CHICAGO, Ill. — It is often said that Armenians always come together in hard times. In this current state of crisis, we are once again showing that this is true. When our brothers and sisters in Armenia woke up to a war on September 27, the diaspora was with them. So many of us have friends and family in Armenia and Artsakh, and we know the grave danger that our homeland was in. Seeing the brave resilience of the soldiers and civilians in Armenia, we sprang into action. With the wounds of the Genocide still open in our hearts, we know that this war is an attempt to finish the job. And, as Nareen Melkonian Touloumdjian said in her poem “Futile,” “My grandchildren will NOT chant ‘2020 never again!’”
After a week of organizing, the Chicago Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Ararat” Chapter and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) “Christapor” Gomideh organized a protest against Azeri aggression and showing support for Artsakh. ARF and AYF members were joined by members of Homenetmen, Hamazkayin, local church congregations, the AGBU, University of Chicago students and other community members and organizations. We were also joined by representatives of Chicago’s Greek and Assyrian communities, who have likewise been the victims of Turkish genocide and aggression, and stand in solidarity with Armenia. The demonstration was over 150 people strong, exemplifying unity and strength to fight for peace in the face of enormous adversity.
The protest began at the NBC Tower, where Chicago’s Turkish Consulate is located. After about an hour, the demonstration moved down to the Pioneer Court Plaza on Michigan Avenue, a heavily trafficked area in the heart of downtown Chicago. The event featured three speakers: Hellenic American Leadership Council executive director Endy Zemenides, AYF representative Areni Artinian and ARF representative Hagop Soulakian. They spoke about the current conflict, including educating the public and sharing our fears, our pleas and our strength. Members also handed out flyers and spoke with pedestrians, educating them about the situation and the threat of a second Armenian Genocide. We received support from passing people and cars and will continue to raise our voices to garner support in our Armenian and non-Armenian communities alike.
The protest was an emotional event, a much-needed physical gathering, where we were able to march side by side and see the faces of the Armenians who are grieving, anxiously checking the news reports and fighting with us every day. “It’s my duty as an Armenian, regardless of where I’m living, to come out and demonstrate my support for Armenia and Artsakh. Today I’m fighting for our soldiers in Artsakh and Armenia who are putting down their lives in the name of their homeland,” said Shant Armenian, AYF novice and University of Chicago student.
We will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters who are fighting on the border, organizing in Armenia, closing the streets in Los Angeles, and getting on flights to defend the homeland. We will continue organizing our communities, raising awareness, raising funds, taking political action and doing everything in our power to defend our right to live in peace.