BY ERIC KHZMALYAN
I have lived in various cities in the past several years: all the way from my hometown Yerevan to a small town in Oregon, then from Los Angeles to Marshall, Minnesota. These constant trips, of course, helped me to gain a valuable experience, meet some bright people, expand my horizons, and finally fill my life with exhilarating adventures. But as an aspiring diplomat, I bore in mind that working or interning in Washington DC was a must so I made it my goal to settle in DC for a couple months. And as soon as I learned about the astounding internship opportunity offered by ANCA, I started putting my paperwork together without wasting a minute.
About two months ago I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance to Leo Sarkisian internship in Washington DC. There I was sitting in my room with a big smile on my face and already imagining myself walking around the Capitol Hill meeting some of the high profile legislators, political activists, and diplomats from all around the world. The countdown had begun.
I arrived in Washington DC on June 11th: one of the most exciting journeys of my life was about to begin. While in a cab-en route to ANCA’s office -I looked around trying not to miss any of the architectural masterpieces that DC is known for. I couldn’t believe that I would be spending the next two months interning in nation’s capital. Needless to mention that this was a dream come true for a political science major. My life had definitely taken an exciting turn.
As I expected the first week was full of back-to-back meetings, lectures, and assignments. We were lectured by ANCA’s Aram Hamparian and Elizabeth Chouldjian, witnessed Samantha Power testify before House Foreign Affairs Committee, had a riveting conversation with Rep. David Valadao, met Rep. Robert Dold who sponsored the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and visited Rep. Adam Schiff’s office to discuss some of the issues concerning Armenia and US-Turkey relations.
Part of this internship program are the individual projects that we are assigned. I couldn’t be happier to learn that for the next couple of weeks I’ll be conducting an intensive research on Artsakh.
There are many privileges of being an intern in Washington DC: as young students we take a first-hand look at the political system of the US, take advantage of ample opportunities, and have a direct access to some of the greatest sources. And this is exactly what I did for my project: used the opportunity of meeting with Nagorno Karabakh Representative to the US Robert Avetisyan for my research project.
After Mr. Avetisyan briefed us on what he and his team do to advance the interests of NKR I immediately started asking questions about Artsakh’s attempts of being recognized as an independent republic, its right of self-determination, and humanitarian needs. Avetisyan’s statements on Nagorno Karabakh having the necessary elements to be a free and democratic state were reassuring. It is also important to consider the statements made by international observers who praised NKR for holding elections in accordance with international standards. On the other end of the spectrum is the neighboring Azerbaijan whose human rights record is on unprecedented decline and the country has dramatically shifted toward authoritarianism.
Mr. Avetisyan for several times mentioned the ANCA and the important role of the Armenian American community for its valuable contribution in guaranteeing Artsakh’s security and prosperity.
Now that we are here in Washington DC we are committed to putting our entire potential in motion. Advocating for the Armenian Cause has become part of our lives and essence. I believe that it should be the duty of every Armenian to get involved in activities that opt for obtaining justice for the Armenian people.
Today, the very fact that we have an independent country, should serve as a stimulus for all of us to put efforts into making Armenia a better place, securing Artsakh’s self-determination, and finally achieving the global recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
After completing my internship, I will proceed with my task of sharing my experience and knowledge with my community; students in particular. Educating the non-Armenians about the current issues regarding the Armenian Cause has been on my agenda for quite a while. This internship will enhance my knowledge and motivation to educate my fellow students about our politics, culture, history, and the Cause we are fighting for.