BY VICKEN SOSIKIAN
On Monday July 30 the Los Angeles community had the opportunity to hear from the recently appointed Diaspora Minister during a town hall event in Glendale.
Mkhitar Hayrapetyan is young, charismatic, educated, open minded and was frank in his discourse with the people. Through his remarks and responses to audience questions, he affirmed that the new government is interested in developing a two way relationship with the Diaspora, which it views as a partner. He also made it clear that the ministry has a desire to work with any individual or organization who aims to serve the homeland.
Additionally welcoming and respectable was Hayrapetyan’s repeated calls for feedback and especially criticism.
I would like to take advantage of this invitation by sharing my concern about the minister’s position and response to one particular audience member’s question and comments. As a part of his remarks, the individual explained that he believes that a truly prosperous and powerful Armenian nation can only be achieved if Armenians of the Diaspora can return to their historic lands.
Hayrapetyan, actually began answering the question before the individual completed posing it. He explained that he believes in realistic, measurable and pragmatic approaches and continued by stating that we should first resolve the issues of present day Armenia and make the republic powerful and prosperous before looking to liberate historic lands. Hayrapetyan also explained that there are an estimated 20 million Kurds living in the Western Armenia.
At this point, the audience member clarified that he is referring to “Wilsonian Armenia” and that, according to Turkey’s own scholars and historians, 5-7 million of the local population is not Kurdish but in fact [Islamized] Armenians.
Hayrapetyan continued by posing a hypothetical question back to the audience member – Assuming the region in fact becomes a greater Armenia with 10 million Armenians and 10 million Kurds, he asked who would win elections in such a country.
The minister’s position on the issue and his remarks are concerning for several reasons.
Given that Hayrapetyan is not the Foreign Minister nor the Prime Minister, he could have punted the question to those individuals – like he punted another audience member’s question about education for school age children of repatriates to the Minister of Education. He could have also given a general response such that the issue is not on the government’s agenda at the moment but he welcomes input from others – such as from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which believes that the borders of United Armenia must include all territories designated as Armenia in the “Wilsonian Armenia” map.
Hayrapetyan, the new government and we all want to secure a prosperous Armenia. However, the approach to first achieve that and then pursue the liberation of Western Armenian lands is flawed for more than one reason.
Armenia cannot be truly prosperous without the crucial access to the Black Sea. President Woodrow Wilson expressed just this in his letter [at the time] justifying the boundaries of “Wilsonian Armenia” to the president of the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers. Furthermore, the exclusion of these lands from a greater Armenia is an exclusion human capital tantamount to the estimated 5-7 million Armenians living on that land [for centuries].
Additionally, the liberation of Western Armenian lands is undeniably a monumental task. Therefore, it is all that more imperative that the issue be addressed internally and long term strategic planning be done accordingly. A step-by-step approach does not work in such situations. Not to mention that such an approach results in delaying action rather than dealing with it head on.
Finally, to simplify the situation with the hypothetical question about who would win elections is also unreasonable. Simple electoral rules can prevent the insinuated concern that non-Armenians could potentially be elected to govern a greater Armenia.
While understanding the sensitivities of the topic, not talking about it does not advance us, but with every passing day relegates the cause to old history as unattainable.
Now is the right time for the Armenian government and we, as a nation, to begin the discussion.