The participants with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), top left

Armenian Grassroots Activism in Boston Yields Roundtable Discussions on Artsakh with US Senators

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BOSTON — To protest the lack of a US response to Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh Armenians, a coalition of local advocacy, community, youth, and student groups assembled by the Zoravik Activist Collective held a silent vigil every Thursday afternoon in October in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston. By making the cause of Artsakh Armenians visible to Federal elected representatives and their staff members, the group caught the attention of Sen. Ed Markey, who spoke with the activists, later inviting them to participate in an online roundtable discussion of Massachusetts Armenian community leaders. Markey said he had signed legislation to grant more humanitarian aid to Artsakh Armenians and he had urged both the State and Treasury Departments “to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act on select individuals in the government of Azerbaijan.”

Inspired by this interaction, the group wrote to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who in turn invited Zoravik to organize a similar online roundtable discussion on Zoom on November 9. At the meeting, Zoravik’s Lisa Gulesserian read the group’s demands:

“We expect our government to prevent genocide and support democracies. We demand 1) condemnation of Azerbaijan’s genocidal actions at the highest level from our President; 2) concrete steps to hold Azerbaijan and its leadership accountable (such as sanctions against individuals, as well as cutting off all military and other aid to Azerbaijan); 3) more humanitarian aid for forcibly displaced Armenians from Artsakh and robust security aid for the effective self-defense of Armenia. 4) demand that Azerbaijan return Armenian political leaders and Prisoners of War illegally held in Baku. Senator Warren, we ask you to not only co-sponsor and support current legislation with these demands in the Senate, but also to actively advocate for these demands in Congress by giving public speeches on and off the Senate floor and by actively persuading your colleagues in Congress to join your efforts. It’s the right thing to do.”

Gulesserian then moderated representatives from the Armenian Assembly, Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts, Pan Armenian Council, Armenian Youth Federation – Boston, the Tekeyan Cultural Association, the editors of Genocide Studies International, Harvard Law Armenian Student Association, Armenian Bar Association and other local student associations, along with interested individuals, who informed the Senator of their concerns. Oft-repeated demands included sanctions against Azerbaijan and greater humanitarian aid for Artsakh Armenians, along with concerns that Azerbaijan could attack Armenia and the need for Artsakh’s cultural monuments to be protected.

Warren spoke of her dedication to the issues, citing her support for California Sen. Alex Padilla’s June resolution that called for sanctions against Azerbaijan. She pledged to elevate the issues with the State Department. She also said, “If people in the US aren’t talking about it or don’t understand, then the State Department and government feel less urgency to talk about it on their end.”

Later that week, Warren sent the following note to Zoravik: “I was glad to join a coalition of advocacy and community leaders to listen to their concerns about Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenians. We must continue to raise awareness, protect and assist Armenians, and hold accountable Azerbaijani officials responsible for the attack and blockade.”

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To continue pressuring elected leaders while educating the public, Zoravik held a rally at the JFK Federal Building in Boston on Saturday November 18th from 3:30 to 5 pm, with many of the roundtable representatives sharing their statements alongside musicians and local elected officials.

Founded in 2018, Zoravik (“in solidarity”) is an Armenian activist collective that promotes new avenues for grassroots and political organizing for progressives. Primarily based in Boston, Zoravik has supported human rights, environmental and social justice causes in the US, Armenia, and Artsakh. Through our local organizing members have joined in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Asylum Seekers, Kurdish inhabitants of Northern Syria and Jewish Americans under attack by the far right, among other causes.

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