Our Response to Azeri Hate Crimes, Vandalism, and Attacks on Peaceful Protestors

Originally published on July 27, 2020 on Zoravik’s Facebook page
(Updated: August 2, 2020)

Across the Armenian diaspora — from Russia, Ukraine, and Germany, to San Francisco and Los Angeles — we are witnessing extremely troubling, coordinated, and likely state-sponsored acts of Armenophobia by Azeris and Turks. In the wake of fighting resulting from Azerbaijan’s July 2020 military offensive against Armenia, the hate crimes and hate speech are numerous and proliferating each day. They include the following:

The Cambridge protest, which took the commendable form of a peaceful and creative flash mob, was interrupted by Azeri provocateurs making the Grey Wolves salute and reportedly carrying brass knuckles. They brandished the insignia of that far-right movement, the Turkish equivalent to the KKK; such insignia have also appeared at other counter-protests.

As a banner recently hung from a Boston, MA bridge read: “Azerbaijan wants war. Armenia wants peace.” While we wholeheartedly agree with those calling for peace and instructing Armenians in the diaspora not to engage with Azeri and Turkish provocations, we must underline a crucial difference: though some individual Armenians have retaliated against violence or — in a move we find unacceptable — may even have initiated violence, their actions were not encouraged or condoned by Armenian leaders. The opposite is true for Azeris: their violent actions are — as bellicose state rhetoric and recent history demonstrate — very likely encouraged and supported by Azeri and Turkish leaders.

We call for peace, but we must also avoid false equivalencies: anti-Armenian racism and constant, worldwide violence are deeply disturbing precisely because they are actively encouraged, stoked, and even rewarded by Azeri and Turkish leaders — as we saw in 2012 with the Azeri axe-murderer of Armenian Army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan who was welcomed as a “hero” upon his return to Azerbaijan.

Zoravik condemns these attacks targeting Armenian individuals and institutions across the globe. Our collective demands that all those responsible for these heinous acts of violence be brought to justice. We call on the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey to immediately stop instigating campaigns of Armenophobia. And we urge the international community to condemn this global campaign of violence, hate, and harassment.

Finally, to our sisters and brothers across the world — especially the most vulnerable, who live in majority Azeri and Turkish communities — please remain peaceful but vigilant. We are with you.

Zoravik (“in solidarity”) is an Armenian activist collective that promotes new avenues for grassroots and political organizing for progressives