The night opened with a moment of silence. In the two minutes of stillness, each second marked another 100 people forced to leave their home behind.
For those 120 seconds, students huddled together in a semi circle outside the Bay Tree Bookstore, cloaked in quiet. Afterward, Armenian Student Association’s (ASA) Social Media Chair Nareh Hamo spoke into the microphone.
“The world has turned a blind eye to our pain, but we will not be silenced,” Hamo said.
The Armenian Student Association (ASA) held a candlelight vigil on Oct. 11, dedicated to mourning the lives, land, and homes lost after the Sept. 19-20 attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, widely known as the Republic of Artsakh.
Artsakh has historically existed as an autonomous, self-governing state made up primarily of ethnic Armenians. Internationally, however, Artsakh has been legally recognized as a territory of neighboring country Azerbaijan since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“There is a disconnect between the legal view of Artsakh and what Artsakh is to Armenians,” Hamo said.
For years, tension between Artsakh and Azerbaijan grew, culminating in the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor in December 2022. The Corridor was the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the outside world.
On Sept. 28, nearly 10 months after the blockade began and in the wake of the September attacks, President Samvel Shahramanyan of Artsakh released a decree formally dissolving the government and releasing control to Azerbaijan by January 1.
“The cultural heritage of this mountainous region is being vandalized and destroyed as we speak,” said ASA president, Ani Tonoyan. “The memory of Armenians in Artsakh is at stake.”
Throughout the night, speakers and attendees alike shared in mourning Artsakh through speeches, poems, infographics and art.
…Should you see him again, one day,
do not deafen yourself to his unspoken pain.
Be sure to take heed in your numb stupor:
We must bring Artsakh back to us again… Poem For Artsakh: A poem shared by ASA member Mery Ter-Avetisyan, titled “The Exiled Crane” by Harasharzh.
Towards the end of the vigil, organizers held an open mic, inviting anyone in the crowd to share their own experience or express solidarity.
“The ASA’s role is to provide a sense of community,” Hamo said. “To say, ‘if the world is not listening to you, it’s okay, because we have people on this campus who will.’”
For students looking to learn more, Tonoyan and Hamo recommend combing over sources for potential bias and reading with a critical eye.
Above all, organizers urged attendees to turn their grief into action. They directed the crowd’s attention to a QR code which linked a list of petitions, several news resources containing more information, and the organization’s contact information.
In the wake of global trajedy, Tonoyan emphasized the importance of coming together with community members who can understand and relate to one another’s pain. “Finding unity is something that’s so important,” Tonoyan said. “We always say ‘մի բուռ ազգ ենք.’ It means ‘we’re only a handful of people.’ That’s all that’s left of us.”