Trying to Get Through

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

In case anyone had any doubts, I am a member of the ARF, the Tashnagtzoutiun. As such, there’s something that has been bothering and frustrating me to an ever increasing degree. Why have we not been able to get through to the citizens/residents/voters of the Republic of Armenia, at least as measured by election results? We’ve done better in Artzakh, but there, the political dynamics, the small size, and our efforts during the war that liberated the region from Azerbaijan create a different environment.

This problem exists in the Diaspora too, at least the “pre-post-Soviet” part of it, but to a much lesser degree. Someone who has come to work with us on certain projects thought we were some right-wing organization and was very leery of us, because of that perception, though the reality of what the ARF is has been clarified, at least to that compatriot.

But the big problem is in the homeland. It seems to me we’ve done many of the right things, and certainly espoused and championed the right positions on the issues. Yet, this has not translated into popular support. And, this can’t be laid exclusively at the foot of the electoral shenanigans that are standard fare every time local, parliamentary, or presidential elections roll around.

Don’t believe me? Here are examples, in no particular order:

We were among the first to prepare a plan for the country’s economic development, even before independence was formally declared.

We spoke out against the murder of Vahe Avetian by “Nemetz Roobo’s” (one of the oligarchs) thugs.

We have organized several Armenians and Progressive Politics Conferences to address numerous timely issues that confront our nation.

We warned against the type of changes in the pension system that would leave the elderly even more destitute, yet the ruling parties enacted those modifications.

We have been strong advocates of efforts to clean up the systemic corruption plaguing all aspects of life in the country.

We have stood firm and served as the standard bearer to rally the people whenever it looked like the military victory in Artsakh would be converted into a diplomatic defeat.

We condemned the firebombing of a bar, DIY, that was targeted because gays and lesbians tended to frequent it.

We led the charge against them when the infamous “protocols” with Turkey were made public because they ceded our historical and territorial rights, along with dealing a setback on Artsakh.

We have worked on issues of women’s abuse, even organizing a march in Hollywood to call attention to the problem.

We have publicized the environmental problems caused by poor government policy and rampant corruption.

We, most recently, came out against the bus fare increase that was set to go into effect in Yerevan last week.

So, what’s missing? Why have we not been able to connect? Is it a lack of trust? Is it the lingering, seven-decades-of Soviet-propaganda-based, stigma our organization has among some segments of Armenian society? What are we doing wrong? What are we not doing correctly?

If you’ve got thoughts, answers, or even criticism, please, send it our way, at least by responding to this article

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14 Comments

  1. Assadour Derderian said:

    The major problem of ARF, at least in Armenia, is the fact that it has diverged from the essence that defines it. ARF is a party of revolution, which, as Rosdom says, is defined by its tangible work … if you have passed the minute borders of Erevan, you will realize that ARF’s tangible work is hardly apparent.

  2. Hasmik Piliposyan said:

    The ARF is the most active, just and hardworking political party both in the diaspora and Armenia whose main goal and struggle is and always has been the Armenian Cause. The only way the ARF can gain control of our nation and bring change is if the Hanrapetakan oligarchs are kicked out and Russia (which tends to make a lot of Armenia’s decisions) loosens a bit of its control of Armenia. Then Armenia can begin to live in a state of “of the people, by the people, for the people” and the country can experience a period of political, economic and social prosperity, have leaders that actually care about Armenian-international issues and finding solutions, and the people can live comfortably knowing that they have a government that truly cares about their well being. Maybe then, the Armenian people will actually want to stay in the homeland rather than emigrate.

    Thank you!

  3. Hratch said:

    Besides the obvious ‘lingering, seven-decades-of Soviet-propaganda-based, stigma….’ the political affiliation of Armenians is based on handed down prejudices from previous generations. Few Armenians actually take the time to study the platform, history, or work of an political organization. They would rather wholeheartedly accept the position or biased opinion of their fathers or grandfathers.

    Besides, the Soviets always always instilled in their people that they were the best in every field. i.e..science, sports, theater, ballet, etc…The Armenians in particular accepted this theory hook, line and sinker and today are well known ‘know-it-alls’. No matter how much your party achieves, explains or proves the ‘know-it-all’ will never accept or much less listen to what you have to say!

  4. craigprophet said:

    could it be simply that at least in Armenia proper,excluding artsakh, that is, that the ARF is seen for what it has been, and that is that it was brought in from the diaspora.
    if this is the case, the question must be asked as to what must be done to overcome this stigma.

  5. Lori said:

    I agree with Assadour. The ARF became rigid and failed to change with the times. It turned into the Armenian Reformist Federation. What’s so revolutionary about putting out letters of support and condemnation and paitently waiting for things to get better? It does seem like the leaders of the ARF have finally woken up and are trying to figure out how to get back on track, but to win over the people the party needs to go back to it’s roots and relearn what that “R” in their name means. The ARF needs to proove to the people that the ARF is committed to bringing about tangible changes to Armenia and its people today!

  6. Ara said:

    The ARF in Armenia should work directly with the people. Until now the focus of ARF’s work has been the National Assembly or the parliament, the government and the president. The ARF is popular in the Lebanon, Persia, Syria, etc., because it is visible in the streets of Armenian neighborhoods. It affects people’s daily lives directly. Similarly in Armenia ARF should be present in the neighborhoods, apartment buildings and corresponding open spaces or “pag”, and village or city councils.

    ARF should be alongside the activists who are fighting against the increase in the bus fare, environmental degradation, violations of rule of law, etc. etc. When residents of a neighborhood see that the local ARF members are protecting their interests during the whole year, then during elections, they will be more inclined to vote for the ARF candidates. ARF should work directly with the people, instead of just with the parliament and the government.

  7. Panos said:

    The problem with the ARF in Armenia is it is still seen as a diaspora-led organization, with directives coming from (or appear to be coming from) the diaspora. Why should the citizens of Armenia who kept the land for decades under Soviet rule take advice from a political party whose majority members do not even live in Armenia, but preach from their high horse from their McMansions in the diaspora?

    • Hratch said:

      You are spewing hate and prejudice when you categorize Armenians as ‘diasporan vs citizen’. Why don’t you look at the merits instead of relying on you’re biased opinion. Could it be that the people living outside of Armenia have no good intentions and can not participate in the future of the homeland? So with your logic, all people living outside should completely forget about Armenia, including cutting of ties and financial support….I suggest you go de-sovietize yourself and learn something more than what your father and grandfather taught you.

  8. armen said:

    A non-violent version of the Cuban revolution would be the best way to move forward. Win the hearts and minds of the villagers and farmers before moving to the town’s and cities. Win them over with tangible things like a fountain in a small village with a plaque bearing a simple inscription: ‘a gift from the ARF’

  9. Lori said:

    I agree with Ara and Armen. The ARF has to mesh with the people so the people will feel the ARF is part of them and they part of the ARF. Much like the Literacy Campaign Fidel Castro and Che Guevara successfully instituted in Cuba. The youth was sent out in literacy brigades to live with the people, work with the people and teach them how to read. I don’t believe a fountain or plaque is the key though. They need something more tangible that will direclty impact and improove their quality of life.

    • armen said:

      You’re right Lori, I was at work and just wanted to post something quickly and didn’t really think it through. A literacy campaign would be great, although we shouldn’t underestimate material support like farming equipment. ONEArmenia is doing great things with greenhouses in Tavush.

  10. An Armenian said:

    In your article, you state the ARF warned, spoke out, advocated, and condemned. However, how did all these warnings, spoken words and condemnations translate into tangible results in Armenia? How did these improve the lives of ordinary citizens in Armenia? Didn’t an ARF member of the Armenian parliament hire lawyers to defend the guys who firebombed the DIY bar? Actions speak louder than words.

  11. nomad said:

    How about human behavior is probably the hardest thing to change on this planet. Thus, time needs to pass and generations need to dwindle until required change occurs in RoA. Similar to say how the wild Wild West was 100+ years ago here in the US. In some ways RoA is living through those hurdles and experiencing it first hand how to do things, and which things will work and not work. Sometimes human beings need first hand experience in order to understand right from wrong rather than being told so. So I think maybe the Armenians living in Armenia are tired of being told by a newcomer group (ARF or insert your institution) how to run the show. Consequently, relying on old relationships (Russia), no matter how turbulent, to navigate the waters.

    Second objection I have is also this Western Chauvinism, that because we live in a more “civilized” and “westernized” nation, we have the implied right to tell the rest of the world how to live their lives. This is the other side of the “know-it-all” coin that another reader commented about. By what rationale are we to impose our institutions on a newly born republic still sucking its thumb and trying to mumble some words. This is not a relativistic argument I am making, just trying to probe and suss out the justification for this impetus. On top of that, acting on this quest, however noble it may be, we are demanding immediate conformance as if it is some sort of a automaton. Guys, change takes time, real time measured in generations and not news cycles.
    Let’s take a deep breath and appreciate the changes we have made and the challenges we have to overcome, still.

    Other criticism I have is the implicit nature by which ARF thinks it speaks on behalf of the Diasporan Armenians. Is there any empirical evidence to suggest that majority of diasporan’s, much less a significant portion agrees with the positions ARF holds? For purposes of an exercise, just imagine yourself outside of the ARF echo chamber and reach out to Armenians that are not ARF affiliates and ask them what they think.

    that is my rant so far.

  12. Gaidzag said:

    Instead of the Armenian people attempting to improve the political system back home they migrate to other countries where there are more opportunities. We need to change people’s behavior.

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