Thursday, September 06, 2007

Robert Fisk Helps Bring to Surface One More Facet of Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanyan's Political Persona

By Appo Jabarian
Executive Publisher/Managing Editor
USA Armenian Life Magazine

Robert Fisk, the British journalist who has written extensively on the Armenian Genocide, recently wrote an article titled "The Forgotten Holocaust" (The Independent, August 28, 2007). Fisk's lengthy article touched upon the Armenian Genocide and its relationship to today's Armenia and the Diaspora.

While some Armenian activists have debated whether to keep silent, abstain from attacking or outright criticizing Fisk, this writer saw it appropriate to publicly thank him for his stand regarding the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time, however, I want to underscore my disagreement with him on some of the points he raised.

One of the most interesting issues raised in Fisk's article was the Artsakh (Karabagh) Liberation War.

Interestingly, despite being a journalist who is very knowledgeable about history, Fisk chooses to overlook the fact that Artsakh and Nakhichevan along with other Armenian territories were separated from Armenia by Josef Stalin, the infamous Soviet dictator. In 1921, Stalin arbitrarily carved huge chunks of lands out of the 1918-1920 independent Republic of Armenia and gave them to the then artificially created Republic of Azerbaijan, to his native Georgia and to Kemalist Turkey.

Fisk also wrote, "But I sensed some political problems up at the Yerevan museum - international as well as internal. While many Armenians acknowledge that their countrymen did commit individual revenge atrocities - around Van, for example - at the time of the genocide, a heavy burden of more modern responsibility lies with those who fought for Armenia against the Azeris in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. This mountainous region east of the Armenian state saw fierce and sometimes cruel fighting in which Armenians massacred Turkish Azeri villagers. The Independent was one of the newspapers that exposed this."

Did Fisk run out of space in his article or simply did not have enough time to investigate and write about the "more modern" mass murders by Azeri Turks of defenseless innocent Armenians in Azerbaijan's Sumgait and Baku regions in late 1980's?

Fisk added, "Yet when I arrive at the massive genocide memorial next to the museum, I find the graves of five 'heroes' of the Karabakh war. Here lies for instance, Musher 'Vosht' Mikhoyan, who was killed in 1991, and the remains of Samuel 'Samo' Kevorkian, who died in action in 1992. However upright these warriors may have been, should those involved in the ghastly war in Karabakh be associated with the integrity and truth of 1915? Do they not demean the history of Armenia's greatest suffering? Or were they - as I suspect - intended to suggest that the Karabakh war, which Armenia won, was revenge for the 1915 genocide? It's as if the Israelis placed the graves of the 1948 Irgun fighters - responsible for the massacres of Palestinians at Deir Yassin and other Arab villages - outside the Jewish Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem near Jerusalem."

Fisk raises a valid point about the inappropriateness of the burial site of the remains of liberation war's Armenian heroes. However, he needs to dig deeper into the psyche of the genocide-surviving Armenians. It is only then that he will realize that there is no "revenge for the 1915 genocide," but a basic human right to live and to defend the common dignity and well being. Today's Armenians in Artsakh, Armenia proper and the Diaspora are no less focused on the importance of self-defense than their Vanetsi, Sisetsi, Zeituntsi, Mushetsi, Sassountsi, Musa Lertsi fighter-ancestors. They know too well the value of genocide-preventing war of liberation. They also know the difference between determined resistance in southern Artsakh and passive surrender in northern Artsakh.

Fisk also helped bring to the surface yet one more facet of Armenian foreign minister's political persona. He wrote about his conversation with Mr. Vartan Oskanyan: "There is debate in Yerevan today as to why the Diaspora Armenians appear to care more about the genocide than the citizens of modern-day Armenia. Indeed, the Foreign minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanyan, actually told me that 'days, weeks, even months go by' when he does not think of the genocide. One powerful argument put to me by an Armenian friend is that 70 years of Stalinism and official Soviet silence on the genocide deleted the historical memory in eastern Armenia - the present-day state of Armenia. Another argument suggests that the survivors of western Armenia - in what is now Turkey - lost their families and lands and still seek acknowledgement and maybe even restitution, while eastern Armenians did not lose their lands. Demoyan [Direcotor the Genocide Museum in Yerevan] disputes all this."

To date, Oskanian has not disputed any portion of the content of Fisk's article. Therefore, his silence raises some questions.

How can one represent the republic that exists on the 50% of the territories of its predecessor: Armenia of 1918-1920 (Eastern Armenia) with 60,000 sq. km., and ignore its territorial claims? Today’s Armenia is a tiny 29,000 sq. km., not including the liberated 15,000 sq. km. of Artsakh.

How can one reconcile Oskanyan’s claim of "deleted historical memory in Eastern Armenia," when in fact only last year nearly 90% of the Armenians participating in a public opinion poll in the same Eastern Armenian lands of Armenia and Artsakh and presented demands on genocide recognition by Turkey? A whopping 70% stated that they would not settle for anything less than the return of the Turkish-occupied lands of Western Armenia.

Did Mr. Oskanyan “conveniently” forget the indignation that he caused a few months ago in Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora, when he expressed willingness to “hand” the liberated Armenian Karvadjar in Artsakh to Azerbaijan?

Oskanyan has been Foreign Minister for too long, without having achieved any substantial gains for Armenia. Furthermore, Armenia squandered away many valuable opportunities for diplomatic gains in the international arena and even sustained self-inflicted damages thanks to Mr. Oskanyan's mishandling of several cases at the United Nations and elsewhere. It is absurd that the foreign minister of a land-liberating state - Armenia - mislabels the liberated Armenian lands as "occupied" territories. Mr. Oskanyan has done just that!

Isn't it time for a change? The political landscape is shifting. We need more proactive leaders in Armenia. Selling the phone grid and the electrical grid to Russia cannot be construed as sound strategy. Fortunately, the people are ahead of the politicians on most issues. Time will install the will of the people and their demands.

Retribution and restitution is still our rallying cry. Those with amnesia need to fortify their spines by digging deeper into the calamity that decimated the Armenian Nation. Nothing less is acceptable.

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