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More than 100,000 people are forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh as the conflict intensifies

In just two weeks, more than 100,000 people fled Nagorno-Karabakh, a region with around 120,000 inhabitants. Among them is Marat, a 22-year-old from the city of Askeran in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. "I would have liked to have stayed there, of course. We had everything there and it was our home. But how can we, when we have children and they could die there. We have to think about safety."

This territory is disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan and suffers from a conflict that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Currently recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the territory has been controlled by Armenian separatist forces since the fall of the Soviet bloc. Despite making up the majority of the population, resident Armenians have been discriminated against for decades by Azerbaijani authorities, who have tried to suppress their culture and identity, pressuring them to leave the region. The Armenian ethnic minority is Christian and has a peculiar alphabet, while Azerbaijanis are historically Shiite Muslims who speak Turkish.

The First War began in 1991 after a referendum that called for the territory to be integrated into Armenia. The last major attack took place in 2020, starting the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. After two wars and continuous conflicts, the death toll has reached almost 50 thousand and the massive expulsions of populations on both sides have already created hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The most recent escalation of violence has been intensifying since 2020, with the recovery of around 80% of the territory lost by Azerbaijan and with the siege of the territory in December 2022 for nine months, leaving the population without water, electricity and shortages of food and medicine. The attacks reached their peak in September this year with a massive military offensive that resulted in the surrender of the Artsakh authority that had governed the territory, by self-proclamation, since 1991.

In just two weeks, more than 100,000 people were forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh. Endless lines of buses and cars packed with life's possessions filled the road that connects the territory to Armenia. In just a few days, almost the entire population of a territory that had been autonomous for decades had to flee. Of the approximately 100,000 refugees, 30,000 are children and the majority have no family or acquaintances in Armenia, being completely dependent on humanitarian aid, like Marat. He has no family or acquaintances in Armenia and depends on help of NGOs, because, despite the help from the Armenian Government, the approximately €100 per month is not enough to live on.

This is considered a proxy conflict, involving regional powers such as Turkey, Iran or India and Pakistan, but also Russia and China, linked, among other issues, to the construction of the Zangezur geopolitical corridor, leaving, as usual , thousands of displaced people and refugees and taking the lives of countless innocent people.

The thousands of refugees now fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh fear another conflict. "They offered me a house in the border town of Kapan, from where you can see an Azerbaijani checkpoint just a few meters from the house... I'm afraid, I want to live far away from them. What if they attack again?" Says Marina, a mother of two from Stepanakert. "I couldn't bear to lose everything and be displaced again."

Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in the city of Kornidzor. Alexander Patrin / TASS.

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