Dear Mother,

Here I am in my beloved Armenia again, away from you. I know you resisted my return to the homeland mainly because you wanted me near you, so you would care for me and protect me like you always have.

I have felt safe and secure in your belly, in your arms, in your presence and never understood why you, the strongest person in the world, worried so much and were afraid to let me go. Now, when I hug my baby daughter tight and feel afraid to let her out of my sight, I begin to understand your fears.

Yesterday, I visited uncle’s family. You know, the baby (his first grandchild) will be born any day now.
“It will be a boy,” said the father to be.
“It is a boy!” said the mother to be proudly.
I remembered your story: how you were bathed in ice cold water when you were born, because you were the second girl in the family that had hoped for a boy. When I was young, I used to get upset thinking that a violent act was committed toward MY mother. As I grew older, I realized that many little girls were victims of such senseless violence all over the world. Now, I know that the same kind of hatred and definition of the female child as “misbegotten” still exists.

Do you remember the pregnant refugee woman from Karabagh, whom I had gotten to know? I told you how her husband used to joke about selling the baby after birth.
“If it’s a girl, I’ll sell her for a million. If it’s a boy – for a million and a half,” he used to say. Well, guess what, he has! And lucky for him, it was a boy.

By growing up in such negative environment, young women react by being intolerant, spiteful, hateful towards themselves, their friends, their colleagues, and their own daughters. Hatred begets violence which seems to be common and accepted in Armenian patriarchal families. The father is violent toward the mother. The mother is violent toward the children. Having the father as a role model, the male children become violent toward their sisters.

You know, our old neighborhood in Malatya is no longer there. There is a hi-rise building in place of the houses on our block. I wonder what has happened to Tamar and Zepiour, whose faces and bodies used to be covered with black and blue bruises. Tamar often had a fistful of her own hair in her pocket as testament to her husband’s brutality. I am saddened by the thought that the number of women with similar ill fate must have multiplied along with the hi-rises. After all, they had daughters, too.

I worry about my daughter. She is going to grow up, go to school, work and live in a world where such attitudes are accepted as absolute truth by many, even by women!
I see women hating their own kind. Mothers-in-law hating daughters-in-law who unwillingly live with their husbands’ extended families, serve them hand and foot, hope to produce beloved boys, and become hateful mothers-in-law when it’s their turn.

The hierarchy of familial relations where beating and threatening are the most advantageous method of gaining control over the person on the lower level is the model which an individual uses to solve problems at societal and international levels. Men settle matters. They either kill or die to gain power over something or somebody. Violence is a man’s way of self-determination. This is what male-centric civilization is about. It is the history of our fathers raping the Mother Nature, our Mother Earth, another man’s mother, sister, daughter, in order to enslave them and use them for the satisfaction of their selfish needs. The same kind of destruction and rape is taking place in Shoushi and Aghdam, today. Men dig their own graves, and so will patriarchal civilization.

You never explained these things to me in such words. You just loved me. Your wise heart knew by intuition that love begets kindness. Love gives birth to life. For a human being there is nothing more valuable than life itself. I refuse to take part in destroying it. I refuse to be called a “mannish” woman.

I have inherited something much stronger from you and my foremothers: the power within, the woman kind of power that enables a woman to go through a cold, dark winter and still oppose the reopening of Nairit, and the atomic station, that enables her to treat another human being with kindness in face of violence, regardless of nationality and the color of his skin, to be in tune with life giving forces of the universe in order to bear life and give birth to it, to protect it and nurture it, to love and cultivate Mother Earth and not shed blood for it.

Every time I pass by the Opera House, I talk to myself if no one else is with me.
“My grandmother worked on the construction of this building,” I say, “along with hundreds of other women while their husbands were busy fighting and dying in a male created game: the WW2.

Every few months a ghost passes over town: some men hide, others leave the country. Those who have money and can bribe get released, and others get drafted willingly or unwillingly. Some mothers cry, others feel proud of their courageous sons. I remember, you were a mother who cried. You did not believe in military service (even in a time of peace.) “They will kill him,” you said. You knew that your son would come back with a hardened heart. So that given a command, he would be able to kill without remorse.

Then you decided to take your son away. I never told you this, but I used to think that you betrayed our country, the land of our fathers, and felt ashamed. If I were in your shoes now, I would most likely do the same. But I also see it my responsibility to make some changes in the world, so that no mother will have to fear for the life of her child, and so no woman will have to be enslaved by a man, or become his auxiliary, so that my daughter will strive to be not a “mannish” woman, but simply a woman and be proud of it.

I know, she will be wondering some day: how come all statues in Yerevan parks and squares are of men? And how come the only female symbol – Mother Armenia – carries a sword? Is she a “mannish” woman as well? How come there are no admirable women in our history books, and all the heroes we are being taught to admire are men who have killed and destroyed the most?

Mom, I am glad I am here. I believe women are most needed here. They are the ones who build, restructure, and create. I hope to pass on to my daughter your devotion to life and your power within which does not destroy but inspires one to live, love, and create.

Love you always,
Your daughter.

(Read at the First Armenian International Women’s Conference in Yerevan on September, 1994.)

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