Karabakh: The big debate
Commonspace.eu today publishes the 12th in a series of twenty interviews with key personalities from Nagorno-Karabakh. The interviews give a vivid, even if sombre picture, of the attitude of Armenians and Azerbaijanis from Karabakh whose lives have been deeply affected by the conflict, and whose destiny will be at the heart of any future conflict settlement. Those interviewed sometimes use harsh language. Their opinion is almost inevitably controversial, as are sometimes their biographical notes. However it is through listening to these opinions that a path through the labyrinth that is the Karabakh conflict can be found. A full editorial policy of commonspace.eu is available at the About Us section. The next interview in the series will be with Armen Sargsyan, Head of Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and Head of the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun Party Faction in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Parliament.
Interview with Sevda Ibrahimova
Sevda Ibrahimova was born in 1949 in Seyidli village, Aghdam district, which is still under Armenian occupation and has been completely destroyed. She graduated from the Medical Technical School in Aghdam and worked in her village until 1993. Armenian military forces killed her unarmed husband and son during the conflict. After the Armenian invasion of her village she settled in Baku and lives in the dormitory. She has three children.
Biographical notes are provided by the interviewees themselves.
Can you summarize your overall position on the Karabakh conflict and the conflict resolution process:
Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral and historical part of Azerbaijan. There was no country called Armenia on the political map of the world before. To my understanding of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia - with the help of the international superpowers - want to annex some parts of Azerbaijan and make them their own. They stole our music and songs, our cuisine and foods. Even in the Eurovision song contest, they tried to steal our songs. When the conflict started the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh were trying to get an autonomous status, and now they want to be independent. I remember a tragic event that happened in 1965, one Azerbaijani family on their way to Shusha were stopped by Armenians and killed in their car, and during this time there was peace. We see that the UN and other international organisations are keeping blind eyes to everything, they come here often but don't resolve anything. If we can't reach peace through all these missions, the last resort is the military option, but this depends on the Supreme Commander of Azerbaijan [the President].
In the long term do you want to see Nagorno-Karabakh as (a) an independent state, (b) as part of Armenia, (c) as part of Azerbaijan, (d) none of the above but in an as of yet undefined status. Comment on your choice:
(c). It is a vivid fact that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, the political history of the region and the United Nations well confirm this legal fact, so Nagorno-Karabakh must be part of Azerbaijan. I don't know if when we return to live there whether it will be peaceful or not, this is still unclear to me. But because we are Muslims and can easily forget the hurts done against us, we desire only to live peacefully with the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and to coexist with them.
What is your biggest objection/concern to Nagorno-Karabakh being independent or part of Armenia or under some as of yet undetermined status that is not part of Azerbaijan:
We were attacked, I lost my husband, my son, my house, everything you can imagine in my land. So what kind of independence should I talk about being given to Armenians there through invasion of our homeland and torture, humiliation and massacre of Azerbaijanis? Armenia with its bosses pursued an official ethnic cleansing policy against Azerbaijanis. This is my objection.
Were you directly involved in the armed hostilities between 1989-94? If yes in what capacity?
At that time I was a young lady and my children were small kids. My husband was killed and then my 14 year old son, we couldn't even bury him properly according to Islamic rules. So we witnessed how the military regiment in Khojaly, Number 366, tortured and killed innocent people and that's why people including us got scared and decided to run away when Armenia attacked, so as not to become hostages or captured or killed. Our men decided to guarantee our safety by sending us away, and that's how we came here.
How do you evaluate the work of the OSCE Minsk Process?
Very bad. If I catch them [puts hands around her throat] I will strangle them! They often come here in cars visiting the region all the time but with no results. A 9-year-old child Fariz Badalov was shot by an Armenian sniper in Orta Garvand of Aghdam recently, and a young girl was killed by a bomb hidden inside a toy in a border village of the Tovuz district. All this is visible to the UN, why don't they find a way to resolve this? You have come here and witnessed this whole situation with your own eyes, and you can understand what has happened. The UN is doing the same thing - they come here, they interview the people and collect the facts - but nothing is coming out of their mission. This is a real pity. [Do you mean OSCE Minsk Group when you say UN?] They are the same. The decisions from the UN are not fulfilled, and the OSCE are also coming here with no results. If there were not other external forces behind Armenia, even I as a female am able to give a counter-response to Armenia [With violence?] Yes of course!
Do you have a publicly expressed position on the Madrid Principles?
I am not familiar with that document. The only thing that I know is that it has no result.
Do you think that it is important/appropriate that the de facto authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic be part of the peace process facilitated by the Minsk Group? If yes should they be there instead of the Armenian Government?
That authority cannot be accepted. I cannot understand, is there a dual power in Nagorno-Karabakh? It is our region, so it must be run from Baku. For example, you came here to our house, and our house is open to you - you can stay here, drink your tea, watch our TV - imagine then that sometime later you tell me to get out of my house because you want to take my house. This is the Armenian attitude, their behavior was like this, in Shusha and other places it was like that. This is yours? [picks us Dictaphone] Can I say that this is mine? Armenians would say that now this is mine.
Sometimes the possibility is mentioned that the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh under Armenian control since 1994 should be returned to Azerbaijan as part of an interim peace agreement, leaving the issues of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh to a later date. Do you have an opinion on this issue?
This is really important. When I just picked up your belonging now [referring to Dictaphone], I had to return it back to the same place on the table. This is almost the same, they occupied the territories in front of everyone's eyes, so now they must return them.
What is your opinion with regards to the role of Turkey, Russia, Iran, the United States, the European Union or any other country or international organisation, or the international community in general, with regards to the Karabakh conflict and its settlement:
Since the US and Russia are superpowers and the strongest international actors, they want to establish their rule over other countries. When a country wants to decide their own destiny, the US and Russia intervene. This is their self-appointed global mission. When other countries suffering similar conflicts wanted to support Azerbaijan, the superpowers try to punish them as well by using different methods. Turkey is good and a big country, if there was no Turkey the Armenians would probably have already killed all the Azeris. The Iranians have two faces, sometimes supportive to us but in most cases supportive to the other side. Officially they recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but behind the scenes they do what they want to do against Azerbaijan and support Armenia.
How do you evaluate the role of informal, NGO-level contributions to the peace process? Do you believe that informal contacts have a useful role to play prior to or after a formal agreement?
Whatever NGO it is, if they really try to build confidence and bring justice, presenting the real facts and truths to others, I really appreciate this activity. But if they want to irritate the people to again square off against each other, of course I don't appreciate that.
Do you have a position on the desirability or not of free movement of Armenians and Azeris between their two countries before a final peace agreement?
Not before the final peace agreement.
Do you think that Armenians and Azerbaijanis will ever be able to live together peacefully in Karabakh again in the future?
It has happened five times in one century - a conflict and then resolution between the two nations - and as we are Muslims, we can come to a conciliation to live together again. Armenians understand how wonderful a place Nagorno-Karabakh is, so they will never want to leave there.
What is your opinion on the issue of return of refugees/IDPs to Nagorno-Karabakh?
If we reach a final peace agreement after the return of our territories, in my understanding it will be very possible - with the help of other rich countries - to rebuild the region and encourage the people to return there. Sometimes I think, lets just get the land back so I can dig a hole there and live in it - I don't need a house - that would be enough for me, it would just be better to be back in my homeland.
Read previous interviews in this series:
The public debate between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Munich on Saturday was not there to be won or lost, but was itself a confidence-building measure, argues Dennis Sammut in this week's Monday Commentary