Dozens of the messages were found hung in Beverly Hills over the weekend
Michele McPheeJanuary 29, 2023
A slew of hate-filled flyers aimed at pro-Armenia demonstrators sprouted up this weekend around Beverly Hills, where protestors had gathered to marchagainst the ongoing crisis in Artsakh, the heavily Armenia-populated province in the southern Caucasus whose residents have been cut off from food and supplies by Azerbaijani troops.
The demonstrators were greeted by flyers taped to lamp poles that threatened: “Azerbaijan; Turkey; Pakistan; Israel = 4 BROTHERS WILL WIPE Armenia OFF the MAP Inshallah!!!”
Beverly Hills Mayor Lille Bosse immediately denounced the flyers on social media as the city’s police department reviewed surveillance camera footage around La Cienega and Wilshire Boulevards in search of those responsible.
“I’ve said it over and over again, hate has no place in Beverly Hills or anywhere. I will always stand up, I will always speak out against it,” Bosse wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.
The war in Ukraine has been the focus of the international community as the Armenia-Azerbaijan showdown unfolds in another corner of Europe—Nagorno-Karabakh, a contested territory in Azerbaijan that is home to around 120,000 Armenian residents.
In 2020, following a six-week war that left thousands dead, Russian President Vladimir Putin installed peace-keeping troops along the Lachin corridor, connecting Armenians to medicines, food, and “living a normal life,” says Harut Sassounian, an Armenian-American columnist and editor of The California Courier.
“Genocide is not only the mass killing of people, but the definition is also about creating conditions of life that lead to the killing of people, by starving them, depriving them of medicine, cutting off the heat and electricity in the mountains where it is below zero,” he writes.
Putin’s attention has turned to Ukraine, but tensions in the region have bubbled up again over a blockade by Azerbaijani activists that has left Armenians cut off from everyday necessities. The New York Times, citing a local reporter inside the region, writes that the only items left on supermarket shelves are alcohol and candy.
The International Crisis Group, a nonprofit conflict watchdog, warns that the showdown may become as intractable and bloody as the war in Ukraine.
“The Russian peacekeepers are supposed to intervene to prevent this sort of blockade, but they allowed them to come in an area that they don’t belong,” Sassounian says. “Many Armenians who have settled in this area are from that region… they feel very personally involved in this conflict.”
Chairman of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee of the Armenian Bar Association Alex Bastian says that hate crimes against his countrymen are not only on the rise but have also gone largely unnoticed by the international community. St. Gregory’s Armenian church in San Francisco, where he was baptized, was hit by a firebomb in 2020; the attack remains unsolved. The FBI has offered a $50,000 reward for information about those responsible.
“It’s not just a crime against one of us, it’s a crime against all of us,” Bastian said of the flyers. He knows firsthand how violent words can escalate quickly into violent actions, such as the burning of a church or bullets fired at an Armenian school.
In Beverly Hills, Armenians are just the latest to be targeted by hateful flyers. Anti-Semitic flyers posted around the city made national headlines when they repeatedly appeared around the city in late 2022.
The weekend’s threats against Armenian-Americans were also denounced by Sepi Shyne, the mayor of West Hollywood, a city home to a sizable community of Armenian Americans.
“The rise in hate is indicative of a serious threat to democracy and we must all continue to stand for love and against hate,” Shyne wrote in a recently tweeted.
That message was reinforced at the Vatican Sunday by Pope Francis, who recognized “the grave humanitarian situation in the Lachin Corridor,” during his mass in Saint Peter’s Square. “I am close to all those who, in the dead of winter, are forced to cope with these inhumane conditions.”