Shahan Kandaharian: “The empowerment of our nation will begin with the empowerment of the Homeland”

Editor-in-chief of Lebanon’s Aztag Daily Shahan Kandaharian is one of the exceptional political and national figures who, alongside his career as a journalist and editor-in-chief, continues to stand out with his unique and perspicacious analyses and commentaries devoted to geopolitical events.

During a recent session of the Coordinating Council for Pan-Armenian Forums of Journalists, Vice-President of the Union of Journalists of Armenia, writer and publicist Grigor Janikyan awarded Shahan Kandaharian the “Loyal to Profession” Gold Medal of the Union of Journalists of Armenia on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Kandaharian’s prolific career as a journalist.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kandaharian, first, I would like to congratulate you on receiving the award you deserved and wish that you continue your pro-national activities. You have been in the field of journalism your whole life and still are in the field. What made you want to be in the political field?

Shahan Kandaharian: Thank you for your congratulatory remarks and kind wishes. I must say that I have been working for Aztag Daily since the very first years of my studies in political science and international affairs, and Aztag Daily served as a major institution of higher learning and a platform for self-expression. During those years, I was also a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, and it was a time when I started expressing political views and a period in which I was gaining experience. Later, I was designated as one of the representatives of the editorial office of “Kaitser” youth newspaper. My articles were focused on political processes that were obviously related to Armenian issues as well.  Later, the Central Committee of the Lebanon Chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun appointed me the editor-in-chief of Aztag Daily, and I have been the editor-in-chief for nearly 15 years now.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kandaharian, you express opinions on political events as an international affairs expert and a political scientist? Are they considered? Do people consult with you and attach importance to your opinions, or do you simply write and conduct analyses?

Shahan Kandaharian: That is a good question because, at the end of the day, it is important to see who reads your work and political analyses and what kind of feedback you receive. Indeed, I have readers, but I also attach importance to feedback from not only information and analytical centers, but also state agencies, higher instances and the Republic of Armenia. It is clear that I am encouraged when people understand my analyses correctly.

Karine Avagyan: Have there been any disagreements, differing views or observations about your political analyses? If yes, how do you react in such cases?

Shahan Kandaharian: There have been disagreements and differing views, and I have been criticized, but I have never felt bad. I welcome it and consider it normal. Even if I don’t share those differing views, I respect them. Pluralism needs to be encouraged. Aztag Daily’s website features a special section where we post different viewpoints, but those viewpoints aren’t always in line with our views and analyses. We post the opinions, they become widely resonant, and various information and analytical centers consider our viewpoints. I am thankful for the various discussions and press conferences that are held, especially the forums, meetings and discussions hosted by the RA Ministry of Diaspora. They provide the opportunity to find paths for further strengthening and development of Armenia-Diaspora relations, and I believe in this. I think the Diaspora won’t have the role and significance it has without the Homeland. I want us Armenians to have an Armenia-centered or state-oriented Diaspora. Of course, this has nothing to do with the government or opposition. We Armenians have been deprived of statehood for a long time, and now we have to do everything we can to maintain the Republic of Armenia and make sure it remains secure.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kandaharian, what should we do for further strengthening the Armenia-Diaspora partnership?

Shahan Kandaharian: I believe Armenia and the Diaspora need to be acknowledged as a whole and formulated as the Armenia-centered Armenian World, which includes the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk and the Diaspora. Unity is not something that we should only think about. It has to be practical. I believe that, in this case, the right of all Armenians to acquire citizenship should play a major and serious role. At the end of the day, it is the factor of belonging of a given state. Citizenship implies rights and obligations. It is also important for Armenians to feel that they are the owners of the homeland. All this will foster the Armenian World, the pan-Armenian community and the Statehood of All Armenians, and we need to work unconditionally in this direction. Of course, there will be hardships and obstacles, but no great task is accomplished without hardships. We need to  concentrate the potential of all Armenians on further development and reinforcement of our statehood, and the major preconditions for that are the elimination of monopolies, the establishment of justice and the correct development of an investment policy. Today, there are Armenians scattered across the globe, and if we start using the “Armenian World” formulation, it will become common and become radicalized because the term and the use of the term will also have an impact on people’s mindset.

Karine Avagyan: Do you believe that all this can become a reality? Can your thoughts and proposals become realistic?

Shahan Kandaharian: I believe! None of us could imagine that we would have an Independent Armenia. It seemed like a dream to many of us, but we gained independence. I believe our people will have the will and awareness that they can grow and achieve significant results even in difficult conditions. As I already mentioned, for this we need to invest and ensure the potential of all Armenians around the world. The empowerment of our nation will begin with the empowerment of the Homeland. The goal of the Diaspora is to contribute to the empowerment of the Homeland. I am also aware of the fact that the level of organization of the Diaspora and the political influence of the Diaspora will definitely help empower the Republic of Armenia and perhaps assist in the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh as a strategic goal. For this, we all need to meet the objectives that we have set forth.

Karine Avagyan: You have a professional background, years of experience and have authored wonderful political analyses. Haven’t you ever been offered to work for diplomatic corps or serve as an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in any other country?

Shahan Kandaharian: There has never been an offer because I have laid down my conditions, but such cooperation has always been sustainable, especially in terms of consultations, main events, objecting an action taken by the adversary or in terms of further enhancement and deepening of interstate relations and cooperation with the ambassadors of different countries. I have had frequent meetings with the Minister of Diaspora and have participated in consultations and in the organizing and consolidation of the information field. I think all this is already public service. I am a member of the Public Council of the Ministry of Diaspora. We discuss issues and seek benchmarks through combined efforts.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kandaharian, you participated in the session of the Coordinating Council for Pan-Armenian Forums of Journalists. Do those sessions help make sure the forums are held at a high level?

Shahan Kandaharian: Of course, they have helped and will help make sure the forums are held at a high level, and I think this is the sphere in which there is maximum consistency in all regards. We talk about the flaws of the previous forums and the mistakes that were made, fix the flaws and suggest solutions.

Karine Avagyan: Without reservations, could you state one of the flaws of the previous forum?

Shahan Kandaharian: Yes! The program was amended several times, and some of the speakers from the Diaspora didn’t give their speeches. It was a big forum, and it was obvious that everything couldn’t be perfect. In terms of journalism, I think the forum is a success.

Karine Avagyan: Recently, there has been a lot of talk about renaming the Ministry of Diaspora as the Ministry for Repatriation. Do you agree that the Ministry should be renamed?

Shahan Kandaharian: I think there has to be repatriation, and there is a major department for repatriation at the Ministry of Diaspora. However, I don’t think the Ministry of Diaspora should be renamed because repatriation is not the only function of the Ministry. The Ministry of Diaspora has a lot of functions. I welcome the special plan for repatriation that will be included at the initiative of the Ministry of Diaspora and will soon have legal force with its significance and concept paper.

Karine Avagyan: How do you see the state of the Armenians in the current geopolitical chaos and the seemingly military situation on Planet Earth?

Shahan Kandaharian: You used the right word – chaos. All that has been taking place recently is chaos. Contemporary political scientists consider all those military operations, the heated atmosphere and the demographic images a war under control.

Karine Avagyan: Of course, the wars and expansionist ambitions of big powers are troubling, but what concerns us Armenians the most is the Artsakh issue (God forbid Artsakh is in the middle of those conflicts…)

Shahan Kandaharian: I understand. Political scientists are concerned about what Armenia will get out of, say, the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara, but the current political conditions show that allowing Ankara to become an intermediary in the Artsakh conflict won’t be easy and is not in the interests of Moscow. If we take into consideration the official statement of big powers, both the United States and more importantly Russia reaffirmed that the format of the intermediaries for the Artsakh conflict will remain the OSCE Minsk Group, and this means that Turkey’s ambitions won’t lead to any outcome.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kandaharian, we hope the year 2018 will be a year of peace and mutual understanding for the whole world and a year for filling Planet Earth with love. What is your wish, dear compatriot?

Shahan Kandaharian: For all us Armenians, the year 2018 is a year of a major anniversary since it marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. Since it refers to statehood, I want statehood to function and grow in the two Armenian republics and become the statehood of all Armenians in peaceful conditions. I think peace and defended borders serve as major foundations to achieve all that. I wish that the law, strategy and concept paper on repatriation are fully enforced and that, by saying “repatriation”, we Armenians understand not only the move from one country to Armenia, but also the establishment of contacts with the Homeland in some way, say, investments, professional repatriation, frequent visits, studying at universities in Armenia, undertaking initiatives, etc.

Karine Avagyan: Thank you, Mr. Kandaharian: I wish that you mainly provide good news about Armenians around the world, Armenia and particularly Artsakh as you continue your career in journalism and politics spanning 30 years.

Karine Avagyan

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