Aghjayan: In Pursuit of Justice and True Friendship

On Sat., Sept. 19, a demonstration against the Turkey-Armenia protocols was held in front of the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations in New York. The demonstration, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), brought together close to 800 protesters. Among the speakers at the demonstration were ARF Eastern USA Central Committee member George Aghjayan. The article below is based on his speech.

For over 90 years, we have been waging a war for justice.

Justice for the over one and a half million Armenians murdered at the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government.

Justice for the thousands of Armenian cultural monuments destroyed by the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan and continuing to this very day.

Justice for the hundreds of thousands of survivors whose lives were never the same after the horrors they witnessed and endured.

Justice so that future generations of Armenians can grow up without fear of persecution and Armenia can truly be free, independent, and united.

Today, we have entered the final battle of that war. This battle will not end today, but it surely has already begun. The Turkish government understands this well. As with any war, the final stage is marked with extreme aggression and tactics born of desperation.

This is not the time for us to blink and most definitely is not the time to capitulate on our demands. Tragically, the protocols agreed to for the development of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia do just that.

The protocol commits to “territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers.” The right of self-determination is not mentioned. The people of Artsakh fought long and sacrificed much to guarantee their rights and security. We have an obligation to ensure those sacrifices were not in vain.

The very law Azerbaijan used to secede from the Soviet Union allowed for autonomous regions within seceding republics to choose their own path. Artsakh chose independence from Azerbaijan. The territory of an independent Azerbaijan has never, nor should it ever, include Artsakh.

The protocols call for the creation of an historical commission to “define existing problems.” The existing problem is the Armenian Genocide and it is a crime requiring justice not an historical commission with the sole aim of questioning the indisputable facts.

The protocol commits to “refrain from pursuing any policy incompatible with the spirit of good neighborly relations.” Turkey will use this provision to stifle all efforts at international recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the diaspora.

For years, Turkey has portrayed resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide as racist and detrimental to efforts at rapprochement between Turks and Armenians. In addition, today the United States legal system is being used by Turkish advocates to further limit any discussion of the genocide.

It is Turkey’s decades of denial that constitute unfriendly relations. As esteemed scholar Israel Charny notes, “Denials of genocide make no sense unless one sees in them renewed opportunities for the same passions, meanings, and pleasures that were at work in the genocide itself, now revived in symbolic processes of murdering the dignity of the survivors, rationality, truth, and even history itself.”

To argue the facts is to misinterpret the true motives of denial and supply a victory for the deniers. Lasting peace in the region cannot be based on the humiliation of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendents.

The protocol confirms “the existing border between the two countries as defined by the relevant treaties.” This is a clear reference to the Treaty of Kars and the Treaty of Lausanne. The former signed under duress and the latter Armenia was not a party to.

As former Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian noted, Turkey is currently noncompliant with the Kars Treaty. Thus, through the ratification of this agreement and initiation of diplomatic relations, Armenia would make the Treaty of Kars ironclad and be relinquishing any rights to western Armenia granted through the Treaty of Sevres.

Some have claimed that the current border is a fait accompli, that borders between nations only change as a result of war. However, in 1932 Turkey acquired a border with Nakhichevan from land exchanged with Iran. In 1939, Turkey acquired a portion of the Haleb province. Neither were the result of war.

The protocol emphasizes the decision to open the common border between Turkey and Armenia. This implies that the border was closed by mutual agreement. In fact, since 1993, Turkey has unilaterally enforced an illegal blockade of Armenia. Turkish officials have stated clearly that the objective of closing the border was to create such economic hardship so as to result in the large-scale emigration of Armenians and thus to serve as a continuation of the genocidal process.

The Armenian Genocide was meant to end any possibility of an independent Armenia. The current economic and political difficulties for Armenia are a direct consequence of the genocide. It is thus logical that any just resolution to the genocide would require ensuring the sustainability of Armenia—economically, culturally, and demographically. A truly remorseful Turkey would accept that the current borders of Armenia are morally unacceptable.

Our opponents would like to portray us as extremists, as lacking pragmatism. However, the lessons of history have shown that lasting peace and prosperity can only be accomplished through mutual respect, trust, and cooperation—none of which can be achieved through deception and lies. This is the case whether we are discussing relationships at a personal level or between countries.

As I have said previously, the protocols are a disaster for Armenian foreign policy and are meant to relegate Armenia to the dustbin of history. We demand a different path, one that will lead to true friendship between Turks and Armenians and peace between Turkey and Armenia.

A scene from the protest
A scene from the protest
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George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the Armenian Historical Archives and the chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics. He achieved Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. After a career in both insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian related research and projects. His primary area of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen interest in the hidden Armenians living there today. Other topics he has written and lectured on include Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a board member of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), a frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and Houshamadyan.org, and the creator and curator westernarmenia.weebly.com, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.

11 Comments

  1. Modern day Turkey is committing a “civilized” Genocide.
    The Turks actions and words speak LOUD and clear that they are out to crush the Armenian people one way or another.  First they impose an illegal blockade to isolate the country, and force its citizens to migrate, then they brainwash the Armenian government that it is its own people (ie Artshakh and Diaspora) that is forcing Turkey to enforce the blockade, so therefore Armenia should sever ties with its Diaspora and give back Karabagh.  (Remember back during the Genocide, they told us that  if we don’t turn in our guns they will kill us, so our people went and bought guns to turn in, which in turn sealed their guilt!.. and they were killed).  Not only do they not show any remorse for the Genocide committed by their ancestors or for having stolen our lands, they are in fact continuing their Genocide of the Armenians by their unbelievalby humiliating, bold and vulgar diplomacies.  Why do we still think we can be friends with these people is beyond me.  They are hellbent on finishing us off.  They are not people we can ever reason with.  How can you reason with racist thugs, liers and cheaters.  We have been their ideal victims with our Christian values of turning the other cheek.  But God did not say be stupid.
    Dear government of Armenia,
        By signing these protocols you will surrender all of the Diasporan Armenians historical rights and lands, and in return the Turkish borders are going to stay closed until you also deliver them Kharapagh, our land that we took rightfully back during a war started by Azerbaijan…  Even then I would be shocked if they don’t come up with new tricks to finish us off…
    Dear Armenia, if it was not for our fighters back then, there would be no Armenia today.  Do not betray your own people.  Do not fall into the wolf’s trap.  Do not sign the protocols. 
    Turkey is your enemy, not the Diaspora.  Do not get fooled.  Turks are turks.  They do not change.  If they had become civilized and decent they would have acknowledged the Genocide and started paying back reparations like Germany has.  But our luck, we ended up with the worst and basest nation in the world as our enemy.

  2. Good words, however is anything beyond just words being done in Hayastan?
     
    there needs to be a clear message even by force if need be to sargsyan and his crew that if these protocols are ratified the second they put the pen down they will be in a world of trouble from the world wide Armenian population!

  3. By his phony elections alone, Sargsyan has already hurt the Armenian nation by forfeiting the 60 Million dollars earmarked from the millenium project. It reminds me of the Armenian who gave Talaat the names of the intellectuals who were arrested and later tortured and murdered. Now Sargsyan  is giving Erdogan the Armenian lands, justice and history for what? For a supposed open border? Possibly for money? Is this corrupt man the best the Armenians can do? Turks are opportunistic parihas. They always have been and they always will be. Armenians do not need to compromise for anyone.
     
    ARMENIANS ONLY NEED TO UNITE IN ONE CAUSE: TO UPHOLD  TRUTH AND SECURE PROSPERITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL ARMENIANS LIVING TODAY. AND FOR THE MASS MURDER OF OUR GRAND PARENTS AND THE THEFT OF OUR LANDS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE THAT WAS DESTROYED IN WHOLE BY THE TURKS. PERIOD!

  4. I’m sorry Mr. Aghjayan but we have not been “waging a war for justice” over 90 years. I wish this was the case. We have been waging a war for recognition. There’s a difference. Recognition is not a form of justice. Recognition is not even a prerequisite for demanding and achieving justice (NYLife Insurance settlement etc.) Our collective right to demand justice is not contingent on Turkeys or Israels or Americas official recognition of the Armenian genocide.
    As far as I’m concerned this day of so called protocol prancing was in the making and we (the diaspora) didn’t see it coming. And if we did, our leaders (from all parties) abdicated their responsibilities.
    We probably wouldn’t find ourselves in this mess if our leaders did in fact properly galvanize our community to begin waging a serious war for justice a long time ago. The important question here is what have our legal team of reparation experts been doing over the past 90 years????? Twiddling their thumbs or trying to tame the tantrums of defeatist Yerevan officials who to this day shamelessly shudder at the mention of demanding reparations from Turkey.
    We’ve had 90 plus years to put together a negotiated set of REPARATION PROTOCOLS that are mutually agreeable between Yerevan and the Diaspora. A basic set of tentative reparation protocols that all parties and factions find generally agreeable should have been achievable over a 90 year span as a starting point don’t you think? This would have kept the good folks in Yerevan on their toes and more importantly clued in and preoccupied with more sensible and collectively agreeable measures of dealing with matters. That would have been a really handy 2 page document only a year ago at worst. Instead we have little to show for but last minute international law conferences on the Armenian genocide and short lived protests.
    Have our communities really been waging a war for justice to the best of our abilities over the last 90 plus years or could our diaspora leaders have been a little more vigilant in preparing us for this inevitable disaster we find ourselves in today?

  5. 1 – Azeris attacked the Armenian citizens of Karabagh (Artsakh)
    2 – Azeris declared war…
    3 – Azeris lost their war
    4 – Karabagh Armenians WON the war! (Tiny Karabagh won against Azerbaijan).

    A – Asian hordes from the mountains of Asia conquered, took the Armenian
    lands and culture, as planned, to be the Turks own…
    B – Turkey did not declare a war against the Armenian nation…
    c – Turkey perpetrated a GENOCIDE to eliminate all traces of the Armenians…

    Armenians won the Azeri war.
    Turkish warriors just slaughtered a Christian nation to take their lands…

    Hence, all the Genocides since, in the 20th century and into the 21st century
    all emanated from the warrior Turks. Turks today, still in the Ottoman mentality, can lay claim to all the Genocides since 1915 as the Turkish ‘gift’ to the world. All the slaughter, rapes, kidnappings, terrorizing, can all be laid to the door of the Turks, today. All the Genocides, recognized and denied, all come to rest at the door of the Turk.
    Manooshg

  6. It’s times like this that I wish Armenia had laws in place prohibiting “insulting Armenian-ness” making it illegal to insult Armenia, Armenian ethnicity or Armenian history. God knows those who drafted and endorsed these concessionary protocols would all be indicted for life under these provisions. So much for it being an unstated law amongst our own people…

  7. I like what Realist (why name is not given…?) says.  The bottom line, at the end of the day, all talk about recognition shold be about reparation, restitution etc.  I don’t know why successive Armenian governments have not taken the issue (except for  Ter Petrosian’s unsuccessful brief attempt behind closed doors).  Why not take the issue through the proper channels in the UN…International Court etc.  For many “activist” Armenians, the recognition of the genocide has become a religion.  It’s about reparation.  If it was simply recognition, than no one would be concerned about the Kars treaty,   of current borders etc.  Let’s be honest .

    On a side note, over 50%  (60 to 65%) of the population of Armenia are descendants of the survivors of the genocide.  The survivors are not only in the diaspora. It appears many in the diaspora assume Armenians in Armenia were not part of the genocide.

  8. 1- Armenians attacked Ottoman citizens, army and towns
    2 – Armenians declared war… and joined the enemy
    3 – Armenians lost their war
    4 – Ottomans won the war!

  9. 1. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Armenia, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and other territories for over 300 years.
    2. The Ottoman Empire subjected native Armenian citizens to outrageous taxes, regular rapes and massacres.
    3. The Armenians just like the Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese, wanted their country and their freedom back.
    4. The Armenians asked and pleaded for their civil rights, all the while contributing to the economic, architectural and social embetterment of Turkey.
    5. The Ottoman Empire taking advantage of the chaos of WWI carried an organized Genocide, massacred 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children, took their country (6 Armenian provinces in Turkey) and drew its illegal borders (now mentioned in Protocols).
    6. We had no army! We declared no war!  We had Armenian soldiers that served in the Russian Army against the Ottoman Empire.  Wouldn’t you?
    7. We had some pockets of resistance, of citizens who decided to put up a fight instead of being slaughtered like sheep.  Wouldn’t you defend yourself and your family against sure death? The Ottoman government called this “rebellion”. 
    8. One country did declare indirect war with the Ottoman Empire: The United States of America. (along with Britain and France).
    9. The Ottoman Empire lost WWI.  Gave back Lebanon, Syria, Palestine….
    10. President Woodraw Wilson drew the map of Armenia at the Sevres Treaty, awarding ALL SIX ARMENIAN PROVINCES to the their rightful owners the Armenians.  But there were no Armenians to claim them… they were dumped in the Der Zor deserts!  Only their bones remained.
    11.  Europe announced Talaat, Enver and the Ittihad regime as War Criminals.
    12. Under a European decree, Turkey held Court Martial of the Young Turks.  During the trials, TURKISH eyewitnesses talked about the atrocities dealt by the Young Turks to the Armenians.
    12.  THE TURKISH governement found the Young Turks guilty of organized massacres of the Armenians and war crimes, and exiled them to Europe.
    13. Again, The Turks themselves, found Talaat, Enver and the Young Turk regime GUILTY.
    14. Ataturk took over the country, changed the Turkish alphabet so that it now used the English Alphabet. (In a few decades noone could read the old books or interpret them)
    15. History books were ordered with no information written for the years 1914-1916.
    16. A whole country was brainwashed and asked to forget that their own people had condemned the Armenian Genocide.
    17.Armenian churches were dessicrated, turned into stables or mosques.
    18.Armenians were forced to take out the “ian” from their last names.  Most of them would no longer use their native language.

    Murat,
    None of this would have started if the Turks’ ancestors did not overtake our homeland of more than 4,000 years.  If you take over other people’s lands and rape and abuse its people, it would be their God given right to defend themselves.  But we had no army!  We had no government to declare war!  Our efforts to regain our independence were deplorable compared to the hunger of the Ottoman Empire to swallow us.  How long can one hide behind lies and distorted facts?  All you have to do is read the historical eye witness accounts, the Young Turk trial records and a myriad of other books.
    We are not bad people .  We are just people, who wanted to live free.

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