Armenia-Turkey: Protests against rapprochement


Anti-Armenia-Turkey protocol demonstration, Los Angeles, United States of America © Liana Aghajanian / Ianyan 2009

Days before the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey are due to sign two historic protocols likely to establish diplomatic relations and possibly opening the border between the two neighboring countries, media attention has spiked towards what many had previously thought was an unlikely development.

The border between the two countries was in 1993 by Turkey in protest at Armenia's occupation of 14-16 percent of Azerbaijan, its ally in the region, Azerbaijan. Writing on The Oil and the Glory, veteran journalist Steve LeVine sets the scene to what is already making headline news across the globe.

The main flashpoint between the two countries has been Turkey's 1915 massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians. Turkey refuses to acknowledge responsibility for the carnage, and permits pseudo-scholarly denials of the well-established history itself. […]

Yet, if the pact proceeds and the countries’ parliaments go on to ratify it — not a certainty by any means — one is led to wonder what else is possible in the region.

Agents of Virtue also takes a similarly positive position on the latest developments. The blogger, who spent three years working in Armenia, says a breakthrough is necessary for both countries.

Armenia is landlocked, poor and cannot grow economically with closed borders. […] Businesses in Eastern Turkey have long wanted access to and across Armenia and Armenia needs the trade that will result – particularly if it then has additional access to the Black Sea […].

Finally, Turkey would like this diversion ended. It is a rising power in the Caucuses and Central Asia, not to mention the elephant in the room in the Middle East. Turkey is a competitor with Iran and is a democratic country – more so than any of its neighbors. […].

Nevertheless, the blog notes, ethnic Armenians in the large Diaspora are not necessarily going to be convinced by such matters. The blog says that it is therefore not surprised by protests staged abroad against the deal. However, it remains optimistic about a breakthrough.

The Armenia diaspora is demonstrating actively against any rapprochement. But then, I have always observed that, aside from summer vacations, they don't have to live in Armenia but can retreat to their pleasant California or French homes where they have running water, electricity 24 hours a day and incomes that exceed $35 a month. The Armenians, left to themselves, would have sorted out their international relations some time ago.

Settlements and compromises usually come gradually in diplomatic affairs. Finally, a major step appears to be on the verge of happening. Good.


Anti-Armenia-Turkey protocol demonstration, Los Angeles, United States of America © Liana Aghajanian / Ianyan 2009

Ianyan, a Los Angeles-based blog posts photographs and an account of this week's protest staged by 3,000 ethnic Armenians against the visit of the Armenian president, Serge Sargsyan, while on the U.S. leg of a whirlwind tour of Diasporan communities to listen to their concerns.

The protest in Los Angeles, which houses the second largest number of Armenians outside of Armenia, came on the heels of Sargsyan’s visit to diaspora communities in New York and Paris as part of a week long diaspora tour.


Sargsyan has met with strong opposition in both New York and Paris, where crowds clashed with French police. The atmosphere wasn’t any different in Los Angeles, where many, like Zaruhi Najarian echoed Santikian’s sentiments.

“The president is obviously here to get the diaspora’s opinion and we’re hoping that he will take our opinion into consideration and not sign the protocols,” Najarian, who expected to be at the protest until 8 p.m. said.


Many who were present made use of social media by tweeting about the event, including the Western chapter of AYF who posted photos, commentary and video of the day-long protests and Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee who wrote “After Paris, NYC, and LA who will toast serj?”

Life in the Armenian Diaspora is happy about the protests, but says that it is concerned how most Armenian bloggers are not writing on the topic. The Diaspora numbers in the millions, but only a few thousand have so far openly protested the protocols.

Even so, the blog believes that most ethnic Armenians abroad oppose them. It also says that there can be no compromise or concessions to either Azerbaijan or Turkey in return for open borders and and end to conflict.

I'm finding it a bit hard to believe that the repat and diaspora blogs are so dead. I'm very interested in hearing from the repats about what is going on in Armenia in regards to the protocols. […]


The support for these protocols is so minimal it's almost non-existent. […]


We do not recognize the current border! Ararat is ours! Moosh and Van are ours! Kharapagh is not for sale or up for trade! […]

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Anti-Armenia-Turkey protocol demonstration, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2009

The protests, however, are not confined to the Diaspora. Writing on my Frontline Club blog, I also post photographs of a “hunger” strike against the protocols in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. It is unknown how many citizens are against the imminent signing.

[…] it has to be said, as some point out, the action is not exactly a hunger strike, but more like some kind of 48-hour fast with 24 party members refraining from eating until they are replaced two days later. Immediate recognition of the Armenian Genocide and territorial claims on Turkey might be central to the party's ideology, but the protest is remarkably calm and restrained. […]


[…] the protestors remain adamant that most Armenians are behind them in opposing the deal and are preparing for a rally to be held on 9 October. Approximately 700 people have signed their petition today, protestors add, although they can't give precise figures for the total number collected so far. […] An earlier meeting last month attracted just 500 people, and although Friday's rally will likely be significantly larger, for every passerby who put pen to paper today, more didn't.

Regional analyst Kevork Oskanian, writing on Security, in the Caucasus and beyond…., says that opponents of the protocols in both countries as well as abroad are as reactionary as each other.

The protocols published by the Armenian, Turkish and Swiss foreign ministries on 31 August have provoked an outcry among both Armenian and Turkish nationalists. Both societies were caught entirely unawares […]. After the initial shock, some of the criticisms levelled against the protocols were well-founded and –argued; others departed from trains of thought that bordered on the ludicrous and absurd. Among […] sympathisers of the ultra-nationalist MHP […] the narrative was one of ‘betrayal’ to the Turks’ ‘blood-brothers’, the Azeris. Among Armenian nationalists, in Armenia but especially in the Diaspora, accusations flew regarding a supposed betrayal of ‘Armenian historical rights’. On both extremes, the reactions were completely predictable in terms of their enduring, fossilised paranoia.


[…] With Karabakh and Armenia-Turkey interwoven with many of these issues, anyone seen as threatening such a hard-won grand bargain would soon find his options exhausted.


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