Please tell me why it would matter if the world recognizes the Armenian Genocide if our hopes and dreams for mer Hayasdan(our Armenia) are not fulfilled? Please tell me why it would matter if the world recognizes the Armenian Genocide and our brothers and sisters in Artsakh (Karabagh) have lost their freedom and independence? Please tell me why it would matter if the world recognizes the Armenian Genocide and historic Armenian Javakhk has been emptied of its people?
We are at a most crucial moment in the modern history of the Armenian nation, engaged as we are in a century-long struggle for Hai Tahd (Armenian Cause). However, ultimate victory will remain an elusive goal if our party fails to win the mind and heart of the Armenian worker and his family. If success is to be achieved two objectives must be realized: 1) to create a system based on equality, opportunity, and justice for all our citizens irrespective of age, infirmity, intelligence, or talent; and 2) to maintain the ongoing effort of genocide recognition. This requires joining these two objectives to form a unified coordinated effort within and outside Armenia.
An apparent weakness in our present effort stems from the fact that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) is no longer the monolithic political party that operated in the diaspora from 1920-91. During those years its principal political objective was to confront the Turkish policy of genocide denial and historic revisionism in the international arena. Since Armenia’s independence, the party has become, as a result of legal requirements and the relocation of the leadership to Yerevan, a bifurcated party. Operating within the Homeland (Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk) is the Hayasdan ARF, and beyond the Homeland the diasporan ARF. The end result has been an inability or at least a tacit acceptance that there is no need to implement a common agenda except in the broadest of terms (Hai Tahd). Given this situation the issues of cooperation and coordination necessary to achieve these dual objectives simultaneously have not been properly addressed.
The principal effort of the diasporan ARF is still geared toward influencing countries to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Once a critical mass is reached (however many nations that might require) proponents of this strategy believe that a rising tide of sentiment in Turkey to revisit its past will eventually require Turkish leaders to face their history, as President Nicolas Sarkozy and others have suggested. However, only time and events will determine how Turkish leaders and citizens will interpret their past, if and when it is confronted. Once this stage is reached recognition proponents expect the ensuing dialogue will open the way for meaningful negotiations between Ankara and Yerevan. What role the leadership of the ARF will have is problematic at this time.
Although the groundwork would have been achieved through the efforts of the diasporan ARF, the expected dialogue or any follow-up negotiations that may result cannot be expected to include participation by the Hayasdan ARF leadership given its current status. At best, the Hayasdan ARF is a marginal political party within Armenia. It will remain marginal until it can appreciably increase its number of members in parliament (presently 16 out of 131) in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Any hoped-for increase will be directly related to the party’s perception by the Armenian electorate as a reliable catalyst for needed change.
Given this fact, the Hayasdan ARF must provide a credible comprehensive plan with specific legislative proposals to create a system based on equality, opportunity, and justice for all citizens. The ARF has yet to be perceived by the electorate as committed to their concerns. Public opinion is swayed as much by perception as it is by substance. The situation in Armenia represents the classic struggle between the selfless revolutionaries and the forces that have enslaved a hapless society. Granted, this may be an overly dramatic description of the present situation, but however the situation is described, it is an absolute must that our leaders are accepted by the electorate as the 21st-century political incarnation of our honored fedayees and not part of the established political system that seems unable to change their condition. The results of the forthcoming parliamentary election will test the voters’ acceptance of the ARF as a reliable and effective champion of their concerns.
Only when the political base of the party expands, measured by a significant increase of members in parliament, can our leaders expect to have a voice in any forthcoming dialogue or negotiations. Make no mistake, the struggle we are engaged in will be won or lost by our party’s success and acceptance in the Homeland. Without a significantly expanded political base our leaders will lack the influence to have any effective voice in protecting the interests of the Armenian nation vis-à-vis Turkey or any likely cabal that represents interests at the expense of the nation.
As for Yerevan, the question that must be answered is, How effective can any government be at some time in the future in representing the interests of the Armenian nation if young people and families continue to emigrate in search of a better quality of life; if the national population has continued its steady decline; if high rates of unemployment and underemployment continue to persist; and if wealth and power remains concentrated in the hands of an economic and political elite? These issues have a profound adverse impact on Armenia’s future development and weaken any government’s position in negotiations with Turkey. These are conditions that must be vigorously, aggressively, and persistently confronted in concert by the Hayasdan ARF and the diasporan ARF.
(An interesting note: The population of Armenia when independence was declared in 1991 was about 3.6 million. Assuming an annual increase of only 1 percent (which is relatively low) and little emigration or immigration occurring, the population of Armenia today should be about 4.4 million, which is 1.4 million greater than its current estimated population of only 3 million.)
It would appear that neither the Hayasdan ARF or the diasporan ARF accepts redressing existing conditions in the Homeland as holding the key to ultimate victory. The diasporan ARF seemingly ignores the situation in Armenia as it continues its quest for what has become the Holy Grail of Hai Tahd: genocide recognition. No one is denying the importance of these moral victories that have been achieved by our ungers and ungerouhis. These victories are important not only in maintaining the support of the diasporan constituencies, but in adding public moral pressure to the Turkish leadership. However, after having said that, do the proponents of this strategy really believe that the cumulative weight of genocide recognitions or legislative acts criminalizing public denial of the genocide are capable of providing the final victory we all seek if unsupported by an Armenian government that can be relied on to effectively represent the interests of the nation?
Our cause would be infinitely easier to achieve if we could amass our resources, meager as some claim them to be, solely against the Turkish policy of denial and historic revisionism. Given the approximately 70 years in the diaspora, the ARF is adequately structured through its Getronagan Gomidehs (Central Committees) and Gomidehs (local committees) to pursue this single objective on nearly a world-wide scale.
The Armenian Genocide is an established fact of history based on the enormous weight of evidence and the determination of unbiased and credentialed genocide scholars and historians. Yet, only about 10 percent of the 193 members of the United Nations have recognized it. Other nations have accepted the fact of the genocide, but recognition has fallen prey to political considerations. However, reaching the critical mass of supporting nations required to influence the Turkish leadership still remains a daunting task. There can be no denying that the struggle to have nations recognize the genocide keeps our struggle for justice before the public, infuriates the Turkish leadership, and satisfies our diasporan constituency. There can also be no denying that this strategy must be part of a more comprehensive and coordinated effort that includes improving the debilitating conditions that afflict our people in the Homeland.
We should recognize that whatever success the diasporan ARF achieves, it is the government of Armenia that will complete the process. For the ARF not to be represented in any hoped-for dialogue or negotiations that affect the future of Armenia cannot be acceptable. For over 120 years, the ARF has devoted itself to representing the interests of the Armenian nation. Now, as we move closer to victory, is the ARF willing to abandon its historic role because it failed to aggressively and heroically confront the woeful conditions in Armenia? Hopefully not!
What is being expected is a Herculean task especially for the leadership of the Hayasdan ARF. Unfortunately, viable options do not exist. In a few years, a century will have passed since the genocide to destroy our nation was unleashed by the Ottoman-Turkish government. Only a handful of survivors remain with us. This is a struggle not only to secure justice, but to determine the future course of Armenia. It is a struggle that must integrate the efforts of the Hayasdan ARF and the diasporan ARF. It cannot be the responsibility of one and not the other. And it is a struggle that cannot afford to fail because the efforts were uncoordinated, or poorly conceived, or improperly executed, or ineffectively staffed, or simply because of internal bickering. Whatever victories are achieved in the diaspora will not provide us our ultimate objective if we cannot claim victory in the Homeland.