BY ASSADOUR DERDERIAN
On Oct 10, 2009, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey signed an agreement on a negotiated set of protocols to establish diplomatic relations. The protocols were the fruit of a year plus, secret but relatively overt series of meetings. A week or so before the agreements were signed, there was a poorly orchestrated drama, starring President Serzh Sarkissian, when he visited important points of the Diaspora under the pretense of presumably listening to alternative views to his plan. But the alternate voices were never truly heard and their protests were ignored. I was in Armenia at the time and the only related news I got from the media was from the ARF TV channel, Yerkir Media. There was a telling silence from the rest of the media, except for several interviews with people who were broadly in agreement with the president.
The international community asserted that there were no set preconditions in the negotiations. But it was clear that Turkey had numerous preconditions, and the two most disturbing of these “nonexistent” preconditions were:
1. Armenia should accept the current boarders, and in so doing, all lands outside the current borders would forever remain outside. That meant the lands delineated by the Treaty of Sevres.
2. Responsibility for the Genocide should be lifted from the Turkish government’s shoulders and placed in the hands of a committee that will argue the applicability of the definition of genocide to the case at hand.
This was the end result of the protocols, and whether we like it or not, it is also the unfortunate truth for all Armenians. It is a sad parallel to the days of Vartan Mamigonian, when Vasag, in similar vein, literally betrayed the will and path of his nation.
Our president’s excuse is that it’s a necessity to open Armenia’s borders to ensure its economic survival. The sad part is that Armenia’s economic problems are not due to the closure of its borders–Armenia has open borders with Georgia and Iran—but rather, it is the result of a handful of people raping their own people, building castles, when the roads in front of them are full of potholes and broken pavement and are deteriorating exponentially year after year. The churches and our historic cultural symbols are on the same path, heading for extinction. Most of the population is looking for bread and overcoats for their kids, yet any ray of hope for a better future is dimmed. In the end, Armenia’s domestic policy parallels George Bush’s foreign policy. The latter wanted to destroy anything belonging to others and replacing it with its own. Armenia’s leadership differs only in that they destroy their own and line their pockets.
Sarkissian doesn’t seem to realize that the majority of Armenians live in the Diaspora—a place where our parents reside, not by choice, but as a consequence of deportation of their elders and Genocide. It was a virtue for them to educate their children to learn and respect their origin, hoping that they would one day see their unknown land, and the mysterious mountain, whose picture hung on their wall. It wasn’t just a picture on the wall, but an intangible dream, an inspiration, a portrait of identity… Equal to and perhaps more important than any other outlet that told us what we are and where we are from…
Ararat and four-fifths of the land we know as Armenia is under the control of our presumed “good neighbor,” Turkey, and any effort to recapture what is ours is on the verge of being signed away.
My friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop, drinking Armenian coffee (without sugar, of course), and having an honest conversation. In the flurry of the hot discussion and coinciding arguments, he bluntly asked: “Everything we fought for and spilled a huge amount of blood is being taken away. Why is the Tashnagtsutiune (the ARF) not doing something about it? And, why is it [the ARF] still part of the government?”
“The Tashnagtsutiune is not part of the government,” I said, “It resigned in April when the news broke out.”
“Doesn’t the Tashnagtsutiune have representatives in the parliament? Some people say that the parliament is not part of the government; but in the end, isn’t the agreement supposed to be ratified by the parliament? ”
I began to stutter, but he held my hand and looked me straight in the eye. “I understand that we are a chess piece in the never-ending political game, but we should have some kind of say on issues that decide our destiny; because in the end, no one gives a damn about anything, other than those that include their interests. In 1918, amid the Genocide, after suffering defeat after a defeat on the war front; when our population was hungry, naked, and had no escape route, we still had the will to win, to rise from death and be born again.”
“We had the courage and the mindset to create an independent state and what we created was not the end, it was the beginning… We still have to pursue Van, Moush, Sassoon… We may not see it, our kids may not see it, but someday our nation will. Our motive is to create an attainable future, where all of the land that belongs to us is returned to us,” my friend said.
I sat there confused. I didn’t know what to say.
And now I ask you?
How long are we going to protest and complain and basically do nothing else?
How long will we stand idly and watch the end of our existence?
How long will it take for the Tashnagtsutiune to lead our Nation?