On 24 April 1915, approximately 250 leading intellectuals of Constantinople’s Armenian community (including political leaders, journalists, and religious leaders) were arrested by Turkish officials. They were then slain. This event marked the beginning of the 1915 Armenian genocide.
By 1923, Turkish deportation and annihilation policies resulted in the deaths of approximately 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children in jihad genocide during which Armenians and other Christians were targeted mainly for their religion.
108 years later, Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey have committed the same crime against the Armenians in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).
Since 2020, around 120,000 Armenians in their ancestral homeland of Artsakh located in the South Caucasus were subjected to an aggressive war, siege starvation, bombardment, crimes against humanity, and a military invasion committed by Azerbaijan. Social media is filled with videos and photos of Armenian men and women that Muslim Azerbaijani soldiers beheaded or mutilated.
Just like Ottoman Turkey did in 1915, the government of Azerbaijan arrested the Armenian leaders of Artsakh following its September 19-20 bombardment and invasion of Artsakh.
The detained include:
Davit Babayan – former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh
Arkady Ghukasyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Arayik Harutyunyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Davit Ishkhanyan – chairman of the National Assembly of Artsakh Republic
Davit Manukyan – former deputy commander of the Artsakh Armed Forces, general
Levon Mnatsakanyan – former commander of the Defense Forces, general
Bako Sahakyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Ruben Vardanyan – former State Minister of Artsakh Republic.
All former Artsakh presidents were elected by the people of Artsakh through a direct vote. The term “elected representatives of Nagorno Karabakh” is recorded in several documents of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The democratically elected representatives of Artsakh were arbitrarily and illegally detained by the regime of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who took over from his father in 2003.
Azerbaijan’s presidential elections, in comparison, are neither free nor fair. In 2013, for instance, Aliyev released election results before voting had even started.
The former leaders of Artsakh are not the only Armenian prisoners of war held by Azerbaijan. Since 2020, many Armenian civilians and soldiers have been taken hostage during the Azeri attacks. Some were tortured and murdered.
Azerbaijan’s genocide against Artsakh has been ongoing for the past three years.
In 2020, from September 27 to November 9, Artsakh was indiscriminately bombed by Azerbaijan. Thousands of Armenians were killed and many war crimes committed. Despite the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement, the war never ended. On September 12, 2022, Azerbaijan launched a deadly attack across several regions of Armenia’s eastern border, killing over 200 Armenian soldiers and capturing parts of southern Armenia. During that military offensive, a female Armenian soldier was raped, slaughtered, and mutilated by Azeri soldiers. They then posted on digital media of her abused and tortured body.
In December 2022, Azerbaijan started its starvation siege targeting Artsakh. For nine months, Armenians living in Artsakh were deprived of sufficient food, medication, and their right to freely travel.
For over two years, the Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention, Genocide Watch, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, and many others warned about the impeding genocide in Artsakh.
Tragically, these warnings fell on deaf ears. On September 19, Azerbaijan bombed Artsakh and forcibly displaced the entire Armenian population.
The latest report by the Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention documents “Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s very public commitment to rid the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) of any remnant of the autonomous historical and cultural community known as the Armenians of Artsakh, or Artsakhsis. His public speeches, the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor, repeated breaches of the Tripartite Ceasefire Statement of November 2020, and the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in areas of Artsakh under Azerbaijani occupation appear to show the special intent to commit genocide.” The report continues:
“The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly demonstrated its undisguised intention to destroy the entire Armenian population of Artsakh… President Aliyev has candidly spoken of his desire to force Armenians out of Artsakh unless they accept the sovereignty of the Azerbaijani government and surrender their indigenous identity as Artsakh Armenians. Given Azerbaijan’s public record of persecution, discrimination, illegal detention, murder, torture, and systematic stigmatization of Armenians…, accepting Azerbaijan’s territorial claims and jurisdiction over Artsakh is, for Artsakhsis, the equivalent of accepting a death sentence. Azerbaijan’s autocratic regime praises, honors, and decorates individuals convicted in foreign courts for criminal acts—including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and murders—against Armenians.”
The report also details the crimes Azerbaijan has committed against Armenians of Artsakh:
“During the Second Nagorno-Karabakh [Artsakh] War in 2020, and again in September of 2022, Azerbaijani soldiers committed atrocities against Armenian servicemembers and civilians, committing cruelties which harkened back to the violence of the  Armenian Genocide. These atrocities included:
■ The torture and ill-treatment of POWs [prisoners of war];
■ The extrajudicial execution of POWs;
■ Indiscriminate attacks and killings of civilians such as bombing civilian infrastructures, torturing and humiliating captives, mutilating corpses, and beheading villagers in Artsakh;
■ The vandalism and destruction of cultural heritage;
■ Usage of mercenaries in combat;
■ The use of white phosphorus on Armenian soldiers in Artsakh and cluster munitions on heavily populated civilian areas during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War (2020);
■ Sexual violence and mutilation of Armenian female soldiers in September 2022.”
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has renamed a street in Artsakh after Enver Pasha, one of the planners of the 1915 Armenian genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey.
Enver Pasha was also among the Ottoman Turks that Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised during a public speech he delivered at a military parade in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku following Azerbaijan’s 2020 war against Artsakh. He said:
“Today is the day when the souls of Nuri Pasha, Enver Pasha and the brave soldiers of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus are blessed.”
From September 15 to September 17, 1918, the three-day massacre by Turkish military forces under the command of Nuri Pasha (Enver’s younger brother) and Halil Pasha (Enver’s uncle) resulted in the death of around 30,000 Armenian civilians in Baku.
Many parallels can be drawn between what happened during the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and the 2020-23 Armenian genocide in Artsakh: the arrests of community leaders, the desecration of churches, and using starvation as a method of elimination. The greatest similarity between the perpetrators of those two crimes is their clear intent to commit genocide.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara. She is a research fellow of the Philos Project.