Editor : Joshua Zamudio | Written & Photographed by Angela Pailevanian | Contributing Producer : Kemal Cilengir
Armenian Protest in Los Angeles by Angela Pailevanian
This past week I attended an action that protested recent Azerbaijani aggression against Armenian villages on the Armenian/Azerbaijan border. These attacks, and others in the past, have reminded me of my people’s struggle against a history of genocide and colonialism.
At the foundation of my diasporic identity is what is known as the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which took the lives of over 1.5 million Armenians and forcibly exiled hundreds of thousands of them from their homeland. Being of the Armenian diaspora comes with a complex identity - one that lingers in between my ancestral lands and the land that I was born on, the United States.
While I haven’t attended too many protests in my life, this was one to remember as I am continuously learning how to navigate my indigenous identity. I walked around looking for something that moved me when I noticed the Lernazang Ensemble starting to form a group to dance on the sidewalk. This ensemble is known for dancing our ancestral dances. While they danced our combat dances such as Yarkhushta and Msho Khr, I photographed them and remembered that dance is indeed a form of protest, and should be used as such. War dances were created as a manifestation of resistance. I later danced alongside them.
Our resistance to Azerbaijani aggression and Turkish colonialism is not a single-issue struggle. As I wore my keffiyeh, a checkered headscarf and an icon of Palestinian resistance, I photographed other men and women wearing them too. This further reinforced my belief in standing in solidarity with other oppressed groups during protests. As we know, Israel is both the single largest military supporter of Azerbaijan and is currently occupying historic Palestine, just as Turkey and Azerbaijan occupy the lands of historic Armenia. For me, Armenian justice is inseparable from Palestinian justice.
Whether it’s at a protest in Los Angeles, or in my motherland, I will continue to photograph the resistance of my people through their dances, traditions, joy, and resilience.