10. November 2020

Who will stop the war over Nagorno-Karabakh?

An appeal to the peace movement worldwide and the international institutions

For a month now, war has been waged in a region that only two years ago achieved democracy and peace in a peaceful „velvet“ revolution. Endless hopes that the country of Armenia will develop for the benefit of all, against the pressure of oligarchs and corrupt political elites. A great solidarity, a spirit of new beginnings was felt in recent years among the civilian population, but also among parliamentary representatives. I remember with pleasure the debate with a young female parliamentarian in 2019 in Yerevan: Women’s rights, health, poverty reduction – all of these were on the agenda; and the first wave of pandemic control was successful.

The peace and democracy movement, led by women, and among them many young people who wanted to overcome the horrors and trauma of the past, set out to organize dialogues throughout the Caucasus region, exchanges across borders and within international institutions.

Democracy today Armenia (https://www.democracytoday.am/) has been led for 25 years by Gulnara Shahinian and a great team – (we proudly remember the awarding of the Anita Augspurg Prize to a rebel against the war by WILPF Germany 2018 and the report on continued peace activities at https://www.wilpf.de/rebellinnen-gegen-den-krieg-die-preistraegerinnen-2017-2019/).

Ms. Shahinian is an internationally recognized expert on human rights, with an emphasis on modern forms of slavery. She has built up an international women’s network, which met annually in Yerevan for conferences, where peace was examined from different perspectives (peace journalism, prevention, etc.) and with practical training. At the conferences, a prize was awarded to young women peace activists from Myanmar, Lebanon, Colombia, Iraq and Yemen. The young women shared their commitment with the audience (this is documented and accessible via social media and films), they learned, full of hope for a future in peace.

And now war again, which not only breaks through old traumas of genocide, of the isolation of Armenia in a highly complex zone of many „frozen“ conflicts, to which the international community hardly dares to return, but which makes the memories of many abroad of past wars, of the suffering of the people, fade.

Nagorno-Karabakh has the status under international law of an „unrecognized territory“. Nevertheless, for 30 years there have been many attempts to install a democracy based on the „right of self-determination of peoples“. It seems that in all international negotiations – from which the population or the government of Arzach, as the country calls itself, was excluded as a negotiating partner – the issue was never honest negotiations for the welfare of the people in the region, but rather geostrategic and power-political dogmatism. This is a thorn in the side of power-political considerations of an authoritarian ruled Azerbaijan – a country with many coveted raw materials – and its accomplices, like the Turkish Prime Minister, who has been acting as a warmonger in many conflicts for years (and is diligently equipped with money and weapons, also from Germany). According to Amnesty International and others, it is now also clearly documented that military supplies also come from Israel, Pakistan and other countries. Cluster bombs and autonomous weapons systems are used against civilian targets that are internationally outlawed as war crimes and Syrian mercenaries that are sent to a new front in the context of illegal human trafficking.

All this would have to be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the UN, the OSCE and national political representatives – quite apart from the fact that the UN Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire, especially in pandemic times, would have to be backed up urgently with an international presence in the region.

Every day people continue to die, to suffer from fear and hunger, to be displaced, and entire population groups are becoming radicalized. Young men, who until recently dreamt of starting a family, of professional success, are now fighting at the front – on all sides. Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have no international protection under the universal rights convention because they lack an official status. Not even UNICEF has access to children from Arzach.

What remains is a big “test” for the young Armenian nation: Solidarity, humanism, creative solutions: Some are sewing warm sleeping bags, others uniforms, some welcome refugees in their houses under high risk of Covid-19 infection, others join military forces for peace and protection of the territory. Fatal and difficult decisions especially for women in a conflict who does not see an end. Dialog between the fronts is almost impossible due to high emotions and devastating war propaganda, especially with the Turkish flag.

From the outside perspective of a women’s peace movement (www.wilpf.de, www.wilpf.org ) this currently means: to maintain the solidarity of all with the oppressed and wounded civilian population. To make their voices audible – as in the Blog in the appendix and to help where necessary.

It also means an urgent call for a real ceasefire by the UN, to establish a protection zone and to immediately install OSCE observers* inside.

Representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh and especially the women of the region must be involved in ceasefire agreements and subsequent peace negotiations on all sides. Peace negotiations, which have so often failed in history, must activate all experience and competence in mediation, early warning facilities, disarmament initiatives, stopping the international arms trade – especially in conflict regions.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of UNSCR1325, it is necessary to re-define participation, protection and prevention in the concrete case of this war. The acts of war are to be stopped immediately! Hate, traumas and fears must be overcome in feminist solidarity and political perspectives in the long term.

„Give Peace a Chance!“

written by Heidi Meinzolt

Images and more reading material: Diary of Lika Zakarian