Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenians rush to help ‘brothers and sisters’

By Sarah Rainsford in Goris & Kornidzor, Armenia
Sep 28, 2023

Every hour, the number of people fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh climbs even further. The official count of refugees is now more than half the population of the enclave. The scenes at the border suggest the region is being emptied of ethnic Armenians.

As they come, the aid effort in the town of Goris is intensifying.

On Tuesday night, exhausted families slept in cars as they waited to register their arrival.

There has been a renewed scramble to help on Wednesday. Local hotels are full, offering rooms for free, and Armenians are posting on social media, offering housing all over the country to refugees.

There’s talk of turning a school in Goris into a dormitory until something more permanent can be found.

But the authorities are adamant they can cope. One senior official told me it was a matter of principle to help Armenia’s “brothers and sisters” from Karabakh.

Until this week, Tamara was a nurse in a small town hospital just outside Stepanakert, which Azerbaijanis call Khankendi.

When Azerbaijan launched its lightning offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh on 19 September, Tamara treated wounded Karabakh fighters and dealt with the dead.

“It was scary, there were many injured,” she tells me.

“Burns. People were hunting for their missing, they couldn’t find their children. It was so hard and such a shock for us.”

Even though Azerbaijan is insisting Armenians can stay in the region they have reclaimed, Tamara didn’t dare test that promise.

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