Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Armenian Automobile Federation lobbies for awareness amid Nagorno-Karabakh crisis

The Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan culminated in the latter’s victory following an offensive on 19/20 September, resulting in the impending dissolution of the Republic of Artsakh and a mass exodus of Armenians in the region to avoid ethnic cleansing. Although Azerbaijan publicly gave reassurances of their safety, alarms have been raised by both Armenia and international observers, and over 100 thousand have fled Nagorno-Karabakh since.

The Azerbaijani offensive took place just days after the Armenian Automobile Federation (FAA) received an invitation from the FIA to attend the annual FIA General Assembly and Prize Giving Ceremony, the latter being where the champions of FIA-sanctioned series such as Formula One and the World Rally-Raid Championship are honoured. Both events will be held in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, which was selected in April during F1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.

While the timing of the invitation and offensive are coincidental, FAA president Arsen Manukyan lobbied to the FIA to use its platform to raise awareness for the crisis.

“The FIA is the pinnacle of motorsport governance, orchestrating an extensive array of racing disciplines,” begins a letter he wrote to the FIA on 20 September shortly after the start of the offensive. “Beyond the racetracks, our Big Sister Organization has tirelessly advocated to save lives and create safer mobility for billions of people for over a century. It is a powerful and unifying force to promote worldwide peace, social justice, equality, and inclusion and combat racism, discrimination, harassment, and aggressions.

“Just a couple of days ago, we received the Invitation to 2023 FIA General Assemblies Week, which will take place from 5 to 8 December in the stunning city of Baku, Azerbaijan. A country that, after the unjustified war in 2020, continuously targeted violence against Armenian civilians, implemented destruction of their homes and places of worship, and provoked the displacement of tens of thousands of families. Over the last eight months, their government forced a total blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, cutting electricity, water, food, and any supply, including humanitarian help, thus subjecting them to starvation and humiliation. Today, they launched a new war targeting civilians with a clear intention to escalate further into a full-scale ethnical cleansing of 120,000 Armenians in their ancestral lands.

“As a big family united around the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, we possess the influence and responsibility to act on matters of global significance. I respectfully request that we use our duty to address this urgent issue.”

He follows by outlining a two-point plan:

  • Raise Awareness: “Utilize our global platform to raise awareness about the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and unequivocally denounce all acts of violence and ethnical cleansing.”
  • Advocate for Peace: “Urge the Azerbaijani government to immediately de-escalate the conflict and only work on finding a peaceful resolution.”

“Our collective duty is to prevent the recurrence of genocide, and we hold the capacity to effect meaningful change,” concludes the letter. “I beseech the FIA to take a principled stand and act swiftly to safeguard innocent lives and uphold the values of humanity.”

Manukyan was appointed the FAA’s president in February.

Nagorno-Karabakh is generally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan, though it has an Armenian majority population that governed it via the Republic of Artsakh. Following defeat in the September offensive, the republic will be disbanded on 1 January 2024.

The Azerbaijan Automobile Federation (also known as the FAA) did not publicly comment on the offensive, though it joined in celebrating Memorial Day on 27 September. Memorial Day is a public holiday to honour Azerbaijani troops killed in the 2020 war where they reclaimed territories surrounding Artsakh before Russian peacekeepers were deployed. Azerbaijan subsequently blockaded Nagorno-Karabakh in 2022 before launching the offensive.

Russia’s position of neutrality, owing to its ties to both countries despite being part of the CSTO military alliance with Armenia, prompted the latter to begin pursuing friendlier relations with the West. Compounded with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the increased tensions in Eastern Europe have drastically affected both military and civil society. Various motorsport events on military installations were delayed or greatly impacted such as Extreme E’s Island X Prix at the Italian Capo Teluda training area in Sardinia and Rallye Breslau on Poland’s Drawsko Pomorski base, respectively; the Gotland Grand National will also be evicted from its longtime home on the Tofta firing range due to Swedish Army needs.

The FIA General Assembly and Prize Giving Ceremony in Baku will take place on 5–8 December.