Hundreds of people gathered together across from the Armenian Consulate in Glendale Tuesday evening, joined in solidarity with 34 young Armenians holding a hunger strike against the Turkey-Armenia protocols set to be signed on Friday.
The hunger strike, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation as part of the “Stop the Protocols Campaign,” kicked off Monday at midnight and will last for 96 hours until midnight Friday, when the Armenian Foreign Minister is scheduled to sign the document in Switzerland.
The protocols are also to be signed by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian on Oct. 13, when he is expected to visit Turkey to attend a soccer match between the Armenian and Turkish national teams. If signed, the document will require Armenia to relinquish all legal claims to historic lands occupied by turkey and bind it to an agreement to establish a historic commission to investigate the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. The protocols also contains a clause that bars Armenia from supporting the self determination of the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“We’re here to make our voices heard to the Armenian Consulate and the government in Yerevan because they have refused to listen to the Diaspora for far to long on this issue,” Berj Parseghian, the strike’s group leader, said reflecting on the global opposition to the protocols expressed by the Armenian Diaspora. “Our fasters, 34 strong, have an incredible resolve that motivates me every second of the day, especially when I stop to think about the dire circumstances our nation is facing today.”
On Tuesday night, more than 400 people turned out to join the hunger strikers in a revolutionary song night with patriotic singer Karnig Sarkisian. The atmosphere was lively and the strikers hopes were high.
More than 200 people attended the opening ceremony Monday evening, kicking off the program with a candle light vigil in memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide.
The strikers began the next morning making signs and preparing for a day of activities to raise awareness among bystanders and passerby’s in the area. With red tape over their mouths, the 35 youth chained themselves together and sat across the street from the consulate holding signs that said “Hunger Strike” and “Sarkisian Don’t Sign Armeno-Turkish Protocols.”
Reporters from the Los Angeles Times and Glendale Newsperess visited the site to cover the story.
The hunger strikers have also prepared a flier called “Read Between the Lines,” which presents the dangers of the protocols in plain English. They have been passing out copies for two days now. They are also calling the Consulate to tell them why they are opposed to the protocols and encouraging visitors and supporters who come by to make the same call.
Participant at the scene, as well as others from the campaign, have been providing live updates of the hunger strike through Facebook, twitter, and youtube. They are also video blogging the entire experience.
Later in the evening, the hunger-strikers and community supporters will join together in an “Open Mic Night” to express their thoughts on the Genocide, why they are personally out, and how these protocols endanger the cause for Justice for the Armenian people. Participants will read personal poems and statements, as well as testimony from genocide survivors, including letters from the recently deceased Ghazaros Kademian.
Thursday evening’s activities will revolve around raising awareness of the Nagorno-Karabakh liberation struggle. The protocols threaten the independence of Artsakh–an independence that was won through the sacrifice and martyrdom of thousands of Armenians.
The organizers anticipate the hunger strike will continue to draw broad based support from the community in the coming days until the conclusion of the demonstration on Friday.