For decades, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus has been a recurrent source of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the past weeks the conflict has escalated: since the end of September there has been a war.
Under international law, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding provinces belong to Azerbaijan, but have been occupied by Armenia since 1994. The Republic of Arzach, proclaimed in this area and supported by Armenia, is not internationally recognized. Currently, Azerbaijani troops with Turkish political support are advancing and attacking the region including its capital Stepanakert.
According to media reports, attacks on civilians and civilian facilities are lamentable on both sides. Nonetheless, the conflict is receding into the background in European public opinion. The suffering of civil society is hardly reported.
In the context of our Discuss Europe Event on the 17th of November, we also want to give the people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh a voice and therefore we have talked to people from the different regions about their current situation.
Today’s interview is with Veronika (24) who lives in the Kotayk region of central Armenia near Yerevan.
Questions by JEF NRW
To what extent are you or your family affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Veronika: Fortunately, me and my family have not yet been affected by this conflict in physical and economic terms. Despite the fact that we live in the Republic of Armenia, we cannot be sure that the war that was supposed to take place on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh will not be harmful to us. The fact is that in October the Azerbaijani side attacked not only the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also regions of Armenia like Syunik, Gegharkunik and Kotayk (where I live with my family).
How does the war affect your everyday life in terms of job/education, social and leisure time?
Veronika: This war affects me totally in psychological terms. Me and a hundred other citizens of my country cannot work, communicate and relax as usual. My day begins with reading the news and ends in the same way. I cannot concentrate on my work. Many of my friends are now volunteering in Karabakh, many young men from my town, which has about 2000 inhabitants, are fighting there. We already have two victims (22 and 50 years old) and more than ten wounded men who are now in hospitals. There is no news from my neighbor, who has already been in Karabakh for two weeks. The situation is terrible. After work we volunteer and try to help thousands of families who had to leave their homes and come from Karabakh with food, clothes, shelter, etc.
How do you deal with the conflict? What do you think about it?
Veronika: Perhaps the most horrible part of this whole story is that my nation and I have to deal with this conflict. The conflict is becoming a part of our daily lives. My thoughts are now only with our soldiers. I just want them all to go back to their families.
Do you have contacts with people in Azerbaijan? Has anything changed since the last outbreak of the conflict?
Veronika: I have no contacts in Azerbaijan. The last outbreak was in July of this year, but I think that using the term “outbreak” for today’s war is completely wrong. What happens today is not only an “outbreak”, this is a war in its full meaning.
Do you see possibilities for peaceful conflict resolution? What would it look like?
Veronika: This conflict should only be solved in a peaceful way through negotiations. The situation “half peace, half war” has been going on for about 30 years. Every generation of Armenians must fight for the basic right to live in peace and in their homes. I hope that this time the conflict will be solved by peace negotiations with Azerbaijan. As a future mother, I do not want my children to see the same horrors that I see now.
What do you hope for from the European Union for conflict resolution?
Veronika: I want to see objective reports of European media about the situation on the front. I hope that the countries of the European Union will condemn the war crimes of the Azerbaijani side with the support of Turkey, for example when they attack hospitals, medical centers, schools and kindergartens which are far away from the real front. I hope that some countries of the European Union, which belong to the same military and economic organizations as Turkey and Azerbaijan, will condemn the war crimes of these two countries and admit that they brought terrorists from Syria and Pakistan to our region and that now Armenians are also fighting against terrorism. I am confident that at least the EU countries will start boycotting and imposing sanctions against the tandem Azerbaijan and Turkey as a result of the above mentioned measures and recognize the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country. Only in this way the population of Nagorno-Karabakh can be protected from Azerbaijan’s aggressive rhetorical and military attacks.