Astarjian: Hypocrisy or Ineptitude?
By Dr. Henry Astarjian // September 28, 2013
Like a drunken sailor, the Armenian nation - with its motherland and
Diaspora - continues to drag itself through mud into oblivion,
pretending that things are all right. It's time for jubilation.
The motherland, basking in corruption and crime, is plagued with
depopulation and confusion about its political identity. It pretends
to switch its orientation towards civilized Europe, while
historically, traditionally, culturally, and de-facto, it lives under
the Russian tent. Russian armed forces remain camped on Armenian soil,
while Russia pursues its interests by cow-towing to Azerbaijan. The
psychological orientation of the Armenian man-in-the-street continues
to be loyal to Russia, despite a huge American diplomatic presence in
the country. This orientation is fortified by the fact that Russia is
the biggest employer of Armenian workers, be they scientists or
At present, the Armenian Diaspora in Russia is twice the size of that
in America, and has the same psychological attachment to the
motherland - casual and nominal - as other communities in the Diaspora.
However, the sum total of their involvement in the problems and
aspirations of the Nation is close to nil.
The same applies to Armenian cantons that span the globe. In each
country, Armenians, considering themselves natives of their new home,
build churches (sometimes two, a few yards apart), schools and halls,
to establish modified Armenian community life. Their actions affirm
diasporan permanency: sports events; banquets to honor one another and
decorate the chests of people - such as those who have devoted
themselves to this or that church, have run schools and other
municipal institutions, or have passed through Ellis Island - with
meaningless medals worth as much as Coca Cola caps. These are
indications of permanency.
Individual and communal security, comfort, and prosperity enjoyed by
much of the Diaspora have created a gigantic gorge between us and the
Motherland. Diasporans are not willing to trade their status quo with
that of their Motherland's, which has nothing to offer its inhabitants
and the nation but corruption, extortion, poverty, and, at best,
Armenia is no longer the spiritual or nationalistic fortress of
Armenians; a sad, but true fact.
To fill the vacuum created by this situation, the post-genocide
Armenians are laboring to find identity in their immediate ancestors'
churches, tombstones, graves, and destroyed homes in Western Armenia.
At best, this activity brings some solace to those who pursue it, but
never addresses the fact that Western Armenia is now fully inhabited
by Kurds, and our business will have to be with them. Instead, we have
fallen prey to a multifaceted dilemma, which has forced us to pursue
our rights in the international arena through the recognition of the
Armenian Genocide by the international community and Turkey. This is
well and good, but not enough to reach our goals. For over three
decades, we have expended tremendous amount of psychological and
financial capital through the Armenian National Committee (ANC) and
other organizations in Washington to have the U.S. government
officially call the Genocide by its just name. This has not happened.
Several U.S. presidents have deceived us by reneging on their written
promises. Some 30 countries have recognized the Genocide, so what?
What will happen if the UN and/or the U.S. accept the Genocide?
We have lost our political compass: we concentrated our efforts on
popularizing hatred towards the Turks, convicting them of Genocide,
and insist on having them 1) admit their crime of genocide, then 2)
This decades-old approach is still our modus operandi. Turkey has
rejected both. For them, the status quo is quite suitable and has
succeeded in expending our psychological, material, and political
capital, while diverting our target from the demands of land and
Western Armenia to the useless issue of human rights. We have naively
bitten that bait!
Historic and current political realities have proven to us that this
road is closed, and leads us to nowhere. Whatever happens, whether
turkey recognizes the Genocide or not, our just demand is retrieving
our land, our Fatherland, Western Armenia, then realizing our nation's
right to unite East and West in one sovereign Armenia.
Of late, demands have been begged from heaven, to have some 2,000
confiscated churches returned by Turkey to their legal owners, the
Armenian religious authorities. Already, it has happened in one place,
Diyarbakir, where the dominant Kurdish municipality has returned the
Sourp Giragos church. Yes, we are grateful to Mayor Osman Baydemir for
his generosity, but as the assistant editor of The Armenian Weekly
said while visiting the church, `What good is a church without its
While magnanimous, this gesture realizes neither Armenian, nor Kurdish demands.
Return of churches is desirable but insufficient in solving the
Armenian claims. Similarly, some individual's demand of $3 billion for
their confiscated property does not address the demands of the nation.
As a nation, we are plaintiffs with concrete demands, it is imperative
that we regain ownership of our lands with our own efforts, not by
begging charity from others. We are not beggars!
We know that nobody will offer what is rightfully ours just for the
sake of doing what is right. Freedom is taken, not given. Countries
have their interests, and no country can sacrifice its interests for
the sake of restoring our rights in our Fatherland, Western Armenia.
The history of Armenians does not begin and end with the Genocide. For
millennia, we have lived on our land, sometimes peacefully, sometimes
miserably, and some other times in sovereignty. During all that, we
have been able to maintain and renew our physical and cultural
existence. Such has been our reality.
Today, the unstable but obvious situation in the region has placed us
at a decision-making crossroads, which requires us to correct our
present political direction, clearly define our demands, sharpen our
target, and move forward. It is imperative that we make the Genocide
our launching point, not the psychological and political destination.
Today, more than ever, Western Armenia is in danger. Kurds, having
occupied our land, are striving to create their own united and free
Kurdistan. That includes our Van, our Mush, our Bitlis, our Erzerum,
our Trabizond, and our Araratian plane.
For us, the alarm bell has rung, but for the Kurds, it is their bugle
which is blowing the tunes of freedom. To implement their plans, they
have pursued and succeeded in altering the individual Kurd's mind from
tribal to revolutionary mode.
They have also succeeded in influencing European public opinion in
their favor through their parliament in exile, which is incorporated
in The Hague, located in Brussels, and present in electronic and print
media. They have presented their cause as the legitimate human rights
struggle of 30 million landlocked people who have no independence, and
who are persecuted by Turkey. The Kurds owe the development of this
situation to the unwise and irritating political, social, and economic
policies of Turkey.
Aside from Ottoman persecutions of Kurds, the newly formed and
supposedly modern regime of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk persecuted the
Kurdish aghas to put an end to their authority and aspirations of
This policy energized Kurdish determination for independence.
Furthermore, Ataturk denied the existence of a Kurdish race, and
considered them to be `mountain Turks.' Speaking Kurdish was also
In 1937, tens of thousands of Kurds were annihilated in Dersim. The
However, the situation has fortified the Kurdish revolution.
Chauvinist and fascist Turkish governments did to the Kurds what the
Kurds had done to the Armenians; this time, recruiting Kurdish
mercenaries called korucus (village guards), who killed, raised havoc
and destroyed hundreds of villages.
In 1984, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) resorted to armed struggle
against the Turkish government, which continues to date.
We recognize the Kurdish cause as a de jure right: it is not just for
the 30 million people - who have lived on their land for millennia - to
remain the victims of Turkish hegemony and persecution.
We share their national aspirations, but not at the expense of our
rights and demands.
Throughout time, we have known the Kurds to be ignorant and uneducated
tribes, robbers, extortionists and murderers who have kidnapped and
raped our women and participated in executing the Ottoman waged
genocide against us. As such, we have formed negative opinions about
them. Now, almost a century later, it is time to revisit that
Today, the Kurdish leadership is highly educated, has modern-thinking
intellectuals, free and healthy print and electronic media, theater
and music, political and democratic maturity, and a representative
parliament in exile in Brussels - consisting of men, women, and
minorities - where free speech is supreme. It is a parliament whose
first manifesto has been the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the
admission of their role in executing it, and asking for forgiveness
from the Armenian nation.
It is a parliament that hosted an Armenian and allowed him to present
his nation's land demands freely, according to the Treaty of Sevres.
It is a parliament that stood in attention while the Armenian national
It is a parliament whose foremost revolutionary battle-songs were
composed by an Armenian, Aram Tigran Manoogian.
Yes, our interests dictate that we value all these.
Nonetheless, it is prudent to ask these questions:
Where are we in this? Where are we in this complex situation?
Why are our people unaware of these developments, especially that
there is the danger of losing Western Armenia forever?
Saving Western Armenia and saving our compatriots who have forcefully
converted to Islam is our duty. We are accountable to the future
generations, if we do not protect their heritage.
In all these, one thing is clear: willingly or otherwise, our future
is with the Kurds, and it is the Kurds who are our partners. Dialogue
with them is inevitable and necessary.
This venue is not alien to us. Historically, we have cooperated with
them in their struggle for freedom:
In 1843, prince Bedirkhan of Bohtan formed a 40,000-strong
Armenian-Kurdish army and waged war against Ottoman Turkey.
In 1927, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) signed the
Khoyboon Treaty with the Kurds, and participated in the battles of
Malkhas and Garo Sassouni attempted to establish cooperative relations
with the Kurdish tribes in order to fight the common enemy, Ottoman
Now, time and atmospherics having changed, developing and advancing
our relationship is the mandate of both sides.
Kurds - with their parliament's first manifesto, the return of Sourp
Giragos church of Diyarbakir (which they restored partly at their own
financial expense), and with the organization of an Armenian song and
dance festival in Dersim (Tunceli) - have demonstrated good will towards
us. We, in turn, have participated in their all-important Spring
All these are friendly gestures, but never the solution to the return
of our Western Armenia.
Our demands are ours for as long as we make them ours. Therefore, it
is imperative that we create and establish a national political
entity, in addition and parallel to ANC, to study and pursue
Armeno-Kurdish relations and formulate ideas and suggestions.
Second, it is imperative to assemble an entity consisting of world
famous, Armenian and non-Armenian lawyers and experts in international
law, to revive the Sevres Treaty and realize the map of President
Woodrow Wilson, which delineates the borders between Turkey and
But what is this Treaty?
In 1920, during the League of Nations meeting in Sevres, France was
considering dividing the defeated Ottoman Empire, and returning to the
different nationalities the lands the Ottomans had taken by force.
Articles 88-93 of this treaty dealt with the Armenian issue,
delineating borders with Turkey according to the Wilsonian map.
Today, the Sevres Treaty and the Wilsonian map are the foundations of
our demands. They form the basis of our international jurisprudence,
and our political conviction.
Today, we believe that this treaty is alive, but lethargic. Its impact
is interpreted differently by various countries.
For Turkey, it is an eternal threat because, in its entirety, it
convicts Turkey with misdeeds and crimes in every field.
For us, it is a solid, internationally viable, and politically firm
document, protecting our rights.
And for the Kurds, it is like a sweet and sour soup.
Our national cause and claim are crystal clear, but complex. However,
Sevres satisfies them fully.
We have no right to ignore precious Sevres.
We have no right to overlook or postpone the claim of a `united
We have no right to excite our people with the slogan of a `united
sovereign Armenia,' and then do nothing about it.
We have no right to get excited with the return of some `church
buildings empty of its faithful' (The Armenian Weekly's assistant
editor on her visit to Diyarbakir). No one has the right to convert
our places of worship to museums.
No one has the right to push us around. The question arises: are we
hypocrites for not acting yet sloganeering `free and united Armenia,'
or are we inept?
As a nation, we are neither cry-babies nor beggars.
Let our enemies know that when the knife hits the bone, ten million
Armenians, with their Pakos, Serges, Raffis and the rest, will stand
shoulder-to-shoulder, like a shield to defend their Fatherland.
This nation is determined, heroic, and brave; to wit Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh).
Astarjian: Hypocrisy or Ineptitude?
Posted 30 September 2013 - 11:49 AM
Astarjian: Hypocrisy or Ineptitude?
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