BY ANGELIKA AVAGIAN
There is something special about waking up to mornings in Los Angeles. Within this “something” lies a luxury that, unfortunately, millions of others merely hope to attain, but most likely will never see. In my 23 years of life in Los Angeles, I have woken up every morning to a war-free environment. Nevertheless, 7,240 miles away, the Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) cannot say the same.
Tucked far away from the doorsteps of war, I find myself often in tears for my brothers and sisters in Artsakh. As the daughter of a native Artsakhtsi woman who grew up during the war, I have always been aware of our people’s plight. As a result, my mother’s Artsakhtsi passion and spirit were instilled in me like a roaring flame that could never be extinguished. Of course, being 7,240 miles away from Artsakh made it difficult for me to help in ways that I wanted to, but let it be clear to all of us that no amount of distance could make the fight for Artsakh in any way impossible. The distance should strengthen our yearn to fight, advocate, and aid our homeland in any way possible. After all, was it not California’s Monte Melkonian who paved the way for thousands of Armenians across the U.S. to believe in the Artsakh movement and advance the cause?
Like Monte, Armenia’s diaspora is unique to its core, situated in diverse nations that provide ample opportunities and resources to empower not only the Armenian Cause but also our fight for Artsakh. From the platforms we are given through academic, social, and professional avenues to the time on our hands, and the accessible education bestowed at our fingertips, we often forget how fortunate we are to grow up in such environments and how capable we are of taking part in this fight.
My fight for Artsakh consists of one essential thing; my voice. Every movement started with a voice, and because my voice was enabled through the blood, sweat, and tears of my predecessors, I choose to pay it forward. I use my voice to spread awareness and educate those around me about what is going on and most importantly, to take action. Whether on social media or in person, it has become natural for me to advocate for Artsakh and Armenia by introducing people to our movement and how they can help.
However, it was not until the recent Azerbaijani attacks towards Armenia that I understood the power of using your voice on social media. While one post may seem trivial, the conversation needs to start somewhere, and with the right effort and dedication can lead to a remarkable achievement. After days of online advocacy through the Armenian National Committee of America action alert system, a multitude of my peers reached out to learn more about Armenia and Artsakh, how to call on Congress to condemn Azerbaijani aggression, ways to donate and support local organizations, and ultimately spread awareness themselves. I started to realize that people genuinely are willing to listen and help if you actively engage them and consistently raise awareness on issues that are not talked about in mainstream media. By using my voice, I was able to reach a broader audience and inspire others to do the same, which in turn united individuals inside and outside of the Armenian community towards a common cause, towards a movement, and eventually towards sending aid to Artsakh.
Within a week, hundreds of my friends – and their friends – started to show their support by donating to support Armenian soldiers on the front lines and for the families of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our Homeland. They were joining the Armenian Youth Federation in organizing protests in the cities across the U.S. and around the world. They were visiting anca.org/alert and urging members of Congress to vote “Yes” on a crucial amendment regarding U.S. aid to Artsakh and cutting military aid to Azerbaijan.
By doing so, they were maintaining the #ArmeniaStrong movement and inspiring others to join the fight. Although nothing can top the dedication and commitment of our soldiers defending the Homeland on the front lines, our voices activated the second army of the Armenian nation – Diaspora across the U.S. And, on July 24, our efforts and advocacy proved worthwhile, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment supporting continued U.S. demining aid to Artsakh. What had started as social media activism turned into a real-life change in American policy.
Although my eyes have yet to see war and, and my eardrums have yet to hear the terrors of it, I wake up every morning knowing one thing for sure; that Artsakh is Armenia. I wake up in the mornings, I rise, and I fight. I fight for Armenia because Armenia always fights for me, and I am hopeful that every member of the Armenian diaspora will find their way to do the same. As Republic of Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan once said to me, “Regardless of where you are located in the Diaspora, you always have the opportunity to serve your Homeland.”
Angelika Avagian is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles and a 2020 ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern.