SOUTHERN ARMENIA – While the world focuses on Israel's war against Hamas, an ongoing conflict threatens a tiny Christian nation at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Armenia is facing a potential genocide at the hands of its militant neighbor, Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan's army is five times larger than Armenia's. With backing from Turkey, Azerbaijan moved in October to take over the Nagorno-Karabach district, a disputed exclave of 1,700 square miles that has been inhabited by Armenians for millennia.
After a brutal war over that territory in 2020, a ceasefire was brokered by Russia, who sent peacekeepers to enforce the terms of the deal. Now, as Russia's war against Ukraine takes a heavy toll, Azerbaijan seized the region in a brutal 3-day campaign and drove out more than 120,000 Armenians.
Armenian survivor Gita recalled, "I was in my father's village when the attack took place. The first explosions were in the village. All of us were shocked, we did not know what to do."
Jacob Pursley, a businessman in Armenia, said, "Unfortunately, the news cycle has ignored most of what's happened of this ethnic cleansing that started on September 19th of this year."
"A bomb fell on our neighbor's house and we heard their cry for help," Gita said. "I ran there with that lady, along with some other women, since there were no men left in the village. We somehow dragged him out of there but he had lost a lot of blood and there was no hope for him to survive."
The military assault created a massive humanitarian crisis and generated allegations of Azeri war crimes which have drawn criticism from the West.
Gita said, "I started walking out of the village. There were many people in cars, leaving. And I was walking. A truck came by and I grabbed onto its side and he drove me like that for a couple of kilometers."
With the world now distracted by the war against Hamas in Israel, Azerbaijan sees an opportunity to push even further, taking a strategic slice of Armenia proper.
Armenian villager Samvel said, "We hear they have a mind to capture our province. That's the Turk's idea. Erdogan has said so many times. Now the Russians and Azerbaijanis have joined the Turks. They want to eliminate the Armenian nation."
"As Hamas is to Israel, Azerbaijan, and Turkey are to Armenia and the Armenian Christians," Pursley said. "And their ideology is that they want to make a complete Turkic Islamic empire, and Armenia stands in their way. It sits in between Azerbaijan and Turkey, and they want to connect the entire Turkic Islamic world."
CBN News visited an Armenian monastery called Tatev that's over 1,100 years old – one of the most popular tourist spots in the entire country of Armenia. It's in the southeastern part of the country in an area that's under threat from Azerbaijan. The militant regime now calls this "Western Azerbaijan," claiming this land belongs to them.
But if you look at the dozens and dozens of churches like this across this region that are all over 1,000 years old, it's pretty easy to see that this has been Armenian territory for a long, long time.
Samver said, "In 301, we accepted Christianity. In 1915, after the genocide, we lost much of our land to the Turks. I'd like to see that land returned to us someday. I just want Armenia to flourish. That's my wish."
Armenians, though, feel ignored by the world.
"Thousands of people, children... nobody paid any attention to see what would happen to those people. Everybody would go home, risking their lives, to bring something to eat, although there wasn't a lot of food left," Gita said.
Here at the southernmost point in Armenia, right on the Iranian border, this is some of the most strategic land in this entire country. And that's one of the reasons why the Azeris want to take this property so badly. They call it the Zagezur corridor, and it's only about 40 miles wide. But it separates Azerbaijan from its exclave in Iran and the rest of the West. And they want to put a pipeline through here to get their gas out to the rest of the world. But that's one of the reasons why the Armenians are very concerned that this may be the next point, that the Azeris decide to invade.
Without Russian protection, Azerbaijan's forces are poised to continue seizing territory, and people here worry about a repeat of the Armenian genocide of 1915.
Pursley said, "Please do not forget your true Christian brothers and sisters in Armenia that are being attacked and forcibly removed from their homelands right now. And what we can do is we can, along with petitioning for Israel, which Israel is being attacked in an unjust manner, we can also petition our governments to look at the plight of the Armenians and to help them, aid them, come alongside these people that are in a similar situation."
"Maybe all Christian countries will come to our defense, so we don't disappear from the map," Samvel said.