An Energized Diaspora is Entitled to a Democratic Forum

By Dikran Abrahamian BA, MD, Ontario, Canada, 15 November 2009

A cross-section of diverse ideological and political viewpoints regarding vital Armenian national concerns played front and centre at the Nov. 10 Altadena, CA “interactive public meeting”, an initiative of the Armenian Rights’ Council of America (ARCA), an organization affiliated with the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADLP).

It was a rare occasion.

By Dikran Abrahamian BA, MD, Ontario, Canada, 15 November 2009

A cross-section of diverse ideological and political viewpoints regarding vital Armenian national concerns played front and centre at the Nov. 10 Altadena, CA “interactive public meeting”, an initiative of the Armenian Rights’ Council of America (ARCA), an organization affiliated with the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADLP).

It was a rare occasion.

While the evening’s topic–"Expectations of the Diaspora Following the Protocols"– and the organizational skills and vision of the coordinators rightly helped make the gathering an unequivocal success, there was a third and as important a reason for the organizers to congratulate themselves: The Altadena gathering was a unique expression of participatory democracy, with almost one-third of the attendees expressing their opinions and posing questions to the panelists. This third fact made the evening exemplary in our Diaspora reality.
As participant, the event offers me an opportunity to reflect on form, digressing from the traditional approach to report on substance.

Was it a coincidence that the two panelists– Kevork Haleblian, a member of the executive of ARCA and Dr. Minas Kojayan, editor of Nor Or weekly–as well as Dr. Raffi Balian (MC-facilitator) and myself, were graduates of academic institutions in Soviet Armenia? I recall the graduation ceremonies of those many years ago. I clearly remember that prior to bestowing the degrees to the graduates from Diaspora, the dean would remind them “you are the ambassadors of Armenia”. He would then advise each one to participate in "Spyurk" community activities, after leaving the motherland.

The Altadena gathering was probably a vivid expression of what the educators in Armenia had in mind. It was also reminiscent of the healthy mindset that prevailed among the majority of my Diaspora colleagues studying in Armenia. It was not uncommon in those days to engage in heated discussions about Diaspora’s future, to talk about “Spyurk” and the latter’s relations to Armenia. Ramgavars, Hunchaks, Marxists, “Tchezoks” and occasionally Tashnag-oriented youth, if not in formal settings but informally interacted with each other and mused about Diaspora’s future.

Typically for young people, we made outlandish prescriptions at times. Invariably, we would deplore the the lack of unity in Diaspora. We also pondered about ways to overcome Diaspora’s multiple challenges. Perhaps we were idealists, but our diagnosis was not too far off the mark. Was it their goals that split Armenian organizations? What would it take to achieve amity, if not some form of unity or consensus? Were vested interests in high positions obstacles to national unity? Why were the majority of Diaspora Armenians apathetic to the threats our far-flung communities faced?

Or perhaps the Diaspora public was indifferent because it was denied the prospect to participate in a meaningul way in community affairs.

As if mindful of the above questions, the coordinators of the Altadena gathering went to great lenghts to open the channels of communication between the attendees and the panelists. At such meetings we are traditionally used to hearing the "voice from the above", from the podium…A dead end one-way communication. That night in Altadena the opinions, criticisms and suggestions of the public were clearly of paramount importance to the organizers. It’s no wonder that the attendees responded with such satisfaction to the democratic manner.

The Diaspora is an amorphous, multicentric entity. Gatherings, such as the above, which encourage the participation of all voices and not just that of the vocal apparent majority, constitute a welcome phenomenon. The organizers deserve our plaudits for making it happen and for setting a welcome precedent in our community lives.

The evening was an exceptional brainstorming session, fitting for the uncertain times our nation is experiencing. Our public is tired of sloganeering. Our public is eager to participate in the decision-making process. A public energized by the Protocols controversy, is hungry for a forum. Our community leaders and our organizations have a golden opportunity to involve as many individuals as possible in our vital national discourse.

Congratulations to the executive of the Armenian Rights’ Council of America for its bold and democratic approach.

  1. An Energized Diaspora is entitled….
    How wonderful. So finally there’s still hope that we can act democratically without any hatred to another fellow Armenian by expressing our own opinion and respect.
    Thank you Dr.Aprahamian for your comments, it was rewarding.

  2. A good start

    If all what’s reported above is true then congratulations to the organizers. Although I am not so fond of ADLP but it seems they are at a good start to regenerate themselves with new blood and an open mind. Probably their internal squabbles are the pains of a new delivery.


    1. Why exclude other parties?

      I tend to agree with Norair, but would not hesitate to point out that other political organizations are not in a better shape. Simply because they are not aired in the public does not mean that there are no internal rifts. Hunchaks, for example, are overall against the protocols, or at least their leadership. However, some individual members view matters from different perspectives and are not necessarily in line with the leadership. In a way they are in the non-vocal segment.

      The least talked about is the ARFs internal neutralization of dissenters. The organization exercises a high level of discipline and hence the squabbles are not spilled out in the public. Some of the issues are related to the course that the party has pursued over the past decade, and others are much recent related to using the diaspora organization as a leverage to exercise power in Armenia, and vise versa. Members themselves privately have accused the party of bordering opportunism to further its own interests rather than the interests of  the nation or Armenia.

      On a grand scale probably these recent developments, unlike in the past, may lead to new approaches and  to a lesser controled environment. As if there is an undercurrent of instituting some democratic norms within each party. Eventually, particularly in the Diaspora where internet is changing the way people communicate, ignoring dissenters and independents may not be in the interest of the political parties. To compensate the loss, they already have resorted to cramming their events with respected public figures, whether specialists or professors who have almost nothing in common with the ideologies of the parties.

  3. Diaspora – Vivamos el hoy de la Rca de Armenia

    Dijo el Comandante " héroe " Avo , "la diaspora Tiene muchos Intelectuales , necesitamos mas Soldados ", desde y Y cualquier Iniciativa , El Punto de partida debe Servicios El Espíritu de esta frace .- En El chico del pueblo de la Rca de Armenia ( " no "para Nosotros los de la dispora ) , párr lograr Una Vida en Paz, Desarrollo y tranquilidad, es mas Importante Que El Gobierno de la Rca solucione El conflico de Nagorno- Karabaj de Artsaj , Que Las eternas Conversaciones Por Diferencias y reclamos  Venimos Que realizando desde hace Casi pecado Siglo Con lo Turcos.

    Miguel Angel Nalpatian
    Buenos Aires

  4. Dissenters among our political parties?


    Your comments are on point.

    We know well how reformers, protesters and dissenters are treated in Armenia — by the "establishment" — that is, the government, riot police, oligarchs with long tentacles, and even Diasporans employed by establishment personnel.

    I’d like to hear more about dissenters in the Diaspora — those who belong to traditional political parties, charitable organizations and even churches — and disagree with the political stands these groups have taken re: the Armenian condition. 

    What percentage of the dissenters disagree with the Protocols or Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation, but go along with policies set by their "leaders" to be ‘good soldiers,’ and even publicly defend positions they don’t agree with?

    How many dissenters are thrown out of their organizations for speaking out against dubious leaders, platforms and policies?

    By the same token, how many followers in these groups try to discredit or slander (in public forums, in the press) outside observers who might question what is going on?

    Thanks for your insights.

  5. I have one friend like you Dikran,SSRA graduate and …
     He also now is in Diaspora,Stockholm and at it  too.I respect  him ,met with him once at our World Armenian Congress,then in Yerevan 2002 A/Diaspora Conf.I have no preference or pertain to any Armenian political party,respect them all.In my article  published ,only a few months ago in Yerevan´s 4rt INKNIshkhanutyun I make clear that I respect and endorse every  person not his /her pertinency to ideology,but to Merit.The  a debate  was  on ,This unknown person not the above but another,  WAS the only one when debating on H1 Armenian T.V. with others when ¨Khattchkars¨were being  destroyed  in Nakhijevan,Julfa. He shouted, also hitting table in front  of him   that,and I quote¨This minute we should stop negotiations with Azerbaijan,through OSCE until they stop it,beg pardon then go back to negotiations-…..
    No one heeded  him.In Yerevan 3/4 months later I ask friend  who was  that man? reply comes  ¨he is a marxist¨.I told him I don´t mind, if he  is Maoist Communist, Nshdehagan, ARF, whatever..
    If we grasp and understand that what he says is LOGICAL,JUST PLAIN ACCEPT IT. Armenians  do so?????
    Hell, like I can smell  or make out from many an article  here or on any other forum, we are not yet to that standard.Lack of political upbringing,perhaps or  ¨Traits¨that  we  have in our characters.
    Anyhow.My theses  encompasses all ,that  is within the ¨professional Colleagues  Associations´5  on the scene, dual membership ought to be admissible.if member wishes to attract  PCA  members to Hunchag Ramgavaragan or Dashnag parties, that can be done outside in cafes or inviting member to their clubs centres. No such propaganda within PCA´´ I shall carry one  dear Dr. Dikran  Aprahamian later  on,as to How we can by and by become SOCILLAY FOREMED.
    For  that  is  what we lack ¨Formacion Social¨¨
    best to all.

  6. I prefer Re-organization/ Mobilization of Armenian Diaspora(s)
     I shall explain in very very brief  Format as to my Theses:-
    1.A Central Body to be formed in every Armenian township ,composed  of PCA´THAT  IS ¨PROFFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES  ASSOCIATIONS .5 on the scene already.
    Three Delegates  elected for their Merits from ea of 16 fields of ´Proffessions¨
    This, besides board. One, endowed with most advanced position in proffession,One, culturally,Nat´l,Int´l & with networking capacity.
    Inviting all Armenian politicle parties  to participate with their 3 persons each and one from our Spiritual  Denominations
    :-,Apostolic,Catholic and Presbyterian.
    In the interim now.This is actually where our Huge collectivities are  so far untapped upon. I respect the other mode set forth by Harut Sassounian,that  of also electing from every Armenian area,from each 20,000 voters, one rep.
    This, in Parallel with above mode  which is based on Prof.& Merits.
    Compromise  is good.Though the good reader will surmise  the people ,the masses from 18 yrs to Babiks Mamikls, either in Singapour/Hong Kong to Sideny,Boston will elect,like in any country  as well-this according to Harut´s…
    which in parallel with my above theses  will calm the Vote seeking and to be elected people by the masses,and  fervour  will subside.While mine is aiming at a ¨New Concept of Electoral System and governance¨that also <AIMS AT:

    Through the PCA´s  establishment  of a ¨National Investment Trust Fund¨¨ unilke the Armenia Fund, rendering some 2/3% to investors .
    Then on to organizing   Repatriation in the FIRST  Phase.
    Later ¨Loans´to be ceded to small and middle Enterprises,farmers, on low interest rates of 3% for 15 yrs period etc.,
    I also Advocate  that visiting youth  of ÄRI TUN¨programme include a 30 day military cadet  like training alongside RA conscripts, after thorough crystalization as to birth ,at least  being  half Armenian and birth certificates by church etc.
    Also I advocate that RA  needs  a Second Legislative Chamber,namely a¨Senate¨, wherein the Sages and previous Gov.functionaries  etc., will act.  
    There is much more to it, as Third Phase, being funding of All Armenian efforts  as to Recognition of Genocide, anti propaganda campaigns to turco Azeris etc.,
    For ,dear compatriots without an important  National Fund, not much can be achieved. And maths will help calculate  what a huge Fund we can establish,first through a Nucleus by our 5/6 magnates,as  this will establish Confidence, then millionaires and down stage by stage to even one thousand dollar investors.
    We shall have accomplished real  Participation and Representation  in a new fashion that suits  us, alongside the traditional voting system of many.
    No need to borrow from other Diaspora(s).Our own will surpass them all,if only we Converge and compromise  and act  in cooperation .No Unity is needed,that  is  a big lie.  My leftist  friend with his ideology will stay so, the rightist same way.No way one can persuade one  ideologist-rare  occurrances exist-  to another.What we need  is cooperation amongst all these plus the Novely set fort,rather ¨suggested¨  above of by and by getting  the hitherto inactive Armens into the National Affairs arena,while in their PCA´s they will be socially formed and mingled with each other more closely  through a mechanism that suits  us ,is tolerant of all and above all  AIMS  at most important  objectives.  
    Questions welcomed.

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