Last April, my family and I vacationed in Cancun, Mexico. It was a relaxing experience, both in interaction with the landscape and people. The beaches were scenic and ideal for surfers and snorkelers alike. It was this very observation that led to my shock when I saw natives littering and using the sand as a garbage dump. As I wondered how the indigenous Mexicans could so carelessly mistreat their land, my dad explained that, having a low standard of living, “their problems were not yet up to the level in which environmental hazards are a concern.”
This comment got me thinking about the divide between the perspectives of the citizens of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora on how to move forward with Hai Tahd.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) is the foremost organization in the United States fighting for the betterment of the Armenian republic and nation. Its fight for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reclaiming historic Armenian territories is admirable, to say the least. However, while there is little doubt that the ARF holds the support of the Armenian American community, there is a disconnect with the people of Armenia. It would be nice to think that all Armenians have an engrained sense of nationalism that will lead them to prioritize the issues that the ARF was created to tackle. But this is not the case.
While the ARF has wide support from around the world, it should come as no surprise that the Dashnaktsutyun captured under six percent of the popular vote in May’s parliamentary elections in Armenia. Diaspora Armenians, at least in America, simply do not face the same obstacles that the residents of Armenia face; to them, there is no threat of net emigration, no danger of war with an enemy that claims Armenian land, and no concern of a faltering economy. Many if not most Diaspora Armenians have no experience of life in the Homeland and, while they may try to put the aforementioned difficulties facing Armenia’s residents into perspective, the full magnitude of such problems cannot easily be felt or realized.
In other words, the people of Armenia are the people of Mexico on the beach: Their problems are too basic, too materialistically oriented to allow concern for larger, less tangible issues like genocide recognition or territorial reclamation. Because the ARF focuses primarily on the latter, most people in Armenia will place their loyalty with the less ambitious but more conservative Republican Party.
It is essential that the interests of Diasporan Armenians and of Armenian residents become fused. General alignment will never be enough: ARF organizations must realize that the idea of a “free, independent and unified” nation will never be realized until all Armenians are on board, and for this reason must be more considerate of domestic issues in Armenia. To garner the necessary support, the Dashnaktsutyun must shed its image of being a purely ideological party by incorporating ways to provide for Armenian nationals in its mission, all while maintaining its core objectives.