Thousands of Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh

2023-09-26 17:35:31

More than 19,000 Armenians have fled the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave since the surprise attack on their region, for fear of abuses by Azeri soldiers.

A week after the Azeri army’s lightning offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh, thousands of Armenians continue to flee their region. More than 19,000 men, women and children entered Armenia via the Lachin corridor, the only route leading from this separatist enclave to Armenia, Yerevan said on Tuesday. The refugees, gripped by fear, cross the border post on a journey seemingly without return, under the victorious gaze of Azeri soldiers.

For more than 30 years, Azerbaijan has been trying to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory recognized internationally as belonging to it but populated mainly by Armenians. Since the fall of the USSR, its inhabitants, supported by Armenia, had seceded. But the self-proclaimed republic was not recognized by any UN country.

“People are afraid and they are leaving. It’s ethnic cleansing.”

Nicolas Tavitian

Sociology researcher at the Open University

After the war fought in 2020, and the victory of Azerbaijan, he only had a small part of the enclave left to reconquer. Russia had imposed peace between the belligerents, but Baku wanted to end it. Faced with the surprise attack of September 19, the separatist forces, abandoned by Armenia, capitulated the next day.

The 2,000 soldiers of the Russian interposition force, supposed to separate the belligerents since 2020, have not moved. Russia, occupied by its war in Ukraine, is unable to manage this situation, leaving a void that Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, its unconditional ally, hastened to fill.

“Ethnic cleansing”

After the attack, the Armenian ambassador to the UN, Andranik Hovhannisyan, denounced “ethnic cleansing” in progress. On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev promised to “guarantee” the rights of Armenians in the enclave and invited them to stay. But stories of massacres committed by Azeri soldiers push the approximately 120,000 Armenians living in the region to flee en masse.



According to the Armenian authorities, more than 19,000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have entered Armenia.

“Refugees are flocking to Armenia, it’s inevitable. People are afraid and they are leaving. It’s ethnic cleansing,” says Nicolas Tavitian, sociology researcher at the Open University and former president of the Armenian Community. from Belgium. It evokes “atrocities” allegedly committed in two villages by Azeri soldiers.

EU calls for ‘more details’

“Everything now depends on Europe. It has the power to ask Azerbaijan to stop.”

Nicolas Tavitian

Sociology researcher at the Open University

European Council President Charles Michel convened a meeting on Tuesday between representatives of Azerbaijan, Armenia, France and Germany. After this meeting, EU said it had asked Azerbaijan for “more details on its vision for the future of Karabakh Armenians”.

European representatives invited the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to meet at the European Political Community which is being held on October 4 in Granada. “Everything now depends on Europe. It has the power to ask Azerbaijan to stop,” continues Nicolas Tavitian.

The EU decided on Tuesday to disburse 4.5 million euros in humanitarian aid to meet the growing needs resulting from this crisis.

Risk of destabilization

This crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, risks destabilizing the South Caucasus. According to several analysts, Baku and Ankara are already thinking about the next step: impose the Zangezur corridor on Armenia.

The opening of this corridor, by choice or by force, would make it possible to connect the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan, located between Armenia and Iran and bordering Turkey. Ankara could then directly access Azerbaijan and the Turkic-speaking republics of Central Asia. But Iran is opposed to it.

The summary

  • More than 19,000 Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have entered Armenia since the lightning offensive launched by Azerbaijan on this separatist enclave.
  • Armenia denounces an ongoing “ethnic cleansing”in the indifference of the Russian interposition force.
  • Turkey, Azerbaijan’s supporter, applauds the operation. The next step, for Baku and Ankara, would be toimpose on Armenia the Zangezur corridor linking Turkey to Azerbaijan.

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