Dr. Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU Representative and Mr. Ayhan Demirci, President of Azerbaijan- Belgium Friendship Association
Mr. Laszlo Tokes, Vice-President of the European Parliament, EPP-coordinator of the Human Rights Committee and Mr. Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers.
MEETING ON THE HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE
MEETING ON THE HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE
AT THE EU PARLIAMENT IN BRUSSELS
on 9th February 2011.
The meeting was hosted by MEP Lazlo Tokes, Vice-President of the EU Parliament.
After the opening speech by MEP Lazlo Tokes, Mr. Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, made a presentation on IDPs in Azerbaijan: "From Nagorno-Karabah/Khojali to Baku".
On 26-31 January 2011, a three-member team of Human Rights Without Frontiers International conducted a fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan with the objective of investigating the current situation of the Internationally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country within the context of a protracted displacement crisis and the stalled peace process on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The team visited IDPs dormitories and collective settlement centers located in Baku and at its outskirts. The mission's findings are based on household interviews with around 100 IDPs from Nagorno-Karabakh (Khojali and Shusha) and some of the adjacent occupied districts (Kelbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, and Zangelan). The interviews were conducted with a view to obtaining first-hand accounts of the challenges IDPs currently face and their priorities for addressing these challenges.
Internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan have lived in a virtual limbo over the past 20 years. Highly dependent on state aid and deeply traumatized by their conflict-induced displacement, they face huge obstacles - psychological, economic and social - that hinders their integration into local communities and the reconstruction of the life of their families These obstacles are aggravated by the lack of closure as regards the tragic events they experienced twenty years ago as well as the lack of prospects for the peaceful settlement of the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh that would make the return to their lands possible.
During its mission to Azerbaijan, HRWF Int. realized how difficult it would be to disentangle the economic and social grievances of the internally displaced persons from the overall context of the armed conflict that has induced their displacement. These grievances cannot be redressed in the absence of clear prospects for the resolution of the conflict.
In his Presentation Mr. Fautré covered the following topics:
Findings and Analysis
IDPs and Armed Conflicts
IDPs and Poverty
HRWF's Recommendations are:
The final resolution of the protracted displacement crisis in Azerbaijan is contingent upon the outcome of the peace process on the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh that would make possible the return of IDPs to their lands. In line with the European Parliament Report on the need for an EU Strategy for the South Caucasus of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, HRWF International believes that the European Union should play an active role in providing political momentum to the peaceful resolution of the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mr. Fautré ended his presentation by making specific recommendations.
The third speaker who made a presentation about IDPs was Mr. Scott Crosby, of Kemmler Rapp Böhlke & Crosby EU Law Office in Brussels.
The presentations were followed by a reception during which ITF EU Representative Dr Hassan Aydinli spoke with Mr. Togrul Malikov, First Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Belgium and Luxemburg and with Mr. Ayhan Demirci, President of Azerbaijan-Belgium Friendships.
With EU Lawyer Mr. Scott Crosby and HRWF's Director Mr. Willy Fautré, Dr. Hassan Aydinli spoke about the problem of the Turkmen IDPs in Iraq, informing them that since the 1980s many thousands of Turkmens had been forcedly displaced and dispersed all over Iraq under all sorts of pretexts by the former regime.
Dr. Hassan Aydinli informed them "that entire populations of Turkmen villages and towns: BESHIR, TIRKALAN, YAYCHI, BILAWA, TERJIL, TURKESHKAN, HAMZELI, YAHYAWA, TOPZAWA, had been evicted and that Turkmen towns around Mosul city had also been evacuated: Harabe, Gokcheli, Bazvaya, Qarateppe, and most of the inhabitants were forcedly deported to the Suleymaniyya province.
Dr. Hassan Aydinli explained what had happened to the 7.500 inhabitants of the large Turkmen agricultural village of BESHIR (which is situated 20 km to the South West of Kerkuk city):
In the early 1980s the Iraqi Security forces arrested hundreds of intellectuals from BESHIR accusing them of being activists in the outlawed Islamic Da'wa Party, over one hundred of these Turkmen intellectuals were later executed.
In 1986, while the young men of Beshir were fighting on the front in the war against Iran, their families were subjected to terrible human rights abuses: they were given 48 hours to pack their personal effects and leave their homes and were forcibly moved to some communal compounds which had been built in a rush to serve as 'transitional residence' on the road to Tikrit. Their houses were razed to the ground and their agricultural lands were later given to Arabs brought by the Ba'ath regime from the centre and south of Iraq, and to neighbouring Arab tribes, in application of a policy designed to arabise Turkmen towns and villages in KERKUK Province.
While each of these 'immigrant' Arab families were given 10.000 Iraqi Dinars (equivalent to 30.000 USD) as incentive to settle on Turkmen lands, the unfortunate Turkmens did not receive any compensation.
After a year spent in the communal compounds, almost all the Turkmen families from BESHIR were dispersed to several cities throughout Iraq: Basra, Diyala, Erbil, Kut...without being provided with housing and without being compensated by the government for the loss of their livelihoods, houses and agricultural lands. From being landowners and farmers they became refugees in their own country and were left completely destitute.
In 2003 when they U.S. occupied Iraq the displaced people of BESHIR thought things would change and many of them came and planted their tents around their village, hoping they would finally be able to move back on their ancestral lands, but unfortunately the Arabs who had been brought under the former regime refused to leave. As the Turkmens threatened to march on their village in order to remove them by force, the U.S. occupation authorities intervened and prevented them to enter the village. The U.S. led and controlled a "mediation" and later a Property Claims Commission was set up.
In 2005 the people of BESHIR took a lawyer and presented their files to the Property Claims Commission, giving copies of their deeds, in order to receive compensation and get back their lands which had been confiscated, but the Iraqi authorities are in no haste to process the files belonging to Turkmens, although the ordeals of the Turkmens of BESHIR are mentioned in the Preamble of the Iraqi Constitution together with the tragedy of the Arabs of AL-DUJAIL and the massacre of the Kurds of HALABJA.
Since 2005 only 2.000 files out of the 45.000 files belonging to Turkmens have been processed. Dr. Aydinli said that this is clearly a sign of discrimination against Turkmens as in Kerkuk, all the 'pending files' belong to Turkmens, and that all the Kurds who submitted their files have already been compensated."
Mr. Fautré and Mr. Crosby said they were interested to receive further information about the Turkmen IDPs, Dr. Aydinli told them he would keep them informed.