The Armenian-American Opportunity

The following remarks were delivered at the AYF-led protest in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington, D.C., held on February 25, 2024, commemorating Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian massacres in Sumgait-Baku-Maragha-Kirovabad (1988-1992) and demanding justice for the 2023 Artsakh genocide.

AYF D.C. “Ani” Chapter member Hovsep Seferian (Photo: Vartkaes Pamboukian)

A year ago today, I stood in the same spot I do now, telling you all a story, a story about my family fleeing a murderous Azerbaijani regime – a regime that orchestrated brutal attacks on Armenians living in Baku, Sumgayit, Kirovabad and Maragha, leaving thousands dead or displaced. A lot can change in a year, but some things never do.

That regime lives on in Azerbaijan, with their dubiously elected President Aliyev taking steps to slowly but surely, yet obviously and openly, eliminate and destroy the Armenian nation that stands between him and his dream of pan-Turkism. After an illegal, 10-month blockade of 120,000 ethnic Armenians, when they were cut off from food, water, medicine and power, the nation of Azerbaijan began intense shelling and military advancement through the historic Armenian territory of Artsakh in September and October of 2023. At the hands of Azerbaijani aggressors, Artsakhtsi land, which was once home to centuries upon centuries of Armenian families and culture, has been bombed, forcefully emptied and ethnically cleansed of the Armenians that have lived there since antiquity. Armenian churches are being demolished, Armenian graveyards are being desecrated, and Armenian people have been dying because the world has stayed silent.

The international community has received warning after warning. Pashinyan signs away province after province, hoping Azerbaijan will stop, but some things never change, and they will never stop. Aliyev has made his intent to take Syunik very clear and has gone so far as to claim Yerevan as historic Azerbaijani territory. Make no mistake, that’s where he’s going next. On February 13, Azerbaijan opened fire in Syunik, killing four. God rest their souls. Rest in peace to Eduard Harutyunyan, Gagik Manukyan, Arsen Hambardzumyan and Hrachya Hovhannisyan.

Today, we remember them, along with the rest of the souls lost in this disgusting cycle of murder and colonialism, from the Genocide in 1915 to the pogroms in 1988, the war in 1991, the war in 2020, the blockade in 2022 and the Artsakh genocide in 2023.

We will never forget.

Last year, I stood before all of you, and I said that as we remember the lives lost in Sumgait, in Baku, in Kirovabad and in Maragha, we cannot let our focus waiver from the lives we could still save in Artsakh. Now, I tell you that as we remember the lives lost in Artsakh, we cannot let our focus waiver from the battles we still have to fight today. The struggle continues.

American-Armenians have an opportunity of our own. We have a chance now to answer the call of our homeland in what will become its darkest hours if we don’t act. We have everything we need to be difference makers, to move the needle for our people and to bring lasting peace to our land.

Our POWs and Artsakh leaders have been illegally imprisoned for months – we must ensure their safe return back home. The Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is under threat, and Aliyev may march on Syunik or Tavush or Vayots Dzor any second. Now more than ever is when we need to be here, be united and be committed. It is our responsibility as Armenian people to pour every last bit of ourselves into the battles that our ancestors died for us to have the honor to fight. It is our responsibility as Americans, to uphold the interests of democracy and peace in a region of tumult, to stand up to tyranny and tell it to its face: not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

The United States seems to have forgotten that responsibility, but America has a chance to help make things right. The Armenian Protection Act of 2024 and the 502B legislation in the House and Senate will cut American aid from Azerbaijan and keep American taxpayer dollars out of the hands of dictators like Aliyev and Erdogan. In the coming weeks, our government will have the opportunity to be on the right side of history, to set an example for the rest of the world and to fulfill its responsibility not only to its own people but to the values that it claims to stand for.

But it shouldn’t stop there. The preservation of Artsakh’s Armenian cultural and religious heritage has to be guaranteed as ancient artifacts of immense importance to Christianity and Armenian history have already been vandalized or are under threat of destruction by the Azerbaijani government. As a result of Aliyev’s aggression, many of the people of Artsakh have been left homeless and jobless after being removed from their homes. There must be U.S. aid for Artsakh’s forcibly displaced Armenians, both now and in the future, to mediate the safe and dignified return of these Armenians to their homes.

American-Armenians have an opportunity of our own. We have a chance now to answer the call of our homeland in what will become its darkest hours if we don’t act. We have everything we need to be difference makers, to move the needle for our people and to bring lasting peace to our land.

The question is not, can we do it – we can. The question is how much of ourselves are we willing to give to make sure it gets done. The answer for all of us should be as much as it takes.

As much as it takes for our POWs to come home, as much as it takes for our quarter of Jerusalem to be free, as much as it takes for the people of Artsakh to return to their homes and live in peace, as much as it takes for our kids to not have to stand here – as much as it takes, for forever long it takes it.

Hovsep Seferian

Hovsep Seferian

Hovsep Seferian is a first-year student at the University of Virginia studying Foreign Affairs. He credits William Saroyan and Hrant Dink as his biggest writing inspirations.
Hovsep Seferian

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