A More Actionable Road Map…


For Justice to the Armenian Genocide

By Shahe Yeni-Komshian, M.D.

November 18, 2012

This is a paper/article that describes the components of Armenian
national challenges, with a particular focus on a roadmap for a
comprehensive resolution to the Armenian Genocide.

Overall this is a piece of synthesis, bringing together different
but viable strands of thought and approach, aiming to generate larger
coherence in our political thinking.

There is a definite effort to prioritize our challenges; there is
emphasis on the necessity to focus on the judicial angle in our fight,
and some attempt to identify action plans.

My aim is to initiate public discussion about the topic and also
bring these ideas to the widest possible audience. It may hopefully
spark and initiate a discussion by thoughtful minds to possibly start
a new, serious effort to develop and pursue a realistic road map for
the ultimate realization of our National goals.


Most Armenians in the Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora have a
reasonable understanding of the political landscape that our nation
is facing today and are cognizant of the realities that are challenges
to our national interests.

Unlike in the past, almost all Armenians expect realistic solutions
to those challenges.

The inherently acknowledged national aspiration is to achieve Long
Term Viability for the Armenian Nation, with the following OBJECTIVES:

A. Healthier and Stronger Republic of Armenia

Protect the national interests and security of the homeland Create a
healthier civil society in order to strengthen the Republic Protect
the institutionalization of democracy and rule of law Secure the
people’s economic well- being and establish social justice

B. Solutions to the Unresolved Injustices: The Armenian Rights or

Just Resolution of the ARMENIAN GENOCIDE Free and secure ARTSAKH Safe
and sustainable JAVAKHK

C. A Healthy Armenian Diaspora

Build and better organize Diasporan communities Protect and enrich
the Armenian identity Influence and guide the governments’ policies
on matters of interest to the Armenian Nation

The above objectives represent aspirations and not necessarily
strategies. Do Armenians have a common understanding of how to set
the agenda to undertake solutions to our aspiration? Do we have an
has the greatest urgency and significance to the nation? Do we have
a ROAD MAP in how to achieve our goals?

The answers to the above questions are beginning to take shape.


The agenda for the Armenian nation is simple yet complex at the same
time. It is simple, because it seeks the viability of the entire
Armenian nation.

Complex, because the Armenian nation and its population are comprised
of two different and yet complementary entities; the Republic of
Armenia which represents the state and the Diaspora which comprises
people settled far from their ancestral homelands, each with different
immediate priorities.

For a while this duality created confusion which led to a non-coherent
and non- homogeneous political course. In the past we did not have
a vision of how to organically, practically and strategically link
them together. Our efforts to rectify the above challenges remained
static for a long time; the inertia hurt our cause.

The good news is that in the past 3 years a louder quest for justice
has evolved on all levels, thereby in some cases transforming our
demands from a vague and unclear strategy into a more distinct one.

We now realize that:

All three objectives for the Armenian nation’s viability, i.e. strong
and healthy Armenian state, solutions to the unresolved injustices
(Genocide, Karabagh and Javakhk), and strengthening the viability of
an organized Armenian Diaspora, are intuitive links to the same chain
and are intertwined with the ultimate fate of the Armenian nation.

There is now conviction about the need to create a coordinated policy
between the three.

The anchor of a viable Armenian Nation is the first aspiration –
namely a healthier/stronger state i.e. Republic of Armenia. There is
now ample realization by all, that the socioeconomic deterioration of
current day Armenia, the present day injustice, is a national security
threat, and is rapidly becoming a dire challenge hence requiring
imminent short term as well as long term strategic prioritization.

There is also an undisputed realization by leaders, scholars and the
public at large, that on the geopolitical level the claim to the
Karabagh (NKR) liberated territories, the territories referred to
by some as the “security zone”, and the case for de jure recognition
are an imminent national political priority.

Strengthening of the Armenian state is hence the most important
Armenian agenda and that is why today’s pan- Armenian political
view is clear about the fact that the viability of the Republic of
Armenia is the core priority of our national challenges. Issues of
the political inertia, the vast emigration and the emptying out of
villages nearby the borders and the socio-economic injustices are
big challenges for a modern country to survive, and yet have not
been fully appreciated. Hopefully the social and economic injustices
within the Republic of Armenia, the necessary changes in the foreign
policy of the state of Armenia and its strategic approach to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would take a more actionable priority soon.

This must be addressed in a separate paper.

Prioritizing the core component is not of course the same as excluding
the others.

Because of the centennial, the national injustice of the Genocide has
become a parallel political priority and a succinct transformation
is occurring with the quest for Genocide justice. A realization has
emerged that although the universe of the Armenian nation contains more
than genocide recognition, this historic injustice cannot be irrelevant
and not only does it have a very strong psychological component for
more than half of the Armenian nation, but the restitution of this
historic injustice may have important contemporary dimensions as it
relates to state to state Armeno-Turkish relations.

This paper makes an attempt to explain the current status and, at
the end, offers some actionable suggestions.


The next three years preceding the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide
are going to be the time for the Armenian nation to redouble its
efforts toward the pursuit of justice for the Armenian Genocide. Until
recently most of our efforts for the Genocide Resolution have had a
psychological basis, with an emotional and subjective focus. We have
had commemorative programs, requiem services and speeches every year
on the day of April 24th all throughout the globe. We have organized
demonstrations. We have received repetitive proclamations from state
Governments in favor of the Armenian Genocide recognition and all that
made us feel better. During the last decade more concrete efforts were
taken in our quest to obtain Recognition. Lately there has been some
rhetoric and discussion about Reparations, without much clarification
of action plans. And sadly, the geopolitics of Anatolia and the Middle
East has prevented the Armenian side from creating common interests
between the needs of any superpower and the Right for Justice to
the Armenians.

More specifically, until 2010 our approach to pressuring Turkey
into accepting culpability of the Genocide followed a rather narrow

First, the focus on the injustice has been solely that of Recognition;

Second, the efforts to pressure Turkey have been indirect, namely by
creating international awareness of the committed injustice with the
hope that the World’s acknowledgement of the Genocide would inevitably
lead to Turkey’s acceptance.

In reality, the Armenian Genocide Right and the quest for the Injustice
is an elaborate process. Its components can be summarized as follows :

Fight against Turkey’s denial and obstruction of justice Recognition:
To obtain a formal apology Reparations: property restitution and
financial compensation Territorial issues: Delineation of frontiers
and borders Right to return to ancestral lands

We should emphasize that the customary ‘sequential’ approach –
recognition, then reparations, then restitution – is a fairy tale
approach. It is not suitable for current-day politics. The above
compartmentalization is simply for explaining the complexity of
our quest.

The solution to the injustice may be achieved by a proactive attack on
all levels, simultaneously if necessary. The point is that recognition
is no longer viewed as the end goal . There are certain strategic
configurations, whereby reparations activities, by appearing even more
radical, could actually enhance the drive for genocide recognition.

This issue potentially may become a true diplomatic setback for Turkey.

Also, we need to highlight that territorial issues and the Right
to return are processes much more convoluted then Recognition
and Reparation. Although primarily linked to the act of Genocide,
solutions to territorial issues are more complex on the legal front.

This is because of international legalities created from the Treaty of
Kars, the land given to Turkey that included the ancient city of Ani
and Mount Ararat, and the present political reality of the independent
Republic of Armenia as a sovereign state. From the perspective of
international law, Armenians have many valid rights but the territorial
component of the injustice may need a different legal strategy,
albeit complementary to that of Genocide recognition/reparation.

The quest for Reparation, or the journey towards that goal, is in
itself multidimensional:

Restitution of property, national and personal: Given the Deportation
and Liquidation legislation passed by the Turkish Government (see
below), Armenians have been robbed from their assets. The assets
lost comprise Church and national properties/that of the Millet,
as well as personal properties.

Financial or monetary compensation that have not been adequately
appraised yet.

The effect of the Genocide on our cultural heritage and the continuous
threat to our viability as a nation, in view of our dispersion in
western countries, with ongoing risk to our language, culture and
identity. This is what we call the “White Genocide”.

Given the current legal status of Armenian properties in Turkey,
Armenians realize that the issue of reparation is a tall task.

Legislation in 1929 gave the right to title and deed to the new Turkish
possessors of any vacant land such as fields, orchards, and farmland
held for 15 years since 1914, and any buildings or other real estate
held for 10 years since 1919, thereby legally Turkifying all seized
Armenian assets and properties linked to the Genocide. But that is
exactly the focus our legal fight.

The Armenian side also well understands the legal difference
between Armenian properties seized after 1937 from those linked to
the Genocide, because several more Armenian properties, many of them
belonging to Armenian Charitable Foundations the patriarchate included,
were “nationalized” by the Turkish government in later years. The
legal status of the latter is therefore different.

Road Map towards a More Comprehensive Approach

The quest for Reparations for a positive conclusion of the Genocide
Injustice can be fought on the International level as well as in
Turkey. The strategy has 3 different vehicles: Awareness building,
political pressure, and legal action. Since the 1970’s we have
gradually built up the first two vehicles of our fight. We are now
building a cohesive strategy for the third vehicle, that of legal

Awareness Building: The target has been Armenian constituencies in
the Diaspora and to a lesser extent in the Republic of Armenia. We
continue to work in mobilizing the media, civil society and more and
more the NGOs of international communities.

Political Pressure: Political pressure and lobbying is essential to
our success, but we should assert and emphasize that all countries
base their decisions upon their own national interests and not
Armenian interests. We should be careful with their motives. Yet,
the political will of governments and geopolitical changes in and
around Turkey is pivotal for our success. The US House Resolution 306
and the French Genocide Bill are some examples of political pressure
(mostly lobbying) in 2011, by which Armenians capitalized and managed
to score partial successes. As for Turkey’s involvement in the
rapidly evolving Syrian crisis, it is an example of a geopolitical
change that may potentially be a stalemate for Turkey, to which we
Armenians should be well prepared and take advantage.

Judicial Demands: This is the cornerstone of the new strategy. The
roadmap to resolving the injustice via the judicial route is based on
a 2 pronged approach: International pressure on Turkey and exploitation
of Turkey’s internal political vulnerabilities.

International pressure on Turkey:

The ultimate outcome of political awareness and political pressure
will be in the form of a judicial claim, bringing a lawsuit against
the Government of Turkey. In order to bring a lawsuit, the following
clarifications are being made:

Clear characterization of the Injustice. Does the Injustice have
a legal principle? The historic and moral validity is not even
a question.

Clarification of the Judicial Forum: International vs. Turkish forum?

Is it the International Court of Justice (UN) or the International
Criminal Court? European Court of Human Rights or UN General Assembly
(for an advisory opinion)? Turkish courts or Turkish domestic
legislation? Note that Individual claims may be brought to the European
Court of Human Rights, whereas claims of land between states are
ultimately settled between states through the International Court
of Justice.

Who is the plaintiff? A Diasporan Committee, the Istanbul Patriarchate,
the Catholicosate of Cilicia? The Republic of Armenia?

Also note that simultaneously, different plaintiffs may present
different complaints.

Is there adequate engagement of the political will of the Governments
(superpowers included), and is there mobilization of civil society?

Does the lawsuit require mediation, and if so by whom?

Taking into consideration the present political landscape and
geopolitical interests, this is not an easy task. In designing the
roadmap towards a resolution, it is essential that the Armenian side
coordinates the actions of its different stakeholders, groups that
can present a legal claim for the injustice and reclaim assets. The
following entities have historic rights to their assets:

The Patriarchate of Istanbul assets The Catholicosate of Cilicia assets
The Catholicosate of Echmiadzin assets A Diaspora Body representing the
collective asset demands (Group Reparation) for lost personal assets.

And of course the Government of Armenia and its demands

It is to be stressed again that when it comes to international law,
the strategy to demand Armenian properties lost due to the Genocide
is different from that of comprehensive land and borders’ discussion
between Turkey and present-day Republic of Armenia.

There is also the realization that there are 2 types of lawsuits and
two judicial approaches: Group Reparation approach and Individual
compensation approach.

Here are examples of some current and potential lawsuits through
plaintiffs representing the Rights of the Armenian Nation against
the Republic of Turkey.

Examples of Individual Compensation Lawsuit: Genocide Related
Insurance Claims class action suit: The CA 9th Circuit case Movsesian
v. Versicherung AG. Also, many individual Armenians have cadastral
copies of their old properties and some are making individual requests
to the Government of Turkey.

Examples of Group Reparation Lawsuits: Lawsuits by the Patriarchate of
Constantinople related to Genocide confiscated properties; Potential
lawsuit by the Catholicosate of Cilicia related to the return of
Armenian assets seized in 1915; Potential Legal Demands from the
Republic of Armenia

The following should be emphasized: Individual reparations through
lawsuits do not satisfy our national quest for justice for the
Genocide. Only Group reparation lawsuits would be considered to
include a reparative dimension.

None of the above lawsuits have been filed within a comprehensive
Genocide Resolution context. The Armenian side realizes well that in
the larger picture, Turkey may utilize minor concessions to individuals
to the detriment of the larger Armenian Right.

Alternative but Complementary Strategic Approach- More Focus on
Turkish Politics and Society:

It is also necessary to exploit the internal vulnerabilities from
which Turkey suffers today and such strategies are also being analyzed:

EU and Turkey: Some European Union politicians who are politically
sensitive to the Armenian Genocide issue have pressed Turkey into
formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for
joining the EU, mainly for their own national interests.

Hrant Dink strategy: The essence of his strategy was in the
transformation of the Turkish society from within, and the focus and
target of his strategy is the Turkish citizen. Dink was instrumental in
getting Turks to discuss the Armenian Genocide; nonetheless, Dink also
reserved some criticism for the Armenian diaspora, for its insistence
on enforcing a claim of genocide without engaging the modern Turkish
people. Working to further those changes presently going on inside
Turkey and to capitalize on them deserves greater strategic attention.

Turkish Domestic Legislation strategy: There are at least some 100,000
Muslim Armenians in the body of the Hamshen, close to a million
Armenians who were forcibly converted to Islam to save their necks,
some 20 million Kurds, and many of the disenchanted in Turkey, who
present a political peril to the Turkish government. Exploiting the
internal vulnerabilities from which Turkey continues to suffer today
is essential and deserves full consideration. We should aim to create
a sentiment in Turkey positive enough to engage the Turkish Parliament
to pass pro-Armenian Turkish laws. A tall order indeed, but in due
time, perhaps better relations are needed with the Hemshen and Muslim
Armenians within Turkey, as well as the Kurds and the Alevites.

Turkey’s involvement in Syria may perhaps open a door.

We should emphasize again how important is for us to reshape our
political thinking, and realize that for us Armenians, Turkey’s
internal challenges and contradictions have to become much more
actively sought strategies.

STRATEGY The most appropriate Armenian Rights Advocacy roadmap for the
next 10 years is a multipronged approach with strategic prioritization:

A. There is consensus to view the long term viability of the Armenian
nation from a pan-Armenian angle, whereby there is a coordinated
policy between the emphasis to resolve the immediate needs of today’s
Republic of Armenia, the injustices of the past, and the future
viability needs of both the Diaspora and the homeland, realizing
well of the strategic necessity of a strong Republic of Armenia. The
establishment of modern reshaped governance in the Republic of Armenia
with less feudal tendencies and the enhancement ofsocio-economic
benefits to assist all sectors of Armenian society would be a most
natural positive requirement. Most Armenians also believe that change
in the Armenian state’s foreign policy and strategic approach to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict beyond the “Madrid Principles” and the OSCE
Minsk Group would create a new basis toward a lasting settlement of
the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s status and security.

B. As for the Genocide, the100th anniversary is a one-time
opportunity that cannot and will not become a replay of what has
gone on countless times before, i.e. be limited to demonstrations and
solidarity declarations for its recognition. The Genocide injustice
is multifaceted and the quest for its solution is complex and
multidimensional .It needs a sophisticated approach:

These past few years there has been some commotion in our political
discourse, and reparations are now being proposed as a course to
run in coordination with the usual focus on genocide recognition. We
argue that Genocide recognition is no longer viewed as the end goal,
that reparations activities could actually enhance the drive for
genocide recognition and that this historic injustice has important
contemporary dimensions for state-to-state Armeno-Turkish relations.

Notwithstanding the complex issue of borders, how would Armeno-Turkish
relations (state-to-state) be affected if Turkey were no longer an
unrepentant aggressor but actually ‘on the hook’ for genocide?

The Genocide has two outstanding issues, two different levels of
injustices, namely the fight for the injustice of the Genocide and
that of the lost Armenian lands. Although complementary, the objectives
and the strategy to address the two issues are different.

The first of the outstanding issues remains the Turkish state’s
obstruction of the truth. It consists of the Armenian nation’s fight
for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the fight for Reparations
for the Armenian institutional properties as well as to the descendants
of Armenians who lost their lives and properties during the 1915-1923
Armenian Genocide. In this regard, the judicial front should take a
much more imminent strategic relevance.

The second issue is the satisfactory legal resolution with regard to
the lost Armenian lands from the Genocide and also from the Treaty of
Kars, in other words the delineation of Turkish-Armenian borders. The
latter is a more complex process and the preparation of its legal
basis will take longer. We have historic rights but the success of
this step is inherently linked to a politically strong Republic of
Armenia. This reemphasizes and validates our aforementioned theory that
all 3 objectives for the Armenian nation’s viability are intuitively
linked to the same chain, and yet the most important of those is
clearly the sustainability of a strong Armenian state.

The judicial agenda of the Genocide resolution has begun. The
Patriarchate of Istanbul and the Catholicosate of Cilicia have already
initiated this process.

Alternative and complementary strategic approaches that seek to
exploit the internal vulnerabilities, from which Turkey suffers today,
have come to be appreciated as part of our political discourse. They
should be pursued with more effort and conviction.

We have also realized that in addition to the resources and manpower
of Diasporan organizations, we must engage the expertise of Armenian
and non-Armenian professional experts in the field, who can assist
in formulating as well as implementing the initiatives necessary to
achieve our objectives.

The preparation of a relevant cadre of Armenians in public policy
and international law has begun, but there is further need for
such committed Armenians, citizens of a variety of nations, to get
engaged in public policy matters and others to become experts in
international law.


Since the 1970s much progress has been achieved by the Armenian
nation, but Turkey’s denialist Genocide efforts and its aggressive
diplomatic influence are a formidable challenge for us. We need to
be more focused and creative in our quest to resolve our injustice.

In order to have a potentially successful agenda, two preconditions
must be met:

The Armenian government’s critical role and involvement in the
pursuit of our National Goals’ agenda: In our efforts to create a
more actionable roadmap, it is critical for the leadership of the
Armenian government to take an ownership role of the aforementioned
National Armenian goals, far beyond symbolic measures. This once
again emphasizes how important is the viability and sustainably of the
Republic, something that is a challenge today. A clear position about
the Genocide and the Armenian nation’s Rights and a new strategy that
is in sync with its foreign policy is soon to be expected from the
government of the Republic of Armenia. Closer coordination between
more engaging strategies of the government of Armenia and those of
the Diaspora is a necessity. The creation of a Genocide Centennial
Committee does not satisfy such a requirement.

Clarification of the legitimate body representing the interests of
the Diaspora and that of the Armenian Nation: The idea is not new,
but is politically and strategically essential. To obtain Reparations,
the Armenian Nation has to either negotiate with the Republic of Turkey
or submit a claim(s) to an International or Turkish court. In either
case, the Armenian side has to have clear and explicit negotiation
positions, strategy, and a legitimate representative body. In
order to begin the implementation phase of the road map, we need to
develop a pan-Armenian structure in the Diaspora that represents the
aspirations of all Armenians with one voice. We also need to develop
the human and financial resources necessary to pursue the realization
of the stated goals of the road map. As a starter, a revised, open
mindset is necessary from all political, religious and other national
institutions, and it is the imminent task of our leadership to make
such a structure a reality. This Diasporan structure will be later
followed by the formation of a legitimate body representing the entire
Armenian nation (Diaspora and the Republic).

The above two preconditions will immensely help the implementation
of a more legally oriented actionable road map. In this regard,
the following points need to be emphasized:

The entire judicial portfolio of the Armenian Genocide, if it is
to be presented in front of international judicial courts, requires
professional preparation. What is important is to do our homework,
and before officially presenting our case, to first assess the
internationally acceptable legal validity of the Genocide claim. In
parallel, a separate analysis about the legality of the current
Turkish-Armenian borders is to be addressed. These legal consulting
opinions have to be presented to the representatives of the Armenian
nation by a group of respectable international law jurists and top
of the line, reputable expert lawyers, who would be commissioned by
the Armenian nation specifically for this task. Most of the jurists’
team is presumed to be non-Armenian, but some have to be Armenian
and some should be representatives of the Republic of Armenia.

The next priority is the selection of the international court that
is considered most advantageous to rule in favor of our claim.

Consultation with the above team of jurists and lawyers is essential
to select the most proper international court of justice, and begin the
process of requesting a legal opinion in the matter of our Genocide.

The mere addition of Reparations as part of the Genocide injustice is
not a game changer. Detailed chronicling of seized Armenian properties
and a solid appraisal of all Genocide losses is a necessity. To
properly compensate the victims of the Genocide (or their heirs) it is
essential to have solid documentation and actuarial analysis. Scholars
have begun this work and in fact Professor Kevorkian has initiated the
task of developing detailed and meticulous records of the genocidal
process. However, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
experts have to be consulted and retained for this purpose. With
respect to right to financial compensation, legal professional
accounting input, beyond and above scholarly research, is essential.

Prioritization of funding: In order to achieve the desired outcome,
our funding priorities and efforts, as the Armenian nation and people,
are to be directed towards judicial priorities of the Genocide. This
effort should be pan-Armenian and must begin soon.

Ongoing Political Pressure: Legal opinions alone, even from
international courts, are not enough for Turkey to abide by them. A
positive verdict is necessary but insufficient for implementation; and
judicial laws should be accepted and ratified by legislative powers.

That is why political pressure on Turkey is essential not only by
Armenians but also by superpower nations. In such key countries,
continuous efforts to create a national interest and a foreign policy
that is synchronous to those of Armenian national interests should
go hand in hand with our judicial agenda.