Monday, March 31, 2008

Free Armenians call for civil disobedience and boycott.

The following is a translation of an extraordinary document, one of the many extraordinary documents coming out of Armenia today. It is signed by "Free Armenians," and it is basically a call sent out to the Armenian people, exhorting them to engage in acts of civil disobedience. It's amazing for several reasons. First, it is an international call to all Armenians, in Argentina, in Russia, in Iran, in France, in the US, and so on, and one that by-passes all mediums and organizations that heretofore have made such appeals and addresses Armenians--directly. To put it plainly: This isn't the ARS asking Armenians to donate money; it's the "Free Armenians" calling on all Armenians to take charge of Armenia's fate--directly--and institute real democracy--not World Bank democracy, not a democracy with "a few irregularities, but passable," but real Democracy.

To boot, in citing Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau, and in making its argument, it places itself squarely in the liberal humanist tradition, the one that gave the world the democratic revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848 that swept through Europe and met, unfortunately, their tragic fate in Armenia. Accordingly, one can say that this call constitutes an echo of the "shot heard 'round the world," heard again in Armenia. And it has, after all, been a part of Armenian discourse for about 250 years, ever since Shahamir Shahamirian published Nor tetrak vor kochi hordorak, or New booklet called Exhortation, in 1772. It was an exhortation to revolution, and, wouldn't you know it, Shahamirian and his ally, Joseph Emin, were shut down by the then Catholicos, Simeon Yerevantsi, who told the khojas in Isfahan and Madras to stop supporting them. Will history repeat itself (not rhyme, repeat)? We'll see.

Meanwhile, it is increasingly becoming undeniable to me that we seem to be on the cusp of an Armenian Renaissance. The presence of a firm opposition in Armenia and other political activities elsewhere, coupled with a nascent aesthetic born out of the traditional Armenian aesthetic, all suggest the stirrings of a deep anticipation of a cultural flowering. In a certain very particular sense, even the presence on the scene of people with the cruel, oppressive, and thoroughly corrupt audacity of a Kocharian suggests it, too. But we'll get to that. First, the translation of The Call to Civil Disobedience, itself evidence of a coming Armenian Renaissance.



CALL TO CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE MADE TO ALL ARMENIANS


"That government is the best that governs the least."
Thomas Jefferson.

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau made a call for civil disobedience in one of his essays, asserting that people should not allow governments to rule over their conscience or oppress it. People must also not allow their toleration and civil obligations to become a means for the government to use them as tools for an unjust purpose.

The civil rights of the Armenian people have been violated for centuries, both by the governments of other countries and by their own governments and prelates, down to the 21st century and beyond. Either through tyrannical coercion or because of the behavior of their own governments, Armenians have abandoned their fatherland and relocated to every nook in the planet.

The Armenian has throughout history struggled in the name of the collective and individual right to live freely and with dignity in Armenia, in a manner that is mindful of all of his human, civil, and ethnic rights. However, he has not met with any palpable success because of the fear instilled him by tyrannical forces, iniquities that were put into practice, oppression, as well as the crimes of conspiring native Armenians.

Now the time has come for the Armenian to live, put into effect, and bring into the light of day "civil disobedience," meaning "disobedience of the government," and to win his personal freedom from the oppression and fear of other powers and Armenia's government.

However, it is an individual decision that must be made by each Armenian to join the multitudes during the execution of acts of civil disobedience, in order to show the government that the power to rule comes from those--who no longer wish to be made into slaves and used as instruments for an unjust end.

In order for free Armenians to gain their freedom from these oppressors and in order for them to change the fate imposed upon them, they must unite under this noble principle. We call on you to follow the following rules of civil disobedience:

1. "Do not simply wait passively for the opportunity to vote for what is just. Voting for justice is just as ineffective as wanting justice. What is called for is to be just in practice. This does not mean that you have a responsibility to give your life to the cause of justice, but that you have the responsibility to not do what is unjust and to not give injustice your practical help."

2. Whenever any government becomes the crusher underfoot of the fundamental rights of the people, the people's duty is to "change or eradicate" it.

We call on all free Armenians across the world to stop paying their membership dues, monetary gifts, and donations to all organizations that send that money to the present Armenian government. Instead, we advise them to send the same amounts, even larger amounts of money and aid,--directly--to the people living in Armenia's cities and villages.

Money and aid should not be sent to The Armenia Fund, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee, Armenian Relief Society, all political parties known to you, and all remaining organizations that in a direct manner support the Republic of Armenia's oppressive and criminal government.

We call on all free Armenians to live peacefully and express disobedience toward the government and its forces, starting from the rank-and-file police to the unelected president, without fighting, without coarse language, profanity, efforts involving payments, or violence--to not yield to [the government] through any type of bad behavior, large or small. Cancel your participation, membership, and investment in all of these parties, organizations, and government institutions that tyrannize the free Armenian people.

We call on all free Armenians to refuse to help promote, in their daily lives and finances, the enrichment and growth of the criminal government that is at the service of oligarchs. We exhort you to, through your virtuously lived lives, uproot this immorality that has poured into every sphere of our lives.

We call on all Armenians to unify in the effort to create a civil public, whose elevated consciousness will decisively institute its own way of life, a just public, and a free country.

ARMENIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE WORLD, BEGIN CARRYING OUT IN EARNEST YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PRACTICE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TODAY. HELP OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS LIVING IN ARMENIA BE FREE. SOONER OR LATER ARMENIANS WILL WIN THEIR FULL CIVIL RIGHTS, WHICH THEY DESERVE. BUT THOSE WILL NOT BE GAINED WITHOUT SACRIFICES, AND THEY WILL NOT BE GAINED WITHOUT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE DIRECTED AGAINST ALL THOSE WHO HAVE TRADITIONALLY AND HISTORICALLY KEPT ARMENIANS ENSLAVED TO FEAR AND ENSLAVED THEIR MINDS.

-FREE ARMENIANS
MARCH 21, 2008.

[Emphasis in the original]

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent translation. This document is a great example of the reawakening of the Armenian spirit. Let's hope history indeed does not repeat itself.

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

Thank you for the compliment. I think there is hope that history will not repeat itself because the historical circumstances this time around are much different that they were. A few differences come to mind: there is a very large and increasingly politically active diaspora; the superpowers are gone, and the power parity in world is one where 2nd-world countries play Russia, the US, and China against one another; as nations, Armenia and Turkey are able to establish relations in a way they couldn't when one was collapsing empire and the other an Other within it.

So, yeah, there's hope.

Union of Exiled Armenian Writers said...

Visit vernatun.wordpress.com to read about the BOYCOTT that the Union of Exiled Armenian Writers has initiated against pro-junta Armenian media in Los Angeles.