The days are passing, and the humanitarian crisis in our homeland is continuing with no end in sight. The blockade initiated by Azerbaijanis under the cloak of “environmentalism” has left 120,000 Armenians without food, medicine, internet access and gas in frigid winter weather. Of course, in times like this, the Diaspora is always quick to mobilize, and I always find myself in awe at our strength and unity. Communities all across the United States and beyond have organized marches, protests and rallies against the illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor against the people of Artsakh.
On Saturday afternoon, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Western United States organized a march for Artsakh in Beverly Hills. The demonstration began at the United States Federal Building and continued all the way to the Azerbaijani Consulate. Joined by Armenian religious leaders and government officials, the purpose of this protest was to raise our voices and show our support for our brothers and sisters in the homeland.
As the community began to gather with signs and banners in hand, we were appalled at the messages that greeted us. Plastered along street and light posts were various racist messages that included, but are not limited to, “Israel + Azerbaijan + Turkey + Pakistan = 4 BROTHERS ERASING Armenia OFF the World MAP,” “Azerbaijan + Turkey + Pakistan + Israel = 4 brothers WILL WIPE Armenia OFF the MAP Inshallah !!!,” et cetera. This was Armenophobia in plain sight, occurring on the heels of the indispensable letter Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian wrote to President Biden condemning the blockade.
This kind of rhetoric has plagued our social media screens for years now, reaching its height in 2021 with the spread of mass disinformation. I never paid much attention because it was behind a screen; all you can do is correct the propaganda and move forward. However, it was a different kind of pain to see it in person, to touch those flyers, to truly feel hated. I overheard the conversations of the older participants of the march, speaking about how they haven’t felt targeted like this in Los Angeles for years. Those flyers are the mark of regression and justify the genocidal acts occurring in the homeland as we speak.
Fortunately, elected officials of Los Angeles stand with our community.
The Beverly Hills Police Department put out a statement that they “are aware of and are investigating” the racist flyers, while Mayor of Beverly Hills Lili Bosse stated that “hate has no place in Beverly Hills or anywhere. I will always stand up, I will always speak out.”
Mayor of West Hollywood Sepi Shyne also took to social media, stating that she “feel[s] angry after reading that hate flyers were found directed to the Armenian community in Beverly Hills today. The rise in hate is indicative of a serious threat to democracy and we must all continue to stand for love and against hate.”
I think I speak on behalf of not only the Los Angeles Armenian community, but for all Armenians worldwide, when I say that, although appreciated, words are not enough. When people are dying, words are not enough. When a group is terrorized in broad daylight, words are not enough. When Armenians feel unsafe in their communities, words are not enough.
A thorough investigation must be conducted, and any and all perpetrators must be prosecuted. Actions like this are the gateway to something more violent and extreme, similar to the attacks on Armenians by Israeli extremists in Jerusalem. If we do not cut the issue at its root, it will have no choice but to grow and spread. We must ensure that these aggressions are put to an end; the safety of over half a million Armenian Californians hinges on it.
We must all do our part to make sure that whoever is responsible for these hate crimes comes to light and is punished accordingly. The families in Artsakh who are in need of immediate assistance to survive are depending on us. The time to act is now.