BY SAREEN KASPARIAN
My name is Sareen Kasparian and I am a victim of a heinous hate crime. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary hate crime; I have become the unfortunate symbol for the appalling rhetoric of advocating murder, torture, bloodshed, and other horrific acts against innocent Armenian children.
Little did I know that one particular snapshot of me, depicted as a spirited 5-year-old donning a scout uniform and joyfully waving the Armenian flag, which was featured in the Armenian Reporter Magazine in 2011, would be transformed into a stock photo and fall into the hands of Azeri media monsters.
By the time I was made aware of this, there were over 100 uses of my photo on Azerbaijani social networks with calls for the murder, torture, bloodshed and other forms of ill-treatment of Armenian children. As if the surveys asking “If you saw an Armenian child during the war, would you kill her?” wasn’t painful enough, reading the comments of support and praise were earth shattering.
The acts and accounts of these savages were brought to light by former Human Rights Defender Ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, who documented and reported multiple accounts that pushed hate crimes against Armenian children with social media games, surveys and polls. In January, 2021, Tatoyan unveiling these atrocities by publishing the Human Rights Defender’s Special Report, a deep dive into organized hate speech and animosity towards ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan.
Locally, my mom and I actively confronted and addressed several perturbing social media accounts. My mom shared the following statement on her personal account and distributed it among numerous international human rights watch groups.
It saddens me to think about the future of your children–your most valued, cherished human possessions. Your blurred vision of reality not only stains your present but poisons your tomorrow.
I am the mother of the Armenian posterchild you polled and I too, want to participate in your sick, twisted, inhumane, disgusting social media polls! Let’s play your game and see who ranks higher in the eyes of humanity, justice, tolerance, social intelligence, love and altruism.
As you sat your child down to teach him or her about hate, I taught my daughter love, kindness and selflessness.
As you lied to your youth about geopolitics, I presented facts, history and reality.
As you left your child in darkness, my daughter drew energy from the sun.
As you commented, shared and publicized murder and intolerance, my daughter volunteered her time and resources to help victimized families in Artsakh.
What begins with the failure to uphold humanity, ends with self-destruction, pity and a mind, heart and soul filled with venom.
So, go ahead-teach your children to hate. Just remember-we are few but we are called Armenians. Centuries have come and centuries have passed yet over no one have we become tyrants. If we have enslaved, only with our eyes. And if we have ruled, only with our books. If we have prevailed, only with our talents. And, if we have ever oppressed, only with our wounds. We are few, truly, but we are Armenians. And by being few we do not succumb because it is better to be few, than to be mastered by being many.
Love, an Armenian Mom
Yet, it did not stop. One account closed, but ten were activated. We actively reported, expressed disapproval, and responded to numerous accounts, all the while bearing witness to the invasion and aggression by Azerbaijan against the indigenous Armenians in Artsakh. The relentless flow of reports documenting devastation, destruction, and loss of life painted a grim picture day after day, compounded by the Azeri military’s dissemination of videos depicting abhorrent acts of war crimes, such as beheadings and other gruesome acts perpetrated against captured Armenian civilians and military personnel.
Now, two years later, we stand imploring for peace with a nation that fosters a culture of hate crimes against innocent Armenian children, shamelessly flouting every principle set forth by international charters, resorting to threats, coercion, and intimidation. We find ourselves in this very moment, waiting for the global powers to deliberate upon the fate of our people—to ponder whether the abominable acts of torture, blockades, forced displacement, and merciless death should be unequivocally recognized as nothing short of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Words fail me to dignify the treatment inflicted upon Armenians by Azerbaijan. To label it as inhumane offers only a semblance of solace, while deeming it an invasion feels nothing short of an insult, trivializing the gravity of the atrocities committed.
Now, tell me, how are we to trust and believe in a nation that proudly promotes hate and intolerance? How can 120,000 men, women, and children live under threat, fear, and military aggression? How can we trust that the ethnic cleansing of our people will not continue in the hands of Azerbaijan’s authority over the region?
How can we derive comfort and solace from meetings between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev when every pledge and promise has been broken, leaving behind the corpses of young Armenian soldiers and devastated families?
I firmly stand against accepting any “amnesty offerings” from this authoritarian regime. After all, what can we expect from a nation that encourages hate crimes towards Armenian children and consistently disregards human rights and civil liberties for its own people? Not much, not much at all.
Sareen Kasparian is currently a junior at Crescenta Valley High School and a member of the Pasadena Nigol Touman chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation. Teachable Moments is a knowledge exchange, a column dedicated to sharing generational insight as we intertwine experience and reasoning with modern day problems and solutions.