The Armenian Community Needs Focus
April 3, 2013
For nearly a century, Armenian people have struggled for the affirmation of the 1915 genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire.
The stories and accounts that have been passed along by victims and witnesses are crude enough to make anyone cringe; however, the time has come to redirect the energy spent on genocide recognition onto other issues that currently plague Armenians today.
The genocide issue has left both Armenians and Armenia in a stalemate. It’s as if receiving reparations from Turkey will solve all of the nation’s problems when it cannot make due with the potential it has now for profit and both political and economic growth.
Receiving reparations from Turkey may or may not help Armenia’s development, but Armenians shouldn’t wait for the reparations before they start working toward much needed socioeconomic and political change.
The argument that many Armenians hold is that Armenia’s geographic location is not ideal, and that if it had its historical lands back from Turkey, it would give them access better resources, as it is currently a land-locked nation.
This just sounds like an excuse. Exploiting the genocide issue won’t solve bigger problems in the long run, and it is, in fact, disrespectful to the victims.
Though it is true that there are disadvantages to being landlocked, it does not completely disable development. Switzerland also suffers from the same “problem,” yet that country manages to maintain a stable economy. Switzerland’s unemployment rate is 3 percent, and its budget surplus is 0.3 percent. Only 6.9 percent of its population falls below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Armenia, however, has an unemployment rate of 7 percent. In 2011, the depreciation of the nation’s currency caused the value of its money to drop 15 percent in 2011, resulting in higher levels of unemployment.
Armenia, along with Macedonia, has the highest youth unemployment rates, 57.6 percent. The decrease in employment has led to a cluster of issues, such as increases in prostitution, human trafficking and poverty. The CIA World Factbook reports that 35.8 percent of the population suffers from poverty.
Added to that, Armenia is currently struggling with high levels of corruption within its government. The Corruption Perceptions Index reports that Armenia has a total score of 34 out of 100, with 100 being the least corrupt and zero being the most.
This alone leaves trails of doubt in Armenia’s ability to use reparations from Turkey toward the development of the nation. Armenian interest groups should take into consideration that though the genocide happened, constantly pushing for its recognition does nothing to help the people, especially if the ultimate goal is to gain money and lands.
Reparations will not bring justice to the lives lost. Instead, using the genocide to gain economic advantages only halts Armenia’s growth and further tarnishes its relations with Turkey.
Armenia would benefit more if it established diplomatic relations with Turkey, especially economically, if both nations agreed to open their borders.
The amount of passion, resources and energy that is dedicated to genocide recognition should be dedicated to dealing with the social, economic and corruption issues that have cost Armenians a decent standard of living and resulted in their vast migration, in turn leading to a silent genocide of Armenian culture.
Furthermore, if Armenians are after the lands to preserve their culture and history, they would only be ensuring its dissolution, as Armenia’s democratic government would result in a majority of populations that currently inhibit the formerly Armenian lands, displacing the overall Armenian population and majority.
The genocide happened; however, with that said, April 24 should no longer be a day solely for mourning. The Ottoman Empire, under the Young Turks, failed in their mission to wipe Armenians out and destroy their spirits, yet there is a sense of victimization that exists in Armenians today.
Armenians are the victors in the situation, not the victims. If they viewed themselves as the victors, perhaps the generation today would be more empowered and inclined to deal with immediate and more pressing issues that strike the core of their livelihood, rather than using the past to create their future.