Like a drunken sailor, the Armenian nation—with its motherland and diaspora—continues to drag itself through mud into oblivion, pretending that things are all right. It’s time for jubilation.
The motherland, basking in corruption and crime, is plagued with depopulation and confusion about its political identity. It pretends to switch its orientation towards civilized Europe, while historically, traditionally, culturally, and de-facto, it lives under the Russian tent. Russian armed forces remain camped on Armenian soil, while Russia pursues its interests by cow-towing to Azerbaijan. The psychological orientation of the Armenian man-in-the-street continues to be loyal to Russia, despite a huge American diplomatic presence in the country. This orientation is fortified by the fact that Russia is the biggest employer of Armenian workers, be they scientists or peasants.
At present, the Armenian Diaspora in Russia is twice the size of that in America, and has the same psychological attachment to the motherland—casual and nominal—as other communities in the diaspora. However, the sum total of their involvement in the problems and aspirations of the nation is close to nil.
The same applies to Armenian cantons that span the globe. In each country, Armenians, considering themselves natives of their new home, build churches (sometimes two, a few yards apart), schools and halls, to establish modified Armenian community life. Their actions affirm diasporan permanency: sports events, banquets to honor one another and decorate the chests of people—such as those who have devoted themselves to this or that church, have run schools and other municipal institutions, or have passed through Ellis Island—with meaningless medals worth as much as Coca Cola caps. These are indications of permanency.
Individual and communal security, comfort, and prosperity enjoyed by much of the diaspora have created a gigantic gorge between us and the motherland. Diasporans are not willing to trade their status quo with that of their motherland’s, which has nothing to offer its inhabitants and the nation but corruption, extortion, poverty, or, at best, benign neglect.
Armenia is no longer the spiritual or nationalistic fortress of Armenians–a sad, but true fact.
To fill the vacuum created by this situation, the post-genocide Armenians are laboring to find identity in their immediate ancestors’ churches, tombstones, graves, and destroyed homes in Western Armenia. At best, this activity brings some solace to those who pursue it, but never addresses the fact that Western Armenia is now fully inhabited by Kurds, and our business will have to be with them. Instead, we have fallen prey to a multifaceted dilemma, which has forced us to pursue our rights in the international arena through the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the international community and Turkey. This is well and good, but not enough to reach our goals. For over three decades, we have expended tremendous amount of psychological and financial capital through the Armenian National Committee (ANC) and other organizations in Washington to have the U.S. government officially call the genocide by its just name. This has not happened. Several U.S. presidents have deceived us by reneging on their written promises. Some 30 countries have recognized the genocide, so what? What will happen if the UN and/or the U.S. accept the genocide? Nothing!
We have lost our political compass: we concentrated our efforts on popularizing hatred towards the Turks, convicting them of genocide, and insist on having them 1) admit their crime of genocide, then 2) pay reparations.
This decades-old approach is still our modus operandi. Turkey has rejected both. For them, the status quo is quite suitable and has succeeded in expending our psychological, material, and political capital, while diverting our target from the demands of land and Western Armenia to the useless issue of human rights. We have naively bitten that bait!
Historic and current political realities have proven to us that this road is closed, and leads us to nowhere. Whatever happens, whether Turkey recognizes the genocide or not, our just demand is retrieving our land, our Fatherland, Western Armenia, then realizing our nation’s right to unite East and West in one sovereign Armenia.
Of late, demands have been begged from heaven, to have some 2,000 confiscated churches returned by Turkey to their legal owners, the Armenian religious authorities. Already, it has happened in one place, Diyarbakir, where the dominant Kurdish municipality has returned the Sourp Giragos Church. Yes, we are grateful to Mayor Osman Baydemir for his generosity, but as the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly said while visiting the church, “What good is a church without its faithful?”
While magnanimous, this gesture realizes neither Armenian, nor Kurdish, demands.
The return of churches is desirable but insufficient in solving the Armenian claims. Similarly, some individual’s demand of $3 billion for their confiscated property does not address the demands of the nation.
As a nation, we are plaintiffs with concrete demands, it is imperative that we regain ownership of our lands with our own efforts, not by begging charity from others. We are not beggars!
We know that nobody will offer what is rightfully ours just for the sake of doing what is right. Freedom is taken, not given. Countries have their interests, and no country can sacrifice its interests for the sake of restoring our rights in our Fatherland, Western Armenia.
The history of Armenians does not begin and end with the genocide. For millennia, we have lived on our land, sometimes peacefully, sometimes miserably, and some other times in sovereignty. During all that, we have been able to maintain and renew our physical and cultural existence. Such has been our reality.
Today, the unstable but obvious situation in the region has placed us at a decision-making crossroads, which requires us to correct our present political direction, clearly define our demands, sharpen our target, and move forward. It is imperative that we make the genocide our launching point, not the psychological and political destination.
Today, more than ever, Western Armenia is in danger. Kurds, having occupied our land, are striving to create their own united and free Kurdistan. That includes our Van, our Mush, our Bitlis, our Erzerum, our Trabizond, and our Araratian plain.
For us, the alarm bell has rung, but for the Kurds, it is their bugle that is blowing the tunes of freedom. To implement their plans, they have pursued and succeeded in altering the individual Kurd’s mind from tribal to revolutionary mode.
They have also succeeded in influencing European public opinion in their favor through their parliament in exile, which is incorporated in The Hague, located in Brussels, and present in electronic and print media. They have presented their cause as the legitimate human rights struggle of 30 million landlocked people who have no independence, and who are persecuted by Turkey. The Kurds owe the development of this situation to the unwise and irritating political, social, and economic policies of Turkey.
Aside from Ottoman persecutions of Kurds, the newly formed and supposedly modern regime of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk persecuted the Kurdish aghas to put an end to their authority and aspirations of independence.
This policy energized Kurdish determination for independence. Furthermore, Ataturk denied the existence of a Kurdish race, and considered them to be “mountain Turks.” Speaking Kurdish was also forbidden.
In 1937, tens of thousands of Kurds were annihilated in Dersim. The persecution continues.
However, the situation has fortified the Kurdish revolution.
Chauvinist and fascist Turkish governments did to the Kurds what the Kurds had done to the Armenians–this time, by recruiting Kurdish mercenaries called korucus (village guards), who killed, raised havoc, and destroyed hundreds of villages.
In 1984, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) resorted to armed struggle against the Turkish government, which continues to date.
We recognize the Kurdish cause as a de jure right: It is not just for the 30 million people—who have lived on their land for millennia—to remain the victims of Turkish hegemony and persecution.
We share their national aspirations, but not at the expense of our rights and demands.
Throughout time, we have known the Kurds to be ignorant and uneducated tribes, robbers, extortionists, and murderers who have kidnapped and raped our women and participated in executing the Ottoman-waged genocide against us. As such, we have formed negative opinions about them. Now, almost a century later, it is time to revisit that conviction.
Today, the Kurdish leadership is highly educated, has modern-thinking intellectuals, free and healthy print and electronic media, theater and music, political and democratic maturity, and a representative parliament in exile in Brussels—consisting of men, women, and minorities—where free speech is supreme. It is a parliament whose first manifesto has been the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the admission of their role in executing it, and asking for forgiveness from the Armenian nation.
It is a parliament that hosted an Armenian and allowed him to present his nation’s land demands freely, according to the Treaty of Sevres.
It is a parliament that stood in attention while the Armenian national anthem played.
It is a parliament whose foremost revolutionary battle-songs were composed by an Armenian, Aram Tigran Manoogian.
Yes, our interests dictate that we value all these.
Nonetheless, it is prudent to ask these questions:
Where are we in this? Where are we in this complex situation?
Why are our people unaware of these developments, especially that there is the danger of losing Western Armenia forever?
Saving Western Armenia and saving our compatriots who have forcefully converted to Islam is our duty. We are accountable to the future generations, if we do not protect their heritage.
In all these, one thing is clear: willingly or otherwise, our future is with the Kurds, and it is the Kurds who are our partners. Dialogue with them is inevitable and necessary.
This venue is not alien to us. Historically, we have cooperated with them in their struggle for freedom:
In 1843, Prince Bedirkhan of Bohtan formed a 40,000-strong Armenian-Kurdish army and waged war against Ottoman Turkey.
In 1927, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) signed the Khoyboon Treaty with the Kurds, and participated in the battles of Ararat.
Malkhas and Garo Sassouni attempted to establish cooperative relations with the Kurdish tribes to fight the common enemy, Ottoman Turkey.
Now, time and atmospherics having changed, developing and advancing our relationship is the mandate of both sides.
Kurds—with their parliament’s first manifesto, the return of Sourp Giragos Church of Diyarbakir (which they restored partly at their own financial expense), and with the organization of an Armenian song and dance festival in Dersim (Tunceli)—have demonstrated good will towards us. We, in turn, have participated in their all-important Spring Rights Newruz.
All these are friendly gestures, but never the solution to the return of our Western Armenia.
Our demands are ours for as long as we make them ours. Therefore, it is imperative that we create and establish a national political entity, in addition and parallel to ANC, to study and pursue Armeno-Kurdish relations and formulate ideas and suggestions.
Second, it is imperative to assemble an entity consisting of world famous, Armenian and non-Armenian lawyers and experts in international law, to revive the Sevres Treaty and realize the map of President Woodrow Wilson, which delineates the borders between Turkey and Western Armenia.
But what is this treaty?
In 1920, during the League of Nations meeting in Sevres, France was considering dividing the defeated Ottoman Empire, and returning to the different nationalities the lands the Ottomans had taken by force.
Articles 88-93 of this treaty dealt with the Armenian issue, delineating borders with Turkey according to the Wilsonian map.
Today, the Sevres Treaty and the Wilsonian map are the foundations of our demands. They form the basis of our international jurisprudence, and our political conviction.
Today, we believe that this treaty is alive, but lethargic. Its impact is interpreted differently by various countries.
For Turkey, it is an eternal threat because, in its entirety, it convicts Turkey with misdeeds and crimes in every field.
For us, it is a solid, internationally viable, and politically firm document, protecting our rights.
And for the Kurds, it is like a sweet and sour soup.
Our national cause and claim are crystal clear, but complex. However, Sevres satisfies them fully.
We have no right to ignore precious Sevres.
We have no right to overlook or postpone the claim of a “united sovereign Armenia.”
We have no right to excite our people with the slogan of a “united sovereign Armenia,” and then do nothing about it.
We have no right to get excited with the return of some “church buildings empty of its faithful” (the Armenian Weekly’s assistant editor on her visit to Diyarbakir). No one has the right to convert our places of worship to museums.
No one has the right to push us around. The question arises: Are we hypocrites for not acting yet sloganeering “free and united Armenia,” or are we inept?
As a nation, we are neither cry-babies nor beggars.
Let our enemies know that when the knife hits the bone, ten million Armenians, with their Pakos, Serges, Raffis, and the rest, will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, like a shield to defend their fatherland.
This nation is determined, heroic, and brave; to wit Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh).