Remember Artsakh but never forget the Armenian genocide

A funeral element in Yerevan, Armenia, with the casket of a volunteer fighter killed in October in the battle over Artsakh, often known as Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous area in Azerbaijan. ( Los Angeles Times)

Twenty years in the past, I wrote a bit for this newspaper with a three-word opening, It’s one in all the paragraphs I’m proudest of in my journalism profession. The whole lead was this: “The Armenian genocide.”

That was it. The complete shebang. Not an “alleged,” not a “What Armenians call a genocide,” not something aside from a press release of what was, is and at all times can be — the try throughout World War I to wipe Armenians off the face of the Earth.

All the standard feelings that accompany April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — anger, unhappiness, frustration, isolation, honor and extra — can be on show Saturday, but this 12 months in an intensified trend.

Remembering the 1.5 million useless and the survivors from the first genocide of the 20th century is at all times painful, but the marchers may also be honoring the useless and the displaced from a struggle that ended lower than six months in the past.

Armenians had been defeated, and hundreds died final fall, in Artsakh, often known as the autonomous area of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of ethnic Armenians that Stalin plunked down inside Azerbaijan in the 1920s. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijanis and Armenians have gone at one another. In the 1990s, Armenians led by Visalia-born Monte Melkonian took management of Artsakh. In September, Azerbaijan regained a lot of the territory, together with the key metropolis Azerbaijanis name Shusha and Armenians name Shushi.

Even by way of COVID masks, I believe the chants on Saturday can be the most anguished I’ve heard since I began marching down Sunset Boulevard each April 24 with my Grandpa Nahabed in the early 1970s.

All these different marches had a single villain: Turkey, particularly the Turks who commanded and dedicated genocide as the Ottoman Empire broke up but additionally trendy Turkey’s leaders, who’ve perpetuated the lie that the genocide never occurred.

Now Azerbaijan and extra can be added to the enemies’ listing. Israel, for instance, and its weapons producers whose “suicide” drones proved an important think about the defeat in Artsakh.

I reported on the struggle in October for the Armenian on-line information channel CivilNet, and each soldier I spoke with expressed terror at making an attempt to counter the drone assaults with a Kalashnikov. Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper and historically liberal, denounced the arms gross sales in op-ed articles.

The marchers on Saturday may activate the Republic of Armenia itself. Much of the blame for what was misplaced in Artsakh has fallen on Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister. Some say he didn’t absolutely deploy his nation’s armed forces, holding again as a hedge towards escalating hostilities that may have

given Turkey an excuse to enter the battle overtly, somewhat than merely teaching the Azerbaijanis from the sidelines.

I perceive — and really feel — all the anger generated by the defeat: With the lack of territory comes the risk of extra provocation and aggression in the area. An emboldened Azerbaijan (11 million individuals) supported by Turkey (85 million individuals) is appearing prefer it conquered Genghis Khan’s hordes, when in actuality its drones and cluster bombs outgunned troopers from Artsakh (150,000 individuals) and volunteers from Armenia (three million) armed primarily with computerized rifles.

Artsakh ripped open the wound of the genocide, but I hope it doesn’t overwhelm the day put aside to mark the occasion itself.

The major level of April 24 needs to be what it at all times has been: to maintain alive the reminiscence of the victims and survivors of the genocide, to memorialize the anguish of whole cities and villages destroyed, to mark the onset of a tragic, compelled diaspora.

What motivated Grandpa Nahabed to march — the indelible terror, the never-ending repercussions of systematic mass homicide — is greater than enough to do the identical for Armenians immediately, from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, to Glendale; Beirut to Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital; Marseilles to Little Armenia in East Hollywood. No matter how we really feel about Azerbaijan, Pashinyan’s choices and the rivalry of nice and not-so-great powers in the South Caucasus, the that means of April 24 shouldn’t be diluted.

Remember Artsakh, but never forget what began 106 years in the past. In 1915 the outdoors world barely seen when the killing started. U.S. presidents have bowed to Turkey and refused to acknowledge it as “genocide,” although President Biden hopefully will change that. We can’t enable what occurred to get replaced by different outrages. Let the defeat of Artsakh underline the anger and grief of April 24, but don’t let it overshadow the content material of that paragraph I wrote 20 years in the past.

“The Armenian genocide.”

Michael Krikorian, a former Times employees author, is writing a guide on the 2020 Artsakh struggle.

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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