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Armenian Students’ Association holds vigil to honor victims of border conflict

Candles sit in front of a memorial for the Armenians who lost their lives in a recent violent conflict at the country’s border. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

By Catherine Hamilton and Shaanth Kodialam

Oct. 11, 2022 10:34 p.m.

Around 80 people gathered in front of Royce Hall on Monday evening for a candlelit vigil to honor the lives lost due to the recent violent clash at the Armenian border.

The vigil – organized by the UCLA Armenian Students’ Association – featured dozens of candles arranged in a cross and the flag of the Republic of Armenia, said Mher Arutyunyan, the chair of the ASA’s political affairs committee. The vigil was also a response to recent conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia, said ASA president Angela Minasyan.

(Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
Candles are lit and placed in the shape of a cross at a vigil hosted by the Armenian Students’ Association. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

The organization also displayed a flag of the Republic of Artsakh, also known as the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is not internationally recognized, said Arutyunyan, a fourth-year political science student. In fall 2020, Azerbaijan – backed by key ally Turkey – initiated conflict in the region that lasted for 44 days, according to the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

According to the United Nations, more than 100 Armenian soldiers died after the recent conflict between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops over disputed border territory, which has been fought over since the late 1980s.

The ASA displayed the Republic of Artsakh flag at the vigil to illustrate how recent events are part of a larger history of violence in the area, Arutyunyan added.

“As Armenian Americans, it’s almost (like) we have dual identities. … We live in two different time zones,” Arutyunyan said. “This allows for a space where those two identities can kind of rest together in front of Royce Hall at the number one public university in the U.S., and we can reflect on our identity and really speak amongst each other.”

U.S. politicians and officials have also voiced concerns about the conflict.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Azerbaijan in September, claiming the country committed an illegal attack, according to Reuters. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been contributing to efforts to bring stability to the region, called for peace following the violence, according to Al Jazeera.

“These individuals were 18-year-old children, 17-year-old kids that, just for the sake of protecting their homeland, protecting their homes, and kind of not being forcefully evacuated from their homes, have had to defend their land,” said Minasyan, a fourth-year psychobiology student. “This prayer service was honoring those who have forcefully had to stand up and sacrifice their lives for the well-being of future generations of Armenians.”

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has also issued red flag alerts for Azerbaijan following continued attacks on Armenians from Azerbaijani soldiers. The alerts signify developments in locations that have signs pointing to genocide. A Friday alert from the institute noted that current violence toward Armenia has parallels to the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

(Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
Students light candles at a vigil for those who lost their lives to recent violence perpetuated against the country by the neighboring country of Azerbaijan. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

The ASA recently signed an open letter with other Armenian student organizations from U.S. universities – such as Harvard University, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California – speaking out against Azerbaijan’s disregard for Armenian sovereignty, said Mary Keushkerian, ASA’s external vice president.

The letter, signed by organizations at 15 universities consisting of at least 1,000 individuals, calls for the U.S. academic community to condemn the invasion and is part of a nationwide movement to support Armenia, Arutyunyan said.

Minasyan also said members of the Armenian diaspora from cities such as New York and Los Angeles have been speaking out against acts of violence, adding that LA has one of the largest populations of Armenians in the United States. Without that collective voice, Armenians risk losing their culture and identity, she said.

“At the very least, I would hope that anyone passing by here would take a moment, stop and try to figure out what’s going on,” Minasyan said. “Because at the end of the day, that little step, that little effort, trying to see what’s going on, might open up a whole story that people will be able to find on their own and discover on their own.”

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Catherine Hamilton | News editor
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
Shaanth Kodialam | News senior staff
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
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