AGBU’s strength resides in the guidance, resources, ideas, and moral support that it provides to its volunteers. It is a united organization where the leadership nurtures the upcoming generation.
Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, Diran Guiliguian lived in France and other countries around the world for more than 12 years before moving to Madrid, Spain, where he works as Chief Commercial Officer at QuantuMDx, a biotechnology company. In 2020, Diran founded the AGBU Young Professionals of Madrid group initially as a way to connect the dispersed young Armenian professionals of the area. Within two years of its creation, the scope of the group's activities has far exceeded its original ambition.
How did you get involved with AGBU and why were you drawn to the organization?
The AGBU was a household name as I grew up in Lebanon. However, in 2019, after 16 years abroad including 4 in Spain, where there are very few Armenians, I found myself separated from the Armenian community. I was feeling a growing need to reconnect with my roots, to the extent that I was contemplating moving back to Paris and to its thriving Armenian community. It is during that year that I was recommended to participate in the global AGBU FOCUS event that was taking place in Sao Paolo. It turned out to be a lifetime experience, where I came to realize that there are a lot of fun, dynamic and likeminded young Armenians around the world. I felt overwhelming joy and optimism. I thought: “there surely must be such Armenians in Madrid as well.” And, instead of moving back to Paris, I decided to stay in Madrid and contribute to the structuring of the local community by founding the YP Madrid group.
Can you please describe the goals of the YP Madrid and how the group serves the local community?
Prior to the 2020 Artsakh war, AGBU YP Madrid’s focus was to bring together the young Armenian professionals of the Madrid area, create a strong network that adds value to its members. The war, however, made us come to realize that the future of Armenians, both in the homeland and in the diaspora, depends on a strong and independent Armenia and Artsakh. And that the diaspora has a crucial role to play to strengthen our motherland and ensure its freedom. As such, we decided to expand our scope and increase our focus on raising awareness of the Armenian cause in Spain, both among the political class and among the people, and to provide Armenia with the tools to make its voice heard internationally.
Simultaneously, we also realised that we Armenians are too few in number in Spain to restrict ourselves to Madrid, and that we need to gather the best people from across the country to work together as a strong team with a common goal. That’s how we came to have the all-star committee that we have today with with Anushik Aghjanian from Seville, Levon Grigorian from Barcelona, and Nanor Demirdjian, Luiza Grigoryan, Yeranuhi Hovhannisyan, Arman Yeghiazaryan and myself from Madrid.
Can you share with us some of the achievements and future plans of your committee?
During the 2020 Artsakh war, we took 3 journalists and 2 members of Parliament from Spain to Armenia and Artsakh, as part of AGBU Europe’s “Yeria” initiative. Upon our return, we continued educating the local political class on the situation, thus contributing to the adoption of 3 pro-Armenian motions in the Spanish Parliament demanding that the Spanish government act to protect Armenian civilians and cultural artifacts, and help in the return of prisoners of war. Several articles were also published in mainstream Spanish media and reports aired on public radio. In the summer of 2021, we organized in Goris a storytelling training for 17 Armenian journalists who live in Armenia and Artsakh, on how to write Western-style articles and pitch them to Western media. They are now the voice of a country that foreign media rarely visit and have already published more than 27 articles across Europe and the USA. In March 2022, thanks to a grant from AGBU, and in collaboration with the YP Madrid, a special 288-page issue of Jot Down magazine, Spain’s most read cultural quarterly, will be fully dedicated to Armenia with a total of 40 articles. In parallel, we continue organizing get-togethers for the young Armenian professionals in the Madrid area. More projects are underway, including a second edition of the storytelling training in Armenia.
What is one thing about AGBU that you wish people knew?
All the projects that I described here have been possible thanks to AGBU. Beyond the financial support that it is often only known for, AGBU’s strength resides in the guidance, resources, ideas, and moral support that it provides to its volunteers. It is a united organization where the leadership nurtures the upcoming generation. It is the strongest platform that Armenians have to realize projects that strengthen Armenia, Artsakh and the diaspora. This is because AGBU realizes that we have a free country in which we must invest and direct our efforts to support it. It is also a very open community that welcomes all those who share its mission, encouraging and supporting smart initiatives.
How has your involvement with AGBU shaped who you are with your family, friends, career?
AGBU and the realization of the YP Madrid group have allowed me to enrich my armenianness at different levels. First, I now have an Armenian social circle in Madrid, Armenian friends, outings and events to quench my thirst for everything Armenian. Second, as a Western Armenian, I got to know much better the Eastern Armenians and Eastern Armenian languages, which allowed me to understand more thoroughly who we are as people and what being Armenian means. Finally, it has turned me into an activist of the Armenian cause, be it to promote Armenian culture or raise awareness during war times.