Nagorno Karabakh: the Armenian resistance amid the fear of a new genocide

The Armenian people recognize that there are high possibilities that the conflict with Azerbaijan will escalate again as in 2020 (REUTERS / Artem Mikryukov) (ARTEM MIKRYUKOV /)

(From Yerevan).- In every corner of the Armenian territory these days there is a recurring theme in the population: the conflict with Azerbaijan. That concern, however, is even more accentuated when one moves towards the areas closest to the border with Nagorno Karabagh.

Located in the southeast of Armenia, in the province of Syunik, the city of Goris is considered the gateway to Artsakh, official name by which it is known to this independent state. Built in a basin at the foot of hills and mountains, with an average altitude of 1,398 meters above sea level, its location makes it a potential target every time Azeri troops seek to carry out a new “military provocation”. . As happened in the early hours of September 12, when the population was the victim of a surprise Azeri attack with artillery and drones.

That disturbing memory is still latent among the almost 20,000 people who inhabit the city. A city that is characterized by its low houses -of one or two floors-, built from stone, with the arched windows and doors typical of this mountainous area of ​​the South Caucasus. It also preserves cultural and heritage monuments, inherited from its millenary history (it has been inhabited since the stone age). The most important are concentrated in the historic center, where the main public and private administrative buildings are located, and a square in the center.

There, sitting on a bench, is natalie, a young teacher from the NGO “Teach for Armenia”, 22 years old. Despite her young age, she proves to be absolutely connected to the history of her country and the current situation in Nagorno Karabagh. “The situation saddens me a lot. And something that saddens me even more is that we civilians cannot do anything.”

“There is a lot of concern, it is not a normal situation. People are increasingly worried; they don’t work the way they should in normal situations. There are many problems. In addition, and especially those people who have small children, they are very worried about them, about their future. It’s really sad,” added this young teacher who was born in Tegh, a small village located on the mountain a few kilometers from Goris. More specifically, the last town in Armenia before entering Nagorno Karabagh.

He also said that he has many relatives and friends there, so he knows first-hand how the situation is in the face of the blockade imposed by Azerbaijan in the Lachin corridor: “There is a shortage of almost everything. They don’t live the same way they used to. There is a shortage of food, medicine, communications, energy during the winter. A friend told me that they had no gas for more than a month.”

The firmness with which she began to speak faded as the minutes passed and by the end of the interview her light blue eyes began to fill with tears and her voice to falter. Natalie acknowledged that the risk of the conflict escalating again “is very high.” She also considered that Azerbaijan not only aspires to stay with Nagorno Karabakh: “There is a risk that he intends to invade Armenian territory. It would not be the first case; It happened many times.”

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Zuren (left), with a friend in the center of Goris

But despite the sadness that this situation generates in her, especially a few days after commemorating the 108th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the young teacher assured that, if necessary, “of course” he would fight to defend his people. Although he clarified: “I do not have the capabilities to go to war.”

Who was in a war and knows first hand what that means is Zuren, a 69-year-old man who after retiring began working as a taxi driver. He is a few meters from Natalie, on the other side of the square, together with a group of people, talking in the shade, under a tree.

In 1992, during the first war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he served in the Army transporting soldiers. In addition to his war experience, he is also an authoritative word since he was born and lived his whole life in Goris. “The city was a dream before, a beauty. Now the situation is bad, we cannot visit Nagorno Karabakh, the road is closed”.

Although he has no family, “but he does have friends,” he said that his first wife, who died, was from Nagorno-Karabakh. “The land that she had was taken by the Azeri, and her family had to relocate.”

Zuren agreed with Natalie, and with most Armenians, on the high risk of an escalation of the conflict. He pointed with his right hand towards the horizon, where an enormous mountain range could be seen in the distance, and affirmed: “They are on those mountains. But they are our lands. It is the land of our grandparents, of our ancestors”.

He also referred to the role that the peacekeeping troops deployed by Russia are fulfilling, a recurring and mandatory question to try to understand the situation: “They are not controlling as they should, but sometimes they carry food and medicine in their vehicles. It is clear that Russia is on the side of Azerbaijan. That’s clear to everyone.”

Likewise, he sent a message to the international community, from which he demanded greater commitment to prevent a new Armenian genocide: “The world has to understand the situation. We are the first Christian nation, a nation with a lot of history… They are denying us”.

After a couple of minutes he says goodbye to go back to work, but before he agrees to take a picture.

A few meters away is vazgen, a worker of openings, windows and doors. He has 36 years old. He is just getting off work, past noon in Goris and agrees to talk for a few minutes. His answers are almost no different from those of Natalie, Zuren and many other Armenians. “The situation is not good; we are in a war situation. At any moment it can explode all over again.”

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Goris is considered the gateway of Armenia to Nagorno Karabagh

In his opinion, those most responsible for this “war situation” are “Azerbaijan and Turkey, and then the Russians.” He assured that it is not unreasonable to think that Baku wants to invade the entire Armenian territory, beyond Nagorno Karabakh, but he left a strong warning: “We are not going to move from here. I’m not afraid of them. There is definitely a risk that they want to invade Armenian territory. But we’re not moving from here.”

About the Russians, he said: “They do nothing, I don’t know what they are for.”

Lili is also a retiree who continues to work. She is a cleaning staff at the Town Hall, whose building is a few meters away, also in the central square of Goris. Like Natalie, she assured that even though she does not have military training or capacity, she would not hesitate to fight for her country: “We are worried, but if we have to go to war, we will go.”

In the midst of this worrying context and the fear of a new escalation, the Armenian population tries to continue a normal life, but always looking askance at what is happening a few kilometers away.

What Natalie, Zuren, Vazgen and Lili declared is a general feeling in the country: despite the concern and fear that the conflict will escalate, people do not think about leaving. Proof of this is that in recent times there have been no mobilizations or exoduses.

“They don’t want to leave their homes. Many think that they protect their place by living there, if they leave it, it’s like giving it away,” he explained. ani, a young tourist guide, who knows the situation first-hand from the story of her father and grandfather, both from Artsakh. She also maintained that those from the south are “tough people”, difficult to break.

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The Khachardzan school has in its facilities photos of its two “heroes” who fell in the 2020 war

Further north, about 300 kilometers, is the town of Khachardzanin the province of Tavush, located just 40 kilometers from the border with Azerbaijan.

Despite its inhospitable location in the middle of the mountain and having just over 400 inhabitants, the scourge of war also reached this remote town, whose main street bears the name of “Argentina” in recognition of the four diaspora families who collaborated to rebuild this town. 80% of the men participated in the armed conflict.

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The main street of the town bears the name “Argentina” in gratitude to the four diaspora families who helped rebuild that region

In the middle of the humble houses and the small orchards with which the locals work, a school stands out where 65 students from the town and surrounding areas study. The first thing one finds when entering the establishment are the photos of two young people who died during the 2020 war. Two “heroes” for the townspeople.

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Gagik Shahnazaryan, Mayor of Khachardzan

Gagik Shahnazaryan is the mayor. At all times he highlights the young people who have fought to defend their lands, as well as those who are now a few kilometers away, on the border, containing the Azeri siege: “We are always ready to protect our people. We have two dead and two disabled. Some of the residents are now at the border voluntarily and others doing military service.

“Throughout our history we have always been in danger, but we have always overcome it and we will overcome this too,” he said.

In the framework of the trip he made infobae to Armenia, Supreme Patriarch Karekin II received the Argentine and Spanish delegation in a private audience in the Echmiadzin Cathedral. The religious leader referred to the conflict with Azerbaijan, which he accused of wanting to “leave Artsakh without Armenians” and perpetrate “a new genocide”.

Although he clarified that the ideal scenario would be to find a peaceful solution, he warned: “The people are prepared to defend their homes.”

Keep reading:

Infobae in Armenia: how is the situation in the Lachin corridor blocked by Azerbaijan

Vahagn Khachaturyan, President of Armenia: “We have the danger of war every day”

Armenia remembered the victims of the genocide amid tension in Nagorno Karabagh and the threat of “ethnic cleansing”