In memory of Mika Danielyan

Mika belonged to a period that retains a persistent nostalgia of the irresistible desire to break through the wall, sustained by the memory of the first generation of Soviet dissidents. For him, protecting human rights was about being on the frontline where things happened, where government abused the rights of citizens and disregarded the law.

He helped scores of victims of violations and nothing was more rewarding for him than looking into the eyes of a fellow human being who was grateful for help.  He would drag foreign visitors to a courtroom to observe a trial instead of wasting time on meeting indifferent and corrupt officials. The personal threats and assaults he received were not enough to stop his fight for justice. Many considered him to be over the top, radical and unable to collaborate, but his actions constantly attested to the fact that he was on the right side of things.

At the start of his activism he believed in the international institutions like UN and the Council of Europe that were set up to promote peace, democracy and rule of law. He grew disillusioned, however, as he witnessed how these institutions failed to make a difference in his native Armenia. Instead, he put more emphasis on educating and inspiring the younger generation of activists that would later resolve problems at the grassroots level.

He became a source of inspiration for younger defenders, who carefully listened and absorbed his wisdom, with Miles Davis or Jaco Pastorius playing in the background. Countless young people were baptized into the world of jazz in his Yerevan apartment, listening to carefully selected world music and debating cultural relativism, gender equality or the rights of LGBT people.

Mika was not an admirer of human rights conferences. He would often disrupt a meeting with his bold wake up statements asking about the point of having the discussion and why nobody was considering if it would have an impact. He would mostly use these gatherings to proselytize colleagues into sharing his love of jazz.  

He lived a life of compassion and love. There was so much of both in his heart that it did not resist and burst while he was asleep. Mika’s footprint will be long visible in and beyond Armenia.