Virtual Parallels

The Living Conditions of the Veterans of Karabakh War

The Living Conditions of the Veterans of Karabakh War

How do the participants of Karabakh war, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, live? What do they think about the war and the talks around it? These issues are covered in the interviews presented below.


We Need Opportunities Instead of Pensions and Benefits

Our interlocutors are the participants of the Karabakh war Zhora Faryan, Hrant Aghabekyan and Norayr Shahbazian. All three of them served in the special Shushi battalion. Zhora Faryan is currently working as chief specialist in "Saranist" company that produces glass containers. Hrant Aghabekyan works as manager of a Yerevan-based company that imports confectionery. During and after the war Norayr Shahbazyan worked by profession - he is a doctor. Since 2004, he has never officially worked anywhere. He is now engaged in farming and private practice. 
- How do the participants of the Karabakh war live in Armenia and Karabakh? How do the society and the state treat disabled veterans?
Norayr Shahbazyan - Unfortunately, there was stratification among the veterans after the war – members of the Armenian National Movement, Dashnaks, Republicans, and so on. Thus, these people were divided into insiders and outsiders. Of course, we cannot definitely assert that in Armenia and Karabakh citizen military live absolutely poorly. They all live in different ways. As for me, I should say that I can hardly make both ends meet.
Hrant Aghabekyan – The differences among the citizen military members came forth back at the time when many went to war with a specific intent: to be in the battlefield for some time, then return to Yerevan and use this fact to obtain positions for career growth. I have come across a few books about the Karabakh war, where the names of people who had spent only a few weeks in the battlefield were mentioned... These are the people who have created their biographies in this way.
Norayr Shahbazyan - By the way, this kind of war participants talk a lot about the war, give interviews. Those who were truly at war do not like talking about it. I can talk about myself and my comrades at this round table, that we create our biographies not at the expense of the war.
Zhora Faryan - How do citizen military live? I am related to this state only as a tax-payer and if I break the law, I go to jail. If we lived poorly during the war or immediately after it, that could be understood. Everyone lived like that! But today there are people who live poorly and very poorly. And it is not normal, it is wrong.
Hrant Aghabekyan - Many of the main participants of the war live very poorly. We have friends who participated in the war and returned disabled, so I'm talking based on their examples. There is, for example, one who lost a leg in the war, he was classified as the 2nd disability group patient, which was later altered to the 3rd group. As if one could assume that during this time his amputated leg could grow. Injustice is everywhere and in all areas.
-What are the problems commonly encountered by disabled veterans, and what benefits do they enjoy?
Norayr Shahbazian - I am convinced that it is necessary to create equal opportunities so that people, regardless of whether they are disabled veterans or war participants, with or without injuries, had a chance to live in dignity also at peace, to work and to fully realize their potential. We do not need pensions and benefits. We need opportunities so that people could live a full life in Yerevan, Vardenis or any other place. Why should I get a pension? All I want is to have an opportunity to work or create jobs on my own in this country. And I would like to see that everyone has such an opportunity and not only citizen military or the disabled.
Zhora Faryan - All three of us were wounded in the war, but we do not qualify for a disability group. Now the war is over. Why should I get a pension? I should only live in a country where the law is enforced. After all, we fought for a free and independent country. In this country, I do not feel like a winner.
Hrant Aghabekyan - I feel like a winner on the Karabakh front, but defeated in my state. I agree with Norayr on the fact that all the possibilities are concentrated in Yerevan, and regions are ignored. What kind of benefits and assistance programs do you want me to talk about, if I see with my own eyes how my friends’ families live?
Norayr Shahbazian - No, there are some assistance programs designed for the disabled, but I do not know anything concrete about them. If you want numbers, contact the appropriate authorities. And from time to time they talk about it on television. It is ridiculous when you know how many so-called war veterans currently receive disability pensions, and how many are waiting for their turn. If you add up these numbers, it will turn out that the Azerbaijani army turned the whole of our army into disabled during the war. But we did not have so many people at the front during the war!
-What do the fighters in the Karabakh think of the talks on its recommencement? Is it possible and is there a need to resolve the conflict peacefully?
Zhora Faryan - Young people know about the war through the films, and I can see adventure even in this. The war is a misfortune for all, concrete people die in the war. War is the most terrible thing ever, and people should do everything possible to the last second to prevent it.
Norayr Shahbazian - We have already been struck by this lightning. Do you know what war is?  You cannot educate younger generations by the example of mediocre soap operas like the ones, now shown on TV. You should tell the truth about the war. War is for the weak, the strong do not plot wars. The Karabakh war was the weakness of both our own and Azerbaijanis. And this war was begun by neither us nor them. All know that the war was the result of the collapse of the empire. Those who have been through the war, should understand that the two countries are facing a primary task - the creation of a State where literacy and legitimacy reign. I do not care what the President of Azerbaijan did in connection with Safarov’s case. But I care for the attitude of the Azerbaijani society: does it glorify or condemn his actions?
-For many centuries, military leaders, attacking sleeping people, have never been glorified. Hasn’t there been any evolution since then? I want to believe that there are people in Azerbaijan who say, "What are we doing? Who are we making a hero? '.
Hrant Aghabekyan - Every war brings forth lost parents or orphaned children. No one wants this. I firmly believe that if Azerbaijan starts a war, we will stand next to our young soldiers. And since there is no democracy in either state, I am not sure that there will be no war. I'll exclude the possibility of the renewal of the war only if Armenia and Azerbaijan become democratic states with the rule of the law.


How do veterans live and what do they hope for in Azerbaijan?

An interview with the disabled veterans of the Karabakh war: the Chairman of the Veterans Union Etimad Asadov, Deputy Chairman of the organization Firudin Mamedov, and a member of the Karabakh Liberation Organization Fahraddin Safarov.
-How do the participants of the Karabakh war live in Azerbaijan? How do the society and the state treat disabled veterans?
Etimad Asadov: In Azerbaijan there are 11,306 disabled veterans of the Karabakh war. Of these, 881 qualify for the first group of disabilities, 8194 - the second group, and 2231 - the third group. Despite the fact that the government takes care of the disabled veterans of the Karabakh war, the issued pension is small. It is true that the disabled are given apartments, cars, free treatment and medicines, wheelchairs, orthopedic devices, and are provided with resort-spa treatment and treatment abroad. The attitude of the state and the society is absolutely normal. There are problems with some officials, who sometimes do not respond to the inquiries or requests of the disabled or delay the issuance of decisions on individual issues.
Firudin Mamedov: The social situation of the disabled veterans of the Karabakh war leaves a lot to be desired. The state has allocated 2,500 apartments for people with disabilities. More than five thousand people with disabilities are still waiting for their turn. Public hospitals provide free treatment to people with disabilities, but this does not apply to private clinics. There are laws to ensure the protection of the rights of the disabled, but half of them are not being enforced. The state does not guarantee opportunities for people with disabilities to earn money. As for the society, it is indifferent to the problems of the disabled, very similar to what officials do. In most cases, a disabled person, standing in line, will not be allowed to move forward and what is this if not a manifestation of indifference. Officials did not solve the problems of the disabled veterans of the Karabakh war, which is just another manifestation of indifference.
Fahraddin Safarov: Despite the fact that all the attributes with regard to the veterans and the disabled of the Karabakh war seem to be met, there are still issues, left outside the scope of the attention of the state and the public. In particular, the Ministry of Defense did not pay attention to the veterans and people with disabilities, as if they are not there at all. That does not do them credit. I am a former teacher; however, the Ministry of Education is also uninterested in ensuring employment for former teachers who have lost their health at the front.
-What are the problems commonly encountered by disabled veterans, and what benefits do they enjoy?
Etimad Asadov: These are rather problems that have to do with the infrastructure. In urban areas in general and in the individual institutions in particular there are no conditions for the free mobility of people with disabilities. This creates problems with recruitment and mobility. The pensions given out to the disabled do not correspond to the current consumer basket in any way. In the private sector there are no benefits at all. We have already answered this question  in part above.
Firudin Mamedov: As for the existent problems, those have to do with the constant shortage of money, for the issued pensions are not commensurate with the prices in the country. In this regard, the children of Karabakh war veterans with disabilities are often unable to study at universities, for we do not afford to pay the tuitions. As we know, since January 2002 the state has cancelled almost all the benefits. We have already cited the benefits that are still ensured. I believe that the attitude to the disabled veterans of the Karabakh war should be different, different from the attitude to the ordinary citizens. "We fought the war, and therefore we are entitled to special treatment."
Fahraddin Safarov: To be honest, I do not claim any benefits because I do not think I have deserved them, because the territory is lost, and we were not able to liberate them. I feel ashamed for I was unable to fully do my duty. As for the problems, they are always there. For example, many veterans go to the archive of the Ministry of Defense and are not able to receive the relevant documents. The officials do not do their duties, particularly with regard to veterans and the disabled. In order to get a certificate, they have to go through a terrible ordeal. If we were the winners in this war, possibly the treatment on the part of the society and the state would be different.
-What do the veterans think of the talks on the recommencement of the war? Are there a possibility and a need to resolve the conflict peacefully?
Etimad Asadov: I think that the opportunities for the peaceful resolution of the conflict are exhausted. As a disabled war veteran, I am still a supporter of the recommencement of hostilities, since the conflict cannot be resolved in any other way. It is impossible to resolve the conflict peacefully because of the position of the Armenian government. Of course, the war is always a tragedy. However, war is inevitable to return of the territories. Dying for one’s motherland has always been an honor.
Firudin Mamedov: No sane person wants war. We have experienced the tragedy of war, the loss of friends, loved ones. However, we need to return the lands that are still occupied. We just have to defend ourselves and exercise self-defense. If I am, if necessary, drafted, I will go. As for the peaceful resolution of the conflict, we do not believe in it any more. We must rely only on ourselves.
Fahraddin Safarov: It is simply impossible to solve the problem of the return of the occupied territories without war. We have experienced all the sorrows of the war; however we are ready to fight even today. As for a peaceful resolution, the years-long negotiations showed that peace with Armenia is unattainable through negotiations. Perhaps some other ways and approaches should be found, for example, the help of superpowers to achieve fair peace.


30 January, 2014
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