By Sean Mathews
A large demonstration was held in Athens’ Syntagma Square on Wednesday by members of the Greek Armenian community in a show of solidarity with Armenia. The country is currently fighting the fourth day of an escalating war with neighboring Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The rally was marked with people waving both Greek and Armenian flags. Speakers and those in attendance stressed the strong bond between the two Orthodox countries which have a shared history of fighting Turkish aggression.
A popular chant that sounded throughout the Square was “No to the violence of Turkey and Azerbaijan.” Protestors also wore shirts invoking the memory of the Armenian genocide under Ottoman Turkey, reading “1.5 Million Reasons to Care” and displayed signs with slogans such as “The More We Remember the Stronger We Get.”
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh shows signs of spiraling into a wider regional conflict, with Turkey supporting Azerbaijan. President Erdogan has shown a willingness to flex military muscle in the Caucus region, much like he has in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On Tuesday the Armenian government accused Turkey of shooting down an Armenian fighter jet and there have been reports by Reuters of Turkey sending Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Azeri forces.
George Meneshian, a Greek-Armenian who attended the rally, told Greek Reporter he was concerned about signs of Turkish aggression in the conflict.
“All the Armenians of the Hellenic Republic are united because the Armenian nation is under attack not only by the Azeri regime, but also from the Republic of Turkey, because Mr. Erdogan wants to promote pan-Turkism, pan-Islamism, and Neo-Ottomanism in the Caucasus just like he did in the Middle East, the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean,” he told Greek Reporter at the event.
At the rally, supporters linked Greek and Armenian flags while chanting against President Erdogan and the Azeri government. Attendees gathered in the street in front of Syntagma Square to burn the Azeri flag while Armenian music played.
Some attendees who spoke with Greek Reporter expressed frustration at what they viewed as the mild show of support Armenia has received not only from Greece, but the global community as well.
Tweenty-seven-year-old Greek Armenian “Aris,” who attended the rally with his friends, and whose family fled to Greece following the 1915 Armenian Genocide told Greek Reporter he believes Greece should do more to help Armenia. “We are like brothers and sisters actually. They always help each other and this time it is very important.”
He expressed his pride in the Greek-Armenians reported to have left Greece to join the Armenian military over the last three days.
“They say there are planes going from Greece with Armenians to help the soldiers. I feel very proud about that as a Greek-Armenian. Whatever we can do to help we should.”
A show of support to those who are fighting was what brought 19-year-old Vilar Bartamian to the rally. He told Greek Reporter “Young Armenians my age will die in this war. So we are trying to send a message of support to the soldiers and to the volunteers from all over the world who will go to fight the Turks and Azeris. The Armenians are our brothers.“
A large number of those attending the rally were young people. Proudly draped in Armenian flags, standing in groups with friends and wearing face masks emblazoned with the Armenian flag, they brought an energy and palpable enthusiasm to the demonstration.
The Armenian Youth Federation of Greece was one of the organizers of the event. Sixteen-year-old Natalia Bekarian and her 12-year-old brother Nareg were two of the young people who were proud to be at the event supporting Armenia.
Born in Greece and of Lebanese-Armenian descent, they carried posters denouncing the Azeri and Turkish aggression.
Natalia also spoke with Greek Reporter, saying “I am born and raised in Greece, but Armenia is a part of me and my family. I’m here as a Greek citizen and as an Armenian to show I am against the Azerbaijan invasion and against Turkey.”