BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
An ever-increasing number of testimonials, or reports, or essays, or travelogues, or… are appearing from and/or about Western Armenia, written by Armenians, Kurds, or Turks. For now, the best I can do to participate in this is to make some suggestions from afar that might help with this re-connection-with-our-neighbors process that’s heating up.
First, I want to address our Kurdish neighbors. The best thing they could do, both from their own, internal, cultural/national perspective and to enhance ties with Armenians is this: adopt a unified alphabet instead of having four—modified Latin in Turkey, Arabic in Iraq and Syria, modified Arabic in Iran, and Armenian in Armenia. That unified alphabet should be ours. It has most of the Kurdish language’s sounds, or very close approximations. It’d be perfect and very unifying.
Let’s move on to what we should be doing, specifically, to reconnect with our own, hidden compatriots. These Armenians are in various stages of rediscovery. Some care a lot. Others are only 1/4 or 1/2 Armenian but still want to reconnect. Some are devout Muslims, others still wear that religion only skin deep. How do we bridge the gaps that have opened up over the course of a century to re-acculturate them?
The most potent single thing we can do is publish the Koran in Western Armenian and disseminate it by the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands among the current residents of the Armenian Plateau and Anatolia. Just think how powerful a message and tool that would be for re-Armenianizing our homeland. In addition to Eastern Armenian (recently translated at the behest of the Iranian embassy in Yerevan), the Koran has been translated into western Armenian at least twice— once recently, but also in the pre-Genocide era. These should be handed over to an expert in Arabic and Armenian, perfected, published, and pushed out!
We should also be setting up exchange programs and internships where young and old alike from our western homeland can attend schools or enjoy Diasporan community life, and Diasporans can do the same, perhaps in the very villages, towns, and cities of our ancestors.
Learning Kurdish is also important. Some of our compatriots, those hailing from Ghamishly (Qāmišlī, Qamişlo, Qamišlo) where just days ago the Kurds declared autonomy within Syria, already speak it. Perhaps it should be introduced as a foreign language offered at our Armenian schools. How better to communicate with Kurds, Kurdified Armenians, and Armenians living in predominantly Kurdish speaking areas of our homeland?
No doubt this will irritate the hell out of many people who will perceive it as “preaching” Islam, or endangering ourselves, diluting our language, or simply a waste of time. But remember, “soft power” is VERY potent. How does the U.S. dominate the planet? To a significant degree, it is through soft power — culture, Hollywood, the Peace Corps, business, etc. We must learn from that example if we are to reclaim our homeland and our lost cousins.