Editor’s Note: The below op-ed is an edited version of a speech delivered by the author, Raffi Bandazian, during a solidarity rally for Artsakh that was organized by the St. James Armenian Church in Richmond, Va. on October 31.
BY RAFFI BANDAZIAN
The Songs of Artsakh and Armenia.
The songs that we have sung for all these years, the songs we grew up singing about heroes and Fedayis and even the more recent songs about villages that were liberated and heroes that had fallen in battle. . . these are not just verses and choruses to sing at events and raise our glass and toast. The lyrics հողը արիունով են պահում իմացէք “know this: land is kept with blood” is not just a catchy phrase to sing along. It is the real world.
It is what Armenia has lived for decades. And is RELIVING right now.
It is what artilleryman Albert Hambartsumyan has actually done. His iconic photo of him just firing his artillery appeared on sites around world.
They, Armenian soldiers, have given their life for land. Their land. Our land. Our country. Mer hyerenik. Our fatherland.
And this is not some distant land far from the soldiers’ home. Not some war on a concept like terror, a concept manufactured by the military industrial complex of the United States to keep fighting in a country for 19 years that’s 7,000 miles away.
These are battles happening in the Armenian soldiers’ home country of Armenia and Artsakh. The soldiers like Davit Uzunyan, who fell in battle. Davit had just completed two semesters at the American University of Armenia, studying for his Bachelor of Arts in Business. In his spare time, he was an avid footballer who enjoyed participating in tournaments with his team.
Or like Shavarsh Muradyan. A bright student in the English and Communications Program at AUA. Shavarsh had already participated in the 2016 April War in Artsakh. He was injured, awarded medals of honor and had enrolled in AUA. When the Sept. 27 war of 2020 started, he volunteered to go back to the front line.
This is what these young soldiers were doing. Trying to better their Homeland. Improving their knowledge to move their country forward. When it came time for the country to call them, they answered and they paid the ultimate price.
The great hero of the 1992-94 war in Arstakh, Leonid Azkaltyan has reportedly said, “One does not protect land with blood; one protects land with love.” Հողը արիւնով չեն պահում, հողը սիրելով են պահում.
Davit and Shavarsh were doing just that.
Aliyev, the assigned President of Azerbaijan, has said that Armenia overstated their importance in the World.
Mr. Aliyev, you have overestimated the power of your oil profits.
You can buy all the mercenaries, all the equipment, all the drones, all the cluster bombs, all the missiles you want . . . you can even buy the 2019 final game of the UEFA Europa League final, and you can plaster your name on as many soccer jerseys as you’d like. You can buy all the favor of politicians in Europe and the kind words of New York Times reporters: but you will never buy a victory over Armenia.
Because victory in your eyes is misinformed. Your understanding of history, like your Turkish counterparts, is misinformed.
Were there Azeris and Armenians living in the area under dispute in Artsakh in the Caucus? Sure. Even Sayat Nova, the great 17th century Armenian troubadour is known to have sung in Armenian, Azeri, and Georgian – although his best songs are in Armenian. You probably even claim him as your own, Azeri musician, ignoring the fact that he was born Aruthin Sayadian, born in 1712, Tiflis, Georgia.
But you are grasping at a concept of a country that is less than 100 years old. Artsakh is Armenia lands going back to at least the 5th century. . . B.C!
The capital of Armenia, Yerevan, is over 2,800 years old. Your idea of the timeline of your country is just a blink of an eye in our people’s existence in the Armenian Highlands.
You will never buy victory. You will never buy loyalty. The mercenaries from Syria that you are renting will never last. One captured just this week has said that “they, the Azeris, send us forward in three lines. They stay back but they send us forward in the first lines of attack.”
Because Armenians’ will, our will to fight is without price. It is immeasurable in currency. Our will to fight is worth blood. It is worth Davit Uzunyan’s blood. [Աստուած հոքին լուսաւորէ] Albert Hovhannisyan’s.
Sevak [Arayik] Galstyan’s [born in 1986]
Edvard [Manvel] Petrosyan’s [born in 1991]
Tigran [Hambardzum] Gharibyan’s [born in 2000]
Mekhak [Arest] Sadoyan’s [born in 2000]
Arshak [Gaguik] Abrahamyan’s [born in 1978]
Karen [Khachik] Hayrapetyan’s [born in 1997]
Edgar [Artur] Galstyan’s [born in 1999]
Khachik [Karen] Baghdasaryan’s [born in 1987]
Vahram [Gegham] Hovhannisyan’s [born in 1978]
It is worth Monte’s blood. Leonid’s blood…
And 1,116 other heroes as of 10-29-2020.
May God Rest All of Their Souls. . . .
And Armenians’ will to fight certainly will outlast your assigned role in your political position given to you by your father which you have desperately clasped onto for 17-plus years.
Azerbaijan can cut off their citizens’ internet access. They can block their social media sites. They can restrict access to journalists in their country. They can lock up journalists like their brother state of Turkey does.
But it will never hide the truth. The truth will eventually come out. The truth will shine and you will be held accountable for the war crimes documented so far that have been committed under your name at your direction. As of 10-29-2020. . .bombing a newly opened maternity wing of a hospital in Stepanakert, the Capital of Artsakh. Bombing civilian structures. Shelling the Christian Cathedral in Shushi.
Songs of Artsakh. This one just published two days ago:
Եկեղեցիս քանդուել՝ հավատքս չի հանձնուել
Քանի կան քո տղերքն անձնուէր:
My destroyed church, doesn’t surrender my Faith.
As long as they’re here, your sons are devoted.
Just yesterday, reports of potential use of white phosphorous over the forests of Arstakh.
This is most likely provided by the so-called elite mountain forces that have been brought in from Turkey, because the Azeri troops could not handle the dense fighting in the forests of Artsakh. And of course, Turkey would not care that the use of white phosphorous to start forest fires in the mountains is yet another example of war crimes.
And Mr. Aliyev: I have a question for you. If Nagorno Karabakh, Artsakh, is, in fact, as you say Azerbaijan and always has been, why then are you bombing, your own cities? Why are you bombing the civilian population of what you claim is your land? Why have you destroyed 11,600 private properties? 1,600 private vehicles? 2,100 infrastructure public, and industrial structures? Why have you killed 39 civilians (as of Oct 26)? Bombed the electric, gas, and water infrastructure? Burning the village of Aknaghbyur as you pillage? Do you plan on going back in with some type of infrastructure project to rebuild this great nation that you have just demolished?
Is the plan to bring in Haliburton and manage the reconstruction? They already have an office on Salyan Highway, 16km Lokbatan Settlement, Salt Lake Facility, Baku 1032.
So what does Turkey do? It spreads its rat claws into Libya, Syria, territorial waters of Greece, Iraq, Kurdish Territory, and now in an attempt to finally “solve the Armenian problem,” vows support for Turkey’s “Azerbaijani brothers with all our means as always.” And accuses Armenia of “being the biggest threat in the region to peace and stability.”
The Armenian nation of 2.965 million is the threat? Armenia would instigate a war against its neighbor nation Azerbaijan of 9.981 million who now has the support of its historic enemy nation of Turkey with 82 million? The military budget of Turkey and Azerbaijan dwarf that of Armenia.
Meanwhile, Turkey just recently tested its Russian made S-400 air defense system to which the US “condemns in the strongest possible terms.” Additionally adding, “an operational S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a U.S. and NATO ally.”
Well guess what—Turkey never follows its commitments to the US or its NATO allies.
St. Nerses Shnorhali the Gracious (1102-1173), Catholicos of Armenia.
Armenians are writing this in the 12th century:
Seljuk Turks are coming through from Mongolia destroying. We are creating.
From “I Confess with Faith”
have mercy on all those who believe in you;
on my beloved ones, and on those who are strangers to me;
on all those I know, and on those unknown to me;
on the living and on the dead;
even forgive my enemies, and those who hate me,
forgive the trespasses they have committed against me;
and relieve them from the malice they bear towards me,
so that they become worthy of your mercy.
Have mercy upon your creatures,
and on me, a manifold sinner.
Let me repeat that line:
“and relieve them from the malice they bear toward me”
Why are the Azeri’s doing this now?
Why did Azerbaijan and Turkey attack Artsakh and Armenia on September 27, 2020?
It is jealousy? Envy? Resentment of Armenians?
Did we overstate our importance in the world, like Aliyev said?
Was it the World IT Conference in 2019 held in Yerevan?
Was it the revival of the wine industry in Armenia? The discovery of the oldest winery in the Noravank caves?
Was it the designation by UNESCO of our World Heritage Sites of Geghard Monastery, Haghpat and Sanahin, Etchmiadzin and Zvartnos? Or the UNESCO designation of Intangible Cultural Heritage items the Khachkar, the duduk, LAVASH Bread, the Kochari dance, or the Armenian Letter Art or the Folk Epic Sasunsti Davit?
Or that Levon Aronian, our chess champion, is higher ranked FIDE than your guy?
Or was it just simply the democratic revolution, the Velvet Revolution heard around the world in 2018. The revolution won without a bullet fired. Have you, Mr. Aliyev, tried that?
Or is it simply that the Turkish Lira is collapsing—again. Like it did in 2005. And the solution was just to lop off six zeros and call it the new Turkish Lira.
Or is it even simpler that oil and gas account for over 90 percent of Azerbaijan’s exports. To balance its budget, Baku needs oil to sell above $53 per barrel.
Incidentally, it was a mistake, Mr. Aliyev, to name the oil field in the Caspian Sea the “Karabagh field” and have the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani (so called) Republic President, say the field “proudly bears the name of the heart of our Motherland.”
Armenians are not going to be naïve about this situation today. We’re not going to say, oh the truth will prevail. You want to fight? We will fight to our deaths. Death or Freedom. MAH GAM AZADOUTYUN.
The songs of Armenia. We are living the songs. The Armenian Public Radio has changed. There’re no other cultural shows on. There’re no discussions of psychologists talking about kids dealing with stresses of their lives. It’s all day songs of heroes and heroism. Then news of the war. News of missiles landing. News of Armenian troops pushing back the enemy.
If you hear us talking here today and mixing the terms of Armenians or Armenians from Karabakh or using Artsakh and Armenia interchangeable, it is because it is all one people. It is all of us. You should know, as outside viewers to this, that you matter in all of this. Everything we do here in the United States matters tremendously around the world. Anything a high-ranking politician says about Armenia gets repeated verbatim on Armenian media and broadcast to the entire country there. Any chant of protest or singing of Մեր Հայրենիք is echoed through Armenian media. Words matter. Our words matter. Our actions matter more.
And you can be sure that today, these words, yours actions here, will be heard in Armenia.
So, what are we asking you, here in Richmond, those of you who come to us and support us in our usual times of festivities and dancing and celebration? We are asking you a simple thing. Stand with us. Stand with us now. Support Christian Armenia and Christian Artsakh. Go to armeniafund.org and donate monthly. If each one of us donates $20 or $50 a month, we can help our country stand up for what is right in this world. Go to anca.org. It is very simple to reach out to your elected representatives and ask for their support on these issues.
America is distracted right now. This is when the nations of the world act out. The timing of this by Turkey and Azerbaijan is not accidental. Think how difficult it is to get the attention of Americans right now with everything going on in U.S. politics and the country. Who would care about what’s happening overseas?
But we have to care. Because the United States has created this monster of a so-called ally in Turkey. The United States has not taken any concrete action, action not words, to stop Turkey intervening. And by not taking any action, the United States is giving tacit approval to what is going on.
For if two Armenians meet anywhere in the world and will create a New Armenia, witness now what all Armenians over the entire world will do when they unite.