CANBERRA: On Friday, 8th April, over 250 members of the Armenian-Australian community made the four-hour bus trip from Sydney to Canberra, to protest against the attacks on Nagorno Karabakh at the Azerbaijani Embassy.
A small group of 30-40 Azerbaijani and Turkish Australians were also present to counter protest.
The Armenian protesters made their voices heard, chanting "Karabakh Is Ours", "Shame on Aliyev", "Get Your Hands Off Our Lands", and more. The protesters held up dozens of banners, prepared by members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF Australia) in preceding days, as well as Artsakh and Armenian flags.
Vache Kahramanian of the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) led the speakers, which also included AGBU Executive Director, Sarkis Manoukian, ANC Australia Executive Administrator Arin Markarian and AYF Australia chapter chairs, Aram Tufenkjian and Michael Kolokossian. The clergy present, from the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholic Church began proceedings with a group prayer.
Kahramanian said: "Are we living in a world that protects borders drawn up by the Stalins of the world? Is it Stalin who should decide if the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh are Independent today? Or is it the people who live in Nagorno Karabakh?"
"Azerbaijan argues that it is Stalin who should decide. Would you, Azerbaijan, also agree to Hitler’s dreamed up European borders? After all, he to was a Dictator who had ideas about who should own what land?"
"We say NO TO STALIN. NO TO ALIYEV. NO TO DICTATORS."
"We argue WITH the people of Nagorno Karabakh! Over 90% of them voted for Independence. They have the right to self-determination according to the Helsinki Act. They have as much right to Independence as Azerbaijan. If not more, considering pre-Dictator Stalin, Artsakh was Armenian.
Artsakh is Armenian. Nagorno Karabakh is Armenian."
AYF Australia prepared and read out a letter to Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Australia, which was not accepted.
Tufenkjian read the letter, which in part said: "The attacks your government and military initiated on April 1-2 were unprovoked, and a threat to the sovereignty of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh, who practiced their right to self-determination nearly 25 years ago."
"The helicopter shellings, tank fire and drone explosions - all well-documented in this modern age of communications - are evidence of your attempt to destroy Armenian civilians; their homes, churches, businesses and schools."
"Further evidence of these attempts by Azerbaijan is the brutal murder by shelling of our fellow Armenian youth from Martuni. Why did 12-year-old Vaghinak Grigoryan have to die while on his way to school? Why did his 3 classmates, one of them his brother, have to be wounded?"
"We cannot forgive this."
"We also cannot forgive the war crimes that have also been documented during the previous week by your government. Three of our elderly in Talish were butchered in their homes. Their ears cut off."
"This is not something Australians take too kindly to. This is not something we forgive."
ABC TV covered the protest, as well as ABC Radio, 2UE Radio and 2GB Radio.
In an interview on national radio, Haig Kayserian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation said: "It never ceases to amaze me how some so carelessly misrepresent history. If we call Australia - born in 1788 - a 'young' nation, then Azerbaijan - born in 1918 - is barely a 'toddler' nation."
"Armenia is one of the world's oldest civilisations, and Armenians have inhabited Nagorno Karabakh for thousands of years."
"Therefore the so-called 'territorial claims' of Azerbaijan can be likened to a child seeking the estate of their unrelated neighbour's great great great great great grandparents, as Armenians have inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh for thousands of years."
"Why do they feel they deserve that estate? Because a brutal Communist dictator from the dark pages of world history, Joseph Stalin, decided to give it to them when establishing the Soviet Union."
"Australia and the nations of the world need to ask themselves? Do they want to continue protecting the dreamed up borders of Stalin? Or do they want to recognise the right to self-determination of the native Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh?"
The Protest was organised by the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Armenian Evangelical Church, the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Armenian Liberal Democratic Party, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Hamazakaine, the Armenian Relief Society, Homenetmen, Tekeyan, Dkhrouni, the Armenian National Committee of Australia, Nor Serount, and the Armenian Youth Federation of Australia.