Amid escalating campus violence and a backdrop of student arrests, an NYC-based Armenian coalition is uniting Armenian, Palestinian, and Kurdish diaspora communities to organize for Palestinian liberation.

Palestinian flags fly in Union Square Park during a protest in New York City on February 12, 2024. (Fatih Aktas / Anadolu via Getty Images)

On April 18, as the death toll of Palestinians killed in Israel’s genocide surged to nearly thirty-four thousand, Columbia students, peacefully protesting the use of their grossly inflated tuition to fund the bombing of children and the devastation of civilian infrastructure, faced mass arrests and false accusations of antisemitism. Just a few days later, on April 24, Armenian Remembrance Day, US president Joe Biden commemorated the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide yet remained silent about the plight of Armenian refugees struggling to rebuild their lives after being displaced from their homes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by Azerbaijan.

For his part, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of NATO-allied Turkey continued to deny the Armenian genocide altogether. His hypocrisy in this matter was made doubly grotesque by his continued ethnic cleansing of Kurds and his bluster about cutting trade ties with Israel over Palestine — while still allowing Azerbaijan to export oil to Israel through Ankara.

The mainstream media typically treats these conflicts — between Israel and Palestine, Azerbaijan and Armenians, Turkey and Kurds — as isolated. But Armenian Organized Resistance (ARMOR) Coalition, a grassroots activist group based in New York City, sees them as deeply interconnected.

“While our oppressors are working together, minorities like Armenians, like Palestinians, are all fighting this fight separately,” said Sara, who asked to use a pseudonym and is one of ARMOR’s founding organizers, in an interview ahead of a march organized in collaboration with another activist group, City Kurds. “Having the power to get together will help us to fight this. Together . . . we will be able to survive.”

Linking Palestinian, Armenian, and Kurdish Struggles

Sara and her co-organizer, Nadia, who also requested anonymity, were discontented with their experiences working with mainstream Armenian activist organizations. In response, they decided to form their own collective in order to more effectively meet their goals of fighting global injustice through local action, art, and education. They want to emphasize intersectional collaboration over internal dynamics, and action over stifling bureaucracy.

Like many Armenians, they felt abandoned by the international community when the United Nations (UN) mysteriously failed to find evidence of Azerbaijan’s well-documented ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Artsakh. This failure occurred shortly after UN-Habitat accepted a $1 million USD donation from Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, for its Human Settlements Program. This sense of abandonment reinforced their connection to the Palestinian cause, leading them to organize their first event together, an “Armenians for Palestine” rally.

“We know how it feels when oil and money triumph over our lives,” Sara explained. “So, supporting the Palestinian cause is not just a matter of nationality or political view. It’s a commitment to standing on what is right.” Yet the connection is also material: “All these attacks that were committed by Azerbaijan were done with the weapons provided by the Israeli government, like white phosphorous, like munitions.”

Understanding this material context allows ARMOR to trace the oppression of Armenians and Palestinians to an international network of alliances. These alliances involve authoritarian governments and powerful oil companies and defense contractors. ARMOR believes that defeating this systemic oppression requires oppressed minorities to form their own international alliances to better articulate their demands and to link their struggles to left mass politics.

“Israel, Turkey, and Azerbaijan are all colonizers,” Nadia explained during our interview. She continued:

I’ve always hoped that maybe if people knew about the Armenian struggle, they would do something about it. But we see the Palestinian struggle play out on international news — all the protests in the street — and still, nothing is done. We have to call out that these different ideologies — Zionism, pan-Turkism, white supremacy — are really the same. They’re all nationalist ideologies and calling out one means calling out all of them. Since no human race is better than another, if you’re opposed to this action being done to Armenians, you must be opposed to what’s being done to Palestinians.

Solidarity and Struggle

Some prominent leftists have critiqued the concept of intersectionality, seeing it as an overly academic and theoretical framework that obscures material analysis, reifies ascriptive identities, and hinders the building of mass movements. But ARMOR’s intersectionality focuses less on how intersecting identities create unique experiences of privilege and oppression for individuals, and more on how intersecting material struggles provide opportunities for solidarity. As such, it is a powerful tool for organizing.

This was evident at their April 6 Solidarity March for Palestine, organized in collaboration with City Kurds. Starting at the UN Headquarters, the march brought together dozens of protestors from various diaspora-based activist groups, including Feminists for Jina NYC, SWANA NYC, and Neturei Karta International, to rally in solidarity with Palestinians and demand a cease-fire in Gaza. They marched from the UN Headquarters to the Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Israeli consulates, carrying Palestinian and Armenian flags and homemade signs linking the Palestinian struggle to anti-colonial struggles across the world: Congo, Sudan, Puerto Rico, Tibet.

In a speech before the march, Nadia explained how the United States, Israel, Azerbaijan, and Turkey pursue their shared material interests at the expense of human life:

Azerbaijan under Aliyev is providing the Zionist entity with nearly 40 percent of its entire oil supply while bombs are being dropped on Gaza. Because in turn, the Zionist entity has provided Azerbaijan with almost 70 percent of its military arsenal over the past several years. The effect of Zionist military support, along, of course, with the support of the US, directly made possible the recent ethnic cleansing of almost 100,000 indigenous Armenians of Artsakh. . . . And let’s not forget, Erdogan’s regime in Turkey is enabling the transport of oil from Azerbaijan to the Zionist entity while actively bombing civilian infrastructure in Rojava in an attempt to erase our Kurdish siblings.

One activist, Carlos, explained how his Puerto Rican background motivated his solidarity with Palestine: “I’m Puerto Rican. This is about the struggle against colonialism. In Puerto Rico, we know colonialism, and we’ve been fighting for over a hundred years, and obviously we’re against the genocide, and we’re here to express our solidarity with the people of Palestine, and Gaza in particular.”

Carlos also highlighted Israel’s status as the tenth-largest weapons exporter in the world, a position grossly disproportionate to its population. He underscored its history of sending arms to some of the most reactionary governments in Latin America, including those of Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and the Duvaliers in Haiti. He pointed out that the current “gang violence” disrupting Haiti is in fact enabled by a flood of Israeli arms, wielded by militias in the service of Haitian oligarchs. “What’s happening in Gaza is happening in Armenia, in East Jerusalem, in Haiti,” he concluded.

Voices of Solidarity

Protesters were also keenly aware of the ways in which Zionist violence targets communities other than Palestinians. “Armenians have lived in Palestine since the fourth century,” said Aram, an activist with ARMOR Coalition. “Zionist violence doesn’t just extend to Palestinians. It extends to all people who they don’t believe belong in the land. Even today, they’re trying to push Armenians out of the Armenian Quarter of the old city in East Jerusalem.”

As the entirely peaceful march, which had been trailed by dozens of NYPD officers, reached its end, a drone appeared in the sky, hovering high above the crowd. Its presence was a reminder that our surveillance state was keeping tabs on the protesters chanting “Free Palestine” and demanding an end to their tax dollars being used to fund the slaughter of children.

The intersectional organizing practiced by ARMOR has the potential to build the mass movements needed to liberate both exploited workers at home and colonized peoples abroad. The military technology that is used by Israel against Palestinians, Armenians, and other subjugated peoples is the same technology that will be used to crush movements by American workers to better their lives. The fight for Palestinian liberation is a fight against authoritarianism everywhere.

In her speech before the march, Nadia articulated how these “entities collaborate to perpetrate genocide, facilitate Zionist apartheid, build massive carceral systems that arbitrarily jail Palestinians, and develop surveillance technology which is weaponized by oppressors around the world.” She underscored the imperative for the dispossessed and colonized to unite, fight back, and reject divisive identity politics. Concluding her speech, she emphasized, “We must support one another in our struggles toward liberation. Only then can we all be free.”

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