June 2, 2011
WASHINGTON—On May 28, Policy Forum Armenia (PFA) held a reception on the occasion of the independence of the First Armenian Republic (1918-20) at the historic University Club of Washington. The event served as the first in a series of introductions of members of the Sardarapat Movement’s Initiating Group—film director Tigran Khzmalyan and informational technology expert Garegin Chugaszyan, who are visiting Washington at the invitation of PFA—to the Armenian community and policy circles in the nation’s capital.
In his keynote address, Dr. Rouben Adalian, the director of the Armenian National Institute, stressed the importance of the Battle of Sardarabad for preserving culture and identity, and regaining statehood in those darkest of times in the history of Armenia. As improbable as it seemed at the time, he noted that the success in Sardarabad became an important milestone for measuring successes of the future.
Khzmalyan emphasized the need for continuing the fight for independence, amid the worsening governance in and external dependence of Armenia. Stressing that independence should not be taken for granted, he called on Armenians worldwide, irrespective of party affiliations and geography, to help regain Armenia’s true independence—one that will guarantee dignity, freedom, and prosperity.
Recalling Yeghishe Charents’ poems written at the dawn of the First Republic, Chugaszyan reminded participants that the foundations for a strong statehood lie in people’s unconventional love towards their country at the most desperate of times. He referred to the dark winter of the third Armenian republic, which will undoubtedly end soon and be followed by the spring of the forth republic to come.
In his closing remarks, David Grigorian, PFA’s co-founder, called on community members to intensify their search for new ways of engaging with Armenia by focusing on civil society groups, such as Sardarapat, who are on the forefront of the battle for democracy and a stronger Armenia. He stressed that the existing mechanisms have offered little, if any, incentives for the successive ruling regimes in Armenia to reform and do better, emphasizing the need to scrap them in exchange for new models of engagement that will have allegiances to the people of Armenia (as opposed to their rulers) in their core.
Discussions between members of the Sardarapat Movement and stakeholders will continue through Thurs., June 2, to give an opportunity to share their views on the ongoing political and economic crisis in Armenia and offer ways forward.
PFA is an independent professional non-profit association aimed at strengthening discourse on Armenia’s economic development and national security, and through that helping to shape public policy in Armenia. Its main objective is to offer alternative views and professional analyses containing innovative and practical recommendations for public policy design and implementation. Through its activities, PFA aims to contribute to the creation of an informed public and a more effective and accountable government. PFA’s main asset is its worldwide network of professionals and leaders in their respective fields dedicated to Armenia.
The founders of PFA write: “We created the Sardarapat Movement as our answer to the ‘Armenian Question.’ We, the men and women of the Republic of Armenia—Karabagh War veterans, school teachers, economists, human rights activists, and artists—came together in late 2010 to resist the ongoing political and economic crisis, to build a country that generations of Armenians have dreamt about, a country of freedom and social justice, of equal rights and responsibilities, a country of hope and opportunities for each and every Armenian worldwide. We realized that citizen-oriented domestic policies and independent foreign policy are far too important to be trusted to the current illegitimate ruling regime. That is why we decided to take charge now, just as we did 20 years ago, when we rose and won the war for Karabagh against all odds; and just like our ancestors did 90 years ago, by pushing back the advancing Turkish armies in the Battle of Sardarabad. There were no political parties involved then, no regular army to speak of, and not a state in charge—just the free will of free people of Armenia, Armenians, and non-Armenians alike. The name of our movement thus bears a direct reference to the Sardarabad victory, a critical turning point of our modern history.”
“Indeed, today’s Armenia is facing a new Sardarabad: The nation is divided by terrible polarization and injustice, when people are deprived of their basic rights of free vote and independent due process; when a handful of corrupt individuals has ‘privatized’ the heritage of generations and bargains with adversaries on the terms equivalent to conceding our independence and our victories. The Sardarapat Movement stands for strong and vocal Armenia-centric foreign policy, and against any territorial concessions in Karabagh, which would be equivalent to jeopardizing safety of people who live there and the security of the country as a whole. No reconciliation with Turkey is possible unless Ankara accepts its responsibility for the genocide and takes credible steps for addressing its implications. On the domestic front, we believe that our economy can no longer be held hostage to a few oligarchs, while the overwhelming majority of the population is humiliated by poverty and unemployment. We have to rebuild a strong export-driven economy in Armenia instead of maintaining the current deeply flawed model of overreliance on foreign transfers and import. Thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses should sprawl where at present a few monopolies choke the economy. We have to cherish our land and use its agricultural potential properly, no matter if it is in Armenia proper, Artsakh, or the liberated territories. In rebuilding our economic potential we have to rely on all of our resources, first and foremost, on the human capital of those in Armenia and the diaspora. Together we can achieve a lot. Together we will.”