Gregory Karp | The Poly Post

CPP’s Armenian community horrified by mass exodus of Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, following Azerbaijani military attack

By Gregory Karp, Oct. 16, 2023

By Monday, Oct. 2, nearly all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population abandoned their home after Azerbaijani forces attacked and ordered the region’s militants to disarm, according to the Armenian government.   

Now, feelings of shock and disbelief pour over Cal Poly Pomona’s Armenian Students Association as students ask for the university to acknowledge the conflict in a statement of condemnation toward Azerbaijan.  

During their third club meeting of the semester, ASA members created signs, flyers and posters Sept. 26 to help spread awareness about the loss of Artsakh’s Armenian population. Students dipped the palms of their hands in red, blue and orange splotches of paint and pressed them against posters, replicating Armenia’s national flag.  

The multicolored handprints were then paired with messages, such as, Genocide Denied, Is Genocide Repeated, Artsakh: War, Is & Will Remain Armenian, and Justice for Artsakh.   

The ASA followed up their last club meeting with a student protest, held during UHour Tuesday, Oct, 10 in front of the University Library. During the one-hour protest, more than a hundred individuals passed by the demonstrating students on their way to their next destination — receiving pamphlets with a QR code for the Armenian National Committee of America that lists how to contact local legislators, in order to send emergency aid to Artsakh.    

“I’d love to see Cal Poly Pomona make a statement of condemnation for the ethnic cleansing that has been going on in Artsakh,” said computer science student and ASA member Sarkis Gafafyan. “They released a statement during the 44-day war, and I believe a statement is appropriate now for students to be aware of the situation.” 

Gafafyan is one of 80 students in the ASA, a community of Cal Poly Pomona students who host various social, cultural and educational events to promote student appreciation of Armenian culture. 

Azeri forces entered Nagorno-Karabakh Sept. 19 for a military offensive against outnumbered Armenian forces, forcing Armenian withdrawal within 24 hours 

Following the offensive, a fuel depot explosion shook the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh Monday, Sept. 25, wounding more than 200 people in the blast. The explosion occurred as ethnic Armenians rushed to leave the region, lining up at the depot to refuel their cars and escape the military offensive.  

Over 100,000 Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, following Azerbaijani military offensive | Image Courtesy of Reuters

An estimated 100,514 of the region’s 120,000 population have crossed into Armenia by bus, completing a weeklong exodus of ethnic Armenians into the Republic of Armenia.  

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan condemned the exodus as an act of ethnic cleansing and separating people from their homeland. The prime minister is tasked to provide the displaced population with housing, medical care and jobs amid financial and logistical issues in Armenia.  

“Many people don’t even know what is going on, many people don’t even know that the country of Armenia exists, despite it having a rich history and being one of the oldest countries on the planet,” said architecture student and ASA member Hagop Kevorkian. “Armenians want to live in peace and just not have to succumb to external forces that hate us beyond belief, for no other reason than the fact that we’re Armenian.” 

Following Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in 2020, Cal Poly Pomona’s ASI Board of Directors approved a senate resolution drafted by the ASA, prompting university administration to release a statement in support of Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.   

In light of Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Artsakh, the 1915-1920 Armenian  

Genocide is a haunting reminder for CPP’s Armenian community to never forget their history.    

 CPP finance Professor and ASA Advisor Roman Gulagian reveals a photo of his grandfather, a genocide survivor who walked from the modern city of Kayseri to Aleppo in a 400-mile march, at 10-years-old. 

“It’s something that we can’t forget, people that have their ancestors as genocide survivors,” said Gulagian. “It’s super special to us, because we have a connection with it, and we don’t want it to happen again.” 

 The mass exodus of Artsakh’s ethnic Armenians from their ancestral lands, is a migration paved in historic violence from Azerbaijan, leaving Armenians to pick up the pieces. 

“I don’t think that Azerbaijan has learned that Armenia has survived thousands of years of history, said Gafafyan. “You can take land from us, you can take our homes and cattle away, but you’ll never be able to take our knowledge away you’ll never take our culture.”  

To donate to Artsakh’s refugees, visit the Armenia fund. 

Feature Image by Gregory Karp 

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