Armenian Americans Reclaim Sheridan Circle with Peaceful Protest on Armenian Genocide

A scene from the April 24th protest at Sheridan Circle, site of the May, 2017 President Erdogan-ordered attacks.  The protest was organized by the Washington AYF Ani Chapter. Photo Credit: Talar Keshishian Festekjian

WASHINGTON–Armenian Americans demanded justice for the Armenian Genocide, drawing a spotlight on Turkey’s abuse at home and aggression abroad at the annual April 24th protest organized by the Armenian Youth Federation Washington Ani Chapter, in cooperation with the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Greater Washington, DC.

This year’s protest, which included the support of area Greek, Assyrian, Yezidi and Kurdish communities, was held at Sheridan Circle, across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, the site of the May, 2017, attacks, ordered by President Erdogan against peaceful protesters. Over 50 students from the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian School 8th grade class and Members of the Hye Riders Armenian motorcycle club from Southern California and Toronto, Canada traveled to the nation’s Capital to lend their voices to the annual Armenian Genocide protest. The rally was covered by CBS News and Al-Jazeera News and live streamed by Voice of America Armenian Service.

AYF Washington Ani Chapter member Alex Manoukian offered a powerful message of unity and resurrection in the face of Turkey’s Genocide denial and their worldwide campaign of intolerance. “About a year ago, the personal security of dictator Erdogan attacked and viciously beat peaceful Armenian and Kurdish protesters on this very street. Today we have gathered on that same very street to stand up against hate as Armenians and as citizens of the United States of America and people concerned with human rights.”

Protesters also expressed their concerns to President Trump in light of his Armenian Remembrance Day Statement, issued just hours before the protest, which once again failed to properly commemorate the Armenian Genocide. “President Trump, you say America first, Turkey says no. Don’t let the decisions made in Ankara affect the United States stance on human rights,” remarked Manoukian. “It’s time for the US to recognize its own history and respect the thousands of volunteers who came to the aid of the orphan Armenians.”

A small group of pro-Erdogan counter-protesters, which included Azerbaijani Ambassador to the United States Elin Suleymanov, blared loud dance music, in an apparent celebration of the murder of over 2.5 million Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. The Turkish Ambassador’s residence was draped with a 25-foot Turkish flag, which along with counter-protester antics, only served to strengthen the resolve of the rallyers for truth.

Following the rally, Armenian Americans marched to the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, led by the Greater Washington DC Homenetmen Scouts and Drum Corps, American and Armenian flags held high. The participants joined in the Embassy of Armenia’s annual Armenian Genocide memorial event at the “Khatchkar” monument dedicated to the eternal memory of that crime.

The prayer service, wreath laying ceremony and program, organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, featured remarks by His Excellency Grigor Hovhannissian, Ambassador of Armenia to the US, His Excellency Robert Avetisyan, Republic of Artsakh Representative to the U.S., ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, and Nerses Armani, an asbed of the Washington, DC Knights of Vartan Ani Lodge.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate of the Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church Eastern US was joined by Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church pastor, Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian and St. Mary’s Armenian Church pastor Hovsep Karapetyan in offering a community prayer for the sainted victims of the Armenian Genocide. Arya Balian and sisters Zarouhi and Anahid Tashchyan offered moving renditions of the Armenian, Artsakh and American anthems, respectively. The program concluded with song and poetry recitations by the Hamasdegh Armenian School and Shnorhali Armenian School students, including a presentation of Moushegh Ishkhan’s “Hye Lezoon” by Haig Penenian and “Under a Sun of Red, Blue and Gold,” an incredible original recitation by Hovsep Seferian.

At the beginning of the program, Washington, DC Homenetmen Scouts stood at attention, in tribute to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and the survivors who helped rebuild the Armenian nation and participated in a special flag-raising ceremony. Following the program, Armenian Americans were invited to a reception by the Armenian Embassy.

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