BY SHANT KOUTNOUYAN
On the September 27, the Azerbaijani armed forces launched an unprovoked war, with the unwavering support of Turkey’s political leadership, to conquer the Armenian lands of Artsakh. From the start of the conflict, Azerbaijan has engaged in atrocities and war crimes, blatantly disregarding the civilian population of Artsakh and violating International Humanitarian Law.
Recognizing the dire situation which our brothers and sisters were faced with, we, as members of the Armenian diaspora, began working toward fulfilling some of the urgent humanitarian needs of those in our homeland.
From the onset of the conflict, the La Canada High School(LCHS) Armenian Club’s 13 board members began an immediate social media campaign to educate the general public about the history and current status of the conflict.
Due to the unethical 21st century munitions and weapons being used in the conflict such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus, individuals do not sustain injuries solely in one area, yet instead, burns and shrapnel often cover multiple limbs, if not the entire body. The severity of the wounds is further described by Doctor Armen Hagopjanian, a foot and ankle surgeon who recently traveled to the conflict zone to treat the injured. Hagopjanian stated that during his time at Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital, he did not treat a single bullet wound or fracture; on the contrary, there were instances where multiple teams of trauma specialists operated on the same patient in order to save his/her life. Furthermore, the complexity of the injuries was often such that some of the top traumatologists from Moscow were appalled and shocked by the severity of the wounds.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, on October second, the LCHS Armenian Club unanimously voted to raise funds for Adventist Health Glendale’s “Compassion in Action – Crisis in Armenia” fundraiser, which aims to supply hospitals with medical equipment such as medications, wound VACs, in order to treat the gruesome injuries sustained by both military personnel and civilians, as well as surgical, trauma, and medical supplies. In addition, C-Arms, X-ray image intensifiers that are used to identify and extract toxic metal shrapnel from bombs and explosives, were recently purchased for the region as well. In addition to the club’s efforts, the LCHS Armenian Club partnered with La Canada Elementary’s Lions Really Care Club and held two successful coin drives. In total, due to the overwhelming support of both the Armenian and non-Armenian members of the Community, LCHS’s Armenian Club raised over $25,000 for Adventist Health Glendale, which has sent over $450,000 in medical equipment and supplies since the start of the conflict and has donated $150,000 to Armenia Fund.
In addition to our fundraising efforts, on October 9th and 10th, a clothes drive was organized at La Canada High School where 180 boxes of clothing and amenities were collected and subsequently donated to the AGBU scouting chapter to help the displaced refugees with the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. Furthermore, on October 16th a bake sale was organized at La Canada High School where over $2,800 was raised for Armenia Fund for humanitarian aid. The club also supported a postcard campaign for the soldiers on the front line and raised over $3,100; the proceeds are being donated to help support the humanitarian efforts in the region.
Noticing the ineffectiveness of media and news outlets to sufficiently cover this topic and educate the general public on this matter, James Cartnal, principal of La Canada High School, suggested that the Armenian Club organize an informational Zoom panel to raise awareness of the significance of the conflict. The virtual meeting was moderated by the club’s two co-presidents, Solange Aguero and Juliette Aslanian, and an Armenian Club parent, Tamar Tujian.
The panel included State Senator Anthony Portantino, La Canada Unified School District’s superintendent, Wendy Sinnette, La Canada High School’s principal, James Cartnal, the western region director of Armenian Assembly of America, Mihran Toumajian, the co-founder of the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund, Chris Petrossian, and a volunteer and activist at Armenia Fund, Ani Kolangian. We thank the over 100 households who attended the informational meeting. The LCHS Armenian Club is sincerely grateful for the constant support and encouragement we have received from Ms. Sinette and Mr. Cartnal in its efforts during this very painful period of war. They have both shown great empathy for this cause and, on multiple occasions, have informed the students, parents, and staff of the La Canada Unified School District about the current situation in Artsakh, as well as its relevance and importance within Los Angeles. We are extremely grateful for the continuous support from the community.
On November 9th, a cease-fire agreement was signed between Armenia, Russia, and Azerbaijan. The aftermath of the recent war has left close to a hundred thousand Artsakh citizens displaced and thousands injured. Despite the recent agreement, we continue to raise awareness about Azerbaijan’s unprovoked attacks and continue to work towards fulfilling the unprecedented humanitarian needs of the region.