Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies calls on Federal Government to condemn Azerbaijan and Turkey

The Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (AIHGS) has called for “immediate action” from the Federal Government, expressing grave concerns about the “increasing risk of genocide against the indigenous Armenian population” of the Republic of Artsakh, who have been under Azerbaijani-Turkish attacks since 27 September 2020.

In a statement, the distinguished body of academics located across Australia engaged in researching and teaching about genocide wrote:

“Turkey, which continues to deny the Armenian genocide perpetrated by its Ottoman predecessors a century ago, continues to provide material support to Azerbaijan in the form of weapons and foreign mercenaries from Syria. Indeed, President Erdogan has referred to Turkey’s intention to ‘fulfil the mission of their grandfathers’, an explicit statement of genocidal intent, and has recently referred to as ‘remnants of the sword’ (‘kilic artigi’ – a derogatory term for those who have survived mass killings and remain in Turkey). Likewise, hate speech and incitement by President Aliyev is a frequent and intrinsic part of Azerbaijan’s ultra-nationalist and anti-Armenian agenda. For example, in October, President Aliyev stated: ‘We showed them who we are. We are chasing them like dogs’.”

“Hate speech and dehumanisation are important indicators of imminent genocide. Within the context of armed conflict, and evidence of Azerbaijan’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and a stated intention of ethnic cleansing, and combined with denial and impunity for past genocides against the Armenians, AIHGS asserts that there is a strong potential for genocide in Artsakh, should Azerbaijani forces push back the Armenian defence and take control of the area.”

The AIHGS called on the Australian Government to take obligatory action as a “signatory to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, especially after “admitting it is aware of material support from Turkey to Azerbaijan”. Specifically, they wrote:

“AIHGS appeals to the Australian Government to take every necessary step to encourage a ceasefire and ensure the protection of civilians from war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. AIHGS calls on the Australian Government to:

– Acknowledge the atrocities and war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and use all diplomatic means to pressure Azerbaijan to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law

– Condemn hate speech, genocidal intent and genocide denial by Azerbaijan and Turkey

– Support all necessary international efforts as a matter of urgency to monitor the situation and prevent attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians, including internationally brokered ceasefires

– Use all means at its disposal to encourage those nations supporting Azerbaijan with weapons and other material support to cease immediately

– Condemn the use of foreign mercenaries

– Take action to hold Azerbaijan and Turkey accountable for atrocities and war crimes

– Provide humanitarian aid to the people of Artsakh.”

The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) welcomed this important statement, and encouraged the Australian Government to begin taking notice.

“By adding its influential voice to that of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, this respected Australian body of expert academics on genocide are warning of something our community has been cautioning about since the beginning of Azerbaijan’s Turkey-backed aggression,” said ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian. “We strongly encourage our Government to take notice of this developing humanitarian disaster and begin steps to help our brothers and sisters in the Armenian homeland.”

The full AIHGS statement can be read below:

The Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (AIHGS) holds grave concerns about the conflict in Artsakh (Nagorno-), in particular, an increasing risk of genocide against the indigenous Armenian population. AIHGS urges the Australian Government to take immediate action to prevent further atrocities and war crimes against a people who have already endured genocide and never seen justice.

Since 27 September 2020, Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, has launched aggressive attacks against the region of Artsakh, including attacks targeting Armenian civilians. War crimes and crimes against humanity have characterised Azerbaijan’s actions to date, with the use of long range missiles, drone strikes and cluster bombs, which are banned under international law.

These attacks have killed civilians, and destroyed homes in the capital Stepanakert, as well as hospitals, schools and cultural-religious sites such as the Holy Saviour (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral in Shushi. International humanitarian law prevents the targeting of civilian infrastructure and religious or historical sites. More than 70,000 people have been displaced from the Republic of Artsakh; thousands more are taking refuge in underground basements.

Turkey, which continues to deny the Armenian genocide perpetrated by its Ottoman predecessors a century ago, continues to provide material support to Azerbaijan in the form of weapons and foreign mercenaries from Syria. Indeed, President Erdogan has referred to Turkey’s intention to “fulfil the mission of their grandfathers,” an explicit statement of genocidal intent, and has recently referred to Armenians as “remnants of the sword” (“kilic artigi” – a derogatory term for those who have survived mass killings and remain in Turkey). Likewise, hate speech and incitement by President Aliyev is a frequent and intrinsic part of Azerbaijan’s ultra-nationalist and anti-Armenian agenda. For example, in October, President Aliyev stated: “We showed them who we are. We are chasing them like dogs.”

Hate speech and dehumanisation are important indicators of imminent genocide. Within the context of armed conflict, and evidence of Azerbaijan’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and a stated intention of ethnic cleansing, and combined with denial and impunity for past genocides against the Armenians, AIHGS asserts that there is a strong potential for genocide in Artsakh, should Azerbaijani forces push back the Armenian defence and take control of the area.

Australia is a signatory to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and has an obligation under the UN principle of the Responsibility to Protect to take action to prevent atrocity crimes and hold perpetrators accountable. To date, the Australian Government, despite admitting it is aware of material support from Turkey to Azerbaijan, has failed to call out the aggressive attacks against the Armenian population of Artsakh.

AIHGS appeals to the Australian Government to take every necessary step to encourage a ceasefire and ensure the protection of civilians from war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. AIHGS calls on the Australian Government to:

– Acknowledge the atrocities and war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and use all diplomatic means to pressure Azerbaijan to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law– Condemn hate speech, genocidal intent and genocide denial by Azerbaijan and Turkey– Support all necessary international efforts as a matter of urgency to monitor the situation and prevent attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians, including internationally brokered ceasefires– Use all means at its disposal to encourage those nations supporting Azerbaijan with weapons and other material support to cease immediately– Condemn the use of foreign mercenaries– Take action to hold Azerbaijan and Turkey accountable for atrocities and war crimes.– Provide humanitarian aid to the people of Artsakh.

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