Call to Action

11 July 2010

The International Organizing Committee (IOC), the steering committee of the proposed Western Armenian National Congress (WAN Congress), will shortly hold a  meeting to prepare a draft declaration for submission to delegates at the founding convention of WAN Congress, tentatively scheduled to take place by the end of the year. IOC needs the constructive suggestions of all Armenians who are committed to the well-being of the Armenian nation. The below communiqué asks for your input, for possible inclusion in the draft declaration.
Dear readers and friends,

A year ago major Armenian organizations in Canada became aware of the proposed Western Armenian National Congress (WAN Congress) and its steering committee–the International Organizing Committee (IOC). As well, through word-of-mouth some non-affiliated individuals became aware of the initiative in Oct. 2009, following which an ad-hoc group was formed to explore what was being proposed and what were the merits of the undertaking. Viken L. Attarian and I were informally elected-designated as interim deputy coordinator and coordinator of the group respectively to keep in touch with the IOC and to organize meetings with individuals/groups to discuss the proposal.

Around the same time that measures were undertaken to publicize the initiative through and private e-mails, other proposals (Harut Sassounian, Minas Kojayan, Ardag Sargsyan, Aram Sepetjian, etc.) were made. The coincidence offered an opportunity to discuss the related objectives more extensively–at least in Montreal and in Toronto, particularly among non-affiliated individuals. In Dec. 2009 two members of the aforementioned team attended the IOC meeting in Geneva as observers. Although an invitation was extended to apply for full membership in IOC, it did not materialize primarily because of some reservations. However, the interim coordinators tried their utmost to spread the word through public meetings and individual contacts.

IOC Deputy Executive Souren Seraydarian’s brief visit to Montreal, to meet interested individuals in April helped clarify some issues but was mostly limited to introducing the initiative, since many of the people who met him had only recently become aware of IOC’s existence. In May I had a second opportunity to visit the Geneva office to attend IOC’s quarterly meeting. The gathering was not successful because some members from CIS countries were not able to get their visas on time while some European members had not returned from their “missions” in the Middle East or elsewhere. However, the meeting was an opportunity to pass along and discuss some of the criticisms levied against the IOC, particularly in relation to statements that had appeared on the WAN Congress site. Some interested individuals considered the statements (mainly related to our recent national history) divisive. On June 24 I had the opportunity to introduce the initiative in Vancouver at an “Interactive Public Meeting”.

We are all aware of the pros and cons of the proposed WAN Congress, and none of us is fully committed to the project. Some of us are also against establishing such an organization, yet all of us are concerned in Diaspora’s future and would like to make a contribution towards the realization of our dreams which, so far, have not been defined in precise legal terms. We are not unanimous in what we believe in and what we are willing to sacrifice. It’s not a criticism; it’s just an observation of the state of affairs. I am cognizant of the aforementioned and I am writing to you because each one of you has shown interest in our community affairs and of the larger issues that concern Armenians in Armenia and in the Diaspora. In that vein, and hopefully without abusing your patience, I’d like to make some comments.

Some of us believe that the WAN Congress is a viable and doable alternative, particularly when considering that the IOC has functioned over the past three years with dedication and the clear objective of giving birth to a unique organization that would explore and implement legal means to achieve some of the objectives that we have discussed over and over again in the past fifty years. The writings of Kasbar Derderian, Vartkes Yeghiayan, John Guiragossian are still fresh on my mind. “Our Word Now is Reparation!” declared Mark Geragos at the top of his lungs at the recent commemoration of the Genocide in New York. That was neither a coincidence nor the utterances of a demagogue. Anne Lousine’s “Justice for the Armenian Genocide—a New Era” was not penned in vain, and The Armenian Bar Association’s interest in the WAN Congress is not idle curiosity. Within the past year in Armenia, Lebanon and the US three major conferences have been dedicated to the Genocide of the Armenians and International Law. There is an opportunity now to “work in the garden” and disengage ourselves from what some people would call “intellectual prostitution,” meaning the discussing of topics at nauseam.

Dear Readers, I am not asking you to adhere to IOC or its proposal. I am requesting readers who want to see the project take-off to provide their constructive criticism. I, too, like some of you have reservations, especially about the critical issue of whether this may not turn out to be a Trojan horse, designed by the corrupt rulers in Armenia as a means to exert their will on a divided and clueless Diaspora. Certainly, the question of who is financing the mission is a matter that calls for thorough questioning. Like many of you, I understand the difficulties related to dealing with people, especially functionaries, who in the past have served in a managed-economy environment of which Armenia was part of. I have lived in Armenia for seven consecutive years, dealt with our brethren in our homeland, experienced the frustrations of not being understood by them. The authoritarian mentality persists even with the most dedicated democrat. The occasional disdain towards what an “akhbar” has to say is all there. Although I have seen the reverse attitude, the general mindset of ex-Soviet Armenian elite will not change for some time.

Yet, without our participation, without extending a hand, nothing will change and this proposal–in the absence of other practical alternatives–may well become just another footnote like many preceding endeavours.

The IOC is in its final stage of getting ready to call for the founding convention, to elect the assembly and the council. To my understanding, it will be an exercise in participatory democracy and not a rubber-stamping event. It will be a gathering where each attendee will be heard to help formulate the policies and objectives that the new organization should follow. Transparency, accountability and democratic values should be the guiding principles. Without our actual participation none of the aforementioned can take place.

In a recent message, Mr. Seraydarian wrote: “… please think about any input your group would like to have in the final draft declaration of the Convention. It has to be clear, short, not ambivalent and non-controversial with only short reference to our recent history. For the time being few colleagues are trying to draft [a document]. We will then combine the best suggestions and share them with all contributors before submitting the paper for consideration by the Convention.”

Postponing some suggestions that I have, I submit to your attention the above message for your consideration. I am hopeful that many of you will forward their comments to or privately to Viken L. Attarian ([email protected]) or to me ([email protected]), alternately to Mr. Souren Seraydarian ([email protected]). or to [email protected]


Dikran Abrahamian


  1. I think it is great

    I think it is great that this organization is adopting the name "Western Armenian". This term should not only refer to the fact that it organizes the (Western) Armenian Diaspora, but should also refer to the territory of Western Armenia itself which the WAN-C should actively claim as a way for Turkey to repair for the damages done to the Armenian nation.

    A way to achieve this should be to gain support from non-Armenians as well, just like Zionism back in the days. However, contrarily to Zionism, we already have a dormant document (Sevres Treaty) that constitutes a legal basis for our claims.

    All should be done is with the support and even participation of all traditional and experienced Diaspora organizations such as the ARF… If there is no support, then there is no point for WAN-C to exist because its aims are relatively similar to our traditional organizations.

  2. An interesting initiative, but

    Dear Dikran,

    Thanks for the info. It is an interesting initiative, but the hardest thing to do in order to make it "fly" is to have some buy-in from existing diasporan organisations. That is also the most exasperating thing to do. It is the case in all similar situations, Armenian or other; established institutions don't like new initiatives (even if the idea is very good).

    I don't know what the game plan is for WAN Congress. Do they want to move slowly, with lots of community outreach to ensure buy-in, or do they want to plough ahead, and by-pass the "establishment"? The latter is appealing if there is a large enough support base to draw on. But if not, then a piecemeal loooong-term approach is necessary, entailing all sorts of compromises. Not easy choices. Of course, hayasdan is going to raise an eyebrow too…. not to mention Turkey! In any case, let me know how things pan out.

    All the very best

    After I sent the message I poked around a little bit for further info on WAN. So, here is some further comments.

    It would be important for the initiative to have a mission and a vision, that is clearly articulated. That is not clear to me, beyond an abstract idea of representing Western Armenians. I think a clear set of objectives should emerge from the meeting. It helps to ask: what is the problem that the Congress wishes to fix?

    2010 is not 1919. Historical points of reference might actually deter from its vision instead of augment it. I suggest to have a vision that is inspirational and future looking.

    Similarly, no need to use divisive language such as corrupt leaders of Armenia. They are corrupt, all know it. No need to "cheapen" your mission by taking jabs here and there, at least in writing. People get inspired by forward looking "can do" ideas.

    The issue of "representing" the diaspora, which seems to be at the heart of this initiative, is a bit of a red herring. Who represents whom? This can never be solved, short of a vote. Is a vote in the diaspora possible? I think not. Let's assume there is a vote; are you going to prevent hayasdantsis in LA from voting because they are not western armenians? I think representation issue can be solved by having a good idea, and having a number of people — especially quality people — coalesce around it. And being modest about it — not claiming to represent "Western Armenians" but representing members of the organisation who come from… (fill in as appropriate…)

    Preparing a legal case. This is dangerous because you could lose. I am not aware anything in international law that would favour Armenians at this stage. (Ara Babyan's stuff is pure myth!) The Genocide issue is all about politics, and the struggle should be about politics too.

    I don't understand the Moscow connection…. (well, I do, from the money perspective, but how many western Armenians are there in Moscow?).

    In terms of publicising the initiative, and hence generating support, you need professional communication strategy, a series of public events, charasmatic individuals — men AND women — and the whole 9 yards of "selling" ideas. This should not be an afterthought. Perhaps, from this perspective, you should even consider a different name. Western Armenian National Congress is too segmental (western), too talk shop (congress), and for those who are in the know, too backward looking (the idea of national congresses is passe).

    It is too late at night, so I can't think of any clever alternative, but a name that conveys "future", "initiative", "dyanamism", etc. — with a good catchy acronym! Communications can seem like a flippant thing for content and issue driven people, but heck, in the 21st century, you gotta listen to your Comms department!

    These are some random thoughts to help with the critical feedback that you are asking for.

    Yalla, kisher pari!

  3. WAN-Congress

    While we talk about three political parties, we should note that only one of them is active. The other two do little other than occasionally send emails and publish heavily subsidized newspapers. Oh yeh, they also hold annual picnics. One of them is on life-support system while the other has split up. Under these conditions, and not forgetting the huge mass of disenchanted (from political parties) people and non-partisan Armenians, WAN-Congress should be able to attract a great number of Armenians, if it enunciates its mission in a clear, comprehensive, and inclusive manner. I think WAN-Congress can use professional marketing assistance.
  4. Armenian Mayor

    Very proud to see Armenians running and succeeding in political positions. 

  5. I would strictly advise to

    I would strictly advise to remove that discriminating word "western" from the name, and definitely from further prospects of organization. There is already an organization with the same name and without the word "western", and it is doing nothing, except waiting to capture the authority when it will be available, and continue same self destructive policy against Armenia and Armenians.

    I guess something else should be proposed… like "Armenian Ascension"…

  6. Let technology help

    I understand there are technical difficulties bringing everyone into a single location for meetings, can we at least try technology to overcome that?

    – WebEx, LiveMeeting or gotomeeting.

    I understand the value of presence, but if that is difficult, let alternatives be used. Let technology help.

    1. Video-Conferencing
      Dear TH,

      To my knowledge the IOC has video-conferencing capability and it is used for internal purposes. Probably it may be expanded to include interested individuals to keep in touch with them and inform of what progress has been achieved so far and what future plans are. Similarly the public can voice its concerns, make suggestions and remarks. Certainly it helps creating a bond with the public at large.

      Your suggestion is well taken. Thank you.

  7. I think one needs to take as

    I think one needs to take as base the structure of the Armenia-Diaspora …with traditional & new organizations  represented in it  & the non-afilliates or independents as consultants – a sort of World Armenian Committee with representatives from every corner & organization …

  8. In Principle, I support what

    In Principle, I support what you are trying to do.  But, why are we re-inventing the wheel?  We do have existing organizations whose charter is just what you are trying to do.  The ANC comes to mind, who have offices/chapters all over the world.  Instead of creating a new organization, which may or may not represent ALL ARMENIANS, why don’t we work with these organizations? 

    In business we call this "distribution system".  You may have the best product, but if you don’t have a good distribution system, you won’t be able to sell your product.  So let us use all of our resources that is available to us.  Thus the probability of success will be much higher.  Let us forget old grudges (and get rid of some old farts who still hold grudges) and work together.  And lastly, I would not trust the lawyers because they are in this to make money. 

    Remember the NY Life settlement?  They settled it for peanuts!  They are not good in math and they have no clue about PV/FV (present value/future value of money).  The $2M in 1915, at 6% is worth over HALF A BILLION DOLLARS today and they settled it for mere $20M.  "HYE JOGHOVOURT, KO MEYAG PERGOUTIUNE KO HAVAKAGAN OUJEEN MECHNE" Yeghishe Charents.

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