DC Youth Leader denied entry to Armenia

AYF Washington D.C. “Ani” Chapter member and AYF-YOARF ER Central Executive member Areni Margossian delivering her speech to the crowd of protesters in front of the White House on January 21, 2023 (Photo: AYF Washington D.C. “Ani” treasurer Kristine Antanesian)

Areni Margossian, a member of the Armenian Youth Federation-Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern Region Central Executive and the AYF Washington D.C. “Ani” Chapter, was denied entry to Armenia on August 1. 

Margossian arrived at Zvartnots airport in Yerevan on the morning of August 1, en route to join a team of hikers to climb Mount Ararat. Her passport was confiscated by border control agents without an explanation. She was held at the airport for 24 hours before she was deported to the United Arab Emirates.

Margossian said everything seemed fine when she landed in Yerevan on Tuesday morning. “I could see Ararat from the plane,” she told the Weekly. Yet her passport set off an alert after it was scanned at border security. She was taken to a room in the airport, where she was held for over four hours. 

Two families came and went from the holding room. Margossian pressed the border control officers to explain why they had been released, while she was still being held without explanation. An officer told her that one of the families had been sent upstairs, which he said was a bad sign. 

She got in touch with the ARF Bureau Office of Youth Affairs in Yerevan and Kristine Vardanyan, an ARF member and parliamentarian representing the opposition Armenia Alliance. Vardanyan contacted the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan and the Human Rights Defender’s Office. Vardanyan told the Weekly that while the U.S. Embassy assured her that it would get in touch with the relevant agencies, “no significant assistance was provided within the 24-hour timeframe.” 

The Human Rights Defender’s Office eventually informed Vardanyan that Margossian’s name was included in a list of “undesirable persons for Armenia,” according to Vardanyan.

After more than four hours, Margossian was taken upstairs to the departure gates. “I hadn’t put two and two together. I thought they were saying I’d be more comfortable upstairs. The chairs are more comfortable, and I would have something to eat,” she said, until she recalled the officer’s warning that upstairs was a “bad place.” 

Margossian spent the night at the departure gates, catching some three hours of sleep on a waiting room chair. In the morning, she was informed by the Human Rights Defender’s office that she would need to submit a formal letter to the Armenian authorities to determine why she had been denied entry to the country. 

She was boarded on a flight to the UAE, connecting to Lebanon, where she would reunite with her mother. When she spoke with the Weekly from the Dubai International Airport, she was “desperately hoping” her luggage was on a plane headed her way. 

“It’s not the same, but to think about how Azerbaijan has been blockading Artsakh for eight months now, not letting any Armenians out or any supplies come in. The Armenian government in a parallel fashion is preventing me from reaching my own country, but opening it up freely to Turkey and Azerbaijan as if they’re our friends, while they’re the biggest enemies and want nothing more than to see us completely destroyed. It’s frustrating. More than that–it’s unacceptable,” Margossian said. 

Margossian suggested she was deported from Armenia because of her involvement in protests in Washington D.C. against the policies of the current Armenian government. In November 2021, she delivered a speech criticizing PM Pashinyan’s signature of the trilateral ceasefire agreement ending the 2020 Artsakh War exactly one year earlier and the concession of land to Azerbaijan, during a rally outside the Armenian embassy in Washington organized by the AYF. 

This is not the first time in the past year that an ARF member and activist from the diaspora has been denied entry to Armenia, following their involvement in anti-government protests.

In July 2022, Mourad Papazian, a leading member of the French Armenian community, was detained at Zvartnots and deported. Papazian is a member of the ARF Bureau and the co-president of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France, an umbrella structure of French Armenian groups. The Armenian Prime Minister’s office said that Papazian had been expelled from Armenia because he had organized an attack on PM Nikol Pashinyan’s motorcade during his official visit to France in June 2022. “Various objects and items were thrown in the direction of the motorcade,” according to the PM’s office. 

In August 2022, Massis Abrahamian, leader of the ARF in the Netherlands, and his daughter Suneh were detained and deported at the Yerevan airport. This past January, Njteh Karakavorian, head of the AYF in France, was refused entry to Armenia, en route to a pan-Armenian ARF Youth Conference in the Syunik province. 

The ARF has denounced these cases as violations of freedom of expression and political affiliation. Vardanyan connected these incidents to the arrests of hundreds of protesters during anti-government rallies in Yerevan last year and a string of arrests of opposition politicians. 

“These incidents illustrate a worrying trend where individuals who participate in peaceful community events, engage in political activities and advocate for certain causes are being denied entry to the country or facing arrests. Such cases undoubtedly raise alarm about the state of democratic values and human rights in the country,” Vardanyan said in written comments to the Weekly. 

Meanwhile, Margossian says the priorities of the Armenian government need to shift.

“They need to protect our borders, protect Artsakh, focus energy on lifting the blockade and the return of prisoners of war. I am not their concern. I am a nobody in the grand scheme of Armenian issues right now,” Margossian said.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.


  1. Diaspora Hyes need to wake up. “Undesirable persons for Armenia?” says it all, nothing but a new generation of snot-nosed virtue-signaling rebels not to mention idiotic role model elders, and they are proud of being denied entry into Armenia? Armenians who think there’s value in throwing rocks and stirring up trouble over there are the cause of some of the issues Armenia faces. The war is a mix of things including a PR war campaign that is larger than what many comprehend. We all recognize the issues in Armenia but we diaspora Armenians tend to have ZERO consideration for the Armenians that must live in Armenia and Artsakh. Their political situation doesn’t need our complaining about human rights violations just because our actions got us in trouble with Armenia’s authorities and therefore denied access to the homeland. Pathetic. Perhaps more energy needs to be channeled and focused on organizing our communities to do something most challenging for Armenians – speak with one voice and align ourselves on more important issues that we can actually control.
    The ongoing PR war going on is something we well-off diaspora Armenians can do something about. The latest PR move by Turkey is despicable as well as alarming. You would think the ANCA and AA would spearhead a global campaign to blast this out of the water:
    Disney + (Disney’s streaming app service) is planning to offer a favorable documentary series this fall (as reported by the AW) on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and butcher of minorities of the Republic of Turkey. We know that many Armenians throughout the world blame Ataturk for the culling and mass murder of millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War 1, but there were others too, Greeks, Kurds, and Assyrians, and the ANCE and AA should rally everyone. All of us should be united and spending this time of outrage focusing on the things we can control like bashing Disney with letters to their CEO, boycotting Disney properties, and boycotting any and all other products and services that drive Disney’s revenue stream.
    Instead, we do what we do best – fight each other. Bravo.

    • An update since I drafted and posted this response. Disney has made the decision to pull the moni-series Ataturk from airing on its digital platform Disney Plus. This is a win for the Armenians and tall thosed involved and those working together to convince Disney to rethink this agreement.

  2. as a majority of armenians in the diaspora feel that the concessions made by the government with regards to concessions to the azerbajani`s to bring about a cease fire and not lead to total military involvement and possily expand the boundaries of the war was a gamble that has embolden the azerbajani`s to further escalation in the region with dire consequences, russia has ddisengaged itself from being pro-active in its peace keeping effects and can no longer be counted as an ally for political reasons. shane to the usa and nato for not taking a greater role,and once again karabac is fighting for its urvival.

  3. armenia will not totally be free unless it listes to all voices. even to those who dissent. the expulsion of the young woman from armenia was unwarranted and should never have happened.

  4. The cold-blooded killing of a 29-year old pregnant woman in the Armenian capital by Pashinyan’s motorcade is swept under the rug and becomes just another statistics but allegedly throwing eggs at Pashinyan’s motorcade in France and legally protesting in the United States against his treasonous activities, both outside of Armenian jurisdiction, is a crime punishable by denying entry into the country those who disagree with his anti-Armenian policies. Imagine that! He opens the Turkish-Armenia border to send trucks load of help to the Turkish earthquake victims to score political points with Turkish Islamo-fascist dictator and terrorist-in-chief Er-dog-an, who to this day is standing shoulder-to-shoulder next to our enemy and his criminal collaborators in Baku, while keeping 120K Artsakh population hungry and in the dark AND working towards facilitating the opening of Turkish-Armenia border for uninterrupted flow and passage of the citizens of third-party countries, among them Azerbaijanis for sure, but any lawful criticism of his treasonous policies, inside or outside Armenia, are unacceptable and punishable by such desperate and unlawful acts. What a pathetic little man this charlatan is indeed. Pashinyan himself should be given a big dose and a bitter taste of his own medicine and be deported to Baku or Ankara!

  5. This is not the time for our tiny nation to be divided. Our survival is hanging by a thread.

    Those that care about Armenia should be accepted, and in turn, accepting of others. This includes the government, diaspora, our families, and our selves.

    I’m tired of reading and hearing about Armenian vs. Armenian hate. Whether it is hearing comments in the US diaspora about the ‘other’ church that holds back the potential of the community, the rejection of Armenian LGBTQ members in our communities, or this current Armenian president that does not have the best interests of Armenia in mind.

    We like to boast about being the first Christian nation but can not even follow the fundamental Golden Rule.

    This BS needs to stop. Now.

  6. Yep. Putin/pashinyan both begin with the letter “p”. The “leaders” of Armenia seems to have learned nothing since soviet times. The country exists thanks to the diaspora. And this young lady represents the best of us. Denied entry at the border? Her crimes? Speaking the truth. Perhaps American NGO’s and diaspora $ should stop until an apology is rendered.

    • This comment is what I am talking about when I say Armenians suffer from cognitive dissonance, political illiteracy and self-destructive behavior.

  7. The Armenian Government denying entry to a young Armenian-American activist because she has been critical of the government is about the stupidest thing I have seen in my 67 years of existence. It rivals Donald Trump suggesting that COVID can be treated by drinking bleach.
    Is the government that weak and paranoid that they can not bear to hear any criticism of their policies? Or is it that they are defensive due to ineptitude, corruption, or a combination thereof.
    This episode exposes for the world to see that the current government in Armenia does not value freedom of expression. What a disgrace.

    • Gary, this is what Areni says about the possible cause of her not being allowed to enter Armenia. The quote is Google translation and is from Hairenik Weekly. “”We have addressed the ambassador with bruised ( note: withered) flowers, bloody drams (money)a, as well as the names of the thousands who were martyred during the 2020 Artsakh war, whose executioners are the Armenian authorities.
      Of course, there are those videos posted on social networks that will show that we followed Lilit Makunts, the ambassador of Armenia to America, and called him (note: her) a traitor.
      We have not kept him (her) comfortable and we want him (her) to know that in America and Washington, wherever he (she) goes, he (she) is undesirable for us, the government he (she) represents is undesirable for us.
      I should also add that we also protested against the Speaker of the National Assembly, Alen Simonyan, when he visited Washington.”

    • Wrong again, Charlie. Pashinyan actually shows the agenda of those who put him in power. Incidentally, the Pashinyan and Zelensky show was created by the same producers.

  8. An update since I drafted and posted this response. Disney has made the decision to pull the moni-series Ataturk from airing on its digital platform Disney Plus. This is a win for the Armenians and tall thosed involved and those working together to convince Disney to rethink this agreement.

  9. SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN AYF. Recently I came across a video Areni Margossian has released about her unfortunate experience. I refrain from commenting on the nature of what she says but she notes that she is 28 years old and is a member of AYF Washington DC Chapter and also a member of the AYF Eastern Region Executive. She should not have been in AYF at any capacity, if AYF abides by the bylaws it claims and calls the youth “to join the world’s largest and most influential youth organization, COMPRISED OF AND RUN by youth between the ages of 10 and 26.”. At 28, Areni had well passed her membership age.

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