The Ombudsman of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic", Artak Beglaryan, wrote on Twitter that the issue of displaced people should be solved equally and mutually.
"When foreigners accept the manipulations of Azerbaijan leadership and media on Azerbaijani displaced people since 1990s, should not forget also over 500,000 Armenians who were massacred and left everything in Azerbaijan," Beglaryan said.
“The Fact Check” examined whether Artak Beglaryan's claim was true.
The screenshot was taken from Twitter.
Refugee or IDP?
The movements of refugees and IDPs are types of forced migration. These concepts are governed by the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The UN's Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement state that IDPs are persons who are subjected to persecution due to their nationality, race and citizenship, religion or belief, language, as well as political opinion and affiliation to a certain social group and are forced to leave their place of permanent residence and move elsewhere within the country due to the inability of the state, where they permanently reside, to use its protection mechanism for them connected with the real threat to their lives, family, and property or the unwillingness of the state to use such mechanism because of the danger.
Thus, according to the legal framework, a refugee is a foreigner who is a citizen of another country and has left his/her country to seek protection in another country, and an IDP is a citizen who is forced to move within his/her own country for reasons beyond his control. Therefore, Armenians who left Azerbaijan after the start of the conflict do not have the same legal status as those who were forced to leave Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts as a result of the occupation. The former are considered refugees because they have left the country, and the latter are considered IDPs because they have migrated within the country. Armenians leaving Azerbaijan can be compared to ethnic Azerbaijanis deported from Armenia, not to Azerbaijanis leaving the occupied territories. From this point of view, it is flawed that Artak Beglaryan equates the concepts of IDPs and refugees.
Number of Armenians living in Azerbaijan
According to the census conducted in the former USSR, in 1989, 390,505 citizens of Armenian origin lived in Azerbaijan. According to these statistics, the number of Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was 145,000. This is 37% of Armenians who are citizens of Azerbaijan. A report released by the Crisis Group on the Karabakh conflict in 2019 noted that about 150,000 Armenians lived in the area after the occupation.
As Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan, Armenians remaining in the region after the conflict are not considered to have left Azerbaijan. On the other hand, some of those who left their homes in different districts and cities of Azerbaijan were settled in Khankendi, which was under the control of the Armenian armed forces, and these people are considered IDPs, not refugees, because they did not leave the territory of Azerbaijan.
According to a previous study published by “The Fact Check”, the number of Azerbaijani IDPs leaving Karabakh was 613,129, and the number of refugees migrated from Armenia to Azerbaijan was 350,000.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, 300,000 to 350,000 ethnic Armenians left Azerbaijan in connection with the conflict. The report said that number of Armenians killed during the events was 68.
It should be noted that on the basis of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted in 1998, ethnic Azerbaijanis who migrated from Armenia to Azerbaijan in 1988-1992 were granted citizenship. Therefore, they are not considered refugees. The law states that refugees who acquire citizenship retain the right to return to the countries they have left.
Some Armenians who migrated from Azerbaijan to Armenia were also granted Armenian citizenship. According to a UN report, 65,000 Armenians who migrated from Azerbaijan to Armenia before the beginning of 2004 were granted Armenian citizenship. In this regard, those who migrated from Azerbaijan to Armenia and became Armenian citizens have also legally lost their refugee status. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees in Armenia in 2013 was 3,132.
Thus, the number of Armenians who migrated from Azerbaijan to Armenia due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was between 300,000 and 350,000, and the number of Armenians killed during those events was 68.
“The Fact Check” concludes that Artak Beglaryan's claim is a Lie.