The recent article "ARF Conference Concludes in Yerevan" provided a general overview of the conference and the main issues concerning the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). As a member of the Armenian Youth Federation and a supporter of the ARF, it distressed me greatly to see one glaring omission from the list, and for that matter, most contemporary discussions: repatriation.
An independent Armenia has been the dream the ARF has fought for since the party’s inception, but unfortunately it seems we have been at a loss for what to do once that dream was realized. Boasting as being the strongest and most far-reaching organization in the Armenian Diaspora, it strikes me as both nonsensical and irresponsible that the primary concern of the ARF today is not to tackle the largest threat our nation currently faces. This threat is two-fold, however. As noted in the article, the first portion is combatting the socio-economic factors within the nation. But these factors can only be combatted by those living within the country.
The second portion is left mostly to those living outside the boundaries of the Republic of Armenia. Most diasporans do not perceive Armenia as a place to live; rather, they still see it as a philanthropic endeavor with limited to offer outside of nostalgia or romantic, feel-good idealism. The ARF must take advantage of its expansive reach across the diaspora to begin a comprehensive plan to alter the perceptions and collective mentality of the diaspora. This can only be done through a systematic, maintained, and long-term program. Organizations such as Birthright Armenia and RepatArmenia are on the vanguard of this alteration in perceptions. The AYF’s Youth Corps program too has created a unique opportunity for the youth of the diaspora to experience Armenia outside of the starry-eyed pipedreams it has been fed. Yet, it seems the ARF has still not noticed these new movements and is stuck perpetuating its own stereotypes and clichés.
For years, the diaspora has been mired in a charity-centric, passive, and now antiquated approach to the role it plays in Armenia. The majority of diasporans do not see Armenia as a complex, developing, and opportunity-filled country where one can successfully live (without making any sacrifices or compromises), but as a simple, sympathetic problem we need to “fix.” This approach is not only unsustainable, it is dangerous. There needs to be a new dialogue within the diaspora regarding repatriation—a deliberate change in mindset—and the ARF needs to do what it can to encourage and expedite that change. We can no longer afford to be fulfilled with devoting our time and resources to matters of hayabahbanoum alone, while considering Armenia as a summer resort in between barahantes seasons.
"The Armenian Weekly," September 17, 2013