Huge Armenian Rally in Paris Seen through the Eyes of an American-Armenian Participant

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PARIS – Armenians rallied in large numbers on October 18 in Paris in the third rally in recent days concerning Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh and Armenia (see the accompanying article by Jean Eckian in the Mirror). Actor and filmmaker Nora Armani was one of the as many as 20,000 participants in this rally and provided her personal perspective the day after the protest.

Speakers on the stage at Invalides square with French and Armenian flags

She related, “It started at 3 p.m. right outside the exit of the metro at Invalides, one of the major stations. They had set up a stage there were speakers and microphones and people were taking turns. Mourad Papazian, copresident of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France (CCAF) opened.”

At Invalides, including a sign, “Israel kills civilians,” in reference to Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan

He spoke about why people had gathered, to draw attention to the fact that so many countries, including France, were sitting on the fence and stating they need to be neutral. Armani said that the attack was not directed to President Emmanuel Macron of France, who has voiced his concern, but to Minister of Foreign Affairs Yves Le Drian.  Armani said that he called for Le Drian to resign, and rallied the crowd to yell slogans in French such as “Artsakh is Armenian” and “Aliyev and Erdogan are terrorists.” Then he gave the mike to Ara Toranian, the other copresident of the CCAF.

At Invalides

There were various local French government officials who spoke of motions which soon would be voted on to recognize Artsakh’s independence.

A section of the crowd holding posters about Artsakh and sanctioning Turkey, at Invalides

Pascal Torre of the French Communist Party declared that there could be no such thing as neutrality when people are being massacred. During genocide, he said, neutrality is complicity.

Young boy held aloft watches the stage at Invalides

Berivan Firat, from the Kurdish Democratic Council, spoke loudly and forcefully, Armani said. Firat declared that the Kurds had already asked for forgiveness from the Armenians for what they had done to them in 1915. She said that now they should work hand-in-hand because they had one common enemy.

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Arno Klarsfeld, a lawyer who fights for human rights and genocide recognition, spoke about how his family has always worked for the Armenians.

Evagoras Mavrommatis, president of the Cypriot community, spoke of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, said Armani, and the irreparable economic damage this has caused. He said that nobody seems to pay attention, and called for all the people who have suffered at the hands of the Turks, including Armenians, Cypriots, and Greeks, to come together to confront the former, Armani observed.

The crowd walks towards the bridge

When all the speakers finished, the organizers invited everyone to walk toward the Azerbaijani embassy, Armani said, which was in the 16th district of Paris by the Avenue d’Iena. They went by the bank of the Seine River and reached a bridge, the Pont d’Alma. “It was very impressive, because the bridge was full of people and I could see people down below at the actual bank of the river, at the walkway. They were looking up to see what was going on. The entire bridge was full of people and Armenian flags and placards,” she exclaimed.

On the bridge

The crowd had stopped and gathered at the bridge’s end where a stage was set up. Papazian and other people from the Invalides site had gathered, and new people were speaking. Flares in the colors of the Armenian flag were making the air bright, said Armani.

The crowd near the bridge

Afterwards, the demonstrators continued walking. At the front of the group was a priest with a flag on top of which was the Armenian cross. Next to him, Armani said, was a man with the flag of Artsakh, and then other representatives of the Armenian community behind him, but the majority was formed by a group of various mayors with their distinctive French sashes.

They walked a long distance, and armed French police were present in numbers to assure the safe progression of the rally, Armani saw. The police blocked off an intersection so that the crowd could pass towards the embassy. As a result, many cars appeared stuck there for a long time, she said.

Then an official truck appeared, and the organizers told people to follow it and not go in front of it. Only the leaders and French officials walked in front of it, including, by accident, Armani too. The people in the truck kept announcing the slogans the people were supposed to shout, Armani said, which were the same as before. Many random French people were outside filming and taking pictures of the march, and looking from their balconies. Armani said it was all very peaceful and well organized.

She said that she was extremely impressed about the scale and nature of the demonstration. In France, she said, not helping a person in danger is legally considered a crime. She said this demonstration was a crucial manner in which to call for French intervention. Otherwise, she said the entire French nation is on the verge of committing a crime, as it sees an entire people or nation in danger and is not acting.

Nora Armani in sunglasses in the crowd

Armani concluded that in her opinion, “France is a country which stands for liberty, equality and fraternity. The Artsakh people want to be independent. That is their liberty and France has to back this up. Equality is an important principal here because a big guy with a huge amount of armaments, is attacking a helpless people, mostly civilians, while Turkey, Israel and other countries continue to provide the attacker arms and support. Equality is being violated. Fraternity is the last principle. France has always had fraternal relations with Armenia and it must now continue to respect that fraternity. When your brother is in trouble you must help. France is violating its three sacred principles by not helping the Armenians.”

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