Armenians Remember Michael Jackson

YEREVAN (A.W.)—Thousands of Michael Jackson fans in Armenia were tied to their television screens on July 7, watching the memorial concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Armenian Weekly asked fans in Yerevan to share their feeling and thoughts about Jackson.

“Michael Jackson has many admirers here, and people never cared much about the rumors surrounding his personal life,” said Mariam Nahapetyan, an auditor based in Yerevan. “When I was at school, he was an idol for us. My classmates would try to learn dancing like Michael Jackson. We would even get together and listen to his songs,” she added, noting that many Armenians took flowers to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to express their condolences.

Nari Hakobyan, a young woman in Yerevan who is getting ready to pursue graduate studies in Europe, talked about the impact Jackson had on many people around the world with his music and charitable work. “I always remember his song ‘Heal the World,’ and that’s what he did. He made the world a better place,” she said.

Armine Tokhmakhian, who works for Armenia Tree Project in Yerevan, followed the memorial service on CNN with “sadness and excitement.” She said, “I cannot say that I used to be a big fan of MJ, but he is a legend and, undoubtedly, he is the king of pop.”

Arman Vardanyan, a business major in Yerevan who watched the memorial concert with friends, said he was most moved by the words of Jackson’s daughter, Paris. “Michael was often misunderstood and criticized unfairly,” he said. “People often forgot that behind all the fame and success and controversy, Jackson was a son, a brother, a father who wanted to be happy and make the people around him happy.”

Sirarpi Shanlyan, who works for HSBC in Yerevan, said, “With my entire family, we were watching the memorial ceremony to say goodbye to Michael Jackson. We couldn’t stop our tears during the ceremony. I felt it was all a bad dream, and when I wake up he’ll be there on TV again with his new 50 shows, his magical performances that give so much energy to all of his fans.”

She adds, “Thank you Michael for giving so much to us, for your music, terrific songs, performances, concerts… for helping the Earth, nations, children… You wanted to change the world for better, and you did! And we’re so grateful to you…”

Moving words on Jackson’s life and legacy came from Zepyur Batikyan, an Armenian national currently working as a freelance translator and interpreter in London. His music, she said, has touched her ever since she was a kid. “I can remember Michael Jackson as long as I remember myself. I wasn’t an MJ fan until I was 13. But before that I clearly remember watching ‘Thriller’ when I was about five or six years old, thinking it was a great scary movie,” she said.

Talking about Jackson’s huge popularity across Armenia, she said, “They know MJ in every remote corner of the world. In an Armenian village, Horom, not far from Gyumri, where I spent a summer holiday at the age of seven, little kids knew who MJ was, MJ stickers for T-shirts were being sold there and somehow I got one.”

For Batikyan, who saw Michael Jackson in London during his History Tour, the King of Pop was an inspiration. “MJ had powerful messages that affected a lot of people, including me. I have my own charitable organization and this credit goes to MJ. Songs such as ‘Heal the World,’ ‘We are the world,’ ‘Earth Song’ and many others have inspired people to start caring about our planet,” she said.

Movses Babayan in Yerevan contributed to this report.

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