10:12 21 May

Azerbaijan: Hundreds of people still missing

It has been 23 years since a ceasefire agreement froze the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, but for the hundreds of families of those still missing, time seems to have stood still.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continues to support those families in their search to find out what happened to their loved ones.


Speaking at an event to mark the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), Daniel Messerli, the ICRC’s delegate in charge of tracing missing people in the region, said, “Whether it’s civilians or combatants who have gone missing in armed conflicts, disappearances hit all families hard. It can be even more difficult to cope with than the death of a loved one,” the ICRC told APA.


This is something that Mammadova Asli knows all too well. He has been looking for 28 relatives who went missing during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. “Having missing loved ones is more difficult than losing them. Every day I hope for news.”


Since 2014, the ICRC’s delegation in Baku has been collecting biological samples from relatives of missing people. This is in addition to work carried out between 2008 and 2011 to gather detailed information on those who went missing. The goal is to collect and preserve information that may be used to identify people in the future.


The ICRC also strives to address the psychological needs of the families of missing people. In 2012, the Baku delegation launched the Accompaniment Programme, which provided psychosocial support to more than 3,000 relatives of missing people. In addition, 103 community members were trained as “accompaniers”, who facilitate family-support groups, and 15 people were trained as coordinators.


Aliyeva Shalala, an accompanier from Salyan district, said, “I want to help. People say they feel better after talking to me. That makes my work feel worthwhile.”


The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other violence. The organization has been working in Azerbaijan in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992.

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/ 22 May, 2018