WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—A panel discussion on the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) was held on April 16 at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) in Watertown. The event, which was attended by 200 people, also served as a fundraiser for the victims of the recent—and ongoing—Azerbaijani aggression against NKR. It was organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Armenian Society (MITAS) and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), in association with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Watertown “Leola Sassouni” and Cambridge “Shushi” Chapters, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) of New England, and the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA).
Panel moderator and NAASR Director of Academic Affairs Marc Mamigonian offered the opening remarks and welcomed MITAS representative Narek Dshkhunyan, who spoke on behalf of the students’ union, and thanked those present for attending. Mamigonian then invited ARF “Sardarabad” Gomideh member Tsoler Avedissian, who appealed to the audience to reach out to their representatives in Congress and other government representatives to show that Armenian Americans are united on the NKR issue. She also invited those present to participate in the community-wide protest scheduled to take place at the Turkish Consulate in Boston on April 24. Mamigonian then introduced AGBU New England chair Ara Balikian, who thanked those who had already donated to the victims through the AGBU, and provided details about how the collected funds would be allocated.
Before introducing the members of the panel, Mamigonian explained that the event had two principal purposes: to inform the public about the latest developments in NKR, and to raise funds for the victims of aggression and for the families of the fallen soldiers. Mamigonian announced that donations could be made through three channels: the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern United States, the AGBU of New England, and the MIT Armenian Society.
Mamigonian introduced the first panelist, Dr. Simon Payaslian, the Charles K. and Elisabeth M. Kenosian Chair in Modern Armenian History and Literature at Boston University, who provided an historical introduction to the discussion. Payaslian spoke in detail about the history of the Karabagh region, with a particular focus on the period since the creation of the Soviet Union until the beginning of the Karabagh War.
Mamigonian then introduced Armenia’s first ambassador to the United States, Amb. Rouben Shougarian, lecturer at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, who provided details about the latest attacks within a historical context of the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. “Human life is the highest value of an independent country,” he said. The Karabagh War has never been about an ethnic conflict, but is rather about self-determination and one of people wanting to live freely in their homeland. Speaking on the “artificial parity” of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, Shougarian said that it is wrong to hold all parties responsible in a conflict where one party is guilty.
Mamigonian then invited the third panelist, Amb. Armen Baibourtian, the director of administration of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, and Armenia’s first ambassador to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Baibourtian provided details on the impact of what he called the “four-day war,” which took place on April 2-5. He said that one of the most significant points of the latest developments was the Armenian nation’s manifestation of heroism. “Not only were the soldiers defending the borders,” Baibourtian said, “but the entire nation, everywhere” was unified and consolidated. The ambassador went on to say that this latest heightened conflict proved that Armenians around the world are able to work cohesively. Speaking about the reasons why the “frozen” conflict turned into a large-scale attack on NKR, Baibourtian said that by launching an offensive, Azerbaijan wished to change the status quo and the peace format currently being employed in NKR.
Mamigonian then introduced the fourth panelist, Robert Avetisyan, who spoke via Skype. Avetisyan, the permanent representative of the NKR in the United States, thanked the organizers, co-sponsors, panelists, and community members for keeping Artsakh at the forefront of their though, noting that such events do not go unnoticed by the people in the republic. Avetisyan then provided details about the heightened conflict from April 2-5, which he called a major Azerbaijani failure, both militarily and politically. He explained that NKR is taking steps to provide the international community with facts of the inhuman acts committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces during the latest incidents of aggression, and that the government will do everything in its power to hold Azerbaijan accountable. Speaking about the current situation on the Line of Contact (LoC), Avetisyan said that while the major fighting is over and the situation is mostly calm, Azerbaijan continues to consistently violate the 1994 ceasefire agreement. “We’re not asking the world to be pro-Armenian; we want them to be pro-peace,” Avetisyan said.
He then assessed international reaction to the heightened violence, and said it followed the same pattern as before the escalation—that is, there was no unambiguous singling-out of Azerbaijan as the aggressor. “This gives a false sense of impunity to Azerbaijani authorities,” he said. Avetisyan then outlined the possible reasons behind Azerbaijan’s decision to launch the attack, noting internal political pressures—such as Azerbaijan’s oil crisis—as well as anti-Armenian sentiments that exist throughout the country.
Before taking questions from the audience, Mamigonian invited to the stage AAA board of trustees co-chairman Anthony Barsamian, who thanked the panelists and shared his thoughts on the situation in NKR and the organization’s work.
At the conclusion of the event, a short video on NKR was presented. Afterwards, it was announced that $15,000 had been raised during the event for the victims and their families.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West