On Saturday, just before the weekend deadline that will see parts of Nagorno-Karabakh returned to Azerbaijan as part of a peace agreement, villagers set their houses on fire before fleeing to Armenia.
Armenian separatists for decades had controlled Kalbajar district in Azerbaijan. Arab News reports that residents had begun a mass exodus this week following the announcement that Azerbaijan would regain control on Sunday. In the village of Charektar, at least six houses were razed on Saturday morning. One resident said, “This is my house, I can’t leave it to the Turks.” According to Arab News, Azerbaijanis are often called ‘Turks’ by Armenians. He spoke as he threw burning wooden planks and rags soaked in fuel into the completely emptied house. The man added, “Everybody is going to burn down their house today.” Residents of the village had been given until midnight Saturday to leave. Further, at least 10 houses were burned in and around Charektar on Friday.
Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed to end hostilities earlier this week.
Although not all areas of Nagorno-Karabakh are to be returned to Azerbaijan, a key part of the peace deal includes Armenia’s return of Kalbajar, as well as the Aghdam district by November 20. Another district, Lachin, is to be turned over by December 1.
Umm Muhammed Umar