Azeri Counterprotesters Disrupt Armenian Flash Mob Dance in Harvard Square

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—One of Boston’s most iconic settings served as a dance floor for a small group of spirited young Armenians on Saturday as part of the Diaspora’s growing response to the deadly flare-up on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.

“There’s no better way to show how Armenians are fighting for peace than through dance,” said Meghri Dervartanian, a member of the scouting and athletic group Homenetmen Boston. “Dance is a common language. You don’t have to be Armenian to understand it.” 

Dervartanian was hand in hand with Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston member Araz Ashjian performing “yarkhushta” in the middle of Harvard Square as Azeri counter-protesters draped in their national flags tried to disrupt their choreography and flashed grey wolf hand signs. Within moments, other participants joined in the Armenian ceremonial war dance.

SNDC of Boston member Araz Ashjian, Homenetmen Boston Chapter member Meghri Dervartanian and Garen Garabedian (Photo: Vrej Ashjian)

There were at least two instances where counter-protesters unplugged the Armenian music in footage that was live-streamed on the Armenian Weekly Facebook page. At one point, an unfamiliar Azeri song echoed from the loud speakers. Undaunted, the young people patiently waited until they heard the popular Armenian folk song “Mer Barere” (“Our Dances”) to resume dancing with the chief intent to lead a uniquely peaceful demonstration and raise awareness to passersby about the ongoing hostilities in the Tavush region.

“We want to be heard,” expressed Homenetmen Boston member Anto Terzian, who helped hold a massive sign that read, “Azerbaijan wants war. Armenia wants peace.” Others, like Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter member Nairi Krafian, conversed with inquisitive patrons and even invited two non-Armenians to join in the dancing. “They were very receptive,” explained Krafian. “They liked that it was a positive protest with dancing and happiness rather than anger and yelling.”

Overall, aside from a few verbal confrontations over rights to project their respective songs, the flash mob was nonviolent, but nonetheless taking place in a rather unsettling and hostile environment. That’s what compelled the Armenian youth to move their demonstration after two songs to a spot less than 50 feet away outside the Harvard Square station.

Knar Krafian (Photo: Vrej Ashjian)

“It just showed how strong we are,” said Knar Krafian, who told the Weekly she felt proud to be Armenian. “We’re not going to respond to their calls for violence,” she continued. 

The Armenian Weekly did sit down with a counter-protester, who was watching his associates sing from afar. The interviewee, however, asked that his identity be kept private and his answers to the Weekly’s questions about the ongoing developments and anti-Armenian rhetoric remain undocumented. Azeris later interjected the brief discussion and began yelling “Karabakh is Azerbaijan.”

Following the demonstration, reports suddenly surfaced on Saturday night of an alleged altercation between a group of Armenians and Azeris that reportedly ended in violence. Cambridge Police, however, tell the Armenian Weekly that officers were sent to the area of Brattle Street and Farwell Place at around 8:30 for a report of a fight. Police say the individuals involved had already left the scene upon their arrival. No injuries were reported. To help clear any confusion, organizers with the Homenetmen Boston Chapter did release a statement on Facebook alerting its community that none of their members were involved in the alleged attacks and that no one from their organization was attacked or harmed. “Our organization will continue to work to preserve our culture and provide a place for Homenetmenagans to become active and thoughtful members of our community,” concluded the statement.

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Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the assistant editor for the Armenian Weekly. She is a formally trained broadcast news writer and a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.
Leeza Arakelian

@LeezaYeretzian

Assistant Editor @armenianweekly Fmr. @boston25 writer, Assoc. Producer @AmericaTonight (Al Jazeera America) @ecjrn 2012 @ucla 2010
MASSACHUSETTS. #editing #spelling https://t.co/3iahqU7YvU - 8 hours ago

17 Comments

  1. Bravo to our youth….. defenders of the truth. The Azeris and Turkish
    propaganda is no match for our bright, educated and resourceful new
    generation. I am so impressed with the peaceful and effective perceptions
    displayed publicly. A cultural and positive display in Boston. A response of
    strength, silence and dignity in NYC in contrast to the violent and vile
    outbursts by the Azeris. Simply displaying the Grey Wolves hand signal
    which is a racist and racist group, says it all. Armenians Build and Seek Peace.
    The Azeris want war, destruction and chaos.

  2. First, why weren’t the police called at the very first sign of trouble especially given previous attacks agains Armenians all over the world recently?

    Did no Armenian adult have the good sense to do that?

    This concerns me very much and is a sign that supervision is needed.

    I think it would have been better if the group had simply handed out flyers to educate people. Was that done? If not, why not?

    I heard that an Armenian was hit by an Azeri with brass knuckles and had stitches at a hospital. That happened after a group of Azeris followed Armenians back to their cars.

  3. To my fellow Armenians: I saw the dancing and heard the music, but it made no sense to me. As much as I love your passion, remember that this is a solemn moment for us and a life-and-death moment for our compatriots in Artsakh and Armenia. Be authentic and stay strong!

  4. Dear Leeza/Editor, anyone can see that these are not counter-protestors, they are provocateurs. Big Difference. Please correct the title of the article. They are interrupting and trying to provoke a reaction by making the Turkish version of the nazi salute. The “wolf” sign that woman was making with her right hand in the video is the grey wolve sign. These are the ultra-nationalist who regularly declare Armenians need to be wiped out of the Earth. Just wanted to point that out.

  5. Blessings to ARMENIA and all people involved in the conflict hope peace comes soon .
    Greetings from Minneapolis MINNESOTA 🙏🏼🙏🏾🙏🏼

  6. Let’s stop dancing and start protesting seriously. If you think that this is the equivalent of the Velvet Revolution and that the Azeri counter protestors will somehow stop flashing Gray Wolf salutes, think again. Get the elected officials involved. Go in front of Senator Warren’s house until she denounces Azeri’s aggression and threat of nuclear destruction clearly and repeatedly. Her silence has been deafening. Then post the date and time so we can show up and let her know she needs to show support to the Armenians who elected her!

  7. “There’s no better way to show how Armenians are fighting for peace than through dance”

    With respect, whilst I appreciate the youth’s good intentions, Armenian soldiers are being killed on a weekly basis. Such circumstances call for a more sombre tone of protest. The way I see it dance, is a form of celebration. I have yet to recall Armenians dancing at a genocide commemoration event.

  8. I think signs should also address the arms trade. Shame on the leaders that sell weapons to terrorists, knowing perfectly where weapons are planned to be used. They need to shout “don’t turn blind eye on arms trade”, “lives over money”, “stop the greed”, “build not destroy”, “we will defend”, … just ideas. Also the signs need to reflect on the OSCE Minsk Group, call for monitoring, which Aliev is doesn’t want to because it monitoring will show which side is attacking.

    Also pictures of fallen solgiers should be present, maybe with signage “lives lost to hate and greed” or just pictures. I think it’s important for the protesters to get together ahead of time, reflect on the events, summoraze the sentiments and agree on the sigs and slogans. Of course it has to align with sentiments in Armenia and political, military objectives. Armenia is constantly calling to stop irresponsible arms trade.

  9. Please let us be aware that the Jewish American lobby and — as is widely known already — Israel both support Azerbaijan.

    We do not like to say this about the Jewish American lobby, of course, but it’s unfortunately true, and it’s a disappointment.

    This is one example of many (AJC visits Aliyev): https://www.ajc.org/news/ajc-delegation-visits-azerbaijan-meets-president-aliyev

    The AJC here too: https://twitter.com/davidharrisajc/status/1235546140441001986?lang=en

    Please look at this too (Aliyev meets heads of Jewish American organizations):

    https://www.conferenceofpresidents.org/content/president-ilham-aliyev-meets-heads-american-jewish-organizations

    These are unfortunate facts to which we cannot close our eyes.

    What is to be done?

  10. 20+ years ago Turks and Azeris wouldn’t dare appear at any Armenian protest or event, especially not a few feet away throwing the gray wolf sign. Clearly we have gone too soft. Then again there were no smartphones and cameras everywhere. Good luck new generation, you will need it especially in this upside-down times where you can’t properly defend yourself and rights gradually being taken away.

    Clearly the dance, music, and cheerful vibe upset them. I am sure they were fuming being ignored as if they don’t exist. Good job. It seems some other people commenting didn’t get the point.

    • “20+ years ago Turks and Azeris wouldn’t dare appear at any Armenian protest or event”

      One possibility is because they weren’t that numerous in Western Europe or North America. Here are some statistics from Wikipedia :

      •Germany: 4 million Turks
      •Austria: 500,000 Turks
      •Switzerland: 120,000 Turks
      •Italy: 40,000 Turks
      •France: 1 million Turks
      •Sweden: 125,000 Turks
      •Denmark: 70,000 Turks

      “Clearly we have gone too soft” – Not sure who “we” refers to here. If “we” refers to Armenians, then of course the Armenian diaspora can always do more and as you rightly mentioned capitalise on the age of the smartphone to take video footage. However, we are not the ones that have encouraged the mass migration of Turks to the west.

  11. this is not the time to dance, get serious, get real and protest in a serious manner, Armenia is under serious threat by turkey and the azeri’s. Armenia’s very existence is at risk.

  12. There is a time to dance and a time to fight. Armenians are peace loving. Bravo to the youth who are doing what they can to bring attention. If the bells at Sardarabad start to ring. If the church bells start to call for Armenians around the world to help then Katch Vartan’s spirit will rise and all of us must be ready to defend Armenia.

  13. I wonder how these brainwashed unfortunate Axerbaijanis run away from a dictatorial uncivilized regime of Aliyev, and where they found peace and love and respect in their adoptive respective Western countries, where they Learnt freedom of speech and justice, all of sudden they become fanatic Turks again and Armenian haters.

    I believe it is their duty to hate Armenian, it is written in Aliyev black book to hate Armenians in order to get equal rights and and respect like Armenians of the world. Armenians achieved their goals in the last 100 years after Armenian Genocide with hard work, where they become innovative scientist in tech and Engineers, Mathematicians, politicians, professors, art and music icons and many more…

    I wonder how these brainwashed herds with the help of corrupt oil fund can achieve what Armenians achieved in the last 100 years, people who lost their ancestral land due to a Genocide and hate toward indigenous Christians, where their lands illegally occupied, where moon and crescent lovers commit first Genocide of Century, where until today they are preaching like sultan Aliyev for land and victory of their ancestral achievements In a well advanced Christian civilization!

    I wonder how Axeri dictator destroyed UNISEF recognized Julfa Armenian cemetery, where pictures and videos will remain in our hearts forever, a monster dictator, who is dreaming GHARAGAGH back to his oil Sheikhdom!

    https://twitter.com/NoTrueScotist/status/1284062448325033984

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