Time To Move To The Next Chapter


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

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.