BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Before proceeding to the gripe session I had envisioned for this week, I want to acknowledge and address (very briefly) the thoughtful comments and queries posted to my previous piece about the ARF Western USA Regional Convention. Three main concerns appeared: ARF’s cooperation with the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), better coordination among the ARF’s family of organizations, and women’s level of participation in the party.
Regarding RPA cooperation, the concerns raised are far from new, but also not in the purview of this convention to address. As some readers might already know, the ARF’s system, being geographically based, empowers the local jurisdiction to have foremost say on issues. In the case of ARF/RPA relations, the first place those get discussed is at the equivalent Regional Convention in the Republic of Armenia. They are also on the agenda of the ARF World Congress which convenes roughly once every four years and sets the broad policy outlines for the party. One is scheduled for later this Autumn. When preparations commence for it, the Western US region will discuss the RPA relations in the context of giving guidance to the World Congress delegates it will elect. It would be helpful to hear from our community even more about what people’s views are.
Regarding better coordination among the ARF’s family of organizations, I would ask that the deficiencies perceived be described in greater detail and the desired outcomes described, too. Perhaps this could be done in the form of an article submitted to this publication.
As to women’s participation, yes, we are far behind. But, also consider how much of a negative impact the Genocide and fall of the first Republic, with its early adoption of universal suffrage, had on Armenian society. Coincidentally, I am just now reading Lerna Ekmekjioglu’s “Recovering Armenia” which presents the state of Armenian affairs in immediate post-Genocide Bolis from the perspective of the feminist women who were busy not only with saving orphans and rebuilding Armenian life, but also advocating equality and full access for women. It’s mind-boggling to me that we were so far advanced then and equivalent discourse is barely present now. Thus, the anemic presence of women on the ARF scene must not be viewed in a vacuum but rather in the broader context of Armenian society.
Now, let’s get to my complaining about various items.
I could not believe it when I read, in the Armenian edition of Asbarez, that non-citizens of Armenia will not be permitted to serve in the army without jumping through ridiculous administrative hoops. Why? If someone is willing to serve, what’s the problem? Note that in the past, the avenue for U.S. citizenship for some young men was exactly serving in the armed forces. In fact, I recall an ARF comrade in New York who told me he was originally from Shadakh and served in the U.S. Army when he was just 17 during WWI, got mustard gassed, survived, and got his citizenship! It’s just plain ridiculous to deny people this opportunity!
Then we have the half-Armenian travel blogger from Belarus, Vlad Mosesov, who went to Azerbaijan and was harassed while there and is now receiving threats. What was he thinking? How could he express shock at being ill-treated in that country upon revealing his Armenian origin? What’s with this denial of reality? After the harrowing experience Alexander Lapshin, a far more prominent travel blogger, had in Azerbaijan last year, what did Vlad expect? He risked his life, that according to Lapshin, by going there. Let’s face it, the level of hatred in Azerbaijan towards Armenains is probably greater than in Turkey, at least for now. For all I know, it may even be at levels equivalent to those in the Genocide/WWI era. So please, let’s not delude ourselves and risk lives by thinking that there are decent people everywhere. That’s absolutely true, there are. But it’s not enough to keep travelers safe from the overwhelmingly INdecent mindset that currently prevails in Azerbaijan.
A few years ago, there was a fuss raised about Kobe Bryant shilling for Turkish Airlines. I was one of the fuss-raisers. Unfortunately, many of his Armenian fans were so enamored of him that they were prepared to overlook this transgression. Some even found my condemnation of Bryant unacceptable. Recently, as I was catching up on some reading, I came across Jirair Tutunjian’s article “Turkish Airlines’ Three Stooges” on Keghart .com. It turns out two other celebrities have also been participants in this vile behavior, Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner. Remember these two, too, when choosing what movies you watch.
I may have written about this before, but the climate of fear we are forced to live in, at least in the U.S., is truly oppressive at this point. We are supposed to be afraid of terrorists, so we must suffer indignities at airport checkpoints any and every time we travel. We are supposed to fear fellow citizens, so we overspend on jailing people rather than restoring them to productive participation in society. We are supposed to fear males, so women start squirming in elevators if they are alone and a male enters. It’s gotten so ridiculous that Ambassador John Evans, who spoke out about the Armenian Genocide and lost his job for it, recently posted on Facebook a very telling experience. He had a miniscule silver knife in his pocket, the last made by Tiffany of that model, which was given to him by his wife and engraved with his initials. To get into an event, he had to hide it in the bushes. When he went to retrieve it, it was gone! Obscene, ridiculous, and all too common! I had a similar experience some 17 years ago, though I ended up not losing the treasured knife given to me by my baby brother!