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Anna Hakobyan’s Speech at the Carnegie Endowment

Dear Mr. Stronski,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is an honor for me to be hosted at a think tank, whose founders truly believed in the value of education, as well as international cooperation to promote peace. Many people dream of peace in the world, but few act, trying to make that dream true. The founders of the Carnegie Endowment did so by establishing public libraries for local communities, founding an Institute of Technology in Pittsburg and financing the construction of the Peace Palace in The Hague.

And it is within this logic that the people who stood behind such ambitious projects came up with the idea of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Extending its branches to cover most of the world, the Endowment has been trying to showcase solutions to the conflicts and offer formulas, with the sole aim of advancing peace. And I am grateful to the organizers of this event, and the moderator, an experienced diplomat and a leading expert of our region Mr. Stronski, for efforts to pursue the ideas and goals of their predecessors, thus contributing to the world peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Living in the South Caucasus – a region that has always been at the crossroads of clashes – we know firsthand how precious peace is. Of course, I am not that naïve to think that peace is the absence of conflicts. I am not speaking of absolute peace. 

I am not speaking of legal peace either. Peace does not rest in the covenants alone. As time has shown all the agreements on non-proliferation, containment and prevention do not serve their true aim unless peace lies in the hearts and minds of people.

Neither am I speaking of political peace. It is up to the politicians and world leaders to negotiate it. But until the driving force behind these talks is peace for their own nation, rather than peace for all men and women, until the driving force of these negations is peace for our time, instead of peace for all the times, they will not serve their purpose.

Then, what kind of peace am I speaking of? 

I am talking of genuine peace. Peace that creates conditions for growth and prosperity. Peace that ensures success for new initiatives. Peace which is the presence of will to solve conflicts in a peaceful manner. A true desire to make what is on paper a reality.

Indeed, as late US President John Kennedy once said: “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” And each of us – women and men, teachers and students, soldiers and politicians alike – have our own parts to play in this process.

Having this in mind, and trying to play my part in promoting peace, in 2018 I initiated “Women for Peace” Campaign. Everyone does understand, that in the roots of this initiative is the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. However, geopolitical peculiarities of this conflict are beyond the framework of this initiative. It is not affiliated with any political party, it does not advocate for any particular model of solution to the conflict, it does not seek to enter the political dimension of the conflict.

As a woman and mother I believe that the most important thing is human life, those young human lives that come at a cost in this conflict.

This is why “Women for Peace” Campaign first and foremost seeks to prevent loss of lives from all the sides engaged in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while peace negotiations are underway. The idea was born in the aftermath of April 2016 war that took the lives of hundreds of young people from all the sides. As a consequence, we had interrupted lives of hundreds of young people, their mothers left in unending sorrow, kids left without fathers.

I experienced the tragedy very personally while covering the events as a journalist. This left a strong impact on me. And from then on I decided to strongly advocate for peace. I am sure there were similar feelings on the opposite side of the conflict as well.

The major aim of the initiative is to solely protect human lives. It has been already 30 years the parties to the conflict are trying to find a solution. But no tangible result so far. Dozens of soldiers are being killed along the Line of Contact every year. However, the loss of lives has not added to the resolution of the conflict. For this very reason, we are calling on all the parties and mediator countries involved to spare the lives of the 18-20-year-old soldiers standing on different sides of the border. By doing that, we will prevent hundreds of people from personal and family tragedies.

We, as women and mothers, must unite to make the message vocal and strongly advocate for peace. Our goal is to create a worldwide network of women. Who, if not mothers, are able to influence the decision-makers? If women unite and say “do not kill our children – no matter what nationality they are, try your strength at the negotiating table instead”, their voice will be heard.

We promote ceasefire while peace negotiations are in process by inviting our members and partners to raise our voice on the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, next to the soldiers. We urge our members and partners to do the same from the Azerbaijani side of the Line of Contact. We are calling on the Azerbaijani women and mothers to join this campaign and raise the same appeal to political decision-makers.

Stemming from a regional conflict, I do hope that the message of this initiative will spread beyond the borders of Armenia, it will reach even further than Azerbaijani borders are. Since Nagorno-Karabakh is just one of those hundreds of hotbeds in the world where thousands of people perish every day for conflicting geopolitical interests. The target of this campaign is the genuine peace around the globe and its aim is to advance peace as a universal value.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is a common belief that if one wants to achieve peace with their opponents, they need to work with them. And in the course of time, they become partners. This approach proved itself to be true in Europe. As experts of International Relations all of you know better than me, how a centuries-long battle-field became an example for cooperation.

As a journalist, having monitored the Armenian and Azerbaijani social media, I discovered people from all the sides to the conflict using offensive wording when speaking about each other; there is an obvious high level of antagonism.

Even though I was truly concerned it did not come as a surprise. Such a situation is typical to any two nations that have been living in rivalry. And if we do not put much efforts to change their attitude towards each other, no consensus found by the leaders will be long-lasting. These steps should be taken by all the sides, in a try to prepare our populations for peace.

Here I rely also on your help and cooperation to find the appropriate way of consolidating our efforts to this aim.

As an institution that throughout centuries was a hub of different policy and practical solutions to many critical situations, I am sure you have the necessary potential for this.

Today more than yesterday we have the chance to improve the situation in our region. Why do I think so? I will answer this question after I have the current situation described in my country.

All of you know that almost a year ago Armenians had a non-violent peaceful Velvet Revolution. The Armenian nation united to deny the establishment, whom the people were not able to tolerate and trust anymore. The decades-long era of fraud and deception, inequality and injustice, bad governance and violation of human rights was over. The Velvet Revolution brought an end to unlimited power and lawlessness making the way for fairly elected accountable Government. Thus, the people of Armenia brought an end to the abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms to ensure higher standards of living for the generations to come.

Transparency, accountability and better protection of human rights are only a few of the positive transformations that we, Armenians, gained. I do not want to go into more details, because those aspects are political and it is the business of politicians.

What do I want to draw your attention to?

I want to underline the role that female population of Armenia played in this revolution.

It is very well known, that quite often revolutions that start with righteous ideas end up in chaos and uncertainty. The essential contradiction is that even though revolutions may entail the highest aspirations of the human spirit for freedom, dignity, and fairness, the risk of ending up in a civil war is very high. In such cases, indeed the costs exceed the benefits.

What was the key to the success of the Armenian Revolution then?

Each of you might have different answers to this question. The change of times, shake of people’s mindset might be among them.

I have my own answer. Armenian Revolution succeeded and it was peaceful mainly because of the high rate of women participation in it. There was no violence, no blood, no deaths and not a bullet fired. People were obedient but free, they did not crush with the police, they instead hug the police. Armenians closed the streets by dancing, playing the piano and singing. It was a holiday rather than a revolution. It was again due to the women who came out into the streets with their kids and acted as guarantors of peace.

And now, when we have achieved a truly democratic society in Armenia, I think there are more chances to achieve a democratic region as a whole.

Two out of the three countries in the South-Caucasus are already democracies. Signals coming from Azerbaijan are also promising. Couple of weeks ago upon President Ilham Aliyev’s decision, number of jailed political prisoners were pardoned, among them representatives of political parties, NGOs, bloggers and journalists. Moreover, I saw pictures of President Aliyev and his wife walking down the streets of Baku and taking selfies with people. Of course, as a wife of a politician, who is very famous for his selfies with people in the streets, I would like him to be unique. However, as a person who tries to make weapons silent in our region, I am glad to follow how democracy spills over from Armenia into the neighboring country. It is a recognised truth, that democracies do not fight each other. In this situation the uniqueness of my husband is the least I am ready to sacrifice.

As a conclusion, I want to quote Nelson Mandela, a true pacifist “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that generation”. End of the quote.

We have to be that generation.