In the wake of recent events, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave, has witnessed a mass exodus, with Armenia stating that over 100,000 individuals have fled their homes. This monumental shift represents nearly the entire population of the disputed territory, following Azerbaijan’s recent acquisition of the region.
Azerbaijan has publicly committed to reintegrating the area’s inhabitants as equals, yet Armenian spokespersons have starkly dismissed these promises as mere fabrications.
For three decades, the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, acknowledged as Azerbaijani territory, has been controlled by ethnic Armenians, bolstered by support from both Armenia and its international ally, Russia. The recent sweep of Azerbaijan’s military into the region resulted in the tragic loss of at least 200 ethnic Armenians and numerous Azerbaijani soldiers. As part of a negotiated ceasefire, separatists conceded to relinquish their arsenals.
The president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh anticipated it would dissolve by the year’s end. Nazeli Baghdasaryan, an official representative for Armenia’s prime minister, confirmed that the number of refugees streaming into Armenia in the past week has eclipsed 100,000, nearly the total population of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Concurring with the Armenian government’s data, the UN’s refugee authority (UNHCR) reported that 100,000 people have sought refuge, emphasizing the urgent needs of the fleeing population, many of whom are worn out, hungry and require immediate aid.
Artak Beglaryan, previously an Armenian separatist leader, reported recently that the final groups of Nagorno-Karabakh residents were making their departure to Armenia. He stated that only a sparse few hundred remained, largely consisting of officials, emergency personnel, volunteers, and those with specific needs.
Amidst the exodus, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry claimed retaliation against one of their servicemen shot by an Armenian army sniper. The charge was promptly refuted by Armenia.
Kalbajar, located on the northwest of the region bordering Armenia, was reclaimed by Azerbaijani forces as recently as November 2020. In addition to previous catastrophe, last week’s Azerbaijani military operation incited a large explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh which claimed at least 170 lives.
The definitive cause underlying the explosion in the vicinity of Nagorno-Karabakh’s primary city, Khankendi, remains unknown.
The UN has planned a forthcoming mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, with the intention of assessing the humanitarian fallout caused by these recent events. This move comes after an assurance from Azerbaijani side to allow such a visit.
Edmon Marukyan, Armenia’s ambassador-at-large, expressed scepticism about the timing of the visit but stressed its significance nonetheless. He affirms the need for UN officials to witness firsthand the harsh conditions undergone by ethnic Armenians, characterizing their plight as an ethnic cleansing of their historic homeland.
Devastatingly dismissive of the situation, Marukyan rejected Azerbaijan’s proclamations as unfounded, claiming no one will remain in Nagorno-Karabakh and alleging them to be another wave of Azerbaijani propaganda.