Shant Kandaharian: “We must not delay the engagement of the potential of Diaspora Armenian professionals in the state apparatus of the Republic of Armenia”

Editor-in-chief of Aztag Daily (one of the high-class Armenian newspapers of the Armenian Diaspora), journalist, public and political figure Shant Kandaharian carries out patriotic acts incessantly and unwaveringly wherever there are Armenians, wherever the “Armenian Cause” is discussed or speculated at the political platforms of superpowers where the Armenian Cause, Armenia, Artsakh and Syria and territories are a major playing card and resource for certain ambitions, as well as prevailing and long-term interests. The time that I spent interviewing Kandaharian for Hayern Aysor is only a small “portion” of the busy man’s short and precious time, and I present it to our readers with pleasure.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kandaharian, I am not welcoming you to Armenia since this is your home, the home of an Armenian. I am aware that you also participated in the event dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Iran’s Alik Daily. How would you describe Alik Daily? Is it merely a daily newspaper, a haven for Armenians, a small milestone, or a platform for contacts and cooperation between Armenians?

 Shant Kandaharian: Although there have been many occasions, but this was my first visit to Iran. It was an occasion that was very close to my heart because I believe that an anniversary should be a celebration for any media representative, especially the representative of print media, which continues its path in spite of the difficulties. I must say that the event was very well-organized from all perspectives, and it was held the way it should have been held. Alik Daily carries out many functions. Whereas the key objective used to be the preservation of the Armenian identity, today, the other objectives are to form public opinion, counterattack the misinformation of adversaries, lead people in the right direction and shed light on the problems that exist. Today, the newspaper is publishing in a geographically very sensible region where Iran is gradually becoming a part of the region. In the sense of shedding light on the issue of Iran being an influential factor in the abysm of heated events taking place in the Middle East, on the relations between Iran and various states in the Middle East, on the presence of Iran’s military and political presence which, I think, is also within the general context of the compatibility of Iranian and Armenian interests, Alik Daily is the “window” for providing the right coverage of all that. By looking into that “window”, we can give an objective evaluation of the events that have taken place in different areas.

Hayern Aysor: Is that what you consider the secret of the daily newspaper’s longevity?

S. K.: The secret of longevity…We must not forget that the newspaper is also based on an ideology that it stays true to. Alik Daily is the official newspaper of the Iran Chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun. It is not merely the official newspaper of the political party. It has turned into the newspaper that all the Armenians of Iran read, and in all these regards, I commend the path that it has been taking for the past 85 years and wish it always stays the same in the years to come.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kandaharian, since you ended your answer to my question with a congratulatory remark, I would also like to ask you to touch upon Armenia, which is marking its 25th anniversary of Independence this year.

S. K.: Of course, the greatest achievement is the establishment of statehood. Moreover, due to various political motives and events, we Armenians now have two republics. We have the notion that we now have two republics, government agencies and are making active and effective efforts to build our nation after having been deprived of statehood for many years. As I try to look at the issue from the Armenian Diaspora’s perspective, I would like to focus on a particular observation. The cooperation between Armenia and the Diaspora today is coordinated and in many formats, and the Ministry of Diaspora plays a huge role because the first step towards the coordination of the relations was the establishment of the Ministry of Diaspora. I think the Ministry performs its functions completely and with honor as it engages the potential of all Armenians of the Diaspora for the shaping, growth and development of the Armenian State. I kept thinking that the 25th anniversary of Independence was clearly marked by the presentation of the achievements that the generation of independence has achieved. The concert was substantial and wonderful, and all the participants and performers were almost at the age of our Independence, that is, under 25. I started thinking to myself that there are also young Diaspora Armenians who were born prior to the declaration of independence. Before Independence, our generation of Diaspora Armenians and our elders had a different kind of feeling. They knew that they ha a Homeland, namely Soviet Armenia, but they also knew that the Homeland was not legally represented in the world, meaning the Homeland existed, but was not independent. The declaration of independence was a turning point, and I think this philosophy of enshrining the organized evolution of the Diaspora, politicizing the Diaspora, having an Armenia-centered Diaspora and a Diaspora that lives for Armenia helped ensure our independence. This was a very major turning point that made things clear. We Armenians need to be able to unite the two generations of independence that are geographically separated from each other, and the pivotal bridge for that unification is Armenia. We need to enhance the philosophical views of Diaspora Armenians on independence because I think we need to not only present the past and the results that we have achieved, but also have a perspective for gathering the youth of Armenia and the Diaspora and forming a pan-Armenian society at that level, and the completion of that task is conditioned by the Republic of Armenia, the existence of a coordinated, Armenia-centered Diaspora in which the youth must be engaged.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kandaharian, can Aztag Daily possibly play a role?

S. K.: Of course! Aztag Daily can play that role and become one of the cornerstones in terms of providing information and developing analytical and critical thinking, but in this synthesis, which must eventually derive from discussions and the exchange of ideas, the role of the media is very important. The media outlets of Armenia and the Diaspora must always be in close relations. Aztag Daily is working in that direction. When I was talking about the formats a short while ago, I think one of the most successful examples is the forums and conferences organized by the Ministry of Diaspora and the creation of committees and coordinating councils that hold those forums and conferences. Of course, those coordinating councils exist, but I can talk more specifically about the field of information in which there are media outlets from Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora. The right coordination of the comprehensive forums and discussions with professionals and the period in between those forums and conferences will help implement the above-mentioned task. It is very nice to see that the courses for journalists are being held along with all this. The courses help gather Armenian youth from different corners of the globe. I have noticed that Armenian youth are the main target of the Ministry of Diaspora. This is also important in terms of identifying the tasks, especially the creation of an environment for working together for implementation of those tasks.

Hayern Aysor: A lot is being said about recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and claims, as well as the laws on criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Cause has become an irreversible winning card in the whole world. Today, the modern-day Turkey, which was left after the fall of the former Ottoman Empire, is in turmoil. Do you think Turkey can become weak in this situation? Do you think this will favor the solution to the Armenian Cause?

S. K.: Generally speaking, if we take into consideration the political and historical events, we will see that, throughout history, empires have collapsed, while smaller states have become strong. We see these changes when we look at history. This changing world, as well as the speedy change of standards of the power of states specifies the overall political events that are taking place. We see how states are being destroyed upon an order from foreign countries, how there is relative peace in other places having experienced war due to political motives, how economic empires are collapsing and how others are remaining stable. In other words, change has become very rapid, and the Turkey that was strong yesterday might face a serious crisis and might even face schism. Turkey’s first major problem is the Kurdish factor, and today, the use of the dream or the general vision of the creation of a Kurdistan as a playing card is also an item on the geopolitical agenda, not the creation of Kurdistan…The theory of splitting Turkey into parts is a matter of discussion for not only the analytical centers of geopolitical forces, but also one of the highest ranking officials in Turkey. President Erdogan has talked about the danger facing Turkey several times. I don’t think it would be politically logical to get overexcited. We Armenians need to predict the course of actions the right way from our perspective. We must never underestimate or overestimate anything and must have a realistic political approach to the issue. In that case, we will be able to be at an advantage, remembering that in politics, changes can sometimes be sharp and very fast. Let us remember how hostile Russian-Turkish relations were and how they changed. I think we need to look at the issue with the logic of compatibility of political interests or contradictions and need to make the right decision in any period of time.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kandaharian, what do you think is the major factor for further rapprochement that will support the strengthening of cooperation between Armenia and the Diaspora?

S. K.: The current image of distribution of the nation reminds us that the majority of our nation lives abroad. There is the classic Diaspora that is organized, the less organized Diaspora and the invisible Diaspora. It is quite difficult to work with the invisible Diaspora, but by taking into account the example of Lebanon, we meet Armenians who are much more detached from community life due to mixed marriages, but establish some kind of connection with “Armenianness” since they have the right to acquire Armenian citizenship and refer to the law on their Armenian origin. Being a citizen of Armenia, but not engaging in community life and even not knowing the Armenian language and not being a part of Armenian culture, they have some kind of document stating their national belonging that also has an impact on their conscience. If the rights actions are taken, this can be transferred from one generation to the next. Citizenship is very important in the formation of a pan-Armenian society, but it is not enough. It is very important to consolidate potential. We are living in an era of professionalism, and a person’s professionalism must be fully taken advantage of. I believe that the Republic of Armenia is the Homeland of the Armenians living in Armenia and of all Armenians around the world. We must not delay the engagement of the potential of Diaspora Armenian professionals in the state apparatus of the Republic of Armenia.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kandaharian, thank you very much for this substantial interview and for your unique political analyses.

Karine Avagyan

Scroll Up