Amidst the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh region have been setting their houses on fire before fleeing to their new homes in Armenia. The ethnic Armenians, who are mostly Christians, living in the region were given a weekend’s deadline to leave, following a peace deal between the two countries and handing over the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Muslim majority Azerbaijan. The Christians of Armenians are resorting to a scorched earth policy before the Muslims of Azerbaijan take over their land.
As per reports, the development comes after it was announced that Azerbaijan will take control of the region on Sunday. On Saturday, at least 6 houses were set on fire in the Kalbajar village of Charektar by ethnic Armenians while more 10 houses were razed on Sunday. “This is my house, I can’t leave it to the Turks…Everybody is going to burn down their house today … we were given until midnight to leave. We also moved our parents’ graves, the Azerbaijanis will take great pleasure in desecrating our graves. It’s unbearable,” an ethnic Armenian, forced to leave the Nagorno-Karabakh region lamented. He was seen throwing gasoline-soaked rags and burning wooden planks into a house.
Another Armenian Arsen said that they are not leaving anything useful for the Azeris, and Azeris will have to build their own houses from scratch. Armenians were carrying everything they could with them, and they loaded trucks with household items before burning the houses. Most families removed most items from their houses, some even removed the doors and windows and loaded onto the trucks, which they will be able to use in their new houses, before burning the houses.
The current peace deal mandates the return of Kalbajar and Aghdam districts to Azerbaijan by Armenia within November 20. Similarly, the Lachin district, held by Armenia since the 1990s, is to be returned by December 1. Meanwhile, Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, had demanded compensation from Armenia for the actions of ethnic Armenians in supposedly destroying 99% of ‘liberated territory’, including schools and hospitals.
The Background of the conflict
Trapped between Turkey and Azerbaijan is the tiny country of Armenia. The Azeris are ethnic Turks and have the same religion and culture as Turkey. For a long time, the mostly Christian Armenians were colonized by the Ottoman Empire. The Soviets took over the land in the 1920s and Armenia was cut up between three Soviet Republics : Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
When the Soviet empire collapsed in the 1990s, both Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent. But a portion of land, populated by ethnic Armenians, remained part of Azerbaijan. This region is known as Nagorno-Karabakh. Tensions erupted and this area declared independence in the 1990s, supported by Armenia. The stalemate has been around for nearly three decades until Azerbaijan (with Turkish support) unilaterally broke the ceasefire a few weeks ago. The ethnic Armenians were quickly defeated. And now thousands of them have less than a week to leave their homes behind and flee.