Let us be great Americans. Let us be great Armenians.

AYF DC “Ani” Chapter member Matt Girardi delivers his powerful speech to a crowd of supporters in front of the White House.

Editor’s Note: The following statements were made at the AYF-led protest outside the White House on January 21, 2023.

I am a proud member of the AYF DC “Ani” Chapter and a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors. I stand here today as an American citizen, horrified by the situation in Artsakh and deeply disappointed by the inaction of my government in such a crisis.

I know it can be easy to deal with vague language or repeat thoughts we hold close to our hearts. So I ask that you allow me to pass on the sweet stuff and instead use this precious opportunity and this sacred space to confront the problems that we immediately face and that we know are important to the future of the Armenian people and America.

On December 12, representatives of the Azerbaijani government began an illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor – the only route that provides 120,000 people in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) with food, medical supplies and access in the outside world.

Their tactic of using special forces in special uniforms to parade as environmentalists at the checkpoint—wearing fur coats and waving dead pigeons painted as peace doves—was it would turn out to be laughable madness if the results weren’t so bad. The property in this area is almost at a standstill. Families are separated. And strength has been repeatedly reduced in the freezing temperatures—men, women, children, and the elderly languishing in darkness, cold, and hunger.

As of today, patients are lying in critical condition in hospitals without the life-saving medicines they desperately need. Thousands of children are staying at home when their schools are closed. Grocery stores and pantries are empty as trucks carrying 14,000 tons of food and supplies are held up at a checkpoint on the Armenian border.

Since the ban began, Russian peacekeepers in the region have been unable or unwilling to enforce the terms of the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement. In addition, the Russian government has not sent a strong group of peacekeepers to stabilize the situation and fulfill their mission.

At the same time, in the United States, members of the Armenian Congressional Caucus, diplomatic officials and dignitaries across various organizations and governments issued statements calling for the immediate reopening of Lachin Square. . Likewise, France and the EU have also adopted declarations calling on the government of Azerbaijan to reopen the road and for Russian peacekeepers to enforce their mandate.

However, none of these measures had any impact on the Aliyev government’s determination to continue this siege of the Armenian population of Artsakh. Therefore, it is clear that the time for expressions of concern has passed. My friends, I will repeat: it has been 41 days of darkness, hunger and suffering for the people of Artsakh and there is no end in sight unless we change our course and do so quickly. It is unmistakably clear that this is a clear attempt to starve, terrorize and eventually purge the people of Nagorno Karabakh from their ancestral land.

While some may argue that this is just another tribal war in a faraway part of the world, we know it is not. When we see videos of Azerbaijani school children happily participating in anti-Armenian dramas, we know that hatred is being instilled at a young age in a dangerous way and with dangerous success.

When Azerbaijani soldiers film videos of the execution of Armenian prisoners of war and the mutilation of the corpses of female soldiers to post publicly on the Internet and send them to their children—to children—we know that their situation is the military and their commanders alike are not ashamed, no. remorse and not fear that they will be held accountable for their crimes.

Seeing that, according to Cornell’s Caucasus Heritage Watch, 99 percent of Nakhichevan’s Armenian cultural heritage has been destroyed, its residents are being ethnically cleansed, and that its centuries-old Jugha cemetery has been destroyed in the area of military shooting, we know that Azerbaijan has been there. is innocent of ethnic cleansing in government-controlled areas of Armenia.

When President Erdogan of Turkey feels safe to shout, “God bless the soul of Enver Pasha” in the city of Baku along with the dictator of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev – and he sees nothing.we know that remembering the Armenian Genocide is not a source of public shame or soul-searching, but rather a distorted view and a sad desire for the future for their governments.

In general, this ban is not something that happens by chance. It is part of a long-term, premeditated, strategic and ongoing effort by the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey to squeeze the Armenian state and the Armenian people out of existence. In the words of the great poet Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Aliyev and his partner in Ankara have shown us exactly who they are time after time. They believe that Yerevan is the historical place of Azeri. They believe that the Armenian Genocide never happened, but its builders are national heroes who should be respected and emulated. They believe that the people of Nagorno Karabakh do not have the right to self-governance, self-government or basic human rights and should be subjected to the conditions of the Azeri regime imposed on them by Josef Stalin. and one.

These are not men who can be trusted to communicate honestly, willingly, and with respect for international laws, norms or organizations. Their governments are not partners in peace for the United States. If our government continues to support them in their projects either actively or passively, the consequences will be dire—not only for Artsakh and its people but for the United States and its goals.

Time and time again, we have seen the US government throw its support behind governments that are repugnant to our values, as unstable and untrustworthy partners, oppressing their own people, or engaging in extremism. and racism, we suffer the consequences. .

On the other hand, America is in good shape when it lives up to its values, and we are better off ignoring the onset of a humanitarian crisis. Our calls for universal basic human dignity sound hollow if not extended to all. Our credibility among those who need us most is shot when we ignore ethnic cleansing for cheap oil. Our negotiation tool is ineffective when we act on the heels of a crisis​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ and instead of joining hands with actors of good faith to prevent it. And our image as a beacon of hope, of democracy and freedom is destroyed when we bury our heads in the sand and ignore authority.

Make no mistake: we can end this crisis. We can open the Lachin Corridor and restore the way of life to the people of Artsakh. We can stop the beginning of the second Armenian genocide. But regardless of whether we are policy makers, Armenians or partners, we need to take firm action.

To the legislatorswe need an immediate, public and strong application of high diplomatic pressure on the Aliyev regime and its sponsors to withdraw their agents from the Lachin Corridor checkpoint.

We also need an immediate airlift of relief supplies to Stepanakert airport. As long as the Lachin Corridor remains closed, the only viable way into Artsakh is from the sky above.

We need the US to cut off all military aid to Azerbaijan and hold the Aliyev regime accountable for its crimes. The culture of impunity is becoming a culture of madness. Immediately ending the aid, creating Section 907 and building ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​è¦c.

We need Global Magnitsky sanctions against those who have openly, brazenly and impenitently participated in murder, torture and war crimes. President Biden, members of Congress and members of the political establishment: don’t allow human rights abusers to use our banks. Don’t let oligarchs and warmongers get money. Don’t let murderers walk our streets.

To youfriends, partners, familyto those who hear this message near and farwe must be steadfast and unwavering in our commitment to these measures. In our quest for a free and independent Artsakh, we must not work alone. In our fight for a stable Armenian nation, we must not work alone. In our journey to make the United States fulfill the potential of its promise, we must not work alone.

This ban is a new development in the story of our people. Actors, governments and the way of life can also be new. But the legacy of service and sacrifice and the values ​​we bring to this challenge are as old as Armenia itself.

After all, the history of the Armenian people is not one of ease or comfort. But lest we forget—about the governments that rose and fell, about our sufferings and sorrows, about our wars fought and won—ours is not the story of the lost people. Ours is the story of the people who survived.

From Avarayr to Musa Ler and from Sardarabad to Stepanakert, the spirit of the Armenian people has passed from generation to generation unbroken. It is the spirit of a nation that will not be broken like its mountains. In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, many things are given to other generations. In others, more is expected. But this generation, my friends, has a meeting and a destiny.

Therefore, when the dust has settled, let it be known that when the call came, we answered. That we refused to allow the Armenian nation to separate. That we did not waver in our determination to build a truly free, united and independent Armenia. Let it be said that we voted, we called, we wrote, we advocated, we protested, we organized—that we fought like helland that with courage in our hearts and trust in our backs, we handed over the blessings of freedom, justice and peace to future generations.

Let it be said that when it was easy to deviate from felicism and fatalism, we persevered. Let it be said that when the United States was faced with a choice between a humanitarian crisis and saving the democracy founded by the descendants of the survivors of the genocide, it fully accepted the better angels of its nature. Let it be said that when Azerbaijan and Turkey pushed the people of Artsakh to the brink, the United States and the Armenian people stood together in strength and stopped the second attack on the Armenian people.

Let’s be great Americans. Let’s be great Armenians. Let’s remember how the future is built. Thank you, God bless you, and God protect the people of Artakh.

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