The Armenian diaspora’s dilemma: Go to Turkey or Armenia?

The Armenian diaspora’s dilemma: Go to Turkey or Armenia?

“The Stanford Global Studies Division, in conjunction with the Handa Center for Human Rights, the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), and the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, has agreed to sponsor three Stanford University students to participate in the Armenian Genocide centennial commemoration in Istanbul, Project 2015 said today,” read the statement dated March 3.

The statement was published on the website of When you go to the website it has a logo for Project 2015 Istanbul and the title is Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration.

Let’s continue to read:

“We are delighted that Stanford University will support the efforts of Project 2015 to support a global commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Istanbul this April,” said Seepan Parseghian, Project 2015 board member. “We look forward to having Stanford students take advantage of this great opportunity to join the historic commemoration activities.”

“Being able to discuss issues such as the Armenian Genocide with scholars from Armenia and Turkey is of profound importance for our students’ intellectual growth,” said Norman Naimark, Fisher Family Director of Stanford Global Studies. “This fits into the mission of Stanford Global Studies of providing unique opportunities for students to explore complex issues from multiple perspectives.”

Project 2015, a U.S.-based organization, is working to ensure that a large contingent of Armenians come to Turkey for the historic centennial commemoration. Working with “DurDe,” its partner organization in Turkey, Project 2015 ensures a meaningful opportunity to honor the victims of the genocide and recognize the resilience of the survivors.  Project 2015 also makes a limited number of study grants, of a minimum $750, available to students wishing to travel to Turkey for the commemoration events.

A decade ago, an initiative to ensure that a large contingent of Armenians come to Turkey to commemorate what they believe amounted to genocide would have made the headlines all over the media. The headline would have been about the efforts of the Turkish government to stop such an initiative.

After a small inquiry, I found out that the government today had no problem with the Armenian diaspora coming for the historic centennial commemoration. Obviously, those who will be coming just to make the point of shouting to the world “this was genocide” on Turkish soil will not be highly thought of by many. But it seems to me that any initiative encouraging Armenian diaspora members to visit their homeland is welcomed by the government.

It must be quiet a difficult choice for the Armenian diaspora: To go to Turkey or to go to Armenia?
In fact, I am hearing that a special plane may take off from Armenia to Turkey on the day of the commemorations, for those trying to make it to the ceremonies in both countries.

My understanding is that Ankara is highly concerned and uneasy about the rhetoric used in Armenia and efforts by some in the Armenian diaspora to turn the commemorations into “Turkey-bashing.”

Despite this unease, the government seems to have decided to keep a low profile and to maintain moderate rhetoric in its counter campaign against what it perceives to be initiatives pushing the limits of Turkey-bashing. It is therefore trying to facilitate initiatives such as visits by members of the Armenian diaspora.

In fact, I would not be surprised if the government surpasses its move last year on April 23, when the Prime Ministry issued an official statement remembering Armenian sufferings and offering condolences.