“This is our farewell ceremony”, the Armenian diaspora in mourning in Paris

“This is our farewell ceremony”, the Armenian diaspora in mourning in Paris

2023-09-29 09:14:37

A long complaint, sweeping with its highs and lows the Place du Trocadéro, in Paris. Franco-Armenian singer and soloist at the Yerevan Opera (Armenia), Marianne Müller sings with the Eiffel Tower in the background. In front of her, nearly 2,000 people share her suffering, most of them members of the Armenian diaspora and French Catholics, who came this Thursday, September 28, 2023, to support the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The death of a dream

On September 19, this mountainous region of the Caucasus fell under the offensive of Baku’s troops determined to put an end to the desire for independence in this territory mainly populated by Armenians nestled in the heart of Azebaijan. The end of a dream for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, and beyond for the entire Armenian community.

Place du Trocadéro, on the Human Rights square, the faces are undone, the gazes silent. Everyone has in mind the images of tens of thousands of Armenians in full exodus (70,000 at this time, according to Yerevan). Everyone has in mind, above all, the declaration made a few hours earlier by local leader Samvel Shahramanyan: “The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic ceases to exist. All government institutions will be dissolved on January 1, 2024”.

An announcement like a final shovelful of earth on the hopes of the Armenians. The time is no longer for warlike fervor or the rage to win, and the gathering takes on the air of a funeral. “This is our farewell ceremony to Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh) »confides Sevan, a young French student who remains close to his family in Yerevan.

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On the stage, the representative of Nagorno-Karabakh in France, Hovhannès Guevorkian, shares his pain: “In 2020, during the 44-day war against Azerbaijan, we still had hope. Over the past nine months, when Nagorno-Karabakh was under blockade by Azerbaijan, we still had hope. Today it was taken from us, it was stolen from us! »

Fear of the future

Marked by mourning, the gathering is also marked by fear. “We already know the restworries Hasmik Tolmajian, Ambassador of Armenia to France. Au Haut-Karabakh,they will erase our culture, then our memory. »“And our many singing dialects, and our heritage, and our citizens”, adds Hovhannès Guevorkian. In the crowd, many now fear a new Azerbaijani offensive which would not be satisfied with Nagorno-Karabakh alone, but targeting Armenia as a whole, endangering its very existence.

Organized by the Christian association L’oeuvre d’Orient, the gathering also gave the floor to several religious figures, such as the prelate and director of the organization Pascal Gollnish. “What is at work in Nagorno-Karabakh is the spirit of genocide”asserts the man of the Church, before listing the long list of massacres and abuses suffered by the Armenian people throughout its history. “The support of L’oeuvre d’Orient for the Armenians is not new, but is very important to us”book by a Franco-Armenian retiree preferring to remain anonymous, and echoing the very strong Christian community in Armenia.

Other participants do not hesitate to mention a “civilizational war” against Christians. But there are many people who, particularly among the members of L’oeuvre d’Orient, believe, like this young man of 26, that it “is regrettable to interpret the suffering of Armenians for hateful purposes”.

“Don’t lose hope”

It is paradoxically in its tumultuous history that the Armenian diaspora tries to find a remedy for its despair. “We have suffered so much, and yet we have always survived as a peopletries to put Khajag Zeitlan, an Armenian living in the United States, into perspective. Nagorno-Karabakh is lost, probably for a long time. But who knows… Maybe the next century will be different for Armenia! »

The representative of Nagorno-Karabakh in France, Hovhannès Guevorkian, says nothing else : “If I have one promise to make you, it is to not lose hope. We must be lucid and realistic, rethink our organization and our struggle! » And to remind, in a serious tone, that the Armenians have already survived a genocide.

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