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.