In February of 1988 the streets of Karabakh were flooded with thousands of people demonstrating to demand Karabakh’s reunification with Armenia. An estimated one million Armenia’s turned out at the same time in the streets of Yerevan demanding the same and beginning a movement–which would see the collapse of the powerful Soviet Empire.
During the past 14 years–the Karabakh conflict evolved from a self-determination movement to a self-defense war and has now become a political issue with international ramifications and precedent-setting consequences as the world community is attempting to mediate a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Without delineating the major events of this 14-year-old movement for self-determination and territorial integrity–it is sufficient to say that the Karabakh conflict–in all its evolution–has awakening the Armenian people’s sense for national values and has underscored the importance of the continuing national liberation struggle–which the entire nation has shouldered.
The fact that the sparks for independence and reunification began an international movement for the liberation of Karabakh and mobilized the entire nation–homeland and Diaspora–to unify around the cause of Karabakh–is a legacy that the conflict has left on the Armenian reality.
The unequivocal support for Armenian self-defense fighters and the will to address and push the Karabakh self-determination issue within non-Armenian political and social circles–truly attests to the universality of the conflict and the important place the conflict has occupied within the Armenian psyche and motivation.
This reality has led to unprecedented grass-roots activism throughout the world to ensure that the tiny republic of Nagorno-Karabakh does not get lost in the new world order shuffle and is granted every opportunity to persevere and prosper.
Today–the war-torn streets of Karabakh are getting a face lift–due to an aggressive effort by the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Diaspora to rebuild the area that was ravaged by unrelenting attacks by Azeri forces during the six years of war.
International leaders and mediators note that due to the resilience of the Armenian people both in Armenia and Karabakh–the Armenia’s have gained the upper hand in military discipline and capability not only as it relates to the Karabakh conflict but also within the entire South Caucasus region.
Despite economic hardship and political forces whose skewed agendas have often interfered with the normalization of the peace process–the people of Karabakh–Armenia and the Diaspora remain committed to a just resolution–which takes into consideration the security of Armenia and Karabakh–as well as the national values that have served as a compass for Armenia’s in the fight to liberate Artsakh and beyond.
The Diaspora’s immediate mobilization to raise funds and ensure that the humanitarian needs of the people are met–has now evolved into a campaign to rebuild not just edifices but the entire infrastructure of Karabakh and ensure that the country flourishes economically–politically and socially.
Today–the priorities for Karabakh remain the same: a pan-Armenian effort to strengthen Karabakh and Armenia–national unity around the self-determination and liberation struggles and an unwavering will to protect and preserve the heroic legacy of the freedom fighters who gave their lives so our nation can hold on to its historic lands and rights.
For the past decade or so–Karabakh has been an independent republic–with a democratically elected government and infrastructures that meet international norms. Although not officially recognized by any country except Armenia–Karabakh is seen as a de-facto country and the sentiment of mediators to not ignore the advances made in Karabakh can be commended.
However–the continuing peace process and mediation efforts by the OSCE and the international community must also take into consideration that Azerbaijan remains an aggressor state that has used its alleged oil reserves to lure money-hungry corporations to make a home in Azerbaijan and through their efforts lobby for greater Western reach within the region.
This for-profit-only approach has prompted the US and other governmen’s to adopt policies in the region that only serve the narrow interest of those companies and not the population or demographic of the area.
The mediators should be mindful that people living in the region have more to say about their fate than corporate leaders who are passing through the region simply to suck and deplete its natural resources for their personal profit.
And finally–despite the political machinations of the Karabakh peace process and the different posturing of governmen’s and the parties to the conflict–the ultimate national agenda must not be altered and the deman’s for reunification–which gave birth to the movement must not be stifled or silenced.