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Armenia and Diaspora in Quest for a New Start

Ever since Armenia’s independence, the Armenian world has been divided into three loose categories: those supporting or in some capacity interacting with the government; various opposition groups; and those who are independent or inactive. Regrettably, there has been hardly any effort to bridge the gap between these groups. On the contrary, there has been plenty of harsh rhetoric, accusations, and confrontations.

Even though the Armenian government and the opposition have different priorities, Armenians everywhere share a common set of interests and concerns regarding—the economy, human rights, rule of law, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) conflict, emigration, Diaspora’s survival, and securing justice from Turkey for the Armenian Genocide. The authorities have been preoccupied with governing the country and securing Armenia’s and Artsakh’s borders, while the opposition has focused on fighting corruption and pursuing transparent elections.

In recent months, for the first time in the last quarter century, one can see the first glimmer of hope that serious changes are on Armenia’s horizon. Possibly motivated by the recent turmoil in Yerevan and upcoming parliamentary elections, the government seems intent on carrying out serious reforms by appointing a competent technocrat as Prime Minister and giving him a carte blanche. Indeed, within a short period of time, the new PM has dismissed several untouchable sacred cows.

As Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan has energetically moved forward with long overdue reforms, he has confounded both the power elite and those in opposition. By his actions, Karapetyan has discomforted many high-ranking officials who had felt that their jobs and incomes were secure for life. Meanwhile, the opponents of the regime are also in a quandary of how to react and what to expect from the new head of government. Some have rushed to express their lack of trust by stating that nothing will change as long as the current leaders remain in office, while others have adopted a more reasonable wait and see attitude! The PM recently warned all sides that he would not hang around a single day longer if he saw that his efforts were fruitless.

Another significant recent development has been the reawakening of the Diaspora after a lengthy period of dormancy. Last September, 30 prominent Armenians, including Serj Tankian, Atom Egoyan, Alexis Ohanian, Chris Bohjalian, Eric Bogosian, and Sebu Simonian issued a petition on change.org, calling for “Justice Within Armenia.” So far over 4,000 individuals have signed this petition.

A few days later, Canadian-Armenian actress Arsinee Khanjian issued a highly critical open letter after being detained by Armenian police during a protest in Yerevan on July 27. Khanjian outlined the government’s shortcomings, urging Diaspora Armenians not to be “ambivalent bystanders” and engage in transforming the social conditions in Armenia.

On Oct. 28, another group of 23 prominent Armenians, including Abel Aganbegyan, Charles Aznavour, Edward Djerejian, Vartan Gregorian, and Ruben Vardanyan, issued another open letter urging “Global Armenians… to unite and together enable Armenia’s future.” The signatories called on “all Armenians to engage in pioneering and long-term investment to restore the social, economic, cultural, and technological strengths of the nation, with Armenia at its core.” The open letter was published in The New York Times and Hayastani Hanrapetutyoun.

What Armenia really needs is a full partnership with the Diaspora to accomplish all the suggested reforms in the above mentioned petition and two open letters. The government should welcome the participation of all Armenians to improve the country’s social, economic, political, and military structures in order to create a just, prosperous, well governed, and secure homeland.

The only way to transform Armenia into a highly-developed and democratic country is to welcome the involvement of as many of the 10 million Armenians worldwide as possible, regardless of their country of residence. Since Armenia (including Artsakh) is the homeland of all Armenians, everyone has the right and obligation to contribute to its renaissance.

The major missing factor from the foregoing petition and open letters is a mechanism for organizing the Diaspora to sustain its own continued existence, while extending crucial assistance to the homeland in a coordinated and systematic manner. To accomplish this imperative objective, Armenians need to establish a democratically-elected Diaspora structure with representatives in Armenia’s Parliament.

6 Comments on Armenia and Diaspora in Quest for a New Start

  1. Thank you Mr. Sassounian for this excellent article.
    There are people like myself who prefer not to be pigeon-holed in one of the 3 categories of Diasporan Armenians you have vaguely defined.
    There are those, like myself, who believe they are as patriotic as anyone else, but we avoid taking sides in the divisive struggle for political power.
    A Diasporan Armenian can live very happily in present day Armenia without having to interact with the present government, or the various opposition groups, and be actively engaged in helping make Armenia a better place.
    Armenia is one of the safest places to live in the world today. I call on all Diasporan Armenians to come and enjoy it. There is no feeling like walking on your own “հայրենի հող” and be surrounded by your own people.

    • avatar Yerevanian // November 5, 2016 at 5:09 am //

      Yes, walking on your own “hayreni hogh” in the company of your compatriots, is indeed a wonderful feeling. This actually reminds me of the song, “Karotel Em Kez” by the rap artist, Ararat, which happens to be one of my favorite songs.

  2. avatar Ara Kassabian // November 2, 2016 at 12:34 am // Reply

    Amen. Unfortunately, the majority of the political structures in place in the Diaspora are remnants of the pre-Genocide days. Many Diaspora Armenians, even those who are only partially “pure” or who don’t speak Armenian, want to be involved but do not see a good avenue. Or, worse, they try to get involved only to be met with indifference or disdain. We must change our definition of Armenian to include anyone who wants to be Armenian, regardless of purity of blood, language skills, or religious affiliation. And we must update our institutions to be up with the times. We can no longer afford to be divided between Tashnagtsagans and Ramgavars, or Echmiadznagans and Anteliasagans.

  3. My beloved says always …
    The corrupted governments
    They should know very well that …
    They will not take any penny in their grave …
    and their names will be black listed in any history …

  4. This article, in my opinion, is the single most important topic of Armenia and all Armenians all over the world.. This topic, I believe, is the reason why Armenia is in its current positions. Yes it was the Asian invading Seljuk Mongols, with the eventual infiltration by Masons, who decided the Armenian Nation’s theft and eventual race extermination. I am convinced that had we been united as one, this would have never happened. This was and still is, in my opinion, the core of our issues. It was an Armenian who gave Talaat the 250 community leader’s names, who were then the first murdered in the genocide. This act was clearly treasonous. However, I find Armenian Generals misappropriate funds intended for the nation’s security, equally treasonous. I find the current corrupt oligarch system that relies and endorses bribes and remittance and encourages emigration, because that means more for them, is equally treasonous. Having said that, the diaspora has no room for apathy or finger pointing. Regardless, it must make a commitment to contribute massively to Armenia’s well being. No excuses. It must gather its massive resources and contribute. Armenia belongs to all of us. UNITY, ONE Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora, is the ONLY ANSWER. It always was.

  5. avatar Ara Asadourian // November 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm // Reply

    You cannot have the tail wagging the dog. Armenia’s citizens will not and cannot be expected to accept an arrangement where the diaspora because of its wealth calls the shots while continuing to comfortably reside in other countries. On the other hand for Armenia’s citizens to expect dramatic financial assistance from the diaspora to an Armenia ripe with corruption is delusional. The first step in developing a relationship where the significant wealth of the diaspora helps to insure the continuation of a strong and prosperous Armenian nation is the political and economic reform of Armenia which results in a progressive democracy where the rule of law prevails and the power of the nation to guide its destiny and insure the peace and prosperity of its citizens rests in the hands of all of its people.

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