Armenian grassroots activism in Boston yields roundtable discussions on Artsakh with US senators

Local rally will continue pressure on elected officials to support Artsakh Armenians

An image from the October weekly protests in front of the JFK Federal Building in Boston

BOSTON—To protest the lack of a U.S. response to Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh Armenians, a coalition of local advocacy, community, youth and student groups assembled by the Zoravik Activist Collective held a silent vigil every Thursday afternoon in October in front of the JFK Federal Building in Boston. 

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By making the cause of Artsakh Armenians visible to federal elected representatives and their staff members, the group caught the attention of Senator Ed Markey, who spoke with the activists, later inviting them to participate in an online roundtable discussion of Massachusetts Armenian community leaders. Senator Markey said he had signed legislation to grant more humanitarian aid to Artsakh Armenians and he had urged both the State and Treasury Departments “to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act on select individuals in the government of Azerbaijan.”

Inspired by this interaction, the group wrote to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who in turn invited Zoravik to organize a similar online roundtable discussion on Zoom on November 9. At the meeting, Zoravik’s Lisa Gulesserian read the group’s demands:

“We expect our government to prevent genocide and support democracies. We demand: 1) condemnation of Azerbaijan’s genocidal actions at the highest level from our president; 2) concrete steps to hold Azerbaijan and its leadership accountable (such as sanctions against individuals, as well as cutting off all military and other aid to Azerbaijan); 3) more humanitarian aid for forcibly displaced Armenians from Artsakh and robust security aid for the effective self-defense of Armenia; 4) that Azerbaijan return Armenian political leaders and prisoners of war illegally held in Baku. Senator Warren, we ask you to not only co-sponsor and support current legislation with these demands in the Senate, but also to actively advocate for these demands in Congress by giving public speeches on and off the Senate floor and by actively persuading your colleagues in Congress to join your efforts. It’s the right thing to do.”

A screen shot from the November 9 roundtable held over Zoom with Senator Elizabeth Warren

Gulesserian then moderated representatives from the Armenian Assembly, Armenian National Committee of America, Pan-Armenian Council, Armenian Youth Federation, the editors of Genocide Studies International, Harvard Law Armenian Student Association and other local student associations, along with interested individuals, who informed the senator of their concerns. Oft-repeated demands included sanctions against Azerbaijan and greater humanitarian aid for Artsakh Armenians, along with concerns that Azerbaijan could attack Armenia and the need for Artsakh’s cultural monuments to be protected. 

Senator Warren spoke of her dedication to the issues, citing her support for Senator Padilla’s June resolution that called for sanctions against Azerbaijan. She pledged to elevate the issues with the State Department. She also said, “If people in the U.S. aren’t talking about it or don’t understand, then the State Department and government feel less urgency to talk about it on their end.”

To continue pressuring elected leaders while educating the public, Zoravik will hold a rally at the JFK Federal Building in Boston, at the intersection of Cambridge and Sudbury Streets, on Saturday, November 18 from 3:30-5 p.m., with many of the roundtable representatives sharing their statements alongside musicians and local elected officials. Protest signs will be provided.

“Our visibility and pressure are amplifying Artsakh Armenians’ needs and fight for justice,” said Sevag Arzoumanian, Zoravik member. “So we welcome all members of the Armenian community to the rally to demonstrate their support for our siblings in Artsakh. Let’s show other Armenian communities throughout the U.S. how to similarly pressure their elected representatives.”

Zoravik Activist Collective

Zoravik Activist Collective

Zoravik (“in solidarity”) is an Armenian activist collective that promotes new avenues for activism.
Zoravik Activist Collective


  1. Thank you for publishing this important story. A good example of what sustained street action by a handful of activists –and grass-roots activism in general– can achieve.

    Please share this article widely and encourage everyone you know in the Boston area to attend the Rally to Demand U.S. Action for Artsakh this Saturday, Nov 18 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm, at the JFK Federal Bldg in Boston.

    Just like the Silent Protest series that preceded it, this Rally is co-sponsored by a wide cross-section of Armenian community organizations, including the Pan Armenian Council of New England, the Armenian Assembly of Massachusetts, and the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Mass, among others.

    But unlike the previous set, this Protest will be anything but silent! There will be short activist-style speeches by over a dozen representatives of large and small, old and new, Armenian and non-Armenian organizations. And there will be live music by local up-and-coming musicians. So come, make some noise, and get your voice heard by our elected officials.

    Rally details:

  2. My name is Danielle Mikaelian and I am an Armenian student at Harvard Law. I was at this discussion and very much appreciated Senator Warren taking the time to hear us out. I hope she proactively takes steps to help the Armenian community.

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