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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A shameful stance of leading Armenian American organisations

When I received a copy of this statement via email, my first reaction was – no, it can’t be true. Only few days ago Armenian Assembly of America published its statement emphasizing the importance of democratic principles and criticising Kocharyan administration for restricting civil liberties of Armenian citizens.

What could have changed now? How could Armenian Assembly join this shameful declaration of hypocrisy? But then I checked their website, and it is official – the statement is published there too.

A disgraceful statement, to say the least. I do not care much about involvement with this “statement” of Armenian church related organisations. But Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of Armenia, and AGBU? To say disappointing would be great understatement.

Where is your statement against forceful dispersion of peaceful protesters in Liberty sq by special police forces? Where is your statement about urging independent inquiry into the evidence of shooting at protesters by special police forces? Where is your condemnation of restricting civil liberties in Armenia? Where is your statement condemning massive scale political persecutions in Armenia?.. All you could see from 1 March events in Yerevan is “looting” and “vandalism”? Your subsequent words on “justice”, “freedom” and “equal opportunity” are nothing but empty statements.

A person who initially forwarded me this “statement” says “it is about time these organizations realize they do not represent the majority of Armenian Americans, and what they are doing is harming the future of Armenia.”

If you are wondering, why Armenian American organisations support such undemocratic actions carried out by Armenian authorities, ask them yourself.

Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny's
office # (202) 393-3434 x 228
Armenian Assembly Western Region (626) 577-0025
Armenian National Committee (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee (818) 500-1918 Glendale office
AGBU Chairman Mr. Vahe Imasdounian (562) 715-3624,
AGBU Office # (626) 794-7942 (212) 319-6383
Western Diocese (818) 558-7474 & (212) 686-0710
Western Prelacy (818) 248-7737 & (212) 689-7810
***

Joint Statement of the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern/Western) and the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern/ Western) on Recent Events in Armenia

As leading Armenian-American organizations, we stand in solidarity with the state and the people of Armenia as the nation confronts the current political crisis.

We are deeply saddened by the violence, divisiveness, and deaths during the post-electoral street unrest in the capital and extend our heartfelt sympathies to all the families of the victims. We condemn all violent acts, including assaults, vandalism, and looting, and expect, consistent with due process of law, that the organizers and perpetrators will be brought to justice.

We urge all parties to work peacefully within Armenia's civic and legal structures to address their outstanding differences and restore Armenia's political environment to a state of normalcy in as timely and responsible a manner as possible. We join with all Armenians in reaffirming our people's common commitment to the security of Armenia and Artsakh in a challenging and often dangerous region, and to cooperate toward our shared aim of strengthening an open and democratic Armenian homeland, based upon the rule of law, social and economic justice, freedom of expression and the media, and equal opportunity for all.

As Armenian-Americans, proud and vital partners in the future of the Armenian nation, we are ready to cooperate with the newly-elected president and the government. We remain committed to doing our part to serve our homeland and the Armenian Nation as we have done throughout our long history. Armenia will continue to inspire and sustain generations of Armenians who have lived, as we do today, beyond her borders.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

well, a few Congressmen were shocked that the were not approached about the events of March 1st by anyone from the Armenian lobby groups. The whispers around Washington are that Armenian American organizations believe that bringing this issue to light will hurt their primary agenda in DC, that is, the recognition of the Genocide...On a much, much, much smaller scale of course, but what Kocharian did on March 1st is analogous to what the Ottoman Empire did in 1915: a faltering dictatorship turns on its people (who are demanding freedoms and rights) and kills them en masse in the name of stability. The Armenian case loses credibility if the current Armenian government is seen as a dictatorship. I for one have been frustrated by their insistence on focusing on the Genocide when there are far more pressing issues in Armenia, and in the face of the fact that the opening of borders would greatly improve the Armenian economy. Unfortunately, I don't see them revising their priorities any time soon, because they seem to blindly and tragically believe that the recognition of the Genocide is the cure-all of the Armenian problems.

Anonymous said...

When you sober up, please read this sentence again:

On a much, much, much smaller scale of course, but what Kocharian did on March 1st is analogous to what the Ottoman Empire did in 1915: a faltering dictatorship turns on its people (who are demanding freedoms and rights) and kills them en masse in the name of stability.

You should be ashamed to make such a ridiculous analogy.

In fact, what happened a few weeks ago was an intertwined legitimate expression of frustration combined with a risky call-to-arms for revolution. The authorities responded clumsily. A few people (protesters and police) died. Not much different from what (sadly) happens all around the world. Blame should be felt on BOTH sides.

Please do not make delirious analogies to the Genocide, Stalin, Genghis Khan, or War of the Worlds, or something else for shock value. It is way off the mark and insulting to Armenians.

Onnik Krikorian said...

I have to agree. Comparing two non-democratic forces fighting each other to come to or retain power at any cost is hardly analogous to any massacre of recent times, especially when you consider Andijan, let alone the Genocide.

I'm not even sure most of the people were protesting for freedom and rights, but anyway. Even so, the apparent use of live ammunition is one of significant concern, and isn't justified even if protesters first threw molotov cocktails.

Azad said...

I disagree with the 1st anonymous. The Diaspora communities that have originated from 1915 events have the right to push their governments to recognize the 1915 massacres as Genocide. French Armenians and many others have done it (even when Armenia did not exist as an independent state), and US Armenian have the right to do the same. The Diaspora communities are not tools/instruments of Armenia’s foreign policy. So even if the Armenian government decides to drop the issue one day to “greatly improve the Armenian economy” (is the situation in Georgia really that much better??), the Diaspora has the right to continue its struggle.
I also disagree with Artmika. I think Diaspora organizations, other than political parties and human right groups, should not get involved in the internal affairs of Armenia. It’s not their role. In their statement they clearly support “an open and democratic Armenian homeland, based upon the rule of law, social and economic justice, freedom of expression and the media, and equal opportunity for all”. I think that was the max they could say.

nazarian said...

I think it's worth to mention this again:

ARMENIANS FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
“Government is best which governs least” Thomas Jefferson.

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau called for a Civil Disobedience in an essay arguing that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescense to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.

The Armenian people have suffered enough violations of their civil rights since the beginning of the 20th Century, by either foreign rulers, or by their own governments and leaders up until 21 Century and continuing. The Armenian people have been either forcefully or by the policies of their governments left their lands and are presently living abroad, in every corner of the world.

The Armenian has fought throughout history for individual rights to live freely in Armenia with all civil rights being respected without much success because of the fear instigated in them by abusive forces.

Now, the time has come for the “Armenian” to live, experience and demonstrate “civil disobedience” meaning, “disobedience to the state” to achieve freedom of self from fear of the foreign forces and domestic governments.

However, civil disobedience of the Armenian is an individual decision to join the multitudes in a similar action to show the authorities that the power of statehood comes from those who do not wish to be enslaved and used as agents for injustice.

Free Armenians shall be united in spirit and consiousness in this most noble method of feeing themselves from their oppressors and shall change the fate imposed on them.

We call on you to follow the following rules of civil disobenience:

1. “Don’t just wait passively for an opportunity to vote for justice. Voting for justice is as ineffective as wishing for justice; what you need to do is to actually be just. This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, but you do have an obligation not to commit injustice and not to give injustice your practical support.”

2. When a government becomes destructive of basic human rights, it is the duty of the people to "alter or abolish it."

We call upon all Armenians all over the world to stop paying taxes, gratuities, and donations to all organizations, which direct that money to the ruling government in Armenia. Instead, we direct them to send same amount and more assistance to the Armenian people living in the villages and towns of Armenia.

No money and/or assistance should be directed to political parties, to the Armenia Fund, Org., the Armenian Assembly, the Armenian National Committee and to Armenian Republic and all other organizations you know, which are giving direct assistance to the Republic of Armenia.

We call upon all Armenians to peacefully live and show disobedience to the state authorities without fight, without profanity, curse, objection, retaliation or violence. Withdraw your participation, membership and contribution from all those organizations, and/or state institutions which exercise power and control over the fee people of Armenia.

We call upon all Armenians to unite in creating a civil society whose’ consciousness shall decide and create their own way of life, society and country.

TO ALL ARMENIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE WORLD START YOUR DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TODAY! REACH OUT AND HELP OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ARMENIA TO BE FREE. SOONER OR LATER ARMENIANS SHALL ACHIEVE FULL CIVIL RIGHTS THEY DESERVE. HOWEVER, IT WILL NOT BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT SACRIFICE AND WITHOUT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE TRADITIONALLY AND HISTORICALLY KEPT ARMENIANS IN FEAR AND IN MENTAL SLAVERY!

Anonymous said...

The religious-cult-like call to arms continues. I don't think the LTP-followers have articulated
1) what they want
2) how they will get it

I understand
1) what they don't want (RK/SS)
2) revolt

This approach will not lead to any lasting positive change.

I suggest finding new leaders, working (this word is hard for many to fathom) toward a goal of positive change and start preparing for parliamentary elections in 4 years. I honestly believe this will bring positive and lasting change. Rallying behind the most discredited leader in modern Armenian will never coalesce the Armenian nation.

Anonymous said...

religious-like cult followers,
finding new leaders, both sides should be responsible...

people, how do you expect to find new leaders, where the government for 10 years have been doing everything to prevent real challenges to their authority, and the elections are not decided by the votes, but by the people in power.
So, there will be NO new leaders as long as the current government remains, because all the potential new leaders will be either bribed (as Artur Baghdasaryan for example),
or scared away from politics.
Besides even if there is a new leader, he will not be able to get funding, because the business is cotroled by the government, and no businessman will ever fund an oppostion organization, and they will not be able to get in touch with the people, because all the mass media are controled by the government.
This is the reality of today's Armenia, and this reality has been created by the conscious efforts of the government, who wants to stay in power forever. that's it...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the 1st comment, even thoug it is a bit too emotional:
This is the paradox of the Armenian Question activists.
Armenians who died 90 years ago are much more important to them, than Armenian people who are dying, being tortured, or jailed right now, icluding Karabakh war veterans

reflective said...

I think you mean 18 years, or maybe 88, or more accurately 640.

"people, how do you expect to find new leaders, where the government for 10 years have been doing everything to prevent real challenges to their authority, and the elections are not decided by the votes, but by the people in power."


Sorry, but that is the Armenian reality. How did any real leader rise from the oppressed and dispossessed anywhere in human history? Hard work and devotion to values and principles. Instead, the opposition (or part of it who rallied around LTP) asked for a discredited, used-up, lackey to lead them now, and is complaining that the revolution is going unsuccessfully?? Of course it is!

Time to cultivate and find real leadership and not follow a dancing shepherd off a cliff because it is fun to be someone else's sheep.

artmika said...

Lara, well known women rights activist from Diaspora, who is living in Armenia now, wrote a piece in "Life in Armenia" today expressing very similar to mine views re this "statement". She titled her post "AMOT" ('shame', in Armenian):

El inch assem...

What about the forceful dispersion of peaceful protesters in Liberty sq by special police force? restriction of media ? civil liberties ? battered civilians ?

As if what happened on March 1st and still continuing to happen is a very casual thing.

Ready to work with the 'newly elected government' ? which one ? the one with stolen votes and spread out terror among civilians ?

AMOT - HAZAR AMOT

For all the institutions who signed this statement. One thing is sure YOU do not represent ME and many other diasporans.

BOYCOTT Armenian Assembly, BOYCOTT ANCA, BOYCOTT AGBU and all the rest until they express in a more committed and responsible way their condemnation of all the injustices in the past events by a government against its people!

Here is the shameful statement [...]

Anonymous said...

The best way to achieve any change with these organizations is to call them, All Of Them your feelings known. Calling them will make them realize what a mistake that statement is.

Anonymous said...

reflective,
you say
"Time to cultivate and find real leadership and not follow a dancing shepherd off a cliff because it is fun to be someone else's sheep"

I suspect you don't live in Armenia.
I did live there until quite recently(december 2007), so please explain me how do you cultivate real leadership when
1. government sends to jail any businessman who tried to fund an opposition party
2. all the eclectronic media are controlled by the government
3. government keeps putting forward false opposition leaders like Geghamyan and Arturik, to distract voters from the real opposition
4. the votes on all levels are completely rigged, so even if you are a damn good leader, you cannot
get a single vote, unless you have agreed with the government.
For example, several months ago Raffi Hovannisian was running for a deputie's mandate against several guys who, I believe didn't have higher education. He finished
4th!!!
how do oyu expect that a new leader can arise in this situation?

That is why Levon, with all of his drawbacks, was the only chance for changing the situation, because as a former preseident, he had the resources to face teh government, which are completely closed to any other opposition leader.
(I mean he had immunity so he could not be arrested, he had financial support from people like Grzo and so on)

Anonymous said...

Here is a direct number to the head of the Western Diocese (818) 640-2797. Make your feelings known.

Anonymous said...

Here is the statement by the Armenian Council of America, the Hunchak Political Action Committee

Ever since the violent break up of the peaceful protests on Freedom square and the ensuing melee on March 1st that by official accounts left 8 people dead, the current regime in Armenia, instead of seeking ways to diffuse the current crisis, has decided to further escalate the tensions by continuing its unabated persecution and imprisonment of opposition members, severely restricting the capabilities of the independent media and by finally amending Armenia’s law on public gatherings to effectively deny the opposition of any chance for a sanctioned rally.

Unfortunately the Kocharyan regime seems oblivious or ignorant to the fact that the world is closely following their every action and despite their best efforts to control and manipulate the news emanating from Armenia, they have miserably failed in their attempts. On the contrary, the recent vote at the UN General Assembly and the fact that many countries chose to abstain rather than oppose the resolution clearly demonstrates the international community’s negative attitude towards Armenia mainly due to the actions of the current regime.

The Armenian Council of America denounces the continued aggression of the current regime against its own citizens and stands in solidarity with the Armenian people in its struggle against repression, intimidation, corruption and dictatorship.

We strongly believe that democracy, transparency and the rule of law are the only way forward for the Republic of Armenia and join our voice to the thousands of others in demanding from the current regime that they:

1.Immediately lift the state of emergency and restore the constitutional rights of its citizens.

2.Remove the army and allow citizens their freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom to assemble.

3.Cease the political persecutions and release all political prisoners.

4.Annul the results of the illegitimate presidential election and call for new and transparent democratic elections.

Conducting free and transparent elections without coercion and political repercussion along with an independent media and healthy governance is vital to a stable and prosperous Armenia. Any actions taken to the contrary will not only further erode the international standing of Armenia, but also endanger the well being of the Republic.

artmika said...

I received this open letter today, which is written by the Armenian Council of America, affiliated with the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party.

An Open Letter to Armenian Americans

We read with interest the joint statement of the Armenian Assembly of America, The Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern/Western) and the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern/Western) regarding the recent events in Armenia.

We join them in expressing our heartfelt sympathies to all families of the victims, condemn all violent acts and expect that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

We reaffirm our commitment to strive “toward our shared aim of strengthening an open and democratic Armenian homeland, based upon the rule of law, social and economic justice, freedom of expression and the media, and equal opportunity for all”.
However, we do not understand how these noble principles could be justly served with simultaneously “cooperating with the newly-elected President and the government”, when we have all witnessed how, for the past 10 years, the latter have trampled those same principles.

How can we expect “rule of law” from these authorities, when they have repeatedly violated the constitution by rigging the presidential and parliamentary elections, falsified the constitutional referendum and have made a mockery of the Oct. 27 legal proceedings, just to name a few.

What kind of “social and economic justice” can we expect from these authorities when they have created a class of oligarchs by usurping the rights of their citizens, and monopolized the economy.

What kind of “freedom of expression and the media” can we expect from these authorities, when they have banned independent TV stations from the airwaves, established a public TV reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.

What kind of “equal opportunity for all” can we expect from these authorities, when they have unjustly exploited the resources of the country, leading to a deep mistrust between them and ordinary citizens?

A country, where the authorities capriciously violate the law, trample justice, and usurp the rights and freedom of its people cannot be an inspiration to its citizens or to the Diaspora. Rather than using empty rhetoric, we should steadfastly uphold he aforementioned principles for the sake of an independent, democratic and prosperous Armenia.

Armenian Council of America