CHICAGO, Ill.—More than 100 Armenian-Americans gathered in Daley Plaza in Downtown Chicago to honor the 32nd anniversary of the Republic of Armenia’s second Independence Day. Community members marked the occasion by demonstrating to raise awareness for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh.
The program began with Very Rev. Father Boghos Tinkjian of All Saints’ Armenian Apostolic Church in Glenview offering opening prayers. Armen Alexanian, co-chair of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of IL, served as master of ceremonies. Chicago “Ararat” Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Chapter member Aleena Surenian and Hagop Soulakian, chairman of the Chicago Christapor Gomideh of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), offered their reflections on the importance of the anniversary and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. Both provided a voice of hope and reason for the activists and demonstrators. Students from the Taniel Varoujan Armenian school–the next generation of the Armenian-American community– and dozens of other supporters and allies joined the demonstration.
Surenian reminded the crowd of the importance of Armenian independence. She spoke of ancient kingdoms and struggles and compared them to the uncertain situations Armenians faced to secure their independence first in 1918 and then again in 1991: numerous genocidal neighbors, an indifferent international community and a resolute will for a free and independent Armenia. Noting the importance of community activism and the power of the American voter, she encouraged the crowd to “be politically active and to continually [pressure] the U.S. government to do the right thing for Armenia… and to work together.”
During the demonstration, Ken Hachikian, co-chair of the ANC of IL, was interviewed by WBBM Radio – one of Chicago’s largest commercial all-day radio stations – and took the opportunity to inform the public about the ongoing humanitarian crisis. He urged community members to rally behind and join local organizations, such as the ANC of Illinois, in alerting U.S. lawmakers to the crisis and urging immediate action to alleviate the humanitarian effects of starvation, ethnic cleansing and genocide on the Armenian population of Artsakh.
Soulakian shared the turbulent history of the Armenian nation, comparing it to the ongoing crisis in Artsakh, and reminded the crowd to be persistent and vigilant. He called on members of the community to become ANCA Rapid Responders and to continue pressuring U.S. lawmakers to sign onto key pieces of legislation. Soulakian noted the importance of remaining hopeful and spoke of the importance of the Armenian Diaspora, which he called “a beacon of hope, strength for our homeland.”
Prominent community member Honorary Consul Oscar Tatosian spoke about the pride all Armenians should have about the 32nd anniversary of the second independence of Armenia. He also spoke about the tragedy unfolding in Artsakh as the world has stood silently by. He called upon all Armenians in the Diaspora to unite in helping their fellow Armenians in distress in Artsakh.
On this occasion, a 25-foot Armenian flag was raised over the City of Chicago public plaza, to the strains of Mer Hairenik, as a symbol of the community’s solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Armenia and Artsakh. Following the flag raising, the AYF led a protest march at the plaza, criticizing Azerbaijan’s genocidal actions in Artsakh, aided and abetted by Turkey. The students of the Taniel Varoujan School and other community members were active participants in the protest.
“We were honored to be able to do our part in raising awareness for the ongoing genocide in Artsakh. With heavy hearts, we protested to the Chicago community and asked our neighbors, friends and lawmakers to stand on the justice page of history, as we continue to advocate for our brothers and sisters entrenched in the mountains of Artsakh with clear uncertainty on what the future holds,” said Alexanian. “It is our duty to be the voice for the voiceless, and I am proud that we had the opportunity to show both the Chicago community and our next generation of Armenian-Americans, the students from Taniel Varoujan Armenian School, the importance of activism and fighting for your roots and right to exist.”