Local officials this week, bolstered by overwhelming public support, joined the cacophony of the world’s Armenian diaspora in excoriating Azerbaijan and Turkey for their amplified military action in the Republic of Artsakh.
The City Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution harshly condemning the violence, and the Glendale Unified School District also issued a statement of solidarity with the diaspora and offering support for students with direct ties to Armenia and Artsakh. After some skirmishes between the Azerbaijani military and Armenian-bolstered defense units in Artsakh in July, the former began directing heavy artillery fire into the breakaway republic last weekend, reportedly including civilian targets.
Mayor Vrej Agajanian, reading from a prepared statement on Tuesday, said he “condemns the Azerbaijani warmongering and stands in support of peace and stability in the Caucasus.”
“Azerbaijan’s attack on peaceful Artsakh, targeting of civilians and the use of heavy weaponry — drones, battle tanks and Turkish F-16s — is outrageous and warrants the most urgent denunciations,” he added. “As the days go by, we have seen the casualties increase, and the international community remains silent.”
Turkish warplanes have reportedly been used in the latest escalation, a fact that has especially incensed Armenians who decry Turkey’s long-standing downplaying or outright denial of the genocide against Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Empire beginning in World War I.
“The involvement of Turkey tells us that they want to help Azerbaijan continue what the Ottoman government attempted to do in 1915,” Lucy Petrosian, chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee of America’s Glendale chapter, told the council on Tuesday. “The diaspora is in pain as we see our friends, family and loved ones gather in shelters to avoid bombardment. We are anxious watching our young soldiers proudly defend our borders and we are amazed by all of the volunteers rushing to their assistance, but we are also hopeful because the Armenian people’s love for liberty is unbreakable.”
The Republic of Artsakh is a largely Armenian territory recognized almost universally as part of Azerbaijan since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. When the Russian Empire collapsed during World War I amid the Russian Revolution, Armenia and Azerbaijan both briefly achieved independence, only to be absorbed by the communist Soviet Union. During their independence, each nation claimed this territory, also called Nagorno-Karabakh, and warred over its control before being overtaken by the Soviets in 1920.
The Soviet Union — known for its practice of arbitrarily redrawing the borders of its republics to sow discord among non-Russians — ultimately ceded Nagorno-Karabakh to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
Artsakh — Nagorno-Karabakh and also the neighboring Shahumian region — was declared by referendum in 1991, sparking a three-year war with Azerbaijan that drew in the newly independent Armenia as a natural ally. A 1994 ceasefire did little to resolve the issue and fighting has periodically broken out between the entities since then.
Hundreds of Glendale residents flocked to City Hall on Monday night, shutting down that block of Broadway as demonstrators played music, waved Armenian and Artsakh flags and spoke in support of their homelands.
“This is the worst escalation of violence that I have seen,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, who has visited Artsakh, said on Tuesday. “To know that you’ll hardly be able to find a single Armenian person in Glendale who isn’t touched by this conflict. … Yesterday, there were countless people who had relatives, cousins, nephews, nieces, brothers who were answering the call to go the front lines and defend the borders and reinstate the ceasefire.”
Councilman Ara Najarian recalled years ago that the council voted to rename a commercial portion of Maryland Avenue as Artsakh Avenue, in part as a show of solidarity to the shared heritage.
“Well, this war that is currently going on certainly brings that into focus,” Najarian said, adding with some irony that Turkey’s F-16 fighters are American-made. “Artsakh is a very important part of the Armenian homeland and it is terrible to see what the innocent residents are currently undergoing. It’s absolutely devastating and haunting for many of us with the thought and stories of the genocide from 100-plus years ago in our minds.”
GUSD Superintendent Vivian Ekchian sent out a statement to district families on Tuesday night.
“This is a tragic moment in history and my heart is with all of the families who have been torn apart by these aggressions,” Ekchian wrote. “In times of unrest, it is important that we come together and support one another as a community. Please show empathy and kindness to our students, employees, and families who, as diasporan Armenians, may feel a heightened impact from this situation, and particularly those who may have family members living in the affected areas.”
A donation site collecting first-aid kits, baby wipes, latex gloves, antibiotic ointment and blankets will be set up at 238 S. Adams St. from noon-6 p.m. today, Oct. 3.
Additionally, the ANCA and the Armenian Youth Federation both have asked for donations to aid the With Our Soldiers campaign, which supports the families of Armenian and Artsakh soldiers during conflicts.