Friday, August 19, 2011

Confused, Fascinated, and Titillated by the ARF

I agree with Giro Manoyan, from the ARF Bureau in Armenia. And I agree with the US based ARF.

Sort of, that is, on both counts.

It’s confusing and titillating. But I’d be even more confused (and less titillated) if I were a US based Dashnak or Dashnak-supporter right now. That’s on top of how confused one must be to be a Dashnak in the first place.

Here’s the story. Apparently on Thursday August 18, the Western US office of the ARF made an announcement that they will not be attending the dinner event to be held by the LA Consulate celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Armenia’s independence – an event which Serge Sargsyan himself is planning on attending.

I say apparently, because I can't find the original statement – not on the Asbarez or Armenian Weekly websites, not on the ARFD website, not on the ARF Western US website, and not on the ANCA website. Reports of it are all over the news in Armenia, though.

Why, why the refusal to attend, you may ask. One would think that the ARF, being the nationalistic organization that it is, would jump to the occasion. Well, the only thing I can find is what is on the newspaper sites in Armenia (see Azatutyun, Epress, Tert), and I will quote them directly…

...representatives will not take part in the celebration, in protest against Sarkisian’s track record in office. It said his presence there will “cast a shadow on the idea of independence and denigrate the struggle of our people for the restoration of justice.”

the pan-Armenian party’s chapter described the Armenian president as a “discredited” individual who “tramples democracy and democratic values underfoot” in order to ensure “the reproduction of the criminal regime.”

The statement went on to accuse the Sarkisian government, of which Dashnaktsutyun was a part until April 2009, of committing “blatant human rights violations,” controlling the judiciary and sponsoring “oligarchs that continue to relentlessly plunder our people” in Armenia. It also condemned the government’s conciliatory policies towards Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Whoa, Nelly, whoa!!! Where did this come from, I thought to myself. “Restoration of justice?” “Criminal regime?” “controlling the judiciary,” “human rights violations?” “oligarchs… relentlessly plunder[ing]?”

On the one hand, this is great! Did they suddenly open their eyes, or at least are finally showing publicly that the Western US branch of the ARF is aware of and is acting on at least one smidgen of what is happening in Armenia? But then I searched Asbarez and the Armenian Weekly, the main media mouthpieces of the ARF in the US. I searched for what I would consider to be the main issues pertaining to “plundering,” “oligarchs,” “justice,” and “human rights.” I couldn’t find a single article on the Kiosks, on the 7 arrested youth, on the problems of corruption, the courts, and massive emigration, or on poverty. Do they have other issues in mind? But, alas, as I mentioned, I haven’t yet found the original statements, to help me better understand what else they may in fact have in mind.

What happened that these suddenly are important issues? Sure, last time Sargsyan went to LA, the ARF had a whole bunch of AYFers and others out on the streets chanting against him – but that had to do with Turkish-Armenian relations, nothing to do with March 1, political prisoners, human rights violations, etc… But this time around, somehow, NOT going to the celebration is important enough that they risked upsetting the main ARF office mothership in Armenia, which they succeeded in doing.

This is where things get even more interesting, and yes, titillating. Its very surprising that the Western US ARF would refuse to go to a nationalistic celebration held in Los Angeles, where a person of power such as Sargysan will be present; but it is also very surprising that they would do so on grounds that actually pertain to issues on the ground in Armenia, and not something related to Turkey or Genocide, or their usual topics of interest like what some Congressman said about the Genocide, which Armenian is running for City Council in Glendale, or which Diasporan Armenian camp has a new basketball court. Since when has the Western US ARF made ground issues in Armenia a priority? And enough of a priority, at that, to cause problems between the ARF in Armenia and themselves? Aaah....

But, such tension is a long time brewing, my dear readers.

For the living memory of 99+% of Armenians, the ARF has been centered OUTSIDE of Armenia – various locations in Europe, if I’m not mistaken: Cairo, Athens, and Beirut. It was only after LTP kicked the ARF out that they then reestablished themselves with their main hub in Armenia. But it was okay during Kocharyan, because the ARF was, and still is, very close to Kocharyan. As we know, that regime-friendliness continued when Sargsyan took over, and they were even part of the coalition for a bit. Now they continue to basically be part of the regime, though they play at being opposition. But I can only imagine what type of waves it must have caused the ARF to suddenly have an independent Armenia (which despite the propaganda, they were not so happy about – but that’s for another time), and then to all of a sudden have their point of power shifted from the Diaspora, to Armenia. Imagine all those individual and confused identities that make up the ARF, now with a real, living, breathing Armenia with real living, breathing, Armenians – Armenians who don’t identify themselves as Armenian just because they went to an Armenian high school, or talk about hating Turks and Genocide. The ARF, and most of the Diaspora for that matter, still hasn’t made the transition.

Add to that that at this year’s July ARF Congress, when the new worldwide executive body was elected, not a single US ARF member was elected – the North American representative is from Canada. This is probably the first time in the past 40 or so years that this has happened. How humiliating.

Add to that the following. In the recently released 80+ paged report by HAK on the grounds for early elections, there was a list of all of the corrupt parliamentarians – those who were both MPs and had businesses, which is illegal. Now, the ARF currently has 16 MPs (per their ARF parliament website), 5 of them are listed in the document. This and other corruption in Armenia’s ARF, from what I understand, has been the cause of a lot of concern and tension for the Diasporan ARF folks.

So, perhaps, just perhaps, there is more to the Western US ARF saying no to the celebratory dinner, and their willingness to upset the mothership ARF in Armenia, than the sudden burgeoning concern for human rights in Armenia.

Finally, let’s not forget the equally wonderful response by Giro Manoyan of the Bureau in Armenia, again, citing other sources, as I can’t find the original document anywhere, yet:

“Armenia is facing numerous problems. However, the 20th anniversary cements "our common achievements," says the comment.
"At such high-level functions, we have no right to be guided by personalized relationships and emotional steps in this kind of events,” Manoyan said. “Instead, we must use this occasion to express our unity and consolidation with such events, while remaining faithful to our principles.”

We don’t have the right to be guided by personalized relationships? That’s a new one, Giro. Unity? Faithful to Principles? You and the rest of the ARF have Mikaelian, Zorian, and Zavarian rolling in their graves. I think I’ve made my thoughts on the ARF in Armenia clear before, I need not repeat them here.

We’ve got ARF against ARF here. Will an order be given? If it is, will it be obeyed?

And I still wonder, why this event? Wouldn’t the defection of the ARF Western US have more of an impact if they started actually publishing information on what is really happening in Armenia, and about the regime, rather than boycott an event worth of celebration, because Sargsyan is going? Or maybe this is just the start of a whole new Western US ARF. What about the Eastern branch? I’m just full of questions.

So, I agree with Giro Manoyan, and his (supposed) emphasis on unity and principles. And the ARF is a hierarchical institution, I’m not sure the branches have the right to make such decisions for themselves, just like their individual members don't have the right to think for themselves (but then, if they did that to begin with, they wouldn't be members). And I agree with the (supposed) concern for human rights in Armenia that the Western US branch is expressing.

This is just fascinating. Absolutely fascinating.
And titillating.

Addendum 20 Aug: Lragir published the ARF Western US statement: English Armenian. I still dont see anything about it in the Armenian Weekly or Asbarez, though.

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