This process stemmed from the Tsar Russia’s policy, which launched large-scale resettlement of Armenians to historical Azerbaijani territories back in the 19th century, after the northern part of present-day Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Russian Empire under the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) with Persia.
Over a million Armenians was resettled from Iran and Turkey to these lands between 1828 and 1911. The World War One also contributed to the process as about 350 thousand Armenians arrived in the region between 1914 and 1916.
Armenian militant groups committed large-scale massacres against Azerbaijani people, first between 1905 and 1907 and then at the outset of the Bolshevik movement in 1918. The attempts to expand Armenia’s territory through large-scale immigration of Armenian nationals and expulsion of Azerbaijani people persisted well into the Soviet era. Armenian ideologists branded this process “the formation of Lebensraum” and a precondition for setting up a state of their own they had not had for over two thousand years.
Late in the 1980s, Armenia stepped up its claims to the territory of Karabakh, which evolved into an aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the outset of the next decade and accompanied acts of ethnic cleansing of the local Azerbaijani population.
This relentlessness culminated in the tragedy that occurred in February 1992 in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly, when 613 peaceful dwellers were brutally murdered overnight.
Armenians were rapidly populating Azerbaijani lands they occupied during the war for almost 30 years. It was nothing short of a paradox: while the population of Armenia proper has declined at sweeping rates after it declared independence in 1991, the population on Azerbaijani lands it occupied has grown up, artificially, of course. These lands, just like Armenia itself, saw the local population move out and being replaced by Armenians from around the world.
Over the years of independence, Armenia’s population dropped by approximately 15 percent, from 3,514,900 in 1993 to 2,986,100 in 2017. Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the United Nations Yashar Aliyev provided these figures in his February 2018 official letter to UN Secretary General, referring to the report by the Statistical Committee of Armenia (previously National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia).
As of 2015, the population count in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan grew by 23 thousand people due to incoming illegal settlers. These data are provided by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.
Most settlers, 13 thousand people, have resided in Lachin; 8,500 people moved in Karabakh, 700 to Kalbajar, 520 to Zangilan, and 280 to Jabrayil.
Adding up the number of Armenian nationals who resettled to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan from Syria (after the civil war broke out in this country in March 2011) and Lebanon (after the huge explosion in Beirut in August 2020), the total illegal population count in the occupied territories could be much higher at the time of the second Karabakh (Patriotic) war.
Settlement Policy Clause in International Law
The international humanitarian law strictly prohibits artificial demographic changes by an occupying country on occupied lands.
These matters are chiefly governed by Geneva Law, as some dub the four Geneva Conventions dated 12 August 1949 and Additional Protocols dated 8 June 1977. Armenia signed these international documents in June 1993 and therefore bears an unconditional obligation to comply with them.
These instruments were adopted in order to prevent the difficult ramifications of the World War Two, when some countries, motivated by political and racial considerations, attempted changing ethnic compositions in occupied lands by resettling a portion of their population there.
As this practice had some serious humanitarian consequences, it has over decades resulted in colonization of occupied territories and the necessity to address the “actual situation” on the spot as a result of effective annexation of such territories.
This information is also provided in the report by The Institute of Law and Human Rights of the National Academy of Science of Azerbaijan (ANAS) on the topic of Armenia’s illegal resettlement policy (October 2020).
The above instruments represent a binding covenant for an occupying state in view of its actual authority over territories under occupation. One of such covenants is the prohibition on continuous changes in the demographic and economic structure of occupied territories.
Pursuant to the international law, an occupying state’s policy of establishing settlements on occupied territories shall therefore be qualified as a military crime.
The 1946 conviction of two people by the Nuremberg military tribunal on charges of changing the ethnic composition in the occupied territories is a bright example of such activity constituting a military crime.
Armenia has been repeating for many years the practice of World War II, which was condemned by the world community for its humanitarian consequences and unequivocally prohibited by international law. This means that the Armenian state was deliberately creating the status of fait accompli in its attempt to annex Azerbaijani lands.
By pursuing a policy of illegal settlement in the occupied Azerbaijani lands, Armenia not only violates international humanitarian law, but also the rights (property, economic, social and cultural rights) and freedoms of the Azerbaijani people protected by the European Convention for the “Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”.
As the Armenian state has occupied Azerbaijani lands, as the European Court of Human Rights has established, it is fully responsible for violating international law in these territories.
The ANAS Institute of Law and Human Rights’ report states that it is against international law to react to a violation of the law by one state and to turn a blind eye to the same act of another, as it creates a dangerous precedent.
The issue of double standards in the global community’s assessment of identical processes in different parts of the world is reflected in two large reports by Kohelet Policy Forum (KPF) of Israel (dated 2017 and 2018) titled “Who Else Profits? The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”. These reports provide systematized data for four problematic regions of the world, including Karabakh.
The reports write, in particular, that the settlement activities in Karabakh include extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying power, and in general, making the settlement enterprises more economically viable. Foreign companies, quite commonly European ones, actively supported the settlement enterprise.
Many companies involved have a global profile and valuable brands, and they pride themselves on a respect for human rights, maintains KPF. Moreover, many of these companies have significant links to governments of their home countries, often being partially owned or controlled by the state.
How Armenia Backed Resettlement
The resettlement on conquered territories of Azerbaijan was a government-level priority in Armenia and a gross violation of international humanitarian law. Numerous evidences are provided in the 2016 Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report titled “Illegal Economic and Other Activities in The Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan”.
The document writes that Armenia provided more than a half of occupation regime’s budgetary spending from its State budget; that included sustaining the puppet regime and driving illegal activities in the occupied territories. Technical, material and other expertise for projects in these territories was funded from the budgets of Armenia’s various ministries, the Ministry of Diaspora one of them.
Backing the resettlement policy was one of the critical items. A large amount of funding is provided by Armenian diaspora entities, foreign private investors, mostly of Armenian origin, and from charity non-profit organizations, like the US-based Tufenkian Foundation, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Cherchian Family Foundation and others.
For instance, Armenia-founded and controlled Hayastan All-Armenian Fund designed and implemented a special “Re-population of the villages of Artsakh” project (occupited territories of Azerbaijan).
It was not only the lands of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan SSR Armenians claimed that the newcomers settled in, but they also moved to Azerbaijani districts occupied back in 1990s, which had never seen Armenian population before.
The districts of Lachin, Kalbajar, Qubadli, Zangilan, and Jabrayil were settled at an accelerated pace.
The final goal of such policy was to maintain the status-quo, create a new demographic situation in the occupied lands, erase Azerbaijan’s historical heritage, and ultimately preclude the return of the indigenous Azerbaijani population to these territories.
A scheme of subsidies and incentives has been put in place to encourage Armenian settlers to move to the occupied territories. Various methods were used, including provision of allowances, mainly related to discounted or free utilities, free construction materials etc. People were motivated by low or zero taxe rates, attractive employment opportunities, free provision of housing/apartments, land plots and other material assistance.
Another incentives package included promotion of private entrepreneurship, lump-sum allowances, agricultural grants, loans, cattle etc. The processing and market sale of agricultural produce procured from farmers operating in the occupied territories were not subject to taxation.
The report writes with a reference to Armenian media that some 3 billion Armenian drams ($5.8 million) were allocated to provide the settlers with construction materials between 2012 and 2015. In 2015 alone, some 350 million drams ($673,000) were allocated for those purposes.
Special social programmes, mainly in the form of one-time financial assistance for each newborn child, were in place to boost birth rates across the occupied territories.
Referring to Guardian’s article dated 2014, the report writes that a family received approximately $234 for the first child, $484 for the second, $1217 for the third and $1732 for the fourth child. Families with six children received a free house.
The settlers signed a contract, whereunder they were granted “legal ownership” of properties they received at no cost on condition that they live there for at least 10 years.
If until 2005 potential settlers were receiving information from their family members and friends who had previously settled in the occupied territories, since 2010 recruitment of settlers from within Armenia and abroad has become more organized and massive in scale, with TV channels in Armenia backing this policy by advertising privileges available and professions needed on spot.
Referring to a representative of the unrecognized “NKR” Armenian news portal Hetq reported in June 2007 that back in 2001, a 10-year strategic plan was adopted aimed at resettling a total of 36,000 people. This plan included the construction of 10,000 apartments, 200 schools, medical facilities, irrigation channels, roads etc. It allocated as much as $120 million to that end.
According to other Armenian media, various resettlement programs resulted in 7263 families (18,500 people) being settled in the occupied territories between 1994 and 2004. By 2011, some 25,000 – 30,000 people were reportedly living there.
Armenia was also resorting to other tricks to boost the growth of population, like granting the new and existing settlements geographic names with clear historical connotations (like “New Cilicia”, “Van” etc.), trying thereby to draw historical parallels, exploit sentiments, and encourage more Armenians to move to the occupied territories.
Armenian media reports and other sources confirm that almost all native toponyms of historical Azerbaijani places in the occupied territories were altered in yet another clear sign of Armenia’s annexationist aspirations and purposeful efforts aimed at destroying Azerbaijani historical and cultural heritage in the occupied territories.
Financial Sources of Resettlement Policy
As we said above, the separatist regime in Karabakh was fully relying on financial support from Armenia. Such funds were drawn from Armenia’s state budget as well as attracted through private investors and charity non-profit foundations.
The very same 2016 report of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan lists among them such entities as the US-based Cherchian Family Foundation, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Tufenkian Foundation, Gerald Turpanjian Educational Foundation, Gafesjian Family Foundation, Lincy Foundation, Shahan Natalie Family Foundation Inc., Armenian Cultural Association of America, Inc.
Benefiting from their tax-exempt status in host countries, they were directly involved in channelling large amounts into settlements and other illegal activities throughout the occupied territories. All of them played a major role in enabling and facilitating the occupation, with a nod from the Republic of Armenia, either direct or indirect.
For example, the US-based Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) have long been petitioning US Congress and Presidential Administration to grant funding for the “developmental aid to Nagorno-Karabakh”.
According to Armenian Weekly, “Artsakh Fund” of the Armenian Cultural Association of America held in November 2014 a kickoff reception in New York to announce its expansion plans for Arajamugh settlement in the then occupied Jabrayil District of Azerbaijan. This settlement was established in 2004-2006 by Tufenkian Foundation jointly with the so-called “Department of Resettlement and Refugee Affairs” of the separatist regime.
As of 2014, there were 19 houses and 85 settlers in the settlement. “Artsakh Fund” chairman Alex Sarafyan informed the participants about the plans to expand the village to 50 houses, as well as erect auxiliary facilities, a clinic and a community centre among them.
Sarafyan also announced that over $90,000 in donations and pledges had already been secured toward this effort. According to him, the goal of this phase is $250,000, which would cover the construction in 2015 of approximately 10 new houses in the settlement.
On 13 September 2015, a reception and presentation took place in the home of Harry and Katrina Glorikyan in Lexington, Massachusetts (USA), to raise money for this project. Over $25,000 was raised in support of this settlement, according to the report by the Diaspora Committee of Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Sarafyan, who attended the fundraising event, said that the goal is to turn it into a “model village for resettlement purposes”.
To finance resettlement projects in the occupied territories, a “National Artsakh Lottery” programme was launched in 2013. Some 300,000 tickets were put into circulation worldwide, most of them sold to government agencies, business employees, and private individuals in Armenia and elsewhere. The profit gained from the realization of lottery tickets (about 300 million Armenian drams or over $500,000) was directed to the development of infrastructure, repatriation and other projects, including the construction of 37 residential houses in Khanlyg village in the occupied Qubadli District.
Registered in the US, “Patriot” charity organization, headed by Stepan Sargsyan, was involved in development projects across the occupied districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.
The Switzerland-based Cédric Martin Foundation financed water supply and social infrastructure projects in Pirjamal village of the occupied Khojaly District and other locations.
Regional Infrastructure Changes as Support to Resettlement Policy
In its 2016 report, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry provides numerous evidences that Armenia carried out permanent energy, agriculture, social, residential and transport infrastructure changes in the occupied territories, including the construction of irrigation networks, water supply systems, roads, electrical transmission lines and other economic and social facilities over the years of occupation.
Building infrastructure in the occupied territories was declared a priority, linked directly to bringing and keeping more Armenian settlers on those territories. Economic activities generated by those settlers resulted in the appropriation of land, natural resources, and other public and private property of Azerbaijan.
After 2010, the scale of construction/renovation of residential buildings and houses and other social facilities increased considerably. Many facilities were erected on the ruins of buildings and houses that had once accommodated the Azerbaijani population. The Foreign Ministry refers in its report to previous evidence of Armenians taking abandoned Azerbaijani houses apart for construction materials. The ministry unequivocally qualifies this act as an appropriation of public and private property.
In 2013, the construction of a kindergarten started in Kalbajar; repair works commenced in a hospital in Zangilan. A 150-strong healthcare facility for settlers was commissioned in Lachin District in 2015.
The Armenian side set a lot of store by settlement of Shusha District and the town of Shusha, a Azerbaijani historical and cultural centre in Nagorno- Karabakh, where the Azerbaijan community made up over 98 percent of the total population before its occupation in 1992.
As of 2014, over 30 different projects, ranging from renovation of streets to restoration/construction of social facilities were implemented in Shusha (water supply project in the town of Shusha and community center project in Boyuk Galadarasi village of Shusha District).
The social infrastructure change in Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven adjacent districts has been demonstrated by satellite images made by AzerCosmos and included in the 2019 report titled “Illegal Activities In The Territories of Azerbaijan Under Armenia’s Occupation: Evidence From Satellite Imagery”.
Among them is Arajamugh settlement in Jabrayil District we mentioned above. Comparing satellite images dated 19 July 2005 and 19 July 2017, one can clearly see numerous new houses and large swaths of farming lands. Between June 2010 and July 2017, over 50 houses emerged in vicinity of Zabukh village in the formerly occupied Lachin District. A new settlement, branded “Ariavan”, was set up here.
Between 2005 and 2017, Azercosmos registered urban landscape changes in Shusha and the broader Shusha District.
The company also obtained images that prove a dynamic growth, between 2002 and 2018, of residential area and farming lands in the new settlement, which was set up in Khanlyg village of the occupied Qubadli District.
Profound settlement activities have also been registered in the occupied Zangilan, Lachin, and Kalbajar districts of Azerbaijan; these areas were a “priority” in Armenia’s resettlement policy due to their huge economic capacities, notably water and natural resources, energy, and agricultural potential.
The resettlement to the occupied town of Kalbajar resulted in its population having grown up by 40 percent over 7 years (between 2005 and 2012); these data are provided in the report titled “The Depopulation Crisis in Armenia”, developed by the Russian-Armenian University research team and published in October 2013. The resettlement target was to bring the population in each village to at least 1,000 by 2017.
Infrastructure projects carried out across the formerly occupied territories of Azerbaijan included also the construction/ reconstruction of roads envisaged exclusively for connecting both Armenia to these territories and new Armenian settlements between one another. Among them is Goris-Khankandi road, which crosses the formerly occupied Lachin District; the so-called “North-South” highway, which connects the northern part of the formerly occupied territories to the south; Vardenis–Agdere highway, which crosses Kalbajar District.
These major projects were funded by government loans, which the occupation regime received through Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, set up and controlled by the Republic of Armenia.
The large scale of construction/renovation of residential buildings and houses and other social facilities for the settlers moved to the occupied territories is also confirmed by the statistical data on the number of business entities registered in the occupied territories as of 2013, the Foreign Ministry’s report writes with reference to unrecognized “NKR” puppet regime’s 2007-2013 Statistical Yearbook.
For example, 30 entities (27 legal entities and 3 private entrepreneurs) and 200 entities (186 legal entities and 14 individual entrepreneurs) were respectively registered in the agricultural and the construction sector. Furthermore, 334 entities were operating in industrial sector and 289 in transportation and communication sectors.
Resettlement Policy And Illegal Agricultural Activities
It was due to both economic and demographic reasons that Armenia exploited agricultural resources across the occupied territories.
In fact, illegal settlements in the occupied territories relied primarily on agriculture development, with many dependent on access to farming lands and water resources.
That is why Armenia and its diaspora organizations used to encourage the transfer of Armenian settlers to fertile lands in the Aras River Valley, in particular to the occupied districts of Zangilan and Jabrayil, says the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report.
Armenia’s occupying regime expected that land cultivation, growing of crops and other vegetables and agricultural exports among them, would generate sufficient revenue for the settlers to stay and expand their communities in these territories.
Khanlyg village in the occupied Qubadli District represents a bright examples of such settlement; there were 240 Armenian settlers in the village during 2015-2016. The Armenian government’s intention to increase its population to 1,000 was a part of a larger programme to populate the Araz River Valley, especially the occupied districts of Qubadli, Zangilan, and Jabrayil. The Armenian media outlet Asbarez reported that a special settlement master plan, branded “Araks Project”, was developed to that end.
The project anticipated the creation of new jobs and the allocation of 10 thousand hectares of lands for farming purposes.
The interest in settling Syrian Armenians in the occupied territories is driven by their experience in agriculture development that, as Armenian leadership hoped, would give a significant boost to the colonization of these territories.
As the agricultural sector in the occupied lands was a grant element, the agricultural output heavily relied on funding as well as on water supply, power, and transportation infrastructure. That rendered access to and control of water resources an important factor in Yerevan’s colonial policy.
Armenia took a number of actions to provide utilities to its newly established settlements and make a good use of water resources across the occupied territories, including capturing and diverting waters of the Araz River and other rivers and their headwaters, building new and utilizing existing artesian wells, pump-stations and irrigation channels left after the Azerbaijani population had to leave these lands.
ArmWaterProject Company Ltd., a company that participated in the construction of the irrigation system in these territories, was directly involved in utilization of the region’s water resources.
The funding for the agricultural programmes was provided, notably, through the “Fund for Rural and Agricultural Support of the NKR” and the “Artsakh Investment Fund” (ARI).
In 2010-2013, ARI implemented investment programs to boost the agricultural sector in the occupied districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli, and Zangilan. Over three years, Artsakhtert reports, the agricultural sector received some $2 million of funding. Wheat and barley were sowed on about 550 hectares of land, and the livestock count increased by 1,800.
On 3 March 2015, the completion of a water supply project in a cluster of villages, Muganli, Mahruzlu, and Khojik (all in the formely occupied Qubadli District) with a total population count of 295, was announced.
The project included the construction and/or reconstruction of 18 water wells, fixing the water pumps near them and the construction of a pipes network to bring water from the basin to the nearby residences.
The above-mentioned settlements were chosen specifically because of their location in a “prime agricultural belt” that was hoped to become a “hub of resettlement activity”.
In 2003, the “Menq Union For Farmers Mutual AID” was set up to support settlers in establishing households in the so-called “Kashatagh Region”, illegally set up in the territory of the formerly occupied Azerbaijani districts of Lachin, Qubadli, and Zangilan. Over seven years of operation, this entity backed the establishment of more than 50 households. Through livestock breeding projects, it provided over 100 cattle, 70 calves and bull-calves, and 50 pigs. The Union also provided poultry and horses to settlers. Livestock for such projects was provided directly from Armenia.
Settlers were granted “legal ownership” of the donated properties at no cost, provided they lived in the occupied territories for more than 10 years.
Settlement Policy Evidence in Documents Issued by International Organizations
Requested by the Azerbaijani government, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) launched the Fact-Finding Mission to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan between 30 January and 5 February 2005. It resulted in a report, which overlaid the analysis of the situation on spot. The most important conclusion in the report was that the mission have found evidence of the presence of Armenian settlers in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
According to the MFA’s 2016 report, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, who spearheaded the peace talks since 1994, proceeding from the conclusions contained in the mission’s report, emphasized that “…prolonged continuation of this situation could lead to a fait accompli that would seriously complicate the peace process.”
They discouraged any further settlement of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and urged the parties to avoid changes in the demographic structure of the region, which would make more difficult any future efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement.
The mission report maintains that the occupation regime representatives imposed security constraints in many locations, restricting the mission from taking still photographs or video film. “These restrictions were also imposed in locations far from any military facility and in places where settlement activity put them squarely within the FFM’s mandate”, the document writes.
The mission concluded that most settlements in the occupied territories sat within villages / townships that remained after the war.
The document also maintains that Lachin District, the closest to the Republic of Armenia, is most populated by Armenians. While the mission did not find any connections between resettlement activities and the Armenian government in Kalbajar, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, and Qubadli, the report still maintains that it was in Lachin District where Armenian leadership led a proactive resettlement policy.
Lachin District, notably the town of Lachin, was distinguished by a better developed infrastructure and enjoyed a relatively higher number of newly commissioned facilities.
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs conducted a Field Assessment Mission to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) from October 7-12, 2010, to assess the overall situation there, including humanitarian and other aspects. Following up on the visit, the Co-Chairs one more time urged to “[…] avoid any activities in the territories […], that would prejudice a final settlement or change the character of these areas”, as quoted in the 2016 report by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry.
The Co-Chairs were joined by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and his team, which provided logistical support, and by two experts from the UNHCR and one member of the 2005 OSCE Fact-Finding Mission. This was the first mission by the international community to the territories since 2005, and the first visit by UN personnel in 18 years.
In traveling more than 1,000 kilometers throughout the territories, the Co-Chairs saw stark evidence of the disastrous consequences of Armenian agression. Many towns and villages that existed before the conflict were abandoned and almost entirely in ruins. While no reliable figures existed, the overall population was roughly estimated as 14,000 persons, living in small settlements and the towns of Lachin and Kalbajar.
The executive summary maintained that the settlers, for the most part ethnic Armenians, lived in precarious conditions, with poor infrastructure, little economic activity, and limited access to public services.
Accompanied by MFA’s (2016), Azercosmos’ (2019), and two OSCE missions’ (2005 and 2010) reports, the information on Armenia’s settlement policy in the occupied territories was circulated as the official UN documentation as the respective letter was registered in May 2019 and signed by Yashar Aliyev, Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations.
It has been 10 years between the last OSCE Assessment Mission to the conflict zone and the Patriotic War, which put an end to the Armenian occupation. Over this decade, Armenia did nothing to cease resettlements and other illegal activities in the occupied territories. Au contraire, it just kept pressing on.
Last Phase of Resettlement: Syrian and Lebanese Armenians
Taking advantage of the dire situation in the Syrian Arab Republic after the long-lasting civil war broke out in 2011, the Armenian government launched a campaign to have Syrian refugees of Armenian descent settle in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. A horrific explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 resulted in a new wave of settlers arriving from Lebanon.
Referring to Armenian media, the Azerbaijani MFA’s report maintains that Armenia started enticing Armenians from the Middle East long before the crisis broke out in Syria. The first Armenian family from Syria arrived to the occupied territories in 2008, while the first Armenians from Beirut were resettled to Zangilan District back in 1999. These data were provided by the Armenian media outlet Hetq in September 2006.
The instability in the Middle East apparently gave the Armenian government the upper hand, with the latter stepping up its settlement activities in the occupied territories. As described in above chapters, Armenians from Syria and Lebanon were heavily motivated to settle across Karabakh and the adjacent districts; they received lands and housing for free or on favourable terms, enjoyed support in launching small agricultural businesses through cheap loans etc. Syrian Armenians were also subject to the clause whereunder they were granted “legal ownership” of all their properties, provided they lived for more than 10 years on that land.
Refugees from Syria could receive Armenian passports upon their arrival in Yerevan or straight at the airport, prior to the flight. So many of them came to Armenia already in the capacity of Armenian citizens. The Armenian parliament passed special legislation, prescribing zero state duty for the issue of passports to Armenians arriving from the Middle East. According to the available data, the Armenian government granted Armenian citizenship to over 90% immigrants of Armenian descent from Syria. This figure is provided in the 2014 publication of the Romanian Journal of Political Science.
The interest in settling Syrian Armenians in the occupied territories was driven by their experience in agriculture development that, as Armenian leadership hoped, would give a significant boost to the colonization of occupied territories. MFA report maintains that newcomers from Syria were chiefly settled in the occupied districts of Zangilan, Gubadly and Lachin, which were most beneficial in terms of agriculture.
Government agencies of Armenia, including its Ministry of Diaspora, as well as other organizations of Armenia, in particular the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which designed special Yerevan-headquartered “Help Your Brother” programme for this purpose and provided over $32,000 of funding to the “Kashatagh Foundation”, were directly involved in resettling Syrian Armenians to the occupied territories.
Armenian diaspora made significant contributions, financial among them, to the process. The Armenian community of Boston (USA) raised $1.3 million for Syrian Armenians to settle in the occupied territories.
In 2014, Tufenkian Foundation, which delivered several resettlement projects in the occupied territories, organized fundraisings, and provided construction materials for finishing the renovation of the apartment buildings in the town of Zangilan and in Khanlyg village, specifically for Syrian Armenian settlers.
Armenian media outlets contain numerous evidences of Syrian Armenians residing in the occupied territories having been drafted to the Armenian military forces.
According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report, Armenian sources provide varying accounts as to the count of Syrian Armenians resettled to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories as of 2016, from a few dozens to several thousands. Regardless of how many Syrian Armenians involved by the Armenian government in the resettlement initiative, their presence in those territories served as an incentive for more their compatriots and relatives to follow their suit, given the ongoing instability in Syria.
Armenian media outlet Hetq wrote in August 2015 about Asmaryan brothers, Vrej and Hovig, who moved from Syrian town of Aleppo to the occupied territories back in 2012. They set up a commercial enterprise, Asmaryan Greenland, and started a farm on 15 hectares of land in the occupied Khojaly district, famous for its fertile fields. In 2015, they received a 40 million AMD (~$77,000) contract to import mulberry saplings from Syria. 2,000 saplings were already ordered as of the report cutoff date.
Numerous reports covering Syrian Armenian families in Karabakh rolled through both Armenian and global media in autumn 2020, that is, before and during the Patriotic War, drawing the global community’s attention to this region.
For instance, Azatutyun.am wrote in mid-September about Tony Hajar, an Armenian national from Beirut, who with his wife stood for pictures against the backdrop of his new house in Karabakh and said he was planning to “do a culinary project here”. At that time, the Armenian government announced its readiness to receive up to 150 Armenian families from Lebanon. Tony’s families was among the first batch of migrants.
Late in October 2020, BBC told a story of an Armenian lady from Lebanon, Tamar, who worked as a salesperson in a shopping mall but left her job and started baking bread when the second Karabakh war broke out. Tamar confesses that it was the governments of Armenia and unrecognized “NKR” that provided her family with all they needed; Andranik Chavushian, head of the Lebanese Armenian community who has illegally resided in Karabakh since 2014, also helped them out.
An individual portion of the report is dedicated to him and other Armenian settlers from the Middle East, Harut Genejian and Knarik Sharoyan. None of them conceals that fact that male settlers of conscription age participated in the autumn 2020 military actions against Azerbaijan.
Over many years of conflict resolution talks, Armenia was not going to find a compromise with Azerbaijan, so it just delayed the process and thereby worked to reinforce the status quo. It also used the delay to reinforce its military positions in the occupied territories and inhabit Azerbaijan’s districts with Armenians. According to these plans, new demography would have emerged, which, combined with wiping out the traces of Azerbaijani historical presence in these lands, would constitute a basis for their annexation. The Patriotic War brought about a dramatic change in autumn 2020, putting an end to the almost 30-year long Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands.