In 1994, when Artsakh was liberated from Azerbaijan and reclaimed the right to live peacefully in millennia old ancestral lands, the outdated Soviet claim that Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan was defeated as well. In fact, Armenians have continuously lived in Artsakh, evidenced by ancient cultural elements, such as the 4th century Amaras Monastery, where Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet, created the first school. Shushi is known as the cultural hub of Artsakh.
Armed with the hard earned liberation, his love of the arts, and vision to help rebuild the cultural hub of Shushi, my father, as a professionally trained baritone singer and an artist, traveled to Artsakh to begin the process of rebuilding. After his first trip, he returned to Los Angeles and founded a non-profit organization and with community sponsors and fundraisers collected funds. Monetary assistance was allocated to the school’s construction, teacher salaries, student tuition, nutritional needs, plumbing supplies, building materials, and other vital components needed for a school. As a kid, I remember helping my father organize his numerous concerts and art exhibits in Los Angeles; all proceeds were allocated for the school.
When the school’s construction began, roads from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to Artsakh were broken and uneven, facilities in disrepair, infrastructures in ruin, all of these conditions attributed to the war of liberation. But slowly, the school came to its feet. In 1997, the Shushi Music Academy’s Daniel Ghazaryan School held its grand opening. The name of the school is very fitting as Daniel Ghazaryan was a renowned Armenian composer, from Artsakh, known to have revived Armenian children’s music. Ten years later, the school hosted its first graduating class. In recent years, some of the first graduates returned to the school as teachers. Throughout the years, the students have won numerous international academic and music awards and the school recently established a musical theatre program. The school had just begun a renovation project as after 23 years of existence, a bit of upkeep is necessary.
Sadly, as of September 27, 2020, when Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey and hired jihadist mercenaries, started to attack Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, with illegal cluster bombs and heavy missile systems, my dad’s school shut its doors and renovations came to a halt, as community members hid in basements for safety; some traveling to Yerevan, some losing their lives. Shushi has also been attacked in similar fashion. As I write this article, the attacks continue.
In addition to using illegal cluster bombs, Azerbaijan has heavily used military grade drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to attack civilians, homes, churches, cultural centers, hospitals, and schools. Unfortunately, the Israeli government, a nation with a shared history with Armenia, of genocide survival, is providing these weapons.
This conflict is not just about preserving the very existence of the Armenian people and ancient Armenian culture, but it is also about preserving the dignity of humanity. It is a fight against the dark forces of hatred, autocratic mindsets and actions; a fight to not allow the decades old denial of crimes against humanity go unchecked, as is the case of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Now, instead of music, warning sirens are heard in Artsakh on a daily basis; sometimes the missile and drone strikes are so frequent, the sirens fall silent. When can the music be heard again? So the children in Artsakh and Armenia can heal and regain what they can of their childhood. So the people of Artsakh can return to their peaceful lives.
When will peace be restored again? When will Artsakh be recognized for its rightful self-determination? When will organizations that have been set up to spread goodwill and ensure that injustices around the world do not take place, such as NATO and the UN, take concrete steps to stand up for what is right? When will the U.S. stop allocating our hard earned tax dollars to fund military aid in Turkey and Azerbaijan? It is this very aid that has been used to hire jihadist mercenaries and spread terrorism in the region.
How many young people, the age of most of our students at GCC, on both sides, have to die for the destructive notions of two dictators and their ambitions of empire? What happened to the notion that we are a global community? How can the festering hatred, Turkey and Azerbaijan espouse in their agendas, heal within the hearts of its people? Is it possible?
These are all questions I sadly do not have answers to. All I can say for sure is that we want peace and to hear the music again.