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  • Feminist Peace Collective

The blockade of Lachin corridor: in the midst of neo-colonialism, civil society and state violence

More than a month-long blockade of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijani "eco-activists" has led to a humanitarian disaster in Nagorno-Karabakh. Food shortages, internet outages, restrictions on medical and other services, and separated families are the bitter consequences of the last month's isolation. The moral exclusion brought by the new nationalism and revanchism intensified after the 2020 victory in Azerbaijan keeps the general context in the hegemonic consent of the ruling class, civil society and society: Some deny the humanitarian disaster, some rejoice, and some are indifferent.

The demand of the blockade is to end the exploitation of mineral deposits currently under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the environmental disasters caused by it. This mobilization, including those (mostly construction workers in Karabakh) who are unaware of what is going on and respond in confusion: "they told me to join, so I joined"; state agents and representatives of NGOs (with in fact no environmental mandate[1]), has some parallels with the processes that gathered for the Topkhana forest in 1988 that later turned into the national liberation movement. However, unlike the nationalist movements of those times, today nationalism is strongly indoctrinated by the state and the ruling class. The custom of protest is appropriated and controlled by the state, and thus the ongoing show at the Lachin corridor affecting the lives of thousands clearly legitimizes various forms of state violence.

While armed conflict and nationalism are used to channel domestic crises and social frustrations in society, they are also nested in various structures that manage the conflict between society and the state. Nevertheless, the blockade of the Lachin Corridor should be seen not only as an embodiment of state violence and oppression but also as part of an expanding neo-colonialism. Here, it is necessary to analyse the role of civil society, the ownership contest over land and resources and the relationship between state power and economic imperialism.

First, the government is trying to put the responsibility of its action onto the civil society that carries the blockade actions while it is clear that they organize it. Nevertheless, the reasons why civil society, with the exception of a small section, supports or remains neutral to what is happening are based on the idea of civil society itself. Against the neoliberal discourse that tries to present civil society as an alternative to the state, such events clearly reveal the essence of civil society. That is, whether it is organized by the government or not, civil society fulfils its function: it mediates the conflict between the state and society and organizes institutions that create a hegemonic consent between them. In other words, civil society in the form of various institutions, organizations or structures facilitates the power and hegemony of the state by proposing reforms within the state to compensate for the rage of the population[2]. Therefore those "activists" protesting at the Lachin corridor are indeed doing what they have to do. They try to present the state's interests universal and fulfil the mission that the government cannot do on its own at the moment. Hence, since their mission is quite fake, even the dove they release into the air for peace dies in their hands.

In the context where social movements are kept under control, and opposition is doomed to virtually disappear with the new law on political parties, we are faced with new images of state violence and control. Although the police and security forces are still the main power in the hands of the ruling elite, other means of ideological hegemony are established through civil society. Referring to Gramsci's concept of hegemony, Boggs defines civil society in his book "Gramsci's Marxism" as "an entire system of values and morals that permeates all the structures and aspects of society, including the family, which serve the interests of the established order and the class that dominates it"[3]. Thus, although civil society imitates to meet the needs of society, it contributes to the creation of hegemonic consent between the ruling class and society. In other words, regardless of whether civil society has an independent subjectivity or not, it actually represents itself quite precisely with the protest in the Lachin corridor.

Secondly, the demands for both control over the mining fields and the Zangezur corridor brought up by the blockade of the Lachin corridor expose exactly what the authorities mean by peace. There is no longer any doubt that the ruling class in Azerbaijan and its patrons are willing to do anything in the current juxtapose of internal and geopolitical realities to ensure the security of their current and future interests. While in September 2022, they tried to push coercive peace using direct military force, this time they chose the method of isolation and blockade. Along with the goal of getting full control over the mineral deposits of Nagorno-Karabakh by gradually putting the Nagorno-Karabakh population under the threat of "ethnic cleansing", they also directly organize economic imperialism which in turn makes wars permanent.

Already back in 2020, while the war in Karabakh was ongoing Azerbaijan entrusted new fields in Karabakh to the Anglo Asian mining company upfront with the confidence that they would get control over the mines, which they partly did. The owners of Anglo Asian, a British company, are closely related to Azerbaijan, USA, and Britain. While Anglo Asian somewhat got what they wanted after the war, the demarcation process of new border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the interest of Russia seemed to challenge their full grasp. With the failure to acquire the Zod/Sotk mine field, which is on the borderline between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and owned by Geomining Gold LLC, Russian-linked company, new fields were handed over to Anglo-Asian as compensation in July 2022. These new fields (Kharkhar, Garadag, Demirli, Qizilbulag), two of which are under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh are the current explicit reason for “eco-activism” show orchestrated by the government to fulfil their new contract with Anglo Asian. It is also quite revealing that the Zangezur Corridor demand is not only pursued because of its military and political importance but also because of getting better access to the Vejnali and Ordubad deposits given to the Anglo Asian company[4].

Unlike a form of national culture and struggle that aims for liberation, the current nationalism merely stands by the side of imperialism as the ruling classes reorganize and impose the new nationalist myths making wars inevitable and peace impossible[5]. Through neo-colonialism and economic dependency, they ensure both the permanent power of authorities in the peripheries and their own hegemony. In the post-Soviet space, Western imperialism is maintained through cultural and economic hegemony, while Russia's power in the region rests directly on its colonial roots, so it does not hesitate to continue military and political control. One of the main indicators of colonial control is continuous militarization. Russia already actively contributing to the sufficient militarization of Armenia and Azerbaijan before 2020, ensured further control with its peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh after the 2020 ceasefire agreement. Despite of its weakening position as the war in Ukraine is ongoing, Russia has become the current de facto patron state of Nagorno-Karabakh by recently appointing the oligarch Ruben Vardanyan to the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh and reassuring its political and economic superiority.

When we see Russian peacekeepers standing between Azerbaijanis and Armenians during the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, and Azerbaijani “eco-activists” protesting for the interest of the British company to own the mining field in Karabakh and Karabakh Armenians relying on the power of Russia and its newly appointed leader, we can come to the conclusion that Azerbaijanis and Armenians, whose agencies are stolen and who are supposedly doomed to be “pacified” by the colonizers will not be able to easily get rid of the neither the colonized cycle nor the war itself. It seems impossible to change the current cycle without destroying the hegemonic agreement of people with the power that organizes neo-colonialism through companies, the military and civil society. If civil society mediates the conflict between the violent state and the oppressed society, companies and individuals who seek to own all the factors of production in the same order seek to ensure control and security of their profits through the states and the ruling class in their colonies. Therefore, the continuation of the blockade of Lachin, which is a manifestation of the sweet alliance of the state, civil society, and neo-colonialism, will instrumentalize and subjugate local people to keep them in a state of constant conflict, thereby legitimizing state violence, including the war that awaits us in the future.

[1] To watch more on the investigation on the mandate of NGOs represented in the protest in Lachin corridor (1) Mikroskop Media in English on Twitter: "The NGOs participating in the actions organized by the 🇦🇿 government in Lachin corridor are presented as NGOs specializing in ecology. We watched more than 50 videos and researched the NGOs there, and they have nothing to do with ecology and environment." / Twitter [2] Riddiough C. (1981) Socialism, feminism and gay/lesbian liberation; In the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism A debate on Class and Patriarchy. (pp. 71-90). [3] Boggs C. (1976) Gramsci’s Marxism London : Pluto Press, 1976 p. 39 [4] To read more in detail about the investigation on Anglo Asian company and their new agreements Azerbaijan Gives British Mining Company Three New Sites as Compensation for Sotk Mine ( [5] Fanon F.(1961) “On National Culture,” Wretched of the Earth



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