WATERTOWN, Mass.—On April 3, a panel discussion titled “Western Armenia: Our Lands, Our Rights” took place at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) in Watertown. The event, which was hosted by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Greater Boston “Nejdeh” chapter, featured former ambassador of Armenia to Canada (2000-2006) and president of the Modus Vivendi Center Ara Papian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America Aram Suren Hamparian, and Armenian Weekly contributor George Aghjayan. Dr. Dikran Kaligian, author of Armenian Organization and Ideology under Ottoman Rule, 1908-1914, acted as moderator, while ANC Eastern Region Board Member Tamar Kanarian introduced the speakers.
Papian spoke about what President Woodrow Wilson had in mind when drawing the borders of Armenia after World War I. Wilson wanted to offer Armenians a land that would enable them to survive, and that included access to the sea. Papian also noted that during private exchanges with high ranking Turkish officials, it was acknowledged that the genocide was a “strategic mistake” on the part of the Turks, as Armenians and Kurds counterbalanced one another in terms of national aspirations, as they occupied the same lands.
Aghjayan, whose research focuses on the demography of Western Armenia, drew from his travels to Turkey, including a chance encounter with a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors in his grandmother’s village of Uzunova—“we are two sides of the same coin,” he said. Aghjayan also reflected on the recent speech he gave in Ankara on “hidden Armenians,” on the 7th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s assassination in Istanbul. Aghjayan’s talk highlighted the importance of being on Western Armenian soil, to visit those lands, maintain the connection with the lands Armenians were uprooted from, and forge connections with the descendants of genocide survivors in Turkey.
Hamparian’s talk focused on waging the struggle for Armenian rights in the Diaspora. He noted that persistence is critical in the demand of rights. He offered as examples the case of ending U.S. support of apartheid in South Africa, the environmental movement and global warming, and the efforts of activists who fought to get large tobacco companies to admit the link between cancer and smoking. He cited some examples of ANCA initiatives, including the recent efforts to draw attention to the situation in Syria. Touching upon the theme of dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, Hamparian said that although observers think that genocide recognition and reconciliation take place on a horizontal platform, where both sides come to the table as equals, one must understand that the relationship is a vertical one where there is a clear perpetrator and a victim.
The event was followed by a question and answer period. ARF Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh Chairperson Hovannes Janessian offered the closing remarks.