Arsen, an ethnic Armenians, still wearing the camouflage fatigues he had fought against Azeri forces a week earlier, lit a fire on Saturday in the remote village of Charektar under his sister’s dining room table.
As the fire took root with the help of cardboard strips, he used a wooden chair to break the windows and bedsheets of the low-slung one-storey building and attempt to disperse the blaze that soon engulfed the entire property Armenians.
“Tomorrow morning, they will be here already. With the Azeris. Only fuck them. If they will, let them live here,’ he said when the fire got moving.
Next door, from what was left of his own home, grey smoke was rising.
As the clock ticks down to a handover of territories to Azerbaijan under a Russia-brokered peace agreement that followed six weeks of combat over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and nearby areas between ethnic Armenian forces and Azeri troops, Armenians are resorting to a scorched earth approach.
Charektar, nestled in the mountains, is a small village in Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar district, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh.
It is recognised as part of Azerbaijan internationally, but has been dominated by ethnic Armenians since the 1990s war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeris will return and take back charge of the field on Sunday.
Arsen, 35, who refused to give his surname, said he had no intention to leave anything valuable for the Azeris, along with other ethnic Armenians.
He said They’ll have to build their own houses from scratch.”
On Saturday, Reuters reporters saw six homes, approximately half the village, on fire in Charektar.
One man who declined to give his name said that the Armenians were buying up all they could, including local trucks loaded with household belongings.
Tears and fears
On Saturday, some people of Armenia visited the region to see it, probably for the last time, and see the burning of the settlement. As she watched, one Armenian woman was in tears.
Arsen said he had heard from other fighters about the peace settlement.
They called and said to me, “Go home, taking whatever you have.” By the fifteenth [of November], they (the Azeris) should invade the region,” he recalled.
He and his wife were planning on moving to Armenia with their four children and renting a flat there, he added.
Asked why he was scared to remain with other villagers, he said they were afraid the Azeris would kill them. Did you ever see Armenians and Azeri people living together? “Said he.
“We are leaving all [our relatives’] gravestones here. Nightmare isn’t the proper term for it.