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Left to right: Lana, Laura, Alyona, Anita

Picture by: Harbingers' Magazine

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Meet five Harbingers’ students displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia

Eight months ago, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, due to threats of ethnic cleansing and persecution by neighbouring Azerbaijan. That’s over 80% of the population of the region.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had been the longest-running conflict in post-Soviet Eurasia. This mountainous territory in the South Caucasus had been internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but had operated as a de facto autonomous republic, governed by ethnic Armenians, since the 1990s.

Since 1988, Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two wars over the status of Artsakh.1A major escalation occurred in 2020, resulting in thousands of deaths on both sides over six weeks of intense fighting.

The most recent escalation happened on September 19, 2023, when Azerbaijan launched a one-day military offensive to reclaim Artsakh, effectively ending the enclave’s self-declared independence. This offensive followed a nearly ten-month humanitarian blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, severely restricting residents’ access to food, fuel and medicine.

The takeover triggered a rapid mass exodus to Armenia, which has a population of around 3mn, causing a significant health and humanitarian crisis.

The humanitarian catastrophe has profoundly affected children and young people. UNICEF estimates that nearly 30,000 children were displaced to Armenia from Artsakh, including 21,000 school-aged children.

Refugee children in Armenia have faced significant disruptions in their education in recent years, underscoring the urgent need to expand educational opportunities for them.

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  • Left to right: Lana, Laura, Alyona, Tatev Hovhannisyan (tutor), Anita, Lucy Martirosyan (tutor) | Picture by: Harbingers' Magazine

  • Five teenage girls who fled Artsakh in the autumn of 2023 are starting anew in Armenia. They have joined the Armenian Newsroom of Harbingers’ Magazine, a project born out of a partnership between the Oxford School for the Future of Journalism and the Women’s Fund in Armenia.

    For three months, they will study journalism in person under the supervision of OXSFJ tutors in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

    Here the five students explain what they want to bring to Harbingers Magazine.


    Anita Stepanyan

    Picture by: Harbingers' Magazine

    Anita Stepanyan, 16, aspires to become a doctor and wants to write about minority people in general and their often-forgotten stories.

    She also aims to write about the displacement from the perspective of ordinary citizens, “what they feel, what they fear, and how, despite everything, they continue to work, study and live”, steering clear of political narratives.

    She hopes that her writing will not only inform but also foster understanding.

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  • Nare Arushanyan | Picture supplied by: Nare Arushanyan

  • Nare Arushanyan, a 16 year-old photographer from Stepanakert, the capital city of Artsakh, now living in Yerevan, describes the difference between the two cities: “It [Yerevan] is your home, but it doesn’t feel like you’re at home.”

    She notes that her photos reflect this change – in Artsakh, she was “more filled with passion, with love,” resulting in colourful and bright photos, but after the war, her work completely turned into black and white. “It is because life before was more colourful than it is now.”

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  • 'Child' | Picture by: Nare Arushanyan

  • Nare, who taught herself photography at 14, wants to capture “the essence” of her subjects. “I photograph because I understand. I feel something,” she says. Her powerful photos have been published in various journals, raising awareness about the situation in Artsakh.

    Beyond photography, she also volunteered during the blockade, providing food to those in need, sometimes walking up to ten kilometres a day due to the lack of transportation.

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  • Alyona Sargsyan | Picture by: Harbingers' Magazine

  • Alyona Sargsyan, 17, also feels a stark difference between mountainous Stepanakert, where she enjoyed “Zhingyalov hats”, an Armenian speciality, flatbread stuffed with finely diced herbs, and Yerevan, where she still doesn’t feel “as free”.

    Alyona had the impression that people in Armenia didn’t care about what was happening “just a few kilometres away”. She plans to write about Artsakh, highlighting the challenges faced by forcibly displaced people and her own difficulties, such as the lack of psychological and financial support, as well as the scarcity of work.


    Lana Tonyan

    Picture supplied by: Lana Tonyan

    Lana Tonyan, also 17 and from Stepanakert, plans to become a journalist and hopes to study English and Communications. She has already written some articles on a channel she and her friends created on the Telegram messaging app, including a piece about the famous novelist Franz Kafka.

    Lana intends to use her journalistic skills to shed light on the situation of Artsakh refugees through direct interviews, believing in the power of real storytelling to convey the psychological trauma of displacement.

    “We can evoke emotions in people if we show them those pictures,” she said.

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  • Laura Danielyan | Picture by: Harbingers' Magazine

  • Laura Danielyan, aged 17, also hails from the “wonderful” Stepanakert. Interested in both journalism and psychology, she plans to study the latter at university. Among the topics she wants to write about are the history, culture and traditions of Artsakh, to “highlight the wealth that has been lost”.

    She has been posting about Artsakh on Facebook since before the blockade in September 2023 and intends to continue her efforts.

    Written by:


    Maria Mitko

    Women’s Desk editor

    Warsaw, Poland

    Born in 2007, Maria lives in Warsaw, Poland, where she attends Witkacy High School and prepares to study English Literature.

    She volunteers at a public library where she organises a board game club. She loves listening to music, reading good books and watching movies. Maria’s favourite animals are dogs, of which she has two – Rudolf and Charlie.’

    Edited by:


    Jefferson He


    London, United Kingdom

    Understructure by:


    Kirill Povarenkin

    Project manager | Fundraiser

    London | United Kingdom




    Nagorno-Karabakh is known as Artsakh by Armenians, and that’s the name we have chosen to use here.


    Nagorno-Karabakh is known as Artsakh by Armenians, and that’s the name we have chosen to use here.

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