The Armenian Weekly April Magazine
It is April again. It’s been 98 years since that fateful month in 1915. As I reflect on the legacy of the Armenian Genocide, I think how survival and seeking justice have always been part of that legacy.
From the pressing need to rebuild their shattered lives to efforts to organize communities, for the generation of survivors themselves it was, first and foremost, a legacy of surviving as a nation against all odds.
Starting in the 1960’s, particularly with the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 1965, a strong emphasis emerged on seeking international recognition. The 1965 Uruguay resolution, the 1973 United Nations report referring to the Armenian Genocide as “the first Genocide of the 20th century,” and the many nation-state recognitions that followed, signaled the emergence of an empowered, resourceful generation of descendants, intent on internationalizing the issue and maintaining pressure on Turkey.
In more recent times, a focus has been placed on reparations, starting with the lawsuits against insurance companies that financially benefited from clients who perished during the Armenian Genocide. The “Return of Churches” Resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 was another step forward in this direction.
From survival and self-organization to the struggle for recognition and reparations, the journey toward justice has been long. Central to our objective of seeking justice has been the unrelenting dream of an independent Armenian homeland.
Today that dream is a reality, albeit a fragile one that faces serious challenges: blockaded borders and hostile neighbors externally; widespread corruption, the lack of rule of law, poverty, and emigration internally.
Today’s Armenia is not the Western Armenia of 1915. It is not land “returned” to us by Turkey as compensation for the Armenian Genocide. However, today’s Armenia is itself a legacy of the genocide. Miraculously established as an independent country after hard-fought battles in 1918, it represented the will of a massacred nation to survive. As a re-emerged independent republic in 1991, this tiny parcel of land is the guarantor of the security and sustainability of a nation spread the world over.
My roots as a diasporan cannot be traced to Yerevan or Lori or Gyumri, but for me today’s Armenia is very much a homeland. It is very much a part of our “Free, Independent, and United Armenia” dream, which itself is the essence of a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, there will be much discussion about what we have achieved in our struggle for a just resolution and where we go from here. Moving forward, having a strong, sustainable Armenia must be a part of the equation alongside the ongoing struggle for genocide recognition and reparations.
As post-election events continue to unfold in Armenia and echo in the diaspora, we already seem to be on the brink of a qualitatively new phase in Armenia-Diaspora relations. One where relations are not limited to only providing financial support, or to formal activities such as government-organized Armenia-Diaspora conferences.
Today, Armenians in the diaspora seem more willing and ready than ever to engage with Armenia in a new light, and the momentum must build further. This requires diasporan institutions and organizations, from political parties to schools, to be active proponents for better informed, and therefore more purposefully engaged, communities.
From funding reform-oriented organizations in Armenia, to volunteering their time to them, there is a lot that individual diasporans can do to bring positive change to Armenia. At the same time, by being more critical of the Armenian authorities and maintaining pressure on them, leading diaspora organizations can go a long way to trigger change.
Ninety-eight years after the Armenian Genocide and we are still fighting to secure an acknowledgement, an apology, and reparations. These are essential components of a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide and we must continue to pursue these objectives. At the same time, however, we are fortunate enough to have a homeland. That homeland itself is a part of the solution. As Diaspora Armenians, we must recognize this and ensure that our political agendas are widened in scope to pursue a Just, Democratic, and Sustainable, as well as a Free, Independent, and United Armenia.