“Nowhere to Hide for Azeri Refugees.”

Ganja 2020. Destroyed buildings lead to displaced people.

By | Nika Jabi

October 29,2020

“This week the UNHCR began distributing 4000 tents and 50,000 blankets to those displaced in the recent hostilities. The organization said about 250,000 Azerbaijanis have been displaced so far this year and about 1 million since the conflict began in 1988.”

Nowhere to Hide for Azeri Refugees.”

The Guardian,Thursday September 1993

Jonathan Rugman

Above, local news, fair use. Ganja 2020. Destroyed buidlings lead to displaced people. 

My name is Aliyeva Yaqub Nurana. I was born in 1982 in the village of Ali Jaykhanli in the Jabrayil region of Azerbaijan. I have asked a Canadian-Azerbaijani writer, Nika Jabi, to share with you my story and thoughts, given that I don’t speak any English. Since September 27th we have all been following world reporting, including your articles on the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. My nephew is a university student – he had been translating everything to Azerbaijani for us. Without dissecting every headline, sentence, every insinuation in your articles – most are aware of your paper’s stance on Azerbaijan – I’d like to shed light on a side of the Karabakh war, which you inadvertently or deliberately bypass every time you write about us.

In 1993 Armenians invaded our village and I became an Internally Displaced Person. Their soldiers arrived in tanks, burned our village and began shooting villagers at close range. The rest of us ran South through the mountains, over toward the Iranian border, where we crossed the Araz river to safety. I was 11 years old.

The Jabrayil region – where I was born – was one of the 7 regions Armenians occupied in addition to Nagorno-Karabakh by 1993. Armenians never previously claimed these regions – they were 100% ethnically Azerbaijan – but they proceeded to ethnically cleanse them of every last one of us, and occupied them anyway.

My mother never talked about the war. She would always talk about our village house, and our garden and the pomegranate trees in Jabrayil, and she even kept the massive Soviet-era keys to the house, because we were sure we’d be going back soon. Like I said, I was 11 when we fled Jabrayil on foot through the mountains. My mother shaved my head bald to avoid lice and tied a scarf over my head, and I remember it slipping as we ran, and me fixing it over my ears because it was cold. I remember seeing our neighbours shot dead on the ground midway through a hill. The Armenians shot us indiscriminately because they’ve been taught from birth to hate the Turks, I later learned, but back then no-one understood the brutalities. We weren’t even Turkish. When we stumbled upon the corpses on the hill, my father picked me up on his hands, so my head would be turned the other way, toward the other refugees who were running.

For a while we lived in tents in Iran and finally managed to arrive at a dilapidated refugee shelter in Baku. Afterward, for a decade our entire family lived in a room. We didn’t notice the years pass. Every year they talked about the peace negotiations with Armenia on TV, and this gave us hope that they’ll return our lands back and we’d be on our way home.

Around 2009 people said there was a peace deal coming (The Madrid Principles), but Armenia rejected

it entirely, preferring to maintain their illegal occupation. Our hope of returning died once again. Refusing to return any of the occupied territories – Nagorno-Karabakh or our 7 regions around it, by 2011, Armenian separatists incorporated our 7 Azerbaijani regions, including my home with our garden and pomegranate trees into what they now call “Artsakh” – an unrecognized separatist regime built on ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Azerbaijani villagers.

It has now been 28 years since we’re been forcibly displaced out of our homes. I’m 39 years old, few family members had already passed away, having never seen their homes again. For 28 years the Armenian lobby had worked to silence our voices, so that despite the world community condemning their illegal occupation, despite the UN, OSCE, European Court of Human Rights demanding their immediate withdrawal out of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan – the international community stayed silent and complaisant. Nobody put pressure on Armenia to enforce international law. The hundreds of thousands of stories of Azerbaijani refugees of those years were muted by Armenian lobby’s money and the indifference of world media toward the abhorrent human tragedy we suffered from 1988 to 1994 in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

You may have your disagreements with government officials, but why are you silencing me? There are nearly 1 million ordinary Azerbaijanis that had never seen justice. In 30 years Armenia refused to make ANY concessions, and I feel absolutely muted by your paper, when you give into Armenia lobby’s fabricated victimhood, disregarding my voice and the million voices of those like me. I’m attaching an article from your own paper; this is from September 1993. I couldn’t contain my emotions even reading it, given the level of heart and credible journalistic work that was put into it by one of your writers 28 years ago.

Given the dehumanization of Azerbaijanis in your reporting, your affinity for speaking of ordinary people as a throwaway statistic, may I ask why I deserve to be silenced now that time has passed? Does it make any of the tragedies I lived through or my broken life any less valid? May I remind you once more that there are a million of us?

Aliyeva Yaqub Nurana

Baku, Azerbaijan

Written and translated by Nika Jabi