Toronto — On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, members of the United Armenian Council of Ontario (UACO) held an eight-hour silent protest at Yonge-Dundas Square to bring attention to the current acts of aggression committed by Azerbaijan and Turkey against the innocent civilians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The silent demonstration was organized by the UACO to ultimately raise public awareness on the current humanitarian crisis, which has received minimal media coverage to date.
Nagorno-Karabakh, more commonly referred to as Artsakh, is a region that historically has been and presently is inhabited by indigenous Armenians. In 1991, the people of Artsakh voted by referendum for self-determination. While this declaration of independence has not yet been recognized by the international community, the citizens of the Republic of Artsakh have the right to live peacefully as an independent state in accordance with the 1993 Montevideo Convention. Despite this, conflict between those living in Artsakh and Azerbaijan led to the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire in 1994. Since then, the peaceful people of Artsakh have worked to rebuild their city and establish self-governance in the form of a democratic republic.
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan, backed and emboldened by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, broke the long-standing ceasefire with Artsakh and launched a full-scale, pre-planned attack. Turkey, a NATO ally that openly supports Azerbaijan, sent Syrian rebel mercenaries to the region to help Azerbaijan’s attacks and provided weapons, including drones armed with Canadian-made cameras.
Over the last 18 days, countless innocent lives have been affected by these horrific events. There has been continuous bombardment in the cities of Stepanakert and Shushi, killing and injuring civilians; destroying civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools, arts and cultural centres, and churches; and forcing the population to hide in cold, underground bunkers or flee their homes, all while in the midst of a global pandemic. Less than two weeks into the war, a humanitarian ceasefire was agreed upon, only to be broken within hours by the Azerbaijan Army. Since then, Azerbaijan has relentlessly launched attacks on civilians and infrastructure within various cities and villages in Artsakh.
On October 14, over a hundred Toronto-Armenians came together throughout the day to peacefully raise awareness around this humanitarian crisis, urging fellow Torontonians and Canadians to learn about the ongoing war and take a stance against the aggressors committing atrocities.
Organizers ensured the demonstration abided by all COVID-19 social distancing rules and attendees were continuously reminded to sanitize, stay 2m apart and wear masks.