NOYAKERT, Armenia (AFP) — Before fleeing the advancing Azerbaijani troops for Armenia, Suren Martirosyan glanced back one last time at his fruit garden in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the momentary vision has haunted him ever since.
“That image of our beautiful garden, which I saw for the final time, still lingers in my eyes: pomegranates and persimmons gleamed brightly on the trees under the brilliant sun,” he said, looking at his calloused hands.
The 65-year-old’s family of eight is among more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Karabakh after Azerbaijan recaptured the long-disputed region in a September lightning offensive against Armenian separatist forces.
The exodus of the entire Armenian population from the mountainous enclave has sparked a refugee crisis in Armenia.
On September 19, “we heard machine-gun fire and artillery shells exploding close to our house,” said Suren’s daughter-in-law, Arevik.
“At first, we thought it was just another skirmish with the Turks,” she said, referring to Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis.