5 December 2023 – In November 2020, the Writers for Peace Committee of PEN International noted with concern the continuing warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan over control of the Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh territory. We pointed out that the conflict is deeply rooted and has shown its ability to erupt destructively over several generations, dating back to decisions made by Stalin in 1921, as Commissar (Minister) of Nationalities, a time when he was deliberately complicating the ethnic tapestry of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
We stated then that the international community, in particular the UN and the Council of Europe, have been calling all this century for an end to attacks on both Azeri and Armenians: their persons, property, and culture. We called for a peaceful negotiated settlement that enables all those who live in the area to coexist without rancour.
Since then, changing political calculations in the Russian Federation have meant that its so-called peacekeeping forces stood by as Azerbaijan steadily cut off and then engulfed the enclave in September 2023, removing its self-determination and displacing over 100,000 ethnic Armenians. The ensuing humanitarian crisis puts considerable strain on Armenia itself. It is likely that this was the aim of all but one of the countries with which Armenia shares borders: an act of destabilisation in punishment for its own moves to more open and honest democratic government.
The Writers for Peace Committee fully condemns Azerbaijan’s military attack against Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, which the European Parliament said amounted to ethnic cleansing. As the self-declared Republic of Artsakh ceases to exist, so does the settlement of ethnic Armenians in that territory for more than two millennia.
The Writers for Peace Committee points out with concern that freedom of expression in Azerbaijan continues to be severely curtailed by censorship, intimidation, and violence. The challenges faced by critical voices are severe and frequent and include death threats, surveillance, politically motivated arrests on spurious charges, torture and other ill-treatment in custody and wrongful imprisonment.
The lives of the people are not served well by evasions, half-truths, selective history, and propaganda. The Writers for Peace Committee calls for neighbouring countries to desist from aggravating grievances, for free and accurate reporting to be facilitated, and for peace and reconstruction measures to be put in place. We also call for ethnic Armenians displaced by Azeri forces to be helped materially to rebuild their lives, wherever they settle. Those displaced should receive compensation by the Azeri authorities for lost homes and property in accordance with international law or allowed to return without discrimination to homes legally recognised after arbitration. The Azeri authorities must provide concrete guarantees urgently that the human rights of ethnic Armenians choosing to return to Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh will be fully upheld.
The Writers for Peace Committee is alarmed by reports of destruction of cultural heritage sites, artefacts and objects carried out by Azerbaijan in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. We urge the Azeri authorities to protect – and not damage or destroy – Armenian cultural and religious heritage. Any new cases of the destruction or alteration of cultural heritage should be addressed immediately by the international community.
As in 2020, we continue to urge the writers of the Caucasus to come together in solidarity, to celebrate their writing with each other and to help heal the pain of their communities.
For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: Aurelia.email@example.com