Azerbaijani IDPs denied return to their homes twenty years after the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of violent the disintegrating country in 1991. The demands for secession and the skirmishes in the Autonomous Region (Oblast) of Nagorno – Karabakh have soon escalated to a full scale military campaign of Armenian forces against Azerbaijan in 1991, the year when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1991 all of the republics that comprised the Soviet Union decided to declare their independence, and Armenia decided to enlarge its territory by adding the Nagorno – Karabakh region of Azerbaijan to its territory, believing that the collapse of the falling Union was a historic opportunity to redraw borders in the South Caucasus. By the beginning of 1992 a full scale war broke out as the OSCE had failed to be a peace broker and the international community was not able to put the Armenian campaign to a halt. Far from the eyes of the international community this war has taken more than 25 thousand lives and brought the exodus of approximately one million people, mostly Azerbaijani refuges and internally displaces persons, now scattered around Azerbaijan. Ever since conserved over the past twenty years.
Consequences of the Armenian military intervention in NagornoKarabakh
Prior to the military intervention conducted by the Armenian forces the population of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan was around 186,000 and almost three thirds of the population was Armenian, while 47 thousand or approximately 25% were Azerbaijanis. Armenia decided to claim this territory which is part of Azerbaijan and predominantly inhabited by the Armenians; the Armenian forces were directly involved in the aggression on the Nagorno-Karabakh region and started establishing unconstitutional structures on the territory of Azerbaijan, not recognized by the government in Baku or by the international community. Karabakh, a military campaign taken by Armenian forces, war crimes were committed on a large number of locations. The Armenian forces progressing through Nagorno-Karabakh have violated the International Humanitarian Law gravelly and totally disregarding the principles of the Humanitarian Law, with wilful executions of both civilians and prisoners of war occurring in many parts of Azerbaijan and places attacked by the Armenian troops. The occupation of Nagorno- Karabakh seems to be a clear case of conducting an ethnic cleansing as the Armenian forces have expelled more than 450 thousand Azerbaijanis, and their places in this region were taken by the Armenian civil population, with a clear strategy to reduce the number of Azerbaijanis in NagornoKarabakh and increase the ratio of the Armenian population, to strengthen the Armenian claim to annex this region in the west of Azerbaijan.
The position of IDPs in the Azerbaijani society
Karabakh has been halted, Azerbaijan has been able to develop its economy in relative stability and beyond the tutorship of Moscow. Due to the good governance of the country’s vast natural resources, Azerbaijan’s economy has been booming in the past years; however IDPs from NagornoKarabakh and surrounding occupied territories in Azerbaijan ‘’continue to rank among the most vulnerable social groups, largely dependent on external assistance.’’
Problems the IDPs in Azerbaijan face
The government of Azerbaijan has been investing resources into construction of new settlement for IDPs, and the settlements are scattered in various 2008 the Azerbaijani government was settling the IDPs in rural areas, and in 2009 it started settling the IDPs in urban areas with the construction of new apartments for IDs in Binagadi in Baku. Ever since then, there are more settlements in urban areas, and new apartments were constructed in Yavlakh and Qabala. The decision to move the IDPs was certainly a good move by the government aimed to facilitate the integration of IDPs. However, the new settlements in urban areas, primarily Baku, are located in remote parts with inadequate connection to the public transport, and often with limited access to the main services that urban areas normally provide like access to educational institution, health services, jobs and information. To further aggravate the situation, some apartments were constructed with limited access to water, sewage system or electricity. Regardless of the enormous efforts taken by the government of the Azerbaijan to fully integrate the IDPs expelled by Armenian forces from their homes, these persons still face many obstacles on route of achieving a normal life. In surveying the issue of integration of IDPs into the Azerbaijani
society, one has to consider the gravity of the situation that this country is faced with in regard to the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s regions in the South-West of the country; around 20% of Azerbaijani territory is occupied by intruding forces and it’s local Azerbaijani population banished from returning to their homes, thus the government has to take special care about 600 thousand IDPs, comprising around 7% of the total population of the thousand children born to IDPs in the span of twenty years since they were expelled. Due to the enormity of misbalance that the Armenian occupation has created for Azerbaijan, a considerable portion of IDPs still face a number of problems. Although the government of Azerbaijan has taken up many construction projects to build homes for IDPs, some IDPs still live in inadequate living conditions, shifting from a place to another or in public buildings, and in case the IDPs are settled in an appropriate settlement built on purpose, it sometimes happens that the new settlement in a remote infrastructure or access to services needed. Housing provides the gravest problem that the IDPs from face. The government has been conducting big construction projects to secure the appropriate settlement for IDPs, but according to the Government of Azerbaijan up until 2008 around 190 thousand IDPs lived in collective centres, including kindergartens and schools, while over 115 thousand IDPs lived in makeshift accommodation such as mud houses and wagons. Although the construction of suitable accommodations for IDPs is being accelerated by the constant efforts by the government, many IDPs have been living in collective centres. For two decades these persons have been living in unacceptable conditions. In these collective centres the IDPs were not protected from the elements of nature, as even the roofs were leaking, water supply was poor and sanitation facilities inadequate. The collective centres were also overcrowded and in these conditions the IDPs had no married and had children growing up in these inappropriate environment. It also needs to be stressed that a large number of IDPs have been expelled from their homes under a threat to their physically integrity, some of them even tortured by the advancing Armenian forces. Horrid experience of being prevented to return to their homes have caused many IDPs suffer disordered mental conditions. The combined with everyday problems, like inadequate housing, lack of health and other services and unemployment, make the integration of some IDPs extremely expanded measures are required to improve their self-reliance and decrease the pattern of dependency.’’
Solutions for resolving the problems of IDPs in Azerbaijan
The Madrid Principles as the peace settlements of Nagorno-Karabakh it envisages the withdrawal of illegal deployment of Armenian troops on the territory of Azerbaijan. However the Madrid Principles that were adopted in still unresolved. The Madrid principles envision the withdrawal of Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, and with the provision of peace keeping observers deployed in the region, the conditions for the return of IDPs are set to normalize the situation in the region in two stages. However, the qua non’’ for the return of IDPs is far from being realized. Regardless of the undisputed willingness of Azerbaijan to grant the Nagorno-Karabkh region a high level of autonomy, the situation has not much developed in the course of the past twenty years. The peaceful the withdrawal of Armenian forces and the subsequent return of IDPs still faces much opposition in both Armenia and within the Armenian diaspora as well.
The long period of 20 years may make that is far from reality. A number of skirmishes on the dividing line between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces taking their death toll have been almost regularly occurring, claiming just in 2010 over 25 lives. Violent incidents keep on occurring in the buffer zone between Armenian separatist and Azerbaijan’s troops with an Armenian helicopter taken down by the Azerbaijani forces on the sky over Nagorno-Karabakh – the air space was brokered over twenty years ago. The current situation where 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory is occupied is not sustainable and the international focus to the Caucasus and further up The recent events in Ukraine and the war in Georgia in 2008 could convince the international community that strong involvement is needed to put the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh to an end. Once the conditions for the return of IDPs to Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent regions are made, the real solution for problems of IDPs in Azerbaijan will be achieved.