Open Letter to U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama

Being an Armenian of Canadian citizenship, I didn’t have the pleasure of expressing my respect and confidence by casting a vote for you, but I feel a certain spiritual satisfaction, when I recall that in my article published back in the September 18, 2008 issue of the Altadena, California-based Nor Or [New Day] Armenian-language weekly, I had stated my conviction that it was necessary to elect Barack Obama in the interest of the Armenian and American peoples, as well as for the triumph of mankind’s just causes and world peace.

Now that you are the president-elect of the United States, I feel gratified that millions of people, the overwhelming majority of American voters have entrusted that high and responsible position to you, not only to govern the United States but also to play a critical role in international politics and the destiny of mankind.

You have also become the first black president of the United States. The descendants of the Africans who were sold into slavery until as recently as one hundred fifty years ago, the generations having succeeded your black ancestors, who were subjected to persecution, beatings and murder in more recent times, together with whites, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities, elected you president, thereby inflicting defeat on racism.

Having lived in Ethiopia for almost 13 years, I was in close contact with blacks and others of mixed parentage, some of whom were my best friends. I liked the often primitive but down-to-earth way of life, traditions and civilization of those people, the fauna and flora of their habitat, which constituted the raw material of stories I wrote. I am proud of the fact that I became the first Armenian writer to include that exotic world in Armenian literature. My home is a museum of African nature and fauna, as well as specimens of native art, which I proudly show to visitors.

Now let’s turn to the expectations the Armenian people and I, as well as mankind in general, have of you.

First and foremost, they can be summed up in three words: peace, justice and equality. Then there’s the most difficult obligation ‘s cleansing the tarnished image of the United States the world over, which is the consequence of your predecessor’s militarist and self-interested policy. George Bush, true to his name, considered the world bush country, where brute force is dominant, at the will of the strong.

I know that a lot is expected of you on both the domestic and foreign fronts, even things which may well be beyond your governmental powers and capabilities.

For example, the genocide to which the Armenian people were subjected and which, according to your very own statemen’s, is a proven historical fact that warran’s correction. However, the state having committed the genocide and its successors deny the crime committed by them, despite the fact that the UN Commission on Human Rights and numerous countries have recognized that truth. Therefore, a powerful force is needed to compel the criminal state to accept its guilt by making necessary restitution. Of course, the criminal state cannot bring back to life the one and a half million Armenia’s who perished in the genocide but it can and must return the lands and properties, churches and ancient monasteries forcibly seized from them, which were built on that territory centuries before the arrival of the Turks, and which are being destroyed or deliberately converted into stables, inns or museums, thus eradicating traces of their erstwhile Armenian ownership. In the final analysis, the criminal Turkish state must return the centuries-old homeland of the Armenia’s to their rightful owners and, of course, make the appropriate restitution for the losses incurred as a consequence of the genocide.

I can provide you with factual information to the effect that the Turkish government agreed to make partial financial compensation, provided the Armenian people desisted from pursuing genocide recognition and territorial deman’s. The representatives of Turkey and the three diasporan Armenian political parties ‘s Armenian Revolutionary Federation or Tashnag Party, Armenian Democratic Liberal (ADL) or Ramgavar Party, and Social Democrat or Hunchak Party — engaged in negotiations concerning this issue on November 27, 1977 in Zurich. As one of the three representatives of the ADL Party, I took part in the preparatory meetings in Beirut, in which the leaders of the aforementioned political parties deliberated over the proposals made by the then foreign minister of Turkey, Sabri Caglayangel, and decided that one representative from each party would take part in the Zurich conclave. These meetings of the three diasporan Armenian political parties also produced guidelines for its representatives, defining the boundaries beyond which they could not step. According to those guidelines, the genocide committed by Turkey and the Armenian provinces forcibly seized by Turkey were non-negotiable issues. That conclave involving the Turkish and Armenian representatives took place in the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich, during which the Turkish foreign minister spoke, in a conciliatory tone, about the “regrettable events of the past” and forgetting the bloody past by making financial restitution, if necessary. In order to show a bit of fair-mindedness, he also said that the Armenian reciprocation of those events was of an individual or collective nature, whereas the Turkish action was organized at the state level. However, he immediately added that those events pertained to the Ottoman government of that time, for which the present-day government of Turkey can’t be considered responsible.

In an attempt to show that he was disposed to “helping” the Armenian people, Caglayan Gel jokingly recalled a rumor about the Armenian origin attributed to his family, referring to the “yan” ending of his name, repeating that it is possible to speak of monetary compensation, but no Turk or Turkish government can accept conceding even one inch of soil. Furthermore, imparting an emotional nuance to his “Armenophile” stance, he stated that, owing to his advanced age, he might not hold a position in the next Turkish government, and exhorted the Armenia’s to take advantage of his friendly disposition.

Expressing thanks for his advice, the Armenian delegation suggested that the Turkish government follow the example of Germany and acknowledge the crimes committed by prior governmen’s, while making the necessary restitution and correcting the historical record. At the same time, they stressed that these conditions were not negotiable.

Awaiting your just and effective intervention, I express my deep feelings of love and respect on behalf of the Armenian people.

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