STEPANAKERT—The people of Artsakh commemorated a triple holiday – Victory Day, the Liberation of Shushi and the founding of the Artsakh Defense Army – as they continue to live under the extreme conditions of the almost five-month-long blockade by Azerbaijan. The crisis created by the blockade deepened when Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint on April 23 at the Hagari River bridge, leaving Artsakh in a double blockade.
“Today again, national unity has become the imperative of the day. We have no right to hesitate or step back. There is only one way. Artsakh was, is and should be Armenian, with the free will of its people and the right and determination to manage their own destiny,” said Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan in a speech on the occasion of Victory Day on May 9. “The efforts of all of us, in Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora, should serve this purpose. We should rediscover and cherish the mystery and spirit of the victorious Triple Holiday as a guideline for our lives,” Harutyunyan continued.
On the morning of May 9, a requiem service was held at the Holy Mother of God Cathedral of Stepanakert for the repose of souls of the martyred during the Great Patriotic War, the first Artsakh war, the April and 44-day wars. A prayer of peace was offered after the requiem service. Under the leadership of the clergy of the diocese, the people united in the church and prayed for peace for Armenia and Artsakh.
After the requiem service, a cross procession continued from the church to the memorial center of Stepanakert to inspire young people with previous victories.
They chanted “No to the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh,” “Glory to the Artsakh Defense Army” and “Glory to the Republic of Artsakh.” Many participants held pictures of martyred heroes.
At noon the same day, a mass rally was organized in Stepanakert’s Renaissance Square by the group who initiated the “No to the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh” petition.
The rally began with a moment of silence in honor to the martyred heroes. Rev. Father Gyurjian of the Artsakh Diocese; Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of “We Are Our Mountains”; former Minister of State Carmen Avetisyan, a participant in the three Artsakh Wars; and youth organizers of the “No to the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh” offered remarks.
Avetisyan explained how his generation did what some people thought was impossible. “There are no unsolvable problems; there is a lack of great desire and great faith. We won because we were united, because everyone took responsibility for tomorrow, for our statehood, for the survival of our homeland, for the existence of our people,” Avetisyan said.
Former state minister Vardanyan said that Azerbaijan crossed the red line by setting up a checkpoint on April 23. He said the people’s response should be to struggle, because there is no other option, because this does not lead to reintegration, but to reoccupation. “We have a goal that was established in 1988 – to have a free, safe, happy and Armenian Artsakh, and that goal has not changed. We will solve the issues related to our security and the future of our homeland,” Vardanyan emphasized. He also appealed to all Armenians to add their signatures to the petition initiated by the youth of Artsakh.
So far, 120,000 signatures have been collected on paper and online with the demand to unblock Artsakh. This petition will be transferred to the Republic of Artsakh government, the embassies of the Russian Federation, the United States and France, as well as the UN Armenian office in Yerevan.
“We demand the application of all international mechanisms to ensure the terms of the 9 November 2020 trilateral statement, as well as the implementation of the UN International Court of Justice ruling,” reads the petition.
The people of Artsakh continue to reaffirm their right to live freely, safely and independently in their homeland. They are demonstrating that Artsakh is not surrendering and that they are determined to continue their struggle.