Hundreds of Lebanese Armenians scuffled with riot police on Thursday outside the Azerbaijan Embassy in northern Beirut during a protest against the Azerbaijani military offensive that recaptured Nagorno-Karabakh from the enclave’s separatist Armenian authorities.
Protesters waved flags of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and burned posters of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the demonstration in the Ein Aar suburb of the Lebanese capital.
Lebanese riot police lobbed teargas canisters at the protesters after they hurled firecrackers toward the embassy building.
The 24-hour Azerbaijan military blitz last week forced Armenian separatist authorities to agree to lay down weapons and sit down for talks on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan. The separatist government said Thursday that it would dissolve itself and the unrecognized republic will cease to exist by year’s end after a three-decade bid for independence.
More than 50% of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population of 120,000 have left the region for Armenia as of nightfall Wednesday. Though Azerbaijani authorities promised to respect the rights of ethnic Armenian, many fear reprisals. The former head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government was arrested as he tried to cross into Armenia alongside tens of thousands of others who have fled.
During the enclave’s independence bid, Lebanese Armenians have sent money and aid, and have actively campaigned in the media in support of Nagorno-Karabakh, which they refer to as Artsakh.
Lebanon is embroiled in an unprecedented economic crisis, which has lately restricted the financial support of the Lebanese Armenians for Nagorno-Karabakh because of banks imposing tight withdrawal limits.
Lebanon, a tiny Mediterranean country of about 6 million people, is home to some 150,000 Armenians. It’s one of the largest Armenian communities in the world outside Armenia, most of them descendants of survivors of the 1915 mass killings during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
At the time, an estimated 1.5 million people were killed in the events that are widely viewed by scholars at the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.