ENCINO, CATown hall meetings have begun throughout the Western United States to inform Armenian communities of the current state of negotiations between Armenia and Turkey and the steps being taken to prevent the ratification of dangerous agreements between the two countries, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) reported on Saturday.
The community briefings, which began this week with two meetings in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County, will be updating Armenian Americans on the ongoing developments in the anti-protocols initiative and providing avenues for activism on the issue.
The first town-hall, organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federations Western Region (ARF-WR), was held at Ferrahian Highschool in Encino on November 19. More than 200 people attended the discussion, lead by ARF-WR Central Committee Members Steven Dadayan and John Kossakian.
Kossakian presented a brief history of Armenian-Turkish relations since the independence of Armenia, discussing Turkeys decades long blockade of Armenia and its efforts at pressuring the young Armenian republic into making the difficult choice between the Armenian peoples historical rights or the countrys economic prosperity.
On April 22, Armenia and Turkey announced they had agreed to a roadmap to normalize their relations and open the closed border. The announcement came on the eve of the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, allowing US President Obama to backtrack on promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Amid intense opposition and protests by Armenians around the world, Armenias foreign minister signed agreements with his Turkish counterpart on October 10 to establish ties between the two countries.
The signature came despite Turkeys strong preconditions that Armenia must relinquish legal rights to historic territories in Turkey, agree to the establishment of a historical commission to debate the Genocide, and concede the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to Azerbaijan.
Now that the protocols have been signed, everyones main concern is which parliament is going to ratify it first, Kossakian said, adding that Armenia is currently playing a waiting game with the document. Instead of worrying about this, we should start working on our next stepto confront the Armenian government about the protocol issues.
In his remarks Kossakian underscored the anti-protocols campaigns latest initiative of channeling public sentiment against the protocols to pressure the Armenian parliament not to ratify the devastating documents.
Dissecting the actual provisions in the protocols, Dadayan discussed the legal implications of the documents and the heavy burdens Armenia will be required to uphold if its ratified.
Through these protocols, Dadayan explained, Turkey is seeking to legalize its current de-facto border with Armenia. The current boundaries are illegal and based on the illegitimate treaties of Moscow and Kars, signed in the 1920s by the rogue Bolshevik and Kemalist regimes. If the protocols are ratified, Armenia will once and for all relinquish its rights to US President Woodrow Wilsons arbitral award of historic territories now under Turkish occupation.
Dadayan also discussed provisions in the protocols that will constrain Armenias relations with Karabakh and prevent Yerevan from from serving as the guarantor of its independence and security. He explained that if Karabakh is one day attacked or overrun by Azerbaijan and Armenia wants to take action or send medical or military assistance, it is legally prevented from doing so.
In underscoring the unequal bargaining position Armenia has been placed in throughout the negotiations process, Dadayan recalled his encounter with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian during his visit to Los Angeles in September to meet with Armenian Community leaders.
Dadayan said he had asked Sarkisian what international lawyers and experts of international law were consulted by the Armenian government about the legal implications of the protocols, which were drafted in English. The president said he was not good in English nor was he a lawyer Dadayan recalled, noting that Sarkisian said he trusted his diplomats enough not to seek professional advice.
The same points were raised at the Armenian Center in Santa Anna, CA on Saturday, November 20 by Vache Thomassian from the ARF Shant Student Association. Thomassian spoke to some 50 people at a briefing, hosted by the AYFs Orange County Ashod Yergat chapter. In his remarks, he reiterated community concerns over the forced choices being presented to the Armenian people by the protocols and discussed the unprecedented level of activism around the issue.
Presenting a photo-montage of global anti-protocols activities spanning the last two months, Thomassian stressed the resound impact of the Diasporas actions in Armenia. Anywhere you had an Armenian community around the world, you saw people express their disapproval, he said. Our voices were heard and shared all the way to Yerevan, where 60,000 people demonstrated against the signing of the protocols.
That there is widespread opposition to the documents is not surprising. Theres a lot to be lost here and very little to be gained, said Thomassian, explaining the many preconditions Armenia is faced with if it wants to normalize relations with its neighbor. The protocols could very well evolve into a package deal that includes a quick resolution to the Karabakh conflict.
Thomassian discussed the current strategies and tactics being employed by the Stop the Protocols Campaign, from educating and mobilizing Armenian communities across the US to work within the American political system to advance the Armenian Genocide resolution to a vote in Congress.
He also discussed many of the ARFs recent initiatives in Armenia. The party has been working around the clock in parliament and at the grassroots level to not only prevent ratification but also to address the underlying problem of corruption, he explained. ARF activists have been visiting villages, organizing communities to oppose the documents. Meanwhile, the ARF has been meeting with other parties opposed to the protocols in Armenia to strategize future joint actions against ratification.
But neither Sarkisian, nor the protocols are the end all problem here, Thomassian said, explaining that the present situation is largely due to corruption and a lack of democracy in Armenia. The protocols didnt pop out of nowhere; they are the result of oligarchs selling out the interests of the people for their own self interest.
Thomassian discussed the ARFs call for a serious overhaul of the corruption and oligarchic rule in Armenia, talking about the partys initiative to build the groundwork for radical changes in Armenia.The long-term objective of the ARF is social reforms, government reforms and democratic reforms, Thomassian said. In the last few weeks the ARF has been introducing dozens of pieces of legislation in parliament on issues concerning the national debt, womens rights, poverty, and social security.
The protocols are in limbo right now, but that doesnt mean we are meaningless; we need to dig in further and do more work, be more active and get our voices heard that much louder, Thomassian exclaimed. everything we have done to this point has had an impact and if we can increase the pressure and create enough obstacles, this thing might completely collapse.
FRESNOThe Armenian Youth Federation’s Fresno Kevork Chavoush Chapter announced this week it has begun its 4th annual toy drive to benefit troubled orphans in Armenia.
The chapter will be packaging boxes filled with toys and shipping them to Armenia at the end of the year. Toys must be brand new and in their original boxes.
Donation boxes have been at the Fresno Armenian Center (2348 Ventura St. Fresno, CA 93721), as well as at local delis, restaurants, markets, and bakeries.
To donate to the toy drive, contact Sevag Jierian (559-301-2439) or Rita Marie Costanian (559-696-8358) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donors from the Los Angeles area can drop toys off at the AYF Western Region office in Glendale (104 N. Belmont St., Suite 206, Glendale, CA 91206). For information or direction, call (818) 507-1933 or email: email@example.com
Glendale Donation Drop Off Location:
AYF-WR Office 104 N. Belmont St., Suite 206, Glendale, CA 91206 Fresno Donation Drop Off Locations:
Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School Located at Herndon and Villa
Medicine Shoppe Located at Fresno and Gettysburg
Fresno Armenian Community Center Located at Ventura and M Street
Hye Market Located at Bullard and West Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church Located at Ventura and M Street
Nina’s Bakery Located at Shaw and West
Fresno Deli Located at Fresno and Gettysburg
Kern St. Cobbler Shoe Repair & Alterations Located at Kern and M Street
Armenian Student Organization (ASO-Fresno) Located at California State University, Fresno. The Armenian Studies Office in the Peters Building
Over a hundred youth listen as the AYF Protocols Task Force Presents the next phase of the organizations actions against the Turkey-Armenia protocols
PASADENA, CA–On November 4th, over 100 members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and ARF Shant Student Association (SSA) packed the halls of the Pasadena Armenian Center for a special discussion regarding the Armenia-Turkey protocols. The meeting was called by the AYF Central Executive in order to evaluate recent developments and outline the next steps in the campaign to stop the protocols.
As youth, we feel it is our obligation to be on the forefront of this struggle which affects all Armenians, no matter where they are, said AYF CE Chairman Arek Santikian. We called this briefing together to inform our membership of what is going on and engage them in the next phase of our campaign.
The event opened up with AYF Central Executive member Allen Yekikian speaking about the work carried out by the AYF over the last two monthsfrom the 10,000 person rally at Pelanconi Park, to the demonstration against President Serzh Sargsyan at the Beverly Hilton, to the protests at the Montebello Genocide monument, to the hunger strike in front of the Armenian Consulate, and so on. Yekikian highlighted the fact that these efforts had a huge impact on not only the local community, but people all around the world. Through the use of technology, the AYF was able to spread the message of what was going on to Armenians as far away as Toronto, Beirut, and Yerevan and helped to motivate others to take similar actions to have their voice heard.
Following Yekikians recap of the campaigns impact, ARF Central Committee member Aram Kaloustian took to the floor to offer his remarks about where we stand today with the protocols. After presenting the stance of the ARF and its call for a serious overhaul of the corruption and oligarchic rule in Armenia, Kaloustian posed the question to the individuals present whether it is better to affect change from inside of the government as a minority or from the outside as an opposition. Continuing in his lecture he stressed that the Armenian and Turkish Parliament still have to both ratify the protocols for it to go into effect.
The Stop the Protocols Task Force was next to address the audience, delivering a power point presentation of what the next steps would be in its action plan. Members of the Task Force made clear that the scope of their work would be greatly expanded and called on attendees to volunteer for the more than half-a-dozen subcommittees created for this new phase in the campaign.
In the coming weeks and months, the Task Force plans on taking the issue directly to the people and utilizing the full range of its manpower to reinforce the campaign to stop the protocols, said Task Force member Levon Abrahamian. By seeing the turnout here today, our determination only grows stronger.
A healthy discussion ensued after the presentations during which SSA and AYF members posed various questions and gave suggestions on the action plan. Some of the things proposed included exploring ways of directly reaching out to the youth in Armenia and publicizing the wide-ranging opposition that exists to the protocols in both the Diaspora and the homeland.
The event concluded with clipboards being passed around and over a third of the attendees signing up for sub-committees.