Candlelight vigil opposing U.S. strikes in Syria

The Armenian National Committee of America of Glendale held a candlelight vigil in opposition of U.S. military intervention in Syria on Monday, September 9, 2013. (Courtesy of Armenian National Committee of America, Glendale Chapter / September 8, 2013)

Candles flickered as more than 200 people gathered at a vigil in Glendale on Monday night to discourage American military strikes in Syria.

The vigil, hosted by the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America, moveon.org and the MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles at the Glendale Youth Center, comes as the Obama administration continues to try and convince war-weary citizens and lawmakers to support limited military intervention in a country damaged by civil war.

While President Barack Obama can order military intervention in Syria on his own — which he has said is necessary as Syrian President Bashar Assad has been connected to ordering chemical weapons strikes on his own people — he has asked for congressional approval first.

The Armenian National Committee’s parent organization launched a letter-writing campaign earlier this month, encouraging Armenians across the country to tell their congressional representatives to not support military intervention. At the vigil, representatives passed around iPads so attendees could send letters to lawmakers.

There are an estimated 100,000 Armenians living in Syria, many of whom occupy traditionally Armenian neighborhoods in Aleppo, one of the cities most ravaged by violence.

“We are opposed to military intervention in Syria because it will not save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between the supporters of Syria’s ruling faction and armed opponents trying to topple the Syrian president,” said Berdj Karapetian, the ANCA Glendale chapter’s chairman.

The Glendale group’s executive director, Talar Malakian, echoed his sentiments “The reason for the event is to promote peace. We don’t think an escalation and aggression is going to help save lives and bring about peace,” said Malakian. “We believe in humanitarian aid.”

Armenian organizations have sent millions of dollars to support Armenians in Syria, who suffer from lack of food and economic viability. Local fundraising organizations, including the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund and the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, have also spoken out against military intervention.

Obama has said that while he is not considering a boot-on-the-ground approach in Syria like American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, he believes strikes that are narrow in scope are necessary.

The vigil was part of a nationwide “Day of Action” organized by progressive activist groups.

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