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Armenians and Azerbaijanis fight it out in the Caucasus, and in California

Two angry scenes, one in LA and one in Sacramento, bring home a far-away fight

By Ken Kurson, July 21, 2020 9:09 pm

Turkish and Azerbaijani supporters protest against Armenian actions in the Caucuses at the Capital in Sacramento on July 21, 2020. (Photo: Ken Kurson for California Globe)

SACRAMENTO—Los Angeles is home to the largest community of Armenians in the world outside of Armenia. So when there’s noise in the Caucasus, the echoes resonate in Southern California.

Today those echoes grew louder in both LA and at the Capital.

In Los Angeles, a wild melee broke out during a large demonstration staged by an Armenian advocacy group. The Armenian National Committee of America (Western Region) protested near the Azerbaijan Consulate General on Wilshire Boulevard in Brentwood. According to NBC-LA, when the crowd spilled past the barricades the police had set up to keep the demonstrators off the street, “Fistfights broke out … and one officer was injured.”

Meanwhile, at almost the exact same moment, about 100 people holding Turkish and Armenian flags gathered on the steps of the capital to listen to speakers condemn Armenia and its recent actions regarding Azerbaijan.

The dispute along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border comprises one of the world’s longest-running territorial disputes. Last week it flared up when 20 people died in fighting near the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Financial Times, the renewed hostilities “prompted tens of thousands of protesters to storm [Azerbaijan capital] Baku’s parliament in anger and demand a return to full-on war.”

Alex Galitsky, who is Communications Director of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, told the California Globe, “The act of aggression against Armenia has resonated widely with our community in Los Angeles, from those who have migrated from Armenia to the US recently, as well as those who found refuge in the US following the Armenian Genocide. … The protests today were a display of solidarity with our compatriots who face a very real existential threat, and call for the international community to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its aggression.

Last week’s violence 7200 miles away barely cracked the news in the United States amid a global pandemic, a presidential campaign and continued racial justice protests. But the anger felt on both sides is clearly active here in California.

There were dueling takes on last week’s Caucusus violence in the LA Times – first was Azerbaijan Consul General Nasimi Aghayev stating that Armenia started the renewed outbreak: “Starting on July 12, the Armenian army attacked, with heavy artillery, the positions of Azerbaijan’s armed forces along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, killing four Azerbaijani soldiers.”

Armenian activist Galitsky fired back, writing “Azerbaijani armed forces began military operations on the border of the Republic of Armenia, deploying tanks, heavy artillery, and drones against civilian and military targets alike,” and describing the actions as “the most significant flare-up between the two countries since Azerbaijan’s invasion attempt in 2016.”Interestingly, both opinion pieces ran in the Los Angeles Times en Español.

At today’s protest in the capital, the crowd cheered various speakers who delivered passionate anti-Armenian invective. The thrust of the message seemed to be that Vladimir Putin is trying to secure for Russia a monopoly on providing Europe with natural gas. Many of the chants had to do with accusing Armenia, a close ally of Russia, of being “Putin’s Puppet.”

Senator Anthony Portantino has been a steadfast ally to his district’s sizable Armenian community. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Meanwhile, Turkey, which has been on the opposite side of Russia in proxy wars in Syria and Libya, has backed the Muslim-majority Azerbaijan and has blamed Armenia for the renewed violence.

Tensions between Turkey and Armenia have of course never been far below the boiling point. To this day, Turkey’s leaders downplay and even outright deny the fact of the genocide carried out by the Ottoman government, which from 1915-1923 murdered or expelled approximately 1.5 million Christian Armenians and approximately the same number of Greeks and Assyrians.

A far-off fight that’s not so far away

A hundred years later and thousands of miles away, those wounds are not quite scabbed over. And there are political ramifications at the statehouse.

Sen Anthony Portantino (D-25) whose district in the San Fernando valley is home to many Armenian Americans, came in for special anger from the Turkish and Azerbaijani partisans at the capital today. Portantino, who sits on the California-Armenian Committee, has left no doubt about which side he takes in the conflict. He has visited the Karabakh Region three times and has advocated for California to recognize Armenian-majority Artsakh as an independent country.

That advocacy has earned him the wrath of those on the other side of the conflict. Portantino’s name was featured prominently on the posters of the Sacramento protestors. One read, “Senator Portantino, Azerbaijani lives matter more than Armenian campaign donations.” But the senator’s support has also drawn appreciation from the state’s Armenian community.

Galitsky told the Globe, “Senator Portantino has been a forthright supporter of the Armenian community, with his State Senate district representing the highest concentration of Armenians in Los Angeles. Senator Portantino has also visited the Republic of Artsakh … which has resulted in Senator Portantino being placed on a blacklist, barring his entry to Azerbaijan.”

All politics is indeed local, even when it seems thousands of miles away.

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17 thoughts on “Armenians and Azerbaijanis fight it out in the Caucasus, and in California

  1. Azerbaijan started the aggression against Armenia first as usual. They have ISIS fighters from Syria fighting against the Armenians.

    1. Azerbaijan does not have any aims on that area. It is not reasonable for Azerbaijan to start clashes on that region, because all main oil and gas pipelines of Azerbaijan are located on that district. Definitely the aggression was started by Armenia to divert attention from the Karabakh conflict, involve military-political organizations, third parties in the conflict, damage the oil and gas pipelines, thereby and divert attention from internal problems in Armenia

      1. That’s a silly uneducated comment. That’s a fools tactic you said. Only a dictator can pull that off, spin it around as if the other side did it, that’s because he can fool his people as he controls the press and the narrative.
        Nothing else matters.. The fact is Azerbaijan is run by a dictator, a corrupt dictatorship who continues to deprives it’s people and fool them with false information using this as a tool for running his own agenda. Cannot be trusted.

      2. No, aggressions were started by the Azerbaijanis, as always. This is a continuation of the Armenia genocide. Anyone supporting the actions of the Azerbaijani is a supporter of terrorism.

    2. Stop spreading FAKE NEWS! ARTSAKH IS ARMENIA. RESEARCH THE ANCIEND, OLD AND MEDIEVAL HISTORY! azerbaijan has been created at the beginning of the 20th century by Lenin and Stalin and these lands were illegally given to azeri-tatars who committed Armenian genocide in shushi and Baku during 1919-1920-s. ARMENIANS build Baku and made it a prosperous city. After british came and forced Armenian businessmen MANTASHYAN and GYULBENKYAN out of oil industry. Every corner you dig on this lands you will find artifacts that proves Armenian, Christian presence! ARTSAKH is independent Armenian country with it’s all infrastructure whether you admit it or not! It’s not important for us -Armenians! We will liberate our lands from turkey and azerbaijan! ARMENIANS ALL OVER YHE WORLD ARE UNITED AND POWERFUL! WE WILL GET BACK OUR HISTORICAL TERRITORY FROM KILIKIA TO GANDZAK AND RESTORE THE JUSTICE! WHOEVER DON’T LIKE IT may protest!

  2. Through history the muslims in that area have tried to exterminate the Armenians. They carry this hate with them when they come to the US.

    1. Oh, really??) give me a break, dude..Your weak attempt to represent this particular conflict as “Muslim-Christianity” confrontation is nothing more than another provocation of the Armenian propaganda.. none believed into such fairytales a anymore) Or maybe you’d want to mention the bloody crusades initiated by western Christian powers against the orthodox Christian Byzantine empire and Islam world in the past?! go and read history properly before placing these provocative posts.. But not the fake history, which you are bullshitted by in the Armenian school propagandists, who obviously learned a lot from dr. Goebbels

      1. Azerbaijaini Patriot is only showing that he’s an ignorant, uneducated sympathizer of terrorists. The fact that he’s denying the Armenian genocide shows how much of a sheep that he is.

  3. The whole world recognizes Karabakh and other occupied regions (by Armenia) as legitimate and sovereign lands of Azerbaijan – this is the fact and you’d not be able to bring any valid argument against it. Armenia is the real aggressor. The aggressor appeased by Russians since 19th century when you Armenians were brought to Caucasus from Iran to become the Russian empire’s stronghold in Caucasus

    1. Mr Patriot, you are not doing your country reputation any justice. People in the outside world actually have freedom of speech and press, they have access to good information. People see through lies.
      It’s unfortunate it has been restricted in AZE.
      I bet you actually would believe gravity doesn’t exist if someone tells you that long enough.

      It’s like China copying USA and saying it’s there invention. People see through that. Armenians have been living continuously on the land for thousands of years, and never left. So what’s different? The thing is that if it was the reverse, Armenians would not make this dispute over it, as we are not constantly drilled with hatred.
      The very thing that you are against, is the very thing your nation did when it took on the land you currently live which was Persia and called it your own independent country. How bizarre.

      btw there is no new settlement that has occurred in the caucasus from Iran.the only new addition was separation of land from Iran that is now called Azerbaijan. You can ask your great grandparents.

    2. Soveriegn lands of Azerbaijan? Have you ever looked at historical atlases. Azerbaijan is not even on the map, whereas Armenia is. By the way, I have visited the many Armenian churches that go back hundreds of years before Azeris even showed up. No doubt, your goal is to destroy all Armenians and erase all vestiges of their ancient culture just like you did in Nackhichevan. Well, it is not going to happen this time. Armenians are not going to allow Turks to murder and dispossess them anymore.

  4. The whole world recognizes Karabakh and other occupied regions (by Armenia) as legitimate and sovereign lands of Azerbaijan – this is the fact and you’d not be able to bring any valid argument against it. Armenia is the real aggressor. The aggressor appeased by Russians since 19th century when you Armenians were brought to Caucasus from Iran to become the Russian empire’s stronghold in Caucasus

    1. The fact that you think Armenia is the real aggressor shows how uneducated that you are. This is a continuation of the Armenian genocide and if you support the action of the Azerbaijani then you support terrorism and genocide. End of story.

    2. Stop spreading FAKE NEWS! ARTSAKH IS ARMENIA. RESEARCH THE ANCIEND, OLD AND MEDIEVAL HISTORY! azerbaijan has been created at the beginning of the 20th century by Lenin and Stalin and these lands were illegally given to azeri-tatars who committed Armenian genocide in shushi and Baku during 1919-1920-s. ARMENIANS build Baku and made it a prosperous city. After british came and forced Armenian businessmen MANTASHYAN and GYULBENKYAN out of oil industry. Every corner you dig on this lands you will find artifacts that proves Armenian, Christian presence! ARTSAKH is independent Armenian country with it’s all infrastructure whether you admit it or not! It’s not important for us -Armenians! We will liberate our lands from turkey and azerbaijan! ARMENIANS ALL OVER YHE WORLD ARE UNITED AND POWERFUL! WE WILL GET BACK OUR HISTORICAL TERRITORY FROM KILIKIA TO GANDZAK AND RESTORE THE JUSTICE! WHOEVER DON’T LIKE IT may protest!

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