Time to Move to the Next Chapter

  Keghart.com Editorial Board, 26 December 2012

After nearly 50 years of campaigning for the international recognition of the Genocide of Armenians, we have won the acknowledgment of 22 countries, many parliaments, the vast majority of the American states, the three major Canadian provinces (Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia), regions, and cities around the globe, in addition to a wide acceptance in the media and in academe.

Although we continue to invest a great deal of time and effort to obtain United States recognition, most of us seem to be unaware that all three branches of the U.S. government acknowledged the Genocide long ago. In 1951 the executive branch, in a letter to the International Court of Justice, acknowledged what the Turkish government had done. In 1975 and 1984 the legislative branch adopted two resolutions confirming the historical facts of the Genocide of Armenians and designated April 24 of that year “a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially those of the Armenian ancestors who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915.” In a 1981 proclamation President Ronald Reagan said, “…like the genocide of the Armenians…”

  Keghart.com Editorial Board, 26 December 2012

After nearly 50 years of campaigning for the international recognition of the Genocide of Armenians, we have won the acknowledgment of 22 countries, many parliaments, the vast majority of the American states, the three major Canadian provinces (Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia), regions, and cities around the globe, in addition to a wide acceptance in the media and in academe.

Although we continue to invest a great deal of time and effort to obtain United States recognition, most of us seem to be unaware that all three branches of the U.S. government acknowledged the Genocide long ago. In 1951 the executive branch, in a letter to the International Court of Justice, acknowledged what the Turkish government had done. In 1975 and 1984 the legislative branch adopted two resolutions confirming the historical facts of the Genocide of Armenians and designated April 24 of that year “a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially those of the Armenian ancestors who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915.” In a 1981 proclamation President Ronald Reagan said, “…like the genocide of the Armenians…”

Considering all relevant factors it has been a fruitful campaign; but we need to accept that under current international conditions, we have gained almost all the recognition the Genocide will receive. It’s time to open the second toolbox of our campaign for justice against Turkey’s butchery and continued denial of culpability. After all, international Genocide recognition was always the first step to obtain meaningful justice.

We are not interested in apologies.

We are not interested in a few billion dollars of compensation.

We are not interested in the restoration of a few Armenian churches, intended to polish Ankara’s image and to attract tourists to Turkey. Make no mistake about it: the repairs of Ani churches and a handful of others are not conciliatory gestures by Ankara. Erdogan and Co. want to mislead European nations by demonstrating that Ankara/Yerevan relations are improving. Erdogan will say that reconciliation is so likely that even “extremist” Diaspora Armenians are playing tourist in Ani, Van and Mush, while Armenians of Armenia are holidaying in Antalya.

We want our lands back. The lands we have lived on since—at least—2,250 B.C.

And that’s the rub.

What do we mean when we say “our lands”?

We are divided in our dreams and demands. Maximalists among us want Cilicia and all of Western Armenia. Minimalists want Mount Ararat and some strip of land west of our sacred mountain. In between the two are demands for the return of Western Armenia or the Six Vilayets or Kars and Ardahan…

We know the herculean effort we need to gain our lands back, but the first step in this gigantic mission is to decide upon a realistic demand, granted that in negotiations parties invariably demand more than they assume they would get. It comes—no double entendre intended—with the territory.

If and when we sit down with Turkish authorities, we have to have a general consensus in Armenia and in the Diaspora, about the lands we want to demand from Turkey.

A good place to start is to forget the return of Cilicia. However, that realistic decision should not preclude compensation for the lives lost, for the lives made miserable, for the properties stolen or confiscated, for a century of exile.

In determining our battle plan for the return of our lands, we should be cognizant of current realities. For example, large areas of historic Armenia are now mostly populated by Kurds—Kurds who are dying every day to gain independence from Turkey. How likely would the Kurds be to share historic Armenian lands with us, if they wrest them from Turkey? This is just one example of a litany of questions which our leaders in Armenia and in the Diaspora have to tackle before they sit down with Turkish representatives.

While our demands are patently justified, there’s another reason we should refuel our campaign for the return of our lands. The Republic of Armenia (29,800 sq. km.) is less than one-tenth of historic Armenia (350,000 sq. km). As is, landlocked Armenia is not a viable state. Its tiny size, location, borders spell eventual doom or reduce the country to the status of a welfare state, a glorified colony, a country which —to paraphrase Tennessee Williams—“depends on the kindness of strangers.” Armenia receives $2 billion remittances from Armenians who live in Russia and elsewhere in the Diaspora, but this revenue stream can go dry as second- and third-generation Armenians living in Russia assimilate or lose their family and spiritual links to Hayastan.

Armenia needs a permanent solution to its economic woes. To become viable, Armenia needs part of Western Armenia. In addition, the peaceful return of our lands would, by definition, be accompanied by a peace treaty with Turkey. Such a settlement would provide landlocked Armenia with easy access to the Black Sea and to the world.

The Republic of Armenia, our Diaspora political parties and leaders should convene to draft a working paper about our just demands from Turkey. We have to move our agenda from Genocide recognition to the return of our lands. We should make our land demands a topic of discussion around the world, among international bodies, among diplomats and in the media. Now that the world public has repeatedly heard of the huge injustice done to the Armenians by Turkey, chances are the world would respond positively to our just demands.

On the eve of the Genocide's centenary, let’s bite the bullet. Let’s step up to the plate and demand what’s ours.

 

 

 

8 comments
  1. While I agree with you 100%,
    While I agree with you 100%, I would say that we should focus on the return of Kars, Ardahan, and Ani. Together, they will give us access to the Black Sea. I realize this would break the land connection between Turkey and Georgia. We can always agree with those two states to provide them unfettered transit through our restored lands.

  2. Our Lands

    In the spirit of coming up with new ideas, here's an idea as a follow-up to what Vahakn suggested: We give part of Artsakh to Azerbaijan. In return, Azerbaijan gives Nakhichevan to Turkey; in return, Turkey gives Ani, Kars, Ardahan to Armenia. We would have access to the Black Sea. 

  3. First things first

    Well considered article, but perhaps a bit too presumptuous, as we have not demonstrated yet that the current Autocratic Republic of Armenia itself could inspire the close to 8.0-10.0 Million Armenians around the world, to rally behind it, to build a world class Armenia. First things first. We need to prove NOW that we can actually COME TOGETHER and build a strong Armenia, which perhaps in and by itself is a "Mission Impossible", as Armenia always has been a jarring combination of East & West.

  4. The Next Chapter

    Thank you for such an enlightened commentary. Given our low political self-esteem, as a direct result of the"forgotten" nature of our tragedy during the first half of the 20th century, the concept of  recognition was lofty enough to satisfy our identity appetite. As our activism matured, many Armenians realized that recognition was not an end but a means. I do not care about apologies or cash compensation , unless those funds go to the development of our returned lands.  

    From a community perspective, the most important aspect now is to establish the return of our stolen lands as our goal. Too many Armenians still believe that recognition is adequate or they believe Western Armenia is only a part of our past. Territorial reparations have become more public in fora, lecture series and in our media. Equally important is serious dialogue between the RoA and the Diaspora. This begs the question of how should the Diaspora be represented? The game has become very serious. There is no room for disunity, which unfortunately has been a significant part of our post-Genocide culture. It is time to move on and take it to the next level…. With that comes the need for infrastructural adjustments to be prepared. Will we be ready? Do we have the will? Can we get past the rhetoric?
     

  5. Get Real

    "We want our lands back. The lands we have lived on since—at least—2,250 B.C."

    I know, a lot of readers of this website will hate me, but when you people will get real? Maybe 30 years ago this statement had some emotional value. After the establishment of the Armenian Republic 20 years ago and the subsequent war with Azerbaijan you should have learned two simple facts:

    1. You can not demand a land; you can only win it spilling a lot of blood in a war. No other government or court in the world can or will give land to you. And no matter how many maps President Wilson and his successors drew, it's up to Armenians to liberate and protect their lands.

    2. This may sound very patriotic statement if you live in Los Angeles or Marseilles or somewhere else in the world where there are a significant number of Armenians, but for a citizen of Armenia, living (surviving) in a landlocked and blockaded country, there are more vital needs than the return of a land where none of you will live.

    The question of who is going to live on these lands is not an easy one. A small piece of land (compared to Western Armenia) was liberated in Artsakh/Karabakh and around it in a brutal war. Why don’t you first address the re-population of these territories before dreaming of Kars? You may well know that Armenia is losing population, instead of gaining it.

    Also, do not neglect the fact that these lands are populated by Kurds who strive for their own independence and state. Did you ever consider making any sort of alliance with them? Oh, I know your answer: they butchered us; they are murderers we can not form alliance with the Kurds. That's bad politics. Politics is a dirty business. Realpolitik demands that we use them against the Turks the way the Turks used them against us. Kurds are many; they might be armed, but they need a lot more. They need lobbying for their case to the powerful Western nations. We are good at it, we got resources and the tools. They will need a lot more arms if they are going to fight the Turkish army seriously. Russians may be happy to arm them, but would never do it directly. I'm sure we still got a few “Sarkis Soghanalian”s who might contribute to that. As a matter of fact, they may just need good advice which might be worth sharing the land with us.

    And then we might need to learn to live in a multi-ethnic Armenia, because if we look at the facts we may realize that not many of us are going to move from Glendale to Kars, and not many who are forced to move (like Syrian Armenians nowadays) like to work on the land. We prefer big cities–Constantinople, Tiflis, Moscow, Paris, Los Angeles or at least Yerevan.  But the land needs tending.

    I do want to see the the Genocide acknowledged by Turks, and reparations made in form of land or money. I want to see Armenia strong and prosperous. But please, let's get real if we want achieve anything. Just demanding the land where we lived for 4,000 years (mind you, stateless for 700 years) is not the way to accomplish that.

    1. To GT

      You must  have  noticed  by now that our advocacy for return of land is being tied with Restitution and Reparations.  I am advocating Claim to be lodged against Turkey on the basis of Blood  Money, a factor  that  has precedents–Jewish and our own successful claims viz NY Life and AXA  Life insurance policies of many Armenians who did  not die  in their sleep in  Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey,  but were killed. Those two companies honoured  and paid  up.

      With respect to the land claim  I suggest to be patient  until the Kurdish factor becomes  ripened. You may rest  assured  that  there have been contacts with the Kurdish parliament in exile (Belgium).  BTW, Dr. Henry Astarjian  is quite  an authority  on the subject being from Mosul,  Iraqi Kurdistan.

      The word landlocked  has been given to us by the powers to be. Armenia is not, at least totally locked  and even if it is or was, has successfully pulled through being  on very good  terms with Iran  and Georgia, good transit routes, and up North via Georgia to Russia  and Europe, elsewhere by the oceans.

      Land  to and in  Western Armenia  is well guarded  mainly by some 18 or more million Kurds. By now they are quite well acquainted with Turkish brutality  leaning towards  us. Thence  Land  issue can wait..

      As to your  hints  that  Diaspora Armenians are unwilling as yet to go to RA/Artsakh, regretfully there have  not been serious plans to realize a real repatriation..
       

      1. Reply to reply

        Dear Gaytzag,

        I know about legal actions against NY Life and AXA  Life insurance companies. I commend people who launched these procedures and reached a fair verdict. It is as an important step in recognition of the Genocide as declarations by the governments of different countries. However these are private companies used to paying legal fees as part of their business.

        In case of Turkey (or actually any country in the world) legal demands may only work if they are supported by real power in form of guns.  I am glad you mention the Jewish precedent; there are many things to learn from the history. Jewish state was created in a particular moment after the WWII as a result of crushing defeat of the state which committed the Holocaust. Such peculiar situations  rarely happen in the history. But they do happen. As a matter of fact it happened to us, but we were not able to take full advantage of that. As a result of WWI the Ottoman empire was dismembered and we were assigned a good chunk of territories which some demand now. Unlike the Jewish state which fought long wars and preserved their state, we fought  but mostly lost (owing a lot to unwise strategy of our own rulers). Fortunately we were able to recover the remnants in the form of actual Republic of Armenia, which in fact is larger that Israel. But lets continue the historical comparison.

        Israel by not acknowledging the right of Palestine to exist, turned into a monster itself. It is constantly in conflict with everyone around it and continues to exist  thanks to military and economic dominance mostly coming from abroad, and relentless, fanatical resettlement program.  In out case, even if we are miraculously granted the territories which the author of this article talks about, Armenia would have to deal with those 18 million Kurds, or big part of them.

        It is not like someone is going to give us these lands empty,  right? So what will happen next? We either should do the same what Israel does to its Palestinian population, or get swept by  far numerous Muslim Kurdish population.  Do we have a mechanism for repatriation and resettlement?  Do we want that?  Would we be able to establish a civilized state sharing it with Kurds?   These are questions which we must discuss, not as the article implies, do we want Van or Kars. It is funny.  Ask 10 Armenians what they want back and 8 will tell you just mount Ararat. 

  6. Ridiculous

    Ridiculous.

    Armenians (foolishly) believed in Wilson and the Entente Powers after the genocide and World War I, and now they're being asked to "believe" in some sort of just "world public"? The same world public that considers Karabagh to be "Armenian-occupied," right? Please.

    As GT said: get real.

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