Transformative Solidarity in Times of Subaerial Warfare From the Caucasus to the Levant


A few months after the Turkish-backed Azeri invasion of Artsakh, we wanted to reflect on the question of solidarity with the Armenian people, or the lack thereof. Panos Aprahamian and Jessika Khazrik ask what does this solidarity look like for those whose “subaerial” sky is filled with the same terrifying sound of Israeli-built drones in Gaza, Beirut, Artsakh, and Armenia.

At the advent of the past century, as most of our territories were being reconfigured into the exclusionary order of the nation-state, millions of our ancestors were pogrommed from home. Our Armenian ancestors native to Eastern Anatolia, the Southern Caucasus, and Iranian Azerbaijan, found themselves divided between three regional empires (Ottoman, Persian, and Russian) while facing the greatest systematic extermination campaign in our tragic history. Concurrently, in Seyfo or Assyrian Genocide, our Chaldean ancestors, Assyrian, and Aramean neighbors, indigenous to Eastern Anatolia, Upper Mesopotamia and Northwestern Iran, and in the Anatolian Greek Genocide, our Ottoman and Pontic Greek neighbors native to Anatolia, faced systematic extermination through genocide and rape. Their houses, communal spaces, and immovables were plundered and destroyed in order to prevent any possible return.

Time and time again and with every manned displacement, we have learned that borders emerge out of the invasive and taxonomic (dis-)order of war. While searching for a transformative solidarity with the power to disrupt, we continue to witness and re-learn how war is not a sudden and temporary paroxysm of violence that begins and ends within a finite period of time. War cannot be but inherently toxic and extremely high-cost. It stays and seeps into our everyday environment, economy, infrastructure, and techno-politics. As we face today, through capitalism’s ecocidal practices, the threat of genocide on a planetary-scale, the dispossessive mechanisms of genocide and ecocide, experienced through war and its extractivist incentives and devastations, continue to loom over our communities.

We are now in December 7, 1915, we read the following from the chancellor of Germany around the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire:

The proposed public reprimand of an ally in the course of a war would be an act which is unprecedented in history. Our only aim is to keep Turkey on our side until the end of the war, no matter whether as a result Armenians do perish or not. If the war continues much longer, we will need the Turks even more.” (Chancellor of the German Empire Bethmann-Hollweg)

We are now in the past century, in the early 1920s. The Great War and the Armenian Genocide are drawing to an end. As the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire begins to reterritorialize itself into the modern Turkish ethnostate through genocide, the Qajar dynasty in Persia is replaced by the Pahlavis. Concurrently, the Russian Empire withdraws from the Southern Caucasus post-Bolshevik Revolution, and many of the region’s populations clash in ethnic skirmishes while each tries to create its own independent republic. The violence at the core of the racist, suppressive, militarist and exclusionary order of the nation-state makes itself visible.

We are now specifically on November 30, 1920, one hundred years after the most recent eruptive war. We are reading in the December 7, 1920 issue of Armenian newspaper Communist, the “Declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR on the Recognition of the of Nagorno Karabagh, Zanghezour and Nakhichevan as Integral Part of the Armenian SSR.” Five years after the classical militarist position of chancellor, we find hope in the following statement issued by the chairman of the revolutionary committee of Azerbaijan:

November 30, 1920


On behalf of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, we declare to the Armenian people the decision of the Revcom [Revolutionary Committee] of Azerbaijan of November 30:

The Workers-Peasants Government of Azerbaijan, having received the message on the declaration of the Soviet Socialist Republic in Armenia on behalf of the rebelling peasantry, welcomes the victory of the brotherly people. From this day on, the former borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan are announced abrogated. Nagorno-Karabagh, Zangezour and Nakhichevan are recognized as an integral part of the Armenian Socialist Republic.

 Long live brotherhood and union of the workers and peasants of Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan!

N. Narimanov,

Chairman of the Revcom of Azerbaijan Guseinov.

Yet, in a countermove under Stalinist policies, not so long after the Caucasian republics join the newly formed Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, Stalin steers the USSR in a rightward turn and relinquishes Kars to Turkey, Nakhichevan and Artsakh to Azerbaijan, in an attempt to please the neighboring Ataturk regime. The same history has persisted with imperial powers drawing arbitrary borders, displacing populations, and then collapsing. This process that always already begins and concludes with new extractions, military alliances and global flows of capital, nurtures ethnic strife, solidifies national identities and enhances paranoia.

We are now in the late 1980s and we are fast approaching the collapse of the Soviet Empire. A time of massive change across the Eastern Bloc as the Soviet Order and its satellite states start to dissolve. Nationalism and ethnic strife return with a vengeance, (re-)drowning Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus in blood. The Armenian population of Artsakh, which had previously held a successful referendum for local autonomy that was later overturned by bigger regional powers, finds itself being invaded by the Azerbaijani armed forces after a series of anti-Armenian pogroms take place in Sumgait, Baku, and other areas with considerable Armenian communities. Despite this authoritarian overturn of democratic will from the seats of power in Moscow and Baku, the Armenians of Artsakh succeed at keeping the invading armies at bay and establish an autonomous republic that remained officially unrecognized.

This indigenous land preservation was made possible with the support of voluntary brigades from Artsakh, Armenia, and the Diaspora, as well as the post-Soviet remnants of the Armenian military. As we realize once again that war cannot be put to an end without the transformation of the economy, i.e. without putting an end to capitalism and militarization, we seek to collectively remember and confront how, in an attempt to carve out a safe zone in the face of onslaught, the nascent brigade reproduced the violence of ethnic cleansing it sought to escape and killed many of the Azeri and Kurdish population living between Armenia and Artsakh.

We are now in 2020 and fascism, decades in the making, has fully taken over Turkey at a time when a frail democracy began to blossom in Armenia. Along with the Republic of Artsakh, these two models of democratic self-governance and local autonomy cannot be assented by such modes of national and military alliance in the Caucasus, as it is filled with separatist movements. Artsakh and the new democratic order in Armenia need to be punished so things can indefinitely go on as they are. Now, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey wants to revive the born-out-of-Genocide settler-colonial entity he now oversees as the sole necropolitical sovereign over the Southern Caucasus, Western Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Balkans. Necropolitics, the politics of death, grants the sovereign the ultimate power to decide who gets to live and who gets to die on its territory. Some of the regional populations rejecting that fate have resorted to armed resistance. Some created minuscule and landlocked republics, others formed semi-autonomous regions with, in some cases, unprecedented models of local self-governance and democratic confederalism. This renders the Western narrative that wants to see in the non-Western Other nothing but a victim to sympathize with or delineate, uncomfortable.

Now Turkey’s revived fascist expansionism has pushed the Aliyev regime of Azerbaijan towards a full-scale assault, backed by the second-largest NATO army — as in Turkey itself, Israeli high-tech unmanned death machines, and a plethora of international Jihadis and mercenaries from Syria. This now full-fledged conflict between two so-called standing armies, unprecedented in the 21st century, reproduces itself as asymmetric warfare between an under-equipped military and voluntary international brigades versus a nomadic war-machine reigning fire from the skies by both manned and unmanned vehicles and on both military and civilian targets. High-tech military equipment provided by Azerbaijan’s two settler-colonial allies, Turkey and Israel. This exterminating air-raid is aided on the ground by the Azeri army of course but also by Turkish special forces, as well as Arab soldiers of fortunes and Azerbaijani minorities thrown at the forefront as cannon-fodder. Despite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resembling traditional warfare, given that it is a clash between two national armies, the situation on the ground rather resembles forms of conflict produced out of aerial extermination administered against a native population by invading armies or on separatist regions on the receiving end of collective punishment by occupying forces and fascist national projects.

While searching for a transformative solidarity with Artsakh and with all anti-colonial struggles for self-determination, we hear, from what is left of our homes in Beirut, the violent occupation of our subaerial skies. For nearly a year now, they literally drone over our heads in an audible placement in the sky. So far, they do not fire, but their sibilant frequency transports us to the war and now occupation of Nagorno-Karabagh and its surroundings, to Armenia. This sonic warfare reminds us of our comrades in Palestine. We remember that in this deadly global economy of war, Israel adds an imperial, empirical and deadly surplus value to the arms it produces, fires and trades. We try to grasp what the unmanned vehicles are saying. The drones blare, “battle tested” in Palestine. “Battle tested” in Armenia and Artsakh. Their price soars. “Battle tested” in our ears and in our families’ and comrades’ blood. We continue searching for a transformative solidarity that devalues war and capitalism.Multiple narratives arise with different political, cultural and ideological backgrounds. This includes the misleading and ahistorical “both sides” discourse often used to discredit the resistance from Palestine to Ireland and beyond. Despite the centenary distance, indigenous Armenians are still being depopulated from their homes. Once more, in October and November 2020, our people in Artsakh had to choose again between genocide and the imperial loss of their homes, communal spaces and millennia-old heritage. We are physically far from Artsakh, but the mere realization that the drones we hear from Beirut and those heard in Armenia, Artsakh, and Gaza are produced by the same Israeli powers, stridently signal to us that we live under the same empires of war.

We cannot face the forces of occupation, their toxic alliances, and imminent extractions without an internationalist, anti-militarist strategy for a solidarity that transforms and disrupts the capitalist economy of war and falsification. No military can truly disrupt the economy it protects, and no place can be de-militarized alone. De-miltarization cannot but work in a transnational endeavor that first and foremost guarantees it will not place vulnerable populations under further danger stripping them from their meager means to protect themselves and their homes.

Only anti-militarist residents and workers from all sorts of fields, alliances, and cyphersciphers, can pervasively do so when the disruption is concurrent, multiple, and recognisant not only of our history of genocide but also of our history of revolutionary kinship, anti-colonial resistance, anti-militarist feminisms, and anti-extractivist indigenous struggles for self-determination. ■

Aprahamian Khazrik Funambulist
Considered at that time as the largest rally in the history of the USSR, this protest on February 20, 1988 in Yerevan brought together hundreds thousands in demand of the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. The collectively held banner reads in Russian, “Armenians are not extremists! Extremists are not us!”. On that day, the NKAO Supreme Council in Stepanakert issued a request to transfer the region to Soviet Armenia. One week after this protest, the Sumgait pogrom began with mobs of Azerbaijanis forming into fractions, assaulting and murdering thousands of Armenians on the streets, breaking into their apartments, setting them on fire and stealing furniture. A lack of concern from local police departments, and in many cases secret support from them, allowed the pogrom to continue for three days. As protection, many Azerbaijani friends, neighbors, and even strangers secretly hosted Armenians into their houses or drove them out of the city.