Families slaughtered by countless strikes of illegal cluster bombs. Cities reduced to rubble. Soldier beheadings filmed. For the past few weeks, this has been the reality of the people of Artsakh.
Last Friday, the Student Association for the Development of Arab Cultural Awareness (SADACA) hosted an event for organizers and attendees alike to discuss events currently happening in Artsakh and how people could get involved in helping Armenians and the people of Artsakh.
Artsakh is technically part of Azerbaijan, but its population is majority Armenian, and Armenians have control of the region.
For the past few weeks, the nation of Azerbaijan has been relentlessly shelling areas of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) and its majority Armenian population. In turn, virtually all of the region’s inhabitants have either fled the region or hid underground.
The Azerbaijan government has recently been bombing parts of Artsakh, which they claim is only in response to Armenian strikes. However, many international analysts speculate that Azerbaijan actually fired the first shot, which could be seen as an attempt to gain control of Artsakh and wipe out the Armenians within it. Ghastly carnage, military and civilian deaths, and mass destruction have been the products of this aggression.
The event started off talking about Azerbaijani aggression against Armenians and the people of Artsakh: bombing parts of Artsakh, filming soldier beheadings, and countless strikes of illegal cluster bombs.
“The people fighting on our side are soldiers our age, sometimes even younger,” junior Astghik Baghinyan said. “My cousin died a few weeks ago, and also two of my classmates are in the hospital injured […] It’s also very hard for us being so [far] away from home and constantly checking social media to see if our friends and family are okay […] It’s really hard knowing that […] we are now here safe, but people younger than us are fighting a war they don’t want to fight. They want to fight to protect their country but they would rather go to university.”
In addition to lives lost, the region’s cities, along with their history, infrastructure, and culture, are being leveled as well.
Junior Victoria Ter-Ovanesyan, who has been to Stepanakert (a city in Artsakh), told the panel, “The hotel where I lived no longer is there. The places where we celebrated a wedding is no longer there.”
Activist and panelist Anna Mehrabyan also expressed concern that the issue could be made worse by lack of awareness, saying that news sources and the general public need to continue talking about the bloodshed occurring in Artsakh in order to find ways to prevent it.
“You have to keep talking about this,” Mehrabyan stated in regard to the media. “Because if you don’t, eyes go off of it, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.”
Panelists also expressed frustration about how UR responded to the issue. “I question if I made the right decision to be here,” senior Anush Mehrabyan said.
According to a few of the speakers, the University refused to put out a statement regarding the conflict as a whole and what they called the vandalization of pro-Armenian chalk on campus. Students were told by the administration that if the University were to put out a statement on every current issue, there would be 100 statements every day.
“And it’s like, why not?” junior Irina Ter-Ovanesyan, a panelist, asked. If the school can send usual updates on the University, she said, “Why not add an international email?”
Senior Anush Mehrabyan added, “In [a] couple of years, we’re going to come back and we would like to donate to this university. And there is no reason for us to do that if we do not feel supported today in such hard times.”