GLENDALE, CA –When she met the American man who would become her husband, Ayda*was living in war-torn Syria. He promised her freedom from the daily terror she had endured for years, and she followed him to the United States to start a new life. She could not have imagined back then that the terror she would endure at the hands of this man would be more severe than the nightmare of war.

“He treated her like a purchase he had made while traveling,” said Natalie Samarjian, an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. “He beat her constantly, and threatened to send her back to Syria if she complained.”

Ayda was afraid of returning to Syria, but she knew she would likely die if she stayed with her husband. After enduring months of violence and abuse, she left him. Homeless and all alone in a new country, Ayda turned to Neighborhood Legal Services for help. Her case was quickly referred to Samarjian, an Armenian-speaking attorney who focuses her work on domestic violence issues. Samarjian is the organization’s Dickran Tevrizian Fellow, who works to expand access to justice for families in the City of Glendale and surrounding communities.

“Domestic violence is an understated issue, particularly in underrepresented communities,” Samarjian said.  “Armenian-American victims of domestic violence are often unaware of the laws that can protect them and the network of resources that can help them to piece their lives together after escaping abuse.”

Samarjian represented Ayda in her divorce and immigration matters. She also connected her to local Armenian organizations that helped her find a home and a job.

“My mother and I fled from war-torn Beirut, Lebanon after my mother left her abuser—my father,” Samarjian said. “To now be in a position to legally advocate for a victim of domestic violence who has fled a war-torn country, and to help her to break free of her abuser and to lead a violence-free life, has been one of the most rewarding experiences.”

Samarjian and her mother, Rita Avedissian, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, discussed domestic violence from historical, cultural and legal perspectives at an event sponsored by Neighborhood Legal Services, the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture Department, and the Armenian American Mental Health Association.

*Name changed to protect client identity

tev logoThe Dickran Tevrizian fellowship honors the retired U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian for his lifetime of service to the Armenian American community, his dedication to mentoring and training new lawyers and his commitment to helping impoverished communities.

Learn more about the Tevrizian fellowship here