Commentary: Agitation Is Not Action


By Varoujan Sirapian

Since the month of August 2009, Armenians, in the diaspora as well as in Armenia, have been preoccupied by what is called generally “the Protocols,” that is to say, the announcement followed by the signature of protocols on the diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey that took place in Zurich on October 10.

There has been considerable agitation by certain people, based, it appears to me, mainly on speculations rather than on facts or certainty.
I read and I hear, “the protocols signed by Armenia and Turkey encounter a vigorous opposition both in the diaspora and in Armenia.”

Can one consider a few scores (or even hundreds) of demonstrators, or as I have seen in Yerevan in the beginning of October, a few stands where they were trying with difficulty to have some petitions signed as “vigorous opposition?” The opinions of politicians, intellectuals and also the men in the street that I talked to were very divided and discreet. A large majority in Armenia and in the diaspora are waiting to see what the concrete results of the protocols and the outcome of the events will be. Many believe that this is all a part of the political game and that the signature was especially a way for the major powers not to lose face as they have been the originators of these protocols and that they had come to Zurich for that occasion to assist the “show.” The daily analyses in the Turkish media since the signature do not give the impression that the Turkish parliament is prepared to ratify the protocols, at least not immediately. In other respects, in a customarily provocative manner, the overbearing Prime Minister Erdogan’s linking the question of Artsakh (Mountainous Karabagh) with the opening of the borders became an evident denial of the signature. Armenia thus marked the first point in her favor in the eyes of the international community.

I read and I hear that “during his visits to Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Beirut, President Serge Sargisian realized the amplitude of the force of mobilization of the Diaspora against these protocols of surrender.”

A lie and exaggeration. What force! A mob of a few hundred gathered by a political organization that has lost momentum and is in search of lost credibility.

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A lie and exaggeration. I was there. The demonstration prepared in Yerevan by an organization accused today by the population of collaborating with previous governments and discredited, has mobilized only a small number of people.

I read and I hear that the Turkish government takes advantage of Armenia’s weakness and pushes her pawns to set up a commission in charge of the history of the Genocide, and also on the question of Karabagh.

Let us talk about the weakness of Armenia’s power: is it by a demonstration like the one in Paris before the statue of Komitas that unleashed police intervention, that one could reinforce the image of a country and her president? Respect for institutions and for a president should be maintained even if one does not agree with all of their acts or decisions. This has been a scandalous action. There is strong opposition against the protocols also in Turkey, especially by the Kemalists and the extreme right. But I cannot imagine for a moment this kind of a demonstration would be organized by Turks abroad during a visit by President Gul. Responsible organizations seriously concerned about their country’s interests will not behave in this manner. Nor will they mix daily domestic Armenian problems and dissatisfactions that they have with their leaders with foreign-affair issues.

I read and I hear that Turkey is in search of organizing a process that is aimed at casting doubts about the reality of the Armenian Genocide. But is this something new? Fighters of the Armenian Cause, starting with Tchobanian who denounced the conspiracy of silence back at the beginning of the last century, and many others after him, know well the efforts of the denialist Turkish state that negates the existence of the Genocide. There again, to speculate and to play scare tactics to preserve a “political boutique,” is disgraceful. We often denounce, with good reason, those who, similar to the Jewish lobby in the United States, play the Genocide recognition issue as blackmail against Turkey. No political organization should “utilize” the Genocide to promote their interests.

I read and I hear “around the world, the Armenian people of the diaspora and Armenia pursue their mobilization against the protocols.”
A lie and exaggeration: how could one talk in the name of “the Armenian people?” Any organization, even less so any person, cannot pretend to be the representative and the leader of the Armenian people in the diaspora. As to the Armenians in the Republic of Armenia, there is an elected president and a government.

I read and I hear that “to refuse these protocols is to work in favor of Armenia; it preserves the chances of success in the fight for the Armenian Cause; it promotes the interests of the Armenian Nation.”

Triple lies: who has estimated and decided that saying no is in favor of Armenia? What is meant by saying “preserve the chances of success for the Armenian Cause?” The Armenian Cause is “the defense of the interests of the Armenian Nation.” When such and such charitable organization helps Armenia, she works for the Armenian Cause; when another one works for Armenia and Artsakh, it helps the Armenian Cause; when a school in the diaspora tries to transmit our language and our culture to our youth, it works for the Armenian Cause; when they publish books, reviews and journals to lobby the leaders of a country, they work for the Armenian Cause, etc. No person or organization holds a monopoly of the Armenian Cause.

I read and I hear, “after the contest, it is necessary to act against the Protocols.”

How to act? Like it or not, the only entity de jure having the right to act in state to state relations is the government of Armenia, since the diaspora does not have a representative body. This matter points to the necessity of establishing a legitimate representation of the diaspora, an elected Armenian World Congress that will have the power to legitimately express itself in the name of the diaspora. In the meantime, those who pretend today to be the defenders of the Armenian Cause, should, at best, listen politely when they talk to them about the necessity to establish such an indispensable structure.

Certain people, due to political mistakes committed and repeated in the past, should better examine the balance sheets of their concessions by facing realities and accepting criticisms before giving lessons of conduct to the government and the Armenian people.

No one has the right to smother hope by continuously pouring oil on the fire of hatred. “Optimism is the opiate of the dumb,” said Milan Kkundera, to whom Jean Sartre answers, “pessimism is the excuse of the disloyal.”

Let us be neither optimists not pessimists, but simply lucid.

(Varoujan Sirapian is the founder and president of the Tchobainan Institute of Paris, France. This article was translated from the French original.)

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