I am a Pre-Med student at the University of California, Irvine studying Biological Sciences. I was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia. As a child I was taken to every major museum in Yerevan. This has contributed immensely to who I have become today and why I decided to undertake this time-consuming initiative.
I studied in the United Kingdom for some time and my constant visits to the museums led me to the discovery that the fragments of the iconic statue of the goddess Anahit whose image symbolized so much of my childhood (and history) were just sitting there confined within the few sentences of description. Reminiscing the postal stamps, 5000 Dram notes, Agathangelos, Navasard and all the Anahits that I have met throughout my life, I promised myself that upon my return to the States I would do everything in my abilities to have her repatriated to Armenia.
The common rationale for retaining these artifacts in London is for preservation and the city’s role as a “world heritage center.” On February 7, UK Ambassador to Armenia Kathy Leach expressed her support for an exchange program between the UK and Armenia that would “lend” these fragments. Although I understand determining ownership of historical artifacts is no easy task, this is not just about a lendable piece of history; it is a country’s piece of heritage. The physical presence of these remains in Armenia will give the Armenian people the chance to visit their history in museums and galleries without the need to travel more than 2000 miles to do so. The sentimental value of the goddess Anahit’s statue is worth far more to the Armenians than to the tourists and visitors of the British Museum.
Initially, I faced wide criticism for my enthusiasm because of the pagan beliefs that goddess Anahit represents. My response to those people was that the change in our belief did not change our history and since the image of Anahit is still immersed in the Armenian culture, displaying this historic treasure in its original cultural context will allow it to be better understood. It was even more difficult explaining why someone would go so far for the head and hands of a bronze statue when we have so much more to bring back from right across the border. Then, I was confronted by the those who thought this campaign had failure written all over it because the British Museum would never give out its collections.
In fact, Egypt has recovered some 5000 of ancient artifacts over the years and 454 of which came from the British Museum. If we fail to spare 2 minutes of our time to submit a signature, we cannot expect anything to be returned to Armenia.
This was around the time when Armenia’s Minister of Education & Science Armen Ashotyan took the initiative of returning the fragments to Armenia. Hours within the publication of the Minister’s initiative, I was able to start a full scale online-campaign. Within few weeks, we managed to collect more than a 1000 views from many different countries. Although it is my responsibility to provide our petitioners with progress reports and encouragement to spread the word, I would not and will not be able to collect any signatures without the help of my fellow bloggers, students, and social networkers.
We are expanding our reach to almost every social networking website where we encourage people to share our story with their friends and others who work, study and live around them. Our goal is to bring back the statue of Armenian provenance to the History Museum of Armenia and if it is ever to go abroad it should be under “Touring from Armenia.”
If you want to promote a successful campaign in the diaspora, you must carefully communicate with the youth to mobilize support for the cause.
We are asking Minister Ashotyan to talk to us, the diasporan youth, because we are more than eager to contribute to the cause. Although we think the lack of interaction between the Minister and our petition campaign is due to Mr.Ashotyan’s workload, we certainly hope he never shifts away from this initiative. We also want to encourage every petitioner to become a major recruiter to maintain the increasing number of signatures!
The diaspora is becoming increasingly supportive in this campaign and I am sure the History Museum of Armenia will make all the necessary arrangements to show the British Museum that the artifacts will be preserved and placed on pedestals as important pieces of Armenia’s heritage.
Many of us, here in the diaspora, want to see Anahit’s statue returned home. So I urge everyone to join us in returning the goddess home: if you are a Christian who opposes pagan beliefs, do it in the name of the first Christian King Trdat who praised Anahit as the “…the glory of our nation and vivifier…mother of all chastity,” if you are a historian, do it for the sake of preserving a nation’s heritage and most importantly, if you are a common individual, like I am, start a promotion and see how people will be encouraged to help you.
I would also like to mention that this petition not only gives us a chance to have the statue returned to Armenia, but each petitioner gets to read and become educated about our pre-Christian history and where are historical artifacts are being kept.
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Thank you for your support,