WASHINGTON, DC — The Greater Washington, DC Armenian community banded together on April 24th, demanding justice for the Armenian Genocide and calling on the US government to stop arming the genocidal regimes of Azerbaijan and Turkey, which continue their attacks on Artsakh and Armenia.
The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Washington DC “Ani” Chapter led the large demonstration at Sheridan Circle across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, where hundreds converged from throughout the region waving Artsakh, Armenian and American flags. A few yards away, a small contingent of Turkish and Azerbaijani government supporters gathered once again to disrupt the solemn remembrance.
AYF DC “Ani” Chapter chair Areni Margossian offered opening remarks vehemently highlighting the “new waves of Azeri aggression,” the “black cloud of normalizing relations with Turkey” and how the Armenian nation will continue to fight as “the 1.5 million lives death toll keeps rising each year.” “We owe it to our ancestors. We owe it to our heroes, and we owe it to the future of the Armenian nation,” she said.
AYF DC “Ani” Chapter member and Homenetmen DC scout troop leader Nanar Keurkunian captivated participants with a powerful speech in Armenian. Keurkunian touched on the struggle of the average Armenian compared to other ethnicities. While many children ask, “Why is the grass green and the sky blue?,” Armenian children ask, “Why has the grass turned red? Like spilled paint but with martyr’s blood? Why when I look up at the sky, I don’t see blue, my eyes start burning from black clouds that are coming from burning Armenian homes, who chose fire over handing out our lands to the enemy?” She also focused on the devastating impact of the November 9, 2020 accord at the end of the 44-day war. “Nikol Pashinyan, with one piece of paper, surrendered our sacred lands, alongside our Armenian history, our religion, our songs and dances and our heroes, who sacrificed their lives,” stated Keurkunian.
AYF Washington DC “Sevan” Junior Chapter chair Sune Hamparian, for her part, referenced the powerful message of the AYF anthem “Haratch Nahadag” and encouraged the crowd to “let the beat of our anthem mark our march to justice.”
Following the demonstration at Sheridan Circle, the AYF DC “Ani” Chapter led the community in a 1.5 mile march to the White House, honoring the 1.5 million lives massacred during the Armenian Genocide and demanding that President Biden stop sending arms and aid to Azerbaijan in an effort to prevent a second genocide. The group paused at the Armenian Embassy to place Artsakh flags on the fence in protest of the current regime’s ill-fated dialogue with Turkey and Azerbaijan’s genocidal regimes and recent statements which would relinquish Artsakh sovereignty to Azerbaijan.
Echoing throughout the heart of the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon were the Armenian community’s chants “Turkey is guilty of Genocide,” “Biden don’t waive section 907” and “Stop Turkish aggression.” The Armenian tricolor decorated the streets of DC as the revolutionary folk song “Zartir Lao” (Awaken, my child) was played throughout the march. Passersby stopped to take pictures, videos and ask questions about the Armenian Genocide and ongoing challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh. In perhaps the first march since the 1970s, the Armenian community of Greater Washington brought the already busy streets of downtown DC to a formidable halt: making sure Washingtonians heard the forceful cries for justice.
At the White House, the community heard remarks from AYF Eastern Region Central Executive member Aram Balian, who discussed the parallels between the Armenian struggle in 1915 and today. “One hundred seven years ago, it was Van, Ani and Moush. Two years ago, it was Shushi and Karvachar. Today, it is Parukh and Martuni. Tomorrow, it is Syunik and Meghri,” said Balian. He challenged Diasporan Armenians “to be the second army of the Armenian people; to always make our voices heard, to make our representatives, our media, our colleagues, our friends, understand what our nation faces so that the sacrifices of our people 107 years ago and two years ago will not have been in vain.” The protest at the White House concluded with a prayer by Reverend Father Sarkis Aktavoukian of Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church and the singing of both the Artsakh and Armenian anthems by the community.
Earlier in the day, Greater Washington, DC Armenians gathered at Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church for a memorial liturgy and wreath laying ceremony to honor the sainted martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. The community remembered and mourned survivors who inspired generations with their stories of survival and instilled the passion to seek justice. Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee member Ani Tchaghlasian offered powerful remarks describing the strength and resilience of the Armenian nation. “We will not bow to Baku. We will not bend to Ankara’s will, and we will not break under the specter of Yerevan’s suicidal path,” stated Tchaghlasian.
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan shared her grandparents’ (Hagop and Siranoush) harrowing escape from Bitlis and cited their “persistence, faith and power to move forward on the path to justice” as their key to genocide survival. She challenged attendees to continue on that path, to build on US recognition by passing the Armenian Genocide Education Act, to ensure future generations learn from this tragic chapter of history and consequences of its denial. With fists raised in defiance, Yerimyan and attendees pledged to continue the struggle for Armenian Genocide reparations and restitution, on the path toward a free, independent and united Armenian homeland.
Referencing the devastating 44-day Azerbaijani and Turkish attack on Artsakh and Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh representative to the US Robert Avetisyan inspired all to stand strong in the face of injustice. “We may have lost this battle, but we do not give up. The fight goes on. As long as we don’t give up, we know this will lead us to miraculous achievements. We will do our best to preserve our culture, our last names, our religion and our literature. The fight must go on.”
The series of programs commemorating the 107th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide were organized under the auspices of the Greater Washington, DC Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee, which includes Rev. Father Aktavoukian, the Soorp Khatch Board of Trustees and Ladies Guild; ARF Sebouh Gomideh; Armenian Relief Society (ARS) “Satenig” Chapter; Greater Washington Homenetmen Armenian Scouting and Athletic Association; Greater Washington Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association; AYF “Ani” Seniors and “Sevan” Juniors; ANC of Greater Washington; and the Hamasdegh Armenian School.
The annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance, organized by Armenian American organizations and the Armenian Embassy, in cooperation with the Congressional Armenian Caucus, will be held on Wednesday, April 27th, 6:00pm to 9:00pm, at the Rayburn House Office Building “Gold Room.” Due to COVID- precautions, participation is limited to 100 guests. The ANCA will be streaming the proceedings on its Facebook page.