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  • Writer's pictureConny Chavez

Armenian Student Association seeks ASI denouncement of Azerbaijan’s actions, university solidarity

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Cal Poly Pomona’s Armenian Student Association presented a resolution to the ASI Board of Directors during its Nov. 5 meeting, seeking ASI’s formal denouncement of Azerbaijan’s actions and calling for the university to release a formal statement of solidarity for campus community members affected by the conflict.

“It hurts us a lot to watch our people have a genocide committed against them and watch the world stand idly by and turn a blind eye,” expressed Alina Der Bedrossian, second-year biology student and ASA member. “We’re hoping for our school and the whole CSU system to not only condemn the actions of Azerbaijan, but to show support and solidarity for the Armenian students, so we don’t feel as lonely as we do.”

Armenian Genocide Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia. Armenia’s official memorial built in 1967 on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd. (Courtesy of Amir Kh)

The resolution calls for ASI to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a republic. It condemns the cruel actions of Azeri forces alongside the Turkish government as they use kamikaze drones to kill Armenian civilians. As written in the resolution, ASI would also call on faculty to be more lenient with students affected by the Azeri-Turkish aggression.

The resolution was written by ASA and first introduced to the ASI Rules and Policies Committee during its Oct. 30 meeting by ASI Engineering Sen. Araz Madenlian where it was then moved up to the ASI Board of Directors. Madenlian acknowledged the possibility of last-minute changes to the resolution due to recent events in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

On Nov. 10 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the signing of a peace deal. The deal promises a cease fire, Armenia’s military retreat in Nagorno-Karabakh, ultimately giving Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan and establishes Russian peacekeeping forces along the corridor that connects with Armenia.

Armenians were devastated by such news as Nagorno-Karabakh is central to Armenia’s ethnic identity. Some Armenians protested and called for the resignation of Pashinyan.

“The resolution is to stand with the people in Artsakh and to recognize the free republic,” said Madenlian, using the Armenian term for the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Madenlian stated that unofficial discussions have been initiated with the Cal State Student Association, “to see if we can get a statement or the resolution on a statewide level with the CSU system.”

ASI Vice President Manshaan Singh said that ASI is not directly approached nor asked to take a stand on international affairs very often. Singh hopes that the resolution will let professors know how students are affected by the conflict in Armenia.

“Although we are in America and we can’t directly help with what is going on, you really want to do what you can to help,” said Sigh. “If there is anything to help, even the people that are affected by this, you definitely do it.”

Singh also noted that in prior conversations between ASI student leaders and university administrators, there has been pushback from the administration to make a formal statement of any kind, citing such action would not be within the university’s purview. He added, however, that with the force of an ASI resolution, it may make a formal statement from the university administration “more likely.”

The resolution will be discussed and may put up for a vote during the next ASI Board of Directors meeting on Nov. 19.

Some ASA members like Der Bedrossian are troubled at the fact that their own university has not already released a statement of comfort for Armenian students. Der Bedrossian described feeling lonely and disturbed that the university that promises to always support its students, has failed Armenian students.

“Their neutrality is toxic; they’re being complicit with the acts of literal terrorism that is affecting their students,” said Der Bedrossian in reference to the university’s silence. “It’s really a shame that they’re not being empathetic toward their Armenian students.”

The agenda, minutes and Zoom link for previous and upcoming board of directors’ meetings can be found here.

Nicolas Hernandez contributed to this article.

(Originally published in The Poly Post.)

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