May 22, 2023
Celebrities speak out for Armenia
The massacres of the Armenians in the late 19th century caused forced displacement (1.75 million people) during 1915–16 by the Ottoman Turks to Syria and Palestine. Many Armenians subsequently migrated to western countries such as France and the United States of America. The genocide forced Armenians worldwide to carry out a “struggle” for preserving their national identity by establishing churches, schools, and other organisations. In 2023, this Global Armenian Diaspora, numbers close to 7 million people, compared the 3 million Armenians living within the borders of the Republic of Armenia.
Since 1991, the Independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union, this Diaspora has been a very vocal lobby for the protection of Armenia, it’s people and its culture. Prominent Armenians in Europe, the United States and elsewhere in the world have used the position and influence to speak out about what is happening in Armenia and to generate awareness and support, more of less successfully.
One of Armenia’s oldest, and now late, Global Ambassador was French Armenian Singer and Actor, Charles Aznavour. His songs, and even movies, familiar across the world referred to a magical land and people whose suffering could not be compared to any other, creating generations of people, Armenian and non-Armenian, who witnessed and cried for, and with Armenia. Honored with a statue in central Yerevan, Aznavour’s legacy lives on through the Aznavour Foundation, managed by his son Nicolas Aznavour, which aims at continuing the development and implementation of educational, cultural, and social projects started by the legendary artist.
The recent 44-day war that broke out in 2020 attests to the significant role played by the worldwide Armenian diasporic communities in raising awareness about the war and in sending humanitarian aid to the affected. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian, spoke up about the bloody conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijan. The multi-millionaire announced donating US$ 1 Million to the Armenia Fund, a humanitarian organization providing civilians with food, shelter, and medical care. Kardashian, whose late father Robert Kardashian was Armenian, encouraged her fans to donate to the Armenian effort and make it the “most successful fundraiser ever”. Sisters Kourtney Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian also made social media posts about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, with Khloe calling on the international community to condemn these attacks and restore peace in the region.
American Singer Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian to an American mother and an Armenian-American father, also used her enormous social media platform to draw attention to the conflict. ”LA is proud to be home to the largest Armenian diaspora” one Twitter post retweeted by Cher said. “We stand with the people of Armenia, urge our leaders in Washington to conduct the sustained and rigorous diplomacy necessary to bring peace to the Artsakh region.”
Dr. Eric Esrailian – a producer of the 2016 film The Promise (which looks at the Armenian genocide of the early 20th Century) and founder of The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA – spoke out to say: “I am devastated to hear about what has been happening to Armenians right now. We have fought hard to get the Armenian Genocide recognized around the world using The Promise and it is horrible to think that Armenians may be in danger of another Genocide. I hope government leaders in the world us their influence to prevent further tragedy and loss of life – the situation is unfortunately becoming a humanitarian catastrophe for Armenians in this region.” Adds The Promise star Oscar Isaac (who is not Armenian): “To think that Armenian people are in jeopardy once again is heartbreaking.”
As with Oscar Isaac, many non-Armenians have also stood up for the protection of Armenia and the Armenian People.
American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter Mel Gibson commented on the Turkey-backed Azerbaijani aggression launched against Artsakh and Armenia, expressing his support to Armenians. In a video message the actor says he is “very saddened to hear the recent conflict in Artsakh.” “I have many Armenian friends here in the United States of America. They all told me about your pains, loss of life. I have a great deal of respect to the Armenian people, a people of great resilience and of great heart. And the grace to deal with great hardship this history has shown.” Gibson said, adding that he prays for the Armenian people at this difficult time. “I also pray that a peaceful solution can be reached. Stay strong my friends, keep hard and God bless you”, he said.
Hollywood actor George Clooney has repeatedly used his voice and influence to urge for the massacres that left more than 1.5 million Armenians dead over a century ago to be recognized as ‘Genocide”. The actor made the trip to Yerevan to officially commemorate the beginning of ethnic slaughter of the Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces in 1915 – saying it was time for the event to be recognized for that it was.
“Years before anyone uttered the word “Genocide”, there was Armenia. And although the actual word was yet to be introduced, we were aware of its characteristics,” said Clooney.
“Cruelty has always been at the core,” he continued. “Not self-defence. Not simply war. But the deliberate destruction of an entire people. It happened to Armenians starting 101 years ago and we’ve seen it repeated all over the world since. Germany. Cambodia. Bosnia. Rwanda. I’ve seen it first-hand in the broken limbs and broken families and broken hearts of the people of Darfur. So I’ve seen what mankind is capable of at its worst. But I’ve also seen something else, something much stronger than hate. I’ve seen bravery and kindness and incredible acts of love.”
George Clooney’s wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had represented Armenia before the European Court of Human Rights in a 2015 case against a denialist Turkish politician. Other celebrities like British singer-songwriter Elton John and American rappers Cardi B and Offset have also voiced their support for Armenia on social media.
While the Armenian People are thankful, for the voices that rise up their name, whether from these and other celebrities, or the Armenian lobbies in the United States and Europe, little changes the reality on the ground – Azerbaijan continues to attack and blockade with complete impunity, backed by Turkey’s Pan Turkic imperial ambitions. Soldiers and Civilians continue to get targeted every day and 120,000 people remain inside Artsakh without the most basic necessities. The United Nations, NATO, the United States, the European Union and Russia continue to turn a blind eye – the need for Azeri Oil and Gas, or for Erdogan not to open the flood gates of immigration into Europe is worth more to them than Armenian lives.