Armenak Tokmajya is a nomadic researcher, currently working for the International Crisis Group’s Middle East program as a Syria analyst. In his spare time, he is an avid painter and gardener.
“When people ask me “where are you from” it is kind of difficult to give a decisive answer. Does this question make sense in such a mobile world? Many of us were born somewhere and have one or two nationalities but have lived, studied and worked in many different places. I think these experiences should define us and not where we come from.
“I was born in Yerevan, 28 years ago, but I grew up in Aleppo which had a large Armenian community. Schooling in Aleppo was not fun especially considering I had to wake up at 7:20am, 6 days a week, for 12 years. I think that is human rights violation.
“Things changed when I moved to Damascus in 2007 to start my BS degree in International Relations and Diplomacy. I thought, after graduation, I’d be a diplomat. But two months into my studies, a 4th year student told me that I was going to be jobless and not a diplomat. Neither of these predictions were right. After graduation, I moved to Finland to do my two-year MS degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. Meanwhile, I officially adopted the Finnish sauna culture.
“One beautiful day, in December 2014, when I was thinking that I am neither a diplomat nor have a proper job, I received a call from the Central European University saying, “Hello, is this Armenak? Your application won the Richard Holbrooke fellowship, would you be able to start working in January?” Budapest, which was to become my most favourite city, was calling me. But, after 18 beautiful months there, the International Crisis Group interrupted my love affair with Budapest. I got a junior position as a Syria analyst and had to move to Istanbul.
Before heading to Istanbul, I had the luxury of one month paid summer vacation (Aug 2016) in beautiful Georgia. Ever since, I live in Tbilisi. I never got a work permit to move to Istanbul.”