BY ARAM MANOUKIAN
Many people who have visited the Republic of Artsakh have likely visited the Hunot Gorge. A breathtaking site for anyone, they are commonly referred to as “Zontikner” or umbrellas, due to their shape and the striking visual image they portray as one of the most phenomenal occurrences found in nature. The first time I visited this hidden gem, I was blown away by the serenity and beauty of the land I was standing on. What was even more amazing to me, however, was located just a few meters south. It was a huge wall, a fortified mountain range in which the city of Shushi lay on top of. The Liberation of Shushi, which took place on the eve of May 8, was a strategic operation that had a component that one must see in person to contextualize and give value to. Traversing that ridge, or “Jdrduz” to me is a miracle. The strategic brilliance of the operation is almost outshined by the mere physical determination needed to climb that high, without detection, and diligently attack occupiers of their land right after. I, like most, will never forget that image of victory portrayed on those cliffs. Today that site is one filled with tourists, photographers, city folk. The largest dangers are snakes hidden in the rocks or heat stroke during the summer season.
During April of last year, the Armenian nation woke up and realized that there are far greater threats facing Artsakh than the weather or wildlife. As Azerbaijan waged war using arms they had bought, spending billions buying from Israel and Russia, the people of Artsakh were able to not only hold their ground but able to cause so much damage after only four days Azerbaijan retreated their offences. Using hunting rifles, villagers in Artsakh were able to take down Azeri drones. Our military, even with outdated weaponry, was able to secure our borders. There were thousands upon thousands of volunteers to the homeland from across the world. There was a movement and nationalist surge amongst the Armenian people. Demonstrations were rampant, fundraising campaigns (like the successful “With Our Soldiers” campaign initiated by the Armenian Youth Federation) and telethons were hosted to help those in need, and social media was filled with news and posts of Armenians from all corners of the globe. We were in war, an actual tangible threat to life that resulted in the death of 108 fallen heroes over a four day period. Over a hundred families, over a hundred laborers that would have entered the workforce, over a hundred moral contributors to the future of Artsakh and the Armenian nation as a whole. This was the measurable loss the Armenian nation realized, the casualties of war. Within this time period and soon after, the nationalist outlook of the Armenian diaspora began organizing its activities towards measurable success in the future of Artsakh and measurable accountability to those responsible. It almost seems like war was necessary for this enlightenment to take place.
But, was this outbreak of violence along our borders really the only war we had seen recently? There have been numerous instances of aggression from the enemy. Alongside regular violations of the cease-fire agreement on the line of contact, threats to the very existence of Artsakh have not only been realized but perpetuate in comfort. From cyber attacks to well funded lobbying groups in the United States, from Azerbaijan using sniper fire to kill soldiers to the acquirement of weaponry for further acts of violence, from internal and external campaigns of propaganda to the rewriting of history on an international scale, one thing remains clear… We are at war. If there is any prospect of change occurring for Artsakh, without jeopardizing future lives, then the Armenian nation can never forget we are at war. It is an odd concept, almost an oxymoron, but our historical struggle has always shown this to be true. When the Armenian nation is in a conscious state of war, then the allocation of resources and organizing grassroots power on a global scale stops being the exception and becomes the rule. This change of mentality can be the difference between winning in the trenches of Hadrut but losing in the battlefield of international politics. Artsakh’s value strategically, culturally, politically, and socially is infinitely growing, and for the Armenian nation to be naive enough to constantly fluctuate between a state of war to that of peace is not only counter intuitive it is detrimental to our people. How many more soldiers, husbands and wives, laborers, voters, community activists, moral exemplars can we afford to sacrifice?
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” claims Sun Tzu. However, there will continue to be bloodshed at the hands of the enemy when the Armenian nation, specifically the diaspora, becomes a passive actor until necessary. We must understand, and admit to ourselves, that Artsakh and the Armenian nation is always at war. Whatever weapons we have at our disposal, be it social media, our careers, academia, technological contributions, money, etc. we must use regularly and tactically in an organized and elevated manner. If anyone reaps the benefits of being part of the Armenian nation, then there is no denying it is our individual and collective duty to preserve and protect Artsakh through any means necessary.