On 4th November 2020, the last day before the second nationwide lockdown, the Armenian community in Great Britain held a peaceful demonstration at Parliament square to rally against the UK Parliament’s and British government’s passive attitude vis-à-vis the raging war against the Armenian population of Artsakh. Frustration among British Armenians has been growing for weeks, as the mainstream media – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 News and Sky News – cover less and less the escalating warfare ravaging Artsakh and the daily loss of life among civilian population.
The Armenian demonstration had been organised by the ACCUK (Armenian Community Council of the UK) and other community organisations as well as new wave of activists.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, this protest by British Armenians was the final one for at least a month until December. Whereas members of the UK parliament have been frequently working from home in the past six months, Westminster was particularly crowded this Wednesday being the final PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) before the recess for four weeks. As the forefront British media had gathered inside the House of Commons for the PMQs, two reporters from Channel 4 news appeared amid demonstrators, mostly recording and watching the protest.
From 11 o’clock members of the Armenian community gathered peacefully under Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament square (the statue was vandalised during ‘Black lives matter’ rallies several times) with banners and flags. Rapidly, the number of demonstrators reached several hundreds. For two hours, the Armenian Apostolic Church and community leaders, students, women and men, voiced their anger caused by the British government’s silence. With slogans and chanting ‘Silence is denial’, ‘Stop the war’, ‘Stop Genocide’, ‘Hands-off Armenia’, ‘Ergodan and Aliev terrorists’ and so forth, demonstrators attracted the attention of the staff and politicians constantly emerging in the area.
Many stopped and watched the peaceful protest on their way to the Parliament taking photographs. Conservative MP, Right Honourable John Whittingdale approached the demonstration and told us that he was following the disastrous events unfolding in Armenia and was rather concerned by the war against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, that he had the pleasure to visit in recent years and consequently was blacklisted by Baku administration.
‘I am doing everything in my power to address the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh in the House of Commons, and I will continue to fight for the cause’, said Mr. Whittingdale, the MP for Maldon in Essex, backbencher and former Cabinet Minister of Culture under David Cameron.
When Boris Johnson’s convoy was travelling from Downing street to the Parliament Square, the PM could undoubtedly see hundreds of Armenian flags shimmering in the autumnal sunshine as the large crowd of demonstrators with banners were calling his government for action. No statement was made by the PM or anyone else in the parliament on the ongoing war, as the debate was dominated by the coronavirus discussion followed by vote on the impending lockdown. Meanwhile, two days before, in the House of Lords, a lively discussion between 10 Lords was recorded about the Azeri aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh following the genocide alert issued by Genocide Watch (https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2020-11-02b.495.1)
In the conversation with Channel 4 reporters, we pointed that while Channel 4 avows to be the custodian of truthful and fair journalism, it failed to cover adequately the raging war in the region, currently the largest warfare in the world amid the global pandemic. We also mentioned it was deplorable that one of the four major TV channels in Britain had not sent reporters to Armenia or Artsakh, where hundreds of foreign reporters have travelled. As Erdogan continues its expansionist pan-Turkic agenda providing not only financial and military support to Azerbaijan but has been directly involved in military operations. Even more alarming is the fact that Turkey has been exporting thousands of IS terrorists, thus becoming a major threat for small Armenia as well as for the entire European continent.
A letter on behalf of the Armenian community in Britain, was addressed by ACCUK to the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Explaining the ongoing large-scale war, where humanitarian and environmental crisis is caused by relentless and daily shelling of towns and villages in Artsakh with illegal weapons, the letter urged the UK Parliament to:
- call for an immediate end of war and reopening of negotiations by Minsk Group (USA, France and Russia) proposal of 1997, that rules out the use of force by the parties in the conflict.
- support the right of Artsakh Armenians’ sought-after desire for self-determination and recognise the de-facto State a legitimate and independent nation with an existing well-formed political and legal system
- support the US and French efforts to bring an immediate end to Azeri attacks, and explore further the idea of deploying Scandinavian observers, as suggested by the US President’s National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brian.
- condemn Azerbaijan’s air attacks on civilians and civilian targets, and to condemn the Government of Azerbaijan for inhuman treatment, torture and beheadings of prisoners of war, which are crimes against humanity.
- follow Canada’s and Austria’s example and revoke export licenses and exports of British components and technology to Turkey, used in the manufacture of Bayraktar or other drones, which are widely being used by Azerbaijan against both Armenia and Artsakh.
- condemn the repeated use of banned white phosphorus munitions as part of the Azeri scorched earth tactics, as well as other war crimes such as the use of Israeli-manufactured LORA missiles against civilians
- condemn Turkey’s participation in the conflict and order the immediate withdrawal of its troops and military from Azerbaijan.
- condemn and sanction Azerbaijan, a member of the Council of Europe, and Turkey, a NATO member, for recruiting and using around 2,800 Syrian and Libyan Islamist mercenaries.
By J. H. Seymour
London, 5 November 2020