Commentary: No Monopoly On The Armenian Cause

By Edmond Y. Azadian

Posted on November 10, 2011 by Editor

Armenian-Turkish relations have been historically complex and in recent
years they have been further complicated. In the past, Armenians have
been under foreign domination and their overlords – Ottoman, Russian
or Soviet – have determined and shaped those relations, leaving no
room to maneuver for the subject Armenian nation. Therefore, logic
and expectation have been for Armenians to determine and shape their
relations with Turkey and Turks upon gaining independence.

Now that Armenia is independent, it looks like the situation has
further deteriorated. It has become more contentious, since no one
knows who can speak with the Turks on behalf of the Armenians. As
always, we have more chiefs than Indians.

Legally, only a government can handle international relations.

However, since Diaspora Armenians are the direct descendents of
the Genocide survivors, they have the moral right and the duty to
participate in the dialogue.

But it seems some groups claim to have a proprietary position when
it comes to pursuing the Armenian Case, the recognition of the
Genocide or claims for restitution. Indeed the Dashnag party (ARF),
its affiliates and some of its leaders believe that they have the
monopoly on the Genocide issue or Armenian-Turkish dialogue.

Admittedly, the ARF has contributed significantly to the Armenian
Case, beginning with delivering justice to the perpetrators of the
Genocide and steering Armenia to independence in 1918.

Even today, their lobbying work in the US and Europe has been

The ARF activities in pursuing the Genocide recognition and fighting
for Armenia’s independence cannot be denied, some blunders of historic
proportions notwithstanding. But all that does not warrant monopoly on
the Armenian Case, especially now that we have an independent Armenia.

Also, the ARF’s contribution to the cause will be diminished directly
in proportion to the party’s ignoring or underestimating contributions
from other Armenian groups and parties.

Granted, we all are entitled to our opinions and can express them
freely. And as Voltaire has said, “Your freedom ends where my nose

Since Armenia’s independence, many attempts for Armenian-Turkish
rapprochement have been undertaken, some through diplomatic channels,
others through academia or civil society institutions within the two
nations. The ARF leadership has been adamantly opposed to the process
when they have been left out of it, but, on the other hand, the party
has been engaged in dialogue with the Turks and Turkey unilaterally,
for example, during the Prometheus movement opposing the Soviet Union.

The position caused a split among the groups seeking justice from
the Turkish leaders (Shahan Natalie was one of the casualties).

The ARF opposed the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC)
initiative, the Protocols and now is in competition with other groups,
such as the Armenian Assembly, instead of reinforcing and coordinating
the efforts, notwithstanding its imperfections.

TARC at least yielded one positive result – the conclusion of the
International Court for Transitional Justice, which ruled that Turkey
had indeed committed a Genocide against the Armenians. On the other
hand, if the Protocols did not yield any tangible results, at least
they scored a diplomatic victory for Armenia; today the ball is in
Turkey’s court, as was stated by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

All we can expect in Armenian-Turkish relations is incremental
success. Turkey has become an economic powerhouse, a member of the
G-20 countries. It is also a military power to be reckoned with. All
our political activities as Armenians – inside and outside Armenia –
register globally as little more than a mouse’s roar, and we should
be careful not to become a laughing stock in the world community.

Armenians have very limited resources to force down any position on
Turkey. Therefore, our best bet is to get an internal change in Turkey.

Turkish leaders will never admit that the Ottoman-era government
committed a genocide against Armenians, unless Turkish society
itself comes to terms with its history. Fortunately, that process
has already begun.

The Kurdish minority in Turkey can set the trend for us. The Kurdish
Workers’ Party’s (PKK) acts of violence only hardened the resolve
of the Turkish government to strike back. But the Kurds today have
established a political parallel track in order to pursue their quests
for human rights and maintaining their identity. They are engaged in
the political process and they have been advocating for their cause
in the Turkish parliament. Additionally, they have been calling for
the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey is undergoing a tremendous process of transformation.

Intellectuals, journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens have been
making amends to the Armenian people for the crimes their ancestors
had committed. A few years ago that was taboo. Granted, Article 301
of the Turkish Criminal Code is still on the books, the Grey Wolves
are still active and the military brass is not toothless yet, despite
all the arrests and legal actions.

Our hope lies in the transformation of the Turkish people, waiting
for the day when quantitative changes will bring a corresponding
qualitative change which will compel the government to alter its
course and drop its denialist policy.

One of the most significant changes was the government’s decision to
return confiscated religious and community assets. A most symbolic
case was the dedication of St. Giragos Church in Diarbekir. Some 2,000
Armenians converged on that city from different regions of Turkey, the
Middle East, Armenia and Europe. A delegation of 26 Armenians, headed
by the Primate of Eastern Diocese, also attended the celebration, to
the dislike of an ARF party organ that indulged in wild assumptions
and uncalled-for attacks on the characters of the Primate and the
participants. Again, one of the reasons is a petty case of ignoring
the name of Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia during the liturgy. Another
reason for the attack in the October 26 issue of the Los Angeles-based
Asbarez is that there was virtually no Dashnak participation in the
entire celebration.

Then the writer allows himself the liberty of taking the role of
inquisitor and blames the clergy and lay people, without the smallest
shred of proof. Quoting the Turkish daily, Hurriyet, the Asbarez
writer accuses the delegation of engaging in business negotiations
with the Turks and then jumps to the following wild conclusion:
“Given that such a series of business meetings could clearly not be
scheduled at the last minute, one can conclude that in planning this
pilgrimage to the historic St. Giragos Church, doing business with
Turkish businessmen – effectively Turkey – was always on the agenda
for those on this religious journey.”

The writer seems to be a clairvoyant to “conclude” what was on the
mind of the religious delegation.

Then the writer twists a statement by Oscar Tatosian, chairman of
the Diocesan Council, writing: “One of the members of Archbishop
Barsamian’s delegation, a senior Diocese lay leader, Oscar Tatosian,”
has stated that “our people should come together and enjoy a cup of
tea. The dialogue starts with arts, culture, academic cooperation and
trade. The rest will follow.” And the writer concludes: “That sadly
is Ankara’s narrative.” As if Mr. Tatosian in stating that “the rest
would follow” has meant – let’s drink tea, conduct business and we
will give up our claim for Genocide recognition and restitution.

Since we are in the realm of guessing games, one could perfectly
surmise that “the rest will follow” means that “let’s drink tea now
and one day will come and take back our historic homeland.”

Although neither Hurriyet, nor Asbarez, for that matter, has given
any proof that the Primate engaged in any kind of business talk, the
writer asks, “his new role as a deal maker begs a larger question: What
business do religious leaders have in commerce, especially in Turkey?”

We think the question must also be put to those grocery store owners
in Watertown, Glendale, New Jersey and Bourj Hamoud in Lebanon – most
of them ARF members and sympathizers – who sell Turkish products. They
should also be asked whether they “fall in Turkish traps” and give
up the Genocide issue in return for doing business with Turkey. All
this amounts to the hegemonic justification of the ARF leadership that
they are the only ones who can conduct dialogue with Turkey and all
the rest are so naïve that they will forget the Genocide and forgive
the Turks for having occupied our historic homeland.

The Turks have let the genie out of the bottle and they cannot put
it back. The Genocide issue is on the agenda of many Turks.

People-to-people contacts will only accelerate the process of bringing
the Genocide issue to the broader segments of society.

The Turkish government will certainly manipulate situations to divide
Armenians and pit them against each other. But similar articles are
equally divisive and they will play into the hands of the Turks,
especially when they come with a patronizing tone and proprietary
pretensions. The tragedy is shared by all Armenians. No one has
monopoly over the Genocide issue.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS