Public advocacy on behalf of the Armenian media indicates that reality television star Kim Kardashian West may be using her relationship with President Donald Trump to urge the United States to support the country in its ongoing conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan, the Hill reported on Thursday.
Azerbaijan and Armenia both claim the other initiated unprompted military hostilities in a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, legally part of Azerbaijan but populated, by a wide majority, by ethnic Armenians. Baku does not govern Nagorno-Karabakh, run by Armenian leaders and identifying itself as the sovereign Republic of Artsakh. The government of Armenia does not recognize the sovereignty of Artsakh, but does support Armenian self-determination there.
Artsakh has been part of Azerbaijan since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin placed it in the Azeri Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenians contend that there is no history of any significant ethnic Azeri population in the region and reject Azeri rule.
Since hostilities erupted in late September, Artsakh officials claim that over half the population of the region has been displaced. Amnesty International verified reports this week that Azerbaijan has launched cluster bombs – munitions that human rights activists have long fought to ban due to their inability to target properly, causing widespread civilian harm – into Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian officials have particularly sounded the alarm over the behavior of Turkey, an Azeri ally, against the Armenians. Yerevan has accused the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of flying in as many as 4,000 jihadists from the Syrian civil war theater to fight on Azerbaijan’s behalf, claims Ankara denies.
Kardashian West, who is an ethnic Armenian, has regularly updated fans on her multiple social media accounts on the situation in Artsakh, urging action to prevent civilian strife. She has relied on messaging organized by Eric Esrailian, a human rights activist and gastroenterologist in Los Angeles, for specifics. The Hill spoke to Esrailian, who explained that Armenian-Americans found the relative lack of international outrage at the Artsakh situation “frustrating.”
“What I’ve done with my friends, like Kim Kardashian, her family, her siblings, and other friends like Cher, [System of a Down frontman] Serj Tankian, [Reddit mogul] Alexis Ohanian, all of us — obviously they have a bigger platform than I do, but I have the ability to pull everybody together … and I feel honored that everybody cares and they basically say, ‘what can I do?'” Esrailian said, referring to high-profile Armenian-American celebrities who have promoted his campaign.
Kardashian West and others in her family have shared a message urging specific measures to help end the fighting in the region.
“Armenians in Artsakh have been attacked. We are praying brave men & women risking their lives to protect Artsakh & Armenia. The news is misleading & these are not ‘clashes,'” the message read. “Armenia has been the victim of unprovoked attacks by Azerbaijan & the predictable disinformation campaign that accompanies them. Azerbaijan is blocking social media except for war propaganda. We need international observers to investigate & call for international political and diplomatic measures to prevent unnecessary escalation & tragedy.”
The message also called for Washington to “cut off all U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan being used against Armenians & warn Turkey to stop sending arms & fighters to Baku.”
Unlike other celebrities sharing messages of solidarity with the Armenians of Artsakh, the Hill contended that Kardashian West could have more success in shaping policy because of her history of cooperating with the Trump administration on legal reform. Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kanye West, were at the forefront of celebrity efforts to convince President Donald Trump to pardon non-violent criminals and reform criminal laws that prevent reformed American citizens from leading full lives after paying their dues to society in prison.
West himself has also expressed support for Armenia on social media.
“It’s unclear if Kardashian West has been in direct contact with the White House recently over the issue with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill,” the publication noted.
The Trump administration signed a statement alongside France and Russia urging for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, but has otherwise not intervened. Turkey is a NATO member, so the United States is treaty-bound to protect it if Turkish soldiers get involved in the conflict and Erdogan invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. America maintains friendly relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Kardashian West has been a vocal advocate for the Armenian people consistently throughout her time as an international celebrity. She typically uses the anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, in which the precursor to the modern Turkish state killed over 1.5 million Armenians, to raise awareness of the event and demand recognition. Turkey has never officially acknowledged that it happened. In 2016, Kardashian West condemned the Wall Street Journal for publishing an advertisement denying the Armenian genocide, calling it “reckless, upsetting, and dangerous.”
“It’s one thing when a crappy tabloid profits from a made-up scandal, but for a trusted publication like WSJ to profit from genocide — it’s shameful and unacceptable,” Kardashian West said.
Few celebrities outside of those with Armenian heritage have at press time expressed concern for Nagorno-Karabakh. One exception is rapper Cardi B, who posted a link to a fundraiser to help Armenian civilians this week, only to apologize after Turkish and Azeri social media users bombarded her with messages calling her a terrorist.
“I did not know that this is a war between two countries,” Cardi B explained, apologizing for her support. On social media, the rapper apologized several times, some in response to angry Azeri tweets, responding, “I don’t know wats going on !” and “I love peace … I don’t fucking know.”