Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict escalates, calling Armenian students and their allies to action

Monday, October 26, 2020

Photo: Alina Mirzaian

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict escalates, calling Armenian students and their allies to action 

By Angelina Lin

In response to the revival of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh in recent weeks, demonstrations have been held all over the world, as well as fundraisers and social media campaigns in support of the Armenian people. LMU’s Armenian Students Association (ASA) has taken action, urging the University to acknowledge the military conflict and release a university-wide statement voicing support for Armenian Lions, as well as provide resources to further support them during this difficult time.

The decades-old conflict is over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, although it has been independently governed as the Republic of Artsakh since 1991 and run by ethnic Armenians. A ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was declared in 1994, but skirmishes still occurred, raising concerns for mediators of the peace treaty. 

However, the decades-old conflict between the two countries has been reignited in recent weeks, as Armenia accused the Azerbaijan military for bombing civilian settlements on Sep. 27. In response, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense claimed taking down two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones, to which the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense began launching a “counteroffensive,” employing tanks, war planes, artillery missiles and drones. This has been the most serious escalation of the conflict since 2016, with over 350 civilians and soldiers killed and hundreds more wounded. While these actions have been condemned by many countries, both sides have continued accusing each other of breaking ceasefire agreements, and tensions have only escalated since.

Across the United States, protests have been held in Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, Boston, and Washington D.C.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area has the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia, where demonstrations have been held in front of the Azerbaijan Consulate in Los Angeles, on the 101 and 170 freeways, the Armenian Consulate in Glendale, Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills, as well as in front of the buildings of Cable News Network (CNN) and the Los Angeles Times.

LMU’s Armenian Students Association (ASA) released a public statement about the issue:

“It has been 105 years since the Armenian Genocide and we are still fighting for our survival, our culture, our freedom, and the little amounts of land that we have left. Turkey and Azerbaijan continue their aggression against Armenia and the Armenian people, however, as millions of Armenians unite together, we will not be silenced. We will continue to defend our lands ... We will continue to voice our frustrations, we will not be silenced, and we will never stop defending our country. Armenians are tired of the constant denial of the Armenian Genocide and the incessant aggression from Azerbaijan and Turkey. Is it not enough that 1.5 million lives were lost during the genocide? Is it not enough that over 250,000 acres of land were lost? We demand justice, and we demand it NOW.”

ASA members also wrote to LMU administrators, asking them to recognize Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenians and acknowledge the impact it has on their community on the Bluff. 

On October 12, “A Prayer for the Armenian Community” written by Natalie Janji (‘16), undergraduate alumna and current graduate student in the School of Education, was published in LMU This Week. 

“May Armenians find peace by turning their anger into action. May the support of the international community be a reason to turn their despair into hope. May their fight find an ending where all can live in peace, and from there rebuild a more beautiful Republic of Artsakh and Armenia.”

ASA members have been spreading awareness on social media and raising money for the Armenia Fund, as well as attending various protests in the Los Angeles area.

Armenians and their allies rally in the streets of Los Angeles in solidarity with Armenia. Photo: Alina Mirzaian

Senior political science major Araz Merguerian noted the large and diverse turnout while attending a protest in Beverly Hills, where crowds reached 200,000, in support of Armenia on Oct. 11.

“…[T]his is a human rights issue,” said Merguerian. “For the Black Lives Matter Movement, where a lot of different communities showed up for that protest, we would also like to see these communities become activists again for our issue, and not just focus on one issue. There are multiple different levels to humanitarian issues around the world that people should see.”

Though tens of thousands of miles away from their homeland, the conflict has directly taken a toll on the LMU Armenian community. With their minds on those who are fighting for their country on the front lines, it has been difficult for them to concentrate on their classes. 

Lynette Aslanian, a junior screenwriting major, explains the emotional impact of the conflict on the Armenian diaspora.

“It’s been really hard because Armenians in the diaspora are feeling this thing called diaspora guilt, where we can’t be there, but we're completely there emotionally and mentally, ” said Aslanian.

ASA urges people to sign the petition calling for the United States Congress to recognize the independence of Nagorno Karabakh Republic to stop war in the South Caucasus, donate to the Armenia Fund and take action through the Armenian National Committee of America

They also recommend following social media accounts that provide regular updates on the evolving conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan such as Zartonk Media and The Armenian Report and take action through the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region. 

But most of all, they ask that their fellow Lions spread awareness of the issue and educate themselves.

“It’s not only about donations,” said Merguerian. “I rather my American friends understand the issue… I just want them to know what’s going on, because the more awareness we have of this issue, the better it is.” 

Listen to “Addendum 2.2: Fighting for Peace” by host Raven Yamamoto to hear Lynette Aslanian and Araz Merguerian of LMU’s Armenian Student Association discuss how their community has responded to the deadly conflict that has erupted between the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past month.

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