By Harut Sassounian*
The approaching centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 raises some fundamental questions, particularly on Armenian territorial demands from Turkey. In the weeks and months ahead, this column will address these issues by presenting the rationale for these demands and provide answers to frequently asked questions.
Question 1: Is it true that all claims arising from the crime of genocide become invalid after 100 years?
Answer: Not true. On No.v 26, 1968, the UN General Assembly adopted “The Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity,” which includes the crime of genocide. Article 1 of this Convention states that “No statutory limitation shall apply to [these crimes]…irrespective of the date of their commission.” Therefore, no matter how much time has elapsed, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, can still be prosecuted. However, for logistical reasons, it would be wise to refer such crimes to the courts as quickly as possible.
Question 2: Isn’t it a fantasy to expect that Armenians will ever regain Western Armenia?
Answer: No one should be under the illusion that Turkish leaders will voluntarily hand over to Armenians a single inch of land, let alone the territories of Western Armenia. Peaceful transfers of land are extremely rare in the practice of international relations. All too often, land is taken by force. Since Armenia is not militarily more powerful than Turkey, and is not expected to be so anytime soon, Armenians have to wait for unforeseen developments to occur in and around Turkey—such as civil war, global or regional conflict, revolution, Kurdish insurrection, natural disaster, or nuclear catastrophe—that bring about a power vacuum and possible border changes in that part of the world. Meanwhile, Armenians have to keep alive and transmit their territorial demands to future generations until the opportune moment when they can claim their lawful rights.
In the meantime, it is unwise for Armenians to make minimalist demands from Turkey. Since Turkish leaders are not willing to make even the smallest territorial concession, there is no point in telling them that Armenians would be satisfied by the return of only Ararat or Ani. Armenians should ask for nothing less than “Armenia from sea to shining sea” (dsove-dsov Hayasdan). Rather than minimize their demands, Armenians should claim the maximum, so that they can end up getting a portion of what is rightfully theirs. As all good Armenian businessmen know, you don’t start negotiating from your bottom price!
Question 3: If Western Armenia is freed, wouldn’t the overwhelming majority of the population and elected officials be Kurds and Turks, making Armenians a small minority in their own homeland?
Answer: Yes, that would be true if Western Armenia were handed to Armenians today. However, this is not likely to happen. As explained earlier, before Armenians have the opportunity to regain their historic lands, calamitous events must first occur in that part of the world. No one knows the impact of such developments on the local population. Demographic changes resulting from unforeseen circumstances in the region shall determine how many Kurds, Turks, or even Armenians remain in the area. One cannot simply assume that the status quo will remain unchanged forever. Therefore, one cannot automatically conclude that Armenians would become a minority in Western Armenia.
Question 4: If someday Western Armenia is liberated, would Armenians be willing to leave their comfortable homes in the West and resettle on those inhospitable lands?
Answer: The issue here is the right of Armenians to settle in their historic homeland. Once these lands are returned, it is up to each Armenian to decide whether to relocate. This should not be a Turkish concern. Do all Jews live in Israel? Since most Lebanese, like Armenians, live outside of their homeland, do people question the reason for the existence of Lebanon as a state? Someday, when Western Armenia is freed, most Armenians who live in nearby Middle Eastern countries will probably choose to relocate there. However, there is no problem if every single Armenian from around the world does not head for the homeland. Those who remain in the diaspora will surely play a critical role in strengthening the newly established country economically and politically, just as Armenians worldwide are currently assisting their compatriots in the Republic of Armenia.
*Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations, and senior vice-president of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation. From 1978-82, he worked for the Procter & Gamble Company in Geneva, Switzerland as an international marketing executive. For 10 years, he served as a non-governmental delegate on human rights at the United Nations, playing a leading role in the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the UN in 1985. He has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Armenian Genocide: The World Speaks Out, 1915-2005, Documents and Declarations, which was published in English and Arabic. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Source: Armenian Weekly, 08 August 2012
Turkish Milliyet publishes parts of Sassounian's article in Turkish language here: