You can read on the United Nations website: “In a world where violence makes hundreds of families flee from their homes every day, you need to show support from the international community.” Unfortunately, these true words do not apply at all to refugees from Azerbaijan who have found refuge in Nagorno-Karabakh. The rights of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan are completely ignored by international authorities. They explain this by the unrecognition of the Republic of Artsakh. But what is the difference whether a refugee lives in a recognized or unrecognized country? It is a fact that they exist and a fact that their rights were severely infringed by Azerbaijan: they were persecuted on ethnic and religious grounds; their lives were in danger ... The head of the public organization “The NKR Refugee Union” Sarasar Saryan believes that refugees and internally displaced persons living in Artsakh, were completely forgotten by specialized international organizations. He believes that depriving our refugees of international protection and support is a violation of their fundamental rights, and this is not normal. Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan also spoke about this.
World Refugee Day is celebrated on 20 June. It was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on December 4, 2000. In this regard, we invited Sarasar Saryan to talk with us, once again to find out how refugees from Azerbaijan live in Artsakh.
- Mister Saryan, you will probably agree with the idea that only the most stubborn and loyal refugees remained in Artsakh. It is no secret that many of them left the country in search of a better life. We do not have the right to condemn them, but we have the right to pay tribute to those who remained, have not exchanged their homeland for any good of the world...
- Yes, I agree with you. I talk a lot with refugees and I know that most of them had the opportunity to leave, but they did not. Refugees from Azerbaijan fought courageously and bravely in both the Artsakh war and the April war.
- For more than 15 years you have been leading a public organization of refugees, could you tell, is there any progress in the situation with this category of population?
- Yes, but I would call them separately. Over the past time, we have helped some refugee families to get apartments, someone to get a job; from the grants we allocated a little material assistance to families in need. You see, initially, when this organization was created, its essence was not as social as political. We needed to inform the public and international organizations how many refugees are in the NKR. And we coped with this task. We constantly participate in various international conferences and other events related to refugees. We are open to dialogue, and this was repeatedly stated at meetings with representatives of civil society in Azerbaijan.
- Mr. Saryan, what is the current situation of refugees and internally displaced persons?
- After our last conversation, the situation has not changed significantly: the main problem of refugees from Azerbaijan remains their lack of international status, and the second and equally important problem for us is the housing issue.
- At a meeting of the President of Artsakh with the mayor of Stepanakert in early June, Arayik Harutyunyan emphasized that thousands of apartments will be built in the next 5 years, this will solve the housing problem of families of officers, dead freedom fighters, the first group war invalids, other social groups in the apartment register ... Inspired by the words of the president and classing themselves in other social categories, the refugees turned to the city hall in order to queue for the apartment. But they were told at the city hall that there are no refugee programs, and that they cannot include refugees on the housing register. So what happens, are the refugees again out of sight of the authorities? Or will another program be developed for them?
- Honestly, I do not know, but I want to remind you that during his election campaign at a meeting with refugees, Arayik Harutyunyan promised to solve the housing problem of refugees as soon as possible. And we really hope so. Alternatively, you can follow the example of Armenia and develop a program for refugees: the Armenian government decided to provide certificates for the purchase of housing for families of refugees from Azerbaijan. According to the decision of the government, the validity of the certificates is one year, during which they must buy a home. Certificates will be issued in stages.