Escaping the Tensions of Nagorno-Karabakh
As per the reports from the Armenian government, over 2,900 individuals have fled the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and crossed into Armenia as of early Monday. The previous day, the Armenian Prime Minister's press office had reported that more than 1,500 people had entered Armenia from the contested Karabakh region. By Monday, the number had risen to 1,510, with registration and needs determination in process for a significant portion of these individuals.
Reportedly, 1,060 of these individuals expressed a desire to relocate to their chosen residences, while 557 people were dispersed to locations suggested by the government. This mass exodus was triggered by the escalating conflict and concerns for safety among the Armenian residents of Karabakh.
Azerbaijan's Military Operation in Karabakh
On September 19, Azerbaijan initiated a military operation in Karabakh. The operation was described as "local counter-terrorism measures" aimed at reinstating constitutional order. In response, Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, labeled this move as aggression, stating that there were no Armenian units in Karabakh.
Subsequently, the Armenian residents in Karabakh were compelled to declare a ceasefire on September 20, a process which was aided by Russian peacekeeping forces. Nagorno-Karabakh, although internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, had hitherto been outside of Baku's control.
Fear of Ethnic Cleansing Drives Exodus
Earlier on Monday, the leaders of the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh expressed that the 120,000 Armenians in Karabakh would depart for Armenia. The underlying reason for this decision was a reluctance to live under Azerbaijani sovereignty and fear of ethnic cleansing. Despite assurances from Baku that it would guarantee the rights of Karabakh's Armenians and integrate the region into the rest of the country, the Armenians fear suppression.
Consequently, those with access to fuel began moving towards the border with Armenia through the Lachin corridor. Images revealed dozens of cars leaving the capital towards the mountainous pass, indicating the gravity of the situation and the extent of fear among the Armenian population.
Concerns from Global Powers
Western countries, including France, Germany, and the United States, have expressed apprehension for the security of the Armenian population. They have urged both Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution. Amid these escalating tensions and mass displacement, the Armenian authorities have also indicated their preparedness for the arrival of tens of thousands of families fleeing the conflict.
Future of Nagorno-Karabakh
The future of Nagorno-Karabakh remains uncertain. While Azerbaijan has expressed its intent to "reintegrate" the Armenian population, it has not presented any concrete plan for doing so or for safeguarding their rights. This lack of clarity and the fear of ethnic cleansing have only fueled the exodus, leaving a question mark on the fate of the individuals fleeing their homes and the future of the region itself.