Ecoactivist Adnan Huseyn: Peaceful ecological protest will persist until our demand is met (INTERVIEW) interviewed Adnan Huseyn, founder of re:Azerbaijan, who is participating in the protests of the ecoactivists on the Lachin-Khankendi road, from the very beginning. Adnan, ecoactivists have been protesting the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan's resources on the Lachin-Khankendi road for almost two months. In general, how did this process begin, what is the goal of the protestors?

A.H: The illegal occupation of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territories by Armenia for many years, resulted the exploitation of the country's natural resources and the destruction of its ecology. Upon liberating of the territories in 2020, Azerbaijan was able to assess the extent of the damage caused by the illegal exploitation of its mineral deposits by Armenia. The findings were alarming and raised serious concerns about the state of Demirli and Gizilbulag deposits that are still being illegally exploited in parts of the Karabakh economic region, where Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed. Moreover, satellite imagery confirms these concerns. Azerbaijan has raised these issues for years, even prior to the 2020 Karabakh war, but all its requests and warnings were disregarded by Armenia. Last December, a group of Azerbaijani ecologists and NGOs requested access to Demirli and Gizilbulag deposits to conduct monitoring and assess the state of these deposits. Unfortunately, their request was denied, causing discontent among Azerbaijani citizens and eco-activists, which lead for them to exercised their legal right to protest and raise awareness about this illegal activity. How do you feel about the fake news about road closures and alleged blockades? We see dozens of vehicles of different purposes passing by in the videos every day. There were also cars with civilians among them, were not there?

A.H: As protesters, we have consistently maintained from the outset of the demonstration that the road is open for civilians and for the transportation of humanitarian cargo. The frequent use of over 1400 vehicles by both the International Committee of the Red Cross and Russian peacekeeping forces to transport civilians in both directions, as well as the daily delivery of foodstuffs, medical supplies, baby food, and other necessities by dozens of trucks to ethnic Armenians residing in Karabakh, attests to the openness of the road. Supporting evidence, including photo and video footage, is readily available and is documented and shared daily on my Twitter account. During the two months of protest, not a single civilian vehicle has approached us seeking to cross the road. If they had, we would have ensured their safe passage, as we have publicly stated from the beginning. Our aim is not to cause a humanitarian crisis or put the health of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh, whom we see as our citizens, at risk, but rather to address the serious ecological issues that threaten the health of both their people and ours. Unfortunately, Armenia chooses to ignore the fact that the road is open and our legitimate demand for access for our ecologists to the deposits. They prefer to request the ICRC or Russian peacekeepers to transport them to and from Karabakh, thereby perpetuating the misleading narrative of a nonexistent blockade to the international community. There is no evidence to suggest that Azerbaijanis have turned away any Armenians seeking to cross the road. If such an occurrence had taken place, video evidence would surely have been widely distributed, but because it would undermine their propaganda, Armenia chooses not to approach us. How long will the protests last, what are the main requirements?

A.H: Our peaceful ecological protest will persist until our demand for access for our ecologists to the deposits is met. Last August, Azerbaijani experts, along with their Armenian counterparts residing in Karabakh, conducted a joint inspection of the Sarsang Reservoir located in the Karabakh economic region of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed. The group carried out technical monitoring of the reservoir and engaged in constructive and mutually beneficial discussions regarding water distribution and irrigation strategies. The agreement reached during these negotiations indicated that future meetings of this nature should become regular events. Although these may seem like small steps, they are regarded by many as a significant sign of the first official cooperation between Armenians residing in Karabakh and Azerbaijanis in almost three decades. However, in September of 2022, the situation changed dramatically when Russian-Armenian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan, linked to shady business practices, money laundering for Russian oligarchs, and sanctioned by Ukraine, suspiciously renounced his Russian citizenship, illegally moved to Karabakh, and proclaimed himself the state minister of a self-proclaimed “republic” that is not recognized by the international community or international law. In the modern world, so much attention is paid to ecology and the environment. What is your message to the world community about the ecological situation in Azerbaijan, and our destroyed resources?

A.H: In recent years, Azerbaijan has made significant strides towards becoming a more environmentally responsible country. From investing in renewable energy sources to addressing internal ecological and environmental issues, the country is taking proactive measures to safeguard its environment and reduce its carbon footprint. This is not only crucial for Azerbaijan and its citizens, but for the entire world, as ecology and the environment are not bound by borders. The indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste into Azerbaijani rivers by Armenia can have far-reaching consequences beyond Azerbaijan's borders. We only have one world and it is imperative that we all work together to protect it. The international community must encourage Armenia to refrain from spreading misinformation and propaganda and instead focus on addressing the real issue by granting our ecologists access to our deposits.

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