April 25, Western Armenian National Congress

Sona Sarkissian Yacoubian, Los Angeles, 20 November 2010
 
It is amazing to me the great lengths we go through every year to commemorate April 24, when different factions of the Armenian community come together and co-operate for a short-lived 2-3 day period. On the fated day, dignitaries go on stage and say a few words not necessarily to share their thoughts on Genocide but to gain community recognition and Armenian votes. We return home to watch heartbreaking scenes of how Genocide victims were slaughtered on the local Armenian channels. Of course, mention must also be made of the Hollywood walkathon where the young and the old alike march through the streets with unabashed zeal, waving signs, flags and slogans, and shouting "never again." The following day, exhausted by the responsibility of not having done anything positive we try to forget what we had witnessed the previous day.
 

Sona Sarkissian Yacoubian, Los Angeles, 20 November 2010
 
It is amazing to me the great lengths we go through every year to commemorate April 24, when different factions of the Armenian community come together and co-operate for a short-lived 2-3 day period. On the fated day, dignitaries go on stage and say a few words not necessarily to share their thoughts on Genocide but to gain community recognition and Armenian votes. We return home to watch heartbreaking scenes of how Genocide victims were slaughtered on the local Armenian channels. Of course, mention must also be made of the Hollywood walkathon where the young and the old alike march through the streets with unabashed zeal, waving signs, flags and slogans, and shouting "never again." The following day, exhausted by the responsibility of not having done anything positive we try to forget what we had witnessed the previous day.
 
Lately, it has become a weekly custom to write and comment about every little move made by the Turks. Symposiums, Conferences are taking place to discuss the Genocide. Are we trying to convince ourselves over and over again that it really happened and what we feel against the Turks is justified? The Turkish Atrocities have not stopped since the 19th Century. Turkey remains responsible for the assimilation of Diaspora Armenians into other cultures and nations and is still destroying our most precious monuments one by one. The Turks are converting our holy temples into ruins and are fervently pursuing all channels not to acknowledge the Genocide.
The Congress of Diaspora Armenians will work to rectify the unity of the Western Armenians with the strong belief that they should be recognized as the legal guardians of the genocide victims. Such attempts have been in place since 1919 and examined by special delegations of   Western Armenians at conferences in Paris, San Remo, Sèvres, London and Lausanne. In light of the fact that the Sèvres Conference had the most desirable options presented to the Armenian nation which were internationally discussed, Sèvres was chosen as the International Organizing Committee’s starting seat. Committee members have met with past and present presidents of Armenia and other government officials.
It is true that there have been many attempts to coordinate Motherland and Diaspora, or to organize Diaspora in support of the Motherland. Sadly, however, numerous past attempts to coordinate Motherland and Diaspora or to organize the Diaspora itself have failed because regional priorities differ, even though the ultimate goal is the survival of the Nation. Funds dedicated for these purposes have been needlessly wasted as each so called community leader hijacks the Genocide for his own personal agenda.
In 2006, I was invited to participate in the International Organizing Committee of the Western Armenian Congress, first as a guest and later as a committee member. As a third generation community leader and a woman who accepts responsibility, I had to get involved with this new challenge in my life. This unique organization is comprised of the children and the grandchildren of the victims of the Genocide and the participants feel a personal obligation to their ancestors to succeed in their endeavor. They want to invite the Diaspora leadership of the Western Armenians to take ownership as they are the legitimate claimants of all that was lost. In contrast to all previous failed attempts, the Committee members have no agenda beyond the formation of the Congress. Today the Armenian communities around the world are getting more and more prosperous and are well educated in the ways of the western culture. This is the perfect time to bring these communities together and begin the urgent task of building the legacy of April 25.
A Diaspora Organized body of Western Armenians is not only essential for Diaspora Armenians, but will also be most beneficial to the Motherland and Karabagh, as it will be able to facilitate many of their dilemmas. Furthermore, there is little doubt of the legitimacy of such an entity once organized. In 1976, in Algeria, under the auspices of the United Nations, the “Rights of the Nations’ Manifesto" was prepared. Later, in 1985, during the symposium of Venice organized by the Lilio Basso institute it was decided that the Armenians of the Diaspora be recognized as a "Nation forced away from their lands" according to the guidelines set in Algeria. As such, when a Diaspora Congress is in place, it will earn the International Right to represent the Armenian Diaspora.
I have just returned from the 12th meeting of the International Organizing Committee of Western Armenian Congress, and I want to share with you important and positive steps which have already been accomplished.
The organization is registered in France according to French law. France was one of the first countries to recognize the Armenian Genocide, so there is no conflict with the French policy on this matter. Its financial obligations are conducted through a bank account in Paris, France. The organization’s office is located in Geneva for convenience. It consists of more than 30 volunteer committee members including historians, lawyers, professionals and businessmen from different Diaspora countries, including France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Russia, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Canada, Eastern and Western United States of America, Argentina and the list of countries continues to grow. The ultimate goal of the organizing committee is to hold the Western Armenian Conference within a year. Lists of interested individuals are being prepared by the local Committee members who will soon send out invitations. The members of the Congress will be elected at the Conference and a Board of trustees will be called to oversee the process.
In an effort to be all inclusive, those who are interested in participating in this important work may contact the International Organizing Committee of Western Armenian Central Office in Geneva at [email protected]
 
5 comments
  1. Not Agenda(s) but a clear Mechanism-programme is needed

    Having read your very eloquently written post, I do sympathize with you and your heartfelt thoughts. No doubt you are a patriot and devoted to Armenidad-Armenity. I too started off 32 yrs ago first in Lyon where we tried to achieve a Central Body for France. Next, I was invited to participate at the Nikko Hotel Sept 3/6,1979 where the first World Armenian Congress held its meetings. Some 360 or so participating, 28 presenting ¨paper¨s and finally 7 of us getting elected as provisional members to the Executive Board.

    At that time friction between Armenian left and right was very sharp, also we did  not  have a concrete mechanism, so it abated by and by. However, we did achieve a couple  of things. At Lausanne Beau Rivage Hotel, where the infamous Treaty of same name was signed, we declared it to be null and void. Also at Sevres we upheld its legitimacy. They were both held on their respective 60th anniversaries.

    What next?

    Armenians try to come up with new such or similar "Congresses" like the one in Moscow, then again another called ¨Haybachdban¨ recently in Paris. All indeed with good intentions but with no full-proof mechanism. Worse yet, trying  to be THE  ONE  (amongst all previous, present and …future too).

    I ask you madam, should we not FIRST  classify people a bit into categories? No, I am not referring to rich and poor and middle classes…but into
    work/professions. For example, a physician is more apt to mingle and socialize a person of similar  background, than say with a construction field worker or an architect. By contactig professional groups/ associations, of which there are already five of them, and getting their representatives involved in the process there is a chance for success. I have been advocating  this for  32 yrs and it has been published in N.American English language  Armenian media. I can provide details if anyone is interested by contacting [email protected].

       

  2. Black Friday

    On April 25, the day after April 24 commemoration,  Sona Yacoubian claims, 
    “Exhausted by the responsibility of not having done anything positive we try to forget what we had witnessed the previous day.”

    I respectfully disagree with Sona for on Thanksgiving day also, for over a decade now, “different factions of the Armenian community come together and co-operate for a short-lived” day, this time around, for fun, entertainment and generosity to the tune of over 20 million $ this year. I do not think we forget our generosity the day after nor do I think that the generosity of the Armenian American donors prevents them to go shopping the next day, on Black Friday having done something positive!

    I say this tongue-in-cheek of course for I do not share the pessimism Sona displays of us not cooperating when vital national interests are at stake; nor do I find us outright dismissive of having come together for a common cause.

    1. Change in dynamics

      I am not sure who to agree with, Sona Sarkissian Yacoubian or Vahe? Both are compelling, yet common sense tells that only one of them could be right. I am not going to dwell on it and let it stay as a moot issue.

      The question is what do we do or try to accomplish after each commemoration of 24 April year in and year out? Campaign for recognition of the Genocide! That has been the number one issue on the Armenian agenda in the Diaspora. Have we made major strides? The answer is neither a sure yes nor a full no. Then what, even if Turkey recognizes?

      There is as if something missing and that’s causing fatigue. For how long can we continue to follow the same directives? There is the need of a change in the dynamics. This I believe most Diasporan Armenians would agree upon. This change is dependent on either a drastic shift in the policies of major powers – which is wishful thinking to expect in the forseable future – or through a change of strategy of Armenians.

      The first factor we have no control on, whereas the second is dependent on us. Within those parameters I believe the initiative of forming a body representating the Diaspora – whatever the name may be – is a crucial step forward to devise new strategies that would address some of our problems.

      1. My Response to Noubar

        There is an element that is being missed here and those who are missing it are us, the adults who have seen many April 24 Commemorations and have grown up “wiser” and now see the “futility” of repeating the same year after year. May all of us live long and longer to see many more!

        We should not assume that the April 24 commemorating is our outcry to the Turks or to the world. Its also pertains to us as reminder and it also is a means of passing on the legacy.

        Sona Yacoubian describes the event as a cliché if not sort of a broken record, saying “Of course, mention must also be made of the Hollywood walkathon where the young and the old alike march through the streets with unabashed zeal, waving signs, flags and slogans, and shouting "never again." How else could we have passed the legacy of pursuing the genocide if the old did not walk with the young and carried the sign “never again”?

        Many of us saw this year’s April 24 commemoration in Armenia when multitude of people went to Dzidzernagapert with flowers in their hands, with grandparents holding their grandchildren’s hands, or parents carrying their children on their back with a solemn procession to the monument and then asking their children or grandchildren to lay the flower at the monument. Is there any better substitute to that to pass on the legacy of the Genocide?

        The parent may soon forget his walk to the monument, even the next day. As parents we should expect them to resume their lives and work the very next day and not dwell on the previous day’s procession. For the child or the grandchild the previous day’s experience will remain etched in the memory. In my view, God forbid that that one day we may be witnesses of bare streets in Little Armenia in Hollywood, because there is no walkathon on that particular April 24 commemoration and there are no young and old marching alike on "the streets with unabashed zeal, waving signs, flags and slogans, and shouting ‘never again’."

  3. I disagree with Ms. Sona that

    I disagree with Ms. Sona that we forget everything after 25 April.  In Los Angeles we have a committee, of which I am a member, which is called "Hamahaykakan Marmine" comprised of representatives of all Political parties, Charitable Organiations (AGBU, ARS etc.), Compatriotic Unions and other Armenian Organizations. 

    Our goal is to keep the April 24 spirit alive 24/7 all year around.  In addition to April 24 commemoration, we organize seminars and invite Armenian and foreign speakers to lecture at those events.   Everybody must do his/her share.  We can not and should not rely on one body or one organization to do everything.  We all have a common GOAL even though we take different paths to get there.

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