In the aftermath of the mass exodus of my fellow Armenians from Artsakh, I felt like a leaf, vibrant with some color but torn from its tree. Carrying with me the identity of a Syrian Armenian who endured five years of the Syrian Civil War, I sought answers to my childhood questions about the reasons behind wars and their purpose. It compelled me to share my thoughts with you. My intention in writing this piece is not to politicize or reopen old wounds, but rather, it is to share my perspective on a crucial topic that necessitates discussion.
“It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war,” said John F. Kennedy. It is a hard pill to swallow, yet it is a reality that cannot be ignored. But what about how an individual feels? Objectively speaking, wars are not just clashes between two states but also an internal struggle that an individual, a citizen, silently endures, waiting for the day of victory. It is like opening your eyes again after a long, heavy coma. Who knew we were going to witness these days? Or if we predicted, what actions could we have taken to prevent the reality we face now?
Sometimes, I need tranquility. Sometimes, I feel the need just to sit and look at what I have. Wars have been an inevitable part of politics and human life. Yet, we collectively want more, seek more, and cry out for more. But I have noticed that my identity is crying, looking for compassion and care, and I ask myself what I am doing for my identity. It is a deep and thoughtful process to understand the whole meaning of identity because to some it might mean language, to others it means culture. But I think to me it means, “What am I doing today that will help others recognize something similar within themselves?”
I remind myself that it is not just how I describe myself that makes my nation proud but how I secure my identity that will make my nation more stable and irreversible. It takes more than effort, action and determination to protect our identity. Before anything, we are humans, and after that, we are individuals with identities, and ultimately, we are a community and the representatives of a society. Lucky are those who are aware and conscious of their actions to protect their identities.
Besides fighting for what we want, we should also fight for the betterment of ourselves and consequently question and analyze the events happening to us. Understanding what our identities need and demand from us is an ongoing process that requires careful attention and consideration. How I treat my identity profoundly impacts how others perceive themselves in relation to me. It is like we are walking on an empty street with mirrors in our hands. There are a few lessons I taught myself throughout the not-so-favorable but lifelong experiences that I will forever keep in my heart. The first is to always be an active seeker of what my identity needs. This could be self-development, knowledge, more education or more discipline. The other is to know the worth of my identity, to value it and to keep it as high as possible.
Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Kyourk Arslanian is currently a sophomore student, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in politics and governance at the American University of Armenia.