Turkey is backing its citizens abroad while Armenia is alienating its Diaspora

Armenia has a very large Diaspora, estimated at seven million — more than double Armenia’s population. Successive Armenian governments have attracted only a negligible portion of this valuable asset for the homeland’s benefit. The Diaspora is Armenia’s most valuable backer, yet it is ignored. This is akin to a starving man neglecting the bag of diamonds in his possession. 

Regrettably, rather than attracting the Diaspora’s support, the Republic of Armenia has done the exact opposite by erecting obstacles for the Diaspora’s participation in Armenia’s development. Diaspora Armenians are deprived of the right to vote in Armenia’s elections and are banned from holding high office. Even those who possess Armenian citizenship but live overseas are not allowed to cast their votes at Armenia’s embassies or consulates in foreign countries.

The current Armenian government has gone out of its way to destroy the only bridge that existed between the homeland and its large Diaspora by closing down the Ministry of Diaspora. Instead, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan unwisely appointed the useless Zareh Sinanyan as the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs. Sinanyan travels around the world, at the Armenian taxpayers’ expense, to carry out propaganda for the Pashinyan regime.

Meanwhile, the powerful Turkish government, recognizing the benefits of having close relations with its Diaspora, has embarked on a major campaign to strengthen its ties with Turks around the world.

Turkish investigative reporter Abdullah Bozkurt posted on the Nordic Monitor website an article titled: “Turkey is expanding its diaspora engagement to promote political goals abroad.” He provides important details about Turkey’s outreach to its Diaspora.

The “Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities,” or YTB (YTB, X)

“The Turkish government plans to enhance its support for diaspora groups abroad, both financially and through other means, with the aim of fostering stronger allegiance to Turkey, navigating legal and administrative challenges in host countries, encouraging active political engagement and forging connections with non-Turkish religious communities,” Bozkurt wrote.

The Turkish government’s Diaspora agency, the “Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities” (YTB in Turkish), has prepared a 71-page official report titled: “Strategic Plan for 2024-2028,” which provides in great detail the specific goals of the agency, its vision, mission and “strategy to mobilize approximately seven million members of the diaspora community to advance Turkish government policies.”

YTB’s goal is “to contribute to Turkey’s ambition of becoming one of the world’s leading powers — a vision articulated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the ‘Century of Turkey.’”

YTB “recommended several policy actions to the Erdogan government. It urged the use of its diplomatic influence and public diplomacy tools to exert pressure on foreign countries to lift restrictions on Turkish diaspora groups. Cooperating with other Muslim religious groups in foreign countries is another recommendation put forward by the YTB to overcome restrictions on the Turkish diaspora.”

YTB provides funding, logistical and technical support for the activities of Turkish Diaspora groups around the world. “YTB recently participated in a program organized by the Union of International Democrats (UID), an organization acting as a foreign interest group representing Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) abroad in Ankara.”

The YTB report identifies groups who oppose the Turkish government’s policies, labeling them as ‘terrorists.’ “YTB said these opposition groups undermine the Turkish government’s public diplomacy efforts, sow division within the diaspora and pose political and security risks to groups aligned with the Erdogan government.”

YTB stated that Turkish Diaspora students who receive scholarships from the Turkish government to study in Turkey will “become voluntary Turkish ambassadors.” YTB also suggested that these students be connected “with Turkish companies engaged in foreign trade” so they can “become economic actors” in the countries they reside.

More ominously, “YTB actively collaborates with other Turkish government institutions, particularly Turkish intelligence agency MIT (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı), and also serves as a recruitment source for the spy agency within diaspora communities abroad. This includes exchange students who have studied in Turkey on government scholarships. Turkish embassies are also instructed to help with the work of the YTB in foreign countries with every available means.”

YTB also collaborates with “non-Turkish groups referred to as ‘related communities,’ which include global Islamist networks such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir networks, among others.”

The Turkish government provided the YTB a total budget of $544.2 million for the years 2024-28, starting with $61.5 million for 2024, increasing to $83.5 million in 2025, $103.3 million in 2026, $133.5 million in 2027 and $162.4 million in 2028.

YTB closely monitors the activities of the 15,000 foreign exchange students on government scholarships from 170 countries. In his speech on May 6, Pres. Erdogan disclosed that there are also 340,000 foreign students from 198 countries. “Furthermore, the agency [YTB] coordinates outreach efforts with over 150,000 graduates who have completed their education in Turkey. The Erdogan government also funds and supports nongovernmental organizations to complement the activities of the YTB with a $92.5 million budget. One of the main beneficiaries of this program is the UID, President Erdogan’s long arm abroad.”

There are valuable lessons for Armenia’s leaders to learn from the Turkish government’s outreach to its Diaspora. But, is anyone in Armenia listening or care?

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.

6 Comments

  1. The ironic thing is that the diaspora especially from the genocide and centuries prior emigration tends to be unenthusiastic about Russia and Pashinyan is unenthusiastic about Russia. Although the diaspora especially from the Ottoman genocide understandibly has strong views about Turkey. Perhaps as it’s not possible to get Turkey to accept responsibility and potential liability the issue is seen by Yerevan as a lost cause and especially with the current goings on to let bygones be bygones.

  2. Charles, what you wrote has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote. I guess you were just venting.

    • The article cited the contrast in Armenia and Turkey regarding their diaspora where Armenia seems to be distantancing from it’s kin abroad whereas Turkey seems to be actively encouraging links. As Pashinyan is determined to align Armenia with Turkey and Azerbaijan then distancing from the diaspora is probably part of the policy especially as I’ve cited it tends to have strong views about Turkey and hence an obstacle. I was writing about the diaspora although perhaps not the context you described.

  3. ONLY ARMENIANS WHO LIVE IN ARMENIA (MINIMUM 6 MONTHS OF THE YEAR) SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE. WHY SHOULD SOME GLENDALE ARMENIAN OR ANY IN THE DIASPORA DECIDE THE FATE OF ARMENIANS LIVING IN ARMENIA? DO YOU WANT ME TO TELL YOU HOW TO LIVE IN YOUR OWN HOME FROM MY HOME THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY? ANY ARMENIAN THAT CARES THAT MUCH ABOUT ARMENIA, AND WANTS TO VOTE IN ITS ELECTIONS, CAN PACK THEIR BAGS AND BUY A ONE WAY TICKET TO YEREVAN. DON’T TELL ARMENIANS IN ARMENIA HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES WHILE YOU ENJOY YOUR LIFE EATING KABOB AND SMOKING HOOK AT PHOENECIA FOUR NIGHTS A WEEK. ARMENIANS IN ARMENIA CAN TRASH ARMENIA FOR ALL I CARE. I DON’T LIVE THERE AND DON’T PLAN ON MOVING THERE TO STOP THEM. IF THEY ARE THAT STUPID AND GULLIBLE TO DESTROY THEIR OWN COUNTRY, THEN THAT’S WHAT THEY DESERVE. IT’S LIKE THE MILLIONS OF IDIOTS WHO VOTED FOR BIDEN IN THE USA FOR PRESIDENT OR NEWSOM IN CALIFORNIA FOR GOVERNOR.

    • hello ‘Truth Armenian and Charles’. you are not Armenians. What the the Article is saying BE AWARE.

    • @WAHID. I AM ARMENIAN AND UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF THE ARTICLE. WHILE ARMENIANS SPEND TIME FIGHTING EACH OTHER AND STEALING AND MISMANAGING TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS, THE TURKS ARE GETTING ORGANIZED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. PERFECT TIME FOR THE TURKS. HORRIBLE TIME FOR ARMENIANS. THE SKUNK FROM GLENDALE, ZAREH SINANIAN, WHO IS ARMENIA’S DIASPORA MINISTER, COULD NOT LEAD A PACK OF GIRL SCOUTS ON A WEEKEND CAMPING TRIP LET ALONE A GLOBAL DIASPORA OF MILLIONS OF ARMENIANS. THE POWER OF THE DIASPORA TO HELP ELEVATE ARMENIA AND THRUST IT INTO THE FUTURE IS UNIMAGINABLE. SO MUCH TALENT, INTELLECT, AND WEALTH. ON THE FLIPSIDE, ALL THAT TALENT AND INTELLECT IS BEING SHUT OUT AND ALL THAT WEALTH, STOLEN AND MISMANAGED BY ARMENIA AND ITS INCOMPETENT LEADERS. WITH THE AMOUNT OF MONEY ARMENIA RECEIVED SINCE INDEPENDENCE WHICH IS IN THE TRILLIONS BY NOW, IT COULD HAVE BEEN A MINI SUPERPOWER WITH MODERN WEAPONS AND MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE. THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A BRAIN DRAIN BY ARMENIANS DEPOPULATING ARMENIA TO LIVE MORE HOPEFUL, SAFE, AND PROSPEROUS LIVES. ARMENIA TODAY IS A CORRUPT, THIRD WORLD TOILET WITH ARMENIANS ACHING TO LEAVE IF THEY HAVE A CHANCE. IT IS A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS HOW ARMENIA MADE ONE HORRIBLE DECISION AFTER ANOTHER WITH CROOKED AND CORRUPT SCUM BAGS PLUNDERING THE COUNTRY. THE STRENGTH AND WEALTH OF ARMENIA CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITH THE HELP OF THE DIASPORA, BUT THE DIASPORA CAN NOT CONTROL OR MAKE DECISIONS FOR ARMENIA. IF ARMENIANS WANT TO LIVE IN THE DIASPORA, THEY CAN DO THAT. HOWEVER, THE POWER TO VOTE MUST NOT AUTOMATICALLY BE GIVEN TO THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE ARMENIAN. THAT WAS MY POINT AND I STAND BY IT.

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