It is time that we the Diaspora Armenians start to find ways and means to help create a positive atmosphere where justice can be pursued for the Genocide victims. First, maybe we too must start looking for ways and means for possible dialogue with those ethnic Turks, who live in the same country as we do, and share the same values as citizens of the same country, to create a new and positive atmosphere. We must be able to do so without us feeling victims, and without them feeling guilty, for the crimes committed by their ancestors four generations ago.
While we are trying to create that positive atmosphere, at the same time, we must start to search for ways and mean to reclaim our ancestral properties either personal or institutional that were confiscated after our ancestors were forcibly removed from their lands and forced marched through deserts and many killed. (I will address the territorial claims “Հողային պահանջատիրութիւն” later).
Armenians in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, are doing so with some encouraging successes. Just recently, the Protestant Church in Istanbul after a long campaign repossessed the “Camp Armen” in Tuzla, which was unlawfully confiscated by the Turkish government. Sourp Hagop Hospital in Istanbul also won a settlement for a confiscated property for 37 million dollars, Saint Giragos church in Diarbekir was earlier reclaimed and renovated, etc. All these settlements and properties were reclaimed legally without any anti-Turkish propaganda or vilification of the Turks in general.
It was especially encouraging to see the courage, determination, and persistence of the young generation of Armenians helping the campaign to reclaim Camp Armen. It is also encouraging to see new civic organizations emerging in Turkey the likes of, Nor Zartonk, Hrant Dink Foundation. etc. (If I am not mistaken, the Armenian community in Turkey, legally, is recognized as a religious community “Millet” headed by the Patriarchate that is heavily influenced and controlled by the government authorities).
We too in the diaspora(s) could start the process to repossess our ancestral properties and wealth. It will be harder but it is possible. Although many personal and institutional properties confiscated by Turks, Kurds, and Turkish authorities, might have been without deeds, many did have deeds that we could get title searched and try to repossess. The fact that the perpetrators of the crime are dead, does not mean that their heirs, who are continuing to enjoy the spoils of the crime, are immune from justice.
Maybe one of the possible and successful venues could be, if the legal heirs of the victims, the young generations of Vanaitsis, Sasoontis, Erzroomtsis, Sisaitsis, Hajentsis, Marachtsis Ayntabtsis, etc, start the process for the repossession of the private and institutional properties their ancestors owned, either, privately, or through existing Patriotic Unions, (PU) “Հայրենակցական Միութիւն” of similar names, or form new PUs, especially for this purpose, whichever is practical and less bureaucratic.
Each PU works separately, on its own, but will cooperate with other PUs whenever necessary. (No need for wasting time creating a bureaucratic united front that has been so elusive). By the smaller geographic boundaries and a sense of belonging, it might be more practical and successful.
With today’s communication technology, it is possible to be able to interconnect the compatriots worldwide through the internet and form strong bonds for a noble and just cause which is to pursue justice for the wrongs done to our ancestors.
Need I say again that this has to be done without politicizing it, and especially without any undue publicity and anti-Turkish propaganda. Let me repeat again, that, the name of the game is to pursue justice. As the saying goes “Նպատակը խաղող ուտէլ է և ոչ թէ այգէպան ծեծել”.
I know it is a big challenge but the third and fourth post-Genocide generations can, and must do it. They are highly educated and successful professionals, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, academics, etc, and the time has come for them not to demand justice, but to pursue justice, and pursue it with passion and persistence. The time is now, due to the fact that the Genocide awareness is at its highest level after the Centennial memorials.
This is the legacy of our fathers, and grandfathers, our greatest post-Genocide generation, the living victims, deportees, unfortunate eyewitnesses, that not only survived as strangers and refugees in foreign lands but also kept their identity and “recreated” the old country the (airgeer) “Էրկիր” with authentic traditions that they passed it on to their children and grandchildren in challenging times. We all owe them great gratitude. THANK YOU ALL.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian