Blog author: Violet Baghdasarian, author of “Tehran to Malibu.” (To be released in the near future.)
I am an Armenian-American, born in Iran, but a proud United States citizen living in Malibu, California. A non-Armenian friend once asked me, “what is the purpose for these annual protests Armenians participate in on the day of April 24th?” An influx of Armenian history and feelings of unresolved painful emotions came over me. Trying to gather my thoughts and give her the most simple and honest answer, I said, we protest for recognition of the Armenian Genocide that was carried out by the Ottoman Empire in present-day Turkey in the year 1915 during WWI. The region was predominantly Armenian at the time and still is considered Western Armenia and a part of the concept of a United Armenia by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. April 24 is recognized as the first day of the Genocide because that is the day where a large number of highly educated philosophers and leaders were captured and killed. We want to raise awareness in the world and especially in places that currently fail to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. We want recognition and support from the same countries who claim to have a deep regard for human life, but unfortunately whose actions do not correspond with their alleged humanitarian values. We want something that most people are fighting for on this very day: for our lives to matter and our deaths to be noticed despite our race or ethnic background.
The country of Armenia is a small area in Western Asia located south from the Caucasus region of Eurasia. The Armenian people, belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church, are amongst the first people who practiced Christianity. In the early 4th century, occurring under the rule of King Tiridates III, the Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion. We are typically not considered a minority, but in fact we are treated as such. Armenians are not only a minority people, but the attempts to ethnically cleanse and rid the Earth of our people is denied by countries today. We are a small country with a very restricted voice in politics, but are just as deserving of justice just as much as any other group of people. Armenians like me and my family are a part of the large and diverse diaspora of Armenians who reside all over the world. Most of our ancestors were displaced after the Genocide in 1915 and were forced to establish our lives elsewhere. Regardless of where we are, majority Armenians protest on the day of April 24 in hopes of gaining support and acceptance that the Armenian Genocide did in fact occur. We aim to gain acknowledgement from individuals who are currently unaware or in denial of our people being subject to extermination that has gone unrecognized.
Without acknowledging the history experienced by a group of people, you are contributing to the deprivation of justice to those people. If our history is undermined then it equates to devaluing our current existence and deeming it as invaluable. Every person carries the weight of their own unique historical significance and should be acknowledged respectively. Armenians are an ancient ethnic group of people who faced ethnic cleansing and displacement during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Many Armenians were displaced after the Armenian Genocide and many children, women, and the elderly were forcefully and torturously driven out of Turkey through the Syrian Desert deprived from basic human necessities like food and water. Great losses including innocent lives of civilians and philosophers, historical artifacts, architecture, books and educational writings, and most prevalent today: loss of homeland. Has something changed throughout the years with regards to gaining recognition and acceptance? Yes! Has there been enough change? Absolutely not. The Armenian Genocide was recognized in more and more countries and amongst millions of people, but many places still refuse its occurrence including The United States of America. Unfortunately, history has a tendency of repeating itself especially if it was never accepted the first time around.
The recent war between Artsakh and Azerbaijan is yet another wake-up call for individuals worldwide. A wake-up call to remind everyone that our protests for genocide recognition were not ill founded. Most importantly a cry for help to alleged advocates of equal human rights. Armenians are indigenous to the land of Artsakh, which has been legally and wrongfully named Nagorno-Karabakh in 1924 by the Soviet Union. This land has since then been considered a part of a country who was founded in 1918, Azerbaijan. Since then, the region of Artsakh has remained with a population consisting of 99.7% Armenians—Armenians who have been residing in the region of present-day Nagorno-Karabakh since 7th century B.C. The region consists of Christian churches, monuments, possesses its own Armenian president, and is protected by their own Armenian army: The Artsakh Defense Army. This land was inhabited by Armenians long before the country of Azerbaijan was even created.
Azerbaijan is a newly founded country with a birth date of barely one hundred years. This country is claiming that Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) belongs to them and is determined to force off all of the Armenian civilians from this land. With attempts to force the Armenian people to leave their homelands, they are using force and military aid with Turkey backing them. Turkey was the perpetrator during the Armenian Genocide and this was their attempt to finish what they started in the 1900s. The horrific war crimes which are taking place in Artsakh today are criminal and inhumane. Leaving families and homes torn apart and brave young soldiers martyred protecting their homeland. This is no longer a land dispute, but it is a disguised attempt at another Armenian Genocide.
It's time for us as Americans to use our self-proclaimed position as humanitarians to call out these injustices. We must use our advantageous position to speak up against these inhumane acts that were carried out by the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey not just in the 1915 Armenian Genocide, but for the war in Artsakh in 2020. In the same way that we stand with other people who were cut short from justice, we need to stand with Armenians as well. As our basic human duty, we are obligated to stand against injustices occurring not just here in America, but all over the world.
On November 10, 2020, Moscow time, the Armenians in the small region of Artsakh as well as all over the world suffered a heartbreaking loss. As I write this blog, it has been announced that the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin have signed a peace agreement stating that the lands captured by Azerbaijan would now belong solely to Azerbaijan under their control. The Armenians did not just lose significant regions in Artsakh which include the settlement of Shusha, but we lost a piece of our homeland and, finally, we lost hope in humanity. If we stand loyal to the claim that we value all human life, then we must transcend our privileged voices past our borders and help the people in Armenia get their voices heard. Although this war has come to an end, the future for Armenians in Artsakh remains unknown. If the world keeps turning a blind eye like the way they did during the Armenian Genocide and the present-day Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020, the Armenian people will never know peace and we will be subject to yet another Genocide threat.
So, ask me again why the Armenians all over the world march every April 24. I have a new answer for this question and that answer is that Armenians have not only suffered a Genocide which is deprived of global recognition, but we suffer the threat of our people being wiped off of the face of the Earth today. We are overpowered by our neighboring aggressors who not only want to take away our territories but to become victors in a genocide they claim to have never committed. The takeaway from this is to accept history, know that the fight for Armenians to find peace is not yet over, and to stand in solidarity on the side of humanity by speaking up against these injustices.