Calling All Armenian Men

Domestic violence: statues of Rodin in the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Flickr/Cédric Charbonnel)

“Hi, are you from Armenia?”

“Yes, how do you know?”

“I just read the last three letters of your surname on your badge. Nice to meet you, I am Pablo from Spain. I was a tourist in Armenia two months ago.”

At that moment, there was no mirror in front of me, but I felt my eyes shining with happiness and my entire posture bending toward Pablo, anticipating of tasty descriptions about the deliciousness of Armenian food, ecstatic exclamations about the beauty of Armenian landscapes and spontaneous evidence of vivid and spirited dances of my motherland. I had not been home for an entire year, and meeting someone who had a fresh sense of post-revolutionary Armenia seemed to be a great opportunity to get informed and excited about these monumental events in my country.

“Such a blessing for me to meet someone who has visited my home! What did you like the most? Was there anything that surprised you? Was…”

For a minute I felt as if the full essence of my profession was being encompassed and revealed within the first seconds of my dialogue with a newly met stranger. “A journalist with never-ending questions and boundless curiosity,” was the self-image in my mind, but, like every self-respecting journalist, I cared the most about the issue at hand and the least about myself.

“Armenia is a beautiful country, beautiful in every sense of the word. I was almost falling in love with your country, but…you know, your country is a great place to visit, but…but not to live.”

Instantly, the journalist was transformed into an indignant nationalist. Now my self-respect and identity were the issue at hand. Meanwhile, my mind was suffering from a heavy load of questions that I, luckily, did not have to pose to my interlocutor, as Pablo himself continued.

“I was just walking my way to the city center when I saw a nearly 40 year-old man beating his wife…wife?…sister?… I do not know who exactly she was, but she was a woman. I did not want to believe my eyes as all I had heard of Armenia and Armenian men was positive and admirable, but that man… Or, you know what, I just remembered that Armenia had many tourists this summer, probably that man too was…”

“Exactly! He could have had any other nationality but not Armenian. We have many tourists in Armenia, especially in summer. Armenian men do not beat women; it is against our cultural values and principles. As someone who has lived in Armenia for 17 years, I can ensure you that my country is a great place not only to visit, but also to live.”

I handily changed the topic from men to food – something I could discuss proudly and without blushing. I myself had been witness to a few cases when an Armenian man had been beating his wife in a street or yelling at her at a café. In those moments, for a second, I was led to the thinking that Armenia is ‘‘not a great place to live.’’ Then, instantly, I changed my mind, remembering the love and affection that my Armenian dad had always shown for my mom, remembering the great literature in which Armenian poets had so greatly honored Armenian women. I reminisced about the toasts at every Armenian feast including words of praise and admiration for Armenian mothers and the great statue of ‘‘Mayr Hayastan [Mother Armenia]’’ that so neatly illustrates the immense importance of women and motherhood in the Armenian culture. Finally, I was recalling the fact that, yet during the first Armenian Republic, at a time when many Western societies were fighting for basic women’s rights, four Armenian women were already elected members of Armenian Parliament. I was reflecting on the unbreakable spirit of our Queen Parandzem and the power bestowed upon her. My moment of disappointment was in the shadows of the bright light of faith and love toward Armenian culture and traditions.

Yet, my conversation with the Spanish stranger had left lasting questions in my journalistically curious and patriotically thoughtful mind. Why, despite our inherently high-standing values, do we sometimes present ourselves as harsh and violent creatures in front of the ‘Western’ eye? Why do we, despite being inherently cultured Armenians, hurt our women and harm the minds of our impressionable children who are so easily indoctrinated by no other lesson than that of personal example from their parents? Unhealthy father-mother relationships give rise to mentally and emotionally impacted children who later create their own families on the basis of violence and power as opposed to love and mutual understanding, resulting in a vicious cycle of physical and emotional outrage and an overall unhealthy society.

Along with creating a false image of our country, our culture and our people, along with serving as a terrible example for the young living in Armenia, the irresponsible actions of these hostile men have another implied, but dangerously threatening side-effect. In fact, these are these few pieces of evidence of violence that provide some international organizations with steadfast arguments to intervene in our national affairs as if to educate and teach us. Teach us about the importance of respect toward women, about the significance of their role in our day-to-day life, educate us to become civilized, to become cultured, to enlighten us, to liberate us from ourselves. But aren’t we the ones who have known these truths for millenials? Aren’t we the ones who have proven to live up to these truths in practice as opposed to some foreign theory-based lectures? Aren’t we the ones whose culture and history award them with the ultimate and utmost right to teach other nations about the importance of women as mothers, sisters, doctors, warriors…about the importance of women as women?

We have the right, but we also have the responsibility. The responsibility not to leave the sweet words of toasts to be drowned in the bitterness of alcohol, the responsibility not to leave the praise and promises of the gorgeous poems of great Armenian poets fade on the paper, not to blind the vivid glitter of hope and love in the eyes of our children with the darkness of violence and fear, and, finally, the responsibility not to disappoint a young Armenian girl who will always believe and will always convince any ‘Pablo’ she meets that Armenia is home.

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan currently studies at UWC Changshu China. Since the age of 11, she has been writing articles for a local newspaper named Kanch ('Call'). At the age of 18, she published her first novel on Granish.org and created her own blog, 'With A New Breath'—a portal devoted to interviewing young and talented Armenians all around the world. Baghdasaryan considers storytelling, traveling and learning new languages to be critical in helping one explore the world, connect with others, and discover oneself. In the fall 2019, Milena will begin her studies in Creative Writing and Literature at New York University in Abu Dhabi.
Milena Baghdasaryan

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12 Comments

  1. You should have asked him: Don’t the Spanish men beat their wives or their wives beat them? Don’t the Spanish & 3 of them raped an innocent young girl during a fiesta…?
    Definitely it is very ugly disgusting scene, whether Armenian, Spanish or any other nationality & culprits should be severely punished!

    • I didn’t ask because I know the answer. Of course they do, it happens everywhere, in any nation, from the least developed to the most developed ones. But, as you said,it is a disgusting scene, and I wouldn’t like to see this happen in my country, no matter whether or not it also happens in Spain or anywhere else. If we can avoid this disgust, we definitely should, and I am more than sure that we can.

    • Does it excuse this behavior ifvit also happens in other nations? I think not. To say it happens elsewhere is to try to divert attention from the problem.
      Let the nation face the issue, stop talking and act. Passing legislation is futile if there’s a lack of enforcement by police and courts.
      How would you have acted if that woman was a relative of yours?

  2. This is a matter that deserves constant and ongoing coverage, not only in Armenia, but worldwide. Violence against women, all women, is today one of the major causes of female death. And DV is one of the most terrible forms of violence against women, specially because the perpetrator has easy access to his victim and the latter often feels trapped into a situation from which no easy way out can be seen.
    It is interesting to bring up this topic and commend the writer. I wish, though, that more room was consecrated to the actual issue and the DV problem at hand, rather than the young Armenian journalist’s curiosity (mentioned a few times) and her dismay at the Spaniard’s observations.
    DV can take many forms, including domestic rape! Just today I read about a domestic sexual abuse situation of a 13 year old girl in Japan where the perpetrator was acquitted by the court under the pretext that the victim should have resisted. Men, including that judge, have a long way to go to get properly educated in domestic, or wild violence against women in all its shapes and forms. Such violence can sometimes take the form of simple lack of respect, a snappy answer, or a scolding or dismissive tone of voice, as much as it can take an extreme physical form culminating in murder.
    And yes, Armenia is high up on the list of countries with DV.
    Mentalities need to change, and all women and in this case Armenian women, must be given the respect they deserve not because they are women, but because they are rightful human beings with equal rights!
    I have been advocating the fight against DV and speaking about DV present in Armenia and within Armenian communities since 1994, when at the first AIWA conference in London I addressed this matter, bringing in one case study as an example. It was a situation I had personally witnessed.
    Reactions from the women present were mixed. Some were shocked that such a thing exists, or pretended to be; others cheered me for brining the matter to light; and one person, a certain Mrs. Hranush Hakobyan, then National Assembly of Armenia member, and later Minister of Diaspora, verbally attacked me, both in my presence and I heard later in my back, saying how dare I generalize on such a matter. My presentation was far from being a statistical survey or a generalization of any kind. It was a simple case study. And my answer to her was, “If there is one case, it is one case too many!” I still hold that opinion and I know there are many many many more cases. This is a shameful practice, and should be completely eradicated if Armenian society really wants to step into the 21st (and subsequent) centuries.
    Armenian men need to find other outlets for their frustrations, such as joining a gym, rock climbing, parachuting, even boxing, which is not one of my favorite sports, or better still yoga and mediation for a centered, clear and relaxed mind. And please don’t talk to me about Armenian Family Values! it sounds so hypocritical when pronounced by Armenian men.
    Thank you for bringing up this subject again. This has to be an ongoing discussion topic and a perpetual shaming of the men who engage in it, until we dont need to any more.

  3. Thank You Milena Baghdasaryan, I am so glad that what Pablo said made you feel uncomfortable and made you think and write this article. Yes, there are lot of negatives that happen all over the world, but we should not compare or even bring it up in our conversation. What we want is to make the lives of women better in Armenia. It is a fact that there is lot of abuse, which is not recognized by men and more sadly by lot of Armenian women. Most countries have populations in at least double digit millions, what we have is less then 3M. It is a shame that we are not making enough effort to educate and make men understand that abusing, beating or being disrespectful to women tells us who they are, how the productivity of a nation declines, how coming generation of young men continue doing what they see from the men they grow up with. In Armenia it should start with women, they have to be educated that this kind of behavior is not accepted, women have to protect each other, men have to protect women from other men, young male children have to start at early age respecting each other and being cordial. We can teach chess, we can teach science, we can teach art, but when it comes to respecting fellow human is not practiced. Behaviors have to change, men abusing others have to be punished. I hope that more women and men journalists will write about this subject, investigate and bring up the problems. When there is more awareness, there will be more discussions how to change the situation for the positive.

    Thank You again for bringing up this important subject.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree, and am thankful that there Armenians (such as yourself) who are willing to confront the negative sides of our society as well as celebrate the great.
    Merci Milena for this article (cant wait to see post revolution Yerevan:)).

  5. Whenever a Armenian man lays a hand on a ARMENIAN women, just remember when the Turks were butchering, burning, raping those innocent ARMENIAN females during the Genocide!

    Armenian women are our life love and breath, no man dares to touch what is precious.

    Form an Armenian, Husband, brother and father.

  6. Obviously men should not abuse their wives, but when will Armenians stop measuring ourselves by the ideologies of the West when their societies are in total collapse?

    • Silly attempt to link Western “ideologies” (opposition to domestic violence, and, well, of course, LGBT tolerance, I assume?) to ostensible “collapse” (where?).

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