The vandalized Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco

Azerbaijanis Vandalize KZV Armenian School

602
0

SAN FRANCISCO — Some Azerbaijanis around the world are targeting Armenians, possibly responding to jingoistic messages issued by the country’s government, in the wake of that country’s sudden act of aggression against Armenia.

In the wake of the defeat, the governments of both Azerbaijan and Turkey have issued incendiary messages aimed at their own diasporas, as well as Armenians both in Armenia and abroad.

It is not surprising then that these words are being translated into acts of violence and destruction of property and vandalism across the world.

San Francisco

On July 23, the Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan (KZV) Armenian School in San Francisco, as well as its adjacent community center, were vandalized, an act that has been categorized as a hate crime by police.

The walls were covered with profanity, the Azeri flag colors and insults to Armenians.

Colors of the Azeri flag at KZV

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Siran Tutelian-Nahabedian, who has taught at the school for 33 years, expressed her shock.

A groundskeeper had noticed the vandalism in the early morning on Friday, and he notified the school board, whose members in turn contacted the police, she said.

“The police are considering this a hate crime,” Tutelian-Nahabedian added.

Nothing like this has ever happened at the school.

“Everybody’s initial reaction was shock. But as time went on, we were saddened, appalled and angry that something like this happened in a school. It is unacceptable to target schools,” she added. “Schools are the backbone of the Armenian community.”

The school sent out a message to alumni and parents and asked for their support. “We wanted a show of solidarity. We had hundreds of people gathering at the school on the same day,” she added.

According to Tutelian-Nahapedian, the offenders most probably just jumped over the fence to reach the school. Security cameras were operational but because the offenders wore hoodies and masks and it was night, their faces were not captured.

The footage has been turned over to the police.

KZV Principal Grace Andonian said shock and anger have given way to momentum. “It has absolutely energized me. I feel empowered. We are forced to fight this and come out of this. And I want to relay my strength to my community and my students,” she said.

She added that as the Armenian saying goes, the incident felt like cold water had been poured on her.

“No one thinks this will happen to them. Things like this don’t happen here. [But now] nobody is safe,” Andonian added. “I felt unsafe and threatened.”

It is a bad feeling, she added, knowing that “people have been watching us and maybe preparing for it.”

She praised the community, students and city officials for their reaction to the incident.

“We have received support from non-Armenians and beyond in the Bay Area,” she said. “People call and ask ‘what can we do to help,’” she noted.

Andonian said she has received calls from a neighborhood watch group offering to keep an eye on the school.

Such messages and outreach, she noted, “give you strength.”

A rally of support will take place at a future date, Andonian added.

One of the more touching calls, Andonian recalled, was from a Turkish man, who told her he was genuinely sorry for the incident and even offered to come protect the school and its students.

The Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles issued a statement this week expressing its concern. “The vandalism at educational institution testifies toward the fact that the Armenian community of California has become a victim of a hate crime apparently organized by the Azerbaijanis. The Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles strongly condemns the act of vandalism and manifestation of hatred directed at the Armenian educational institution and the entire Armenian Community of the Bay Area. The Consulate General of Armenia expresses hope that law enforcement will duly investigate, reveal and punish its perpetrators. The Consulate General of Armenia takes note of the rapid reaction of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin through Twitter expressing his outrage about the incident.

“Someone vandalized the Armenian school/community center. I’m outraged. This is totally inconsistent with San Francisco values. It is also a CRIME. We are working with San Francisco Police Department to investigate. We stand with our Armenian brothers and sisters.”

“It is very important that they are caught. It is a hate crime and should be treated as a hate crime,” Andonian added.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by the board (https://www.gofundme.com/f/kzv-vandalism-repair-fund?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=m_pd%20share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR2saNVrdQUpgYyWPmjP2xExUrcJ6_idkNztzylhXLWQ3WJ7960BUYJlIVo) to pay for the cleanup as well as enhancing the current fence around the school’s parameter. The fund had raised $78,000 by July 27.

KZV has an annual student population of 120-140. The only Armenian school in Northern California, it starts at pre-K through 8th grade.

Los Angeles

One person was arrested and several people, including an officer, were injured after a peaceful protest turned violent at the Azerbaijan Consulate in Brentwood on July 23, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The protest, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, started about 2 p.m. Tuesday with hundreds marching to the Azerbaijan Consulate near the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard. A smaller group of Azerbaijani counterprotesters also was present.

After the larger group clashed with the counterprotesters, small pockets of violence erupted, and at least four people were injured, including an LAPD officer, authorities said.

Erik Hakobyan, an 18-year-old protester, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer after authorities said he punched an LAPD detective in the face.

Alex Galitsky, communications director for the Western Region of the Armenian National Committee of America, said the Brentwood protest was part of a larger global movement that aims to condemn the Azerbaijani government’s “incitement of anti-Armenian hatred and racism.”

According to a news release from the LAPD, a much smaller group of Azerbaijani counterprotesters was present at the Consulate when the Armenian group arrived. But after the two groups became increasingly “agitated and verbal toward each other,” more police were called to escort the Azerbaijani protesters out of the area.

“At that time, an altercation occurred between the Azerbaijani protesters and a vehicle carrying Armenian protesters. As a result of the altercation, multiple fights broke out between the two groups,” the LAPD said.

According to the LAPD news release, three people were punched or kicked during the encounters. They were hospitalized with injuries that did not appear to be life threatening, authorities said.

When a detective tried to pull away Hakobyan, who police say was joined by others in assaulting a counter protester who was on the ground, he punched the detective in the face, according to the LAPD news release.

Galitsky said none of the violence stemmed from his group or the Armenian Youth Federation.

Washington, DC

An Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Washington DC Ani chapter-led community-wide protest last week against Azerbaijan’s attack on Armenia was met by a hostile mob that, under the direction of Azerbaijani Ambassador to the US Elin Suleymanov, unloaded a barrage of hate-speech, and threats of violence.

“Armenians want peace, Azerbaijan wants war” was the Armenian American community’s message of the day, as they flashed peace signs and condemned the Azerbaijani targeting of civilians, which resulted in the bombing of a kindergarten in Tavush’s Aygepar village, the temporary closing of a PPE mask-making factory, and even Azerbaijani threats to shell Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant.

Suleymanov was videotaping and speaking on his phone as his followers participated in a bizarre mixture of yelling hateful slogans and joyful dancing in the face of the President Aliyev ordered onslaught, which began on July 12th, that has left at least 15 Azerbaijani soldiers dead, with reports of more casualties.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: