NEW YORK—A broad-based coalition of Armenian American political, religious, student and youth organizations rallied against Hungary’s extradition and Azerbaijan’s pardon of axe-murderer Ramil Safarov on Monday, Sept. 10 in front of the Hungarian Consulate.
The event, which was held from 6:30 to 8 p.m., was attended by Armenians of all walks of life and who hail from a variety of organizations. The organizations who participated and/or sponsored the protest included: The AYF-YOARF New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter, the AYF-YOARF New York “Hyortik” Chapter, the ARF New Jersey “Dro” Gomideh, ANCA of New York, ANCA of New Jersey, the ARF New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, the Eparchy of Armenian Catholics of the USA & Canada, AGBU Young Professionals of Greater New York, Knights of Vartan & Daughters of Vartan, ASA of New York, Armenian Society of Columbia University, Rutgers ASA, and ACYOA Chapters of Holy Martyrs (NY), St. Leon’s (NJ) and St. Stepanos (NJ). There were well more than 300 protesters in all.
“Tonight’s protest and candlelight vigil follow similar protests by Armenian and non-Armenians around the world calling for justice. Justice not only for Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, but also for all Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabagh. It is unfathomable to see any circumstance in which any Armenian in Nagorno-Karabagh could ever again live under Azerbaijani rule,” said ANCA Eastern Region board member James Sahagian.
Buses from Sts. Vartanantz and St. Leon Armenian Churches in New Jersey shuttled participants into the city. Once off the bus, protesters were greeted with chants from an already large crowd in front of the consulate.
Protesters echoed chants from Doug Geogerian (ANCA of New York chairman) such as “We want justice now,” “Jail Safarov” and “Turkey is a liar,” among other things. Naz Markarian, AYF of New York community leader, and Yervant Kachichian of the AYF Eastern Region Central Executive also led chants.
After the chanting died down, protesters were given candles while Markarian gave a fiery speech before Natalie Gabrielian (AGBU Associate Director of Education) took the microphone. Michelle Hagopian, eastern region director of the ANCA, also spoke to round out the program.
“As the weeks press on and as the media moves past this event, we must never forget. Safarov’s pardon is another tragedy to add to the Armenian history timeline. We have responded with passion thus far. Let us continue to do so and show that the Armenian people will not be shoved around. Let us prove that our history will not repeat itself,” Hagopian said in her speech.
Protesters were also given flowers to place in front of a sign commemorating Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, which was left in front of the doors of the consulate. Dozens of flowers and candles were placed on the ground for passersby to witness on the sidewalk.
Participants held Armenian flags and a multitude of signs, which included phrases like “Justice for Gurgen Margaryan” and “In Hungary justice is for sale.”
Toward the end of the rally, members of the AYF held aloft a copy of the OSCE’s “Madrid Principles,” which outline a solution to the Karabagh problem in accordance with Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The youth announced that Azerbaijan has demonstrated, yet again, that it is unfit to govern Karabagh and that these principles must therefore be considered null and void. In a symbolic gesture, they then proceeded to burn the document before all those assembled.
The event concluded with remarks from local clergymen and the singing of the Hayr Mer. Dozens of pedestrians and drivers stopped or inquired about the event, asking who Safarov and Margaryan were and what significance the event held.