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.