Where do I begin? How do I write about Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) and Armenia? How do I write about the pain I have for a place I came to love? I am not a native Karabaghtzi, but I attached myself to every inch of that place with its green undulating hills and mountains, its waterfalls and pastures, its people of the cities and villages. I made them mine. I became part of it all.
So how do I write about the years of pain suffered, the violence encroached, revisiting the memories experienced by mothers and fathers so vividly tattooed on my mind? And then how do I explain my unusual love for this place with its lingering magic that has kept me and so many others clinging to her earth and refusing to abandon it? How do I put all that and the layers of courage and hope and commitment of the people into a few paragraphs? How do I encapsulate the loyalty built on faith for a better future and stand in solidarity with those who are committed to keeping the place alive? How? Truth be told, I can’t.
My writing is rooted in anger with a furious defense of a collective humanity of an Armenian people who have had more than their share of inhumanity shoved down their throats. Attack after attack, explosion after explosion, and the world watches with indifference. They tut-tut at best while supplying more weapons to the aggressor. A shop, owned by a villager, is blown up. Years of labor diminished in a nanosecond. Trees are uprooted, khachkars (crosses) destroyed, whole villages, towns and portions of cities in ruin, churches and monasteries decimated, schools and hospitals wrecked, factories toppled. But no matter how hard they try to uproot traces of centuries of Armenian blood, sweat and toil from the land, they cannot eliminate homeland, heritage and culture from the heart and soul of this Armenian. I’m locked into the situation, consumed by it. I carry it in me and with me.
The overriding anger, which accompanies the underlying pain, is overwhelming because Armenians are being crushed and pulled and pushed from all sides, and their human right to live peacefully within their compromised borders is being intentionally targeted. And what I struggle with most is the growing list of names of young men and women, civilians and children who have been killed since September 27 when the Azeri’s attacked Karabagh. I feel their senseless deaths, everyday, like fresh raw open gashes that sting with an intense burn. Salt on a wound.
For those who are outside and indifferently looking in, they see only another war and do not understand the clear line between good and evil. But for Armenians, we know differently. We have seen evil in the eye; we have come face to face with it and have felt its devilry 105 years ago with a failed Genocide by Ottoman Turkey to obliterate the Armenians. Now, Turkish tyrant Erdogan who shoulders Azerbaijan with hired jihadists, is determined to finish what was started. There is no argument under the sun that can justify the unspeakable savagery. Yet the world watches. The world knows. The world chooses to ignore. It is easier to ignore injustice and look the other way than to have courage and act against it.
But for this Armenian, and for the Karabaghtzi in all of us, every gunshot, every explosion, every battle reasserts the profound intensity of commitment and community, which give us the strength to continue. We have no more illusions about bravery and stoicism and how much we can stand and for how long. We are a people with a cavernous sense of community and solidarity spread throughout the globe on which to bank. We know how to walk a tightrope stretched across an abyss of indifferent nations. We speak the language of experience. We love, we are creators and builders, our work is our art, we have faith, we live. And if we seek justice for the past and raise our voices to a roar to trigger action; if we are relentlessly stubborn in our fight for our survival; if we are unforgiving for the present with an overriding anger, it is because anger is our gift. It is the expression of our humanity, a testimony of love and a sign of life.
I shall hold on to my gift.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” (Elie Wiesel)