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Local Armenians protest U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan’s military forces

Demonstrators supporting Armenia protestoutside the Azerbaijani consulate on Wilshire Boulevard.
Demonstrators supporting Armenia protest on Saturday outside the Azerbaijani Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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More than 100 people gathered outside the Azerbaijani Consulate in Los Angeles on Saturday demanding an end to attacks by Azerbaijan forces in a disputed border region with Armenia and Artsakh, where an estimated 200 people were killed in the past week.

The demonstration coincided with a surprise weekend visit to Armenia by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and two Armenian American members of Congress, and the introduction of a resolution in Congress by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) demanding a prohibition on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan.

The U.S. Embassy said the visit will include a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, according to the Associated Press.

Like many others waving Armenian flags at the event organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, Tenny Alahverdian, 20, said she found herself thinking of relatives “suffering on the front lines.”

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“We’re hoping that the United States comes down hard on Azerbaijan,” she said. “For President Biden to be calling for peace while funding Azerbaijan’s military is a crazy — and deadly — double standard.”

The demonstration was part of an effort that has spanned decades of advocacy and activism by Armenians around the world. Much of that movement has been centered in Los Angeles County, home to America’s largest Armenian diaspora community.

The movement was launched in the 1980s, when children of survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1918 established themselves in the U.S. The genocide claimed the lives of more than 1 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey.

Over the years, Armenian Americans grew more politically active, contributing to political campaigns and the successful push last year to have Biden officially recognize the genocide.

Bitter memories of the massacre have profoundly shaped Armenian and Armenian American identity. But U.S. presidents had avoided using the term “genocide” so as not to anger the Turkish government, an important ally that disputes that what took place constituted genocide.

A truce between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops appears to be holding following two days of fighting that killed 176 soldiers.

Sept. 15, 2022

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Both Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for instigating the recent bloody clashes.

But demonstrators outside the Wilshire Boulevard consulate on Saturday say the fighting started in 2020 when Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, launched a war to remove Armenians living in the disputed border region of Nagorno-Karabakh, referred to as the Republic of Artsakh.

News of Pelosi’s visit to Armenia, combined with Schiff’s proposed resolution, prompted Raffi Haig Hamparian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, to urge Congress to “stop shipping U.S. tax dollars to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.”

“A halt to U.S. aid to Azerbaijan,” he said, “would also meaningfully challenge our State Department’s deeply flawed policy of answering every act of Azerbaijani aggression with generic calls upon all parties to refrain from violence.”

The Azerbaijani Consulate, however, said in a statement on its website that the ongoing tensions “arose as a result of large-scale provocations by Armenia, and therefore the responsibility completely falls on ... Armenia.”

Alahverdian, the Los Angeles protest attendee, said: “The situation isn’t looking good anyway you look at it. It’s difficult being a member of the diaspora.”

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