Since March 8, 2022, over 100,000 people living in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) have been deprived of natural gas and heating. The main pipeline supplying gas to Artsakh from Armenia was damaged in the vicinity of Azerbaijani military positions in Shushi, which has been under Azerbaijani control since the end of the 2020 Artsakh War. The Azerbaijani side did not allow Armenians or Russian peacekeepers to take part in fixing the pipeline; it restored the gas supply on March 19, but only for two days. On March 21, 2022, the entire population of Artsakh was again deprived of gas and heating. In March, the weather conditions in Artsakh are harsh; the temperature is below freezing, and it has been snowing heavily. The lack of gas supply also affects the capacity of local bakeries to bake bread, hence creating a shortage. School classes have been suspended, as there is no heating. As a result, Artsakh is facing a real and serious humanitarian disaster, deliberately caused by Azerbaijan as part of their well-documented policy of ethnic cleansing and Armenophobia promoted and encouraged by state authorities.
According to the joint statement of the Human Rights Ombudsmen of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh, during the repair work, the Azerbaijani side installed a valve on the gas pipeline to allow them to terrorize the peaceful population of Artsakh by leaving them without heating, hot water and other basic living conditions during cold weather, by closing it at any time.
A wider approach and retrospective to the recent past should be taken to understand the current developments, which are a clear manifestation of the ethnic cleansing policy planned and carried out by Azerbaijan.
Ethnic cleansing refers to the forced displacement of a specific group from a territory on the grounds of ethnic origin, that is, “the elimination by the ethnic group exercising control over a given territory of members of other ethnic groups.” Ethnic cleansing “may be equated with a systemic purge of the civilian population based on ethnic criteria, with a view to forcing it to abandon the territories where it lives.”
The unlawful and aggressive military actions launched against Artsakh on September 27, 2020, by Azerbaijan are a clear example of such a policy being carried out in the 21st century, in front of the eyes of the international community. The grounds and factors contributing to such a policy emerged long ago, not only during the 2020 Artsakh War, but for decades. This policy is the outcome of hatred and Armenophobia seeded in Azerbaijani society by their authorities.
The gross violations of international humanitarian law during the war, such as execution, beheading, torture of civilians, including women and elderly, forced displacement of the local population and killing or detention of those remaining there, execution and mutilation of Armenian servicemen, video recording and dissemination of footage on social networks by Azerbaiajni servicemen, suggest that this is a direct result and consequence of such hatred and discrimination against ethnic Armenians.
Both the wartime statements by public officials and the actions of armed forces were marked by an unprecedented Armenophobia being a manifestation of hatred and aggression disseminated for years. During the war, some Azerbaijani politicians have called for the killing and extermination of the entire civilian population in Artsakh.
Azerbaijan constantly shelled, including with cluster munitions, the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert, and other cities, causing significant damage and casualties among the civil population, including children. On October 28, 2020, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces shelled the Stepanakert Maternity Hospital–the symbol of life and procreation–illustrating the actual goals and intentions to exterminate Armenians.
The hatred and anti-Armenian policy of Azerbaijan was demonstrated also by widespread destruction and falsification of Armenian cultural heritage in territories that came under Azerbaijani control after the war․ Armenian churches and monuments with centuries-long history are not only cultural heritage, but also signify the presence of Armenians in that territory, a fact that Azerbaijan is desperately trying to deny and falsify. By destroying such religious and historical monuments, Azerbaijan tries to erase Armenian history and roots in Artsakh and present an alternative one.
Because of the constant shelling of areas densely populated by civilians, and displacement from the territories occupied by Azerbaijan, more than 90,000 residents of Artsakh were forced to leave and temporarily reside in Armenia.
Around 10,000 civilians had to flee from Hadrut district alone, an Armenian-populated area of Artsakh that fell under the control of Azerbaijan in 2020. Those who did not manage to leave in time were brutally killed by Azerbaijanis. Essentially, after the tripartite statement on the cessation of hostilities signed on November 9, 2020, the population of Hadrut district has already been subject to ethnic cleansing and deprived of any prospects to return to their homes.
More than 3,000 civilian, industrial and public buildings and facilities were targeted by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. In Stepanakert, Azerbaijan targeted power stations that caused blackouts in the city.
Currently, this policy has received a new manifestation, resulting in the violation of vital rights of ethnic Armenians living in Artsakh and creating serious obstacles for their future survival in their homeland.
More particularly, the Azerbaijani actions have become more uncontrolled and alarming since February 2022 and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. On a daily basis, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces use loudspeakers on the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh, in the immediate vicinity of Armenian villages, threatening the residents to leave their communities “as they are living in the territory of Azerbaijan and have to obey Azerbaijani instructions.” The demands for Armenians to abandon their homes are accompanied by threats to use force in the case of non-compliance. These tactics were reported in the villages of Khramort, Nakhijevanik, Nor Shen and Taghavard. Apart from those calls, as another method of intimidation, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces play azan on loudspeakers, the call for Muslim prayer, in the Christian Armenian communities. In addition, on March 11, 2022, the Facebook Page of the National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh was hacked to display an announcement for the residents of the Askeran region to leave their homes within one week.
Regular shooting from different caliber weapons, including mortars, were reported in villages along the line of contact, including Khramort, Khnapat, Nakhijevanik, Nor Shen, Karmir Shuka, Khnushinak and Parukh. Due to the gunfire, the agricultural work of villagers has been hindered; agricultural machinery was damaged in Nakhijevanik village. Buildings in Parukh village were also damaged as a result of intensified shelling between March 8 and 12, 2022.
Civilians were also wounded. On February 15, 2022, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fired at a resident of Khnapat village carrying out agricultural work in a field. On March 10, 2022, Suren Baghdasaryan, a resident of Khramort village, was injured while working in his garden, as a result of a mortar attack. Due to the intense shelling and real threat, children were evacuated from Khramort village on the same day. On March 25, the Armenian side suffered three deaths and 14 servicemen were wounded as a result of the attacks by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
The Azerbaijani Government continues to employ various tactics to destroy essential infrastructure necessary for the everyday life of the residents of Artsakh. The disruption of the gas pipeline in the territory under the Azerbaijani control, and obstacles created by the Azerbaijani side for its reparation, are clear evidence of such a policy.
In such circumstances, it is evident that the main goal of Azerbaijan is the removal of ethnic Armenians from Artsakh through the creation of conditions unfavorable for living, as well as creating an atmosphere of fear among the Armenian population. If the Azerbaijani actions are not properly addressed by the international community, the current humanitarian crisis in Artsakh will not only continue, but will lead to irreversible consequences for ethnic Armenians.
 Human Rights Situations and Reports of the Special Rapporteurs and Representatives: Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia: Note by the Secretary-General, adopted 17 Nov. 1992, U.N. Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia, Sixth Periodic Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia submitted by Mr. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Pursuant to Paragraph 32 of Commission Resolution 1993/7 of 23 February 1993, U.N.
 Mete Turksoy, politician in Azerbaijan calling for the murder of entire civilian population of Artsakh.
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