Absentee Mainstream Media Missed Refugee Crisis of the Year

Not sure how the paper of record arrived at “seemingly overnight” after a nearly 10-month blockade on Armenians in Artsakh, weeks of military buildup by Azerbaijan on the border and multiple recent shipments of weapons to Baku from Israel. 

The population nearly starved to death, but “almost” no one saw it coming?
The “paper of record,” The New York Times, has just either wholly embarrassed itself or has revealed itself as a hack for Azeri propaganda. I’m not sure which is worse.

Most people who got a chance to look at the situation saw the proverbial writing on the wall of the ethnic cleansing we are seeing today. 


The problem is, the crisis never broke into the mainstream. It never trended. It barely rose eyebrows when former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo labeled the blockade “genocide by starvation” and testified at a congressional committee. The fact that it wasn’t reported in outlets such as The NY Times only lended to global ignorance of the situation. Is this a moral failure or professional negligence? 


You had to be creative in order to inform yourself of the situation. One young Armenian woman living in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, documented the blockade on Instagram from when it began on Dec. 12, 2022. I only found her in the summer. Mary Black has 13.5K followers. 


Too bad the NYT isn’t one of them.


Thanks to the lack of reporting, most people had no idea that 120,000 residents had to stand on line for bread over night, for hours at a time. Many times that bread was their only meal of the day. Most people had no idea that these residents lived through the winter months with no fuel to heat their homes and through the summer with not enough electricity to cool their homes. Rolling blackouts gave them only six hours a day of electricity in the city. 


At some point, water was also limited—which meant the already dehydrated were further dehydrated and, naturally, bakeries couldn’t make any more bread. Supermarkets and other shops were already empty and had long since closed, Mary wrote.


People walked miles to fill up water bottles or buy baby formula. Why did they walk? Because without fuel, cars and public transportation were rendered useless. Mary shows one man who used his horse to transport people and items 30 kilometers from his village. 


“This is not normal. The whole situation is not normal. Azerbaijan is trying to normalize the Armenian Genocide,” she wrote.


Six weeks ago, internet was cut off as well, limiting information in and out of the blockaded enclave.


Two weeks ago, bread had to be rationed to 200 grams a person. At that point, the supply of flour had dwindled and very few bakeries were operating. The bread got browner and thinner as the blockade wore on. Not to mention lack of freedom of movement. Family members were separated and not allowed to return or leave for nine months. 


And yet, Azerbaijan didn’t budge. In fact, and despite reprimands and tough words from world leaders, the border was shut entirely in mid-June with zero humanitarian aid getting in since then. The very next entry of any outside body was the Azeri military on Sept. 19.


Did you know any of this? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. The media wasn’t reporting this. 


Mary is now documenting the exodus of Armenians from the region before Azerbaijan exerts full control and begins what it calls “reintegration” of the current residents into their own society. With still no humanitarian aid, a bad situation is now even more acute. People haven’t eaten in days. 


More than 60,000 Armenians have crossed the border in Armenia after having traveled for days in a long queue to leave the region, with no food or water and very limited belongings. They left behind homes full of clothing and furniture to enter the unknown next phase of their lives. 


Mary also shows how the already depleted hospitals had no bandaids to patch up victims of a gas tank explosion or those wounded in shellings on Sept. 19 and 20.She shows residents burning their documents and other belongings lest they fall into Azeri hands. As of two days ago, displaced people from other towns were arriving in Stepanakert. 


But at least now you can read about it in the papers.

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