Notes From Hairenik
Today thousands of citizens gathered in Republic Square in Yerevan to commemorate the massacres of Armenian civilians in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, located just north of Baku, on February 27-29, 1988. The rally was sponsored by the “Armenian Help Union” as well as by many political parties, most notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (ARF), marked by several of its red party flags being waved. As a result of the pogroms, reportedly 370,000 Armenians were displaced from Azerbaijan. About 18,000 of the quarter-million residents of Sumgait were Armenian. Not surprisingly, none are left there today. These attacks were attributed to Armenian calls for Karabagh’s autonomy from Soviet Azerbaijani rule at the time.

From what I saw at the rally and on the streets, the overwhelming majority of the attendees were youth. Apparently universities let out classes early in response to requests from political parties for students to attend the rally. Thousands of people were purportedly bused in from the regions. A poster campaign launched about 10 days ago sponsored by the ARF called for people to never forget the Sumgait pogroms and to remember that the Armenian presence in Jugha, Nakhichevan is being erased, with the destruction of apparently more than 1,000 stone crosses placed as tombstones in historic Armenian cemeteries there. I was somewhat surprised to see billboards flanking a stage, which singers and political figures took to for conveying their messages, displaying anti-Turk rhetoric. One sign read “No to Turkish Fascism,” while another pointed out “Panturkism And Panturanism—Facist Ideologies! Nothing To Do With Islam.” The ARF has been churning out similar sorts of nationalist propaganda, especially relating to the Armenian Genocide, for decades, but not on Armenian soil until recently. It was and is understandable in the Armenian Diaspora, but not in the homeland, where Turkic peoples can be found just across Armenia’s western and far eastern borders (meaning with Karabagh), waiting for any excuse to pounce.

Although remembering the horrors inflicted against the Armenians in the past must certainly be commemorated, antagonizing Turkey and Azerbaijan is for the most part unjustified. There are about 25 times more Turks in the region than Armenians—Turkey alone has a population of over 60 million people and an army of purportedly 1 million troops. Furthermore, Turkey also has the capability of crippling Armenia economically, as overwhelming amounts of construction materials, domestic goods, and clothing supplies enter Armenia’s markets and stores illegally from Turkey, amounting to millions of unaccounted-for dollars exchanged in business transactions (this issue is hardly ever discussed by anyone, not surprisingly). Turkey at a whim could refuse to sell to Armenian businessmen if provoked hard enough, which would drastically hurt Armenia’s economy.

During a year when both Armenian and Azeri sides are still negotiating a peace settlement over Karabagh, even after talks broke down a couple of weeks ago, the last thing either side needs to deal with is hateful provocation aimed towards the enemy. Armenians cannot afford to suffer from any other losses—economically, socially, militarily, or otherwise. Azerbaijan this year plans to spend $650 million on reinforcing its military, up from over $300 million in 2005. So such protests and declarations, most definitely made to irk the enemy when they watch the news later this evening, are uncalled for, as in the end they do nothing but incite more hatred.

I doubt that nationalist political parties, particularly the ARF, are expecting anything to come out of these protests. Such rhetoric is usually followed by a lack of action by the Armenian people, who at the end of the day could care less about Turks being fascists or whatever else. The Armenian government and its representative political parties have huge issues to overcome, most notably socioeconomic when it comes to the interests of its citizens. Sponsoring anti-Turk protests does nothing to help combat issues regarding increasing homelessness, low pensions, absurdly low minimum wages, and mass unemployment, let alone cracking down on government-wide corruption in Armenia. Instead of holding demonstrations to rally the masses to tackle these issues under the leadership of the leading political parties, the choice is to convey messages of hatred towards Armenia’s neighbors. It doesn’t make sense—nevertheless yet another example of Armenian logic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
What a self-hating Diasporan Idiot... Yes, by all means, drop your pants and bend over for the Turks. Maybe if you're nice to them, they'll let you live after they screw you. Continents and generations removed from Ottoman rule... yet you still have a slave mentality. That's why all you can do is complain about poverty and corruption. If you're man enough, take action, instead of making a fool of yourself with your idiotic commentary.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I’m glad you’re putting a name to your kind words.

Your comment is proving my point. So long as Armenians or Turks continue to make public displays of hatred, there will never be any resolution to conflicts in the region. Calling Turks fascists at a time when Armenia more than ever needs to secure peace is not going to help sign a treaty to officially end the Karabagh war. Nor will Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev’s rhetoric about refusing to give up Karabagh to please his own people—who are spreading more than their share of hatred in their own right—bring about any fruitful outcome. When Armenians continue their campaign of blind hatred, they are succumbing to the “slave mentality” you refer to, since Armenians are clearly dependent on an enemy in order to strengthen a will in themselves, and thus Armenians are blinded, unable to tackle the real issues at hand. The problem for Armenians to overcome is to realize that the days of having enemies has to eventually come to an end.

You’re also forgetting just as seemingly all nationalist fanatics do that Armenia has already “dropped its pants and has bent over for the Turks” as you so colorfully put it since the nation is now dependant on Turkey for survival. Armenia is doing millions of dollars of business each year with Turkey illegally—in other words if it’s not yet clear from my post, Armenia is trading with its “enemy,” the same enemy that it holds no diplomatic relations with yet sends flights to and from Istanbul several times a week, specifically for Armenian as well as Turkish businessmen. Without this current trade Armenia’s economy would be a wreck. Why is this so hard to understand? Go shopping someday in one or two home goods stores, clothing stores, or supermarkets throughout the country and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It is becoming impossible not to buy Turkish goods in this country—I know so because I face this obstacle each time I go shopping. Armenia needs its enemy—it has been for several years now, it’s nothing new.

I’m tired of putting up with the same arrogant, mindless, empty-worded nationalist rhetoric that I have been listening to for years. At the end of the day it makes no difference in the world at all. In terms of taking action against corruption and social injustice, I moved to Armenia to experience and understand what they mean, then I write about it so that others like yourself become informed. And whenever possible I will work with others to attempt overcome these obstacles. I know only a handful of diasporan Armenians that have also made this step. So save your criticism. The fool is you.

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
It's kind of funny to see anonymous' comments because generally Garo and I disagree on relations with Turkey. Although anonymous doesn't even bother to stop and think for even one moment, I will say that Garo ois extremely patriotic and the comment is uncalled for. Since I've known Garo he has constantly called me to task for consuming Turkish goods, and I have seen him check the country of origin on almost everything he buys to avoid buying Turkish. Probably, he is one of the few Armenians here that does.

Yet, at the same time, Garo's post surprises me in it's objective look at what's happening, but thankfully free speech is protected under the law. Moreover, regardless of what anonymous thinks, Garo holds more patriotic views than most other Armenians, and especially those in government.

Anonymous gayne said...
Anonymous is articulate but ignorant.
Only a true patriot would leave the diaspora,and move to Armenia.
It is sad to learn that some people are always so angry,and a coward for not signing their name.


Anonymous Knarik O. Meneshian said...
When my husband and I lived in Gyumri for a year doing volunteer work, it was extremely difficult to purchase goods from the shuga and shops that were not made in Turkey. I had written an article a while back describing how items are labeled in such a way that at first glance the consumer thinks the item is from Europe or the Orient. In reality, though, it comes from Turkey. We made it a point not to purchase such items, and went out of our way to purchase goods made in Armenia. Even here, back home in the U.S.A., we also do not purchase items made in Turkey.

Anonymous Ariga said...
My comment is to the anonymous person, who was not a man enough to leave his name, and I am sure who is the one who escaped from Armenia first he had a chance,

No, I would say Garo is the first person who is not nice to the Turks, because he doesn't buy any turkish poisonous garbage to further establish Turkish market in Armenia, and besides Armenians made themselves slaves in Turkey by working there and cleaning dropings of animals and taking care of the sick people who probably were the murdurers of our relatives and ancestors, and how many Armenian women I know that got married in Turky with Turks and changed their religion, seems like genocide is forgotten by Armenians only in Armenia,
Because diaspora is the only reminder of the Armenian genocide, that has no country, and yes, you would become an idiot yourself if you would be from diaspora seeing how Turks are killing your parents and kicking you out of your home.
The pain is that native Armenians remember the genocide from time to time.

Anonymous harry said...
I am not against remembering the vicious killings in Sumgait and the international community's failure to demounce those cold blooded atrocities.
The ARF and others should focus on day to day problems, yes, and above all on solidarity. If Armenians are working in Turkey, that means that Armenians labor is helping prop up a country that has declared itself ready to attack if the opportunity presents itself. The ARF, the Armenian church and others should have been working on plans of action to launch projects to alleviate poverty inside Armenia. If poor Armenians felt that someone, somewhere (ARF/ADL party activists, smug churchmen living it up in western capitals) was interested in their welfare, they would not have taken risks working in Turkey or Dubai. Then, they too would have shown up in Sumgait rallies

Blogger Arman said...
I am not going to insult Karo for his comments, since I know that he is a patriot and he does good for our people; but I also understand where the anonymous guy comes from.

You know Karo jan, the resolution of the Karabakh problem will not magically solve it self if we try to be nice to Azeris. The Genocide is not going to get recognized if we try to be more friendly with Turks.

Remeber BOTH problems were created by them and in both cases our people suffered the most. I know that yelling hateful comments addressed to our Turkic neighbors is not going to solve the problem either, BUT OUR PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO IT. And the examples that you have provided dont even sound very fascist to me. Throwing garbage and rocks at THE relegious leader of your neighbor country with which you want to establish good relations is fascist, and that is what Turks do.

Also I say we have the right to do this because, we dont do this kind of marches very often, while Azeris and Turks spew hatred towards us on nearly daily bases.

What I am trying to say is that IF we dont make "fascist" comments, Turks SURELY will NO MATTER what. As you know to solve a problem both sides need to be on the same page, and I am sorry to say US and THEM will not be on the same page for a looooong time.

BTW our comments in no way can start a war. Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan nor Armenia have the political might to start an invasion, they all have to get Russian, European, and US approval before anything can start.