So far I talked only about reclaiming the confiscated personal and institutional properties and wealth. Here comes the very difficult question, what about our territorial claims, “Հողային պահանջատիրութիւն”. In general, our territorial claims are understood to be the territory within the boundaries of the Sevre Treaty of August 10. 1920.
So far all three administrations of Armenia have been wise enough to not officially claim any territory from Turkey. This is an issue that only could be resolved between the two independent countries if ever, other than through war. For Armenia war with Turkey is not an option, and despite all the fear-mongering, Turkey does not need a war with Armenia to “conquer” it. It can do so by just opening the border that Armenians are demanding, and “flooding” the market with Turkish goods and “investments”. No need to elaborate.
As for the Armenian Diaspora(s), it seems that there are no legal means under our disposal to pursue territorial claims. Despite all the conferences, books, documentaries, and arbitration theories, so far, there seems to be no clear legal opinion that Sevre Treaty is a viable court case. To some this might sound unpatriotic, maybe it is, but daydreaming on false hopes, ignorance, and demagoguery, is not patriotism either.
It is time that we face the reality and concentrate all our effort and pursue justice for our victims not only within Sevre Treaty but within the entire Ottoman Empire. From Istanbul to Bursa to Ismir, Marash, Ayntab, Ourfa Musa Dagh, and beyond. It was a planned ethnic cleansing, it was a crime against humanity. It is irrelevant if we call it genocide “meds yeghen” deportation and massacres, in essence, it was an unprecedented human tragedy of grand scale, that has gone unpunished for over a hundred years.
It is important to remember that the victims were the citizens of the Ottoman Empire with a distinctly Christian culture and traditions, that are no more. They were human beings parents grandparents children that had dreams that were cut short, and no amount of compensation can erase their memory and sufferings from our hearts and conscience, and it has not.
It does not matter if the Turkish government says that it was not genocide. But it does matter when it says if an “independent commission reports that our ancestors have done wrong we will not refrain from making an apology and we will pay for whatever consequences there is”. The exact words President Erdogan said during his interview with Charlie Rose on April 27, 2014.
Yes, it is time to start the process to form an impartial commission made of human rights judges, lawyers, human rights academics, etc, to study and make recommendations for a fair and just settlement. We do not need historians or politicians on the commission, they are too biased to be fair. They do a good job arguing and trying to discredit each other. What is needed is an honest try to do justice to the victims that were the citizens of the same country that both our ancestors shared that has gone unpunished for over a hundred years.
At the same time, it is important that we start a process of face-to-face dialogue with mutual respect and understanding, between the third and fourth generations of Turks who have committed no crime, and the third and fourth generations of Armenians who are not victims. Especially for those of us, who are the citizens of the same foreign country, educated in similar institutions, and share similar values. Are these generations up to the challenge?.
I am not naive enough to believe that any of this could happen fast. There is too much mistrust and hatred to overcome. But as the saying goes, every journey starts with a first step. Our first step could be to stop making the Genocide a political tool for foreign governments to use against the Turks for their own advantage. At best it is to please us to get our vote and campaign contributions. They gladly use our podiums and preach to us what we want to hear, without helping the process of justice.
At the same time let us stop our futile negative and confrontational activities in the diaspora(s) to disparage the Turks all Turks, on every occasion that arises. The truth is that not all Turks are bad, and not all Armenians are good, and let us remind everyone who thinks otherwise, about this truth, especially the ignorant demagogues, on both sides.
Needless to say, this is a big challenge for us Diaspora Armenians but we have bigger challenges, that of keeping our Armenian identity, and culture in the melting pot of North America. But for that next.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian