OTTAWA, Canada—On Fri., April 8, hundreds of activists from across Canada gathered in front of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of Canada and the Armen Karo Student Association. More than 300 protesters assembled to voice their outrage and indignation over the recent violent attacks that were initiated by the Republic of Azerbaijan against the peaceful and democratic people of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh).
Overnight on April 1-2, Azerbaijan launched a full-blown attack on multiple positions of the NKR Line of Contact (LoC). The Azerbaijani Army employed tanks, military helicopters, drones, and various caliber weapons in an assault that was aimed at the southern, southeastern, and northeastern fronts of the LoC. As a result, peaceful civilians, including women and children, were targeted, and multiple casualties were reported.
In the wake of these unprovoked developments, the AYF and the Armen Karo Student Association mobilized their members and, together with the rest of the Canadian-Armenian community, stood in unison to protest the continued and unlawful aggression of Azerbaijan, while showing their undivided support to the peaceful people of Artsakh.
“Today, Armenians from the homeland and the diaspora are united to defend the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic’s right to self-determination,” said activist Shahe Papissian. “We may be a people geographically divided, but clearly, from the protests in Greece, France, Australia, United States, Armenia, and now here in Canada, we are a nation united, and we will not stand by as the Azerbaijani government tries to deal blows to diminish the future of NKR,” added Papissian, in a speech delivered on behalf of the Armen Karo Student Association.
Despite the bilateral announcement of a ceasefire on April 5, protesters gathered in the capital city on April 8 to call on the Republic of Azerbaijan to immediately halt its continuous aggression towards the Armenian population of the self-autonomous enclave and to refrain from making additional threats that further escalate the situation. While calling for full recognition of NKR’s independence and for Azerbaijan to respect the republic’s territorial integrity, and its right to self autonomy, protesters also demanded that Azerbaijan obey and follow the norms of international law and resort to peaceful negotiations in order to settle the conflict.
“Time and time again, oppression, deception, corruption, and aggression have somehow remained the defining characteristics of the Azeri government. Since their independence in 1991, the peaceful and democratic people of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic have simply yearned to live a peaceful life that has always been dignified by consistent progression, democratic principles, and a cordial commitment to internationalism and international law,” said Sevag Belian, a member of the AYF of Canada.
Furthermore, protesters urged the international community to condemn Azerbaijan’s unprovoked aggression towards NKR, and make sure that the government in Baku is held accountable for its aggressive and intolerable behavior in the region. They stressed that if the international community fails to distinguish between perpetrators and victims, it will indirectly create incentives for further violations and reduce the chances of a peaceful resolution.
A historically undisputed Armenian land that has a history of more than 5,000 years, Nagorno-Karabagh was gifted to Azerbaijan in 1921 by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, as an ill-conceived gesture to Turkey.
On Sept. 2, 1991, the people of Nagorno-Karabagh declared independence from the Soviet Union and established the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic. On Dec. 10, 1991, Karabagh held an independence referendum in which 99 percent voted for independence. In response, Azerbaijan launched an all-out war against NKR that targeted civilians and recruited Islamic extremist mujahideen from Afghanistan and Chechnya to join the Azerbaijani army against Christian Armenians.
Despite the Moscow-brokered ceasefire in 1994, Azerbaijan has steadily violated the terms and conditions of the bilateral agreement. On multiple occasions, it has carried out unsanctioned attacks against NKR. The attacks that took place earlier this week, however, were unprecedented in their scale, duration, and volume of civilian casualties.
Founded in 1934, the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada is the largest and most influential Canadian-Armenian youth organization in Canada, working to advance social, political, educational, and cultural awareness among Armenian-Canadian youth.