The First Republic and The Armenian Cause (Hai Tad)

By Haig Kayserian - | Monday, 28 May 2018

By Haig Kayserian - For the Special Edition of Armenia Magazine dedicated to the Centennial of Armenia's First Republic

Many track the beginnings of the “Hai Tad Movement” back to different points in Armenian history. “Hai Tad” translates to “Armenian Cause” and the movement is our pursuit for justice for the injustices suffered in our history.

My view is that the Hai Tad Movement began when a small percentage of Armenians beat the odds to survive the Armenian Genocide. They battled for their lives, for their existence as Christian Armenians; their survival set the standard for a fight that would one day bring closure to their loved ones and compatriots who they lost by death marches, by mass rapes, by beheadings and by crucifixions.

If the survivors of the Armenian Genocide began what remains an ongoing pursuit for justice for the Armenian Cause, the first and most important victory of the Hai Tad Movement was achieved 100 years ago, on the 28th of May, 1918.

The heroes who fought for and declared Armenia’s First Republic as free and independent achieved what remains the most important victory in Hai Tad. Every ensuing victory - including the more recently recorded legislative wins by Armenian National Committees around the world - are important, but they are pebbles on a long, clear path that we are grateful was paved by the Arams, the Katchaznounis, the Vratsians, the Tros and the Khadisians of 1918. Our heroes. Our warriors. Our intellectuals.

These and other able men, along with the many women and children who had lost so much during the Armenian Genocide that was designed to wipe out their race, rose from the ashes while massacres of their compatriots in Western Armenia were still ongoing. They ignored the trauma they were no doubt experiencing and the doubts that were very likely lingering. They wiped away any tears of grief and took up arms in defence of what they could salvage for an Armenian nation.

On the battlefields of Sartarabad, Gharakilise and Pash Abaran, a heroic defence of a motherland was resourced by bootstraps, by blood, by sweat and by tears - and after all that, an Armenia was born.

And what an Armenia it was!

The First Republic of Armenia was a parliamentary democracy, with free and fair elections electing the members of parliament, which elected its leader as Prime Minister.

Well ahead of its time, the First Republic of Armenia formed what was a gender-representative government. In 1918, women were not only given the right to vote in the elections, but also to be elected. And, as a result, three women were elected as part of Armenia’s first parliament, which consisted of 80 members. To draw a comparison, Australia - rightly considered a modern beacon of democracy - elected its first female Member of Parliament in 1943; 24 years later! Moreover, 100 years ago, Armenia appointed the world’s first female Ambassador.

The leaders of the First Republic of Armenia were born from the people, fought with the people, were chosen by the people to represent the people. They were not career politicians. On the contrary, many of them lived and died in poverty, as was probably expected for a nation being built by orphans and remnants of the Armenian Genocide.

As previously mentioned, the battles at Sartarabad, Gharakilise and Pash Abaran delivered the Hai Tad Movement its first, tangible victory. The original Hai Tad warriors of 1918 capitalised on this victory to the best of their capabilities by forming an exemplary democracy as the First Republic of Armenia.

As someone working in the Hai Tad Movement today, I am so proud of the First Republic of Armenia. To think that we are continuing the battle for justice that began with an impossible survival and miraculously continued with the selfless, brave warriors of Hai Tad, is an absolute honour.

We do our work for The Armenian Cause from relative comforts - we are better resourced, our tools are less deadly than those the defence of Armenia required, and we also have the luxury of substituting the battlefields of 1918 for the 2018 hallways of parliament houses around the world.

However, regardless of the tools and the environment, the Hai Tad Movement has not lost focus of the battle and of the goal: justice on behalf of our ancestors. Justice can come by way of survival like our great grandparents on their death marches. Justice can come by victories of a critical piece of the greater Armenia we all deserve. Justice can come by way of the liberation of Armenian territories in the Republic of Artsakh. Justice can come by way of motions in Parliaments followed by international pressure on Turkey to recognise and pay for the Armenian Genocide.

The fight for justice was and remains The Armenian Cause.

The Hai Tad Movement thanks our humble and legendary predecessors on the 100th anniversary of their first and most important victory in benefit of The Armenian Cause.

- Haig Kayserian is Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia