Armenian People Seek Help

— EDITOR’S NOTE: Many Armenians who fled the genocide in 1915 settled in Montebello. The Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument at Bicknell Park, near the golf course, is the largest and oldest in the United States, and represents a local effort of survivors and their children to honor those lost. Many Armenians in the United States are now asking for help as they are again under attack in Armenia. Graphic design and engineering teacher Nare Mnatsakanyan wrote this column in an effort to inform the Spartan community about her people’s history and current struggles. —

NARE MNATSAKANYAN, Guest Columnist, Graphic Design and Engineering Teacher

We woke up on the morning of Sunday, September 27th to find out that an attack on our people had begun. Azerbaijan, a country that borders Armenia on the east, had started shelling Artsakh borders and its capital of Stepanakert.

Artsakh (seen as Nagorno-Karabakh on maps) is a territory that sits between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has been home to Armenians for thousands of years, and grew to become a beautiful country of its own, known as the “Republic of Artsakh.” Today, they have their own flag, national anthem, and prime minister.

To understand why Azerbaijan began bombing Artsakh, we must look back to the early 1920s: when Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other surrounding countries were taken over by the Bolshevik movement. At this time, the question of where Artsakh belonged was not disputed–it belonged to the USSR. At the same time, control of Artsakh was given to Azerbaijan to appease their close ally, Turkey.

Then came the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenia and Azerbaijan had both gained their independence from the USSR, and the dispute over Artsakh was revived. Armenians living in Artsakh petitioned to Moscow so that they could unionize with Armenia. This petition unfortunately contributed to sparking a bloody war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, during which many lives were lost.

A ceasefire was reached in 1994, although a peace treaty was never brokered. The ceasefire lasted until about 2016, when more bloody clashes began to occur on the border of Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Afterwards, we only heard of a few clashes here and there.

There is reason to believe that the current attack Artsakh is an echo of genocide that was perpetrated by Ottoman Turks against Armenians in 1915, not just a dispute over territory. During the Ottoman Empire, Armenians and other non-Turkic ethnic minorities living in Turkey were subject to treatment as second-class citizens. Soon, they were targeted by a group called the “Young Turks” who aimed to systematically and deliberately kill Armenians as a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” – 1.5 million Armenians were wiped out.

To this day, the Azeri and Turkish media, dictated by their government, spread misinformation about the Armenian genocide–they say that it was a war, or that Armenians were the perpetrators. Countless history books, archives, and lived experiences negate this propaganda.

Now, the rulers of Azerbaijan and Turkey aim to end what the Ottomans started. Azerbaijan has now been bombing Artsakh and attempting to bomb Armenia for almost 2 weeks. Hundreds and hundreds of soldiers have died on both sides, and there is no sign of slowing down.

Living as an Armenian outside of Armenia (a diasporan) is difficult right now because we feel helpless. Please stand by your Armenian friends, inform those around you, and encourage them to spread the word and donate to campaigns like ArmeniaFund, Himnadram, and AGBU. We need your help.

If Azerbaijan stops fighting, there will be peace.

If Armenia stops fighting, there will be no Armenia.

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