World Refugee Day - June 20

USAN Letter

Every year on June 20, the United Nations is marking the World Refugee Day. This day represents a Global Call for Action, promoting engagement in local and governmental levels to raise awareness of the world community about the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people, who found refuge and protection in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, and many other countries.

Since the end of the Cold War the number of people uprooted by war, conflicts, ethnic strife and human rights violations has been constantly soaring. According to UNHCR, by 2009 some 40 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes by violence, war and persecution. Many of these conflicts causing mass deportation and fleeing of innocent people are lasting for years without finding a durable solution.

A case in point is the long-lasting Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the South Caucasus region, where some 16% of Azerbaijan has been occupied by the neighboring Armenia. This violent conflict caused nearly one (1) million of humiliated and abused ethnic Azeri, Kurdish and other refugees from Armenia and internally displaced people (IDPs) from the Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan, to flee their homes. This action by Armenian armed forces against Azerbaijani civilians was the largest campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in the region.

According to the US Refugee Committee's report (2000) on Nagorno Karabakh conflict, "More than 568,000 persons from western regions of Azerbaijan under Armenian occupation since 1993, including 42,072 from Nagorno-Karabakh, remained displaced within the country. Most were displaced from regions just outside Nagorno Karabakh, including Fizuli (133,725 persons), Agdam (128,584 persons), Lachin (63,007 persons), Kelbadjar (59,274), Jabrayil (58,834 persons), Gubadli (31,276), Zangilan (34,797), Terter (5,171) and Adjabedi (3,358)."

As a result of Nagorno-Karabakh War, Armenian aggression caused Azerbaijani economy billions of dollars, devastation of Azerbaijani cultural heritage, physical destruction of homes, moral and material damage to Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs for whom the status of 'refugee' has become a lifestyle and passed on as a heritage to the future generations. Every eighth person in Azerbaijan is carrying a "refugee" or "internally displaced person" status. This is one of the highest rates for any country in the world which has suffered from war and ethnic cleansing.

There are many other similar cases around the world, where similar injustices have occurred. To help all these refugees and IDPs, and to at least minimize the occurrences of such injustices in the future, we are calling upon our elected officials to exert pressure on perpetrator nations by:

1) requiring compliance with all relevant UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions;

2) conditioning any US military, security, economic and technical aid only after the State Department has certified that perpetrator nations have ceased occupation and withdrew their occupying forces from the victim nations, such as Azerbaijan;

3) stopping all direct US aid to such separatist authorities as those in Nagorno-Karabakh region;

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