Shahan Kandaharian: 'Armenian people to benefit from dual citizenship'

Shahan Kandaharian: 'Armenian people to benefit from dual citizenship'

Shahan Kandaharian“The Middle East has always been the center of the Armenian Diaspora. Armenians who survived the Genocide found shelter here. The Armenian community of Lebanon is one of the oldest and most significant in the Diaspora”, Shahan Kandaharian, the Editor-in-Chief of Aztag Beirut-based daily comments to PanARMENIAN.Net


What is the attitude of Diaspora about the law on dual citizenship, which was recently adopted in Armenia?
The debates on the law on dual citizenship were focused in the ?classic? Armenian Diaspora residing in the Middle East, specifically in Lebanon. As a matter of fact, this document is of utmost importance for Armenians who were deprived of homeland. The law will restore historical justice and will provide a proper approach to the Diaspora issue. The former authorities prohibited dual citizenship over political reasons. Nowadays, the Armenians all around the globe have been offered a new outlook. We will join our efforts and the Diaspora will possess a document proving its existence at the international level. We, the people living outside our fatherland, will be certain in this way that our children will be citizens of Armenia. However, the issue has more than one face. First, you shouldn?t forget that many people have left Armenia during the recent years. The adoption of the law will help them to restore or maintain Armenian citizenship. Second, the issue also needs consideration from the viewpoint of the European Neighborhood Policy. Armenia is integrating into the European structures and the law must meet the European standards. I suppose, neither of the EU member states bans dual citizenship. Thus, proceeding from the interests of the nation and the state, I am convinced that we will all benefit from the adoption of this law.


How would you comment on the role of the Diasporan press?
The activities of the Diasporan press have always been targeted at the maintenance of nation and language. However, there are some urgent problems that need to be dealt with. It's not a secret that press is experiencing hard times. New alternative media structures have been introduced. The number of traditional newspaper readers is decreasing. Under these circumstances the mission of the Armenian press should be changed. With the help of electronic media, information is quick to reach the audience. Three Armenian dailies are issued in Lebanon. These are Aztag (ARF Dashnaktsoutyoun), Zartonk (Ramgavar-Azadagan Party) and Ararad (Hunchak Party). When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Lebanon we published a joint statement on the Armenian Genocide. We also protested the presence of the Turkish peacekeeing forces in Lebanon.


The war in Lebanon is over but the country is far from living in peace. Could you please comment on the life of the Armenian community in Beirut and the other Armenian-inhabited areas?
When speaking about the Armenian community of Lebanon I should first of all refer to the post-war situation and international political crisis. The community, like other sectors of the Lebanese society, is experiencing hard economic circumstances. However, we are accustomed to hardships. During the 17 years of civil war our people were among those who laid down their lives in struggle, but were strong enough to recover. The Armenian community of Lebanon is unique. The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church, numerous Diasporan centers and head offices of Diasporan organizations are based in this country. Despite difficulties and incurred losses, the community is firm. Beirut is the capital of the Armenian Diaspora, we are used to say.


Would you describe the current situation in Lebanon?
The current situation is complex and unstable. The authorities are in severe confrontation with the opposition. Muslims shiites refuse to join the coalition government. The Armenian political parties sometimes disagree on internal Lebanese issues as well, but, traditionally, Armenian organizations are wise enough to distinguish between the Lebanese problems and the Armenian national issues and they usually reach a common ground on such topics, especially if the matter concerns the security of the community.


Source: PanARMENIAN.Net, 19 March 2007 (with adjustment)