Yerevan Scrambles…Again

Keghart.com Editorial Board, 1 August 2012

One doesn’t need to be an expert in Middle Eastern politics to recognize the challenges the countries in the Middle East face, and what foreign powers have in store to subject the people of the region to their will. Syria’s dilemma today is not a solitary phenomenon nor will it be the last area conflagration. Armenians living in the Middle East have been cognizant of this simple fact for a long time. They have tried to adapt to unfolding situations to the best of their abilities. Not infrequently, and for the most part reluctantly, they have left their homes for safer lands far away.

Keghart.com Editorial Board, 1 August 2012

One doesn’t need to be an expert in Middle Eastern politics to recognize the challenges the countries in the Middle East face, and what foreign powers have in store to subject the people of the region to their will. Syria’s dilemma today is not a solitary phenomenon nor will it be the last area conflagration. Armenians living in the Middle East have been cognizant of this simple fact for a long time. They have tried to adapt to unfolding situations to the best of their abilities. Not infrequently, and for the most part reluctantly, they have left their homes for safer lands far away.

Individuals, cultural associations, the Church and political organizations have time and again faced the question: “what next?” They have thought and devised contingency plans, understandably on small scales. If nothing else, one would think the tragic events in Iraq would have alerted the government of Armenia to assess the geopolitics of the Middle East, draw the necessary conclusions and devise plans for the eventuality of various scenarios. Moreover, recent developments in and around Syria, which have acutely resurfaced for the past year or so and its implications for the Armenian community, should have not escaped the attention of the ruling elite in Yerevan.

In the 11th hour we notice that the authorities of Armenia have taken much-needed first steps, and that only as a reaction to scandals and fiasco, rather than because of forethought and planning at state level. Armavia, the Armenian Airlines, maliciously increased the ticket price of the Yerevan-Aleppo flight sector, taking advantage of the tragic situation of Armenians trying to flee to Yerevan from Syria. Subsequently, under public pressure the "Armenian" airline was forced to reduce its prices. The profiteering should have never been allowed in the first place. It’s beyond comprehension why Syrian Armenians, as a matter of fact any Armenian, should wait for months to get an entry visa. Yet this inexplicable and ignoble practice was allowed throughout the Syrian crisis. Why? It was only recently that the matter was resolved and the Ministry of Diaspora proposed measures to streamline granting Armenian passports to Syrian-Armenians.

We thank the “National Association of Sinjar Yezidis” for their solidarity and concern, yet it is simply sad to see a non-Armenian organization telling us, Armenians, and the government of Armenia what should have been done with respect to fellow Armenians living outside Armenia. A recent statement of the association read, “As we see it in Armenia, they [the government.-ed.] were not too prepared to receive our Syrian-Armenian brothers and sisters on a state level.” It added, “We stand ready to support, to the extent of our capacity, our brothers and sisters who are emigrating from Syria to Armenia. Let us hope our assistance will be timely and appropriate.”

Let’s not single out the Armenian state, which by and large, if not insensitive to Diaspora concerns on major issues, has demonstrated a distinct disconnect in understanding the psychology and aspirations of Diaspora individuals and communities. Diasporans, too, have lacked a much-needed unified, cohesive and realistic plan(s) to handle major crises. This is not a judgmental statement but a record of the facts. The Civil War in Lebanon that started in the mid-‘70s, in addition to the much praised “positive neutrality”, underlined two major trends that have chronically “afflicted” the Armenian communities in the Middle East.

AGBU was founded in 1906 ostensibly to take care of Armenian orphans, give them shelter and keep them close to their homeland Armenia. That mission became more important and was intensely implemented following the Genocide of Armenians. It prevailed for more than a half century. Ironically, it was Louise Manoogian Simone (president of AGBU 1989-2002) and her circle that during and after the Lebanese Civil War advocated exodus of Armenians to the West from crises-prone Middle Eastern countries. Many individuals within AGBU and friendly organizations criticized this approach calling it “defeatist” and contrary to Armenian aspirations and interests.

The Catholicosate of Cilicia and supporting organizations, on the contrary, advocated resistance to exodus and promoted the preservation of the Middle Eastern Armenian communities. The lessons of Armenians leaving for the West following the Israeli-Arab wars, the Egyptian Revolution and the emigration of Middle East Armenians to America through the misguided efforts of the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA) in the not so distant past were revealing. Nurturing Armenianness and Armenian communities in the West, away from the proximity of physical Armenia, were not easy and were fraught with dubious outcomes.

Don’t we face the same dilemma today? We do, and we know it as individuals and as collectives. The stakes are high without clear-cut solutions. No matter what stand we advocate, ultimately it falls upon individuals to make their choices: remain where they are resisting the temptation of exodus, repatriate to Armenia or leave for green pastures in the West with the uncertainty of preserving an Armenian identity in the future.

We hope and wish that recent developments in Syria and their ramifications on Armenian communities will serve as a wake-up call to authorities in Armenia and Armenian organizations in the Diaspora to collectively devise plans which would address similar calamities in the future. There should be more than one option, and clear description of what the outcome of each option could entail. Advocating one solution as opposed to the others is simply unrealistic and at times may lead to disasters for individuals and families, not to mention recrimination and admonition.

 

 

 

4 comments
  1. I am just surprised at your
    I am just surprised at your comment that anyone moving to the west has any chance of remaining Armenian beyond the immigrating generation…

    I don't call non-or-barely Armenian speaking people Armenian.  Their Armenianness is so tenuous it is not worth much at all.  The rare exceptions prove this rule.

  2. Moslem Fundamentalism

    It runs from Libya to Afghanistan, down into Africa, to the shores of the Bosphorus and even to North America. Look at the map and Armenia is a lonely pin-prick in this mosaic. Christians have been driven out of Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and Azerbaijan. The major powers are turning a blind eye to the dilemma. Why ask the Armenians to resist? The odds are not on our favor. All this has happened in our lifetime.

    Will anyone come to Armenia's aid? Christians cannot breathe freedom in a Moslem-dominated society. I see nothing that will change my opinion. Whoever thought that the day would come when an American president would bow to a Saudi prince?   

  3. Armenia’s so called democratic partner

    The irony is Armenia's so called democratic partner, The United Kingdom, now has become vigilant with the threat of Moslem fundamentalism sweeping its own nation. Let them eat cake!

  4. Your Editorial

    May I commend your timely critique of the mishandling of the lamentable situation of the Syrian-Armenians the Republic of Armenia? Also the Diaspora´s inability to handle things properly and in a timely fashion.

    In one of your paragraphs you mention, nay criticize, the AGBU stance during the Lebanese Civil War and upheld the Catholicosate of Cilicia's opposition to the exodus of Armenians from Lebanon. It was to the point, of course. But I ask you and everyone else which Armenian organization or post-Soviet Armenian government.has acted in a coherent fashion with the dire situations that homeland and Diaspora Armenians have had to cope with? I would say neither. The latter is managed, so to speak, in a centrifugal system: each establishment in the Diaspora does whatever it finds fit–separately of others. There is no such thing as a concerted action (except  in very urgent situations).

    As to the homeland, I have, on various occasions and in many of my pleas asked the government.and president of RoA to consider having five permanent delegates from our five main world communities (North and South Americas, EU, RF and the Middle East) within the Diaspora Ministry so that they can cooperate and coordinate all Armenian affairs together with the ministry. Is anyone listening?

    Going back to the Diaspora's unenviable position, it is high time all got together and drew up a new statute for it. The old, so-called ¨Sahamanatrutyun¨ (Constitution), drawn under harsh Ottoman rule by our amiras and clergy, is antiquated and has no relation to a dynamic Armenian Diaspora. It is essential that we think about it.  
      

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