Tag Archives: nagorno-karabagh

Official Statement by Armenian Defense Ministry, April 4

The following is a translation of an official statement made by the Armenian Ministry of Defense on April 4. The translation was done by journalist Maria Titizian. 

The Defense Ministry (MOD) of the Republic of Armenia attaches great importance to the reaction of the international community and their calls to the sides of the conflict. The MOD of Armenia stresses that the Republic of Armenia is the guarantor of the security of the people of NKR. At the same time, as a side that is not involved in the military operations, the MOD of Armenia appreciates that the calls to end the hostilities have been directed to Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh – the two sides involved in the conflict.

Being in agreement with the calls to the sides to end the hostilities, the MOD of Armenia wants to call the attention to the international community of the fact that aside from political statements to restore the ceasefire regime, it is necessary to bring to an agreement and realize concrete means; develop the technical conditions of a ceasefire, implement the removal/separation of the forces and restore the mechanisms for the ceasefire regime.

At the same time, the RA MOD wishes to bring to the attention of the international community that the military operations unleashed by the Azerbaijan side is in violation of the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the charter of the United Nations, the 1976 OSCE Helsinki Final Act and a number of other international legal documents.

During the military operations realized by the Azerbaijani side against the defense forces of Nagorno Karabakh and civilians, there have been numerous acts similar to the tactics used by international terrorist organizations, which according to international humanitarian law, are considered to be military crimes. Those include torture of non-combatants and prisoners of war, including even beheadings, mutilation of corpses, etc. Those acts have been photographed and displayed with the objective of terrorizing people.

The RA MOD announces that the Azerbaijani authorities and all those responsible for the violations of international law and war crimes will be brought to justice, including by the international community.

When Being ‘Politically Correct’ About Karabakh Backfires

Sarsang Reservoir in Drmbon, Nagorno-Karabakh
Sarsang Reservoir in Drmbon, Nagorno-Karabakh

This morning I read an interesting, although lackluster, article supposedly about tourism in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) that was published by AFP on July 21, written by Mariam Hartutyunyan. There are some questionable, even disappointing points made in the article that I thought should be addressed. Below are quotes from the article and my responses.

“Seized from Azerbaijan by Armenian-backed separatists in a brutal war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives as the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, Nagorny Karabakh remains frozen between war and peace.”

Although Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union on October 18, 1991, only seven weeks passed before Nagorno-Karabakh itself in a referendum, with the disapproval of the Azeri minority, chose a path of complete sovereignty. This was an extremely volatile time as anyone who reads history knows. I also disagree with the phrase “Armenian-backed separatists,” since the Armenian side in the conflict did indeed comprise an organized army with separate regimens, although volunteer soldiers took part in the defense struggle. And nothing was “seized,” the control of lands shifted due to war and the demand for self-governance. I also have a problem with “Nagorny Karabakh remains frozen between war and peace,” as it is quite clear that nothing but peace prevails throughout Karabakh, although there are skirmishes along the line of contact between Azerbaijan and Armenia (Karabakh itself by and large is protected by a buffer zone). It is the peace process itself that remains frozen. So the terminology is a bit dubious despite the attempt in maintaining objectivity.

“Nagorny Karabakh is still recognised as part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations, but its population is almost completely ethnic Armenian after the Azerbaijani community fled in the wake of the war.”

What other ethic populations are there in Nagorno-Karabakh today? The statement “almost completely ethnic Armenian” is a bit strange. Unless the reporter can provide evidence that proves otherwise, which she doesn’t, it’s likely an assumption. Has she traveled to places where Greeks, Assyrians, and Kurds continue to live, for instance? It would be revealing to know if they’re still there.

“Soldiers along the heavily fortified frontline exchange gunfire almost daily, with both sides blaming each other for violating the ceasefire. So far this year some 20 soldiers from both sides have been killed.”

Again, this is occurring along the border between the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is also no clear evidence reported that gunfire is exchanged “almost daily.” That does not mean I am suggesting it happens infrequently.

“In fact, it is impossible to escape the grim reminders of the region’s brutal conflict, which often saw neighbour turn on neighbour and the entire 600,000-strong Azerbaijani population of Nagorny Karabakh and seven surrounding districts forced to flee.”

Unless I am mistaken, there have never been more than 200,000 people living in Nagorno-Karabakh with the overwhelming majority of the population having been ethnically Armenian. That would mean that more than 400,000 Azeris lived in what is largely a mountainous, inaccessible territory of “seven surrounding districts”–based on what I have seen with my own eyes–with the exception of Agdam (she claims 50,000 Azeris lived there) and some territory to its east. This number seems unlikely and probably hard to prove, but the damage is done. She does not cite a Soviet-era census source to back her claim, which is essential in professional journalism, especially in such a volatile discussion where complete objectivity is obviously difficult to maintain. The “grim reminders” she alludes to unfortunately are quite blatant in Shushi and Agdam.

“But for those willing to risk the journey, tour operators argue that there is plenty to attract tourists to Nagorny Karabakh–a spectacular highland area of rugged mountains and thickly forested hills.”

There is nothing risky or frightening about traveling through the Lachin corridor (unless someone drives too fast along the serpentine road). It is completely protected by Armenian forces. And there are no imminent dangers in traveling throughout Karabakh, either (with the exception of the minefields along the border, of course). The reporter must have realized this as she traveled to and around the region. “Take the long journey” rather than “risk the journey” would have been more appropriate. And why do tour operators “argue” that tourists have good reason to visit the area? “Believe,” “insist,” “are convinced” are better alternatives.

“Despite the region’s uncertain future, tourists like Andrey Hoynowski from Poland say they will be recommending a visit to their friends back home and that the added attention might even help Karabakh move on.

Karabakh has clearly moved on, it does not need “help” in doing so. The reporter herself alluded to this fact in other parts of her article. The problem is that the world community has not by failing to accept Nagorno-Karabakh’s legitimacy as a sovereign nation even 18 years since the ceasefire was declared. Peace is maintained in Artsakh by the will of the Armenian people living there, and so does its obvious determination to progress and grow economically.

The people of Nagorno-Karabakh are some of the most self-confident, secure individuals I have ever met anywhere. I will go so far as to say that I have not encountered another society where insecurities are virtually invisible on faces and demonstrated body language. This is quite evident when you stroll down the streets of Stepanakert and see how people interact with one another. And when you converse with people, you will find only resilience and determination in their voice. They as proud citizens of their nation, “self-proclaimed” in the eyes of the world, are cultured, mature and inspirational figures. Moving on is not a matter of aspiration, it is indeed an unwavering, luminous reality and has been for two decades.

So it’s a disheartening article, especially coming from an Armenian journalist. The terminology was arguably subjective against Armenia in some of the parts I mentioned, which is a real shame. Even the headline reeks of negativity. Karabakh deserves much better publicity than this, especially 18 years after the ceasefire. The tone of the article seems to suggest it happened only yesterday, with people struggling to find their place in the world. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Building a kindergarten in Moshatagh

The organization ONEArmenia is raising funds to build a kindergarten in the village of Moshatagh, which is located in the Kashatagh region of Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh). The building’s structure actually exists, the construction just needs to be completed.

There are no excuses for kids to go without proper schools anywhere in Armenia or Artsakh, period. Although such a project should have been realized years ago, it’s definitely not too late to do it now. The organization has already collected close to $9,000 to meet its goal, and the campaign to raise funds ends on November 3. As of this writing the project is 46 percent funded. This is a good cause; it’s an investment in Armenia’s future–Armenia’s children. Please contribute.

Many babies are the future

I just read a poignant photo essay about the maternity drive in Nagorno-Karabagh published by the New York Times called The National Womb.

The NK government is encouraging young families to have babies by giving them incremental sums of money for each additional child they rear. After the sixth child has been born the family is given a home. Unfortunately there is no other way to keep the population there somewhat steady. As in Armenia, the youth are emigrating in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Lucrative business ventures to employ people are few there.

I was in Nagorno-Karabagh in July and couldn’t help but notice that areas of the countryside seemed bare of residents. The capital Stepanakert is a lively city but Shushi, which is far more picturesque, still seems neglected, despite all the work being done there to repair the infrastructure and open new hotels to attract visitors.

The entire region needs settlers and money so that society can advance. Compared with Armenia corruption is apparently very low, so I don’t understand why the willingness to invest in Nagorno-Karabagh more aggressively is not there. Perhaps daily flights between Yerevan and Stepanakert, hopefully to start next year, will entice that much-needed investment.

In the meantime, many babies are needed. But the question as to whether the parents of those families will be able to consistently provide remains to be answered.

Incidentally, I wanted to mention an excellent article published by Hetq last June  called On That Side of the World about life in Kashatagh, where there are no normal roads or even electricity, and where Armenians who sacrificed life in civilization choose to survive. I cannot imagine living without electricity and I don’t understand how they do it. The heartbreaking thing is that no one cares, not the governments of Armenia or Nagorno-Karabagh, and not the Armenian Diaspora. They just linger there, waiting for someone to pay attention to them, waiting for something to change that never does.

Armenia Fund 2010 Raises $20.8 Million

Yesterday the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund, which is now promoting itself simply as Armenia Fund, raised a whopping $20.8 million, up from $15.9 million collected in 2009.

I watched the telethon at various times throughout the day.  It’s always exiting to watch dynamic people like actor/entertainer Hrant Tokhatyan and Mark Geragos — who proves to be a great motivator — making frequent announcements about how much was raised in any given minute. Some of the song performances, which were surprisingly live, weren’t bad, either — Andre comes immediately to mind.

The theme of this year’s fundraiser was “Water Is Life.” The funds will be directed towards repairing corroded, worn out water pipelines or even in some areas installing brand new ones for the first time where they never existed in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). With the monies raised last year they were able to make huge progress rebuilding Shushi, making vital improvements on the infrastructure and architecture there (I hope to see them for myself next year).

In some parts of rural Armenia, with Artsakh being no exception, water networks simply do not exist to support some villages. People are required to haul water to their homes in buckets from a water source that may or may not be very close by. And usually they carry the water home using manual labor. For city folk it’s mind-boggling to fathom how people get by without plumbing in their homes — no running water pouring out of a faucet in your kitchen whenever you want to drink a glass of water. No access to a constant, dependable flow of water naturally means a lack of proper hygienic conditions, so hopefully by this time next year thousands of people in Artsakh will be living in cleaner, healthier environments with instant access to drinking water. The new pipelines will truly be a miraculous Godsend to them.

The Armenia Fund is naturally still taking donations, and you can find out more about how to contribute if you haven’t already done so at their web site.