Shouting “We Remember Sumgait” and “Justice for Gurgen Margaryan,” Greater Washington, DC area Armenian Americans braved freezing temperatures today to commemorate the victims of twenty-five years of Azerbaijani violence and to stand in solidarity with the people of the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, in their effort to secure a fair and lasting peace.
The protest, organized by the Greater Washington, DC Armenian Youth Federation “Ani” Chapter and the St. Mary’s Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA), took place in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy and coincided with February 27-29,1988, pogroms against the Armenian population of Sumgait, which set the stage for attacks in Baku in 1990, outright Azerbaijani aggression, and a cycle of anti-Armenian violence that continues to this day. The demonstrators also called special attention to Azerbaijan’s destruction of the 1,300 year old Armenian cemetery in Djulfa, Nakhichevan, where they demolished thousands of intricately carved cross-stones (Khatchkars).
“In February, 1988, the Karabakh legislature’s democratic action to reunite with Armenia was met with the brutal pogroms in Azerbaijan’s second largest city, Sumgait,” said AYF Ani Chapter Chairwoman Narineh Abrahamian, who was among those leading chants during the protest. “Twenty five years later, the Azerbaijani government’s threats and violence continue unabated, with Gor Kazaryan the latest victim of sniper fire last week. “We stand in solidarity with the people of independent Artsakh – committed to ensuring that their fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not quashed by the dictatorial Aliyev regime.”
Following the protest, Soorp Khatch Armenian Church pastor, Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian led activists in a prayer in honor of the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku victims.
In a surprise move, Azerbaijani groups abandoned their annual counter-protest in defense of their ambassador and embassy. Previously, flag-wearing Azerbaijani and Turkish protesters jovially celebrated the Sumgait atrocities, dishonoring the memory of those who perished. AYF members had taken additional security measures this year in the face of the brawl incited by pro-Aliyev youth at a solemn remembrance of Sumgait victims held at the French National Assembly earlier this week.