Tag: StopAzerbaijan

09 Nov 2020

Humans of Artsakh: Aida M.

Aida M, a seventeen-year-old girl, is an 11th grader at Vitali Jhangiryan High School in Stepanakert, Artsakh. On the morning of September 27, 2020, at approximately 7:15 am, Aida was speaking to her father and the two were discussing sports as she was getting ready to begin her school assignments, when suddenly they heard the noise of bombing. The first hour of the bombing she was unable to contact or speak with her mother, as she had been in a gym during the attack. Once her mother returned, they went to the shelters seeking safety from the bombing. She felt safer there, although the electricity was inconsistent. The bombing in her neighborhood was constant. Her neighbor had been injured and was hospitalized. The windows and balconies of her family’s apartment were destroyed and the houses in front theirs had completely disappeared. She states “I can’t remember exactly how many times we heard sirens warning of bombs. It was very often.”  She never saw the full extent of damage to her hometown, as the next day her parents decided to send Aida and her siblings to Yerevan for safety.

Aida, along with her brother Aren (16) and her sister Sophia (19) are staying in a family home in the Yerevan while her parents remain in Stepanakert. Her sister, Sophia has been very frightened since she was sleeping when the bombing noise began and it terrified her. While in Yerevan Aida has been volunteering her time to help any way. Sadly, Aida’s grandfather had passed away a few days after the war began and her family arrived in Yerevan to organize his funeral, after which her parents went back home to Stepanakert. Aida is worried for her parents. Her father had been driving in their hometown when a bomb exploded nearby, and although they lost the family car, thankfully her father survived. When Aida speaks to her parents, they tell her that everything will be okay. Aida wants nothing more than to go back home, stating, “I miss my room, I miss my home, I miss my school, I miss my Artsakh.” Aida is ambitious and has many goals she wants to accomplish. She says, “my only dream is peace. But I also want to become a good lawyer and maybe I’ll be able to show the world the REAL JUSTICE and really protect human’s rights.”

Photographs depict the first day of the attacks, in front of her family’s apartment and her family’s car

 

07 Nov 2020

Humans of Artsakh: Narine J.

Entry 2

I am doing okay, as the days pass quite fast, busy, and packed. I don’t seem to lack anything I need. I am staying in Armenia for another month, and then I will decide what my next step will be. 

Looking in the faces of the people in Armenia, you cannot help but notice the emotions of sadness, fear, deep concern, sense of being alone, helplessness, and also a strong sense of ‘we have got to win,’ there being no other option, and we have got to defend ourselves, because there is no other option. There is a tornado in people’s minds, including mine, which is actively being fueled by the pull of the news and social media exposure, to the point where I have made it a point to stay away as much as possible, so that I can use my energy more constructively, and not allow it to leak. 

Today, I think, every individual is winning if they can cultivate and maintain a tranquil mind, amidst the chaos – while they do what they need and can do – because if we lose that, we lose everything. I am also coming across people in Armenia, here and there, who are giving in to misinterpretations of the spiritual principle of “non-violence” or “non-harm” to condemn war for both parties, thus making the unforgivable error of viewing self-defense as an act of violence. Of course, I would always suggest those people to wave their flag of peace and non-violence not from their homes, but to take it right to the front-line and wave it in front of the enemy soldiers, and then see what happens. Also, I would ask them, “what would you do if it was your mother, your father and brother, being slaughtered in front of your eyes? Would you go to the perpetrator and wave a flag of peace OR grab the nearest tool or weapon to defend them?

I can see Masis from my window, Masis is so grounded and calm, yet it has seen countless atrocities and injustice over the centuries… This too shall pass, Masis thinks…

People talk so much, governments too, yet there is no substantial ACTION coming from them. We have to rely on ourselves, as a collective. 

I cherish instances of hope where I come across someone who is not afraid to name things as they are, who has morals and can speak the truth unafraid, without being “politically correct” or selling their mother to money. In therapy there is a wonderful saying that goes: “Trust the behavior, not the words!”

This is all that came to mind now. 

05 Nov 2020

Humans of Artsakh: Narine J.

Entry 1

I am safe and well. waking up three days a week at night to do my classes on zoom, and then somewhat recovering from sleepiness during the day. Also, my meditation teacher and I have been reaching out to those interested in meditation and we were pleasantly surprised to find people who are genuinely interested; especially now, people are searching for healthy and sustainable ways to deal with their pain, and the external turmoil we are exposed to. My teacher and I are working on translating key content and literature on meditation from English into Armenian, making this process even more meaningful and effective. 

It happened so that my meditation teacher, who is also a licensed psychotherapist from CA, started seeing clients here, and we have already had a number of people from Artsakh who are now in Yerevan, come for sessions! Every time they leave the session I can see the difference… It’s as if I am in training, learning from my mentor/teacher, as I continue my MA remotely to officially start working as a psychotherapist (MFT) once I graduate in May.

29 Oct 2020

Humans of Artsakh: Hasmik Grigoyan

On October 5, 2020, Hasmik Grigoyan, a sixty-two year old woman, fled Stepanakert with her five grandchildren, leaving behind the rest of her family, including two sons, a daughter, and their spouses, as well as her own husband. She had not heard from them for the last two days. “Most of the time, they don’t call but when they message ‘haghtelu enk,’ [Armenian for we are going to win], I figure they are O.K” she says.  Her two sons and son in law are in the military, serving on the front lines. “Don’t ask anyone what their husband does, they are all fighters” she says.  She states she’s never seen anything like this, her house, which they built less than thirty years ago, is leveled to the ground. 

Mrs. Hasmik symbolizes the strong love that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have for their homeland. She states that within thirty minutes of the ceasefire, she will return home. Adding “although here, I am staying with my relatives, I was born in Nagorno-Karabakh and I am going to die on my land.”

She was one of the few optimists in the group of women who had come to receive assistance from Orran. Orran, meaning “haven” in Armenian, is a humanitarian organization established and run by Armine Hovanissian and her husband Raffi Hovanisian. Many women and children, like Mrs. Hasmik and her grandchildren, sought refuge at Orran. Orran’s initial mission of supporting local at risk youth with food, shelter, and education, quickly expanded to include emergency assistance for the vulnerable displaced families fleeing their homes in Artsakh for safety in Yerevan. When Susanna, an Orran team member said “lokh lava linelu,”[‘all will be good’ in the dialect of Nagorno-Karabakh]. Mrs. Hasmik started crying, saying, “it is the first time that it is not the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the people of Armenia who are saying lokh lava linelu.”

The children were running around happy and got happier when Orran’s staff asked them to choose among some toys. The boys grabbed the water guns and said this is how we are going to defend our homeland. As Mrs. Hasmik was ready to leave, she received a phone call that her husband’s nephew was just killed. Mrs. Hasmik was shattered.

(photos are of two of Hasmik’s five grandchildren)

 

 

25 Oct 2020

Orran: Lending Emergency Humanitarian Aid for Thousands Displaced by War

On a Mission

Having seen many children begging on the streets of Armenia, suffering from the lack of infrastructure during the infancy of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, including no electricity or running water, Armine Hovannisian and her husband Raffi Hovannisian established an organization in 2000 to lend a helping hand. Orran, meaning “haven” in Armenian, began with a single center with 16 children, but within six months, it grew to embrace more than 26 at-risk elderly and 40 socially vulnerable children, some of whom were orphans.

Orran built clean and comfortable facilities for the children to feel welcome. The mission was to provide a daily hot meal, academic assistance, medical and psychological assistance, social services, vocational training, and cultural enrichment. Orran’s goal was to divert vulnerable children from the streets and engage them in academic, cultural, and extra-curricular activities. Various trades were taught to develop vulnerable children’s interests and talents toward a working career, including, theater, drama, woodshop, and pottery. Orran not only helped families in crisis, but also fought the concept of beggar children as the principal breadwinners of their families. The lonely and needy elderly were also cared for to prevent the spread of destitution and begging among Armenia’s children and elderly. Orran’s small project had grown from 16 children in 2000 to supporting approximately 400 people in Vanadzor and Yerevan before the current war.

On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, started an outright attack on Artsakh. Days after the initial attack it became clear that this attack was different from the region’s conflict of the early 1990’s. This time Azerbaijan is directly targeting cities and civilian homes with sophisticated weapons provided by Turkey, forcing the strong people of Artsakh to flee abruptly, with no belongings or documentation, from the constant bombardment of their homes and head to Yerevan for safety. At the time of this interview, a rough estimate of approximately 60,000 displaced people had been accounted for. Mothers with their children were arriving to the city, giving rise to a very urgent need to supply food, clothing and shelter.

Orran knew its mission must expand to provide nutritious meals and snacks for the displaced children as well as continuing to assist the local at risk children of Yerevan. After Orran made an announcement for families, hundreds of children arrived at the centers. In the first week of the war, Orran provided 200 meals to children, with approximately 400 meals anticipated in the upcoming week. Hundreds of food meal packages became needed to provide daily assistance to the displaced families.

Armine notes, a displaced young mother who had been given a vacant apartment to use as temporary shelter, had resorted to taking off the drapes to wrap her babies in for warmth through the night as there had been no blankets in the empty apartment. It became clear that it was of utmost urgency that Orran’s next project was to provide warm winter clothing, shoes, and blankets to the families as the cold winter season nears.

Many who fled their homes, not only left their belongings behind, but also left their fathers, husbands, and brothers fighting on the frontlines. They arrived in Yerevan in a state of fear and anxiety. A commonplace sight is worried women who cannot stop crying to speak full coherent sentences to Orran’s staff and children who are so traumatized by the bombing of their homes that they cannot sleep with the sound of thunderstorms, thinking they are bombs. Psychological assistance has been also requested to assist the women and children in dealing with this trauma. 

The future of these families is uncertain. They do not know what will happen, if and when they will be able to go back to their homes or whether they even have homes to go back to. The families of Artsakh are strong willed and hopeful, stating that the minute a ceasefire is reached, they will be returning home as soon as possible. The unfortunate reality, however, is that even when a ceasefire is achieved, there are unexploded bombs all over Artsakh, a further obstacle in the way of families returning back home immediately.

Orran is currently a haven for thousands of the most vulnerable people. The needs of people are growing and Orran’s original mission is expanding. In order to remain a refuge for the families, Orran is currently seeking donations to be able to extend the support, provide more food, more shelter, clothing and provide assistance in the upcoming cold winter. With increased funding Orran will be able to provide 800 meals and necessities to the families in need. Those interested in becoming donors may make monetary donations online by going to the website or by sending a check to Orran, each of whom will receive a personal letter of gratitude from Armine herself.  Furthermore, subscribing to the Orran mailing list ensures being updated with reports and photographs of the humanitarian projects underway.

 

Armine Hovannisian – ORRAN

“What is happening in Armenia now is very much reflective of genocidal stories. We grew up hearing of and reading stories of the genocide. We always wondered how the world stayed quiet. Now, in this contemporary and modern world it is unbelievable what is happening. I am glad that we, as a community, are coming together and putting forth strong efforts to help, but we can do more. More than ever this is the time to do it.”

 

Armine Hovannisian’s Story:

Armine Hovannisian was born in Armenia, and moved with her family to the United States as a young child. She holds a B.A. in Diplomacy and World Affairs from Occidental College, and a Juris Doctorate degree from University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law. She was a practicing civil litigator in Los Angeles prior to moving to Armenia with her husband and their children. Before assuming her current post as Executive Director of Junior Achievement of Armenia, Mrs. Hovannisian was the Director of Project Hope. Armine and her husband Raffi Hovannisian are the parents of five children. Mrs. Hovannisian currently serves as the Chairman of the Orran Board of Directors and looks over the daily operations at the centers.

 

 

How to contribute to Orran:

Established in 2000 in Los Angeles, California, is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, youth service organization. Visit http://www.orran.am/ for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Oct 2020

Humans of Artsakh: The War Diaries by Narine Karapetian (35)

Entry #1
“These days it’s hard to look back and reconsider what happened. Just some pieces of imagery of the early events come out when seeing or listening to the dates on which it all started. No time to rethink and surrender to emotions. Only emotionless accounts of what we went through.
Woke up from the loud sound of a blast. “A damn blast for laying the foundation of new houses at a construction site” crossed my mind. Hardly any warning beforehand that those blasts were going to be intensified. Undoubtedly, we woke up to the war we had feared to resume since it ended in 2016. Then we run to the basements not knowing for sure what would be further. At this moment I loved all my neighbours much more for collecting themselves without any panic… even children followed instructions properly. The only concern we had was whether the enemy had got through the line of contact and was approaching inland Stepanakert or it was just long-range missiles from the Azeri side. No one knew. But we couldn’t get discouraged.”
Entry #2
“We started anxiously and patiently waiting for a statement by the state authorities. But before that, we got engaged in making the basement comfortable for kids and the elderly. My phone was discharged so I managed to grab my camera when rushing out of the house. I took some photos. Life shows that nowadays we can’t dispense with proofs against the fake news hailstorm. I clearly realized that when dressing up my half-asleep kids. Oh, God, I didn’t know I was that prepared not only for physical self-defense but also for anticipated media attacks. All I wished for at the moment was my voice to be heard and not to be left alone. So, I went upstairs, charged my phone (till around 3%), and wrote that we were ok in bomb shelters (actually it was a car parking with no living conditions but the blasts primed me to use bomb shelter). Further, I remember my friend and I go upstairs and back under the air-raid warning sirens and in between random info on the bombarded military units of the Defense Army of Artsakh, primarily Air-defense ones. Drones roamed the sky above us. We assumed that their objective was to freely hit settlements later by military aircraft (the most intimidating thing we experienced in the 1991-1994 Artsakh war). Later the news about shooting down of several drones by the Artsakh Air-Defense cheered us up. We felt safe. Even an anecdote was made up in this regard:
Armenia appeals to Israel demanding a percentage of drone sales.
Why? – they ask.
Because we ensure a large enough market for you.”
Entry #3
“I feel overwhelmed today. A lot of familiar young men perished. I can’t find the words, place them in the right order to make a sentence. I just returned from a memorial service for a 19 y/o soldier. No one cried. Parents were just sitting next to the coffin and staring. Devastating. I think they feel grateful they have received their son’s full corpse and not his fragmented body parts. I think they feel grateful they are able to say a decent goodbye.”

(children playing in the bunkers as bombs hit her hometown like a hailstorm)

09 Oct 2020

Here is Armen Hagopjanian, a surgeon from Los Angeles who traveled to Artsakh less than a week after the initial attacks on the region began. Dr. Hagopjanian has been serving our heroes and the people of Artsakh since his arrival. Thank you for your service sir!

Posted by Armen Hagopjanian on Wednesday, October 7, 2020