A Month of Sadarak Shootings
A flashpoint for un-Biblical burning bushes sees regular shooting incidents in a continuing low-level conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijani soldiers patrol the border near Tovuz, Azerbaijan, July 26, 2020. Image: DHA
In the last few weeks, one of the most publicized areas of Azerbaijan-Armenia cross border scuffles has been a 1km-wide strip of no-man ’s-land between Yeraskh (western Armenia) and Heydarabad (near Sadarak in northwest Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan). Exchanges of fire across this undistinguished area of scrubland have continued sporadically since July 19, with each side blaming the other for shooting first. August 2 saw a notable incident, while on August 6, Azerbaijani troops were filmed setting fire to what appears to be the zone that separates the enemy positions. The fires were possibly started to ensure clear sightlines, and the fact that the film had been taken from the Azerbaijani side of the border suggests that this was not something done surreptitiously. However, the footage was interpreted by Armenian commentators as showing “criminal acts of arson” and widely publicized even though the fires had already been extinguished within a few hours. On August 25, a mirror image series of accusations saw Azerbaijanis accusing Armenians of using arson as a weapon in no-mans-land.
There were other salvos of gunfire on August 11, 16 and 17, leading to more conflicting claims, with Yerevan naming a serviceman who had been shot on August 16. According to Armenian sources, he’d been hit by Azerbaijani snipers while Baku labelled this misinformation, suggesting that the man might have died in a friendly fire accident.
Reading the news feeds, it’s easy to imagine that the situation has been extremely tense. However, one Armenian journalist who visited Yeraskh in the middle of this period suggested that the conflict there was being vastly exaggerated by the press on both sides, quoting residents as saying, “reporters are looking for sensational stories, and this is hurting our town much more than the Azeris could ever dream of.”