Azerbaijani “eco-activists” have now blocked the only road that links the outside world to Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh to the Armenians, for more than 40 days.

A boy tries to warm himself at home in Stepanakert, the capital of the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, on Jan. 18. The region has experienced periodic shutoffs of gas and electricity during the dispute. Protesters claiming to be ecological activists have blocked the only road leading from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh for more than a month, leading to increasing food shortages. Edgar Harutyunyan/PAN Photo via AP

Artsakh is a small piece of land, not much larger than the size of Rhode Island, that is connected to Armenia by a narrow corridor. The freedom of movement of Armenians in and out of Artsakh has been blocked.

Only the International Committee of the Red Cross can deliver an infinitesimal amount of food and medicine to 120,000 Armenians living in Artsakh, including 30,000 children. Gas used for heating during the cold winter months has been cut off several times. The same is true of electricity and the internet. Schools have had to shut down because of lack of food and heat.

The goal of the blockade is clear: to terrorize the Armenians and force them to leave their homeland.

Azerbaijan started a war in the fall of 2020 that lasted 44 days. With the help of Turkey and advanced weaponry including drones, Azerbaijan won the war and took a large swath of land from Artsakh. The war ended in a cease-fire agreement, which guaranteed free movement in and out of Artsakh through the now-blocked corridor.

Azerbaijan has broken the cease-fire agreement several times by continuing to hold and torture prisoners of war, attacking sovereign Armenian territory and blocking the road.


The “eco-activists” claim that Artsakh is illegally operating a mine that is causing pollution. This is a cruel, ironic twist on the whole question of environmental protection. When it comes to the Artsakh region, the government has created and weaponized the activists in order to hold the Armenian population hostage.

Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, is demanding the creation of a new corridor, cutting Armenia in two, which will be under Azerbaijani control. This goes way beyond the cease-fire agreement and would not be in the interests of the West, let alone Armenia. Yet Aliyev said in a New Year’s Eve message: “The opening of Zangezur Corridor will happen whether Armenia wants it or not.” This is not eco-activism. This is terrorism.

History has demonstrated a close link between the colonizers and the destruction of the environment. The indigenous Armenians of Artsakh have been much more protective of the land than the Azerbaijanis, who have an abysmal record of environmental stewardship.

This same situation holds true in Turkey, which participated in the 2020 war against Artsakh, providing direct military assistance, weaponry and mercenaries. For over 100 years, Turkey has been destroying the cultural monuments, land and rivers of the former indigenous Armenian inhabitants and covering the evidence with the dammed water that has buried entire ancient cities, like the city of Hasankeyf

From 1915 to 1923, the Turks carried out a systematic genocide against the western Armenians living on their ancestral homeland. Ever since, the Turks have dammed one river in western Armenia after another, destroying the native habitat and burying history. Today, the Azerbaijanis are attempting a second genocide of the Armenians using eco-activism as their cynical pretext.

The leaders of the world can do something to stop Azerbaijan from carrying out its plans. Start with sanctions.


Reinstate Section 907, passed by the U.S. Congress in the 1990s to prevent foreign aid to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan received over $100 million in aid from the U.S. in 2019.

Instead of enforcing Section 907, the U.S. government provided a waiver that allows continued so-called “security” assistance to Azerbaijan even though the country has attacked the sovereign Republic of Armenia. Aid should be stopped immediately.

Second, employ the Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the U.S. government to sanction and freeze the assets of those found to be violating human rights and to ban them from coming into the U.S.

Time is of the essence. Sanction Azerbaijan.

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