By Anush Martirosian
A group of war veterans from different areas of Armenia have gone on a three-day ‘warning’ hunger-strike at a military cemetery in Yerevan protesting what they view as the government’s readiness to agree to territorial concessions in the long-running dispute with Azerbaijan over Karabakh.
Meruzhan Harutiunian from Vanadzor, one of the numerous Armenian combatants of the 1991-1994 war in Karabakh which ended in the ethnic Armenian enclave’s de-facto independence from Baku’s rule, told RFE/RL that one of the main demands of those participating in the action was that the state formally recognize the former autonomous region of Soviet Azerbaijan as an integral part of Armenia.
“It is a treacherous step from our authorities that they want to withdraw from liberated territories. Our demand is not to cede an inch of land and immediately recognize Karabakh as an inseparable part of Armenia,” Harutiunian said.
“Karabakh is our ancestral land,” added another protester who introduced himself as Armen Manukian from Artsiv-13, a famous Armenian detachment of warriors during the Karabakh war.
Vartan Malkhasian, a former field commander who currently resides in Armenia’s northern province of Tavush, said a compromise-based solution to the Karabakh problem, including certain territorial concessions, was possible only if hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees from Karabakh and Azerbaijan as well as the nation as a whole gets compensation for losing their homes and for having lived in isolation for 15 years.
“As of today, I am against ceding even a decimeter of land. On the contrary, it is Azerbaijan that must make concessions to us, since we have lost Armenian lands in Shahumian, Getashen, northern Karabakh and Nakhijevan, which remain occupied by Azerbaijan until today,” the war veteran explained.
Also on Wednesday, the group of veterans visited the graves of their fallen comrades at Yerablur.
“Yerablur is now a resting place for 710 freedom-fighters, more than 80 percent of whom sacrificed their lives for the sake of these territories, let alone other victims of the war, who are more than 5,000,” Malkhasian said. “Now I feel guilty to them and I had taken the oath to go on hunger strike in front of them. I’ll go to any length, up to self-immolation, in the name of Karabakh.”