French Parliamentarian Will Open AIWA International Conference in Yerevan

BOSTON — Preparations for the seventh International Conference of the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), which will be held in Yerevan, Armenia, October 9 to 12, are rapidly moving forward.

Valerie Boyer, Deputy in the French National Assembly, who has spearheaded legislation to make denial of the Armenian Genocide recognized as a criminal offense, heads the list of distinguished speakers who will participate in the Conference under the general theme “Armenian Women in Action: Building Communities Across the Globe.”

In recognition of next year’s centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the first full day of the conference (October 10) will explore new perspectives on the roles of Armenian women during the Genocide, as well as the lingering effects that followed. Italian-Armenian scholar and writer Antonia Arslan, author of Skylark Farm, the best-selling novel about the Genocide (which has been made into a movie) is one of several speakers on this topic. The day will end with a visit to Tsitsernakaberd to place a wreath at the Genocide Monument and tour the Genocide Museum with its Director, Hayk Demoyan.

Other speakers on the first day include Fethiye Çetin from Istanbul, author of the groundbreaking book, My Grandmother, which has opened a discussion in Turkey about Islamized women survivors of the Armenian Genocide whose origins have been hidden. Çetin, who is the lawyer for the Dink Foundation, has been in the news recently for her criticism of the Turkish government’s role in the investigation of the murder of journalist Hrant Dink.

Prior to the official beginning of the Conference, participants will be welcomed on Friday evening (October 9) by Hranush Hakobyan, Armenia’s Minister of Diaspora, at a gala opening reception at the Kars Restaurant Complex. The first day’s session will be held at Conference Hall of the Armenia Government Building in Republic Square. Subsequent sessions over the next two days will take place at Manoogian Hall of the American University of Armenia.

The second full day of the conference (October 11) will focus on Armenian Women in policy-making, entrepreneurial, social and health issues. Among the presenters scheduled for that day are Canadian-Armenian actress Arsinée Khanjian, noted for her roles in such movies as “Exotica,” “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Ararat,” and Vahan Zanoyan, author of the highly acclaimed novel about trafficking, A Place Far Away. Several non-governmental organizations have been invited to provide models for what can be accomplished in a panel on NGOs in action in Armenia.

Culture will also be on the agenda that day, with a stage reading of the new play “Women of Ararat,” followed by a discussion with the author, Boston-based Judith Boyajian. Ottoman-Armenian author Zabel Yessayan, some of whose works have just been published in English by AIWA in two volumes (Gardens of Silihdar and My Soul in Exile) is one of the authors featured in a panel “Women in Literature.”

Sunday morning will open with an AIWA organizational meeting, open to the public, designed to provide an opportunity for affiliates in different areas to get together to discuss current programs and future plans. There will also be an optional excursion to the Armenian Church Mother Cathedral in Echmiadzin. Lunch will be followed by a conference wrap-up, with the focus on “Looking Ahead.”

The conference will end with a closing banquet on Sunday evening.

AIWA’s international conferences are designed to examine the evolving status of Armenian women and develop strategies for the future in the fields of government, the economy, business and finance, health, education, communication, culture, and the arts. Beginning with the first AIWA conference in London in 1994 and continuing in Paris (1994), Yerevan (2000), Geneva (2004), Buenos Aires (2008) and San Francisco (2011), AIWA’s conferences have become noted for their interesting presenters, stimulating discussions, and especially for opportunities to interact with a diverse international network of Armenian and non-Armenian women.

Fall is a busy time of year in Armenia, and conference participants are invited to such events as the opening celebration on October 8 of the new, state-of-the-art Avedisian School sponsored by the Armenian Missionary Association of America, a visit to a nursery near Yerevan sponsored by the Armenian Tree Project, and other non-profit organizations. Also available on October 13 are an optional one day excursion to Dilijan, Haghartsin and Lake Sevan, or a three-day, two-night side-trip to Karabagh.

The Coordinating Committee for the conference consists of Arpi Balian (Yerevan), Silva Katchiguian (Los Angeles) and Barbara Merguerian and Judy Norsigian (Boston).

Details regarding the conference program, speakers and activities will be posted on the AIWA website ( All sessions are open to the public through registration, which can be made on the website or by contacting the AIWA office at 65 Main St., Watertown, or [email protected].