CHAPTER 21 DEPORTATION

“To the Soviet soldiers and officers serving in Azerbaijan.

Soviet soldiers and officers!

You are engaged in an undeclared and criminal war against your own nation. With the permission and support of the Centre, the Azerbaijani government has made you an instrument for its political strivings. This is a struggle in course of which medieval methods are being applied. You are made use of to deport the peaceful population from their homes, to disguise the looting and pillage in the villages taken with your help. If you were in the situation of those being driven of their homes, wouldn’t you take arms and form groups of self-defence to protect their families, their rights to the land on which they live? The inhabitants and among the veterans of Great Patriotic War are unable to understand why the Soviet army is fighting against themselves, why they are being forced to leave their native land? This is a kind and hard-working nation is in a desperate situation now. And it has nothing else to do but defend itself. Soldiers and officers, hold rallies, try to understand where are you being dragged and by whom. You have taken a vow to serve the nation and not for the benefit of the party fanatics. Remember, that you too might be charged for these crimes and not only those that give orders.

29 July, 1991, Verinshen, Shahumian District”16

The deportation of the villagers of 22 Armenian settlements was a new shock to the Armenians. The deportations led to the first direct involvement of the international community in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. An independent, international delegation was sent by the Sakharov Memorial Congress to the region to investigate the situation. The delegation consisted of 15 members from the USA, Japan, Norway, the UK and Russia. The delegates were unanimous in their conclusions, published in a communique;

“…Internal troops subordinated to the Soviet MVD (Interior Ministry) have conducted actions co-ordinated with Azerbaijani OMON forcibly to deport entire villages, often brutalizing civilians, including women, children and elderly persons. Gross violation of internationally guaranteed human rights have been found, in clear violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other International agreements to which the USSR is a signatory. We found credible and compelling evidence that additional deportations and related abuses are being planned by Azerbaijani and Soviet authorities and are imminent unless immediate action is taken to prevent them.”17

A follow up mission was arranged in July. In keeping with the groups commitment to impartiality, it concluded;

“…We conclude that grave violations of human rights are still occuring. We identified four major areas of concern: Forced deportations, Detentions, Harrassment of Civilians: Azerbaijani Special Forces – OMON.

Forced Deportations continue in the Armenian villages in and around Karabakh. Villages in the Shahumian region are this week surrounded by soldiers and Azerbaijani OMON forces and the population being forcibly deported.

Azerbaijani officials, including President Mutalibov, and Azerbaijani Communist Party Second Secretary Polianichko continue to justify these deportations as voluntary departures. Evidence shows that deportations are brutally enforced. They involve loss of life, property and physical injury…”18

The Armenian side took arms to defend itself. They considered the deportation an agression of Azerbaijan towards Nagorny Karabakh and a new war declared to the Region. Numerically superior, the Azerbaijani OMON and the MVD troops were sure of their success. They tried to drag Armenia into the conflict by all means.

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