ANCA-WR Summer 2021: Week 5

Areen Tazian

To start off the fourth week of the program, on Monday, June 12, interns met with Board Member and Treasurer of the ANCA Western Region, Hermineh Pakhanians, who lectured about the incredible efforts of Near East Relief over the course of the Armenian Genocide, and the ANCA’s subsequent movement for the centennial, “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief.” In September of 1915, approximately five months after the onset of the Genocide, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, expressed his concern to the United States about the plight of the Armenian people in the Near East. Soon thereafter, prominent individuals such as Cleveland H. Dodge, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s Advisor, and Missionary James L. Barton came together to form the “American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (ACASR).” 

From 1915 through 1930 the ACASR, now regarded as Near East Relief (NER) or the Near East Foundation, launched large-scale PR campaigns across all fifty U.S. states, that later spread internationally, resulting in $117 million being raised for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid to countless orphans and refugees in the Near East. Campaigns were launched, funds were raised, and innocent human beings received the care, aid, and relief that they needed and deserved. On a micro level, individual lives were saved; on a macro level, Near East Relief contributed immensely to the preservation of the Armenian nation. Mirroring the words of the Armenian orphans of Alexandrapol, and of the ANCA’s tribute for the centennial of the Genocide, “America, We Thank You.”

On Tuesday, July 13, interns had the privilege of meeting with Leeza Arakelian, Assistant Editor of The Armenian Weekly, who imparted an informative presentation on the history and structure of the newspaper, along with advice on how to write an insightful and engaging op-ed piece. While Arakelian has only been part of this newspaper’s editorial staff for the past three years, she has had experience working with, and writing for, news sources such as Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America. 

The Armenian Weekly, originally named Hairenik Weekly, was founded in 1934 by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) as the English-language equivalent to The Hairenik newspaper, which was established in 1899 as an Armenian-language newspaper. The earlier Hairenik Weekly served mainly as a space for the actions and initiatives of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) to be communicated. Since the paper’s rebranding in 1969 as The Armenian Weekly, this “weekly” newspaper has grown to be a more formal and reliable news source that covers a number of topics, ranging from top global news stories to op-ed pieces written by community members, which keep Armenians both inside and outside of the Motherland informed.

After receiving background on the newspaper, we were educated on the writing process of a successful op-ed. Among numerous other detailed components, it is crucial that the piece be centered around a single persuasive argument, cover a topic that the individual can write about passionately, and should be engaging to potential readers. There was one thing that Arakelian stressed: “Raise YOUR voice.” Going to protests and marches and participating in relief efforts are usually moving, eye-opening, and emotional experiences. By reflecting on those very experiences, and putting thoughts on paper, in a space with a diverse audience, it not only allows the individual to express themselves and their opinions, but also affords readers the opportunity to hear the differing perspectives behind our community’s most pressing and controversial issues.

Wednesday, July 14, was the weekly office day, or the day that interns go to the ANCA-WR office in-person, to work on projects and interact with each other outside of Zoom. Rather than a usual lecture, we spent time playing “The Mercury Game”, a negotiation simulation. Each intern was assigned a country or non-governmental organization to represent at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council meeting, for the purpose of debating how to handle the issue of mercury, considering its significant negative impacts on human beings and the environment.

Although we were aware of the countries and NGOs that our fellow interns were assigned, we were not aware of their position on the mercury issue; once we began the negotiation process, however, each country’s interests became apparent. Even through a simulation, it was interesting to experience the dynamics behind such a high stakes meeting, and how countries interact with each other in order to push their own agendas. After much debate, negotiation, and compromise, the representatives of voting countries successfully formulated agreements for the key issues that were addressed. 

Not only was this negotiation simulation educational in terms of the subject matter being discussed, but it was also rewarding to be engaging in an activity that reflects the behavior of actual countries and organizations on the international stage.

On Thursday, July 15, interns were invited to the ANCA-WR office to have a brainstorming session with staff members. During this meeting, we covered three main areas in relation to the efforts of the ANCA: constructive feedback, top priorities, and potential projects. Some topics we touched on included potential online Armenian language and history classes, the political involvement and advocacy of Armenian Student Associations (ASAs) on college campuses, and greater community outreach to publicize Armenia and the Armenian Cause to an even greater extent.

Hearing everyone’s stories about their identities as Armenian-Americans, along with their opinions and perspectives on Armenian issues was extremely compelling. Seeing the passion in every single intern and staff member when discussing the future of our diasporan communities and Homeland makes me certain that despite all of the adversity our people have faced, and continue to face, we will continue to persevere and flourish, generation after generation.

One Friday, July 16, we began the day by surprising Melanie for her birthday – Happy Birthday Melanie! Following some festivities, the interns and staff members made their way to downtown Los Angeles to visit the Natural History Museum, where we viewed fascinating exhibits such as those containing millions of years old dinosaur skeletons, the nature garden outside of the museum, and an altar dedicated to Los Angeles which highlights the city’s large Armenian community.

After leaving the museum, the interns decided to go out to dinner together, which served as a great end to a busy week.

ANCA-WR Summer 2021: Week 4

Arpine Kilinyan

Tuesday July 6, 2021: Elizabeth Chouldjian

Today, we met the Communications Director of the ANCA Washington DC Office, Elizabeth Chouldjian. We started off with introducing ourselves and sharing our expectations from the internship program. Interns demonstrated interest in running for a government position, in which we shed light on the importance of having Congressmen that not only vote for our positions but also come from our backgrounds. Currently, we have two Congresswomen of Armenian background. Communication is a large part of the job ANCA has to conduct. There are three levels of communication: community, government, and media. Communication with the community is one of the largest and has the most room. Components of this communication include to educate the community to take action, motivate them to want to take a role on this issue moving forward, and activate them by giving the community the tools they need for the issue. There can be direct communication, in person, online, or social media, and indirect communication, media or through third parties. Direct communication has the most room to control your message. One example of this communication is seen with communities passing to recognize the Armenian Genocide and sharing as much news as possible regarding this. As people see that it was successful in one community, it helps educate, motivate, and activate other communities into conducting similar activism. There should be clear communication prior to an event, during an event to let the status be known, and after to share the outcomes. It results in empowerment across communities. Next, in communication with the government there are many steps. It requires advocacy as Armenians and with our allies in coalition building. First, our community needs to educate government officials. ANCA has created tools for community members to advocate for Armenian causes to legislatures. Methods of advocacy include phone calls, email, social media, letters, and town hall meetings. The overarching communications strategy is to educate our community and use the community to advocate for issues to legislatures. With coalitions, we advocate together for similar goals. For example, we form coalitions with Hellenic Groups to advocate for justice from the Genocide by the Ottoman Turks. This expands our communication network greatly. Lastly, there is communication with the media. There are three sections, Armenian media, Armenian American media, and the US media. We have the greatest control in working with Armenian and American Armenian media, as we have access to help share our community’s goals. Additionally, communities can contact local media to help gain coverage. Most of the time, we wish to share information with the non-Armenian community. Overall, any form of advocacy should have a communications strategy to follow. 

July 7, 2021: Armenian American Museum 

Today we met with 3 members of the Armenian American Museum to learn more about what their mission is and what we should expect. The core vision is to share an understanding and appreciation of America’s mixing pot of ethnic and cultural diversity by showcasing the Armenian experience. It will be a museum and cultural center, which was decided in 2014. With the centennial of the Armenian genocide in 2015, a variety of large Armenian foundations, such as benevolents, churches, and government unions, gathered together to form a board for the museum. To determine a concrete location for the museum, it was decided the City of Glendale would be excellent. As a result, the Museum works with the City of Glendale to make this possible. The Museum and City of Glendale will continue to work together closely for outdoor activities. An intricate design of the museum was selected to display a message of the Armenian struggle. Additionally, film screenings can be made on the building. Various Armenian elements will be incorporated, such as an Armenian Alphabet wall. It is estimated to open in 2024. Some program spaces include an auditorium and demonstration kitchen. The Museum is expected to have a permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions that are constantly changing and welcoming of other ethnicities, and virtual exhibitions. A large priority of the Museum is education, so they are providing youth and adult programs, K-12 field trips, and group tours. Next, the Museum will provide a preservation section on site with artifacts, artworks, documents, and special collections with hopes to create a large off-site preservation space. Lastly, there will be events such as conferences and meetings, corporate events, community events, and social events to make sure it is inclusive to all members of the community.

Thursday July 8, 2021: Carla Kekejian 

Today we met Carla, an LA native who moved back from Utah as she finishes her last steps of obtaining her PhD. She works in the greater field of speech pathology, both treatment and assessment, in bilingual children with speech disorders. She talked to us about Harsneren, the language of the Armenian bride. It was a use of sign language and gestures to convey basic needs to members of the household. There is the practice of chkhosganootyoon, the practice of not speaking, to show respect and modesty among Armenian women especially when married. As a result, these women have developed signs as a form of communication. Carla soon began to conduct fieldwork in the Tavush and Martuni regions of Armenia. While Carla began her interviews unsure of how popular these hand gesture forms of communication were, she soon found out that these gestures were known as Harsneren and it was quite popular. Through her interviews, she found numerous other people in the community who used Harsneren and was able to find consistent signs and gestures for each word. While looking into history and Armenian culture, Carla was able to uncover many instances of chkhosganootyoon and conditions when the bride was given permission to speak. Additionally, brides have a tradition of wearing a veil to cover their mouth as a sign of this chkhosganootyoon. Through the various interviews, Carla realized that the practice of chkhosganootyoon was quite alive and well in the present. This has been a prominent practice of Armenian culture with documented evidence dating back before 1915. Additionally, while some women are not required to be silent, many women claim that they feel as they should to show respect and modesty. It depends on family to family when the woman is allowed to speak again, if it all. The rule was so heavily enforced that it could result in domestic violence if a bride breaks the rule. Also, when the woman becomes the mother in law, she tends to be the new head of the household to impose it onto the next generation. Even for words that did not have a sign or gesture, women found creative methods through pointing and mixing signs to be able to sign what they wanted to say. The more rural areas have higher rates of having Harsneren present. 

Friday July 9, 2021: Weekly Recap

Today we had a reflection of the week. We discussed the lectures from this past week, shared opinions, and gave a recap of the tasks we are working on for our individual work groups.

ANCA-WR Summer 2021: Week 3

Victoria Topalian

Monday, June 28 2021: Ara Khatchatourian, Editor of Asbarez
Our week started off with a presentation from the editor of Asbarez, Ara Khatchatourian. He started off by explaining to us how the ANCA and Asbarez connect and what role they play with one another. The ANCA uses Asbarez as a way to get the news out and other media agencies get their news from Asbarez and publish it on their end. Asbarez is the largest bilingual daily Armenian publication in the United States and will be turning 113 in August. Asbarez’s main focus is the Armenian American communities perspective. He spoke regarding achievements and challenges that the Armenian community has faced over the past century and how it was reported by the newspaper to the masses.

Ara gave details of what role Asbarez played during the 44 days of the war. He described it as very “tense” because not only did they have to follow all the news coming out but they would have to find a way to disseminate it for people to understand. This showed Asbarez’s targets which are one to tell people what is happening and two frames the information in a way for people to understand it and take action. During the war in order to publish credible news, they would go through many sources of information, whether it be in Armenian or English, and get the most credible information. The community is what really drives Asbarez to thrive. That was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the paper had to be on a halt, but there was never any backlash from the community, instead, subscribers would continue to pay the subscription and would even send letters of encouragement.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Aram Manoukian, Armenian Youth Federation
The Armenian Youth Federation was founded in 1993 by Garegin Njdeh in Boston, Massachusetts and has now grown to have many different chapters. Aram explained what it means to be an Armenian American activist. Some have passion, others want to serve something greater but through it all the AYF teachers the power and effect of activism. The AYF is guided by five things, and ideology, the supreme goal of having a free and independent Armenia, the homeland itself, the community, and bylaws that keep everyone in check and accountable. The change in our reality is that we were all born with a homeland, diaspora, and Artsakh. Unfortunately, we have now lost 80 percent of Artsakh we face assimilation and anti-Armenian rhetoric and the threat of the extinction of the homeland. Our generation will be the one to fight against all odds. Throughout history, whether it was the first Republic of Armenia or Operation Nemesis the youth has always been the ones to thank. Lately, the aura of the community has been defeat and the AYF is trying to combat that. Some things the AYF does are Hye Tahd where they started with Divest Turkey. Divest Turkey started with the UC schools but has now been enacted into California law. Activism is like the doppler effect, it starters out small but later makes an effect and gets bigger. There are many internships that AYF does such as Youth Corpse and the Artsakh internship. With our Soldiers is one of the most active campaigns where supplies are sent to the soldiers. The AYF has even met with non-Armenian groups to discuss similar interests. They even promote community-driven programs such as AYF camp, GUSD camp, and basketball programs through Homenetmen. Aram explained that no one needs to be educated prior to joining AYF because education happens when one is in AYF listening to debates and discussions that are held. The AYF is a tight-knit family that even when you graduate you are still closely associated with it and you forever hold memories. Ideas are never looked down upon and you are always encouraged to say your ideas out loud even if they are the strangest ideas because that is how solutions are created.

On Thursday July 1, we had the opportunity to meet with the Leo Sarkissian Interns, who are spending their summer working with the ANCA Washington DC team. On Friday, July 2nd, we had a weekly check-in with all the interns, where we reflected on our journey thus far. We discussed our ongoing projects and the

other students who are currently interning with the ANCA Washington DC Office through the Leo Sa

Thursday, July 1, 2021: Intern Mixer with DC Office
Western Region interns were addressed about what the eastern region offers such as the Capital Gateway Program.

Friday, July 2, 2021: Check-In
On Friday we had some fun by answering random questions and we went around stating who our favorite speakers have been thus far.

ANCA-WR Summer 2021: Week 2

Vahe Krikorian

On June 21, 2021, the first day of our second week for the internship, our speaker for the day was Dickran Khodanian the former communications director for ANCA Western Region. The Lecture focused on the Armenians of Javakhk, Georgia. We talked about the region’s early and modern history as well as the conditions of this region. We learned that conditions for Armenians in Javakhk are extremely poor and even discriminatory, there are cases where the government hinders Armenian projects to improve/restore conditions, communities, or religious buildings and monuments. The Georgian government has gone out of its way to prevent Armenians from getting into office, and even if they do make it, the government can and will make it hard for said Armenian. They will resort to Gerrymandering, (or reshaping the districts to redistribute the power or number of representatives) to stop Armenian influence in the Georgian government.

Dickran Khodanian had collected several articles of these instances of oppression, one such article about the people of the region protesting due to a lack of irrigation/drinking water. According to the article, the water problem lasted for more than three months, (as of the publishing date for the article on January 21, 2020) issues such as this have caused the Armenians of the region to move out. Once the Armenians leave for a better life, the Georgians will tear down Armenian churches and buildings to replace them with Georgian buildings. It is theorized that the Georgian government takes these steps to pressure the Armenians out of the region because they do not want a situation similar to Artsakh. Armenians around the world combat the Javakhk issue with several relief programs. The Armenian Relief Society Javakkh Fund has initiated several year-round programs focusing on health care, youth, eductation, social assistance and Armenian culture. Issues like this happen all over the globe, to combat situations like Javakhk people need to bring attention to it. Lectures like this, are exactly what the interns/people our age need to inspire Hye Tahd.  

On Tuesday June 22, we had the opportunity to hear from the ANCA-WR Chairperson, Nora Hovsepian. The lecture focused on the concepts of Hye Tahd. We started to talk about the structure of the ANCA, we talked about the connections between the ANCA National Board, ANCA Eastern Region, Western Region, the local chapters and the ANCA advocates. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the region and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR serves all aspects of the Armenian Cause by organizing and developing local Armenian communities, promoting the political, legal, social, cultural, educational, and economic interests and rights of the Armenian American community at the local, state, regional, and national levels. As well as advocating for all aspects of the Armenian Cause through grassroots mobilization, political relationships, media presence, and education. After talking about the structure of the ANCA, we moved on to the lecture on Hye Tahd. We started with the evolution of Hye Tahd, from the first generation with the Armenian genocide survivors to the fourth generation with the descendants of the genocide survivors; with each generation having a new definition for what it means to fight for the Armenian cause. The (3 R’s) became the theme of the lecture from this point forward, the 3 R’s being Recognition, Reparations, and the Return of Lands.

With the three R’s, learning the methods of countering denial, through defensive/ asking questions related to the genocide, or through offensive approach using academics, public relations, politics, social media, and film and arts. The theme of Hye Tahd continued to the many many ways Armenians help the homeland with support such as U.S. Humanitarian Aid, the American Univeristy of Armenia, supporting democratic institutions and civil rights in Armenia, promoting trade, and millenium challenge grants for STEAM education. There has of course been an increase in support and foreign aid from Armenians all over the world since the recent war with Azerbaijian in 2020. With the increase in foreign aid also came an increase in activities with Armenian community organizations. The Armenian cause has changed and grown stronger since it’s inception with the 1st generation of Armenian genocide survivors, and with recent news of Armenia, Hye Tahd remains an important aspect that should be taught to the Armenian people as well as the Armenian youths. Thanks to our speaker, Nora Hovsepian we learned how intricate the Armenian Cause is and how we at the internship will be involved with Hye Tahd during our time at the ANCA.

On June 23, 2021, we met with Tereza Yerimyan, the ANCA Government Affairs Director, who joined our zoom from Washington D.C. She spoke about the intricacies of the federal government. She told us that lobbyists write the bills and give it to our official government representatives to push it into the state or federal legislature. To that end, she also said lobbyists help make the bill, they get support for the bill, and they help tailor the bill so it may be passed. We the youths of the internship are the head of the Hye Tad movement; therefore we take up work experience like this internship to learn how to walk before we run. We will learn to listen and participate on the political stage using our education and experiences to talk about issues correctly and professionally. Tereza shared about many of her experiences speaking to Congressmembers and staffmembers.

Simon Maghakyan joined the interns on Thursday to speak about the cultural destruction in Armenia, Artsakh, Nakhichevan, and Western Armenia. His research focused on the erasure of historic Armenian buildings, churches, and monuments in lands that historically had been Armenia or had a large Armenian population. We started with a focus on the medieval churches in Nakhichevan, according to data from the Encyclopedia of Nakhichevan Monuments, there were an estimated 89 standing churches/cathedrals, 5,840 cross-stones/ornate headstones, and 22,000 Flat Tombstones between the dates from 1964-1987; Between the dates from 2005-2008, there are almost none if not none left in the region. We learned the ways these numbers were determined, through the use of Eyewitness Testimonies, State Decrees Publications, Visual Crowdsourcing, and Geospatial Data. An example of the Eyewitness Testimony is the systematic destruction of Djulfa, an old Armenian cemetery in old Julfa, there were believed to be thousands of tombstones mainly consisting of khachkars. The State Decrees consist of official documents that ordered many of these churches and monuments to be torn down.

Visual Crowdsourcing is comparing photos taken from many years ago and checking recent photos to spot differences and of course the missing Armenian church or monuments. The last of the ways is checking Geospatial Data, with advancing technology in satellites we are able to observe the geography of the earth with more detail. Using Satellite images, we can see the lands where Armenian churches, monuments, and cemeteries change, almost as if they were being replaced by its surroundings. With satellites, it is easy to see the shadow of an Armenian church in the 1970’s to then witness the land change to either be consumed by trees or even replaced by a new religious building not of Armenian origin. It is said that one of the staged of genocide is the wiping of evidence that the affected people were ever “there”, and cases like these is enough to make even non-Armenian’s blood boil.  The churches under the occupation of Azerbaijan and Turkey are continuously being destroyed and looted and the international community must protect these religious sights.

On Friday, June 25, we kicked off our weekly check-in. Araksya Nordikyan, ANCA-WR Karabian Fellow began the meeting with an activity called Rose, Thorns, and Buds where each intern was asked what part of the week/lectures were, interesting, challenging, and if given enough time what has the potential to inspire us to be better. The last activity was an online game of Kahoot where the interns were challenged to answer as many questions correctly as possible with the chance to win a prize. Sirarpi was crowned the winner of the game.  

ANCA-WR Summer 2021: Week 1

Sirarpi Muradian

Monday, June 14, 2021: First Day of our Internship Program

Our very first daily meeting with all of the interns and staff members took place on June 13, 2021. The interns all introduced themselves and their backgrounds. Although we come from different places, we all care deeply about Armenian issues and are passionate about furthering the Armenian Cause in America. Meeting fellow interns who were just as passionate about helping Armenia as I am was a wonderful experience. This group of talented interns will no doubt go on to accomplish great things for the Armenian community. We were delighted to meet the accomplished staff of the ANCA, and their advice and introductions excited us greatly for the weeks to come.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021: An Insightful Lecture from Aram Hamparian

Executive Director Aram Hamparian joined us today for a presentation. The meeting started with brief introductions, in which the interns introduced themselves to Mr. Hamparian. I was very excited to meet Mr. Hamparian and looked forward to hearing his presentation. He outlined many important topics in his lecture. He explained that Armenians migrated to the US in sizeable numbers starting in the 1890s, and with the rising prominence of Armenian communities in America formed the Armenian National Committee. The crimes committed by the Ottoman Empire marked the emergence of the ANCA as a humanitarian group, which raised money for various institutions, such as orphanages and care centers.

Mr. Hamparian’s explanation of the three phases of Armenian influence in America (which are compassion, polarization within the communities, and protests) was particularly interesting to me. These three phases ultimately developed the Armenian diaspora in America and helped us leverage our people, education, social networks, and devotion to influence policy in Washington, D.C. Mr. Hamparian went on to explain the three filters that Armenians must consider during their advocacy to non-Armenians: whether they would care, whether they could help, and whether they believe their actions will truly make a difference in the Armenian community. This was insightful and thought-provoking, as it started a discussion amongst the interns and Mr. Hamparian about how we can truly make a difference in our communities. Through our discussion, we emphasized the importance of becoming the news reporters, policymakers, advisors, and politicians that shape public policy in order to truly make a difference in America.

Text Box: The ANCA-WR Summer 2021 Interns with Executive Director Aram Hamparian and Community Outreach Director Verginie Touloumian

Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Learning about the Different Programs at the ANCA-WR

Communications Director Alex Galitsky, Executive Director Armen Sahakyan, and Karabian Fellow Araksya Nordikyan presented their projects to the interns, who were met with two passion-driven projects during this meeting on June 16th. Mr. Galitsky’s Impact Media Institute works to combat the normalization of genocide denial. The institutionalization of genocide denial has resulted in ongoing genocidal crimes in modern times, and the Impact Media Institute has made it their goal to encourage mainstream media to report on these events. Interns will be tasked with directed research and statistical analysis to determine peoples and ethnic groups who are most at risk of genocidal violence as well as governments most likely to carry them out.

Mr. Sahakyan and Ms. Nordikyan presented the Duty to Prevent project, which focuses on preventing acts of Armenophobia against Armenians and Armenian institutions around the world. The Duty to Prevent project aims to offer resources to victims of Armenophobia, encourage victims to report these acts of Armenophobia, and find allies in other similarly impacted communities. Interns will be tasked with developing a comprehensive timeline for Armenophobia, conducting a global survey to collect incidences of Armenophobia, and various other tasks related to the education of the Armenian community with regards to their legal rights and liberties.

During discussions with Mr. Galitsky, Mr. Sahakian, and Ms. Nordikyan, interns were informed that their work would not only be published, but it would help both the Impact Media Institute and the Duty to Prevent project grow in size and in influence. Through these projects, we are given an opportunity to truly make an impact in our community.

Thursday, June 17, 2021: Getting to know the ANCA-WR Team and Projects

The meeting began with a presentation from Ruben Karapetian and Edward Barsoumian, the Government Affairs Coordinators. Their goal is to execute legislative strategies in public offices. Their work includes policy research, forming relations with elected officials, and tracking elections and legislators who could potentially act as allies to the Armenian community. I was very excited to hear more about this program because I am particularly interested in public policy and plan to pursue a career in legislation in the future. My fellow interns were also interested in this program because of the hands-on experience they would gain from it. This program may provide an opportunity for interns to meet with legislators face-to-face and plan such events. Current projects include the AB-1019 Divestment from Turkey Bill, California Redistricting, and the August Recess.

Community Outreach Director, Verginie Touloumian, presented the work that community outreach interns will conduct, which focuses on educating the public about Armenian issues. Interns would be tasked with crafting educational lesson plans and fact sheets that can be used in classrooms around America. This is a valuable program, as it helps incorporate Armenian history into the American education system. Community outreach interns will also populate the website with resources and recommendations for Armenian and non-Armenian viewers.

Friday, June 18, 2021: First in-person Meeting at Verdugo Park

The interns met for the first time in person at Verdugo Park today, and we formed instant connections. We enjoyed getting to know each other and forming bonds over food and drinks in the beautiful weather, and we look forward to working with each other soon. We enjoyed having conversations with staff members about politics, music, and experiences. We also shared our own experiences in universities and our hope in the future. It was interesting that all of our interns had the same goal: to reach a position in their lives where they are most capable of furthering the Armenian Cause.

Before we knew it, the topic shifted from school life and career goals to personal life and casual conversations. We were planning even more summer hangouts with each other, including movie nights, trips to Disneyworld, and even an overnight stay in Big Bear, California. We played a game of Jeopardy, which I feel brought us closer together, as we worked together in teams. After working in teams to play the game, we are even more excited to begin working on projects together. I feel that I have made lifelong friends and although I have only known the other interns for a short period of time, I think that we will each go on to accomplish great things.

ANCA-WR Internship Program Week 11

BY: Ruben Karapetian

University of California, Berkeley: Political Science – Comparative Politics

Our final week of the ANCA WR Internship began with a long awaited presentation by the WR’s own Communications Director, Alex Galitsky. Galitsky’s presentation described to the interns the multifaceted aspects of the ANCA’s communications strategy and how the aspects are integrated into one another. Communication operations of the ANCA occur through multiple channels, whether it be traditional media, new media, social media and other mediums, it is vital that the messaging is targeted, coherent and consistent across the board. Galitsky also emphasized the importance of “message craft” which is at times a process more complicated because it requires an analytical approach to determining what messaging will resonate with our audience. The interns asked questions regarding various scenarios to approaching certain issues and their responses. The intern’s questions also had a focus on social media and how to use those platforms as a tool to broadcast, educate and share information regarding Armenian issues.

On Tuesday the interns were joined by Ruben Janbazian, Editor at the h-pem is a new youth focused online platform that is an initiative of the Hamazkayin, an Armenian Educational and Cultural Society organization that aims to highlight Armenian arts and culture. Janbazian led the discussion by walking the interns through the site and its growing content library. Content on h-pem ranges from artwork, music, literature, cultural commentary and much more. During the subsequent Q&A portion of the discussion Janbazian was curious to know what the interns (apart of the target audience of h-pem) would’ve like to see from the h-pem platform. The interns mainly focused on how new media could play a role in h-pem’s platform. As a fan of arts and culture myself, a platform like h-pem which aims to enlighten youth on Armenian arts and culture is something that I am definitely grateful for and will continue to follow.

Wednesday, the interns were apart of a debate simulation led by the WR’s Government Affairs Director, Arsen Shirvanyan. The interns were divided into groups who would debate topics ad hoc in the hopes of convincing the rest of the audience of one side or another. Topics of debate included hypothetical questions like which Presidential Candidate is best for the Armenian Community, what political groups should the ANCA seek to build relationships with, and lastly a debate on the implications of the 2009 Protocols between Armenia and Turkey. These exercises were meant to help the interns learn and hone in skills like decisive decision making and argumentation. After the debates were finished Shirvanyan gave the interns a chance to review and ask questions about their debate performance, laying out the “Dos and don’ts” of debating.

On Thursday, the students were greeted by The Hon. Judge Zaven Sinanian. Many of the interns are interested in pursuing a career in Law, so having a lawyer and Judge share his experiences was very insightful. Judge Sinanian, is currently a Superior Court Judge for Los Angeles and a pro tem Judge for the California Court of Appeals. Born in Cyprus and leaving at the age of 14 during the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, Sinanian and his family settled in Illinois where he would go on to study law. Judge Sinanian described how he became a judge. During the 80s, Governor George Deukmejian of California had appointed quite a few Armenian judges to CA’s judicial system. By the late 90s and early 00s many of these judges were retiring. Judge Sinanian was approached and asked to consider applying to the state of CA to be appointed as a judge. He described the process of applying to the state and was appointed as Judge by Governor Gray Davis in 2002. The interns had plenty of questions regarding his profession and what it is like being a judge.

On the final day of the internship, the interns convened for our final weekly round-up. We were asked by the staff to share our thoughts and impressions of the week’s presenters. Following that, the staff asked the interns to share their thoughts, comments and suggestions about the internship as a whole. Everyone got a chance to share their favorite moments, presenters and also make suggestions on how to structure the upcoming fall internship class. A quick game of trivia was the last thing the interns participated in before saying their good byes to one another and the staff.

I can say with full confidence that I have made lifelong friends and connections through the ANCA WR Internship. I will continue to help in whatever way possible in advancing the Armenian cause. I look forward to applying the skills and know-how I gained during this internship in my future endeavors. I will be forever indebted to the ANCA and its staff for helping me grow as an active member of our community and preparing me for the future ahead. I’m certain the rest of the internship class shares the same sentiment. Thank you ANCA WR for this invaluable opportunity.

ANCA-WR Internship Program Week 10

BY: Martin Makaryan

UCLA, Political Science

The tenth week of ANCA Western Region’s Summer Internship program was full of interesting meetings and lectures, great tweets aimed at uncovering the heinous nature and some of the countless wrongdoings of the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan, as well as fun and “healthy” discussions.

On Monday, the week started with a successful initiative of coordinated campaign on different social media platforms, organized collectively by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and the ANCA Western Region Summer 2020 Interns. The goal of the social media campaign was to expose the true face of the genocidal regime of Ilham Aliyev by providing accurate information regarding the latest aggression by Azerbaijan last July which left dozens of soldiers dead on both sides and even more injured, as well as the systematic human rights abuses in Azerbaijan and the aspects of radical Armenophobia that the country has adopted as its official policy. As the largest internship class of ANCA-WR, we were happy and honored to participate actively in this great initiative as a countermeasure to the huge resources that the Aliyev regime is pouring into social media efforts to spread false information and stain the reputation of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh. Even those interns (such as me) who did not use Twitter, decided to create an account, to make contributions to this campaign and continue engaging in raising awareness. As a result of this coordinated effort of the Armenian communities around the world (especially in the US) and other concerned citizens, the hashtag #StopAliyev trended in Los Angeles and in the United States for hours delivering a morning surprise to Ilham Aliyev.

On Tuesday, the interns had the pleasure to meet Jack Hadjinian, former Mayor of Montebello (Calif.) and a current member of the City Council. Although Mr. Hadjinian’s schedule was completely changed after some unexpected events in the morning, the councilmember was able to find time to talk to the interns about the pressing issues of the day. More specifically, the councilmember had just presented hours before our meeting his resignation to the Board of Directors of the LA County Sheriff’s Youth Foundation because of the irresponsible decision to host a town hall with the so-called “Azerbaijani-American community.” Later, it was revealed that the community conversation was in fact organized thanks to the interference of the Azerbaijani Consulate in LA meaning that the platform would most certainly become another occasion for the Azerbaijani government to spread hateful anti-Armenian propaganda. The councilmember talked about his resignation and the developing events that day, but also introduced the interns to the history of the Armenian community in Montebello, the challenges of local government and his career path as a politician. The presentation was then followed by questions from the fellow interns regarding some of the more pressing questions, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and public safety.

On Wednesday, the interns welcomed Vache Thomassian, Esq., who delivered an interesting lecture about Justice and Solidarity. Mr. Thomassian talked about the philosophical definitions and aspects of these abstract ideas encouraging the interns to consider various issues in an unbiased manner in order to come to a fair conclusion. The speaker also talked about justice and solidarity within the Armenian community and emphasized the importance of showing solidarity with other oppressed groups. Mr. Thomassian also used his time to touch on the fundamental principles of ANCA as a political organization representing the voice of the Armenian-American community. As always, the presentation was followed by a Q&A session during which interns asked follow-up questions about the presentation and questions regarding the speaker’s career path and his advice to the interns who are planning to go into the legal field.

On Thursday, the ANCA Western Region staff welcomed the interns to the organization’s headquarters in Glendale, California. Although the pandemic has changed almost every aspect of our lives, the staff had taken every precaution to make sure the visit of the interns was safe and done in a responsible manner. The interns met with their respective supervisors and took pictures together. Every intern then had a brief interview (my interview took quite some time due to unexpected twists during the filming process) and talked about their overall experience this summer, their involvement in the Armenian community and their advice to the future interns. At the end, the interns received amazing gifts with ANCA-WR logos and heart-warming postcards from the amazing staff. Although fellow interns, Tatyana (Arizona) and Alex (Nevada) could not make it to the office, I am sure they will have the opportunity to visit the office and the staff in Glendale in the future. 

Finally, on Friday, the interns had their weekly check-in meeting and the traditional discussion about current events in Armenia and elsewhere. The interns gave updates regarding the progress of their respective projects and Tatyana delivered a short presentation regarding some interesting developments in Armenia. From there, a discussion followed about the latest interview of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to BBC. As rewarding experiences such as this internship come to a close, participants are generally a little bit sad. However, this week was extraordinary in that it was full of genuine laughter, sometimes at the right time and sometimes not really. At any rate, however sad we may be that this wonderful experience is coming to its end, we make sure to keep a positive and fun environment and complete the internship with beautiful smiles and the determination to advance the Armenian Cause, whenever and wherever possible.

ANCA-WR Internship Program Week 9

BY: Mena Keshishzadeh

UC Berkeley, Political Science

Week 9 kicked off with ANCA-WR Board Member Gev Iskajyan’s lecture focused on elections and candidate endorsements. Iskajyan’s presentation allowed the interns to get a better understanding of the inner workings of a campaign and how priorities are set. He also spoke about the strengths that are correlated with having a community that depends on ANCA-WR to endorse the candidates that are usually supporting Armenian-American issues.

Iskajyan also gave the interns a lesson about Real Politics and how issues-based solidarity differs from transactional support. This tied in with how the ANCA goes about when analyzing and endorsing candidates as well as the effect this has on the outcome of an election.

On Tuesday, the Western Region interns were invited to a zoom meeting with the ANCA Leo Sarkissian interns. The interns had a chance to meet one another and discuss the projects they had worked on during their internship tenure. It allowed for bridges to be built and connections be made.

During the meeting, the Western Region interns also got to hear about the Leo Sarkisian Internship as well as the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program which allows young professionals to get their foot into governmental work. Tereza Yerimyan, who had met the interns from previous meetings, gave a rundown on how each program works.  Both programs are designed to give students and young professionals the tools necessary to effectively advance issues of concern to the Armenian American community on the federal, state and local level and gain professional experience. 

The meeting was a great success in that new friendships were formed and the interns learned about new opportunities for the future!

On Wednesday August 5, Dickran Khodianian spoke to the interns about Javakh. First, the interns were given historical context on Javakh, a region which now belongs in Georgia. Khodanian spoke about the history of the Armenian community. He spoke about how the two communities of new and old Armenians began to coexist and populate this region. This issue is interesting, yet complicated. Khodanian also went into Javakh Aid, and spoke about his personal experience of taking resources and goods into Javakh. Our internship coordinator, Verginie Touloumian also gave her insight and experiences during the call. The meeting was not only informative, but inspirational.

On Thursday, the interns had a meeting with Aram Manoukian from the AYF. The meeting was meant to inform the interns about what the AYF exactly is and does. Manoukian spoke about the history, mission and impact of the AYF, mentioning that it is similar to the ANCA, but a bit less governmental based. Interns got to learn about how the AYF functions as well as how to get involved. Manoukian gave insights on his experience at the AYF, mentioning that it has connected him to various Armenians around the globe. He talked about how he has met Armenians from all around the world including Argentina, Lebanon and Iran. He mentioned that the connections built within the community lead to lifelong friendships. Interns were told about the relationship between the ANCA and the AYF, as they are sister organizations which both advocate for the Armenian cause. This meeting allowed for the interns to learn about another way to stay involved and further their impact after the internship.

On Fridays, the interns meet to recap and talk about the previous week. This gives the interns a chance to reflect on what they have learned and to further the conversations started by the speakers. The interns take turns speaking about what meetings they enjoyed and what they learned throughout the week. Attention is also focused on giving updates on the interns personal projects and keeping each other informed about what is going on. The meeting consisted of the western region interns speaking about how they loved meeting the interns from England and the East Coast. Several of the interns had also planned future zoom meetings with the other interns to discuss projects and share ideas. Fridays are great because the interns get to chat amongst themselves and share their thoughts and ideas while reflecting on the vast amount of information they learned throughout the week. 

ANCA-WR Internship Program Week 8

BY: Kyle Hacopian

University of California, Los Angeles

Political Science & International Relations

This past Monday the interns welcomed Nana Shakhnazaryan along with Anahit Aharonian and Federico Hairabedian of South America as guest speakers. Each of the guests presented extensively on their respective experiences and works.

Nana’s presentation was followed by Anahit who presented her experience being an Uruguayan born Armenian. Anahit also discussed her experiences as an Armenian in Uruguay. The presentation concluded with Federico speaking of his own personal experiences of being born in Argentina and being the son of Luisa Hairabedian. He concluded the presentation with discussing his career as an attorney.

On Tuesday, the GOP Chair of California, Jessica Patterson joined us with her Executive Assistant, Alex Keledjian where we discussed politics surrounding Los Angeles and the state of California more broadly. Both Patterson and Keledjian believed that positive outcomes would result from a change of party leadership in the state. Throughout this internship I have been repeatedly reminded of the mass of political clout held by the ANCA that it can have well-known political individuals, regardless of party, present to us as interns. This speaks volumes to the bipartisan nature of the ANCA and its aim to attract members from both sides of the aisle.

Wednesday was certainly a busy day as we had two events scheduled. We started off with a presentation by Hermineh Pakhanians of the ANCA-WR who discussed the founding and history of the Near East Foundation. In essence, the Foundation was The Untied States’ humanitarian response to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Although I was aware of the Foundation and its basic role in the wake of Ottoman Turkish aggression early in the 20th-century, I was unaware of the countless Armenians, Greeks, and other minorities it saved in the Near East.

Following this presentation, the interns had the pleasure of attending a virtual masterclass put together and hosted by my committee, the ANCA Professional Network. The Professional Network invited Yeva Papayan to provide a brief history lesson on traditional Armenian musicians, instruments and songs. Best of all, Yeva held a special live performance for us of famous Armenian songs including Sari Siroon Yar by Gusan Ashot and Hey Jan Ghapama by Harout Pamboukjian.  I have spent the entirety of this internship working with the Professional Network managing social media, automating mass email campaigns, and assisting young professionals to navigate obstacles commonly found in education and professional pursuits alike.

Thursday was our last day of presentations for the week and we had the pleasure of having Representative Mari Manoogian speak to us. Representative Manoogian represents the 40th district of Michigan in the state’s House of Representatives and is arguably the youngest Armenian-American woman in politics within the United States. Representative Manoogian has been a steadfast advocate for the Armenian-American community and we thank her for being able to join us on Thursday.

Friday consisted of our weekly check-in meeting where we discussed our experiences and thoughts on the week. Friday was also a special day for me as I filmed a promotional video for the ANCA PN and joined the Zoom call at the ANCA-WR office. It was great visiting the office during these uncertain times and I look forward to a time in the near future where myself along with the rest of my fellow interns and ANCA-WR staff can meet in person.

ANCA-WR Summer Internship Week 7

BY: Katrina Akbarian

UCLA, Philosophy

We began week 7 of the ANCA-WR summer internship program by welcoming Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council Member to our Monday meeting. Krekorian began by explaining his background. Prior to running for LA City Council, Mr. Krekorian was a practicing attorney for 20 years. In his first campaign in 2000, he gained immense support from the Armenian community; many young Armenians would go door to door informing and encouraging the Armenian community to vote, something they were unfamiliar with. Although he was not elected, the community started becoming active and engaging in issues. This ultimately led to his election to the Burbank Board of Education in 2003; and after several years, Mr. Krekorian was elected as a member of the LA City Council. The city council member then went to emphasize the importance of advocacy and action. He stated that it is important “for all of us to not just be spectators but participants of the government”.  Fellow intern Martin Makaryan, asked about the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles and what measures the city is taking to address it. Councilmember Krekorian responded by identifying homelessness as a multi-layered humanitarian issue. He went to provide the interns with some positive news that the City of Los Angeles is opening up 400 units of permanent housing in the next two weeks for those in need of shelter. 

On Tuesday, the interns took a break from lectures and instead worked on raising awareness about the recent ceasefire violation and aggression by Azerbaijan along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. 

The following day, our intern class spoke to UCLA alumni and current JD candidate, Razmig Sarkissian, who explained the “Divest Turkey” movement launched by the Armenian Youth Federation. Mr. Sarkissian discussed how this movement was inspired by the successful Anti-Apartheid movement that persisted throughout the twentieth century. He highlighted how the Armenian students in their ASAs worked with AYF to do independent research and began lobbying the USAC (Undergraduate Student Association Council) of UCs, CSUs, and Community Colleges. He concluded his presentation by highlighting that after five years of advocacy, Governor Newsom signed the divestment bill into law last year, highlighting how the student movement reached Sacramento Capitol. 

On Thursday, our intern class had the pleasure to meet Anna Mouradian, Chief Deputy for the LA County’s 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Mrs. Mouradian introduced herself and discussed her passion for helping others. Although she was not active in the Armenian community as a young adult, she has made it a personal goal of hers to immerse herself in all Armenian organizations. She explained how her position is a “24 hour job; and that helping others is not contingent on a 9-5 schedule”. After explaining in depth the ins and outs of her position, I asked her,  “What advice do you have for us young advocates planning on entering the public sector or legal field”? Mrs. Mouradian advised us to be enthusiastic in everything we do and always go the extra mile. She went on to say that it is important to be open-minded and able to have difficult conversations with people we may not agree with. Her last message was the following: “no matter what your aspirations are, do it with integrity and character”. 

On Friday, the interns spent the time debriefing about the different community activities, the rise in Armenophobic incidents, and the hate crime that was committed on the KZV Armenian School. The interns gave an update on their projects and how it is important to continue advocating for issues on social media. —