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Why Don’t Diasporan Armenians discuss Human Rights?

“I wonder if human rights, democracy, rule of law, fighting corruption is on the agenda of the ‪Armenia‬ – ‪‎Diaspora‬ Forum this week?” I saw this question raised on activist Lara Aharonian’s facebook page. The question was left unanswered on the forum’s agenda and instead the main issues were international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, its condemnation and resolution of its outcomes, commemoration preparations for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, as well as Syrian-Armenian problems.

I wondered if Lara’s concerning question did not arise among those diasporans who are participating in the conference. On September 19, the diasporan guests had gathered in front of the National Assembly’s garden, where I had a chance to direct the question to a few of them.

Before the official launch of the event, the guests were taking photos amongst themselves with the backdrop of the nation’s legislature.

I was able to converse with representatives of various communities at the gathering. My first interviewee was Anahit Khalatyan, from the Moscow office of the Union of Russian Armenians. She said that it’s natural that the topic is on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, because it is more relevant to diasporans and that they’ve come here to get instructions from Hranush Hakobyan, on how to properly organize their April 24 activities. I asked the president of the Italian-Armenian Association, Baykar Sivazlian, if he was willing to support the defense of human rights in Armenia, he responded, “don’t think that many diasporans come from countries with better conditions.”

“You’re probably thinking of Syria, right?” – I replied.

“Not only, Europe is not in great shape either. With 23 years of independence, I don’t think there are such large issues in Armenia. But if there are such issues, then Armenian citizens must explain them to us,” said Sivazlian.

Armenian Relief Society representative, Maro Keshishian, complained that the Armenian government sees the diaspora as a cash cow.

“They haven’t allowed us to intervene. They say that this is a state and we have no issues with our citizens. This is a state; allow us to administer it in our way. When a young women like Zaruhi (Petrosyan) became a domestic violence victim, we wrote many letters in protest, however our voice was not heard. Armenian citizens who live here have to build this country themselves. They should leave, get an education, and return to build the country,” said Keshishian.

My next interview was with Thais Karamekian, who was indignant toward the word “human rights activist”, she said that “human rights activists are even protecting criminals.”

The official visit concluded with a group photograph of all 600 guests, Hranush Hakobyan, and National Assembly President Galust Sahakyan.

Knar Khudoyan