Karabakh Refugees Protect Their Rights


Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
June 25 2003

At last there is an organization in Nagorni Karabakh which unites the
refugees. At last because there were refugees in Karabakh since 1988
and so far neither the government, nor the international organizations
have established an agency that would attend to the numerous problems
of the refugees. The fact that the committee was established on these
days causes anxiety. There are a number of factors accompanying this
process. First, from the beginning of this year the interest of a
number of international, particularly European organizations in the
Karabakh problem became apparent. For example in February
representatives of British and American organizations visited
Stepanakert. these organizations have joined in a consortium for the
implementation of the joint program of assistance to the settlement of
the Karabakh conflict and maintenance of an atmosphere of confidence
in the region. As the director of LINKS, which is member of the
consortium, Stephen Nash said, the program is funded by the British
government. Within the framework of the consortium LINKS will deal
with working out alternative ways of conflict regulation, the
organization “Alarm International” will regulate parliamentary
cooperation, the “Service of Catholic Aid” will assist to the
development of the non-governmental sector and “Conciliation
Resources” will deal with the international coverage of the conflict
and work with the local mass media. Within the framework of the
program several separate projects were already funded: the newspaper
“Demo”, Karabakh page in the Internet site of BBC, several other
projects with Karabakh public organization. This is the first
factor. Second, it is apparent that the special representatives of the
European organizations on the Karabakh conflict are interested in the
problems of common people. If formerly different reporters did not
consider it necessary to visit Karabakh for preparing their reports,
this year both Terry Davis and Goran Lenmarker who prepared reports on
Karabakh arrived here. What is more, all of them refuse to participate
in the political settlement of the conflict charging the OSCE Minsk
Group with this mission, and speak about the social and humanitarian
aspects of the problem. As a rule they meet with refugees, imply on
the probability of providing humanitarian aid and so on. Is the
growing interest of Europe favourable for us? On the one hand yes,
because this means an inflow of finance for the spheres of
democratization, development, for which the state has not possibility,
or wish. On the other hand, shifting the problem from the political to
the humanitarian plain may have bad consequences for Karabakh. Without
a political regulation, and recognition of the status of Karabakh any
social and economic assistance will be temporary. We considered this
long preface necessary for showing the background against which the
Committee for Refugees was founded. We talked to the chairman of the
committee S. Saroyan who mentioned that they plan a seminar for
refugees in mid-July which will be organized by the LINKS with the
participation of the Armenian organization “Millenium”. According to
him, the chief aim of the organization is the recognition of the
refugees resettled during the Karabakh conflict both by Nagorni
Karabakh and international organizations. The refugees of Shoushi
particularly mentioned about this during the meetings with the
European guests who visited Shoushi. The thing is that not only the
international community but also the government of Karabakh did not
recognize these people as refugees. Even the law “On refugees” was
adopted only in 2003. Many people and even the refugees explain this
by the fact that the Karabakh authorities tried to solve the problems
of refugees without any status. Many are provided with flats, jobs,
have registration. Then the war started and the refugees fought, got
wounded and killed shoulder to shoulder with the people of
Karabakh. Later a part managed to solve their problems although it is
natural that for them it was much difficult to recover from war than
for the natives of Karabakh. Nevertheless, there are people who still
live in dormitories, consider themselves refugees and think that if
they left their homes against their will, then both the country that
received them and the international community must help them.
Besides, as the deputy chairman of the Committee for Refugees Ashot
Harutiunian mentioned, all the inhabitants of Shoushi are in the sense
of their situation refugees because all of them were resettled, lost
their property and actually returned to their ruined town. In answer
to our question why the problem is raised only now we were told that
formerly nobody reacted to these demands as there was neither a law,
nor interest. Apparently the refugees are not informed on the changes
either. At the Department for Migration, Refugees and Resettlers we
were told that after the adoption of the law not a single refugee
applied for registration. According to Sanasar Saroyan, the committee
today carries out works for bringing together the refugees in
Stepanakert and regions for the settlement of their problems and
providing information on their rights. S. Saroyan mentioned that the
organization intends to become international. The former Armenian
inhabitants of Baku and Sumgait live not only in Karabakh. For uniting
efforts the leadership of the committee has established relationships
with the World Armenian Organization (Ara Abrahamian), Armenian
experts on refugees (Alexander Manassian), former Baku Armenians
living in America (Mikhail Avanessian) and others. The committee
already cooperates with the organization “Country and Culture” which
implements significant programs in Armenia and Artsakh. One of the
important problems that the committee is going to extend to the
government is the necessity of introducing legislative changes in the
law on refugees. It turns out that according to the law the refugees
do not have the right to occupy high positions in Karabakh. Or if the
refugee marries a native of Karabakh, he or she loses their
status. There are also questions related to the procedure of granting
the status of refugee. The second question: the committee was
established in Shoushi. One of the aims set by the members of the
committee is the renaissance of the town, investments and development
of business. According to S. Saroyan, nobody is going to return to
Baku or Sumgait. “But if we were offered to settle down in Shahoumian,
Getashen, we would agree gladly,” said S. Saroyan. According to the
deputy chairman S. Harutiunian Azerbaijan does everything possible to
make maximum political and financial profit from using the problem of
refugees. Quite recently through the state and international funds
about 500 apartments were built for Azerbaijanis close to the Karabakh
border, in the region of Aghdam. “What is this if not a starting
point,” says Ashot Harutiunian. Our authorities must show a similar
approach. Moreover, the stress should be put on the fact that
Karabakh is a sovereign state where people have equal rights. “The
unification with Armenia has no prospects for the upcoming several
years. We voted for independence and we want independence. And in this
context the recognition of the Karabakh refugees by the international
community is our legal claim,” said A. Harutiunian. S. Saroyan
mentioned that the organization intends to present the regulations of
the committee. The authorities promised to aid with the office and
computers. The committee cooperates with the department for migration
and refugees. There have already been organized meetings in the
regions. In short the work has already started.


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