In the summer of 2018, I initiated the “Women for Peace” campaign. You can read more about the campaign at https://wfp.annahakobyan.am/hy/home/.
My message of the campaign was as follows. “As women and mothers, we call on all the parties involved in the Karabakh conflict, and the mediating countries, never and never to allow the resumption of hostilities, and not to endanger the lives of young Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. We call on all women, influential and reputable women, ladies of heads of state to join this initiative, thanks to which it will become stronger and more powerful.”
The ultimate goal of the campaign was to raise up hundreds of thousands of Armenian women who would serve as an example and give courage to the Azerbaijani women living under the dictatorship, and as a result of their pressure, it would be possible to prevent a large-scale war and take a different way of resolving the conflict.
And what happened? What happened was that the “Women for Peace” campaign, still in its embryonic stage, faced the dead silence of Armenian women (I apologize to the few women who expressed support for the campaign and all those who did so in the form of a Facebook comment). 790 individuals and 17 organizations have registered in the “I support” section of the campaign’s official page.
Of course, Armenian mothers could not disagree with the message of the campaign and say: no, we want both our and Azerbaijani children to die in the war. This is not possible.
So what was the problem?
The problem was that the following thesis was put into circulation parallel to the start of the campaign. “Who are you to beg peace on behalf of Armenian women? The Armenian woman is not a peace beggar, she is an enforcer of peace. The Armenian woman is not only the one that gives birth to a lion, but also a lioness, and if necessary, she will take up arms and sacrifice herself with her son on the battlefield, but will never beg peace.”
I also said that while covering the April war, I saw absolutely the same fear in the eyes of both Armenian and Azerbaijani 18-20-year-old soldiers, that I am sure our boys will be heroes again on the battlefield, but let’s not push them to that heroism. In response to this, another thesis was launched. “Fear? How dare you put a sign of equality between our soldier and the Azerbaijani soldier? An Armenian mother gives birth to only a fearless, brave soldier”.
These empty sentences were enough to control and keep back the Armenian women. The fear of being put on the “traitor list” was so powerful.
And that the sentences were empty was seen during the war. 1 million 231 thousand 584 women over the age of 18 live in Armenia. I’m not even talking about several million lioness Armenian women living in the Diaspora. During the war, when the head of the country called on everyone, including women and girls, to form squads, only the “Erato” squad (12 people), and “Sose” company (100 people) were formed.
And our children were left alone against the enemy in a conspiratorial and unequal war. And of course they overcame their fears, fought an inhumane battle, became heroes, many of them fell heroically.
For two years now, I am wondering if I didn’t put enough effort into the “Women for Peace” campaign. I was thinking that the words and persistence of the wife of the country’s leader would be enough for self-organization. We have hundreds of women’s unions, councils, associations, NGOs, famous/reputable women in art, science, politics and many other fields. Some of them, for example, on the occasion of March 8 and April 7, intensively find themselves around the stages and tables of parties, and listen with great emotions to the poems dedicated to the type of Armenian woman who gives birth to lions, worships and protects her homeland and home. The other part organizes seminars and forums dedicated to increasing the role and importance of women. Somewhere they give speeches with a serious face, in another they talk and rejoice. Before and after these two days of celebration, however, is the real life, where there is already a race in learning by heart the “code of conduct”. Everyone teaches everyone when and what not to do, and the most important thing is how to mourn correctly, persuasively, maximally visible, loudly. It is surprising why we do not have a “Mourning Police” so far, I am sure that tens of thousands of applications would have been received for serving in that structure.
It is not proved, of course, that the “Women for Peace” campaign would have stopped the war. But we even don’t know it because we haven’t tried. And the problem is not even that, but taking responsibility and having the courage to express a position, at least when the question of life and death of your own child is being decided.
I don’t want to believe that the maximum that an Armenian woman is capable of is praying or cursing, or crying after the death of her heroes.
P.S. For two years now, there has been a pan-Armenian discussion about why we chose the name of Queen Erato for the squad. The fact that she is the heir of Tigran the Great and the first ruling queen in the history of Armenia maybe are not worth attention. She is a defeated queen, they say. And maybe she lost because the faint-hearted traitors who served the interests of foreign empires and attacked the Armenian state from behind were abound in the kingdom? I think this is a hypothesis that has the right to exist.