A recent but fragile cease-fire seems to be holding following recent fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But the political and military climate remains unstable. The Los Angeles area has the largest population of Armenians in the United States, numbering more than 200,000. As they absorb news of the current conflict they have gathered to mourn, protest and ask for support. Julia Zara filed this report.
Political conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is nothing new. Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 the turmoil has largely focused on the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. But Syuzanna Petrosyan of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies says the current fighting is different.
SUZYANNA PETROSYAN: So one of the main important points about this recent escalation, that attack on Armenia, was that this was an assault by Azerbaijan on the Republic of Armenia. And it’s important to note that it was on that internationally recognized borders.
Petrosyan explains that this time, the attacks have taken a more hostile and gruesome turn.
PETROSYAN: The next thing is what ensued in the next two days after the attacks started, which was heavy shelling on both military and civilian targets inside Armenia, as well as disturbing acts of violence against both soldiers and citizens. You know, we’re talking about mutilation, rape, torture.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia over the weekend. She denounced Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia, calling them illegal and deadly. Petrosyan says she hopes U.S. support will be followed by tangible policy changes in the region, including cutting aid to Azerbaijan. Eduard Ghazaryan studies international relations at USC Dornsife. He’s also philanthropy chair of the USC Armenian Student Association, or ASA.
EDUARD GHAZARYAN: My family is from the town that recently got attacked. It’s just hard to balance school and like having to think about all of this, the safety of your family members. And that can just takes a toll on your mental health and wellness and even schoolwork, it’s getting hard to concentrate.
Ghazaryan says ASA is focusing on humanitarian and advocacy work to spread awareness among the Armenian student community. They organized a fundraiser to aid displaced families affected by the conflict. But they regret that USC has not made an official statement concerning the conflict and the attacks.
GHAZARYAN: I think the university needs to do more to recognize the presence of Armenian students and provide more support systems. That would inform a lot of students on campus and would make our fundraising or like any events that our Armenian Student Association is doing, even more powerful and more impactful.
Petrosyan echoes this sentiment, saying that she hopes the conflict will come to a peaceful resolution with aid from the U.S.
PETROSYAN: So we hope more for more steps and actions by the U.S. that are tangible and will hopefully contribute to a real cease fire that ends up in negotiations and compromises and a real agreement between the two countries.
Those are views shared by many in the Armenian American community. For Annenberg Media, I’m Julia Zara.