April 2016 is over, and the Remembrance ceremonies for the victims of the Armenian Genocide are mostly concluded. All the remembrance events, church services, demonstrations, candlelight vigils, “Քաղաքական հաւաք” (Political gathering), were almost identical to last year’s commemorations. Politicians lined up to preach to the Armenian audiences what they want to hear from the podiums provided by Armenians, sort of preaching to converts.
At the conclusion of the last year’s remembrance ceremonies, it was said that the phase to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by foreign governments was over, and the time has come to start a new phase to pursue justice and claim restitution. But it seems not much has been changed. Talks about the recognition of the Armenian Genocide seem to be even increased.
One headline reads “Kim Kardashian will fight (պայքարի) till United State Government recognizes the Armenian Genocide”. (My translation is from Armenian). As usual, everyone still is blaming Pres. Obama for using the word Medz Yeghern instead of genocide in his remembrance message. Here is in part what a popular Armenian columnist wrote.
“In his last statement Pres. Obama used every euphemism in the dictionary to describe what happened to Armenians in 1915, except the word genocide! here are the results of the latest verbal gymnastics as practiced by Pres. Obama: mass atrocities; deported; massacred; march to their death; suffered; dark days; tragedy; violence” and the popular columnist concludes “when single word — genocide — would suffice”?. Really? “single word”?????
Rather than accusing Pres. Obama for “verbal gymnastics” we should have said THANK YOU to the President for every time he used the word Medz Yeghern and described it with almost exact words that our grandparents and parents, our greatest post-genocide generations, described it to us in the Armenian language.
Maybe here it will be appropriate also to say a long overdue THANK YOU to Pres. Obama for using the Turkish Parliament’s podium, and eloquently telling the Turkish Government members, Parliamentarians, invited diplomats, and dignitaries, that it was time that, Turks face their past history.
It is time to stop playing with words and start pursuing justice and claim restitution for the confiscated properties and wealth plundered by the Turks and Kurds during the Medz Yeghern. It cannot be done by rhetoric or slogans or preaching to converts. It is all about facts and figures based on credible research.
It is true that many properties owned by our ancestors had no deeds, even some of the many that were deeded might be erased by successive Turkish authorities, but it is hard to deny the fact that, Armenians lived on those lands and owned businesses and wealth that were confiscated and plundered by Turks and Kurds. For this, there is more than enough credible evidence that cannot be denied.
Let me say that here I am not talking about “Հողային պահանջատիրութիւն” (Territorial claims). Needless to say, this issue is the domain of the Turkish and Armenian governments which are the elected representatives of their citizens. Here I am not talking also about justice for innocent human losses either. (I wrote about these issues in my previous blogs titled “Armenians and Turks”)
What I am talking about is the personal and institutional properties and wealth that could be claimed by the legitimate heirs of the Armenian victims, and the legitimate heirs of the Armenian institutions. Fortunately, some have already started, and there are even some success stories as well. It has to escalate at a larger scale
For pursuing justice and claiming restitution, I do not think we should waste time on establishing a much tried and failed Pan Armenian body “Համահայկական մարմին”. There are few such self-appointed institutions that have been around for a while and at best are no more than self-serving bureaucracies that organize conferences where the participants preach to each other and issue a communique that is no more than a self-gratification statement.
Maybe it will be more practical to start getting organized according to old regions, cities, or even villages. Van, Erzroom, Kghi, Hajin, Zeitoon etc. Maybe it is time to get long-established “Հարենակցական միեութիւն” (Patriotic Unions) involved, or establish new ones for this purpose only, whichever is the most practical and less bureaucratic. After all, they are the most legitimate representative body of the heirs of our ancestors who lived on those historic lands.
The time has come for our post-genocide third and fourth-generation Armenians, who are successful businessmen, professionals, academics, etc, to pursue justice and claim retribution rather than continue the old and worn-out recognition strategy. It is not easy, but that is not an excuse not to try. As the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way.
We should also face the reality that, the generation of Turks, and Kurds, who committed the crime and benefited from it directly by confiscating and plundering the properties and the wealth of our ancestors are dead and gone.
The second-generation Turks, and Kurds, who most probably were less directly involved in the crime but knowingly continued to benefit from those confiscated properties and wealth, are also mostly dead and gone.
The current third and fourth generation of Turks, and Kurds, have only indirectly and probably unknowingly benefited, and are continuing to benefit, from those confiscated properties and wealth, thus benefiting from the crime as well. These are the generations that we have to deal with and hold accountable.
To start with, first and foremost, we must prepare the case with factual statistics, and documents through whatever credible sources we could get. Second, it must be done without any unnecessary publicity. No need for “loudspeakers” it might even hurt the case.
We should not also politicize the issue, and especially accuse current generations of Turks, and Kurds, of crimes that they have not committed. The case is that they are benefiting from the crime committed by their forefathers and it is not relevant if they are doing it knowingly or unknowingly.
Let us also not subscribe to the age-old “Armenian wisdom” that the Turks, are bad, and they will never change. Every generation changes and they have changed. Up to less than a generation ago the word Armenian Genocide was banned in Turkey, today there are books written about the Armenian Genocide by Turkish intellectuals, and memorial ceremonies are held for Armenian Genocide victims by Turkish intellectuals attended by thousand of Turks, etc.
Only the indoctrinated or brainwashed extremists do not change. They are like programmed old rusty robots that cannot think and comprehend. They perpetuate hatred and do not represent society at large. I might be considered to be naive but I rather have some naivety and see some good in other people than consider everyone a suspect without due diligence, and without reasoning.
As I said earlier, it is not going to be easy. We should not expect the current generation of Turks, and Kurds, to cooperate easily. There have to be some negotiations, some confrontations, and some court actions, but all must be done as professionally as possible without unnecessarily labeling and vilifying each other. As Armenians say “Նպատակը խաղող ուտել է և ոչ թէ այգեպան ծեծել. (In loose translation, “the intent is to eat the grape, and not beat the orchard owner”)
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian