BOSTON, Mass.—More than 50 members of the Greater Boston community participated in a die-in protest on Wednesday afternoon outside the Thomas O’Neill Federal Building, calling on Azerbaijan to end its aggression towards Artsakh and Armenians around the world.
“We want to shed light on what’s happening in Armenia,” said Alexis Cormier, chair of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter at the helm of the peaceful demonstration. “Youth have a bigger voice than they think.”
On July 12, 2020, Armenian officials say Azerbaijan violated the United Nation’s call for ceasefire amid a global pandemic and initiated deadly border clashes in the Armenian region of Tavush. Five Armenian soldiers have died after Azeri forces attacked schools, villages and homes as well as a factory that was producing masks to be used during the pandemic. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense has also threatened to bomb Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant.
The fighting has compelled Diasporan Armenians around the world to express their solidarity with their homeland in the form of mass protests. In Boston on Wednesday evening, there was a more subdued, but equally powerful effort by activists from the local AYF chapter. Young people spread their bodies on the sidewalk on Causeway Street, quietly clutching Armenian flags and signs that read “Armenia Wants Peace,” “Stop Azeri Aggression” and “Armenia Strong.”
The emotive display was also an educational opportunity for non-Armenians and passersby. Many honked their cars in support, while others even joined the effort and participated in the chants. “The repercussions [of the Genocide] are strong as ever right now, and these same ideologies are so prominent against Armenians,” explained Luke Chobanian from Belmont, whose family escaped from Van during the Armenian Genocide. “I want to do anything I can to raise awareness and stand up for my people.”
Wednesday’s die-in protest was largely peaceful in nature, but there were several instances that were reminiscent of ongoing anti-Armenian sentiments that have resurfaced in recent days. Roughly two hours into the protest, reckless Azeri drivers took to the streets causing havoc. At one point, they drove dangerously close at an angle towards Armenian youth protestors who were chanting “No war” and raising their hands in the air signaling peace. The Azerbaijani drivers were mere centimeters away before swerving off. Another pair of cars were seen crashing into each other after circling the block multiple times and cursing and mocking Armenian youth.
The group was also confronted with the neo-fascist Turkish sign of the Gray Wolf, a racist and xenophobic symbol that has been widely used recently among counter-protesters against Armenians. Outnumbered Azerbaijani protesters also threw water bottles at the Armenian group and chanted “Death to the Armenian” and “Stop Armenian aggression.”
“No matter how much they want to get rid of us, they will never be able to,” said Hovig Jamsakian of Billerica, Mass. “They’ve failed for centuries, and we will keep on fighting.”
Longtime AYF Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter member Meghri Dervartanian led Armenian youth in multiple chants depicting Armenia’s efforts towards peace. “The torch has now been passed to us. It is up to us to educate those around us about the truth and only the truth. It is up to us to let the world know, to friend or foe alike, we will continue the revolution at any cost,” said Dervartanian in her passionate description of her commitment to the Armenian cause. “Nothing will hinder us from our will to survive and our ultimate goal for a free, independent and united Armenia.”
Dervartanian will be among another group of participants in a flash mob protest led by the Homenetmen Boston Chapter that is scheduled for Saturday evening at Harvard Square. Masks will be required, and gloves will be provided.