Abandoning Artsakh would Haunt Armenians Forever

Euronews – Armenian refugees

Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles, 7 October 2023

“You cannot escape the responsibility
of tomorrow by evading it today”.
Abraham Lincoln

The confluence of several factors including betrayals has contributed to the demise of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) from dominance to doom.

By 1994, the Republic of Artsakh had the Armenian historical province of  “Mountainous Karabakh” (Lernaine Karabakh) and seven surrounding regions under its control, amounting to about 20 percent of Azerbaijan.

For nearly 30 years of Artsakh liberation, the Republic of Armenia (RoA), Artsakh, and the Armenian Diaspora slumbered while Azerbaijan feverishly was refurbishing its arsenal with modern weapons over the Armenians. The mirage of military superiority held by the Armenian generals was the straw that killed the camel’s back.

During the Second Artsakh War in 2020, Artsakh lost the seven regions surrounding it plus one third of Artsakh’s territory. On September 19, 2023, Artsakh could only resist Azerbaijan’s blitz onslaught for two days and then surrendered lock, stock, and barrel.

The people of Artsakh could be roughly classified into four categories: those who are happy to have the opportunity to move to Armenia, France, or elsewhere; those who are confused and are afraid of refugee life; those who have extensive properties (e.g, large land, business, etc.) may choose to remain in Artsakh; and those who have the spirit of patriotism to return and stay in their homeland when peace and stability prevails in the region.

The die is cast and the elephant is in the room: the exodus of the majority of the people head toward the Republic of Armenia. According to recent reports, Artsakh is empty of its native people.

Although the issue of Artsakh would be considered by some a gone case, we must discuss ways and means to get part of the people go back to their homeland. Otherwise, we would end up saying we should have done this and that to try to save Artsakh as a territory that belonged to Armenians.

In other words, abandoning Artsakh would haunt us forever. So what should we do? One thing is clear, we should do something about it rather than just grieving helplessly or playing the blame game.

Considering the four categories above, there will be a nuclease of Armenians who would decide not to abandon Artsakh, but that will not be enough to keep Artsakh Armenian. To perpetuate Armenian presence in Artsakh, we would need the return of a large part of the refugees to Artsakh.

If the Armenian mission is to regain Artsakh one day, then we cannot leave Artsakh depopulated of its indigenous people. We have to find a way to get part of the refugees return to their homes before they become part of the RoA or part of Western communities.

Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora must work in unison to repatriate some of the Artsakh refugees provided the fear of persecution of ethnic cleansing and genocide is over in their homeland.

Ideas have changed the world; ideas, no matter how humble, may help the people of Artsakh. Although there may be many ideas, I shall only propose one, “Adopt a Family, Individual, or a Child” program since this social program is non-political and can be put into practice in a short period of time by existing Armenian organizations.

Adopt an Artsakh refugee, hopefully the individual or family would be willing later to repatriate to Artsakh when it becomes safe to live under Azerbaijan’s rule for a while.

In the 1947, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries could have accommodated the Palestinian refugees in houses with difficulty though, but their leaders preferred them not to feel too comfortable and forget about their homeland. Therefore, the idea of erecting makeshift camps was considered the best –socially and politically.

Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, were made to live in 59 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic, the Gazsa Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

While makeshift camps proved to be somewhat sufficient to the refugees of Middle East, it would not be suitable for the refugees of Artsakh in RoA since its climate is hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Furthermore, the Artsakh refugees are small in numbers compared to the Palestinian refugees, which require many services for a smooth operation.

The best way to settle the Artsakh refugees either temporally or permanently in the RoA would be in accommodations provided by the government and by various Armenian organizations.

For the Artsakh refugee’s expenses and livelihood, the viable approach would be to establish “Adopt A Family, Individual, Child Program” in the RoA, and especially in the Diaspora.

Armenian NGOs and political parties should come together for a special mission and work out a program for adopting a family, an individual, or a child who are from the Republic of Artsakh.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that, in 2018, a record of 70.8 million people were forced to flee their homes and communities. This number exceeds the number of displaced persons during WWII. Although there are millions of displaced persons worldwide, not all of these people qualify as  refugees.

A refugee is defined “as someone who has been forced to flee their country due to a threat of violence or persecution” (underscore added). Some of the reasons for persecution might include religious beliefs, political affiliation, race, nationality, or membership of a particular social or ethnic group (such as the case is with the ethnic Armenians of Artsakh who want to be free and independent in their own ancestral land).

The difference between a refugee and an internally displaced person (aka IDP) is that the latter is someone who flees their country due to famine, poverty, or natural disaster, while the former escapes his or her country to avoid life threatening situations such as ethnic cleansing or genocide. As a result, refugees have a legal status with the international community while IDPs and others who flee their countries do not.

Without losing time, let us present the main steps in forming an Adopt a Family, Individual, or a Child Program as follows:

First Step: the refugees from Artsakh should register with the UN and other international organizations dedicated to the welfare of refugees to obtain the refugee status. Once officially registered, they will qualify themselves for some benefits including the return to their homelands.

Amnesty International has worked to defend the rights of indigenous people in all regions of the world and demands that states apply and develop needed laws to protect their properties in terms of lands, cultures, and livelihoods.

Here is where to write for more information as to what to do to protect your rights: Office at the United Nations, New York ∇ Amnesty International Tel: +1 212 867 8878 United Nations Office Fax: +1 212 370 0183 777 United Nations Plaza, fourth floor E-mail: AIUN @ AI-UN-NY New York, NY 10017 U.S.A. Try to register with refugee international organization as many as possible.

Remember to state that you fled your country because of persecution in the form of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Independent, international organizations such as Genocide Watch and Raphael Lemkin Institute have warned the world of the imminent danger of genocide happening to the Armenians of Artsakh perpetrated by Azerbaijan, which has a track record of massacres in the past.

Second Step: form an ad hoc committee in the RoA and the Diaspora to plan and execute an Adopt A Family…program. Time is of the essence and thus we need to proceed in a timely fashion to let the refugees from Artsakh know that we do care about their welfare and future.

Third Step: announce the program to the people of the RoA and the Diaspora who would be interested in adopting a family, an individual, or a child for a small monthly payment to defray their cost of living until they are rehabilitated abroad or in case when they want to return to their homeland. Sponsorship could be directly with a family or simply to give donations to the program for distribution to the needy refugees as deemed appropriate.

Perhaps we should try to restrict the program to the refugees that are staying in the RoA. Those who choose to go to Western countries as refugees, chances are they would not want to return to Artsakh. Some are already going to France, which has enough resources to take care of them and a large Armenian Diaspora with schools and churches..

Fourth Step: establish a relationship between the sponsor and the refugee family, individual, or a child. This step involves proper introduction to get to know the refugee and the sponsor through short biographical sketches and pictures.

Fifth Step: make sure there are checks and balances to avoid misappropriation of the funds sent to the adopted family, individual, or a child either directly to a bank account held by the refugee or to an organizing office for distribution of the funds to prevent embezzlement.

Sixth Step: always keep the public in the know about how well the program is proceeding to encourage others to become sponsors. Sponsoring of multiple refugee families should be allowable.

Seventh Step: never fail to publicize the happy occasion when an adopted family decides to return to Artsakh! Write about happy instances when the refugee gives reasons to decide to return to Artsakh and live in their ancestral land. This undertaking would serve as a motivation stimulus for others to follow suit and think about returning to their motherland.

How can we expect to regain, to liberate Artsakh again, if we fail to sow the seeds of success now?! We need to put our differences aside, swallow our destructive pride, unite for a change to gather a storm of strength in meeting our adversaries in the near future.

I think it was John Galsworthy who hit the nail on the head when he said,:”If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one!” We should act now to make the dream of recovering Artsakh possible for our next generations. Otherwise, we would be drowned in remorse for not hitting the iron when it was red hot.

What we plant today, will grow tomorrow regardless of the the present situation. The miracle of optimism is well established throughout the history of humankind. We should never consider Artsakh as an Armenian homeland lost forever. In this dynamic world anything is possible. If we manage to perpetuate our presence there provided that it would be safe to live there — who knows what the future will bring Armenians in terms of opportunities to claim it back. So, let us play our cards well today, and hope for the best of luck tomorrow.

  1. Great article and of course need to be optimistic, but at the same time show me a place and an instant in history where Armenians have returned and really reclaimed their historical properties. We were raised with slogans such as “1915 never again”, “Kal Dari Van” etc but have never been able to hang on to our lands………, Are we going to be able to keep what is left?

  2. Very well written article! Thanks to Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian and to Keghart for publishing.
    If we believe in God, if we believe that holy Gandzasar where the head of St. John the Baptist is resting, holy Dadivanq established by Apostle Thaddeus, holy Amaras (IV century monastery with the tomb of our holy Catholicos of Artsakh Grigoris) and other sanctuaries belong to us, then we as a nation, as a church have to plan what to do. Do not forget, we are a part of the Great and ancient Christian World and God is with us. We just need to believe in God, pray to Christ and act. We have to live and we have to live on the LANDS OF OUR ANSESTORS! Corruption, hatred, lies, fears stupidity are leading to loss and nowhere! And at last and not least: we have to repent for our sins, we have to unite as a nation and we have to love each other and take care of each other.
    Prayerfully +

    “Father Emanuel Youkhana is the archimandrite of the Assyrian Church of the East in Iraq. He is also co-founder and Executive Director of Christian Aid Program– Nohadra– Iraq (CAPNI), which provides wide-ranging services from basic relief to development, healthcare, education, and church programs. Father Emanuel studied electrical engineering at the University of Baghdad. After informal training through the Assyrian Church, he was ordained in 1987. He is a well-respected advocate for Christians and human rights in Iraq.”

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