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Armenians in a Dire Situation: Tensions, Blockades, and the Threat of War with Azerbaijan


NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 20:37

Iris de Graaf & Chiem Balduk

from Armenia

Iris de Graaf & Chiem Balduk

from Armenia

Anyone walking through the busy city center of Yerevan initially notices little of the increasing tensions with neighboring country Azerbaijan. Late summer brings full parks and terraces in the Armenian capital.

But as soon as you start a chat, the conversation quickly turns to ‘the situation’: the blockade of the only road between Armenia and the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani troop build-up on the border. “If you see someone laughing on the street here, know that they are crying inside, because we deal with it every day,” we hear.

“I can’t bear to watch the news anymore,” sighs Christine, who walks through Republic Square with her children Areg and Lusy. “Anyone who has lost a son or father in the war in 2020 only talks about the traumas.” She is concerned about the new threat of war. “I just don’t know if my children will still be able to walk around here in a year.”

Several Armenians we spoke to call the chance of a new war ‘probable’ or even ‘inevitable’. The European Union has patrolled the border today stepped upin response to the Azerbaijani troop build-up.

NOSThe South Caucasus with Nagorno-Karabakh in the middle

“No one cares about us,” says young Helen, who is drinking coffee on a bench at the open-air market. “The only one who helps us is Kim Kardashian. She is the only one who shares information about us op social media.” The American influencer has Armenian roots and regularly calls on world leaders to take action for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.

We travel from Yerevan towards the border with Nagorno-Karabakh via a winding mountain road. The closer we get to the enclave, the higher the tensions rise. In the southern town of Goris, about a five-hour drive from the capital, the 2020 war is still very much alive. The mountain village is wedged between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Many Karabakhs fled to Goris in 2020. Almost everyone here still has relatives who are now stuck because of the blockade and are dealing with famine and medicine shortages:

Armenians concerned about threat from Azerbaijan: ‘Situation is very bad’

The Armenian enclave, where about 120,000 ethnic Armenians live, has been deprived of food and medicine imports from Armenia for nine months due to a blockade of the access road by arch enemy Azerbaijan. Armenians therefore speak of ethnic cleansing and an attempted genocide. Azerbaijan claims that the Lachin corridor was used by Armenia to smuggle in weapons.

That is why the Azerbaijani government is proposing another route, one that runs through Azerbaijan. But both the Armenian and Karabakh authorities fear that the region will then become completely dependent on Baku or that the opened route will be misused for a military invasion. And so the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh have so far refused this option.

No confidence in corridor

Yet the need appears to be dire. While we’re here, there’s a lot going on around the blockade site. Today the first truck of the Russian Red Cross is allowed into the enclave. Not via the Lachin corridor, but via that proposed Azerbaijani route. The cart with food parcels for a thousand people still seems like a drop in the ocean.

Meanwhile, the government in Baku has announced that it will open the Lachin corridor sometime in the coming days, although no one here is confident that will actually happen. “They say that so often,” says skeptical student Diana in a park in Goris. “And even if they open it again, it will be one-way traffic as always: people are allowed out, nothing or no one is allowed in.” According to her, it is one of Azerbaijan’s strategies to drive the local Armenian population out of the enclave and replace them with Azerbaijanis.

Her friend Hajarpy lived in Nagorno-Karabakh, but fled to Goris after her family home was destroyed in the 2020 war. “My father stayed behind because he is a soldier there. We hope every day that the road will be reopened so I can see him again to see.” Hajarpy wants to become a soldier herself, to help her father, but her family stops her.

Left to fate

Wherever we are and whoever we speak to, in Armenia it is abundantly clear that there is a prevailing feeling among the population that they cannot do anything and that they are left to fend for themselves. “The Armenian issue is now in the hands of the world,” says retired Artur Asevitsyan. “The big countries determine our borders. Turkey and Russia decide our future.”

His friend interrupts him. “Iran can save us. If Azerbaijan starts a war against Armenia, Iran will intervene. That’s what they promised.” Shaking their heads, they look at each other and continue their way with slumped shoulders.

2023-09-12 18:37:09
#Yerevan #NagornoKarabakh #Armenians #feel #abandoned

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