Reading Armenian publications this week brought me to the realization that this time in January seems to be one worthy of some note for our nation, though not entirely in a good way. Three dates that we do not give enough attention to stood out. I’ll tackle them in calendar (not overall chronological) order.
On January 13, 1990 the massacres of Armenians by Azeri Turks under government authority began in Baku. This, along with various other massacres during 1989 and 1990 were certainly horrific. But my intention in remembering and giving importance to them and their dates is not to add yet another opportunity for us, Armenians, to bewail our fate. Rather, each year, on these dates, we should be organizing publicity to demonstrate the unbroken chain of anti-Armenian hate and violence perpetrated by Turks in an unbroken chain dating back centuries.
Embedding this awareness among people of the world (not to mention ourselves) creates the necessary backdrop for resolving our national issues (reparations and territories stolen) in the most favorable way. Intermediaries will play a role along the way until Turks (both Baku and Ankara based) finally sit in earnest across the table from Armenians to finally remedy the harm they inflicted. If these go-betweens are conscious of the Turkish track record, their behavior will inescapably be impacted by this knowledge. Hence it behooves us to develop awareness on this front through television programs, lectures, conferences, publications and energetic dissemination of all of these via social media.
January 14th marks the birth of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). This organization, of which I am proud to say I was a member, has produced countless leaders for our community since 1933. That’s roughly three generations’ worth. It enabled young Armenians to maintain their national pride while being pressured to conform by the crushing forces of assimilation. It engaged our youth through the trying days of the Cold War. As our national liberation struggle was reborn in the 1960s and 1970s, the AYF became ever more politically active. It served as a model for ARF youth organizations when those were recreated more systematically worldwide. With the reestablishment of an independent Armenian state (more correctly two of them), the AYF generated various programs to reconnect our youth with the homeland. It continues to invent novel forms of service to our communities, homeland and nation. All this is something that we should do a better job of acknowledging annually.
The third date is January 19th, the day of Hrant Dink’s assassination in 2007. This, too, is an incident that is attributable to Turkish anti-Armenianism, much like the Baku massacres. But Dink’s assassination has another significant factor. He was one of the early, if not earliest, Armenian voices that were raised in Turkey voicing Armenian concerns. He was present at the time of the first (and to date only) real opening up of Turkish society and thought since the days of the Genocide. Dink spoke out and made it slightly less scary to do so. He was able to get through. Using his death to remember a more positive time benefits not only Armenians, but Turks and Turkish society as a whole. Therefore, Dink’s doings should be remembered and cited as examples of what is possible and what there must be more of. There is some activity on this front. Unfortunately, it is largely confined to that sector of our Diasporan communities which originated in Bolis. We must ALL do more with Dink’s contributions.
We must ALL avail ourselves of these three dates—January 13, 14 and 19—and the opportunities they present to advance our national interests. Get busy every January!