WORCESTER, Mass.—Over 300 Armenians from America’s oldest Armenian community braved the pouring rain and came together outside Worcester City Hall on Friday to protest against the unprovoked war and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh which continues to endanger the lives of its indigenous ethnic Armenians.
The event was held in the open plaza in front of City Hall facing Main Street, and even the inclement weather was not able to hold back this largest gathering of Armenians in recent Worcester memory. Following a heartfelt prayer for Artsakh and Armenia offered by Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian of Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church in Whitinsville, Marilyn Aprahamian sang the Star Spangled Banner and 12-year old twins Noushig and Armig Bardizbanian sang both the Artsakh and Armenian national anthems.
Mayor Joe Petty and Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) both made statements to open the proceedings. They reminded attendees of Armenians’ long and rich history in Worcester while condemning the Turkish-supported Azerbaijani aggression against Armenians which threatens to destabilize the entire Caucasus region and draw in surrounding actors including Russia and Iran.
“We must impose individual sanctions on the leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan, freeze all their assets in US banks and financial institutions and declare Artsakh an independent nation once and for all,” asserted Congressman McGovern in his remarks.
For his part, Mayor Petty said, “I’m proud to stand here with Jim McGovern who every day of his career in Congress fights for peace and civil rights, not just in the United States but throughout the world.” He honored the Armenian community as the “fabric” of the Worcester community and offered his unyielding support.
Worcester Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) member Rita Bahnan, continuing in her role as emcee, introduced Worcester Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) member Hovig Charchaflian who shed light on the decades of ethnic hate growing in Azerbaijan and Turkey and framed the current geopolitical conflict in Karabakh as a battle between civilization and tyranny. Worcester AYF member Bedros Arprahamian wrote a somber and touching letter to fallen soldiers reciting their names and saying, “I consider you brothers even though we never met, and maybe one day we will. Your actions will not be forgotten.”
Chair of the AYF Central Executive Kenar Charchaflian spoke about personal contact with friends on the front lines and galvanized the crowd with an emotional and stirring account of the human impact of the war on Armenian families, friends and community members. Invoking the memory of AYF founder General Karekin Njdeh, she recalled his statement about a nation’s future being found in its youth. “We the youth are not just the future. We are also the present,” she stated, stressing that the youth are not only leading the way into the streets, but will also lead the way to rebuilding the homeland.
Genocide scholar Prof. Henry Theriault of Worcester State University closed out the speakers by offering an analysis of the current situation, stressing that Armenia and Artsakh only want peace. He reminded those gathered that Worcester has historically been a haven for those fleeing oppression. “We are seeing, in my opinion, the potential for genocide right now,” he warned, explaining the particularly frightening knowledge that those joining Azerbaijan in their attacks know exactly what they are doing and are “embracing it.”
Rev. Carlyle of the Armenian Church of the Martyrs concluded with prayer and everyone joined in solemn singing of the Hayr Mer (Lord’s Prayer) led by Archpriest Fr. Aram Stepanian. The gathering ended with a series of chanting and enthusiastic demonstrators reminding the city, the world, our representatives and our community that Armenians will not stand silently by and watch our civilized homeland fall prey to warmongering tyrants.