It has been 22 years since that momentous day when Armenia freed itself from Soviet clutches and declared independence, knowing full-well that the road to sovereignty and true independence would be long and hard.
The early years were marred by war and the continued relief efforts for the 1988 earthquake that had displaced tens of thousands of Armenians. Bleak was an understatement. The entire Armenian nation pulled together to ensure that Armenia’s independence would be lasting and one day it would become a self-sustaining paragon of democracy in a region filled with authoritarianism.
More than two decades later we must ask ourselves: Did we succeed? The knee-jerk response is Yes. By all accounts, Armenia cannot be compared with the authoritarian regimes governing Turkey to its west and Azerbaijan to its east, both of which continue their threats to our national security on a daily basis.
Yet, 22 years later, we must scratch the surface and collectively find remedies to the negative aspects that threaten Armenia’s national security from within.
Even before September 21, 1991 the entire Armenian nation rolled up its sleeves and asked not what the nation can do for us but what we can do for our nation, to paraphrase the infamous quote by President John F. Kennedy. Now, 22 years later the maladies that ail Armenia on the domestic front are making it imperative for the authorities in Yerevan to answer not just to the Armenian citizens but to all Armenians worldwide. After all, the rhetoric from official Yerevan is that Armenia and Diaspora are interwoven in the fate of our nation.
Rampant corruption, usurping of our national wealth, suppressing democratic freedoms and rights of the citizens and overall social injustice, as well as the rape of the environment and election fraud have turned that dream of Armenia being a paragon of stability into a nightmare that is perpetuated every day. This has resulted in the biggest threat to our national security—emigration.
The missteps of successive regimes and the blatant and flagrant disregard for rule of law have given way to a nation that lacks trust and faith in its leaders. It was President Sarkisian himself who blamed the people for Armenia’s woes when he said: “The biggest problem of our country is not corrupt officials. The biggest problem of our country is not criminals. The biggest problem of country is a cynical atmosphere.”
The bright spot that we saw this year, however, is that the young generation of Armenians—the independence generation—is willing to fight for its rights and has taken its fate into its own hands. In the Diaspora, Armenians have a responsibility to nurture this generation who wants to live in its homeland, but might be forces out due to the ongoing injustices perpetrated by the government.
This is the issue—the challenge—that requires our collective attention and immediate action, since all of the positive achievements of the past 22 years hinge on the need for Armenia to be populated by Armenians.
On September 21, we celebrate that momentous time in modern Armenian history—Armenia’s Independence. But, we must also come together, in the name of our homeland, of our people and of the ultimate goal of a FREE, INDEDPENDENT and UNITED ARMENIA to collectively guarantee the well-being of our people.
Happy Independence Day.