Nayiri Sahyan, the son and only living descendant of the noted Armenian poet Hamo Sahyan, is a man on a mission.
The 100th anniversary of Hamo Sahyan will be celebrated on April 14, 2014. Nayiri, who’s been living in the U.S. for the past 7 years, came to Armenia last June to see what Armenia was planning in the way of celebrations for his noted antecedent.
He eventually left Armenia with a bad taste in his mouth, disappointed with the lack of accountability and treatment at the hand of officials he encountered.
Nayiri was concerned that there is no statue or house-museum of Hamo Sahyan to be found in all of Yerevan.
In August of 2011, Nayiri approached an official close to President Serzh Sargsyan and asked that he arrange a private meeting with the head of state.
“The official promised me that he would convey my request to the president. I went back and forth for two months. In the end, after a number of excuses, the meeting never happened,” says Nayiri.
Frustrated, Nayiri personally visited the presidential palace and inquired as to what must be done to arrange a meeting with Sargsyan. He was told to write a letter to that effect which he did. The presidential office said they would contact him by phone.
“I waited for another two months for their telephone call so I went back to the presidential palace. The women in charge gave me some cock and bull story about a delay due to the renovation of an office,” Nayiri says.
The man’s next move was to seek out a relative of the president. The relative said he would raise the matter the next time he met with the president. This turned out to be another dead-end.
Nayiri then changes tactics. In early 2012, he tried to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.
A woman at the reception desk in the government building told Nayiri that the prime minister does not meet with citizens.
“So it turns out that these officials live behind closed doors protected by armed individuals so that they have no contact with the common people. These individuals are little kings protecting their little kingdoms sitting in their offices. They are called on to serve the people but don’t solve any issue,” says an irate Nayiri.
“In the ten months that I was in Armenia, I came away convinced that these people only resolve problems for their relatives and themselves. This is a government of closed doors. All I encountered here were indifference, boorishness and deception.”
Nayiri hasn’t petitioned Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan because he believes she isn’t capable of doing anything.
“Churches are crumbling before our eyes, they are stealing away Armenian churches in Georgia, and no one is lifting a finger about it,” notes Nayiri.
“The Minister of Culture is not a person who can get things done. It’s a crying shame. Someone has come and demolished the rear of the AOKS building (Armenian Organization for Cultural Links with Foreign Countries). They are building a hotel. The Ministry of Culture gave its OK for the demolition of that historic building. So why should I go and petition such a minister?” rhetorically asks Nayiri.
Ministry of Culture: “If the anniversary is in 2014, it’s too early to say anything”
Hetq got in touch with Meri Haroutyunyan, head of the presidential public affairs division, and asked why Nayiri hasn’t received a reply to his letter of October 2011. She had no explanation.
“To be honest, the person who initialled the letter is on sick leave. We have talked to him. What’s important right now is that the matter be resolved. On May 25, the chief of staff will meet with Nayiri Sahyan,” said Haroutyunyan.
Nayiri told Hetq that he would once again go to the presidential palace but that he wasn’t hopeful that anything would change. He also was angry that it had taken the presidential office several months to respond to his letter in addition to the intervention of Hetq.
Aram Ananyan, the prime minister’s press secretary, told Hetq that he only just found out about Nayiri Sahyan’s visit to the government building. Ananyan verified the news that the prime minister does not personally meet with citizens.
Gayaneh Dourgaryan, who heads the public affairs office at the Ministry of Culture, told Hetq that it was too early to say what was being planned in terms of Hamo Sahyan’s anniversary. In fact, it seemed that she didn’t even know what anniversary was to be celebrated. She had to ask us.
“Let me say that the Ministry can say nothing definite right now. Proposals and tenders must be submitted to us first about what people want to do. Then committees are set up to review all the suggestions. Afterwards, specific event programs are agreed to,” said Dourgaryan.
The official said that it was possible that a group would be set up in 2013 to review any submitted proposals.
Nayiri Sahyan: “Concerts and events are fleeting. Statues and museums are permanent like Sahyan’s poetry”
The only memorial dedicated to Hamo Sahyan is in the town of Sisian. The poet was born in the Syunik village of Lor in 1914. The memorial was erected by former Sisian residents now living in Russia.
During Hamo Sahyan’s most prolific period (1960-1973), the family lived in the writers’ building on Kasyan Street in Yerevan.
The house was later allotted to the translator Levon Mkrtchyan and the Sahyans were given an apartment on Toumanyan Street.
Hamo Sahyan died in 1993. His widow and their two sons were forced to sell the house and buy a one room flat.
In 2002, Nayiri’s mother died, followed by the death of his only brother the following year. Not being able to find work, Nayiri handed over the one room flat to some relatives and left for the United States.
“I’ve been renting a place to stay for the past ten months. I really want to have a Hamo Sahyan house-museum set up. If I had the money, I’d go and buy back the place at double the price,” Nayiri says.
The writer’s son says that he’s found a convenient spot for a statue on Alex Manoogian Street near the Yerevan State University. The property owners are ready to allocate a small plot of land but there’s the municipal bureaucracy to deal with and the paperwork.
Nayiri Sahyan: "The last 20 years have been the worst since 1915”
“After the Genocide, this will be considered the worst period for our nation. The last twenty years have been a tragedy. 1.5 million Armenians have already left and the rest live in an atmosphere of fear. Corruption is rampant in this country. There is just one leader in this republic; he and his brothers. The rest just sit around in their offices doing nothing,” says Nayiri.
Nayiri is adamant that he won’t be petitioning any more government officials. He says it’s useless. All he wants is a clear answer from the government about creating a Hamo Sahyan house-museum; either yes or no.
When I asked if he would be leaving Armenia, Nayiri replied, “With pleasure and I probably won’t be coming back.”
He then paused and spoke about the alternative – staying in Armenia and fighting till the present government leaves or deals with him on their terms.
“I can’t say which is right, to leave or stay and fight. But 1.5 million have already left. What will happen if everybody takes off?”
Nayiri turns to me and says his ten months in Armenia has raised his fighting spirit and that staying seems the right thing to do.
“The quicker these people now in power leave the better for all of us. I’ve seen people lined up outside the government building with their problems. No one is there to speak to them. The common citizen is mocked and neglected.”
Nayiri promises that even if he stays in Armenia, he will not participate in any commemorative events organized by the government.
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