SIMI VALLEY, Calif.—On the eve of the second GOP presidential debate, the Armenian Youth Federation Western US led a rally outside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, calling on Republican presidential candidates to express their commitment to addressing Azerbaijan’s genocide of 120,000 Christian Armenians in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and urging the Biden administration to end its complicity in that crime.
Rally participants came together to ask GOP leaders to demand the following actions from the Biden administration:
1) Directly intervening to stop the Artsakh genocide
2) Immediately ending all U.S. military aid to genocidal Azerbaijan
3) Launching an emergency U.S. humanitarian airlift to Artsakh
4) Enforcing U.S. and U.N. sanctions on Azerbaijan
5) Opening the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor for secure and unobstructed travel between Armenia and Artsakh
Lar Tabakian, a member of the Armenian Youth Federation’s Pasadena “Nigol-Touman” Chapter, opened the rally by pointing out that President Biden has “failed his constituents” by sitting idly by as ethnic cleansing occurs in Artsakh, where the indigenous Armenian population has been “sent into a mass exodus, forcibly removed from their homes, from the land where their brave sons were buried.”
Tabakian argued that, by sending military aid to Azerbaijan, the Biden administration is complicit in Azerbaijan’s genocide in Artsakh, and now the 120,000 Christian Armenians are being forced out of their ancestral homeland.
She echoed the Armenian American community’s demands of the Biden administration to stop aiding Azerbaijan and to “enforce Sec. 907, sanction Azerbaijan, open the Berdzor Corridor and provide humanitarian airlifts to the people of Artsakh, who have suffered shelling, gas explosions and malnutrition.” The civilian population of Artsakh needs humanitarian aid now more than ever, and “empty words from the Biden administration” are not enough.
Tabakian commented on USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s visit to Armenia this week, where she announced an $11 million dollar humanitarian aid package for displaced Artsakh Armenians. Noting that assistance comes to less than $100 a person, Tabakian responded “the Armenian people around the world will not accept this as a solution. The Armenian people demand action!”
As protestors chanted “shame on Biden,” Arek Santikian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation gave powerful remarks calling on “all of the Republican candidates to expose Biden’s role in allowing another genocide to occur on his watch. […] his inability to sanction a terrorist country, Azerbaijan […] and his willingness to aid and abet Muslim extremists in the Caucasus.”
The Biden administration has failed Armenians by continuing to send “weapons and money to an oil dictatorship like Azerbaijan while they use those same weapons to starve, torture and murder innocent civilians in Artsakh,” said Santikian. “With a single call, President Biden could have sanctioned Azerbaijan for carrying out starvation and mass deportation,” but he didn’t and “made it clear that he has no intention of doing so.”
Santikian emphasized, “countless government officials of this Democratic administration have been deeply concerned for years, but their concerns mean nothing without action.”
He characterized Samantha Power’s visit to Armenia as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.” Referencing her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell, which documented America’s shortcomings in responding to genocides, including the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, Santikian noted when asked about the current Artsakh crisis, she “couldn’t even acknowledge that starvation, blockade, mass deportation and murder constitute ethnic cleansing.”
Speaking on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of America, Joseph Kaskanian called upon “the Republican presidential candidates, as they prepare for their debate, to take a stand.” Kaskanian emphasized how critical it is that the “United States take action because we have a moral obligation to act. We cannot claim to champion human rights and democracy while turning a blind eye to genocide. We cannot preach about freedom and justice while allowing dictators to act with impunity.”
Kaskanian argued that the Biden administration has failed Armenians by not vowing to protect democracy and human rights in Artsakh. “How can we, as a nation that prides itself on being a beacon of hope and justice, stand by and watch? How can we allow our tax dollars to support a regime that is actively committing genocide? It is a stain on our conscience, a betrayal of our values.”
Nyree Derderian, chairperson of the Central Executive Board of the Armenian Relief Society, classified the actions of the Biden administration as “unforgivable” and “passive.” She stated that Armenians “must rouse the global community and leaders to stop selectively ignoring their suffering…we must exert every effort to aid our fellow compatriots in Artsakh. They have made substantial sacrifices for the Armenian people and the nation, and we now must make sacrifices for their well-being and prosperity.” Derderian affirmed that the Armenian Relief Society is on the “frontlines” and committed to providing aid. “We are in Kornidzor, we are in Goris, we are in Syunik, we are in Yerevan—wherever the 120,000 Armenians of Artsakh require aid, be it food, shelter or medical attention,” concluded Derderian.
AYF protesters held signs displaying “120,000 Reasons,” to show their support for the 120,000 Reasons coalition, which advocates for the 120,000 innocent Christian Armenians trapped within the Armenian territory of Artsakh due to the Azerbaijani blockade. The coalition targeted the GOP debate with a powerful 30-second ad, which aired on Fox Business Network and Fox News during the debate and on MSNBC and CNN during their post-debate coverage.