BY SAREEN KASPARIAN
March welcomes spring with longer and warmer days, when trees sprout new leaves and colorful flowers bloom, but March is also designated as Women’s History Month in the United States, a month set aside to honor women’s contributions in history.
As I identify independent, successful, and educated women as role models, I learn from their experiences and proudly reflect on their accomplishments. In my own life, I admire my mom, who finds a way to balance it all– from a demanding career to family life to community service. As a student, I look up to Rita Kaprielian, a distinguished and passionate educator and leader who recently received a medal of honor from His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos for 40 years of service.
In a wider view, I find inspiration in famed entrepreneur Carolyn Rafaelian, founder of Alex and Ani jewelry company, who uses her company and status to raise awareness for Armenia. I find inspiration in elected officials like Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Jackie Speier, who represent and support the Armenian American community in the halls of Congress.
Of course, we can’t forget the Kardashian empire. Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé have a massive impact on popular culture, with a social media following that numbers in the millions. Through various channels, they raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide and Artsakh by sharing personal sentiments and posts from organizations like the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and community advocates like Eric Esrailian.
Although contributions by the rich, powerful, and famous are impactful and important, they don’t diminish the incredible accomplishments of two women whom I idolize even more today for their heroism in and for Artsakh.
Lara Setrakian’s career as a recognized and prominent journalist and news correspondent is noteworthy in and of itself. However, what truly sets her apart is her role as the voice of change. Determined to shine international light on one of the deadliest conflicts of modern time, Setrakian was one of the first journalists to cover the “bloody battle” of Artsakh, an unknown region to the world of media. As I watched her interview with Ali Velshi from MSNBC News, I was captivated by her poise, passion and purpose.
In another interview with Robert Nicholson, Setrakian shares parts of her personal life as a mother and journalist and why she and her family returned to Armenia amid mounting tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Setrakian’s impressive resume, which includes a Harvard degree, former role as a Middle East correspondent for Bloomberg TV and ABC, founder of News Deeply and her current position as President of the Applied Policy Research Institute in Yerevan, makes her a widely recognized and respected expert. Her commitment to reporting with honesty and integrity has earned her a reputation for excellence in the field. “When asked to tell human stories from the Lachin Corridor crisis, I naturally obliged. Covering underreported stories through the people on the ground has been my guiding principle as a journalist,” wrote Setrakian.
And then there’s Dr. Biayna Sukhudyan, a modern day Sose Mayrig. While her battle is different, she demonstrates the same selflessness and dedication, embodying qualities of strength, nurturance and love. Sukhudyan is the Chief of Neurology and Epilepsy Service at Arabkir Medical Center in Yerevan. In March 2021, Sukhudyan and her colleagues launched a medical program to serve patients in war-torn Artsakh. This included traveling to Artsakh for a week every two months as well as ongoing online support to doctors, medical staff, and patients. However, her most recent trip was out of the ordinary.
Leaving her family in Yerevan, Sukhudyan departed on December 11th and was not able to return home because of the blockade. In an interview with Billy Hallowell, Senior Writer of Faithwire.com, Sukhudyan shares her experience as a physician struggling to help her patients with severe medical conditions with limited resources– and often times deprived of food, gas and medications.
“During this period of blockade, some particularly difficult operations which would never have been carried out under normal conditions were nevertheless carried out” said Sukhudyan. It makes Sukhudyan very nervous when she thinks about the continuation of the blockade. “With no road or air access, medications and specialists, this situation is catastrophic. Something must be done. We cannot wait for the next genocide… because this is genocide.”
Although Sukhudyan was stranded in Artsakh for more than 30 days, she embraced her ties to the people of Artsakh. “We are separated from our families and patients in Yerevan, but on the other hand, it would be very difficult for us to leave here (Artsakh) and go.”
Sareen Kasparian is currently a junior at Crescenta Valley High School and a member of the Pasadena Nigol Touman chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation. Teachable Moments is a knowledge exchange, a column dedicated to sharing generational insight as we intertwine experience and reasoning with modern day problems and solutions.