BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Electric Yerevan; Kamp Armen.
These two recent Armenian mini-movements have gotten quite a bit of (well-deserved) attention. I suspect the movement to save Camp Armen has gotten a little less play than it deserves because we in the Diaspora are not yet well enough attuned to following developments in our occupied territories, other Armenian-inhabited parts of Turkey, and especially Bolis (once an Armenian “capital” – remember, that’s where the Western Armenian Renaissance emerged and as the capital of the Byzantine Empire, was home to many Armenian emperors [about a third of them]).
What recently struck me were the similarities, parallels, between these two, though I’m not sure if these have any significance.
Both Electric Yerevan and Camp Armen are very much street actions, not political insider or guerrilla efforts.
Both have drawn primarily very young participants, and as such might be seen as the next link in the chains of civic action in Armenia and Turkey – think Mashdotz and Gezi Parks, respectively.
Both sets of activists seem to have an aversion to government and other political structures, though this is much more starkly the case for Electric Yerevan.
Both currently stand incomplete, quasi-satisfied, because of the shenanigans of the respective governments. An electricity subsidy has been promised, but the demand for a reversal of the rate hike is nowhere to be seen yet. Camp Armen has been promised back to its rightful owners, but the title deed has not yet been properly drawn up and conveyed.
Both movements are really (unintentional) fronts for more substantive issues, good government in Armenia and Genocide recognition in Turkey.
Both are operating at the intersection of the public and private realms. One involves a privately owned but publicly regulated electric utility. The other involves private property which is being restored to a charitable entity at the behest (or manipulations) of one or more government personalities or agencies.
Most interesting is that both governments want to avoid setting a precedent. Yerevan, set in its post-Soviet, crony-capitalist, oligarch-run ways, does not want to give in to public pressure. More simply, it doesn’t want to be accountable to the citizens of the country. Ankara is dreadfully afraid of doing anything that might suggest it has to pay for the ill-gotten gains of the Genocide and would establish a path to restoration, hence the behind-the-scenes arrangement pressuring the current “owner” of Camp Armen to “generously” return the property to the rightful owner. Once again, simply, it doesn’t want to be accountable, in this case, for the Genocide.
What do you think? Is there a pattern or is all this just coincidence? Should we expect/hope for more such mini-movements throughout Armenian life, from LA to Buenos Aires to Beirut to Garin to Paris to NY? Should we all be striving to create more such instances?
Perhaps we should view this in the context of the “what’s next” mindset everyone is in during this Genocide centennial year.