Nagorno-Karabakh recent clashes, and why I’ll be running the Marathon for HART

9 April 2016

Last weekend saw the deaths of at least 46 Soldiers and two civilians on either side of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As tensions still remain high, and an incredibly fragile new ceasefire has been held since Wednesday April 5th, citizens on either side of the conflict feel threatened, from Yerevan to Baku.

“I don’t know, they want war” says Shoushan, a 21 year old English student from Yerevan, talking about Azerbaijan after the first news of renewed fighting. “The ceasefire does not matter, our soldiers are the best ones… Russia can do everything, but we do not need their help”.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed area between Armenia and Azerbaijan that is part of Internationally recognized Azerbaijan but is home mostly to ethnic Armenians. Its citizens have declared independence, but have not been recognized by any state around the world, including Armenia. The two countries went to war in 1994. What last weekend’s fighting shows is the lack of any progress in the past two decades to bring meaningful peace to a region. The international community is well able to take a more active role in mediating a solution towards peace and policing the borders to ensure no future deaths occur but this has not been the case. Neither side wants any discourse with the other. Small clashes during which a helicopter is shot down or a soldier wounded or killed are frequent. Citizens of both countries are taught from a young age that true patriotism is only reserved for those that hate their opposing neighbour.  Since last weekend, a flurry of social media has taken off, with sides accusing the other being ‘sheeps’ and aiming to get revenge in a tit-for-tat campaign that only prolongs the fighting.

For the last 5 years, both countries have gone head to head in an arms race. Azerbaijan has been spending more on it’s annual defence budget than that of Armenia’s total annual budget. Armenia has had to compensate its lack of funds by agreeing defence deals with Russia to maintain what it deems necessary for catch-up.

It’s clear that no solution to the conflict is in sight at least in the short term, and that the people who will carry on suffering the most are the people living within Nagorno-Karabakh itself, boxed in and unable to fully leave a region that is not recognized internationally for what it is.  A person with Nagorno-Karabakh documentation will be unable to emigrate abroad as nationality is not recognized, and recognition places limits on trade that could help boost incomes inside the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh is unknown to most people around the world, and ignored by the international community. HART’s work to provide assistance from Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, through the Rehabilitation Centre is incredibly important to improve the well-being of the people living there with limited resources and held back from development by the prioritisation of defense.

This is why I will be running the Manchester Marathon on 10th April in support of HART. Nagorno-Karabakh is one of 8 areas HART works out of around the world, and the recent heavy casualties on the front lines of the conflict only echo that more assistance is needed to those that are caught in-between the fighting.

Disclaimer: This blog is a space for discussion and personal reflection. Any opinions expressed within the blog are those of the author and are not necessarily held by HART. Individual authors are responsible for the accuracy of statements made within the blog.


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