BY SOSÉ HOVANNISIAN
On the last night of AYF Camp in the summer of 2016, all of Director Moushig Andonian’s campers locked arms with one another in an emotional singing of Arabo Ispiryan’s “Bid Bashdbanem” (I must defend). Armenian juniors as young as 8 shared tears and heartfelt emotions as they sang in one large and unbreakable circle.
Today more than ever, I understand the depth of the lyrics and how they aren’t just words in a songbook. Rather, they represent the true grit, spirit, and resolve of our beloved soldiers and other Gharabaghtsis. Those very lyrics are being played out on the battlefields of Hadrut, Martuni, and other regions of our ancestral lands. We sang “Bid Bashdbanem” then, and today those brave young men and women stand ready at every moment to give their lives to protect what is rightfully theirs and ours.
Thousands of miles removed, we in the diaspora keep informed of the latest news from the front lines; we donate; we sign petitions. But then what? At the end of the day, we sleep in our comfortable beds, enjoy our food, and busy ourselves with our daily routines. Yes, we hurt and pray for our brothers and sisters, and do occasional good deeds to help the cause, but that only goes so far.
So I write this to say that the time is now to break through and do even more to make a real and tangible change. We can’t let up. We must act now.
Without the Diaspora’s help, our country will not pull through. Like more than 150,000 Armenians chanted on the streets of LA last week, յաղթելու ենք։ But in order to make these chants our reality, we must do more.
For the past three weeks, my friends and I have volunteered at Armenia Fund, fielding hundreds of phone calls from donors. This has been a very rewarding experience, and we’ll continue to devote as much time as possible to this cause. Though we receive hundreds of calls a day, the best, in my opinion, are those from the East Coast. Picking up a phone call from Tenafly, New Jersey or Hartford, Connecticut reminds me that our Armenian footprint is wide and deep in this country. The other day, I answered a call for a donation from a Massachusetts Armenian, and the call turned into a conversation about all of the efforts the East Coast Armenian community is making, from rallying at Heritage Park in Boston to shutting down the I-95 in Philadelphia. It feels good to know that Armenians near and far are doing their part. But we can do more.
My school, Holy Martyrs Ferrahian, organized a supply drive with Code3Angels, successfully arranged a car-wash, sold hundreds of Artsakh T-shirts, and is now working on a “manti fundraiser” to add to the $50,000+ the school already has collected for Artsakh. But we all can do more.
Elsewhere, Armenians continue to raise funds, some by selling handmade jewelry, homemade harissa, and baked goods. I encourage all business owners to take part in this movement of sending their proceeds to the Armenia Fund, as done by Hawaiian Hot Chicken and Raffi’s Place. But we can do more.
The ANCA, which has always been a frontrunner in providing resources for the Armenian community in America, has released several petitions for us to sign. Though you may not find them effective at first, it’s imperative to sign not one, but all of these petitions, become a rapid responder, and always be active for our homeland. We can still do more.
As a young student, I always wondered if the genocide would have happened if social media existed in 1915. And now the answer is clear to me: Yes. Despite our efforts to undermine Azeri and Turkish lies and propaganda as well as one-sided media coverage, and notwithstanding our pleas for assistance and peace, the murders and other atrocities continue in Artsakh.
We’ve grown up singing Hayer Miatsek, believing one day we’ll have the power to take back our lands from the Turks. But how will we reach that point if we are currently witnessing history repeat itself and not taking action? We sing Mer Hayrenik, pledge Hay Em Yes, and pray the Hayr Mer. Is Artsakh exempt from these? Do they not belong to Artsakh as much as they do Armenia?
Artsakh has been Armenian land since the days of the Urartu Kingdom. Take a look at its flag, for one. The white zig-zag pattern symbolizes two things: the region’s mountains, hence Լեռնային Արցախ, and the separation from the rest of the motherland. That white section leaves the puzzle incomplete as the two lands seek to unite. It is in our hands to make their union a reality. But to do so, we must do more.
In the end, it’s your centuries of history on the line. It is up to you to stand up and say “Bid Bashdbanem.” It’s up to you to continuously be active at protests, spread awareness on social media to your non-Armenian peers, and donate. While our brothers and sisters are giving their blood and lives for Artsakh, the least we can do is Do More!
Sosé Hovannisian is a senior at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and an intern at Asbarez.