Pari (Ch)desank, Yovanovitch

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Pari Ch(desank) Yovanovitch

By Lucine Kasbarian

Published in Keghart and elsewhere

June 2009

Like many Armenian Americans, I am unhappy that our organizations hosted the recent public tour by the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch.

Nevertheless, trying to make the most of the situation, I attended her presentation at the Armenian Cultural Foundation in Massachusetts. As expected, Yovanovitch largely evaded the audience’s pointed questions and comments.

From having spoken to Armenians who attended Yovanovitch’s public presentations elsewhere, such as in New York City, I know that similar scenarios unfolded there.

Even worse, the Armenian American press failed to critically and frankly assess Yovanovitch’s opening remarks, questions from the audience, and her replies. Such press outlets include Armenia Now, the Armenian Weekly, the Armenian Reporter, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator as well as the email newsletters of the Eastern U.S.A. Diocese and Prelacy.

Unfortunately, even HETQ, the investigative journalism website in Armenia, merely republished an article from the Glendale News-Press about Yovanovitch’s visit to Southern California.

What separated HETQ from some of the outlets mentioned above, however, is that it didn’t censor critical reader comments posted under their online articles. While most of us recognize that Armenia suffers from a democracy and free-speech deficit, few of us have said publicly that our Diaspora media and organizations suffer from the same ailment.

I am forwarding HETQ’s reader comments about Yovanovitch to our Diaspora organizations, media, and clergy because there are many questions they need to answer. Among the very first is: why did American Armenian organizations agree last year to the U.S. Senate’s confirming Yovanovitch even though she and the State Department were as evasive on the genocide issue as John Hoagland, the previous failed nominee, had been?

Given Yovanovitch’s and the U.S.’s dishonesty about the genocide, and the obvious fact that she was going to give evasive replies regarding a host of issues on her present tour, why did Armenian organizations even agree to host her? If their reasoning was that she needed to hear what we had to say, she undoubtedly already knew that from reading the Armenian press and news releases since assuming her ambassadorship.

Frankly, this tour was an honor and privilege that neither the State Department nor the ambassador deserved.

Armenian organizations held private meetings with Yovanovitch. What, may we ask, was the outcome of these meetings, or are our organizations once again practicing the same lack of transparency for which they criticize the Armenian government? They are accountable to the communities they claim to represent and serve, or haven’t they noticed?

Ultimately, we must reject the vassal mentality that has been ingrained in us after centuries of Ottoman occupation. If we don’t take a harder line in defense of Armenian rights in the post-genocide age, we have only ourselves to blame — and not the Turkish government — for jeopardizing our survival as a nation, on or off our native lands.

I direct you to HETQ, where outspoken Armenians have their say.