The ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has triggered an outpouring of support from Los Angeles's Armenian community, one of the largest in the world.
On October 10, U.S. reality television star Kim Kardashian, who is of Armenian descent, announced she had donated $1 million to the Armenia Fund , which seeks to provide humanitarian relief efforts such as food, shelter, and medical care for those affected by the conflict.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the brave men, women and children. I want everyone to remember that despite the distance that separates us, we are not limited by borders and we are one global Armenian nation together," Kardashian said in a video message to her followers on Instagram.
The reality TV star and business mogul has often spoken out about issues affecting Armenia and its people.
Her famous sisters, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, also took to Instagram to call for joining the pan-Armenian fund-raiser.
The next day, thousands of people protested in Los Angeles in support of Armenians, waving Armenian flags, chanting, and carrying signs. At one point, a crowd of at least 20,000 people gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills to condemn Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan. The demonstration appeared to be largely peaceful.
Meanwhile, the city's Armenian community has been rallying around calls to support Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh , with multiple restaurants offering donation deals and charity initiatives aimed at raising funds.
Southern California is home to the largest Armenian population in the United States; an East Hollywood neighborhood was designated Little Armenia in 2000. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted in support of the protesters, attaching a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from a group of mayors and congressional lawmakers urging the United States to help deescalate tensions in the conflict. "As proud representatives of Armenian-American communities across our country, we share their deep concerns about the violence being inflicted upon Artsakh, the growing number of civilian casualties, and the involvement of regional actors like Turkey and Iran," the letter reads .
Armenians refer to Nagorno-Karabakh as Artsakh.
"We ask that you lead the effort to bring Armenia and Azerbaijan back to the negotiating table, and persuade Turkey to disengage," the letter states. There was no mention of Azerbaijani casualties. Azerbaijan's consul-general to the western United States, Nasimi Aghayev, condemned the Los Angeles mayor for ignoring the deaths of civilians in rocket attacks by Armenian forces on Azerbaijani cities. "Is there no limit to political expediency? No red lines? Should the #politics always be about campaign money & votes?" he wrote, adding a video showing the damage and casualties caused by Armenian attacks on Ganca, Azerbaijan's second-largest city.
Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kayne West, have cordial relations with President Donald Trump and one of his former national-security aides recently said she is worried that they could have an influence on his policy decisions.
Kardashian visited the White House twice in 2018 to discuss prison reform and convinced Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence on drug charges. West made a separate visit to the White House in 2018 to discuss various social issues WAwith Trump.
WATCH: A Truce In Tatters -- Fighting Flares Over Nagorno-Karabakh
Fiona Hill, the president’s former senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, said October 5 during a Brookings conference dedicated to foreign policy that she “would be worried” about the United States getting engaged in Nagorno-Karabakh because of a “propensity” to take sides in recent conflicts.
“And given the large Armenian diaspora here and, you know, the presence of -- I will just say it outright -- the president's personal relationship with Kim Kardashian, who has been tweeting about Armenia, that is not a good sign for playing a neutral role here in which we had previously,” Hill, who is now a senior fellow at Brookings, said.
Trump also has business ties to Azerbaijan, licensing his name in 2014 to a hotel and condominium project. He pulled out in 2016 following delays in completing the project. He also had commercial dealings with Aras Agalarov, an Azeri-Russian businessman whose son was married to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s daughter.
The Los Angeles protest came as the fragile cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan has come under strain as both sides have accused the other of violations, including rocket attacks and shelling of cities.
Hundreds of soldiers and an unknown number of civilians have been killed on both sides since fighting erupted on September 27, in the biggest escalation in the conflict since the shaky 1994 cease-fire.
The violence has increased concern that a wider conflict could drag in regional power Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's closest ally, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. But it has been under the control of Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire brought an end to the separatist war that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed. Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh has been populated and governed by ethnic Armenians, leaving hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from the region as internally displaced war refugees in Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan for more than a quarter century.