What’s the Diaspora to Do?

Help Armenia! Help itself! Get organized! Get United! Fight for Genocide recognition! Fight for our lands! Fight for reparation! Battle Turkey in international fora! Help Artsakh. Help Javakhk! Build schools! Build community centers! Invest in Armenia! And the din goes on.
But really, it’s time to get serious. Since Armenia’s re-independence, there’s been precious little thought given to the Diaspora’s role. We, the Diaspora, jumped pell-mell and willy-nilly into the business of our resurgent statehood, since we hadn’t played an active role in its establishment, as many of us had expected to do.
Now, we’ve reached a level of un-benign neglect of Diasporan needs, and an insufficient level of assistance, or productive assistance (be that financial, or talent) to the Homeland. So what’s next?
We’ve got to get our house in order. We do need to rebuild and expand both the physical and organizational infrastructures that sustained us prior to 1991. Part of accomplishing this is the integration of those of our compatriots who have left the homeland over the last two decades, primarily for economic reasons. This subgroup’s relationship to the Republic of Armenia is different than those who have been Diasporans for the three or four post-Genocide generations. It perhaps bears many similarities to the pre-Genocide Diaspora. With relatives on the ground, their connection is in many ways more real than the idealized one the rest of us have with our country. This schismatic Diasporan existence is unhealthy and is an issue the Diaspora must address as a key component of rebuilding and reaffirming itself in today’s world.
Of course Diasporan organizing is no mean feat. But, we are confronted with an even bigger challenge regarding the Diaspora’s relationship with Armenia, and here I mean ALL of it, not just the two Republics that exist today. There’s grumbling over the level of corruption in the RoA. This breeds some reluctance to assisting further. Many organizations are successfully carrying out projects, overcoming this resistance and the questionable practices that breed it. However, these efforts are not well coordinated.
It seems to me that part of what must be done is for the established Armenian organizations to coordinate a Disapora policy. I do not advocate the creation of an umbrella organization– all that does is create another level of bureaucracy and headaches for those under that umbrella. However, if these organizations– political, philanthropic, professional, technical, youth, social, etc.– sat down and divvied up the “works for Armenia” pie, we’d do much better. Some groups and their support base tend to be very cautious and conservative regarding what they’re willing to involve themselves in. Others are edgier. Still others thrive on novelty. Some are better producers of money while others, talent. Based on these and similar considerations, the pool of work could be divided up among the major Diasporan groups. Smaller groups could take on appropriately sized projects.
And, we should focus on “rewards for good behavior” and “those who need it most get it first and largest” approaches. By this I mean that with Artzakh’s government now making loud and seemingly sounds about fighting corruption, more support should go to it than the RoA. Given the dreadful state of Armenian life in Javakhk, schools, textbooks, and job creation should draw more support. Considering the importance of contiguity to defensibility, and the role of population in assuring the contiguity of Artsakh and RoA, resettlement/re-Armenianization of the territories “separating” what was Soviet Armenia and the “Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast” that found itself subjugated to the Azerbaijani SSR of yore, is another area the Diaspora should focus on. All these relieve the pressure on the government of the RoA and have the added benefit of being somewhat orphaned needs.
Such projects and others like them provide a direct connection, Diaspora to Homeland, with a minimum of potentially corrupt, wasteful, intermediaries. They enhance confidence and people-to-people relationships that help our nation overcome the divisions imposed on us over the last seven centuries.
On the external front, the Diaspora must challenge Turkey head on. We must build alliances with its disgruntled neighbors and prevent the development of close relationships between Turkey– the regional economic powerhouse– and its needier neighbors. We must be more explicit in our demand for our lands. In particular, we must develop our relationships with the Kurds, especially of Turkey and Iraq.
In brief, we the Diaspora must:
– reconstitute, strengthen, and energize ourselves
– see to the needs of the eastern and northern peripheries of our homeland
– broaden our international diplomatic-political offensive against Turkey
– initiate an “alliance” of anti-Turkey forces
Get to your favorite organization’s next meeting and advocate this approach. Let’s produce some focused, highly successful results over the next two decades.

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