Silence and Hypocrisy—Killers of Hope

Burb wire Armenia--2
An urgent call for our Diaspora to demand democracy and human rights in Armenia.

While many foreign and outside entities had appealed for a non-extreme response to the extreme actions taken by an armed group at the Yerevan police station, the Diaspora largely remained silent.

By contrast, the rulers in Armenia have engaged in wholesale mass arrests and detention of anyone they suspect as the opposition, including peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to assemble, whether to appeal for moderation or express their grievances against government policies and practices.

The Armenian Diaspora at large has not adequately spoken out against these government actions. At this point, it is difficult to fathom the motivations for such silence.

Could it be the belief that we, in the Diaspora, have no business interfering in internal affairs of a foreign country—except when it comes to the Karabagh question and Armenia-Turkey relations? Or is it the notion that it’s the Armenian government’s job to serve the needs of its people—except when it comes to the sick, the needy, the poor, the military, elderly, public schools and children?

Only the ruling elite seem to have their needs addressed while living lavish lives supported by ill-begotten funds sheltered in the names of family members and off-shore shell companies.

Recently the Catholicos of All Armenians himself thought it appropriate to condemn the violent acts of these “Daredevils”, but he has not condemned the injustices perpetrated by the ruling party against the flock– such as systemic election fraud and gross human rights violations, including unleashing the over-aggressive police and infamously brutal thug brigades.

Many community leaders in the Diaspora have acknowledged, behind closed doors, that it’s no secret to them that Armenia is severely corrupt, but they could not speak truth to power because it might have compromised the good work they were doing to instill “hope for a better future” among the people—except when that hope was for a clean government that evens the economic playing field, allows for free and fair elections, and insists on an independent judiciary and Rule of Law. Perhaps they considered those minor issues compared with poverty and hunger. Yet we all have witnessed on many occasions that the people were not protesting against poverty and hunger but demanding democracy and human rights.

So while we were patting ourselves on the back for working to instill hope, our silence and hypocrisy were killing that hope, rendering much of our time, money and efforts in Armenia futile and ineffective–posh hotels, fancy restaurants and high tech “showcase” schools notwithstanding.

Most of us thought time was the cure for Armenia’s ills and that somehow, magically, the leaders would come to their senses and live up to the promise of the new Armenia.

Yet two decades is long enough to prove that corruption only breeds corruption, leading to a failed state and cynical society that has nothing left to lose. As John F. Kennedy wisely admonished, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

If we are truly honest, it may already be too late to overcome the high stakes and perilous road ahead. Yet, if ever the Diaspora had an opportunity to show its true mettle, the hour has come.

All who recognize this crisis point, should urge our community representatives and organizations, charitable, religious and political, to publicly decry those responsible for the rampant abuses of human rights and dignity and support those that seek electoral reform and an accounting of unlawful police tactics. The former would include the public inspection of voter lists, and a meaningful investigation of violations committed during last December’s constitutional referendum and those who have to date blocked such an effort.

We should no longer consider the alternative an option—that is, trying to preserve a fabricated and false sense of law and order that cripples Armenia’s ability to meet challenges at home and at the border while inciting civil violence.

Taking a clear stand on the side of human rights and justice won’t instantly solve the deeply entrenched problems that plague the country. But it’s a first step in a new direction, that, if made courageously, wholeheartedly, unequivocally and boldly, will instill hope among the people as never before.

They’ve been waiting for us to answer their call but, as we’ve witnessed from recent events, they can’t wait forever.

 

Armenian Bar Association

Justice Armenia

Professor Simon Payaslian
Charles K. and Elisabeth M. Kenosian
Chair in Modern Armenian History
and Literature, Department of History,
Boston University

Anny Bakalian, Ph.D.
Associate Director of MEMEAC,
The Graduate Center, CUNY

Policy Forum Armenia

Armenian Scientists and Engineers Association (AESA), NY-NJ Section

Vahe Berberian (USA)
Painter, Author, Playwright, Humorist

Ara Dinkjian (USA)
Musician and Composer

Armenian Renaissance – New York Chapter

Armenian Renaissance – Los Angeles Chapter

Vicken Cheterian (Switzerland)
Writer and University Lecturer

Vahe Tachjian (Germany)
Chief Editor of Houshamadyan

Nora Armani
Actress-Filmmaker-Activist
SR Socially Relevant Film Festival NY,
Founding Artistic Director

Vicken Tarpinian (France)
Singer and Composer

Garo Ghazarian, Esq.
Dean & Professor of Law
Peoples College of Law
Los Angeles, California

Maro Matosian
Women’s Support Center

Nurhan Becidyan (USA)

Berc Araz (USA)

Rafi Hovsepian
President, New York Armenian
Students’ Association
Adjunct Instructor, New York University

Mario Yazidjian (USA)

Harout Chatmajian (USA)
Actor, Director and Community Activist

Ara N. Araz (USA)

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2 Responses to Silence and Hypocrisy—Killers of Hope

  1. noricd says:

    There is nothing in this call for democracy and human rights with which any informed person could disagree.

    More than anything else *culture* is a unifying feature of the work of many of the signatories. While they show leadership, there’s bankruptcy within the political, police and religious authorities in Armenia and the Diaspora frantinizing with the self-appointed, oligarchic regime (built around 30 to 50 individuals) that rule by force of monopoly state power, crony capitalism and massive corruption in commercial dealings, so-called elections, governance and the legal system.

    What’s needed is regular follow-up to build a dialogue of layered logic and moreover informed initiatives built on relentless honesty about the rotten circumstances in Armenia and Artsakh.

    In strategic planning terms those initiatives must be SMART, often taken to be an acronym for decisions that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

    I look forward to SMART action.

  2. I am one of the informed persons “noricd” refers to who DOES take issue with this statement.

    Do the co-signees refer to “the Diaspora” as individuals or as our organizations? This is a critical point because:

    1) a large number of individuals have long and peacefully protested to their Diasporic organizations as well as in the individual arena regarding governmental mismanagement in Armenia. The problem is that these Individuals are silenced, censored, discredited and overpowered by the very Diasporan organizations to whom they protest. Moreover and as you know, the Diasporan Armenian press is not a viable place to try to express dissenting views because these outlets represent the very organizations who are silencing the critics, thus the outlets are silencing these dissenters in the press also.

    2) if the co-signees are referring to Diasporic organizations, they may as well hold their breath. These Diasporic organizations — in their desires to assist but also to leverage some of power and control — have ‘made their deals with the devil’ and have become complicit w/ the ruling regime and are just as responsible for the problems and corruption we see in Armenia. Many Diasporans sought to verbally protest Serzh Sargsyan’s recent visit to the East Coast of the US with pointed questions during Q&A time at his gatherings. They were treated like pariahs by the tour organizers and thrown out of organized events as if they were carrying grenades. Some even had printed invitations in their hands and you know how hard those were to acquire (only made available to yes-men).

    So when the co-signees say “The Diaspora has largely remained silent,” to whom do they refer? If it is individuals, please know that they are not silent but SILENCED. If the co-signees refer to organizations, then they must be realistic and seasoned about realpolitik. The powerful (real or imaginary, at home or abroad) will not give up their power willingly. Asking for reforms politely will not change that.

    On some level, I find the “statement” to be a slap in the face to those activists who have been working so hard to turn around misguided Diasporan organizations and their so-called leaders. Such activists include people such as David Grigorian of Policy Forum and Harout Bronozian of Return to Armenia, to name only a few.

    Enter Sasna Dzrer, armed struggle and, whether we like it or not, vigilantism on the near horizon. As the people of Armenia have demonstrated, it is not only state-sponsored violence that should be considered “legitimate.”

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