Armenians in Cleveland Protest Azerbaijani Aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh

Members of Cleveland's Armenian community gathered in Downtown Cleveland's Public Square. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
Members of Cleveland's Armenian community gathered in Downtown Cleveland's Public Square. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

A few dozen people from Northeast Ohio’s Armenian-American community – many draped with red, blue and orange Armenian flags and sporting homemade protest signs – engaged in a silent protest in support of Armenia Thurday afternoon in Cleveland’s Public Square.

The protesters oppose attempts by Azerbaijan to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as the Republic of Artsakh – a region in Azerbaijan that is ethnically governed by Armenians.

Hundreds of military and civilian deaths have resulted from the fighting.

Protesters stood in silence with their faces covered and at a social distance in the middle of Public Square for 20-minutes. That was followed with a prayer from Father Hratch Sargsyan of the Saint Gregory of Narek Armenian Apostolic Church.

“Right now, as we speak, there is a full-scale war against Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Innocent civilians are being killed every day. Our cities and villages are bombarded every day and no one seems to speak up,” Sargsyan said.

Protesters stood at a social distance in silence for 20 minutes. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Sargsyan has a brother currently serving in the Armenian army.

“Every day, with worry in my heart, I wake up hoping that my brother was not hurt or killed,” Sargsyan said. “Many of our community members, they have families at the front lines fighting right now. We have sleepless nights for over 20 days now.”

Hrispsime Manukyan is a member of St. Gregory Church and helped organize the demonstration.

“Even with the few people, it definitely makes an impact. First of all, people in Armenia are watching and they get so encouraged that the diaspora is actually supporting them,” Manuskyan said. “This is us showing them that at least we are behind them. We are willing to support them. We are willing to raise awareness. So this is a big help.”

The two nations have been in dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream] 

Angela Sarukhanyan wore the Armenian flag over her back while standing in silence.

“Understand that there are issues and concerns much bigger than all of us,” Sarukhanyan said.

She said she hopes this demonstration got the attention of people walking by in Public Square and might encourage them to learn more about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Efforts to bring peace have met with failure. A  ceasefire agreement was broken over the weekend and each side blamed the other.  

A spokesman for the secretary-general of the United Nations this week condemned "all attacks on populated areas impacted by the conflict," but also noted that both sides have "ignored the repeated calls of the international community to immediately stop the fighting."

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