Do Human Rights Matter?

The precise moment when the concept of Human Rights emerged is hard to pinpoint, as the evolution of human rights dates back over a hundred years. It took decades to propel human rights onto the global stage and into the global conscience. So how do we reach the point where our century, which stands out as the century of human rights, turned into the century of the most abject denials of these rights and freedoms? About 2881 km from Europe, over 120.000 people have been blocked since December 12, 2022, and they might starve to death. So how did this even happen?

On December 12, 2022, a group of Azerbaijanis blocked the only road connecting Armenia to Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) while calling themselves environmentalists and claiming they were carrying out an environmental protest, even though it is tough to imagine eco-activists wearing fur and leather bags, killing pigeons in front of cameras, releasing plastic balloons, and installing plastic New Year three. However, these visual appearances are only the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to their activism in social media, it soon becomes clear that the Azeri “eco-activists” protest in Artsakh has a false agenda: “activists” represent organizations that have obvious connections with the Azerbaijani government and are financed by the state. Furthermore, Azerbaijani “eco-activists” blocking the Lachin corridor keep being bussed to do shifts at the “demonstration” and then are brought to the hotels in Shushi to rest: a city that is currently under Azerbaijani control. Among “eco-activists” are well-known Azerbaijani military servicemen. Azerbaijani environmental activists choose Gray Wolf “wolf hand” as their symbol and regularly make the “wolf hand” salute, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, a far-right group with a history of committing acts of violence against ethnic minority groups in Turkey, including Armenians. It is worth highlighting that for Azerbaijani citizens, it is impossible to enter Nagorno-Karabakh without the Azerbaijani authorities’ promotion, as even Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has appealed to Azerbaijanis not to enter those areas without advance permission. Currently, several cases have been opened against Azerbaijani citizens who were arrested after entering the regions of Karabakh that came under Azerbaijani control without advance permission.

So, why do Azerbaijani “eco-activists” close the Lachin corridor? The Lachin Corridor is the only road connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the rest of the world; it is called the “road of life,” as only via it Artsakh receives the supply of food, medicine, and necessities. Due to the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, on the night of December 12, 1100 people were left on the roads in cold winter conditions. The blockade has also separated families, with 1100 residents of Artsakh (including 270 children) unable to return home. Transportation to several isolated communities along the corridor west of the point of the protest has been cut off from Armenia and the rest of Artsakh, rendering them completely isolated: Mets Shen, Hin Shen, Yeghtsahogh, and Lisagor. It has become impossible to deliver food, particularly bread and flour, as well as other necessities to these communities from either Armenia or Artsakh. Between December 13 and December 16, Azerbaijan cut off the gas supply from Armenia to Artsakh, as gasoline from Armenia to Artsakh passed through territories under Azerbaijani control.

According to Tigran Balayan: the Ambassador of Armenia to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Azerbaijan’s motive is to create desperate conditions for Armenians of Artsakh so that they leave Artsakh; by paralyzing Artsakh’s economy and terrorizing civilians. This action has a clear definition in international law: ethnic cleansing and genocide. Azerbaijan is grossly violating the 6th provision of the November 10, 2020, ceasefire statement to ensure communication between Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia; by ignoring all legally binding and possible international norms.

The blockade is creating a humanitarian crisis due to the Republic of Artsakh losing regular supplies of food, fuel, and medicine. The Ministry of Health reported that due to the blockade, the transfer of Artsakh citizens with serious health problems to Yerevan remains impossible Artsakh healthcare authorities said that a patient requiring life-saving treatment had died as a result of Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor. In addition, shops and hospitals are running out of necessities.

According to Marut Vanyan: A freelance journalist based in Artsakh, “Food shortages are becoming noticeable daily: it is impossible to find fruits or vegetables in the capital Stepanakert, shops run out of basic stuff such as sugar to lentils, as well as household items. This has a severe psychological impact on the locals. In the end, people ask a simple question: “Until when?” Everyone understands that it is simply not possible to continue like this. Apart from food, there are many separated families in Stepanakert and Artsakh. Many Armenian residents came to Artsakh for work, and now, due to the blockade, they cannot return home; their earned money is running out. There is a severe shortage of baby food and diapers. There is not enough medicine in the hospital and pharmacies.”

Armenia already applied to the International Court of Justice with a request to use interim measures and oblige Azerbaijan to stop organizing and supporting the alleged “demonstrations” that have blocked free movement in both directions through the Lachin corridor. Also, by Armenia’s request, there was a discussion in the UN Security Council; however, Armenians of Artsakh are still under siege. Nevertheless, Ambassador Balayan believes that stopping the Azerbaijani President Aliyev regime’s illegalities is possible, and European and international law has appropriate mechanisms to force dictators to respect the universal rules by highlighting the sanctions: neither the first nor last tools, can be found in that arsenal.

Anzhela Mnatsakanyan
Anzhela Mnatsakanyan
Dr. Anzhela Mnatsakanyan, Ph.D. in Political Science Anzhela Mnatsakanyan is a political researcher focusing on Eastern Partnerships, Russia, and the EU. She holds an Advanced Master's Degree of Arts in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe, and a Master's Degree in International Relations from Yerevan State University. She is an alumna of the SUSEES: Summer School in European Education Studies and the Energy Community Summer School.