This is different. Yes, many of us were alive for the liberation war of Artsakh from 1991 to 1994. Same enemy. Same evil intent, but so many differences. During that time, social media either did not exist or was in its infancy. Information on the war was a luxury for the diaspora. The communication infrastructure for Artsakh and even Armenia was still in the future as the priority was to simply survive the onslaught. The common weapons used were small arms (AK-47) and short range artillery. Armor consisted of tanks, many of which were captured by the Armenians and repurposed as part of their arsenal. The “air war” was nonexistent. There were no suicide drones or F-16s. It was a hard-fought ground defense with a high casualty count, both civilians and servicemen. And of course there were no Turks. There were plenty of mercenaries, as the Azeris don’t seem to function without them. After 26 years of unilateral breaches and deceitful negotiations, the Turkish alliance has exposed itself as a barbaric and uncivilized tribe. What each adversarial party has accomplished during the past 26 years offers you a clear synopsis of the essence of right and wrong.
Artsakh, although officially an unrecognized Republic, has pursued a responsible path of nation building with a solid government infrastructure, market economy and several credible elections. The land is producing, the schools are educating and the people of Artsakh are breathing the fresh air of freedom. Azerbaijan, in a stark contrast, has sunk deeper into the abyss of corruption, and its leaders have resorted to overt racism to teach hatred in a futile attempt to justify their pursuit of Artsakh. The uncivilized behavior of Azerbaijan fits cleanly into the outrageous Turkish intent to reestablish the degenerated Ottoman Empire and the pan-Turkic alliances to Central Asia. As in 1915, the Armenians are in the way. It does not seem to matter that they are an indigenous and peaceful rock in an otherwise unstable region. The bully is enabled by the skittish responses of the United States, Europe and Russia. Ask yourself, what do the countries that Turkey is violating (Libya, Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Cyprus, Greece and Iraq) have in common? They are each a former part of the Ottoman Empire. The intent is clear. What is less clear is the tolerance of the civilized world. It seems endless. While the latest victim of Turkish aggression bravely defends itself, the united Armenian Diaspora has a job to do.
If we can agree that this is a far more serious calamity than what is globally perceived, then it would suggest that our response needs to be different. The main ingredient is preparing for the long term. We are superb at short term responses. It is human nature for activity to fade as the initial shock dissipates over time. Remember when we all had American flags in our cars and homes after 9/11? Eventually that faded away as our return to “normal” crept into our daily lives. Today, Armenians throughout the world are glued to social media, protesting, raising funds and educating an aloof world. I am so proud of what I see every day from all segments of our community. Our children are working on creative ways to raise funds: making donations to Artsakh instead of accepting birthday gifts, organizing bake sales, selling Artsakh face masks and other impressive solutions. The community, even during this life changing pandemic, has made a rapid adjustment to the reality of our homeland’s catastrophe. Educational programming online has expanded overnight. There are important programs almost daily that all of us can participate in thanks to Zoom platforms and other digital services. The All Haiastan Fund and Armenia Fund have raised impressive millions that accumulate on a daily basis.
The spirit of a united Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian Diaspora is operating on all cylinders. We are fearful. We are mourning. We are reliving the nightmares of our grandparents, but we are focused and determined to defend our God-given right to live freely. Our heroes who have given their lives have become a part of our proud history that reflects why the Armenians have survived for thousands of years under the most volatile circumstances: an incredible sense of identity and an absolute refusal to abandon our values. This was true at Avarayr in 451. It was repeated at Sardarabad in 1918 and in Artsakh in 1988. At countless times, the “lights” could have gone out in our nation. The common bond with our past is that there have always been those who say – NO. Today we are inspired by our brave Artsakh heroes including many from Armenia. In the diaspora, we are a part of this eternal alliance. Our endurance is a critical element of our success.
The victory will be painful, and the recovery will be expensive. We must prepare ourselves and our communities for the long road ahead. The energy and dedication of today must be sustained for months. We need to adjust into a continuum that can be maintained and prevent any fading due to mental exhaustion. In order for that to happen, we need to identify the adjustments required in our personal and communal lives that will enable the long-term support. We all need to take this personally! For example, many of us are accustomed to giving financially ONCE to important emergency relief activities. We are a generous people, but we must plan our personal finances to give on a regular basis. If we gave $100 to Himnadram or the Armenia Fund, then we need to seriously consider how to give $100 a month on some regular frequency we can afford. The amount, of course, is important, but participation and repetitive giving are equally, if not more, important. It is estimated that about $135M has been raised. Incredible and God bless, but we need at least $1B to make a dent in this humanitarian crisis and rebuild necessary efforts. Here is a hypothetical example. If there are about 10 million Armenians worldwide with about seven million in the diaspora, let’s start there. That may suggest roughly two million families in the diaspora, which would require about $500 per family. You can argue with the assumptions, but the point is that we need to be thinking on a global long-term basis and break that down to a personal commitment.
I realize that money is a very personal matter. I look at it this way. During the Genocide my grandparents came here and it was our good fortune. They lived in the western sections of western Armenia where the options were death or emigration. Others in the east migrated to the republic or were already in the area. That is the only difference that counts. The geographic scattering of our people created different opportunities. Those of us fortunate to live in America have acquired wealth through the privileges of opportunity and freedom. It is our responsibility to share what we can with our brethren. It is not just a responsibility; it gives us an identity. It establishes a connection that rewards our hearts. The diaspora can invest a number of ways, but right now funding the relief and recovery efforts is critical. Everything we have dreamed about when gazing at those pictures of Ararat in our church halls and centers is at stake. When the pandemic permits, our physical presence in working on the recovery is another investment. There will be plenty of work to fill the identity needs of our children with their heritage. It is not a one way street. Our investments will give us much more in return.
We also need to be thinking about how to fulfill this obligation and simultaneously maintain the diaspora infrastructure. We have churches and schools that were already hit hard by the pandemic. This is not an either-or scenario. The diaspora must remain strong in order to help the homeland. So if you give $500 to the homeland, does that mean you give $500 less to your community because affordability does enter the picture? This is where personal adjustments make a big difference. How about if we forgo Christmas gifts to family this year and allocate that money to Artsakh in the name of our loved ones? My wife and I have informed our families that we would appreciate any gifts to go to Artsakh, and we will do the same on our end. The average family spends about $1,000 on presents (my guess is that Armenians spend more). That will generate a great deal of humanitarian recovery activity in Artsakh and further our unification. It is important to make this personal adjustment for obvious reasons. For most of us wealth is a finite resource. Formally or not, we all tend to allocate a certain amount of our assets to our Armenian and non-Armenian causes. Choosing between our diaspora infrastructure and Artsakh should not be an option if we sacrifice in other areas such as the suggestions noted. My father used to say that nothing of significance happens without sacrifice. I come from a community (Indian Orchard) where the men and women physically built the church during the depression when very few were employed. The value of sacrifice was always present. It is time for each of us to internalize what adjustments will be made in our lives in order to fulfill our responsibilities to the homeland. Each of us has the opportunity to make an impact according to our capabilities. It is not a competition. We must respect each other and not judge one another. We should each draw the important conclusion that we asked ourselves this question and have an answer we can live with: “What am I doing for Artsakh?” Your generosity can be received at ArmeniaFund.org or himnadram.org (Haiastan All Armenian Fund). I am very proud of the resilience of our people in Armenia/Artsakh and the outpouring of support from the diaspora. The latter has raised funds, exercised their right to free expression and lobbied to influence the outcome. While we work and pray for a peaceful result, we must prepare for the long recovery that our brethren are counting on.