Armenia Protests: Thousands Rally Against Government’s Handling of Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis

On Wednesday, clashes erupted between police and demonstrators in the Armenian capital of Yerevan as thousands took to the streets to protest the government’s handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. The protests were sparked by Azerbaijan’s claim of restoring sovereignty over the territory after a 24-hour military offensive, accusing Armenia of failing to protect ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, blaming him for making too many concessions and neglecting the ethnic Armenians in the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has been under the control of ethnic Armenians for the past three decades. The protests in Yerevan saw police in riot gear guarding government buildings as some demonstrators threw rocks. While some waved flags and posters peacefully, others were injured and bloodied. Opposition politician Avetik Chalabyan expressed disappointment, accusing the current authorities of abandoning Artsakh (the Armenian name for Karabakh) and called for a change in national policy. Another lawmaker demanded an impeachment procedure against the prime minister, while protester Sargis Hayats asserted that Pashinyan “must go” as their homeland and people are at stake.

The conflict escalated as Azerbaijan launched an “anti-terror” operation, demanding surrender from Karabakh’s forces and the dissolution of their “illegal regime.” Facing a blockade of support from Armenia, ethnic Armenians eventually gave in to Azerbaijan’s military offensive. President Ilham Aliyev aimed to integrate Karabakh’s population into Azerbaijan and transform the region into a “paradise.” However, concerns arise regarding the safety of the ethnic Armenians who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Social media platforms witnessed images of thousands of Armenians gathered at the Russian-controlled airport in Stepanakert, attempting to flee the territory. A separatist official revealed that over 10,000 individuals have been evacuated from Armenian communities to safer settlements in the region. Reports suggest that at least 200 people, including civilians, lost their lives during the conflict, although these figures await verification by the BBC.

The Azerbaijani presidency announced that officials would meet with Karabakh’s Armenian representatives in the town of Yevlakh to discuss issues related to reintegration. While Azerbaijan celebrates the surrender of Karabakh Armenians, concerns persist about the fate of the remaining ethnic Armenians in the region.

This unrest and widespread protest shed light on the dissatisfaction among Armenians towards their government’s handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and the resulting loss of territory and potential threat to their people. The calls for Prime Minister Pashinyan’s resignation highlight a demand for a change in leadership and national policy to address the ongoing conflict and ensure the protection of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh.