Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JUNE 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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Justice in the Caucasus

Every year on June 20, the United Nations marks the World Refugee Day. This day represents a Global Call for Action, promoting engagement in local and governmental levels to raise awareness in the world community about the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people who have found refuge in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and many other countries.

Since the end of the Cold War, the number of people uprooted by war, conflicts, ethnic strife and human-rights violations has been constantly soaring. According to U.N. Human Rights Council, by 2009, some 40 million people worldwide had been forced to flee their homes by violence, war, and persecution. Many of these conflicts causing mass deportation and fleeing of innocent people have lasted for years without finding a durable solution.

A case in point is the long-lasting Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the South Caucasus region, where some 16 percent of Azerbaijan has been occupied by the neighboring Armenia. This violent conflict caused nearly 1 million humiliated and abused ethnic Azeri, Kurdish, and other refugees from Armenia and internally displaced people from the Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan to flee their homes. This action by Armenian armed forces against Azerbaijani civilians was the largest campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humans in the region.

According to the U.S. Refugee Committee's report (2000) on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, “More than 568,000 persons from western regions of Azerbaijan under Armenian occupation since 1993, including 42,072 from Nagorno-Karabakh, remained displaced within the country. Most were displaced from regions just outside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Fizuli (133,725), Agdam (128,584), Lachin (63,007 persons), Kelbadjar (59,274), Jabrayil (58,834 persons), Gubadli (31,276), Zangilan (34,797), Terter (5,171), and Adjabedi (3,358).”

As a result of Nagorno-Karabakh War, Armenian aggression caused Azerbaijani economy billions of dollars, devastation of Azerbaijani cultural heritage, physical destruction of homes, moral and material damage to Azerbaijani refugees and displaced persons for whom the status of refugee has become a lifestyle and passed on as a heritage to the future generations. Every eighth person in Azerbaijan is carrying a “refugee” or “internally displaced person” status. This is one of the highest rates for any country in the world, which has suffered from war and ethnic cleansing.

There are many other similar cases around the world, in which similar injustices have occurred. To help all these refugees and displaced persons, and to at least minimize the occurrences of such injustices in the future, we are calling upon our elected officials to exert pressure on perpetrator nations by:

1) requiring compliance with all relevant U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions;
2) conditioning any U.S. military, security, economic and technical aid only after the State Department has certified that perpetrator nations have ceased occupation and withdrawn their occupying forces from the victim nations, such as Azerbaijan;
3) stopping all direct U.S. aid to such separatist authorities as those in Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Agshin Taghiyev

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