Moved in 2016 from California, USA
If there is an unconditional love towards a homeland - Mher is certainly its embodiment. A conversation with him will charge one with patriotic vibes. Young but a true inspiration to existential pessimist (like me).
Mher was born in Iran, but moved to the United States with his family where he lived for the past fourteen years. He graduated from the University of Southern California. After spending quite some time last year in Armenia Mher decided to repatriate to homeland. It has been five month now that he is working in construction management in Jermuk.
- Mher, when exactly did it occur to you to repatriate? Such decisions are rarely made overnight. Who and what has inspired you? Were you engaged with Armenia somehow before?
Armenia had always played an outsized role in my family life, and we made several visits in the first decade of independence, and even considered moving here before moving to America instead. However, it was about six years ago that I decided to personally become more actively engaged in the Armenian Cause, and in doing so I understood that the logical next step would be to be moving to Armenia.
Because ultimately it didn’t seem reasonable to declare yourself to be Armenian, to spend a significant part of your time on your culture and country, and yet to reside in a foreign land. Because the idea that you would arduously work to maintain your national identity in a foreign country, expecting your loved ones to attempt to do the same, and yet remain in a place where in all likelihood your grandchildren would never speak Armenian seemed remarkably illogical to me.
I came to these conclusions after witnessing the withering away of our historic Armenian community in Iran due to emigration. The most difficult part perhaps, was watching the members of that community emigrate to Los Angeles and assimilate within a generation, losing the national identity that their ancestors had fought to protect since 1605. It was upon understanding that all traces of this four hundred year old community would likely vanish in my lifetime, upon seeing the rapid decline of the traditional diaspora communities in the Middle East, and seeing the inevitable assimilation taking place in the new diaspora in other places, that I realized the only place our culture could possibly survive would be in our homeland, and that it would only do so if we each did our part in ensuring the survival and advancement of that homeland as it faces a plethora of geopolitical challenges and existential threats.
-Did you have certain preconceptions about Armenia and local Armenians before repatriation, and how has that changed if you look at it from your present “insider” perspective?
There are several myths, misconceptions, and vastly outdated ideas circulated in our diaspora that had reached me as well, but they mostly faded away during the past several years as I spent more and more time in Armenia and on studying Armenian issues.
One of the most common misconceptions is that diasporans are somehow treated differently or poorly in Armenia. Of course anyone who has spent a significant amount of time here would know that this is absolutely false. If a person is willing to move to Armenia in any capacity beyond tourism, attempt to integrate into society, work to gain a firm grasp on the language, and contribute something to the country, there is absolutely nowhere more welcoming than Armenia.
In fact, I can’t think of any other country in the world where so many people would go so far out of their way to assist you in any way possible simply because you claim that your ancestors some centuries ago were from that country.
Another misconception about Armenia is that doing business or investing in Armenia is particularly difficult because of issues relating to rule of law. This might have been true in the chaos of the early years of independence when rule of law was still being established in Armenia, but today the only limitation to doing business in Armenia, like in any other functioning country, is the limitations of the marketplace.
-What do you think we need to improve to get developments in Armenia into the right direction. I don't mean exclusively certain political and economic actions but rather more general turns in the way we perceive and deal with our issues as a nation.
I believe both in Armenia and in our diaspora, we need a shift in our collective approach towards our country. We need to end the mentality of failing to take any responsibility for the shortcomings in our country and constantly looking for others to blame, almost as if trying to find an excuse in our consciousness for why we don’t care enough for our country and why we abandon it. We need to end these lies we tell ourselves in the diaspora about corruption in Armenia to excuse why we don’t contribute more to our country. Are there problems, government shortcomings, and injustices in Armenia? Of course there are, but those shortcomings aren’t the responsibility of anyone else but ours and they are allowed to continue simply because we haven’t done enough to remedy them.
Is the economic situation in America better? Of course it is, but it is better through the work of the people of America who spent centuries developing it. Just because you have a child, and your child is not everything you had hoped him or her to be does not give you the right to abandon your child and adopt someone else’s. It’s your responsibility to sacrifice for your child, to nurture your child, and to guide your child until he or she reaches the success you had hoped for. If I am going to give myself the right to call myself Armenian, then I have a responsibility to this nation.
Rather than asking what this country can give me, and looking for others to blame for its shortcomings, I need to look inward, and ask why I haven’t done enough to remedy those shortcomings. Because if we don’t take this responsibility upon us today, we may some day look back with shame, wondering how we were the generation that finally allowed the disappearance of this four thousand year old culture.
-What are your plans and aspirations? Where would you want to settle down in Armenia?
In the short term I’m participating in civil society organizations in Armenia with the goal of contributing to the further improvement of rule of law in Armenia. I’m also working on establishing my own structural engineering business with a US based clientele with the hope of creating high paying export based jobs in Armenia. Beyond that, I’m doing my best to ease the process for friends and colleagues seeking to outsource work to Armenia as well as those who are looking to repatriate. My long term goals would be settling down in Stepanakert.