Azer­bai­jani IDPs de­nied re­turn to their homes twenty years af­ter the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

The Diplomatic Insight - - News - The writer holds a de­gree of Master of branch In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, ob­tained at the Fac­ulty of Po­lit­i­cal Science in Za­greb and a PhD can­di­date a

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.

Con­clu­sion

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.

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