I have always been intrigued by the oft quoted number, by those sympathetic to the Azerbaijani perspective of the war, of 875000 people being Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) or refugees from the war. Also, the lobbying campaign to allow them to return home has left me wondering what that actually means practically.
The European Azerbaijan Society is consistent on its position that this number represents both refugees (from Armenia) and IDP’s ( from within the UN recognised borders of Azerbaijan). Other publications do suggest that they are all IDP’s. If this is the case then this total population must have come from the boundaries of the original Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), and the 7 surrounding regions, and not from Armenia which the following analysis would suggest is extremely unlikely.
A 1979 survey of the NKAO stated the population as being 162,200 ( including 37,300 Azeris). An estimated split would be ~15,000 Shushi, 6,000 Khohaly and the remainder, principally in the villages. [Artsakh: Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR 1988]
The 1989 Census showed that the population of Azerbaijanis had increased to 40,688 within the NKAO.
The 1979 Census of the Azerbaijan SSR showed that in the rayons of Kalbajar, Lachin, Gubadly, Zanglan, Jabrail, Fizuli, and Aghdam there were 363,588 Azerbaijanis who, it is assumed, all fled from these regions to other parts of Azerbaijan. In the same survey ( which excludes NKAO) it states that there were 362,452 Armenians ( principally in Baku, Sumgait, and Kirovabad) in Azerbaijan who it is assumed would have fled to NKAO(NKR), Armenia or elsewhere.
In total approximately 400,000 Azerbaijanis fled from the region now covered by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In its review of a film called “The Waiting” about IDP’s in Azerbaijan, the European Azerbaijan Society quotes that there are 600,000 IDP’s – 200,000 more than the recorded statistics would suggest.
The 1979 Census of the Armenian SSR showed that there were 160,841 Azerbaijani’s living in Armenia. Assuming that all of these fled to Azerbaijan then, together with the 400,000 IDP’s this results in a total number of 560,000 refugees and IDP’s.
The total number of refugees/IDP’s on both sides with the above numbers comes to 920,000 which equates with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees report dated 16 September 2003 rounded sum of 1,000,000 people.
The European Azerbaijan Society declare “ the aim of reaching a just resolution and enabling the return of 875,000 refugees and internally-displaced persons to their homeland”. Apart from the fact that the figure is inflated by 50%:
– Do they expect that 160,000 Azerbaijanis will re-locate back to Armenia.
– The 110,000 people who were registered as living in the Aghdam region will have no housing to return to, particularly those living in Aghdam city
– An influx of 40,000 Azerbaijanis into the area previously covered by the NKAO will only de-stabilise the region and will be a totally unsatisfactory solution for all people involved. Is the expectation that the 360,000 Armenians who were displaced from Azerbaijan would return to their homeland in Baku, Sumgait, Kirovabad etc?
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the history of the war, any future proposal starts with the situation today. Any proposal should not
– artificially re-settle Azerbaijanis into Armenian populated areas causing inevitable tensions, and vice versa
– forcibly remove, through ethnic cleansing, Armenians from their current residences.
The suggestion by the European Azerbaijan Society that it is a remotely sensible option to return “875,000” people to their homeland is folly on the grandest scale and demonstrates that they have no practical perspective in resolving important issues which should be designed to serve the best interests of all of the people. This is, pure and simple, insidious politicking by the few in power with no care for the many individuals involved.
Categories: War and its Legacy