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Armenians Fear Ethnic Cleansing Will Wipe Out Christian Culture After Peace Deal with Azerbaijan

Protesters with Armenian flags walk along a street during a protest against an agreement to halt fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in Yerevan, Armenia, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

YEREVAN, Armenia - This week, a peace deal ended the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While the agreement ends the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians, many Armenians believe it puts something greater at risk – their history as a Christian nation.

Unrest still grips Armenia after a peace deal accepted by its president that he described as painful. Since September, the citizens here have been under attack from their neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, over the region of Nagorno-Karabach. Many in that region fled to the capital, Yerevan, and are now protesting what they see as surrendering their future.

For months, the entire country supported the war effort even as the Azeri military continued to pound civilian areas.

"This has become an existential issue. This is an issue of ethnic cleansing, and terrorist bombardments applied by Azerbaijan towards Armenians who live there," said Arman Tatoyan, an Armenian human rights defender.

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"It was started by the Azeris who are not only trying to take territory that has been historically Armenian for thousands of years, but they don't want to stop with the taking of territory. They want to wipe out the Armenian people," Daniel Decker, an Armenian composer, told CBN News. 

The Armenian military is vastly outnumbered, some say as much as eight to one. After the Azeri military claimed to have taken the region's second-largest city, known to the Armenians as Artsakh, the situation turned dire.

"They are backed openly by the Turkish government, who on one hand says there was never a genocide and on the other say now we are coming to finish what we started," Decker noted. 

To be clear, Armenians saw this fight as much more than a territorial dispute.

"Erdogan, who is president of Turkey, seeks a revived Ottoman Empire with Islam at its head, and right now Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh are standing in the way of that," Decker said. 

Not only does this current truce stop the bloodshed for the moment, but it also forces Armenia to give up land it has held for centuries. After news of the peace deal, angry protesters took over a government building, calling for the president to resign.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in this conflict and many of them have taken up shelter here in Yerevan with family and friends, and some people are just taking in refugees out of the goodness of their own hearts.

"Since day one, we had a lot of families who had to relocate and come to Yerevan and other cities of Armenia," local resident Hasmick Gasparyan told CBN News. "I hosted in my house a family of 12, and then I asked my parents to host another family and then all my friends' houses, people host families in their houses."

Now, many of these refugees face an uncertain future as their homes have been seriously damaged or destroyed. Russian peacekeepers patrol the ground in the Nagorno-Karabach area, but the people of Armenia say this crisis is far from over, and they fear their rich religious history will soon be wiped out in the areas they now no longer control.

"Their very existence is in danger right now. And as Americans, as Christians in America, we have that obligation to support Armenia and Artsakh," Decker said. 

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