BY GAREN YEPARIAN
By its nature, the project of writing about ongoing issues of interest and concern to Armenians tends to lean towards addressing problems, pointing out the negatives, criticizing wrongheaded actions and policies, etc. So, I thought it was time for one of my occasional “bright side of things” pieces. Here’s hoping I don’t come off as too Pollyannaish.
Relative to our neighbors, former Soviet and other states, the government of the Republic of Armenia (RoA) seems to have a relatively lighter touch when it comes to opposition groups and movements. A modicum of wisdom seems to prevail. This is not to say the abuse of power by police and others is acceptable, not by any means, just that it is less bad than others. Look at Azerbaijan’s jailing of civic activists and opposition political figures. See Turkey’s treatment of journalists and restrictions on the internet— it ranks 159 out of 180 countries evaluated, 37 places worse than Afghanistan! Russia jails music bands. The RoA’s worst offense (beatings and deaths are common to all these countries, but, again, less so in Armenia) was arguably the mid-1990s ban on the ARF.
Despite their many other flaws, at least we have not had megalomaniacs governing Armenia à la Turkey’s Erdoğan, Georgia’s Sahagashvili, or Azerbaijan’s two Alievs.
A Wikileaks document referenced as “Armenia No 35″ from 2005 reveals pre-Protocols discussions, Armenia-Turkey contacts, the roles and less-Turkey-averse mindsets of younger Foreign Ministry (of the RoA) staff, the Western training/education (brainwashing?) of these staff, and the U.S. hopes that there might opportunities for “rapprochement” budding. What’s good about this? First, Wikileaks and the availability it creates is good, in that we can at least know of these goings-on. Next, at least we know that the Protocols, with all their flaws, were not a rush job, but were probably built up over the course of three four years of these quiet contacts; imagine what they might have looked like if they had not had this much preparation. Finally, we see the extent of sneakiness, the depths of depravity, and the subtlety used by great power interests to divert Armenians from our march to justice. Knowledge and awareness are power.
The IT sector in the RoA constitutes 20% of the economy, I read recently. If this is true, even if somewhat exaggerated, it’s very good news since being plugged into one of the strongest, most promising, and expanding (for the foreseeable future) parts of the world economy bodes well for our homeland. And, some original products have made a worldwide splash already.
In fairness, the progress, though very mixed and recently in retrenchment, Turkey has undergone over the last decade must be acknowledged. Without going into the countless trips taken by Armenians to the occupied territories, the coming out of crypto-Armenians, and the various steps taken by Kurds, one example says it all: an April 24th demonstration in Bolis on the centennial of the Genocide.
This bit of positivity is more of a “coulda been much worse” example. The Switzerland-Doğu Perinçek case recently ruled on by Europe’s court was mealy-mouthed and wrong-headed (with 7 of 17 justices dissenting) in a number of ways. But, at least laws penalizing Genocide denial were not ruled out-of-bounds, nor was the lower court’s questioning of the Armenian instance as being an example of genocide affirmed.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called on the U.S. to recognize the Genocide, and Jewish organizations to lobby for that recognition. This is a far cry for the days when Jewish organizations were surreptitiously lobbying AGAINST U.S. recognition. I don’t doubt that some of the worst offenders in the US Jewish community will be, at best, neutral on this matter. But this kind of broad, public, espousal of the right thing to do is very heartening, promising, and should be lauded by our community.
The best news is that reparations, lands, and litigation are taking a more prominent place in our pursuit of justice. Certainly talk of reparations is even bubbling up in Turkey. It’s no longer deemed “silly” to talk about restoration of our stolen lands, thanks in significant part to the painstaking work of Ara Papian. I have gotten calls over the last few years about suing private and governmental actors who hold ill-gotten gains born of the Genocide (I consistently refer
such people to those of our activists who are better informed of the legalities and impacts of such actions, since serious negative ramifications on future attempts at recovery are possible). The most recent and prominent example is the Catholicossate of Cilicia’s suit to regain its original home in Sis.
What are your examples of Armenian good news? Even just thinking about them without publicizing them is important to motivate you/us to continue our struggle.