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More than 2,000 demonstrate against Azerbaijan in Brussels' EU Quarter

12:43 08/10/2020

Around 2,000 people demonstrated on Wednesday morning at the Schuman end of the Rue de la Loi, in the heart of the European district in Brussels, to denounce Azerbaijan's attacks on Armenia.

The protest, which started at 8.00 and finished three hours later, halted traffic on Avenue d’Auderghem and Avenue Cortenbergh, as well as blocking the entrances of the road tunnels in the area leading to the city centre.

The protesters, divided into five groups of 400 people, let off smoke bombs and firecrackers, as they flowed through the streets towards the European institutions, calling for the European Union to break its silence and denounce the actions of Azerbaijan.

They then gathered near the Berlaymont to hear speeches, notably by MEPs Peter van Dalen and François Alfonsi as well as religious leaders.

“After the last European summit, a communiqué calling for de-escalation was issued," said Nicolas Tavitian, chairman of the Committee of Armenians of Belgium, which organised the rally. “It seemed to help at the time, but now the message the abuser understands is that we're not going to get involved.”

“Of course, everyone is for peace - it is not worth saying - but to show the way to peace, one must name the aggressor,” he added. “French president Emmanuel Macron did this and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg made an interesting gesture when he went to meet the Turkish president to ask him to play a constructive role. It can be interpreted as a way of telling Turkey not to get involved further than it has already done.”

The protesters say they are determined to return to demonstrate again soon, because they believe the conflict will continue and even escalate, putting many thousands of people in the region at risk, if condemnation on an international scale is not taken.

“The Armenian genocide goes back more than 100 years, but the discourse against Armenians remains strong in Turkey and is even more extreme in Azerbaijan,” continued Tavitian. “The Armenians know this very well and they will fight with everything they have. Civilians are being bombed in the heart of cities with cluster bombs, which are prohibited by international law. We want war crimes to be reported now, not after the war.”

The rally comes at a time when security measures are tightened across Belgium following the figures that show an increase in coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels police confirmed that the demonstration was well planned and could take place. But on Twitter, many expressed their surprise that it was allowed, with many people at the protest seen not wearing wear masks and social distancing ignored.

Photo: Armenak Minasyants/Twitter

Written by Nick Amies