Volume 5 - 1993
Since 1988 the small Christian nation of Nagorno Karabakh has been blockaded, bombed and besieged by the Muslim state of Azerbaijan which surrounds them.
The people of Nagorno Karabakh are Armenians who since the third century have been a Christian republic. They have survived occupation by the Romans, the Persians, the now extinct Caucasian Albanians, the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, the Mongols and the Russians.
After the Red Army’s invasion of the Caucasian republics in 1920, Nagorno Karabakh was administered by Armenia. But later, on Stalin’s orders, the Christian republic of Karabakh was awarded to the Muslim state of Azerbaijan.
Despite enormous, sustained and often violent pressure to convert to Zoroastrianism, Islam and more recently to Marxism, the Armenian people have steadfastly maintained their Christian faith - especially as defined by the Nicean Creed.
Under the Turks the Armenian Christians were strictly segregated from the Muslim community. They were forced to wear distinctive clothing, pay higher taxes and provide many of their sons for slavery to the Muslim Turks. The Christians were also denied their right to possess weapons for self defence.
The Muslim Turks then subjected the Armenian Christians to one of the most vicious campaigns of genocide in history.
In 1883 over 1 800 Christian leaders were arrested. Most were tortured. In 1 895 a systematic campaign was launched to annihilate the Armenians in Turkish territory.
Approximately 300 000 Armenian men, women and children were murdered by the Turkish soldiers and police and by Muslim mobs and Kurdish tribesmen. Another 100 000 Armenians fled the country. Tens of thousands of Armenian women and children were enslaved. Others escaped death only by conversion to Islam.
At Urfa, 3000 Christians were locked into the cathedral and burnt alive as Turkish troops set the church alight with kerosene and kindling.
Then in 1915 the Turkish government unleashed a country-wide campaign of genocide: “The Armenians must be exterminated. If any Muslim protects a Christian, first his house shall be burnt; then the Christian killed before his eyes then his family and himself.”
Concentration camps for Christians were set up. A systematic campaign of rape, the roasting of women and children to death, the Turkish falaka (hanging the victim upside down while beating the soles of the feet) and crucifixions were carried out. By 1918 over 1.5 Million Armenians had perished - approximately 2/3rds of their total population.
In 1905 the Armenians in the Russian empire suffered a widespread series of attacks by the Azeri - Turk community of Azerbaijan. Then in the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Russian empire in 1917 the newly independent republic of Armenia was invaded by the Ottoman Turks and Azeri-Turks. The vicious massacres and oppression by the Turks only ended with the Soviet occupation in 1920.
The Armenians (together with the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians) were amongst the first to use the opportunity offered by Gorbachev’s glasnost to campaign for autonomy and freedom. Sensing a historic opportunity to escape from the stranglehold of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno Karabakh Supreme Soviet passed a resolution (20/2/88) calling for their transfer back to Armenia.
However, even as most of the population of Karabakh turned out in mass demonstrations in support of the resolution - fanatical Muslim mobs dressed in black, carrying clubs and Turkish flags chanting “Death to Armenians!” went on the rampage killing Christians. Soon there were no Armenians left in Azerbaijan. Those who hadn’t been killed were refugees across the border.
Then the Azeri-Turks launched “Operation Ring” where soldiers of the 23rd Division of the Soviet 4th Army began to systematically burn the crops, rape the women, maltreat the children, murder the men and deport all surviving Armenians. Only with the demise of Gorbachev and the election of President Yeltsin did the Soviet Army begin to adopt a neutral role in the conflict.
After enduring 3 years of blockades and attacks the population of Nagorno Karabakh was down to 180 000. In the 1991 referendum and elections over 90% voted and of these over 90% voted for independence.
At this point Karabakh became an open battlefield - besieged, blockaded and bombarded. GRAD rockets rained down upon the capital city of Stepanakert (GRAD is the Russian word for hail). Amidst the rubble of demolished homes, mutilated animals and dismembered people littered the town.
By April 1992 the Armenians had captured enough weapons from the Azeri-Turk troops to fight back. They captured the Azeri mountain stronghold in Shusha and halted the bombardment on their capital. Then the Karabakh forces opened a corridor through Azerbaijan to Armenia. This broke the blockade and enabled convoys to transport in food, fuels and medicines.
Since then the fighting has escalated with Turkish officers aiding the Azerbaijan military in massive aerial, tank and rocket bombardments of Karabakh’s Armenians. SU 25 bombers and MIG fighter-bombers continued to attack the Christians. Many however have been shot down by the Karabakh forces.
Kidnapped Armenians have been subjected to the most appalling tortures by Azeri-Turks. A full report on the sufferings of the Armenian people and the atrocities perpetrated upon the Christians of Armenia has been compiled by John Eibner:
“Ethnic Cleansing in Progress - War in Nagorno Karabakh.” It is available from the Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World, P0 Box 881 Forchstrasse 280 Zurich 8029 Switzerland.
Frontline Fellowship has been invited to join our friends of Christian Solidarity International to minister to the besieged Christians of Nagorno Karabakh. As this truly is in the frontline of the fight for faith and freedom - please pray with us for the precious people of Karabakh and that we would be able to practically help them.
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are
mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3
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