To `Come Home' or `Stay Home?'
Posted 17 November 2010 - 11:56 AM
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November 13, 2010
Commentary: To `Come Home' or `Stay Home?'
*By Edmond Y. Azadian*
The newly-formed Ministry of Diaspora has a very creative minister at the
helm, namely Hranoush Hagopian, who develops many innovative programs, or
puts into practice ideas long discussed but never acted upon.
Ever since Hagopian took over the ministry, several world conferences have
been held in Armenia (architects, medical professionals, educators, lawyers
and journalists) to tap into the diaspora resources to benefit Armenia.
Recently, a new initiative was launched to lure young Armenians living
abroad to settle in Armenia. It is a worthwhile project, which caught the
imagination of some Diaspora-Armenian youth. But the idea also touched some
raw nerves and triggered a hot controversy. One of the soul-searching and
pertinent articles was signed in the daily Azg in Yerevan, by Varoujan
Sirapian, founder and director of Chobanian Research Center in Paris,
The program announced by the Diaspora Ministry is called Ari Tun (come
home). The writer has reversed the title and renamed it Mena Tun (stay
home); the upshot of this reversal is that Sirapian asks the authorities
what incentives they are offering to the diaspora youth to come and stay in
the homeland and second, he suggests, shouldn't we find ways to keep the
Armenian-born youth at home, before inviting the diasporan youth to come?
And he offers some disturbing statistics. A recent poll conducted among the
youth in the three republics in the Caucasus region has revealed the
following sad picture: 40 percent of the young people polled in Armenia have
expressed the desire to leave the country permanently, whereas in Georgia 14
percent have expressed the same desire and in Azerbaijan, only 12 percent.
In the young people's perception, Armenia remains a less desirable country
to live in than its two neighbors.
Then comes the perennial question: what the hell is possessing Armenians to
leave their homeland and disperse around the globe and then stubbornly
continue struggling with their national identity? E. Agnouni has well said:
`The Armenian seeks haven anywhere, except the location called Hayastan.'
As the Byzantine Empire was shrinking, Armenia could not sustain its
statehood on its ancestral territory and the nation collectively moved west
to establish the Kingdom of Cilicia, which was eventually overrun by the
Memluks in 1375, with King Leo Lousignan taken as prisoner to Egypt.
Armenians dispersed again always singing Tzangam desnel zeem Giligia (I wish
to see my Cilicia).
Then Khrimian Hairig's battle cry of `back to the land' did not materialize
because the Ottoman Turks took away that land from under the very feet of
the Armenians, after trying first to wipe them off the face of the globe.
The first Republic at the turn of the 20th century was short-lived and the
70 years of the Soviet misrule was tolerated, with the people always
yearning for a free homeland. After a million-and-a-half victims at the
hands of the Turks, and 300,000 Armenian youth lost as Stalin's canon fodder
during World War II, one would think that Armenians would treasure the Third
Republic, yet they are voting with their feet and running out of the
historic land. The logic of every departing Armenian is `let someone else
build the country, defend its borders and we will love the homeland from a
The irony is that Armenians are law-abiding citizens. They are fiercely
loyal to their adopted countries and they contribute tremendously to those
governments; beginning with the Byzantine Empire, where they produced kings,
princes and army generals, all the way to Czarist Russia and even the
Ottoman Empire, where Armenian ministers, armiras, scientists, jurists and
linguists were trailblazers, and the elite served bloody sultans with
Even in the West, in Europe and the US, Armenians have distinguished
themselves with their loyalty and genius - both in politics and in science.
Once they are back in their homeland, they cannot stand a ruler who is their
kin and they begin the process of self destruction - a stage in which we
find ourselves now. Armenians take refuge in the comfort zone of victimhood.
Had we taken responsibility for our own failings, maybe we could turn out to
be a stronger nation.
Armenia is surrounded by enemies, yet people don't recognize the dangers
threatening the historic homeland.
Of course there are objective reasons for internal divisions and cut-throat
animosity which has gripped the populace. The most disheartening factor is
the situation in the army. We won a historic victory against the stronger
Azerbaijani army, and rather than savoring that victory and glorifying the
armed forces, there is army bashing, sometimes rightfully. Given the rate of
hazing, beatings and killings of young recruits, the youth has begun to
question why it should defend a country when his only reward from them is
beatings, maiming and killing?
Fortunately, parliament has sobered up recently and new laws are being
drafted to change that atrocious culture prevalent in the armed forces.
Capitalism has infected the country in its ugliest form; the rich are
getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and the unemployment is being
`solved' through depopulation.
Any Diaspora Armenian willing to invest in Armenia is either cheated, beaten
or found dead near Lake Sevan.
Of course there is a free press and journalists are writing about all these
shortcomings courageously, yet nobody cares; the trend is continuing.
Many writers in the diaspora are cautious about touching these sensitive
issues for fear of being labeled a traitor or a collaborator with the
opposition, which, in its turn, has only gloom and doom to spew through its
media. Even the most positive projects are given a negative spin. A case in
point is the skyline cable car built near the monastery of Tatev through the
generosity of a Russian- Armenian benefactor. The idea was to spur tourism
in that historic region. While the state media was hailing the longest
skyline cable in the world, the opposition was thriving on a glitch, which
stopped the cars in mid air for 40 minutes.
Similarly, when Ukraine donated animals and habitat for a large aquarium to
be built in Komitas Park to protect dolphins, the opposition media said the
government was using the drinking water meant for people. Later on it was
revealed that only irrigation water was being used for the project, but they
could not be bothered to run a correction.
The Medicare scandal in the US offered a treasure trove of political capital
to the opposition to link it to the current rulers in Armenia, desperately
seeking ties between the arrested ex-pats and the relatives of the officials
The opposition is dead set on overthrowing this government (`kleptokrats')
in the name of democracy, but deep down the resentment is that the present
rulers benefited too much from the gravy train. The opposition is aspiring
to take over that favorable position, and no wonder people are confused and
Armenia's land is sacred, every youth in the world must touch it to be in
communion with the soul of its ancestors.
But how can we entice the youth to `come home,' when there is a problem of
`staying at home' for the indigenous youth?
Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:07 PM
What a fisaco that Ari Toun/Արի Տուն is.
For every diasporan immigrating? (show me) a 1000 are emigrating.
You don't want your lifefless carcass be found in a highway ditch.
How do those “moron”s in Yerevan take us in the Diaspora for “itiots”
Edited by Arpa, 17 November 2010 - 12:17 PM.
Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:26 PM
what incentives they are offering to the diaspora youth to come and stay in
the homeland and second, he suggests, shouldn't we find ways to keep the
Armenian-born youth at home, before inviting the diasporan youth to come"
bavakanin jisht e amen inch, sakayn kareli e lsel nayev mardkants ovqer teghapoxvum en Hayastan, kam portsum en gone veradarnal HAyastyan.. tesnens irenq inch kasen..
Posted 17 November 2010 - 05:38 PM
Mr. Azadian is a diehard Ramkavar.
Above, after a few nice words the article is full of diatribes towards the opposition. As he being a sworn Ramkavar Ill give you one guess as to who those oppositions are .
Edited by Arpa, 18 November 2010 - 07:01 AM.
Posted 18 November 2010 - 01:31 AM
ԱՅՍՊԻՍԻ՞ ՎԵՐԱԲԵՐՄՈՒՆՔԻ ՊԻՏԻ ԱՐԺԱՆԱՆԱՐ ՍԳԱԿԻՐ ԴՈՒՍՏՐԸ
Edited by Johannes, 18 November 2010 - 01:38 AM.
Posted 04 August 2017 - 10:05 AM
By Edmond Y. Azadian
If this title looks like an oxymoron, it is. The windfall is compensation from the Turkish government for the confiscation of Armenian church property. The compensation has divided the community vertically yet united them horizontally. The leadership is divided over the procedures which eventually made the compensation possible and about the future use of this newly-acquired wealth.
The compensation has been awarded to the small and decrepit St. Nigoghayos Church in the Beykoz District of Istanbul and its Parish Council has already agreed to form a community fund so that the funds will benefit all the institutions of the Armenian community. Indeed, this is a commendable show of solidarity which is seldom seen in any Armenian community around the world.
In real terms, however, the compensation actually is not so much a windfall as a debt long owed. The Turkish government has destroyed thousands of Armenian churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions throughout historic Armenia. And contrary to the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which gave birth to the current Republic of Turkey, succeeding administrations have dutifully confiscated the remaining churches, orphanages and cemeteries in and around Istanbul, to squeeze out the wealth of the entire Armenian community.
Actually, the Turkish government has micromanaged the church parish councils and other institutions, making them directly accountable to the state, against the state’s approval of their existence and operation, rather than allowing the churches to be accountable to the Patriarchate. During the reign of the Sultans, the Patriarchate operated as an autonomous head of the Armenian millet.
This treatment by the republic has left the Patriarchate without any legal authority over the community and consequently the churches and community organizations remain subservient to the state by design.
In this historic perspective, the compensation awarded represents an infinitesimal proportion of what remains in government custody.
One has to be mindful that the current compensation has not been awarded voluntarily; it is the outcome of pressure from the European Union.
When Ankara’s hopes were very high for joining the European Union, some Byzantine laws were relaxed to enable the government to return community properties confiscated from the minorities. The Beykoz case has a very long history of legal battles; it started in 2008 when the laws were relaxed. The Parish Council of St. Nigoghayos Church sued the Istanbul municipality which had confiscated the cemetery property adjacent to the Church to build a public school. The parish had won the lawsuit at a lower court, but a higher court overturned the verdict and the legal battle continued until the current year.
Now that Turkey’s relations with the EU are strained, that discounts all hope for future compensations.
During the legal battles, Varoujan Maghakian, the chairman of the Parish Council of the Beykoz Church, approached the administration of Sourp Purgich Hospital to handle the case. From all newspaper accounts, Maghakian seems to be the true leader who has spearheaded the case. The chairman of the hospital administration is a prominent businessman, Bedros Sirinoglu, who considers himself the putative leader of the entire Armenian community.
Sensing that the latter is an overly forceful person who tries to put all community assets under his sway, the parish council has decided to pursue the case under the auspices of the Patriarchate.
Since the Patriarchate does not enjoy the civil status to be able to conduct any business operation, the Vakif (Foundation) Hovaguim 1461, to whose account the funds have been transferred, has taken over.
The compensation has been awarded from the Ministry of Education, a total sum of 26 million Turkish liras. But only 20.6 million has been deposited in the church account so far. The fee for the lawyer who has handled the case has yet to be determined. Originally it was agreed to pay 20 percent of the compensation which later was reduced to 14 percent, as negotiated by the vice president of the Hospital Board, Herman Balian. It is apparent that some inexperience has played its role, because the lawyer, Ali Ejbeloglu, has deposited the compensation to his own account and he has transferred the balance to the church account, after deducting his fee. He has promised to issue a receipt or a statement, but he is nowhere to be found. It is reported that he has gone fishing in the Maldives!
The total compensation of 20.6 million is more than $6 million. A similar amount is also anticipated from the municipality of Istanbul, bringing the total to $11-12 million.
A triad is being formed which will comprise Hovaguim 1461, the Parish Council of the Beykoz Church and VADIP (a confederation of Armenian charity foundations) headed by Sirinoglu. The latter, apparently afflicted with a severe case of sour grapes, will play second fiddle in the future operation of the entire process. He has been openly critical in the press about the process thus far. In his estimation, the community is at a loss of 2 million Turkish liras and he expresses doubt over the competence of the individuals involved in managing the assets. At this time, the plan seems to be to acquire rental properties to generate income for community needs.
It is also anticipated that the real estate values may increase over the years.
The community has a different perspective about this compensation than the historic one. It will take this compensation out of that historic context out of necessity and consider it a gift, a windfall that promises to help all the community institutions.
Once they take the issue out of its historic context, the community leaders will be grateful to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which unlike its predecessors, has taken the initiative to return a piece of community property to the Armenians, not necessarily out of a sense of charity or justice, but as a political ploy to comply with the rules of the European Union.
The government’s motives do not concern the leaders of the Armenian community as long as the funds will endow the community with more power to endure.
Mr. Sirinoglu, who was indirectly hoping to see Archbishop Aram Atesyan take center stage in the Patriarchal election, seems to be sidelined. The current case also slipped from his grip, making him angry.
Time may heal the rift in the leadership when positive results are generated.
If the Istanbul model succeeds, it may also serve as an example of altruism for other communities as well, an altruism which all the Armenian communities need to survive in the cruel world of globalism.
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