Housing, livestock, crops, goods: they had to give up everything, they lost everything. In Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, displaced Armenians from the conflict with Azerbaijan live day to day in disarray.
Between 75,000 and 90,000 of the region’s 150,000 inhabitants fled the autumn fighting. Nearly 20,000 have returned home since the end of hostilities agreement signed on November 9 and enshrining the Armenian defeat.
But between the territories conquered by the Azerbaijanis during the six weeks of fighting and those returned to them under the agreement, many Armenians have lost everything.
In Stepanakert, several hotels have been provisionally made available to the displaced and hundreds of them queue up every day to obtain food distributed by the Red Cross.
– “Go!” –
Elmira Grigorian, 70, has just recovered a small plastic bag filled with pasta, sugar, canned food, cakes … She lived in a village on the edge of Martouni district and Aghdam district, handed over to Azerbaijan November 20.
That day the soldiers from Baku “immediately arrived, pointed their rifles at us and said: + Go, all of this is ours, the Azerbaijanis. + So we left, giving up everything,” says the septuagenarian.
“On Friday we were told to come back with soldiers (Armenian and Russian peacekeepers) and collect our goods. We went with soldiers and we waited all day, but nothing … They (Azerbaijanis , ndlr) told us: + Go, we will not give you anything + “.
Marine Sargassian, 55, her daughter-in-law Angelika Astribabaïan, 23, her 3-year-old son and 6-month-old daughter are temporarily in a windowless room with three beds in a modest hotel. They lived in Choucha, eight kilometers from Stepanakert, taken by troops from Baku on November 8, the day before the cease-fire.
During the war, they took refuge north of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. “We came back but we can’t find a house to rent here. The authorities gave us this hotel,” said the fifty-year-old, whose son serves in the military police.
In Choucha, they had a three-room apartment and cattle. “We have nothing left now.”
“It’s terrible to be refugees especially when you have small children,” says Angelika. “Currently I have 5,000 drams (less than 10 euros) for the next few days. But after that I don’t know how I’ll do it,” she adds, gazing lost.
– “We feel abandoned” –
Eric Mangassarian is angry. The 35-year-old man, the scarred face, sleeps with friends or sometimes in his car. He shows AFP journalists a video on his cell phone showing him and other men capturing two Azerbaijani soldiers.
“Look what we did. I am not a soldier but I fought throughout the war to defend my land, our land. But I had to flee, leave my house, my village, and now I do not I have nothing left and we are not given anything. We feel abandoned, “he said with red eyes.
In a small covered market in the capital, Nelson Arian, 47, works on a meat stall. “Don’t ask me how I had to leave my village”, now in Azerbaijani territory, he warns immediately, looking suddenly gloomy.
He was recently hired here. He is staying with his daughter and son in an apartment owned by a resident of his village, who helps him “because he has more resources than I”.
“The state helps us, but we ourselves have to find work, not just depend on the state,” he explains. “If you have strong arms and legs then you have to work,” he adds, in a rare note of optimism.