YEREVAN (Panorama.am)—An international conference entitled “Breaking the Siege of Stepanakert: 25 years later” has kicked off in Yerevan on Wednesday, bringing together a number of Armenian and foreign experts to reflect on the Artsakh War, deliver analysis on the inevitability of the break of Stepanakert city blockade in the winter months of 1992, as well as draw parallels with the military actions unleashed by Azerbaijan in April 2016.
The event, organized by the Public Relations and Information Center State Non-commercial Organization, was also attended by military reporters from the Artsakh War.
The Director at the Public Relations and Information Center Ara Saghatelyan noted in his opening remark that the conference is being held ten days earlier of the date when Stepanakert siege was broken aiming to disseminate the truth and the reality for the international community, to present the whole picture how the developments unfolded in Karabakh starting from 1987-88.
“A new film is scheduled to be screened in the coming days that will comprehensibly showcase to the international community the essence of the humanitarian disaster that hit Karabakh and the capital city Stepanakert, in particular. I think whenever our neighbors try to speculate over the historical events in the future, people having access to the translated version of the film would at least have the understanding of the inevitability of the so-called Khojalu military operation in Aghdam direction,” Saghatelyan said.
“70-80 percent of the Azerbaijani servicemen serving in the frontline are representatives of ethnic minorities. It can be stated that they are drafted to the army forcefully being immediately sent to the frontline. This is the reason why the majority of the killed soldiers are Talish people, Tatars and Udis, as it can be inferred from their names,” member of Talish Cultural Council, part of the Talish freedom movement, and reporter of Tolishi Sado newspaper Shahin Mirzoev said. Mirzoev is an Azerbaijani who sought asylum from Azerbaijan to Armenia with his family and was accepted into the country a few days ago.
Mirzoev said that the people of Talysh‒an ethnic minority from the mountain ranges of southeastern Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran‒are facing the same reality and fate that Karabakh endured while living under the control of Azerbaijan.
The journalist informed that Talysh people have no access to any TV and radio in Azerbaijan and are unable to voice the pressing issues they face in their life in Azerbaijan. He noted that only some 20-30 percent of the Azerbaijani servicemen are so called locals, who call themselves Turks. They serve at warehouses or are cooks.
When asked whether they can reject to serve in the frontline, the participant of Talish freedom movement noted that in that case they would put their lives at risk. “They will be detained at least. In addition to that, their entire family will face hardships. Currently I am in Armenia and there they have forced my 92-year old father to refuse from me,” he added.
Mirzoev said that he and his family are feeling fine in Armenia. He said that following the day of their arrival, his wife, who suffers from oncological disease, was hospitalized.
“Those who dare to speak out are either imprisoned or killed. More than 300 thousand Talysh people have fled Azerbaijan to Russia and are persecuted by Azerbaijan,” the journalist said, adding that “2 million Talysh people are residing in Azerbaijan. Is it possible to annihilate all them under the outside look of the world? In Azerbaijan, any demand of having a TV channel, radio or a textbook in own native language makes you a separatist and a traitor to nation.”
When asked whether he considered the decision to flee to Armenia risky, Mirzoev said “I didn’t consider it risky, since the actual risk was my staying in Azerbaijan. I virtually fled Azerbaijan to avoid a death there. I will face a death should I return there again. The visit to Armenia was not risky and I have not been mistaken.”