The unintended victims of war: The story of refugee horses from Karabakh

The unintended victims of war: The story of refugee horses from Karabakh

Amy Schmidt is an accomplished writer based in Southern California, who often writes about women's and community issues. She is a passionate about animal protection.

The impact of war is often incalculable. But there are those that cannot defend themselves, those that are the innocent victims of man-made tragedies. Those that don't and cannot have a voice in their future. They are the lost victims of conflict that cry out in death and no one ever hears them. They are many, yet few also face the realization that with death also comes the specter of extinction. To this I offer up a homage to the lost refugee horses of Karabakh.

Death is always tragic and permanent, but the senseless demise of an entire species is offensive to the most basic laws of nature; an irreparable devastation to the world, for every generation to follow. An Arabian Proverb states that "the wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears." Sleek, strong and majestic, for much of recorded time the horse has played a meaningful role in the story of man. Horses changed the world many times over; a component of arguably the most intensified advances to mass communication, travel and warfare across history. More than all, for all of time and culture, the horse has served as a symbol for the qualities inherent; nobility, grandeur, the rush of speed, change and power.

In the Republic of Azerbaijan, images of the native Karabakh horse are found all over the country; on postage stamps, statues and storybooks. This exquisite, golden-hued thoroughbred is known by horse enthusiasts for its unusual combination of speed and tranquility, built to win races, yet also, sweet, like the distinct honey complexion of its mane. Once an abundant breed, the Karabakh horse has moved rapidly into endangerment, now facing the likelihood of extinction, in only the past twenty years. Estimates on the number of Karabakh horses vary. According to the Karabakh Foundation, there are less than 1,000, other agencies believe there could be less than 10 mares that are one-half pure-bred.

Native to a diverse and picturesque region, the Karabakh horse is named for its birthplace, the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Karabakh has undergone dramatic transformations over the last twenty years, and these changes are directly responsible for the near disappearance of Karabakh horses. In the thickly forested foothills of Sheki, a small city 300km (187 miles) from the capital Baku, is one of world's largest and purest Karabakh herds.

Among those most affected by the turmoil of the last two decades were the horses. Since 1992, when Armenian forces invaded and laid siege to a large swath of Azerbaijan, most of the horses were permanently displaced and became "refugee horses", almost entirely lost in the toil of national crisis.

Defenseless and unable to thrive outside of their natural habitat, the future of the innocent Karabakh horse depends on the possibilities of return. It's a mostly unexplored area of injustice; a totally innocent creature that may become permanently lost to the world, in a nation grieving for the murdered victims and communities, uprooted and destroyed. At some point, the occupation will eventually end, and Azerbaijani refugees will be able to return to their homes in Karabakh. At that time, perhaps communities will once again thrive, and investments will transform and return the region to its former beauty, but the lost refugee horses of Karabakh may not survive into that day.

During the attacks, great efforts were undertaken to protect the beloved Karabakh breed from what had quickly proven to be an extreme onslaught of violence; lasting several years, unthinkably brutal and indiscriminatory of victims. Repeatedly moving the horses away from growing and shifting danger, compounded with a lack of pasture, and many stress-induced mare miscarriages, have led to a dramatic decrease in the population of Karabakh horse.

Azerbaijan continues to address the crisis, but the ongoing occupation and destruction of the Karabakh horses natural habitat is the most significant barrier to repopulation, despite meaningful efforts, ongoing for many years. With so much of the breed lost amidst the storm of the massacres, the most optimistic estimates today of remaining Karabakh horses is around 1000 in the world. Some might assume that the Karabakh horse would flourish anywhere, distinguished by a nimble appetite, and bred to handle Azerbaijan's often mercurial climates and mountainous terrain with ease, but the horse relies on this very climate to develop and survive.

The Karabakh horses have a unique and remarkable history. In 2013, a Karabakh horse won a race in the U.S., the very first thoroughbred in history to win on American soil; a testimony and inspiration to a hopeful future. Even during Soviet times, the Karabakh horse had a special place in the world. In 1956, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was gifted a Karabakh horse on behalf of the Soviet Union. The name of that horse was Zaman, which in Azerbaijani means Time. In heartbreaking irony, time is a factor that will actuate their extinction. The longer the horse remains as refugee, so the chances of survival continuously narrow.

The symbology of the Karabakh horse offers layers of meaning; a majestic legend, that shines light on current realities; from a strong and noble nation, assaulted by the heartlessness and thoughtlessness of an unjust war. Whether or not the experts in Azerbaijan succeed in repopulating the Karabakh horse remains unknown, but even in the story of their decline, the fabled horse evokes great lessons and meaning, capturing both the deep cultural richness of a culture and the horrific impact of recent tragedies. However more than all, with all its beauty and unbridled passion, its love for freedom, honor and tenacity, the Karabakh horse stands as a symbol of the defining spirit and culture of a brave and hopeful people and their homeland, of the perilous costs of unjust war, and the powerful hope for redemption. The uncertainty of their fate represents a bleak paradox; known for durability, grace and speed, this unknowing victim of strife and hatred has been rendered completely powerless against the toll of human savagery.

Amy Schmidt is an accomplished writer based in Southern California, who often writes about women's and community issues. She is a passionate about animal protection.

Source: wfmj.com/

Belavia resumes regular flights from Baku to Minsk in early December
Belavia resumes regular flights from Baku to Minsk in early December
Iranian tourists reduce visits to Turkey amid COVID-19 pandemic
Iranian tourists reduce visits to Turkey amid COVID-19 pandemic
Turkey sees decline in inflow of Azerbaijani tourists over 10M2020
Turkey sees decline in inflow of Azerbaijani tourists over 10M2020
Loading Bars
Latest
Rocket hits small oil refinery in Iraq's north, forcing shutdown: officials
Jeyhun Bayramov expresses condolences to his Iranian counterpart
Number of COVID-2019 cases across globe up by over 564,000 in past day
Employment in Iran's Bushehr Province enlarges
Average yield of tobacco in Azerbaijan in 2020 exceeds last year volume
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale November 30
Weekly review of events in financial market of Azerbaijan
Norway calls on all political parties to enable new, more diverse parliament in Georgia
Turkey condemns killing of key Iranian nuclear scientist as act of 'terrorism'
Argentine prosecutors investigate death of soccer star Maradona
Performances results of Azerbaijani gymnasts at European Championships in rhythmic gymnastics unveiled
Iran reveals details of exports through Bandar Lengeh County
Projects within Industrialization Map framework being implemented in Kazakhstan's Akmola
Overview of events in agricultural sector of Azerbaijan for last week of November
Activities on provision of Russian peacekeeping contingent held (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran boosts manufacturing of passenger cars
UAE cabinet approves new cybersecurity body, climate change envoy
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported by Georgia to Turkey
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Kazakhstan continues introduction of mobile diagnostic tools in railway sector
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan discuss possibilities of attracting investors to Azerbaijani territories liberated from occupation
Britain expects 'very significant' week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down
Iran declares cargo transportation from Sistan and Baluchestan Province
Death toll from COVID-19 tops 172,000 in Brazil
Chinese companies to process Uzbek garlic for further export to US and European countries
Turkey's export of grain, legumes to France declines
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for November 29
Details of Iran’s trade turnover announced
EU aims to support Georgia in its efforts to reform electricity market
Azerbaijan confirms 4,170 new COVID-19 cases, 1,985 recoveries
5.5-magnitude quake hits Vanuatu
Azersu LLC announces tender for purchase of equipment for laboratory
Kazakhstan's import of Turkish cement up
Azerbaijan shows footage of Aghdam's Shahbuldag village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Isfahan Province increases
Number of enterprises launched in Iran's Ilam Province shrinks
Turkmengas opens tender for maintenance of gas turbine generators
At least 30 police killed, over 20 wounded in suicide car bomb explosion in E. Afghanistan
Georgia reports 4 426 new coronavirus cases, 3 721 recoveries, 35 deaths
Over 5,500 patients recover from coronavirus in Moscow in the past day
Azerbaijan shows footage of liberated from occupation villages of Kalbajar region (PHOTO/VIDEO)
China increases import of Turkish cars
Employment in Iran's Alborz Province declines
The President of Turkmenistan receives representative of medical community of Germany
S. Korea reports 450 more COVID-19 cases, 33,824 in total
Azerbaijan's turnover on payment cards in 10M2020 up
Inter-Agency Coordination Council discusses enforcement of Covid restrictions
Azerbaijan has ample opportunities and potential for artificial intelligence dev't
Trump may announce plans for 2024 presidential race during Biden’s inauguration
826 more coronavirus cases recorded in Kazakhstan over 24 hours
France sees further fall in COVID-19 hospitalizations as lockdown exit starts
Turkey's Temsa makes 1st electric bus exports to Sweden
Iran registers monthly positive trade balance
Scottish dev’t agency eyes establishing co-op with companies in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan
Croatian PM in self-quarantine after wife contracts COVID-19
UK records another 15,871 coronavirus cases with 479 deaths
Some 46,000 people gather in Paris to protest against security bill
Kazakhstan to modify large energy saving projects on railways
Severe fire danger for Australia as temperatures smash records
Dozens of Boko Haram militants killed in Nigeria airstrikes
Pope installs new cardinals, including first African-American
WHO reports new daily record high of over 747,000 COVID-19 cases
UK police arrest 155 in anti-lockdown protests in London
Assistant to Azerbaijani president posts footage from Tartar, Aghdam cities
UK, France sign new deal to stop illegal migration across Channel
Iran discloses electricity generation at Iran's Bandar Abbas TPP
Turkey reports 6,714 new COVID-19 cases, 487,912 in total
Zarif: Iran at forefront of fighting terrorism
Georgia takes necessary steps to avoid increase in bread prices
Ethiopian military has taken 'full control' of Tigray capital, government says
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to fall
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Kazakhstan raises import of grain, legumes from Turkey
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange revealed
AP publishes article covering Armenian missile attack on Azerbaijan’s Ganja on Oct.17 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
OIC adopts resolutions in connection with Armenia's aggression against Azerbaijan
President, members of Board of European Muslim Forum send letter to President Aliyev
Aghdam district of Azerbaijan after 27 years of Armenian occupation (VIDEO)
Kazakhstan to bring waste processing level to average European level
UK appoints minister in charge of COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Number of blocked malware in AzStateNet network drops
Airport in Uzbekistan to buy auto parts via tender
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale November 29
Azerbaijani team takes third place in group exercises at 36th European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships
At least 6 killed in Somali capital suicide bombing
Microsoft Azerbaijan to support all initiatives in liberated territories of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan shows footage of Kalbajar's Vang village (VIDEO)
Police fire tear gas at Paris protest against police violence
Electricity imports growing in Georgia
Cargo, passenger traffic via Turkish Sabiha Gokcen Airport slumps amid pandemic
Uzbek-Korean JSC Uz-Dong Won Co. announces tender for steel pipes supply
Cargo transportation at Turkish Antalya airport reduces
Austria records nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths over past 10 days
State Employment Agency of Azerbaijan opens tender on supporting start-up projects
Results of Azerbaijan's junior national team performance at 36th European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships announced
Details of Iran’s exports to Iraq declared
Azerbaijan reports 4,212 new COVID-19 cases, 1,760 recoveries
Four citizens dead as result of mine exploding in Fuzuli - Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office
Kazakhstan's export volumes to China surge despite COVID-19
Assistant to Azerbaijan's president, diplomats, Garabagh FC representatives visit Aghdam Mosque (PHOTO)
All news