Participants at the demonstration at the Armenian Heritage Park (photo Ken Martin)

BOSTON — Hundreds of people rallied for Artsakh on Saturday, September 30 at Armenian Heritage Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. The event was organized by the Pan Armenian Council of New England, with the support of Armenian churches of the three major denominations, political parties and charitable organizations of the region, and it received both television and newspaper coverage in the Boston area.

Members of the clergy and the speakers assembled at the Boston demonstration (photo Ken Martin)

After brief opening prayers in Armenian and English by the assembled clergy, Meghri Der Vartanian, master of ceremonies, recognized dignitaries present and called for all to work for change with strength in unity. She read an Armenian-language poem by Hamo Sahyan, adapted to the Artsakh crisis.

Master of ceremonies Meghri Dervartanian (photo Ken Martin)

Anthony Barsamian, co-chair of the Armenian Assembly of America, summed up the situation, with over 100,000 refugees already in Armenia at the time as ethnic cleansing. He said, “This is unacceptable. The world failed, the UN failed, the United States failed, Turkey failed, and Azerbaijan is an enemy of the world at this moment. President [Ilham] Aliyev is a war criminal. He is not welcome in the United States. He is not welcome in any free country around the world.”

Anthony Barsamian of the Armenian Assembly of America (photo Ken Martin)

As a lawyer, he outlined what should be done next: “We are going to charge the president of Azerbaijan with a war crime, because he is a criminal, and we are going to charge those who aided and abetted the war criminal – countries, individuals, lobbyists who have blood on their hands.”

A participant at the rally (photo Dr. Shant Parseghian)

Secondly, the US has offered 11 million dollars humanitarian assistance for the Artsakh tragedy, and the world combined 30 million dollars. This only makes for a downpayment, Barsamian said, compared to the scale of assistance to other countries. Georgia, for example, after being attacked in 2008, received some 3 billion dollars.

Barsamian also declared that as a dictator in need of an external enemy, Aliyev would come for Armenia next, so the Armenian community must be strong and ready to fight back. He concluded that the Armenian Americans are no longer the people of 1915, but a powerful community which must raise its voice and say it will not stand for a second genocide.

A child holds a sign about Artsakh at the Boston demonstration (photo Ken Martin)

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Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, then took the microphone to call for peace. She referred to the first Armenian Genocide and she said that we will not let this happen again. The Armenians are not alone, she said, and she closed with a prayer for justice and peace.

Rev. Laura Everett (photo Ken Martin)

Ara Balikian, chair of the New England District of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), focused on the immediate humanitarian crisis. He like Barsamian pointed out the insignificant sums for aid offered by the US and other major states initially, compared to other regions of the world, while those fleeing Artsakh have immediate needs for nutritious meals, clothing, medical supplies, counseling, family therapy and school for the children. The AGBU has a Global Relief Fund for this purpose. Balikian urged all to donate to this or any trustworthy organization or church.

Ara Balikian of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (photo Ken Martin)

He urged people not to forget the unjust imprisonment of the leaders of Artsakh like Ruben Vardanyan, in prison in Baku now, and exclaimed: “We should not stop speaking until they are all home.”

Sheriff of Middlesex County Peter Koutoujian declared that he could not sleep well, with haunting images from our homeland repeating in his head. These images, he declared, were contemporary versions of what his grandparents and other Armenians went through while fleeing their homelands and being forced into exile.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian (photo Ken Martin)

Calling for Armenian unity, he urged, “But right now, our immediate focus must be on our near future. We should turn our anger and our concern into action. Let me be clear about one thing: There is no doubt that this is the greatest threat to our community since the Genocide. Think about that.”

Koutoujian pointed out three priorities: safeguarding and supporting this new generation of refugees, insuring that Azerbaijan is held accountable for its actions, and helping Armenia strengthen itself for defense. He stressed, “Let us make no mistake: the sovereignty of Armenia itself is at stake right now.” Syunik, or southern Armenia, is a target of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

A participant at the rally (photo Dr. Shant Parseghian)

Dr. Ara Nazarian, speaking on behalf of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, recalled the words of Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I in 1992, and declared that little has changed, with the rule of force reigning instead of the force of rules. Despite the promising words of US Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim, four days later Artsakh was attacked, and, he said, “an enemy bent on destroying our state, and any trace of our presence in this world, was left unchecked to ravage the already distraught people of Artsakh last week.” Moreover, “having just whetted their appetite, the enemy is looking to encroach upon the sovereignty of Armenia, as they gleefully refer to it as Western Azerbaijan.”

Prof. Ara Nazarian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (photo Ken Martin)

Nazarian concluded, “So as I see it, we have two options: we continue with business as usual, or rethink our strategic outlook. We define who we are as a nation, embrace our values and what we aspire to be. A tumultuous history will pass, one of real contribution to mankind, even at our most difficult hours, and we will ensure that an enemy horde with a petty dictator at the helm, does not write the last chapter of our nation. Artsakh will always be Armenian, she will rejoin our nation again, and our brothers and sisters will return to their homeland.”

Ani Belorian (photo Dr. Shant Parseghian)

Tufts University student Ani Belorian spoke optimistically, quoting William Saroyan on the ability of Armenians to come together and create anew. Persevering through systematic violence, they can unite in times of strife or celebration, and so there is hope in Armenian unity, which brings with it a rich history and amazing culture. Armenians must advocate, provide aid and fight for their homeland, she declared.

Dr. Shant Parseghian speaking at the Boston demonstration (photo Ken Martin)

Dr. Shant Parseghian, head of the board of the Pan Armenian Council of New England, briefly spoke last. Estimating around 600 Armenians present, he asked where the remainder of the Armenians in the Boston area were. He called on those present to contact friends so that next time, they too will come, stressing the urgency of the danger that the Armenian homeland itself may be lost. He concluded with “Long live Artsakh!”

The video below by Ken and Craig Martin contains some scenes from the Boston rally.


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