YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Thousands of people gathered in Yerevan’s Republic Square on Tuesday to protest against Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policies. They observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the 1988 massacres in the Azeri city of Sumgait.
At the rally–Artashes Shahbazian–a member of the organizing committee–spoke of the many similar demonstrations being held in cities throughout the world to protest the anti-Armenian policies of Azerbaijan.
"Today–we should feel united with the Diaspora–since only unity can help us overcome hardships," he said.
Protesters held the photos of all the victims killed in Sumgait–the photo of Gurgen Margarian–sadistically killed by an Azeri military officer in Budapest–and pictures depicting the destruction of Armenian cross stones (khatchkars) in Julfa–Nakhichevan.
"People were killed only because they were Armenia’s," Shahbazian said. "When we behave in a civilized manner–the impression is that we are guilty or frightened and that’s why we do not speak up. Azeris never keep silent. Today–we are gathered to prove that we are not indifferent to the events unfolding surrounding the Karabagh issue. We are still determined to stand up if there is a threat."
Parliament Vice-speaker and ARF Bureau member Vahan Hovhannisian noted that 18 years ago Azeris showed that they have not changed. "They destroyed everything that was unprotected–the poor people of Sumgait and Baku," he said. "But we have changed. Now we have the Armenian army to protect our people and monumen’s."
"Azerbaijan is trying to win by creating hysteria and lies–we have to win with truth," he went on to say. "If we are asked about our biggest achievement in the past 18 years–we have one answer: Karabagh’s independence–freedom–and security."
Author Zori Balayan then read out a statement addressed to international organizations–including the United Nations–the European Union–and the Presidents of France–Russia–and the US.
The statement describes how the historically Armenian Nakhichevan and Karabagh were severed from the Soviet Armenian Republic and arbitrarily attached to Azerbaijan under Turkish pressure. Nakhichevan was subsequently cleansed of its Armenian population.
"Utilizing official atheist ideology–the leadership of Soviet Azerbaijan for decades was on a regular basis destroying thousands of Armenian historical and cultural monumen’s," says the statement.
The statement goes on to illustrate various instances of Azeri aggression and violence against Armenia’s–such as the massacres in Sumgait and Baku–the forced expulsion of Armenia’s living in Azerbaijan–the "bloodbath imposed on Karabagh by Azerbaijan," and the recent destruction of the Armenian cemetery in Julfa.
The statement then describes the war that is currently being waged on Armenia by Azerbaijan: "All these years Baku has been conducting an unprecedented war–which according to international conventions is defined as xenophobia: hatred toward anything alien–and in this case–anything Armenian."
The statement ends with a demand that Azerbaijan be held responsible for the massacres in Sumgait–and that it immediately stop its campaign of hatred and the destruction of Armenian monumen’s on the lands it controls.