Tuesday, March 06, 2007


By Norair Hovsepian

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 5 2007

On February 28 thousands of people visited the Memorial of Stepanakert to commemorate the victims of the pogroms in Sumgait in February 1988. We met Arthur Babayan there whose family had a narrow escape from violence in Sumgait. At that time Arthur was 5 but he remembers the horror of the massacres in Sumgait. "At midnight the Azerbaijani mob attacked our neighborhood," he said. They left everything and ran away to their friends who lived in other parts of the town. The next day they found their apartment robbed and in a mess. This is the story of thousands of other Armenian families who lived in Sumgait. "They did not sell tickets to us because our family ended in "yan," Arthur Babayan said. Fortunately, their family saved.

But many others got killed. "It is genocide, and the world must recognize it," says Arthur Babayan. The question of the return of refugees is constantly raised during the talks for the settlement of the Karabakh issue. "It's impossible. After what we witnessed we'll never return to Azerbaijan," Arthur Babayan said. "The war in Artsakh was the first step towards fighting injustice our people have undergone. We must go on by all means," NKR Prime Minister Anushavan Danielian said to news reporters at the Memorial. Part of refugees who escaped from Azerbaijan settled down in the capital and have urgent problems to solve. The government launched last year a program of aid and apartments to refugees from Sumgait and other places in Azerbaijan. "This year the first major program will be implemented," the prime minister said. The program will include the refugees of not only the capital but also the regions, he said. However, thousands of Armenian families displaced from Azerbaijan live in different countries, which means the first step towards demanding compensation should be a realistic evaluation of the events of 1988. Sumgait was
the inadequat reaction of Azerbaijan to the righteous claims of the Armenians of Artsakh, said Masis Mayilian, deputy minister of foreign affairs of NKR. "People were killed for their ethnicity. The international law defines such acts as genocide." Masis Mayilian assured that the NKR foreign ministry is constantly making efforts to present the reality of the crime to the international community.

However, the fact that the international community fails to give an adequate evaluation means that there is much more to do.

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