The breakaway territory of Nagorno Karabakh, always on the lookout for ways to boost its population, has offered to shelter Yazidis fleeing from Islamic-State terrorists in Iraq.
“The Armenian people cannot be indifferent to what is now being done to the Yazidi people,” David Babaian, spokesperson for Karabakh’s de-facto president, Bako Sahakian, commented to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on August 19. “The Yazidis are the only people who have become an integral part of the Armenian people.”
According to local news outlets, Armenia is estimated to have a Yazidi population of about 40,000. Data is not available for how many Yazidis live in Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region claimed by Azerbaijan.
Babaian skirted discussions of how the region’s de-facto officials would provide for any Yazidi arrivals, however — a sensitive question, given Azerbaijan’s claims that Karabakh and its main champion, Armenia, want to rework the territory’s ethnic makeup.
Armenia’s foreign ministry told RFE/RL that no Yazidis from Iraq have requested asylum or fled to Armenia as yet.
Rallies, though, were held on August 13 in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, to show support for Iraq’s Yazidis, and in neighboring Georgia, which has been estimated to have a Yazidi community of about 20,000.
Citing local Yazidi sources, Rudaw.net, a Kurdish news site, reported on August 15 that a handful of Yazidi refugees from Iraq actually already had arrived in Georgia. But the information could not be independently verified.
The Yazidis, though, are not the only way the conflict in Syria and Iraq has found an echo in the South Caucasus. Karabakh and Armenia both have offered a welcome to ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria; a transition, which, in Armenia’s case, has not always gone particularly smoothly. Some refugees have opted to move on.
Meanwhile, even as it welcomes victims of the bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, the region has provided perpetrators for the conflict as well. In Georgia, one remote mountain valley is the native home of dreaded IS commander Omar al-Shishani. Meanwhile, in Azerbaijan, some young men have headed off to join the call for jihad in Syria.
For now, though, greater concern appears to be focused on Russia's North Caucasus, long a prooving-ground for Islamic militants.