Locals raise awareness about deadly dispute between Armenia, Azerbaijan

People across Los Angeles are rallying to raise awareness in the United States about the deadly dispute unfolding between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The two countries' military forces are clashing over the Azerbaijani breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh.

Joe Krikorian, the founder of Code 3 Angels in Sierra Madre, is sending supplies to Armenia to help civilians and soldiers. The organization was founded in 2016, and Krikorian and his volunteers traveled to Armenia to train people in CPR and first aid and give them "updated skills on how to save a life."

"We started collecting supplies, medical supplies, and trauma supplies for our community and the soldiers," said Krikorian.

Now, the supplies are desperately needed following the mounting tension overseas.

"The citizens are out there rendering aid, helping the elderly out of the building, getting them under the hotels to the bomb shelters out there so we're just trying to get aid to them so they can help our brothers and sisters overseas," said Vaughn Gaboudian, an Instructor for Code 3 Angels.

The items are shipped through the Armenia Fund and distributed by the Armenian Relief Society.

Outside of the shipments, Armenians are also protesting in Los Angeles, hoping to raise awareness and get more media attention.

"We've been protesting all over the country to get this recognized nationally. You see people protesting because you can talk about any issue of human rights and if there's no recognition, it will go exactly that, unrecognized. We need to have people knowing what's going on, how many people are dying because it'll keep going if nobody sees what's happening to us. We hope for peace. All we want is peace," said a volunteer from Code 3 Angels.

The volunteer said the Armenians are trying to "defend themselves" after attacks from Azerbaijan.

"Artsakh is occupied by over 90 percent Armenians and this is a completely unprovoked attack by Azerbaijan. It has been disputed land but as I said, it is fully occupied by Armenians so these attacks are going to civilians, to people who have no part in this political game," she said.

00:07:36 we're just protecting ourselves and this war would not be happening if we weren't being attacked, we are only here to defend ourselves  

Arpi Krikorian, the wife of Joe Krikorian, and a volunteer for the Code 3 Angels, said the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan is decades-old and she remembers fighting for the cause when she was in high school.

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"I was speaking about this same issue back in 1988, making speeches and leading demonstrations as a 17 year old at that time. The same issue is still ongoing without any recognition internationally and I cant believe we're in 2020 in the age of social media, and we're still saying the same things, asking for the same peace, asking for the same recognition, and it's sad that we're here today. This is a human issue. It's not just an Armenian issue," said Arpi.

Arpi said she wants to see U.S leaders get involved.

"It's getting more and more serious every day, every hour and we need more attention from our senators, our representatives, from people who can actually help us bring a stop to what's happening, to the killings of our brothers and sisters in Armenia," said Arpi.

Ali Shirmohammadi, the owner of Heidar Baba, a restaurant in Pasadena, also believes the U.S needs to get involved.

"Historically, it's [Artsakh] part of Azerbaijan and internationally recognized to be part of Azerbaijan but was occupied by Armenia. The old story and the occupation became an issue again and the people of Azerbaijan want part of their country which is occupied, they want it back. The United States as well as Trump administration is silent. The US is involved in places that they have no business to be involved but in here, they have a military base in Azerbaijan, they have interests in Azerbaijan, they have interests in Armenia," he said.

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Nagorno-Karabakh was a designated autonomous region within Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. It claimed independence from Azerbaijan in 1991, about three months before the Soviet Union’s collapse. A full-scale war that broke out in 1992 killed an estimated 30,000 people.

By the time the war ended in 1994, Armenian forces not only held Nagorno-Karabakh itself but substantial areas outside the territory’s formal borders, including Madagiz, the village Azerbaijan claimed to have taken Saturday.