Armenians and Kurds: Working Together

Keghart.com report, Toronto, 31 May 2014

It was full house as Armenians and Kurds gathered at the AGBU Toronto on May 29 to attend a panel discussion on how the two nations can work together for their mutual benefit. The three-man panel included Dr. Henry Astarjian of New Hampshire, and Suleyman Guven and Raffi Bedrosyan of Toronto.

(L-R) Mr. Raffi Bedrosyan, Mr. Suleyman Guven & Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Astarjian is a long-time “student” of Armenian/Kurdish affairs and has attended five Kurdish summit conferences where he has asserted Armenian rights in Western Armenia. Mr. Guven, an Alevi cleric and editor of “Yeni Hayat” newspaper, is an award-winning journalist and an activist for Alevi Kurdish rights. Mr. Bedrosyan, a civil engineer, has been closely involved in the reconstruction of Diyarbakir’s Surp Giragos Cathedral’s reconstruction and in encouraging “hidden” Armenians to come out and declare their identity. He also has done volunteer work in Armenia/Artsakh.

Keghart.com report, Toronto, 31 May 2014

It was full house as Armenians and Kurds gathered at the AGBU Toronto on May 29 to attend a panel discussion on how the two nations can work together for their mutual benefit. The three-man panel included Dr. Henry Astarjian of New Hampshire, and Suleyman Guven and Raffi Bedrosyan of Toronto.

(L-R) Mr. Raffi Bedrosyan, Mr. Suleyman Guven & Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Astarjian is a long-time “student” of Armenian/Kurdish affairs and has attended five Kurdish summit conferences where he has asserted Armenian rights in Western Armenia. Mr. Guven, an Alevi cleric and editor of “Yeni Hayat” newspaper, is an award-winning journalist and an activist for Alevi Kurdish rights. Mr. Bedrosyan, a civil engineer, has been closely involved in the reconstruction of Diyarbakir’s Surp Giragos Cathedral’s reconstruction and in encouraging “hidden” Armenians to come out and declare their identity. He also has done volunteer work in Armenia/Artsakh.

Although the discussion was intended to be about the future, inevitably the Genocide and the Kurdish persecution of Armenians in the 19th century and in 1915 had to be addressed first.

Mr. Bedrosyan said: “The Ittihat ve Terakki government of the Ottoman Empire used the Kurds as a willing and able partner in carrying out the annihilation of the Armenians from their 4,000-year-old homeland. Kurds became the killing instruments, with the reward of the massacred Armenians’ possession of assets, their homes, their shops, as well as their women, boys, and girls.”

Kurdish leaders have started acknowledging the Kurdish role in the Armenian Genocide only in words and not deeds, said Mr. Bedrosyan. Exceptions are Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir and Sur Municipality Mayor Abdullah Demirbash. The first helped facilitate the reconstruction of Surp Giragos and contributed a third of the reconstruction costs while the second “helped organize Armenian language courses” to be established in Diyarbakir. Mayor Demirbash  also continued cooperating in the return  of assets and properties belonging to the Armenian Church through negotiated settlements.

Mr. Guven said: “Unfortunately, Kurds have Armenian blood in their hands. This is shameful for the nation. As a first step the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Kurdish leadership is good but not enough. There has a lot to be done on the Kurdish side without delay.”

In response to the panel’s unanimous condemnation of the Kurdish participation in the massacres of Armenians and in the Genocide, several Kurds in the audience insisted, during the question-and-answer session, that Kurds were ordered by the Ottoman authorities, were forced to do what they did. They also stated that the present generation of Kurds cannot be responsible for what had happened in the past nor the Kurdish people as a whole, because  only some tribal leaders co-operated with the authorities. In many instances Kurds saved Armenian lives by adopting or marrying them, they said.

Mr. Guven said that 36,000 Armenians, who had fled from the Genocide, sought sanctuary in his home region of Dersim.  “A dormitory and an orphanage were built for Armenians in Agzunik. When the Russian army invaded Erzincan, the majority of the Armenians were handed over to the Russians under the supervision of Dersim leadership. Armenians who stayed moved to the US, Syria and Istanbul,” he said.

Next was the main item of the evening’s “agenda”: How Armenians and Kurds should co-operate for their mutual benefit. Perhaps because the Kurdish goal (to establish Northern Kurdistan) is well known, it was not enunciated. Thus Armenian goals took front seat.

Mr. Bedrosyan said: “Armenians have two expectations from Kurds: first to be with the Armenians in their quest for justice and restitution against the crimes of 1915, instead of being against the Armenians; and second, to encourage–not to discourage–the emergency of the hidden Armenians among the Kurdish population.”

Since the [Armenian] problem is within Turkey, the solution must also be within Turkey, he said. “It would be far more effective to have Kurds and emerging hidden Armenians to work effectively within Turkey toward resolution of issues, rather than to rely on third countries and their parliaments to work for us. Outside pressure doesn’t work in Turkey,” stressed Bedrosyan.

In concluding his argument, Mr. Bedrosyan said that after the hidden Armenians come out and reveal themselves they should work with the Kurds (there are 34 Kurd parliamentarians) and Turkish progressive groups and individuals to achieve Armenian goals through the Turkish parliament.

Mr. Guven said that to understand Turkey one has to remember there are two power bases in the country: Erdogan and the PKK (the strongest Kurdish political/military party).

In a forceful presentation, Dr. Astarjian stressed that Armenians have wasted too many years seeking Genocide recognition by the world. Recognition even by the US and the UN means nothing, he said.  “For 99 years we have been preoccupied by the Genocide. We should get out of the recognition trap. The Genocide is human rights issue, not a political issue,” he said.

Before the Kurds and the Armenians begin to work together, “they should organize internally; put aside the past and then plan for the future. Armenians and Kurds are fragmented—perhaps the Kurds more so than the Armenians,” surmised Dr. Astarjian.

Harking to an article he wrote in 2010, where he said that Armenian relationship with the Kurdish nation is not based on ideology, but on land rights and demands in Western Armenia, he said the Armenian goal should be Western Armenia. “Don’t just talk. Work toward its establishment. Do something or shut up. Enough with the beating of chests. We should educate our young, our people about our rights. The Treaty of Sevres is one of the best ways the Diaspora can pursue its rights in Western Armenia. The treaty is still valid. It’s alive but not healthy. Go back to the Wilsonian map. If the Treaty of Kars is alive, so is the Treaty of Sevres. Armenians and Kurds should work together to pursue the realisation of the Treaty of Sevres. Our rights were spelled out, in detail, in the provisions in the Sevres Treaty. It is to our advantage, and to the detriment of Turkey, to stick to this map and the provisions in the Sevres Treaty,” said Dr. Astarjian.  

He added that there’s no hope that the Republic of Armenia will do anything regarding the recovering of Western Armenia. An attendee challenged Dr. Astarjian’s assertion and said that Armenia is in a recovery stage and once it strengthens its statehood it will become a “big player” in the recovery of Armenian lands.

Although the lively Thursday evening gathering could have gone on for several hours more, it being a week night, the discussion was adjourned after two-and-a-half hours.

Mr. Jirair Tutunjian, the editor of Keghart.com expertly facilitated the panel discussion and Dr. Dikran Abrahamian made the closing remarks thanking the panelists and the attendees.

***

Video-clips of the event will be posted on Keghart website once they are processed.-Editor

5 comments
  1. Working Together

    This was a start; please don't stop. A glimmer of hope is better than  all the promises of friendly countries.

    1. Working Together.

      After a century of broken "promises of friendly countries", is there any Armenian who believes that salvation will come from outside? 

  2. The Treaty of Kars and Sevres
    The Treaty of Kars and Sevres are important recognized documents to start our human rights issues.

  3. Kurd and Armenians

    I would like to ask the three panelists what can Armenian leaders bring to to the table when they sit down with Kurdish leaders regarding working together for their mutual benefit.

  4. Immigration
    Can you give me guidance on helping an Armenia family immigrate to US. ASAP
    Just tell me who to contact.
    Carol

Comments are closed.

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