Berlin Human Rights Organization Calls for Artsakh Airlift

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Armenian Mirror Spectator

 BERLIN, JANUARY 12, 2023 — Although overlooked by the mass media, there have been important initiatives taken in Germany to protest Azerbaijan’s continuing aggression and blockade. Not only have demonstrations taken place regularly in front of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Berlin, but an increasing number of individuals and organizations, human rights proponents as well as religious figures, are coming together to demand action on the part of the German government to protect the Armenian people and sanction Azerbaijan for its continuing aggression.

Tessa Hofmann, chairwoman of the board of the Berlin-based human rights organization, Against Genocide, for International Understanding (AGA), has recently issued a call for an airlift, to provide the people of blockaded Artsakh vital humanitarian relief. In a letter of January 7, addressed to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Hofmann cited “politicians in Artsakh, among them State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan,” who have demanded of the international community the establishment of such an airlift. “As a former West Berliner,” she writes, “I know what a positive contribution an airlift can make.”

To her letter, she appended a list of the first 101 names of public figures and citizens, who have endorsed an earlier appeal by her organization for sanctions against Azerbaijan. That petition, issued on November 22, referred to a declaration of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), warning of a “significant genocide risk” for Armenians in Armenia and in the South Caucasus. Reviewing the history of Artsakh, from the European Parliament’s July 1988 resolution supporting Karabakh Armenians’ desire to join Armenia, to the referendum in late 1991, in which a majority in the then- Autonomous Oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh voted for independence from Azerbaijan, the appeal detailed the subsequent attempts by Azerbaijan to deploy military force to maintain its control, up through the renewed conflicts in 2020 and 2022, which led to immense losses in human lives and numerous war refugees.

The document identified “a particularly weighty obstacle to the peace process” in the mood of Armenophobia pervading Azerbaijani society, and inflamed by the Baku regime. In this context, the text recalls reference made by Azerbaijani authorities to Armenians as “dogs,” racist stereotypes exhibited at the 2021 Baku “Trophy Park,” and discrimination against Azerbaijani intellectuals in the opposition — all factors duly condemned by institutions like the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and Human Rights Watch. The appeal also pointed to the call in December 2021 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for Azerbaijan to cease discrimination, to take measures to punish hate speech and vandalism, as well as to protect Armenian cultural heritage sites, which was endorsed in March 2022 by a European Parliament resolution.

Emphasizing Germany’s special historical responsibility, as wartime ally of the Ottoman Turkish regime during the genocide, Hofmann’s petition listed a series of demands: Azerbaijan’s total withdrawal from Armenian territory, and release of war prisoners and civilians; extension and possible expansion of the EU observer mission in border areas; implementation of the ICJ’s provisions for protecting Armenian cultural heritage; Azerbaijani compliance with a UNESCO-led fact finding commission; sanctions against weapons deliveries to Azerbaijan; and sanctions against Azerbaijan itself, in the event of non-compliance with the ICJ demands, or of renewed military aggression against Armenia or Armenian inhabited regions in the South Caucasus.

Among the first 101 signatories of the appeal are leading Armenian and German intellectuals, educators, writers, artists, professionals, doctors, students, and human rights and civil society activists. Several associations endorsed the call, among them the Central Council of Armenians in Germany (ZAD), the Armenian Community (Berlin), the Armenian Tour Guide Guild, (Armenia), the Armenian Church and Cultural Community (Berlin), the Promotional Society for the Ecumenical Monuments for the Genocide Victims of the Ottoman Empire (FÖGG), Haytun – Armenian Cultural Association (Dresden), Soykırım Karşıtları Derneği (SKD) – Association of Genocide Opponents (Frankfurt/Main), and the Theophanu Club Germany.

Since Baerbock received the November appeal, the situation has only worsened. As Hofmann noted in her recent message, the year 2022 ended with a three-day interruption of gas deliveries to Artsakh, and then the blockade of the Lachin Corridor. As a result, 120,000 people are cut off from the outside world, 5,000 people who were in transit at the time of the blockade have been separated from their families, food and medicine are scarce, unheated schools have closed, and hospitals have postponed elective surgery. Thus, the urgent need for urgent action: an airlift must be organized.

And the effort requires international action. On January 9, Hofmann addressed a letter to Sergei J. Nechaev, the Russian Ambassador to Germany. In presenting the case, she underlined the fact that Azerbaijan, by approving of the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, allegedly organized by ecology activists, was “in violation of the trilateral ceasefire agreement that was sealed between the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan under Russian mediation.” And she concluded with the hope Russia would support these demands, “since your country, by signing the ceasefire agreement also assumed responsibility for the people living there.”

A corresponding letter from Hofmann was sent to the American ambassador in Berlin, Dr. Amy Gutmann.

In her message to Gutmann, Hofmann suggested how such an international humanitarian airlift might come into being: “With the help of the United Nations, which could provide the aircraft required, charitable organizations active both in the USA and Russia, like the Salvation Army, could cooperate in carrying out the transportation of food and medicines.” A timely organization of such a humanitarian airlift through “neutral, church-affiliated NGOs in the USA and Russia would save numerous human lives” and its impact would radiate beyond the conflict region.

On Friday, January 13, a demonstration will take place in front of the Azerbaijan embassy in Berlin to protest the blockade.