Titizian: My Christmas Wish List

This past week has been particularly trying. Here is how it all unfolded…

And now as we're approaching the holiday season, shops in Yerevan have already put up Christmas decations, Yerevan city officials are getting their crews to put the final touches on their Christmas decorations, stores are advertising Christmas specials, and it would seem that it was business and Chrstimas as usual.

A YouTube clip began circulating on Facebook about the Gyumri Hotel Palace built by the mayor of the city, Vardan Ghukasyan—a known thug, scandal-plagued swindler, and all-time low-life (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxMp96xo_Rs). Gyumri is a city where 6,500 families are still in need of permanent housing, and where the remnants of the earthquake 23 years ago still haunts its citizens both psychologically and physically. The hotel is a testament to vulgarity, to opulence in a city and region where severe poverty is dangerously on the rise, where people do not have the basic amenities for a decent and dignified life. It is a monument to tastelessness and the blatant abuse of public power. I wonder, are the roads leading to and around the hotel paved? Are there proper sidewalks or street lamps? Where and how did Ghukasyan “earn” the money to build this mini-Versailles?

This was followed by “parliamentarians” from the ruling coalition (Republican Party of Armenia) blatantly and shamelessly “voting” on behalf of their absent colleagues in a desperate bid to garner enough votes in the National Assembly to pass the government’s 2012 budget (www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jnTGTqRKQ00). While they have the overriding majority in parliament, they still had to resort to flagrantly reprehensible activity to ensure the minimum number of votes. Caught in the act of pressing buttons in place of their colleagues, and seeing the camera filming them, they simply smiled and continued.

Why do they express absolutely zero remorse for their unethical actions? Why do we tolerate their presence in an institution that has been charged with legislative power in the country? How can we call ourselves a democracy when the very institutions of democracy are trampled upon and, as a result, are rendered worthless? Is it perhaps because a few weeks earlier, a public official (the regional governor of Syunik, Suren Khatchatryan) physically attacked Sylva Hambartsumyan, a businesswoman in the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Yerevan, and all criminal charges were dropped because she didn’t receive any serious physical injuries and refused a “medical treatment voucher” since he had simply “slapped” her (news.am/eng/news/85589.html)? You see, those who hold the levers of power in this country are above the law.

Of course, there was the now-common news about yet another young woman, Mariam Gevorgyan, severely beaten, abused, and tortured by her “husband” and “mother”-in-law (www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Kyxvw47ciD0). How can a husband call himself a man when he burns his wife with an iron? How can a woman deign to call herself a “mother” when she beats another woman’s child so mercilessly?

And on the heels of all of this came the news that Nareg Harutounian, an Armenian American philanthropist, was arrested, tried and convicted without any due process on trumped up tax-evasion charges (Note: Harutounian was later released). Who was behind this travesty and why?

To top it all off, we’re having a very cold winter and to be honest, I am mad. Not angry, mad—bordering on the insane.

All of this was compressed and presented to us in the span of one week, seven days, a little blip in the entirety of our lives. How do you begin to understand such injustice, such appalling abuse of power, such degradation? I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. All I have is madness. And what am I supposed to do with that?

And now as we’re approaching the holiday season, shops in Yerevan have already put up Christmas decations, Yerevan city officials are getting their crews to put the final touches on their Christmas decorations, stores are advertising Christmas specials, and it would seem that it was business and Chrstimas as usual.

But it’s not. If I had a magic wand to ensure that my wishes could come true, this would be my Christmas wish list for the Armenian nation:

That we raise our voices in protest against all kinds of social injustice.

That we demand accountability from our elected officials.

That we condemn any kind of violence, gender-based or otherwise.

That we accept responsibility for the collective ills that plague us.

That we no longer tolerate an undignified life for any one of our citizens.

That we celebrate our diversity as opposed to creating further division amongst ourselves.

That we replace indifference with compassion.

That we inspire ordinary people to become extraordinary heroes.

I don’t know that any of these wishes will come true in my lifetime. I would like to believe that we will learn how to become a nation, one with pride and intelligence, a nation that knows where it wants to go and how it wants to live and what kind of life it can provide for its people. Why should a single child go hungry and be in need of a decent education or equal opportunities? Why should we not be able to share in the resources of this country that belong to each and every one of us? Why should the law not be applied equally amongst all? Why can’t we build a country where people want to stay and live and prosper and love?

After all, what does it really take to empower a country with barely three million people? It requires having a vision, employing the vast amount of knowledge we have at our disposal. It requires having compassion and dedication and tolerance. We no longer need lofty proclamations or empty words and promises. We need to take action, all of us, regardless of where or how we live. If we could map a common vision for our future and act upon it, that would be the greatest gift of all.

Maria Titizian

Maria Titizian

Maria Titizian is a founding member of the Women’s Coalition of Armenia. She is Vice-President of the Socialist International, represents the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun at the Socialist International Women and has recently been appointed as the Director of the Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation. Maria repatriated to Armenia in 2001 with her family and is currently working as a writer, editor and translator.


  1. Maria: will you please give us another address, or way to access the u tube article you refer to? It doesn’t turn up using the one you have given. This is a profoundly sad article.

  2. Maria Titizian,
                       A most inspired expression.  How could the diaspora restrict  its genereous contributions to our mothertland  to conditions, if not through a united diasporan governing body?  

  3. Dear Maria,
    Hold  it there,please.Too many wishes and too many indeed good advices.But to whom?
    If you address  these to those who have helped bring the ¨Wild free market Economy¨to Armenia,then you are wasting  your breath ,your time  and your -permit me to say-madness. Instead I would suggest think of what we have  in Diaspora as a BIGGER  picture  of what  you have described.After all …you come from overseas ..you ought to know…
    The Yerevantsi overnight  from ultra communist  dictatorship regime passsed to the above  one.Same as in the rest 14 rest ex-soviet republics.Today i read  in USArmenia magazine how two young  ladies  of Uzbegistan(daughters  of the president9 in Switzerland lost 200 million dollaars  but  no worrry…they still have  close  to a billinon dollar s or even over  that  much,comes to mind the  Wild  free mart  economy.
    Shall i go  on ?
    No, not even our politico(unlike  you) care about  that…otherwise  they would have done something to curb  that.thos girls dad  is  the pres. of a rich country  mineralwise…while armenian is poooooor ,but we do have HUMAN RESOURCES  AND CAN ALSO GARNER  UP A  HUGE     NATIONAL INVESTMENT  TRUST  FUND…THIS SERVANT OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE AHS BEEN ADVOCATING  IT …..
    please  read  my articles  in http://www.armeniannews.info
    thanks and get out  of  that mood,go to sip coffe  in one  of those Burag  coffees around  opedra  house.
    Best to you and cheer  up a bit 

  4. Dear Maria, thank you for posing questions, i ask myself and my friends all the time.  it makes me MAD, mad.. and i don’t see the light at the end of the channel:(.. so depressing..:(

  5.  Dear Maria,
    Excellent article describing all our frustrations about the injustice that is part of the daily lives, living in Yerevan. True these horrible stories frustrates us, even haunts us! However we should not lose hope! Just a decade ago, it was MUCH worse! Just a decade ago, Mariam Gevorgyan would have died and her story would not have even been published! I think of her constantly and as Maria Titizian says it: WHAT KIND OF HUSBAND AND MOTHER IN LAW IS THAT??? They deserve to be hung and humiliated ( as they did to that poor girl!!!). But luckily she got out.
    This nation still has alot to learn, but did come from a long way! The key words are: BABY STEPS!!! It might take another generation!
    But in the meantime, if you are building a team of people having compassion, dedication and tolerence to take action, I’m in!

  6. EUF! sirdes khosetsar!
    no answers, but hope!
    Maria, you forget to mention that there is a handful of people who are actually tackling these issues. However, their efforts alone will not be enough to make a change. 

  7. Dear/Querida  Maria,
    Antes que nada,creo que hablas y lees el español.Eres de Argentian? supongo?
    Anyhow,few here know that  you have come along way and now occupy a very important position in the  INTERNACIONAÑL SOCIALISTA…Vice  president  of this prestifious political party. I commend  your effrots national affairs wise.I am  non partisan,respect all such.
    But mine  is the one  that  we started  in Paris Ssept. 1979. The World Armenian Congress with an objective  to have a Centralism in the diaspora(s)…anyhow…
    when I lioved  in Spain(some near 24  yrs) when Franco´s regime ended,Don Felipe gonzalez the vice  pres.of the Internacion Socialista, had  the important position  you have.He Was after Willy Brandt(pres) the most vigilant and progressive  such that conducted Spain through a 13  yr transitional  PERIOD, to the present  one  ,joining  the EU. You see, I too  participated  in Armenian affairs  in Europe ,Mainly France and Switzerland being elecgted to the above Congresss by some 380 participants(each with 20/40 proxis) from  near all Armenian community countriees…this is not for bragging,but to introduce  to you that  I too  have  political  background  and  have  been published  in N.American Armenian press.Nowadays  Hairenik beginning jan2011 published a  few  of  my not so much politically motivated  ones.I am thankfull.
    But they will not publish  what  I ssent  them and other political parties(Armenian) but  some nice  youngmen in CA. who have  jst started a  new  site ..www.armeniannews.info have.I am to send them  new  articles/papers  from  now  in order to make  known to the general Armenian public  that we need MORE  THAN WHAT OUR POLITICAL PARTIES  PRODUCE. WE NEED  OUR REAL  HUMAN  RESOURCES AND THE ECONOMIC POWER!!!!
    Gaytzag  palandjian  

  8. Our low points in Armenia indeed. There is no doubt that this country has been reduced down to the lowest common denominator, the thugs of our nation. What can we do? Well, Nareg is out, and you have to wonder why. My guess is that there was so much outrage from all over the world. Maybe it’s time that outrage go beyond the people we know and reach the rest of the nation. Maybe when women get beat, we show the same outrage. There’s a start.

  9. Dear Maria
    Although we all somehow know about how it is the situation in Armenia
    , but nevertheless it was very sad to read it . It really sounds like
    an outcry of the people of Armenia through your mouth . It is an
    exclamation of all the oppressed people in there , rejecting the
    corruption, the social injustice ,fraud and inequality .
    But why do we have to tolerate all this suffering, why can’t we stop
    behaving like ordinary group of people , and start behaving like a
    nation whose present is woeful , and whose future is uncertain ,and
    dreadful,a nation who has many challenges yet to face.
    Where is our revolutionary values that we boast having , why can’t
    we determine to consider time really mature to stand up all together
    as a nation to cry to their face loudly,
    This country is not a farm of your own .
    These people are not your serfs.
    The already drained mines are not your safes.
    The pastures are not yours to graze.
    This Land belongs to all of us in and out of the country.We have
    paid dearly enough to liberate some of our torn away lands , and we
    are not willing to lose it again.
    We need to find in us the determination and the will to
    reconstruct our country ,to bring back there the civilized values of
    our ancestors , so that all will feel safe .
    We have the power to change this land to EDEN that it was once.So
    that our beloved GROUNG one day flies back there this time taking our

  10.   Whoa, it’s Christmas! The season of hope. let’s not lose it. Frankly the situation in Armenia is not much different from other former Soviet societies where central planning and political repression sapped the strength of our people. Let’s also keep in mind the cultural impact of the oppression of the most important institution… the church. We talk about our Christian values but with churches closed, limited priestly ordinations and unbaptized children, our society was subjected to many generational challenges. Like most former Soviet republics , the political “insiders” were the beneficiaries of the power and economic transfer in the early 1990’s.
             It does not make it right. It just hurts more because it’s our beloved Armenia. It is happening elsewhere, but we don’t really care about what happen elsewhere. In the diaspora, we have grown up with a romantic notion of Armenia and we have packaged that dream into our expectations of the current Republic. We get excited when we meet another Armenian in the diaspora and invest time seeking out each other. We go to Armenia and it is devastating to see or experience corruption or social problems.
            We need to keep the romanticism to maintain our motivation, but beyond that get over it. Our efforts must be to understand reality and invest in solutions. In twenty years, the impact is evident. This is a great role for the diaspora… to help with the civil development of society in Armenia. In the diaspora, we are very focused on the political implications of the genocide. In Armenia, people are attentive to that , but are very concerned about jobs, education, quality of life and the future. Not that different from the way we behave in a our diasporan communities. We must display our outrage at issues that are counter to our value system, but we must be willing to invest. That will best serve the Armenia we grew up dreaming of.

  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwnzgBX7Zc    this is the site where I found the article Maria writes about. I have been to Guymri and seen for myself that many of our people are living in metal shacks. Winter has already arrived there, and I wonder how they keep warm. And what about our little children in Guymri – how are they able to have a hot breakfast and dress warmly for school when they have so little. There is no work. I cannot begin to imagine who the expected clientel for this ostentatious faux palace will be. Guymri is not exactly a tourist destination.  Avo writes of the Groung. I hope Maria will be a very regular contributor to these pages and continue to bring us news of home. Daylight exposes what the dark tries to hide. I applaud Maria for her great courage in writing this. And let us all stand up and make it clear – you are not a man, you are a nothing, when you raise your hand, or your voice in anger to any woman, anywhere. And you are even less than nothing when you raise your hand to a woman who has placed her heart in your hand for safekeeping. Much less than nothing.

  12. thanks for the link Perouz: that was disgusting.
    From the entrance all the way into the guest rooms the places screams Ռաբիզ. 
    They couldn’t pay me to stay there. It’s an insult to Armenian culture and architecture. 

  13. Sadly, we have a bunch of corrupt crooks running the country for their own wealth.I must be very frank and say, I don’t see how these crooks will ever leave their hot seats unless thrown out by force,all other means will not be effective.

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