I exist because of US foreign assistance

AYF Washington DC “Ani” Chapter member and AYF-YOARF ER Central Executive member Areni Margossian urges the US to send foreign aid to Artsakh during the Capitol Hill Advocacy Day protest on February 2, 2023.

The following remarks were delivered at a protest led by the ARF Eastern Region outside the Capitol Building on February 2, 2023. 

I exist because of US foreign assistance.

53 days. It has been 53 days since Azerbaijan blockaded Artsakh. There are 120,000 people in Artsakh currently experiencing extreme food shortages, no access to vital medical supplies and no access to fuel. 

For 53 days, Azerbaijan has played a perverted game of whack-a-mole, as it spontaneously cuts off electricity, then restores it, only to next cut off gas, restore it days later, shut down the internet, then bring it back and so on and so forth – a mundane torture.

For 53 days, Armenians around the world have alerted the international community of this critical humanitarian crisis, yet the international community has been slow to respond.

I exist because of US foreign assistance.

One night, during the deportation marches of the Genocide, as my grandmother’s family slept in the desert, Turkish Ottoman soldiers slaughtered my grandmother’s mother, father and brother. She woke up to her family dead around her. From the marches, she ended up in an orphanage in Lebanon that was eventually run by Near East Relief, funded by the US government.

On this 53rd day, we, Armenian-Americans from all over the country, gather here on Capitol Hill to call on the US government to condemn the blockade, stop all aid to Azerbaijan, send immediate humanitarian aid to Artsakh, and for the President to suspend all military aid to Azerbaijan and enforce Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.

Over the last two days, we visited 442 House offices, 100 Senate offices and held over 90 meetings across the House and Senate to make sure every US Representative and Senator understands the dire situation in Artsakh.

If the role of our Congressmen is to represent their constituents, then represent us. We are here. We made our voices heard. We presented specific demands and calls to action. We flew across the country to make sure that every office understands, on no uncertain terms, the priorities of their Armenian-American constituents. The ball is now in your court, and it is time to act.

I exist because of US foreign assistance.

My grandmother eventually got married and had my father and his siblings. After completing his undergraduate and masters in Lebanon, my dad received a US scholarship to study biochemistry in the US for his PhD.

Yesterday, we heard some comments from different offices along the lines of “we hear Armenians give their side of the story and then Azeris provide another side, making it difficult to understand the situation.” There aren’t two sides to this story. Azerbaijan has demonstrated a pattern of brutal aggression against the Armenian people over the past several decades. These aggressions have been documented by independent sources. Azerbaijan may attempt to muddy the waters, but the facts remain undeniably clear: their goal is to ethnically cleanse Artsakh of Armenians.

When did we begin ignoring the word “human” in humanitarian? We hear the phrase “cost of human lives” tossed around so often that I wonder if the US government has put a price on the cost of a human life: an actuarial calculation based on where you come from, what resources your country has, where you rank in world GDP and other value added factors. 

I exist because of US foreign assistance. 

After his PhD, my father established his life here in America, raised a family, and here we are now. My dad believed in the American dream; he is the American dream realized.

I exist because of US foreign assistance. But what made the situation over 100 years ago worth the attention and support of the US government then, but not now? How do you decide the cost of a human life? Is it that genocide needs to be actively taking place? It’s been 53 days. Wait a little bit longer, and the death toll will start rising.

What makes it worth your attention? I understand that it is challenging for our Congress members to relate to or comprehend the hardships and violence faced by this nation tucked 6,000 miles away. But yesterday, we shrank that distance down to one degree of separation. Each office that we visited is now only one degree separated from Armenia. 

I am one and the same as my brothers and sisters in Artsakh. They deserve a life of peace in their indigenous homeland, a life with abundant food, a life in which the sound of bombs going off is foreign, not familiar, a life where generations of boys live past the age of 20 because there is no war to draft them into and prematurely take their lives.

Condemning the blockade, stopping all aid to Azerbaijan, sending immediate humanitarian aid to Artsakh, and suspending all military aid to Azerbaijan is a step in the direction of realizing that dream. Our Congress has the chance to place the US on the right side of history and send a message to Azerbaijan that they cannot act with impunity.

Despite the extremely tense and increasingly dire situation in Artsakh, everyday I hear a new story of Artsakhtis demonstrating boundless love and kindness for each other. Gev Iskajyan of ANC Artsakh said, “The untold story of this blockade is about how the people of Artsakh have come together, how they’ve looked out for and taken care of each other, how kindness and generosity have become the new currency of the land. There is hope, there is strength, there is unrelenting love here.” I hope every Congress member one day visits Artsakh and experiences the generosity and unbreakable spirit of the people. Maybe one day we’ll meet there. Maybe we’ll break bread in a peaceful Artsakh.

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.

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