Mihran Mahmouzian has been implementing charity projects in Kashatagh for the last seven years. He voiced his concern at facts outlined in earlier articles of Hetq, and arrived in Armenia in September, spending time in Kashatagh as well. He assessed the situation in Kashatagh as catastrophic. The following is an interview with Mihran Mahmouzian.
How long have you been working in Kashatagh?
Unless I'm mistaken, it's been six or seven years now. When we started working in Berdzor, Alexan Hakobyan (the previous head of the Kashatagh regional administration) was there. There was a spring to people's steps then and smiles on their faces. We counted on that a lot, it helped us tremendously – it was wonderful and a very pleasant sight to see. We work with Gurgen Melikyan and Dr. Carolann Najarian – they were the ones who first sent us there. We would go often and eventually completed three projects there – a gymnasium, a park and a camping ground for children. We would help them with clothes too by sending as much of it as we could.
You were in Kashatagh recently – what has changed there?
It was very disappointing… I got a chance to talk to people, including children. Even the children were saying that given the opportunity, they would leave Berdzor. I can guess why… all of Karabakh is talking about it, every single family. I visited ten or twelve families – people are in despair. The people say that the government has not fulfilled any of its promises. I saw houses that had no doors or windows – not even a roof, such that the nighttime rain would flood the house. Many of the families living in these houses have four or five children. You seen pain and worry on people's faces, worry about everyday problems. Nobody in that region is doing anything for those people, except for a few organizations who are trying to ease their difficulties.
From what I saw, it seemed that nobody cared about them at all. They are simply carrying on living, but nobody is sparing a thought about them. This is very sad and very disappointing for people like us, who are doing their best to normalize their lives.
We are do all we can to bring things from the USA to improve the lives of people in that region. But what I saw was very sad. The government is to blame, the officials are supposed to ease the lives of these people – I believe this is their failure.
You met people there and talked to them. What did the people of Kashatagh say?
Of course, I talked to the people in order to understand their difficulties. When I say ‘people' I mean the regular folk with their everyday problems. The first day there, I was happy to be back in Berdzor. The second day, I found out more about the real situation. The third day, I said to myself that I must definitely step outside and find out the reasons behind the problems. I talked to people and concluded that the government was at fault.
It seems like only Yerevan and Stepanakert matter – nobody cares about the other places. You see a family with five children and they tell you that the children are on the streets because they cannot afford to send them to school. They ask me who cares about them. What can I say?
This is not only my opinion. My brother was there month ago, he communicate, back it told me exactly the same things.
Why do you think people are leaving Kashatagh?
Everyone I talked to said that it was for their children's sake. One person said that he was more or less well off, and he was very patriotic, so he would stick it out to the end. A young man said something else, “I was born here and have a child as well. I want my child to grow up here and bring happiness to those around him. My child and I were both born here and we should continue to keep an Armenian presence on this soil. But if things keep going this way I will be forced to leave as well.”
What do they think of this region in the Diaspora?
I don't know. I'm not sure that they know about the situation, because people from the Diaspora usually go to the Marriott Hotel and places like that – they don't go to villages. I hope they will start visiting villages too. This is not only my opinion. My brother was there a month ago and he told me exactly the same things. He said, “Mihran, this is a semi- catastrophe,” and when I was there, I said, no, it's not a semi- catastrophe, this a complete catastrophe.”
Whatever happens, our aid will continue. Naturally I will not lose hope. There are people – schoolteachers, for example – who are very grateful; but overall, the scene is a very sad one. We must not lose hope; we must do everything to help the people forward. We know that that region is very important to us. I do not understand how our government can be so indifferent.