SAN FRANCISCO—At the Bay Area Armenian National Committee’s annual “Hye Tad Evening” banquet on at the Khachatourian Armenian Center’s Saroyan Hall, Special Guest and Armenian parliament member Raffi Hovannisian spoke on a wide range of issues facing Armenia and the Diaspora, including the Armenian Genocide resolution, the Turkey-Armenia Protocols, Karabagh independence, and the lack of democracy and rule of law in Armenia.
He said Armenia and the Diaspora must work together to realize Armenia’s national and democratic goals. “Recognition, restoration, reparation, recognition of Mountainous Karabakh, the rule of law, no political prisoners, equal economic opportunities… All these are part of the same agenda.”
In her welcoming remarks, Bay Area ANC chairwoman Roxanne Makasdjian noted the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution on March 4th. She said the vote was more important than previous ones. “Considering all that has happened over the past year – the unprecedented pressure exerted by the Turkish government, their increasing grass-roots activism here, lobbying by military corporations like Boeing and others, and especially the fact that Armenia has sent a message through the signing of the Protocols, that it will accept the formation of an historical commission to “define” the events of the past… Considering these major obstacles, this victory was more hard-fought, more powerful, and possibly more important, than all the others.”
Bay Area businessman and benefactor, Hank Torian, for whom Khachatourian Armenian Center was named, was honored as the Bay Area ANC’s “local hero.” “It’s a wonderful event,” said Torian, who praised the work of the ANC.
Raffi Hovannisian, a California native who was the first Foreign Minister of Armenia, is the founding director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies in Yerevan, leads the Heritage political party, and founded the Armenian Bar Association, in addition to having served in many other professional capacities in Armenia and the Diaspora.
Hovannisian decried the Armenian government’s signing of the Protocols, which establishes an historical commission and validates territorial borders of the Bolshevik-Kemalist treaties of 1921. “This isn’t about the past. This is about the future,” said Hovannisian. “This is about national security for Armenia. This is about the right for Armenia to maintain a right for future generations.”
Recalling his time as foreign minister, from 1991 to 92, Hovannisian said that at the time he was representing Armenia in talks regarding Armenia’s participation in the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Turkish government was demanding similar concessions from Armenia, which Armenia refused. “And now they want Karabakh, too,” he said. “They have the nerve to talk about Armenia’s occupation of Karabakh, when the Armenian homeland has been torn asunder by their predecessors. Where are the Armenian leaders who say, “No!”?
Hovannisian paid tribute to those who have contributed to the Armenian Cause by helping to deliver the victory in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “…defeating not only the Turkish lobby and the Turkish state, but the big businesses of the U.S. who do business with Turkey, and doing it with the complete non-participation and passiveness of the Armenian government.” He said the resolution was not only about the Armenian Genocide. “The integrity of the American record is in question.” He also noted the Massachusetts Democrat on the foreign affairs committee who, along with others, voted against the resolution citing the Protocols between Turkey and Armenia.
“It was a good battle,” said Hovannisian, “But the main challenge between truth and falsehood lies before us.” He said that Armenia and the Diaspora must stand together on this issue.”
On the topic of Karabakh, Hovannisian said Armenia must recognize it as the second independent Armenian state. “It’s high time that the Armenians around the world demand that Armenia recognize Karabakh, and that we rally around a unity of that nation, within its constitutional frontiers and perhaps prepare for war. It’s one of the scenarios one must never rule out.”
Hovannissian criticized the fact that Karabakh’s liberated territories are largely unpopulated, as well as Armenia’s lack of democracy, having had no free and fair elections since 1995. He condemned Armenia’s holding political prisoners and said “the feudal law of the middle ages continues to today.”
“Is this the nation of our dreams?,” said Hovannisian. “Do we live today in an Armenia with the values that our parents and grandparents conveyed to us, in search of a free and independent Armenia? We have to have the courage to be very self-critical about ourselves, and hold Armenia to the standard of not a third-rate country somewhere in some ocean, but to hold ourselves to the highest standards of democracy, of rule of law.”
Hovannisian encouraged those in attendance to make the choice to help improve Armenia’s future. “Realize your potential. Live in reality, but never ever surrender the dream.”