Interview with ANCA President Kenneth Hachikian
First of all, we want to thank you for agreeing to give us an interview. We are proud of the achievements of the American Armenians, where ANCA plays a very important role. We understand that it’s a big responsibility to be the president of the most influential Armenian organization in the world and therefore we express our gratitude to you and wish success.
I believe it is a responsibility that all Armenians have to assist our nation in pursuit of Hai Tahd. It is my honor to be involved in our effort in the US.
Many experts believe that the main reason of Armenian lobby success is Armenians living compactly in such major states as California, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Do you agree with this?
It is definitely very helpful that Armenian Americans have concentrations of population in certain areas where, as voters, we are able to forcefully express our views on American policy issues. Political strength comes from an active role by citizens expressing their perspective to their elected officials. In practical terms, it is also valuable that our population is spread out over many other states as well such as Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Colorado, etc. in theses cases, while we may not have the larger populations such as California or Massachusetts, our growing communities are able to be actively involved in the political process as well.
Mr. Hachikian, what is the key to success of the ANCA in the issue of protecting Armenian interests in the USA?
First of all, we are on the high moral ground in that our Cause is based upon historical accuracy, truth, justice, long standing values of democracy such as self-determination, and well established international law and norms of crimes against humanity. In short, we have a righteous cause. Secondly, we are very determined and passionate in our efforts and have an attitude of never giving up. Thirdly, our advocacy effort is based upon a broad grassroots involved which is invaluable in our effectiveness. The power of our volunteers is able to successfully take on the high powered and high budget lobbyists for Turkey and Azerbaijan. Finally, we are well organized across our 50 local communities across the US, allowing us to reach many elected officials.
It is known, that the new resolution formulated as «Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Act». This means, that the Armenian diaspora, shifts the emphasis from the recognition of the genocide by USA?
Recognition has been achieved in the US and numerous other countries in many ways. While it is always desirable to reinforce recognition, we are, indeed, placing greater emphasis on justice and a fair resolution which will require full and complete reparations; there is more than ample precedent for such reparations in both recent history as well as historically (Germany and the Jewish Holocaust; South Africa and Apartheid; and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, all in making restitution to their native peoples.
Today the Armenian lobby has strong ties with Congress: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Edward Royce, Democratic minority leader Eliot Engel, Senate Foreign Affairs chairman Robert Menendez and others. How do you assess the chances of adoption of the Armenian resolution by the Congress in this year?
We are optimistic every Congress that we can advance our issues. We will, of course make every attempt to advance this resolution and related ones that deal with the return of religious properties confiscated by Turkey as a result of the Genocide.
A lot of Armenians believe that, it unnecessarily to spend such effort and resources on the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, when Armenia has big social problems. What can you say about it?
Armenia does indeed have major social issues that are critical to its long term viability. The present regime is not addressing these as well as they might. We work in the areas that we can have influence such as foreign aid and trade where we can assist the economy of Armenia. However, the existence of these challenges does not diminish the importance of he ongoing pursuit of Hai Tahd. Resolution of full justice for the Genocide would materially contribute to the economic viability of the Armenian nation.
How do you evaluate the official Yerevan policy on the process of Armenian genocide international recognition? Do you think, should Armenia withdraw signature from the «Zurich protocols» with Turkey?
Yes, Armenia should immediately withdraw its signature form the protocols. turkey and the uS have used these protocols to stall e process of international recognition and full justice for the Genocide. The official Armenian government policy and efforts on Genocide recognition have not been as robust as they should be. Agreeing to the protocols is but one example. Armenia has not pressed it case internationally as aggressively as it should.
Mr. Hachikian, how can you estimate the ANCA last year activities? What achievements do you consider as the most important ones? And which goals do you pursue this year?
This past year has been one of building on prior efforts. We have been laying the political groundwork for H. Res. 227 as well as related legislation regarding the return of confiscated properties with the senior elected officials who are heavily responsible for such efforts. We always seek more but this past year has been one of progress behind the scenes. We expect 2014 will bring more public progress along many fronts. Perhaps the most visible accomplishment of 2013 has been the recognition by several US states of the independence of Nagorno Karabagh (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and Louisiana). Ongoing economic assistance and improvement in trade issues have also been important.
What do you know about the Armenian community in Russia? Do not you think it’s time to create united body of the Armenian diaspora, the so-called parliament of the Diaspora?
We are certainly aware of a very large Armenian community in Russia located in several communities. Given the political realities of Russia, it may be difficult for that community to be political advocates in the same way that we are in the US. However, the community’s active support for Hai Tahd is important. Further, I would note that many philanthropic Armenians live in Russia and have been supportive of many initiates including, most notably, the Armenia Fund. In terms of a larger body to represent the diaspora, there are clearly merits to that approach. Armenian National Committees around the world play an important role in rallying the diaspora but other effort could be complimentary and helpful as well.
Should Armenians conceal the plans for 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide from Turkey or vice-versa? Why? What kind of activities could you advise to implement for involving the Russian Armenians, especially the youth, in the HAY DAT processes?
Ultimately, Turkey will discover whatever activities are planned in every country. To the extent that discretion is advised in certain countries, then that should be pursued appropriately. However, let’s realize that very little can be kept secret in this world of highly effective technology for very long. As for Russian youth, their involvement in Hai Tahd would be very welcome. Certainly educating elected officials about the historical facts would be a start. I am sure that there is much more they could do but I am not an expert on the local possibilities in Russia.
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