Armenians from de facto Nagorno Karabakh in Armenia look to the future with concern
On November 1, a group of former officials from former de facto Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as de facto president Samvel Shahramanyan, gathered in Yerevan to discuss “preserving the statehood” of Nagorno-Karabakh. The meeting was closed to the public, and few details of the discussions have been revealed. In addition to Shahramanyan, it included MPs from the region’s de facto parliament and other public and political figures from Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
The discussion was initiated by the Committee for the Preservation of Artsakh Statehood, founded by Suren Petrosyan, an Armenian opposition figure. Petrosyan previously announced that the committee’s priorities were to preserve Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto institutions while promoting recognition of the right to self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population and ensuring their safe return to their homeland.
Tigran Grigoryan, the head of the Regional Center for Democracy and Security, a Yerevan-based think tank, believes that such initiatives could pose a threat to Armenia. “In the long term, I think this will be quite dangerous for the Armenian authorities because there will be pressure from Azerbaijan to dissolve all those bodies”, he said. “The Armenian authorities, if a peace agreement is signed, will not allow it to continue to exist in Armenia, at least at the level that all that exists now”, he added.
Earlier on October 23, a group of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians gathered in front of the region’s representative office in Yerevan, protesting accommodation issues, unpaid military salaries, and the decree announcing Nagorno-Karabakh’s dissolution. Shahramanyan, in his reaction, claimed that “any document cannot dissolve the republic created by the people”.
Those gathered in front of the permanent representative’s office were protesting issues they have been facing since fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh in late September and early October, particularly relating to issues finding housing and the freezing of de facto Nagorno-Karabakh’s state budgets.
Protesters expressed their anger with Nagorno-Karabakh’s outgoing de facto officials and denied rumours that the protest had been organised by Samvel Babayan, the former de facto Secretary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Security Council. One protester stated that no high-ranking officials were among the protesters “because they bought houses here with our money”. “Let someone come and complain; let a minister come and complain. Let his [president’s] staff come to protest. They don’t do this because they all have houses here, and their children are safe. My children sleep in the car”, said the protester. He also called for Nagorno-Karabakh officials’ houses in Armenia to be confiscated and given to the families of killed soldiers and poor Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.
After meeting with Shahramanyan, protesters announced that they had not received satisfactory answers to their questions, following which the crowd once again pushed into the building. After the second breach of the police barricade, Shahramanyan came outside to address the protesters. He stated that the social issues raised would be directed to those institutions responsible for addressing them.
Meanwhile, in a cabinet session on October 26, the Armenian government approved the creation of a “temporary protected status” for displaced persons from former Nagorno-Karabakh. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the new status would facilitate the protection of their rights in the local and international arenas.
The law automatically applies to the over 100,000 ethnic Armenians of Karabakh who fled to Armenia following Azerbaijan’s forceful seizure of the territory on 19-20 September. Those eligible for the new temporary protected status are persons registered as residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, persons living in Armenia or abroad whose last registered address was in Nagorno-Karabakh, and persons who were not registered in Nagorno-Karabakh but lived there and were registered by the Armenian Migration and Citizenship Service as entering the country after September 19.
Those who hold citizenship of a country other than Armenia are not eligible, as their protection is deemed to be under the jurisdiction of the relevant country.