Unity Symposium

Saturday, March 19, 2011 - 09:00

Sponsored and organized by AGBU Manuel Keusseyan Armenological Lecture Series, Armenian Women’s Association of Canada, Nakhijevan Institute and Keghart.com.


  • In few weeks we will commemorate once again the 24th of April. Once again we will be talking to ourselves. On the day after we will have a good conscience having completed a national duty and having paid respect to our victims. Once again we would have insisted that there was a genocide. Was it to convince the international community, the republic of Turkey, the Turkish people or perhaps ourselves?
  • Efforts and funds have been dedicated in connection with the recognition of the genocide. Undoubtedly a very useful and remarkable activity but without palpable impact. Let us take the example of France. The Parliament adopted a resolution by consensus recognizing the Armenian genocide. It was a moral satisfaction without any palpable outcome concerning the inalienable rights of the descendants of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.
  • We passed over the point of recognition. As Mark Guiragos put it “REPARATIONS” is our word.
  • In order to be claimants we have to be organized and well prepared. We have to put aside emotions and feelings and approach the issue with pragmatism, political awareness and legal arguments.
  • In the past several attempts were made to organize the diaspora (1979,1983,1986  as well as the World Armenian Congress of Aprahamian in Russia). Internal disputes and struggles, the absence of standing institutions and lack of follow up activity or action laid finally to their failure. They basically remained intellectual exercises.
  • Today there are several possible scenarios. I will mention three of them. The first is to organize the Diaspora as presented by Sassounian in the video you just watched. .It entails the holding of elections in each and every Armenian community of the Diaspora and form a representative body, a parliament of the Diaspora. Under this scenario the Republic of Armenia should take care of its interests. A model was elaborated for use by the CCAF, the coordinating loose institution of the four political parties. If successful the model could be extended to other communities. The model is already facing difficulties because of several reasons; Churches, AGBU, cultural and sportive and benevolent associations and different clubs are not members of the CCAF; the silent majority of the French of Armenian origin does not seem to have the will to register on electoral lists in addition to other internal, personal and organizational matters. This does not mean that these issues could not be overcome. It is an ideal scheme, would, however, require a very long time. A luxury we can not afford.
  • The second scenario is the concept of a pan-Armenian Council (Azkayin khorhourt). A global Armenian Organization which would include the Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora.  A good idea. You should judge the feasibility yourself. It will be of consultative nature operating in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Armenia as well as principles and provisions of international law. (READ PART OF THE DOCUMENT REFERING TO GOALS AND MEMBERSHIP)
  • The third proposal is less ambitious and relatively modest compared with the two I just mentioned. Thus it is more realistic, motivated and feasible at this stage.  The Western Armenians, descendants of the survivors of genocide and deportation citizens of the Ottoman Empire are the legitimate claimants of their rights. Not the Republic of Armenia. The Republic of Armenia, a sovereign, independent, member of the United Nations, has its own prerogatives and has to respond to geo-political, economic, social and good neighborhood imperatives. An organized representative body of Western Armenians, a nation forced away from their lands (Rights of the Nations Manifesto of 1976) will earn the international right to represent itself. It will also be beneficial to the motherland and Artsakh, as it will be able to facilitate most of their dilemmas.
  • Why western Armenians and not Diaspora?  Because hundred of thousands of Descendants of the victims live in Armenia and over two millions in Russia. They have their own compatriotic associations (hairenagtsagan mioutions). The term is used to identify the Armenians who lived throughout the Ottoman Empire from Constantinople to Van and Aleppo, from Cilicia to Trabizond and Edirne to Kars.
  • In order to organize the Western Armenians there is a need to create institutional and representational capacity to address all the issues of legitimate violated rights. Hence a group of some 40 historians, lawyers, intellectuals and business men from France, Armenia, Russia, Syria, Lebanon, USA, Austria and Iran established in 2007 an NGO (International Organizing Committee registered under French Law to prepare a Congress or a Convention of Western Armenians. This Organizing Committee held 12 sessions as well as scientific seminars in France, Switzerland, Cyprus and Armenia. Three publications were printed and distributed. The first reflected without comments all the inter Armenian talks and negotiations  between 1913 and 1921, the second was a summary of the Cyprus seminar dealing with the main issues of Armenian claims and last but not least  the book of prof. Vahan Melikyan  (haygagan bahantchadiroution, arevmedahayeri 3rt hamakoumari anhrajechdoutioune). Why the 3rd Congress? Because two such congresses took place in Yerevan in 1917 and 1919 to deal with the refugees and represent the Armenian demands to the Paris peace conference. They failed among others because of disagreements between Boghos Noubar Pacha and Aharonian and the insistence of one political party taking over the power in what remained of tsarist Russian Armenia.
  • The International Organizing Committee is now ready to call for the Congress before the end of this year. The Committee will be dissolved as soon as the Congress has elected an Assembly and a permanent Council.
  • The Representative bodies will deal with official entities, national courts, regional and international tribunals, NGOs, international and regional organizations, lobby groups and why not with Turkish intellectuals and lawyers convinced of the need to overcome their history and recognize the fact of medz yeghern or genocide.
  • The  Council should address all the  issues related to territorial and property claims ( private and public), the unlawful deportation of citizens from their original place of birth or residence, making them stateless,  human rights deprivations upon past and current violations of human rights .All issues prohibited in international law and conventions.
  • The representative bodies should also prepare and eventually participate in any dispute resolution mechanism such as arbitration which may be instituted to achieve the above mentioned goals.
  • Ensure that the Armenian cultural heritage is safeguarded by the Turkish authorities in accordance with the provisions of Appendix 4.1 (articles 37 through 45) of the Treaty of Lausanne concerning Protection of Minorities.
  • Establish and maintain contacts with all the Armenian Communities (kaghtodjakh) as well as the Republic of Armenia in order to ensure complementarity.
  • It will have to establish two funds one to finance the ongoing activities of the executive Council  in addition to a legal defense fund to initiate tribunal cases and to face the systematic legal actions carried out against institutions, professors, politicians who denounce the denial and the denialists  of genocide. Hence the need to establish crossed strategy amongst Armenian lawyers, of course adopted to local national laws.
  • Last but not least I have to mention that five of the members of the Committee attended the USC symposium in November 2010. In discussions with all concerned we concluded that there is no incompatibility between our endeavour and the proposal of Sassounian. They are indeed complementary. If the idea of holding world wide elections succeeds and the elected body is by-partisan and not monopolized by a political party we could eventually join it as the organ dealing with the claims. For the time being we cannot wait until a world -wide Diaspora parliament is created.
  • During the past three years our members paid visits to many large Armenian communities including Lebanon, Russia, France, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada and the USA. We met representatives of all political parties, AGBU and compatriotic associations. They all welcomed the idea in principle. Each had a different approach in nominating representatives or participants to the convention, combined of course with different degrees of caution and suspicion.
  • Almost all Armenian Organizations talk about coordination but nobody is prepared to be coordinated. Hence we should aim at harmonization rather than coordination. The proposal is an opportunity to agree on the lowest acceptable and possible common denominator. Our inalinable rights.
  • I am not a linguist but if I had the possibility and the authority I would eliminate from the Armenian language two words “paits yev sagayn”. Please do not tell me why something cannot be done but rather how it can be done or at least how it can be improved. If nothing is done, nothing will change and we will continue our defeatism.


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