Armenia – Azerbaijan, a new round of violence?
On this special episode of the Outriders podcast, we have travelled across two Armenian towns, Sotk and Jermuk, targeted by Azerbaijani forces during the recent escalation of the long-running conflict between both South Caucasus countries on the nights of September 12th and 13th.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in a dispute over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh for decades. Ethnically Armenian but geographically located within Azerbaijan, both countries have disputed the enclave since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The long-running conflict has seen two significant outbreaks of war - the first took place from late 1991 to 1994, and the second occurred for six weeks in the fall of 2020, when the world was still in lockdown due to the pandemic.
This recent round of violence has resulted in over 2,500 temporarily displaced civilians and over 200 killed soldiers, and is the bloodiest in the region since the 2020 war.
"Look what a happy birthday Azerbaijan sent me," says Valery Poghosyan, 60, a truck driver, pointing to a large hole on the wall of his living room in Sotk. The day that this interview took place, just three days after the escalation of the conflict, was his 60th birthday.
Like many others in this town, his family are ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan in the early 90s during the first war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh. Many ethnic Armenians fled Azerbaijan and came to live here, and Azeris living here fled to Azerbaijan.
The podcast includes an analysis of the geopolitical background and social consequences with interviews with Zara Amatuni, the spokesperson of the Armenia delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Richard Giragosian, founder of the Regional Studies Centre, an independent geopolitical think tank based in Yerevan and Olesya Vartanyan, Senior South Caucasus Analyst at Crisis Group.
"It is frustrating that people don't pay attention to the fact that these are not just territories," says Olesya Vartanyan. "In the maps, it looks like just territories with some shapes, mountains, lakes, but we are places where people live."