Armenian Christian Family's Escape from Nagorno-Karabakh Amidst Ongoing Crisis

Armenian Christian Family's Escape from Nagorno-Karabakh Amidst Ongoing Crisis

In a harrowing account of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Lyudmila Melquomyan, a 47-year-old Armenian Christian, shared her family's journey to escape the escalating crisis. The conflict, which reignited on September 19, resulted in hundreds of casualties and a massive refugee crisis, with more than 100,000 Christian Armenians forced to leave their ancestral homeland.

Nagorno-Karabakh, recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan, had a predominantly Armenian Christian population that declared self-sovereignty under the "Republic of Artsakh." The situation took a dire turn when Azerbaijan launched a military offensive following a nine-month blockade, severely limiting food, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid.

Melquomyan vividly described the Azeri military's sudden artillery and mortar strikes on both military and civilian positions, instilling fear and uncertainty among the local population. She especially worried about the safety of her eldest son, who served in the Artsakh military.

The Artsakh Defense Forces, though determined, were vastly outgunned and without external support, ultimately leading to their surrender within a day of the offensive's onset. The conflict resulted in many casualties, including civilians, and numerous Artsakhis, including a 15-year-old, remain missing.

Despite Azerbaijan's promises to integrate ethnic Armenians, widespread fears of violence, reprisals, and cultural persecution prompted a mass exodus. Videos on social media depicted long lines of cars filled with Armenians desperately fleeing the region.

Melquomyan and her family joined the exodus, leaving their home for the last time on September 25, embarking on a grueling journey to Armenia. Although over 100,000 Artsakhis successfully reached Armenia, not everyone escaped. The Azeri government arrested high-ranking Artsakh officials and charged them with war crimes and treason. Tragically, a gasoline tank explosion near Stepanakert resulted in the deaths of 68 Armenians, including women and children, with hundreds more injured.

Arriving in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Melquomyan faced the challenges of high rent and unemployment, like many other Artsakhi refugees. While the Armenian government and aid organizations provided assistance, the physical and emotional scars of the refugees will endure.

For a people deeply rooted in tradition, the most profound struggle remains the separation from their ancestral land and the graves of their loved ones. Melquomyan lamented leaving the graves of her mother and brother in Hadrut, as well as her father's burial not far from Stepanakert.

Despite their hardships, Melquomyan expressed the enduring hope of returning to Artsakh. However, there are growing concerns that Armenia itself may face invasion, given its vulnerable position between Azerbaijan and Turkey, who have shown interest in seizing southern Armenia. Despite peace talks, ongoing clashes at the border leave the situation precarious.

The possibility of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains uncertain, with fears of further territorial ambitions and regional tensions.

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