If we were like Alice we could live in the comfortable world of fantasy, although at times it seems that is exactly where we are living. Like Alice, we would be able to ignore the reality that Armenia is getting weaker and that Turkey, which we like to depict as a toothless tiger, is getting economically stronger and more influential in the international arena. We would be able to blot from our mind the pandering by President Obama as he heaped unwarranted accolades on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a recent meeting in Seoul, South Korea. We would believe that Artsakh will be given its de jureindependence because it is the right thing to do. And that Georgia will voluntarily improve conditions in Javakhk because their Armenian citizens are good people.
Living in fantasyland, it is difficult for Alice to understand that there is no legitimate basis to believe that our well-intentioned efforts in the diaspora—whether for genocide recognition, criminalizing denial, economic and humanitarian aid, or the return of religious properties—can effectively replace the liberation movements that must take place in the Homeland (Armenia, Artsakh (Karabagh), and Javakhk).
In Armenia, the worker and his family must be liberated from a system that robs him of his self-esteem and denies him the opportunity to share in the wealth he produces. In Artsakh, our brothers and sisters live day by day not knowing what may become of their fragile peace. They must be liberated from the uncertainties of a de facto independence. And in historic Armenian Javakhk, our people must be liberated from the government’s discriminatory and harassing policies to enjoy the same opportunities, privileges, and freedoms as their Georgian neighbors.
During the 20 years of Armenia’s independence, instead of seeing a year-to-year improvement in conditions, we have witnessed, by any measure we choose to use, a steadily deteriorating situation. Our population has been on a steady decline and the diaspora, born out of the genocide, continues nearly 100 years later to expand as energetic young Armenians and entire families flee their economically depressed country. Increasing numbers of married wage-earners living in foreign countries are intensifying the number and range of marital problems. Persistent high levels of unemployment and underemployment are contributing to increasing levels of social problems. And an aging population, which must be properly cared for, is placing an insurmountable burden on public agencies. Is it necessary to go on? Alice living in fantasyland may not see these problems. Evidently, none of the three governments that have ruled Armenia since independence have seen these problems either. Just as unfortunate is the fact that the worker and his family have had no political benefactor willing to take up their cause. A cause that requires the creation of a system based on the concepts of equality, opportunity, and justice that will be beneficial to all Armenians irrespective of age, infirmities, talent, or intellect.
Approximately a hundred years earlier our forebears lived under onerous conditions on either side of the Russo-Turkish border. These villagers were constantly subjected to the capricious whims of officials and local rulers. They had no recourse but to suffer and endure. However, there were men and women, members of various political persuasions, who sought to ameliorate the condition of their compatriots as best they could. Today, the Armenian worker and his family, whether in the cities or in the rural hinterlands, must also be liberated, not from Ottoman Turkey or Imperial Russia, but from an oligarchic system that bleeds Armenia of its wealth, both human and physical, and its future potential as a viable and vibrant nation.
The revolutionary fervor of decades past seems to elude us today. The sine qua non of a revolutionary is devotion, determination, and selflessness. The revolutionary has chosen the most difficult role within society to occupy. He is viewed with skepticism, possibly undue suspicion by a cynical electorate—the very people he seeks to help—and as an enemy of the status quo by the leaders of the mundane political parties that feel threatened by his liberating message. No one has the right to fault a man for not wanting to be a revolutionary. However, a man can be rightly faulted for pretending to be one.
When Alice looks at Artsakh she is proud of what her people have accomplished. It has been close to 20 years since the 1994 ceasefire established Artsakh’s de facto independence. It was a victory that was achieved through the sacrifices of some 7,000 azatamartiks for their families, their homes, and the freedom to join their compatriots in Armenia. However, the victory sought hangs precariously in the balance. Does Alice ask what needs to be done to secure the final liberation of her brothers and sisters in Artsakh? This is important. Important because the liberation of Artsakh is the key to Armenia’s century-old struggle for justice. Failure here is unthinkable. Failure here would end our quest for justice. If we cannot secure Artsakh, how realistic is it to believe that any of our historic lands can be successfully claimed?
Alice does not worry about this possibility because in fantasyland, by wishing and having faith in others will make it so. Believing that, she is unconcerned that there is no effort to make an historic and moral case for Artsakh’s de jure independence. Believing that, there is no need to ask where the Soviet constitutional scholars are to support Artsakh’s right to have declared its independence. And believing that, there is no need to ask where the international legal scholars are to make the case for remedial secession or self-determination.
And finally we have our brothers and sisters in Javakhk. This past month, a delegation from Samtskhe-Javakheti presented their grievances and solutions to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels. When an attempt was made to hold a meeting several weeks later to inform the local community in Javakhk, the Georgian government harassed the organizers and participants (as only a government is capable of doing) with the result that only a handful of individuals braved the threats and attended the meeting. This took place within a country that Obama anoints as a beacon of democracy in the south Caucasus. Javakhk represents the last of the three liberation movements that must be successfully undertaken in the Homeland. The question that remains to be answered is, by whom?
Our failure to improve the economic, political, and cultural environment of the Javakhayer would mean that this historic Armenian land will be irretrievably lost within another 20-30 years. What Georgia is doing in Javakhk is no different than what Azerbaijan did for 70 years in Artsakh. It is a more sophisticated form of genocide, but just as effective as the sanguinary methods employed by the Ottoman-Turkish government when it unleashed its planned genocide of the Armenian nation.
However we define final victory, for certain it will not be won in the diaspora. It will be won only through the liberation movements that must take place within Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk. This in no way precludes the vital role that advocacy groups within the diaspora from representing Artsakh’s cause for de jure recognition and the cause of Armenian citizens in Georgia to achieve economic, political, and cultural equality within a federated political structure.
Without achieving a strong, vibrant, and secure Homeland, our struggle for justice will have reached, for all practical purposes, a political cul-de-sac. How long before Alice escapes from fantasyland to face reality?