A thousand protestors gathered in front of city hall on Thursday
A pro-Armenian protest in front of Montreal City Hall on Thursday Oct. 8 called on Mayor Valérie Plante to publicly support Armenians in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh territory conflict.
On Sept. 27, conflicts re-erupted in the region, leaving at least 23 civilians killed. While the Nagorno-Karabakh territory is recognized internationally as located in Azerbaijan, the majority of the territory is occupied and controlled by a majority population of ethnic Armenians.
Aram Shoujounian, one of the organizers of the demonstration on Thursday, said they want Plante to denounce Azerbaijan and Turkey’s violence towards Armenians in a conflict that has claimed over 300 lives, according to Armenian, Turkish, and Azeri reports.
Shoujounian said the protest also calls on Plante to recognize the independence of the “Republic of Artsakh.”
While the disputed territory is officially called the Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians refer to the territory as the Armenian-language name of the region: “Artsakh.”
At present, the majority of the territory is ruled by a government called the “Republic of Artsakh,” and positions within the government are largely held by ethnic Armenians.
“We’re telling Valérie Plante, and the entire city hall, to recognize the Republic of Artsakh as an independent state, because that’s the only way to guarantee the security and the right to live on the territory of the Republic of Artsakh,” Shoujounian told The Concordian.
“We do not want our democratic societies to stay neutral,” said Shoujounian.
Located between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the territory has been disputed through political and military conflict for decades, beginning in the ‘80s.
Russia brokered a cease-fire with both countries in 1994, but conflict continued throughout the years.
Canada suspended drone technological exports to Turkey after reports emerged that the technology was used by Turkey to target Armenian civilians.
A ceasefire agreement on Oct. 10 was promptly broken just minutes after the agreed upon deadline. Both countries put blame on the other for breaking the agreement.
On Friday Oct. 16, Justin Trudeau met with Armenian and Turkish leaders to speak on the conflict, and to encourage a peaceful resolution. A petition supporting Armenia and Armenians in Artsakh was begun by Ontario Liberal Member of Parliament Bryan May, and will collect signatures to present to parliament until Nov. 8.
One fourth-year Concordia student said she was attending the protest because more needs to be done.
“There is a second genocide towards Armenians happening right now and people are silent,” she said.
She says leaders need to take a stand to get involved beyond peace talks, stating, “Talking nicely and telling them to cease fire won’t work because we had a ceasefire agreement.”
Nathalie Setian, the student’s close friend, said, “they [Azerbaijan and Turkey] just want to invade and erase us as a nation as an Armenian race.”
Both Armenian Montrealers said they came to pressure government officials to support the self-determination and safety of the people in the disputed region, and to aid the movement in Montreal.
“We’re raising money [for Armenian soldiers], we’re donating a lot, we’re writing open letters, we’re urging the government and the politicians and especially the media to stand with us,” said Setian.
“We’re raising our voices and doing as much as we can to get people to stand up for us, because we’re not accepting biased and falsified information by journalists.”
Last week the Armenian diaspora in Montreal organized a protest in front of the Montreal Gazette and Global News media offices, to call out the “surface level” reporting on the conflict, and how the reporting does not accurately represent the level of threat this conflict has for the ethnic Armenians in the conflict zone.
“If you are neutral, that means you support terrorism,” said Setian.
“We don’t want genocide to repeat itself and we don’t want whatever happened in Syria to repeat itself in Artsakh,” said Setian.
Since the protest, Setian has co-written an article on the conflict.
On Saturday Oct. 17, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire starting at midnight. The deal was brokered by the OSCE Minsk Group. Early Sunday morning, the ceasefire deal was broken with both sides blaming each other for the violation.
Today, Monday Oct. 19, Plante has released a statement saying she stands in solidarity with the Armenian people, and will support efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“To the Armenian community of Montreal I would like to offer you all our support…I wish you strength and peace in these very difficult times and know that we stand altogether with you,” said Plante.
Photos by Hadassah Alencar