SCV Armenians speak out as Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict escalates

Hundreds of demonstrators line Valencia Boulevard in front Santa Clarita City Hall in Valencai on Saturday to protest the ongoing conflict in Artsakh, Armenia. Dan Watson/The Signal

You can’t differentiate whether it’s daytime or nightime. War alarms are going on and off and fear of more deaths intensifies. 

That’s how Santa Clarita resident Narine Garayan described her family’s current lives in Armenia amid the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

“My mom and my sister live there; they’re not safe,” she said. “My sister tells me, ‘I don’t know what to explain to my kids. They hear those signals more and more.’ It’s a worry that if they’re going to hear that voice that tells them to go to the hiding places, the shelters.” 

On Saturday, Garayan and hundreds of other local residents gathered outside Santa Clarita City Hall and marched in Valencia to denounce the violence between the two nations and achieve one goal: bring more attention about the situation. 

“Armenia is on the verge of undergoing yet another genocide and the world is silent,” said Anna Sarvkian, a 19-year-old College of the Canyons student who spoke before the large crowd outside of city hall. “Dear world, your silence is killing my people. To everyone calling this a dispute over land, we wish that’s all it was. It’s not a dispute. It’s aggression.” 

College of the Canyons student Anna Sarukian, 19, draped in an Armenain flag, gives an impassioned speech to the hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Valencia Boulevard, in Valencia in front of Santa Clarita City Hall on Saturday to awareness to the ongoing conflict in Artsakh. Dan Watson/The Signal

In the early 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war that killed about 30,000 and displaced thousands over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region recognized as part of Azerbaijan under international law, but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians. Conflict between the countries’ military forces broke out once more nearly two weeks ago, and dozens of civilians and servicemen have reportedly been killed. 

The secretary-general of the United Nations urged an immediate end to the fighting and called on all involved to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and refrain from provocative rhetoric,” according to a statement released in July by Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, which supported efforts to address this dangerous situation and search for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Since the uptick in violence, many Armenians have taken to the streets across Southern California, and now in Santa Clarita, to raise awareness and funds to go toward military purchases, rebuilding infrastructure and humanitarian aid, according to Ruben Tsarukyan and Mary Garipian, who marched Saturday along Valencia Boulevard. 

Elected officials joined in solidarity with Santa Clarita Armenians, including Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Mayor Cameron Smyth. 

“The Armenian people will not go quietly into the night,” Smyth addressed the crowd outside of city hall. “What can we do here in Santa Clarita? We can stand with you, we can raise our voices and I’m very proud to be here.” 

Garcia and Wilk shared they each joined colleagues in recently penning letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the administration to help end the fighting and condemn Azerbaijan’s “unprovoked aggression” and urge the country to allow international Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring along the line of contact, according to the letters. 

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