BY ANI GHAZARIAN
While we look at a map and see Stepanakert referred to as a city in Azerbaijan, we Armenians do not lose our spirit, or our hearts. We do not stop fighting for what is ours — Artsakh. Among us, Artak Beglaryan is the ultimate fighter.
This summer, I embarked on a journey with my family. Part of our journey included visiting Artsakh. By the time we got there, we had gone through a few countries in Europe and had spent a few days in Armenia. Finally, Artsakh! As soon as we checked into our hotel, we were visited by our family friend, Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan. To say that he is a unique person is an understatement.
As a person whose father died, while defending the homeland, when he was only four years old, and who lost his eyesight less than two years later from a leftover landmine explosion, Artak Beglaryan has never stopped fighting. He is the epitome of Artsakh.
In talking to him, I came to know that, while we were vacationing in Europe, he was busy at work serving the people of Artsakh on a daily basis. For example, he was the driving force behind a festival celebrating the Armenian family, in Artsakh. His objective was to enhance familial harmony while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of children’s rights.
Another one of his undertakings this summer was a series of appearances on Artsakh’s public television. On one televised occasion, he raised awareness about civil rights. In another, he spoke about citizens’ healthcare rights. These appearances on television served to further educate the people of Artsakh.
Apart from his television appearances, Beglaryan has been hard at work on behalf of the parents of a lost soldier. The soldier disappeared in 1998 and was presumed dead. Beglaryan’s mission was to secure the military benefits to the family of this soldier. Due to his efforts, his parents, who had been unable to secure the military pension benefits themselves, were awarded the monthly 31,000 dram — about 65 USD — as survivors.
In the midst of all this, Beglaryan was condemning Azerbaijan for making serviceman Arayik Ghazaryan, who was in Azeri custody, a propaganda tool. The Ombudsman did not shy away from pointing out that it had become a traditional practice in Azerbaijan to violate the rights of Armenian civilians and serviceman in Azeri territory. He referenced the Geneva Convention, specifically referring to the protection of military servicemen and civilians. Beglaryan called upon international organizations to respond promptly to what he characterized as a failure by Azerbaijan to adhere to humanitarian norms. His purpose was to prevent further violations of serviceman Arayik Ghazaryan’s human rights. Beglaryan was tirelessly in contact with relevant state and international bodies and relentlessly advocated for a positive resolution of the issue.
When we left Artsakh, Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan and his team were gearing up to monitor the upcoming elections for the local self-governing bodies of Artsakh in September. One of the preparations included establishing a hotline for responding to potential complaints about civil rights violations during the elections.
Speaking to Beglaryan is a transformative experience; he exudes wisdom and has a certain charisma which compels you to listen to each word he utters. This summer in Artsakh, he explained to me how he believes that strengthening the Armenian people comes from within. Solving our external issues, such as Azerbaijan’s claim on our lands, would be even more of a challenge if we had a long list of internal problems to address.
Fittingly enough, his job as the Human Rights Defender of Artsakh allows him to do exactly that — solve the internal issues. Beglaryan told me he was always interested in human rights, and taking on the role of Ombudsman just felt right. He tackles many responsibilities and carries out important tasks for our people with humility. His office takes in requests for assistance with government bodies from the people of Artsakh to better the lives of those living there. Some of the issues that his office works on include property rights, children’s rights, and a variety of other social justice causes. Although the Human Rights Defender’s office in Yerevan, Armenia has different departments for each specific area of work, Beglaryan’s office works on all areas without the benefit of specific departments, because he does not have as many constituents. He and his staff focus on public awareness through lectures or television programs.
Although it seems as though Artak Beglaryan is superhuman, he remains extremely friendly and personable while carrying out his tasks. We were fortunate enough to spend quite some time with him in Artsakh. He cracked jokes while hiking down to the Shushi Zontikner; when my dad slipped and was about to fall, Artak was the one to steady him and then continued to, teasingly, tell him to be careful. Also, at dinner one night, we were able to see how his beautiful baby daughter, Nane, loved going by her father and playing with him.
Losing his sight does not mean that Artak Beglaryan cannot see. He sees more than most, and that is through his wisdom and understanding. He is proof that a disability cannot weaken a person, just as Artsakh is proof that injustice toward us Armenians will not weaken us.
Everyone who has visited Artsakh knows that being there is synonymous with being at home. Those who are fortunate to visit Artsakh and spend time with its Human Rights Defender — Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan, are bound to love, respect, and be one with the people of Artsakh.