Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Armenia and Azerbaijan: Two Views

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Armenia and Azerbaijan: Two Views

Article excerpt

Armenia and Azerbaijan: Two Views

Life Under Blockade In Yerevan

"Just back from Armenia? Wow, how was it?"

What do I say? How can I describe what it feels like to live in Yerevan, an industrialized city of 1.2 million people without heat, without hot water, and without electricity?

How can I illustrate the feeling of walking for miles past inhabited yet blacked-out apartment buildings, knowing the families inside are huddled around one measly candle or kerosene lamp in the cold? How to make others feel the isolation of living in a country of 3.5 million people completely blockaded by hostile neighbors, prevented from receiving adequate supplies of fuel to keep the electric plants running, hospitals open, schools in operation? Will anybody understand what it is like to have to go to sleep wearing four layers of clothing because the temperature of your high-rise apartment is 14 degrees Fahrenheit?

If the inhumane conditions in Armenia are not publicized, and if a campaign to end the complete blockade of the Republic of Armenia by Azerbaijan and open humanitarian corridors through Turkey and Georgia is not immediately begun, we in the West will be guilty of knowingly exposing Armenia's 3.5 million people to the potential of freezing or starving to death. It is that simple.

I lived and worked in Armenia for 10 months in 1992 to help the former Communist country make the difficult transition to a democratic society with a free-market economy.

Almost from its birth as a fledgling democracy in 1991, Armenia sought to integrate itself with those Eastern and Western countries that already have successfully created democratic political and capitalist economic systems. Armenia was the first of the former Soviet republics to establish a bilateral commercial treaty with the U.S. development bank (OPIC), insuring U.S. investors against political risk.

In 1992 the Armenian republic achieved membership in the IMF, World Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and 40 experts from the European Community created a comprehensive plan of technical assistance to the public and private sectors. In December, 39 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Armenia to teach English and small business development.

The U.S. Agency for International Development chose Yerevan as one of four cities in the CIS in which to house a permanent mission. However, because of the complete blockade of the country by Azerbaijan, Armenia is being cut off from its lifeline to the outside.

Step into a typical morning in Armenia for a moment and feel the desperation and isolation of life in an industrialized city without fuel or water supplies. Wake up at 7 a.m. to complete blackness and freezing temperatures in your high-rise apartment, because your apartment building is no longer receiving any electricity. …

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