Only 14 percent of Armenians named the “return of captives and missing persons” as an important issue that the Armenian government should address, this and other curious findings come courtesy of the polling funded by the U.S. government and published by the International Republican Institute (IRI) under the title “After Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Armenians Want Domestic Reform and Stability, IRI Survey Finds.”
The Armenian government itself has sought to keep the issue of the estimated 200 Armenian military prisoners and civilian hostages held by Azerbaijani since last year’s war away from public scrutiny. This likely has had the effect of limiting public awareness of the issue.
Armenian captives typically face mistreatment, torture and death while in Azerbaijani custody. [Update: In a report issued this week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch documented some of the cases of the Armenian civilians detained last fall, including those who died in custody.]
The IRI poll conducted last month also found that only 25 percent of respondents supported the “withdrawal from [the] ceasefire agreement [with Azerbaijan and Russia], even at the risk of a renewal of military conflict,” whereas the vast majority (85 percent) supported “renegotiation of the ceasefire agreement,” without specifics as to what exactly would be renegotiated.
Overall, according to the survey, only 9 percent of respondents identified the Karabakh conflict as “the most important issue facing Armenia,” ranking just below political instability (12 percent) and jobs (11 percent). Though considering other related priorities named, such as “the need for military reform” – 8 percent, “bad work of the Armenian government,” “return of captives and missing persons” and “physical security, military attack,” each mentioned by 6 percent of respondents, when it comes to the concerns identified by the Armenian public, security issues currently outweigh all others.