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Cyprus and Karabakh: Parallels of Destruction

Cyprus Karabakh parallels
Varosha in Famagusta remains a ghost town following the Turkish invasion and occupation of 1974. Credit: Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Akin to Karabakh, Cyprus has suffered. Turkish forces have killed hundreds of Cypriots and forcibly converted Ancient Greek churches across the occupied North of Cyprus, a similar genocide carried out now by Azerbaijan against Armenians.

By Julian McBride

For the past several weeks, Azerbaijan has amassed military allocations from countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Israel in preparation for a new war against Armenia. Baku would announce their “anti-terrorism” operation on September 19th to disarm the remaining Karabakh defense militias for a forceful reintegration under the Trilateral Agreement.

Only 24 hours later, the “Artsakh Defense Forces ” capitulated as Armenia, and Russia, was unwilling to send military assistance. Though Azerbaijani government officials have said they are ready for peace and will treat Armenians as equals, their rhetoric and actions have been the complete opposite over the past few years.

Azerbaijan’s Actions in 2023 Pre-calm before the storm, Azerbaijan enacted a nearly year-long blockade against 120,000 Karabakh Armenians by closing off the Lachin Corridor. This corridor was agreed upon in the 2020 Trilateral Agreement.

Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s long-standing autocrat, stated it was due to “weapons being smuggled into the region,” though the country never showed proof of their accusations.

The blockade has been ongoing since December 2022 and became such a crisis that the US, EU, and various international NGOs ordered the Lachin Corridor to be opened immediately.

Azerbaijan claimed the Aghdam Road was open, but Baku’s military used this road to detain Armenians at will illegally. Along with a controversial blockade, Azerbaijan became a sanctions conduit for Russia.

Vladimir Putin, who has grown increasingly close with Aliyev and Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, has grown increasingly close with both autocrats, and both Turkic nations have come under concern for their ties to Russia. Turkish companies were recently sanctioned for helping Moscow during their illegal invasion, with growing reports that Ankara is profiting off stolen Ukrainian coal.

Integration was Never the Final Goal Stating integration is the final goal of a “lasting” solution for peace, rhetoric from Baku continues to show the opposite.

State-sponsored brutality against Armenians has been normalized under Ilham Aliyev, such as their current national hero, Ramil Safarov, who has been rewarded for axing an Armenian soldier to death in his sleep during a NATO partnership exercise.

During the 2020 Karabakh War and 2022 clashes, numerous war crimes, such as beheadings of civilians and POWs and sexual assaults of Armenian women, were documented and openly filmed by Azerbaijani soldiers.

The method of Baku, which echoes the harrowing actions of ISIS, has been normalized and purposely uploaded on telegram, which suggests Baku deliberately has a state-sponsored hatred program if their military openly conducts crimes against humanity without repercussions.

Aliyev has openly stated he would not give an inch of autonomy to the Armenians of Karabakh, which could inflate tensions in the long run toward reconciliation.

Still having ambitions further than Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s military still holds key points in Armenia Proper from the September 2022 clashes and had threatened to forcefully push their way through Syunik to create the “Zangezur Corridor,” which could lead to a regional war as Iran considers it a “red line.” Cultural Genocide

To truly “integrate” the Karabakh region, Aliyev will most likely resort to one of his worst documented state policies—cultural genocide. During Aliyev’s rule, satellite imagery showed Azerbaijani troops destroying the ancient Armenian Julfa cemetery in Nakhichevan, indicating a state-sanctioned policy of cultural genocide.

In the aftermath of Azerbaijan’s 2020 victory, videos of the destruction of Armenian graves and conversion of ancient Armenian churches have occurred in Karabakh. The clergy of the Dadivank Monastery had to relocate icons and ancient manuscripts in fear of their destruction by Azerbaijani military forces.

With Azerbaijan’s total control over the ancient Armenian heritage of Karabakh after the lightning 2023 campaign, further reports of future cultural destruction will be inevitable.

Against the backdrop of the 2023 campaign, Baku demanded the names and whereabouts of 400 plus Armenians to be charged with “terrorism,” even if they never fought in self-defense militias. Azerbaijan’s ruthlessness and state-sponsored policies correlate with Turkey’s actions in the occupied parts of Cyprus.

Parallels between Cyprus and Karabakh tragedies

After Turkey’s internationally condemned second invasion of Cyprus in August of 1974, hundreds of Greek Cypriot men, regardless of their affiliation to EOKA-B and the National Guard, were executed by Turkish forces, where mass graves have been found to this day on the isle and Adana in mainland Turkey.

Akin to Karabakh, Turkish forces, under the state policies of Ankara, have forcibly converted Ancient Greek churches across the occupied North, including the ‘ghost city’ of Famagusta. Numerous documented cases of cultural genocide, such as the smashing of ancient icons and the desecration of Greek Cypriot graves.

The similarities between the state policies of Baku and Ankara (both mutual defense allies) correlate to a common purpose—rewriting the history of ancient heritage and installing fear into an indigenous population to rewrite history.

Acts of cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing remain the same whether it’s Famagusta or Karabakh—and two autocrats who do not even give human rights to their citizens are free to brutalize other indigenous populations while the international community stays silent.

Julian McBride is a former United States Marine. He is currently running his own non-governmental organization, the Reflections of War Initiative. He is a forensic anthropologist who has done fieldwork in Greece and is a freelance writer.

Related: Leading US Senators Call for Sanctions on Azerbaijan

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