The numerous Armenian volunteers who have joined Nagorno-Karabakh’s army since last month’s escalation of the conflict with Azerbaijan will be legally entitled to retain their civilian jobs after returning home, it emerged on Thursday.
Thousands of such men, many of them veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, flocked to Karabakh after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive there on April 2. Some were handed weapons and uniforms in Armenia before heading to Stepanakert and being deployed at various sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.”
Many of them are members of the influential Yerkrapah Union comprising war veterans and younger Armenians with military experience. More than a dozen volunteers died in heavy fighting with Azerbaijan forces.
The lingering threat of renewed heavy fighting suggests that Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army will continue to rely on the volunteers in the months ahead. Yerkrapah has already rotated some of its fighters deployed on “the line of contact.”
The Armenian government moved on Thursday to allay fears that the volunteers will find themselves unemployed after completing their short-term military service. It approved draft amendments to Armenia’s Labor Code which bans public and private employers from firing or demoting them.
The employers would not be obliged to pay such workers’ wages during their leave of absence. The government bill, which will almost certainly be passed by the Armenian parliament, stipulates that financial matters should be settled by mutual consent.
The Karabakh Armenian army, which called up many local reservists immediately after the April 2 escalation, struggled to cope with the massive influx of volunteers from Armenia, turning away many of them. On April 7, Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian urged men to stop trying to join the army for now, saying that that it has already been sufficiently reinforced.