'A Recipe for Mass Atrocities': This Might Be the 'Most Dangerous Moment' Yet for Nagorno-Karabakh
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Videos and images showing thousands of ethnic Armenians trying to flee Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week have shocked human rights activists.
Joel Veldkamp, a spokesman for Christian Solidarity International, fears the worst is yet to come for the people living in the landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Children eat sitting in a shelter during shelling in Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh. (AP Photo/Siranush Sargsyan)
Earlier this week, Azerbaijani forces launched an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as the Republic of Artsakh, just before an announced truce. Uncertainty still abounds.
"This is a recipe for mass atrocities," Veldkamp told CBN's The 700 Club. "This is being widely reported as a ceasefire, and many journalists, many observers seem to think that this means that the fighting is over, the violence is over, the danger is over. That is not true at all."
He added, "This is the most dangerous moment right now."
Protesters demand that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure via AP)
Veldkamp believes abuse, chaos, and violence against the Armenians will continue now that they've essentially surrendered.
"The government of the Republic of Artsakh surrendered to the invading forces of Azerbaijan," he explained. "They agreed to disband all their self-defense forces, to lay down their weapons, and to hold negotiations ... on quote-unquote 'reintegration into Azerbaijan.'"
Veldkamp's main concern is for the 120,000 occupied Armenians still trapped inside Nagorno-Karabakh.
"There has been no electricity for most of the population of Nagorno Karabakh," he said. "That means that people have not been able to charge their cell phones or their computers. People aren't able to communicate about what's happening to them."
A girl embraces her relative sitting in a shelter during shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. (AP Photo/Siranush Sargsyan)
He said Azerbaijani troops have occupied the territory and "control most of the main roads," cutting off villages entirely.
For decades, deadly battles have raged between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the territory. Last December's blockade reignited those tensions, cutting off residents from food, medicine, and other essential resources.
"This is an area of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, that has been contested for many years, largely because when the Soviet Union took over Armenia, it carved it up with Azerbaijan and many of the other countries in strange ways," David Curry, CEO of Global Christian Relief, told CBN's The 700 Club. "So, there's a little area of Armenia. It has historically been filled with Armenians, Armenian cultures, the Christian faith."
Azerbaijan attacked the region three years ago, trying to take it over. Curry sees these latest efforts as an attempt to finish that quest.
"Now, they're intensifying this and trying to push out all of the ethnic Armenians and Christians within this region," he added.
Experts now fear Armenia, one of Christianity's oldest communities, could face a second genocide if the international community doesn't act fast.
"How could we be so far away from our brothers and sisters?" Veldkamp asked. "How can we be so ignorant about the first Christian nation — about the first nation in the 20th century to experience a real genocide? What is wrong with us?"
Veldkamp is encouraging Christians worldwide to pray and call on Western leaders to intervene and save Armenian lives. Read more about the crisis here.
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