More Than 12,000 Protest Sarkisian, Protocols in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES—More than 12,000 Armenian Americans from throughout California converged on the Beverly Hilton Hotel to protest the Turkey-Armenia protocols as Armenia President Serzh Sarkisian met with representatives of Armenian American organizations to defend his decision to sign the flawed documents. The protest was organized by the Stop the Protocols Campaign.

Protesters held signs proclaiming, “Serzh Don’t Betray the Armenian People,” “Turkey Accept the Genocide!” and “No to the Protocols!” Meanwhile, planes overhead were carrying banners which stated “Stop Turkish-Armenian Protocols,” as large moving vans drove around the hotel with billboards picturing presidents Sarkisian and Gul with the slogan “Don’t Betray us.”

Prior to the beginning of the community meeting, Sarkisian’s delegation stood out on a 12th floor balcony and watched demonstrators, who called out in hopes that the President would address them directly. Sarkisian chose not to address the people.

During the fourth hour of the protest, several hundred frustrated demonstrators broke through the barricades and stormed across the street to the hotel entrance, yelling “votch, votch,” stopping traffic on Wilshire Blvd.

Meanwhile ARF Western Region Central Committee member Hovan Tashdjian, who had just left the meeting with the President, described a tense Sarkisian faced with overwhelming opposition by community representatives, attempting to defend the formation of a so-called “historical commission” and arguing that the Protocols would not affect the Karabakh peace process.

Tashdjian commended the thousands who had turned out for the Sunday afternoon protest, ensuring that their voices were heard at the meeting since “your representatives conveyed your anger and frustration over the protocols.”

Sarkisian has embarked on a Diasporan junket to gain support for the beleaguered Turkey-Armenia Protocols, which have met with resounding rebuke by Armenians around the world. He has been met with protests in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, with additional demonstrations planned in Lebanon and Russia.

 

Inside the Meeting
Representing the Armenian National Committee-Western Region, Steve Dadaian described the meeting to Asbarez as being tense. Of the 65 or so participants, only 29 were allowed to speak, of who only three individuals expressed complete or partial support for the protocols.

“He was unprepared to discuss the text of the agreement. This is the emperor’s new clothes tour—he’s naked and he’s expecting everyone to say ‘you look great.’ It was sad,” explained Dadaian.

During his three stops on his Diaspora tour, Sarkisian’s message has been that the Diaspora should have faith in this initiative, which he underscored by initiated by Armenia without any external pressure.

He assured his largely skeptical audience that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations would create an atmosphere of mutual confidence.

Sarkisian gave assurances that there would not be a discussion of the Armenian Genocide within the framework of the protocols.

 “The only question in connection with the Genocide that can become a subject for discussion is how we can help the Turkish people to be more unbiased in going through the pages of their own history or, to be more precise, how to overcome the consequences of the Genocide,” Sarkisian stressed.

“I believe that it is possible to have normal negotiations, have normal relations with Turkey and benefit from it,” Sarkisian underscored.

The participants of the Los Angeles meeting echoed sentiments by their Diasporan counterparts in New York on Saturday and Paris on Friday that the protocols were loaded with dangers to Armenia’s national security and to the future of the Armenian people.

Sona Madenlian, speaking on behalf of the Armenian Relief Society explained that throughout its existence, the ARS has devoted all its efforts to provide for the needs of the homeland from the time of the Genocide to the present. Under the current circumstances, Madenlian wondered out loud whether all that work was necessary.

In the wake of the protocols, Madenlian also asked the president what the message should be to the younger generations.

“They are used to protesting Turks, not protesting the Armenian President. How will we be judged by our future generations?” pondered Madenlian.

The AGBU’s Albert Boyadjian framed the protocols as the best thing for Armenia, extolling that as a result Armenia will prosper economically.

Meanwhile, Sarkisian’s spokesman Samvel Farmanian on Monday confirmed to RFE/RL that the Armenian president had received an official invitation from his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to visit Turkey to attend the return match between the two countries’ national football teams.

 

Montebello Martyrs Monument
Hundreds of Armenian-Americans answered an urgent call to action and converged on the Montebello Martyrs’ Monument Monday morning in anticipation of a visit by President Serzh Sarkisian, who is in the Southland on the third leg of his Diaspora tour.

On Sunday, more than 200 people answered another immediate call to action to rally at the Montebello Memorial, forming a human barricade around it to prevent Sarkisian from using the monument for a publicity stunt while in Los Angeles on his tour of the Diaspora. The Monday crowd was estimated to be larger.

The president, however, did not visit the Montebello Martyrs Monument, and as such concludes his visit to LA, leaving the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia dissatisfied and angry.

 

Angry Picketers Greet Sarkisian in New York
Armenian-Americans answered the ARF’s call to form a picket line Saturday across the street from the New York Palace Hotel, where Armenia President Serge Sarkisian was scheduled to meet with representatives of eastern United States Armenian American organizations to discuss the controversial Armenia-Turkey protocols.

From the picket’s start the mood was serious and the demonstrators were indignant and angry. The atmosphere quickly grew intense with chants of “Turkey is guilty! Turkey must pay!” Early on, the crowd sang Armenia’s national anthem, “Mer Hairenik” (“Our Fatherland”).

Sarkisian and meeting attendees were already in the hotel when the picket began at 4 p.m. The meeting was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and last for over two hours. The area inside and outside the hotel was heavily guarded by New York City police officers and plain-clothed agents, as well as Sarkisian’s own security guards.

In the hotel, a small group of protesters representing the Association of Concerned Young Armenian Americans attempted to deliver a letter to Sarkisian expressing their opposition to the protocols. They were met with resistance. During a heated discussion with members of the president’s security team, they demanded to deliver their letter personally to Sarkisian, saying that too much discussion on the protocols was occurring behind closed doors and challenging Sarkisian to honor his earlier promises to hear all opinions on the protocols during his tour of major diasporan cities.

Security permitted one of the young people to enter the secure area near the meeting room to deliver the letter, only if the others left the building. The association’s representative was told to wait until Sarkisan’s meeting concluded to deliver the letter. After waiting for over three hours to deliver the message from Armenian American youth—with no response from Sarkisian—the representative departed with the letter in hand.

At around 7 p.m., as the picket entered its final minutes, dozens of picketers moved from the picket area across the street to assemble directly in front of the Palace Hotel’s entrance, where they chanted and sang Armenian patriotic songs. Police moved in to force picketers out of the area and back across the street from the hotel, where they remained until dispersing around 7:30 p.m.

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Ishkhan Babajanian MD, Masis Babajanian MD said:

    From: Ishkhan and Masis Babajanian
    Subject: The Flawed protocols
    To: info@armenianchurchwd.com
    Date: Saturday, October 3, 2009, 2:57 AM

    Dear Western and Eastern Diocese,

    We respond to your message sent in support of the protocols.

    On the basis of 4 fundamental principles, we are outraged and formally condemn the churches stance regarding the Turco-Armenian, or more accurately the Turco-Sarkissian, protocols. We understand that churches have historically shunned away from having their constituents question their stance, expecting them to accept information and ideas without query. Unfortunately, our Armenian Government has behaved in like manner. However, your statements in the current setting deal with secular matters, subjecting you to due criticism. We will succinctly summarize our four points below.

    First, under the principles of separation of church and state, the Armenian Church should not wholeheartedly support one political opinion versus another. Its function in this issue ought to be to placate differing parties. The political arena is full of treachery, deceit, lobbying, crime, and debauchery, as described by former President Ronald Reagan. We have consistently tried to separate these themes from churches in general. Sadly, your biased position in this issue has engulfed you into such a political arena.

    Secondly, a poll has shown that 90% of the US Armenians are against the protocols. Do you think these people are ignorant? Do you expect to sway 90% of the population regarding this matter in the next week? If not, how do you expect to retain the trust, support, and attendance of these people in the long run? It is concerning that our place of faith has strikingly contrasting opinions from us on such a vital measure in our nation’s identity, interest, and future.

    Thirdly, you explanation of the protocols is exceedingly euphemistic. Our genocide is going to be put to question in front of the world. Why don’t the Jews agree to such a measure? It is entirely possible for the Turkish government to utilize its ample resources and immoral and corrupt influence to sway the conclusion of this proposed genocide committee. Just recently, the Turkish police has tampered with the videotaped evidence in the murder of Hrant Dink. They have over 600 years of experience undertaking such measures. The death of 1.5 million Armenians, including my great grandfather’s, becomes a circus and a mockery in front of the world. How will we answer to the nations who have recognized our Genocide? Furthermore, formally relinquishing any claims to Western Armenia has not only legal ramifications, but also spiritual ones. Armenians lose contact with their ancestral roots with this measure. If such roots are lost, Armenia will no longer be a place of deeper meaning. Visiting there will be akin to going to Disneyland or Hawaii, simply a site to appreciate aesthetics.

    Finally, the Armenian People have endured great sacrifices and persecution in support of the Armenian Church. If religion were not an issue, our historical conflicts would not happen. If we were Muslim, we’d likely live peacefully in Eastern Anatolia, although we would be assimilated into the Turkish nation. Having lost so many lives and security because of religious issues, we find it ridiculous to have our church support measures to trivialize our pain, our losses, and our history. Our continued strife has been to preserve the Church’s identity and our loss in this struggle will ultimately result in the collapse of the Armenian Church.

    It is obvious that your position is influenced by political figures who support you. We hope that you deviate from such a sycophantic stance. Your predecessors did not bow down to Stalin nor to the Ottoman Empire, often times risking their lives. We request that you follow their footsteps and demonstrate in your own words, “success, wisdom, and courage… in this crucial endeavor.”

    Respectfully yours,

    Ishkhan Babajanian, MD I Masis Babajanian, MD
    USA-California
    Oct. 4, 2009

  2. Dave said:

    Congrats to our compatriots in Los Angeles who turned out for the protest.

    Here’s another example of Sargsian’s double talk:

    He claims that the Turks on the so-called “historical” commission wil not be allowed to question the Genocide because everything the commission does has to be by “consensus,” and that the Armenian members won’t allow the Genocide to be questioned. Ok, fine.

    But, at the same time, Sargsian has said that the Armenian side can bring up the issue of destroyed Armenian churches and other property in Turkey, as well as the issue of compensation to the heirs of the Genocide victims.

    However, if the commission work as Sargsian says it will, by “consensus”, the Turks are not going to allow the Armenians to bring up issues that would work to the Turks’ disadvantage.

    So exactly what is this commission going to do, sit there and veto each others’ proposals? No, I think that the Swiss or whatever pro-NATO people are on the commission will force the Genocide to be brought up. Then what? If the Armenian side vetoes that, it will be accused of obstructionism.

    The truth is that Sargsian probably has no idea how this commission will work. And why does there have to be a commission at all? Was this an absolute requirement by the Turkish and pro-NATO side? I doubt it. I think that Sargsian and Nalbandian simply caved in because they don’t know how to negotiate. The US is pushing Turkey to open the border because it wants to displace Russian influence in Armenia. That is an important enough goal that the US would not have held out for such a commission. And let’s dispense with the idea that a bunch of yodelling Swiss milkmaids were the ones who brokered the Armenian – Turkish talks. These were NATO talk, and the Swiss in their little Tyrolean pants were simply standins for NATO.

    One of the problems here is that too many Armenians have an inferiority complex and do not realize how important their country is to both Russia and NATO plans. So Armenia goes into negotiations totally disarmed and acting like a beggar. If you read the blog posts by Hayastantsis on the web, generally speaking they think of their country as worthless. That is a bad attitude in which to enter negotiations.
    Karabagh is next on Armenia’s auction block, mark my words.

  3. Serge said:

    I don’t understand why every media in Armenia is lying about diasporas reaction and not covering the outrage that diaspora has shown. All they are saying is diaspora is pleased with meeting with president of Armenia and are not showing the protest that Armeians in US and all over the world have shown against these stupid protocols. So we can clearly say that the whole media in Armenia is controled by goverment and it is dictatorship. I wonder how can we relay our message to people of Armenia that we in dispora are %100 against these stupid protocols?

  4. Katherine said:

    Just as the media in Armenia is controlled by political parties and individuals with private interests, so too are diasporan news sources in the U.S. controlled by the diasporan political parties. Perhaps the reason why the diaspora appears to be 100% opposed to the protocols, as Serge pointed out, is because anti-protocol activists and diasporan political parties overlap.

    As we know, the Armenian diaspora is not monolithic within the US or internationally. The diaspora’s diversity is precisely what makes it such a wonderful component of the Armenian nation. Suggesting complete diasporan unity in opposition to the protocols does the nation a disservice by eliminating the potential for a more nuanced discourse. Diasporans do not have to be “for” or “against” then protocols, but can see in them both opportunities and dangers. Straight up support or opposition is a little to simple for the complexity of this issue.

    I would like to hear what the Association of Concerned Young Armenian Americans were trying to present to Sargsyan in NYC. In fact, I would like to hear what any an all Armenian youth have to say about the protocols – because they will be the ones living with the ramifications of Armenian-Turkish diplomacy. I think the youth need to be challenged to come up with solutions and start applying the activist skills they acquired during these protests to create the changes they want to see in our communities and nation.

  5. Tsoghig said:

    The majority of the Diaspora is clearly opposing these protocols yet Sarkisyan is continuing his propoganda tour disillusioned, with his ears plugged and his eyes shut. It seems as though no matter how loud the opposition is, it doesn’t matter to him and he’s going to do whatever he wants, regardless of the incredibly damaging effect his actions on going to have on the nation of Armenia.

    Also I resent Katherine’s statement about the Armenian Youth in her last paragraph…has she not been listening or seeing that the Armenian youth are the majority of the protesters, they are the ones sending the webfaxes to Armenia’s government officials, they are the ones organizing opposition online all over the world. The youth is standing up and coming up with solutions…their solution is to STOP THE PROTOCOLS! If anyone wants to know what the youth is doing, they should read http://stoptheprotocols.com or http://justicenotprotocols.com/ both websites run by youth. Don’t worry about the youth in the diaspora Katherine, be more worried about the traitors who agree to the wholesale sell-out of the Armenian nation like the Armenian ASSembly (AAA) and the AGBU.

    I don’t oppose normalizing relations with Turkey, I oppose making concessions that jeopardize Genocide recognition and reparations and that jeopardize the territorial integrity of Karabagh and Armenia. Why won’t Turkey agree to normalization and opening the borders without the creation of a historical commission or without having Armenia’s confirmation of the current borders, or without Armenia’s confirmation of the Madrid Principles that deal with Karabagh’s territorial integrity?

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