Oakland Armenian community holds vigil following recent violence

Violence half a world away is affecting people here in the Bay Area.

The Armenian community held a prayer vigil in the East Bay Friday night following an escalation of violence in a long-running conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

This conflict over land has been at a simmer for many years, with skirmishes breaking out often.

But things have recently escalated.

We’ve already seen some crimes here in the Bay Area directed at the Armenian community.

But now people in both communities say they are concerned about potential violence here.

Several dozen people in the Armenian community gathered in Oakland for a vigil at Saint Vartan Church.

They want to raise awareness about, and be in solidarity with, the military and civilian victims who’ve been killed or injured in the recent escalating violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“This week things have escalated to a new level and there’s been attacks and there’s a lot going on,” said Kim Bardakian, a parishioner and Oakland resident.

Some  are concerned about family abroad, in harm’s way.

“Just hiding in kids, elderly, mothers and sisters. Women are hiding because they’re bombing, they’re bombing civilians,” said Anush Grigorian. 

Others say they’re worried about being targets of violence here.

Back in July, the KZV Armenian school in San Francisco was tagged with graffiti in what is being investigated as a hate crime.

And, two weeks ago, a fire blamed on a molotov cocktail outside a building next to an Armenian church in San Francisco.

“We have all collectively increased our security, increased our awareness to our group parishioners, making sure our video surveillance cameras are intact. It’s only important to be ready and make sure there are no more surprises,” saidBardakian.

Both incidents are under investigation.

A member of the Azerbaijan Cultural Society in the Bay Area condemns all violent and hateful acts, and doubts the culprits were from his community, citing the school graffiti in particular.

“Almost all words have been written incorrectly and even the name of Azerbaijan has been written not correctly,” said Orkhan Gasimli, a member of the Azerbaijan Cultural Society.

No known violence or vandalism has been committed against Azerbaijani’s in the Bay Area, but at a Los Angeles protest rally in July, seven Azerbaijani’s and a police officer were injured, allegedly beaten up by a group of Armenian’s.

With incidents happening against both groups, they now share at least one thing in common.

“I would say as a community we are concerned and we currently do not feel very safe,” said Gasimli.

The violence between these two countries is now said to be the worst it has been in many years.

And people from both communities in the Bay Area hope that doesn’t increase tensions and lead to violence here.