Somewhere on the other side of the planet, 120,000 civilians have been blockaded for 24 days, threatened by a bloodthirsty dictator who has committed crimes against humanity for three decades. Even now, in the deep of winter, he has shut off all heat and supplies, aiming to starve and freeze out men, women, children, even infants. This is not happening in Ukraine. This is happening right now in Nagorno-Karabakh.

As Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic prepare to celebrate their Christmas on Jan. 6, they are contending with an Azerbaijani blockade that “denies all entry of food, medicine and necessary supplies, as well as heating gas,” Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte writes. Colored Lights/

You have likely never heard about Azerbaijan and its brutal dictator, terrorizing the civilian Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with impunity. It’s not covered in the major networks’ breathless reporting; our politicians and pundits never find time to spin it. All eyes are turned away from the brutal crimes Azerbaijan committed; crimes which made me a refugee in the 1990s. This impunity seems almost encouraged by the very same people in the West exhorting to fight tooth and nail to stop Vladimir Putin at any cost.

To the Armenians of the United States, this blasé reaction of the West is confusing, terrifying and infuriating. With the war in Ukraine, and more recently with Europe’s purchase of the Russian gas and oil through Azerbaijan, Armenian lives – human lives in the hands of a bloody dictator who frequents the list of top dictators of the world – are dispensable. That is outrageous to me as an American.

Since Dec. 12, Azerbaijan, named one of the most repressive, autocratic and authoritarian countries in the world, has created a humanitarian disaster by instituting a full blockade of the only road connecting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Armenia. By blockading this road, Azerbaijan denies all entry of food, medicine and necessary supplies, as well as heating gas and, most recently, it has begun cutting off electricity to the 120,000 Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, including 38,000 children. Air travel in the region has been restricted for three decades. The Azerbaijan regime even has gone as far as passing a law that purportedly authorized them to shoot down any aircraft, even civilian – even peacekeeping – passing over its air space to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This decades-long deprivation of even the most basic of human rights is now escalated by a road closure that restricts all supplies, all travel, all with the aim of freezing, starving and suffocating the Armenian populace and in finally completing its ethnic cleansing.

The blockade is fronted by a façade: a staged “eco-protest” made by hundreds of “eco-activists,” surrounded by plainclothes military members – as if any legitimate protests would be permitted in such an authoritarian regime. This charade is solely the pretense to block the road and, yet Western news media play along with it, never finding time to inform the world as Azerbaijan chokes the lives of its Armenian victims, cruelly timing its terrorism with their Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 6 for more than 1,700 years.

My friends in Karabakh are preparing for an even longer-term blockade. They are no strangers to Azerbaijan’s humanitarian abuses.  Armenians have suffered the shutoff of heat in the middle of winter, blocking food before our Christmas celebration, massacring civilians in our city streets. We have endured genocide at the hands of Azerbaijan since my grandfather was a child. It’s what caused my parents to flee with their children. What surprises Armenians here in the U.S. is the blatantly transactional nature of the West’s stance on human rights. Are Armenian babies less worthy of the same food, supplies and human rights than those in Ukraine?

And you know what is more cruel than the perpetration of genocide? The blasé reaction to it. Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil has a new, 21st-century spin on it. The U.S. and the European Union must take a stronger stance on the Azerbaijani starvation of 120,000 civilians in the middle of winter in the largest open-air prison of the world, Nagorno-Karabakh, or else the second Armenian Genocide is on our doorstep. But does anyone care?

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