A Legacy, a Dream, an Independent Country

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.

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Houry Mayissian

Houry Mayissian is a communications professional with journalism and public relations experiences in Dubai, Beirut, and Sydney. She has studied European politics and society at the University of Oxford, specializing on the democratic reform process in Armenia as part of its European integration. Since Dec. 2012, she writes a monthly column titled "Building Bridges" for the Armenian Weekly.

5 Comments

  1. “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.”
    .
    I could not have said it better. We the Diasporans can no longer accept the Armenian government’s tired line: “just give us money and do not interfere.” Democracy is key to saving and enlarging that small portion of our homeland, and the Diaspora, through its vast experience and knowledge in successful state-building, is key to helping Armenia become democratic, through advice, active participation, and yes, pressure.

  2. We the Silent Majority Diasporans can no longer accept the noisy minority who attempt to disrupt the smooth functioning of our homeland.

    We will not allow the noisy minority, the few malcontents, those who call our brothers and sisters of Artsakh “separatists” to cause damage to our homeland.
    We the silent Majority have and will continue giving our homeland unconditional love and support.

    The noisy minority who expect to be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of our little jewel of a homeland from the safety of their air-conditioned offices, while Armenian young men serve in heat, dust, cold of the desolate expanses of the LOC, and frequently pay the ultimate price – will be sorely disappointed.

  3. How can you expect Armenia to grow and prosper when the mafia is still running the country and starving its people.Armenians are leaving the country by the thousand because there is no justice and no work.The Nairit company hasn t paid its workers for 11 month,some other company is paying its workers with eggs.Monopoly is still going on and bribery is still rampant.The Russians are emptying Armenia and Russifying it.That s because we don t have a government in Armenia all we have in the Republican party is a bunch of thieves a bunch of dictators who are destroying Armenia for the sake of money making and greed just for themselves.

  4. Dear Houry, well said and truthful. My only concern is how long will the current suicidal behavior last. I hope, sooner than latter the government of Serzh Sagsyan will come to its senses and introduce a genuine reform in Armenia. When a country is on the verge of becoming a failed state, the primary group responsible and therefore held accountable are its leaders. I hope our leaders and their cronies understand this. Until then, God Help us.

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