Aharon Shekherdemian: “I will be leaving for Lebanon with a feeling of remorse”

One of het participants of the 8th Pan-Armenian Forum of Journalists held in Yerevan and Stepanakert under the title “Armenian Statehood: Axis of Unity” was Media and Information Correspondent of the Armenian Youth Association Aharon Shekherdemian, who is also the editor-in-chief of Erebouni Armenian independent news website. Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with Aharon Shekherdemian to discuss the forum, the visit to Artsakh and his future plans.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Shekherdemian, you were participating in the Pan-Armenian Forum of Journalists for the first time. How would you describe the forum?

Aharon Shekherdemian: Yes, this was my first time. I had always received invitations, but had never had the opportunity to attend them for various reasons. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Armenian Youth Association and its Central Committee for providing me with the opportunity to participate in the forum and make the voice of this great organization heard during the forum. The Armenian Youth Association is the youth organization of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (the largest pan-Armenian organization) and makes tremendous and very significant efforts to preserve the Armenian identity abroad with its youth, athletic, student, scout and cultural organizations. The Association’s Arin Dance Group, Antranig Brass Instruments Group and the famous Vahram Papazyan Theater Company (established in 1959) carry out a major cultural mission in the Diaspora, while the scouts are always present at not only Armenian national events, but also events held across Lebanon. The Armenia Youth Association also has cordial ties with the Homeland. It has made and continues to make great contributions to the strengthening of Armenia-Diaspora relations. A couple of days ago, the Armenian Youth Association solemnly celebrated its 85th anniversary and the 110th anniversary of the AGBU with a community-wide event and in a dignified manner.

In regard to the forum organized in Yerevan and Stepanakert, I must say that it was very useful and fruitful. It not only provided us journalists and editors of Armenia and the Diaspora to establish new contacts or refresh old ties, but also helped us discuss major issues and seek paths to solve those issues.

For instance, one of the key points was to have Diaspora Armenian media outlets encourage Diaspora Armenian businessmen to make investments in Armenia and especially in Artsakh.

We can’t give lessons on patriotism to people who have sacrificed their lives and have shed and continue to shed blood for every meter and stone of the land, but we can help and make contributions so that people shaping the homeland at the expense of victims are able to preserve their sovereignty and the Armenian identity. We need to help those people at any price. In this sense, I am certain that all the participants of the forum felt and experienced that. Upon the return to their respective countries of residence, they will definitely help find the paths.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Shekherdemian, within the scope of this forum, you visited Artsakh and the border for the first time. How did you feel after the visit to Artsakh?

A. S.: Yes, the important thing was that I visited not only Artsakh, but also the border and had the opportunity to see how the soldiers of the Armenian Army defend our borders. When you see an Armenian soldier who has created a small chapel for himself on the borderline with photos of St. Mary and notes containing various prayers, has faith in God and his weapons and is ready to sacrifice his life for the homeland and for his family and relatives to live in peace, you begin to reinterpret many things in life. There is no greater symbol than this self-sacrifice. This is the greatest evidence of patriotism. Patriotism is not just rhetoric. Patriotism is the “silent” endeavor of an Armenian soldier on the border that needs to be valued and appreciated with actions, not words.

During the visit to Artsakh, a journalist asked me what I would take with me from Artsakh, and I said the feeling of remorse. I don’t know what kind of a person you have to be to not live for Artsakh after seeing the soldiers on the border and the people fighting for the fragile peace and freedom of Artsakh.

Hayern Aysor: It is safe to say that your visit to Artsakh has changed a lot of things.

Yes, and whereas we used to write articles devoted to Artsakh and present the endeavors and courageous acts of Armenian soldiers and the nation and their patriots, now we must write more articles. My trip to Artsakh obliged me to do more. We must also take action. I made a suggestion that was included in the declaration of the participants. I suggested that each Diaspora Armenian media outlet have a headline that reads “What have you done for Karabakh?” This is very important and will make people think about what they owe to Artsakh.

I came up with this idea in Artsakh, and we need to work in this direction in the future. In closing, I must say that I am also leaving with the mission to work.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Shekherdemian, various issues were discussed during the forum. Which of the proposals would you set aside?

A. S.: I would set aside the idea of cooperation, which was emphasized several times throughout the forum. Armenia media outlets of Armenia and the Diaspora need to strengthen their bonds even more because they have a lot of work to do to form public opinion, build the nation, shed light on the daily activities in Armenia, the society and economy and record the achievements. I am not saying that media outlets shouldn’t criticize. Let them criticize, but that criticism should be constructive.

Partnership is very important and helps people come up with new ideas and turn them into a reality. The outcome is more positive after consultations. Mutual assistance can convey new quality to the activities of media outlets.

I am not saying there was no partnership before. We simply need to make it stronger. For instance, during the Four-Day Artsakh War, the Armenian media outlets of Armenia and the Diaspora expressed a common position. Attaching importance to Armenia’s safety and defense, they managed to express a positive position together. During those days, the idea of unity became reinforced within each of us, irrespective of views and affiliation. We need to reinforce it and not try to cast a shade on our work through insincere methods and by casting a shade on what people have done. In this sense, we need to try to reinforce the spirit of unity, meaning various news websites need to try to spread the same propaganda in terms of ideology.

Hayern Aysor: And my last question. Have you already planned your next visit to Artsakh?

A. S.: I must visit when the weather is clear so that I can enjoy the nature and beauty of Artsakh. I am certain that it will be at a time when Artsakh will be completely liberated and internationally recognized, and every visitor will see the joy in the eyes of the heroic people of Artsakh. I am certain that I will make that visit soon.

Lusine Abrahamyan

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