Artsakh, the picturesque Christian Armenian republic within Muslim Azerbaijan, has been vacated as residents fled after a sudden assault September 19–20 by Azerbaijan’s military. Over 100,000 of about 120,000 inhabitants have escaped what has been called an “ethnic cleansing.” With the area “almost completely depopulated,” the United Nations finally sent a mission there on Oct. 1 — although even outsiders have recognized the plight of Artsakh for months, if not years. This visit has been widely jeered as being “too little, too late,” but Azerbaijan has forbidden the UN or any other international aid organization to enter the area since 2020. “What is there left for the UN to monitor? No one is there any more … it’s a ghost town,” said one refugee. “Where were the international monitors when we were being starved?” That refugee was referring to a months-long blockade that had strangled the quaint enclave of desperately needed food, medicine, and fuel.
Although Azerbaijan has announced a “reintegration plan” for any who want to stay in their historic, mountainous homeland, it is ominous that the conquerors also say they are seeking to arrest 300 former “separatists” — including three former presidents of the community.
The Red Cross is assisting those who want to leave but have not, due to disability or the lack of transport. The receiving country, neighboring Armenia, comprises roughly 2.5 million people and is straining to accommodate the refugees, some of whom burned their property rather than let the invaders take it. My journalist source in Armenia has reportedly fallen into a depression and will not speak with anyone. Another source has 19 refugees in her home.
Pray for justice for Artsakh. Pray for mercy for Artsakh.
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By Leah Farish, host of the Conversation Balloons podcast on Spotify, Audible, Google Podcasts, and YouTube. Photo Credit: Edgar Torabyan on Unsplash.