#TurkeyFailed, But Our Work Has Just Begun
By U. Ara Sarajian
In sports, players win and lose all the time. Often you can learn more from losing than winning. When elite athletes lose, it can be demoralizing. You feel like you got punched in the gut. All the hours in the gym, the sacrifices, and effort boils down to one thing—not achieving the goal you set out to achieve. Feelings of disappointment and hopelessness can engulf you, and a sense that it was all a waste of time settles in. That is how I felt when I heard that President Obama would not be keeping his promise to reaffirm the Armenian Genocide.
The elite athletes I mentioned earlier—the ones who are feeling sorry for themselves—after the dust settles and they reassess the situation, they all use the same word to describe their next emotion: HUNGER. They become hungry for more. They realize last season was last season, and they need to worry about next season. And they work harder to prepare to succeed.
Last year, the AYF-YOARF Eastern Region introduced #TurkeyFailed to the world. This was a powerful social media campaign unlike any other. #TurkeyFailed was unique and aimed to voice a different message. Much like William Saroyan’s famous words, #TurkeyFailed was a challenge and a proclamation of our survival. Serving as proof that we still laugh, sing, and dance. That we still read, write, and pray. Following President Obama’s statement, I began to notice a different attitude and message from the Armenian Diaspora. Gone were the days of the poor Armenians, being let down by another broken promise. Gone were the days where we quietly sat in disappointment while the world did not notice. In a response unlike any other year, the world cried out and said the feared “G word.” Major media outlets criticized President Obama for allowing his promise to be held captive by the Turkish government. And Armenians began to stand by the fact that what one individual was afraid to say, the world had already known. Turkey failed that day, when we moved forward, took control of our own past and future, and didn’t allow Turkey to dictate the terms.
Used by non-Armenians and Armenians worldwide, #TurkeyFailed is a mindset that has been woven into our communities. Politicians, athletes, musicians, and writers have all used and endorsed the slogan. To date, it has been used by individuals in more than 81 countries. This past week alone, #TurkeyFailed was used online 33,494 times. In a global collaboration, led by the AYF Western Region, #TurkeyFailed appeared on Snapchat and allowed users to watch live videos of protests and Centennial events taking place around the world. Utilizing this technology, Armenians in Lebanon, France, Brazil, New York, Canada, and elsewhere were instantly connected like never before.
What we accomplished this past year will never be forgotten—the Kardashians’ trip to the Homeland, Kanye singing and swimming with Armenians, System of a Down rocking Republic Square, and the Pope standing by our side. On a community level, we must also not forget the AYFers in Canada and Detroit who publicly turned their backs on deniers. We must remember those who led protests and helped divest funds from Turkey. On a personal level, I will never forget that my brother Garo was able to participate in protests in Istanbul as a descendant of one of the intellectuals deported on April 24, 1915.
Heading into Year 101, we need to build on our efforts. Our work is not over now; it’s actually just begun. The torch has been passed, and it is time for the next generation to lead the Hai Tahdcharge. Eventually, the Turkish government will admit its genocidal past and recognize it by the proper term. When that day happens, we need to be prepared. We need to continue to educate our youth and teach our language. We need to raise awareness, fundraise, and support Armenia. Until then, see what happens when two Armenians meet each other. Watch us laugh and sing (and even argue). See us send our children to camp and participate in the AYF Olympics. For when all of this happens, it is just another reminder that #TurkeyFailed.
You bet they did.
Ara Sarajian is a member of the AYF-YOARF Eastern Region Central Executive and AYF New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter. He’s also a four-time AYF-YOARF Olympics softball champion.