In an open letter to President Serzh Sarkisian yesterday, artist and human rights activist Serj Tankian demanded an end to corruption and injustice in Armenia, asking the president to unite and inspire Armenians instead.
“Like most Diasporan Armenians, I have always been reluctant to criticize your government directly and publicly. But the avalanche of people suffering under your rule due to corruption and injustice is tipping the scale for us all,” Tankian said in the letter, which we provide below, in full.
A few hours after the release of Tankian’s letter, the website of the president of Armenia posted Sarkisian’s response (See Below).
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on your victory.
Victory means getting the most votes, of course, in a democracy.
Based on the overwhelming reported fraud from many NGOs, irrespective of the OSCE report, it seems like it would be scientifically impossible for even you, Mr. President, to know whether you actually won the majority of votes.
That’s quite funny isn’t it? That you, the President of Armenia are not really sure, deep inside, whether you are the true chosen leader of your people or not.
That would really bother me personally. If I wanted to lead my people, I would really want them to make that decision for themselves, because I respect my people and that is their decision to make. Otherwise, I would take over Armenia and call myself the Governor General of Armenia or Dictator du jour or whatever moniker I felt like sporting that day. Maybe your party is out of control and the oligarchs are running out of caviar or something and they want to make sure that the flow of the good times doesn’t stop.
Whatever the case, it is time for change.
Whether you’ve won fairly or not, somehow you are now President, again.
What does that mean to you?
Yes, Artsakh is important to us all and we have to struggle together for our brothers there.
But what I mean is how are you going to progress the cause of Armenians, in Armenia and around the world?
How are you going to help pull the country out of its economic, social, and political dysfunction and turmoil?
Obama at least offers hope, even when he lets us down.
Years ago, I started a campaign asking President Obama to do the right thing and stick by his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
You too took an oath, to the constitution of Armenia, to protect the country from enemies foreign and domestic. Those who steal elections from my people are domestic enemies that need to be punished.
It should be your duty to enforce that, even if some think it hypocritical. You should also consider dissolving Parliament and being the first Armenian reformist President who goes out of his way to make sure that future elections are fair and representational.
Serzh, everyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand injustice. And like most diasporan Armenians, I have always been reluctant to criticize your government directly and publicly. But the avalanche of people suffering under your rule due to corruption and injustice is tipping the scale for us all.
You need to know that.
Armenia is desperate for the rule of law more than anything else. And no one can be above the law. You can make that happen, now, by example and presidential decree.
Unite us Serzh. Inspire us.
Please take this challenge.
Thank you for your time.
Sarkisian to Tankian: I Organized the Best Elections
A few hours after the release of Serj Tankian’s open letter to President Sarkisian, the website of the president of Armenia posted Sarkisian’s response (in English and Armenian). We provide the English text below, as it appeared on the president’s website, without editing.
My younger grandson is also our namesake. He is too young to know that he was born to descend a proud nation, small, overburdened with issues but still a citizen of a victorious and forward-looking country. He still has a lot to learn. Serj, you and me, all of us, shall report to him and his generation on what we have done, on what kind of a new homeland under Holy Mountain we convey them. Can you imagine questioning eyes of those to whom we shall report? You and me, Serj, all of us. Those eyes are childish and playful but tomorrow they are going to be serious and investigating.
What shall I tell them, Serj? Shall I tell them that I promised my people Secure Armenia, that I organized the best elections (even if with shortcomings, which, nevertheless, could not have had any significant impact on the outcome of the vote) in the 21-year long history of our country, and I could not have been able to consolidate all of our people and show them the path to the future? Shall I tell them that I took it serious and did even discuss “ultimate truths” stemming from thin air that has no relation to the state and statehood whatsoever? That is a mine, Serj, a mine threatening our coming several decades that will lead us to inevitable self-destruction. Our duty is to throw away mines that undermine our path towards development. The agenda of establishing law and order cannot be implemented by illegal means. Such an agenda will come to its end swiftly through similarly illegal ways.
I think little Serzh is going to be fan of your music, and what are we going to tell him when he asks us:
“Was the philosophy of displaced mines the bombing of all homes and villages?”
This is a State, Serj. We have dreamt about it extremely long. This State is yours and mine; it is the State of all of us. It is the State of little Serzh and of wonderful children of the Hovannisian family. It is the State of all our children and grandchildren. We have a paradise homeland, and our duty is to build a strong State. We have to build it together, Serj. The mines planted today will be threatening our children tomorrow, they will become Bellum omnium contra omnes, or the “the war of all against all”. And growing child will ask you:
“Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall, Serj?”
What is our response going to be to them? Is it going to be that years ago we have been romantic and did not understand it? Is that our response? They will not believe us, Serj. They will read this letter and conclude most certainly:
“You saw it all when you looked forward, why did you go there?”
That is not our path. We are comrades on the matter of the path we embark upon. Indeed, it is time for change. Nobody can be above the law. Falsification and hypocrisy, impudence and hostility will destroy drop by drop and steadily our ability to cry wholeheartedly: “Freedom, we are free”. We need to do that in order to call upon all: “Back To the River Aras!” We need to do that, Serj, in order to embolden ourselves to look into the eyes and respond to the questions of little Serzh and of their generation.
For that exact matter I do need your assistance, and assistance of all of us be they from Glendale or Stepanakert, from Melbourne or Moscow. I believe in our collective victory.
And in conclusion I will address your question. You asked me if I was really sure, deep inside, whether I was the true chosen leader of our people or not. I respond to it that I have always been sure in whatever I have done be that battle command or organization of elections. One needs to feel Armenia, Serj, and it is not possible to feel it siting in an expensive office in downtown Yerevan, even if one sits there for too long. Armenia can be felt standing on the rocky land of a hamlet that struggles to continue its eternal path. Armenia can be felt of the green of flowers planted at a cemetery of our freedom fighters. Armenia spoke up, Serj, believe me.
That is all I wanted to tell you.
Please convey my best regards to your father, and let the proud message of the spring stork prevent us from choosing a wrong path.