Dear Friends:

We are writing this letter with the hope that you will join the international call for a ceasefire to end the bloodshed and human and cultural carnage taking place since September 27, 2020 in what has been described as the “de facto Armenian republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)” within the Soviet-era boundaries of Azerbaijan.

Ever since the fierce border disputes at the time of the establishment of Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan, ethnic discomfort smoldered in the region and broke into open conflict at the disintegration of the USSR. Since then, it has been a history of conflict, small ceasefires in the thousands made to be broken. Serious military confrontation began in 2016; again with broken ceasefires. Now the violence seems to have increased exponentially and the last Russian brokered ceasefire was breached on October 10. The Azeris bombed not only the city of Hadrut in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), but also a region in Armenia proper. There are civilian deaths and many wounded … and we do not know what to expect in the coming days.

This wholesale destruction is part of the expansive and violent territorial policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey to re-establish a version of Ottoman power in the region. We would be closer to a compromise if Azerbaijan had a more open governance structure than Turkey with internal checks and balances. As it stands, we understand that Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, is cleansing Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a historically Armenian enclave placed within its Soviet-era boundaries, of its ethnic Armenian population. The frontline of the soldiers is reportedly composed not only of mercenaries and rebel fighters from Syria and Libya but also minorities living in Azerbaijan such as Lezgins, the Talysh, Avars, Tats, Udis, the Tsakhur, Ingiloys, Rutuls, and Kurds. We call on these minorities to support rather than oppose the minority struggle of the Armenians. Azerbaijan’s 1997–2006 erasure in Nakhchivan of its Armenian culture gives us a sense of the seriousness of the continuing violence and relentless destruction of civilian lives and property, precisely of longstanding minorities, that we have been witnessing over the last decades. We remind you that the site of the bombing includes archaeological sites such as the ancient Armenian city of Tigranakert.

Before the ravages brought in by World War I and the 20th century, Azeris and Armenians in the area lived in the kind of conflictual coexistence with which we are acquainted in the multiethnic parts of the world. We are asking now not only for an agreement to a ceasefire but an insistence on the preservation of that ceasefire and protection for the Armenian minority in its efforts toward self-determination. We hope, in the long run, with the participation of all international institutions of justice, that the democratic will of the ethnic Armenians of the area can be acknowledged.

In solidarity,

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

Tariq Ali, Writer

Viken Berberian, Writer

Noam Chomsky, University of Arizona

Judith Herman, Harvard Medical School

Cornel West, Harvard University

Seyla Benhabib, Yale University

H. Aram Veeser, City College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Shahidul Alam, Photographer

Amitav Ghosh, Writer


This letter echoes a similar statement made by Jacques Derrida, Isaiah Berlin, Alain Finkielkraut, Richard Rorty, Charles Taylor, and other leading intellectuals in the New York Review of Books on September 27, 1990.


Photograph of the “We Are Our Mountains” monument by Marcin Konsek.

LARB Contributors

Amitav Ghosh is a prominent Bengali Indian author best known for his work in English.

Cornel West is an American philosopher, activist, social critic, and public intellectual. Among his most influential books are Race Matters (1994), The Future of the Race (1996, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), and Democracy Matters (2004). (Photograph by Gage Skidmore.)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor, and a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, New York.

Harold Aram Veeser is professor of English at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center at CUNY. He is the author of Edward Said: The Charisma of Criticism, and the editor of The New Historicism, Confessions of the Critics, and other volumes.

Judith Herman is Professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School, Director of Training at the Victims of Violence Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Women's Mental Health Collective. She is author of Father-Daughter Incest (Harvard University Press, 1981; reprinted 2000) and Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Aiolence (Basic Books, 1992; reprinted 1997), and is the recipient of the 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the 2000 Woman in Science Award from the American Medical Women's Association. In 2003 she was named a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, social theorist, and political activist. He is Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Seyla Benhabib is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University and was Director of its Program in Ethics, Politics and Economics (2002-2008). Her books include Critique, Norm and Utopia: A Study of the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (1986); Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics (1992; winner of the National Educational Association’s Book of the Year Award); The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt (1996; reissued in 2002); The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era (2002); and The Rights of Others: Aliens, Citizens and Residents (2004), which won the Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association and the North American Society for Social Philosophy Award.

Shahidul Alam is a photojournalist, teacher, and social activist based from Bangladesh. (Photograph by Christopher Michel.)

Tariq Ali is a political activist, writer, historian, and filmmaker, whose books include Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power (1970), Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State (1983), Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (2002), Bush in Babylon (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis Of Hope (2006), A Banker for All Seasons (2007), The Duel (2008), The Obama Syndrome (2010), and The Extreme Centre: A Warning (2015). He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review. (Photograph by Boberger.)

Viken Berberian is a writer and essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Foreign Affairs, Financial Times, Granta, and the New York Review of Books. He is the author of the novels The Cyclist (2002) and Das Kapital (2007), and, with Yann Kebbi, of the graphic novel The Structure is Rotten, Comrade (2019). (Photograph by Esby.)


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