I just returned from a most wonderful trip to Armenia where I proudly witnessed my two sons, Dan and Adam, being sworn in as Armenian citizens. The Armenian government could not have been more gracious, American-Armenian millonaire, the King of Poker, Dan Bilzerian's father, Paul Bilzerian wrote on his Facebook page.
"I recognize Armenia is going through many positive changes but, as a descendent of four great grandparents who were murdered in the Genocide of 1915, I would urge the new Armenian government, and all future governments, to follow the example of one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world, Nelson Mandela, and to look forward, uniting all Armenians everywhere in the common goal of making Armenian a better place for all Armenians. Mandela could have, and everyone would have understood if he had, gone back to seek revenge against his old enemies who locked him up for over two decades. But he chose forgiveness and won the respect and support of his former jailers, and the admiration of the rest of the world. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” At this critical juncture in Armenia’s history, we need leaders with the heart and wisdom of Nelson Mandela, and I am hopeful that is what we have in Armenia.
While in Armenia, Dan, Adam and I visited Nagorno-Karabakh, the location of several wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the most recent being 1992-1994. This morning I read that the Azerbaijan government issued an arrest warrant against my son Dan for visiting Karabakh. There are many leaders in this world, but there are so few good ones. How easy it must be to send good, loyal young men to their death for ill-conceived political purposes. I joined the United States Army in 1968, as a fiercely loyal 18-year-old American. As a young lieutenant I volunteered to go fight in Vietnam. I won my share of medals, but I was too young and ignorant to comprehend the ill-conceived reasons for that war – I just followed my government blindly. When I returned home from Vietnam on my 21st birthday I vowed to never again fight for the wrong side. Ever since, I have had my regrets for not thinking for myself and reaching my own conclusions and judgments before taking up arms to kill some innocent people in some far away place. To the Azerbaijani and Turkish people, I suggest you think for yourself before listening to your governments when it comes to carrying on the policies of animosity and hatred toward the Armenian people (or anyone else for that matter). The United States used to be a symbol for peace and human rights, but it has lost that position and I see no country ready to take that place of leadership in the world today. So that means the people themselves are going to have to learn to change their governments when they advocate for war. Maybe the good people of Azerbaijan can show us the way.
My son Dan changed his schedule and remained an extra day in Armenia to visit the Genocide Museum. (I cannot believe they close the Museum on Sunday and Monday and only keep it open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm the other days – what are they thinking???). It is hard to imagine any government deciding to murder nearly two million innocent men, women and children, but that is what the Turkish government did in 1915. As heinous as that act was, it is simply unforgiveable for the Turkish government to continue to deny that mass murder. My dead ancestors cry out for that apology. The only way to achieve forgiveness and eliminate the continued hatred that exists between the Armenian and Turkish people is for the Turkish government to acknowledge the Genocide and apologize. Only then can healing begin. With respect to the Turkish people, I doubt there is anyone alive today who participated in the Genocide. But for the Armenian people, there is no family in the world today that does not have stories of horror and murder like those of my family. These painful memories will continue to be felt and shared, fostering more hatred to be passed from one generation to the next, until the Turkish government acknowledges the conduct of its ancestors and apologizes for them. (And shame on Israel, of all countries, for not acknowledging and condemning the Armenian Genocide.)
How is it possible in this incredible age of technology and knowledge that we could still have so much poverty and ignorance in the world? Never before in human history have the wealthy and the world leaders been in such a great position to bring about peace and prosperity. Instead we have the Azerbaijani government trying to get Interpol to issue an arrest warrant against my son for peacefully visiting Karabakh. The people of Azerbaijan deserve better. If a government cannot lead its people to the right destination, then the people need to change their leaders. That is not just true for Azerbaijan and Turkey but for all the governments of the world."