Implications of “South Azerbaijan” Independence

 Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph.D., Los Angeles, 27 March 2016

Iran is a potpourri of ethnic groups where the major races are the Persians, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Lurs, Mazandaranis, Gilakis, Arabs, Balochs, and the Turkmens. The Azeris (10 to 22 million) are the largest group. The Azeris of Iran thus far outnumber those in the neighbouring Republic of Azerbaijan (over 9 million). Most of the Irani Azeris live in northwestern Iran, comprising four large provinces: Western Azerbaijan, Eastern Azerbaijan, Ardebil, and Zanjan. These provinces cradle the entire southern portion of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) and separate them geographically from the rest of Iran.

The Azeri organizations that express irredentist sentiments of self-determination, have already delineated the boundaries of a territory for the ethnic Iranian Azeris and call it "South Azerbaijan". South Azerbaijan is mostly populated by Azeris. What are the implications of a "South Azerbaijan" to Armenia and Artsakh?

 Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph.D., Los Angeles, 27 March 2016

Iran is a potpourri of ethnic groups where the major races are the Persians, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Lurs, Mazandaranis, Gilakis, Arabs, Balochs, and the Turkmens. The Azeris (10 to 22 million) are the largest group. The Azeris of Iran thus far outnumber those in the neighbouring Republic of Azerbaijan (over 9 million). Most of the Irani Azeris live in northwestern Iran, comprising four large provinces: Western Azerbaijan, Eastern Azerbaijan, Ardebil, and Zanjan. These provinces cradle the entire southern portion of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) and separate them geographically from the rest of Iran.

The Azeri organizations that express irredentist sentiments of self-determination, have already delineated the boundaries of a territory for the ethnic Iranian Azeris and call it "South Azerbaijan". South Azerbaijan is mostly populated by Azeris. What are the implications of a "South Azerbaijan" to Armenia and Artsakh?

Iran covers 1,648,195 sq. km. (636,372 sq. mi) and has 79 million inhabitants. South Azerbaijan represents about 30 percent of Iran's area. It’s bigger than the Republic of Azerbaijan (86,600 sq. km. or 33,436 sq. mi).

To some extent, Azerbaijan and Iran share the same history, religion, and culture. Azeris are Turkic people from Central Asia, while Persians are native to Iran.  The territory of what is recently called the Republic of Azerbaijan was only separated from Iran after the Russo-Persian Wars (1804-1813) and (1826-1828). The Qajar Dynasty (1785 to 1925) of Iran, a family of Turkic decent, was forced to cede what is now Azerbaijan, alongside Georgia, Dagestan, and Armenia to Russia under the terms of the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay.

Iran and Azerbaijan are the only states where the majority of the people are Shia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, relations between Iran and Azerbaijan were soured due to the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh. Iran backed Armenia, which infuriated Azerbaijan and Iran's Azeris. However, since the advent of President Hassan Rouhani's administration significant efforts have been made to strengthen Azerbaijan-Iran ties. Rouhani was so accommodating that Ilham Aliyev said after one of their meetings: "Common history and culture have resulted in unbreakable bond between Iran and Azerbaijan." In May 2015, the ambassador of Iran to Baku announced that Iran did not recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, further boosting Azerbaijan-Iran relations. Presently, Azerbaijan and South Azerbaijan enjoy a fluid border as though the two were one free, independent, and sovereign nation.

There is a strong Azeri movement which argues for independence from Iran. One of the largest groups is the Azerbaijan National Resistance Organization (ANRO). This and other groups, such Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement (SANAM) spearheaded by Mahmoudali Chehrgani, are championing  for independence from Iran. They profess the disintegration of Iran to be imminent. They frequently organize conferences in Turkey and elsewhere for plenary sessions. ANRO is in agreement with other groups in northwestern Iran over the right to self-determination. The rationale presented by ANRO is predicated on the contention that Iran's estimated 22 million Turkish-speaking Azeris face severe "discrimination and deprivation" of language and other cultural rights.

In 2014, Babek Chalabinyanli, the ANRO spokesperson in Washington, D.C., stated that the organization is engaged in "a civil and non-violent struggle" with the express purpose of "protection of Azerbaijan's historical territorial integrity and gaining the right of national self-determination." Central to the main argument is the contention that Azerbaijani Turks in Iran are denied the right to education in their native language and their region suffers from abject poverty and rampant unemployment, while the natural resources from the region are "looted" by the Iranian government and that their regions are bypassed when it comes to government investment. Activists complain that Iranian Azeris do not have the freedom to use Azeri names for their children and businesses.

There are also activists in Azerbaijan who endorse an independent South Azerbaijan. When historian Abulfazl Elchibey, leader of Azerbaijani Popular Front, the ultra-nationalist pan-Turkic adherent, came to power in 1992, he blasted Iran as a "doomed state" and predicted that within five years or so South Azerbaijan would be reunited with Azerbaijan.

The nationalist movements of South Azerbaijan picked steam after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Karim Asghari, ANRO's foreign relations officer, predicated that an independent South Azerbaijan ceding from Iran will change the political landscape and parameters of the region.

The independence of South Azerbaijan will not be in the interest of Armenia and Artsakh. Iranian Azeris want to unite with Azerbaijan, making its territory, population, and army three-fold larger. Baku does not want to rock the boat with Iran right now just as Armenia does not want to make waves with Georgia over Javakhk.

The implications of South Azerbaijan’s independence are a double whammy for Armenia. Azerbaijan will instantly grow into a giant state. The annexation would spell a bigger territory, bigger population, bigger economy, bigger army, and a bigger headache for its isolated neighbor.

It will come as no surprise that the United States, Turkey, Israel, Georgia and most Muslim nations side with Azerbaijan. It is also well known that the United States and Israel are less than friendly with Iran. When the political winds change direction South Azerbaijan would be helped by these nations because of its oil and other resources. Israel is also interested because the territory has the largest population of "Mountain Jews".

Another important implication has to do with the Azeri political hold on Iran. Slowly and surreptitiously the power would transfer into the hands of the Azeris. If an ardent Azeri is elected president of Iran and he or she has aspirations for Azeri independence, the tide would turn in favor of South Azerbaijan's people.

Many of the imams and mullahs in Iran are Azeri Turks including the late Ayatollah  Ruhalla Khomeini who took back Iran to fundamental Islam. Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, is also of Azeri descent (a Turk). Many Azeris are and will sooner or later ascend high political positions and influence the policies of Iran. The "Azerization" of Iran would bode disaster for Armenia.

Landlocked and blockaded Armenia has now land transit through Iran and Georgia. If South Azerbaijan becomes independent, it would alter the transit situation. South Azerbaijan will side with Azerbaijan and install a blockade on Armenia. Without the land transit through Iran, Armenia will become a geopolitical peninsula surrounded on three sides by enemies. Georgia will be the only isthmus to the outside world. But Georgia is an unreliable neighbour. Tblisi has stated that anyone who bothers Azerbaijan will be at war with Georgia. Georgia has asked Armenia to “return” Artsakh to Azerbaijan.

Since in politics anything can happen, Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora should formulate plans to find ways to overcome possible strangulation by its enemies.

Let’s assume that South Azerbaijan becomes independent in the near future is farfetched. But there is still a time bomb for Armenia: Persian Iranians are migrating to the West. Coupled with their low fertility rates compared to that of Azeri Iranians, in less than 30 years, Persian Iranians will become a minority. The political power will shift to the Iranian Azeris. Consequently, South Azerbaijan or Iran dominated by Azeris will side with Azerbaijan and make conditions for Armenia and Artsakh untenable.

We either put our act together in numbers–yes, in numbers–and swim or sink individually. Let us come up with solutions far in advance of a possible bite by this monster which has a record of attempts to annihilate us.

The coalition of Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora should first "MRI" the situation and then strategize in two major ways: Internally and externally. Internally, Armenians have to form a transnational supra-structure to bring together different Armenian Diaspora organizations and to coordinate activities with Armenia and Artsakh in a national emergency. Furthermore, they must make the homeland strong militarily and economically to thrive in the face of virtual isolation.

Externally, Armenians have to launch a pre-emptive attack on Azerbaijan against Baku’s increasing provocations at the line of contact and to capture, this time around, enough territory for passage to Derbent (Dagestan) to create a lifeline route to Russia. With Azerbaijan's repeated peace treaty violations, Armenia now has a prima facie case for casus belli (reason for war). While such an aggressive act seems counterintuitive, a pre-emptive strike may prove to be necessary for the survival of a beleaguered country which is regularly threatened by Baku.

Armenians should persuade Kremlin to initiate the return of Kars and Ardahan to Armenia before any military conflict erupts between Turkey and Russia. After all, it was Russia which ceded Armenian Kars and Ardahan to Turkey. Moral obligation dictates that Russia should repeal or denounce the unlawful treaties that Armenia refuses to recognize. In this way, Armenia would have the life-giving "oxygen" of land access to the Black Sea. We should also remind Russia that Armenia has been an ingenuous and trustworthy partner for ages. If Armenia falls, Russia’s underbelly becomes vulnerable.

12 comments
  1. Pre-emptive Strike

    After reading the above article, a pre-emptive attack on Azerbaijan does seem to be the only solution. It must come quickly and decisively. The situation with the Azeris of Iran puts a new twist on things. This is new to us.

     

  2. Armenia hasn’t treated the

    Armenia hasn't treated the diaspora as having skin in the game for the last 25 years. Just ask Raffi Hovanissian? Why no dual citizenship? Who in Armenia holds the controls and why? Just what are they afraid of? Armenia doesn't have another 25 years to get its act together.

  3. Implication of South Azerbaijan Independence

    Dear Mr. Demirdjian,

    You cannot analyze a nation's politics, ethnic dynamics and national mood just by looking at the map. 

    You are wrong on almost every point. I will explain:
    A)- Iranian Azerbaijan does not make up 30% of geographic area of Iran, as you have stated. You just need to look at the map of Iran and compare it to your highlighted area to realize it is nowhere near 30%. Iranian Azerbaijan covers an area of approximately 122,000 sq. km. and the whole of Iran as you have stated is 1,648, 000 sq. km. That make it is less than 8%.

    B)- Azeris are not the largest ethnic group in Iran. The CIA Fact Book has put the Persian ethnic population at 61% and the Azeris at 16%.

    C)- Iran and Azerbaijan are not the only countries where the majority is Shia Muslim. About 66% of Iraq's population is Shia. It's 62% in Bahrain.

    D)- You have said it will come as no surprise that the US, Israel, Georgia, and most Muslim nations would side with Azerbaijan against Iran. In fact, it will come to many people very much as a surprise. None of those countries you have mentioned would have any interest in supporting Azerbaijan to expand its territory. The expansion would mean having a border with Turkey and the realisation of pan-Turkism. This is an idea that the West, Russia and many Arab countries have done everything to prevent. None of those countries you have mentioned has any interest in seeing a strong Turkey.

    You have also said those countries will help South Azerbaijan against Iran because of its oil and other resources. I don't know where you get your information: Iranian Azerbaijan has hardly any oil nor any other significant natural resource. It is the main agricultural region of Iran.

    You have also said that Israel is interested in the region of Iranian Azerbaijan because of its mountainous Jewish population. The entire Jewish population of Iran is less than 8,000 and very few of them live in Azerbaijan. They are mainly concentrated in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan, and they are not the mountainous Jews. The mountainous Jews live in the north of the Republic of Azerbaijan and they number no more than 5,000. Why would Israel be interested in such an insignificant community to help Azerbaijan to unite with Turkey knowing that one day the tide may turn and they may become the enemy of Israel. And finally, why would Georgia support Azerbaijan against Iran. That's absurd.

    E)- What do you mean by Persian Iranians migrating to the West and thus Azeris with their high birth rate becoming dominant? How do you know Azeris have a higher rate of birth and what makes you think only Persians migrate to the West?

    Your arguments are so much based on stereotypes. You also say Azeris will enter the Iranian power structure and support their kin. The Azeris of Iran are very much part of the power system and many of prominent people in business, politics, media, art, education and so on are ethnic Azeris. But they all have the interest of Iran before anything else. In Iran ethnic groups are very much integrated. They all see themselves firstly as Iranian. And the ratio of Azeris not only not increasing but just the opposite. The determining factor in their identity is their language. As more people become educated and use Persian as their communication and work language their affiliation to their Turkic identity also weakens.

    And finally what a fantasy to think that Armenia can achieve a land connection to Russia or Russia will assist Armenia to regain territory from Turkey. Obviously we don't learn the lesson that Russia is not our savour. Moscow is providing its latest military arsenal to Azerbaijan to unleash its power on Armenians. Is this supposed to help us against Turkey?

    It is very useful to analyze all eventuality in geopolitics of the region but our task should be first to get rid of the current corrupt government which is bleeding the country dry, and create a democratic country where the rule of law will be dominant so that people will want to live there knowing the country offers opportunities and the citizens' rights are protected. Regrettably, the Diaspora, especially the ARF, is happy to go to bed with this criminal government for its own interest.

    1. You Need to Wake Up

      I'm sorry but your counter analysis is as juvenile as believing in Santa Claus: just as your calculations turned up to be wrong after 22 years of ceasefire.

      The author put up an analysis of how things might go bad in Armenia where the entire political junta is blissfully ignorant. In such a situation things will go wrong for sure. The author put in place a scenario that has a 25% chance of happening. It is a realistic scenario. The Diasaporans have to wake up for unfortunately the republic of Armenia doesn't seem to. What a shame that you cannot be trusted with Armenian security anymore. Please analyze the situation in front of you and stop assuming things like Soviet postulates.

  4. Another Interesting Piece

    I like Prof. Demirdjian. He makes many of us think, even and especially when you do not agree with him.

    He obviously made Serge Hamian think and respond. Serge makes some good points too. Through Demirdjian, Hamian has now provided an important analysis which would otherwise not be available to the Keghart.com readers.

    Let me point out one more factual oversight by Demirdjian. Ayatollah Khomeini was not an Iranian Azeri. The current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei definitely is, as Demirdjian points it out.  The two should not be confused with each other.

    But Demirdjian makes one think about issues that may not have occurred to many Armenians. And in my view, that is what counts. In the grand chessboard of geopolitics, Armenians and Iranians can play a mutually reinforcing game. After all, chess came to the West via Iran and Armenia has now become a chess superpower. So we should both be good at it.

    And it is an excellent metaphor for what is going on in the region.

  5. Hamian’s Comments and Rebuttals

    Thank you Serge for taking the time to patiently explain to us in layman's terms the situation in the disputed areas. Ihave learned massively from your response. It is good to know the facts as they present themselves in today's world. I hope everyone reads and retains your well-researched article.
     

  6. …The Forest for the Trees

    Thank you, Mr. Hamian for expressing your opinions on my commentary. We need more Armenians like you who show genuine interest in Armenian affairs in order to advance our quest for the betterment of Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora. Constructive criticism, rather than wholesale fault-finding, is the key to our national progress.

    Having said that, let me give you an example for a blanket response to your comments pertaining to facts and figures cited in the commentary, namely the statistics.  Mark Twain said there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. The quote describes the persuasive power of numbers (which have the capacity to impress, influence, and to distort). I agree with you that the statistics that float around are either inflated or deflated depending on the circumstances. World governments generate favorable statistics about their economy, society, army, to cite a few. There is always a margin of error, though.

    However, we should focus on issues they represent rather than whether they are overestimated or underestimated figures. The size of "South Azerbaijan", for instance, is not the issue in the commentary; the issue is their quest for independence and what it would mean to Armenians. For example, the denialists say only 600,000 Armenians died during the WWI in the Ottoman Empire. Others (some of them scholars), put the figure at 1 million. Still others (most scholars) estimate the loss to be 1.5 million. Here the important fact is that the Ottoman Turks had planned to exterminate a whole race, a whole nation from their ancestral homeland. Whether 600,000 or 1 million, or 1.5 million it does not matter; what matters is that it is still genocide. That is the crux of the matter.

    I am lucky to be assigned a cubicle for research and writing at one of the largest universities in California for my scholarly activities. For writing on Armenian topics and to obtain reliable information, I consult refereed journals and recent books on a topic and try to shy away from the Internet as much as possible, including the CIA Factbook (which you think is the authority on statistics and parameters pertaining to nations). No matter what measures one would take, depending on someone else's secondary data is a precarious situation. But, we do not have the luxury of first generating primary data and then writing a commentary on an Armenian topic.

    As for the rest of your comments, you are entitled to your opinion. For example, whether the United States, Israel, Turkey, etc. would help "South Azerbaijan" become independent. One thing for sure is the fact that there is the possibility of that happening. Therefore, Armenians should be prepared to face such an important change in advance.

    As you'd agree, the merit of a commentary depends on the quality of ideas it presents. Ideas have shaped the world; they are more important than statistics which are nothing more or less than glorified "estimates". I sounded the alarm; without raising the question, there won't be any viable solutions.

    Finally, you seem not to see the forest for the trees. You are too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole; you seem to fail to understand larger plans or principles discussed in the commentary which says: There is a movement by Azeris in Iran as well as by Azeris in the Republic of Azerbaijan with the objective of realizing "South Azerbaijan's" independence. We are saying, should this happen, it would have grave consequences or implications for Armenia and Artsakh. Therefore, Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora should be prepared to face the situation now rather than get strangled from all sides one of these days. 

    Also, I wish you would read an article I wrote some time ago titled “Marc Anthony Approach: How to Deal with the Denialists”.  It is counter research findings to launch nothing but a wholesale attack on a person's ideas, estimates, etc. if you want to change that person's or the reader's attitude. I will be glad to send it to you or lend the book in which that article appears if you provide me your contact information.

    Again, we need individuals like you to be interested in Armenian affairs. So, please keep on reading the informative articles published in Dr. Dikran Abrahamian's Keghart.com under Jirair Tutunjian's outstanding editorship.

    Paregamoren,
    Andrew Demirdjian

    1. Numbers Do Matter

      Dr. Z.S. Andrew Demirjian,

      First please excuse the tone of this comment for I felt aghast reading your stand on numbers in your rebuttal to Serge Hamian . Your claim that the size of “south Azerbaijan” is not an issue but yet you stated it, is perplexing. The point you make is whether the number of the victims of the Armenian Genocide is 600,000 or 1.5 million victims is not relevant because “what matters is that it is still genocide” is outright wrong. Numbers always matter. Let me elaborate on the latter.

      Yes and surely, Genocide is one of INTENT and not of body counts, although the number of the victims of the Armenian genocide make that intent the more obvious, but let us set that aside. Should the powers of this Earth muster the will to state that the 1915 happening was an intent to wipe the Armenians, the number of the victims will matter  whether the ensuing restitution and reparation would be for  600,000 or 1.5 million victims.

      Numbers do matter.

      What particularly struck me is your continued and insistent low regard of numbers (or figures), especially that I envision you are an academician and have been entrusted with a “cubicle for research and writing”. Your quote of Mark Twain does not bolster your disregard of numbers but affirms that Twain was ignorant in matters of statistics where great minds have contributed to the understanding of population characteristics and probably of happening. Even the total weight displayed on any elevator has not come about just like that, but is based on population statistics let alone the role of statistics in the study of efficacy of medications.

      Setting aside social niceties, Hamian has disputed your numbers that could very well erode the credibility of your analysis. Much like the number of trees in a forest, numbers matter even on a social forum such as this.

  7. South Azerbaijan

    The issues I raised regarding the numbers and statistics was not to diminish the validity of your concerns nor to deny that there is a threat if events take a certain turn. However, I do believe that accurate information should very much matter to us so that we can have a clear and accurate picture of the world around us.

    The Armenian world in Armenia and the Diasporan communities is facing many challenges and is presented with many opportunities. We can overcome those challenges and benefit from the opportunities only if we have useful and reliable information and the ability to analyze that information. We should not exaggerate nor underestimate the dynamics of the events that are taking place around us. Our nation is hugely burdened with pain, fear, stress and worries as well as endowed with pride, resilience and creativity. I do not wish to add to those worries, tensions and stresses by presenting an exaggerated version of a potential threat. It does not mean we should ignore potential threats but we should be accurate about them. 

    I strongly believe that as a nation we have the potential to overcome all challenges if only we had an elected government which has the interest of the people and the country, and is not after amassing fortunes for its ruling members at the expense of the country's future. A government that would bring together the brightest minds of the Armenian world to devise a bright path for the future of Armenia. The only way we can have a secure and prosperous Armenia–without worrying about potential threats–is by joining forces to get rid of this government and have a democratically elected one. We will then see how quickly the economy thrives, the population multiplies, and the army is equipped with the latest weapons stamped "Made in Armenia".

    Regrettably, the Diaspora is apathetic and has lost the sight of what we have, for centuries, as a nation, longed for. Many Diasporan organizations do not seem to consider the future of Armenia a priority, or are wrapped up in their own agenda and like the ARF can even happily participate in the criminal activities of the government for its own individual dividends. This is what should concern us most. 

    1. What should we do next?

      There is a reason that the Christian religion calls Pride the mother of all vices, the vice that encompasses all the others within it.  In public fora, I find it is so hard for people to simply admit they were wrong, and conversations start become bizarre.  I hope readers will understand what I mean without me directly contributing to further inflaming this thread.  Instead, dear Serge, I want to engage you in a more constructive topic…

      I am extremely impressed by the clarity of your writing.  I hope to have the chance to meet you some day.  Like you, I see crystal clear that accepting oligarchic rule for our country is a recipe for disaster.  I am a very busy 50 year-old clinician-scientist-educator-professor bla bla in Toronto.  For years, I had a leading role in the Armenian Medical International Committee.  To make a long story short, I realized I was doing more harm than good working with the oligarchy, and I decided to place my Armenian efforts in replacing the oligarchy.  I helped co-found Armenian Renaissance, which tried to support Himnatir Khorhrtaran in their effort to replace the regime.  While the regime robbed the latest referendum, in full knowledge of the people of Armenia, the latter did not budge, and swallowed this, and carried on.  So, we failed.

      Now, I don't know what to do.  The diasporan parties, and churches, and AGBU and ARF, etc. are all in cahoots with the regime or willfully blind.  For family reasons, I cannot move to Armenia.  I do little things like helping the poor there etc.  But otherwise, I now find myself utterly useless for my nation.  So, I dropped my Armenian activities, and simply increased my local daily work.

      Tell me, what should we, diasporans like me, do?  This is an absolutely honest question.

      1. It can be very frustrating

        I know it can be very frustrating when you have so much commitment and enthusiasm. You want to make a difference, and make the Armenian world a better place but are faced with so many obstacles that are put there by other Armenians who only think of their pockets. The important thing is not to feel despondent or lose the positive energy.

        We need to realise that despite everything, we are in a better place now than we have been in centuries. We need to feel good to know that despite everything that this stupid government does to hinder progress, the country is moving forward. I moved to Armenia about 3 years ago from London. There are many things that annoy me on daily basis but there are also a lot positive things happening too.

        It is quite impressive that despite the war, the blockade, the Russian hold on the country, the geopolitics of the region and worst of all the corrupt government, I mostly feel I live in a typical European city. I am often impressed how safe the country is despite the poverty, how good many services are, how outgoing people are and how they are able to enjoy life. And most importantly I am impressed by how much effort ordinary people make to improve their lives.

        I have had visitors from different countries and their first impression has been completely different from what they expected. They were all surprised and impressed how modern the county was with good restaurants, modern shops, well kempt people, and good services. These things may appear superficial and there can be many counter arguments but these things are important. It shows the creativity of our nation, their achievements, and the drive for a better life. At the same time there are many many inspiring young people who work tirelessly to change the situation on the ground, fighting for human rights, the rule of law, and against corruption and injustices.

        What we need to know as individuals is that we cannot change things overnight but change is happening, very often unnoticed and not as fast as we want but it is happening and it is also thanks  to individuals like you who bring their contribution to that change, however small or large. It would have been great if our institutions could be engaged in a more constructive manner but they are not the answer to everything. Sometimes ordinary individuals can have a bigger impact.

        Lara Ohanian single handedly changed the perception of domestic violence in Armenia. Thanks to her efforts and persistent work many people have a better awareness of domestic violence and do not find it acceptable. Caroline Mugar single handedly initiated the Armenian Tree Project which has had a hugely positive environmental impact. People like Runen Vardanian (Dilijan school), David Yan (Ayb), Simonians and Marie Lou Papazian (Tumo) have put Armenia on the education map of the world with their vision of an education that can serve the future of Armenia. There are numerous examples of life changing individuals in every field you can think of.

        Unfortunately the leaders of our diasporan communities have not always been forward looking, imaginative and inclusive. For years anyone who was different or had different views were excluded and often lost to the host community; it is great that now those individuals are gravitating towards Armenia and making their mark here. When I think how much we have achieved since the independence in spite of the useless and corrupt successive governments I begin to imagine what can be achieved when we have a government that works with the people and not against them. I visualise the Armenia that we will have then, and that time will come for sure, and again probably unnoticed, unexpected and naturally, and not in the distant future either.

        As to your question with regards to what diasporan individuals like you should do I am really not in a position to answer but I do believe that we should all as individuals live our lives as best as we can wherever we are and try to bring quality to our lives and the lives of people around us and engage with Armenia as much as we feel capable and comfortable. We should not forget also that engaging with Armenia adds to the quality of our lives. For me it was moving to Armenia and running a farm, for someone else it could be the occasional visit, for someone else a donation. These are all worthwhile and enriching engagements and experiences. 

        1. Thanks

          Yes, we should always strive to find non-regime involving means to engage. But so much of our potential is wasted, because so few of us have enough energy and commitment to fight UPHILL humanitarian battles. It's absurd. We have so much to give, but our country is stuck with a regime that in so many fields makes the giving so difficult. I know that my own disengagement disconnects many others who have even less energy and less nationalistic feelings.

          Thanks for your reply, and for living in Armenia.

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