February 22, 2007


Here at Sassna Dzrer, we have recently come upon two news items emanating from the Republic of Armenia - one from the Executive and the other from the Legislative branches of government. The one is rational and the other borders on the ridiculous...

First the Rational....While in France on a state visit Republic of Armenia (ROA) President Robert Kocharian, during an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro, renewed his offer to establish diplomatic ties with Turkey without any preconditions. When asked by journalists why his country had refused Turkey's offers to form a joint research committee to debate the World War I killings of Armenians, which the overwhelming majority of recognized genocide scholars categorize as a genocide, President Kocharian answered by stating,

"Normalization of bilateral relations is up to governments, not historians. That's why we are ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without conditions and to create an intergovernmental commission and to discuss all questions, even the most sensitive."

President Kocharian also commented that Armenia continues to be under threat by having Turkey as its neighbor since the failure of Turkey to recognize the armenian Genocide was not only an ethical problems but one that posed a national security risk as well.

"We have the same neighbor now that refuses to accept its guilt in 1915. There is a risk that what happened before could happen again," Kocharian said, in Paris for the official start of France's Armenia Year, which will involve a variety of social and cultural activities

And the Ridiculous...It appears that the ROA National Assembly has just passed the first draft of a bill that would grant dual citizenship to Armenians living abroad. We haven't yet got our hands on the nuts and bolts of the bill since it appears the proponents of the legislation are formulating its provisions "on the go". That's to say someone raises the question about military service or taxation and they come up with a variety of options addressing such sensitive topics.

We have always failed to see the urgency in drafting such legislation in the first place. Its supporters argue that dual citizenship would encourage many more in the dispersion to feel a real connection to the ROA and would increase travel to and investment in Armenia. As if that is not possible now. Such symbolic gestures may be well-meaning but they miss the mark almost entirely. Legislation may facilitate such cross-pollination between the two Armenian realities but what is crucially needed is the building of true bridges of communication and contact between the ROA and the dispersion.

According to Viken Hakobian, Academic Secretary of the Natural Sciences Division of the Natural Academy of Sciences, and a supporter of the dual citizenship legislation,

"I want to stress that dual citizenship will also restore to some extent historical justice. Armenia is the homeland of our nation that is spread throughout the world. Why should we consider Armenia our home while the Diaspora Armenians should not be able to feel the same? This is not fair, and dual citizenship must be introduced. I am sure that once dual citizenship is adopted Armenians living in different countries will be inspired to come to Armenia more often which will in its turn result in an increase of economic investments. Finally, the most important feeling is the feeling that you have a homeland. I have met many Diaspora Armenians that have a great wealth in other countries but they feel they are guests in those countries, they do not have a sense of a homeland. This should be changed."

(These are fine sentiments indeed but for the most part based on emotional desires and not on concrete analysis of the situation and conditions involved. Before we can even contemplate dual-citizenship , concerned individuals and organizations on both sides of the Armenian divide need to get serious regarding how we can, to the extent possible, bridge the cultural and communications gap that has kept the two sides strangers for the past fifteen years since independence. Those who claim we are One Nation, One People need to look beyond the easy fix of symbolism and be creative when it comes to scaling the barriers, both externally imposed and self-made, that continue to keep us apart.)


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