At a domestic level, the problems of the Karabakh Azeri community are indivisible from the wider IDP community of Azerbaijan of which it is part. Azerbaijan has one of the world’s largest per capita IDP populations in the world, yet the influence of the IDPs on Azerbaijani politics is minimal. This situation stems from their poor organisation, as well as their socio-economic conditions and the political restraints placed on them by the state. For example, in all elections since 1995 IDP voting and registration has not been transparent to monitoring, throwing into question the validity and accuracy of elections among these communities. The authorities have also kept significant parts of the IDP community living in temporary shelters and refugee camps in virtual segregation from the rest of the population. Access to these camps by the opposition, media representatives and civil rights activists has been severely restricted.
IDPs have been further deprived of institutions of self-governance. To date the only governing structures the IDPs possess are appointed ‘executive authorities in exile’, which function only nominally and deal mostly with the distribution of social allowances. The Azerbaijani authorities have also effectively denied the Karabakh Azeris the right to elect a community leader to represent them in the negotiations. Instead, the presidential appointee heading the Shusha ‘Executive Authority in Exile’, Nizami Bahmanov, has played this role since 1992.
This context, combined with growing frustration over the lack of progress in negotiations and feelings of abandonment, creates favourable conditions for radicalism and calls for a military solution. Such trends are reinforced by the dominant nationalist discourses portraying the conflict in terms of an Armenian-perpetrated ‘genocide’ against the Azeris, aimed at territorial expansion and the creation of a ‘Greater Armenia’. In a sense, Azerbaijani society is experiencing trends in public consciousness – similar to those experienced earlier in Armenian society – stemming from a ‘defeat complex’, unachieved national aspirations and the perceived ‘victimisation’ of the nation.
Of those few non-governmental organisations existing to represent IDP interests the most prominent is the Karabakh Liberation organisation (KLO), which criticises the “capitulatory” position of the government, “double standards” of the international organisations and calls for a military solution to the conflict. However, the KLO’s popular slogan, “No Azerbaijan without Karabakh!” conveys the concern of many Azerbaijanis that the loss of Karabakh signifies the disintegration of the country and the disappearance of the Azeri nation as a whole. Even though the Karabakh Azeri community is weak and disorganised, it has the potential to become a powerful destabilising force in Azerbaijan tomorrow if its interests are ignored today.