WASHINGTON–More than 500 Armenian- Americans–representing a broad cross-section of the Washington area community–joined together for a series of protests against Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev’s human rights abuses–aggression–and blockades against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–reported the Armenian National Committee of Greater Washington.
The first demonstration–which was held in front of the Willard Hotel on the evening of July 29th–took place at the site of an Aliyev speech to diplomats–Administration officials–members of Congress–and oil executives. The second demonstration was held Wednesday outside Aliyev’s presentation at Georgetown University.
Aliyev is in Washington on a working visit–during which he will meet with President Clinton and is expected to sign a series of oil deals worth more than $10 billion.
"We have come together as a community to protest Gaidar Aliyev because he is a brutal dictator and human rights abuser who has been brought here by the oil industry to trade blood for oil," explained ANC-Greater Washington spokesman Zanku Armenian.
The demonstration featured a speech by New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone–the Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. In his address–Rep. Pallone reaffirmed his support for the freedom and independence of Nagorno-Karabakh–and criticized the Administration’s short-sighted policies. He emphasized that the Caspian Sea oil and Karabakh’s right to self-determination are two separate issues and should be treated as such. His speech–which was interrupted by applause half a dozen times–went on to defend Section 907–supported direct US aid to Karabakh–and closed with a call for strengthening the struggle for Nagorno-Karabakh’s inalienable rights.
ANCA Chairman Mourad Topalian read aloud a letter he had received that day from the Acting President of Nagorno-Karabakh Leonard Petrosian. In the letter–President Petrosian expressed appreciation for the "efforts of our compatriots living in the United States in presenting the full picture of the struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to the freedom-loving people of America." He went on to express confidence that "the American people–unlike those who operate under the auspices of oil interests–will stand in support of the just struggle for freedom and the right to self determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh–since the right to self-determination is an everlasting value cherished by the American people as well as the Armenian people."
Topalian also reported to the crowd that earlier in the day a delegation representing major Armenian American organizations had visited with senior State Department officials–including Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott–and key members of Congress to advance the cause of a just and lasting solution to the Karabakh conflict. Topalian underscored the unity and firm determination of all Armenian-Americans in support of the security and independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Topalian announced to the crowd that the ANCA had rejected a recent request by emissaries of the Azerbaijani government to arrange a meeting between the Armenian- American leadership and Aliyev. Topalian explained that the ANCA had instead urged Aliyev to meet–face to face–with the democratically elected leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh. Only through such direct discussions–explained Topalian–could there be meaningful progress toward peace.
At each demonstration–protesters chanted "Aliyev Go Home,"Stop Funding Brutal Dictators," while carrying more than 150 placards and several hundred black balloons inscribed with the message: "No Blood for Oil."
The demonstrations were supported by all organizations in the Greater Washington DC area including groups affiliated with both Soorp Khatch and St. Mary’s Armenian Churches.