A U.S.-born Armenian politician is facing criticism for the content of a letter he has┬ásent to Turkey’s president. Here is a column by Appo Jabarian summarizing some of the reactions in Armenia:

Raffi Hovannisian Panders to Turkey

At the Cost of Political Bankruptcy

Executive Publisher/Managing Editor

[email protected]

August 29, 2007, Armenia’s Heritage Party leader Raffi K. Hovannisian sent a letter of congratulations to the then newly elected Turkish president Abdullah Gul.

He wrote: “The deep divides between our countries, be they of contemporary character or part of the legacy of the Great Armenian Dispossession, must be overcome and resolved in truth, with integrity, and through the partnership of the two new leaders and their fellow citizens of good faith and conscience.”

Soon after the content of the letter was revealed, the highly insulting term “Great Armenian Dispossession” used in lieu of the words “The Armenian Genocide” sent political shockwaves in Armenia and the Diaspora. Heritage Party officials hoped the issue would disappear with the flow of time. But the exact opposite happened.

On February 13, Armen Tsaturyan of “Hayots Ashkhar” (The Armenian World) wrote a scathing commentary against Hovannisian. He stated: “If we set aside all the political major and minor likability and non-likability issues and are guided by cool logic, we can not define Raffi Hovannisian’s action except with one word: ‘Treason.'”

Tsaturyan reported that Hovannisian pandered to Turkey as follows: “It is to be hoped that, during your tenure and that of the next Armenian president to be elected in several months’ time, Turkish-Armenian relations will enter a wholly new phase of reflection, exploration, discovery, and ultimate normalization.”

“It turns out that the son of historian Richard Hovannisian, a notable heir to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, needs further ‘studies’ on the issue of the Armenian Genocide. With his outlandish proposal to co-initiate ‘studies,’ he is furthering the Turkish obvious goal to establish a joint commission of historians. And that is the shortest route to subjecting the facts of the Armenian genocide to suspicion,” concluded Tsaturyan.

On February 16, according to Noyan Tapan news agency, in an open letter to the Heritage Party, the chairman of the Armenian community of Slovakia Ashot Grigorian blasted Hovannisian: “No doubt, Raffi Hovannisian should have been well aware of the political value of the term ‘genocide,’ whose importance is hard to overestimate today. Turkey is ready to pay dearly if the Armenians agree to replace the term ‘genocide’ with any other word. … In his letter, Hovannisian replaced voluntarily the term ‘genocide’ with another term more acceptable to Turks, thus ruining the work we have done for years and decades. This calls into question today the result of the huge and hard work on passing the resolution on the genocide in the National Assembly of Slovakia. The resolutions passed by the parliaments of about twenty countries have also been deprived of meaning.”

An Armenian activist underlined: “As the saying goes, one should not change horses in mid-stream, Armenians have invested decades of effort to get the words Armenian Genocide recognized. There is no reason to abandon that and start using another word. In fact, the smart thing to do would have been to use all sorts of words like ‘forced deportation’, ‘mass killings’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘dispossession’, but use these words in addition to ‘genocide’, NOT in its place. Also, why is Raffi congratulating Gul? He is neither the President nor the Foreign Minister of Armenia!”

One wonders, what’s going on in the Hovannisian households in Los Angeles and Yerevan?

In early 2006, the grandfather Prof. Richard Hovannisian of UCLA, reportedly told RFE/RL that “in some respects Armenia is now an even less democratic state than Turkey, its historical foe regularly castigated by the West for its poor human and civil rights record.”

On July 30, 2007, on the eve of the passage by U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee of the Armenian Genocide resolution 106, Raffi’s son and the elder Hovannisian’s grandson Garin wrote in the Washington Times: “… Bad congressional resolutions might well begin to sound like good Philip Larkin: ‘Sexual intercourse began /In nineteen sixty-three. …/ Between the end of the Chatterley ban /And the Beatles’ first LP.'” This was not the first time that the second junior Hovannisian has ridiculed and poked fun at his martyred Armenian ancestor’s Cause.

And now, his father, Raffi, all too willingly attempts to jeopardize the Armenian Cause in return of personal political gains.

In 1992, the Raffi Hovannisian the Armenians knew and respected was the steadfast Foreign Minister of Armenia who clearly uttered the words Armenian Genocide in Turkey. He was fired by the then president of Armenia, Mr. Levon Ter Petrossyan ironically for having been honest. Then, Raffi remained in Armenia and pursued the objective to become the next president of Armenia. His efforts were blocked. When that didn’t materialize, his father, Prof. Hovannisian slapped Armenia in the face by preferring Turkey as a “better Democracy” than Armenia. What a change for the worse! Then Raffi’s son Garin “punished” Armenia. So if Turkey is a better democracy than Armenia, how come he is not relocating to what is now called Turkey and pursue his political ambitions there by presenting his candidacy for the presidency of Turkey?

By having pandered to Turkey, Hovannisian overdrew on what was left of his political capital in Armenia-Artsakh and around the world. He effectively antagonized literally millions of Armenians. Every year millions of survivors and their descendants flock to the Armenian Genocide monuments in Yerevan and elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands mobilize in marches condemning Turkey’s continued denial of the Genocide and the wholesale forced occupation of the Armenian lands.

Hovannisian has de facto attempted to torpedo the justice pursued by the clear majority of Armenians. But in fact he torpedoed his own political career

The overwhelming majority of Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora would prefer to see their beloved republics of Armenia and Artsakh transform their soviet-era corrupt bureaucracies into healthy, fully functioning government bodies. But that desire, along with the urge to seek personal political gain, does not give the Hovannisians or anyone else a green light to make erroneous statements, unfairly belittling, and even worse undermine their fledgling new republics and provide damaging ammunition to the enemy.