Tens of thousands have packed their lives into their vehicles and fled the disputed region for Armenia
By Jedidajah Otte
3 Oct 2023
Anoush, a 23-year-old recent English graduate from Martuni province in the self-declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, is one of tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians who have fled to Armenia this week, after officials announced that Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist on New Year’s Day 2024.
Almost all ethnic Armenians have now left the disputed region, which broke away from Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, amid events that Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has called a “direct act of ethnic cleansing”.
“We were happy living there, even during nine months of blockade [of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijani forces], when there was no light, gas supply or internet, no flour to bake bread, because we were in our homeland,” says Anoush, who was one of dozens of people to contact the Guardian via a callout about Nagorno-Karabakh. “Our city [survived the blockade], as people were able to keep domestic animals such as chicken and geese.”
When Azerbaijan launched a 24-hour military offensive on 19 September, Anoush’s 28-year-old brother, Harout – who had returned to Karabakh from working in construction in Moscow to grow potatoes for his starving family – went to the border to join the frontline resistance.
“My grandmother baked bread for our soldiers from leftover cornflour. But unfortunately, we were not as strong as our enemy, and we were not as many,” Anoush says.
Last Monday, she and seven family members were driven over the Armenian border by a Karabakh civilian in an army vehicle. “We didn’t have to pay for it. After nine months of blockade, money has no value in Karabakh.
“It was so difficult to leave. My sister and brother were in school. I packed a handful of soil from my homeland, a photo album and some warm clothes.”
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