STEPANAKERT (Azatutyun) — Thousands of people rallied in Stepanakert on Friday, July 14, in what local officials described as the start of daily protests against Azerbaijan’s seven-month blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and a worsening humanitarian crisis caused by it.
Karabakh’s leadership and major political faction organized the protests one month after Baku further tightened the blockade by banning Russian peacekeepers from shipping limited amounts of food, medicine and fuel to Karabakh. Earlier in the week, the Azerbaijani side also blocked the evacuation of seriously ill Karabakh patients to hospitals in Armenia carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through the Lachin corridor.
The punitive measures aggravated the shortages of essential items in the Armenian-populated region which had already been rationing food, fuel and electricity since last December’s disruption of commercial traffic through the corridor.
The Karabakh premier, Gurgen Nersisyan, described the situation there as “critical” when he addressed the sizable crowd in Stepanakert’s central square. He said that Karabakh is running out of basic foodstuffs, life-saving drugs and even fuel reserved for ambulances. Nersisyan went on to urge Armenia, Russia and the international community to do more to make Azerbaijan lift the blockade.
“What are you waiting for?” he said. ”Do you want us to put the bodies of dead people in this square every day before reacting?”
“Tell me, how should I look in the eyes of … a malnourished pregnant woman whose child may be born with defects, mothers whose biggest dream is to find a handful of fruit or candy for their children, people who stand in lines for hours to get a handful of sugar or oil,” Gegham Stepanian, Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, said for his part.