Al Jazeera reporter in Karabakh: To fight or not to fight

Azad-Hye Special


Under the series ?People & Power?, Al Jazeera?s English section aired on 28 February 2009 an episode on Nagorno Karabakh, titled “To fight or not to fight” (Watch the two parts of the episode below).?

Michael Andersen has traveled the Caucasus and visited locations in Armenia, Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Georgia to find out answers to many questions.

The war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 has raised the prospect of a new era of conflict in the Caucasus.?For over 20 years Armenia and Azerbaijan have been quarreling over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The territory had a majority of Armenian population when it declared independence in 1991. The Armenians of Karabakh feared to face the destiny of the Armenians in Baku and Sumgait, who were murdered and escaped their homes. After a brutal civil war a fragile ceasefire was agreed in 1994. Ever since the Azeris continue to threaten the Armenians with full scale war. The oil revenues (which were high until recently) granted some confidence to the war rhetoric of the Azeris and provided them with the prospect of funding their future adventure.

Andersen looks at the rapid re-arming and explosive situation in the southern Caucasus, not far from the places that saw the 2008 war between the northern two neighbors Georgia and Russia.

Andersen says that the Armenians and Azeris have lived together for centuries, but the war in the beginning of 1990 killed 25 thousand people.

The reporter meets Armenians and Azeris in many locations and he discovers, with bitterness, that both sides believe that they would never be able to live together again.

?Forcing ethnic groups to integrate. Stalin decided that the area should belong to Azerbaijan even though 90% of the people were Armenians?, says Andersen in his narration.

In 1992, war broke which resulted to 700 thousand refugees in Azerbaijan and 400 thousand Armenians fleeing from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Hundred of thousands of refugees on both sides continue to live in wretched conditions.

Most of the people interviewed in Azerbainjan expressed their view that eventually the conflict will be solved by arms. This leads the reporter to the conclusion that the conflict is far than being a frozen conflict. ?Experts call it frozen conflit, but it is more than a forgotten conflict?, reminds Andersen.???

The oil pipeline will provide income to Azerbaijan. Already the Azerbaijani army is spending ten folds than it used to spend in the past, notices Andersen and senses the coming danger.?

?Aliyev is not a great democrat and has quashed the opposition, but all agree with him when it comes to Karabakh?, he says.?

Andersen met with families of refugees from Shushi, who all said they used to have good relationship with their Armenian neighbors back in the historical city, but only few thought that they could live together again.?

The second part or the episode starts with an interview with Araz Azimov Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan. ?We could do it in different way?, Azimov referred to the prospect of regaining Karabakh with military means, ?we are ready to continue negotiations, but we will continue to develop?our capacities?, he reassures.?

Andersen meets in the streets of Baku an Azeri dissident, who explains that there are so many similarities between the two nations Armenians and Azeris. ?The Azeris are Muslim Armenians and the Armenians are Christian Azeris?, he says humorously.

In order to get to Karabakh, Andersen went all the way through Georgia and Armenia. In the village of Supi in George, he discovers both Armenians and Azeris live peacefully together. The schoolchildren of both ethnicities go to the same school.

Andersen notices that the issue of Karabakh in Armenia is not so flaring and does not cause anger. He meets the Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Arman Kirakossian who points out that after several meetings between the two sides, the Azeri President Aliyev have chosen to return back to the military rhetoric. Regarding acquiring weapons from Russia, he says that Armenia usually buys weapons with good price from Russia and this is a normal practice.

After taking a visa from the Karabakh Office in Yerevan, Michael Andersen arrives Susha and Stepanakert the capital of Karabakh by road. ?The town of Susha is importnt for both Armenians and Azeris?, he notes. Since 1992 there are no Azeris there. Many Armenian traditional monuments have been restored in the city, he comments.

Edward Atanesian, Deputy Foreign Minister of Karabakh, accuses Azerbaijan of educating generations on hate against Armenians.

Andersen eventually arrives the frontline between Karabakh and Azerbaijan. This is the ceasefire line where about four thousand people were killed since 1994 in a situation of no war and no peace.

Click below to see the two parts of the Al Jazeera 28 February 2009 episode on Karabakh



See the Al Jazeera briefing about the report:

  1. Artin Avedissian April 3, 2009, 11:16 am

    Two excellent videos by Al-Jazeera's reporter.?He described clearly the current situation and analyzed it from the very start.

    In my view, it ALL started because of Stalin's?decision?when he told?Azerbaijan that Nagorno-Karapakh belonged to them!!?

    I think the lapse of time may have made every Azeri including?officials to?overlook this fact and, tell?that 20% of their territory?was?occupied by?Armenia!?

    Should Azerbaijan adopt a more realistic and fair attitude?by remembering Stalin's action, the problem would be resolved peacefully!?

  2. Jirair Tutunjian April 3, 2009, 3:05 pm

    In the bad old days of Stalin, the Soviet dictator arbitrarily and without consultation, sliced two large chunks of Armenia called Nakhichevan and Nagorno-Karapagh. In the next several decades, Azeris emptied Nakhichevan of Armenians to the point that there isn't a single Armenian left in that part of historic Armenia. Azeris then proceeded to obliterate any trace of Armenian presence in Nakhichevan, such as churches, gravestones.

    Azeris were unable to do the same in Nagorno-Karapagh, although they certainly tried to. Fed up by Azeri's brutal rule of Nagorno-Karapagh declared their independence and desire to rejoin Armenia. This resulted in war with Azeris on one side and Nagorno-Karapagh Armenians and Armenian forces from Armenia on the other.

    The Azeris were trounced in the war, and Nagorno-Karapagh Armenians became free. Now Azerbaijan wants to conquer Nagorno-Karapagh, although they had acquired it illegally, during Stalin's rule.

    Incidentally, when Nagorno-Karapgh Armenians declared their independence, more than 80% of Nagorno-Karapagh's population was Armenian.


  3. My humble opinion is that both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh function as political limits between the Arab-Muslim culture and the Soviet culture; in the same way as for instance Uruguay and Paraguay function as political limits between Argentina and Brazil. Or Tibet and Nepal between China and India, etc… All these are small countries. They do have their own cultures, but their impact is not so great as the impact from the big cultures surrounding them. To better understand this concept, read this document (sorry it is in spanish, use some good translator): Please do not reveal this link to others. Serving the planet and serving you, Paraklitos.

Comments are closed.