Young Armenian-American Activists Amplify Armenian Issues through Instagram Posts

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LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK – The Armenian community has produced a formidable social media presence since the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a new peak on July 12. Armenian organizations, activists, and even meme accounts have taken to their platforms to compensate for the lack of coverage the conflict has received in mainstream American media.

Each of these pamphlet-like Instagram posts uses infographics to highlight a particular issue and provide users with actionable steps they can take to make a difference. These types of posts have become especially prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic as mental health, worldwide human rights issues, and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement are of particular concern.

Via: https://instagram.com/aliquenk?igshid=3p391x0lus2x

Armenian youth are at the core of this united endeavor to amplify Armenian issues. Sixteen-year-old Alique Keleshian of La Crescenta, CA created the informational post above. Explicitly directed towards non-Armenian users, this viral post has received nearly 13,000 likes on Instagram. Alique was compelled to make this post after she noticed that her outspoken non-Armenian friends were failing to spread awareness about Armenia.

She exclaimed: “I was angry and frustrated about people choosing what issues are worthy of attention. It made me upset because those people who weren’t posting live in a really big Armenian community. My main goal was to get people to open their eyes to what is happening in Armenia and call them out for ignoring it and not posting about.”

https://instagram.com/sarinezeitlian?igshid=1tzmzslhwt41j

In New York City, 16-year-old Sarine Zeitlian also utilizes Instagram to pursue justice and raise awareness for the Armenian cause. Her numerous posts about Armenian history, culture, and the current Armenian political climate have amassed over 30,000 likes on Instagram.

Sarine said: “All of this has inspired me to be more vocal… After the first graphic I made I realized people really liked the information I was sharing, so I geared myself toward activism.”

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Tailoring her posts to non-Armenians, Sarine thoroughly presents issues by starting from the basics and building up to the greater issue. Rather than preach to the choir, activists like Sarine and Alique aim to educate those who may know nothing about Armenia. As a minority population, Armenians everywhere work diligently to garner their counterparts’ solidarity because there is strength in numbers. Synergy between Armenians and non-Armenians is necessary to initiate long-lasting change.

Sarine developed https://helparmenians.carrd.co/ to further educate users about Armenian issues. Carrd is a platform that’s become an essential part of every activist’s toolkit because it allows users to easily make simple sites. This site has links to articles, petitions, as well as fundraisers for issues like domestic violence in Armenia, helping Armenia during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Artsakh, and more.

Sarine revealed her motivation: “I live in New York and it’s one of the most diverse places in the world. I sometimes feel lonely as an Armenian. In school, I’m usually the only Armenian and I see all these cultures bringing up their own issues and I feel obligated to talk about Armenian issues as well.”

Activists like Sarine and Alique spend a considerable amount of time creating their posts – researching, writing and designing. Visuals are of utmost importance as Instagram is inundated with informational posts.

“I wanted to make something cute and aesthetically pleasing for people to share to their [Instagram] stories. I realized if I want this to reach a lot of people it has to be pleasing to the eye,” Alique explained.

Activism, like technology has evolved. Sharing an Instagram post is the modern-day equivalent of handing out a flyer just like hosting a live stream is analogous to organizing a rally or lecture. Today, any passionate and educated individual can further a cause or draw attention to an issue with the click of a button. Sentiments of Armenian pride, unity, and connection are felt deeply amongst these passionate activists.

Sarine gushed about her experiences so far, declaring: “I absolutely love it when other people as young as me make these posts and informational graphics because it provides me with more inspiration to continue my work and keep doing what I’m doing because I now have more support from others doing similar things. I have met other creators [many of whom are older than her] but they are all really supportive and kind and we’ve been able to discuss many things and help fuel each others’ creativity.”

Alique also shared effusive thoughts, stating “It gives me a lot of hope to see my own generation have so much power to influence so many minds. It has been said in the Armenian community many times that the youth is the future and I didn’t really understand the meaning of that until I see it now, when young people are taking the responsibility to spread what’s right into their own hands.”

These young women and others like them model the power of doing. They recognized an issue and paved their own path by channeling their frustration into action.

Sarine left me with this message: “Believe in yourself. Believe in the change you make because it can really happen when you put your mind to it.”

Indeed, the youth are our future, but they are also our present. In any case, young people like Alique and Sarine are a testament to how bright our future is.

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