PATIL TCHOLAKIAN, Special to The Denisonian—Armenia is a mountainous country located in Eurasia, landlocked between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Although Armenians are generally spirited, our history is marked by oppression and loss. Armenia is one of the oldest nations in the world, at 3,500 years old; historic Armenia dates back to the 8th century BC.
Extermination is a recurring theme within Armenian history. The 1890s to early 1900s were marked with massacres eventually leading to the Armenian Genocide. On April 24th, 1915, the Ottoman Empire, planned a systematic killing and deportation of 1.5 million Armenians while the world turned a blind eye at the height of World War I. Turkish officials rounded up our people for execution. They sent our women, grandparents, and children into the desert on death marches. They burned our villages and churches. They drove our ancestors from our indigeneous lands, lands that exist today as present day Turkey. To this day the current Turkish government, led by Recip Tayip Erdogan, vehemently denies the Armenian genocide.
Artsakh is an is an ethnically Armenian autonomous region in the South Caucasuses, and is claimed by Azerbaijan, but has political, economic, and military support from Armenia and has been home to Armenians since ancient times, dating back to the 1st century BC. Armenians consider Artsakh to be Armenian because of its majority Armenian population (95%), and a shared, official common language (Armenian). Artsakh is run by an Armenian president and is home to many historic churches and monuments that are 2,000 years old.
After the Genocide in 1918, Armenia and Artsakh were forced to join the Soviet Union. In 1923, Joseph Stalin gave Artsakh to Azerbaijan to appease Turkey. During the fall of the Soviet Union, residents of Artsakh broke from Azerbaijan and voted to become an independent region, called the Republic of Artsakh. From 1988-1994, a war broke out in an ethnic and territorial conflict known as the Karabakh War. To Armenians, it is commonly referred to as the Artsakh Liberation War. The Armenians living in Artsakh demanded to unify with Armenia, and after the fall of the Soviet Union the tensions gradually grew into a violent conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijanis expelled and murdered Armenians living in three different Soviet Socialist Republic cities, Sumgait, Baku, and Khojaly. It was a bloody and deadly war, but finally in 1994, a ceasefire agreement was signed and Artsakh began to operate as an independent state.
As of September 27th, 2020, Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked attack on Artsakh, violating the ceasefire. They continuously launch attacks by drone, bombing civilian settlements, including the capital of Artsakh. Azerbaijan is both politically and financially backed by Turkey, and Turkey assists Azerbaijan through military aid, paying mercenaries from Syria to fight on their behalf. This advances Turkey’s goal of creating a Pan-Turkic state and their attempt at the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian people. Each day, the attacks are becoming more and more serious and they are not subsiding. It has been a month since the first bombings began, and since then, they have not only been targeting our soldiers on the frontlines, but deliberately targeting and killing innocent civilian cities.
This shows that this is far more than a land dispute, but about the extermination of the Armenian people. Armenia has a small population of 3 million, compared to Azerbaijan’s 10 million, and Turkey’s 90 million. The agressors have repeatedly used banned cluster munitions in residential areas, bombing hospitals, targeting journalists, destroying churches, cultural centers and schools, torturing and beheading soldiers, executing prisoners of war, recruiting terrorists and using chemical warfare to set ablaze the forests.
Three ceasefire agreements were established between Armenia and Azerbaijan to allow time for each country to gather the bodies of their soldiers. Each agreement was violated by Azerbaijan in less than an hour with military strikes on civilian settlements in Artsakh. The international organization, Genocide Watch, declared that Azerbaijan is commiting stage 9 and 10 of genocide against the Armenian people in Artsakh. Stage 9 is defined as the elimination of the victim group and stage 10 as denial of the crime, yet the world still says silent and nothing is done.
Thousands of Armenians are displaced because of the war, forced to flee to Armenia. Those that stay are stuck in air raid shelters, uncertain if their loved ones are safe. Their sons, fathers, and grandfathers are fighting and for some, this is their second war. They have been fighting for the same rights for the past 42 years: the right to exist and peacefully live in their lands. The citizens of Armenia and Artsakh are willingly signing up to go to the frontlines, willing to sacrifice themselves for the Armenian cause.
Due to families having to gather in air raid shelters, COVID-19 is spreading through the population. Since the war started, the number of cases have exponentially grown. This is another concern for the Armenian people because they are having to fight two battles at once; a war and pandemic.
Even now, Armenians in the United States, France, Russia, and many other places are in danger. Armenians are are at risk of potentially being attacked and injured, whether at protests, walking down the street or in their cars. The Grey Wolves are an ultranationalist, far-right terrorist organization, whose ideology is rooted in the belief of Turkish superiority. They support Pan-Turanism, which is the movement to unify all Turkic peoples by means of eliminating all non-Turkic people from their lands. At some protests in the United States, Grey Wolves symbols have popped up in opposition to the peaceful protesting against injustice, genocide denial, war crimes, and hate crimes.
Over 1,200 Armenians have died since September 27th. An entire generation is being wiped out, since the majority of the soldiers are born in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It has been over a month and yet remains unkown to many. The Armenian Diaspora around the world is doing whatever we can to amplify the voices on the frontline. The Armeniafund has raised over $150,000,000, and donations are used to provide humanitarian aid to the soldiers and to the families directly affected by the war. Armenian-diasporans all across the world have taken to the streets to protest, from New York to California, and in France, Argentina, Netherlands, London, Greece, Sweden, Canada and many other countries. One of the largest protests in California’s history took place in Los Angeles last month, with 150,000 peaceful protestors. The lack of major news coverage spurred Armenians in New York and Philadelphia to shut down major highways by blocking traffic, to gain media recognition. All over Europe, Armenians shut down the borders into other countries, blocking the entrances by protesting on the highways with Armenian flags. The Armenian Diaspora is united like no other. We are determined to get the justice we deserve and for our voices to be heard. We are determined that we will win this war.
We have been screaming for the recognition of the Armenian genocide for 105 years. For 105 years, we attended marches and protests chanting “1915, never again.” For 105 years, our wounds have remained open and now they are bleeding more than ever. For 105 years, we pleaded to the world for recognition so history would not repeat itself. For 105 years, the world was silent as the Armenian people were deliberately killed. We protest to call on politicians to recognize the Republic of Artsakh and to sanction the authoritative dictators that are Erdogan, President of Turkey and Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan.
It is evident why we Armenians are so passionate about our culture. If the world continues to stay silent, there will be no more Armenia and no more Armenian people. It is vital for every non-Armenian to hear our cries, to affirm our struggles and to bear witness to the destruction of a people and wiping out of an entire generation of Armenians. Until Armenians can live peacefully, we will not stay silent.
There are many ways to take action to support Armenians right now. Text ‘Sanctions’ to 44144, ‘Artsakh’ to 52886, ‘Genoicde’ to 52886. Send letters to your representatives, become an Armenian National Committee of America rapid responder at anca.org. Donate to the Armeniafund at armeniafund.ejoinme.org/donate. Advocate for the Armenian cause by posting on social media. Any awareness and support we can get from non-Armenians is greatly appreciated.