Calgary rally calls attention to fighting in Armenia and Azerbaijan
CALGARY -- Armenian communities in Canada hosted rallies across the country Friday to bring awareness to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
After decades of uneasy peace between the two countries, fighting resumed a month ago, starting in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, upward of 5,000 civilians and soldiers are dead on both sides and hundreds have been injured as a result of the fighting.
In Calgary on Friday, Armenians met at the Harry Hays federal building downtown. Vahe Tokmajyan is one of the organizers who has family in Armenia.
“We are urging (the) Canadian government to recognize the independence of Artsakh because we strongly believe that this is the solution for the people of Artsakh and for this bloodshed to stop,” said Tokmajyan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Prime Minister Pashinyan of Armenia earlier in the week to express Canada’s concern about the situation.
Trudeau told the prime minister that Canada will continue to work hard with its allies to put an end to the violence and to engage in dialogue to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“I will express how important it is for Canada and for our allies around the world that there be a de-escalation of the violence in the region,” said Trudeau.
The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia met separately with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Oct. 23 to discuss a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
“We discussed critical steps to halt the violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Pompeo said in a tweet after the meetings. “Both must implement a ceasefire and return to substantive negotiations.”
The troubled history of the two countries dates back to the 1920s but it was in the early 90s that the disputed area came to a head. Over 150,000 Armenians moved out of Azerbaijan, while just under 700,000 people of Azerbaijani decent were displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and a buffer zone surrounding it according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
“When (the) Soviet Union was formed Stalin took part of Armenia, the Republic of Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh and gave it under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan,” said Tokmajyan.
Many of Tokmajyan’s family still live in Armenia.
“There should be a peaceful solution and it’s so easy,” said Tokmajyan. “It’s just again the conflict erupted again because Turkey now wants to be a big player in that region and that’s the only reason.”
Irada Shamilova moved to Calgary in 2008 from Baku, Azerbaijan.
“It’s not just about 150,000 separatists who want to be independent,” said Shamilova. “Its also about human lives of 684,000 people who were forced out like my grandma, like my family.”
“My mom is from Fizuli from the occupied area,” she said. “My dad’s side is actually from Armenia.”
The last time Shamilova was in Fizuli was when she was six years old.
“My kids don’t even know what Fizuli is right, I was there when I was a young kid,” said Shanmilova. “My mom’s only wish is to actually go back to her home town and at least see her fathers grave there.”
Shamilova keeps watches the constant updates on the internet from Baku and is hopeful there can be an end to the violence soon.
“I hope that by summer time all those lands will be liberated,” said Smailova. “Our right to go home will be restored and we can at least go and step on the land where my grandmother and my mom grew up.”