Armenian news outlets have thanked Oxford City Council for recognizing Artsakh, a small disputed region in Eastern Europe between the countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan. But there’s just one problem: City Council didn’t officially recognize the region.
No United Nation member state has recognized Artsakh’s sovereignty, which is currently recognized as a district of Azerbaijan, but that did not stop Miami University seniors Teresa Aniev and Andrew Devedjian from presenting a resolution to recognize Artsakh’s sovereignty to City Council.
Before the resolution was passed, some councilors, including David Prytherch, felt Oxford did not have the power to recognize the sovereignty of an international region.
“I would be happy to stand in solidarity against the violence and recognize that there are politics, but I am just not in a position to make a decision one way or the other about recognizing [Artsakh],” Prytherch said.
An amendment was requested by councilor Prytherch to remove the recognition of Artsakh’s sovereignty from the resolution, which was passed by council members with four yeas, two nays and one abstention.
Instead, the resolution aimed to stand with Artsakh community members facing human rights violations and officially resolved that “Oxford City Council honors the Republic of Artsakh and its citizens,” and “recognizes the adversity the Armenians of our community are facing and strongly condemns human rights violations.”
Requests for comment from each news organization were not responded to by press time.
Oxford Mayor Mike Smith said while he felt the proposal was unusual from a city council perspective, it was a worthy discussion to have.
“I wanted to keep an open mind about it, with the proximity Oxford is to Miami, a lot more issues get attention from a town our size, and we consider them all,” Smith said. “It’s always good to help educate people when something like this is going on.”
Smith said while the news reports do go against what Oxford City Council voted for in the proposal, he doesn’t think council members were frustrated about it.
“I don’t think there’s really a downside, it’s getting the publicity,” Smith said. “I haven’t gotten any calls from the State Department saying, ‘Hey what are you guys doing down there?’ or anything.”
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Councilor Glenn Ellerbe first heard about the resolution during a Student/Community Relations Committee meeting, for which he is a council representative. After a presentation from Aniev and Devedjian, Ellerbe said he felt compelled to help the students bring the resolution before council.
“When you hear a situation where people are treated in an inconceivable way, you want to help,” Ellerbe said. “No matter how small of a gesture, if you make it, even if it’s tiny, it’s going to start rippling out in a positive fashion.”
Ellerbe said the media reports did not bother him either.
“Everyone understood the intent, it’s why I didn’t make a stink about it,” Ellerbe said.
Aniev, a senior political science major at Miami, is one half of the duo who brought the resolution to City Council. As an Armenian-American, Aniev said a major part of the resolution aims to raise awareness of the situation.
“A vote to make Artsakh independent had over 99% of the local support, and our motive behind the idea is that if they’re independent, they can choose for themselves,” Aniev said. “There are Armenians living in our community, and to give them a voice was our goal.”
Aniev said she was glad to see the international media shed light on the situation, but there is still work to be done.
“For a tiny city like Oxford, Ohio to even stand in solidarity, to recognize all that is going on, is huge,” Aniev said. “I think it’s been a success so far, but complete success would be getting the resolution passed on a national level.”