Pursuing Justice in the Shadow of Our Mountains

2022 AYF Internship in Armenia participants

This past summer, I participated in the AYF Internship in Armenia program, where I had the privilege of interning at the International Comparative Law Center (ICLaw). Throughout my experience at ICLaw, I came to learn of the devastating stories of hundreds of Armenian soldiers and civilians whose lives were taken from them by Azerbaijani soldiers. In each case, the violations of human rights and international law are abundant, and the wounds left behind are unfathomable and earth-shattering. To this day, numerous Armenian soldiers and civilians remain in Azerbaijani captivity — their fates uncertain. These prisoners of war are not just names on a list, or bargaining tools, the way Azerbaijan views them. These captives are our brothers. They are our sons. They are brave Armenian men with families and futures that have been robbed by evil, merciless men who revel in the destruction of Armenian lives and Armenian lands. Without much regard from the current leadership of the Armenian government, the pursuit of justice has been taken on by selfless lawyers and human rights activists who have dedicated their days to making sure that our boys are not forgotten, no matter how long it takes.

«Լեռան լանջին խոր նիրհում են ֆիտայիներ յաւիտեան»
“On the slope of the mountain, our freedom fighters rest forever.”

These familiar words lingered in my mind as I spent my summer surrounded by those same mountains. Our mountains stand proudly, watching over us at all times. To call them majestic is an understatement. For thousands of years, our mountains have stood strong; our fedayees perched on their peaks have stood even stronger. As Armenians, we come to learn that absolutely nothing has been handed to us. Every single inch of our homeland, both the liberated and occupied, has been fought and died for by Armenian heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of a free, independent and united Armenian nation. Turning away from that, choosing to ignore it or taking it for granted, is not an option. It’s not just land. Our history is etched into our mountains, the blood of our heroes spilled into our soil. It doesn’t belong to any one traitor to give away to the highest bidder.

our story doesn’t end here

In 1890, the founders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) saw a nation worth fighting for. They created the path toward the just cause of the liberation of the Armenian people and homeland. As members of the Armenian Youth Federation-Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, we can never forget that we are their legacy. For the past two years, our nation has experienced unfathomable hardship and devastation. Our ‘Never Again’ of 107 years happened again, and many of us find ourselves suffocating in hopelessness. In our daily uncertainty of what devastating news the next day will bring, I do know one thing for certain, and that is that our story doesn’t end here. It doesn’t end with Pashinyan, or with Erdogan or Aliyev. Let our mountains be a reminder of our unfulfilled calling to liberate our nation from its oppressors. 

Mari Bijimenian at the Tatik Papik monument in Stepanakert
Mari Bijimenian

Mari Bijimenian

Mari Bijimenian is a senior at St. John's University in Queens, New York. Mari was a former ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern. She currently serves on the ANC-NY board. She is an active member of the AYF and serves as secretary of the AYF New York "Hyortik" Chapter. She also teaches at Suzanne and Hovsep Hagopian Armenian School at St. Sarkis Church.
Mari Bijimenian

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2 Comments

  1. This is my baby! I am so proud of her. Someday, our nation will be proud of her! Powerful words! Powerful writing! God Bless You! Keep up the good work.

  2. I just came back from Armenia. Throughout my stay there I saw the devastations and funerals of our soldiers, met with the families suffering from the attacks of cruel Azeri army, met with the parents of fallen heroes. Five and a half months I’ve seen the worst.
    Empty words of some world leaders don’t help us, Armenia needs military assistance and new leadership.

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