The most pressing issue of the worldwide Armenian community today is the improving of poor socioeconomic conditions of Armenia and Artsakh. This issue does not get as much attention among the Armenian community as the key agendas of Genocide recognition, the recognition of Artsakh as a sovereign state, or the repatriation of historic Armenian lands. However, the bettering of socioeconomic conditions in the homeland will allow for the more effective allocation of resources to reach the goals of Armenians worldwide.
Today, many Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh are not self sufficient, relying heavily on much needed financial support from friends and relatives abroad. Others who do not have that source of aid live in poverty. Many leave the fatherland en masse looking to find work, to aquire a good education, and trying any means possible to find a way out. “Yerkire yerkir chi!”, I heard quite often from friends and family when I visited Armenia two summers ago. They did not share my enthusiasm for Armenian efforts that had recently resulted in Resolution 252 clearing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The only thing on their mind was finding a way out of the country that I was so eager to enter and experience, at least through the eyes of a tourist. The conditions in Artsakh are even worse than in Armenia. Residents do not even have access to a constant source of water as the Gift of Water, A Gift of Life telethon that I watched last year revealed. Another looming threat is that Azerbaijan spends more on its military than Armenia’s entire yearly budget.
How can we, Armenians in the diaspora, expect the active participation of Armenians of the homeland in lobbying for genocide recognition when they are struggling to put food on the table? How can we advocate for the future repatriation of historic Armenian lands when Armenians are hopelessly abandoning and deserting the only patch of land we can call home today?
Our first priority should be to concentrate efforts and resources to help create jobs, schools, top-notch universities, and a prospering state in Armenia so that residents don’t see any motive to leave their country. This would be an invaluable contribution that would make a difference in the lives of our fellow Armenians today. These efforts would result in the modernizing of Armenia and the strengthening of the military. I dream about the vast expanses of Wilsonian Armenia. However, I cherish the gains we have made in Artsakh through the sacrifice of thousands of lives, and I am afraid of losing that hard earned land.
Only with a full stomach, secure atmosphere, and a content heart can the residents of Armenia direct their energies to other issues so dear to diasporan Armenians. In the future, diasporan Armenians will be able to concentrate all their energies and financial resources to longtime traditional agendas and goals without diverting attention and money to deal with poor conditions in their “hayrenik”.
There is no reward in painstakingly working to have a history recognized when the present and future of a significant offshoot of that history, Armenia and its inhabitants, looks grim.
Some might ask me “Why should we stop buying Turkish products? They are cheaper than products coming out of Armenia.” Well, it’s interesting when people would think that way because they don’t know that the blockade that Turkey has against Armenia today is making it harder for products to leave Armenia and be exported throughout the world. The blockade is forcing prices on Armenian goods to go up because it is harder for Armenia to sell their products internationally. On the other side of the border, Turkey is capitalizing on the blockade by selling similar products at more affordable prices and that results in people buying more Turkish goods rather than Armenian goods.
My case and point is that Armenians in America who have Armenian markets and sell Turkish goods are selling it not because the goods are better but because they are profiting more on it. It is up to the Armenian consumer to stop buying Turkish products not the stores from purchasing them. To the Armenian consumer that might argue that the quality of the Turkish products is better, well that’s because of the blockade, the fact that Armenia’s economy is weak due to the blockade and the lack of money that is coming back into the country will show that the quality of Armenia’s products will be affected by this blockade.
It is important to know that the blockade is causing economic hardship for Armenia. Not only is it hard for Armenia to export products internationally but also for other nations to send products to Armenia since it will be more costly and therefore the cost of the products within Armenia will go up. It doesn’t help Armenians in Armenia living in poverty for imported products to cost more money compared to other nations like Georgia who aren’t land locked or being blockaded by neighboring countries.
Why is buying Armenian products good? Because you are helping a third world nation try and get out of the depressing state that it’s in. By purchasing products made in Armenia you are creating more jobs for Armenians in Armenia. Just like the Americans that take pride in buying American made products and expanding jobs in America, Armenia is trying to do the same thing but at a smaller scale compared to America.
Next time you come across a Boycott Turkey sign, you should know that is in place not because of the Armenian Genocide, not because Turkish goods are bad, but because of the illegal blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan that the international community doesn’t agree with. If you believe in fighting for justice don’t support a country that doesn’t care about humanity. If you are Armenian and you see a Turkish product that is a few dollars cheaper than the Armenian one, know what you are supporting. Turkey is trying to suffocate the Armenian economy.
By: Janet Shamilian
Each of us is rightfully entitled to our own assessment of what the Armenian Cause means. Some of us may feel a stronger connection with a certain issue than another and others may weigh in most, if not all issues involving Armenians. However, to assume that the Armenian Cause is only confined to the acceptance and recognition of the Armenian Genocide is blindly neglecting the truth, history, and facts – and as a people, we have had our overdosed and prolonged encounter with negligence.
Being Armenian is not an obligation we fulfill 1 out of the 365 days in the year. It is not only about how dedicated we are to our people each year, solely on the 24th of April. It surely is not about how many Armenian flags we display in just about every single size and how often we drive around the consulate, encircling the protest. Rather, being a faithful Armenian is defined by the work and time we contribute to our cause, not just on the 24th of April, but on every single day of the year. I commend those Armenians who have dedicated their lives to our cause. I applaud those Armenians who have sacrificed their vocation in order to help their people.
The genocide does not only revolve around the recognition of the crimes committed against humanity almost a century ago. We often forget that recognition is only a step and not the destination. As we advocate for justice, we must not disregard other necessities that come along with the acceptance of our history – such as the need to demand for restitution. Restitution, the act of returning something lost or stolen to its rightful owner, should be the next step. In the 1990’s, groups of Holocaust survivors established reparation programs in countries that were both directly and indirectly affected as a result of the Nazi regime. On October 3, 2010, Germany paid off the last installment of interest, finally settling its World War I accounts. After Finland sustained its independence during World War II, it had to pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union along with Hungary, former Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Similarly, after World War II, Italy and Germany had borrowed a great sum of money from Greece and ended up repaying Greece for war reparations. Following these few examples from history, we must be mindful that advocating for the acceptance of the genocide is not enough. We cannot forget our geographic soul.
The Armenian Genocide is not the only issue Armenians face in the United States or internationally. A prevailing issue that is taking place right now is the breach of ceasefire between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Despite peace talks and agreed ceasefire in May 1994, periodic shootouts on the borderline have taken place for the past 18 years. This “frozen conflict” has led to the killings of soldiers in times of these sporadic infringements of ceasefire. The autonomy and sovereignty of Armenians in Karabakh will be at risk if the international community and we, the members of our community, remain dormant and uneducated about these acts of hostility. Thankfully, by finally addressing the serious violations of the Azeris, the United States Department of Defense blocked Azerbaijan from purchasing U.S. military equipment. Azerbaijan’s aggressiveness and disrespect towards calls to settle the Karabakh issue peacefully should ignite and activate members of the Armenian community. This focus on present day issues is imperative in steps towards understanding the Armenian Cause.
Other prevailing contemporary issues include the bipartisan measure regarding Turkey’s stolen Christian church properties and the resistance and discrimination Turkey bears towards freedom of faith for religious minorities. This measure calls upon Turkey to return all confiscated Christian church properties along with various affiliated artifacts. Turkey threatens the survival and longevity of religious minorities when showing resistance to religious freedom.The Churches Resolution is aligned with American’s beliefs of religious freedom and practice. It would be hypocritical for this superpower to not intervene and pressure respective parties to return religious sights to their rightful owners.
By providing foreign aid, the United States is able to promote and stabilize healthier democracies, ensure a favorable environment for American products, strengthen national security, and defend its global leadership. In May 2012, United States House of Representatives panel for foreign affairs proposed increasing foreign aid to Karabakh from $2 million to $5 million. This proposal results in a 150% increase of aid to Karabakh while preserving aid to Armenia.
Another pressing issue is the assimilation of our culture and people. Rather than retaining our cultural identity, we are bidding farewell to our near 5,000-year history. Nothing is worth such an unfair and parasitic trade-off. Adapting to our environment is integral, but being absorbed by our surroundings is unacceptable. Assimilation inevitably leads to a loss of identity, thereby demonstrating detriment in the already microscopic Armenian community.
The abovementioned problems are rooted in our history but are problems taking place in modern society. Though the recognition of the Armenian Genocide should be at the top of our political agenda, we cannot abandon the current occurrences involving our homeland and our people. It is important to place a fair balance on the past and present together, since both the past and present largely impact our future. Other than educating ourselves regarding the issues mentioned above, the first step towards helping our community is by calling our local Senators and U.S. Representatives and urging and encouraging them to vote for pro-Armenian issues. If you are already represented by individuals who are supportive of these issues, the power of “thank you” notes goes a long way…
The Armenian Cause is not a subjective field, dependent on each individual. It is a series of causes and issues that together comprise the Armenian fight to overcome our lingering battles. We are the soldiers in this battle. Just as in any successful strategy of war, while we can prioritize, we cannot direct all our attention towards just one issue. Failure to disperse our attention and magnify all the issues will not only make us seem unknowledgeable, and even worse, vulnerable and blindsided. The Armenian Cause is the overarching theme of the Armenian struggle, respective of ALL issues taking place within the Armenian community.
My family has recently started watching Eurovision since we have more access to it. Last year, I remember we were all sitting around the computer watching the whole competition. I think it is a good way to connect all the countries in Europe. This year, since the competition is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan, I was a bit concerned about what was going to happen. Initially I was very excited about the contest. Call me innocent, but I thought that maybe this would be a way for Azerbaijan and Armenia to look somewhat united in some way. But after recent events, I know that to be impossible.
The first event is that on February 28, 2012, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev in a speech said, “Our main enemies are Armenians of the world and the hypocritical and corrupt politicians under their control. The politicians who don’t wish to see the truth and are engaged in denigrating Azerbaijan in different parts of the world.”
After a statement like that, I think it would be ill-advised for Armenians to send a group to Eurovision in Azerbaijan. It is funny because the last time I heard something that horrible was when I was listening to Al Qaeda broadcasts.
On March 7th, 2012, Armenian Public Television officially informed the European Broadcasting Union of their withdrawal from the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.
It has been all over the news that Armenians are shunning Eurovision. But I think that every single country should try to look at it from the Armenians’ point of view. If the president of a country called your country ‘the enemy,’ would you send any of your citizens to that country? We all know the answer to that.
The second event is Khojaly. Instead of being friendly neighbors, Azerbaijan has not only denied the Armenian Genocide but also made claims of their own ‘Genocide.’ Some of the facts to their ‘Genocide’ are still hazy to many people.
I wish I could say the world is a safe and amazingly fair place but it is not. But we, as people and as countries, show our true colors when it comes to hard decision making. Armenia is protecting its own people by not sending them to Baku. What is Azerbaijan doing? You tell me.
Recently I read an article called “History Lessons in Armenia and Azerbaijan.” To summarize, it talked about how school history books are written in both countries. One of my favorite topics has always been history, and I was appalled at the way history books were written in Azerbaijan. To give you an idea, here is a bit from the article:
“Tofig Veliyev, head of the Slavic history department at Baku State University, is the author of this textbook, and insists he had to use negative language in order to tell the truth. ‘Those phrases give an accurate picture of the Armenians,’ Veliyev said. ‘I would be falsifying history unless I described them like that.’”
By ‘these phrases’ he is referring to words that are used in the books such as, “fascists,” “our eternal enemies,” and “terrorists.” I can say that as an Armenian, this infuriated me. As a student, it’s a different story. I attended a very liberal high school, so I am not used to propaganda and lies. Most of my history books were boring and concrete. There was no bias at all. In my high school, my world history teacher took a day off and taught us about the Armenian Genocide from notes he prepared himself because our history book had one sentence about it. Seeing how history ‘professors’ are slanting history and writing books that are lies and getting away with it makes me wonder what their intentions are. Azerbaijan is raising generations of students who will hate Armenians.
Rouben Galichian writes about Armenian geography, and one of his books talk about how Azerbaijan history distorts Armenian history and claims it as its own. He started writing about the topic because of his concern of Azerbaijani claims. One of these historical monuments is the medieval Armenian cemetery at Julfa, which Azerbaijan called their own and then destroyed it. He also talks about the Aliyev Foundation, which spends millions on publishing books about ‘Azerbaijan history.’ One of the books that the Aliyev Foundation distributed had a map of Armenia on the cover and it says, “Western Azerbaijan.” In the book all the monuments in Armenia are named either Turkish or Turkic. I think that something like this should raise the alarm for Armenians across the world.
I believe that we should be teaching students in schools about peace, tolerance and ways to get along. Instead, there are countries like Azerbaijan, who write books based on biases. Those kids will never want to work with Armenians in positive ways. It is not professional to write books that refer to any group of people as fascists or terrorists.
One of the things I didn’t like in high school was a teacher who wanted you think exactly like they did. I have had teachers who wanted me to write essays from three different points of views so that I could decide which one I believed in. But I also had teachers who wanted me to write what they fed me. The reason I think like I do is because of teachers who made me get to the conclusion on my own.
This is such a hard topic to write about because, as I write this, I think of all the students who are in Azerbaijan–the ones that are learning right now to hate me. I feel sorry for them because they will never understand, tolerate, or even be remotely correct. This anti-Armenian behavior sickens me, but I guess you can’t expect more from ignorant people. All I can say now is that as long as history is distorted by so called ‘professionals’ there will never be peace among anyone.