WORCESTER — Local Armenian-Americans packed the plaza in front of City Hall on Friday afternoon to decry what they see as aggression and war crimes by Turkey and Azerbaijan as conflict intensifies in their homeland.
“We are Armenia’s second army,” rally co-organizer Rita Bahnan of Worcester told the crowd that stood soaking under afternoon downpours.
Bahnan and several other speakers said the purpose of the rally Friday was to bring attention to what they said have been atrocities committed by Azerbaijan and Turkey in conflict in recent weeks over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area in Azerbaijan with deep cultural ties to Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The latest outburst of fighting began on Sept. 27 and has involved heavy artillery, rockets, and drones, killing hundreds.
Rev. Stephan Baljian of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of the Merrimack Valley prayed in solidarity with the Armenian people in front of the crowd Friday. He said the world needs to pay attention.
“The peaceful people of our motherland are under attack,” Baljian said.
U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern and Mayor Joseph M. Petty attended the rally and voiced support for the local Armenian-American population.
McGovern called for Turkey and Azerbaijan to stop the bombing and killing of innocent civilians, and called for a cutoff of military aid to Azerbaijan and arms sales to Turkey, along with sanctions and the freezing of financial assets of the leaders of those countries.
Petty said the Armenian-American community has deep roots in the city, and said he was proud to stand with them.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.