October 5, 2023

Unveiling the Crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh: Urgent Call for International Support

Raisa Borshchigova

Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism

Amidst the ongoing global challenges, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, another crisis has erupted, this time in Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving 120,000 ethnic Armenians in distress. This crisis is not an isolated incident but has deep-rooted origins in a prolonged conflict and ethnic tensions in the region. It has also been influenced by the geopolitical interests of Russia and Turkey over several decades. As a result, it has hundreds of lives and left tens of thousands of civilians devastated and in urgent need of support.

Lara Aharonian, a human rights activist from the Women’s Resource Center, vividly describes the heart-wrenching situation: “Every day, we meet women and children who have gone hungry for days before reaching shelters.”

The crisis escalated when the Azerbaijani government launched a large-scale offensive, leading to full control of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan. This aggression had devastating consequences, resulting in casualties, severe communication and infrastructure disruptions, and forcing the Armenian population to abandon their homes. Lara Aharonian emphasizes, “The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, who have already experienced a level of trauma that could last a lifetime, have now been uprooted once more and forcibly displaced.”

The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is not a unique incident; it reflects patterns observed in other regional conflicts where authoritarian regimes support anti-gender movements and feed nations with hatred and poisonous far-right propaganda. In the shadow of existing crises that have piled up in the regions once part of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh tragedy has seemingly escaped the attention of the international political and donor communities, leaving the government and NGOs to cope with the surge of refugees on their own. This crisis places immense pressure on already strained NGOs, particularly in accommodating vulnerable and traumatized populations.

Lara Aharonian notes, “Our organization has conducted several studies on displacement and the government’s response to the 44-day war in 2020. These findings are crucial for ensuring that the current response is more attuned to gender-sensitive considerations.” Additionally, LGBTQI internally displaced persons face heightened risks due to widespread homophobia. Aharonian adds, “Our initiatives aim to address the profound trauma experienced by these groups, recognizing that immediate humanitarian aid is only the beginning.”

Over the past decade, Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism has actively supported marginalized communities in Armenia. We have provided grants to numerous organizations addressing gender, sexuality, human rights, ableism, and peace. These efforts have intensified due to the eruption of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in a significant influx of Russian migrants into Armenia and economic challenges.

Urgent Action Fund emphasizes the need for international support to address this pressing humanitarian and human rights emergency. The international community must come together to respond comprehensively. Proposed actions include spreading awareness, engaging international stakeholders, enhancing digital security, and providing financial support to feminist and LGBTQI organizations. This crisis not only threatens the well-being of thousands but also serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for international solidarity in promoting peace, tolerance, and respect for human rights.

Photo credit: Denis Nata – stock.adobe.com

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Chinyere Ezie

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Chinyere Ezie is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she advocates for racial justice, gender justice, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, and challenges governmental abuses of power. Chinyere previously worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center where she brought cases defending the rights of LGBTQI+ Southerners. She also served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she litigated employment discrimination cases and secured a $5.1 million jury verdict on behalf of workers subjected to unlawful treatment. Chinyere is a William J. Fulbright Scholar, a White House Fellows Program Regional Panelist, and a cum laude graduate of Yale University. She also received a Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School, where she was an Alexander Hamilton Scholar and served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Gender and Law. Chinyere serves on the Board of Directors of the Transgender Law Center and the feminist grant-making organization the Urgent Action Fund. She was also a Founding Board Member of the National Trans Bar Association.In 2018, she was named one of the nation’s Best LGBTQI+ Lawyers Under 40.