By Dveen Hagopian
A major conflict recently broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to rising tensions over the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. On September 27, Azerbaijan launched artillery strikes toward Artsakh, targeting civilians and villages. Artsakh, backed by Armenia, launched a counterattack towards Azerbaijan as a response. The countries have been launching attacks back and forth ever since.
The Republic of Artsakh, as a result, has imposed martial law and mass mobilization. There has been an estimated total of over 350 casualties since the attacks began. Armenia has a population of 3 million, while Azerbaijan has a population of almost 10 million, according to the BBC.
Turkey, a strong ally of Azerbaijan, is reportedly supplying Azerbaijani forces with weaponry and drone pilots during this time, and is remaining actively involved in the conflict, according to Forbes.
This has sparked controversy and outrage among the Armenian community, as the two countries have had extremely high tensions since the Armerian genocide in 1915, where Turkey slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians. To this day, despite scholarly claims that the genocide did in fact occur, Turkey denies any allegations of a genocide, claiming that it was merely a war between the two countries.
Many people believe that Azerbaijani aggression towards Armenians serves as a threat of a second genocide by both Azerbaijan and Turkey. This has undoubtedly made the distress and panic among Armenians higher.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in dispute over the Artsakh region since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Originally a part of Armenia since 387 C.E., Artsakh is made up of almost entirely Armenians and is home to many Ancient Armenian churches, cemeteries, and schools. Joseph Stalin gained control of Artsakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan during his expansion of the Soviet Union, and gave the Artsakh region to Azerbaijan in 1988. Although Artsakh technically belongs to Azerbaijan due to the fact that it is internationally recognized as a part of it, Artsakh still is primarily made up of Armenians and Armenian culture, which is why Armenia has made a point to defend it from Azerbaijani or Turkish attacks. The goal of the Azerbaijan attacks is to gain control of Artsakh and drive Armenians out of the area, but many Armenians refuse to leave.
Armenians in the United States and all over the world are calling on their respective governments, most prominently the Trump administration, to intervene and stop Turkey’s involvement in this conflict. The United States aided Azerbaijan with $21.58 million last year, according to the US. Foreign Assistance website.
Many Armenian-Americans are enraged that their tax dollars are being spent for this purpose. The US, however, is close allies with Turkey, and has not yet spoken out against Turkey or Azerbaijan. This has sparked outrage among the Armenian-American community and has resulted in large protests throughout Los Angeles, where multiple streets and freeways have been blocked off, including the 101, 5, and 170 freeways. There was a protest of tens of thousands outside the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills on Sunday October 11.
“L.A. is proud to be home to the largest Armenian diaspora. We stand with the people of Armenia. I urge our leaders in Washington to conduct the sustained and rigorous diplomacy necessary to bring peace to the Artsakh region. Turkey must disengage,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted on October 4.
Garcetti, along with other elected officials, stood in solidarity with Armenians outside of City Hall Monday October 5, where they called on Azerbaijan to cease their aggression and on Turkey to “back off.”