LOS ANGELES–In a powerful display of solidarity, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School students gathered in East Hollywood on Sept. 2, 2023 to protest the ongoing blockade imposed on the Armenian breakaway state of Artsakh by Azerbaijan. Artsakh is under de facto Armenian control and internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan post-dissolution of the Soviet Union. With the blockade garnering more attention from major national and international media outlets, human rights groups such as Amnesty International, politicians and other experts on the matter, the students’ protest could not have been organized at a more pertinent time.
“I am extremely proud that my school decided to take charge regarding the current situation in Artsakh. Advocating for my homeland, along with my brothers and sisters at Pilibos, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially because we are all extremely dedicated towards the cause,” said Pilibos Student Council President Sophie Karabetian. “We all hope our voices from the diaspora reached our families in Artsakh.”
Since December 12, 2022, the road linking Artsakh to Armenia has illegally remained off-limits for civilian and commercial traffic. It was obstructed by a group of Azerbaijani protesters, strongly suspected to have the support of their country’s authorities. The blockade has left approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenian inhabitants in Artsakh without the means to obtain crucial necessities and vital services, including life-saving medication, healthcare, food, water and shelter.
“Activism carried out by the Armenian youth acts as a shining beacon of hope piercing through the shadows of a tumultuous past and a trying present, where the unbridled vigor of our youth ignites the flames of a fiery revolution,” said senior student Nareh Dakessian. “Our Pilibos ‘walkout’ protest served as a resounding testament to the new generation’s relentless pursuit of justice.”
This road, known as the Berdzor or Lachin Corridor, is commonly referred to as the “road to life,” due to it being the sole connector between Artsakh and Armenia. Azerbaijan understands the importance of this humanitarian lifeline more than anyone. Cutting off the road means cutting off Artsakh and obtaining control.
“Countless young Armenians united together as one to amplify their voices, blending together with the echoes of our ancient history while paving the road toward a more just, peaceful and prosperous future,” Dakessian said.
Azerbaijan’s persistent blockade has drawn widespread condemnation from various entities who view this action as a breach of the ceasefire agreement, which infamously concluded the 2020 Artsakh War and purportedly assured secure passage along the Berdzor Corridor for the Armenian people. Clearly, violation after violation of the ceasefire agreement is not enough to halt the atrocities. Pililbos students felt compelled to raise their voices and demand an end to the blockade, which they see as a violation of human rights, and inform their greater Los Angeles community about what is happening and what they can do to help.
This emotional demonstration reminded us that even when morale is low, our fight continues, and our cause is in safe, capable hands for a generation more.
The students gathered peacefully, carrying banners, flags and posters with slogans such as “End the Artsakh Blockade” and “Artsakh is Armenia.” Their chants reverberated throughout the busy street. This emotional demonstration reminded us that even when morale is low, our fight continues, and our cause is in safe, capable hands for a generation more.
“When we raise our voices against the Artsakh blockade, we are not just standing up for the people of Artsakh. We are defending our heritage, our identity and the indomitable spirit of the Armenian people. We refuse to let the darkness of this blockade extinguish the light of our heritage,” said junior student Natalie Seraydarian. “We stand with Artsakh, for Artsakh. Although our work is far from over, let it be known that Pilibos students will not rest and will not stop until our brothers and sisters in Artsakh are liberated. Let it be known that we will do anything in our power to put an end to this blockade, once and for all.”
The blockade of Artsakh has lasted well over eight months, mutating and devolving into a full-fledged humanitarian crisis. In brazen defiance of multiple international pleas, including a ruling by the International Court of Justice mandating that Azerbaijan lift the illegal blockade, the Aliyev regime persists, showcasing a flagrant disregard for human rights and global standards of a modern world.
The Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School students’ protest is an excellent example of youth activism and the power of collective action. In an era beleaguered by numerous human rights and social justice crises, young adults are increasingly taking an active role in fighting for change and championing accountability.
As the students’ efforts to raise awareness and call for an end to the Artsakh blockade persist, their voices remind us that the fight for justice knows no age limitations. Their tenacity, optimism and determination offer hope for a brighter tomorrow.