Many will regard the U.S. presidential elections as the defining moment of the 2016. Yet in the Armenian reality, two singularly different yet similarly tumultuous events of 2016 have not only changed how we view our world, but also defined how we will view critical turning points in the next year.
On heels of the Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorations around the world, which put Armenia and everything Armenian on the map for the rest of the world, came April’s brutal attack by Azerbaijan against all positions in Artsakh, forever changing the course of the Karabakh peace process.
And, merely weeks after a historic visit by Pope Francis to Armenia, which, once again focused international attention on our homeland, came the seizure of a police compound in Yerevan by opposition forces calling themselves the Daredevils of Sassoun—Sasna Dzrer—leading to a two-week tense standoff in July that, once again, saw civilians being mistreated by government-led security forces.
By the time September rolled around, when Armenia was marking the 25th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union, these two events cast a dark shadow over the celebrations, because they had already become the defining moments in 2016 for Armenians around the world.
It can be said that 2015 was a monumental year for the Armenian Nation. The much anticipated centennial of the Armenian Genocide dominated our national agenda for most of the year, while advancing the Armenian Cause in the international arena.
The four-day war in Artsakh allowed the international forces mediating a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict to up the stakes and pressure the two sides to adhere to a series of provisions that, in the end, will be detrimental to Armenia and Artsakh. Yet the modern-day heroes that emerged due to the senseless loss of life reinforced in all of us the reality that the heroic people of Artsakh will stop at nothing to protect their homeland. At the same time, the April war instilled vigilance in every Armenian about the fragility of the situation in Artsakh and jolted us into understanding that the Artsakh liberation movement that began in 1988 is nowhere near over and our lands that were freed through the blood of our heroes must not be compromised at any cost.
The Sasna Dzrer incident was divisive in its core and demonstrated the extent of the people’s frustration at the current socio-economic and political realities in Armenia. It forced the president to rearrange his cadres and introduced a new prime minister who is promising reforms. Let us hope these changes will bring the needed reprieve to the people, whose patience has run out.
Both issues will be front and center in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia, scheduled for this spring. The elections will be the first to take place under the new Constitution, which transformed Armenia’s government into a parliamentary system. The stakes are high, yet a new force has not emerged to challenge the status quo. With the same forces vying for power, it is up to the electorate to hold the candidates accountable. It is up to every Armenian to ensure that democracy will prevail in our homeland.
There are events in 2017, such as the parliamentary elections, that are anticipated. But, as always, there are challenges and incidents that cannot be foretold. We must be prepared for anything.
As we celebrate the New Year and the Christmas holidays, let us all toast our accomplishments but also be fully aware that each and every Armenian plays a crucial role in the advancement of our nation and our national aspirations. Let’s pledge to make the right choices.
Happy New Year.