Today, we salute generations of Armenian-American veterans who have honorably served and selflessly sacrificed as members of the United States Armed Forces. At the same time, we hail a hero in our own midst who, alongside a legion of dutiful protectors of our people’s flag and faith, helped defend the homeland last year against Azerbaijan’s abhorrent onslaughts into his native Republic of Artsakh. Arman Asryan’s mission of dignity now persists with tremendous purpose in a special law school program secured by the Armenian Bar Association.
|By Arman Asryan
The American education reformer, Horace Mann, once said: “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of a man, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
This statement resonates deeply with my own path of life, both personally and professionally. As the son of a teacher and policeman, my education certainly helped navigate my own place in society. I am an Artsakh native, separated by 7,000 miles from Mann’s exaltation of public education in the United States, and more than 150 years since Mann’s famous words. Yet, for me, Mann’s vision of education has far broader implications than contemplated on the individual level. Rather, particularly in the area of international law, the type of legal education I aspire to pursue may bring equilibrium to something far greater than my own place in the world: that is, the place of my native country of Artsakh, as it stands in the international human rights embodiment of what Mann described as the “balance wheel of the social machinery.”
Put simply, Southwestern Law School, and its concentration on public international law and international human rights, may not only be my great equalizer, but with my hard work and passion, will sow the seeds for the great provider for my native people of Artsakh, our land, and most poignantly, our fundamental human rights.
I was born in Artsakh on July 17, 1998. Artsakh is a mountainous country with astonishing history, engaging culture, and an ongoing story of survival. My story, just as my father’s, grandfathers’, and great grandfathers’, has been syncopated, if not entirely poised by events of war, conflict, and turmoil in Artsakh. Beyond sharing a bloodline and history of generations spent on the same soil, I feel united by the unshakeable sense of belonging to Artsakh as much as Artsakh belongs to me. This sense of overarching societal purpose and innate personal feeling has played a significant role in shaping my education and the direction my studies have taken.
Despite my views on education and its importance, my journey has not been as flowery as one may have, surrounded by books, scholastic competitions, and academia. From 2017 to 2019, I underwent compulsory military service and participated in the 2020 Artsakh War. I often reminisce about the days I served my country in uniform, holding weapons instead of books, with the mission to preserve the past and persevere for the future. I cannot help but wonder how different I would have turned out had I not learned that the many great virtues and equalizers with which I identify, such as my philosophy on education, are luxuries of freedom and democracy and for many, beyond reach.
I realize that the connection between elements of education, law, and survival are embedded in all I have seen since a child, and one need not look further than the paths taken by my immediate family. My father, Lyudvig Asryan, served for many years as a traffic police officer, upholding basic legal order in a country with not-so-basic legal human rights and a long history of conflict. He fought in the First Artsakh War in the early 1990s and helped plant the roots of liberation for Artsakh. My mother, Janna Sargsyan, worked for many years as a teacher of Armenian language and literature. My sister, Tatev Asryan, studied at the Law Faculty of Artsakh State University (“ASU”) and for many years worked in the Ombudsman’s Office of Artsakh. My brother, Harut Asryan, studied at the Sports Faculty of ASU. He served in the 2016 April war.
Not all of my skill sets were learned in books or on battlefields. Of all fields, the soccer field where I played soccer (otherwise identified as football in Artsakh) has served just as fertile grounds for the building and strengthening of character and discipline. I found playing, watching, and even just thinking about the sport, a relaxing pastime to connect and bond with others. But also, I learned from it. For instance, through the sport I cultivated a versatile readiness in a wide variety of topics, including teamwork, strategy, planning, and good sportsmanship. I like to think the sport even helped me become a better collaborator and team player off the pitch. Not too far off the soccer field, I found myself at peace and I often enjoy hiking the vast valleys and mountains alongside its rich-in-life rivers, streams, and waterfalls. It is no wonder that Artsakh is also known as Nagorno (mountainous)-Karabakh. To live here and not to be absorbed by mountains seems, to me, impossible. We really are our mountains. Climbing gives me opportunity to breathe fresh air and to admire the inspiring sights viewed from the tops of the mountains, where I often found my thinking the clearest, up in the light, almost as if symbolically above the very trenches in which I felt the most lost during the darkest of times.
My nation, my home, my Artsakh really needs lawyers specialized mainly in international human rights law or international public law. There are only a few professionals of these branches of law in Artsakh. Yet, given past and present ethnopolitical conflicts in our region, the urgency for such professionals is the greatest now if there is going to be any way of resolving those conflicts. As a civilian, emerging scholar, and soldier of Artsakh, I realize now more than ever the essential influence of international law as the foundation for any prosperous future of my country. I want to promote to fulfillment our unalienable right of self-determination. Moreover, having faced the devastating consequences of war, it is my imperative to reach resolutions without war, and to eliminate human rights abuses from my country. By diving deep in the rich curriculum offered at Southwestern Law School, I will take the most effective step towards equipping myself with the tools necessary to contribute towards a brighter future for my country.
The Armenian Bar Association has undertaken financial responsibility for all of Arman’s housing, travel and incidental expenses. If you would like to help offset those basic costs, you can do so by clicking on the Donate button. Thank you!