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Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 Armenians to leave for Armenia. Why?

Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan and fear ethnic cleansing, so they are leaving for Armenia, the leadership of the breakaway region said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond Baku’s control, were forced to declare a ceasefire on 20 September after an intense 24-hour military operation conducted by Azerbaijani armed forces, which outnumbered and outgunned them dozens of times. David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, the president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told Reuters:

“Our people do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan. Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to leave our historic lands. The fate of our poor people will go down in history as a disgrace and a shame for the Armenian people and for the whole civilised world.”

Azerbaijani authorities say they will guarantee the rights of Armenians and promote integration of the region, but Armenians fear repression and ethnic cleansing.

During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the so-called First Karabakh War (1988-1994) began between Armenians and their Azerbaijan. As a result of the hostilities, about 30,000 people were killed and more than a million people lost their homes.

The Karabakh Armenian leadership has said that all those who have become homeless as a result of Azerbaijan’s latest military operation and want to leave will be escorted to Armenia by Russian peacekeepers.

However, if 120,000 people are sent to Armenia through the Lachin corridor, a humanitarian crisis could start in the country. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Friday that space had been allocated for at least 40,000 people. Pashinyan said on Sunday:

“If proper conditions are not created for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in their homes and there are no effective protection mechanisms against ethnic cleansing, the likelihood is rising that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will see exile from their homeland as the only way to save their lives and identity.”

It is still unknown whether Armenia, with a population of about 2.8 million, can accommodate 120,000 people on the eve of winter. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has started registering people looking for unaccompanied children or those who have lost contact with loved ones.

For Azerbaijan, the Armenian withdrawal from Karabakh is a major victory that will apparently put an end to years of war and confrontation over the region. President Ilham Aliyev said that his iron fist had put the idea of an independent ethnic Armenian Karabakh behind him and that as part of Azerbaijan the region would be turned into a “paradise”.


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