Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Makes Puzzling Assertions

Armenia's Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakopyan
Armenia's Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakopyan

Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakopyan

BY ARIS NALCI

My problems with the mentality of the Armenia’s Ministry of Diaspora started in the early 2000’s, when I was the youngest participant of a Pan-Armenian Media Conference and my surname didn’t end with a “yan” or “ian.”

Because I was the youngest Armenian coming from Turkey, news channels were interviewing me and the first question was always: “Why do you not have an ‘ian’ in your surname?” and whether I was really an Armenian, or a Turk who was able to speak Armenian.

It was ridiculous that these questions were being asked by some Armenians in Armenia whose surnames ended with “ova,” as they were not Russian. I was not a Turk. End of story!

During the past 17 years, I have had very close relations with Armenia. My best friends–politicians, locals, business people, journalists—were from there. I don’t want to mention all my great friends who are still there. They were always welcomed in my home (wherever it was).

I even worked in Armenia for almost a year in 2008, writing for several publications, as I set out to discover the mindset of the “New Armenia.” After that, during my frequent trips to Armenia, I was always struggling with this concept of the Diaspora Ministry. But the first seed was planted in 2,000, with often problematic undertones.

First, the ministry decided that Russian Armenians and those of us from Turkey would be classified as the “internal Diaspora.” Despite my queries, I have never understood how that classification came to be or who made that decision. However, they still use this as policy.

Second, I always thought that Armenia’s Diaspora Minister should be a powerful person from the Diaspora who will unify Armenians around the world and not divide them.

The President of Armenia governs the country, which has officially around three million citizens and an estimated $2.5 billion budget (based on the recent 2017 projections). The Diaspora Minister, on the other hand, has the responsibility to mange relations between Armenia and its vast Diaspora communities, which are estimated to number seven million people, with different citizenships and backgrounds. Its budget is part of the aforementioned amount.

Since the inception of the Diaspora Ministry, it has remained an institution whose sole purpose seems to be to honor Diasporan donors and cultural and philanthropic figures.

Several weeks ago, the Diaspora Minister met with a delegation of Belgian Armenians. When I heard about some of the statements she made, I had to verify with several sources.

…And she actually said them.

Minister Hakopyan’s remarks contained three tenets, which also signal how the government of Armenia views the Diaspora. She mentioned:

1. Keep your surnames. Don’t change your last names. If you don’t have an “ian” or “yan” in you surname, you are not Armenian.
2. Don’t will your wealth to your kids. Give your wealth and assets to Armenia, because your children will spend their inheritance on drugs and other such things.
3. And in return, we will teach you how to be an Armenian.

I verified this with three different people and they all concurred that the message from Armenia’s Diaspora Minister to her brothers and sisters from Brussels was, in fact, the above.

I shared my very deep concerns with my friend, Bedo Gesaratsi, who said: “So it seems Toros Roslin (Թորոս Ռոսլին) , Grigor Tatevatsi (Գրիգոր Տաթևացի), Anania Shirakatsi (Անանիա Շիրակացի), Movses Khorenatsi (Մովսես Խորենացի), Mkhitar Gosh (Մխիթար Գոշ) & Frik (Ֆրիկ) were NOT Armenians according to the Ministry of Absurdity.”

In the same conversation with the Belgian Armenians, the minister also mentioned that she liked Armenians from Turkey.

So as an Armenian who doesn’t have an “ian” or “yan” in his last name, I would like tell our esteemed minister, that we Armenians from Turkey are not bothered that some of us do not have the “ian” or “yan” suffixes in our last name, because our names don’t make us Armenian; our blood, our culture and other more meaningful facets do, which perhaps your ministry hasn’t considered.

Let me mention some names, Hrant Dink, Hagop Ayvaz, Gullu Agop, Garo Paylan (politician), Selina Dogan Özuzun (politician), Hayko Bagdat (writer/journalist), Karin Karakasli (writer), Ohannes Kilicdag (academics), Arus Yumul (academics), Arsaluys Kayır (academics), Misak Toros (artist), Diran Bakar (lawyer); and this list goes on. These are the names that come to mind instantly when I think about Armenians in Turkey.

And don’t think that this phenomenon is limited to Armenians in Turkey. Let’s make another list that starts with Charles Aznavour…

Interestingly, the minister has also spoken about the plight of the “Islamized” Armenians, who she would like to help. For that, however, she has to recalibrate the coda that, according to her, defines our nation.

But, first and foremost, I believe that the minister of Diaspora should resign from her position, since she is not the minister of “non-ians.”

Aris Nalcı (b. 1980) lives in Istanbul and Brussels. He worked as a writer, then as an editor of the Turkish Armenian daily Agos until 2011. His articles have been published in several mainstream newspapers and magazines in Turkey.

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35 Comments

  1. Abo said:

    Don’t care too much about the yan-thing, that’s just usual Armenian provincial bs.

    This however, is next level:
    1. Keep your surnames. Don’t change your last names. If you don’t have an “ian” or “yan” in you surname, you are not Armenian.
    2. Don’t will your wealth to your kids. Give your wealth and assets to Armenia, because your children will spend their inheritance on drugs and other such things.
    3. And in return, we will teach you how to be an Armenian.

  2. Zareh said:

    When people say the Armenian leadership is awash with ignorant and unworthy individuals this story proves the point. These people have no business in being trusted with any portfolio, they are amateurs ( a misnomer, because at least an amateur can have good judgement and be intelligent, Ms. Hakopyan seems to be lacking both).

  3. Another proud gesariatsi. said:

    Aris jan … “What have you lost and what are you looking for ” as our people will say in this sort of occasions. The person of the minister of diaspora is an insult to every self respecting Armenian in diaspora or in Armenia . That lady is so uncouth, so ridiculous that I don’t even know if she can be a proper janitor . She is just one of the criminals running the country at this time and I hope you or any other Armenian doesn’t take her word seriously no matter how your name ends or begins . Your not alone to notice how out of place and destructive is her person in that very important and sensitive position. Your complaining about her assertions about name endings , what will our Syrian brothers and sisters need to say , as “uncle ” hranush , and the ministry trusted to her ( him ?)) have not been constructive and helpful in the real meaning when it comes to addressing the very real problems and issues they face in light of the civil war and repatriating them in Armenia .
    The ministery of diaspora under h. Hakobyan is nothing but a shameless tool to milk diaspora . As long as our” community leaders ” in diaspora are blinded and appeased by cheap medals and titles that the above referred “ministry ” issues , this fares will unfortunately continue. my best advice is ” alderma” and “bosh ver”.

  4. hye said:

    Great article Aris. Aris, in one of her interviews(if I’m not mistaken), she mentioned about one of her achievements was giving Pioneer ties to students for free during communist times. Let’s not have high expectation from former comsomol/communist(in my opinion). For some reason she is convinced that SpyurkaHays are dumb, I have no idea why. I have somehing for her, Hamest enq but Harif chenq.

    • Peter said:

      Dear all today Armenia ,Diaspora and of course Artsakh , have many accumulated problems which are in need of very urgent attention/solutions , to start with take the country’s budget of $2.5 billion , Armenia needs minimum a budget of $25 billion .
      Lets tackle this issue ,
      Can you offer a solution?
      can you participate in implementing your/others solution .

      I am sure It is no use just hand in millions of cash to Armenian authorities , then lets look at practical solutions of this problem and move on to improving the urgent needs of our country.

      Diaspora minister talks utter rubbish , the surname is irrelevant , even it is not important if that person is Armenian or not , what is vital is , the individuals desire and ability to help Armenia to secure it’s sovereignty , Independence and prosperity.

      Going back to minor issue of government minister ridiculous/malicious comments about ian, or yan , well simply use the Armenian related sites and make sure all Armenian are aware of her harmful opinions , let her run and try to put it right

      We are not going to improve Armenia situation and it’s population’s standard of living , be it infant mortality , unemployment , democratisation if we waste our energy/commitments on comments such as above mentioned and deviate from real tasks and challenges.

      We should not take any steps which weakens our resolve in securing sovereignty , independence and prosperity of Armenia

      Dear Aris use your great ability in solving the roots of those ills . Do not let some bastard sow any seed of doubt in yourself

      Peter

      • anne D said:

        Peter, I agree with you but LEADERSHIP matters. People like Hranoush, whom I met in 1995 – and she was just as ridiculous – make Armenia a failed state, hence we cannot deal with budget and other economic development issues. MIT professor, Daron Acemoglu (who has no ian) makes this point. annie

  5. heratch abdalian said:

    Dear Aris
    No matter what minister? of Diaspora stated.I agree with you that she must resign from occuping position (by the way is she elected by diaspora’s armenians?).
    I know many armenians with ian or yan ending surrname who can not be considered as armenians .
    Most of VIP persons of this category are actually governing and occuping our Harenik Parlament.

  6. Vahe said:

    I really don’t understand what this person does and why she continues her counterproductive role. I bet she splits money to the crooks, so they keep her there. They don’t realize how fragile our Diaspora really is, or homeland either. Idiots.

  7. Berge Arabian said:

    I congratulate Aris Nalci for the above article. As a humble co-founding member and founding Secretary of “Lebanon-Armenia Friendship Association” I had my own experience with her, and I totally agree and repeat the expression “Ministry of Absurdity”.
    p.s. According to the Minister or Diaspora, do I understand that Sayat Nova is not an Armenian?

  8. Ari said:

    If Minister Hakopyan’s assertions are true then she is either ignorant or a complete idiot. One can easily argue the “ian” tag at the end of most Armenians originated from Persia. Many Iranians have names ending in the same way. Authentic Armenian names end with “i” or “u” just like Erebuni. Kind of like the Italians.

    As for her money advice, all I can say is that the current politicians in Armenia are left overs from the Soviet Era, i.e. they are used to stealing money and corruption. They have no understanding that making a living in any country is a struggle and that majority of people on earth actually EARN their living. Minister Hakopyan must think that people are stupid (like her).

    • John Sarkissian said:

      I am no fan of Ms. Hakobyan, but your comment about the “ian” ending is not correct. It is an Indo-European genitive suffix. It comes from Classical Armenian, and is the same as “yants”. The similar sounding “ian” in Persian last names has a completely different origin, and is purely accidental. In their case, it is i+an, i being the Persian genitive ending, and “an” being the plural marker for animate objects. Last names are also a rather recent phenomenon in Iran. Armenian last names existed long before their Persian equivalents.

  9. Naz said:

    Amen! Preach it, Aris! I have an Armenian “ian” name but still find prejudice because I don’t “look” Armenian.
    Why, as Armenians, are some so quick to define, judge and dismiss members of the Diaspora?
    Ridiculous statements. Thank you for making us aware.

  10. Ruben Amirian said:

    I have been to Armenia and love it immensely. During my last trip we had an occasion to meet the Diaspora minister. Our tour leader new her. She came to the gathering, made her standard speech, talked only with our leader and showed no interest in meeting any others in the group. She even did not make eye contact. She did not impress me at all. She seemed arrogant and a bit out of her element.

  11. Manuk Yildizian said:

    At last ONE Armenian had the guts to tell the truth openly and very clearly. No bones about it. Aris Djan its good that she did not utter other `diamonds` as we say in Armenian. For the sake of Diaspora and Armenia the sooner she is replaced the better. By the way Aris Djan, don’t be surprised if she awards you with “Naregatzi” medal since he too did not have “ian” .

  12. Hrant Apovian said:

    You’re right Aris,
    She should resign.
    Or better still, she should be fired!
    She has no respect or understanding
    of the Diaspora.

  13. Mélanie Anahid said:

    Ok, she is missing the basic rationale. But, there is some insecurity there in Armenia that we, the diaspora, will come in like a flood with the extra money, education, skills, titles, access, show off, know it all attitude that our western privilege gave us,… then the fear is we will suck up all the things the eastern Armenians have, despite surviving difficulties, and building a country with the little they had. The diaspora most likely comes off as a dominant show off class to them. With some reason. I love us, but I see it when I visit, how we treat the locals with air of superiority, and it is their right to reject it. They have kept our lands for us while we were rebuilding outside of it. Imagine armenia without the people! It is not just about the land, the locals with their customs, service, sacrifices kept it by fighting, building as best they could with limited ressources…both have something to give to the other, and we must overcome it with humility and understanding, and gently. We have a right to access our heritage lands and culture but with respect for the history of the people there. In all, I accept being pushed away by the locals, however ignorantly and stupidly it is done, because they are expressing an urgent reality.

    • Serge Abrahamian said:

      Dear Melanie, Hranush Hakobyan’s conduct has nothing to do with any of the things you have mentioned. She is just a very incompetent person in an important role, like many other ministers pursuing their individual interests. I have lived in Armenia for over 3 years and I have not encountered any of the attitudes you refer to amongst the locals. I am very integrated with the locals and I would say more so than diasporans. I can assure you There is no sense of insecurity about diasporas coming with money, skills and better education. If anything they would very much welcome that. There are naturally cultural differences amongst Armenians regardless of where they live but that is not to justify a useless person holding an important ministerial position. She is not insecure in what is saying, on the contrary, she knows exactly what she’s doing in furthering the interest of a corrupt government. But more importantly what the diasporans should ask themselves is why has ARF been so much part of those corrupt practices. Diasporan Armenians should focus on that rather than Hakobyan. ARF ministrrs are as corrupt and incompetent, but I have never seen an article in Asbarez about that.

  14. Diran Papazian said:

    Dear Aris I liked your comments about Minister of Diaspora and I am ashamed hearing her comments about Armenians living in diaspora.
    It is very right that the Minster of Diaspora should be a person from diaspora, because 70% of Armenians live in Diaspora. Secondly I am ashamed to talk about how rich she was before being the minister of diaspora and now, from where she got her fortune………It’s very shameful.
    I lived in Armenia for 30 years and did whatever I could for my country, but I never steel from people specially from diaspora.

  15. Armenian with an Arabic name said:

    Great article, Great points. This should be sent to the PM.
    Also, Armenians living outside Armenia should be allowed to vote, we should have parliamentarians representing us ( The French system is a good idea, with some parliamentarians representing the regions of the world). That way Armenians outside Armenia will feel a stronger link but also play a role in the development of Armenia not just by sending some $ and visiting as tourists.

  16. Chahan Pacradouni said:

    I am HAY without IAN or YAN and I speak and write with Mesrobian alphabet live in Canada (HASGUETSOGHIN CHAD PAREV)

  17. Raffi said:

    All comments have some truth but the solution is: everything should be by small steps, the locals have their pride, we should remember we all are Armenians, and we all are proud people.

  18. Lisa Swinton said:

    As an Canadian non-Armenian odar, I find it sad that the Armenian government doesn’t understand the great strength Armenians in the diaspora bring to Armenian culture, whatever the names of the individuals. Such wealth of intellect, experiences and perspectives. We in Canada are challenging ourselves to embrace many DIFFERENT cultures from all parts of the globe and we are thrilled when those immigrants/refugees/’second or more generation’ born here honour our country by calling it home, themselves Canadians or hyphenated Canadians eg. Armeno-Canaadian and try to make this country better. We have great differences but try to value the different degrees of integration to make our country grow and evolve.
    In contrast, Armenia has this GREAT wealth of people who live outside its borders (or even inside from abroad), yet feel passionately their Armenian blood in their veins, a concern for Armenians everywhere and educate themselves on Armenian issues. How challenging that must feel when this present Armenian government is devaluing such passionate love with irrelevancies such as name endings.

  19. Sarkis Nazarian said:

    Thank you, Aris, for your thoughtful critique. What did you expect from the bunch of kleptocrats who run our spiritual homeland, to put a competent person in that job? My most touching memory from my several trips to Armenia and Artsakh was when I bought a small bag of sunflower seeds from an old woman sitting by the roadside during a rest stop on our way to Goris, and saw that she was crying. The plutocrats who run the country are not worthy to tie that poor woman’s shoelaces, including the Honorable Minister of Diaspora. I was born in Bolis, and my name used to be Serkis Nazar, but I am the grandson of Stepanos Nazaretyan. My father spent WWII in Turkish concentration camps, and after Varlik Vergisi (Possessions Tax) in 1945, changed our name to “Nazar”. My brother and I changed our surname to “Nazarian” when we escaped to the USA. I respect my sisters and brothers who choose to stay and put up with the slings and arrows that come with living in a country where they are hated and despised. What would that silly woman understand of the difficulties they face on a daily basis?

  20. Sylva~MD~Poetry said:

    Dear Aris Nalci ,
    Thank you for this great and honest article about “ian” or “yan”
    Every Armenian should read this article and write few lines;
    Armenian mentalities should change …
    and we must ask Miss Armenia’s Diasporan Minister should do her DNA to show if she is true Armenian.
    Dr. Sylva Portoian-Shuhaiber
    My medical surname is not Armenian as well, I carry my beloved’s surname… is it shame!!!!
    I have two sons and their name doesn’t end with “ian”
    but they married to two beautiful, clever Armenian girls from Armenia,
    because they love their mother’s and her “ian”…
    although their mother is “ian-less” now…
    that is enough to say …
    Sylva~MD~Poetry

  21. Zare said:

    I have heard about her and heard she’s no good and incompetent. She seems untrustworthy. She needs to resign.

  22. Artashes said:

    She is a part of pack of jackals , who ate the money of the Armenia and are now looking for new sources for theft and meet the needs of the people unelected President addict

  23. Vardkes said:

    Unfortunately these people are in politics of the country. But do not do it to that trash traitors coruptos and manipulated by any power that page them and are not Armenian if we make them an analysis of DNA will see that they have genes more than another nation that Armenia

  24. Robert Avagyan said:

    The problem for Armenians is that they consider Turks as their holy enemy. Even though they are Armenians, but just the fact that they live in Turkey, on the soil where their ancestors lived, makes them Turks in their eyes. They are called traitors etc. Very ignorant I would say. As an Armenian from Belgium, I welcome all Armenians. I even respect more Armenians from Turkey, because they have managed to preserve their culture. One thing I can’t say about Armenians from Russia, where they forget the Armenians language because Russians consider Armenians as Untermenschen. But Russia remains the Holy cradle for this Armenian government. I’ve never met Turco Armenians, but through one book “there was and there was not” I understood how they are heavily discriminated by their own people. I’m sick from hearing that Turks hate us. We don’t want to be discriminate by Turks but we have the privilege to discriminate them and also Armenians from that land.

  25. anne D said:

    Have we, diaspora collectively, approached the President and given him feedback about the incompetent Minister? Associations, credible organizations are in a better position to approach the President or the PM and let our displeasure be known and make a suggestion. annie

  26. Anna Iskandarian said:

    Great article! This was one of the biggest reasons why majority of Baku Armenians ended up leaving Armenia after running away from pogroms in Azerbaijan. They were not accepted as Armenians by majority of population (heard many unspeakable comments). It’s sad to read about criteria stated by authorities… What comes to my mind is article written by Aram H.: http://armenianweekly.com/2012/01/22/hamparian-were-all-armenians/
    I hope one day positive changes will take place in Armenia and they’ll start looking at all Armenians around the globe similarly…

  27. HAROUT DERGHAZARIAN said:

    As an Armenian I am embarrassed to mention Hranush Hakopyan’s name. Next time when she visits any country in diaspora, people should tell her she is not welcomed in the country and she should be thrown out from airport.

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