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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Armenia: Part II

by Mitchell Moses (JD '09) and Kerry Docherty (JD '09),

First, let me begin with an important point about Karabakh.  The main human rights issues occurred in the late 1980's and were the cause for the war.  Once of themes I will discuss later is the opinion of many countries in the region that the Armenians are an inferior race.  Thus, when land was reclaimed after the break up of the Union, there was a feeling that Armenians should not be entitled to anything.  For instance, Azeris would enter Karabakhi towns in large trucks.  In these trucks would be Azeri citizens and supplies.  The Azeri forces would literally remove the Karabakhi citizens from their town and replace them with Azeris.  All of their homes, agriculture, and their lives in general were taken and given to others.  The fear that such clensing will happen again is what motivates Karabakh to be self sufficient and protect its borders. 

It should not be overlooked that Karabakh is years away from achieving anything near the standards of health care and fairness that the West enjoys.  Infants still often die in the early days of their lives because of a lack of supplies and a general lack of knowledge on correct treatment practices.  Villagers, far removed from the city center and the only hospitals in the country, also often die from very simple and preventable ailments.  In the area of justice, the legal system is ever evolving and still prone to erroneous verdicts.  We met a young doctor who recently narrowly escaped medical malpractice charges for his part in delivering a still born baby.  The lack of historical jurisprudence makes it difficult for the country to make consistent decisions and easy for the courts to point blame.

The portion of our trip that took place in Yerevan, Armenia was quite different.  Again, we had the privilege of meeting very impressive government leaders but the city itself is much more modern.  We met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense and heard their unique perspective on the recent events in Georgia and particularly South Ossetia.  The building that houses the Defense Department speaks volumes to country's opinion on the importance of the Department.  It is a beautiful new building on a large hill, over looking the city.  It serves as an intimidating statement to any foreign visitors. 

Armenians feel the need to make such a statement for valid reasons.  The Armenian Genocide was one of the most horrible events in human history and still goes unrecognized by the West, specifically the US and the UK.  The main perpetrators of the Genocide were the Turkish, and it appears the West is not willing to risk ruffling the feathers of an ally with valuable air space.  Many prominent Americans, and even California's government, have recognized the genocide, but our country as a whole still fails to do so.

The history of the genocide is a tedious and painful history to tell, so I will spare most of the details in this email.  In summary, it lasted from 1894 to 1918 and was effectuated in almost every means imaginable.  Entire cities were exterminated, able bodied men were asked to report for military service only to be shot, and innocent women and children were sent out of their towns only to die horrible deaths of starvation and exhaustion.  Our trip to the Genocide museum was very powerful and moving.  It put the importance the country places on its defense into perspective.