A picture and its story: Fleeing from Nagorno-Karabakh on the mountain road west


  • World
  • Thursday, 28 Sep 2023

Vehicles carrying refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inhabited by ethnic Armenians, queue on the road leading towards the Armenian border, in Nagorno-Karabakh, September 25, 2023. After a lightning operation by Azerbaijan's military to retake control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the stream of ethnic Armenians fleeing the region to Armenia quickly turned into a flood. REUTERS/David Ghahramanyan

LACHIN CORRIDOR, Azerbaijan (Reuters) - After a lightning operation by Azerbaijan's military to retake control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the stream of ethnic Armenians fleeing the region to Armenia quickly turned into a flood.

The pictures for this photo essay were taken on Sept. 24 to 26 by Reuters freelance photographer David Ghahramanyan, who made the journey with his family. They travelled a clogged road through the Lachin corridor, which links Karabakh to Armenia.

Among the thousands making the journey from Karabakh, a region which had been out of Baku's control for decades, was a woman aboard a packed bus, who peered through the scoured glass.

Cars, trucks, buses and tractors wound their way along the mountain road, often in two or three lines of traffic, all heading one way. Mist climbed over the trees on the steep slopes above.

Some of those heading west, like Ghahramanyan, came from Karabakh's capital, known to Armenians as Stepanakert and to Azerbaijanis as Khankendi. Others came from surrounding districts or further afield.

They took whatever they could fit into or on top of their vehicles. Car trunks were rammed full. Bags, boxes and even furniture - a set of chairs in one case - were tied down on roof racks, open to the elements. If a car broke down, the whole queue ground to a halt as the driver and others tried to fix it.

A journey of 77 km (48 miles) from Stepanakert to the Armenian border took Ghahramanyan and his family 24 hours. They had expected it to take just two hours.

As the forced exodus took its toll, Ghahramanyan captured an image of his father shedding a tear by the roadside.

When night fell on Sept. 25, a group of weary travellers lit a fire to keep warm in the frigid night air.

(Reporting and photography by David Ghahramanyan; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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