There is something special about waking up to mornings in Los Angeles. Within this “something” lies a luxury that, unfortunately, millions of others merely hope to attain, but most likely will never see. In my 23 years of life in Los Angeles, I have woken up every morning to a war-free environment. Nevertheless, 7,240 miles away, the Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) cannot say the same.
Tucked far away from the doorsteps of war, I find myself often in tears for my brothers and sisters in Artsakh. As the daughter of a native Artsakh woman who grew up during the war, I have always been aware of our people’s plight. As a result, my mother’s Artsakhtsi passion and spirit were instilled in me like a roaring flame that could never be extinguished. Of course, being 7,240 miles away from Artsakh may make it difficult for me to help in ways that I want to, but let it be clear to all of us that no amount of distance makes the fight for Artsakh impossible. The distance should strengthen our yearning to fight, advocate and help our homeland in any way possible. After all, was it not California’s Monte Melkonian who paved the way for thousands of Armenians across the US to believe in the Artsakh movement and advance the cause?
Like Melkonian, Armenia’s diaspora is unique to its core, situated in diverse nations that provide ample opportunities and resources to empower not only the Armenian Cause, but also our fight for Artsakh. From the platforms we are given through academic, social and professional avenues to the time on our hands, and the accessible education bestowed at our fingertips, we often forget how fortunate we are to grow up in such environments and how capable we are of taking part in this fight.
My fight for Artsakh consists of one essential tool: my voice. Every movement started with a voice, and because my voice was enabled through the blood, sweat and tears of my predecessors, I am choosing to pay it forward. I want to use my voice to spread awareness and educate those around me about what is going on and most importantly, to take action. Whether on social media or in person, it has become natural for me to advocate for Artsakh and Armenia by introducing people to our movement and how they can help.
However, it was not until Azerbaijan’s recent attacks against Armenia that I understood the power of using my voice on social media. While one post may seem trivial, the conversation needs to start somewhere and with the right effort and dedication can lead to a remarkable achievement. After days of online advocacy through the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) action alert system, a multitude of my peers reached out to learn more about Armenia and Artsakh, how to call on Congress to condemn Azerbaijani aggression, ways to donate and support local organizations, and ultimately spread awareness themselves. I started to realize that people are genuinely willing to listen and help if you actively engage them and consistently raise awareness on issues that mainstream media fail to discuss. By using my voice, I was able to reach a broader audience and inspire others to do the same, which in turn united individuals inside and outside of the Armenian community toward a common cause, toward a movement, and eventually toward sending aid to Artsakh.
Within a week, hundreds of my friends – and their friends – started to show their support by donating to support Armenian soldiers on the front lines and for the families of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our homeland. They were joining the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in organizing protests in the cities across the US and around the world. They were visiting anca.org/alert and urging members of Congress to vote “Yes” on a crucial amendment regarding US aid to Artsakh and cutting military aid to Azerbaijan.
By doing so, they were maintaining the #ArmeniaStrong movement and inspiring others to join the fight. Although nothing can top the dedication and commitment of our soldiers defending the homeland on the front lines, our voices activated the second army of the Armenian nation – Diasporans across the US. And, on July 24, our efforts and advocacy proved worthwhile when the US House of Representatives passed an amendment supporting continued US demining aid to Artsakh. What had started as social media activism turned into a real-life change in American policy.
Although my eyes have yet to see war and my ears have yet to hear the terrors of it, I wake up every morning knowing one thing: Artsakh is Armenia. I wake up in the mornings, I rise and I fight. I fight for Armenia because Armenia always fights for me, and I am hopeful that every member of the Armenian Diaspora will find their way to do the same. As Republic of Artsakh Representative to the US Robert Avetisyan once said to me, “Regardless of where you are located in the Diaspora, you always have the opportunity to serve your homeland.”