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Mensoian: Looking Beyond 2015 (Part I)

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Old 08 Aug 15, 17:12   #1 (permalink)
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Post Mensoian: Looking Beyond 2015 (Part I)

Special for the Armenian Weekly

Within a few months, the Centennial year observances will become part of history. These observances represented the devotion of a nation to memorialize the murder of some 1.5 million innocent men, women, and children during the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman-Turkish government. During the process of preparing for this epic year, a transformation seemed to have occurred that can best be described as a collective epiphany. For far too long we have allowed victimhoodspawned by the genocideto cast a shadow on our many achievements. Our Centennial year observances spoke to our strength, our undiminished determination to seek justice, and our victory.

Pope Francis held Solemn Mass for the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.

Yes, victory! Today we have an independent Armenia, a free Artsakh (Karabagh), and a dynamic diaspora. We have our problems, but compare where we are today with the dire prospects that faced us when the genocide had run its course. We have neither been annihilated, nor has our spirit been subdued. Our wealth was stolen, but we have become a prosperous people. Our children and young women became captive and survived in bondage, but generations later, many of our Islamized Armenians seek their heritage. Our ability to survive, prosper, and create a stronger nation in the process confounds our adversary and represents a significant political and public relations liability for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The support that our Centennial observances engendered was heartwarming. Many foreign legislative bodies supported our demand for genocide recognition and political leaders stressed the importance for Turkey to come to terms with its past. The April 24th message by Pope Francis declaring that the events of 1915 were indeed genocide may well have been the highlight of the Centennial year.



A Changing Post-Centennial Environment

But here is the rub. While these expressions of support may have served to embarrass and infuriate Erdogan on the world stage (as well as assuage the grief we have endured for far too many years), he is astute enough to know that in the world of real politik these expressions of support have no cash value. In the post-Centennial period, we will be operating in a very different and increasingly difficult political environment that will allow us no easier solutions. One significant aspect of this change is that our direct connection with the events of 1915-23 will become more and more tenuous. Unplanned as it might be, 2015 may have become, in retrospect, the year that we began the process of handing off to a younger generation the responsibility to continue the struggle.

On April 25, the Armenian Youth Federation Eastern Region took over New York Citys Bowling Green Park to educate and engage the general public about the Armenian Genocide.

In another 20-30 years those among us who have a direct link to the genocide (having lost family members, relatives, or friends) will have decreased significantly in number. Those entrusted to carry on will, whether we like it or not, have to depend on visual and written accounts rather than the first-hand accounts from family members, relatives, or friends that many of us have grown up with. This in itself represents a dramatic and significant problem with respect to attracting, motivating, and sustaining our future leaders and cadre. A looming problem of equal importance is the continued supportwhether financial, moral, or participatorythat can reasonably be expected to flow from our communities in the diaspora and in Armenia. After 100 years and counting, death takes its toll, people tire, memories fade, and time erodes what was once considered important. Following the genocide, our emotional wounds were raw and we were easily inspired by leaders who knew first-hand the horrors of the genocide. Time has already reduced their numbers or muted their voices.

In the post-Centennial period, we must continue to rely on the work of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and its lobbying entities; the various diasporan organizations that provide assistance to our people; the activists in Armenian civil society dedicated to improving the socio-economic and political quality of life of the masses; and the individuals who support various initiatives in Armenia and Artsakh. And there is an absolute need to reform Armenia’s dysfunctional marketplace to free it from artificially imposed constraints. It seems counterproductive to be addressing what are critical issues in the international realm while we blithely ignore the hemorrhaging of population to out-migration; the unacceptable levels of unemployment and underemployment; the increasing number of people at or below the poverty level; and the lack of opportunity for our young men and women to be productive members of society and have the wherewithal to marry and create families. The conundrum is that those who must effect marketplace reform are the ones who have purposely distorted its proper functioning for their own gain.



Genocide Recognition

Genocide recognition remains an emotional issue that will continue to resonate with our people. Historically, the ARF has been the Armenian organization that has ably confronted Turkish denial of the genocide on the world stage. The support for genocide recognition by various groups in Turkish civil society as well as by Turkish academics both inside and outside the country fuels our optimism. However, it is fairly safe to say that the overwhelming majority of ethnic Turks on this contentious issue would tend to support President Erdogan. This may seem counterintuitive when consideration of the genocide in the public arena, although limited, is allowed. We become euphoric (and misled) when foreign leaders remind Turkey that recognition of its past is a must, and with continued recognition by foreign legislative bodies of the genocide. This is still “front page news.” Although some civil groups refer to the need for reparations, it is closer to the truth that for most activists, recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a “one and done deal.” This can be extended as well to the foreign support that we seem to rely on. When sympathetic Turkish citizens realize that recognition is the key that opens Pandora’s Box of economic and political demands (at their deserved expense) they may be less willing to confront their government’s unyielding position on this issue. Can we realistically expect those foreign leaders and legislative bodies that supported genocide recognition to vigorously support our demands for reparations against a recalcitrant Turkish leadership? With respect to the much larger issue, do they see a connection between their support for genocide recognition and Hai Tahd?

A scene from the Armenian Genocide commemoration event at the Haydarpasha train station in Istanbul (photo: George Aghjayan)

President Erdogan is cut from the same cloth as his forebears who were responsible for the genocide. Antipathy against recognition is so ingrained in the mind-set of Turkish leaders that short of some politically cataclysmic event, it is not likely to occur, at least in the foreseeable future. However, no one is prescient enough to say if and when the situation may change. The obvious course of action is to continue pressuring Ankara on multiple fronts and in various venues under the leadership of the ARF.

Besides the economic and political repercussions that recognition would unleash, there is Erdogan’s concern for his legacy should he be the Turkish leader who acknowledges a genocide that has been vigorously denied for the past 100 years. In the minds of many Turkish citizens, recognition would put an indelible stain on the history of the republic.

Recognition also runs counter to Erdogan’s romantic image of the grandeur and the influence that was the Ottoman-Turkish Empire that he seeks to recreate. Admittedly with all its problems, the Ottoman Empire did control the strategic triangular bridge that connected Africa, Asia, and Europe. Its natural resources, strategic waterways, and potential military sites were enviously eyed by Imperial Russia, England, and France as well as Germany during the glory days of European expansionism. That the empire withstood these challenges for as long as it did is amazing.

Erdogan’s concept of a resurgent Turkey would have its political and economic influence extend eastward to western China and south to the Arabian Sea. This eastward expansion begins with a secure corridor through the South Caucasus. In support of this expansion of influence, Erdogan recently objected to the deportation by Thailand of Uighurs (some of whom held Turkish passports) who had sought refuge in that country from the harsh treatment by Chinese authorities responding to separatists seeking independence for their native Sinkiang (Xinjiang province). Lying athwart that secure east-west corridor that Turkey needs is Armenia-Artsakh, representing the link connecting Russia and Iran in an obstructing north-south corridor.

While some may question Russia’s determination to protect Armenia’s interest should Azerbaijan (with Turkish support) attack Artsakh, any evidence of weakness or vacillation by Moscow would effectively force Russia back to the north slope of the Caucasus. Such a situation could easily destabilize the political situation in Daghestan and Chechnya with the possibility of encouraging separatist movements in the neighboring north slope “republics” (a situation that Turkey would support). Russia must protect Armenia and the right of Artsakh to be independent if it wants to maintain its dominant position and geostrategic interests in the South Caucasus as well as its ability to exert whatever influence it may have on the former (Soviet) republics (its Near Abroad).

If President Erdogan is successful, Turkey would dominate the South Caucasus and become the major conduit for the movement of energy resources to Europe and the world in general. An expansion of its political and economic influence southward (problematic at this time) would shift the center of gravity of the world island (Asia, Africa, and Europe) to the strategic triangular land-bridge that connects these three continents and was controlled by the Ottoman-Turkish Empire more than a century earlier.

Sunni Turkey’s principal competitor is Shi’ite Iran, which also has designs to expand its political and economic influence within the Middle East (and Central Asia as well). It already occupies a strategic position for the movement of energy resources to world markets from the Caspian Sea Basin and Central Asia. With Armenia, Iran has the potential to be an important transit country for the movement of goods from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf. This would be extremely beneficial for Armenia. Iran would be hostile to any effort that would weaken Armenia on the rational that any change in the existing political-military situation in the South Caucasus favoring Turkey-Azerbaijan would be inimical to Iranian (as well as Russian) geostrategic interests.



Part II of Looking Beyond 2015 will continue with an overview of the remaining issues that must be addressed in the post-Centennial years. These include our incipient rapprochement with Kurdish leaders: our response to Azeri aggression against Artsakh; the future of the Armenian communities in Syria; and the need to reform Armenia’s moribund economy.

The post Mensoian: Looking Beyond 2015 (Part I) appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


Special for the Armenian Weekly Within a few months, the Centennial year observances will become part of history. These observances represented the devotion of a nation to memorialize the murder of some 1.5 million innocent men, women, and children during the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman-Turkish government. During the process of preparing for this epic year, a transformation seemed to have occurred that can best be described as a collective epiphany. For far too long we have allowed victimhoodspawned by the genocideto cast a shadow on our many achievements. Our Centennial year observances spoke to our strength, our undiminished determination to seek justice, and our victory. Pope Francis held Solemn Mass for the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Yes, victory! Today we have an independent Armenia, a free Artsakh (Karabagh), and a dynamic diaspora. We have our problems, but compare where we are today with the dire prospects that faced us when the genocide had run its course. We have neither been annihilated, nor has our spirit been subdued. Our wealth was stolen, but we have become a prosperous people. Our children and young women became captive and survived in bondage, but generations later, many of our Islamized Armenians seek [...]

The post Mensoian: Looking Beyond 2015 (Part I) appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


Special for the Armenian Weekly Within a few months, the Centennial year observances will become part of history. These observances represented the devotion of a nation to memorialize the murder of some 1.5 million innocent men, women, and children during the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman-Turkish government. During the process of preparing for this epic year, a transformation seemed to have occurred that can best be described as a collective epiphany. For far too long we have allowed victimhoodspawned by the genocideto cast a shadow on our many achievements. Our Centennial year observances spoke to our strength, our undiminished determination to seek justice, and our victory. Pope Francis held Solemn Mass for the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Yes, victory! Today we have an independent Armenia, a free Artsakh (Karabagh), and a dynamic diaspora. We have our problems, but compare where we are today with the dire prospects that faced us when the genocide had run its course. We have neither been annihilated, nor has our spirit been subdued. Our wealth was stolen, but we have become a prosperous people. Our children and young women became captive and survived in bondage, but generations later, many of our Islamized Armenians seek [...]

The post Mensoian: Looking Beyond 2015 (Part I) appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


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