BY: DIANA VASQUEZ | @dsvasquezz
This summer, Cal Poly Pomona’s Armenian Student Association fundraised toward the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund in response to the overseas conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the bordering territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sept. 2 marked the 29th anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s, though there continue to be many disputes over the territory including the recent clashes in July, which prompted the Azeri to protest in the capital of Baku and call for war against Armenia.
The president of the Armenian Student Association, fourth year civil engineering student, Talar Galoustian said she keeps communication with presidential cohorts from other universities and through these conversations learned of the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund. The organization provides first aid kits, infrastructure upgrades and mental and physical rehabilitation to Armenian soldiers.
“I think we raised our total amount within 24 hours,” said Galoustian. These funds help the organization provide medical kits to soldiers in the field.
The club focuses on social issues and keeping Armenian culture alive through activism and education at CPP, according to Galoustian. ASA members encourage others to sign petitions, fundraise and spread awareness through their Instagram account.
The ASA would have normally celebrated the republic’s declaration with a festival during this time, but such a celebration was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ASA Treasurer Soseh Thomasian.
Reflecting on the overseas conflict, Soseh Thomasian, a second-year civil engineering student said, “Sometimes it does feel depressing or sad how there is some people who just don’t know Armenians, unless they know Kim Kardashian or any other celebrities…because there’s more to Armenians. Our ancestors and family members have gone through a lot for us to be where we are today.”
Thomasian visited Armenia and has seen firsthand the consequence of conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and how it affects families of fallen soldiers.
“We’ve met these people, or we’ve seen the situation that they are living in and how difficult it is for them,” said Thomasian
According to history professor Mahmood A. Ibrahim, whose areas of study include the Middle East and Islam, the border dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan dates back centuries to when the territory, then called the Transcaucasian Federation, was controlled by many empires until the beginning of the 20th Century.
It was in the early 1920s, that the Soviet Union created a federation of the three modern day regions of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The area was recognized as three socialist republics aimed to dissolve nationalities among Armenians and Turks and to spread socialism. Joseph Stalin created the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, but disregarded the area’s ethnically Armenian population.
“As a Palestinian man myself, I have suffered the same sort of redrawing of the maps and giving the territory to some other people who are outsiders. I lost my village, I lost my land, and I lost my country,” said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim added that during the collapse of the Soviet Union, ethnic Armenians in this territory declared their independence from Azerbaijan and sparked what is known as the Six Year War lasting from 1988 to 1994.
The overseas tension hit home for Talar M. Kilijian, a third-year industrial engineering student. Kilijian lives near the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School whose campus has been vandalized with hateful words.
“I’m in San Francisco right now and that school is down my street, literally, and I went there for like 12 years,” said Kilijian, “I was shocked that there were people with that kind of mindset.”
Kilijian is distance learning from the Bay Area but said that the ASA is a community at CPP that has helped her feel more at home for the three years she has been involved in the organization.
“The first club that I joined was the ASA because I really didn’t know anyone in Pomona, and I wanted to make friends,” said Kilijian. “It has helped me make better connections for sure.”
Students interested in joining the Armenian Student Association can email Galoustian at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ASA’s contact page at https://mybar.cpp.edu/organization/Hayer/roster.
Students who wish to learn more about the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic can email Ibrahim at email@example.com or visit https://www.cpp.edu/class/history/faculty/index.shtml