The majority of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 people have fled Azerbaijan rule
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Up to 100,000 people have fled their homeland of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) in fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing by the hands of Azerbaijan military and government rulers. Already starving from a 10-month blockade, those fleeing are forced to escape through rough, unsafe territory and attacks from Azerbaijan military personnel before arriving in Armenia.
Eliza Minasyan, coordinator of the PC(USA)’s Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP), notes that as of Friday, more than 80,000 forcibly displaced people had arrived in Armenia while another 40,000 are blocked on the roads.
“All of them are in a critical state, their bodies exhausted from malnutrition and continuous escape, their hope shaken by injustice and betrayal, and their minds severely traumatized by war,” said Minasyan. “Most of them are ill and need immediate medical care. Once fed and recovered, they will need a place to stay and work to take care of their families. Later, they will undergo a range of psychological and physiological consequences from the trauma of relocation and transition into a new life they never chose.”
Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region within Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it declared its independence in 1991, but later Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-year war over the territory. In 2020 Armenia and Azerbaijan renewed their conflict, culminating last week in a self-proclaimed anti-terror mission by Azerbaijan forces and a surrender by Artsakh leadership. Since the surrender, the mass exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh fearing reprisals from the Azerbaijan government has fueled the crisis.
“Azerbaijan continues aggressive violent attacks and perhaps will never stop,” says Minasyan. “Currently the ‘ceasefire agreement’ reached by Russia is on the condition that all the local army be removed from the region, even local troops that were protecting their families from attacks. People living in their homelands can’t stay alone with no protection. It’s very sad and hopeless.”
“We are devastated to learn of the exodus of ethnic Armenians forced from their homeland in Azerbaijan after a 10-month blockade,” said Susan Krehbiel, associate for PDA’s Migration Accompaniment Ministries. “We are concerned for their safety in the journey and the rising need for shelter and immediate assistance as they arrive in Armenia.
“PDA is enormously grateful for the rapid response by the Jinishian Memorial Program and our ACT Alliance partners who form the Armenian Roundtable,” Krehbiel said. “We have learned that the Armenian government is offering shelter to many of the refugees but had not anticipated the total number who are arriving, expected to reach 120,000 within the next week. PDA is already working to send initial support to JMP at this time.”
JMP has committed to providing short-term emergency relief efforts that include:
- Medication and rehabilitation services to those severely harmed
- Food and means to cover basic human needs
- Free physical and psychological treatment to injured at the Dr. Norayr Baboumian Sevan Rehabilitation Center.
To assist in immediate relief efforts to JMP, gifts can be made to the Jinishian Memorial Program here.
To assist Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in its International Refugee Program efforts, give here.
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