CHICAGO, Ill.— On Saturday, August 8, the Chicago “Ararat” Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Chapter organized a protest against recent Azeri aggression. This demonstration was intended to bring awareness to the situation in Tavush and show solidarity with the people of Tavush and Artsakh, as well as the Armenians that have been victims of hate crimes worldwide. The protest was held in front of the Wrigley Building in the heart of downtown Chicago in view of the city’s Turkish consulate. Taking place in the same location as Chicago’s annual march for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which was forced to move this year due to COVID-19, the demonstration served as a reminder of the strength, unity and persistence needed to defend our Armenian communities and heritage through time.
Around 50 members of the AYF, the Chicago Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) “Christapor” Gomideh, Homenetmen and Hamazkayin participated. Keeping in mind Chicago’s rising cases of COVID-19 and the aggressive counter-protests that have occurred in other states, the number of participants was intentionally kept small. The event was also not advertised on social media in an effort to make sure that this demonstration was not an arena for conflict, but rather a space for messages of peace and justice.
Demonstrators led chants and held signs raising awareness of the recent attacks and calling for justice. Calls for justice were interspersed with singing and dancing to Armenian patriotic songs, displaying our community’s capacity to find hope and strength through our culture in difficult times. The demonstration drew attention from passersby in this busy downtown area, creating an opportunity for education and awareness of the current situation in Armenia on a larger scale.
As of now, the military situation in Tavush has not escalated any further. But Azeri soldiers on the border have been firing on civilian targets, including Armenian homes and kindergartens for over 25 years. Even as the attacks fade from the radar of breaking news, it is essential that we keep our eyes on Tavush. The people of the border villages continue to live under daily fire and suffer from Azerbaijan’s efforts to make their villages unsafe and drive economic opportunity out of the region, forcing villagers to leave their homes in search of safety and sustenance.
Even as we turn our eyes to urgent matters like the crisis in Lebanon, we must remember the people of Tavush, who have been ignored by the international community and many in the diaspora for years. We must continue to support them in their long-term struggle. We must support the soldiers and civilians in Tavush, who are engaging in both military and nonviolent resistance. Soldiers on Armenia’s border risk their lives every day to defend our homeland, and villagers work tirelessly to rebuild their homes, create new economic opportunities and resist Azerbaijan’s campaign of terror by working to make their homeland a beautiful, safe and sustainable place to live. They provide leadership from the front lines and show us the work that is necessary and possible for the Armenian cause.