Sassounian: Thousands Rally Against Protocols, Protesters Await Sarkisian in LA

Up to 10,000 protesters held a public rally on Sept. 27 in Glendale against the Armenian government’s plans to sign and ratify two protocols negotiated with Turkey, which include several highly controversial issues.

The angry demonstrators expressed their rejection of President Serge Sarkisian’s conciliatory policies with Armenia’s archenemy—Turkey.

They objected to the Armenian government’s concessions to Ankara, particularly its agreement to set up an inter-governmental sub-commission to examine “the historical records”—a Turkish ploy to undermine the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the international community. The protesters also objected to Armenia’s acceptance of Turkey’s present borders, which would preclude future territorial claims by Armenians.

The rally was jointly organized by the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Democratic League, and United Young Armenians. Representatives of the sponsoring organizations delivered fiery speeches against the protocols.

I was the keynote speaker at the rally. My remarks were delivered in Armenian. Below are excerpts in English.

“Today is a very sad day for me, as well as for all Armenians worldwide. While Armenia was suffering under the Soviet yoke for 70 years, Armenians worldwide were dreaming of the day when their homeland would be independent, and they would be masters of their own fate. It never occurred to us that when that blessed day would finally arrive and the homeland would be free, we would be compelled to challenge the authorities of independent Armenia.

“Regrettably, out of concern for Armenia’s cherished national interests, we are obliged to gather here to express our indignation and protest against these protocols. Today, Armenians from all walks of life have come together, regardless of their political and religious affiliations, immigrants and natives alike, to say a loud NO in unison!

“NO, primarily to Turkey, the successor state to the genocidal Ottoman Empire! NO, to the dictatorial regime in Azerbaijan! NO, to territorial concessions on Artsakh! NO, to Russia! NO, to France! NO, to the United States! In particular, NO to the sub-commission on history that would question the facts of the Armenian Genocide! NO, to the Treaty of Kars! And a categorical NO, to the Armenian government’s inept diplomatic initiative on the protocols!

“We are also gathered here to say YES to all those who defend the Armenian national interest! YES, to all those who pursue the recognition of the Armenian Genocide! YES, to all those who demand compensation from Turkey for damages emanating from the Genocide! YES, to all those who reclaim our historical lands! Finally, YES, to all those who support the independence of the Republic of Artsakh!”

I concluded my remarks by citing the 10 major objections I had written about in my column last week regarding the Armenia-Turkey protocols. I expressed “the fervent hope that Armenia’s leaders would have the courage and wisdom to change their minds and not sign and ratify these Protocols. Should they proceed to conclude these infamous agreements, however, I fully expect the next president and National Assembly of

Armenia to promptly abrogate them and dump them into the dustbin of history.”

In view of the outpouring of vehement opposition to the protocols during the Glendale rally, it is reasonable to expect that a much larger protest would take place in front of the president’s hotel, during his Los Angeles visit on Oct. 4.

To avoid a deeper split between the government of Armenia and Armenians worldwide who outnumber those in the homeland, one would hope that Armenian officials would find a gracious way out of this terrible predicament, in order to bring to an end the discord within the global Armenian family. Armenians need to muster all their resources to jointly counter a resurgent Turkey and a menacing Azerbaijan. A modest suggestion to Armenia’s leaders, assuming that they are prepared to listen, would be to take a deep breath before making a final determination on the fate of the protocols. They should be in no rush to sign and ratify them, since the protocols contain no deadlines. A way out would be to renegotiate and amend these flawed documents. Otherwise, future generations will not forgive Armenia’s leaders for the lasting damage they would have brought to the national interests of Armenia and the Armenian Cause.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

4 Comments

  1. Why did we wait so long towage a serious war for JUSTICE for the Armenian Genocide?  Was it not inevitable that some day Yerevan cronies were going to fall victim to Turkish ploys and sign away our rights?


    What have our legal team of reparation experts been doing over the past 90 odd years? We’ve had 90 plus years to put together a negotiated set of REPARATION PROTOCOLS that are mutually agreeable between Yerevan and the Diaspora.  I don’t think its far fetched to assume we should have been able to at least draft some tentative agreement on the terms of justice we all share rights to over 90 years! These back and forth negotiations would have kept the good folks in Yerevan on their toes and more importantly tuned in to more sensible and collectively agreeable means of dealing with matters.
     
    Mr. Sassounian, what have our organizational leadership in the Diaspora learned from all this protocol nonsense and how to preempt the Armenian Governments inept diplomatic maneuvering? If we take this to be a teachable moment for the Diaspora, what is the take home message assuming this protocol process is a feta complete?

  2. It is definitely unfortunate to see that after 90 years, we finally come together to stop something that could have been stopped 90 years ago.. It is unfortunate that we only learn to work together and support each other when it is a bit too late.  Who knows if all this unified efforts going to pay off at the end? 

    Why would they look at us and think strong, together Armenians when we have not done that for years and years?  Our organizations, our political officials, and lawyers who could have done a great deal then are just coming out now.. don’t you think it is a bit late now?  Even though I am a dreamer and I have a dream to have the Armenia prosper with freedom, liberty and justice for all, my heart sinks just thinking about what can happen in few days… I will continue to have faith and hope that my dream will come true sooner than never.

    Thank you Mr. Sassounian for your efforts.. It is much appreciated.

    Gayane

  3. Dr. Mr. Sassounian:
    Thank you for demonstrating such a firm stance against the Turko-Sarkissian protocols.   The Armenian Government must not cave in to external pressures or internal financial greed.  Many leaders, including Netanyahu, Ahmadinejad, and even Magabe, boldly defy greater external pressures.  What kind of democratic principles were followed in formulating these protocols?   What advantage do Armenians get in these negotiations?  The economic benefit, if any,  will be bilateral and support the few mafia-style oligarchs in Armenia.
    We firmly support your and the entire Armenian Nation’s protests.  We ask that the following be bolstered.
    1.  The Assembly, parting away from party flattery and upholding national interests,  fulfill its duty of representing the people and reject the Protocols.
    2.  Massive demonstrations occur both internally and externally, convincing leaders andparliamentarians,  that their electability and political survival will be compromised if the protocols are signed.
    3.  The energy of the Diaspora against these protocols be transmitted internally into homeland Armenia.  The  potential near economic gains should not blind homeland Armenians into severing their 5000 year old historical roots.  Forgetting about the Genocide and ancestral Western Armenian lands will leave no ties between homeland Armenia and the Diaspora.  The Diaspora will eventually feel no need to morally, economically, or politically support the Armenian governmental leaders who have their greed supercede Armenian national interests.
    4.  In order to come out of this crisis, the leaders have two options.  First, they should invite Diasporan leaders for consultation and collaboration, replacing current positions with competent Diasporan Armenians.  Alternatively, they should assume responsbility for these failures and resign from their position.
    California, USA
    October 1, 2009

  4. It is easy to be idealistic when one does not directly deal with the consequences of the RA government’s actions.  The government should have consulted much more with the Diaspora before all of this, but in the end, the opinion of those living in Armenia carries more weight than those outside.  If things turn out well or poorly for Armenia, who will be the first to be effected by them?

    This article mentions the territorial claims Armenia may have on turkey in the future, we have had almost 20 years to bring up the Treaty of Sevres, why have we not done so?  Now that the protocols speak of ‘existing borders’ people are up in arms.  Where have these people been the past 20 years?

    The lesson from all of events of the past 20 years of our republic, nay, of our modern history should be this maxim: ‘might makes right’  If Armenia were more powerful we would not be dictated to, nor would we, the winners but also the rightful inhabitants of Artsakh be asked to concede to a genocidal neighbor who started the war in the first place.  Armenia will be strong not through idealistic policies but rather pragmatic ones! 

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