Addressing Concerns for the Homeland with ARF Bureau Chairman Hagop Der Khatchadurian

ARF Bureau chairman Hagop Der Khatchadurian

Editor’s Note: Today, the Armenian nation is at a critical juncture, surrounded by enemies and facing diplomatic and military setbacks, all of which require renewed vigor and dedication to restoring the security of the homeland. 

The Armenian Weekly posed a series of questions regarding these concerns to Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau chairman Hagop Der Khatchadurian on the eve of his visit to Watertown, Massachusetts. Der Khatchadurian addressed these questions and the ARF’s priorities, as the global Armenian nation continues to diligently work toward a free, independent and united homeland.

Der Khatchadurian will be the featured speaker at an event hosted by the ARF Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh on Friday, , celebrating the 105th anniversary of the independence of the First Republic of Armenia.

Armenian Weekly (AW): Please tell us your thoughts about the continuing blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, particularly since the addition of the security checkpoint and the conditions under which the Armenians of Artsakh are forced to live.

Hagop Der Khatchadurian (HDK): Azerbaijan has launched a challenge to the world by blockading Artsakh, establishing the illegal checkpoint despite the assurances of the 2020 November 10 agreement that guarantee the free flow of people and goods under Russian supervision, and by ignoring calls for the right to self-determination of the Artsakh people who have lived on their ancestral homeland for millennia. This has not only created an untenable politico-military aggression, but a humanitarian crisis as well. Azerbaijan is not even hiding its intentions of ethnic cleansing anymore. Aliyev’s aim is to create an atmosphere of fear and panic to empty Artsakh of its Armenian population.

Yet the world response has been inadequate. From the early meek calls for both sides to solve the conflict in a peaceful way – thus equating the victim with the aggressor – to more recent half-hearted condemnations, even decisions by world judicial bodies and fervent discussions in world forums have not deterred Azerbaijan. This is because such measures lack “teeth” for execution, and no mechanism is being applied to punish the perpetrator of aggression and atrocities.

This has resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed at all levels. We’re organizing convoys of food and medication for the Artsakh population, encouraging world leaders to act and impose sanctions on Azerbaijan for its crimes against humanity and creating a hope-inducing environment for our Artsakh brothers and sisters to survive this crisis and continue to entrench their roots on the Armenian soil of Artsakh.

We urge Russia to be more forceful in its duty of assuring safe passage between Armenia and Artsakh and we expect the West to send a clear signal to Azerbaijan that its aggression and defiance of international law will not be tolerated. In parallel, we need to intensify our Hai Tahd efforts of denouncing the Azeri aggression worldwide, of insisting on the imposition of sanctions on Azerbaijan and of continuing to promote the right to self-determination of the population of Artsakh.

AW: How does the Armenian administration’s response to the blockade of Artsakh impact the Republic of Armenia and its security?

HDK: The Armenian authorities have not been forceful in denouncing the blockade and the addition of a security checkpoint, nor have they been adequately seeking immediate remedies. We are witnessing a tendency by the Armenian government to withdraw its security guarantees of Artsakh and to distance itself from promoting Artsakh’s right to self-determination. These are unacceptable policies.

The Armenian regime’s weakness in security matters and its unwillingness to directly confront Azerbaijan on its genocidal policies in Artsakh also is a national security threat for Armenia. Our enemy has now targeted the borders of Armenia itself and is trying to create faits accomplis by occupying as much Armenian land as possible to gain strategic advantage for future aggression against our homeland.

The Armenian authorities led us to a national disaster during the war of 2020 that should have been avoided at all costs given Armenia’s unpreparedness to confront the enemy. We all realize now that the defeat made Armenia’s borders more vulnerable. Furthermore, in its haste to secure Armenia’s current territory of 29,800 square kilometers, the Armenian Prime Minister has announced his willingness to acknowledge the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, thus seriously impeding the people of Artsakh’s often-repeated conviction that Artsakh will never come under Azerbaijan rule.

AW: What policies does the ARF plan to institute or already have in place as the homeland faces an existential crisis?

HDK: We are convinced that the current Armenian authorities, under the autocratic leadership of Nikol Pashinyan, have neither the capacity nor the will to solve Armenia’s myriad of problems and to address Artsakh’s needs. Hence, they should leave the stage before leading our homeland to new disasters.

The ARF has and will continue to emphasize that Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora need to reestablish their unity of purpose and willingness to meet the challenges facing our homeland and nation in a coordinated fashion. In order to accomplish that objective, we firmly believe that:

  • Armenians should understand that their power lies within, and we should rely only on ourselves to confront our enemies and establish our goals. Neither the East, nor the West, nor any country will come to our aid if we can’t help ourselves or fight our battles ourselves. We need a common ideal, a national agenda, a strong army, the reawakening of our legendary courage to defend what is rightfully ours and our unwavering support for Artsakh as the cornerstone of our Cause.
  • National values should be reinvigorated in Armenia – we have only seen organized attacks on them by the authorities; the retreat from those values, instigated by this regime, can indeed deepen our existential crisis.

These core values should include the universally accepted vision of a free, independent and united Armenia; the defense of Artsakh on all fronts; the modernization and appropriate funding of the Armenian army and improving the morale of its commanders, officers and the troops; the appropriate emphasis on the teaching of the Armenian language, literature and history; educating the youth to value serving the nation with utmost dedication; the proper evaluation of and respect for the role of the Armenian church; abandoning the authorities’ “divide to conquer” policies that weaken the fabric of the nation and the reestablishment of the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora unity.

  • The Armenian authorities should abandon their defeatist attitude and stop all unilateral concessions to Turkey and Azerbaijan. They should abandon the idea of begging for a false comprehensive “peace” in the region that cannot be obtained through pleading or useless negotiations. A defeated country cannot aspire to an honorable peace from enemies like Azerbaijan and Turkey who have shown repeatedly that once concessions are extracted from Armenia, they’ll ask for more. On the contrary, Armenia should concentrate on and maximize the potential of the Armenian nation by gathering all forces around an Armenian national agenda centered on the declaration made during the Genocide centennial.
  • Armenia should mend and strengthen its relations with traditional allies and countries whose interests truly coincide with those of Armenia and whose influences in the region are palpable and long lasting. They should also reestablish professional cadres of diplomats and not rely on amateur partisan Civil Contract party operatives to fill vital diplomatic posts.

AW: As the Diaspora has no direct influence in the governmental affairs of the homeland, how can our communities, particularly in the US, offer assistance in the most meaningful ways, besides monetarily?

HDK: Besides help in fundraising for worthy projects, the Diaspora is already helping Armenia and Artsakh through its Hai Tahd activities. Our ANCs have never ceased to lobby for Armenia and for the right to self-determination for Artsakh. We’ll always find novel ways to maximize Armenia’s and Artsakh’s standing on the international stage and help advance the cause for Armenia’s security and Artsakh’s survival in these trying times. 

We have also advocated for the Diaspora to have a direct input into Armenia’s political, economic and social affairs. Despite some lip service, the RA authorities have not initiated any meaningful debate nor proposed acceptable approaches.

Armenia should also pay particular attention to the cultural, linguistic and educational requirements of the Armenian community of Javakhk, which justifiably looks to Armenia to provide for its needs in those spheres.

In the US, we should consistently lobby the US government to have a balanced policy towards the Southern Caucasus region and engage in truly friendly relations with Armenia. The US should abandon its biased preferential treatment of Azerbaijan, condemn the latter’s aggression and crimes, impose sanctions and clearly signal that the Azeri genocidal policies will have serious consequences on the international stage. The US should also stop relying on its NATO “ally” Turkey to further its influence in the region; Turkey is neither a reliable ally of the US nor a benevolent force promoting peace and coexistence. Our ANCA and its chapters, as well as any other Armenian groups, should double their efforts in this regard.

AW: What are the priorities for Hai Tahd in this tumultuous and polarized environment?

HDK: Besides the lobbying activities already mentioned before and the Genocide recognition and reparations efforts, Hai Tahd priorities should be based upon:

  • Countering the Azeri-Turkish offensive on Artsakh, Armenia and the Armenian nation, fighting their falsifications and propaganda, proactively exposing the dictatorial nature and destabilizing influence of both Turkey and Azerbaijan, explaining their true pan-Turkic intentions and expansionist aggression and unmasking their false pretenses for regional peace.
  • Defending the rights of Armenians everywhere as official or ethnic minorities, as community groups or as indigenous populations, as the case may be in any given country or region.
  • Politicizing the Armenian youth and promoting their participation in the political life of their country.

AW: Any final thoughts as we approach the May 28th anniversary of the First Republic?

HDK: Now that we’re celebrating the 105th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Republic, I would like to use the opportunity to emphasize in these trying times that the ARF firmly believes in rekindling the legendary Armenian courage, commitment and dedication to protecting our homeland from any existential threats, regardless of the cost and the seemingly impossible odds. After all, that is the ultimate message of May 28: that hopeless situations do not exist and even the most difficult national problem can be overcome through the selfless dedication of the sons and daughters of the nation.

Pauline Getzoyan is editor of the Armenian Weekly and an active member of the Rhode Island Armenian community. A longtime member of the Providence ARF and ARS, she also is a former member of the ARS Central Executive Board. A longtime advocate for genocide education through her work with the ANC of RI, Pauline is co-chair of the RI branch of The Genocide Education Project. In addition, she has been an adjunct instructor of developmental reading and writing in the English department at the Community College of Rhode Island since 2005.