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'There Will Be Massacres': Armenian Christians Face Dire Circumstances Amid Nagorno-Karabakh Blockade

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"There is no time to wait and to allow the next genocide because this is genocide."

That's how Dr. Biayna Sukhudyan describes the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a small, landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

For decades, deadly battles between Armenians and Azerbaijanis have raged there, and an ongoing blockade has reignited those tensions.

"The last big war in Karabakh happened in 2020 and, at that time, Azerbaijan conquered most of the territory all around the enclave," Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), told CBN's Faithwire. "And so there's only one road that connects the 120,000 Christians who live in this enclave to the rest of the world and it's protected by a Russian peacekeeping force."

On Dec. 12, Azerbaijani protestors reportedly blocked that road, known as the Lachin corridor, preventing food, medicine, and other basic transport in or out of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"I'm a pediatric neurologist. Together, with my colleague, we have so many children with epilepsy who have to take anti-seizure drugs to get free of seizures, but now there is shortage of these drugs," Sukhudyan said, noting baby formula, too, is in short supply. "And not only these drugs are not available, but also some painkillers and antibiotics as well as hormonal therapy, which is very important in acute situations."

The blockade sparked immediate condemnation, with critics calling on Azerbaijan to halt the obstruction. 

Ruben Vardanyan, minister of state for Nagorno-Karabakh, believes the region's most recent battle stems, in part, from a clash of worldviews.

"One conflict is a democratic country against the non-democratic, autocratic country because, in Azerbaijan, everybody knows we don't have a democratic system," Vardanyan said. "And we all know ... Azeris, they don't have rights, really human rights. 
With both Armenia and Azerbaijan laying claim to this land, the dynamic is complex. Armenia gained control in the early 1990s then a 2020 Russian-brokered ceasefire handed Azerbaijan newfound control. 

Veldkamp is among those who worry the worst is yet to come for Armenia, one of Christianity's oldest communities. 

"I think this is probably the prelude to an Azerbaijani armed attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, and if that happens and Russia does not step in, Armenia is probably not strong enough to stop them from conquering the whole region," he said. "There will be massacres. There will be civilians killed. There will be families killed, most likely."

Veldkamp continued, "This is what happened during the last war and the war before that. And at the end of it, this land which is the ancient homeland of the Armenian people — this is where their alphabet was designed, has some of the oldest churches in the world — {could} be completely destroyed."

This ongoing dispute — especially in light of the past genocidal horrors Armenians have faced — has human rights groups deeply concerned about what's to come. 

Read more about the history of Nagorno-Karabakh here

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