Community leader Mher Janian oversees the crowd at the Rally for Artsakh

NEW YORK – As heroic soldiers in the homeland battle on the frontlines to defend Artsakh, Armenians around the diaspora have mobilized to show their solidarity and support of this latest onslaught on the territory and its people. The Rally for Artsakh, that took place at the United Nations on Thursday, October 1, was a peaceful protest demonstration by the New York and New Jersey Armenian communities that condemned Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression.

An impressive number of 300 participants gathered in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, where the vibrant red, blue and orange tricolors stood out among the sea of people. The Armenian flags were draped around shoulders and waved high in the air as protestors chanted and held posters to appeal to the public. The energetic yet somber mood prevailed as the crowd voiced their demands and called for an end to Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression that began on September 27 and has since intensified.

Close to 300 people gathered to condemn Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression in Artsakh

Mourning the loss of soldier and civilian lives, the hymn Der Voghormia was sang in their memory, led by Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, who both addressed the audience in English and Armenian.

In his remarks, Bishop Findikyan called for the unification of Armenians while the “greatest imaginable catastrophe is unfolding and escalating in our homeland of Armenia and Artsakh.”

He cited the power of unity, setting aside all differences, and “supporting our soldiers, our people and our brothers and sisters in our homeland.”

“Although we are far away from Armenia, we show the world that we are one people and we will always defend our homeland and our sacred land of Artsakh,” said Bishop Findikyan. “I join you today in confidence, prayer and faith as God protects our people and our lands.”

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Bishop Tanielian called for “unity in action” and for the world community to witness the “hidden and secret agenda behind the large-scale war” launched by Azerbaijan and Turkey against Armenia and Artsakh.

“We salute the brave and heroic efforts of the soldiers and people in Artsakh and Armenia, who immediately and effectively responded to this unnecessary attack,” said Bishop Tanielian.

He highlighted the cycle of denialism over the last century from Turkey – that has tried to bury the truth of the Armenian Genocide – and the subsequent denial of Azerbaijan that Artsakh, which was annexed to them by Stalin in 1920, belongs to the Armenian people.

“Artsakh was, is, and always will be Armenia,” he said. “We express solidarity and support of the soldiers victorious march that will pave the road towards permanent peace, understanding, cooperation and prosperity in the entire region.”

Anoush Ter Taulian, an Artsakh war veteran, attends the Rally for Artsakh

Despite the fact that the event was organized in a short time on a weekday, a significant portion of young professionals and youth were present at the rally, many of whom have dedicated their time and resources to help build a solid bridge between the diaspora and the homeland.

New York native Garen Spendjian said it was his duty to attend the rally “in support of our beautiful Armenia and for our troops.”

Garen Spendjian stands in solidarity with the Armenian soldiers

“If an 18-year-old boy or a 55-year-old man can volunteer to defend Armenia on the front lines, then the least I can do is stand in front of the UN and get my voice heard to help put an end to this and bring our soldiers home,” said Spendjian, whose cousin fought for the liberation of Artsakh in the 1990s.

Spendjian, who attended with his family, cited the power of social media and its ability to help disseminate the message of the Armenian cause. The photos and videos of the eye-catching event could be picked up by news outlets, an important way to “help fight the war on this side of the world.”

“I urge the Armenian community to show up to any peaceful protest or rally because we need to be vocal for our Hayrenik [homeland],” said Spendjian, acknowledging the importance of strength in numbers when it comes to spreading awareness of the terrorism being committed by Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“A nation that becomes an army is impossible to beat,” said Spendjian, a professional basketball player who co-founded the nonprofit organization Hoops4Hayastan with his friend Matt Madoian.

While playing on the Armenian National Basketball Team, they noticed the enthusiasm of local kids who watched their workouts and games. When Spendjian and Madoian returned to the US, they asked themselves how they could help the youth in Armenia and connect them with their budding interest in basketball. They began their efforts by collecting athletic gear from around the world and distributing the donations by hand in villages from Karbi to Barzdrashem.

Noticing the positive impact of the donations, Spendjian and Madoian expanded their vision further and set their sights towards renovating gyms in villages across Armenia in order to “provide kids with indoor and outdoor basketball courts so they can have the same experiences and opportunities as us growing up.”

“As you can imagine this deepened my bond with Armenia because I now have a direct tie to the future of our country,” said Spendjian, whose family has also undertaken another initiative to help bolster the garment production business in Armenia. “I want to continue to see its growth and reach its potential not just for Armenians, but for the whole world.”

For New Jersey participant Arianna Mesrobian, standing in solidarity with soldiers was a priority.

Arianna Mesrobian and her friend show support for Artsakh in NYC

“They deserve to feel supported by the diaspora,” she said. “While our soldiers are on Artsakh’s frontline, we are surely on the frontline of this cause in the U.S, because if it is not us, then who?”

She commended the global Armenian community that has “come together to an incredible extent in light of the recent events.”

“What we need now is for the rest of the world to lend their voice to us as well,” said Mesrobian.

Community leader Mher Janian, who helped lead the Rally for Artsakh with the New York and New Jersey chapters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Youth Federation, alongside the participation of all regional organizations, commended the youth for showing up in strong numbers.

“What we’re doing here pales in comparison to what the soldiers are risking on the frontlines,” said Janian. “We will provide as much help as we can, from sending supplies to raising funds, in order to keep the morale high for our soldiers.”

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: