World news – AU – Find my voice


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I was asked to write because my voice is clear. I was told that it matches the way many people feel but cannot verbalize. But now my clarity cannot be further from reality. For the first time in decades, my voice is foreign to me. I had to search for my voice after two decades of trying to forget the past and only found it with the publication of my book nearly a decade ago. I found it then, but it’s quiet now because it’s too painful to talk. Writing has been therapeutic since childhood, but since the end of the Artsakh war, apart from occasional posts on social media, I have not been able to bring myself to speak or write about it. Maybe because writing it down makes it more real and defined, and when I start crying, I can’t continue with my work. Maybe because so many in the church rely on me for emotional support, inspiration, or hope. Perhaps because there was so much work to be done that writing an article about what everyone already knows would be criminal. So many people dead; so many people in need. So much devastation and it doesn’t seem to end. But time has passed and here I am 11 months after my last visit to Shushi in January with my laptop and had the strange and urgent need to run over the cathedral of Ghazanchetsots and take a picture of it despite the heavy snow.

It’s been three months since the war started and seven weeks since I heard the news about the deal. I was in a meeting at work when the text came in at the end of the work day. I hurried out of my office, dialing every phone number on the way home, trying to understand how the unthinkable could happen. I still don’t have any answers. I took a day to mourn the loss of my home, my second loss in my life. But my nature and my personal story would not allow such luxury to wallow for long. I went back to work helping the people in Artsakh. The truth is heartbreaking, but it’s the truth. This is nothing new. I’m used to betraying ourselves. I am used to inflicting painful indifference to the people who should take care of my people. I know the ugly face of self-interest over the national interest of the home country. I had to look at this face as a refugee child from Azerbaijan and then I had to stand up for the people in Artsakh for a decade.

From the age of ten I lived the Karabakh conflict. My family and my 400. 000 inhabitants have lost everything in Baku. We were violently thrown around the world, so many mutilated and killed, all survivors scattered and forgotten. All of this seemed to happen in a vacuum. The Soviet authorities pretended that this did not happen. Azerbaijan has campaigned for decades to have us slaughter ourselves. Armenia ignored us and the majority of the diaspora had no idea that there were even Armenians in Azerbaijan, let alone that they were killed or exiled because of their ethnicity.

Now we are called prophetic. Somehow we knew that Azerbaijan would attack us then. And then we somehow knew that Azerbaijan would attack Artsakh again as if it wasn’t clear from the actions and words of the Azerbaijani government. « Gosh, Anna, why didn’t I know anything about the fate of the Armenians from Baku? I wish I had. I hear that a lot now, but the story was very different then. We were not prophetic then. We were pests. When we warned against the Artsakh movement in Soviet Armenia in 1988 for fear of reprisals from Azerbaijan, we were told that we were not patriotic, not enough Armenian, not even by family members. When the atrocities took place and Azerbaijan began to systematically exterminate its unarmed Armenian population, we fled our homes. At the time, we were attacked with questions about why we didn’t fight back, and we still mourned many of our slaughtered women and children. During the blockade and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, my community was invisible to the masses in Armenia for years. For the most part, the diaspora couldn’t really understand who we were (weird Soviet Armenians who couldn’t speak Armenian), what the Artsakh movement was, and what we were so upset about. In Armenia, we were mocked for our accents, our inability to speak Armenian, our poverty, our grief, and the city we once built – Baku. We weren’t enough Armenian. But we were Armenian enough to suffer ethnic cleansing in Azerbaijan.

We were invisible to the Armenian government, which was initially unable to cope with the humanitarian catastrophe of the Armenian exodus from Azerbaijan, especially so soon after the earthquake in Spitak. And then we continued to be ignored by the Armenian government in all aspects of its responsibility to the people. There has not been a single effort to alleviate their economic, humanitarian and psychological trauma. Apart from a small khachkar for Sumgait, there was not a single monument in the entire Armenian country (a land full of monuments) dedicated to the massacres of the Armenians in Azerbaijan. Together with my congregation and my friends we have a 30th. Anniversary of the Baku pogroms (a forest planting and a khachkar) built. Despite my many invitations, not a single government official attended the unveiling and religious dedication of the event. Forget the monuments around the world. While Azerbaijan is marketing its Khojaly propaganda worldwide with monuments, commemorations and academic conferences, Armenia has made up its own mind not to remember our fate. Many young people in Armenia are shocked that I am from Azerbaijan. Did Armenians formerly live there? Imagine having learned what and how we lost.

The suffering of the Armenians in Azerbaijan and the dangers that still existed for the people of Artsakh were inexplicably invisible in the foreign policy of the Armenian government. For years I have uttered it again and again in front of internal and external audiences, not because I want to relive the most painful part of my life that still leaves me with panic attacks and nightmares, but because it is a warning sign for Artsakh and its people not of Armenia or the rest of the world respected. For three decades we received indignation and elitism from the people who were supposed to take care of our people, the politicians wrapped in patriotism. With all of its genocidal ideology, hatred of Armenia, its brainwashed masses and its corruption, Azerbaijan has much to teach us. While Armenia criticized the way Azerbaijan abused its refugees internally, we should have learned lessons from how they stand up for their refugees on the global stage. They glorified their pain, introduced and demonstrated it around the world, sued on their behalf, played dirty, marketed tales of Armenian aggression, made allies, bought favors, sold media, banded together to vilify the Armenians, and won the popularity contest in the end. They armed their refugees. Armenia, on the other hand, could not even recognize us.

When Azerbaijan sowed its genocidal propaganda, which we learned was appeasing its masses in order to keep Aliyev in power, many now realized that it was a public plan – not empty threats. Regardless of how much Aliyev robbed his people and all the time threatened to invade Artsakh and Yerevan, Azerbaijan built up its military to advance its state policies. While Azerbaijan imprisoned its journalists, laid down its opposition and ruled with the fist of an iron dictator, you will not find an opposition in Azerbaijan that does not really believe that Karabakh is not Azerbaijan. Their national interests on this matter were clear to them, and it was clear to their leadership. Still, ours is unclear for Armenia as a whole, as Artsakh recognition is still lazily tossed around as an option.

While Azerbaijan has a 21st. In order to invade Artsakh, the Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan had to remind the Armenian government for 30 years that we even existed. Our war warnings were unheard. Personally, I had to ask the Armenian government and its embassy to attend to the 30th. To commemorate the anniversary of the Sumgait pogroms in February 2018. Members of the old parliament visited Washington, DC. You didn’t even say a word that day during an event at the US Congress. Instead of taking this opportunity to share our history and tutoring members of Congress, they spent their paid vacations taking tourist photos. It never got better. The current Prime Minister shamefully couldn’t bring himself to admit (or remember) that we were even part of the conflict at a press conference with Aliyev. When I criticized him publicly, I was attacked and threatened by his supporters. Despite the hundreds of death threats from Azerbaijanis I’ve received for my public work – some of which have even been investigated by the FBI – I never get used to the hatred of my own people. I will respond proactively to the criticism that I am speaking here. Spare me the talk of “Unity. Where was that unit for the Baku Armenians who still live in abandoned Soviet-era hotels in what is now Armenia? Where was this unit for Shushi and Hadrut? Where was that unit for the bulletproof vests and modern weapons our soldiers needed? Where was that unity in accepting Artsakhtsis’ fate as our own? Because it is so!

While we complain of our lack of allies, if you are flipping through the pages of human history, we should finally learn the lesson that allies care about the rich and powerful, that international law is fluid, and you need muscles and a spine. We don’t seem to have any. We must acknowledge the fact that we are no longer Urartu or a great empire ruled by Tigran II. We had time and many opportunities to recognize our limits and use our talents to prepare ourselves regardless of the inequality of wealth with Azerbaijan. We had 30 years to prepare for the upcoming war, which the enemy repeatedly threatened. Instead, all Armenian governments blindly robbed Armenia and milked the diaspora cow with the promise of independence from Artsakh to finance the luxury of the oligarchs, leaving nothing for the people. Even if we pick up the pieces from ourselves after the war, the diaspora still cannot get a clear answer as to where those hundreds of millions of dollars that were donated to fundraising in Himnadram went to. Ironically, people are still donating blindly but openly in the hope that it will magically help the local people. With Azerbaijan spending billions on anti-Armenian lobbying efforts, the Armenian administrations pushed back diaspora organizations with limited size and grassroots networks to get their work done. While individual diplomats, many of whom are my friends, worked their entire careers for their people, and many embassies held isolated memorial services, there was no single strategy, no surgically precise PR campaign staged by Yerevan. In January 2020, I was invited to speak in the Armenian Parliament on the issue of the atrocities in Baku, which openly shocked me as no Armenian refugee has ever spoken on the subject in the halls of this Parliament. During my speech, after describing our fate, I discussed Azerbaijan’s active work that denigrates and organizes Armenia around the world. I urged members of the Armenian Parliament to pay attention and do something about it. After my speech, many of them came up to me and told me how shocked they were to learn about propaganda posters in New York City and that they enjoy helping with my work. They completely lost the point of my speech: the people in Armenia and Artsakh needed them to do this work, not me, a private citizen from another country.

In September 2016, my family and I saw the 25th. Anniversary of the Independence Parade of Armenia in Yerevan on Republic Square. My children were impressed by this spectacle: so much bravery, so much show. Still, it was all an illusion, an empty charade. The April War should have been a warning sign that no parades would save our people. These weapons did not protect our boys then or in 2020 as promised. When Azerbaijan bought more sophisticated weapons and brought troops to the border, the new government squealed at “pacifism” on my face – a 20-year-old candidate scoffed at my alleged lack of knowledge and reputation. In the halls of the Armenian Parliament in 2019, I was almost accused of being a warmonger when I voiced my concern about our pacifist stance with Azerbaijan. “Let the diaspora think the government is pacifist. There’s nothing wrong with pacifism, ”I was told. Even with a genocidal reality to the east of you? Given the victims, it is likely that these pacifists lost family members in the meat grinder of the Artsakh war. Was your deranged ideology worth life?

While we justify these behaviors by blaming each other, or better yet, of political affiliations, we must remember that we have the Big Grand Diaspora. You’d think Azerbaijan, for all its financial and political might and might, should be afraid of it. Yet they outperform us in every PR campaign, lobbying and cat-and-mouse game. But can we blame ourselves? I believe the diaspora can be more effective if it develops an unrelenting selfless commitment to the homeland and a widespread understanding of a common national interest. However, the Armenian government’s self-destructive lack of leadership in this area remains an obstacle. Again and again I hear the distraction, the mistake, that the diaspora must interfere in the Armenian government, that Armenians outside Armenia should control the Armenian government, that they cannot have a voice if they do not do something politically. Every time I hear this, I am stung by the implicit admission that the Armenian government cannot serve the interests of the nation alone. And that’s why the diaspora doesn’t trust the Armenian government. But the diasporans don’t trust each other either. In 2013 my husband and I had a great opportunity to work on a resolution to recognize Artsakh in my state of Maine. We were confronted with an Armenian community leadership who warned me not to “make waves” and that our annual proclamation on the genocide of the Armenians could be endangered by this “Artsakh project”. « Despite your active efforts to dissolve the resolution, I am proud to say that the State of Maine has recognized the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. What they fail to realize is that we need the waves to survive as a people! A few years ago I was invited to a private meeting with Armenian organizations at the Armenian Embassy in the USA to discuss the organization of celebrations for the 25th. Discuss anniversary of independence of Armenia. I was surprised to be invited to Baku as a representative of the Armenian community. I think I was the only person in the room who didn’t represent an organization. I was happy to bring my thoughts in and was immediately made aware of the reality in the room. We pride ourselves on the extensive perseverance of the Diaspora, but we cannot achieve a national consensus of interests even at a cultural event. The efforts have been a failure on the part of both the embassy and the diaspora. No Armenian cultural event took place in Washington, DC that year because no one could agree on anything.

Judging by the highway between Fizuli and Shushi currently being built by Azerbaijan in the immediate aftermath of the war, I can confidently say that Azerbaijan is doing exactly what serves its national interests while the Armenian nation implodes. When it comes to this conflict, Azerbaijan has methodically, surgically and aggressively pursued its well-defined, understood and accepted national interest for the past 32 years. The concept of « national interest » does not exist within the Armenian nation. The lack of a real public service to improve the nation rather than improve your pocket is why Azerbaijan is now building this path to Shushi. The last 30 years of self-destructive politics, summed up by the loss of this war, the Armenian government’s disinformation campaign against us, their post-war response, their separation of the diaspora from Armenia, and the government’s disregard for our own people, this home for me thoroughly and completely. This street is a perfect picture to put everything in perspective.

While they are building their roads, our ancestral land Artsakh has disappeared. Our people are refugees again. And there’s still such an anger that pulls the hair out of my head, you have no shame, inaction in the face of an existential catastrophe. These refugees, these prisoners of war, these corpses, these limp veterans with no support that the government couldn’t care less, are all farmers in their little game. The people in Artsakh, many of whom are my friends from Stepanakert, Shushi and Hadrut, are returning to the remains of Artsakh from Armenia because the Armenian government is offering them absolutely no help. They now face the possibility of getting hungry in Armenia’s winter or of returning to Artsakh, regardless of whether they have a home or not, in a stateless “homeland”, where bloodthirsty Azerbaijani soldiers come next door uncontrolled and unchallenged to Stepanakert. Why wouldn’t they return? Which is the better option?

According to many reports, including my personal contacts, many Artsakhtsis are currently facing aggressive discrimination in Yerevan, similar to what the Baku Armenians experienced 30 years ago. « More Armenians than you » is played out; Their ethnicity is being questioned, from their mocked accents to their husbands willingness to fight in war, even as the widows are crammed with babies in boarding houses, barns and shacks. And now the same relatives from Yerevan who told us in 1988 that we should be patriotic and support the Artsakh movement are telling me: « See Anna, it was not worth it, this Artsakh of yours. Why did you waste so many years on it? “

And there you have it. Here we are. During that failed 30 years, real people died by the thousands due to our chronic self-loathing and self-destruction. My friends died. Our boys died. While we boast that our military is returning for our dead and Azerbaijan their 8th. Leaving 000 dead on the battlefield, the reality is that Armenia let all of our men die by not providing them with what they needed to defend themselves and their homes for decades, or by sending them to their deaths in the past few weeks To withhold reinforcements, to know exactly how it would turn out, and to shamelessly lie to their mothers and the rest of the Armenian nation. In the end, the two are the same. In the end, we can no longer claim moral height. All of them who have moved their political games to their fancy towers in Yerevan will go down in history with Armenian blood in their hands, regardless of which political party they belong to. And if they remove their ego from the equation, including the diaspora, they will see what needs to be done to bring Armenia to its knees from foreign policy, military, state infrastructures to corruption and economy.

Can we do this now when we feel so defeated by the enemy and by our own failure to protect ourselves? I do not know where to find the light at the end of this long, extended darkness, but I try in my humanitarian projects and continue to focus on the people of Artsakh. I’ve also started quilting for personal reasons in the past few weeks, grieving for my loved ones and the thousands who follow me on social media and write to me because they don’t know what to do with all this pain. On winter weekends at our lake house here in Maine and with limited WiFi, quilting is the ideal way for me to take my mind off the world. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s worth it. The parts of this Hexi quilt that I make for my daughter remind me of how different we are and yet the same – broken and yet strangely organized. My dad, my sweet dad, always warned me that there will be a time in my advocacy for Artsakh when I will throw my hands in the air in disbelief at how angry we are as a people and it was done completely and thoroughly. My papa also said the reason we survived so many thousands of years is because we are broken. There is no center for destruction; We have many centers. But wars are waged differently now, Papa, and we can’t play that game anymore. We will no longer exist as a people.

During these stressful times of hand sewing my blanket, I come to the same conclusion that I come to in every painful chapter of my life: becoming a refugee, suffering from spinal paralysis, a child in a failed one Lose pregnancy, learn that my friends were killed by Azerbaijani aggression and watching my Artsakh on fire. With patience, I believe that we are simply part of a bigger picture, which is important in keeping the pieces together, but what matters in the larger scheme of things is that there is a time and place for tension and frustration and then time for softness and Comfort. In the end we are a quilt work of what it means to be “Armenia” and we are therefore more beautiful and stronger, but only if we find that common goal, whatever it is. As I work to believe my own words of encouragement and seek to find that hope again, I pray that my people, especially those in leadership, will soon come to this conclusion. Think long term. Think in 100 years. Set aside your personal interests for the benefit of the national interest, for the benefit of our people, in honor of our ancestors and the land for which so many of our friends and family members, our youth, died then and now. Do it for her once.

I have read your article and I greatly admire your courageous analysis of the domestic problems of Armenia and the problems of Azerbaijan.

Yesterday, before reading your article, I wrote a letter to the editor of a large Dutch newspaper that published an article by a journalist who was returning to Agdam with an Azerbaijani refugee family.

Well, I can’t send you the Dutch article, but you can imagine what it is.

Below you will find my letter translated into English and you will see that your fate will not be forgotten.
But I would welcome further conversation in private.

Incidentally, this letter has not (yet) been published and I have very little hope that the newspaper will accept it.

Undoubtedly the suffering of the displaced refugees is enormous and the sight of ruins in which you have to touch your home is touching.

But is the bigger picture that J. . Van der Ploeg tells us about Nagorno Karabach, right?
Has he checked the Azerbaijani interpretation of the truth?

The number of Azerbaijani refugees mentioned in the article is highly controversial.
The nearly 400. There is no mention of 000 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan during the last war.
The fact is that during the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenians asked for the right to self-determination in this ancient Armenian region.

This wish was violently put down by the Azeris. First with massacres in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku, after which the Azeris started a terrible war.

This area is not only a strategic area on the Silk Road, but also a historical Armenian area from which the Turks are systematically driving the Armenian population.

Costly solutions from the dictator Aliyes are not to be expected.
The Armenians expect the falsification of history and the continuation of the genocide policy.

With great interest & appreciation I read your article, Anna, & I am proud of your articulate descriptions of your experiences as well as your disappointments with the behavior of authorities across the home country. I have to mention here that, as your followers, we also sense your frustrations. We are grateful that you decided to write everything. & We thank God for your guidance.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Republic of Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh

World news – AU – Find my voice


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