Sassounian: Reflections on the 24th Anniversary of Armenia’s Independence

On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of Armenia’s independence, I had the honor of delivering the keynote address at the celebration organized by the Armenian Consulate in Glendale, Calif. Here are excerpts from my remarks reflecting on some of the accomplishments since independence, and the challenges that still lie ahead.

The most remarkable achievement in the early years of the Armenian Republic was the liberation and establishment of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh). As a result, a whole generation of Armenians under age 20, born and raised in independent Artsakh, has not spent a single day under Azerbaijan’s oppressive regime—and, God willing, never will! Artsakh’s independence is an irreversible reality. Artsakh will never again be a part of Azerbaijan!

However, our challenges in Artsakh are not yet over. While it is true that we sacrificed much to win the war, we must now win the peace! This is not the time to let our guard down. Armenia’s border towns come regularly under attack from Azeri bombardment.

Armenians must take a series of important steps to ensure that Artsakh’s independence is secured. Artsakh must not only survive, but thrive! To accomplish this imperative necessity, we must first bolster Artsakh’s defenses. The best way to avoid war is to have a good defense against Azerbaijanis, for whom recovering Nagorno-Karabagh is a hollow luxury. But for Armenians, Artsakh is an existential necessity!

Besides reinforcing Artsakh’s defenses, Armenians need to replenish their population. We must create new facts on the ground so that the Azeri regime is convinced that Armenians, rather than abandoning Artsakh, are relocating there in larger numbers, thus making the return of that territory practically impossible.

Another key objective is putting Artsakh’s independence on firm legal grounds and gaining international recognition! The Armenian-American community has successfully countered the massively financed Azeri lobby in Washington and all 50 states.

Lastly, we must create better living conditions in Artsakh, by providing housing and jobs, so that Armenians currently there, and those planning to relocate, can enjoy safe and comfortable lives.

However, none of these burdens should be borne alone by the people of Artsakh, but by the collective will of all Armenians and their supporters throughout the world.

To ensure Artsakh’s survival, we need a strong Armenia, which is also a necessity for the preservation of Armenian communities worldwide.

Now, almost a quarter century after independence, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the homeland is secure and prosperous.

Regardless of our ideological, political, and religious differences, we must all unite under the banner of the Yerakouyn—the Tricolor. It matters not whether we agree or disagree with any particular leader. Government officials come and go, but the Armenian people and the homeland are everlasting!

However, we must keep in mind that the relationship between citizens and their government is a two-way street. Government officials are duty bound to create a social environment that is fair, conducive to a prosperous life, and free of discrimination and intimidation. Citizens must have the chance and the choice, through democratic processes, to elect their preferred representatives without any interference from authorities.

The political opposition, on the other hand, has the responsibility to hold the government accountable for its actions through constructive criticism and peaceful means, without risking the country’s stability and security.

Unfortunately, there is still widespread poverty and unemployment in Armenia. Immediate solutions must be found to feed the hungry, help the needy, and heal the sick, which will stem the tide of emigration—an existential threat to the homeland!

Despite the hardships that many Armenians continue to suffer from—some man-made, and others due to circumstances beyond government control, such as blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan—we must acknowledge that there has been, over the past 24 years, a gradual progress in the living conditions of Armenia’s population.

Another successful accomplishment was the worldwide commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial earlier this year. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the Armenian Diaspora in the last 100 years, and the Armenian government’s international diplomatic contacts in the past quarter century, the recognition phase of the genocide is pretty much accomplished. We must now seek justice through restitution. The Turkish government must return everything that was confiscated during the genocide and pay compensation for whatever cannot be returned.

The challenge ahead is creating a more efficient mechanism for coordinating the efforts of all 10 million Armenians from Armenia to Artsakh, and throughout the diaspora.

One such approach would be to rename and transform the existing Centennial Committees in various countries as well as the Central Centennial Committee headquartered in Yerevan into permanent bodies responsible for:

1) managing all pan-Armenian issues and crises affecting Armenian communities such as Syria;

2) boosting Artsakh’s security, economy, and autonomy;

3) halting and reversing emigration from Armenia; and

4) seeking restitution from Turkey for all human and material losses suffered by Armenians during the genocide.


Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. If we were to add a fifth point to Mr. Sassounian’s four points, it would be:
    “Seeking restitution from Turkey for all human and material losses suffered by Armenians” during the ISIS/Turkish attacks on Syria.

  2. Very nice, but I think the author missed the #1 problem people are escaping from: horrific systemic government corruption. Criminal thugs heading the government not only steal BILLION$ from the suffering population, but they also steal their elections! No wonder most people want to leave and thousands do each week! Now the commander-in-thief is attempting to change the constitution(!) which will give a single party (his) all-out power and make him the dictator for life (with no term limit). The diaspora will not make a dent in this mass general population exodus by feeding poor villagers. We all must delegitimize the criminals who hijacked the top levels of government. Join this group for all details. Thanks.

  3. Your comment is inaccurate. The next President’s term is Not limitless, as you wrongly claim. The proposed constitution calls for a seven-year single term for the President, not subject for re-election. Furthermore, the next President will be only a figure head.
    I seriously doubt that Serzh Sargsyan wants to be a figure head after serving as a powerful president for 10 years.

  4. Hi Harut, thanks for writing! Sorry, please read my post carefully, I never even made such a comment. But I will clarify: we all know Serzh Sargsyan has no intention of being President after this term. (He is stripping that position of all real power.) His intention, as suggested in numerous reports, like the one below, is to be Prime Minister for life while retaining his head spot in the Republican party – the only party that will rule parliament through his proposed provision of “2nd round voting” which will secure his party’s victory via their proven criminal expertise in election fraud. Thus, POOF, instant dictator-for-life while retaining his more prized title: Commander-in-Thief.

    Since he knows the days of complicit diaspora legitimization of the criminals who hijacked the government are coming to an end, here’s just one of many tricks SS will force on the good citizens of Armenia – unless there are mass protests and civil disobedience soon. Vartan Oskanian recently wrote: “Obviously, everything is done to help a specific force, a specific person, retain his grip on power . ” Here is the article:

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