On the Ground with Families Fleeing Bombs in Battle for Nagorno-Karabakh

Last weekend, there was a cease-fire in the battle for Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region inside Azerbaijan controlled and inhabited by ethnic Armenians.  It lasted for only hours, or maybe even minutes.  Fierce national pride is growing on both sides as towns and cities are attacked and civilians run for cover.  Friday afternoon in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. For more than two weeks this city and others on both sides of this conflict have been frequently bombed.The sirens are supposed to go off before the strikes, but that is not always the case.After more than two weeks of renewed fighting in this 30-year-old conflict, more people can be found underground in this city than on the streets.Civilians gather in the basement of an art school used as a bomb shelter during the military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the town of Martuni, Oct. 14, 2020.In the bomb shelter, Hmayak Vanyan carries a shovel, as he tries to fix up the dusty hallway to be more comfortable for civilians.  He says he fought in the 1990s, and his son is fighting now.  But this war is different, he says, with advanced weaponry raining down on cities and towns.The next morning, a truce is declared, brokered by Russia.  But within an hour of the cease-fire both Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of newattacks.On Sunday, a rocket hits Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, about 100 kilometers from the front lines. Several civilians are killed.Velsie Mehmedova, a resident of Ganja calls the violence in her home city “tyranny” that has torn apart her family. Her nephew and sister-in-law are wounded and her other nephew is fighting on the front lines.Search and rescue teams carry the body of a victim from the blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan, Oct. 11, 2020.Armenians say the chance of losing this region to Azerbaijan threatens their existence as a people with a homeland.Azerbaijanis says the area has been illegally occupied for nearly 30 years, leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Hundreds have died, including dozens of civilians from both sides.Pargev Martirosyan, archbishop Of Artsakh, the Armenian local name for Nagorno-Karabakh, said, “Sooner or later it will be calm. Sooner or later every war will finish, will stop. But when it will come?”A few minutes later, the archbishop retreats to the church basement after a bomb blast somewhere in the city.For now the war is mostly between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but Turkey is already openly supporting Azerbaijan and Russia has a security pact with Armenia. Locals here say their tragedy can easily spread if this conflict turns into a large multi-national war. 

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