By Edmond Y. Azadian
The celebrated Armenian national poet, Vahan Tekeyan, has written a series of poems which encapsulate in the most concise and effective fashion the woes befallen on the Armenian people throughout history. One of those poems is titled, “Nation into Dust,” which begins with the line: “You small, diminished land, finer than a grain of dust.”
This short statement laments the status of the Armenian people and their homeland, which have been reduced to dust as a consequence of the crime perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. The poet, who, most of the time comes off as a pessimistic prophet, this time around concludes the poem with optimism, writing, “For grains of dust may some day be recast as stone once again.”
The Turks decided to pulverize the Armenian people so that they may not rise again to claim their ancestral homeland. Tekeyan’s optimistic conclusion notwithstanding, the Armenians remain a “nation into dust” through infighting and internecine squabbles of self-destructive magnitude. What the Turks intended to reduce us into a nation of dust we continue perpetrating that status through our own volition.
We are at the threshold of the Genocide centennial and except some rhetoric and grandiose plans we, as a nation, continue the self-flagellation, while Turkey has already taken counter measures to blunt any effort that Armenians could undertake to reach out to the world.
The Turks already have their strategic plans in place because they realize the national security threat that this “nation of dust” may engender.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has already announced plans to mark the year 2015 as the centennial anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, where Turkish forces, under the leadership of Mustapha Kemal, defeated the Allied Troops at the Straits of Dardanelles. Certainly the well-heeled lobbying firms in Turkey will generate enough noise on the international scene to drown all Armenian initiatives.
Following the Ergenekon or Deep State trials and recent convictions, which put behind bars all the military brass undermining Prime Minister Erdogan’s initiatives, the Supreme Military Council of Turkey has nominated new commanders to head its air, land and marine forces, to be able to deal with all the neighbors which may in any way threaten Turkey’s national interests. Militarily Armenia is no match for Turkey, but politically the Ankara leadership is convinced that Armenian lobbying in the US has been jeopardizing American-Turkish relations. It is not a coincidence that Turkey has appointed Hulyusi Akar as the commander of the land forces. It so happens that Mr. Akar is one of Turkey’s “experts” on Armenian issues. In fact, his doctoral thesis at Istanbul’s Bogazici University was titled, “The Armenian Question and the Impact of the Armenian lobby on the American-Turkish relations.”
While Turkey is investing its tremendous resources in money, military power and political clout, what are the Armenians doing to counter the threat?
We can enumerate a few despicable acts and continue lamenting our status of a nation reduced to dust.
Recently one of the topics scheduled to be discussed at the Supreme Spiritual Council at Echmiadzin was the planning of centennial programs. But no one was interested in that topic. Instead, an obscene campaign was unleashed to denigrate the church hierarchy as if to sabotage the more pressing issues. Indeed, the coincidence may lead one to believe in conspiracy theories. At this time, the merits or demerits of the questions raised is not the issue, but the timing is definitely unfortunate.
Another issue was an engrossing situation created by law firms seeking compensation for the survivors of the victims of the Armenian Genocide from the insurance companies.
A statement issued on July 24, 2013 heralded that “Yeghiayan, Kabatek and Geragos amicably resolve their differences.”
It is important to quote some major statement from the release: “The law offices of Vatkes Yeghiayan, the firm of Katabeck Kellner and the firm of Geragos and Geragos jointly announce that they have amicably resolved their differences which arose from the settlement of the Armenian Genocide claims in the AXA litigation pending in the federal court. Specifically, the lawsuit filed by Geragos and Kabatek Brown Kellner (case no. 2:11-cv-03043-CAS-AGA) against Mr. Yeghiayan, Rita Mahdessian and a number of charities is being dismissed with prejudice forthwith.”
The moral of this uncalled for litigation lies further down in the release: “The lawyers who filed the case are aware that the AXA case is meager compensation for the fathomless injustice committed upon the Armenian people. They know that while they cannot undo the dark pages of Armenian history, they must continue to fight for justice.” Mr. Yeghiyan has further commented: “We must not lose sight of our main objective — which is a measure of justice for the heirs of the victims.”
One wonders if these prominent lawyers knew that our objective was to fight for justice or they learned after they embarrassed each other and the Armenian community with them.
These are venerable law firms which have done so much good for the community and with all their legal expertise it seems that they have lost common sense.
It was a minor victory against Turkey — not even against Turkey, but against a foreign insurance company — and we became a laughing stock of the Turks.
This case also symbolizes our vulnerability, should one day the Turks decide to discuss a compensation of any size. The Turks have already learned that all it takes to create chaos for Armenians is to float a trial balloon.
Another issue of principle has come to upset our scholarly community; a scholarly conference took place in Tbilisi, Georgia, on the topic of the Armenian Genocide. Many of the organizers and participants were Genocide deniers. The ARF media appealed to Armenian scholars to refrain from attending and many scholars heeded the warning. The reasoning was to not legitimize the Genocide deniers, which is a valid point. However Prof. Gerard Libaridian agreed to attend and read a paper. It is beside the point that the scholar failed to show up for health reasons. The ARF media on the East and West coasts (namely the Armenian Weekly and Asbarez) joined their forces to attack Professor Libaridian’s decision.
For many years the Armenian scholars attended MESA meetings either unprepared or leaving the forum open to Turkish scholars and their hired guns. Some academics maintained that they were not Genocide scholars, others believed that facing the Genocide deniers would place them in the realm of advocacy, which would chip away their academic credentials. In his lengthy rebuttal, Professor Libaridian maintains that we should meet the deniers in the lion’s den face to face and take them to task.
It seems that his detailed reasoning has failed to convince his opponents who have produced another piece, this time around abandoning the niceties of academic discourse.
If we have to face the deniers, our scholars must be as prepared as the opponents are, otherwise, we would fall into the trap of a Quixotic exercise.
But what we learn from this debate is that the ARF media has come to settle old scores with Professor Libaridian, who was a former member of ARF and quit. As senior advisor to President Levon Ter-Petrosian, he is perceived to be the architect of the president’s so-called “pro-Turkish” policy. All these resentments built up over the years and have come out under the guise of academic debate.
Besides the ARF believes that it has a monopoly on the Armenian case and Genocide issues. What we need is a discussion in our community to decide whether or not we should face the Genocide deniers and use such meetings as a positive way to change opinions.
Last but not least, is the issue of the Genocide Museum in Washington. The Cafesjian Family Foundation won the legal battle and gained control of the museum site. But it looks like the museum battle is lost as there seems to be no prospect of opening it in the year 2015 — at least not on the magnificent scale envisioned originally. This is a tragedy on top of the tragedy of the Genocide itself.
Had the poet Tekeyan been resurrected, perhaps he would revise the optimistic punch line of his poem to state that we were reduced to the state of a nation of dust by the enemy and that we will struggle ourselves to continue on surviving as a “nation of dust.”