A group of more than 100 Armenian students, faculty, and members of the Los Angeles Armenian community, including representatives of the ANCA Western Region, on September 29 gathered at USC to protest the “Türkiye Conference” organized by USC Annenberg’s Master of Diplomacy program. The conference featured Turkey’s Ambassador, Murat Merçan, and Azerbaijan’s Consul General, Ramil Gurbanov, in a panel discussion about Turkey’s foreign policy. Shockingly, Azeri Consul General Gurbanov’s participation was undisclosed until the event’s commencement, leaving the Armenian attendees astonished and outraged.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, had joined in written demands by USC ASA, All-ASA, USC faculty members, the Pan Armenian Council and concerned members of the Armenian community, urging USC Annenberg to cancel the event. These requests were made in light of the purveyance of blatant genocidal rhetoric masked as a discussion of “foreign policy,” which has no place in diplomacy nor on an esteemed college campus.
“While we bear witness to the forced exodus of 120,000 Armenians from their ancestral homeland spanning thousands of years, after having endured more than 9 months of illegal blockade by the Government of Azerbaijan, followed by repeated attacks on civilians with Turkey’s full support, we condemn in the strongest of terms the Annenberg School’s choice to remain complicit in Turkey’s efforts to whitewash its reputation as a despotic and genocidal regime. Rather than ignoring the calls of your students, and the Armenian-American community of Los Angeles–amongst the largest in the world–we demand that the USC Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism immediately cancel Friday’s conference with the Turkish Ambassador, and issue a statement apologizing to the Armenian-American students and community at large and condemning the united effort by Turkey and Azerbaijan to carry out a Second Armenian Genocide,” stated the ANCA-WR’s letter sent in advance of the conference.
Yet despite the collective pleas from the Armenian community, USC Annenberg proceeded with the event, underlining its commitment to the “freedom of expression” in a written response to the ANCA-WR from USC President Carol Folt, even though USC Annenberg’s own mission statement states: “The right to free communication carries with it the responsibility to respect the dignity of others, and this must be recognized as irreversible.”
As the ANCA-WR letter highlighted, “By organizing this event, we trust that the organizers understand the immense contempt that their chosen speaker–and the regime that he represents–have expressed toward the Armenian People, and urge that the USC Annenberg School refrain from contributing to the ongoing violation of the rights and dignities of the indigenous people of Artsakh, and to the Armenian Nation as a whole.”
This conference occurred a mere ten days after Azerbaijan initiated a brutal military assault on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), following a nine-month illegal humanitarian blockade that left 120,000 Armenian men, women, and children in the grips of malnourishment and starvation. As it stands, Azerbaijan’s ongoing genocidal campaign, which is actively supported by Turkey’s foreign policy doctrine of “one nation, two states,” has resulted in the forced exodus of approximately 100,000 Armenians from Artsakh into the Republic of Armenia, in addition to causing hundreds of deaths and injuries, among them civilians including children.
Despite the fact that their protest was grounded in the justifiable objection to both the Turkish and Azerbaijani regimes’ perpetration of genocide and genocide denial, several Armenian students were forcibly removed from the conference once the demonstration began. From the outside, the chants of “1915 never again– it’s happening again” and “genocidal policy has no place in diplomacy” grew louder and louder, spanning for a duration of over six tireless hours, resulting in physical altercations between protesters and police.
ANCA-WR urges USC Annenberg to uphold ethical responsibility and issue a statement of apology for its offensive platforming of the Turkish Ambassador and the Azerbaijani Consul General. Additionally, the ANCA-WR demands USC Annenberg to publicly recognize and condemn the Second Armenian Genocide, and to rightfully acknowledge Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s roles as aggressors in this dark chapter of Armenian history.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.