ARMENIAN COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP Self-Appointed vs. Elected Community Leadership

Posted on September. 6. 2019

Managing Editor
USA Armenian Life 

Curious how the timing of the formation of this so-called coalition is just weeks before the first visit of PM Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia.
Just last month, 20 Armenian 0rganizations of the Western US decided to form a coalition describing themselves as “Pan-Armenian”. The self-appointed shadow co-chairs (ARF Oligarch) Vicken Hovsepian and (Western Diocese WD autocrat) Primate Hovnan Derderian lead the helm. Interesting that out of 170 Armenian American faith-based and community-based organizations in Western United States, only a handful — about 20 got together and declared the formation of a quasi-privately-controlled umbrella organization under the big-sounding banner name of “Pan-Armenian Council of Western United States.” The total combined membership of the 20 participating organizations amounts to around 1% of the total 1.2 to 1.5 million-strong Armenian American population of the Western United States. The Social Democratic Hunchak Party (SDHP Hunchak Party) and a number of other organizations have refused to join this self-serving body. Note that the total combined membership of the 150 non-participating organizations is over 10,000.
The Hovsepians (wife Nora included) have turned the ARF, ANCA and all the remaining ARF-affiliated faith-based and community-based organizations — Western Prelacy, Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Homenetmen and Hamazkayin into their personal playground.
In order to achieve this goal, now Vicken Hovsepian has taken Hovnan Derderian under his tutelage. Locally and globally they have become targets of criticism within their own organizations.
Many rank-and-file ARF members and supporters along with the church community are frowning upon their motive to form this pyramid.
They see this as a grab of power within the party and church. They have been known to hand pick leadership positions to represent the people. As we know the Western U.S. Armenian community is the most powerful, most populous and most prosperous in the entire Armenian Diaspora. And this consortium seems to have a chock hold on the community.
According to reliable sources, there is mounting disdain of Vicken and Nora Hovsepian not just from within Western U.S. but also from other regional ARF bodies such as ARF Eastern U.S., Canada, Lebanon, South America, Artsakh (Karabakh) and Armenia. The Hovsepians have turned the ARF, ANCA and all the remaining ARF-affiliated faith-based and community-based organizations — Western Prelacy, Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Homenetmen and Hamazkayin has turned into their personal playground. Now, they are covertly on the pursuit to make the entire Western U.S., with his clansmen’s a new playground. In order to achieve this, Mr. Hovsepian has taken Hovnan Derderian under his tutelage. It is safe to conclude that the Hovsepian-Derderian duo is vying to regress, pushing an entire community back into the dark age of a new form of organized Feudalism at all cost.
In response to last week’s article, “Two Self-Declared Autocrats in Los Angeles Attempt to Hijack Armenian Leadership Without Popular Elections,” Viken Hovsepian along with Sinian Sinanian appeared on the air of Horizon TV/Asbarez representing themselves as community leaders of the newly formed council. Note this is a self-appointed group of people representing the whole of Armenian Americans of the Western United States. They claimed on the air that, “The goal of all our (‘Pan Armenian Council’) organization is one: to preserve the Diaspora.” They assume while living and enjoying a democratic life that it is ok to hijack the Armenian Community. Allowing them to preserve the diaspora with their undemocratic ideas?
As a side note: In 2005, without any justification and through blatant violation of custodial trust of the Melkonian brothers, AGBU has shut down an educational jewel, The Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI). Setrakian wanted to sell off the real estate assets of MEI at around $100 million. Lucky for the Diaspora the Cypriot government halted the process. Diaspora Armenians and Armenia owe a debt of gratitude to the government of Cyprus. USA Armenian Life has just learned that Cyprus has placed an encroachment on the property effectively barring Setrakian’s AGBU sale of the MEI property that is located in the heart of Nicosia, capital of Cyprus.
Media Inquiries unanswered:
I sent out a media inquiry asking as to how they came up with their claim of participating organizations to have a total combined membership of 70,000-100,000 in Western U.S.?
When in fact According to statistics the combined membership of 20 participating organizations is no more than 13,000. Have they forgotten the participation of tens of thousands of fellow Armenian Americans, marching down the Wilshire District in commemoration of the Genocide each year? What about their voice? Curious Sinanian boasted that “The goal of all our (‘Pan Armenian Council’) organizations is one: to preserve the Diaspora.”
The inquiry was sent to Vicken Hovsepian, Hovnan Derderian, WD Council Chair Adrienne Kirkorian and former WD Council Chair now Chairman of Ararat Home Joseph Kanimian, Esq.
As of Wednesday, Sept 5, 2019 the media inquiry still remains unanswered. A glaring reminder to the community that this newspaper’s media-inquiries are consistently ignored.
Lt. Col. US Air Force (Ret.) John Keusseyan
John Keusseyan wrote to USA Armenian Life: “Thank you for keeping me in the loop for these activities. Finally, people with courage, are bringing these types of things into the open. I always questioned how our leaders were elected. I called them ‘people in leadership positions’ because they are not leaders. A true leader would have the foresight and would predict the future before it happens. Throughout our history we have been reacting after-the-fact, instead of acting and preventing the problems before they occur. … I have sent letters like this to other Armenian newspapers but for whatever reasons, they never published it. Now I know why. They are the mouthpiece for these oligarchs.” Lt. Col. US Air Force (Ret.) John Keusseyan
Harut Sassounian
In an August 29 commentary titled “‘Pan Armenian Council of Western USA’ Or Council of Armenian Organizations?” Publisher of The California Courier Harut Sassounian stated: “The name of the new Pan Armenian Council should have been something like ‘Coalition of Armenian Organizations of Western USA.’ Pan Armenian means that all Armenians in Western USA are members of this Council, whereas only members of certain organizations are represented in it. The great majority of Armenians, who are not members of any organization, are not represented in this Council. … The true Pan Armenian Council or an entity with a similar name should be elected by the votes of all Armenians in the Western USA or throughout the Diaspora, not just by members of several organizations. Only such a democratic entity can claim to represent all Armenians and speak in their name.”
Helen Haig
Referring to the Pan-Armenian Council of Western U.S., former Deputy Director for policy to California Gov. George Deukmejian and a long-time leading member of the Armenian American community in Western U.S., Helen Haig has stated: “I attended the most recent gathering of the Pan Armenian Council and believe, it could be positive for current leaders of existing nonprofit organizations, to work together for the benefit of our youth and the community. At the same time, I believe that it’s important to set up a system of democratically elected representation for the implementation of uniquely valuable new initiatives that elected community representatives could develop based on a mandate of their constituency.” Ms. Haig is currently a board member of the World Affairs Council-OC. She has worked with two White House administrations (one involving international economic development). As Soroptimist President, she has participated in developing Soroptimist non-governmental organization (NGO’s) initiatives for the United Nations.
Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian
Commenting on the formation of the Pan Armenian Council of Western United States, Cal State University, Long Beach, Political Science Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian stated: “Self-perpetuating oligarchy is the thing of the past. We live now in the 21st century with the aim of abolishing the old ways of the 17th-18th-century schemes of running social, business and government affairs. We need to be represented by elected members of the community by means of a popular vote so that each citizen would have the power to replace, when the need arises, the deadwood representatives serving on the council. Without democratic elections, the Pan Armenian Council of Western United States leaders would be considered illegitimate representatives of the Armenian community by hijacking the prerogative of every Diaspora Armenian’s unalienable right to vote for their preferred candidate. Those who are guided by strong convictions of democratic principles would abhor the camouflaged usurpation of power by a small group of ego-driven, self-serving individuals.”
Vosgan Mekhiatrian
As an investigative journalist and author of books chronicling the state of affairs within the faith-based and community-based Armenian organizations, Los Angeles-based Vosgan Mekhiatrian said: “What I have witnessed within the past 50 years in Los Angeles, is the monopoly of the so called ‘leadership’ that has been kept within the same circle, alienating the new educated generation obstructing their right to be part of the solution. THE MONOPOLIZED LEADERSHIP IS TOTALLY CORRUPTED AND HAS ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT FOR LAW AND ORDER. If not today, when are we going to unite our genuine efforts to establish a democratically-elected leadership in order to save the diaspora from liquidation?”
Robert Oghlakhchian
One of the largest Armenian channels in Diaspora, ARTN TV’s Executive Producer Robert Oghlakhchian said in Los Angeles: “I respect all political parties,” but what do they mean by calling themselves Pan-Armenian Council? Usage of such big terms or names without popular election is incomprehensible. It is indispensable to navigate out of narrow partisan circles and join the community in making reality elected leadership through universal suffrage. If they really want to establish a coalition of some organizations without democratic elections, they don’t have the right to call themselves ‘Pan-Armenian Council.’”
Kevork Yazedjian
In his August 26 commentary titled “Revolution Is Essential Specially In The Diaspora,” Kevork Yazedjian, a historian, stated: “In Los Angeles, the announcement of the formation of the so-called undemocratic ‘council’ is anything but unity. In fact, it undermines real unity and it’s designed to silence independent Armenian voices in Western States because these autocrats perceive the emerging independent thinkers as mortal danger to their very existence. But these reactionaries seem to forget the basic truth: THE WHEEL OF HISTORY CAN NOT BE REVERSED NOR STOPPED. In the 21st century it is impossible to continue to work with outdated methods and old ways of thinking.”
Hunchakian Party Statement (See complete text page 5)
On August 31, in response to the latest developments relating to the self-proclaimed ‘council,’ Social Democrat Hunchakian Party Western United States District issued a statement: “Representatives of the SDHP attended the first consultative meeting of the Pan-Armenian Council of Western United States and found the opinions on the need of a permanent body insufficient. Likewise, the scope, the purpose and the mission of this effort were not clear to us. On the contrary, we noticed that there was a pre-determined plan and a desire to take over the leadership of the whole community.
SDHP leadership also stated: “As a political party with a 132-year history, the SDHP cannot submit its independence to any other organization or individuals, whether they be church clergy or another (political) party. We consider the creation of such a permanent structure as unpromising and untimely.”
A representative of a member-organization in the ‘Council’ who asked to remain anonymous, acknowledged that the new entity headed by Hovsepian and Derderian is not viable, primarily because it does not have a popular mandate. “It’s just a few organizations getting together for just consultations. If the mounting criticism continues to grow, I am certain that the top leadership of our organization will have to move out.”
Now that this movement is in full swing, the community feels empowered in speaking up knowing that staying quiet, serves no one. The yoke has been removed no more self-imposed gag rule. We are looking towards the betterment of our fellow brothers and sisters. Abraham Lincolns famous words come to mind:
“Gettysburg Address” Abraham Lincoln famous words
In Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address was about bringing equality to “all” citizens. Conceived in liberty, and dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal. The most the memorial phrase he uses at the end of his speech: “A government of the people, by the people, for the people” was a new interpretation of American government and society.
As I write, I feel that these words apply and appeal to the Armenian community of the diaspora. No longer self-styled Armenian autocrats. “The People” are in support of a democratically-elected leadership that includes transparency with checks and balances.
Our time is NOW for new a beginning.
Join this movement.
Send your comments to: USARMENIANLIFE@GMAIL.COM

One response to “ARMENIAN COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP Self-Appointed vs. Elected Community Leadership”

  1. Bedros Zerdelian says:

    We have and should work together honestly by respecting one another with transparency and accountability.

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