As the Muslim nation of Azerbaijan resumed its genocide of Armenian Christians earlier this week, the question arises: When it comes to savage hate for "infidels," what, exactly, is the difference between Islamic terrorists — whom we are regularly admonished have nothing to do with real Islam — and Muslim statesmen?
The Islamic State ("ISIS"), for example, was widely condemned (including by a long-reluctant Obama administration) for committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other non-Muslims in the regions it held sway, especially Iraq and Syria.
Ongoing Genocide of Infidels
At this very moment, however, even so-called "secular" Muslim nations are engaged in genocide — and for the very same jihadist reasons.
In late 2022, for example, Turkey opened fire on Syria's northern border, where most of the religious minorities — Christians, Yazidis, etc. — that had experienced genocide a few years earlier by ISIS live. Enough death and destruction occurred that Genocide Watch issued a Genocide Emergency Alert on December 7, 2022:
These military attacks by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime are part of a wider Turkish policy of annihilation of the Kurdish and Assyrian [Christian] people in northern Syria and Iraq. Turkey has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including bombing, shelling, abduction, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The attacks are part of Turkey's genocidal policies towards Kurds, Christians, and Ezidis.
During a later webinar (summarized here), Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, concluded that "Turkey is a genocidal society... Turkey has conducted so many genocides in history... Going back many centuries, it [Turkey] has been anti-Christian, and has tried to slaughter as many Christians as possible."
Atrocities Against the Armenians
Then there is the ongoing genocide of another Christian people, the Armenians, at the hands of the so-called "secular" governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In late 2020, Azerbaijan went to war against Armenia over Artsakh, ancient Armenian land (aka, Nagorno-Karabakh). Turkey quickly joined its Azerbaijani co-religionists, though the dispute clearly did not concern it. Turkey even funded and sent "jihadist groups," to quote French President Macron, that had been operating in Syria and Libya — including the one that kept naked women chained and imprisoned — to terrorize and slaughter the Armenians.
One of these captured mercenaries confessed that he was "promised a monthly $2,000 payment for fighting against 'kafirs' in Artsakh, and an extra 100 dollar[s] for each beheaded kafir." (Kafir, often translated as "infidel," is Arabic for any non-Muslim who fails to submit to Islam, which makes them enemies by default.)
Please Support The Stream: Equipping Christians to Think Clearly About the Political, Economic, and Moral Issues of Our Day.
All these terrorist groups, as well as the Azeri military, committed numerous atrocities (see here, and here), including by raping an Armenian female soldier and mother of three, before hacking off all four of her limbs, gouging her eyes, and mockingly sticking one of her severed fingers inside her private parts.
The 2020 war ended with Azerbaijan appropriating Artsakh. Since then, Azerbaijan has literally been starving its Armenians to death, in what several watchdog organizations—including the Association of Genocide Scholars, Genocide Watch, and the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention—have labeled a genocide.
Speaking on August 7, 2023, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said:
There is an ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh. The blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: 'Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.'
A Subtle Similarity
A more subtle similarity exists between the genocides foisted by bearded terrorists in traditional Muslim garb, and Muslim statesmen in suits and ties: they both exhibit a jihadist hate for and strong desire to erase the religious history and heritage of their victims.
Attacks on churches and crosses are one of the most obvious examples of this "purge." In 2015, for example, ISIS published a video of Muslims desecrating churches and breaking crosses all throughout the Syrian province of Nineveh, one of the oldest Christian regions in the world. (After it had gone viral on Arabic social media, and because I wanted Western people to know what Muslims know, I loaded it onto YouTube — only for YouTube to instantly remove and temporarily suspend my account. That video is now available, here.)
Azerbaijan has done and continues to do the same exact thing to the churches and crosses in ancient Christian territories (namely, Artsakh and Nakhchivan) under its control.
In one instance — and as happened throughout Iraq and Syria under the "terrorists" — an Azeri fighter was videotaped standing atop an Armenian church, after its cross had been broken off, while triumphantly crying "Allahu Akbar!" In another, video footage showed Azeri troops entering into a conquered church, laughing, mocking, kicking, and defacing Christian items inside it, including a fresco of the Last Supper. In response to this video, Arman Tatoyan, an Armenian human rights activist, issued a statement:
The President of Azerbaijan and the country's authorities have been implementing a policy of hatred, enmity, ethnic cleansing and genocide against Armenia, citizens of Armenia and the Armenian people for years. The Turkish authorities have done the same or have openly encouraged the same policy.
As for statistics, according to Caucasus Heritage Watch, 108 Medieval and early modern Armenian monasteries, churches and cemeteries between 1997 and 2011 have experienced "complete destruction." Moreover, since the 2020 war, "new satellite imagery shows ongoing destruction of Armenian heritage sites. Images show disappearance of churches and cemeteries." As one example, photos showed how a more than 700 years old monastery was first destroyed, and then re-erected as a mosque.
An even more recent report from June, 2023 documents the systematic destruction of ancient churches, crosses, Christian cemeteries, and other cultural landmarks in Artsakh. As one example, after bombing the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi during the 2020 war — an act Human Rights Watch labeled a "possible war crime" — Azerbaijan seized the region. Although officials claimed they would "restore" the church, all they did is remove its dome and cross, making the building look less like a church. As one report notes,
The 'case' of Shushi is indicative of the well-documented history of Armenian cultural and religious destruction by Azerbaijan. From 1997 to 2006, Azerbaijan systematically obliterated almost all traces of Armenian culture in the Nakhichevan area, which included the destruction of medieval churches, thousands of carved stone crosses ("khachkars"), and historical tombstones.
And now, after launching yet another military offensive earlier this week, one of the oldest Christian places of worship in the world, the fourth century Amaras Monastery, has fallen under Azeri control. The fate of this ancient heritage site will, no doubt, be lamentable.
When it comes to the jihadist genocide of Christian "infidels" and the erasure of their cultural heritage, there appears to be little difference between Muslim "terrorists" and Muslim "statesmen." As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once observed, "Islam cannot be either 'moderate' or 'not moderate.' Islam can only be one thing." And that one thing has been on display for fourteen (blood drenched) centuries.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.