BOSTON, Mass. — Artsakh State Minister Artak Beglaryan knows the value of perseverance in the face of adversity all too well.
A native of the war torn region, Beglaryan’s father died defending his homeland during the First Nagorno Karabakh War when he was just a little boy. “While growing up, I gradually understood that my father will never come [back home],” he recalled during his remarks at the downtown commemoration for martyrs of the 2020 Artsakh War on Sunday afternoon. Two years later at the age of six, Beglaryan was rendered blind after accidentally tampering with a leftover mine. His newly widowed mother re-assured her son that his vision would return in time. Unfortunately, she too passed away when Beglaryan was a teenager, his sight left unrestored. “But I got a stronger vision,” he told the few hundred Armenians in attendance at Armenian Heritage Park, “A stronger vision to keep the values and dignity of my parents, of my homeland, of my nation.”
Beglaryan, a 2013 Tavitian scholar at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, has been visiting Armenian American communities across the United States discussing the state of his homeland Artsakh following the war that ended one year ago this week. Prior to his current role, Diasporans knew Beglaryan as Artsakh’s Human Rights Ombudsman. Throughout the course of the destructive war, he would be seen on-camera in a bulletproof vest among the rubble of newly bombed neighborhoods, issuing detailed reports about deliberate war crimes against the civilian populations of Artsakh, part of Azerbaijan’s grisly campaign to eliminate Armenians from their indigenous lands. Beglaryan’s message to an aloof international community was, “Don’t be blind.”
Now, one year later and with nearly three-quarters of Artsakh under Azeri occupation, Beglaryan says there is much work to be done. At Sunday’s commemoration organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) of Boston, Beglaryan underscored the imperative need for the international recognition of Artsakh and encouraged Diasporans to lead a life of service as part of their national and Christian identity. He offered opportunities to invest in the post-war republic to help rebuild its economy and proposed living and working in Artsakh to boost its population growth.
“This war was, in effect, a continuation of a 125-year concerted effort to rid the Armenian highlands of its indigenous Armenian inhabitants,” stressed Dr. Vazrik Chiloyan in his formal remarks as master of ceremonies. “As we gather here to honor the fallen heroes of this unjust war, we send the world an unequivocal message of defiance and resilience,” he continued, pointing to the Park’s abstract sculpture as a symbol of the survivor generation’s strength and fortitude.
Dotting the meandering grassy labyrinth near the sculpture that day were five-thousand flags of the Republics of Artsakh and Armenia planted by St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School students in honor of their homeland’s fallen heroes. Internationally-acclaimed tenor Yeghishe Manucharyan’s solemn rendition of Der Voghormia (“Lord have mercy”) preceded a memorial service led by the Armenian clergy of eastern Massachusetts. Local vocal artist and Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Cambridge “Shushi” Chapter chairwoman Ani Zargarian sang the national anthems of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh as well as the United States, while mezzo-soprano Victoria Avetisyan closed out the program with a stunning performance of “Amazing Grace.”
Beglaryan, for his part, also concluded his address to the Boston Armenian community with a spontaneous singing of a village song “Horovel” from the Artsakh region. “It’s about work,” he explained, “It’s about light and hope. It’s about our future. We are all Artsakh.”