BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Last weekend was an incredibly busy one. Along with being jam packed with Armenian and other activities, a very touchy, and fantastically important, issue (or set of related issues) seemed to keep coming up.
Friday night found me at Burbank’s monthly dinner. Saturday started with the annual Burbank-LA-Glendale community hike in the Verdugo Mountains followed by the local Sierra Club Outings Assembly, after a brief respite, Harry Vorperian’s exhibit opening, and capped off by the fundraising event for the AYF Camp’s renovation. Sunday, opened with a Sierra Club hike, followed by yet another art exhibit, this time photos from Ara and Vahe Oshagan’s book, and closed with work on The Genocide Project’s survivor interview tapes.
I bored you with that list to get you into the right frame of mind— battered by running from place to place, and being challenged with, tersely phrased, “Why haven’t you moved to Armenia (to be understood as the Republic) yet?” Of course the subtext was always “put your body where your mouth always is”. And those confronting me had a valid point.
Why haven’t more of us, Diasporans that is, up and moved to the Republic of Armenia? Of course the leadership there has been less than welcoming, taking its sweet time to adopt paths to dual citizenship. Then there’s the sneering attitude towards the Diaspora that claims we can’t have a stake, or at least a say, in OUR country unless we move there, regardless of how much we do outside in support of the RoA, Artsakh, and Javakhk; not to mention sustaining our communities in dispersion so assistance to the homeland can be maintained for as long as is necessary; and, just as importantly, working on issues of Western Armenia, not exclusively Genocide recognition. Unfortunately, the worldview of leaders in Armenia is far from broad enough.
So the onus is on us. We have to find ways of driving policy in the RoA in the right direction (e.g. no more Protocols-like fiascoes). We have to help with economic development in the three political entities Eastern Armenia currently openly Armenian populated. We have to be advocates of these polities in foreign capitals. And, all this must we do while working on the liberation of Western Armenia.
The last point led me to counter-challenge my “tormentors” last weekend with, “why not move to Western Armenia?” Of course this was pooh-poohed as unrealistic because “no progress can be realized there in the near future”. That was the basic argument. Yet they had no response when I cited a parallel situation— our mindset on the eve of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Why should we be caught flat-footed again should the opportunity arise to reclaim our Turkish-occupied lands? Why not reestablish our presence there (I am reminded of Hilmar Kaiser’s prediction that within his lifetime, an Armenian presence would be reestablished in Western Armenia)? Why not intermarry with the still-indigenous, forcibly Islamicized, Armenians and start building bridges with that otherwise lost segment of our nation? Why is Eastern Armenia more important than Western? We have focused almost exclusively on the former at the expense of the latter for the last two decades. It’s time to establish a more balanced approach. That’s why activities such as the reparations conference held at UCLA last month are so important.
We should be working our way back home— economically, culturally, politically, socially, and physically. We should be developing orchards in Chork Marzban and Charentsavan, building homes (even ones intended just for summer use) in Hark and Hadroot, and setting up factories in Akhalkalak and Ardahan. Please, engage in this return, as much as you can by lobbying, visiting, and even moving, to whichever sector of home most tugs at your heartstrings.