Los Angeles, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) and its 5 local chapters in the City of Los Angeles, ANCA Hollywood, ANCA Crescenta Valley, ANCA San Fernando Valley East, West and North congratulate Eric Garcetti on being elected as the next Mayor for the great City of Los Angeles. Though the City Clerk has not yet returned canvass for the May 21, 2013 City of Los Angeles Elections, Garcetti stands strong with a 26,498 vote difference over Wendy Greuel.
“The ANCA-WR congratulates Mr. Garcetti and looks forward to continuing its strong working relationship with him,” stated Elen Asatryan, ANCA-WR Executive Director. “We are confident that he will move the City of Los Angeles in the right direction as Mayor and will continue to stand strong on issues of importance to his large Armenian-American constituent base,” continued Asatryan.
As the councilmember representing Little Armenia, Garcetti has always been a great friend and a strong supporter on issues of concern to the Armenian-American community. His many accomplishments include consistently calling upon the U.S. Government to recognize the independence of Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide, helping initiate the sister-city partnership between Los Angeles and Yerevan, advocating for city council to add Armenian language to election ballots and materials, and providing funding to support programs and projects of many community based organizations and projects such as the Armenian Relief Society, Homenetmen L.A., Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, and the Armenian Youth Federation. As Mayor, Garcetti will be representing over 150,000 Armenian-Americans that live in the City of Los Angeles.
ANCA-WR endorsed Garcetti and Greuel in both the primary and general elections given that each, in their own capacity, had a proven track record on issues of importance to the Armenian-American community. In an effort to ensure a high Armenian-American voter turnout, ANCA-WR and its local chapters activated their grassroots efforts for the Los Angeles elections. The long list of ANCA-WR undertakings leading up to Election Day included heavy voter registration and community education initiatives, GOTV efforts, and equipping each candidate’s campaign with community volunteers.
“We thank Ms. Greuel for her commitment and support throughout the years and congratulate her on a very well-run campaign. ANCA-WR extends its support to Ms. Greuel in any future political endeavors she may undertake,” added Asatryan.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
By: Zara Hovasapyan
I remember talking with my uncle in Armenia about the feasibility of the return of Western Armenia to Armenians and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He said to me, thirty years ago, the notion of an independent Armenia was nothing but a hazy dream, an absurd vision that would be virtually impossible to fulfill. Yet, in 1991, the Second Republic of Armenia was established. For centuries (except for the short lived First Republic of Armenia), Armenians had been living under the rule of a foreign nation and then, most abruptly, Armenian independence was no longer a dream, it was a reality.
This reality is still new. Our nation is new, only twenty-two years have passed since its establishment. After centuries of tragic events in our history, the tables have finally turned and given us a new beginning, one with a country. With the dawning of this new age in our history, Armenians have the opportunity to cultivate a new dream: Armenia as home. Would you repatriate?
There are over six million Armenians living in the Diaspora and only just over three million Armenians populating the fatherland. A ratio of 3:6 or 1:2. Wouldn’t a ratio of 2:1 be more suiting? Also, since 1991, the population of Armenia has dropped by 300,000. It doesn’t help that Armenians aren’t the most prolific people either. These numbers are a mystery to me. I know, being a Diasporan Armenian (for now), that we love Armenia and we work hard overseas for the betterment of our country. But, the operative term in the previous sentence is “overseas.”
I don’t deny that I have a romanticized image of what Armenia is and what I want it to become during my lifetime, however, I am not going with the mindset that success will be granted to me upon my patriotic arrival, or that the Ministry of the Diaspora will welcome me with open arms. But, as my parents did in 1996 when they immigrated to United States without financial support or any connections, I, too, will not give up. During the hardest and most trying times, my parents did not give up and were not discouraged when they realized that success isn’t handed to people on a silver platter upon immigrating to America, the land where dreams come true. My parents immigrated to a foreign land; Armenia is native to all of us. To some, Armenia has been home, to others it has been in our hearts, but it has always been ours.
I love the United States with all of my heart and I love all that it represents. I am eternally grateful for all that the United States has provided me and proudly consider myself an Armenian-American. The USA is a 236 year old country that was founded by people who saw issues and problems in their respective countries and came to create a better world. For the two and a half centuries that the United States has existed, its citizens have continued to fertilize the American seed that keeps growing and improving. Our twenty two year old country is a work in progress, an opportunity to time travel and go back to a time when a country is reborn. To go back to the time when the Bastille was taken or when Ghandi led Indians to independence; now is the time for Armenia’s rebirth. We have a portrait of a country that can use retouching. We are the artists and the resources in Armenia and the our experiences in other countries are the paint.
In our globalized world, people emigrate and immigrate everywhere. Due to this trend, nations are no longer homogenous or integrative (the salad bowl v. the melting pot). As I mentioned, I am proud to be an Armenian-American and my plans to repatriate do not insult the dignity of adding the hyphen and my nationality. We are always loyal and grateful to the country that took us in and allowed us to make a living but, wherever we go, we do not forget our roots and do our best to support Armenia. The statistics I presented earlier are a mystery to me as I often wonder why the feelings that urge Armenians to create a community, donate to Armenia and travel there do not apply to repatriation.
I realize that I lose some credibility since I am writing from my comfortable, American home. I have yet to buy my ticket to Armenia or make the commitment on a lease but, I know that Armenia is in my blood. I have traveled to Armenia five times as a tourist and during each trip, I am barraged by the maxim “yergire yergir chi.” My parents could have said that about the United States during their first few years here while facing hardships. I haven’t experienced Armenia as a resident and I cannot deny the statement, at least not yet. However, needless to say, I do not believe it. Even if there is some truth, instead of just saying it, we should work for improving and rectifying all shortcomings of Armenia.
The Armenian Diaspora is a very important and instrumental body for the Armenian cause and I am proud to be a part of it. The Hayaser Armenians of the Diaspora are not any less Armenian or less patriotic just because they don’t live in Armenia. But, we need Armenians in Armenia! We need people there! Land is just soil until someone cultivates it or builds on it or creates a home. None of this can be accomplished without having people there! And, more specifically, we need people who won’t be bystanders but will be proactive citizens who want to build a nation!
A wise man once shared a quote from the Melian Dialogues. The conquering Athenians told the Melians “hope, danger’s comforter, may be indulged in by those who have abundant resources.” He is right. But, it holds true when one has something to lose. Otherwise, hope is motivation. I hope, in time, that I will be able use my knowledge and experience for the betterment of Armenia and I hope that my love for Armenia will only grow and further encourage me to continue dreaming of a perfect Armenia that will someday be realized. I hope that repatriating will be my first dream to come true in Armenia.
by: Aram Hovasapyan
A prevalent issue that often turns into a heated debate among Armenians is the role and significance of Armenians residing in the homeland and those in the diaspora. This argument creates a burning feeling in me, as I associate myself and feel a sense of belonging with both camps. I was born in Armenia, and lived there during the most dire years of the Second Republic, from 1991 to 1996. My family then moved to America by chance (a relative in America filled out a green card for us on his own initiative), and my parents, like true pioneers, worked hard to achieve the American Dream. We never forget our roots, and we wholeheartedly do everything in our ability to help Armenians at home and in our communities. Fortunately, we are not alone. The fact that my sister, all our fellow interns, and I devoted our spare time to serving, promoting, and helping Armenian causes by interning at the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is a testament of the sincere love we feel for our fatherland.
The argument boils up on the topic of the involvement of the diaspora regarding the homeland. Many in Armenia believe that the diaspora should not have a say or the ability to criticize the actions of Armenians in Armenia since diasporan Armenians are considered to be “foreigners.”
I would like to begin by pointing out that the first attempts to establish an independent Armenia after the fall of Cilicia came from diasporan Armenians. Israel Ori was an Armenian born to a melik of Zangezur in the 17th century who spent most of his life abroad in European political circles laying down the plans of an independent Armenia. Joseph Emin, another Armenian who would continue Ori’s legacy in attempting to liberate Armenia from Turkish and Persian rule, stemmed from the Armenian community in Calcutta. How many of us even knew that there existed a community of Armenians in India? Emin lobbied for the establishment of an independent Armenia to the English, Russians, and even to the Georgian king. In fact, it was when he went to encourage the Armenian clergy and leadership in Etchmiadzin (in the heart of Armenia) to join the movement that he was met with the most apathy. Following his frustrating experience, Emin returned to Calcutta where he wrote an autobiography titled, “The Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin, An Armenian.” For this diasporan Armenian, his ethnicity and all the duties he associated with being a proud Armenian were so central to him that he could not help but include the word “Armenian” following his name; it was the core of his identity. Furthermore, a majority of the founding fathers of the First Republic were diasporan Armenians. All four prime ministers of the First Republic (Katchaznouni, Khatisyan, Ohanjanyan, and Vratsian) were diasporan Armenians as well!
Today, the Armenian diaspora goes to extreme measures to better the interests of Armenia and its inhabitants. Dedicated Armenians painstakingly lobby the politicians of their adopted countries to promote the Armenian cause and improve conditions in Armenia. It is through the work of the ANCA that America extends aid to Karabakh – the only country that the US does not recognize but provides financial aid to. It is through the devotion and sweat of the Armenian diaspora in France that President Hollande is attempting to put another bill that criminalizes denial of the Armenian genocide into circulation, despite there being a precedent which declared such a bill unconstitutional during Sarkozy’s term. In fact, the Armenian diaspora is so instrumental in aiding Armenia that President Aliev declared in a speech during the Eurovision 2012 Contest that, “The Armenian lobby is enemy number one for Azerbaijan’s government and people.” Before the Armenian-Turkish protocols were signed (they are yet to be ratified by either country’s parliament) President Sargsyan toured among Armenian communities throughout the world, trying to promote support for the protocols. He was met by fervent opposition and protest almost everywhere, but he had to acknowledge that the diaspora was a force that Armenia depended on and could not ignore. Nonetheless, the protocols were signed, signifying that the Armenian diaspora was to stay out of Armenia’s business.
Financial aid to Armenia from the diaspora further sheds light on the critical role the diaspora plays in the survival of the homeland. In 2011, financial transfers from the outside into personal bank accounts in Armenia totaled 1.960 billion dollars. If one accounts for all other outside contributions such as the cash left to relatives and friends by the diaspora, the figure will be close to the state budget of Armenia in 2011—$3.1 billion. In addition, consider the money so loyally raised by the diaspora in telethons and other donational organs to better the quality of life for our brothers and sisters at home.
Those who support the argument that diasporan Armenians should have no say in the way matters are dealt with in Armenia and should not have the right to criticize the actions of homeland Armenians do not comprehend and appreciate the role and magnitude of the involvement of the diaspora in the historical and current state of Armenia. Diasporan Armenians contribute with the sole aim of helping their homeland; criticizing and yearning for a voice in Armenia is done with that same aim in mind. Diasporan Armenians have seen – often more powerful and tested than Armenia – how critical issues are dealt with and the results the responses lead to. They are in a better position to catch and expose problems and shortcomings in the relatively new Republic of Armenia. It is very much a tendency and tradition fostered and encouraged in countries with longer democratic histories for their populations to address issues that displease them. Diasporan Armenians, many of whom reside in such countries and are reassured by these traditions, utilize this tradition to point to problems in Armenia and offer solutions. Many times, both the problems and offered solutions are ignored by Armenians in Armenia, who deny that these problems could be corrected for the benefit of all Armenians exist.
Other great diasporan Armenians include Marten Yorgants, the writer and singer of “Ayb-Ben-Gim”, “Hayeren Yerkenk”, and other songs that Armenian children of our motherland grew up singing, in order to learn the Armenian alphabet. Richard Hovannisian, the renowned historian and professor who wrote the most comprehensive account of the First Republic and recounted, criticized, and praised the history of Armenia, has resided among the Armenian community in California his entire life. His patriotic son Raffi Hovannisian, who left a successful law career in America and returned to serve his homeland was intentionally not granted Armenian citizenship and left with no papers until months after renouncing his American citizenship in order to be eligible for Armenian citizenship. During the Karabakh war, many diasporan Armenians, such as Monte Melkonian, returned to Armenia and sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their countrymen. Would anyone dare look these men and all the other diasporan figures that I mentioned in the eyes and say that they are not as Armenian and do not have the same rights as Armenians residing in Armenia? Would it be too much for the diasporan Armenian activist whose voluntary work reaches Armenia to expect for his concerns to be heard and responded to? Should the diasporan Armenian who has the “right” to donate and spend extensively in Armenia not have the right to point out and expose problems that, when resolved, would benefit Armenia?
I, along with all Armenians residing in the diaspora love our Armenia and wish to see nothing but its betterment. Armenia is our home and we work painstakingly for our country; our ceaseless and energetic deeds for Armenia’s improvement should reflect that. The diaspora doesn’t claim to be the owner of Armenia, but it is only appropriate that the suggestions, concerns, and criticisms of this crucial and always-helping organ be voiced and properly addressed.
I am writing with great pain because I am a proud Armenian and my parents are heartfelt Armenians. Anything that happens in Armenia is dear to us. We are jubilant about Armenia’s achievements, and at the same time, we feel deeply saddened when our beloved motherland is dolefully stagnating in its hardship. Our hearts are crying out for Armenians leaving Armenia. We want to help our precious country turn into a desired land where many diasporans will repatriate it. In my heart and mind, I am an Armenian, but by my physical existence, I am a diasporan Armenian who is eager to serve his country. However, knowing that I am considered an outsider is a very bitter realization.
By: Erik Khzmalyan
For decades, Armenians had one dream… to have an independent country. Throughout centuries it was our goal, by any means, to fight and struggle for our independence and freedom. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenia gained its independence. Our country entered a new era in which our own destiny was in our hands. Yet, there were new challenges that Armenia had to face; the devastating years of war, massive poverty, ecological crisis, and huge emigration.
I was born on December 24, 1992. I and thousands of other kids were born in hospitals with no electricity. I remember my father telling me how he and his friends had to surround the hospital with several cars and turn on the high beams in order to light up the dark rooms of the hospital. During the day, we had only one hour of electricity. Our mothers had to manage to cook food, shower us, and help our elder sisters and brothers with homework, just in ONE hour. Most of our fathers were away fighting either in Karabakh or were out all day trying to bring food to our homes. I was very young to remember all those memories, but I have always had this picture of a lit candle in the darkness when my family and neighbors would gather in the end of the day, tell jokes and stories, just to forget about all the problems for a moment. Yet, I am proud to say that I had an amazing childhood. I did not have the latest toys to play with, but I had the attention and warmth of so many people who wanted to fill my childhood with great memories. I have no words to describe how thankful I am to all of the parents that took that courageous step of giving us life, even into the old, miserable conditions in Armenia.
Today, life is much better in Armenia, no doubt about it. We as a nation managed to overcome the extreme hardships of 90’s; those cold and dark days are left behind. It’s not a secret that today there are huge economic problems in Armenia. We have a beautiful, modern capital with a moderate middle class, yet there are thousands of families in regions that still remind me of the lifestyle of 90’s. Most of the people leaving in regions emigrate because of the financial and social difficulties. I do not have any moral right to blame them, as I know most of them leave the country because of the severe poverty. This is one of the great issues that truly bothers me. We cannot let this happen. Today, Armenia is in a very important transition stage and the massive emigration is going to put Armenia in a huge crisis.
It is our COMMON responsibility to concentrate our efforts in ONE direction; a direction that will make Armenia the country which won’t have its citizens leave and raise their children in foreign countries, where most of them eventually lose their identity as an ARMENIAN. Yes, I believe that we have the ability; it just requires dedication, a lot of effort, and patience.
Today, I proudly claim that I was born and raised in Armenia, where I went to school, made lifelong friends, and helped my country whenever I had the chance.
As an international student, after finishing my education, I’m going to go back and contribute my skills and knowledge in Armenia, a place where I belong.
Finally, I want to thank all the people in Armenia who try to make noticeable changes. I want to thank all Diasporan Armenians who did not lose their connection with our fatherland and continue supporting Armenia in various ways.
Armenia is a priceless gift to us from people who struggled for its independence and died for its existence… The lit candle became a symbol of hope for me and I believe that one day we are going to have even a stronger Armenia that is going to guarantee a promising future to coming generations.
By: Janet Shamilian
The early 1990’s marked the fall of the Soviet Union, creating a free and independent Armenia. Almost inevitably, this new liberation allowed for influxes of immigration to the United States. What is it about this 236-year-old country that attracted these immigrants? You may argue that George H. W. Bush was responsible for signing the Immigration Act of 1990, which increased the number of legal immigrants and generated a visa rewarding lottery program. However, this fascination with the United States surpasses legislation and is largely because America is widely renowned as the “land of opportunity.”
America is the welcoming country that promotes the national ethos of the American Dream, accepting all individuals regardless of demographics. It advances the vast array of opportunities presented to its people. This freedom in America allows for success, accomplishments, and prosperity through hard work. However, along the maturation of this country, the people have stopped trusting these defining ideals. Adopting a pessimistic outlook that is largely affiliated with failures and hardships, the people have stopped believing. The American Dream is misunderstood. What happened along the way? This problem is prevalent in our culture because we assume that opportunities will land in our hands upon entrance to the United States. Written in our Declaration of Independence, all men are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” PURSUIT. Even embedded in one of our country’s founding documents, the American Dream is not only about the rewards, but also about the process. We cannot just expect opportunities to be presented to us. We must aim and work towards reaching the unthinkable goals – the big and even bigger.
Why have we settled for contentment? Why have we stopped advancing towards the American Dream? This settlement is accredited to the fear of failure that often hinders the vision. The mere thought of failing is so powerful that it may even completely exterminate our goal. This reluctance to stepping outside our comfort zone leads to the deprivation of our potential growth and nourishment. It dwindles the search of reaching our full potential. The fear incapacitates and tampers with our mind, until we completely lose sight of the objective. Failure is inevitable; assuming that hard work prevents failure entirely is incontrovertibly foolish. However, hard work defines the process. How we respond to failure is a measure of our character and the true determinant of success. We should not allow failure to defeat us. It will in fact defeat us if we do not try again. We should not allow failure to limit our opportunities, but rather embrace the wisdom that comes with failing. Upon trying again, this wisdom will produce a more strategic and experienced beginning.
Successful people are not tainted nor dissuaded by discomfort, failure, or hardship. Many Armenian Americans (either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants) have truly defined the American Dream. Some of these legacies include Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, a federal judge who holds the title of being the first Armenian immigrant judge in the United States. The 35th Governor of the fine state of California, George Deukmejian, who was born to Armenian immigrant parents who escaped the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900’s. During his tenure, Governor Duekmejian enforced economic policies that created over 2.8 million jobs, prioritized education in California, and created a billion dollar surplus. Flourishing both the Armenian and American cultures, famous painter Arshile Gorky advanced Abstract Expressionism. He arrived to the United States in 1920, pursuing his dreams and eventually had his work displayed in major American museums including the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and finally the Museum of Modern Art. Prestigious Ben Bagdikian was born in Turkey and was naturalized as a citizen in the United States in 1926. He later went on to become the national editor of the Washington Post. Serj Tankian, lead singer of the band System of a Down was born in Beirut, Lebanon and immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old. Tankian has brought recognition to the Armenian Cause with his music and political involvement. The above mentioned Armenian Americans are only some of the very many influential people in our culture. Following the lead of all successful Armenian Americans, it is time to continue what we started when coming here…it is time to continue chasing the American Dream.
This one is for all the people who BELIEVE and for those whom I am trying to instill BELIEF within.