When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

A priest and a soldier getting ready for mass in Talish
A priest and a soldier getting ready for mass in Talish
Roberto Travan

TALISH — For some, this is a forgotten war. For others, it's a frozen conflict. There are also those who consider it a proxy war between Turkey and Russia, with Moscow on the side of the Armenians, and Ankara supporting the Aliyev family, which has ruled Azerbaijan for the past half-century.

But before all else, this is a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and one that has raged on and off for 25 years.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed border region, declared independence not long after Azerbaijan obtained statehood in the early 1990s, but no country recognizes it — not even its erstwhile ethnic ally, Armenia.

So far, the conflict here has killed 30,000 people, produced some one million refugees and cost billions of dollars in weapons. Fighting escalated dramatically in April this year, with 300 dead and hundreds more displaced.

The road that leads to Martakert and Talish, the towns that were targeted in a recent offensive by Azerbaijani Turks, or Azeri, is lined with the ruins of abandoned towns destroyed in the 1990s. From the town of Aghdam, known as the "Hiroshima of the Caucasus" for the expulsion and slaughter of its 20,000 Azeri inhabitants, to Maragha, the site where dozens of Armenians were massacred, the area is a testament to the horrors of the past.

A report from the Halo Trust, a British organization founded in 2001 that works to demine the region, said that some villages have been targeted by cluster bombs. "The combatants have dropped hundreds of cluster bombs, which are prohibited by an international convention, and the Azeris have dropped them on civilian targets in Nerkin Horatagh and Mokhratagh," said Yuri Shahramanyan, the organization's local director.

In the frontline town of Mataghis, a school's windows are shattered from a rocket attack. Miraculously, there were no casualties.

In Talish, the only inhabitants are soldiers in camouflage, many of them are volunteers from the Armenian diaspora who traveled here from all over the world to defend this land they call by its ancestral Armenian name, Artsakh. They seem exhausted, with their clothes drenched in this day's rain and AK-47s slung over their shoulders. The people who used to live in Talish abandoned everything they owned to flee to safety in Stepanakert, the region's capital, a few hours drive away across rough roads.

"It was too dangerous up there, but my son stayed to fight," said an elderly displaced woman in Stepanakert, who left Talish with her grandchildren and daughter-in-law.

"The Azeri soldiers are like the Islamist militias, they fought as mercenaries in Iraq and Syria and now they fight for Azerbaijan," said one Armenian. Another claim asserts that Azeri soldiers killed three old men in Talish and then severed their ears. These stories, true or not, fuel the increasingly religious nature of this nationalist conflict.

"Islam is at our gates and we are the last bastion of Christianity," said one local official.

In the battle to regain control of Talish, Armenian forces shot at everything they could see, including the abandoned houses left behind by farmers and shepherds. The town is littered with devastation including walls pocked by bullets, collapsed roofs, and the charred shells of cars destroyed in the fighting.

"People are tired of Russia's double-dealing, it's been selling weapons to both sides and speculating on this conflict for too long," said Kahren Ohanjanyan, the local coordinator for Helsinki Initiative 92, an NGO dedicated to maintaining peace in the area.

Now, many ask if a new war is about to open up in Nagorno-Karabakh. The last one went on quietly for a quarter of a century.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

In Africa, Witchcraft Delusions Spark Deadly Mob Violence

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where many people believe in witchcraft, allegations occasionally flare into violence and death.

Ogwang Ongoda prays for his mother, Albina Okoi, by her grave in Oyamdistrict. A mob accusing her of practicing witchcraft attacked and killed Okoi.

Patricia Lindrio

OYAM, UGANDA — On the morning of March 4, at the invitation of her grandchildren, Albina Okoi attended services at a makeshift church different from the one she usually attends. When the prayers continued for longer than she expected, Okoi, 71, excused herself and went home to have tea.

By the time it was ready, there was a mob at her doorstep, led by the pastor and two of her own grandchildren.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ