaspora in Australia has had to compensate for the embarrassing effort our country's leaders have put in. Desperately grasping at the eye-line of non-Armenian friends and people in high places to have our voice heard, we have found ourselves doing things the government should be doing.