Via email: [email protected]
January 26, 2023
International Tennis Federation
Re: Armenian Bar Association Stands Ready to Protect Karen Khachanov’s Fundamental
and Inalienable Rights
Dear International Tennis Federation:
For forty-five days, Azerbaijani citizens claiming to be “eco-activists” have blockaded the sole route connecting Artsakh to Armenia, indeed to anywhere in the outside world. The 120,000 residents of Artsakh have been subject to Azerbaijani terror tactics ever since. Natural gas has repeatedly been shut off without warning, leaving the people in the cold and physically and psychologically oppressed. On January 10th, the only high-voltage power line from Armenia to Artsakh was damaged causing expansive blackouts, leaving the people even more fragile and vulnerable. On January 12th, Azerbaijan disrupted internet connections leading into the region, leaving the people isolated and all alone. Arbitrary outages of access to critical medications and food supplies running short, a humanitarian catastrophe is already upon us.
Since December 12, 2022, many brave people have stood up and voiced their support for the besieged Armenians of Artsakh. One such person is Karen Khachanov. A bright young tennis star with Armenian roots, Mr. Khachanov reached his first Australian Open semi-finals on January 23, 2023. Upon securing the victory, Mr. Khachanov wrote a message of support to those in Artsakh suffering behind Azerbaijan’s blockade. That message was met with fierce and foolhardy backlash from the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation which called for Mr. Khachanov to be “punished” for his “act of hate.”
The Azerbaijan Tennis Federation has a twisted understanding of what constitutes “an act of hate.” Mr. Kachanov’s message said simply: “Keep believing until the very end, Artsakh hold on!” and “Artsakh stay strong.”
For decades, athletes have used their international platforms and recognition to raise awareness against injustice. Jesse Owens stood brave against Nazi ideology during the Berlin Olympics and expelled the myth of Nazi exceptionalism. Muhammad Ali remained fearless in his tireless advocacy for the civil rights movement. Like those before him, Mr. Khachanov’s views must be respected, if not commended, and certainly not censored.
The people of Artsakh have the right to live in their ancient homeland without fear of blockade and mental terror. The utilization of state-sponsored provocateurs by the Azerbaijani regime to block the Lachin Corridor is, simply put and easily established, ethnic cleansing disguised as environmental activism. The Armenian Bar Association’s Armenian Rights Watch Committee urges the international community to take all necessary steps to compel the Azerbaijani government to open the Lachin Corridor without any pre-conditions. At present, an indigenous people who have lived on their sacred land for thousands of years stands on the brink of their wholesale eradication.
Mr. Khachanov’s statements must be safe from the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation’s intimidation tactics. The Armenian Bar Association’s Armenian Rights Watch Committee has Mr. Khachanov’s back in his spreading awareness of the pending humanitarian catastrophe in Artsakh. Global awareness is a significant step in preventing the 120,000 Armenians of Artsakh from facing irreparable harm. Rather than being either censored or censured, we believe Mr. Khachanov should be applauded for his courage to speak up for human rights. As such, this Committee is at the ready to protect Mr. Khachanov’s rights against any unwarranted and illegal regulatory actions against him.
Very truly yours,
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Alex Hrag Bastian
Armenian Right Watch Committee
Armen K. Hovannisian