Armenian Weekly Editorial: Ahmadinejad in Armenia

The Armenian Weekly
Oct. 27, 2007

With the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockade on Armenia, Iran has become a lifeline for the landlocked republic. Bilateral relations are good. The Islamic Republic also hosts a very vibrant Armenian community with deep historic roots, living peacefully in the country for centuries. All this has made Iranian high-ranking officials, including current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, welcomed guests in Armenia since 1991. Yerevan State University has also been lavish in the past, perhaps more than necessary, in bestowing honorary doctorates to visiting heads of state and other statesmen.

Like previous occasions, the Iranian president received a warm welcome from the political leadership of Armenia. Like other visiting heads of state, Ahmadinejad also had the opportunity to speak to university students in Yerevan—just like he spoke at Columbia University in New York not so long ago.

But why did Yerevan State University bestow an honorary doctorate and a gold medal upon a politician, who has shown disregard to basic historical research and memory by denying the Holocaust of the Jews during WWII?

It is worth noting that one of the manifestations of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial is calling for further “impartial” studies on WWII. We have heard that very same argument regarding the Armenian genocide from Turkey and its allies.

The very same day he met Armenian officials and received the honorary doctorate, Ahmadinejad decided to cut short his Armenia visit. The reason for this is unclear. According to several reports, he either wanted to avoid visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan fearing criticism from Turkey, or he was facing political problems at home. It would not be surprising if visiting the Memorial and planting a sapling in memory of the victims—as it was planned—were regarded potentially harmful to Turkish-Iranian relations and Ahmadinejad left Armenia to “escape” that visit. Avoiding to hurt Turkey’s “feelings” seems to be the norm these days and it should not be ruled out that Ahmadinejad, the Bush Administration, many in Congress, and even some human rights organizations are on the same page when it comes to this issue.

The university’s decision to bestow an honorary doctorate is simply unacceptable. We are surprised that, as the officials in charge of the alma mater of a nation that rose from the ashes of another genocide, they did not take this fact into consideration before deciding to award the honorary degree.