The nearly 100 protesters are former residents of Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district occupied by Azerbaijani forces during last year’s war.
More than 10,000 ethnic Armenians lived in the district before the outbreak of the six-war in September 2020. Virtually all of them fled their homes, taking refuge in Armenia as well as other parts of Karabakh.
The Karabakh authorities have provided some Hadrut refuges with temporary accommodation and pledged to resettle others since a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the hostilities last November.
The majority of those refugees remain in Armenia where they rent cheap apartments, huddle in temporary shelters or live with their local relatives. The Armenian government for months supported them with monthly cash handouts meant to cover their accommodation expenses.
The mostly unemployed protests rallying outside Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office said the government stopped providing the modest financial assistance in August.
“They promised to at least pay our rent,” said one man. “But we haven’t gotten anything for the last two months. How should we live?”
“We have no homes, no accommodation, and they are now depriving us of hope for the future,” complained another protester. “They don’t even take care of our daily needs.”
The government is said to be planning to launch a new aid program whereby every underage refugee will receive 50,000 drams ($104) a month for housing expenses. Adults will be eligible for half that amount. It is not yet clear when the government will approve the new scheme.
Citing security concerns, many former Hadrut residents are also reluctant to move to other rural areas in Karabakh close to the new Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around the disputed territory.
“We lost everything, from homes to handkerchiefs,” said one woman. “Should I endanger the lives of my children? Of course not.”
Other refugees point to a lack of available housing in Karabakh.