This is why Armenian People in Southern California are protesting


Since Sept. 27, the escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has killed tons of and displaced hundreds, and Armenian People in Southern California have taken to the streets in protest.

Within the days and weeks earlier than a cease-fire was announced late Friday, hundreds gathered outdoors the Azerbaijan Consulate in Los Angeles, blocked traffic on the 101 and 170 freeways, marched in Glendale and assembled in entrance of the buildings of CNN and the Los Angeles Times. On Wednesday, a crowd shut down Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, and on Thursday, many traveled to Washington to protest in entrance of the White Home.

Along with the protest, the Armenian American group has launched fundraisers and social media campaigns (shared by the likes of the Kardashians), and a few have left or are preparing to leave Southern California with plans to volunteer and battle.

All within the midst of a pandemic and a chaotic U.S. election.

Southern California is house of one of many largest Armenian diasporas. The primary important wave of immigrants arrived after escaping the Armenian genocide of 1915. (The Turkish authorities disputes that the deaths — estimates vary from 600,000 to 1.5 million individuals killed underneath the Ottoman Empire — constituted a genocide.)

In 2000, an East Hollywood neighborhood was designated Little Armenia. Glendale is house to the most important Armenian American group within the area, along with important populations in Burbank, Pasadena, Montebello and La Crescenta.

Right here’s the background on how the battle bought up to now and its implications in Southern California.

What’s the historical past of the battle?

The tiny mountainous South Caucasus enclave Nagorno-Karabakh, referred to by Armenians by its historic title, Artsakh, is acknowledged internationally as a part of Azerbaijan, however its inhabitants of 150,000 is generally ethnic Armenian.

It’s self-ruling and receives funding from Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, which is way bigger than Armenia’s inhabitants of about three million.

Map shows disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan

“Caucasus has all the time been in the course of three empires,” stated Salpi Ghazarian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Research. “It was once the Russian, Ottoman and Persian empires, now it’s Russia, Turkey and Iran. In that Caucasus space, a lot of ethnic teams have all the time lived collectively, on high of one another. The borders have been all the time shifting … as a result of everybody was all the time gerrymandering.”

The battle over Nagorno-Karabakh may be traced to the beginnings of the Soviet Union. In 1923, Nagorno-Karabakh grew to become a part of Soviet Azerbaijan whereas sustaining its autonomous standing.

Across the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been makes an attempt from Nagorno-Karabakh to interrupt away from Azerbaijan, which have been met with violence. About 30,000 individuals have been killed and 1 million displaced. Armenia and Azerbaijan have had a cease-fire since 1994.

Violence has flared periodically since that cease-fire, notably throughout 2016’s Four-Day War, when clashes left tons of lifeless.

What’s the latest historical past?

In July, border clashes resulted in deaths of each Armenian and Azebaijani servicemen.

Issues began a lot earlier, stated Philip Gamaghelyan, an assistant professor on the Joan B. Kroc Faculty of Peace Research on the College of San Diego. He’s additionally the co-founder of the Think about Middle for Battle Transformation and the managing editor of the Caucasus Version: Journal of Battle Transformation.

“Negotiations have been very lively till about 2011, after they primarily stopped engaged on an answer,” he stated.

In 1992, the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe fashioned the Minsk Group, with Russia, France and the U.S. in command of discovering a diplomatic answer in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“They weren’t profitable for a lot of causes,” Ghazarian stated, “however it additionally wasn’t on anyone’s high agenda.”

Whereas the Clinton and Bush administrations have been very concerned, the U.S. began pulling out of the area throughout the Obama administration, and that continued throughout Trump’s presidency, Gamaghelyan stated.

“The absence of significant negotiations made eventual warfare increasingly more doubtless,” he stated. “And it made area for different native actors resembling Turkey to start out making strikes.”

Earlier than, different international locations have been supporting one facet or one other however not getting immediately concerned, Gamaghelyan stated. Armenia stated final month Turkish warplane had shot down an Armenian jet. However Turkey and Azerbaijan vigorously denied that.

Turkey is vocally supporting Azerbaijan. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated just lately name for peace from France, Russia and the U.S. was unacceptable and “our Azerbaijani brothers are actually ready for the day they are going to return to their land.”

Turkish involvement is terrifying for the Armenian American group, a lot of whom have familial ties to the genocide.

Laurence Broers, a scholar on the battle, told The Times that though Azerbaijan instigated this assault, that nation sees the battle as a defensive warfare to reclaim misplaced land.

The cease-fire is expected to begin Saturday at noon.

How does the battle play out in Southern California?

Talar Chahinian, a lecturer within the Armenian Research Program at UC Irvine, stated many Armenians in California bought the information that Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was being attacked round midnight Sept. 27 or woke as much as it the subsequent morning.

“There was a way that this was the large one,” she stated. “Similar to in California, while you’re all the time anticipating the Huge One, the large earthquake. Everyone the subsequent day, on each thread, each area I used to be checking into, from educational to private, it was this concern that they’re coming to get us. They’re going to complete what they began, the genocide. It was a really private response that individuals have been having.

“It felt like that is the final line,” she continued. “We knew civilians have been being attacked, the capital was attacked, Turkey was open that they have been in on it, and it felt very totally different this time.”

A woman holds a sign that says Trump stop Turkey, stop genocide

A lady holds an indication throughout a protest outdoors the Los Angeles Occasions headquarters in El Segundo on Tuesday.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Occasions)

“At first, the sooner generations have been tied to the Armenian genocide, and now you’ve gotten extra present migrants who might need participated within the 1994 warfare,” Gamaghelyan stated.

So these are direct ties to Armenia and Artsakh, not an summary relationship, Chahinian stated.

However there’s additionally numerous inside variety within the Armenian American inhabitants in Southern California, she stated.

“There are the Armenians who left Armenia within the Soviet space, bringing that have,” she stated. “There are those that left within the years following independence throughout financial hardship. There are Armenians from Center Jap international locations like Syria and Lebanon, most of whom left throughout the Lebanese civil warfare within the years 1975 to 1990.”

Chahinian is from Beirut, and each her grandparents have been refugees and survivors of the genocide.

“There are additionally Armenians from Iraq and from Iran, who left firstly of the Iranian revolution — and a lot extra,” she stated. “So you’ve gotten a compilation of historic traumas and displacement. You could have warfare, varied oppressive regimes and revolutions.”

Regardless of the variety of experiences, she sees everybody coming collectively now for this frequent aim: “Everyone seems to be simply all palms on deck.”

Chahinian defined that many Armenians see this not as a territorial dispute however as a menace to Armenian identification.

“I’ve been listening to colleagues and associates saying, ‘The place else are we alleged to go?’” she stated. “And I feel that will get to the center of why Armenians are on the streets, blocking site visitors…. What they’re preventing for is 10% of their historic land. Persons are speaking about genocide and ethnic cleaning, however it’s not being thrown round evenly. It’s this concept that it’s this tiny sliver of place that Armenians can name house, and that’s what’s underneath existential menace.”

What are the protesters’ calls for?

The primary aim is to get extra consideration in regards to the scenario.

“On the finish of the day, international locations, individuals, authorities, dictators … solely get to do as a lot because the world lets them do,” Ghazarian stated. “All of them may be impacted by understanding and knowledge.”

Different calls to motion, as outlined by the Armenian National Committee of America, embrace supporting help efforts to Nagorno-Karabakh, calling for the U.S. to chop all navy help to Azerbaijan and urging international locations world wide to sentence Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression.

Is faith an element?

Worldwide media typically body the dispute as one between a Christian nation, Armenia, and a Muslim nation, Azerbaijan — and Nagorno-Karabakh as a minority Christian enclave inside a majority Muslim nation.

Though that’s true, all sides have agreed that this isn’t about faith, Ghazarian stated.

“It’s straightforward to border like that,” Gamaghelyan stated.

He stated faith shouldn’t be an essential issue within the native relationship between the 2 international locations, however he acknowledged that faith is exploited by either side in the case of outreach to international nations — whether or not it’s interesting to majority-Christian societies or framing the battle inside the context of Islamophobia.

Demonstrators wave Armenian flags

In 2018, the Armenian Genocide Committee staged a march in Los Angeles in commemoration of the Armenian genocide.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Occasions)

What about misinformation?

Another excuse Armenians are protesting is that some take concern with media protection of the battle.

On Tuesday, the protest outside The Times’ headquarters in El Segundo was partly pushed by anger over a narrative that quoted Nasimi Aghayev, the consul basic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles, who accused Armenia of selling white supremacist propaganda.

However Gamaghelyan stated one other a part of the issue is that each international locations block sure info.

“Azerbaijan has technically closed off their social media outdoors of the nation,” he stated. “They usually don’t let impartial journalists enter the zone from their facet. Armenia additionally handed a warfare declaration limiting freedom of speech, banning info aside from from their official channels to be unfold.”

Consequently, a lot of the knowledge reported is coming from every nation’s navy.

“Either side reads their very own official info, that they’re being attacked by the opposite facet,” he stated. “So there’s totally different info being handed to every group.”

Individuals additionally get info immediately from the area, Chahinian stated.

“They’ve siblings serving on the entrance traces, households displaced, so the information they’re getting is from each day telephone calls, real-time updates, relations who’ve died,” she stated.

Is there an Azerbaijani inhabitants in Los Angeles?

Azerbaijan’s inhabitants is about triple that of Armenia. Although there’s an Azerbaijani group within the Los Angeles space, it’s small in contrast with the Armenian American group right here, Gamaghelyan stated.

Ulduz Azar, an officer of the Azerbaijan Cultural Society of Northern California, told The Times that her area people in San Francisco has additionally been elevating cash to ship to Azerbaijanis who’ve misplaced relations or whose properties have been destroyed.

“We’re all very, very nervous and tense,” Azar stated. “We try to do our greatest to assist those that are impacted.”

What has the response been from U.S. officers?

In April, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden vowed to support a resolution acknowledging the Armenian genocide if elected in November, one thing presidents Trump, Obama and others didn’t do.

In a Sept. 28 statement, Biden known as on the Trump administration to step up diplomatic efforts.

“The eruption of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh runs the chance of escalating into a bigger regional battle, which is why third events within the area should keep out of this battle and the Minsk Group mediators should instantly search de-escalation and a return to negotiations,” Biden stated.

On the time, Trump told reporters he had simply realized in regards to the concern and was wanting on the scenario “very strongly.”

This month, Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, stated Trump had promised to call him in regards to the intensifying battle earlier than he grew to become sick with COVID-19.

On Monday, a bunch of officers, together with Los Angeles Metropolis Councilman Paul Krekorian and state Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, gathered at Los Angeles City Hall in solidarity with the Armenian group and known as on the Trump administration to intervene diplomatically.

Local officials stand in masks and hold a flag outside L.A. City Hall

Carrying masks bearing the flag of the Republic of Artsakh, plenty of elected officers posed for a photograph after making statements in regards to the battle between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Occasions)

What may occur sooner or later?

“In the end, most certainly after the election, the U.S. might become involved,” Gamaghelyan stated. “So there’s an excellent likelihood of it turning into one other scorching spot of worldwide competitions.”

“On the finish of the day, there must be a peaceable negotiated answer,” Ghazarian stated. “Another answer gained’t work, in any other case it might’ve labored by now…. If navy battle alone did it, we’d be finished, however we’re not finished.”