Ethnic Armenians “Scorched Earth” Actions Damage Peace Efforts

The ethnic Armenians who are fleeing the regions around Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region have opted to destroy their homes, further damaging the prospects of any reconciliation efforts between the two countries.

Footage published on Russian media outlets showed that Armenian residents living in different parts of Kalbajar were taking the doors, windows and other parts of homes down and setting them on fire as they leave before Azerbaijani residents who were displaced 27 years ago return to their homes, the Daily Sabah reported.

Located in northwestern Nagorno-Karabakh to the west of Azerbaijan, the Kalbajar region had been occupied by Armenian forces since 1993. Some 60,000 Azerbaijanis had to leave their homes in 128 villages and took refuge in other parts of Azerbaijan. There were no Armenians in the area before the occupation, according to records.

In the village of Charektar – on the border with the neighbouring district of Martakert, which is to remain under Armenian control – at least six houses were on fire on Saturday morning with thick plumes of grey smoke rising over the valley, Al Jazeera wrote.

“This is my house, I can’t leave it to the Turks,” as Azerbaijanis are often called by Armenians, said one resident as he threw burning wooden planks and rags soaked in gasoline into a completely empty house. “Everybody is going to burn down their house today … We were given until midnight to leave,” he said.

The developments also highlight the fact as to whether these ethnic Armenians truly believe that this land was theirs in the first place, since it’s hard to believe that one would treat any land like this, especially if they were proud to live there for so long.

Following the Russian-brokered peace deal signed between Yerevan and Baku, Armenian residents in the occupied areas had until November 15 to leave the area. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hailed the deal as a victory for his country and a defeat for Armenia, noting that Baku’s military success enabled it to gain the upper hand to end the three-decade occupation.

Meanwhile in Azerbaijan, people expressed “disappointment” at the scenes of houses in flames in a land Azeris claim is theirs, Al Jazeera added.

“Azerbaijanis are saying according to the United Nations, this land belongs to them … there is a sense disappointment and anger in Azerbaijan about the scenes [burning homes] they are seeing,” Al Jazeera’s journalist  Osama Bin Javaid said. “They are saying the Armenians are vandalising something which did not belong to them in the first place.”

Under the peace deal, Russian military officials said a mission consisting of nearly 2,000 troops would put in place 16 observation posts in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor.

Russian peacekeepers have established a total of 10 observation posts in the region and have taken control of the Lachin corridor, which connects the mountainous region to Armenia.The peacekeepers have also been tasked with monitoring for truce violations, ensuring the safety of transportation and stopping any crimes against the civilian population.