BY MANUEL MAGPAPIAN
In the middle of conflict and war, a group of individuals met ready to declare their independence from a tyrannical government. These individuals believed that they no longer needed to abide by the rules of a government that oppressed them and they had no say in, and decided to break away from said government to determine their own future.
As a result of this independence movement, the tyrannical government began a conflict which took years until the very same government realized that they could not tame human nature, could not bend this region to its will, could not continue to oppress a group of people who simply desired to elect its own leaders and pave their own path to freedom.
This independence movement and subsequent war created a democratic republic, which was a government made of laws, not men. Now, decades later, that same tyrannical government continues an onslaught on the people in this region whose only crime was the decision to govern themselves, hellbent once again to force this region into submission. Once again, these individuals who wish to govern themselves, find themselves in a conflict not just for their independence, but for their very existence.
What you read above is not the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the revolutionary war, and the War of 1812. It’s the situation the Republic of Artsakh finds itself in, in the south Caucuses region in the year 2020.
When looking at this conflict on its face, it’s easy for an individual with no stake in the conflict to sit on the sidelines and believe that both sides have claim to a region, and that this war, like many others, is a conflict over a piece of land.
But this conflict is a conflict that many Americans should be able to identify themselves with. Azerbaijan is a country that Artsakh does not identify itself with. Azerbaijan is a tyrannical government, led completely in all aspects by a single person: Ilham Aliyev.
Artsakh, and its 99% Armenian population, did not believe they would get adequate representation if they became part of Azerbaijan. So like our founding fathers before us, they held a referendum to declare themselves independent. 99.98% of the voters voted in favor of independence. Soon after, like the founding fathers before us, they found themselves in a war against a tyrannical government, in this case, Azerbaijan led by Hayder Aliyev, the father of the current President.
After years of conflict, a ceasefire was signed in 1994, and since its independence, Artsakh governed themselves. They have their own parliament, their own democratically elected President, their own constitution modeled after those of the western democracies, and a Supreme Court dedicated to upholding the law, and not strictly to appease any dictator.
Artsakh’s ideals are the same as ours as Americans. They are believers in democracy. They believe in freedom and liberty. They do not want to be governed by a single man. Their struggle is our struggle. Their blood that is shed, is our blood. Americans should be able to determine that these individuals are not only individuals seeking freedom and liberty, they are us.
They are exactly what we as Americans would do if we faced a similar situation here at home. It is exactly what our founding fathers did when they realized that becoming independent was the only option to be free. That “give me liberty or give me death” was not just a slogan, it was a firm belief that they would rather die than live under the boot of a tyrannical government they had no say in.
In addition to our shared ideals, the United States and the Republic of Artsakh share the same sense of humanitarianism. Azerbaijan, since the conflict began on September 27th of this year, has been specifically targeting civilian locations, and using weapons such as cluster bombs that are banned by international law, which are clear human rights violations. Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan agreed to humanitarian ceasefires on three separate occasions in the last two weeks, only to be violated once again by Azerbaijani and Turkish attacks on civilian locations.
The United States of America is not only the beacon of freedom and democracy in the world, it is also supposed to be the protector of human rights. Azerbaijan’s war crimes should be clear to all those who are following along, and should be condemned not just by the international community, but by all of us.
The United States of America should choose freedom over subordination, independence and autonomy over submission, democracy over dictatorships, and humanitarianism over war crimes. Armenians around the world are asking for help. We are your neighbors, your friends, your brothers and sisters; we are your fellow Americans supporting a region desiring to determine its own destiny.
We are asking the United States to uphold the very words in their declaration that was drafted 250 years ago that wasn’t just intended to establish the rights of Americans, but the rights of mankind:
“That we find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator, certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
We are simply asking the United States of America to realize that Artsakh’s struggle is their own, and recognize that the only solution for lasting peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is the recognition and support of an independent Republic of Artsakh.