As the World’s Armenian community gears up to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman turks, the hashtag #TurkeyFailed has been trending across armenian social networks. The phrase, usually followed by accounts of multi-generational survival, uploaded onto the web by Armenians is meant to empower the descendants of these genocide survivors. As photos of survivors, and their progeny are shared and commented on, we are reminded that though 1.5 million of our grandparents had been dehumanised, robbed of their birthrights, their possessions, marched into deserts and brutally massacred, yet the five hundred thousand or so who survived managed to, as William Saroyan so eloquently put it; “laugh, sing and pray again”; build “a new Armenia” in the four corners of the globe. They passed on as best they could their culture, traditions and language to a new generations of Armenians, now totalling over 7 million people.
However, declaring that Turkey Failed at this time would be similar to declaring victory over shark-kind while still floating in shark-infested waters: Though the immediate danger may have been averted, we, as a nation are not out of the woods yet. The fact that I need to write this piece in english, rather than Armenian in order to reach the majority of my compatriots living in dispersed communities around the globe attests to the fact that we have sacrificed a lot for survival; our language, culture, and traditions, are constantly being diluted despite our best efforts, as we continue to live in lands which we do not call our own, while the concept of a hyphenated Armenian becomes increasingly solidified.
In the 21st century, it is no longer enough for Armenian people to live with the hope of indefinitely preserving Armenian identity, language, culture and traditions in suspension in their newfound homes abroad. Despite hollow promises that we make to ourselves, that we are ready, at moments notice, to return to our ancestral land, how many of us are ready to leave our cosy city lives, our jobs, and the communities we helped reconstruct over 3 generations to go back to mud brick villages in eastern Anatolia? I can recall, the times when i was back in native Canada visiting family, discussing my new life in Armenia with local armenian friends, and finishing our conversations with the question “And when will you be joining me in Armenia?” to which I would always get an embarrassed response in the form of “some day”. Our lack of readiness to leave these comfort zones was most exemplified by the destruction of the well established Armenian communities in Iraq, and now Syria.
Turkey’s failure will only truly be complete when we secure the existence, and sustainability of the Armenian nation. This, of course, can only be done when the majority of those living in the Diaspora, who see the preservation of their cultural heritage, will begin to see the Republic of Armenia as a genuine option for establishing themselves, raising families, and contributing to.
Afterall, the job is not yet done. Our young republic, which we inherited 76 years after the genocide, still deals with many of the typical issues that a start-up nation, with a soviet legacy would be expected to. Armenia still struggles to fight corruption, imperfect democratic processes, economic stimulation, emigration, and the precarious nature of its geopolitical location. Despite all this, Armenia offers unique opportunities for those who wish to contribute. The country changes at an astonishing rate. Despite a century of separation, and contrasts between the soviet and diaspora experience, many repatriates are pleasantly surprised to discover how much they share with their local contemporaries.
Almost four years ago, wishing to bank on this opportunity, I made the move here, established a business, employ a modest number of people, and pay taxes to the State. I am setting the foundations for a family here, and live what can best be described as a ‘normal’ life. I say this not to invoke the envy of the readers, but to explain why, in my case at least, #TurkeyFailed. For the first time in 3 generations, on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a member of my family will be in Armenia. My hope is that my story wouldn’t be unique.
Those who, like me, wish to see, a strong, economically sustainable, democratic and forward looking homeland, as opposed to one that dwells in its past, should know that Armenia doesn’t need your money, or pity, Armenia needs you. Armenia needs Armenians to populate the country, contribute to its job market, its economic development, cultural institutions, and demanding political change.
Until independence, the common line was that, “As soon as we reestablish an Independent Armenia, I will the first on the plane over there”. This has only materialised for a small numer. Today, there no more excuses: Many opportunity exists for those who want to help complete Turkey’s Failure, and subsequently Armenia’s victory, but living here. Those who may want to reconnect with Armenia’s culture, can always make use of resources online, such as the Armenian Virtual College’s Armenian lessons; they can receive a world-renown education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at the American University of Armenia, or simply try out life in Armenia to see if it’s right for them, by applying for the 3 month professional internship programme at Birthright Armenia. Resources such as the Repat Armenia Foundation dedicate themselves to helping Armenians from the diaspora to reclaim their birthright, and establishing themselves in their homeland. The possibilities are endless, the reasons are countless.
100 years after we were chased out of our lands, its time to come home. Only then, we can truly say that #TurkeyFailed
Post by Raffi Elliott