To create peace, Azerbaijan and Turkey must be stopped

Before my COVID evacuation, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Armenia. My site was Martuni near Lake Sevan, 30 minutes from a town just bombed by Azeri drones. I worked part-time at a women’s nonprofit and the local high school. As Azeri children learn from history books dehumanizing Armenians, I never once witnessed the same in Armenian schools. I very quickly realized that Armenians merely strive for prosperous, peaceful lives. Parents would sacrifice themselves to spare their sons from war.

I was raised in a Muslim household by Azeri and Turkish parents who emigrated from Iran. I first got to know Armenians at UCLA, where my best friends made me a member of the Armenian Students Association. In Armenia, I noticed the undeniable similarities in our cultures and grew an affinity for the people. American Turks and Azeris called me a “traitor,” a “liar” and a “secret Armenian” as I advocated for genocide recognition and reparations. Their ethnic backgrounds compel them to hate Armenians. My cultural awareness and religious understanding, on the other hand, drive me to advocate for this community.

The world’s first Christian nation, Armenia is an ancient country in the South Caucasus landlocked between two extremely hostile nations. Over a century ago, Ottoman rulers used Armenophobia as a distraction during domestic strife. The slowly dying Ottoman Turkey, in conjunction with Azerbaijan, initiated ethnic cleansing campaigns and the first major genocide of the 20th century. The empire murdered 300,000 Assyrians, 750,000 Greeks, and 1.5 million Armenians.

The international community never held the perpetrators accountable. After WWI, Turkey ratified the Treaty of Lausanne, which didn’t include punishment for war crimes. Azerbaijan rewards its servicemembers for their brutality and inhumanity. These two nations act with impunity offering access to air bases and cheap oil in exchange. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they attack the region’s only thriving, growing democracy.

The Genocide never quite ended for the Armenians, as their belligerent neighbors continue to threaten their existence. Turks and Azeris see themselves as one people — “one nation, two states. Baku’s mayor explained that their “goal is the complete elimination of Armenians.” An Azeri state spokesman hoped that “there will be no state of Armenia.” Azerbaijan has destroyed tens of thousands of UNESCO-protected Armenian cross-stones. Turkey deployed Syrian mercenaries to Baku and pledged to upgrade Azerbaijan’s military equipment and defense systems. 

Artsakh, a former Armenian kingdom, has consistently defended itself against Azeri occupation. This small land was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin despite its Armenian-majority population. When the USSR dissolved, Artsakh Armenians called for and secured independence and founded the Republic of Artsakh, fueled by a movement for self-determination. As the victor, Armenia has no motive to attack Azerbaijan.

For centuries, Armenians have been the targets of mass extermination. We can’t turn a blind eye any longer. It’s time to hold the perpetrators accountable. Congress must sanction Turkey, condemn the Azeri attacks, cease all military aid to Baku and guarantee a permanent, peaceful resolution to Artsakh. America should formally recognize the Republic of Artsakh. We are running out of time to protect one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.

The author pictured with his host family from the village of Hovtashen in Ararat Marz at Khor Virap
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Ryan Ahari

Ryan Ahari is a former Peace Corps Armenia Volunteer and Armenian community activist.

14 Comments

    • Great article,written at the right time! Thanks for being a sincere advocate of our cause.

  1. Thank you for writing this Ryan, this was an essential piece broadcasting the truth at a time when we’re surrounded by misinformation and hatred. Bravo!

  2. My brother-in-law was a Turk, too. Turks killed him because he changed his religion and his name. Please, Ryan, be cautious!

  3. Ryan,

    Excellent article! Your article is so much more interesting to read, as compared to the articles written by those Christian supremacists from the Armenian Apostolic Church.

    It’s amazing how enormously Armenian you look. But then again, Azeris/Turks and Armenians do indeed look very much alike. And yet, they are huge enemies.

    On the other hand, my grandmother (an Armenian, who was born and raised in Tabriz) spoke quite a few times about the Azeri girls, with whom she used to socialize with in her old neighborhood, back when she was a young girl. And, according to what she had said, there were never any kind of ethnic problems that took place between them. They got along with each other quite well. As a matter of fact, my grandmother even learned from them how to speak Azerbaijani. I even remember, back when I was a kid, when she used to invite her old Tabrizetsi Armenian school friends to our home for lunch, dinner or whatever, quite often, they would take turns reciting to each other old Azerbaijani proverbs in the Azerbaijani language. It was quite amusing, as well as entertaining for me to sit over there, and listen to all of that. How nice it would’ve been if you had been there too. Yeah, my grandmother would’ve definitely been delighted by your presence and company. And what a wonderful cook she was! That grandmother of mine, used to prepare the most delicious Persian meals that one can possibly imagine; yeah, I grew up on that food.

    Unfortunately, here in Yerevan, I don’t have access to Persian food, which is rather depressing for me. Nevertheless, I did choose to repatriate to my homeland; therefore, I will sacrifice my intense love of Persian cuisine, just to live in my homeland, live an Armenian lifestyle, and defend my homeland (if our enemies ever find a way to enter into Hayastan, I, along with my fellow Yerevantsis will be fighting them full blast).

    • Երեվանյան ջան,

      ծավդ տանեմ. I would’ve loved to meet and chat with your tatik. One of my favorite things to do in Hayastan was visit tatiks and talk over tay or surch. They always had the best stories and asked me the best questions. There are a few Persian restaurants in Yerevan, they’re usually near Persian tourist businesses near Haraparak. Never went because prices were too expensive. My Parskahay friend said there used to be Persian stores, but they closed. I usually asked my host family members to bring me certain spices/herbs back from Iran when they visited and I used to ask the owner of Go Green to make me ghormeh sabzi dried blends and other Persian ingredients :-)

    • Mersi Ryan jan, qo tsavn el tanem. Tesnum em, vor hayeren es khosum. Bravo! Shat sirun lezu e hayeren@, isk tatiks misht kpahanjer, vor nra het miayn hayeren khosem u voch angleren. Yerevi im tatiki patcharov e, vor aydqan mets ser unem hayots lezvi nkatmamb.

      Yeah, my grandmother and her Tabrizetsi Armenian school friends always had very entertaining stories to tell. And, they took enormous pride in being from Tabriz. Their culture, was a bit different from the culture of Tehran’s Armenians.

      In terms of Yerevan, over here in the neighborhood of Arabkir, I haven’t come across any Persian restaurants. However, as you correctly stated earlier, there are a few Persian restaurants close to the Hraparak. Yeah, I’ve previously eaten at those places, and their food was terrible. It didn’t taste anything like Persian food. The last time I ate good, decent Persian food was at the Shiraz restaurant, over in Glendale, California, and that was two years ago. I used to always get the Chicken Sultani, which was the biggest meal on their menu; and, I used to eat that meal all the way up to the very last piece of chicken and rice. When they say, “Eat like a king”, they really mean it at that particular restaurant.

    • Yes, Ryan is indeed a brave and very noble person. If only we had more people like Ryan in the Armenian-American community.

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