The time has come that Armenia, anointed with the blood of her scions, demand reparations for the suffering and misfortune she has borne throughout the course of her history, become the master of her own destiny.
— Nikoghayos Adonts, 1919. Armenian historian (1871-1942)
Almost a century after these words were published in an epigraph, the ship of the fate of the Armenian people has not yet cast its anchors in the port of reparations. At the cost of the collective efforts of us all, centuries’ worth of sacrifice and decades of staunch struggles, the ship of our fate approached the edge of reparations for a short time ninety years ago; it appeared, just for a moment, that the haven of reparations was within reach. But the political winds suddenly switched direction at the last second and hurled us towards the conspiratorial Kemalist-Bolshevik whirlpool.
And, to this day, the ship of our fate is being knocked about in the tempestuous political sea. It is a sea with innumerable visible and hidden reefs, a sea teeming with pirates, a sea where our ship is wandering aimlessly, because the captain, instead of navigating towards a blessed asylum, is trying to come to terms with those very pirates by legitimizing their loot: an absolutely wrong and short-sighted act.
There are decisive eras in the lives of peoples, when the entire future of that people is set on its course. We Armenians are currently at such a stage. The unfortunate pair of Armenia-Turkey protocols have upset the social and political life of all Armenians, they have sharpened the memory of national dispossession, and consolidated the desire to form a pan-national opposition against them. We are at a decisive state today, as the protocols are simply unacceptable. They are unacceptable from the point of view of the supreme and lasting interests of our people. The past of a people, the security of a nation, and the future of a state must not be sacrificed for the sake of temporary or factional interests.
Ninety years ago, around this very time – on the 22nd of November,1920 – the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, declared his arbitral award. The Wilsonian Arbitral Award, as I have had the opportunity to discuss, is the gospel of our rights, the basis of our demands, and the only way to create a prosperous and secure future for the Republic of Armenia.
Let me very briefly turn to that extremely important document and point out just a few main clauses. Since the arbitral award was declared on the basis of the compromise of the Allied Powers at San Remo on the 26th of April, 1920, as well as in the Treaty of Sèvres (of the 10th of August, 1920), being enforced upon signing, that is, since the 22nd of November, 1920, therefore this award is a binding, inviolable and perpetual decision for all the Allied Powers of the First World War (which comprise more than a hundred countries today) and for all the states party to the Treaty of Sèvres (currently over twenty countries). It is also binding, inviolable and perpetual for the United States of America, as the arbitral award bears the Great Seal of the United States, signed by the US President and co-signed by the Secretary of State. In accordance with the prior written directive, the Wilsonian Arbitral Award is binding for the defeated countries of the First World War as well.
As per the basic principles of international law, which are codified in the documents of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, the realization of the arbitral award is the non-negotiable obligation and imperative duty of the parties to that document, that is, of all the countries signatory to the compromise. And so, our pan-national quest must be to demand of those countries on each 22nd of November to bear the responsibility of their obligation which stems from international law, and to do so not as some favor, but as a forgotten, partly denied, but nevertheless irrefutable and inviolable international obligation.
It has been a few decades now that the 24th of April is marked as an important date on the Armenian calendar, a day which showcases perhaps the greatest manifestation of united Armenian political will. That day was initially a day of requiems, of a holy remembrance for the Armenian people, but then gradually grew to become a day of commemoration and of demanding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Regardless, that is a day of loss, or, at the most, a day of recognizing the dispossession.
As a nation, however, and as a community in pursuit of justice, we are in need of a day of victory and reparation, of the realization of justice and the establishment of our rights. We do have such a day: the 22nd of November maintains that inexhaustible fire of triumph, the day the arbitral award by the US President Woodrow Wilson deciding the border between Armenia and Turkey was declared. By the arbitral award, the Republic of Armenia got to include a part of our patrimony, the north-eastern part. That day, a ruling was made on the basis of international law and enforced once and for all, mandatory to be carried out, legally inviolable and perpetual in terms of the existence of our rights.
The 22nd of November must become a day of restoration of violated justice, of national demands, and of the re-establishment of the rights that have been taken away from us; in a word, a Day of National Stewardship – Hayrenatiroutiun.
I call upon us all to appropriately mark such a day on the 22nd of November each year – with rallies, marches, pickets, conferences, publications, speeches – as it is only through National Stewardship, through Hayrenatiroutiun, that we shall be able to build tomorrow’s Armenia.
Ara Papian is the head of the Modus Vivendi Center.