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Caspian States Remember Conflict On International Day Of Innocent Children Victims Of Aggression

By Nazrin Gadimova and Gela Kalandadze June 5, 2017


On the way to school, Nagorniy Karabakh, 1992 / Andrey Solovyov / TASS

June 4, marked International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, recognizing the pain experienced by children all over the world who are victims of physical, mental and emotional violence.

On August 19, 1982, during its emergency special session, the UN General Assembly decided to commemorate June 4 of each year in remembrance of the huge number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children that were killed as a result of Israeli air attacks during the 1982 Lebanon War. 

An often sad reality of armed conflict is that the most vulnerable members of society are children who are most affected by the consequences of war. During armed conflicts, children go through emotional and psychologically pain, such as the violent death of a parent or close relative, a break with the family, deportation, abuse and poverty, while some engage in violent actions.

According to a report issued by the UNICEF in 2016, 535 million children all over the world live in conflict or natural disasters zones. Most are deprived of access to medical care, proper education, and nutrition, as well as protection.

War has not bypassed children residing in the post-Soviet states of Georgia and Azerbaijan, two countries located in the South Caucasus that are no stranger to conflicts drawn along ethnic lines.

Georgia suffered from civil wars in two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, immediately after the Soviet Union collapsed and between 1991 and 1994. The conflict was the result of nationalist movements and small ethnic groups pressing for independence. South Ossetia flared once more in the summer of 2008, between late July and early August 2008, with the active participation of Russia.


Street clashes, Abkhazia, Sukhumi, 1993 / Andrey Solovyov / TASS

According to the report issued by the United Nations Refugee Committee (UNCHR) in 2015, some 260,000 people were forced to flee Abkhazia and South Ossetia during the armed conflicts in the early 1990s and in 2008.

Together with his wife and children, Vladimir, age 36, was forced to leave his home in Tskhinvali, the main cultural, economic, industrial settlement of South Ossetia, after five “Grad” missiles struck his and neighbor’s yard on August 7, 2008. He showed representatives of the nonprofit Human Rights Watch organization ruins of his house and shards of ammunition that destroyed it.

“As I was getting ready to return here, my kids were asking me, ‘Daddy, can you please check on our toys, see if they're all right?’ What am I going to tell them now? ‘Sorry, children, not only your toys are gone but you don't have a home any longer’?”


Russian tanks pass by playing children in South Ossetia, August 30, 2008 / Pinterest

Thirteen-year-old Beka was playing with his friend Valiko, age 12 when two cluster munitions struck the village of Variani, situated along one of the two main roads between Tskhinvali and Gori city. They were both injured along with Valiko’s nine-year-old sister Tsira.

In October 2008, Valiko’s mother told Human Rights Watch that he lost part of his skull in the explosion and still had shrapnel in his head, causing him difficulty when speaking.

Georgia’s south-eastern neighbor Azerbaijan has seen its share of war, due to tensions that were building before the two became independent countries in 1991. As a result of the 1992-1994 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Nagorniy Karabakh region along with seven adjacent regions were captured by Armenian armed forces.


During the military conflict in Nagorniy Karabakh, 1992 / Andrey Solovyov / TASS

Kamal, a 69-year-old electrician who lived in Azerbaijan’s city of Agdam until its capture by Armenians, describes years marked by war. During one intensive period of shelling in 1993, several of his neighbors were killed.

“Once, a Grad missile hit the house of my neighbor Hassan. He lived about one hundred meters from me. He was sitting in the yard. The missile killed him, an old woman, and three young children. I helped take the bodies to the mosque and to the cemetery. I don't know what they were shooting at because there wasn’t anything connected with the army around us,” Kamal told Human Right Watch in 1994.

Following the long-lasting conflict, nearly one million Azerbaijanis were displaced by the Armenian military, while about 300,000 of them were children. These people were granted refugee status and temporally resettled throughout Azerbaijan.