Tempers are high and there are a lot of hurt feelings in the Diasporan community as a result of the Armenia-Turkey Protocols announced in August.
“I’m not political,” insists Nanor. “I don’t understand what’s happening.”
“It’s not about politics,” says Taline. “It’s about our heritage.”
The confused look on Nanor’s face prompts Taline to explain in more detail that although nobody is opposed to the opening of the border between the two countries, it is the remaining provisions that have everyone rankled.
The discussion is similar to the many that are taking place in groups small and large throughout this city and others like it where Armenians are found. There is even up to the minute message posts on the various social networking sites, reporting on the protests and hunger strikes occurring in Los Angeles, Paris and Lebanon.
“They’re giving up our right to lands in Historic Armenia,” protests Mary, referring to the regions of Moush, Gars and Van, large areas that housed a great number of Armenians prior to World War I.
“But did we seriously think we were getting them back?” asks Armen, incredulous at Mary’s statement and expectation of retrieving a large section of land of what is now clearly within the borders of present day Turkey. “And even if we did get them back, who is going to live there? There aren’t enough Armenians to populate Karabakh properly let alone this area,” he says referring to the region in discussion.
“But they’re ours,” Mary insists.
“They were,” Armen clarifies. “Nobody can claim land without arms,” he goes on to say. His words are an echo of Khrimian Hairig’s statement following his attendance at the Congress of Berlin to ask for the right for the Armenian’s autonomous self rule within the Ottoman Empire. He likened the meeting to a dinner around a pot of harissa (an Armenian stew of whole wheat and lamb) where the powerful world leaders where ladling the stew with iron spoons while Armenians only had a paper spoon which disintegrated against the heat rising from the pot. The moral of the story being that without taking up arms, one cannot claim a portion of the spoils of war.
“What about Karabakh?” Mary asks challenging Armen’s statement.
“We fought for that and considering the President himself fought to liberate those lands, and lost good friends in the process, do you really think he’d give it up?”
“Yes,” Mary says simply. This time she is echoing the cynical sentiment towards the President that is prevalent in the Diaspora today.
The provision that is most angering people. the cause of more Diasporan agreement than any other, is the one about the Genocide.
“It’s sad that something like this had to happen for all the political parties to come together,” says Taline referring to the joint effort of the Dashnak, Hunchak, and Ramgavar Parties to oppose the provision that will set up a joint Turkish and Armenian commission to “scientifically” study the issue of the Genocide of 1915 and the events that lead up to it.
“See it is politics,” says Nanor, bringing the discussion back to its beginning.
“Of course, but it’s based on heritage,” Taline says “there is nothing to re-examine about the Genocide. This throws into question its very occurrence.” A questionable action in itself since the very word was created by Raphael Lemkin in the late 1930’s, prompted by the acts perpetrated by the Turks against the Armenians and by the Iraqi’s against the Assyrians. A Polish Jew and a legal scholar, he helped draft the United Nations resolution, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in which he defined the word even further as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
“What bothers me,” says Taline “is the heartless way they’ve treated us.” She is referring to the Republic of Armenia’s lack of tact and consideration towards the almost seven million Armenians living outside the country itself, more than double than the number of its resident citizens. “We’re a large constituency,” she says. “If he’s proclaiming to speak for us [Diasporans] and representing us to the world then he must listen to what we have to say before making the decision of signing away our genocidal heritage. Otherwise he has no moral right,” she says. “After all, the only reason we’re even here [the Diaspora] and not in our ancestral lands is because of what the Turks did.”
“I don’t understand why he even came here,” says Nanor of the President’s recent visit to Los Angeles. “I thought he was coming to talk to us to explain what he was doing.”
“Chee portsets mezi sirashahil,(he didn’t try to win us over),” says Taline “and that’s just insulting.”
“Just another example of how they always take from the Diaspora but don’t bother to hide their contempt of us,” agrees Nanor.
“But at least it brought all of us together,” Mary says trying to find something positive from the whole experience.
“I don’t want to think about it too much,” Nanor says. “Sirdes ge kharne (it’s making me nauseous).”
“This whole thing is unacceptable,” says Armen and everyone agrees, just like their political leaders who have finally joined forces in solidarity to oppose this new threat.