The Need for Earnest Dialogue

The Four Types of Conversations by David W. Angel, The Opportune Conflict Blog, 12/28/2016

It does not take an expert in the field of social media to observe its detrimental impact on the ability of rational people to discuss, disagree, educate and reach consensus. This degradation manifests itself in many ways and forms, yet each fundamentally hardens divisions and undermines democracy. In the Armenian context, it is eroding the essence of our nation. If we are unable to discuss, to disagree, to criticize and, thus, rectify our mistakes, then we become perpetually trapped in the decisions of the few.

Across the Armenian landscape, I see slogans and memes repeated ad-nauseum as if they are the Gospel truth. We are left with no nuance, no room for discussion and, unfortunately, no room for advancement. Not only are we left arguing, but often we are arguing about the wrong things.

Mourad Papazian at Yerablur, April 12, 2022 (Photo: Facebook)

The denial of Mourad Papazian’s entry into Armenia is a case in point. Given what is happening in Armenia, it is natural to assume Papazian’s treatment by the Armenian authorities is tied to his membership in the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the policies of the party as it relates to the current Armenian government and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in particular. Those who are advocates for Pashinyan, whether in Armenia or the Diaspora, counter this claim by noting that the entry ban targets Papazian because he organized and participated in demonstrations against Pashinyan when he was in France on a state visit in 2021.

Those arguing that ARF Bureau member Papazian was denied entry simply because he is a party leader have the difficulty of explaining why other members of the Bureau were allowed entry on the same day. On the other hand, Pashinyan advocates dismiss any targeting of the ARF while at the same time justifying all actions the Armenian government takes against ARF members.

Not only are we left arguing, but often we are arguing about the wrong things.

An impartial observer, not having any additional information, might try to reconcile these two positions by assuming that Papazian was chosen from the many ARF members entering Armenia because the anti-Pashinyan demonstrations in France were particularly problematic for the administration. The observer may further assume that the move sought to put the worldwide ARF leadership on notice that organizing anti-government actions can lead to denial of entry to Armenia.

But is such a reconciliation of disparate views enough? We must acknowledge that such a reconciliation will not be accepted by the advocates of the polar positions. And is this even the discussion we should be having?

I would argue that the discussion should be centered on what criteria a country grounded in democratic principles should set for entry of non-citizens. It is through that discussion that underlying agendas become more apparent. 

National security or prior or expected criminal behavior are standard reasons used to deny entry in many countries. Some countries will bar entry to individuals simply because they visited a third country at some point. For example, Azerbaijan has notoriously taken issue with anyone holding a passport with an Artsakh visa. While I was not barred entry, I was held up at security for a few hours in Armenia after the 2020 war because my US passport contained numerous Turkish visas. But there are other similar examples, as well. The discussion should center on the appropriate criteria for Armenia.

Those attributing all actions of the Pashinyan administration to its anti-ARF policy must acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to deny entry. However, advocates of the Pashinyan regime must acknowledge that regardless of the criteria set, Papazian does not meet them. He was not convicted of any criminal activity and was not claimed or shown to be a security threat. He is a citizen of France, a country and its citizens with which Armenia is on good terms.

In addition, I find particularly distasteful the implication I have seen on social media by Pashinyan advocates that because other ARF members are able to enter Armenia the treatment of Papazian should cause no level of concern. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

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George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the Armenian Historical Archives and the chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics. He achieved Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. After a career in both insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian related research and projects. His primary area of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen interest in the hidden Armenians living there today. Other topics he has written and lectured on include Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a board member of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), a frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and Houshamadyan.org, and the creator and curator westernarmenia.weebly.com, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.
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5 Comments

  1. There is merit to this view “[the] ban targets Papazian because he organized and participated in demonstrations against Pashinyan when he was in France on a state visit in 2021.” But there is more to consider. By allowing some prominent ARF members in, and not allowing others Pashinyan and his supporters aim to appear reasonable (see, we allow most ARF members entry, it’s just this very radical member that was bared entry). Once this sort of discrimination is normalized, its list of targets will grow. Additionally, the Pashinyan government will have an additional tool with which to attempt to drive a wedge within the ARF (other targets will follow) by blessing some, and branding others as undesirables. For all the same reasons that an ethnic Armenian should be allowed a simplified procedure for gaining citizenship, baring an ethnic Armenian from entering Armenia should require a high bar. But as we can see from Pashinyan’s latest moves with respect to citizenship and numerous other areas, Pashinyan’s worldview is one where ethnic Armenians have no special privileges in Armenia.

    • Excellent article by George
      Good point Harout – one more step in normalizing abnormal behavior in the country

  2. There is a more fundamental issue here concerning the role of Armenian organizations (political , cultural) in the Diaspora. It seems to me that there should be NO public demonstrations against any Armenian official visiting OUTSIDE Armenia, no matter what is the issue at hand. Instead all disagreements (and there are many !!) should be dealt with quietly behind the scenes. This requires difficult conversations and compromises which the Armenian elites have to learn both in Armenia and in Diaspora. I see no benefit in public demonstrations except to please Armenia’s enemies. How can an Armenian organization justify “activism” against Armenian leaders except to show to their rank and file that they are doing “something”? Unfortunately the business of state building in Armenia and strengthening the Diaspora/Armenian Nation is going require much harder work than “activism”. Its going to require nothing less than “reimagining” what an Armenian nation could look like. Ara Nazarian’s article “ Do Armenians have a future as an independent nation? “(Armenian Weekly July 20, 2022), Vahan Zanoyan‘s article “ The Supremacy of State Interests” ( Armenian Mirror Spectator, June 30, 2022) and Mardiros Anastasian article “ The importance of having more Armenian day schools ”(Armenian Weekly, July 19, 2022) all tackle this difficult subject. I see no problem Armenian political parties IN Armenia demonstrating against the government, as part of a democratic opposition. BUT political parties walk a fine line when they operate in the diaspora. They require a higher level of political sophistication.

  3. The problem with the above comments is that they are trying to justify Papazian’s ban based on a lie. Papazian was not present at anti-Pashinyan demonstration in Paris last year. It is a complete lie. It is a simple trick to cover up Pashinyan’s vindictiveness against anyone who is opposed to him and not in his pocket. Let’s not make up stories or give credence to baseless lies.

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