Rally in Artsakh demands action to end humanitarian blockade

First day of the nationwide movement for Artsakh, Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, July 14, 2023 (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)

STEPANAKERT, Artsakh—On Friday, July 14, thousands gathered for a rally in Renaissance Square in Stepanakert, demanding the unblocking of the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor.

The seven-month blockade of Artsakh, including a total blockade since June 15, has brought its population of 120,000 to the brink of disaster.

In his speech during the rally, Artsakh Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan addressed the international community, calling on all global actors to raise the alarm for the existential threats hanging over our people.

“Being under siege and completely cut off from humanitarian access since June 15, our people are facing undeniable threats of malnutrition, hunger, ethnic cleansing openly carried out by Azerbaijan, forced subjugation and genocide,” he stated.

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“How can I look into the eyes of thousands of people standing in queues, waiting for hours to obtain a handful of sugar or oil? And, ultimately, how can I face the eyes of a bereaved mother who sacrificed her most precious possession for this land? She looks at me with terrified eyes, fearing that she will lose the last remaining sanctity in her life, her son’s grave. We cannot allow Artsakh to become an altar where the lives of our compatriots and children are sacrificed,” he continued.

Pictured l. to r.: Artsakh Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan, a mother of three in Artsakh Mariam Abrahamyan, a deputy of the ICRC Stepanakert office and Eteri Musayelyan, communication officer at the ICRC Artsakh office (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)

State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan said that we will never make our children’s lives a bargaining chip, emphasizing that any concession comes at their cost.

Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan, members of the executive and legislative bodies, and former State Minister Ruben Vardanyan also participated in the rally. 

The protesters, accompanied by State Minister Nersisyan and Human Rights Defender Stepanyan, marched from Renaissance Square to the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In their speeches, both Nersisyan and Stepanyan expressed appreciation for the work done by the ICRC but emphasized that it is insufficient. Stepanyan said that the Red Cross should raise the alarm and provide daily updates to international actors about the catastrophic situation in Artsakh.

Eteri Musayelyan, communication officer at the ICRC Artsakh office, mentioned that the protest requests will be forwarded to the organization’s offices in Yerevan and Geneva.

A young girl from Artsakh desperately chants, “Haiastan,” with her fellow demonstrators at the Russian peacekeepers’ base (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)
Ashot Sargsyan, left, during the march (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)

Demonstrators marched from the Red Cross office to the base of the Russian peacekeeping mission. Ashot Sargsyan, 65, said that their objective is to convey to the Russian peacekeepers and other international actors that Artsakh cannot become a part of Azerbaijan. “Azeris have demonstrated through their actions that this is an impossibility, and the only outcome awaiting us is ethnic cleansing within Azerbaijan,” Sargsyan told the Weekly

“When thousands of people, including disabled women, men and children, gather and march for kilometers under the scorching sun, the resilience and energy displayed cannot go unrewarded. We are confident that this struggle will ultimately succeed,” he added.

Alyona Grigoryan, a 36-year-old mother of two children and expecting her third child, emphasized that her pregnancy did not prevent her from joining the march. “There are thousands of Artsakh mothers in my position, and we must struggle first of all for women in similar circumstances, because this country needs a healthy generation,” she said.

Alyona Grigoryan with her husband David (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)

“Like all the people of Artsakh, I am fighting for my rights, the rights of my children and the rights of my unborn child. My hope lies with our soldiers standing at the border and my fellow countrymen. However, we have demands from the Russian peacekeepers to fulfill their obligations as stipulated in the 2020 tripartite agreement,” she continued. 

With a mixture of pain and determination, she added, “Nothing is lost as long as we continue to breathe. We must keep fighting.”

After reaching the base of the Russian peacekeepers, the rally participants conducted a peaceful demonstration, demanding the lifting of the blockade. During his speech, the State Minister referred to the points outlined in the 2020 tripartite declaration and emphasized that the consequences of its failure should not be borne by the people of Artsakh. Subsequently, Nersisyan, together with the Minister of Internal Affairs Karen Sargsyan and the head of the “Azat Hayrenik-UCA” faction of the National Assembly Artur Harutyunyan, held a meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force Alexander Lentsov.

Following the meeting, Nersisyan announced that an agreement was reached with the peacekeeping troops’ commander to provide daily reports on the situation in Artsakh to Russia. According to the Nersisyan, the command of the peacekeeping mission acknowledges the violation of the provisions stated in the 2020 tripartite declaration.

Artsakh President Harutyunyan has sent letters to the heads of all UN Security Council member countries, the UN Secretary-General, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the President of the European Council, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, as well as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. The purpose of these letters is to demand urgent measures in accordance with international obligations and effective steps to halt the illegal and complete blockade of Artsakh conducted by Azerbaijan. Additionally, they call for an end to systematic mass crimes and terrorism against the people of Artsakh.

In the letters, Harutyunyan underlined the disastrous measures implemented by Azerbaijan over the course of the past seven months. “I, as the President of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), on behalf of the government and people of Artsakh, urgently alert the international community to the security and humanitarian crisis that is rapidly unfolding and transforming into a catastrophe,” Harutyunyan said. 

People from the regions of Artsakh were unable to join their fellow compatriots in Stepanakert’s Renaissance Square due to fuel shortages, yet they are united in the pan-popular movement.

At the end of the Friday rally, dozens of tents were set up in Renaissance Square in Stepanakert to accommodate the participants of the indefinite movement. According to one of the participants, these tents serve as civilian trenches, emphasizing that if our soldiers are guarding the border, we also must fight from here. 

The second day of the movement for Artsakh was held in the square on July 15, where the people continued to express their demands and to demonstrate their unstoppable spirit.

Nationwide movement for Artsakh, Renaissance Square, Stepanakert, July 15, 2023 (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan)
Siranush Sargsyan

Siranush Sargsyan

Siranush Sargsyan is a freelance journalist based in Stepanakert.


  1. If Artsakh was in Europe, Armenians were Muslims (just like Kosovar Albanians and Bosniaks), and Azerbaijanis were Serbs, I bet the West, would not be indifferent and would have intervened. The West’s indifference, hypocrisy and collusion with Azerbaijan is appalling.

  2. Brothers and sisters! The real problem we Armenians have is Russia. Let’s unite under the banner of freedom and democracy and let’s get rid of Russians from once and for all. As soon as we chase out those dictatorship loving Russians from freedom loving Christian Armenia, Christian Europe and USA will come and protect us right away like they are doing in Ukraine. Trust me. Let’s do it!

    • Sorry brothers and sisters, I forgot to add. And no problem if freedom loving forces of democracy in the Christian West decide not come to help when we kick out then Russians. We are Armenian. We are golden. We will unite into a big massive fist and fight back both Russia and Turkish hordes. We will! Who’s with me? Let’s go!


    • Christianity plays no part in the foreign policies and domestic policies of Western countries, and except the United States, the West is mostly irreligious. (Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy do not play a part in Russian foreign policy either. Russians, Ukrainians and Georgians are Eastern Orthodox, and they hate each other.) If that was the case, Armenia or the Christian Lebanese or the Greek Cypriots would have been helped by the West, with deeds. The West did not even “support” Armenia with words, empty though they are. Unfortunately, not even democratic “Western” values plays really a part in the foreign policy of Western countries, which they shamelessly claim to uphold. When it comes to foreign policy, only national self-interest and Machiavellian Realpolitik take precedent, not a common religion, denomination, heritage or values.

    • Greg, totally agree with you. Russia is your real enemy and believe me, if Ukraine loses this war, you are next. Belarus is already under the complete influence of Russia, and since Armenia is in a weaker position compared to other countries, Russia tends to reclaim as a part of former USSR territories, Armenia and Georgia are those countries that either will be under control or part of this imperialistic monster.
      The defence alliance that you created with the Russians will not help. And you know it.

  3. Brothers, I am high on being Hye. We are the first Christians. The West is not running to our assistance because we are still with Godless Russians. Russians are responsible for the Armenian genocide. Russians today are stopping Armenia from being the new Switzerland. As soon as we capture the 102nd base in Gyumri and send Russians to where they belong NATO will land its forces in Armenia. This will happen! Russians will run like they always do. Turks are also cowards. They cant even defeat Kurds. Come on brothers! Like great Garegin Njdeh said no one can stop us when we are united. We don’t even need NATO, all we need is to unite and free Armenians from Russian yoke. Ukrainians are doing it. We can also do it. Just put your mind to it. Long live sea-to-sea Armenia. Long live Dikran the Great!

    • But Ukraine’s bid to join Nato was just indefinitely postponed? In Vilnius. Georgia made noises in the past. Perhaps Azerbaijan wants to try?

  4. The above nitwits who are Russophobic are probably turkish bots

    They are denigrating Russia. But, what stops turkey from invading Armenia the way turkey did Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, etc?

    Obviously, Armenians are being played again…

    Also, you can tell an Armenian enemy when they refrain from attacking turkey… very easy to spot

    • My Armenian brother! We can fight both of those barbarians. Russians and Turks are the same inside. Russians are more dangerous for us because many naive Armenians think they are our friends. Turks are terrified of Western sanctions and American aircraft carriers. All we have to do is unite like Karekin told us. Once we chase out the Russian military from Armenia, NATO will land. The eagle has landed. For get Cyprus. Look at Ukraine. We can do this. We are the first Christians. We are civilized. We deserve freedom democracy.

  5. Finally, Greg, an Armenian who has common sense.

    What do you get with Russians? Nothing! Except kartoshkas.

    I am from Istanbul. Turks did not commit genocide, Russians did. Americans and NATO are friends.

    I’ve lived all over the world, including Toronto. The west loves Armenia

    America, Turkey, Canada are Armenia’s friends.

    Let’s put the past behind us, 1915 was long time ago, and Russia’s fault.

    Long live Pashinyan! Long live Istanbul!

    • Yes that’s exactly what I mean my brother! Let’s unite and be like Ukraine. Slava Europa! Slava Ukrayeein! Slava Armeeniya!

    • A certain part of growing into manhood is that of properly owning past mistakes. While it’s true that the Kurds played a big part in the century old genocide, Turkey hasn’t owned it’s part in the century old genocide; instead, Turkey has deflected the blame upon other parties, in an insincere way, even to the point of blaming the Ottoman Christian Victims. Now, Turkey helps Azerbaijan with its 21st Century Armenian Genocide Project.

  6. To all those advocating for trust in this or that foreign power… stop rolling the dice. Even if Turkey or Russia or the United States or Europe were somehow to be trusted, it’s simply naive at best for Armenians to throw their lot in with them.

    What Armenians can do is unite together with common cause based on our own self interest. Once we demonstrate that, we will see who is with us and who is against us.

    Only self interest can be trusted in realpolitik. Everything else is wishful thinking at best.

    • It’s much more naive to think that Armenians can survive in a very dangerous and complicated place like the south Caucasus simply by uniting. Besides, pigs will spout wings and flay before Armenian unite. So, please stop day dreaming. Armenia needs allies. Armenia’s only natural allies on earth are Russia and Iran.

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