The Los Angeles Armenian American community is ramping up its public concerns over a international regional conflict between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijan.
Last week, a Los Angeles protest blocked the southbound 101 in downtown Los Angeles after Azerbaijan resumed military attacks on an enclave where roughly 120,000 ethnic Armenians live. Thousands have fled their homes, according to Human Rights Watch, which added that most cannot flee because Azerbaijan had sealed the border.
The enclave in dispute is known as Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan has laid claim to the land, which is at the heart of the dispute.
The recent escalation has raised concerns from several prominent Armenian voices from the entertainment community.
For Grammy Award winning Serj Tankian and Cher, and TV star Kim Kardashian, a crisis in a little-known region is not just a humanitarian disaster in a faraway land.
Using their star power, the three are elevating the plight of the vulnerable population
Tankian has been the most active and vocal. In addition to his own activism, he persuaded Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Tom Morello and Stewart Copeland to sign on to an appeal to end the blockade food and medicine from reaching the ethnic Armenians.
Tankian’s activism has roiled Azerbaijan. The country’s Press Council threatened the BBC with revocation of its accreditation over an interview it did with Tankian.
Cher has joined the call, penning an article with film producer Eric Esrailian for Newsweek,“You cannot Erase Us,” where they called Azerbaijan’s “campaign of ethnic cleansing and the brazen attempts at cultural erasure. . .barbaric.” In a YouTube plea, she called for sanctions, and to stop sending weapons and American tax dollars.
Meanwhile, Kardashian, who had traveled to the region in 2019 with her sister, Kourtney, recently posted about the “full-scale attacks by Azerbaijan on the civilian population after months of blockade and starvation.” It is a “potential for Genocide of Armenians in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh,” Kim Kardashian wrote. Reposting her coauthored Rolling Stone article on the conflict from last month, she pleaded for assistance from the U.S. to “stop another Armenian Genocide.”
So far, their pleas have fallen on deaf political ears, leaving a population of locals vulnerable to the Azerbaijani military.
“Artsakh needs international peacekeepers and a humanitarian corridor,” tweeted Tankian, who added the people in Nagorno Karabakh have “a right of self-determination.”
Maria Armoudian is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland and author three books, including Lawyers Beyond Borders: Advancing International Human Rights through Local Laws and Courts.