International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
Impunity and Indifference for Past Crimes Fueling Present Day Violence
Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day
April 24, 2023, Toronto: On the occasion of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the Zoryan Institute commemorates the victims of all genocides and are reminded that indifference and impunity for tragedies of the past embolden nations to commit acts of violence, ethnic cleansing and even genocide in the future.
Since December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin Corridor, the main road that serves as a lifeline between Artsakh and Armenia. This blockage has led to serious humanitarian concerns, with little gas, supplies, and medical equipment available. Despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering provisional measures to ensure that Azerbaijan ends the blockade of the Lachin Corridor on February 23, 2023, the Lachin Corridor remains closed and Azerbaijan has yet to face any consequences for their actions. The international community's overwhelming silence on the matter has only emboldened Azerbaijan to prolong the blockade for over four months, which is deeply concerning.
Turning a blind eye to acts of violence paves the way for future genocides and mass-atrocity crimes, as impunity begets impunity. Throughout history, there have been numerous instances that exemplify how Turkey has benefitted from impunity. Past instances of violence against Armenians fueled future crimes against Armenians and many other ethnic or religious minorities in the country. This was evident in the case of the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s, which were then followed by the Adana massacres of 1909. These massacres then led to the 20th century’s first genocide, the Armenain Genocide of 1915. Approximately 1.5 million Armenian citizens of Ottoman Turkey were killed in this genocide, and the remaining were deported from their ancestral homelands between 1915-1923.
Turkey’s example of acting with impunity for crimes of genocide may have also inspired Nazi officials, suggesting the proliferating trend of impunity across state borders. In the conclusion of Hitler’s 1939 Obersalzberg Speech, he famously stated: Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier? [In English: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?“].
More than one hundred years later, the Turkish government continues to deny the Armenian Genocide. Emboldened by impunity for these crimes, it continues to inflict harm towards its minorities, and even extends to those located in neighbouring nation-states, without consequences. Turkey’s impunity for its past and ongoing acts of violence also demonstrates to other nation states of the region that the international community will not condemn them for their actions.
As we commemorate Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, we must learn from the lessons of the past and acknowledge the danger of indifference and inaction. With reports of human rights abuses already occurring in Artsakh, genocide and ethnic cleansing could manifest quickly if the global community continues to turn a blind eye to this serious issue. The ongoing blockade in the Lachin Corridor is a stark reminder of the atrocities that led up to the Armenian Genocide, and a warning that history may repeat itself.
The Zoryan Institute is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness through scholarship and education on this critical issue. On the occasion of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, please consider purchasing a copy of the Zoryan Institute’s book, Collective and State Violence in Turkey: The Construction of a National Identity from Empire to Nation-State, and listen to the Institute’s webinar, How Impunity for Past Crimes of Genocide Magnifies Violence Internationally: A Case Study of Turkey. A donation of $25 to Zoryan Institute will also help fund research and an upcoming special issue of the Institute’s academic journal, Genocide Studies International, dedicated to the Blockade of the Lachin Corridor.