Diana Mlhamyan is a historian who works at the Restart Foundation for Science and Education as a Youth Project Coordinator in Armenia. She is interested in politics and works to foster youth inclusion in local policy making processes. In 2022, Diana has participated in our workshop called “Peace Education for Youth,” as well as the “Advancing Young Scholars and Peacebuilders Careers” project, in the scope of which she has implemented a local project in Armenia called “Youth on Politics.”
Diana, in which Corridors project did you participate and how was your experience?
The first project had a really huge impact on me. It was the first time I was given a chance to get knowledge about peacebuilding, and effects of violence. This project also encouraged me to read some authors who have papers on this topic, in particular, Johan Galtung’s “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research", which made me think about our conflicts in another way. After this project, for the first time, I started to think about the fact that Armenia as a country had been in a conflict for 30 years, but we don’t have conflict transformation Faculties or Peace and Conflict Studies in our Universities.
The second project in which I participated was in Georgia and it was more regional. It was the “Advancing Young Scholars and Peacebuilders Careers” project, and participants from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and North Caucasus took part, which made the course more interesting and intercultural. After the project, I received a small grant to implement my local project.
What was your individual project about and what knowledge and experience did you gain from the process?
The project I implemented, with the support of Corridors, was called “Youth on Politics.” Everyone knows that the youth are our future. Moreover, they are our present, and the fact that the youth do not have a clear understanding of the political processes taking place in the country forces them to draw wrong conclusions about the processes and therefore make wrong decisions. Within the framework of the project, 5 meetings were held with young people living in the regions and Yerevan, during which various experts and politicians spoke to the young people, discussing the political situation in Armenia and the challenges of the region.
The project was interesting and educational for me as well. Firstly, I also got a clearer picture of the regional situation thanks to the speeches of the experts. And secondly, I made it clear to me that the youth, like the whole society, want regional peace, but do not fully understand the mechanisms by which it will be implemented, that’s why they have some feeling of anxiety from the created uncertainty.
How did Corridors influence your professional and personal lives?
The starting point for me was the Peace Education course, in which I participated in June of 2022. The most important impact of the course: a number of questions arose in my head that I had never thought of before. Most of the time, not overcoming traumas in societies turns into a closed cycle where different generations relive the same trauma in a stronger or weaker way. The two courses pushed me to learn more about the trauma that our conflicts left on us as a society. Projects also helped me to think about the influence of young people and societies in the conflict resolution process.
What role does peacebuilding now play in your life Diana? Why do you think it is important?
Establishing peace is one of the most important guarantees of sustainable development for Armenia and for the whole region. In my opinion, there cannot be a democratic consolidation in a country that has conflicts and closed borders with its neighbors. This situation has also caused another problem: any government can turn the conflict into a tool for suppressing grievances within the country, as was done in the previous twenty years in Armenia, and I am already afraid that we are seeing the continuation of the process. If society really wants to live freely in a country where human rights and freedom of speech are highly protected values, it should work on building external and internal peace.
What gives you hope for a peaceful future?
The 44-day war of 2020 showed that all previous years' efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully did not give any results. The two countries had become highly militarized and had started an arms race, which at some point had to end in a military conflict. In addition to its socio-political consequences, the war also leaves consequences on the ruling moods of the societies of the conflict-affected countries. War is evil, and I think that the recent military operations convinced everyone of this, increasing the understanding of the importance of peace among societies. On the other hand, we notice more involvement in the settlement of the conflict by the European Union, also from the Russian side. Therefore, I notice that the pace of meetings aimed at the settlement of the conflict has accelerated and so have the parties interested in the settlement.
What advice would you give to other inspiring young people from the South Caucasus?
Think about what we can do together for each other, not separately against each other.