Azatoohi Simonyan
In Artsakh I realized how important it is to be physically present, to be involved, to actually give birth to the projects that will balance our concept of dreaming big and acting.

Moved in 2003 from Esfahan, Iran


In 2003 the newly independent Armenia was going through a lot of changes. 
Meanwhile, somewhere in Esfahan, Simonyans were getting ready for their repatriation. It wasn’t a seriously calculated decision as they didn’t know where they will live, what they will do, but one thing they knew for sure: they will make it in their homeland, they will do their best to help and, most importantly, they will be the part of Armenia’s new, today’s history.

Azatoohi Simonyan was 12 years old when she repatriated to Armenia. She went to a public school, graduated from Yerevan State University, did her Masters at Public Administration Academy of RA and started to work as the Adviser to the Representative of ARF in the Parliament of RA, also as the Adviser to the Vice PM of Artsakh. As simple as that. 

FYI, if you haven’t met her before, let me tell you something: her name Azatoohi (Freedom) is the most perfect description to her individuality. 

So, without further ado, let the freedom ring!

Growing up in the Diaspora. Life in Iran
I was 12 years old when we repatriated. Growing up in the Diaspora as an Armenian is a responsibility we should take every single day. You are certainly taught Armenian, especially in Iran, your obligation is to speak Armenian at home and with Armenians, you learn about your history’s best and worst moments and, most importantly, you always have a dream: repatriation to your Homeland. It may seem pathetic, but it is what it is. 

Moreover, if your family has ARF background and responsibilities as a party member, your dream of Homeland turns into everyday routine of actions leading to the repatriation.

Dream big or act?
Dream big and act. You should never stop both, they are the key to succeed. We moved to Armenia in 2003, when it was a newly independent country with a lot of obstacles and challenges. Just think about how many generations in the diaspora lived with a dream of an independent Armenia and Artsakh, but they didn’t see it. Back then it was a big dream, so they did everything to preserve Armenian identity, to keep their language and culture, they fought for that very moment. Now it’s our turn of dreaming big and acting. We should be that generations who will dream about Western Armenia and do everything to develop Armenia and Artsakh. We, probably won’t see Western Armenia as a part of Armenia, but our duty is to prepare everything for our next generations. 

Life in Armenia. Integration as the key
After a family meeting, without any serious calculations on where we will live in Armenia, what our education will be and what we will do, we packed our belongings and moved to Armenia. The goal was to integrate as much as possible, so our actions lead the way. We bought an ordinary house, went to an ordinary school, made a lot of friends. Now my brother is on his military service, also we take an active part in the ARF life here in Armenia. I graduated from Yerevan State University, then did my Masters at Public Administration academy of RA, now I work as the Adviser to the Representative of the ARF party in the Parliament of RA and am the Adviser to the Vice Prime Minister in Artsakh. I’m married to a local, I love my life here and am so thankful to my parents for the right decision. 
Фото Azatoohi Simonian.
Challenges to overcome
Of course, there are a lot of problems and difficulties. In order to solve them, we should have a different approach. Instead of using the term ‘’problem’’, we should use the term ‘’challenge’’ and this will automatically change our attitude. Then we can choose the long-term and short-term challenges, so we’ll be more productive in overcoming them. It’s important for us to have a side look to our challenges, which should be provided by repats from all around the world. That side look can give the right answers and this unity will have the solutions.

As for me, one of the challenges I’m facing currently, is the law concerning to the dual citizenship. You can do nothing in the Parliament, if you are a dual citizen. I was born in Iran, and there is no rule of renunciation of the Iranian citizenship, so what should I do? Meanwhile, my brother, who has a dual citizenship, serves in the army. 
As you can see, there is an unfair gap in the law, so we should work on that.

Vision of progress: Armenia and Artsakh  
If you want to change something, pack your belongings and move to Armenia. Why? It’s the best time to act, it’s the best time to create and it’s the best time to enjoy your life being an Armenian in Armenia. Make sure to realize that everyone is Armenian here, which means  all the best and the worst things are Armenian too, so that means you are not a stranger anymore and you have to be involved. 
Moving to Artsakh for a year was one of the best experiences in my life. In Artsakh I realized how important it is to be physically present, to be involved, to actually give birth to the projects that will balance our concept of dreaming big and acting. 

One of these projects is the ‘’National Artsakh Lottery’’, which was created by the Government of Nagorno Karabakh and is one of the best ways to make a change. It’s main goal is to contribute to repatriation and resettlement in NKR, to production and distribution of Armenian hand-made national carpets in different countries of the world and to create jobs for women in NKR. The whole income of the lottery is directed to the development of different communities in Artsakh, as well as implementation of repatriation programs. Within the frameworks of the project, the building of 37 houses is in process in Ishkhanadzor community, 10 out of which are finished. This houses are given to those who will live in these areas, work in their gardens and create prosperous community. I’m leading the project’s Yerevan office, which I’m honored to do. 

Having a developed country with a strong economy, with an educated population who acts for the sake of their country is my vision of progress and I think, that a lot of people will share it with me.

Posted byRima Yeghiazarian
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