Today, Progressive Maryland is calling on all members of the Maryland Congressional delegation to act for immediate relief and justice in the South Caucasus. As a state with a vibrant Armenian-American population and a history of standing for human rights in the region, we find the current crisis appalling and stand in solidarity with the displaced people of Artsakh. On September 19, 2023, after illegally depriving the indigenous Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) of food, energy, medicine, and any connection to the outside world for over 9 months, the Republic of Azerbaijan began an assault that caused the complete collapse of self-government in the region and a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 100,000 people were forced to flee for their lives or face a terrifying future in a country routinely recognized as one of the world’s most repressive regimes by organizations like Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. 

Similarly, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, Genocide Watch, and officials from the ICC all concurred that mass starvation, military assault, and forced expulsion constituted genocide. Shamefully, the U.S. has now for years continuously allowed tax dollars in the form of military assistance to flow to Azerbaijan. Presidents of both parties have waived Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, allowing for U.S.arms to tip the balance of power and give tacit endorsement to Azerbaijan’s military actions. Only after 100,000 indigenous people were expelled, did USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim visit the region and offer a mere $11 million in aid to victims of said ethnic cleansing. This must change.

The Biden Administration and Congressional Progressives should be behind robust humanitarian aid to refugees, ensuring the right to return for those who wish to live on their ancestral lands in peace, and ending U.S. complicity in Azerbaijan’s war crimes. Likewise, there has so far been no administrative action to sanction Azerbaijan for breaking humanitarian law, to impose global Magnitsky sanctions against commanders on film committing war crimes, or diplomatically punishing the Azeri government for further escalating tensions through the continued holding of Armenian political prisoners, public threats towards sovereign Armenian territory and promotion of racial animus toward ethnic Armenians.

Specifically, we call upon all members of the Maryland House and Senate delegation to support bipartisan efforts like H.R. 5686, H.R. 5683, H.Res. 735, and H.Res.861 to finally set the record straight and lead American foreign policy with American progressive values. The Senate already took a step in the right direction by unanimously passing S. 3000, restricting aid to Azerbaijan. Now it is time to build on that progress and send all of these measures to President Biden for signature. Maryland has a long history of helping the Armenian people in their time of need, including by organizing the Near East Relief movement during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Now, should be no different.