Diaspora Journalists to Armenian Government: Do Not Eliminate Our Ministry

We, the undersigned independent journalists of the Armenian Diaspora, join our brothers and sisters in Armenia and elsewhere who have thus far expressed shock and dismay over recent announcements that Armenia’s Ministry of the Diaspora will be terminated.

Rather than eliminate this critical Ministry, further developing it is what our Pan-Armenian nation needs most. Doing so would enrich Armenia and its Diaspora and contribute to our collective longevity at a time when our existence as a nation is in great jeopardy by nature of emigration from Armenia and cultural assimilation in the Diaspora.

While the Diaspora has not been blessed with a natural right to participate in Armenia’s political affairs, we, the undersigned, oppose this unilateral and self-defeating decision in the strongest terms possible.

If the decision to shut down the Ministry is based on financial need, we propose that the funding be sought from the Diaspora and the Ministry itself staffed with individuals from the Diaspora.

Removing the Diaspora Ministry will create greater distance between the peoples of Armenia, Artsakh, Occupied Armenia and the Diaspora. It will make cultural and intellectual exchanges more difficult. It will also curtail financial aid from the Diaspora, which Armenia so desperately needs. It would be the equivalent of committing national suicide. Is this truly what the people of Armenia and Artsakh want?

If the decision to shut down the Ministry is based on financial need, we propose that the funding be sought from the Diaspora and the Ministry itself staffed with individuals from the Diaspora.

Soon after acting Diaspora Minister Mkhitar Hayrapetyan’s tour of Diasporan communities following Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution,” we drafted the following letter. However, we held it for release until the circumstances surrounding the Parliamentary elections reached their conclusion. Having discovered pending plans for the Diaspora Ministry’s elimination, we reproduce it below realizing that the content of the letter may not interest the Pashinyan administration.

However, we share it in the hopes that our fellow Western Armenians scattered all over the world will come to agree that we have important work to do that Armenia cannot or will not do and that the points mentioned in the letter can be undertaken by the Diaspora itself. Unfortunately, our survival and ambitions to regain our historic homeland must be sought through avenues other than through the government of present-day Armenia.

If the decision to shut down the Ministry is based upon strategic designs within present-day Armenia, we propose that Diasporans, whose ancestors were driven from their ancestral Western Armenia pursue other avenues to gain their representation.

In recent years, new organizations, such as the four listed below, have appeared on the scene. They are:

These organizations seek to gain greater visibility and support from Western Armenians scattered all over the globe. We encourage these organizations to introduce themselves to the greater Diaspora, state their goals, describe how their officers were elected and find a way to unite under one umbrella.

 

Sincerely (in alphabetical order),

C.K. Garabed
Independent Editor/writer
New Jersey, USA 

Lusin Kasbarian
Independent journalist
New Jersey, USA

Ludér Sahagian
Independent scholar
Massachusetts, USA

Jirair Tutunjian
Independent journalist
Toronto, Canada

 

*Authors’ Note: To read our (unsent) Summer 2018 Open Letter to Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, click here.

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17 Comments

  1. I would like to know whether either one of these journalists speaks Armenian. A ministery of Diaspora is not a necessity for relations with people who live outside of their homeland or historic homeland and who do not want to return to their homeland.

    • Every signatory of the Open Letter is fully fluent in Armenian and has lived in, worked in, volunteered in and/or visited present-day Armenia.

    • Sireli Gor:

      Please don’t be a jealous, narrow-minded, Russophillic, Sovietphillic, Western-phobic Hayastantsi-type of person.

      The Diaspora has always wanted to help and has done immense good.

      Be a patriot not a spoiler.

  2. I wonder where were these diaspora journalists to express their “shock and dismay” when elections were literally bought and sold on the streets of Yerevan?! I read the whole thing but apart from beautiful words didn’t see any real justification for their appeal. The ministry was established 10 years ago. Did it manage to have any meaningful impact on Armenia-diaspora relation? If yes, then how? By wasting taxpayer money on Madam Hakobyans visits to Boinus Aires? The only useful thing they did was coordinating some issues related to Syrian Armenian resettlement but even that was mostly overlapping with the obligations of other ministries or could have been done by some charity probably in a more transparent way. If you are going to fund it then how much and who is precisely going to do it? What concrete ideas you have that you hope to materialize through the diaspora run ministry? These are the questions you need to answer. If your only goal is to have a ministry to liberate western Armenia then how? How are you going to defeat the Turkish army? You can hardly find a diasporan who has recently moved to liberated Artsakh yet you have dreams of liberating more empty lands?! Or maybe in this case Kurdish populated lands? For goodness sake, if you can’t help then at least let the new government do their job.

    • I think the disconnect here is what is the exact role of the Diaspora Minister? You’re correct that most of the Letter’s bulleted issues are inane, however, bullets 5 and 6 are not. There should be a ministry that entices more Diasporans to have some kind of connect/investment in Armenia: monetary, emotional, recreational or something else. Ultimately, it benefits Armenia if more Diasporans come to the country for a visit, investment or repatriation. We should be taking a page out of Isreal playbook. This has not been successful in the past primarily due to the corrupt Armenian government and Armenia’s public conveying that Diasporans aren’t “real Armenians,” and mistreating them (except Soviet Armenians) due to language or where they grew up: Iran, Lebanon, etc. There are hundreds of stories of Diasorpan Armenians who rushed to the country in the mid to late 90s, who were either felt unwelcomed or outright hoodwinked. In 1996, the Diaspora was supposed to be Armenia’s oil, but unfortunately, Armenia’s government and the public attitude did not allow this opportunity to flourish. Perhaps with ~300,000 former Haiastancis in America and another ~1M in Russia will now change that “real Armenian” problem we had earlier. This, in combination with real reforms from the Government, can create a positive cycle toward tapping into the Diaspora and the rest of the world.

    • Nishan
      Very good points but in order for that to happen we will need a totally different ministry with categorically different tasks. What you are talking about is a ministry of immigration, repatriation and integration. A ministry which will come up with specific programs and plans designed for different diaspora communities to encourage repatriation and will assist during the period of repatriation and integration. I strongly believe that the new government has studied this concept in the last few months. The problem is that according to the new diaspora minister himself the only way to make the ministry functional is to allocate considerable amount of budget and this is what Armenia can’t afford today. It’s all about priorities. Some might argue that Armenia needs a tourism ministry as well if they really want to attract more tourists. The question is how to fund it. Instead of a diaspora ministry, I think the diaspora can come up with the idea of establishing a panArmenian agency funded by both the diaspora and the Armenian government with the task of working on both repatriation and integration( to avoid the kind cultural friction you mentioned). This will be far more useful than let’s say what Armenia Fund is doing now by building roads and bridges( something that was more suitable for early 90s). By partially funding the newly established organization, we can assume more responsibilities as well.

    • Sireli Ritooli:

      It is clear that the authors and most Diasporan individuals were very much against the fraudulent Armenian elections and corruption since independence in 1991.

      And they were against the incompetent Hranoush who headed the Diasporan Ministry. But they were forced to deal with her.

      You want Diasporans to solve all Armenia’s problems in addition to the billions in aid, education, schools, medical clinics, and everything else good the Diaspora has done in Hayastan?

      Don’t be a negative person.

      Start providing solutions instead of asking silly questions about defeating the Turkish army, which is not the point of the letter at all.

    • For Ritooli:

      Anyone can google the names of the undersigned to learn what they have previously written about Armenia and the Diaspora Ministry.

      In an attempt to “work within the system” and as a courtesy to the main actors who came into power following the “Velvet Revolution” — actors who were not affiliated with the prior administrations — we wrote our first, unsent letter which emphasized examples that could help the current Ministry evolve. Only when it became evident that the Ministry would be terminated did we then make statements to make clear to Diasporans that Western Armenians of the Diaspora are on our own and must seek our own representation.

      Even if no Armenian will march into W. Armenia today, no one is permitted to scold Western Armenians of the Diaspora for holding onto a cherished dream which is valid and desirable in the long term. Israel was created after 4,000 years. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream came true after his death. Every coming generation of Armenian is entitled to know his/her history, preserve his/her patrimony and language and hold dear the desire for a just resolution to our noble Cause — and be prepared to take necessary steps if and when the climate changes in Western Armenia and around the world.

    • To Lusin

      I have never heard of these journalists addressing letters to former presidents Sarkissian, Kocharian or Ter-Petrosian, expressing “shock and dismay” over the conduct of the elections. If they have done it, kudos to them! Can you provide me a link to such a letter?

      With all due respect, I think your approach of dividing Armenians into “Western” and “Eastern” is rather childish, to put it mildly. I am confident, you will find it extremely hard to even come up with a definition for “Western” or “Eastern” Armenian. If by “Western”, you mean those whose ancestors used to live in Western Armenia before the genocide, then many of those who live in Armenia can be considered “Western” Armenian as well. Needless to say that there are Armenian communities whose ancestors have been forced to leave our historical homeland centuries ago, case in point is Iranian Armenians. In which category do those people end up? Southern Armenian?!
      Let me make this clear for you that it is the dream of every Armenian to see Ararat back to where it truly belongs. The difference between you and me is that I understand you are not going to solve problems by dreaming! I understand that this year Armenia is going to spend more 600 million dollar on its military to survive in that hostile region. Sadly, they can’t afford to dream. With that money, they could have established diaspora, tourism, immigration or even gender equality ministries(like Sweden). Alas, they have to spend it on purchasing Russian missiles.

  3. All the concerns expressed are valid but the solutions are not identified or well defined.
    The previous Minister, Hranoush Hakobyan was ineffective and did not accomplish anything other than posing for photo ops; it was a waste of money.
    The mandate of the Ministry of the Diaspora cannot merely be public relations. It should act as the primary conduit to strengthen the ties/collaboration between the Diaspora and the Homeland, especially in attracting investments and provide help/assistance to the immigrants/refugees, like the ones from Syria.
    Pashinian’s initial position was that he will keep the ministry and appointed a new minister. Now he has changed his mind. We’ll see what the final structure is and how this important function will be performed.
    Vart Adjemian

  4. Take the time to research and read what these writers have published in the past instead of demanding that they justify themselves to you and do your legwork for you.

    Apparently, Hayastan wants it both ways:

    They want the Diaspora to criticize Armenian officials and not cooperate with their corrupt govt. But then, when we do, they tell us it’s none of our business.

    Armenia also wants Diaspora cash, but then often they don’t want our “charity” because that’s “insulting”. We also are not allowed to contribute to discourse or political life in Armenia. CASH ONLY, please.

    Armenia supposedly wants nothing to do with Turkey (that’s what the Russian border guards are for), but at the same time, they don’t want the Diaspora to reassert our long-term goals in our indigenous Western Armenia because that’s “unrealistic” and “naive.”

    They want Diasporans to move to Armenia but then when we do, there is no support, no infrastructure, no integration programs…unless perhaps you’re famous or want to open a restaurant.

    Is this the remnant of a Soviet/Communist mentality so prevalent in ex-Soviet and ex-Warsaw Pact societies?

    One more thing: The Diaspora, despite all obstacles, have given BILLIONS to Hayastan. The Diasporan Ministry cannot take credit for that. The Diaspora has contributed to the survival of Hayastan, but — we cannot do it alone nor can we be cash cows in perpetuity. Western Armenians: Turkey doesn’t want us. Armenia doesn’t want us. We are a stateless people on the road to assimilation and extinction. Why not see what these organizations can do?

  5. I’m a Western Armenian, but the (long overdue) dissolution of the “Diaspora Ministry” is bringing out the worst. I’m seeing a lot of the Cold Warrior mentality resurfacing from the ARF types (like in the comments section here), perhaps now that the people in Armenia will no longer tolerate that party’s antics?

    Fact is, the Pashinyan government has reached out to the diaspora, did so very early on, and there are diasporans within the government, and who happily support the new government.

    So, as a diasporan, I do not share the ARF signatories’ pessimism about the dissolution of the ministry.

    Patlamish, you can leave this diasporan out of your diatribe. Not in my name!

    • Hagop, I don’t see anything in the letter that says or suggests that the signatories are ARF people.

      That in and of itself destroys your credibility, not that your post had any to begin with.

  6. Armenia’s and Turkey’s relation will normalize eventually. And as a result, diaspora will need to find different jobs since they cannot make money from this new peaceful situation.

  7. Diasporans are rightfully crestfallen that since 1991, their financial, intellectual and moral contributions to see Armenia succeed have been thwarted by thievery at the highest levels of government. And yet, often enough, it is Diasporan apathy or abandonment that is cited most when Armenia is under-performing. Under these circumstances I can see why these writers wrote the open letter they did. There are times when adopting a wait-and-see policy is not what is called for.

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