Fresh Page at Historic Sèvres

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Exclusive Special Keghart.com Report, 22 December 2011
 

Armenian activists from all corners of the far-flung Armenian communities converged Dec. 10 on Sèvres, a suburb in southwest of Paris, to launch the Third Congress of Western Armenians and to open a new and optimistic page in the contemporary history of Armenians.

Following the introductory remarks by Dr. Hagop Kerkiasharian, president of the Organizing Committee in France, Rev Bartev Parseghian of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Rev. Haroutune Bzdigian of Mekhitarists Congregation welcomed the participants. 
 

Exclusive Special Keghart.com Report, 22 December 2011
 

Armenian activists from all corners of the far-flung Armenian communities converged Dec. 10 on Sèvres, a suburb in southwest of Paris, to launch the Third Congress of Western Armenians and to open a new and optimistic page in the contemporary history of Armenians.

Following the introductory remarks by Dr. Hagop Kerkiasharian, president of the Organizing Committee in France, Rev Bartev Parseghian of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Rev. Haroutune Bzdigian of Mekhitarists Congregation welcomed the participants. 
 

The gathering, attended by more than 80 delegates and independent individuals from Argentina, Armenia, Canada, France, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, was characterized by remarkable equanimity as participants unanimously and with alacrity voted “yes” to the draft statutes and to the goals of the Congress.

Intellectuals from Armenia and the Diaspora, an Armenian general and leader of the Artsakh army during the war against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, a colonel, an MP from Armenia, several authors, businessmen, lawyers, economists, professors, delegates representing Armenia and Russia-based patriotic unions (‘hayrenagtsagan meeyoutyoun’), several journalists and professionals from various fields mingled between sessions to exchange views and to make practical suggestions on how to enhance the Congress as a leading voice of the Armenian nation.

While close to two-thirds of the attendees came from Armenia and Russia, this group identified itself as descendants of the martyrs and survivors of the Genocide of Armenians.

The conference venue was rich in symbolism. It’s in this quiet suburb that the Treaty of Sèvres was signed (10 August 1920). The conference took place at the Mkhitarian Samuel Moorat Catholic College, a long-time Armenian educational centre in Europe.

Among the half-a-dozen attendees who addressed the gathering was Ashot Aleksanian, deputy of Armenia’s Ambassador to France. He said, “You have to do it [represent the rights of Western Armenians]. We [the Republic of Armenia] are prepared to provide you with data for your projects. I hope the conference is followed by actual work.” He then wished victory [‘Haghtanag’] to the Congress.

The historic conference was the culmination of more than four years of  work following the creation in Paris, on Aug. 20, 2007, of the International Organizing Committee (IOC) and its registration as a non-governmental organization (NGO). In accordance with its statutes, the goal of the NGO was to organize meetings, which would lead to the establishment of the Congress of Western Armenians. Some 12 such meetings were held, in addition to several gatherings with lawyers. Furthermore, a symposium was held in Cyprus (2009), an IOC representative participated in the "Unity Symposium" in Montreal (2010) and a scientific symposium was organized in cooperation with the University of California at Berkeley in 2011.

According to its unanimously approved statutes, the goal of the Congress is to act as representative–at national and international bodies–of Western Armenians, descendants of the former Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire. As such, the Congress strives to be the legitimate representational institution that can negotiate for the rights of the victims of the Genocide and their descendants.

The Congress would also promote internationally the conservation and the awareness of Armenian civilization, the national and cultural identity of Armenians. It would initiate and monitor all activities related to the maintenance and safeguard of Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne (ratified in 1923) as well as their restitution to their legitimate owners.

While during the meeting there were no public discussions about the relationship of the Congress with Armenian political parties and organizations, the goal of the Congress is to “harmonize, to the extent possible, its activities and initiatives with other Armenian organizations and institutions in building consensus on the pursuit of the Armenian Cause (‘Hye Tadd’).”

In the long term, the Congress intends to contribute towards enhancement of civil society and strengthen the democratic base of Armenian endeavors.

Another key long-term goal of the Congress is to facilitate the safe return and reestablishment on their free will of Western Armenians in their historical locations of their residence.

While the Congress’ founding conference proceeded with enviable smoothness, on occasion there were objections, especially from Dr. Dikran Abrahamian of Canada, that the voting on Congress’ aims and the elections of officers had been undertaken with undue haste and sometimes without concern for democratic process. He cautioned the gathering that the founding conference was particularly responsible to set an example to the future activities of the Congress so that all decisions are made with transparency and accountability in mind. Dr. Abrahamian’s objections were considered valid by the chair and attendees.

The Congress of Western Armenians then elected a National Council, a 28-member group to implement the Congress’ plan of action and meeting the goals of the new political entity. This was followed by the election of the Executive Committee from within the National Council consisting of a chairperson, three deputies, a secretary general and the head of the legal and judiciary department. Souren Seraydarian from France was elected chairperson. Sona Yacoubian of AGBU-‘Hye Geen’ organization (California), Karen Mikaelyan from Moscow and Gen. Norat Ter Grigoryanc were elected as deputies. The Council convened the following day to discuss details of quarterly plans.

The Congress will also have a board of trustees, following the establishment of the Legal Defense Trust Fund. It will be composed of persons who contribute $20,000 or 14,000 Euros and other members nominated by the Council.

Among attendees who addressed the gathering were Raymond Kevorkian, professor at Institut Francais de Geopolitique, Université Paris, author of the 1,030-page “Genocide of Armenians: the Complete History”; Roberto Malkassian, professor of international law at the University of Buenos Aires; Karen Mikaelyan, the executive director of the former International Organizing Committee for the preparation of the Congress; MP Arakadz Akhoyan from Armenia and economist Ohan Hekimian from Marseille.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Seraydarian, the newly-elected chairperson of the Congress of Western Armenians, stated, "Descendants of refugee western Armenians are [today] able, settled, cultured citizens of mostly progressive countries, and present a powerful potential to build, with the motherland, a hopeful and secure future for the Armenian nation." He then said, " If Armenians attain collective will, unanimity, concordance of spirit, we believe the 21st century will be recorded as Armenians' century."

After the conference was adjourned, attendees celebrated the historic gathering by sampling Armenian dishes, Armenian brandy and French champagne.
 

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4 comments
  1. Sevres 12/10/2011 resolutions

    Everybody welcomes these resolutions but to apply in real life we need economic and financial VERY STRONG organisation to reach our national goals. Money collection alone is NOT ENOUGH, we need to create income producing companies which will help investors to earn money and a % of these profits allocate to a Pan Armenian charitable organisation to help "A landlocked country of its choice" UNDER STRICT CONTROL. These funds could help reach goals which are not possible under actual way of help.

    The cconomic situation now is not helpful BUT IT IS IMPERATIVE that we start slowly but surely these income producing companies . 5 years ago it was easier but NOBODY LISTENED and now like La Fontaine’s fable winter arrived and we don’t have any "grain to survive" that when needed.

    WE MUST THINK ABOUT THIS SUBJECT VERY SERIOUSLY before ANYTHING ELSE.

  2. The Statutes

    I would like to know the contents of the Western Armenian Congress statutes–if it’s posible to publish them. Thank you for the information you have published.

  3. I am very happy and hopeful

    I am very happy and hopeful with this historical event. I believe.

  4. My take on WAC

    There seems to be a perpetual search in our midst for a new organization that will be an all-Armenian organization pursuing our cause, Hai Tahd, because, I believe, we are losing connection with our history and hence attempting to rediscover the wheel.
     
    The “800 lb gorilla” as a reader alluded to, was found in 1890 as the Federation of the Armenian Revolutionaries (Hay Heghapoghanneri Tashnagsoutium) that was comprised of idealists of varied visions for Armenia and Armenians. It soon evolved into the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Hay Heghapoghan Tashnagsoutium). The change in wording is subtle in Armenian but would not have been in English.
     
    Nowadays, ARF is regarded THE partisan organization along its affiliate ANC. The search goes on for a new organization that will be the all-Armenian organization pursuing our cause, Hai Tahd. However, the same organization will soon find out that by the nature of it being organized into an entity that it is no longer being perceived by the lofty adjectives of its founding mission. There is no assurance the Western Armenian Congress will not soon be perceived as another organization of Armenians who do not adhere to our existing organizations but vie to have their say through a new entity. Case in point the assembly of the political parties that never became but became instead the misnomer it is the Armenian Assembly of America.
     
    Before the convention of the recent Western Armenian Congress, congresses were convened in Paris, Lausanne and Sevres in 1979, 1983 and 1985, respectively under the chairmanship of the late Rev. James Karnuzian. The best these congresses achieved in the end are the conventions they held. I cannot say that I do not have reservations about WAC, especially that its by-laws will assure one a seat on the Board of Trustees for $20,000 or its equivalent in Euro. I am not sure if it is for a life-time tenure. Although the organizers deserve our commendation for their zeal, it’s their modus operandi and raison d’etre as a separate entity that I question.
     
    It is apparent to me that the WAC lacks the grass root support it claims to have successfully sought. I still have not read any official communique from our establishment (Catholicosates, Patriarchates, Evangelical, Catholic churches, Armenian political parties…) about their position regarding the nascent WAC that seems to have officially communicated its manifesto to become THE legal claimant of our incalculable losses as a result of the Genocide.
     
    For WAC that aspires to embody and legally present our collective historical rights as natives of Anatolia, declarations of position would have been expected especially from the Patriarchate of Istanbul. For centuries it was the de facto and de-jure the Armenian State within the Othman Empire with its own courts and prisons to settle matters relating to the Armenian subjects of the Empire. After the second half of the 19the century it had a constitution that is in effect to this day to safeguard it from the whims of the oligarchs of the day, the Armenian Ameras of the Ottoman. The Patriarch had the power and could excommunicate and render an Armenian subject of the Ottoman Empire stateless within the Empire as he did to the early adherents of the reformation movement until they ended up being presented to the Ottoman High Port as members of the Protestant Millet. Both of these Millets are in force in Middle East to this day. Historically then I cannot say that we do not already have long established means for legal representation of Western Armenia.
     

    As to myself, I have cast my lot with a so-called traditional political party and over the years have come to value it and the others in spite of their shortcomings. My support of the objectives of WAC will come through my support of the existing establishments. 

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