BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Thank you. Really, truly, sincerely, thank you. But you’ve got to do better.
This is my reaction to some people’s efforts. You know they mean well. You know they’re constrained by socio-political realities. You know they’re trying. Nevertheless, the result, their output is just not up to snuff.
There are two current examples of this, and they both remind me of the “apology campaign” that garnered some 30,000 signatures in Turkey. We were all certainly excited and pleased by it. Simultaneously, we knew it didn’t go anywhere near far enough, nor was it coming from where it really matters—the Turkish government. But it was a nice gesture, a good, if tentative, early step in the process of Turkish society and state coming to terms with reality.
The latest examples of this phenomenon get far closer to their respective targets, though they still miss.
I was thrilled to read about the opening of the “Monument of Common Conscience” by the Kurdish mayor of the municipality of Sur in the heart of the Armenian province of Dikranagerd. It is dedicated to the memory of those killed in the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides. This act is tremendously laudable. The Kurdish leadership living on our ancestral homeland is really trying to take steps forward regarding the Genocide-born aspect of the Armenian case/cause/question. The relevance of their acts is at once extremely important and utterly irrelevant. They are the descendants of some of those who murdered us, yet they do not sit astride the levers of power that a state has, in this case, the one responsible for the Genocide. Still, these are acts of defiance against the Turkish regime’s official policy of denial, which is certainly no small thing. But then, the term “Genocide” was evidently conspicuously absent from the opening ceremonies. Obviously, this goes a lot further than the apology campaign, but doesn’t make it to the desired goal.
Two continents away, we have a more tame version of the same phenomenon. My congressman, Adam Schiff, published a piece in Asbarez expounding on his position regarding the civil war in Syria. Adam has been very supportive of Armenian issues and concerns. I know his heart is in the right place. Yet from the beginning of the violent phase of the conflict in Syria, he has been steadfast in his desire to see Bashar Assad removed from office (which would be detrimental to the interests of the Armenian community in Syria), a position I fear has clouded the clarity of his vision on this subject.
In his piece, Schiff makes clear he understands the concerns of the Armenian community about our compatriots in Syria and the fate that might befall them if the wrong faction(s) come to power in that country. What he seems NOT to connect is that no matter which non-Assad-faction comes to power, presumably with a Sunni power base, non-Sunnis in Syria will suffer. Is the example of Iraq not fresh and vivid enough? How about Egypt, where conditions are far from the bloodletting going on in Syria or as chaotic as Iraq was? Why are Copts being targeted with minimal government response?
Adam, please understand that the absurd borders imposed upon the peoples, religions, and sects of the Levant and Mesopotamia by European powers (with U.S. collusion-by-way-of-isolationist absence) in the post-Ottoman era have generated decades of ill will as a result of the misrule by Western-imposed or -supported dictators of all stripes and degrees of brutality. To now suddenly and rapidly take away the containment vessels, i.e. the current rulers, is analogous to having done nothing to address the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, or allowing the San Onofre nuclear power plant to continue operating un-remediated.
The U.S. is a party to the conflict in Syria. It is allied with one of the sides. It is partially responsible for the mess there, so it’s time for someone with as solid a conscience as Adam Schiff to recognize that for the time being, the best outcome that can be achieved is damage control. Writing a letter that says “I recognize the concerns, am worried by extremist elements, want a negotiated settlement, and Assad has to go” perpetuates the mindset that got us to this point in the first place.
I ask Turks, Kurds, and Adam to please take the additional steps necessary to modify their positions to arrive at the best results. I ask everyone else to urge and support them to take those steps.