Parukh, Artsakh via the NKR InfoCenter

Intensified Attacks by Azerbaijan on Karabakh Lead to New Restrictions as Deprivation Creates New Crises

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STEPANAKERT — The reverberations of Azerbaijan’s attacks on Karabakh have affected the population in more ways than simply fear. Following Azerbaijan’s incursion this past week into the village of Parukh, Askeran, where intense attacks occurred with the use of Bayraktar drones, at least 3 soldiers died and 14 people were wounded. As a result, Artsakh Republic’s President Arayik Harutyunyan signed a decree on restrictions on rights and freedoms, according to the NKR Information Center.

Marguerita Doudaklian speaking with beneficiaries and handing out aid at the Charles Aznavour Center, Stepanakert (photo Kevork Doudaklian)

In accordance with the decree, the following will be restricted: “the right to freedom of assembly, strikes and other arrangements terminating or suspending the activities of organizations are prohibited and activities of organizations engaged in propaganda or other actions spearheaded against the defense capacity and security of the Artsakh Republic.”

To clarify, the Artsakh Republic has not declared martial law, according to Political Analyst Tigran Grigoryan, it was never lifted. These are essentially just new restrictions. The Central Information Department of the Office of the Artsakh Republic President ended their statement with who the restrictions were to be enforced by.

Martial law in Artsakh has been declared since 1992. However similar restrictions only imposed during the 2020 war were informally lifted and then once again imposed on March 26.

We Are Our Mountains monument, Stepanakert

According to Article 76 of the Artsakh Republic’s constitution, “basic rights and freedoms of the human being and the citizen, with the exception of some articles within the constitution, may be temporarily suspended or subjected to additional restrictions under the procedure prescribed by law.”

Then according to Article 131, the President of the Republic can declare martial law and impose measures or mobilization, but the National Assembly can lift or cancel the implementation of measures with a majority vote.

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The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) has also published a statement regarding the most recent attacks by Azerbaijan.

“From March 24 to March 25, the armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan, violating the provisions of the tripartite statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia dated November 9, 2020, entered the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and set up an observation post,” said the Russian MoD.

They continued to point out Azerbaijan’s use of the Bayraktar-TB 2 drone on Armenian Armed forces.

Azerbaijan also prevented a ruptured gas line in Shushi from being fixed, leaving the population without heat in freezing temperatures. Once the gas line was fixed through Russian mediation, Azerbaijan allowed the access of gas for a day, then shut it off once again. The Artsakh Republic has been without gas for 20 days.

The humanitarian crisis in Artsakh has caused the diaspora and civil society within Armenia to rally in support of Artsakh. For example, on March 18 Kooyrigs NGO went on a joint mission with All for Armenia. Kooyrigs delivered electric heaters, burners, and blankets, while All for Armenia delivered electric burners.

Kooyrigs‘ Founder and Executive Director Karine Eurdekian said a critical component of the NGO’s immediate aid work is maintaining a presence within border villages.

“Providing immediate aid is important because we are able to show our border communities that we stand with them, we will not abandon them, and we will do whatever is in our power to support them,” Eurdekian said.

The Kooyrigs team consisted of Marguerita and Kevork Doudaklian, siblings from Anjar, Lebanon who repatriated to Armenia about five years ago. All for Armenia was helped by their volunteer Hovhannes, a local Armenian who fought in the 2020 war.

All for Armenia has been involved in the Syunik region as well, creating the Made in Syunik initiative which employs displaced women from Hadrut.

“As an organization that was born during the last war, we Cherish the contact on the ground with our people,” AFA Cofounder Mathieu Sahakian said. “We developed our mission and vision from this direct relationship we have with the refugees, and frontline communities.”

The road to Artsakh was dangerous. The group’s car was stuck in the snow for about 40 minutes within the mountains of Artsakh. After passing through nine Russian posts, they finally reached Stepanakert.

The group bringing their driver’s family bread in Martuni (photo Marguerita Doudaklian)

Their first day was focused in Stepanakert, where they distributed the aid out of the Charles Aznavour Cultural Center. The Center has also been without heat and sometimes electricity, so workers have been rarely going since Azerbaijan has refused to fix the gas line.

Charles Aznavour Cultural Center, Stepanakert

The next couple of days consisted of visiting the remote villages in Askeran and Martuni. The Mayor of Martuni city, Edik Avanesyan said villagers currently have no access to bread and oil because of the snow on roads.

While distributing aid, Marguerita recounts visiting the home of beneficiaries and their children being wrapped up in blankets, trying their best to stay warm. The weather was so severe that Marguerita saw animals frozen in the middle of Stepanakert.

The village of Khramort was also in need of aid due to the lack of gas and because of the shelling they received on March 11. Marguerita said the village now consists mostly of men because the women and children have been evacuated to Stepanakert. With the situation becoming tenser by the day, it is unclear when they will return.

Delivering the aid was also difficult because of the snow, and the team had to stay in the freezing conditions of Stepanakert for longer than they expected because the roads back to Yerevan were closed.

In total, Kooyrigs delivered 160 heaters, 136 burners, and 100 blankets. All for Armenia delivered about 100 burners. To Kooyrigs’ and All for Armenia’s knowledge, they were the only organizations on the ground delivering immediate aid.

Kooyrigs plans on making another trip to Artsakh within the next week or so, and its team members have been in contact with the mayors of Askeran and Martuni. However, upon calling them for a needs assessment, they were unable to have a conversation because of the current attacks on Artsakh.

As the humanitarian crisis continues, civil society within Artsakh has also protested against the attacks from Azerbaijan, according to Panorama.am. However, those will be put to a halt due to the latest decree on restrictions.

As of right now, the situation on the border of Parukh is stable, according to the NKR InfoCenter.

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