Armenia - Diaspora: Let us build a common destiny on a democratic and human rights basis



The parliamentary elections to be held on 2 April 2017 in Armenia seem to have generated a mobilization of the Armenian diasporan civil society. The co-founder of Hyestart, Alexis Krikorian, will be present on behalf of the association. International election observers can play an important role in promoting the principles of open electoral data as a means of enhancing public confidence in genuine democratic elections.

This process will be a relevant analyzer of the usefulness and vitality of civic and associative engagement. The presence of international citizens of Armenian origin and associations in this process is important because these intermediate bodies and individuals emphasize the importance of interactions between the local and the global. Active citizenship is at the heart of what Hyestart stands for. It is not just about a drive for more justice, equality or citizenship, but based on the contemporary limits of citizenship and the faults of the new systems, to be able to identify new figures of engagement. This quest for active citizenship takes place in a crisis situation of the social movements in Armenia.

Nation, people, diaspora, transnational: These concepts all nourish the political imaginary of Armenian modernity, exclusive for some, supposedly emancipatory for others, but all carrying a form of symbolic identity with varied and sometimes questionable effects. It is therefore important to be able to identify and conceive the emerging realities of the moving Armenian society and which forces us to look at the natural dynamics of this country's social reality.

Although many question the effectiveness of the international observers' system, being an observer, being present was essential for Hyestart. Indeed, anything that favors the democratization of the country is necessary, not only to the political and social project, but also to avoid the fragmentation of Armenian society. Until then, there was a narrow conception of democracy, a kind of background to an oligarchic power, and modernity appeared only as an illusion.

This participation of Armenians from different geographical horizons creates an embryonic form of solidarity other than charitable and cultural and this is of great importance, for having thought too much of the Armenian individual, even the Armenian individual in diaspora, we have forgotten about the construction of the group. To see Armenianness only through networks and not by groups to which individuals belong has had social, economic and political consequences. Although the expression "the Armenian people" is constantly heard, the community does not allow the idea of sovereignty and people to emerge. Thinking as a group (class, social categories, etc.) avoids thinking in terms of a divide and allows better access to the individual singularity. The social link or the social relation favors the emergence of the singular individual.

Being present at these elections questions the meaning of "center" that Armenia represents, or not, for the Diaspora. Armenia has in fact become a highly invested center, which, after having been emptied of all its own sociological meanings, is once again reintegrated into the discourse as referring country. This also underlines a plurality of modes of relationship to the "home" country.

More democracy favors the relationship of the diaspora with Armenia. Without this process, the diaspora has the means to build its own centrality.

Genocide and life in the diaspora have long assigned us to the margin. We were free to choose our particular loyalties: language, religion, culture, but we did not manifest them in public space. This has changed with the third and fourth generations. Today we have recomposed multiple identifications, while keeping objective and symbolic references to our Armenianness. But have we been able to develop the meaning of "politics", to be represented and to represent ourselves? Have we been able to create democratic representations in the diaspora? Representation is the foundation of any democracy. A representative is the agent of those whom he represents. Have we chosen those who represent us today in diaspora? Let us not deceive ourselves; what's at stakes democratically is equally important, here and there.

Despite this, representative democracy is not sufficient because this only choice would be the implicit assertion that it is constituted only by individuals and individual interests (the sum of which would constitute the general interest). In addition, representative democracy, as indispensable as it is, soon produces a gap between citizens and their spokespersons. A democracy reduced to the choice of representatives every four or five years causes a disinterest of the citizens. Hence the importance of putting in place other forms of citizen participation. This is social and deliberative democracy. It is clear that Armenia must realize as soon as possible the need to include collective interests in the framework of a social democracy.

While deliberative democracy is not self-evident, it is nevertheless a relevant matter of reflection to Armenians as well as to diasporans, for it is indeed a question of distinguishing politics (palemos), associated with antagonism from politics (polis) which seeks to organize human coexistence under conflicting conditions or to neutralize the potential for antagonism.

Deliberative democracy can be seen as a utopia because it is necessary to abandon a number of fixed references, preconceived models and to put in place a learning process, but it reveals new forms of engagement and mobilization, the refusal of vertical delegations, and the need for consultation.

Good exercise for a diaspora, which should be considered as changing, which is the very essence of diasporas, and which must stop inventing an Armenia of origin, whose "place of origin" is finally absent because it is to be found in Anatolia or Istanbul, not in the South Caucasus, and a referent country which to pretend to be the "center" if not of origin, at least of choice, must absolutely become more democratic, leave a real place to collective action and admit the existence of counter-powers.

Armenians from the Diaspora or from Armenia, we all participate in the definition of national identity. Through its support, opposition or mobilization, the diaspora has a real influence - the "long distance nationalism" of B. Anderson. As a result, it can and must lead the Armenian State to be a source of rights.

The diaspora evolves in a transnational space, which does not call into question the multiple loyalties: memory, identity, genocide ... but must contribute to the creation of new forms of political socialization, leave the imaginary of the identity, include the subjective markers and not only objective ones, refuse to see in this country a fantasized image.

This is what prompts Hyestart to participate or create projects in Armenia so that the distancing and questioning of the values embodied by the governance of the country do not translate into a distancing from the Armenian population.

A diaspora is not the extension abroad of the real or symbolic territory of origin. We cannot envisage our relations as ordering and executing parties, but in return memory, commemoration, the one or two week diving in cheap Armenianness are no longer sufficient either. It is high time we redefined a community of destiny.


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