Growing up, whenever my attention would move to the causes of other peoples, my family and Armenian community would turn my attention back to our Armenian struggle, as if their hands were permanently embedded on my cheek, turning it the other way. Yet do we want to patent our victimhood and struggle? Is the Armenian struggle different or more important than other struggles?
In these past eight weeks, we have seen the death of over 20,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children. Families have been torn apart and entire lineages obliterated. We have seen the state of Israel perpetuate genocide. This is nothing new, but also begs us to ask our Jewish friends—is this the best you can do? Do you really believe you are the victims in this war? No civilian life should be taken, be it Palestinian or Israeli; however, there is something wrong in having to justify our support for an occupied people. Each day I come across a social media post and shake my head in disbelief at the delusions of many Zionists, the delusions of a people who justify their actions with their victimhood.
Our Armenian people also have delusions. Few Armenians are standing by the Palestinians, and I question the silence of our community. Some justify their stance by saying that Hamas congratulated Azerbaijan on taking Artsakh. This is true, and Al-Jazeera often sides with the Muslim side, but are we forgetting that Israel is a strong ally of Azerbaijan and armed them to commit genocide in Artsakh?
Recently, my husband Haig, my sister Taline and I climbed Mount Ararat. It was magical and one of the hardest things we have done. The highlight for me was the unity of all people, of Armenian and Kurdish guides, on our ancestral lands. Many Armenians do not want to step foot in historic Armenia because it is present day Turkey. Yet this land calls to us, recognizes us and knows us deeply.
It took us three days to climb the mountain amongst friends who quickly became best friends. When undergoing an arduous adventure, our vulnerabilities emerge, creating space for true humanity. On our first night at base camp one, we met a group of Israelis who were preparing for their climb. Born in Lebanon and having lived through war in my early years, I am a bit wary of Israelis when I first meet them and where their politics and feelings lie. The eldest of the group, Daniel, was 80 years old at the time and very friendly. He had been a runner all his life, having completed numerous marathons. Daniel was also an environmentalist. He opposed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with passion, and as a progressive Jew, took part in many protests prior to coming on the trip.
On our first night, we partied under the full moon. We danced and sang, collecting our strength for the next day. Some of us felt a bit woozy from the elevation, but it was bearable. The Israeli group stood to the side watching us dance. Two of them joined, then retreated to their tent.
The next day was grueling, as we climbed and descended from Ararat in 14 hours. When we returned to base camp one, I noticed a Palestinian flag flying high. I ventured toward it and was excited to find a group of Palestinians preparing for their upcoming climb. We spoke a bit, and I told them that a group of Israelis was up on the mountain now. “They are progressives,” I said. Their eyebrows turned up. “Progressives. Let them show us how progressive they are. I would like to see that,” one of them said.
That evening, my body needed rest, and I had no choice but to lay in my sleeping bag. I heard the Palestinian group partying all night and fell asleep muttering about how much I wanted to join them. I still think of them often.
As survivors of genocide, we need to build alliances with other communities to take our cause further. We need to fight for our existence, side by side with people who fight for their existence. We need to incorporate Indigenous voices in our narrative and support Indigenous struggles. Ours is an Indigenous struggle, so why do we hesitate to support others?
For me, this was the highlight of our climb—people joined together in one place behaving like the humans that we are.
I ask myself why we cannot take this approach with us everywhere. As Armenians, we need to stand with the Palestinians. As survivors of genocide, we need to build alliances with other communities to take our cause further. We need to fight for our existence, side by side with people who fight for their existence. We need to incorporate Indigenous voices in our narrative and support Indigenous struggles. Ours is an Indigenous struggle, so why do we hesitate to support others? Why is it that we look at our struggle as us-against-them?
I believe our country has a bright future if we stand together. I pray that the narrative changes to allow for unity and the betterment of Armenia. As Hrant Dink wrote in one of his articles: “Come, let us first understand each other…Come, let us first respect each other’s pain…Come, let us first let one another live…”
The world has not been a safe place for Armenians, just as it has not been for the Jews. The victim mentality of seeing threats in many places is still present in the Armenian mindset. This approach perpetuates fear and promotes the intergenerational trauma within us.
How about a different narrative? How about not seeing ourselves as victims? How about not fearing the people around us? How about embracing our strengths and not defining ourselves just by 1915? How about making our ancestors proud by becoming stronger in unity?