More than 100 people gathered outside the Azerbaijani consulate in Los Angeles on Saturday to demand an end to attacks by Azerbaijani forces in a disputed border region with Armenia and Artsakh, where around 200 people were killed last week .
The protest 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 congressional resolution by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) demanding a ban on US aid to Azerbaijan.
The US 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 Federation of Armenian Youth, Tenny Alahverdian, 20, said she found herself thinking of loved ones “who were suffering on the front lines” .
“We hope the United States comes down hard on Azerbaijan,” she said. “For President Biden to call for peace while funding the Azerbaijani military is a crazy and deadly double standard.”
The protest was part of an effort that spans decades of advocacy and activism by Armenians around the world. Much of this movement has been centered in Los Angeles County, home to the largest Armenian diaspora community in America.
The movement was started in the 1980s, when children of survivors of the 1915-1918 Armenian Genocide settled in the United States. The genocide claimed the lives of more than a million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey.
Over the years, Armenian Americans have become more politically active, contributing to political campaigns and the successful campaign last year for Biden to formally acknowledge the genocide.
Bitter memories of the massacre have deeply shaped Armenian and Armenian-American identity. But US presidents had avoided using the term “genocide” so as not to irritate the Turkish government, an important ally that disputes that what happened constituted genocide.
Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for being behind the recent bloody clashes.
But protesters outside the Wilshire Boulevard consulate said on Saturday the fighting began in 2020 when Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, launched a war to expel Armenians living in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh border region. , called 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 US tax dollars to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev”.
“A halt in U.S. aid to Azerbaijan,” he said, “would also significantly challenge our State Department’s deeply flawed policy of responding to every act of Azerbaijani aggression with generic appeals to all parties to refrain from resorting to violence.
The Azerbaijani consulate, however, said in a statement posted on its website that the ongoing tensions “are the result of large-scale provocations by Armenia, and the responsibility therefore lies entirely with … Armenia.”
Alahverdian, the Los Angeles protest participant, said: “The situation doesn’t look good anyway, you look at it. It is difficult to be a member of the diaspora.