Azerbaijan Built a Concentration Camp for Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh

Satellite images suggest that Azerbaijan was constructing a concentration camp for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, as reported by New Lines Magazine.

“If they do not leave our lands of their own free will, we will drive them out like dogs,” President Aliyev stated during the 2020 war. Aliyev’s long-pursued goal became a reality: the prolonged Armenian presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh as Armenians call it, came to an end. A detailed analysis of the timeline leading up to the September offensive shows how Azerbaijan’s international partners laid the groundwork for what prominent human rights advocates, like former International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, describe as coordinated efforts to intimidate Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and deport them from the region.

In September 2020, Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkish military and Syrian mercenaries, initiated a war against Nagorno-Karabakh. After the 2020 war, numerous reports emerged of Azerbaijanis torturing Armenian prisoners of war. Maiming and raping Armenian female soldiers were documented and publicized by the invading Azerbaijani forces on social media. By the fall of 2022, at least seven Armenian prisoners of war were illegally executed.

In December 2022, after forging a comprehensive alliance with Russia, which included military cooperation, Azerbaijan closed the Lachin Corridor. In September 2023, after a nine-month blockade, Nagorno-Karabakh was captured by Azerbaijan in a rapid military operation. The vast majority of the region’s residents fled to neighboring Armenia. Signs of an impending invasion became apparent following the meeting between Erdogan and Putin on September 4th.

Last spring, Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh heard the cries and loud noises of construction work. From their village of Khramort, they saw bright lighting and heard screeching sounds emanating from nearby Aghdam, across the actual border with Azerbaijan. As the gentle breezes gave way to the hot summer months, the threat of violence for those living in the ethnically Armenian enclave increased. Azerbaijani soldiers periodically fired upon harvesters collecting grapes. Soon, rumors spread that Azerbaijani soldiers had prevented a man from leaving Nagorno-Karabakh to seek medical treatment in Armenia, promising him a grimmer future than dying untreated: he would instead be sent to a large prison complex being built for the men of the self-declared republic.

Using Planet Labs satellite imagery, we identified the site likely to be the concentration camp. South of the Tigranakert archaeological complex, near the village of Shahbulag, lies a large, recently built but unfinished structure. To assess whether the complex is a prison, we applied spatial analysis methods to identify characteristics typically associated with correctional facilities in the broader region, particularly those for “medieval torture” in Turkmenistan and political prisons in Turkey, as reported by Foreign Policy.

Pattern recognition allowed us to detect recurring elements, and feature matching helped us compare these elements with known prison structures. A time series of satellite images from the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite of the European Space Agency showed that construction of the approximately 500,000 square foot facility likely began in July 2022. High-resolution SkySat imagery (50 centimeters) confirmed our initial findings. The identified facility contains elements that may be associated with a site for mass detainment.

Satellite images show that construction of the complex halted at the end of August or early September 2023.


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