Rada Verdiants

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Eric Beauchemin

Radio Netherlands, Netherlands
Sept 22 2005

Rada Verdiants arrived in the Netherlands over a decade ago. Her asylum requests have been repeatedly denied but she continues to submit appeals to remain in this country.

Verdiants was one of the 300,000 to 400,000 Armenians living in the neighbouring republic of Azerbaijan. In 1988, Armenians in Azerbaijan started staging strikes and peaceful demonstrations to have the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh transferred to Armenian control. The ethnic conflict eventually exploded into violence.

"In February 1988, the Azeris carried out a genocide in Sumgait, a city about 30 kilometres from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. For three days, Azeris murdered innocent Armenians.

"The situation got progressively worse and a curfew was imposed in Baku. Groups of Azeris patrolled the streets asking everyone for their identity cards. We were required to carry identity cards all the time, but if it showed that you were Armenian, they'd beat you up very badly. People weren't only getting beaten up, they were also getting killed. Some people refused to carry their ID cards. If they were men, then the Azeris would force them to drop their pants. You see Azeris are Muslim and so they are circumcised, while Armenians are Christians and they aren't. Whenever I think about those days in Baku, I feel very bad.

"Some Azeri friends would take me to work in their car. Not all Azeris were bad. But these gangs that were harassing Armenians, they had police support. If you tried to submit a complaint to the police, they would do nothing. The police would tell us that we had to leave the country.

Entrance to Rada's asylum-seekers centre

Break-in "One day, three Azeri hooligans broke into my house. They beat me up and committed other acts of violence. I tried to call the alarm number, but it took time for the Russian soldiers to come to save me.

They finally came, but it was a bit late. At least my life was saved.

A lot of women were raped during that time. I remember speaking to a young girl who was raped. She was deeply shocked by what had happened and she eventually went crazy.

"When the soldiers came, they didn't ask me anything. They simply told me to pick up my things and they took me to the airport. There were a lot of other Armenians there: many had been beaten. Some had broken hands and feet. People were shouting and crying. We were all afraid.

Trauma "I'm still traumatised by what happened. I often have nightmares. I find it hard to concentrate. I get irritated very quickly. Sometimes I feel like I can't control myself, that everything is out of control, even my life.

"I have been receiving psychiatric treatment for the past four years.

They have also prescribed medication for me. I don't know what I would have done without that. I was thinking all the time that I can't handle this situation any more. I even thought about suicide.

Asylum-seekers centre where Rada is staying

No future "I have lost over 10 years of my life here waiting to find out whether I can stay or not. I know I can't go back to Azerbaijan. But I don't have any hope of my situation here getting any better. So I'm just sticking around. When I'm not depressed, I go the nearby village or go for a stroll. But when I'm depressed, I just stay in bed. It's getting better now with the treatment, but especially in autumn and winter, I get really depressed. Sometimes I can't even cook for myself.

"I don't know what is going to happen to me. I feel like I don't have a future."

Story can be listened to at http://www2.rnw.nl/rnw/en/features/humanrights/050922docc?view=Standard

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