A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” (http://ancawr.org/2012/07/26/dreaming-with-a-broken-heart/) and the response it got was truly spectacular. I didn’t think that so many people would read it and voice their opinions, but I am so glad that they did. These topics need to be addressed in our everyday dialogue so that when the time comes, we can efficiently and confidently conquer any challenge that is thrown our way.
I was hesitant to post the blog because I felt that it might be offensive to some. After having a few people review it prior to posting, I felt more comfortable with the diction and content and decided to publish the blog. After more and more people read it and commented on it, I realized that the blog might not have been as innocuous as I thought. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s about the challenges we will face when Western Armenia is justly returned to us, namely the Kurdish population and repatriation.
The article offended some readers while others were very supportive of what I had to say. All of the commentary and discussion about the blog made me think even more about what I had written. I realize that some of you were offended or made uncomfortable, but I will not apologize for what I wrote and the topics I discussed.
I would, however, like to take this opportunity to clarify some points that may have been misconstrued.
Many people seem to think that we could live happily side by side with the Kurds and that the Kurds will end their quest for an independent Kurdistan. I acknowledge the fact that the Kurds are fighting against an oppressive regime in Turkey and that we are hopeful that a new Armenian establishment would be less oppressive and more tolerant of other cultures and customs. This does not mean that the Kurds will stop fighting. Kurds don’t want to have an identity that is part of a foreign ethnicity, particularly when their population greatly outnumbers the number of Armenians that are in Armenia!
Some readers felt I focused too much on the repopulation of our lands. I stated ”we have lost too many Armenians through assimilation to fully repopulate Armenia if the lands are returned.” I admit that this comment is vague and needs clarification. I should have clarified what I meant by “fully repopulating”. We need enough people in Armenia to make our country function properly and prosperously. I did not mean to imply that our struggle to regain our lands is fruitless unless we have people willing to repatriate. The right and just return of Western Armenia is of utmost importance and a goal that we should continue to strive fore.
The challenges I raised in the previous blog were not to discourage us from continuing our mission. Rather it was an opportunity to bring to light topics that are usually left out of conversation because they make us uncomfortable. I encourage further discussion about these topics. The more we talk about these challenges and the more we educate one another, the more prepared we are when the time comes to face these challenges.
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”
- Winston Churchill
By: Shahan Goenjian
Gaining recognition of the Armenian Genocide from the United States and Turkey is the most pressing issue of the worldwide Armenian community today. Ideally, with this recognition Armenians would receive reparations for the land, lives, and opportunities lost.
The United States federal government has not yet officially recognized the Armenian Genocide because of its political ties with Turkey. Turkey is a large commercial power and an ally in the hazardous Middle East. The US military is also allowed to have air bases in Turkey. To look at the situation without sentiment, good foreign relations with Turkey is important for the United States to maintain its hegemony. However, the Turkish government is unwilling to acknowledge the genocide in any respect and actually takes great offense to its recognition – as made evident by their withdrawal of their ambassador to France in response to France’s recent legislation which criminalizes genocide denial.
More than just 1.5 million lives were lost in the Armenian Genocide. Lands that had been cultivated and sanctified by our people and our churches for thousands of years were stolen. Some whole families were erased from history and others were left to start anew in orphanages and foreign lands. This was all motivated by extreme nationalism of the Young Turks, founders of the Republic of Turkey, and could be likened to fascism – fascism that later fueled Nazi Germany’s Holocaust. However, Germany has already long apologized for their predecessor’s actions in political and social realms by releasing public apologies and providing Jewish survivors with monetary reparations. If Turkey has any intention of joining the European Union they should follow the Germans to salvage the remaining honor and justice they still have.
Turkey’s position in this conflict is shameful not only of themselves but of humanity as a whole. The founders of the Republic of Turkey were responsible for organizing the genocide and yet they got away scotch free, and Turks even praise those founders as modern heroes. Their government’s denial shows extreme ignorance and an unwillingness to engage in honest, open debate. If one were to analyze the Turkish state in the way one would analyze an individual, Turkey would be deemed sociopathic – for not only their government, but hundreds of Turkish Facebook groups, take pride in and mock the genocide against the Armenians, showing no remorse or conscience. The Turkish government cannot be trusted until they confess to their crimes and pay due reparations. It should be the duty of the worldwide Armenian community to raise a voice against inhumanity and help put an end to the genocides being committed around the world today in places like Darfur, Uganda, Burma/Myanmar, and Chechnya.
By: Christine Feghali
I recently read an article written by a peer in Israel about the possibility of the return of Western Armenia’s lands. In the article, he brings up points that are not discussed often enough and, to be honest, I never gave the subjects much thought until after I read the article. I highly recommend reading his article (http://www.haytoug.org/3717/the-lost-homeland-indeed) and seeing what he has to say. His article has inspired me to discuss certain topics with people I’ve met with over the past week and this blog is a result of those conversations.
Imagine for a moment that by some miracle, the Turkish government decided to stop denying the Armenian Genocide and to give back Western Armenia. We would all celebrate. We would feel like the time we spent protesting at the Turkish Consulate every year was worthwhile and that it made a difference. We would hug our fellow Armenians and proclaim victory. But then what? What steps would we take to ensure a prosperous future for our country?
We often forget that there are currently nearly 14 million Kurds living in Western Armenia. What becomes of them if we suddenly regain control of this land? In a recent conversation at a birthday party (yes, this is the kind of stuff I talk about at birthday parties), someone regarded that they could just remain on the lands. We have to keep in mind, however, that the Kurds, much like the Armenians, struggle to have an independent and free Kurdistan. They want to be free of occupation and oppression, and it is safe to assume that if we have Western Armenia, our fight would be against the Kurds rather than against the Turks.
As the article states we can either give parts of our land to the Kurds while retaining the strategic and symbolic regions or we can stifle the Kurds and have them live under occupation. Of the two, the more humane solution is clear, yet I assume that it would be very difficult for any Armenian to give up a single inch of the land that we’ve fought so hard to get back. I know that I would not want to see our lands go as quickly as they came. So what do we do?
Another problem we Armenians would face when regaining our lands is determining how we’re going to populate the country and make it successful both economically and socially. Of the eight ANCA Western Region interns, I know of at least two who absolutely want to move back to Armenia some day. They want to spend their lives there and raise their families in the Motherland. The problem is, they are the exception. Who of the nearly seven million Armenians living in the Diaspora would make the move? Many people here are comfortable with their lives and, as one person at the birthday party put it, why go to a place with no jobs when we can be happy and successful here.
Many of us dream of moving back to Armenia, of waking up with a view of Mayr Hayastan or Mount Ararat from our balconies. But how many of us are willing to drop our lives here and move? I know that personally, I would need my family to move with me. Family is the most important thing to me, and I would not be able to leave them behind. For others, although family may be important, they can find it in themselves to fulfill their dream with or without their loved ones.
One other issue we need to consider is the ignorance of some Armenians residing in the United States. Over the weekend, I met several Armenians who didn’t know what Artsakh is. I don’t mean to paint a dreary picture, but we have to face the sad reality and admit that this was not exceptional. There are many Armenians who don’t know these things about our culture and many that don’t even care to know. These people are not going to be moving to Armenia if we regain our lands. They are apathetic to our cause and lack knowledge of their own culture. Unfortunately, we have lost too many Armenians through assimilation to fully repopulate Armenia if the lands are returned.
I don’t have a practical solution to any of these problems. Apo Sahagian, the author of the article that inspired me, offers possible solutions that he thinks may work, but as he says, “…before banging on the table and ordering the realignment of borders, there is a bit of reflection that is necessary before stomping our feet and roaring for the restoration of Van, Mush, and Ararat under Armenian rule—no matter how right and reasonable.”
What do you think? Would you be willing to take your expertise to Armenia and help the country prosper? What solution is there that would satisfy both the Armenians and the Kurds? I’m very interested in hearing what all you readers have to say. By continually having these conversations, we spread awareness of the issues and can start coming up with plans and solutions so we are prepared when the time comes to fulfill our dreams and regain our lost lands.
It’s the third week of the internship, and there are more deadlines to be met, emails to be sent, interviews to be conducted, research to be done, reports to be written… no pressure, of course. But, I’m learning quite a bit, and about things much bigger than myself, I should add.
As part of my summer project, I am doing research on ANCA’s involvement with non-Armenian communities. (For anyone who knows some information on the subject, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org). The more research I do, the more I realize I don’t know very much about Armenia, and its rich culture and long history; not enough anyway. Even more so, I’m not very up-to-date about the issues which inflict Armenia and its surrounding neighbors. Because of such a heightened awareness of my own ignorance, I have turned to what has become my summer obsession, the News! Nowadays, I find myself tuning to Anderson Cooper 360 daily, as well as reading Armenian news every morning. On most days, dinner consists of a quick round of “how was your day,” and then a discussion on how everyone feels about the situation in Karabakh, or why Turkey is illegally occupying half of Cyprus. Or I share with my family members whatever I have gathered from my research. While I would almost always refrain from participating in the discussions my brother, who knows only two things, soccer and Armenia, would have with my sister, I now start them. Crazy much? My family surely believes
Beginning this internship, I guess I didn’t realize how much I would be learning, and even more so, how many mistakes I‘d be making…too many to count, unfortunately. I’ve realized that it’s alright to make mistakes, as long as one learns from them and doesn’t make them anymore…at least in theory. I cannot even count how many times I’ve done something wrong, but William has been especially kind and patient, and even more understanding.