Thousands of Armenian Christians flee homes: ‘Mass exodus has begun,’ expert says

Sept 26 2023
A girl sleeps in a street in the town of Stepanakert on Sept. 25, 2023. Ethnic Armenian refugees began to leave Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 24, 2023, for the first time since Azerbaijan launched an offensive designed to seize control of the breakaway territory and perhaps end a three-decade-old conflict. | Credit: HASMIK KHACHATRYAN/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Armenian Christians have fled their ancestral homeland in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh over the weekend and more are expected, the government of Armenia confirmed Monday.

“The mass exodus has begun,” Siobhan Nash-Marshall, a U.S.-based human rights advocate who has been speaking to witnesses on the ground, told CNA.

Nash-Marshall founded the Christians in Need Foundation (CINF) in 2011 to help Armenian Christians in the region, and in 2020 she started a school for children and adults in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Now, Nash-Marshall has received word from her school in Nagorno-Karabakh that “all is over” and that “people from all regions, all villages, are homeless” and without shelter, food, and water. 

Hundreds of ethnic Armenians are sleeping in the streets and cannot even drink water because they claim it has been “poisoned by Azeris,” according to Nash-Marshall’s contacts. 

Nash-Marshall was told that there are lines of “2,000 in front of the only bakery” near her school and that “all are hungry, frightened, and hopeless.” 

According to the government of Armenia, 6,650 “forcibly displaced persons” entered Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh since last week.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Sunday that he expects most of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to flee the region due to “the danger of ethnic cleansing,” Middle Eastern news source Al Jazeera reported.

Both former soviet territories, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. With the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan asserted its military dominance over Armenia in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended in November 2020.

Though Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is almost entirely made up of ethnic Armenian Christians.

Until last week, Armenians in the region claimed self-sovereignty under the auspices of the “Republic of Artsakh.”

On Sept. 19, Azerbaijan launched a short but intense military offensive that included rocket and mortar fire. The offensive, labeled “antiterror measures” by the Azeri government, resulted in the deaths of more than 200 ethnic Armenians and over 10,000 displaced civilians, according to the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Sept. 20, the ethnic Armenians agreed to a cease-fire that resulted in the dismantling of their military and self-governance.

Following the breakaway region’s defeat by Azerbaijan, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said that Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh would be integrated and that representatives from the enclave were “invited to dialogue” with the Azeri government.

Despite these promises, widespread fears of religious and cultural persecution have led large swathes of the population to flee to Armenia proper.

Eric Hacopian, a human rights advocate who has been on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, told CNA that Armenians in the region are facing “horrendous” conditions in which they have “little food” and “no medicine or security.” 

Hacopian called the Azeri actions in Nagorno-Karabakh “genocide” and said that by tomorrow he expects the number of refugees to rise to 15,000 to 20,000. 

Ultimately he believes “95% to 99%” of the Armenian population in the region will flee because of the “risk of being murdered and tortured.” 

Photos posted on social media showed the highways leading out of the region’s largest city, Stepanakert, filled with massive lines of cars filled with refugees.

Eric Hacopian, a human rights advocate who has been on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, told CNA that Armenians in the region are facing “horrendous” conditions in which they have “little food” and “no medicine or security.” 

Hacopian called the Azeri actions in Nagorno-Karabakh “genocide” and said that by tomorrow he expects the number of refugees to rise to 15,000 to 20,000. 

Ultimately he believes “95% to 99%” of the Armenian population in the region will flee because of the “risk of being murdered and tortured.” 

Photos posted on social media showed the highways leading out of the region’s largest city, Stepanakert, filled with massive lines of cars filled with refugees.

She said that deeply rooted anti-Armenian sentiment in Azeri culture is exhibited by the military’s executions of Armenian prisoners of war in 2022 as well as recently erected memorials in the Azeri capital city, Baku, that depict “grossly exaggerated life-sized figures of dead and dying Armenian soldiers and chained captives.”

“Anyone who knows the history of the Armenian Genocide will recognize the pattern of Azerbaijan’s actions with respect to Eastern Armenians and the Artsakhtsi,” Nash-Marshall said.

According to Gegham Stepanyan, an Artsakh human rights defender, “thousands” more displaced ethnic Armenians “are now waiting for their evacuation to Armenia.”

“Many of them,” Stepanyan said, “simply have nowhere to stay, so they have to wait for their turn in the streets.”

Some experts believe that Armenia itself is in danger of invasion.

Both Azerbaijan President Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have proposed constructing a highway in the far southern portion of the Armenian province of Syunik, which is bordered by Azerbaijan both to the east and the west.

The road would connect the main portion of Azerbaijan to both its western enclave, known as Nakhchivan, as well as to Turkey.

If built, experts fear Azerbaijan could soon move to wrest control of all of Syunik.

“Let us be realistic,” Nash-Marshall said. “Azerbaijan already has grabbed a part of the region … They are also firing on border villages and have been for a year. What, then, is the threat to Armenia? Invasion.”

Aliyev and Erdogan met in Nakhchivan on Monday, further increasing fears that the pair could be eyeing a Syunik takeover.

In a Monday press conference, Aliyev lamented that “the land link between the main part of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan” was “cut off” when Soviet authorities assigned Syunik to Armenia instead of Azerbaijan, according to reporting by Reuters. 

Hacopian also said that he believes an invasion of Armenia is “quite likely” to create a highway in what is currently southern Armenia. 

Samantha Power, chief administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim landed in Armenia Monday.

In a Monday X post, Power said: “I’m here to reiterate the U.S.’s strong support & partnership with Armenia and to speak directly with those impacted by the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Many still feel that the U.S. is not doing enough to address the situation unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh.

New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith introduced a bill Friday to require the U.S. State Department to take concrete actions to guarantee the human rights of the Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Titled the “Preventing Ethnic Cleansing and Atrocities in Nagorno-Karabakh Act of 2023,” the bill is co-sponsored by California Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman and Arkansas Republican Rep. French Hill.

If passed, the bill would require the U.S. government to take several actions in support of the impacted Armenians including terminating military aid to Azerbaijan and establishing military financing for Armenia, authorizing humanitarian assistance to Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and dispatching diplomats to the region to monitor the situation and immediately report any further human rights abuses. 

“The people of Nagorno-Karabakh are in grave danger,” Smith said in a Monday press release. “Tragically, they have been forced to disarm and surrender their independence to a ruthless dictator whose government has repeatedly committed horrific abuses against them over many years, expressed its will to ethnically cleanse them, and even initiated a genocide by starvation with the blockade of the Lachin Corridor.”

Smith went on to say that “we must work with them to ensure that the transition is not marked by continued human atrocities.”

Watertown police investigate ‘hate’ note left on Armenian church’s bulletin board

Sept 26 2023

Watertown police said Monday they are investigating a note left on an Armenian church’s bulletin board that the church characterized as hateful. 

Police were called to St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church on Elton Avenue Monday morning to investigate a “suspicious note,” the department wrote on Facebook. The note, which was taped to the church’s message board, reads “Artsakh is dead, Karabakh is Azerbaijan.” 

“Hate towards Armenians is everywhere. Stay vigilant. We cannot let this deter our fight for survival and justice,” the church wrote on Facebook. 

The note’s message is a reference to disputed territory in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus, the Armenian name for which is Artsakh. The territory, which is largely populated with ethnic Armenians and has made efforts to split from Azerbaijan several times in the last century, is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. 

Conflict began again in the region on Sept. 19 when Azerbaijan used military force against an Armenian separatist enclave to reassert control, killing over 200 people, according to the Armenian government. Within days, Azerbaijan regained control, but on Sunday, over 1,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region as Armenia’s president warned of ethnic cleansing. 

St. Stephen’s pastor of nearly 30 years, Antranig Baljian, said the note was discovered by parents dropping off their children at the church’s elementary school. 

“There can be no other reason for something like this other than somehow trying to scare us,” he said.

Baljian said police responded right away and are checking the church’s security camera footage to try to find out who left the note. He said nothing like this has ever happened before at the church. 

“Why did this person have to do this?” he said. “We understand [the current geopolitical situation]. What happened is reality. There’s nothing that we can do here that will change that.”

St. Stephen’s congregation prayed for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh Friday night, Baljian said. Now, he said, church members’ children are their foremost concern.

“What are they going to do next? We have to protect ourselves,” the pastor said. “All of our parents are in turmoil. They are afraid for their children.” 

Police said they are increasing patrols around the church in response to the note. 

“Please know that your police department will go to great lengths to ensure all community members feel welcome and safe in the City of Watertown,” the department wrote on Facebook. 

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Watertown Det. Ken Swift at 617-972-6538 or [email protected]

Over 13,300 refugees flee into Armenia after Azerbaijan retakes disputed enclave

The Journal, Ireland
Sept 26 2023
Reporters saw the refugees crowding into a humanitarian hub set up in the city of Goris to register for transport and housing.

ROUGHLY 13,350 REFUGEES have arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh – a majority ethnic Armenian breakaway enclave that was retaken by Azerbaijan last week – as Armenia’s Prime Minister has warned that ethnic cleansing is “underway” in the disputed region. 

“As of September 26 8:00am, 13,350 forcibly displaced persons entered Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Armenian government said in a statement.

Karabakh separatists have said that 20 people were killed in a fuel blast at a warehouse. 

The explosion happened at a fuel storage facility as residents were queueing up to get fuel for their cars in order to leave the region.

The Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman said that over 200 people were injured in the blast. 

The majority of the victims were in “severe or extremely severe” condition, Mr Stepanyan said yesterday, adding that the victims would need to be airlifted out of the region for medical treatment to save their lives.

Separatist authorities lay down weapons

The Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces in a 24-hour blitz last week, forcing the separatist authorities to agree to lay down weapons and start talks on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan after three decades of separatist rule.

While Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and restore supplies after a 10-month blockade, many local residents feared reprisals and decided to leave for Armenia.

The leaders of Azerbaijan and ally Turkey hailed Baku’s victory over the rebel enclave at a summit yesterday. 

While Azerbaijan showcased its regional alliances, Russia hit back at embattled Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after he blamed Moscow for the swift defeat of the breakaway territory.

Several days after the fighting, the first refugees arrived in Armenia yesterday and 6,650 people have so far entered, Yerevan said.

AFP reporters saw the refugees crowding into a humanitarian hub set up in a local theatre in the city of Goris to register for transport and housing.

“We lived through terrible days,” said Anabel Ghulasyan, 41, from the village of Rev, known as Shalva in Azeri.

She arrived in Goris with her family by minibus, carrying her belongings in bags.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the last three decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian enclave within the internationally recognised border of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan launched a military operation on 19 September to seize control of the territory, forcing the separatists to lay down their arms under the terms of a ceasefire agreed the following day.

It followed ten-month blockade of the region by Baku that caused shortages of key supplies.

The separatists have said 200 people were killed in last week’s fighting.

Baku announced two of its soldiers also died when a mine hit their vehicle on Sunday.

Azerbaijan’s state media said officials held a second round of peace talks with Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian community aimed at “reintegrating” them.

But on the road heading to Armenia, more and more residents from the region appeared to be trying to get out as the witnesses said cars were getting stuck in traffic.

At the refugee centre in Goris, Valentina Asryan, a 54-year-old from the village of Vank who fled with her grandchildren, said her brother-in-law was killed and several other people were injured by Azerbaijani fire.

“Who would have thought that the ‘Turks’ would come to this historic Armenian village? It’s incredible,” she said, referring to the Azerbaijani forces.

She was being housed temporarily in a hotel in Goris and had “nowhere to go”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lauded Baku’s “historic success” at a meeting with Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev in the country’s western exclave of Nakhichevan.

“The window of opportunity has opened to settle the situation in the region. This opportunity must not be missed,” Erdogan said.

Aliyev vowed that the rights of ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region would be “guaranteed”.

“Karabakh’s residents – regardless their ethnicity – are citizens of Azerbaijan,” he said.

Yesterday Armenia’s premier sought to deflect blame for the outcome on long-standing ally Russia, signalling a breakdown in the countries’ security pact.

In nationally televised comments, the Armenian leader said the security agreements between the two countries had proved “insufficient”, suggesting he would seek new alliances.

Moscow slammed Pashinyan’s comments today in an angry broadside.

“The leadership in Yerevan is making a huge mistake by deliberately trying to destroy Armenia’s multifaceted and centuries-old ties with Russia,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

“It is an attempt to absolve himself of the responsibility for the failures in domestic and foreign policy.”

Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – a Russian-dominated group comprising six post-Soviet states that had pledged to protect each other if attacked.

Russia, bogged down in its own war in Ukraine, refused to come to Armenia’s aid, arguing that Yerevan had recognised the disputed region as part of Azerbaijan.

Now, Russian peacekeepers – six of whom died in the recent fighting – are helping Azerbaijan disarm the Karabakh rebels.

The European Union and the United States – which have been mediating between Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent months – have struggled to have an impact.

Top US aid official Samantha Power arrived in Yerevan today to stress Washington’s “strong support and partnership with Armenia”.

Brussels said it will play host to senior envoys from Azerbaijan and Armenia tomorrow, along with France and Germany.

Pashinyan is under pressure at home from thousands of Nagorno-Karabakh supporters who have been rallying and blocking roads in Yerevan since Wednesday’s ceasefire deal.

They plan more disruptions over three days starting today.

Meanwhile in Azerbaijan’s second city Ganja locals revelled in their government’s victory.

“If Armenians leave Karabakh, it’s okay, if they stay it’s very beautiful for them, if they accept our citizenship,” Shemil Valiyev, a 40-year-old merchant, told AFP.

He stood at a bus stop with posters of a young Azerbaijani soldier killed in the 2020 war.

Ramin Najafov, 44, echoed his view.

“It will be good if they all leave Karabakh, it’s also good if they stay and take the citizenship,” he said.

“Otherwise we’ll have again the problems.”

© AFP 2023 

With one war over, the South Caucasus girds for the next

The Arab Weekly
Sept 26 2023
A carved-out corridor in Armenia’s south would have serious implications for the region, rewriting the geopolitical map for Iran, Russia, Turkey and potentially even Israel.
Tuesday 26/09/2023

After its rapid military advance last week, Azerbaijan is set to establish full sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, the country’s contested mountainous enclave that has been under ethnic Armenian control for three decades.

With that dispute nearing a conclusion, Azerbaijan may now move to resolve its next point of contention with Armenia: the completion of the so-called Nakhchivan (or Zangezur) corridor. But unlike Nagorno-Karabakh, a carved-out corridor in Armenia’s south would have serious implications for the region, rewriting the geopolitical map for Iran, Russia, Turkey and potentially even Israel.

In 2020, a Moscow-brokered ceasefire agreement ending the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteed “the safety of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.” Control over the land link would be managed by Armenian security forces as well as “the bodies of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia.”

Because the proposed corridor slices across Syunik Province, the only portion of Armenia that borders Iran, Armenia could see its access to the Iranian market jeopardised. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, would gain a direct route not only to Nakhchivan, but also to NATO member Turkey, while Iran would see its north semi-encircled by Turkic states.

Iran considers the project a Turkish-led conspiracy to create a corridor linking NATO to the Turan steppe, the original home of the Turkic people. Bringing NATO to its northern border would weaken Tehran’s position in the South Caucasus, and pose an existential threat to Iran. That is why Iranian authorities have repeatedly said they will not tolerate changes to regional borders, calling the issue Iran’s “red line.”

Iran also worries that Israel could use recent developments to strengthen its position in the strategically important region. Between 2016 and 2020, 69 percent of Azerbaijan’s major arms imports were from the Jewish state, and rumours have long surfaced that Israel might use air bases in Azerbaijan to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Indeed, Iran knows that if the Nakhchivan corridor is built, Tehran will become the second biggest loser of the Karabakh conflict (behind Armenia).

Russia, meanwhile, is licking its own wounds from Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, deployed to the region as part of the 2020 ceasefire, Moscow was unable to stop Azerbaijan’s advance or to prevent Armenian forces from disarming and integrating into Azerbaijan.

In truth, Moscow’s commitment to Armenia has long been suspect. Following Armenia’s defeat to Azerbaijan in 2020, it became clear that the Kremlin would not defend Yerevan’s interests in Nagorno-Karabakh if it meant jeopardising Russia’s lucrative energy ties with Baku.

Consider the evidence. On September 20, several Russian troops, including a senior commander, were killed during an Azerbaijani “anti-terrorist operation” in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Kremlin said nothing. Three years earlier, during the second Karabakh war, the Azerbaijani army shot down a Russian Mi-24 military helicopter over Armenia, killing two crew members. Again, Moscow stayed silent.

Armenia, aware that it cannot count on Moscow’s support, has sought to distance itself from Russia and normalise relations not only with its arch-enemy, Azerbaijan, but also with Turkey.

Additionally, Armenia is working to establish political, economic, and military ties with the United States, hoping that doing so will strengthen its position in the region. The two sides recently held a joint military exercise, further evidence that the Kremlin will have difficulty keeping Armenia within its sphere of influence.

Thus, as a result of Azerbaijan’s recent victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, the West and Turkey could eventually crowd Russia out of the South Caucasus, making the Kremlin the third-biggest loser. Bogged down in Ukraine, Moscow seems unable to preserve its hold on Armenia, a former Soviet state whose people are in desperate need of outside support.

The end of the Karabakh conflict will be the start of a new turbulent era in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan will almost certainly continue to develop close defence cooperation with Israel and Turkey, while Armenia may attempt to diversify its arms imports, end its dependence on Moscow, and bolster military ties with the US, Iran and perhaps even India.

In other words, while one conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia may soon be settled, a far more consequential one, the fight over the Nakhchivan  corridor, is just getting started.

Asbarez: ANCA Briefs Over 80 Congressional Offices on Artsakh Humanitarian Crisis

Briefing Features Eye-Witness, On-the-Ground Report on the Impact of Azerbaijan’s Genocide against Artsakh

WASHINGTON – The brutal impact of Azerbaijan’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the 120,000 Armenian Christians from Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) was shared today with more than eighty Congressional offices in a briefing hosted by the Armenian National Committee of America. The online update featured eyewitness accounts from the capital city of Stepanakert regarding the rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced without shelter, food, or medicine.

ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan led the Congressional ZOOM discussion, with Artsakh spokespeople describing a terrorized populace facing shortages of food, medicine, and fuel – seeking safe and unhindered transit through the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross or via methods of their own – to Armenia’s southern city of Goris. During the presentation, news emerged of a massive gas explosion in Stepanakert, resulting in hundreds injured, overwhelming local hospitals, and requiring emergency airlifts to save lives.

Since December 2022, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Corridor – the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the outside world – depriving Artsakh’s population of food, fuel, and medicine, in what international experts have called genocide through starvation.  On September 19th, Azerbaijani forces attacked Artsakh with rockets, artillery, and drones, killing over 300 and displacing tens of thousands.  In the aftermath of the blockade and attack, over 6,000 Artsakh refugees have already reached Goris, with cars lined up for miles seeking safe-haven in Armenia with no security guarantees.

The ANCA’s Congressional briefing coincided with US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power’s and Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim’s arrival in Yerevan for meetings with Armenian Government officials and a visit to southern Armenia to meet with Artsakh refugees.  Over the past three years – despite repeated calls by Members of Congress, the Armenian American community, and a coalition of ethnic, human rights, and faith-based groups – the Biden Administration has refused to send U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh, while continuing U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan’s corrupt Aliyev regime.

During the Congressional briefing, Yerimyan and Artsakh advocates called on Congress to press the Biden Administration to:

  1. Send immediate humanitarian assistance – including an airlift – to help the growing number of Artsakh refugees in Armenia and those still under Azerbaijani threat in Artsakh.
  2. Provide US and international monitors in Artsakh and along the humanitarian corridor to Armenia to ensure the safety of the Armenian population from further Azerbaijani aggression.
  3. Enforce Section 907 restrictions on US military assistance to Azerbaijan
  4. Sanction Azerbaijan for its aggression and genocidal actions against Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian population

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate and House members introduced the “Supporting Armenians Against Azerbaijani Aggression Act of 2023” (S. 2900 and H.R. 5683) and a similar measure (H.R.5686), which would rescind the State Department’s waiver authority of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support act.  The measures also condemn Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, call for humanitarian aid for Armenians affected by Azerbaijani aggression, and demand Azerbaijan release all Armenian POWs.  The legislation also authorizes multi-year appropriations of direct U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh and for energy, science, and military programs in Armenia.

Türkiye’s Erdogan calls on Armenia to take ‘sincere steps towards peace’ on Azerbaijan trip

Sept 26 2023
Türkiye's Erdogan calls on Armenia to take 'sincere steps towards peace' on Azerbaijan trip
Louise Greenwood

Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Armenia to take what he calls "sincere steps towards peace," after last week's takeover by Azerbaijan of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

He was speaking alongside Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on a trip to the Azerbaijani autonomous enclave of Nakhchivan, just as thousands of ethnic Armenians continue to flee their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Last week Baku launched what it called an "anti-terrorist operation" in the mountainous region, that left an estimated 200 ethnic Armenians dead. 

Attending to open a new military facility, Erdogan said the takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh provided "an historic opportunity to build peace" in the South Caucasus region. The Turkish president urged Armenia to "seize the hand extended to them." 

Speaking alongside him, Azerbaijan's Aliyev said the operation to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh was carried out with what he called "the utmost sensitivity to the rights of civilians."


Explosions and arrests

The contested region is internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan but is home to an estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians. Baku says it was forced to act after claiming that six of its citizens had been killed by landmines in two separate incidents in the territory, blaming Armenian armed groups for the incidents. 

Since the shelling by Azerbaijani forces last week, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have begun fleeing their homes and heading for the main border crossing into Armenia. On Monday there were reports of an explosion and injuries at a gas station as long queues built up, with people jostling to fill up their cars.

In the Armenian capital Yerevan, angry protests have continued between security forces and demonstrators who accuse the government of Nikol Pashinyan of failing to protect citizens of the region. More than 140 arrests have been made. 

Prime Minister Pashinyan has been defending his role, arguing that the leadership in the breakaway enclave has contributed to the unrest. He added that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are now facing "ethnic cleansing" from the region.

In Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman has responded to claims by some Armenians that Russia has failed to act to support its main ally in the Caucasus. Dmitry Peskov says that Russia "categorically disagrees" that it bears responsibility for the violence of recent days.

Azerbaijan has said the Karabakh Armenians can continue to live peacefully in Nagorno-Karabakh if they are willing to lay down weapons and accept being governed from Baku. But with many more people moving to the border, the assurances seem to be ringing hollow to many.–1npLBkL1XWw/index.html

AW: “We will forever rise”

“We can never trust and must never allow genocidal Azerbaijan to rule over the free people of Artsakh.” – AYF D.C. “Ani” Chapter member Sune Hamparian offering powerful remarks at the White House protest for Artsakh

Remarks offered at White House protest on September 20, 2023, demanding the Biden administration take immediate action to stop Azerbaijan’s Artsakh Genocide.

I will, today, speak through my tears.

Tears for Artsakh’s mothers and children. Her saints and soldiers. Her holy churches and sacred lands. 

We have, each of us, seen the devastation visited upon Artsakh—the genocidal destruction, the thousands killed, the anguish of mothers unable to feed their families, the grief of children left without parents. 

We have felt in our own hearts the fear of families hiding in bunkers, felt our world shake as bombs shattered lives, families with deep roots in Artsakh’s rich soil.

We are gathered here today to scream at the world, to demand the global community stop turning a blind eye, to ask: Where is your morality? Where is your humanity, your sympathy? Where is your heart?

We cry to the heavens but know our work remains here on earth, for our fight is far from over.

We remain in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh—in faith with the generations that came before us; in tribute to those who fell in this struggle; in service to those generations that will follow.

It is in this spirit that we will show the world that we will forever rise and never be silenced. Relentless when knocked down. Defiant when pushed around.

We dust ourselves off, stand up straight, roll up our sleeves and get to work, to show ourselves and all the world that America is better than it treated Artsakh—better than abandoning 120,000 Armenians; better than both-siding Azerbaijan’s one-sided genocide; better than arming and abetting a corrupt and cruel oil-rich dictator.

Artsakh’s fate is not yet written, and America’s role is far from over.

Through long years of hard struggle, we lifted America from the depths of Armenian Genocide denial, broke the longest-lasting foreign gag rule in American history.

We must now do the same for Artsakh, putting America on the right side of self-determination, of genocide prevention, of human rights.

That starts with America honoring our signature on the U.N. Genocide Convention, recognizing that we can never trust and must never allow genocidal Azerbaijan to rule over the free people of Artsakh.

On this and all our policy priorities, we stand united, here at the White House, in the halls of Congress, at the United Nations and all across the world. 

With renewed resolve, we close our protest today ready for another day, a better day for Artsakh and all Armenians.

Sune Hamparian is a junior member of the AYF DC "Sevan" Chapter. She’s been a member of the AYF for over six years and was recently elected to serve as chair. Sune is in the eleventh grade and spends her summers in Armenia with her family. She enjoys volunteering at the ANCA and learning about the world of politics.

“Artsakh is not dead, and we will not allow it to die”

Washington, D.C. AYF “Ani” chapter member Matt Girardi delivers powerful remarks to the crowd

Remarks delivered at the AYF Washington, D.C. protest at the White House on September 20, 2023. 

Yesterday, September 19, 2023, the government of Azerbaijan ruthlessly and shamelessly escalated its attack on the people of Artsakh and struck at the soul of an ancient nation.

Women, children and young men alike lay dead, and many more wounded. Civilians have been relocated. The Artsakh Defense Forces have agreed to set down their arms. Today is a sad day, but it did not start nor does it end here. Nine months ago, the Aliyev regime, aided and abetted by enablers across the globe, set up an illegal checkpoint on the Lachin [Berdzor] Corridor—the only road connecting the indigenous people of Artsakh to the outside world. In defiance of the ceasefire agreement of 2020, in a mockery of international law, and devoid of basic human decency, the government of Azerbaijan weaponized food, medicine and energy for months on end, waging a slow campaign of extermination.

Time and time again, the people of Artsakh, the Armenian community around the world, and people of conscience both near and far implored the international community to act. We implored our government—our president—to use the awesome power entrusted to him to put an end to the suffering. We watched in horror as sham environmental protestors, waving dead

pigeons painted white as doves for peace and dressed in fur coats, were allowed to stop tens of thousands of tons of supplies from reaching the coldest of villages in the depths of winter. Our stomachs turned as Azeri soldiers openly erected a barricade across that same road, and we saw images of women and children—sentenced to starve for the crime of being Armenian—faint in breadlines. And yesterday, our hearts broke as Azerbaijan’s slow campaign of starvation became a wanton and unequivocal strike of barbarity. Let us be clear: this is genocide. It has been, and it continues to be. It is the echo of 1915 that should haunt the world. Moreover, it is a tragedy.

Let us be clear: this is genocide. It has been, and it continues to be. It is the echo of 1915 that should haunt the world.

You see, tragedy, my friends, is not simply heartbreak. It is a catastrophe that could have been prevented. It is a willing and eager hubris, unmoored from the responsibilities of one’s time. It is, and it has been, the story of America’s Artsakh policy. When this administration treats Azerbaijan and its chief enabler, Turkey, as if they can be reliable partners, it either deludes itself or sacrifices the moral foundation upon which America has built its global leadership. When Erdogan and Aliyev deny the occurrence of the Armenian Genocide while proudly exalting its architects, we know that these are men of neither dignity nor morality. After all, we have seen the fate of Armenian lands being placed under domination of tyrants and of genocidal mad men. Nakhichevan—with its storied and ancient Armenian roots—has been emptied of 99-percent of its Armenian heritage, according to Cornell University.

Moreover, we have seen escalations of violence that are sickening to the core: torture of POWs, mutilation and sexual assault of women, mass murders and beheadings all unrepentantly filmed by Azerbaijan’s armed forces and allowed to circulate as a campaign of psychological terrorism on the Armenian people.

When all these went without recourse, when Azerbaijan’s invasion of sovereign Armenian territory last year went without consequence, when each stage of this blockade was met with silence by the international community, that silence broadcast a point deafeningly: that

Azerbaijan would not act in good faith if the United States sat on its hands and continued to treat a campaign of annihilation as a simple quarrel between two misunderstanding parties. Statements of both-sideisms, rushed and coerced peace talks, and toothless diplomacy have failed America, and they have failed the people of Artsakh. They have allowed genocide. 

Going forward, we need our government to act. We need it to protect the people of Artsakh’s sacred right to self-determination. We need a U.N. mandate for international administration to immediately protect the population of Artsakh. We need this administration to finally hold Aliyev and all his goons accountable for the war crimes and genocide they have promulgated. We need immediate deliverance of humanitarian, development and reconstruction assistance and to secure the safe return of all those indigenous Armenians displaced by Azerbaijan’s campaign of aggression. We need the Biden administration to act tomorrow, at the United Nations, like justice, freedom and human rights are on the line—because they are. 

Today, however, we gather neither to mourn Artsakh nor to understate the danger of the moment. For Artsakh is not dead and we will not allow it to die, because above all, Artsakh is not just Armenia. Armenia is Artsakh. How we respond to the call of our brothers and sisters in Artsakh is indicative of who we truly are and who we will be. Will we devolve into factionalism, division and cowardice, or will we choose action? Will we choose to blacklist fellow Armenians from their own homeland, or will we write, do we lobby, do we protest, do we come together to call the eyes of the world to injustice and not let it look away for even a moment? 

My friends, we have been handed a legacy that has been passed down from generation to generation that is hardy, proud and unyielding. It is a beautiful dance set to the heartbeat of lions and that follows the steps of heroes. It is a sacred hymn that has echoed through mountains, which defeated countless armies but bound a people through millennia. For we are survivors. We are our mountains. We are immovable. We are Armenians. And like our ancestors before us, we stand upon the shoulders of giants below us and now hold the weight of destiny above. Now is not the time for half-measures, half-truths, and half-heartedness in the face of calamity. It is a time for a solidarity that will ring across oceans and continents that says we will never leave our brethren behind, for ours is a singular struggle for a common good and a shared destiny. It is a time for determination to stand in proud defiance of a world that believes we are a people whose battles have all been fought and lost, whose history is over, and whose time is past to rise and laugh and love once more.

But most of all, it is a time for that strangest of all manners: courage. You see, courage is not a reckless charge headlong. It is not fearlessness, especially when there is much to be feared. But it is pushing forward in the face of fear. It is putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that there is danger around the corner and with ice running through our veins, because it is the right thing to do. It is Armen Garo and Vahan Cardashian. It is Zabel. It is Andranik. It is Tatoul. It is Monte. It is the mother in Stepanakert holding her child as the air raids sound above, and it is the serviceman defending his homeland, and it must be us. Let us remember how futures are built. Let us remember who we are. And let us never stop fighting for a truly free, independent and united Armenia.

Matthew Girardi is a resident of Washington, DC and a proud member of the AYF DC "Ani" Chapter. He serves as a political and communications organizer for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689. He graduated from the George Washington University Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and International Relations and a Masters of Professional Studies in Legislative Affairs.

AYF leads White House protest demanding Biden stop Azerbaijan’s Artsakh Genocide

Armenian Americans joined with faith-based and human rights groups in demanding the Biden administration stop the Armenian Genocide of 2023 at a White House protest organized by the AYF D.C. Ani Chapter

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF) Washington, D.C. “Ani” Chapter organized a protest outside the White House demanding that the Biden Administration directly intervene to stop Azerbaijan’s genocide against the 120,000 indigenous Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), sanction Azerbaijan for its war crimes and take immediate measures to ensure the safety and security of Artsakh residents.

The protest came just two days after Azerbaijan launched a brutal attack against Artsakh, killing over 200 and forcing tens of thousands from their homes. The genocidal onslaught followed nine months of Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor, the only road that connects Artsakh to the rest of the world, leaving the people of Artsakh without food, medical supplies and energy resources.

AYF D.C. Ani chapter member Matt Girardi implored protesters to “remember how futures are built…who we are…and [to] never stop fighting for a truly free, independent and united Armenia.”Matt Girardi, a member of the AYF Washington, D.C. “Ani” Chapter, opened the protest with a powerful indictment of Azerbaijan’s actions.  “Let us be clear: this is genocide. It has been, and it continues to be. It is the echo of 1915 that should haunt the world.”

Girardi voiced the Armenian American community’s clear demands of the Biden administration.  “Going forward, we need our government to act. We need it to protect the people of Artsakh’s sacred right to self-determination. We need a U.N. mandate for international administration to immediately protect the population of Artsakh. We need this administration to finally hold Aliyev and all his goons accountable for the war crimes and genocide they have promulgated. We need immediate deliverance of humanitarian, development and reconstruction assistance, and to secure the safe return of all those indigenous Armenians displaced by Azerbaijan’s campaign of aggression,” stated Girardi.

In the face of one of the darkest moments in Armenian history, Girardi called for Armenians everywhere to “remember how futures are built…who we are…and [to] never stop fighting for a truly free, independent and united Armenia.”

An audio and photo collage of Girardi’s speech is available here.

AYF D.C. Ani Chapter member Sune Hamparian stresses Armenian American solidarity with the people of Artsakh during powerful remarks at the White House protest

Following chants demanding concrete U.S. action to stop the Armenian Genocide of 2023, fellow AYF “Ani” Chapter member Sune Hamparian stressed that the work of Armenians and their allies in the interfaith and human rights communities must continue in the face of the lack of a global response to Artsakh’s plight. “Where is your morality? Where is your humanity, your sympathy? Where is your heart?” she asked.

Hamparian affirmed that the Armenian American community remains “in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh; in faith with the generations that came before us; in tribute to those who fell in this struggle; in service to those generations that will follow.”

“Artsakh’s fate is not yet written,” and “America’s role is not yet over,” she stressed, reminding protesters of the Armenian American community’s decades-long battle to end U.S. complicity in the denial of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. “We broke the longest-lasting foreign gag rule in American history. We must now do the same for Artsakh, putting America on the right side of self-determination, of genocide prevention, of human rights,” concluded Hamparian.

Founded in 1942, the AYF Washington DC “Ani” and “Sevan” chapters work to unite Armenian youth and organize activities in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The chapter has a Senior ("Ani") and Junior ("Sevan") chapter. The Washington DC “Ani” chapter sets out to achieve its goals and objectives throughout the year and hosts events like joint meetings between DMV juniors and juniors in Armenia, protests and other forms of political activism, an annual chapter anniversary dinner and fundraisers to benefit the homeland. The AYF-YOARF's five pillars (athletic, cultural educational, political, social) guide the chapter and help keep its membership active and at the forefront of the Armenian cause at all times.

Rally at Reagan Library GOP presidential debate calling out Biden’s failure to stop Azerbaijan’s genocide of Armenians

WHAT: On the eve of the second GOP presidential debate, Armenian Americans and a coalition of faith-based and human rights organizations will hold a press conference and rally calling on Republican presidential candidates to express their commitment to addressing Azerbaijan’s genocide of 120,000 Christian Armenians in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

Rally participants will urge GOP leaders to demand the following actions from the Biden administration:

1) Directly intervening to stop the Artsakh Genocide
2) Immediately ending all U.S. military aid to genocidal Azerbaijan
3) Launching an emergency U.S. humanitarian airlift to Artsakh
4) Enforcing U.S. and U.N. sanctions on Azerbaijan
5) Opening the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor for secure and unobstructed travel between Armenia and Artsakh

WHY: On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched rocket, artillery and drone attacks against Artsakh’s capital, Stepanakert, nearby Artsakh residential centers, killing civilians, destroying homes and terrorizing the population.

Since December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan has imposed a blockade on the Berdzor Corridor – the only humanitarian lifeline connecting Artsakh’s 120,000 indigenous Armenians to the Republic of Armenia. For over nine months, Azerbaijan has restricted access to food, fuel, medicine and other essential goods. Additionally, Azerbaijan has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver vital food and medical supplies to the region.

WHEN: Tuesday, | 6:00 p.m. PDT

WHERE: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA

WHO:  Armenian Youth Federation

INTERVIEWS: The protest rally will feature remarks by community and coalition leaders. Community and coalition leaders will also be available for in-person and remote interviews. Media interested in connecting should email [email protected].

The Armenian Youth Federation supports the 120,000 Reasons coalition, which advocates for the 120,000 innocent Christian Armenians trapped within the Armenian territory of Artsakh due to an Azerbaijani blockade. As the situation continues to deteriorate, 120,000 Reasons is raising awareness and exerting pressure on the White House to end Azerbaijan’s attacks on Artsakh and blockade of the Berdzor Corridor.