What will it take?

AYF Washington DC “Ani” Chapter member and AYF-YOARF ER Central Executive member Areni Margossian delivering her speech to the crowd of protestors in front of the White House on January 21, 2023 (Photo: AYF Washington DC “Ani” treasurer Kristine Antanesian)

The following remarks were delivered at an AYF-led protest outside the White House on January 21, 2023.

As we celebrated Christmas surrounded by our families, full of joy and cheer, 120,000 indigenous Armenians in Artsakh confronted their fourteenth day under blockade by Azerbaijan.

While we rang in the new year hopeful and optimistic of a fresh start ahead, 120,000 Armenians in Artsakh endured the 21st day of living under blockade by Azerbaijan, unsure of what new horrors lay ahead for them in the new year.

No food coming in, no supplies, no medical aid, no humanitarian aid – only a sadistic game of spontaneous electricity outages, internet outages and the cutting of gas supply, all in the dead of winter.

What will it take?

What will it take, for you President Biden, to act against this critical humanitarian crisis before it unfolds into even greater atrocities?

This past year, President Biden, in your statement on the Armenian Genocide, you said, “We recommit ourselves to speaking out and stopping atrocities that leave lasting scars on the world.”

Honor your words. You have a chance to not only speak out, but to stop this ongoing atrocity. President Biden, we beseech you to end all US military aid to Azerbaijan. The fourth stipulation of the waiver to Section 907 states that the aid provided by the US to Azerbaijan “will not be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.”

Moreover, the waiver maintains reporting requirements to review the impact of US military assistance to Azerbaijan on the military balance between the two countries. These reporting requirements are not being completed, and you continue to waive Section 907, despite the insatiable bloodthirst demonstrated by Azerbaijan.

We are fortunate enough to live at a point in history where we are able to document Azerbaijan’s crimes against humanity and provide evidence, without a shadow of a doubt, what their intentions are: nothing short of genocide. In 1915, news traveled slowly. News traveled in pieces, and now the world mourns that they were unable to act sooner.

But here, right now, we are in the middle of it. In 1915, the Turks did not wake up one day and decide it’s a good day to annihilate Armenians. Meticulous thought, perverted planning and barbaric implementation over the course of years brought about the attempted extermination of Armenians.

The evidence is painstakingly clear and equally abundant. This blockade is just another one of Azerbaijan’s countless attempts to eradicate Armenians from their homeland. Just as a boa constrictor wraps its body around its prey, slowly suffocating it to death, Azerbaijan’s blockade is an attempt to smother the 120,000 Armenians of Artsakh.

President Biden, the path forward is undeniably clear and the solution, right at your fingertips. Stop all military aid to Azerbaijan, and send emergency humanitarian assistance to Artsakh. Otherwise, save your breath. Don’t even issue a statement on the Armenian Genocide this year.

And for the rest of us, what will it take? Forty-one days of life under blockade have come and gone, and here we are.

In 1915, when the Ottoman Turkish Government issued a deportation mandate, the Armenians of Musa Ler chose to stay and defend their village. They retreated up the mountain and for over 40 days, fought and staved off the Ottoman army. But outnumbered, outgunned and with meager remnants of food supplies, the Armenians had little chance of survival. Luckily, they were saved by passing French warships along the coastline and over 4,000 Armenians were rescued.

The resistance of Musa Ler has become a symbol of Armenian resilience and courage. But this time, there will be no French ships to rescue us. Weyou and me, Armenians all around the world and those in Armeniaare the “French ships.” The Diaspora is the second army of the Armenian nation, and we are the lifeline that Artsakh needs.

For over 40 days, our brothers and sisters in Artsakh have had their basic needs cut, and there is no end in sight. It is our duty to keep fighting for Artsakh, in whatever way, shape or form we can. If that means sending letters to Congress, writing, calling and tweeting, then we do that. Every. Single. Day. I don’t care how pointless it may seem. I don’t care if it feels like screaming into a void. I don’t care. It is the absolute bare minimum that we can do. It is the very least.

Armenia and Artsakh are not ideas. They are not concepts. Our homeland isn’t a feeling or a longing or wistful nostalgia. It is not a myth or a utopia. It is as real as the dirt beneath your fingernails. It is not a land 6,000 miles away. It is here—with you and with me—and our brothers and sisters in Artsakh are just as real as the friends and loved ones you talk and laugh with every day.

Perhaps our beds are too soft, or our homes are too warm, or our sugar too sweet, that we cannot fathom the struggles facing Artsakh today. But this does not lessen our responsibility. Perhaps two years of ongoing war and atrocity after atrocity have made us numb. Then maybe it’s time to open the wound back up a little and channel pain into action, rather than numb it.

There is only one option; otherwise, our fate is sealed. We keep showing up for Artsakh in any way, shape or form. President Biden has a duty to honor his words and demonstrate a commitment to prevent atrocities. This begins with ending all military aid to Azerbaijan and sending emergency humanitarian assistance to Artsakh. We can continue to push this effort through a live action alert and through any of us, visiting our local Armenian National Committees to increase the pressure on the Biden administration and Congress to stop aiding and abetting Azerbaijan’s aggression against Artsakh.

You and I have a responsibility to keep our efforts alive, persistent and full of hope. Complacency, apathy, indifference, skepticism, doubt, pessimism and judgment must be eradicated from our mindset. There is no time to indulge in these fatalistic sentiments. You have an idea? Good. There is a community of Armenians around you ready to act alongside you.

We are all we have, and that is a lot. Artsakh is Armenia, will always be Armenia, and we remain unwavering in our commitment to a free, independent and united Armenia.

Areni Margossian

Areni Margossian

Areni Margossian is a proud member of the AYF-YOARF Greater Washington DC "Ani" Chapter. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she works as a program officer at the American Bar Association, Rule of Law Initiative.
Areni Margossian

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