Azerbaijan and Armenia allege truce violations, accuse each other in shelling

Azerbaijani soldiers and firefighters try to save survivors from destroyed houses in a residential area in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city. (IHA via AP)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Azerbaijan and Armenia allege truce violations, accuse each other in shelling

  • Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack
  • Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling

BAKU/YEREVAN: Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other on Saturday of fresh attacks in violation of a week-old Russian-brokered truce that has failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s.
Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack, while Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling.
The fighting is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The Azeri Prosecutor General’s office said a residential area in Ganja, the country’s second-largest city and miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh, was shelled by missile strikes and around 20 apartment buildings had been hit. Armenia denied the claim.
Baku also said that an electricity line which goes from Azerbaijan to neighboring Georgia was damaged as a result of shelling in the town of Mingachevir.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of committing a war crime by shelling Ganja.
“If the international community does not punish Armenia, we will do it,” he said.
Aliyev said the Azeri army has completely taken over two regions previously held by separatists, Fizuli and Jabrail.
“We are dominating the battlefield,” he said, adding that Azeri armed forces never targeted civilian settlements.
Aliyev also questioned Armenia’s ability to keep replacing military hardware destroyed in battles, a thinly veiled jab at Yerevan’s ally Moscow.
Armenia denied the Azeri claim that it had been bringing arms illegaly and accused Azerbaijan of acting to expand Turkey’s influence in the region and of using pro-Turkish mercenaries — charges both Ankara and Baku deny.

‘Living in fear’

In Ganja, rescuers worked at the scene on Saturday morning, picking through rubble, a Reuters photographer said. Some houses had been almost levelled. An excavator was clearing the debris.
“We have been living in fear for days ... We are suffering a lot. We would rather die. I wish we were dead but our children would survive,” one resident of the city, 58-year-old Emina Aliyeva, told reporters.
The Armenian defense ministry denied the Azeri claim on shelling cities in Azerbaijan and accused Baku of continuing to shell populated areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
Three civilians were wounded as a result of Azeri fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian foreign ministry said.
“We woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning due to an awful blow, it was not just a strike, it was something more powerful ...We are scared, but we got used to it ... Sometimes we felt as if they were hitting directly on us,” Lika Zakaryan, 26-year-old resident of Stepanakert, told Reuters.
A Reuters cameraman in Stepanakert said he had heard several explosions on Friday night and in the early hours of the morning.
Armenia also said several Azeri drones flew over settlements in Armenia, attacked military installations and damaged the civilian infrastructure. It denied an Azeri claim to have downed an Armenian Su-25 warplane.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called attacks “an attempted genocide of the Armenian people,” telling the French newspaper Liberation, “We must defend ourselves, like any nation that is threatened with extermination.”
Turkey, which has been criticized by NATO allies for its stance in the conflict, reiterated its support for Azerbaijan.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday Turkey would “always side with Azerbaijan,” while the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar talked to his Azeri counterpart Zakir Hasanov on the phone and congratulated him on “liberating” several settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ankara accuses Armenia of illegally occupying Azeri territory. Armenia says Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to pursue a military solution to the conflict, putting Armenian civilians in danger.
Baku said on Saturday that 60 Azeri civilians had been killed and 270 wounded since the fighting flared on Sept. 27. Azerbaijan has not disclosed military casualties.
Nagorno-Karabakh says 633 of its military personnel have been killed, and 34 civilians.

Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia

Updated 10 sec ago

Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia

KHIPRO: Naaji Meghwar, a middle-aged artisan in a desert village in southeastern Pakistan, said that she was looking forward to going shopping for her family before the upcoming Diwali festival this year.
For a change, she can make her own decisions about how to spend money: The 10,000 rupees ($62) that she makes each month from needlework is hard-earned and all her own.
Meghwar — from Pakistan’s Achro Thar desert, known for its white sand dunes and saline lakes — is one of dozens of local women who have turned the craft of thread work into a means of financial independence, and whose elaborate embroidery designs are now admired and appropriated abroad, with regular orders from royals in the Middle East.
“This Diwali festival in mid-November, I have planned shopping for my family from my embroidery work savings,” Meghwar told Arab New, referring to the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated each year in the impoverished desert whose population of 300,000 people is majority Hindu.
“This financial freedom is because of money in my hand, as I don’t have to be dependent on male members of the family,” the artisan said.
Things are about to get even better for Mehgwar. With winter approaching, she and her colleagues are expecting a rise in orders for their richly detailed tapestries.
“Normally winter is peak season for local orders because of wedding season and dowries,” she said.
Demand for the embroidered pieces also rises in winter with the arrival of migratory birds and foreign hunters, who come mostly from Arab countries to hunt rare desert birds such as the houbara bustard. They also buy local craft.
“Achro Thar normally hosts dignitaries from royal families of the United Arab Emirates for hunting,” Malhar Chaniho, a local Arabic translator, who organizes hunting trips, told Arab News. “During the past 20 years, I have purchased countless homemade items, especially rugs and shawls on the demand of
royal guests.”


The designs are now admired and appropriated abroad with regular orders from Arab countries.

Needlework from Achro Thar is vividly colored with geometrical and wildlife motifs and comes in many variations.
Aari embroidery, for example, is popular for its fine and delicate threadwork and usually decorates scarves. Ralli work, with interlocking circles and stepped square patterns, appears on bigger items such as quilts and bedcovers.
These decorative handworks have international appeal as gifts. Allahyar Muhammad Khan Keerio, a resident of Achro Thar’s Sanghar district, said that he had spent 30 years working as a driver in Madinah and always took embroidered pieces with him as gifts when he returned to Saudi Arabia. 
“During my stay in the Kingdom as an expat and now as a frequent visitor, I take local handicrafts as souvenirs for my family and friends and for former Saudi bosses,” he said. “For my next Umrah trip, I have already placed some handicrafts orders to take as gifts.”
Because handicraft from Achro Thar is unregulated, it is hard to pin down how much of it is sent abroad and whether the women artisans are paid fairly for their work.
“This women-led craft is of high potential but remains undocumented,” Ashiq Hussain Khoso, head of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan’s Hyderabad branch, told Arab News. “In personal and individual capacity, women-made products from Achro Thar go to Middle East, Europe and US.”
But the TDAP, he said, was planning to “uplift” desert craftswomen and help them to capture the online market. Indeed, in an impoverished region where most are illiterate and internet access is scarce, the craftswomen say all that they need is the government’s help in getting rid of middlemen.
“Government should establish purchasing centers where it can buy embroidery work and sell elsewhere and give us due payment,” said Khadija Samoon, an embroidery master from Dodhar village, who used to work with the Sindh Rural Support Organization.
As she sewed brightly colored patches onto a black tunic, she said: “In the absence of government infrastructure, women artisans are at the mercy of private vendors.”