BY GARO R. MADENLIAN
“It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our greatest strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.” Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
Beginning in April of this year Armenians in the homeland and diaspora have experienced tumultuous times; an emotional roller coaster ranging from despair to euphoric hope, mirroring the political environment both at home and abroad. Difficult yet exciting times, refocusing the nation with positive changes that demand a moral compass and determination to stay the course; to remain unified in its resolve while avoiding pitfalls and traps such as the apparent organized and coordinated effort to divide and distract the intelligent, strong and vigilant Armenian people.
Unity in our national agenda to maintain the security of Armenia and Artsakh while implementing measures to improve the socio-economic conditions and quality of life, secure the safety and rights of Armenians in Javakhk and Western Armenia regardless of their religion, and continue strengthening the diaspora, requires the continued collaboration, coordination and cooperation between the new government of Armenia and the Armenian Revolution Federation-Dashnaktsutyun.
This of course cannot be conditioned on a complete and total agreement on every issue. A healthy democracy requires debate, discourse, and constructive criticism in order to yield more effective programs and thus better results benefitting the nation as a whole, just as the ARF has encompassed differing opinions throughout its history during its appropriate meetings.
The ARF, established in 1890 to protect the rights of the Armenian people, has played a crucial role throughout its 128-year history including but not limited to the defense of the Armenian population and establishment of Armenia’s independence of 1918. Currently the ARF is a political party functioning in Armenia since the independence of 1991. It and its affiliate organizations played a critical role in the humanitarian efforts after the earthquake of 1988 and in securing the liberation of Artsakh, just to name a few…
However, the ARF is much more than just a political party in Armenia, it is a worldwide organization that established Armenian communities throughout the world in what we know as the Armenian Diaspora, especially after the Genocide of 1915, Sovietization of Armenia in 1920 and subsequent February Revolt of 1921. It ensured the Armenian nation’s survival outside of its homeland by continuing to maintain schools, churches, and community centers with its affiliate political, cultural, philanthropic, educational, youth, sports organizations, and more…. While doing so, the ARF rallied the Armenian communities together to champion the Armenian cause; this Armenian liberation movement demanding justice for the crime of genocide and seeking reparations from Turkey took on many roles throughout the years from Nemesis to armed struggle to worldwide political and lobbying efforts. All this while successfully fending off attempts by the Soviet Union, Turkey and other powerful governments to dismantle the ARF and with it the organized and influential Armenian Diaspora.
The events earlier this year in Armenia shocked the entire world and will be remembered for many years to come as we set an example for civilized nations around the world to reestablish the collective and individual rights of the people through civil disobedience. The organizers, or architects if you will, meticulously implemented a plan to create momentum to change the ruling government. While one small group headed by Nikol Pashinyan started walking from Gyumri to Yerevan, another group began rallying in Yerevan to remove then Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian from office. They eventually converged in Yerevan where the outspoken and charismatic Nikol Pashinyan became the figurehead of these groups that along with the masses converged into one. They espoused basic ideas regarding equality, fairness and the much-needed improvement of the quality of life in Armenia, with catchy slogans and songs, and a single platform that the rulers of the time must go. Without a long-term plan and without a single shot being fired, they succeeded as droves of people took to the streets, excited and driven by emotion to remove the existing Prime Minister for a brighter future. As a result of the masses gathering in Republic Square, essentially shutting down the country’s infrastructure, and with the police and security forces not intervening, Serzh Sarkisian resigned and became the former Prime Minister.
The ARF was and continues to be uniquely positioned to best serve the Armenian people and solidify the bridge between Diaspora and Armenia, thus creating a tremendous force that together can move mountains.
ARF Supports Pashinyan’s Election and Joins the New Government
“All for one and one for all!” Alexander Dumas, The Three Musketeers
The people rejoiced in Republic Square; and the ARF supported Pashinyan’s election and offered its resources in Armenia and the diaspora in support of the new government for the benefit of Armenia and the people.
The ARF recognized this positive change and quickly announced its support in the National Assembly to elect Pashinyan Prime Minister of Armenia. When one of its delegates did not vote in favor of Pashinyan, the ARF had him resign his post as a national delegate and expelled him from the organization.
Unfortunately, On May 1, 2018 the National Assembly did not elect Pashinyan and a second vote was scheduled a week later. The ARF once again reiterated its support for Pashinyan and without any expectation of being a part of the new government announced that it will stand by Pashinyan and help the new government succeed because that would mean success for the people’s movement.
Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister on May 8, 2018 and subsequently formed his new government including the ARF, which until today has provincial governors and two very important Ministries in the cabinet; Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Economic Development and Investments.
This should have been a time to celebrate and refocus the nation with positive energy making positive changes in and for the Republic. Instead, some criticized the ARF for not announcing its support earlier. However, even if these critics had a valid argument, if they were sincerely concerned about improving the situation in Armenia they would have applauded and welcomed this union when it occurred. After all, now the new government and the ARF, both in Armenia and the vast and powerful diaspora, could work together for the betterment of Armenia and Armenians everywhere.
ARF Continues to Support Armenia and its New Government
“By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.” John Dickinson, Liberty Bell
A quick recap of the last few weeks indicates the ARF has remained steadfast in its position and continues to support the Prime Minister and new government of Armenia, which it remains an integral part of.
In late July when the Diaspora minister visited the United States he was greeted with open arms by the ARF and its affiliate organizations, where the ARF Western US Central Committee welcomed the changes sweeping Armenia and pledged its resources at the disposal of the ministry as part of ARF’s mission to strengthen Armenia’s statehood. The Diaspora Minister on behalf of the Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for the continued support of Armenia and the crucial role the Armenian-American community plays in advancement of the nation..
Earlier last month, when Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakopyan, traveled to France she met with representatives of the ARF and affiliate organizations. The ARF Bureau and Western Europe Central Committee members explained how the ARF has always defended Armenia and Artsakh, and the rights of the Armenian people. The ARF reiterated its support and pledged its resources in Armenia, Artsakh and throughout the diaspora for the success of the revolution because the future of the Armenian people is conditioned upon its success. The First Lady expressed her gratitude for being hosted at the ARF center, thanked the ARF for its years of invaluable service and work for Armenia and Artsakh, looked forward to continuing to work together.
Shortly after, the Chairman of the ARF Bureau was interviewed by various media outlets where he explained his amazement that the ARF is being criticized when the ARF wants this new movement in Armenia to succeed, and that is why the ARF expresses its opinions and perspectives, emphasizing that those who work together must also advise one another accurately and timely in order to be successful. The ARF reiterated its support for Pashinyan and called on those who intentionally and unnecessarily criticize the ARF and others for expressing their views to stop creating an unhealthy atmosphere. A number of other topics were discussed including that in the near future the ARF would present its platform to improve socio-economic conditions.
In mid to late August, the ARF Western United States presented its message at a rally in Glendale organized in support of the first 100 days of Armenia’s new government. There, the ARF welcomed the historic opportunity to create a new Armenia, outlined the areas that require much needed improvement to secure equality, fairness and transparency, and reiterated ARF’s support for the new government as its success is the success of the Armenian people.
More recently the Prime minister hosted a meeting with the ARF Central Committee of Lebanon where they discussed cooperation between Lebanon and Armenia, and the role the Armenian community of Lebanon will continue to play ion Armenia’s development.
Anti-ARF Propaganda Intensifies and is Actually an Attack on Armenia
“Don’t believe the hype!” Public Enemy, “Don’t Believe the Hype”
Unfortunately, this cooperation was not welcomed by everyone and those with ulterior motives intensified their criticisms of the ARF in Armenia and abroad, some even called on the new government to not work with the ARF in Armenia and in the diaspora. Meanwhile in the diaspora a few insignificant individuals openly and brazenly called on Armenia’s new government to work with them and only them, as they laid claim to being the only true supporters of the movement in Armenia, from abroad.
This was not simply dissension by a few opportunists but rather part of a carefully planned and coordinated effort; a three-pronged attack, reminiscent of similar failed attempts by the Soviet Union and then in the early 1990s by Levon Ter Petrosyan and his partners in crime, to 1) create a schism within the ARF by attacking its leadership, and 2) drive a wedge between the ARF and segments of the Armenian population, in order to 3) create a divide between the ARF and Armenia’s new government, with the ultimate nefarious goal of eliminating the possibility of pooling resources and coordinating efforts in Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk and the entire diaspora.
This does not appear to be a policy of the new Prime Minister or his cabinet, because the actual target is Armenia itself, including the current government. It is apparent that the Prime Minister and his new government recognize this as well as the importance and value in working together with the ARF, as the ARF is also a part of this new government with Ministers and provincial Governors. In addition, the multitude of announcements by representatives of the Armenia’s government and the ARF, and various meetings together both in Armenia and the diaspora support this assertion.
Of course, there are many whose interests have aligned and who stand to gain if the government of Armenia and ARF are unable to cooperate and work together, including but not limited to Turkey and Azerbaijan, major powers in the east and west, those with business interests in the region, individuals who have amassed riches and others who desire coffers of their own, and many more… But, only Armenia, Armenians, and the Armenian nation as a whole stand to lose.
These efforts to divide and conquer include the clever yet devious use and manipulation of social media to shape public opinion with misinformation, disseminated by some unscrupulous news outlets and opportunists, self-centered individuals who place their personal interests above all else. This is not an attack on the ARF or various individual ARF members, but rather an attack on Armenia, as the ultimate goal here can only be to weaken Armenia’s and Armenians’ position globally, while advancing the self-serving interests of a few.
One such example can be found by carefully watching the entire 26 minutes of a recent interview of the ARF Chairman conducted by Azatutyan.am where the Chairman gives a plethora of explanations about various issues concerning the current situation in Armenia. During the final few minutes the interviewer presses the ARF Chairman about whether the ARF plans to work with Robert Kocharian, to which the ARF Chairman explains that the ARF is willing to work with all Armenians but the ARF currently does not have plans to work with Kocharian, nor is it on the agenda. The headline for the interview, also disseminated by other Armenian news outlets and then shared online by some, read “ARF does not rule out cooperation with Kocharian” in an obvious attempt to smear the ARF by linking it with the former president who was persona non grata after his recent arrest and subsequent release.
Also, compare ARF’s reporting with Civilnet’s misleading headline, which is the English version of Azatutyun’s headline.
It is important to note that when the Diaspora Minister of Armenia visited southern California at a town hall meeting in late July he also stated the Armenian government is willing to work with whoever is willing to serve Armenia. He was rightfully applauded by many, even though a select few were disappointed he would not work exclusively with them.
Social Media Used to Manipulate Public Opinion
“Things aren’t always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” Phaedrus, Plato’s Dialogues
Another example of this coordinated effort is the small number of individuals who post online videos of themselves or others, ranting and raving anti-ARF propaganda, including but not limited to the inaccurate and misleading headlines of the interview mentioned above. These generally unknown and insignificant individuals share each other’s videos and miraculously receive thousands of views online, sometimes up to a hundred thousand or more overnight. A careful review of their pages will show many of their other posts have minimal views and/or likes.
The use of media to shape public opinion regarding issues, or to attack opponents is not a new tactic; just check your mail and emails leading up to the November mid-term elections in the U.S. However, the use of social media in such campaigns has gained more traction since the last presidential election in the United States, and is now being utilized by some in their feeble attempts spread anti-ARF propaganda via social media outlets with inflated number of views to give the false appearance of having a large following. A tactic used to garner support from unsuspecting individuals by fooling them into believing they are joining a popular movement.
This use of social media to attempt to manipulate public opinion is well documented and has been utilized over the past years by many in various countries, and now it seems by some Armenians as well, to harm Armenia and ARF, for what we can only assume is some sort of personal benefit.
In 2017 the Guardian reported on the widespread use of this tactic to spread misinformation and lies based on a study by the Oxford Institute of the Internet (OII), a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford.. The ongoing research by OII states:
“The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to public life. Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science.” And concludes “the use of organised social media manipulation campaigns is a big business.”
For more information check some of these articles regarding the serious threat such campaigns pose, and compare to the divisive online campaigns conducted by unscrupulous news outlets and individuals against the ARF, and against Armenia: Motherboard; Newsweek; Bloomberg; The New York Times.
What remains to be revealed is who is behind this extensive and expensive campaign to harm Armenia and the ARF. Those coordinating this negative propaganda campaign will undoubtedly reveal themselves soon enough, and when they do they will be subjected to the ire of the entire nation.
We Remain United
“We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, The 14 Points
These efforts to divide our nation, like those before it, will not succeed because Armenians are much smarter than to fall victim to such deceit and trickery. We as Armenians see through these transparent and ineffective methods, and are resolute in our commitment to work together as one nation with one struggle against our common enemies including those who attempt to fragment our nation.
The Prime Minister recognizes the importance of working together collaboratively with the ARF in the homeland and diaspora; the ARF has reiterated its commitment to do the same and remains an integral part of the current government in order to secure the implementation and success of a better Armenia, together as one nation with one struggle and against common enemies both foreign and domestic.
The Armenian nation gave birth to the ARF which in turn serves the Armenian nation; the two are inseparable.
The ARF is not a simple organization or a corporation that can be subject to a hostile takeover. The true essence of the ARF is based on its ideology contained in the ARF Program and implemented through its activities by a membership with an undying dedication to Armenia, Armenians and the Armenian Cause; Founded in principles of democracy and socialism, based on a national agenda with love for Armenia and Armenians everywhere. It is not merely membership but rather a way of life with a lifelong commitment that unifies its members; a tie that cannot be broken because the ARF program and goals are much greater than any individual.
Finally, we have withstood much greater attacks during our 128-year history of dedication and service to the Armenian nation and are still actively doing so throughout the world. The insignificant few who continue with their futile attempts to divide the ARF forget that far greater and stronger foes such as the Soviet Union have tried and failed miserably in the past.
These minor annoyances will quickly fade and disappear like all those before it… as we continue our work and service to the Armenian nation…