The Case for Self-Reconciliation

Editorial, 20 February 2015

We live in a time when money, opportunity and position are bestowed upon those who enter academia or careers under the rubric of “conflict resolution,” also known as “reconciliation.”  A more fitting name is the “Reconciliation–Industrial Complex,” or RIC.

Like the better-known term, “Military–Industrial Complex,” RIC refers to the overlapping aims and financial relationships that exist among government officials, powerful legislators, lobbyists, NGOs, think tanks, academia, media and creative fields, and the industries and corporations that support them.  These parties provide funding and other support for government programs, public and private policy initiatives, salaried positions, grants, and political access that will serve their selfish interests rather than the needs of the general citizenry.

Editorial, 20 February 2015

We live in a time when money, opportunity and position are bestowed upon those who enter academia or careers under the rubric of “conflict resolution,” also known as “reconciliation.”  A more fitting name is the “Reconciliation–Industrial Complex,” or RIC.

Like the better-known term, “Military–Industrial Complex,” RIC refers to the overlapping aims and financial relationships that exist among government officials, powerful legislators, lobbyists, NGOs, think tanks, academia, media and creative fields, and the industries and corporations that support them.  These parties provide funding and other support for government programs, public and private policy initiatives, salaried positions, grants, and political access that will serve their selfish interests rather than the needs of the general citizenry.

Quite often, Armenians whose livelihoods depend on RIC ridicule or dismiss as “unrealistic,” “immature,” or “living in a fantasy world” those critics who advise against indiscriminately embracing so-called reconciliation initiatives without making absolutely clear that genuine Armenian goals include genocide acknowledgment, reparations and restitution from Turkey.

Among the Armenian organizations that receive funding from Western interests and governments who themselves have agendas that may not agree with the Armenian national interest are the Caucasus Institute of Yerevan; the Civil Society Institute of Yerevan; the Civilitas Foundation; the Eurasia Partnership Foundation; the Golden Apricot Film Festival; the Hrant Dink Foundation; the Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation; the Regional Studies Centre; and the Yerevan Press Club.

The pro-RIC interests who fund these Armenian organizations include: European Union; Council of Europe; British Embassy in Yerevan; U.S. Embassy in Armenia; U.S. Embassy of Azerbaijan; Honorary Consulate of Israel to Armenia; Embassy of Germany to Armenia; Kingdom of the Netherlands; U.S. Department of State; U.S Agency for International Development (USAID); Open Society Institute; Open Society Foundation-Turkey; Eurasia Foundation; Global Dialogue Foundation; Heinrich Boll Foundation; Goethe Institute; Friedrich Ebert Foundation; Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom; Enka Construction Company of Turkey; Turkey-Armenian Fellowship Scheme; and Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV).

How do we know that these pro-RIC Western interests are sincere if they and/or their governments will not even acknowledge the Armenian genocide, let alone approve of restitution of any kind?  For example, a top member of the American Jewish Committee — which works against Armenian genocide recognition and backs Israeli military and political support of Azerbaijan — sits on the honorary board of the Civilitas Foundation. Given the strategy of the West (i.e. the U.S., Europe, and NATO) to use Turkey to penetrate the Caucasus and Central Asia, and use Armenia as a doormat, their grants to Armenian organizations should be viewed with considerable skepticism.

Ironically, there are Armenians who sermonize about forging friendships with, and exercising forbearance towards, Turks but who will not, in practice, extend that very same courtesy to their fellow Armenians.

Given the severity of Turkish barbarism that was unleashed upon the Armenian people before, during, and after the Genocide, it is paradoxical that Armenian reconciliationists seem willing to cooperate with Turks in a way that they are not willing to do with their own compatriots.

There are Armenians in the RIC camp who lack a brotherly attitude towards those Armenians who view so-called reconciliation efforts with skepticism. There is also no shortage of Armenians who hold grudges because of disagreements with fellow Armenians.  And it is unfortunately common to encounter Armenians who envy, demean and hinder the efforts of, other Armenians.

Such opponents could discuss their differences, empathize, agree to coexist, cooperate, or make amends.

But then, should not understanding go both ways? Should not Armenian critics of so-called reconciliation try to find common ground with Armenian reconciliationists? This is difficult to accomplish if conflicts – whether intra- or inter-ethnic – are not dealt with and resolved but are instead swept under the carpet. Thus, we are left with pleas to “be nice to each other,” but not to discuss anything considered contentious.

Everyone is entitled to his opinion. But, is it informed opinion? As evidenced by who funds “reconciliation” initiatives, misinformation can skew our opinions. For example, how many well-meaning reconciliationists are aware that many of the funders do not recognize the Armenian genocide and are, in fact, pro-Turkey and pro-Azerbaijan?

Because the passage of years can soften people’s judgments of a heinous crime, time is on the side of the perpetrator. Thus, the perpetrating side’s stonewalling may be rewarded with forgetfulness. Meaningful Armenian action, therefore, must be taken in the present and not in some vague future.

It is supremely important that Armenian reconciliationists refrain from signing away Armenian rights to reparations and the restitution of Western Armenia. They should drop their minimalist “all we want is an acknowledgment or apology” plea.

There really is no such thing as Turkish-Armenian “reconciliation.”  The word means a resumption of intimate relations after a breach. This does not describe the relations Turks had with Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.  The word better describes how we Armenians could and should unite to reach our greatest national potential.

Today, the internal strangulation of our people in Armenia at the hands of corrupt government officials continues.  How long will the global Armenian nation – including Diasporan organizations who silently condone the actions of the current regime — tolerate the annihilation of what is left of Armenia? 

If we wish to survive as a nation and see the continued moral, spiritual, and material progress of Armenia and Armenians, true reconciliation with one another on the eve of our genocide centenary must begin now.  In the words of poet-activist Yeghishe Charents,  “O, Armenian people, your only salvation is in the power of your unity.”

Related Material:

Appraising Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation

18 comments
  1. Excellent Prognosis

    Excellent prognosis of a quagmire. The primary way out for other nations has been usually through an inspiring vision; unifying and mobilizing the disenchanted masses. What has been holding us back as a nation from doing so?

  2. Brilliant, Factual

    This is brilliant. It's also the most factual editorial I have read on this vital issue where our people are taking grants from foreign organizations and are pedalling Western fake reconciliation projects thus betraying Armenian national interests and fooling the people. It's an eye opener for our nation.

    Thank you Keghart for bringing this very serious issue to your readers' attention. I never see such important editorials in other Armenian media.

    The Armenian nation could do without such people. We would be much better off.

  3. Reconciliation

    Affirming the truth of the editorial, today in various parts of Turkey people held demonstrations carrying banners celebrating the Genocide of Armenians. So much for changing Turkey.
    Hayorti

    1. Changing Turks

      The fact is if we fail to win the hearts and minds of Turks, we will not be able to secure a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide and no one will enforce it upon Turkey against its will.

      Are we effectively strategizing our pursuit of a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide or is the increasing radicalization a manifestation of failure in our strategy? I cannot rule out the former.
       

      1. Pan-Turkism

        Some Armenians may not be aware that Genocide acknowledgment is not enough. 

        Turkey must change or be changed to no longer be a danger to Armenians and the region. That is difficult.

        Pan-Turkism is not going away anytime soon. In fact, NATO's own aims can be seen as pan-Turkic if we just look at a map.

        So pan-Turkism is alive, well, and has powerful forces behind it.

        I am not sure what "reconciliation" can do about that. 
         

      2. Armenians Will Reform Turks?

        Someone correct me if I am wrong (and I do wish to hear from the reconciliationists), but it sounds as if Vahe and perhaps others involved in so-called reconciliation believe that reconciliationist Armenians have been endowed with magic powers of persuasion with the Turks that the rest of us — not to mention our ancestors of 600+ years — did not have when facing brutal occupation, annihilation and vicious denialism.

        Our ancestors — and we in the present day — have had two choices: appeasement or self-defense. By our selecting either choice, Turkey has shown that is was not (and is not) a benign state. The Turkish term “Sark kurnazligi” (Oriental slyness) has recently come up as a prevailing attitude in Turkey. Is Dolma Diplomacy the Armenian reconciliationist strategy for coping with sark kurnazligi and the unrepentant Grey Wolf  "We did the genocide and we'll do it again!" phenomenon sweeping Turkey? If it is, Armenia and the Diaspora may be on the way to becoming an Ottoman millet once again in the ever-present drive to create a Neo-Ottoman Pan-Turkist empire.

         

        1. Can it possibly get more interesting?

          Laz, I invite you to watch the video for  Crystallizing Armenian Demands/Claims and for the Hrant Dink b19545-d1915 posts. If you scroll down a bit on the page you read my response you will see them both. They are in Armenian.

          Hrant Dink, who I believe remains misunderstood by the Armenian public, directs us to wage our war not from outside Turkey but from within Turkey.

          As to second video, I do not know Mr. Seraydarian personally but I know of him through his commentaries and video presentation. I consider him to be, much like Hrant Dink, one of the few who faces Turks at a level that is far above from the street level expressions we hear on the social media these days, where the measure of one’s “Armenian”ness seems to be more and more measured by “ant-Turkish”ness. I do not believe that standing against someone is a measure of standing for something.

          Watch this video and hear what  Seraydarian says. It is Armenian and I invite Mr. Seraydarian to correct me if I misunderstood.

          1. When the issue comes for the Western Armenian Congress as an NGO to have an office in Turkey, he asks for assurance that the tentacles of their infamous article 301 do not reach their representatives in Turkey. And what is that we push Europeans to do? Criminalize the denial of the Armenian. Tell me, do you see coherence of strategy there?

          2. When it comes for Western Armenian laying claim to property as their rightful inheritors, the Turkish side raises the issue that the Armenians accuse them of Genocide that would bankrupt them, Seraydarian diplomatically side steps their concern saying that the crux of the matter is the legal rights of the Western Armenians to lay claim on property. He comes across as a man on a mission to solve a problem and hence focuses on the problem. Do I need to remind the readers how we react on social media?

          3. When Erdogan claims that Turkey will leave up to its obligations if found guilty, we dismiss him without trying to create a channel of communication that a “Turk is a Turk”. Seraydarian claims that their studies show that only 9% of Turks over 25 have heard of Genocide. Mind you we are not speaking having an understanding of the Genocide from the victims’ perspective. Now please do not jump to your guns directing it against me. I know our history as well as anyone for whom history is an interest and not a specialization.

          4. Our social media nowadays parade that the Turks are raising their flag at Starbucks in Turkey, with an implied message, see, “Turks will always be Turks”. We had the posters brought down in Glendale, they are having it raised in Adana. What’s the big deal? Its tic for tac. Were we expecting otherwise?

          On centennial, it is evident that our strategy is in disarray. Others are filling in the void for their self-interests and dragging us along, whether its in Europe by criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide that for all practical purposes they denied for past 100 years; to an obscure source in Egypt claiming that important documents about the Armenian Genocide had made their way for safekeeping in Egypt became public knowledge only after they were burnt at a time when both coutries are grabbing any axe they can lay their hands on to grind against each other.

          “May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be an English expression of Chinese origin. Can it possibly get more interesting for Armenians?

          1. Putting Cart Before Horse

            I could not understand much of Vahe’s post. But regarding his comment about the lack of a cohesive strategy among the Armenians regarding how to approach Armenian aims for restitution from Turkey, I can agree with him wholeheartedly. The strategy of pursuing so-called reconciliation before restitution is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

          2. no RECONCILIATION before RESTITUTION

            Reconcile and reconciliation; it can be said that one is reconciled to his fate, meaning the person is resigned to the reality that “it is what it is”. Reconciliation also means to become amicable. I believe when we say “reconciliation” we mean the latter because if it ever meant the former, then it would mean that we are resigned to our present reality.

            At times as elementary students at St. Nshan Armenian school in Beirut, we would have some issue among us and two of us would not talk to each other. The situation would become public. We had a word for it, ken bahats en – that is to say they harbor “ill-will” towards each other. After a few days and most of the times the rest of the students would intervene and bring the two together and have the two momentarily link each other with their index fingers as a sign of reconciliation and the two students would “bury their hatchets” and go on with their daily lives in those innocent bygone days of no phones or TV, let alone internet.

            Is this what reconciliation before or after restitution mean? I do not want to sound coming across as mocking Laz in paraphrasing him, but I truly do not understand what does he mean when he claims “no reconciliation before restitution”.

            If we ever think it is meant that  powers of the world would intervene and have Turkey restitute our demands and the reluctant parties would then reach out to each other; I am afraid that we may end up waiting forever, unfortunate as it is.

        2. “The Reconciliationists”

          Laz,

          I wonder at myself. Why is that I seem to have a difficulty understanding and visualizing such slogans: “The Reconciliationists", “no reconciliation before restitution”? These slogans seem to clearly spell their messages to you, but not to me.

          To begin with I find reconciliation is an odd word to characterize bilateral relations. Has Japan “reconciled” with America or Germany with Israel? These countries have embassies in each other’s country. Reason dictates to me that some Japanese hate America, while some care less. Similarly, I bet there are Israeli Jews who hate Germans, while others care less. In the end I envision that the situation will not be different for us.

          Until the Turks accept the Genocide we are not going to engage with them does not hold true. We have respected men and women in Diaspora who are actively engaged with Turks and look for ways and means to make their engagement effective. These people have not sat idle. It would be unfair to dismiss them as “reconciliation crowd”, if such is their characterization.

          Those of us in the Diaspora have already reconciled to the fact that our host countries engage with the Turks irrespective of our claim of restitution. The Armenians, as citizens of Armenia, do not. I believe that our ultimate collective goal is to establish equitable and just bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey. I cannot fathom that those in Diaspora, who are engaged or would engage with the Turks, would not link it with Armenia while they expect Armenia to harmonize its policies with their cause.

          “No Reconciliation, before restitution” people out there. Please help me understand the process of engagement with the Turks you advocate that would do justice to you analogy of putting the horse before the cart so that we stop talking the talk and start walking the walk?
           

          1. Dialogue and reconciliation are not the same

            Sireli Vahe,

            Your suggestion to view videos and read materials produced by and about NCWA is important. There is a lot of material to digest and I will be taking the time to do so.

            As for your other comments, I have to admit that I am having difficulty understanding your English.

            The most I can say regarding what we, in part, seem to disagree on is that as we Armenians move forward with our just demands, there is a difference between Turkish-Armenian dialogue and Turkish-Armenian "reconciliation."

            Regarding such dialogue, while NCWA *might* be a candidate in due course, there is also, at this time, no negotiating body that represents all aggrieved Armenians.

          2. Turkish-Armenian Dialogue

            Laz,

            I have had no difficulty in understanding your comments. I have difficulty in envisioning. You seem to consider both as parallel processes, with one being the right way and the other not.

            Ignore my English but please explain the difference for all concerned.

            Vahe

          3. Reconciliation?

            Vahe,

            The logical train of thought, I believe, goes like this: DIALOGUE…COMPENSATION…RECONCILIATION.

            To settle their differences, parties hold a DIALOGUE/a series of DIALOGUES. In this instance, Armenians would make their demands during the DIALOGUE. If they obtain from Turkey COMPENSATION, RESTITUTION, etc., then there would be RECONCILIATION between Armenians and Turkey. There's nothing complicated about the process.

            You can't have RECONCILIATION when the offending party hasn't met its obligations. Sitting down for a dialogue doesn't mean reconciliation has take place.

            As one of the writers said here, Turkey doesn't have to reconcile to anything because Armenians did no harm to them. It's the Armenians, as the wounded party, who might consider reconciliation if Turkey meets Armenian demands.

             Hayorti

          4. DIALOGUE. COMPENSATION, RESTITUTION

            Hyorti

            The stages you indicate is well understood. Whether RECONCILIATION is the word that characterizes relations that would ensue between two sovereign states, I leave it to the reader to make.

            What concerns me is the following. Why the outcry I understand occurred that forbade DIALOGUE until Turkey acknowledges Genocide. 

            COMPENSATION, RESTITUTION does not necessarily imply acknowledgement of the Genocide. Do not misunderstand me, I am all for what you lay out as a process. 

            The thing is that we have to do away with  slogans. They are catchy phrases and can easily mislead. This is awfully complex and burdensome reality and process. We have to do what we have to do and  no one else is going to do it for us.

            Thanks for your reply.
             

      3. Let’s Be Friends

        The misguided attempts by Armenian reconcilianists reminds me of the lovely English saying: "If wishes were horses, we could all ride them."

        The Turks must be saying "But we killed them…Abdul, you were there: we killed every one of them… how come the accursed Ermenler back?" Yes, we will remain their "Night of the Living Dead" nightmare until they admit, atone, compensate in the shape of the return of Armenian lands.

        1. We are at a crossroad.

          Mesrob,

          By now I have penned few comments and I hope I do not sound much like a broken record.

          It is obvious on this centennial year that we have two camps. I will call one camp the Genocide Camp the other The Great Dispossession Camp.

          The Genocide Camp:
          Adherents of this camp pre-condition the recognition of the Genocide for engaging in dialogue with Turks. The passionate protesters and their outcry over the protocols exemplify this camp and their mindset.

          The Great Dispossession Camp:
          The proponents of this camp adhere to what Raffi Hovannisian summed up when he said “ In what amounted to the Great Armenian Dispossession, a nation living for more than three millennia upon its historic patrimony…… was in a matter of months brutally, literally, and completely eradicated from its land.  Unprecedented in human history…..This is where the debate about calling it genocide or not becomes absurd, trivial, and tertiary"

          The mindset of this camp is restitution of The Great Dispossession before anything else. This camp does not set the recognition of the Genocide as pre-condition of engaging in dialogue with Turks and the outcome of their engagement or negotiation does not assure us the recognition of Genocide. The late Hrant Dink and Mr. Seraydarian on behalf of the Western Armenian Congress exemplify this camp.

          We face a formidable opponent militarily, economically and politically. It is a super power in its own right. Turks refuse to pre-condition the recognition of the Genocide to any dialogue with us. The centennial is a time for soul searching and of reaching each other to summon the will of the nation and its reason as to best way possible for us to honor our martyred ancestors by compensation and recovery of what they owned by the sweat of their hard labor.

          We cannot afford the luxury of one camp labeling the honest and fine persons of the other camp with laconic terms or slogans and come with absurd analogies.

          We are at a crossroad.

          1. Restitution but no Recognition

            What I wanted to convey in my comment above might not have been evident by the statement I made. Consequently I added an explanatory sentence  in capital letters to one of the paragraphs.

            I quote

            “The mindset of this camp is restitution of The Great Dispossession before anything else. This camp does not set the recognition of the Genocide as pre-condition of engaging in dialogue with Turks and the outcome of their engagement or negotiation does not assure us the recognition of Genocide. EVEN THOUGH IT MIGHT SECURE NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT OF COMPENSATION OR RESTITUTION”

            Let us discount the possibility if not the probability that there might be serious offers for restitution but not recognition of Genocide in its legal context.

  4. Wrong Word

    Reconciliation is the wrong word in this context. While most Armenians would reconcile with Turkey if the latter meets its obligations to the Armenian Nation (compensation, restitution, restoration), Turks have nothing to reconcile to because  Armenians, as victims, did no harm to Turkey.

    Armenians may reconcile when Turkey meets the just demands of Armenians. Turks, meanwhile, may be forgiven by Armenians when they meet the just demands of Armenians.

    Let's change the phrase to "reconciliation and forgiveness".

Comments are closed.

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