Steven R. Adams, grand commander, the Knights of Vartan

An Escalating Conflict Has Fresno Armenians Fearing New Bloodshed in Their Homeland

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By Steve Adams

FRESNO (Fresno Bee) – For 105 years we have been having commemorations, peacefully demonstrating, building monuments, writing op-ed pieces to our local newspapers, asking world leaders and their countries to recognize and condemn the 1915 Genocide of the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

These commemorations have spanned over three generations of Armenians. And people would ask … why? Why go through all of this trouble to commemorate something that happened more than 100 years ago? As Armenians, we would often hear people tell us to “just move on.” The past is the past, just let it go.

Well, guess what … the past just became the present! Have our peaceful demonstrations and monuments fallen again on deaf ears? Were all of our warnings really in vain? Did anyone care about the Armenians in 1915? There were plenty of articles in the newspapers at that time telling of the massacres of the Armenians. Did anyone lift a finger to help those poor people? The result back then was 1.5 million Armenians were massacred in what Raphael Lemkin in his 1944 book, “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe,” termed a “genocide.”

So now we find ourselves, 105 years later, facing the same situation. We are reading in our newspapers of the attacks by Azerbaijan on the people of Artsakh (Karabakh). You would have to ask yourself, why? Are there rich oil deposits, maybe huge gold reserves? The truth is there is nothing but mountains, ancient churches, and the Armenian people who have worshipped in those churches for centuries. Now they are being attacked for what can only be for one thing — to claim land that was never theirs and to eliminate the people and culture that have inhabited those lands for centuries. What do you call it when a country eliminates a people from their ancestral lands and wipes out their culture? Genocide!

The land of Artsakh/Karabakh had been ruled over by many powerful neighbors throughout its history, but the one indisputable fact is that it is the Armenian people who have lived there all this time. Yes, just like any other country, minorities are living there, but if you do just a little research you can find the truth. In 1926 shortly after the formation of the Soviet countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the population of Artsakh (Karabakh) was nearly 90% Armenian. They were recognized back then as a semi-independent people and given the status of an “autonomous oblast.”

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Let’s take a closer look at that term. Autonomous oblasts of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were administrative units created for a number of smaller nations, which were given autonomy within the 15 republics of the USSR. The keyword is “autonomy.” This small nation of people was given “autonomy” but placed within the borders of Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin to appease Turkey. They were also granted the protection of the Soviet government. With the collapse of the USSR, that protection ended. The member nations of the former Soviet Union declared their independence, and this included the Republic of Artsakh.

Now 105 years later, history repeats itself. Have we learned nothing? We see countries all over the world condemning the attacks. We hear countries calling for a ceasefire. How do you “ceasefire” when you are the ones being shot at? If the Armenians don’t defend themselves, they will be annihilated. This small group of people are defending themselves against major world powers and armies. If we don’t want a repeat of 1915, then countries of the world will need to do more than “lip service.” Just telling Turkey to stop supplying weapons and armies to Azerbaijan is not enough. The U.S. doesn’t need to send troops to fight — there are plenty of ways to influence Turkey. If countries are serious, a complete economic blockade of Turkey or any nation adding fuel to this fire should be put in place immediately. Turkey has already been a thorn in the side of the U.S., it’s time to stop the talk and take action.

The 1915 Genocide of the Armenians was the first genocide of the 20th century. Please world powers, don’t let the Republic of Artsakh become the first genocide of the 21st century.

Steven R. Adams of Clovis is the grand commander of the Knights of Vartan, a fraternal Armenian organization formed in 1916 as a result of the Genocide of the Armenian people. There are 22 chapters throughout the United States.

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