Students protest on behalf of Armenia

By Kiara Amaya

On October 10 Granada Hills Charter (GHC) students led a peaceful protest during lunch advocating for aiding the humanitarian emergency in Armenia due to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border crisis. 

Seniors Arineh Khachikian and Daniel Maadanian, and others organized the protest to bring awareness of the crisis to both the student body and the larger San Fernando Valley area about the current crisis. 

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh has long been at the center of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but not with a majority ethnic Armenian population. A years-long war between Armenia and Azerbaijan followed, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. It ended in 1994 with a Russian mediated cease-fire that left Armenia in control of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts that were legally part of Azerbaijan. Despite Russian peacekeepers, periodic encounters with the two countries have still continued. 

During the war in 2020, with Turkish backing, Azerbaijan recaptured much of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding districts. The death toll was in the thousands, and tens of thousands of people were forced to flee. Now, Azerbaijan is pushing Armenia to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, and to fulfill other demands. In the latest flare-up, several Armenian towns were attacked overnight. Azerbaijan said it was responding to Armenian provocations.

“We hope that the protest let the student body know what is going on and why they should support Armenia. Not knowing what’s going on in the world and not wanting to know is a privileged way of thinking,” Khachikian said. 

The group felt that a peaceful protest with signs at lunch was the best way to alert other students of the humanitarian crisis. The school’s official stance, however, is to stay neutral.

“We were angry that GHC was treating this as a super ‘touchy’ political issue, and refused to ‘take sides,’ when in reality it’s a humanitarian issue with Azerbaijan committing war crimes against the Armenian people. They don’t realize that Turkey and Azerbaijan’s end goal is Pan-Turkism which is to assimilate every country into a Turkish country, and that includes the United States,” Khachikian said. 

Before actually carrying out the protest, students conducted a variety of research to make sure that they had the most effective impact that could be felt by the GHC community; starting off their protest with a circulating instagram post. 

“The planning process was difficult as we had much to research. We had to research what the legality was in having a protest on campus, what form of protest would be the most effective, and the Armenian death toll due to the Azeri attacks. We thought that a lot of people reposting one story with all the general information on it would be the best way to start it off, and then release more information a couple of days afterwards,” Khachikian said. 

Many students became aware of the protest beforehand and watched as participating students held up posters and an Armenian flag for the student body to see. The group stood in the quad and eventually walked around the center of the GHC campus. 

The protest did generate some talk amongst the student body, with some stopping to ask questions. This was exactly the outcome the organizers hoped for. 

“I think that the majority of people at least heard about the protest happening, even if they didn’t see it themselves. That leads to follow up questions so they can figure out what was going on. I saw a lot of administrators during the protest so I know that they now know how much pain and suffering the Armenian people have endured, are enduring, and will continue to endure if nothing is done to stop Turkey and Azerbaijan. Even if they don’t make a statement about what’s going on, it makes us satisfied that they could see how angry we were about them not speaking up about it,” Khachikian said. 

This event showcased the bravery and determination of these students to bring awareness to their community about an issue they are passionate about.