Corrections to the IWPR's "Massacres Still Haunt Azerbaijan's Armenians"
Date: Wed, 3 May 2000 01:58:30 -0700 (PDT)


(original article which has been already corrected appears in the end of the letter)


IWPR bulletin's are usually well-written, on the point and
succinct. However, in the latest Issue 29 for April 28, 2000, the article
"Massacres Still Haunt Azerbaijan's Armenians" makes and perpetuates
several critical and gross mistakes. For example, in just one short
(!) paragraph, we have three groundless and false claims:

1) From the article we learn that "hundreds of Armenians were massacred in
Sumgait [in 1988]" This was never even claimed by Armenian propaganda at
the height of the Armenia-Azerbaijan war! The official investigation
proved a total of 32 people killed, from which 6 were Azerbaijani, and 26
Armenian. Reliable Armenian sources confirm these figures, such as a book
published in Yerevan in September 1989. It was a transcript of the
press-conference organized by the Armenian "Gushamatian" society and
Armenian Union of Journalists on September 23rd in Yerevan. It is also
important to note that the head of the Sumgait mob was...Armenian, Edik
Grigoryan, who was identified by his Armenian victims, and sentenced to
imprisonment. However, he has then been transferred to a prison somewhere
in Russia, and all traces perished.

2) The author goes on to claim that "Two years later, [in 1990] 150 died
when rampaging mobs took to the streets of Baku." Armenia's own sources
estimate the toll at upper 60's -- where is more than twice higher 150
figure from?

3) "10,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan." First of all, there are much
more Armenians living in Azerbaijan. Last time one bothered to check,
Karabakh region along with other currently occupied by Armenia districts
of Azerbaijan are exactly that -- legally, historically and politically
part of Azerbaijan. Throughout these regions, there are around 80,000
Armenians living, although lower and higher estimates exist as well.

However, even if we discount the occupied territories as yet another
unintentional mistake of the author, I feel obliged to point out that the
Armenian population in Baku and some other parts of northern Azerbaijan,
ranges from 20,000 to 30,000. By the way, both figures are courtesy of the
US Department of State, as well as many frequently quoted Western
diplomats. So why did the the author choose to quote the lowest figure?

In addition, US Department of State, to its honor, year-after-year says
the following: "[s]ome persons of mixed Armenian-Azerbaijani descent
continue to occupy government positions." I should add that those
positions involve high level posts, and even comprise opposition members.

Now, can same be said about the situation with Azerbaijanis in
Armenia? After all, in late 1980's, there were more than 200,000
Azerbaijanis in Armenia. The answer is no, since not a single one
remains. In fact, even all Muslim Kurds were expelled -- all 20,000 of
whom came to Azerbaijan for refuge.

Yet, most importantly, did the author oblige to tell about the much higher
number of casualties on the other side? The fact that first refugees were
Azerbaijanis from Armenia? That the first two victims of the renewed
violence were two Azerbaijani youths, 16 and 23 year-olds? What about
terrible massacres at such Armenian towns as Gugark, Spitak, Stepanavan,
Masis and others, where dozens of innocent Azerbaijani civilians were
brutally murdered? I include below official data on the ethnic Azerbaijani
civilian casualties of pogroms and massacres in Armenia:

2 people killed by doctors in hospital
3 people died because of no medical assistance given
killed in the course of tortures 35 people
died from heavy beating 41 person
burned alive 11 people
after torturing 2 people had their heads cut off
killed and burned 4 people
1 persona hanged
drowned 3 people
7 people run over by cars
killed from gunshots  16 people
frozen in mountains, while fleeing for safety, 49 people
kidnapped and disappeared 8 people
killed by electricity 1 person
killed during traffic and other accidents 22 people
1 person suicide
died from heart attack as a result of nervous breakdown 10 people,
  including one pregnant woman

Total killed 216 people, including 57 women, 5 babies and 18 children of
different ages in this November 1988 terrorist action.

Finally, it the remaining parts of article regarding injustices with job,
housing and military service, it should be emphasized that these are known
to each and every Azerbaijani, regardless of nationality. These cases are
too long to bring them up here, although it is very easy to prove.

Please, in future, be more careful when printing such overtly provocative
and false reports. It would be even better if you print necessary
corrections in your next issue.

With regards,

Adil Baguirov

Massacres Still Haunt Azerbaijan's Armenians
(corrected present version. Read online

Just a decade after bloody pogroms in the streets of Baku, Armenians resident in
Azerbaijan live in an atmosphere of fear and discrimination.

By Alena Myasnikova in Baku

Tamara B. lives with the enemy. An ethnic Armenian, she was born in Baku, married a
Russian and has two adult children who both live in the Azerbaijani capital. In 1990, when
armed gangs launched a pogrom against local Armenians, the family fled to Moscow.
They returned six months later. Baku is the only home they know.

Although she is past retirement age, Tamara doesn't get a pension. She has never
applied for one. "I don't want to make a fuss," she says. "If I go and apply for a pension
they'll ask for my passport, which proves that I'm an Armenian. Who knows what
problems that could mean for me and my family?"

Tamara's husband was a highly placed Communist Party official during the Soviet era and
the family lives in a special apartment block built for the nomenclature. The neighbours
know of her nationality but, says Tamara, "they have never behaved badly towards me or
the children and we still live on good terms."

Like most of the estimated 30,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan, Tamara keeps a low
profile. Memories of the recent pogroms are still fresh: in 1988, 26 Armenians were
massacred in Sumgait (previous edition claimed hundreds), on the Caspian Sea, during             
two days of bloodshed. Two years later, at least 15 (corrected from 150 in the previous    
edition) died when rampaging mobs took to the streets of Baku.

Recently, the Azerbaijani president, Heidar Aliev, personally guaranteed the safety of all
Armenians living in the former Soviet republic. He pledged that any state bureaucrats
caught discriminating on the basis of nationality would be severely punished.

But, with 98 per cent of their community consisting of women, most Armenians remain
unconvinced. They reason that, if the government is unable to protect the rights of its own
people, there can be little hope for representatives of ethnic minorities. 

Discrimination is certainly widespread and often Armenians are forced to fight bitterly for
their rights. One Armenian, Asya Khydyrova, recently won a court battle over her claims
to a Baku apartment.

In 1992, Khydyrova, who was married to an Azerbaijani, took her three children to visit
relatives in Kislovodsk. She returned a month later to discover that her husband had not
only managed to process a divorce but had also removed her name and those of her
children from the flat registration documents. To add insult to injury, he had moved his
new fiance into the property.

Supported by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and the Human Rights Centre of
Azerbaijan, Khydyrova took the case to court. She and her children were eventually
awarded half of the living space, which they are now trying to exchange for alternative
accommodation. This is a rare case of an Armenian national scoring a victory - be it a
modest one - over the system.

Often, Armenians are forced to disguise their identities for fear of discrimination. Yana and
Roman Arutyunova were orphaned in 1990. With nowhere else to go, they stayed in Baku
where they were brought up by neighbours. Yana, then 17, refused to let her
eight-year-old brother go to school because she was afraid he would be bullied.

This year, Roman was called up for military service and Yana paid $250 for a passport
which gave him a Russian surname and Russian nationality. She was helped by an old
friend of the family who had "good connections".

Yana explains, "Maybe the officers would have treated him normally, but I don't know how
he would have got on with the other soldiers who belong to refugee families from the
occupied territories." 

Now Yana dreams of changing her own passport and getting a new surname and a new
nationality. She says the situation is uncertain. "I'm afraid. There are a lot of people in
Baku who know that my brother and I are Armenians, and they've helped us and still help
us. But who knows what tomorrow will bring?"

Almost all Armenians in Azerbaijan live in the hope that the situation will change for the
better. Their hopes have been further fuelled by recent peace talks between the presidents
of the two warring countries.

Few, however, have the option of finding sanctuary in Armenia. There they are generally
viewed with distrust and suspicion - in fact, one Azerbaijani journalist who recently visited
Yerevan was astonished to hear the comment, "They [the Armenians in Azerbaijan] don't
have the right to be called Armenians!" 

But the number of Armenians prepared to fight for their rights as citizens of Azerbaijan is
growing from year to year. To a large extent this has been made possible by the work
carried out by non-governmental organisations which have called for people to stand up for
their rights and join forces to fight discrimination.

                Alena Myasnikova is a correspondent for Monitor Magazine in Baku.

p.s. the errors were explained as the mistakes of not author but that of editor.
Copyright IWPR