If it takes Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid’s Instagram feud to bring awareness to the Artsakh genocide that is being disguised as a “war,” then the pandemic is not the only global crisis America has failed to fix.
Back in the 1920s, Artsakh — known as Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijanis — was under USSR control until the territory was given to Azerbaijan as an independent republic. Geographically located in Azerbaijan but ethnically Armenian, the small state in the Caucasus region — intended as a cease fire zone of its own — never lived up to the safe haven its inhabitants voted into existence. Declaring freedom couldn’t secure Arsakh’s populous because the Ottoman Empire’s initial 1915 mandate to unify Muslim countries through the eradication of Christian Armenia never ended.
Armenian-Americans and UC students Tara Kessedjian; Michelle, who requested not to identify her last name due to safety concerns for her family; Alida Piliguian and Nairi Ghazarian each have spoken up about Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s failure to exterminate Armenian resilience. Additionally, they have interwoven their personal stories by bringing awareness to how their loved ones remain threatened by Turkish resurrection of war crimes in their homeland.
In genocide and not war, Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are represented by the Grey Wolves Fascist Party’s symbol paralleling the swatstika, ignored cease fires to massacre the people of Artsakh and Armenia. In 2005, Azerbaijani leadership said during a meeting with the municipal delegation from Bavaria, Germany that, “‘[o]ur goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You, Nazis, already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and 40’s right? You should be able to understand us.’” Azerbaijani leadership have also ensured that Azerbaijani youth have been indoctrinated with this mindset.
The attempted massacre of the approximately 150,000 residents in Artsakh by soldiers of Azerbaijani and Turkish’s population of just over 90 million, sparked the Armenian population of three million to protect their majority Christian Armenian neighbors. Many of the eight million members of the Armenian diaspora who fled to other countries during the 1915 genocide returned to stop the current genocide looming over their ancestry.
Azerbaijan wants the world to be distracted by the pandemic and the U.S. election instead of aiding Armenia. This is similar to when the Ottoman Empire conveniently struck during World War I. As a despised minority in the Ottoman Empire, Armenians asked European sympathizers for protection from Turks. The Europeans sent inspectors to watch over Armenians in 1914, whom they had to remove so that they could fight in the first world war.
Armenians empathized with not having protection which motivated them to defend Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. “Stepanakert is the main brunt of bombs and attacks, homes have been destroyed. Children who live there have fled to the capital city of Armenia, Yerevon. Most who have not fled are hiding in basements because they don’t have family in the capital city or their family is fighting on the front lines,” Kessedjian, a UC Berkeley student and former 2019 camp counselor in Stepanakert, said.
She recalled one of her campers staying for his uncle, who was a commander of the Artsakh army.
Leadership is crucial to both military and diplomatic progress on a global scale. Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan joined the front lines to set an example for Armenian boys, who became men in youth when their fathers sacrificed their life for their country, while American leaders Joe Biden and Donald Trump fought like little boys in their first presidential debate. French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out against Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that resulted in the momentary withdrawal of France ambassadors from Ankara, Turkey’s capital, after Erdoğan called Macron mentally ill.
Due to the U.S. military base in Turkey and the escalated conflict from Macron’s stance, the students unanimously agreed the outcome of the 2020 election will not stop the U.S. from continuing to fund the genocide.
“The U.S. government needs to sanction Turkey. This country needs to put human life before financial and political gain,” Kessedjian said.
Kessedjian and UCI student Michelle have repeatedly donated, sold clothes to raise more donations and participated in numerous protests.
“[I’ve] protested from Pan Pacific Park to the Turkish Consulate [in Los Angeles] where more than 150,000 people came, but it got no media coverage so that was really disappointing,” Michelle said.
Azerbaijan is one of the most censored countries in the world. It hasn’t recorded the death tolls of Azerbaijani soldiers or the amount in need of medical treatment as opposed to
Armenia, a country that monitors their own soldiers’ fate and the well-being of Azerbaijani attackers. Kardashian donated a million dollars to the Armenia Fund. Her family makeup artist Hrush Achemyan spoke up about her 19-year-old cousin, Garik Achemyan, who was skinned alive and dismembered on the front lines.
UCLA graduate Piliguian expected the ceasefire breach on Sept. 27 because of her previous Armenian private school experience in 2016 when her history class trip was cut short by the same Azerbaijani violence. Her grandfather was relieved she got to see his church, Ghazanchetsots Cathedral before it was shelled this October.
“Me and my friend collected donations from people in Montebello donating medical gear, food [and] warm clothing in-demand during winter for civilians in bomb shelters. We drove to the Glendale drop off where Armenians shipped goods,” Piliguian said.
UCI student Ghazarian’s grandparents run a shelter in a little village in Armenia where children and women, who have lost their husbands or sons in the war, receive vocational therapy, dental work and life necessities after loss of husbands and sons.
“I’ve donated, posted and protested carefully because Azerbaijanis made a fake Armenia fund.org a period off from our armeniafund.org and sold pro-Armenian masks, which funded Armenian deaths,” Ghazarian said.
Ghazarian and Piliguian are tired of waking up every morning feeling helpless that their family’s aid and personal donations have not saved their Artsakh brethren.
“Every April 24, we chant ‘1915 never again,’ yet here we are in 2020. We’re crying out to anyone who will care to help,” Piliguian said.
Armenian soldiers die with pride, while we live with the shame of our country enabling their blood to be shed. Nationalism should come from the way we handle international relations. We should not live to see only the betterment of our self-centered U.S. but to also see the betterment of us as humans all around the world. Recommended ways to answer and support their cries for help include signing petitions, protesting, donating, spreading awareness and asking about our Armenian friends.
Amanda Abramovitz is an opinion advice column intern for the New University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.