For this episode, Cynthia Jones and I speak with Liyah Babayan - local entrepreneur, business owner, activist, and Armenian refugee.
In this conversation, Liyah goes over her life story - framing it within the cultural/historical/political framework of her home country of Azerbaijan, where she had spent much of her early childhood, before fleeing with her family from severe persecution and mass genocide. In the late 80’s and into the early 90’s, a pogrom was enacted against ethnic Armenians in the city of Baku (the nation’s capital and Liyah’s place of birth), as well as in surrounding areas, resulting in the expulsion, and mass murder, of thousands of Armenians - in what has been described as the Baku Pogrom: “From January 12, 1990, a seven-day pogrom broke out against the Armenians civilian population in Baku during which Armenians were beaten, tortured, murdered, and expelled from the city. There were also many raids on apartments, robberies and arsons. According to the Human Rights Watch reporter Robert Kushen, ‘the action was not entirely (or perhaps not at all) spontaneous, as the attackers had lists of Armenians and their addresses.’”* Liyah describes what her, and her family, experienced as Armenians during this horrendous act of mass violence perpetuated against the Armenian population in Baku. In particular, Liyah discusses how this experience profoundly impacted her development as an individual, having to bear the weight of indescribable trauma through adolescence and into adulthood - all while living as a refugee in the United States, with all the social pressures, barriers, and freedoms that come with that.
Because of Liyah’s unique perspective, she is able to perceive and understand social and political trends within the United States that most people, particularly U.S. citizens, are unable to recognize. We discuss what those trends are, and how much they resemble, or don’t resemble, the social and political conditions experienced in her home country of Azerbaijan. We discuss the trauma that has been inflicted upon the Armenian people over the past century, and how this knowledge informs Liyah’s perspective of what it means to live in United States, in time and place we find ourselves in.
This is a wide-ranging discussion, and I thank Liyah for her candid and articulate overview of the subjects discussed in this episode. This is the third episode in a series of interviews and conversations with individuals who, whether they officially or not fall under the category, are refugees. These episode are done in collaboration with Cynthia Jones, Artistic Director of the Inspirata Dance Project, for an upcoming production that will feature segments of these recordings.
Liyah Babayan is a local entrepreneur, activist, Armenian refugee, and the owner of Ooh La La! consignment boutique in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is the author of a memoir titled ‘Liminal,’ release forthcoming.
- Learn more about Liyah’s upcoming book ‘Liminal’ here: http://bit.ly/2MX9okW
- Learn more about Liyah and her consignment boutique Ooh La La! here: http://oohlala-shop.com
- Follow Ooh La La! on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2u4ozlr
- The songs featured in this episode are “Wake Up (Instrumental)” by Black Milk from the album Black and Brown Instrumentals, and “What It’s Worth” by Black Milk from the album If There’s a Hell Below.
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