Khankendi, Azerbaijan – An eerie silence covers the city sq. of the most important metropolis within the Nagorno-Karabakh area
Strollers, chairs and empty packing containers are all that stay within the sq. after greater than 100,000 Armenians rapidly fled Khakendi, the most recent victims of an historical territorial battle.
Azerbaijan defeated separatist forces within the breakaway area final month, main Armenian leaders to agree with Baku that the so-called state of Artsakh will stop to exist.
After separatist forces have been routed, ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, part of oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan that had been exterior Baku’s management because the dissolution of the Soviet Union, started fleeing to Armenia.
The residents of Khankendi additionally left for neighboring Armenia, fearing persecution, leaving their houses and companies behind.
They left regardless of Azerbaijan’s assurances about their security and equal remedy as residents.
Crimson Cross employees in Khankendi, identified to Armenians as Stepanakert, provide to evacuate those that couldn’t discover house within the buses and vehicles heading to Armenia.
Town’s morgue workers have additionally left, so even the useless are being repatriated to Armenia by the Crimson Cross.
“We proceed to search out different individuals stranded within the metropolis in the meanwhile and we’ve got one other concern as rural areas haven’t but been reached,” stated Marco Succi of the Speedy Deployment Crew of the Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross (ICRC). informed Al Jazeera.
“Should you ask me in regards to the rapid wants, it considerations electrical energy, water and fuel [the] subsequent winter. The ICRC has been working with the authorities of Azerbaijan and appears ahead to working with them,” he added.
Puppies, uncovered to the weather, run to anybody they see within the sq., hoping to be fed. Horses wander the roads, misplaced with out their masters, their hooves on the asphalt breaking the silence.
Once in a while an ambulance drives by way of the windy streets, searching for somebody who has been left behind and wishes medical consideration.
It is a scene repeated all through the town.
Even Russian peacekeepers, who’ve been deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh because the finish of the earlier battle over the area in 2020, have deserted a few of their checkpoints within the metropolis.
However for Armenians whose households have known as the area house for hundreds of years, leaving will not be a simple alternative. As they collect at a staging submit to depart Khankendi, the anger is palpable of their voices.
“That is our metropolis,” one man informed Al Jazeera as he boarded the bus able to be taken to Armenia.
The cease can be a spot the place the few Armenians who wish to keep say goodbye to their departing household and mates.
“I wish to reside right here with everybody. I’ve Azerbaijani mates who inform me to not depart, so I keep right here,” a middle-aged man informed Al Jazeera whereas speaking to an Azerbaijani man.
Town’s new Azerbaijani administration informed Al Jazeera it has arrange a registration middle, supplied ambulances, upgraded cell networks and related the town to Azerbaijan’s electrical energy grid.
Azerbaijan says it desires to revive Khankendi after thirty years of battle and occupation and hopes that the previous residents of Nagarno-Karabakh will return.
“For the previous thirty years, Azerbaijan has suffered below the occupation. About a million residents of Azerbaijan have turn into refugees and displaced individuals and have left this area,” Aykhan Hajizada, spokesperson for the Azerbaijani International Ministry, informed Al Jazeera, referring to internally displaced individuals. The inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh was predominantly Armenian, however Armenia conquered different components of Azerbaijan after the First Nagorno-Karabakh Warfare and lots of Azerbaijanis fled the occupation.
“Now, on account of Azerbaijan’s 24-hour anti-terrorism measures, Azerbaijan has lastly restored its sovereignty over its territory. We now name on the Armenian individuals to return again. We’re able to embrace the Armenian individuals,” Hajizada added.
In Khankendi, it’s clear that the town wants greater than these ensures to really rebuild. Ethnic Armenians should belief that they’re protected in Azerbaijan. That belief is presently not seen on the empty streets of Khankendi.