Armenian Relief Society Eastern US representative Karine Shamlian’s remarks at the SOS! Artsakh protest, organized by the ARF Eastern US and AYF-YOARF Eastern US, held at the White House on September 1, 2023
Thank you all for gathering here today as we raise our voices for a cause that resonates deeply within our hearts – justice for Artsakh. For over eight months, the region’s 120,000 Indigenous Armenians have been deprived access to food, medicine, fuel, electricity and water in what is nothing less than genocide.
This isolation has inflicted immeasurable suffering – families are separated, access to essential supplies is restricted, and the basic right to freedom of movement is denied. Supermarkets are completely empty, hospitals don’t have necessary medications, and those ill can’t access much-needed treatments. The cruelty of such a blockade cannot be underestimated, and we must not remain silent in the face of such injustice.
Since Artsakh’s independence, the Armenian Relief Society [ARS] and its members have contributed to its nation-building phase, including building Soseh kindergartens, supporting children and students of fallen heroes, building greenhouses, installing solar panels and many other projects and programs. Today, on September 1, the ARS would have once again opened its doors and welcomed a new generation of students at its kindergartens on the first day of school. Unfortunately, the kindergarten will have to remain closed, and due to this blockade, we are unable to provide the necessary back-to-school items or even give them access to education, depriving students of a basic human right.
We are not just on the brink of a humanitarian crisis – every day for 250 days, we have been watching it intensify right before our eyes. It is our moral duty to stand up and advocate for the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves, to amplify the voices of those who have been silenced by the chaos of war and the suffocating blockade. We must insist that the world does not turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent, for silence in the face of injustice is complicity.
Enough is enough. Let’s be crystal clear: 250+ days of inaction and silence are 250+ days too many. We won’t stand by as history replays its darkest chapters, a chilling reminder of a time we swore never to repeat.