WASHINGTON—Braving sub-freezing temperatures, Greater Washington area Armenian-Americans honored the memory of the victims of Azerbaijani aggression and pledged ongoing solidarity with the freedom-loving people of Artsakh, at a February 28th protest held in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy.
The demonstration, organized by the Washington Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Ani Chapter and St. Mary’s Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYO), coincided with the 26th anniversary of the Azerbaijani pogroms against the Armenian population of Sumgait, which set the stage for attacks in Baku in 1990 and a cycle of anti-Armenian violence that continues to this day.
The demonstrators called special attention to the brutal axe-murder of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, as the nation marks the 10th anniversary of his slaying by convicted Azerbaijani soldier Lt. Ramil Safarov. In a move that stunned the international community, Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev pardoned, promoted and praised Safarov upon extradition to his homeland in 2012. The AYF global social media awareness campaign last week, #Justice4Margaryan, called attention to this travesty, attracting the participation of thousands, including U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“Today, we gather at the Azerbaijani Embassy to remember those who perished in the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku massacres between 1988-1990,” explained AYF Ani Chapter Chairman Hagop Simonian. “If we do not remember and spread awareness of these atrocities, events such as the axe-murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan and the recent killing of Jr. Sergeant Armen Hovhannisyan will continue to occur again and again. Sadly, the dictatorial Aliyev regime celebrates the deaths of these Armenian deaths, and rewards their murderers. We, as Armenian-Americans, must use our first amendment right to educate the world of these crimes.”A small group of Azerbaijani counter-protesters jeered as St. Mary’s Armenian Church pastor, Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan led Armenian community members in prayer in memory of those who perished in the Azerbaijani pogroms. Police were forced to escort one Azerbaijani provocateur, after he approached Armenian protesters and struck one with a sign. Many of the Azerbaijani protesters were making the iconic “Grey Wolf” sign, signaling solidarity with the Turkish ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist youth organization accused of political killings.