Armenian-Americans in Pasadena are calling on the United States government and the United Nations to act now to protect tens of thousands of Armenians currently suffering after fresh attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The disputed region has seen the deadliest spate of violence this week since 2020, with at least 100 people killed, according to news reports.
Pasadena City Council District 2 candidate Rick Cole issued an email appeal to the community at large to “make our voices heard to insist Washington do all our country can do to stop this unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.”
Danny Donabedian, Chair of the Armenian National Committee of America Pasadena Chapter, pointed to the months-long blockade of 120,000 Armenians in the region, often referred to by Armenian-Americans as the Republic of Artsakh.
“It’s very disconcerting and it’s very disappointing that that has happened,” Donabedian said. “And when the Western hemisphere talks about justice, justice, justice, that needs to be done and always implemented and should be always conscientious of it and action should be taken. It seems that as far, when it comes to Armenia and Artsakh, nothing is ever done.”
Donabedian said the local Armenian-American community is disappointed with the international community’s inaction.
“There’s ethnic cleansing and genocide going on and nobody’s talking about this,” he said. “So it’s high time these countries stop thinking about their own pockets and decide if they want to be morally accountable or not. So morally, ethically, right now the Western hemisphere is bankrupt. Until something changes, that’s the way it’s going to be labeled.”
Former Pasadena Mayor William Paparian said the recent violence occurred in the ninth month of the blockade, which has disrupted delivery of food, medicine and supplies from reaching the Armenian communities in Nagornoh-Karabakh.
“First of all, it’s not a war. It’s an attack on a civilian population of 120,000 indigenous Christians by a Muslim nation that surrounds it,” he said. “It’s very important to understand that this is not a conflict between two countries.”
On Tuesday night, local Armenian-Armenian community leaders sent out a call for community members to contact their representatives in the U.S. Congress and stress to them the importance of the Biden administration advancing several priorities in order to protect the Christian civilian population of Artsakh.
“At the United Nations Security Council, we need our country to take a position that humanitarian supplies and reconstruction aid need to be made available to Artsakh and that there needs to be unhindered safe passage to and from Artsakh and Armenia and the civilians that have been displaced need to be able to be provided safe return to their homes,” Paparian said.
The most recent conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region essentially began on Sept. 19 and has resulted in significant casualties. It has also raised concerns that a full-scale war could potentially erupt unless the United Nations steps in. The region has been a source of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades.
Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire after several days. The terms of the ceasefire include the withdrawal of local defense units from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrender of arms and heavy equipment. Russian peacekeepers are expected to oversee the transfer of equipment.
“I think it’s important that the words ‘never again’ mean something because we are seeing, again, a genocidal campaign against a civilian population,” Paparian said. “It’s important that the United Nations take action and establish a United Nations mandate for Artsakh and to hold Azerbaijan accountable for genocide and war crimes.”
Donabedian said the Armenian-American community is not going to stand by and watch as neighboring groups continue to commit heinous crimes and crimes against humanity in Nagornoh-Karabakh.
“We’re not going to accept it, and we want Americans to help us with this, to stand with us in solidarity and demand much, much better than the government is currently doing,” he said. “Our government should have a much bigger role in this, a bigger stance in this, regardless of the geopolitics that’s in that region, and put an end to all of this corruption and crime and murder and attempted ethnic cleansing, which would lead to a genocide.”
District 2 candidate Rick Cole said in an email to the community that “Pasadena should stand against ethnic cleansing war launched against Armenians.”
“Pasadena is a diverse and inclusive city. Armenian Americans in our community are watching in horror as the Azerbaijani army has launched a massive attack against an enclave of 150,000 Armenians half a world away. The attack comes after months of blockade of Artsakh denying food, medicine and fuel, leading to hunger, suffering and mass unemployment.”
“Last year, Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo issued a statement decrying the Azerbaijani blockade. The situation is far more grave today with civilians, including children, already dying under Azerbaijani shelling.”