The talks are a part of a “road map” agreed upon last spring for normalizing diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia and opening their shared border. The proposed deal still must receive Parliamentary approval from both countries.
The two countries have long clashed over the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey refuses to categorize the deaths as genocide and has strongly fought against any formal recognition of the massacres.
The Armenian Youth Federation and members of the Stop the Protocols campaign organized the strike to send a message to the leadership of Armenia to not take part in the talks. In recent weeks, thousands of Armenians have gathered in massive rallies, including one in Pelanconi Park.
Protesters said they were most enraged about the proposed formation of a historical commission to look into the validity of the Armenian Genocide.
“If the protocols get signed, it would call the Armenian Genocide into question,” said 24-year-old Berj Parseghian, a co-organizer of the strike. “And that is not acceptable.”
While the mass killings occurred in 1915, Parseghian said the youngest generation of Armenians still feel personally affected by the genocide.
“We’ve seen our grandparents’ pain,” he said.
Close to noon Wednesday, many of the hunger strikers huddled together on a bright blue tarp covered in blankets. The hunger, they said, left them exhausted and not wanting to move. Many clutched water bottles in compliance with a doctor’s recommendation that all strikers consume two liters of water a day.
“Everyone is really in slow motion right now,” Parseghian said.
When not resting, the strikers assembled at various corners of the intersection of Glenoaks Boulevard and Central Avenue standing in front of large banners that read “hunger strike” as Armenian flags waved to honking cars.
Every two hours they assembled in various demonstrations for passing cars and pedestrians. They chained themselves together and donned red tape on their mouths for a silent demonstration.
Co-organizer Patil Aslanian, 21, said the outpouring of support from the community had kept them going.
Hundreds of people came out Tuesday night for a rally, and so far dozens of people have stopped by at various times to provide encouragement, she said. And other young people have joined the strike as part-time strikers who will fast for at least 48 hours.
“The numbers keep growing and growing,” she said. “The community is really heated about the issue.”