International Christian Concern, June 14, 2022
War erupted in the South Caucasus on 27 September 2020 when Azerbaijan and Turkey launched a joint military operation named Operation Iron Fist into the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). A truce was brokered by Russia 44 days later which ceded significant parts of Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
During those forty-four days, Azeri and Turkish-paid Syrian mercenaries published multiple accounts and footage demonstrating possible war crimes against the local community. Following the truce, Turkey entered a peacekeeping role alongside Russia. Nevertheless, Turkey demonstrates biased support to Azerbaijan, who persists in violating the truce’s terms and the basic principles of human rights.
The dynamics of this conflict are deeply complex but have strong religious freedom implications impacting the future of Karabakh’s local community. The strategic planning by Turkey and Azerbaijan show an intent of mass extermination, thereby genocide, of Karabakh’s Armenian residents because of their combined faith and ethnic identity.
These identities are important to the Pan-Turkic ideology driving Azerbaijan and Turkey’s activities in Karabakh. This ideology is hidden behind highly symbolic language. Tactics used to promote this ideology include erasing Christianity from the historical memory of Karabakh, dehumanizing local residents, dismantling their identity, and using a variety of impression management manoeuvres to limit the ability of international observers to name this war for what it is: genocide.