Thousands join protests in the struggle for self-determination in Artsakh

Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, September 14 (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

STEPANAKERT, Artsakh — Union. Struggle. Victory. These have been the calls in Renaissance Square in Stepanakert, where spontaneous rallies have been taking place for several days following Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s comments in the National Assembly. Thousands took to the streets in Yerevan and Stepanakert after the Prime Minister made contradictory statements on his readiness to sign another agreement with Azerbaijan that could brand him a “traitor.”

His comments followed the deadliest week of fighting in the region since the 2020 Artsakh War, as Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces unleashed a large-scale attack on the Armenian cities of Goris, Vardenis and Jermuk, using drones and heavy artillery. The death toll on the Armenian side stands at 135. 

On September 14, thousands of citizens demanded to abstain from signing a document that would annex Artsakh to Azerbaijan. In the following days, professors, students and even schoolchildren from various institutions and educational programs, as well as ordinary citizens joined the protest. Artsakh’s National Assembly president Artur Tovmasyan, parliamentarians and government representatives also participated.

Artsakh’s National Assembly president Artur Tovmasyan (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Meanwhile, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan traveled to Yerevan, where he participated in a Security Council meeting. He asserted that no document related to the status of Artsakh was discussed. The head of the parliament informed the demonstration participants that “Artsakh was, is and will be Armenian.” He stated that no one, including Prime Minister Pashinyan, is authorized to settle the question of determining Artsakh’s status without considering the people of Artsakh. 

National Assembly member and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) secretary Vahram Balayan also joined the demonstrations. According to Balayan, the Artsakh Armenians have achieved their goals through joint efforts. He said that issues of national importance can be achieved through unity and that these ongoing demonstrations exemplify those desires. The problem, he said, is that Azerbaijan seeks not only to occupy Artsakh, but in this case attack and occupy territories from the internationally recognized Republic of Armenia. Balayan believes that Artsakh Armenians cannot remain indifferent to the events taking place in Armenia and that they must protest and appeal to the international community. “This is not just a matter of territories. We are a nation that has experienced genocide, and today the threat of extermination hangs over our heads again like the ‘sword of Damocles.’ We are trying to fight against it with all possible and impossible means. These demonstrations are for our rights and freedoms,” he stressed.

Before the large-scale attack on Armenia by Azerbaijan, political activist Tigran Petrosyan and his supporters had already been protesting in the main square of Stepanakert for 20 days. They had been demanding reforms in Artsakh. Now, Petrosyan says these are dire times and that we should put aside internal issues and take steps to save the motherland. “We must appeal to the international community,” he urged. “Our struggle today is for self-determination; just as other nations have that right, so do the people of Artsakh. We also prove with this multi-thousand gathering that we are not 30-thousand, as Aliyev says, but 100-thousand and more.”

Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, September 14 (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Melania Babayan is a professor of Armenian history at Artsakh State University and works as an adviser to the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. She says that the threat to the motherland forces us not to remain indifferent and that any citizen concerned about the fate of the motherland should be participating. Babayan says now is the time for us to plan for our future and save our motherland. “Seeing the concern in the eyes of my students, I came with them and joined the rally,” she shared. “This is a self-defense move. The Armenian people have endured arduous times. After the Armenian Genocide, we built a state, and I believe that now we must stand up and save the homeland.”

Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, September 15 (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Haykush is a mother of three from Shushi. Her youngest daughter was born on November 9, 2020, the last day of the 44-day war. Haykush says her daughter was born on the day when they decided to hand over her house to the enemy. “I’m here because I don’t want to lose this small part of the motherland saved by the blood of our sons. My decision to participate is also aimed at the international community, which is openly revealing indifference, pretending to be deaf and dumb, as if they don’t want to notice Azerbaijan’s aggression,” she said.

Haykush (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Ania is a 78-year-old woman from Hadrut. Her husband was killed during the first war. Her grandson was serving on the frontlines of these latest attacks. “We left everything. I watered my garden and left, confident that I would return. Now the Azerbaijanis have demolished my son’s house and built a road right over the house. I came here with the hope of peace, with the hope of going back to our house.”

Ania (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Artsiv Lalayan is an artist from Hadrut, who left his brush during the 2nd Artsakh War and defended the motherland on the front line. Now, he is protesting in Renaissance Square because not only a small part of Artsakh, but Armenia itself, is at risk. “This rally is for our self-determination, and if Nikol Pashinyan is going to question our right to self-determination, then this is also a fight against him,” said Lalayan. “Today the borders of Artsakh are threatened, and I cannot trust Azerbaijan. I cannot think that it is possible to live with them. I will believe only if they leave all our occupied lands and if I can go back to my home. I trust only 10 million Armenians.”

Artsiv Lalayan and Mher Arakelyan (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

Lalayan’s friend Mher Arakelyan is a repatriate. He used to live in Kovsakan, but after it was occupied during the 2020 war, he moved to Askeran and the village of Hovtashen. He was brought to Renaissance Square by the inspiration prevailing here, the idea of ​​unity and the will of the people of Artsakh to live in their homeland. “There is an Artsakh citizen; there is an Artsakh. There is no Artsakh citizen; there will be no Artsakh. Today, there are no Armenians living in Nakhichevan. That’s why we lost. The decisive factor is not even victory or defeat. We have to create it by all means with economic privileges, social justice and legitimate power, but the main thing is to instill will in the people,” explained Arakelyan. In order to do all that, Arakelyan continued, “every Armenian should start with himself and stay in his homeland, regardless of who is in power, even if we have to live with the enemy. You will also have a homeland.”

A prayer service at the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)

In the evening, Stepanakert’s Holy Mother of God Cathedral was filled with the faithful. The people of Artsakh shared in a united prayer for the martyred and for the defenders of the motherland. Reverend Matevos Dravyants joined the rally with his congregation after the service. He mentioned that they hold mass twice a week, worship service and united prayer because there is an ever-increasing need for it. “God’s power works in unity, Satan’s in division,” said the reverend. “The church is among the people. The people are in the church. We are united, and I am with my people.” he added.

Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, September 14 (Photo: Siranuysh Sargsyan)
Siranuysh Sargsyan

Siranuysh Sargsyan

Siranush Sargsyan is a historian and political scientist. She's earned her degrees from Artsakh State University and the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia. Her master thesis focused on the issues surrounding the development of the party system in Nagorno-Karabakh. She's taught history in a village in Martuni and has served as the chief specialist of the Republic of Artsakh National Assembly in the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sports. Siranush takes great interest in conflict resolution, gender equality and education.

8 Comments

  1. Nikol dreamed of abandoning Artsakh and unconditionally opening up Armenia to Turks and Azeris his entire adult life. He even wrote about it as far back as the early 2000s. This is why Western and Turkish money brought him to power in 2018. He had a task to do. It was therefore obvious back in 2018 that Armenia would suffer a defeat in Artsakh.

    Had it not been for Russia’s last minute military intervention on Nobember 9, 2020, all of Artsakh would have fallen to the Azeris and a genocide of Armenians there would have taken place.

    Fast forward to last werk. The recent border fighting errupted as soon as Russia suffered a serious setback in Ukraine. Nikol’s regime was aware that an attack will take place a week before it happened. Instead of mobilizing Armenia’s armed forces to thwart the attack, he publicly called on Russia to save Armenia. Nikol and his Western and Turkish benefactors understood that Russia is in no shape or mood to start a war with Azerbaijan- especially for a Western and Turkish financed regime in Armenia. Nikol’s appeal to the CSTO was therefore done to make Russia look bad, foment anti-Russian hyteria among the Armenian peasantry and open the door for Pelosi’s visit to Armenia – which is primarily meant to further muddy the waters and drive a wedge between Russia, Iran and Armenia.

    Put aside everything you think you know about the situation in Armenia and Artsakh and watch these two video reports. Nikol’s regime is allowing Western and Turkish interests to draw Armenia into a very dangerous game against Russia and Iran. If this continues, Armenians will face another genocide in the foreseeable future.

    The New Atlas: How the US is using the Azeri-Armenian conflict to “extend” Russia.
    https://youtu.be/s_B7gigTPC8

    Redacted: Kevork Almassian on the latest fighting
    https://youtu.be/ChQC9Lu0gV0

    • Unfortunately, it was Russia and the Russian puppets in Armenia that sold you into the hands of the Turks. You must reject Russia or you will disappear. Russia is Armenia’s problem and it’s time to understand that. It was Russia that caused the unfavorable borders of Armenia in 1921 in Kars, it was Russia that contributed to the First Karabakh war (Operation Kolco), it was Russia that did not want to end the dispute, it was Russia that sold modern weapons to Azerbaijan (2/3 of the equipment purchased since 2010 for the Azerbaijan army). is from Russia), Russia did not support Armenia in 2020, Russia did not react to Azerbaijan’s attack now, it even supported it. Russia is your enemy – remember.

    • Why are you looking to the international community? Why don’t you ask Armenia to recognize Artsakh? Is Armenia sleeping too?

  2. We Armenians ourselves first and foremost, those in leadership positions primarily, are responsible for the situation the nation is in. The rest is the manipulation of the events over the years by those in charge to absolve themselves of any wrongdoings by kicking the can down the road to pass blames onto others.

    The situation the country is in did not start two or four or ten years ago. It started with our victory back in 1994. Despite all odds, our leaders defeated the enemy and won the war imposed on us but failed to bring the war to its natural and intended conclusion which should have been the full capitulation of the enemy and reunification and integration of liberated territories with Armenia followed by populating these territories with native Armenians and developing them. Instead they signed a fragile ceasefire agreement with an enemy that was destroyed, was at its weakest, and was at our complete mercy. This turned out to be the most precious gift our short-sighted leaders gave to the enemy to get back on its feet to fight another day and the rest is history.

  3. Why don’t we see hundreds of thousands in the streets? Pashinyan’s government has always been anti Karabakh, anti Russia and anti Iran. Majority of Armenians are too dumbed down and self engrossed to understand it. Nikol is playing with fire. The longer he manages to stay in power, the worst will the situation get.

  4. Armenia is not in a position to recognize the Artsakh, as it’s internationally recognize as a Azari area. Moreover Armenia sign the ‘Peace accord’ where she recognize the area as Azerbaijan, this is the reality.

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