BY LEEZA ARAKELIAN AND MASHA KERYAN
WATERTOWN, Mass., (Armenian Weekly)—Armenia’s National Assembly Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan just wrapped up his three day visit to the Greater Boston area this week. His time spent with the Armenian community in Watertown and Boston was part of a larger working visit to the eastern region with scheduled meetings in Washington, D.C. and New York. Mirzoyan was accompanied by other delegates including Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.
On Friday, Mirzoyan met with the Chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Eastern Region Central Committee George Aghjayan and ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member Ani Tchaghlasian at the Hairenik building, where he was taken on a tour of the archives of the ARF and the First Republic.
Mirzoyan, who has a PhD in history, reflected on his experience at the Hairenik building with members of the community that night during a scheduled town hall at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center. “I was reminded once more of the history of our people. But most importantly, it was a reminder and a lesson for me so that we can create a better future for our people, for Armenia—a future that we have dreamed about for many years.”
Democracy has been a significant part of that dream, continued Mirzoyan, as well as free and fair elections. He elaborated on this matter in Washington, D.C. during his formal remarks at the House Democracy Partnership Leaders’ Forum to which Armenia was invited for the first time. His speech was entitled, “Reasserting the Independence of the Legislature in the Face of Rising Authoritarianism.” Mirzoyan drew upon American history and the Federalist Papers; he argued that the root of authoritarianism is the inability of democratic leaders to stay connected with their citizens. “In Armenia, we are currently pursuing this through reforming and strengthening the democratic institutions, where reversal of the democratic breakthrough will be unattainable,” said Mirzoyan to a room full of D.C. lawmakers and international leaders.
It wasn’t until 2014 when Mirzoyan started paying closer attention to the disenfranchised. “Armenia’s problems require complex solutions,” he told editors of the Armenian Weekly and the Armenian Mirror Spectator on Saturday afternoon. “It became clear to me that if you want a change, you have to do it yourself, especially if you are against the government.” Mirzoyan has been in his post since last May; the Civil Contract party member has been leading 132 members of the legislative branch—a noticeably young demographic. “It was the youth that was the manpower of the revolution. It’s been mostly the youth fighting for all these years. Why wouldn’t they be in parliament after all that work?” he said.
During that interview, Mirzoyan covered a variety of topics with the Diasporan newspaper editors, including the United States’ newly imposed sanctions on Iran, an issue that Mirzoyan vehemently opposed at the Atlantic Council in Washington the previous week. “We have been neighbors with Iran for centuries,” he explained in Cambridge, Mass. “The Armenian economy has already suffered because of the sanctions. We cannot lose the privilege of getting gas from Iran.”
Closer to home in Artsakh, Mirzoyan spoke about the situation at the border. He says Armenia and Artsakh must continue working towards peaceful negotiations. While death rates at the border have decreased over time, Mirzoyan says that is not enough. “One death at the border is significant for us. We don’t want a single death at the border,” said Mirzoyan before asserting Armenia’s increased efforts in the negotiation process in partnership with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
As for Turkey’s latest controversial purchase from Armenia’s strategic partner—Russia, Mirzoyan says the arrangement might serve as a diplomatic opportunity for Armenia-Turkey relations. “The world is not black and white,” he said. “You can’t rule anything out in politics.”
Mirzoyan also visited Armenian Heritage Park in Boston to pay his respects at the Armenian Genocide memorial. In the final leg of their journey to the eastern region, Mirzoyan and his delegates traveled to New York. All in all, Mirzoyan says this was an important trip to the United States. “Every now and then, Armenian government leaders should have meetings with members of the Diaspora to keep the relationship dynamic and maintain open lines of communication.”