A view of the demonstration

Armenians in France Demand Immediate Release of Prisoners of War

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PARIS –Several hundred Armenians and ethnic French people demonstrated in front of the Azerbaijani embassy in Paris on Sunday, September 26, at the appeal of the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF), supported by various French organizations. They demanded the immediate release of Armenian prisoners of war detained by Azerbaijan since November 9, 2020, in violation of Article 7 of the declaration of ceasefire and of several articles of the Geneva Convention, stipulating that the abducting country must refrain from subjecting prisoners of war to “violence, physical abuse, reprisals, intimidation or discrimination.” The demonstrators also demanded recognition of the Republic of Artsakh.

Azerbaijani flags festoon the Azerbaijani embassy

A Rally Displaying Signs of Anger and Concern

The speakers addressed their solidarity with the Armenians of Artsakh and called for its recognition. Jules Boyadjian, president of the Committee for the Defense of the Armenian Cause (Comité de défense de la cause arménienne, abbreviated CDCA), denounced the fact that the French ambassador did not meet with the authorities of Artsakh, while the French ambassador to Cyprus met the authorities of Northern Cyprus. The word union among Armenians was used several times in support of Armenia.

Jules Boyadjian, president of the Comité de défense de la cause arménienne (CDCA)

Patrick Karam, vice-president of the Ile de France regional council, regretted the silence of the international community. He said, “As long as there are Armenians on earth, there will always be an Armenia!”

Patrick Karam, vice-president of the Ile de France regional council, speaking (center)

The highlight of the meeting was the presence of the former mayor of a neighborhood of Van, Veysel Keser (People’s Democratic Party, HDP), who had been removed from his post by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Keser confirmed that Turkey sent jihadists to Azerbaijan, and that a month before the outbreak of the Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression, Turkey had sent a lot of weapons and drones to Azerbaijan. He called for the Armenian hostages to be released and he paid tribute to the victims of the genocide and the victims of the aggression from Azerbaijan.

CCAF co-chair Mourad Papazian declared: “Armenia and Artsakh need us against the forces of pan-Turkism.” He added that after being received at the Elysée Palace, with Ara Toranian, by French President Emmanuel Macron, on November 12, 2020, Macron conceded: “We were cowards.”

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CCAF co-chair Ara Toranian in turn said: “I would like to send a message to the French government to mobilize more on the issue of recognition of Nagorno Karabakh and our prisoners of war. Take action!” He denounced international cowardice, recalling the abandonment of the Kurds in Afrin. According to him, this was a scandal like that of Shushi. Values are in danger, he said.

Ara Toranian

Midnight Express

Armenian ombudsman Arman Tatoyan revealed that “50 survivors testified to physical torture, abuse and deprivation of food, water, sleep and adequate medical care, without distinction between the treatment of detained combatants and civilians by the Azerbaijani officials and military personnel. Some prisoners testified that the guards forced them to eat food spilled on the ground. Azerbaijani prison guards abused and tortured the body with belts. They were subjected to electric shocks, screwdrivers, rifle butts, metal chains and batons, sometimes several times a day. Under duress, they were forced to say ‘Karabakh is Azerbaijan’.”

Prisoners of war were intentionally deprived of sleep. Some were handcuffed to heaters, while others were forced to stand or sit for days. In winter, Tatoyan related, prison guards poured buckets of ice water over captives and opened windows at night, forcing Armenians to sleep on the cold prison floor. Torturers have consistently refused to provide prisoners of war with medical treatment for wounds inflicted in combat or in captivity, reported Tatoyan.

(All photos by Jean Eckian)

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