September 27, 2020 dawned as that date always has since 1990, with joy for my daughter Dalita’s birthday. Last year marked her 30th. We toasted her health and happiness under pandemic restrictions…with one eye on our phones for news of what was happening to our people in Artsakh.
September 27, 2020 was the start of a never-ending nightmare for the Armenian people and nation.
We were being attacked – again – by Azerbaijan, our familiar and hostile neighbor to the east. What we didn’t know that day was that another familiar aggressor to the west – Turkey – and its hired jihadist mercenaries had joined the attacks in the spirit of “one nation, two states.” All at once, our collective intergenerational trauma resurfaced, resulting in actions and emotions both expected and unanticipated. On the one hand, our worldwide community of activists immediately sprang into action. In the midst of a pandemic, we donned our masks and immediately began protesting the unprovoked and violent attacks against our people, led by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) redoubled its efforts in the US capital, informing and educating Congress about the events at hand. At the same time, my generation of genocide-survivor grandchildren saw many of our parents (children of survivors) emotionally devastated and deeply concerned that another genocide was happening…or could occur.
The team at the Armenian Weekly decided to mobilize in a way contrary to our regular mode of operation. We provided daily news updates instead of drafting our typical weekly reports. In accordance with the requests of the Armenian government, we exclusively used official sources of information – proper journalistic practice – only to find out after the catastrophic November 9 statement ostensibly ending the war that those sources had been less than truthful. We had lost, and that included more than two-thirds of Artsakh. Later, we found out we had also lost upwards of 5,000 heroes. Still later, we heard about the prisoners of war (POWs) – hundreds of them.
It has been one year since that horrific day. Where are we now? We are still in the midst of a pandemic, with vaccines and treatments available, and hundreds to thousands continuing to die of the pervasive virus daily. Snap elections were held in Armenia and those who voted decided to maintain the status quo. The disastrous leadership of PM Nikol Pashinyan and his government has left us at the mercy of our enemies, with Azerbaijani troops having now encroached on sovereign Armenian land with no apparent repercussions.
And our POWs continue to languish at the hands of the enemy while activists and organizations including the Office of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia, the Yerevan-based International and Comparative Law Center (ICLaw), the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) in Washington, DC and the ANCA do everything in their power to secure their release. The ANCA has been working tirelessly to end military aid to Azerbaijan, garner Congressional support for pro-Armenian amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and increase US aid to Armenia and Artsakh.
The Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) Artsakh Fund has rebuilt and repaired infrastructure in the strategically important Ariavan village while supporting many families and hundreds of people affected by the 2020 Artsakh War. Additionally, the Verelk entrepreneurship program in Artsakh, initiated by the ARF Bureau Youth Office and AYF of Artsakh, was underwritten by the ACAA Artsakh Fund, demonstrating its commitment to the mission of the program to “accelerate the economic reconstruction at a local scale and ensure increased and sustainable living standards for the youth” following the war.
The AYF in the US and the homeland supports our people through activism in all its forms and internships that introduce participants to their homeland while providing practical work experience, igniting the desire to continue working in and for Armenia and Artsakh and sometimes plans to repatriate. The ARF Bureau Youth Office, in addition to the Verelk program, launched the “Towards Syunik” program to ensure the security and integrity of the critical province.
The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) continues to support those displaced from their homes in Artsakh with everything from housing to goods to meals to living expenses, all of which began immediately after the start of the attacks. The Society is supporting those who have returned to Artsakh through similar programs and educationally with the surviving ARS “Soseh” kindergartens. In addition, the ARS offers support to our soldiers and their families with medicines, supplies and visits, and with its “Children of Fallen Heroes” program.
Again – where are we now? This is just the tip of the iceberg. The extent of the work being done is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, our entire nation has mobilized. We are rebuilding and continually committing to the safety and security of Armenia and Artsakh while fighting against our enemies, both internal and external. Yes, much has been done, but there is a great deal more that needs to be accomplished. The work is not finished. We have a long way to go.
September 27 is our daughter Dalita’s birthday, a day we will always celebrate with gratitude and love. But it is also a day when we will always remember to honor and mourn all those lost in the vicious attacks against our nation. We remain vigilant against the persistent enemies who seek to destroy our people and nation. We continue to fight for the release of our POWs. And we remain committed to work for a free, united and independent Armenia.