Action or Predictable Wait?

The following is a response to Vahe by Dr. Abrahamian. Being longer than the confines of a comment it’s posted as a stand-alone item. Ed.

“You open a can of worms, given that you are one of the organizers of the National Congress of Western Armenians. The issue is more profound than "who is demanding?" It is who those who demand represent and how is that they have come to represent?” Vahe

1 February 2015

Dear Vahe,

My comment was strictly about the flyer, but you expanded the scope, touching upon legitimacy without spelling out the word and hence obliging me to respond.

There were moments in our history when individuals acted without so called legitimacy. They did, driven by a necessity with the intent of helping our people or voicing the Armenian nation’s demands. That’s how the political parties were formed; weren’t they? In 1965 people were calling “Hoghereh, Hoghereh” ("The Lands, the lands") in the streets of Yerevan with no concern about “who” and “how” of representation. Many considered ASALA an aberration and distanced themselves from this “terrorist” formation, but were content when the international community started questioning why young people sacrificed their lives.The illegitimate Karabagh committee was formed representing only the individuals of the group, but ultimately the movement led to the liberation of Artsakh.

The following is a response to Vahe by Dr. Abrahamian. Being longer than the confines of a comment it’s posted as a stand-alone item. Ed.

“You open a can of worms, given that you are one of the organizers of the National Congress of Western Armenians. The issue is more profound than "who is demanding?" It is who those who demand represent and how is that they have come to represent?” Vahe

1 February 2015

Dear Vahe,

My comment was strictly about the flyer, but you expanded the scope, touching upon legitimacy without spelling out the word and hence obliging me to respond.

There were moments in our history when individuals acted without so called legitimacy. They did, driven by a necessity with the intent of helping our people or voicing the Armenian nation’s demands. That’s how the political parties were formed; weren’t they? In 1965 people were calling “Hoghereh, Hoghereh” ("The Lands, the lands") in the streets of Yerevan with no concern about “who” and “how” of representation. Many considered ASALA an aberration and distanced themselves from this “terrorist” formation, but were content when the international community started questioning why young people sacrificed their lives.The illegitimate Karabagh committee was formed representing only the individuals of the group, but ultimately the movement led to the liberation of Artsakh.

Our traditional parties, organizations and the clergy have reserved to themselves too much credit regarding the people’s outpouring in 1965 in Beirut. At one time you had alluded to 1975 Commemoration in which you took part. I wonder whether you had the opportunity to research the details surrounding the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Genocide which set a precedent for the 60th.

The internecine fratricide had finally subsided in early 60s. The youth had realized what some of the causes were and was determined to turn that tragic page. 1962-1963 was a time of reflection. Within that context a number of young people, leaving aside their ideological differences, banded together.

Dikran Abajian, Serop Apoyan, the Meguerdich Bouldoukian cousins, Yeghishe Hajakian, Marzbed Margossian, Jirair Tanielian and others came together discussing the shortcomings of the community as they perceived. Out of those meetings a blueprint of how to commemorate 1965 as a unified community came about–that’s two years ahead of the date. They approached their senior friends, including the late Kevork Ajemian, Hagop Boghossian, Vahe Oshagan, and also lawyer Kasbar Derderian, the eminent leftist of the Diaspora who lives in Beirut. Primarily through members of the various student unions existing then, the idea gained traction throughout the Lebanese Armenian community. Through  lobbying, propagating the idea that Armenians should note the commemoration in unison, coaxing, at times threatening to expose the inane stubbornness and narrow-mindedness of some leaders, eventually the so called “legitimate” leaders of the day conceded and executed the commemoration at Camille Chamoon Stadium.  

I know, you treat such narratives with a grain of salt, and rightly so. People mentioned above are still around and you may ask them. I have recorded as I recall. The only way to establish the veracity of sequence of events is to open the minutes of the Armenian parties to the public, which I doubt they'd do.

Were we representatives? No. Were we elected? No. We did not mind that we were nobody in the public’s eye, and we were not even noted or mentioned anywhere, but we acted according to what we believed was sine qua non. Similarly today, there is the absolute necessity of a body that can and should represent the legitimate rights of the descendants of the Ottoman Armenian citizens who were butchered or driven away from their homeland. NCWA (National Congress of Western Armenians) is responsibly attempting to meet what’s required in a similar fashion as the youth performed in the early 60s leaving aside ideological differences and partisan loyalties.

There aren’t that many people left like me or probably also like you who are immediate descendants of individuals who came alive from the massacres or were born during that period. Already we are in the third and fourth generation. When are we going to wake up? Wait for the traditional parties? They have no chance; unless they abrogate and change their constitutions, and relinquish a sizable membership to legally qualify to be claimants. I am not questioning their noble motives at all. I am pointing to a legal parameter. How can you represent a strict contingency when you are all over the globe, also in the Republic of Armenia and your membership includes also non-descendants of Ottoman Armenian citizens? Of course, they can and will play an important political role, but let’s not get carried away with slogans, populism and emotions when evaluating legalities.

Harout Sassounian, Dr. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian and others, to my knowledge, since 2009 and possibly much earlier have advocated the creation of a Diasporan entity based on democratic principles, the ballot. I am aware of such attempts in the past too. There were many luminaries like Governor George Deukmejian who were present at the USC conference in 2010 to launch such a body. More than 400 people were present, some from non-north-American Armenian communities. Nobody questioned the intent either during the conference or subsequently. Am I for it? Of course I am, but unfortunately so far it has not materialized for a number of reasons that the media and the forums reflected upon. In France a trial was attempted. Again, regrettably, it failed.

Thus, my question to you is, do we wait for democratic niceties to bear fruits? How long? Please, tell me whether it can be done and how?

Meanwhile there is work to be done in “the garden”. Are you willing to pitch in? It’s not good enough to raise questions. They beg answers.

Amicably,

Dikran Abrahamian

 

 

6 comments
  1. Helpful perspective

    Thank you, Dikran, for offering your reminiscences and parallels — especially to younger generations who did not and still do not have access to such information.

    1. Thank you Laz

      Thank you Laz,

      Yes, our younger generation is not privy to many events and developments in the countries where their parents came from, and what they had done as youngsters. Given the context that we live in on these shores, it's hard to motivate them along the path that a previous generation crossed.

      I don't expect them to resemble their parents or imitate them, or force upon them to get motivated. That would be cruel and against nature. All what we can do is record what was experienced irrespective of how biased the narrative might be. That probably is a better alternative than indoctrination that still goes on in certain circles. One might argue that indoctrination is a necessary evil, without which we can't get the young to get involved. May be, but I personally do not condone such an approach.

      Time permitting I may reflect on other events that shaped our thinking back in the sixties in the Middle East.

      Amicably,

      Dikran

  2. The quagmire as to who will represent us

    The issue I raised did not pertain to action or inaction, but was of representation.

    Dikran, all your points cannot be disputed.

    After all, I graduated from High School in 1965, at the 50th Genocide anniversary commemoration and vividly recall the decade preceding and following 1965 in the most dynamic Diaspora community in those days, Lebanon. Unfortunately the history of that period is not written yet let alone critically evaluated.

    As far as I am concerned the ‘rules’ of the game changed since 1991. We are not a stateless people any more.  It was a Diasporan, Raffi Hovanissian who raised our flag at the United Nations. Our first nationally elected President, Levon Der Bedrossian, is Diaspora born and bred in Armenia. The quagmire as to who will represent us at the inevitable negotiation table with Turkey has been resolved for me. It is the Republic of Armenia. Its failures and successes are our own. The concern that it may not best represent us should not be a reason for a parallel or another body of representation.

    As to our efforts, they should be directed to make RoA a truer representation of us while we continue to raise awareness and demand a just resolution of the Genocide.

  3. Ottoman Properties.

    During 1950's in Lebanon, my father was going through some documents that had the Ottoman seal on them. I asked him what was he doing and he said he is looking through the deeds of his family's properties in Turkey. I asked him why, and he said that the Armenian member of  Parliament Movses Der- Kalustian has requested that all Armenians who have deeds in Turkey to make them available to the Lebanese authorities.

    He told me that Turkey is asking for compensation for Turks who had properties in Lebanon during the Ottoman rule. To counter that request Lebanon was preparing a file to ask for the compensation of Lebanese citizen's properties in Turkey. Since Armenians in Lebanon were Lebanese Citizens, all Armenian properties were included in that file. Some years later I asked my father if any thing came out from that action, he said that the value of the Armenian properties was high and Turkey never followed up on that.

    Is there any one in the Keghart family who knows about this affair?    

    1. Property Deeds

      Dear Hrair,

      Thank you for bringing up your conversation with your father to the attention of Keghart.com readers. In my early teens, I have heard from my Djebel-Mousatsi relatives that Movses Der Kaloustian, himself from Djebel Mousa, was looking for "documents". Now I realize that it might have referred to deeds. Some people were suspicious of his motives and ignored him. Mind you, these were years of terrible animosities between the Armenian parties, and Movses Der Kaloustian was considered to be a divisive personality, to say the least, by people who opposed his Tashnag party.

      Prof. Ann M. Lousin of the John Marshall Law School, some years ago, made the remark that there are documents in Antelias pertaining to the Genocide;  they are not for public display. It is a matter of speculation whether those documents also contain deeds, given Catholicos Aram's public announcement that Antelias Catholicosate will demand properties from Turkey. It is conceivable that some properties are not strictly lost possessions of the church.

      If the deeds, or a list of deeds, were presented to the Lebanese authorities, then there should be a record of it which can be verified through the Armenian MPs in the Lebanese Parliament. If it turns out to be the case then it should be brought to the attention of such bodies which pursue recovery of properties from Turkey. i.e. independent Attorneys, the Antelias Catholicosate, the Legal arm of the National Congress of Western Armenians, etc.

       

  4. Claiming Properties

    Thanks for the comments. I do not believe that there is any chance of anyone recovering any properties in Turkey. It has been 100 years and Turkey still does not accept what they did, let alone to invite the Armenians to come back and claim any property. However the more documents we can produce the chances may become more to our favor than Turkey. Armenia is too small and is located in the middle of all those Muslim countries to have any influence in Middle East affairs, let alone world affairs. 

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