The Armenia and Azerbaijan Crisis Reaches UCSB

Courtesy of Yale Review of International Studies (YRIS)

Zoey Jia

National Beat Reporter

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

As tensions escalate in the longtime Azerbaijan conflict, around 10 UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students — organized by the UCSB Armenian Students Association (ASA) — gathered for their second rally to speak out towards their support of the Republic of Artsakh and Armenia on Oct. 24. 

Ania, an economics and accounting major and the treasurer of ASA, gave The Bottom Line insight on the protest: “Our group includes members of ASA and our allies … We placed posters, went through Isla Vista, and tried to bring awareness [about the aggression of the Azerbajiani government on Armenians] to the community.” 

The rally received attention from the community as people asked questions regarding the crisis and inquired about ways to lend a hand. Besides holding hand-written protest signs, the protesters started conversation with people passing by. “We want to get the message across through our words,” Ania said. 

A UCSB alumnus that has been working in ASA for four years participated in the rally as well saying, “It was heartwarming to see students with no connection to Armenia or ASA coming by, willing to know about what’s going on and get into the conversation.” 

The protesters were met with blank stares and uninformed questioning from some people in the community, who inquired about the reason for the protest, further raising protesters’ concerns for low news coverage surrounding the Armenian people and the crisis. 

The UCSB alumnus was disappointed in these people’s reactions. “There are students that have no idea how to react. They walked by while giggling, with no idea about the reasons why we protest, while our people face the genocide and extermination. We have friends and families on the frontline! These people’s actions can be a little frustrating for us.” 

The protest progressed free of conflict and all students who joined were required to wear masks and maintain social distance. 

“We are protesting for peace and defending ourselves from future genocide. With that, when we come to protest, it comes with pain and empathy,” Ania explained. “We want others to support us, but not create enemies. Our protests are peaceful because of our intentions.”

At the end of the interview with Ania, she also talked about ASA’s goals. “We are only a small community, we cannot get the exposure we need without the help of other people … I wish more people would join, and for the movement to reach from local communities to a more national audience. It really means a lot.” 

In order to plan for the rally and run it smoothly, ASA created a poll on its official Instagram page to determine availability for potential participants. Their official Instagram account, UCSB ASA, is used to communicate and send information to students and alumni who are willing to offer support. 

Marching through Isla Vista and down Del Playa, ASA held its first rally 10 days prior to the second. This initial rally was larger, however, and consisted of about 25 people. Because lots of Armenian students went back home to Los Angeles during the weekend, the second rally did not create an impact as strong as the first, which was held on Wednesday. 

“We made a lot of progress for the first rally because many people came out of their houses to watch and see what we were protesting about,” Ania said. 

To support the Armenian crisis, UCSB’s Associated Students Senate (AS) has adopted a resolution for Armenians in Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. Senator Esmeralda Quintero-Cubilian and Senator Ahura Nezhard introduced the resolution at an AS meeting on Oct 21. 

Before presenting the resolution, the two senators directly reached out to the UCSB Armenian community in order to properly represent them and to hear any concerns.

“I do believe we need to focus on what the Armenian community itself is dealing with. Even though there was a mention of it through this resolution, we took the first step to make it recognized,” Nezhard said. 

Besides providing background information on the 6 week long conflict, Esmeralda Quintero-Cubilian and Ahura Nezhard added a statement from Armenian students. 

“We took a lot of emotional tone from them … Rephrased their own words … I think further steps would require us [the AS Senate] to focus on the concerns that the Armenian population are dealing with, ” Nezhard said.