CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—On the eve of the 104th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, about 100 Armenians from the local community descended on Harvard Square in a protest organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Greater Boston Nejdeh Chapter.
“It hurts that we’re still in the same place,” said Nina Vosbigian, who serves on the executive board. The Tuesday night demonstration was part of the group’s 24 Days of Action, a new initiative designed to energize the community in the month of April with fundraising events, social media campaigns and protests to raise awareness and demand justice for the crimes of 1915.
With Armenian flags unfurling in the night sky, AYF leaders Ida Barsoumian, Meghri Dervartanian, Ani Khachatourian and Saro Sakaian shouted short, scripted messages, demanding recognition, reparations and restitution. The crowd repeated after them as “End the cycle of genocide! Shame on Turkey! Blood is on your hands!” echoed throughout the bustling city during evening rush hour.
Young people from the chapter were also distributing information cards with detailed facts about the Armenian Genocide to hurried pedestrians passing glances on their way to their destination. “It’s frustrating, obviously,” said 16 year-old Berj Chekijian as he was holding his signage facing traffic outside the Harvard Square T-stop. “I feel like we all need to be out here and get this important event recognized.”
The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan still denies the 104 year old events at the hands of the Ottoman Empire where 1.5 million men, women and children perished under unimaginable conditions.
“Every year is the same pain,” said Shushan Rafaelyan in Armenian, as she looked on at a small group dancing to a traditional Armenian song and celebrating their survival. “These are powerful feelings. I don’t know if it’s right to live with this pain year after year or dance to keep on going. I don’t know which one’s right. But the people are strong, both in the Diaspora and in Armenia, especially on this night.” Rafaelyan, a Tavitian Scholar from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is originally from Yerevan. She described the extraordinary rainfall every year on April 24; locals believe the 1.5 million souls are crying from heaven.