SUBMISSION: I came face-to-face with death on September 13, 2022

This piece and eye-witness account was submitted by Maya Dilanian, a graduating third-year at UCSD.

I came face-to-face with death on September 13, 2022. But so did the Armenian people.

This is our story. A story that began with the Armenian genocide led by the Ottoman Turks in 1915, and continues with Azerbaijan’s continued efforts to ethnically cleanse the Armenian people from the face of the Earth.

My family and I were in Jermuk, Armenia — a popular tourist city — when we were awoken at 12:05 a.m. by the sound of bombs exploding and the feeling of the building shaking. Azerbaijan was attacking Armenia. We quickly grabbed our phones and passports and ran toward the basement in order to seek safety. Waiting in the basement was torture — children crying, adults repeatedly scouring the internet for any news or updates on the ongoing attacks, American tourists calling the United States Embassy located in the capital city of Yerevan, and me, helplessly accepting that I may no longer be on this Earth anymore.

And then, the news broke. Armenian news outlets began reporting. But who was listening?

At 5:30 a.m., after torturously waiting in the basement, we decided to flee. The mountains near us were engulfed in flames, emitting the smell of burning land, homes, and bodies. Soldiers and civilian’s dead bodies. Dozens of military vehicles were driving up the mountain rushing to protect Armenian lands from this unprovoked attack. I was suddenly overcome with the feeling of guilt. Guilt for not being able to go help protect Armenian men who are 18, 19, 20 years old, having their lives cut short at the hands of violence and brutality by those who seek to erase the Armenian race.

I am writing this and reliving the trauma and fear I faced not long ago, because I am compelled to share what is happening in order for my fellow community members and humanity as a whole, to listen and be informed of what is taking place in Armenia. There is a heavy weight of the generational trauma I have carried for the past 20 years growing up in the shadow and continued pain of the Armenian genocide and its continued denial by Turkey weighing on my shoulders. This generational trauma that I previously experienced while reading the news or history books was suddenly right in front of me. This trauma personified itself, taking the form of an individual running toward me, leaving me no space in which I could escape. I felt trapped. The Armenian people are trapped. Civilian infrastructures — homes, hotels, hospitals, and roads — are being shattered to pieces. These are not military positions; they are human lives.

But I had the luxury of taking a flight back home to California where I was able to sleep comfortably without fear. I have the luxury of going to the doctor’s office without fear. I have the luxury of driving down the road without fear. The Armenian people do not have this luxury. They live under constant threat of attack. They live under constant threat of sudden death. That is what Azerbaijan wants: to elicit fear and then to kill. This is what Azerbaijan is currently doing.

Armenian voices must be heard. They must be heard for Shavarsh Margaryan, who was taken captive and killed by Azerbaijani forces. They must be heard for Anush Apetyan, a female Armenian soldier who was mutilated, dismembered, and subsequently raped and recorded by Azerbaijani forces. They must be heard for the countless Armenian lives that were taken through such inhumane war crimes. It is not just Shavarsh Margaryan or Anush Apetyan. It is the Armenian people’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins who seek to live in peace but are instead being haunted and terrorized.

Silence and ignorance are no longer an option. There must be urgent action in supporting peace, dignity, sovereignty, and human rights. Our collective humanity demands that we act because silence equals complicity in allowing evil to act with impunity. Amplify Armenian voices. Call for an end to U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan and demand recognition and reparations of the Armenian genocide from Turkey. Continue to be informed through news outlets such as Zartonk Media and The Armenian Report, who report consistent updates on these ongoing atrocities in Armenia. Amplify them for those in Armenia who are currently not able to speak, those who are never able to speak again, and those who are doing everything in their power to be heard but are not.

Photo by Edgar Torabyan on Unsplash

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