An Overseas Conflict Breeds Anti-Armenian Hate in America newsusface

Last month, flyers were posted on light poles throughout Glendale, California, calling for the “completion” of the Armenian Genocide. Earlier this year, similar flyers were found in Beverly Hills calling for the destruction of Armenia.

It’s been a brutal shock to the Armenian-American community in Los Angeles, with upwards of 200,000 people, as tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to grow over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of historical Armenia. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

Armenians living in Los Angeles see these as hate crimes, meant to inflict pain as their families in both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are currently being terrorized by Azerbaijan’s petro-dictator, Ilham Aliyev.

They feel that these acts are not mutually exclusive. And as victims of the first genocide of the 20th century, when more than 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed by the Ottoman Turks, they see this type of aggression as a reminder of that painful past. (It is a history that both Turkey and Azerbaijan deny to this day.)

These latest attacks should be a warning sign that hate and violence in all its ugly forms don’t stop at the border.

In recent speeches and statements, Aliyev has unequivocally claimed that Armenia is Azerbaijan’s historical land, while calling Armenia “Western Azerbaijan.” He even said Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, belongs to his country.

This is the same leader who plants the seeds of hate by enacting a state policy that hatred towards the Armenian people be taught in schools across Azerbaijan. Since early December, Azerbaijan has implemented a blockade to the only road connected Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, which has rapidly become a humanitarian crisis.

By cutting off the only link to the outside world, Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh have been denied much needed supplies like food, medicine, and gas. This burgeoning catastrophe has led Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Pope Francis to voice their concern for the 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh—including 30,000 children—who are being deprived of basic human rights. And in February, the United Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, ordered Azerbaijan to end its blockade.

Put simply, Azerbaijan’s government is fostering a culture of hate and fear and is breeding a whole new generation of anti-Armenian sentiment—and it’s finding its way to Los Angeles.

Sadly, these types of hate crimes are not new to Armenians, but what is surprising is this type of bigotry is happening in Los Angeles, a region of the country that prides itself on its progressivism, diversity, and acceptance of all cultures—and home to the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia.

That shock was only heightened when the Beverly Hills Police Department released a statement claiming that the anti-Armenian flyers were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Since then, members of the Armenian community have been outraged by this type of selective policing and feel that their cries for help and justice are being ignored.

The Armenian people have suffered much pain and loss throughout their long and rich history. That is why Los Angeles needs to make sure that these hateful attacks stop and are taken seriously by city officials. They can start by using the upcoming Armenian Genocide Day of Remembrance on April 24 as an opportunity to ask themselves if they’re doing enough.

Holding Azerbaijan accountable for its role in perpetuating anti-Armenian hate in America is just one step in that direction.

Stephan Pechdimaldji is a communications strategist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a first-generation Armenian American and grandson to survivors of the Armenian genocide.

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