Letter to the Editor:Response to “Armenian Community Needs Focus”

Aram Sassounian

Dear Editor,

This is a response to an article written by Agnessa Kasumyan in the April 3rd Edition of the El Vaquero, titled: “The Armenian Community Needs Focus.” On behalf of the Armenian Students Association (ASA), I would like to submit the following rebuttal.

I will adderess three key points:

1. The importance of reparations

in achieving justice

2. The Genocide’s relevance to

today’s Armenia

3. The Armenian mindset

Though no amount of land, money, and recognition can undo the grave injustices committed against the victims of genocide, reparations are significant. To this day, cultural genocide is being committed by the Turkish government against Armenians. Although the physical aspect of the genocide ended over 90 years ago, the attempted decimation of the Armenian people continues through the destruction of our culture. For example, thousands of Armenian churches, mostly in Eastern Turkey (historical Western Armenia), have yet to be returned to the Armenian patriarchate. Instead, under the Turkish government’s control, these churches suffer from deterioration due to lack of maintenance.

The Turkish government has failed to even take the first step of reconciliation between the two nations in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. For the last 40 years, the Turkish government has spent billions of dollars in lobbying and applying political pressure to dissuade nations from recognizing the genocide. The Turkish government’s ploys in undermining international recognition derive out of fear that with recognition, repayment to the descendants of victims will inevitably follow. Yet, any burden the Turkish government may face in paying reparations is trivial in comparison to the sorrow the 1.5 million slaughtered Armenians faced at the hands of their Ottoman oppressors. The Republic of Armenia still feels the effects of the genocide, being only one eighth of its original size prior to Ottoman occupation. Not to mention, Armenia today is a land-locked nation with scarce resources as it borders two hostile nations (Turkey and Azerbaijan) which prohibit trade. Though one cannot entirely blame Armenia’s dire situation on the genocide, it would be naive to disregard both the economic and political consequences of that blockade. Assistance to Armenia (through charitable donations and economic aid) coupled with genocide settlement do not contradict each other; if anything they act cohesively in moving Armenia forward.

But, without compensation, diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey cannot be established. It would be reckless for Armenians to forfeit their rightful demands. Not only is it a matter of principle in the pursuit of justice, but it would also be negligent to reward the perpetrators in committing heinous acts without fear of repercussions. As Spanish philosopher, George Santayana stated: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”