The Horrors of the Other War in Europe Keep Growing | Opinion

Anush Apetyan was a mother of three children. On Sept. 13, 2022, she was sent to the borders of Vayots Dzor province, Armenia, to defend her homeland following Azerbaijan's attack against the sovereign and democratic nation.

The Azerbaijanis attacked deep inside Armenian territory with artillery and drones, its ground forces advancing into the town of Jermuk. Civilian homes were damaged and destroyed, and border posts were overrun, including the post where Apetyan was stationed.

In the aftermath, an Azerbaijani soldier published horrific visuals of the destruction on Telegram. He's seen walking on a mountain of corpses of Armenian soldiers, kicking the heads of the dead and laughing. He directs his camera toward the naked corpse of a woman whose body has been mutilated. A severed finger is stuck in her mouth; a stone is stuck in one eye socket instead of an eyeball. He points the camera at her exposed pubic area.

The tortured body in the video is believed to be Apetyan, but it is so mangled it is possible the image shows a fellow female combatant who also died the same week.

Any Armenian who saw these images immediately got flashbacks to the bloody 44-day war Azerbaijan launched against the Armenian-inhabited region of Nagorno-Karabakh region. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations reported on the Azerbaijani war crimes, which included soldiers posting videos of themselves beheading old Armenian men

The Toll of the War in Armenia
Relatives and friends of those killed in the previous conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan visit the Yerablur Military Memorial Cemetery in Yerevan, Armenia, on Sept. 27, 2022. KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images

For those wondering how they missed this story, some context is needed to explain why it did not make headlines. Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas. Any money that the ruling Aliyev family does not pocket goes into the military or is used to bribe European politicians. Equipped with the most modern weapon systems from Turkey—along with Turkish support—and Israel, no Azerbaijani advance could be stopped by Armenia alone.

Armenia is facing this conflict alone. The nation is being punished for its 2018 Velvet Revolution, which aimed to break the country free from its corrupt oligarchs and ruling elite. Armenia stretched out its hand to the West, alienating its old partner Russia, and like Ukraine, now finds itself suffering the consequences—but with far less media attention.

As recently as March, the European Parliament warned in a resolution that there was a systematic, country-wide policy of hostility toward the Armenians in Azerbaijan that was clearly promoted by the state. The efforts include historical revisionism, glorification of violence, dehumanisation of and hatred towards Armenians. None of this stopped the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, from travelling to the Azerbaijani capital Baku in July in search of gas suppliers. There she declared the ruling dictator to be a "trustworthy partner." The EU seems to have traded a Russian dictator for one in Baku in its attempts to address the gas gap.

Meanwhile, many of Europe's leading nations, including our own country, Germany, have failed to take a stance on the latest attacks. Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock claims her foreign policy has clear objectives that revolve around values and in the Bundestag she calls for a "clear stance" on the Russian attack on Ukraine. But she cannot find a single word to describe the latest attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia.

The silence from many Western nations is deafening for the Armenians and emboldens Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and his cronies. Even after the United States called out Azerbaijan's aggressive attacks, most of Europe remained silent.

Armenians are now on high alert because, despite a ceasefire, Aliyev has repeatedly made it clear that he does not accept either Armenia's borders or its statehood. As early as 2015 he wrote on Twitter: "Armenia is not even a colony, it is not even worthy of being a servant."

Anush Apetyan will not be able to help repel the next attack. However, the political leadership of the European Union and Germany can prevent other women and men from sharing her terrible fate. The EU leadership must decide whether the values ​​they proclaim only matter when they coincide with geopolitical interests—or whether human rights and human dignity should be the basis of their actions.

Martin Sonneborn is a member of the European Parliament for Die PARTEI and a member of the parliamentary delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, Dustin Hoffmann is legal expert and heads his EU parliamentary office.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.

CORRECTION: The province where Anush Apetyan was killed is Vayots Dzor.