Monday, 19 February 2018

Armenian News ... A Topalian... Nigel Dlater's program and more!

Nigel Slater's program of food in Turkey included visits 
to an Armenian home (including some Armenian speech), 
a Hamshen family and Georgian home as well as one of 
the Balian built opulent palaces. A diverse universe far 

removed from the Nationalist's view o their country. 

RFE/RL Report
Israeli Parliament Rejects Armenian Genocide Bill
February 14, 2018
Artyom Chernamorian

Israel's parliament voted down on Wednesday an opposition motion to
officially recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

The Knesset rejected the bill introduced by Yair Lapid, the leader of
the Yesh Atid party, by 41 votes to 28 after a first-ever debate on
the sensitive issue held on the Israeli parliament floor.

The bill describes the World War One-era extermination of some 1.5
million Armenians as genocide and calls for its official remembrance
in Israel.

Lapid made a case for the passage of the measure in a 3-minute speech
that preceded the vote. He said an official Israeli recognition of the
genocide is "a matter of conscience for Jews and non-Jews." Also, he
said, the mass killings and deportations of Armenians inspired Adolf
Hitler to mastermind the Jewish Holocaust.

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely voiced the Israeli
government's opposition to the measure during the heated
discussion. She cited the "complexity" of the issue and its
"diplomatic repercussions."

Successive Israeli governments have opposed Armenian genocide
recognition lest it antagonize Turkey, a former security partner of
Israel. Some Israeli politicians have openly challenged this policy in
recent years. The Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, called the Armenian
massacres a genocide and urged the Jewish state to recognize it in

The Knesset debate on the genocide issue coincided with a visit to
Israel by a delegation of Armenian parliamentarians. The five
lawmakers representing various Armenian political groups were offered
to attend the debate but declined to do that.

Feb 16 2018
Dutch parliament recognises Armenian genocide

The lower house of the Dutch parliament approved a motion on Friday to recognise the mass killings of Armenians during World War One as genocide, local English-language news website the NL Times said .

It also said a Dutch minister or state secretary should attend the annual commemoration of the genocide in Armenia in April, the site said.

The move is likely to anger Turkey, which denies the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 constitutes genocide.

"We can not deny history out of fear of sanctions. Our country houses the capital of international law after all, so we must not be afraid to do the right thing here too," the site quoted Joel Voordewind, a member of one of the governing coalition parties, as saying.

The Netherlands officially withdrew its ambassador from Turkey last week following the failure of negotiations for his return after the Dutch government refused to allow a Turkish minister to make a speech in favour of a presidential system to locally-based Turkish citizens last year.

Dutch Parliament recognizes Armenian genocide; Minister to attend commemoration
A majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, approved two motions regarding the Armenian genocide of 1915 on Thursday. One states that the Tweede Kamer "recognizes the Armenian genocide", the other that a Dutch Minister or State Secretary should attend the commemoration of this genocide in Armenia in April. This decision is expected to further sour the relationship between Turkey and the Netherlands, ANP reports. Both motions were submitted by ChristenUnie parliamentarian Joel Voordewind. All four coalition parties supported the motions.

The Independent, UK
Feb 15 2018
In the cases of two separate holocausts, Israel and Poland find it difficult to acknowledge the facts of history 

While Poland has decided to outlaw any claims that their countrymen participated in the extermination of the Jews, Israel continues to ignore the Armenian genocide

by Robert Fisk 

The Israelis have been mighty pissed off with the Polish government these past few days. I don’t blame them. In fact – and I’m not referring to the racist, extremist military occupation government of Benjamin Netanyahu – the Israeli people and Jews around the world are quite right to be enraged at Poland’s latest Holocaust denialism.

The Polish decision to criminalise any accusation of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, passing a law which effectively prevents any Pole from acknowledging that Poles themselves assisted in the genocide of six million European Jews, is iniquitous. Its purpose is not to elicit the truth, but to bury it. It certainly constitutes part of the denialism of the Jewish Holocaust.

But – to give a taster to what this column is also about – I will say one word: Armenia. And reveal henceforth one of the most remarkable coincidences in recent publishing history. It involves century-old telegrams – hitherto regarded as forgeries, but in fact real – ordering the mass extermination of more than one million Christians, a truly courageous Turkish historian, and a total denial of the Armenian Holocaust by the one nation which should acknowledge its existence. But first, Poland.

As in most German-occupied European nations, morality – or immorality – was coloured grey. Think Vichy, and the French “maquis”. Think Italian fascism, and the Italian communist resistance.

In 2015, Ukraine passed laws that forced its citizens to honour nationalists who briefly collaborated with the Nazis and participated in the mass killing of Jews. No uproar from the West, of course, since we currently support brave little Ukraine against the Russian beast that has gobbled up Crimean Sevastopol.

But now to the incredible timing of the Polish legislation. For even as this disreputable law was actually passing through the parliament in Warsaw a few days ago, that most brave of Turkish historians, Taner Akcam, was publishing a short but revelatory book (Killing Orders, published by Palgrave Macmillan) which proves, finally and conclusively, that the extermination orders of Talat Pasha, a leader of the Young Turks and one of the Three Pashas who ruled the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, to destroy the entire Armenian Christian population in 1915 were real.

Not forgeries as Turkey’s apologists and denial historians would have the world believe. Not concocted by Armenian counterfeiters, or fiction created by a non-existent Ottoman official, as these wretched people would have us think. But as copper-bottomed and terrible as the Nazi documents which prove Germany’s responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust – and the evidence that proves Poles sometimes joined in the slaughter.

The facts of the Armenian Holocaust – for “Shoah” (holocaust) is the very word that many honourable Israelis use for the Armenian genocide – are well known but need, however briefly, to be repeated. In 1915 and in the immediate years that followed, the Ottoman Turks deliberately set out to liquidate a million and a half of their Armenian Christian citizens, sending them into the desert on death marches, butchering the men, raping the women, spitting the children on bayonets or starving them to death with their mothers and other family members in what is now northern Syria.

The Kurds, sorry to say, assisted in this barbarity. Taner Akcam has written extensively and with immense authority on this appalling period of Turkish history – which the Turkish government, to this day, shamefully denies – and has as a result been abused by hundreds of right-wing Turkish extremists who have even tried to place him on an American “terrorist” list (he teaches at Clark University in the US).

Akcam’s new book contains a dark and haunting – almost frightening – geography, for most of the 1915 massacres he writes about took place in or near towns which carry their own fearful message of slaughter and horror to us today: Mosul, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zour and, yes, Aleppo.

It was in the Baron Hotel in Aleppo – still standing today, the descendants of the then owner Mazlouiyan still (just) occupying its lobby – that a set of original telegrams from Talat Pasha, along with other liquidation messages memorised by an Ottoman official, Naim Bey, were handed over to an Armenian Holocaust survivor called Aram Andonian. He paid cash for the documents. We don’t know how much.

Until now, Turkish historians and their supporters in the West have regarded these vital papers as false. They claimed that Naim Bey did not exist, that Andonian was a forger, that the cypher in which Talat’s telegrams were written did not match the Ottoman cypher system of the time. They ignored the mass of evidence presented to the existing but quickly suppressed post-war trials in Istanbul, archives which subsequently went missing. And they held up telegrams – real enough but deliberately misleading – that “proved” Talat had the best interests of the Armenians at heart when he deported them.

Akcam’s unravelling of the truth is both a detective story and a volume of sudden, inconceivable horror. He proves the cypher numbers were real, that Naim Bey did indeed exist; an Ottoman document on a corruption investigation – in which Turkish officials accepted bribes from Armenians in return for their lives – identifies him as “Naim Effendi, the son of Huseyin Nuri, 26 years of age, from Silifke, former dispatch official for Meskene, currently the official in charge of Municipal Grain Storage Depots”. And more powerfully than any previous historian, Akcam proves – along with papers from the archive of a dead Armenian priest – that the Ottoman authorities were sending two sets of telegrams about the Armenians. One set expressed the government’s insistence that food and tents should be provided for Armenian deportees and that their confiscated property should be recompensed. The other set insisted upon their secret liquidation, preferably away from the cameras of prying US diplomats (America was neutral until 1917) and German officers allied to the Turkish army.

The Nazis told their Jewish victims that they were going to be “resettled” in the east rather than gassed. They also tried to cover the traces of the gas chambers of Treblinka before the Red Army arrived. But the “double” instructions sent by Talat Pasha and his 1915 genociders demonstrate that the pretence of humanitarian resettlement was conceived even before the organised genocide began. Some of the young German officers who witnessed the killings of 1915 turned up 26 years later in the Soviet Union, overseeing the slaughter of Jews.

And here is one very short account (courtesy of the Turkish historian Akcam) of an Armenian witness to his people’s destruction, which could – if the identities and locations were changed to the Ukraine or Belarus – have been written during the Second World War: “In order to eliminate the last remaining Armenian deportees...between Aleppo and Deyr-i Zor [sic] who had managed to survive...Hakki Bey...evicted all the deportees along the Euphrates, starting from Aleppo... Close to 300 young men and boys...surviving in the camp Hamam were sent to the South in a special convoy... Solid reports about them arrived that they had been killed in Rakka [sic]... Elsewhere, we learned in no uncertain terms that in the area around Samiye, 300 children were thrown into a cave opening, gas was poured in and they were burned alive.”

So here’s the real hypocrisy of this story. The Israeli government, so outraged by Poland’s Jewish Holocaust denialism, refuses to recognise the Armenian Holocaust. Shimon Peres himself said that “we reject attempts to create a similarity between the [Jewish] Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. What the Armenians went through is a tragedy, but not genocide.”

The Americans, I should add – Trump included, of course – have been equally pathetic in their failure to acknowledge the Armenian truth. But oddly, not Poland.

For 13 years ago, the Polish parliament passed a bill which specifically referred to the “Armenian genocide”. The speaker of the Polish parliament, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, said at the time that the Armenian genocide did indeed take place, that responsibility fell on the Turks, and that Turkish documents – though not yet those which Akcam has just revealed – “confirm” this.

So there you have it. Poland punishes anyone who speaks of Polish participation in the Jewish Holocaust, but accepts the Armenian Holocaust. Israel insists that all must acknowledge the Jewish Holocaust – and Poland’s peripheral guilt – but will not acknowledge the Armenian Holocaust.

Mercifully, Israeli scholars like Israel Charny do so. And mercifully, Turks like Taner Akcam agree. But how many times must the dead die all over again for nations to accept the facts of history?
Paylan Rejects Ateshian’s Authority, Says ‘We Want to Elect Our Patriarch’ 

ISTANBUL—Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and an outspoken advocate for Armenian rights on Wednesday rejected the authority of Archbishop Aram Ateshian who was forcibly reinstated as the Patriarchate’s Vicar General by the Turkish authorities.

Calling Ateshian an “enforcer” of the Turkish government, Paylan declared that “we want to elect our Patriarch.”

A decision by the Istanbul Governor, which was later rubber-stamped by Turkey’s Interior Ministry effectively halted the Armenian community’s effort to elect a Patriarch to replace Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan who, since 2008, has been incapacitated due to dementia. In March, the Patriarchate’s Religious Council elected Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian as the Locum Tenens, which meant Ateshian, who had been placed there by the Turkish authorities, would have to resign. However, he resisted and continued to create obstacles to the election of a Patriarch through due process.

Earlier this month, by a decision of the Istanbul Governor the entire election process was scrapped and Ateshian was reinstated as Vicar General, forcing the Religious Council to accept the governor’s decision and Bekdjian to leave Turkey.

“It has been about ten years now that the Armenian community of Istanbul has been barred from any chance of electing its own patriarch,” Paylan told

“Unfortunately, it was the Turkish authorities’ decision several years ago to install Aram Ateshyan as Vicar General. At the time we said we wanted to elect our patriarch,” he told, explaining that many community members attempted to avert a state-appointed leader to the Patriarchate to no avail.

“By seizing power from the government, you become a kind of hostage. All we need now is to derive power from the Armenian community. And the Patriarch too, must be elected by the Armenian community and derive power from it,” added Paylan.

He characterized Ateshian as a puppet in the hands of not only the Turkish government but also defense, security and law enforcement forces.
“They will use him to realize their wishes,” said Paylan.

He described the impact of this decision to the Armenian community as adverse, saying that community lives in constant fear, and is often in the dark about the situation at the Patriarchate.

“The Armenian community needs empowerment from the Patriarchate. We need to be better organized, as this situation may potentially split the community apart,” warned Paylan.

ARKA, Armenia
Feb 14 2018
Armenia to commission eight new solar plants later this year 

Armenia will commission eight new system solar power plants before the end of this year, Hayk Harutyunyan, deputy energy infrastructures and natural resources minister, told journalists on Tuesday.

In 2017, he said, three system solar plants of the total capacity of 2.5 MW have been commissioned in Kotayk, Armavir and Aragatsotn provinces.

Besides, the results of the tender for construction of a 55-megawatt solar plant in Masrik will be announced in one or two months.

Harutyunyan said that more than 60 companies asked technical requirements on the tender, and other 20 companies, but only 10 were selected in pre-qualification round.

“All the respected international companies from South Korea, India, EU countries and the United States which meet experience requirements and technical criteria are taking part in the tender,” Hatutyunyan said.

In the context of solar energy development, the deputy minister said that 208 autonomous solar plants have been commissioned in the country as of the end of 2017. This number has increased to 252 already in the next couple of months, and other 30 are expected to join the market soon. --0---

ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
February 14, 2018 Wednesday
A project costing 1.250 million euros will be implemented in the
capital of Armenia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Alexander Avanesov. 

In the capital of Armenia, a program will be implemented to reduce 
greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. 
The program, worth 1.250 million euros, was approved on
the eve of the meeting of the Council of Elders of Yerevan.

According to the vice-mayor of the capital Vaye Nikoyan, the program
is envisaged for a grant of the European Union of 1 million euros
co-financing from the Yerevan municipality in 250 thousand euros. It
is planned, in particular, in 90 multi-apartment buildings to
implement measures to increase energy efficiency by installing solar
panels on the roofs of these buildings. The program will be
implemented in 2018-2019, during which in these buildings will be
carried out work on repair and replacement of elevators, providing
electricity to public areas and yards, installation of LED lamps in
buildings. By implementing these measures, conditions will be created
to prevent the annual emissions of 844 tons of CO2 into the

Earlier ArmInfo reported that the financial mechanism of $ 125 million
is part of the Caucasus Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP), launched in
2007, in order to provide financial assistance to the private sector
and homeowners in reducing energy intensity and promoting wider use of
renewable energy sources. The program, funded by the EBRD, is
supported by a grant from the European Neighborhood Investment Fund
and is implemented with the technical assistance of the Federal
Ministry of Finance of Austria. Over the past 3 years, this financial
instrument has provided about 15 million euros to more than 9,000
households and 17 organizations in Armenia. This allowed saving about
128 GW of energy, which is commensurate with consumption of annual
energy of 10 thousand households and reducing CO2 emissions into the
atmosphere by 23 thousand tons.

After action of Yerkir Tsirani,sewerage system being repaired 

It’s been a stench in the area of Nubarashen penitentiary for several years, as the sewerage
of the penitentiary is damaged. “We live in the 21st century, but the sewer goes by open air, 20 meters,” says one of the residents. The other adds that children cannot play underneath, and they cannot open a window because of this .

Despite the different estimations of Yerkir Tsirani’s actions, today construction works started in the second half of the day, and it is planned to be completed within three days.

Public Radio of Armenia
Feb 16 2018
McDonald’s to come to Armenia in April 

McDonald’s fast food company will come to Armenia in April. Georgian businessmen Temur Chkonia intends to open a chain of restaurants in Armenia.

“The first restaurant must be in a well-visible, respected place. We have received 2-3 offers and by April we’ll make a decision on the location of the first McDonald’s in Armenia,” Chkonia told Public Radio of Armenia.

The businessman has opened a chain of 14 restaurants in Georgia, each serving an average of 25,000 visitors a day.

The food safety authorities are not very delighted with the perspective of the fast food company entering the Armenian market.

Food security expert David Pipoyan says fast food restaurants use a lot of supplements to preserve semi-finished products as long as possible. Besides, you never know what these establishments serve in reality., Armenia
Feb 16 2018
Karabakh oldest woman is 110 years old
Mariam Levina 

Karabakh is famous not only for its beautiful nature, ancient monuments, fertile land, but also for long-livers. As of February 2018, there are 16 people aged over 100 in Nagorno-Karabakh. The oldest woman, Arevhat Sargsyan, 110, lives in the village of Tagavard.

By the time of our arrival grandma Arevhat was not at home. But soon we saw a fragile woman with a dark headscarf and apron. Long years of hard life left their mark on her, but did not change one thing - her radiant, joyful smile.

Talking with grandma Arevhat is pleasant , but not easy. The Karabakh dialect, which is not easy to understand, is generously flavored with local words and expressions. I tried to delicately ask the grandmother about her life, but after ten minutes I took a break and asked for a "translator".

With the help of her daughter-in-law Stella it turns out that grandma Arevhat is turning 110 on July 1. Her long life was difficult, hard, full of achievements and losses. 17-year-old Arevhat got married to widower Lazar, the father of five children. Young Arevhat gave birth to the first child, but after a while Lazar died. Arevhat did not abandon her husband's children. A few years later, Arevhat got married for the second time again to the widower, with six children. Then the couple had three children. After the death of her second husband, Arevhat brought up 15 children. Arevhat has worked as a nurse in hospital for many years.

Telling about her life, grandma Arevhat repeated many times "I never lived, but suffered". Arevhat has outlived some of her children.

Asked, how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren Arevhat has, Stella answered: "More than a hundred."

It turns out that grandma likes coffee and good wine.

In general, according to the family members, she eats mostly vegetables, does not like meat and sausages.

"Eat a lot of fruit, apples and plums, dried fruits, it is useful for health," the grandma Arevhat advises.
Because of poor eyesight, she is not able to knit or sewbut she actively does everything possible at home and in the garden.

On our way to Stepanakert each of us was thinking about the meeting with the grandmother of Arevhat. World War I, World War II, conquest of space - grandmother Arevat became the witness of a whole century.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Why can't the Armenians elect a Patriarch?


The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief


Thursday 15 February 2018

The state has again blocked the long-delayed election of a new Armenian
Apostolic Patriarch, arguing that such an election would be contrary to the
community's traditions. Yet, freedom of religion or belief protects the
right of religious communities to elect leaders in accordance with their
traditions as they interpret them.

By Dr. Mine Yildirim

The state has, again, blocked the process for the election of a new
Patriarch for Turkey's Armenian Apostolic community. The Istanbul
Governorship intervened again in early February as the community appeared
to be on the point of initiating the long-delayed election. In light of the
interference, the Armenian Patriarchate's Clerical Council felt compelled
to back down, annul its 2017 election of a Locum Tenens (temporary leader)
and acknowledge the authority of the Patriarchal Vicar-General, Archbishop
Aram Ateshian.

The Istanbul Governorship - a state institution under the Interior Ministry
responsible for state administration in Istanbul province, where the
Armenian Patriarchate is based - argued that the Armenian community cannot
elect a new leader as the previous Patriarch - unable to fulfil his
functions since 2008 because of illness - is still living (see below).

Despite Turkey's international human rights obligations protecting the
right of religious communities to elect their leaders, it is "established
practice" that the state interferes in how some religious communities elect
their leaders, particularly the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Jewish
communities. The state also appoints the head of the Presidency of
Religious Affairs which is the state institution providing Islamic
religious services including the administration of mosques and teaching
(see below).

The state blocking of the election of a new Patriarch leaves the Armenian
Apostolic Church community - the largest Christian community in Turkey -
facing uncertainties and controversy. Within the community many views have
been expressed in the past 10 years about how to elect a new leader in
accordance with the community's traditions. But state interference has been
a crucial factor obstructing progress being made in electing a new
Patriarch (see F18News 11 August 2010

Momentum for new election blocked

Momentum to initiate patriarchal elections gained pace in 2017 within the
Armenian community, despite state reluctance to give the "go ahead" since
2008. The state's response did not show cooperation and facilitation of the
right of religious or belief communities to elect their own religious
leaders. On the contrary, the state obstruction which followed illustrates
well the challenges faced in this process.

The head of the Surp Pirgic Armenian Hospital Foundation - the largest
Armenian community foundation - Bedros Sirinoglu raised the election issue,
among other community matters, when he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
in January 2017. The President responded that the state would tackle the
issues of the elections of the Armenian Patriarch and of the boards of
directors of non-Muslim community foundations. He said this would happen
after the April 2017 referendum on wide-ranging changes to the Constitution
to increase the President's powers.

Yet since the referendum, the state has taken no steps to resolve the
problem either of electing a new Armenian Patriarch or the community
foundations' boards of directors.

Non-Muslim community foundations are not religious communities but are
associated with them (see F18News 6 October 2011

While the authorities need to adopt a new regulation for non-Muslim
community foundations to hold elections for their board members, legally
this is not required for the election of the Armenian Patriarch. Therefore
while on the one hand it is difficult to understand the need for President
Erdogan's involvement in the process, on the other, the lack of legal
certainty resulting from a lack of legal framework explains the Armenian
Church's need to ensure state cooperation.

The crucial impetus was the resignation in February 2017 of Bishop Sahak
Mashalyan as head of the Clerical Council. His resignation caused much
reaction from the Armenian community pressing for the election. His
subsequent withdrawal of his resignation led the Clerical Council the same
month to declare the seat of the Patriarch vacant and start the election
process by electing a Locum Tenens (Deghabah), who would oversee the
election of a new Patriarch.

After the Clerical Council's decision to hold patriarchal elections, four
prospective candidates for election were mentioned: Patriarchal
Vicar-General Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Bishop Sahak Mashalyan, Archbishop
Karekin Bekdjian (the spiritual leader of Germany's Armenian community),
and Archbishop Sebouh Chouljian (spiritual leader of the Gugark region of
Armenia). All four have Turkish citizenship, which is a prerequisite for
being eligible to become the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.

On 15 March 2017, the election of the Locum Tenens (temporary leader,
Deghabah, Turkish: Patrik Kaymakamı) took place. The spiritual leader of
Germany's Armenians Archbishop Bekdjian was elected at 15:00. Immediately
following the announcement of the election results, Archbishop Ateshian
shared with the press an official letter the Istanbul Governorship had sent
that same day to the Patriarchate of Turkey's Armenians stating that
"legally it is not possible to start the election process".

The letter, sent at 13:47 that day, states that "it is understood that
there is a desire to de facto start the Patriarchal Election procedure".
The letter said the election was not legally possible, claiming the process
could cause splits in the community by giving way to restlessness, and that
the Patriarchal Vicar-General is on duty. It added that the community knows
full well the procedural principles and jurisprudence applicable to
patriarchal elections. This letter obstructed the election process.

In spite of these developments, Archbishop Ateshian did not resign from his
position as Patriarchal Vicar-General. This led the Clerical Council to
remove him from his position on 28 June 2017, with 22 members in favour and
2 against this decision.

Since then, the Armenian community has repeatedly appealed both for
dialogue with the state authorities and available judicial remedies to be
able to hold elections.

In February 2018, the Election Steering Committee in charge of holding the
elections for Patriarch filed a complaint against the Interior Ministry for
failure to respond in time to its application to proceed with the election.

On 6 February 2018, the Istanbul Governorship wrote to the Armenian
Patriarchate stating that, as Patriarch Mesrop is still alive, the
conditions for the election of a new Patriarch have not materialised. The
letter argued that health reasons do not justify considering the position
of the patriarch vacant and that Archbishop Ateshian continues to hold his
position as Patriarchal Vicar-General.

After sending the letter, the Istanbul Governorship invited the heads of
the Armenian community foundations for a meeting on 7 February, where
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu met and "listened to them". At the
meeting, a prominent lawyer in the Armenian community Sebu Aslangil
outlined the legal objections to the Governorship letter, the local
Armenian weekly newspaper "Agos" reported the following day.

Aslangil reiterated that the state's decision not to allow the Armenian
community to proceed with elections amounted to compelling the Clerical
Council to elect someone whom they had already removed (a reference to
Ateshian). He added that the letter's reference to the "so-called locum
tenens" (Archbishop Bekdjian) was not an appropriate way to refer to a
person elected by the Clerical Council.

Interior Minister Soylu replied that the state has a responsibility to
uphold the law and accordingly to protect the Patriarchal Vicar-General,
"Agos" added. However, Soylu said he was aware of the problems and will
take them into account. It was agreed to meet again in a month.

After receiving the Istanbul Governorship's letter, Bishop Mashalyan
convened the Clerical Council on 9 February, with Archbishop Ateshian

"The election of a patriarch is initiated and concluded with acting
together with the state, this fact has always been evident in Patriarchal
history," declared the Clerical Council's statement issued after the
meeting. "Therefore the official letter is taken into account in this
context. Since the state's will is that the conditions for the 85th
patriarchal elections have not materialised, it is stated in the letter
that the election of a Locum Tenens has no basis. Therefore the decision to
retire Patriarch Mesrop II and declare his seat vacant does not comply with
the rules."

Notably, the Clerical Council also remarks that when the conditions are
conducive the necessity of a new Patriarch Election remains.

Archbishop Bekdjian did not participate in the meeting due to his expressed
intention to resign from the Locum Tenens position. In his farewell
message, published on 13 February, he stated that even though the state's
obstruction appears to target him, in reality it aims to "sabotage the 85th
Patriarchal Election and is the product of a long and planned campaign".

Why was patriarchal vicar elected in 2010?

Patriarch Mesrop became unable to carry out his duties for health reasons
in July 2008 and is still incapacitated. He was elected against the wishes
of Turkey's government and became incapacitated under much pressure from
the government, media and the public, as well as the Armenian diaspora (see
F18News 21 October 2008

It is believed that according to Armenian Apostolic Church tradition, a
Patriarch must either die or resign from his position before the election
of a successor can be held. For two years following 2008, discussions took
place within the community on whether elections would be held or not. Two
competing views emerged: one wanting to elect a new Patriarch and the other
a Co-Patriarch.

However, in 2010 with a decision of the Istanbul Governorship Archbishop
Ateshian became Patriarchal Vicar-General, a post the state invented as
opposed to the election of a Co-Patriarch which, the state argued was not
found in the Armenian tradition. (see F18News 11 August 2010

In October 2016, the Clerical Council decided to retire Patriarch Mesrop on
the grounds that he had been unable to perform his duty for 7 years. The
election process for a new Patriarch was initiated following this decision.

Impact on the community

The inability to elect a Patriarch has harmed Turkey's Armenian community
in many ways. "Not having a head [leader] for ten years deepens existing
problems, leads our people to hopelessness and our youth to a search for
new horizons," Bishop Mashalyan, whose resignation as head of the Clerical
Council in 2017 played an important role in triggering the new election
process, told Forum 18 in February 2018. "On top of this, the election
atmosphere - always on the agenda, but never resolved - provides the ground
for church divisions and conflict."

Bishop Mashalyan added that although the Church is able to continue its
routine work, making decisions on issues "important for our community" and
developing new projects are impossible. "The representation of our
Patriarchate weakens and crucial contact with the state cannot be made," he
told Forum 18. "The uncertainty of these extraordinary circumstances can no
longer be tolerated."

Is state permission needed to elect Patriarch?

Views differ on whether the state needs to give permission for the
community to proceed with the election of the Patriarch. During the Ottoman
Empire, the 1863 Armenian Nation [Millet] Regulation formed the legal basis
for the election of a new Patriarch. Whether this Regulation applies in the
modern Turkish Republic is far from clear.

The Regulation enshrines extensive rules on the internal management of the
Armenian community, including the election of a new Patriarch. The
non-religious autonomous administrative organs that are referred to in the
Regulation were, however, annulled during the Republic. Hence, whether and
to what extent the Regulation is legally binding remains unclear.

On the other hand, practice in the Turkish Republic demonstrates that the
state has interfered in every election process. Throughout the Republic,
five elections for a new Armenian Patriarch have taken place. Each time the
state authorities have interfered regarding the timing of the election or
the election rules.

Views also differ within the Armenian community, it appears. Archbishop
Ateshian argues that in order to proceed with the election, the first step
is to obtain permission from the state. According to Bishop Mashalyan, such
permission is not needed, and notifying the state and obtaining a date for
the election is enough.

Bishop Mashalyan sees the lack of legal personality and the lack of a legal
framework that regards the Armenian community as a collective whole as the
main obstacles. For example, without legal personality judicial
applications become meaningless. He considers, "the good will of Ankara" as
"the only contingent". He maintains hope saying, "the state's reply is
delayed, but there is no refusal".

As on previous occasions, according to Bishop Mashalyan, the election is to
be held in accordance with the Ordinance and date given by the Interior
Ministry with the signature of the Cabinet approving the application by the
elected Deghabah (Locum Tenens) and the Election Steering Committee.

Another way of moving forward might be the resignation of Archbishop
Ateshian as Patriarchal Vicar-General. However, in a lengthy public
statement published on Facebook on 3 January 2017, he reiterated that the
state does not recognise the Locum Tenens. "Since the Locum Tenens is not
officially recognised, isn't it better that someone [himself] who is
recognised is in this position?" he asked.

If and when the Locum Tenens were to be approved by the state, Archbishop
Ateshian promised to leave his position. Since the Governorship's letter
does not recognise the election of the Locum Tenens, Archbishop Ateshian
believed that he should remain in his position as Patriarchal

According to the "Agos" newspaper, his statement signalled that Ateshian
regards the dynamics of bureaucratic relationships as more important than
the will of the General Assembly of Clergy and the people's demands. It
appears that this approach has prevailed at this time.

No uniform legal framework for election of religious leaders

No uniform legal framework applies to the election of religious leaders in
Turkey, which leaves some communities vulnerable. The state interferes the
most in the elections for leaders of the non-Muslim communities as viewed
by the state as being protected under the 1923 Lausanne Treaty (Armenians,
Jews and Greeks and to some extent and more recently Syriacs).

The Prime Minister appoints the head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs
(Diyanet), a government agency which is the largest provider of Sunni
Islamic religious services (see F18News 4 May 2011

The state has not interfered in the selection of leaders of other religious
communities - including Alevi Muslims, Protestants, and the Baha'is. But
their leaders do not enjoy state recognition (see F18News 11 August 2010

In contrast to the state obstruction of the election of the Armenian
Patriarch, Turkey's Jews re-elected their Rabbi Rav Ishak Haleva on 14 May
2017. Yet even this process, which from the outside appeared to run
smoothly, still included state involvement.

The Jewish community previously changed its rules about electing the Chief
Rabbi, requiring election every seven years. When the seven-year term came
to an end, the community applied to the Istanbul Governorship on 4 April
2017. The Election Steering Committee met and announced the election rules
on 28 April. Accordingly, candidates could announce their candidacy by 5
May. In the absence of any other candidates, Rav Ishak Haleva, who has been
the Chief Rabbi of Turkey's Jews since 2002, was elected again.

Interference incompatible with international human rights law

The situation of the Armenian community illustrates clearly the
vulnerability of religious communities. First, the lack of an effective
legal framework enforces dependency on political will, which can often
change. Such an arrangement is not compatible with the norms enshrined in
the European Convention on Human Rights.

Since in Turkey no religious or belief community has legal personality as
such, religious or belief communities cannot form legal entities with their
internal governing processes. As a result, they are dependent on the
approval of the state authorities. The right to acquire legal personality
is indispensable for numerous aspects of the exercise of freedom of
religion or belief in its collective dimension.

In a case originally launched by Hungary's Mennonite Church, the European
Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held in April 2014 that "there is a positive
obligation incumbent on the State to put in place a system of recognition
which facilitates the acquisition of legal personality by religious
communities" (Application No. 70945/11 et al,

Similarly, the then United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of
Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, drew attention to legal obligations
flowing from the provisions protecting freedom of religion or belief. "Such
an administrative decision [on legal personality] should not be
misconceived as an act of mercy, however," he noted in his December 2011
report (A/HRC/19/60, 

"Under international law, States are obliged to take an active role in
facilitating the full enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of
religion or belief," Bielefeldt noted. "By not providing appropriate legal
options that, de jure and de facto, are accessible to all religious or
belief groups interested in obtaining a legal personality status, States
would fail to honour their obligations under the human right to freedom of
religion or belief."

Secondly, the right of religious or belief communities to chose or elect
their leaders and teachers is an integral part of the right to freedom of
religion or belief in its collective dimension, as noted in General Comment
22 of the UN Human Rights Committee. If states take steps to interfere in
this right, it is the obligation of the state to demonstrate, among others,
that this restriction is prescribed by law, pursues a legitimate aim to
protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights
and freedoms of others and is proportionate to the aim pursued.

It is hard to see that the steps taken by Turkish state authorities in the
case of the election of the Armenian Patriarch could pass a rigorous
scrutiny of the restrictions test.

Thirdly, if and when differing views exist within a religious or belief
community on, for example, when and how elections of their leaders should
be carried out, it is not the role of the state to impose a certain way. On
the contrary, the ECtHR holds that "the internal structure of a religious
organization and the regulations governing its membership must be seen as a
means by which such organizations are able to express their beliefs and
maintain their religious traditions" (Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria, 30
October 2000, Application No. 30985/96,

In light of this, the role of the Turkish authorities should be to respect
the will of the Armenian Apostolic community and cooperate with it to
ensure that the elections run smoothly. This would provide conditions
conducive for the internal mechanisms of the community to manage tensions
and conflicts without state interference.

In addition, the Turkish authorities need to ensure that the collective
dimension of freedom of religion or belief is effectively protected,
including by creating a legal framework for religious communities to
acquire legal personality and ensuring that non-Muslim community
foundations can elect their board members. (END)

For more background, see Forum 18's Turkey religious freedom survey
 and the Norwegian
Helsinki Committee: Turkey Freedom of Belief Initiative (NHC:IÖG)

More analyses and commentaries on freedom of thought, conscience and belief
in Turkey can be found at

A compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments can be found at

A printer-friendly map of Turkey is available at

Twitter @Forum_18

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All Forum 18 News Service material may be referred to, quoted from, or
republished in full, if Forum 18 <> is credited as the

© Forum 18 News Service. All rights reserved. ISSN 1504-2855.

Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland Armenian Church News E-newsletter Latest E-Newsletter Volume 4, Issue 5 16 February 2018

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["Armenian Diocese of the UK"]
Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland
Armenian Church News
Latest E-Newsletter
Volume 4, Issue 5
16 February 2018
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Dear Faithful
According to our Church Calendar Great Fast (Մեծ Պահք) starts after celebrating Boun Barekendan, eve of the Great Fast, which in Armenian tradition is a day of feast and celebration. The Great lent will continue until Great Saturday.
It is 47-day period of fasting and abstinence, which includes the 40 days of the Fast of Great Lent and 7 days that of the Holy Week. Let us embark on this spiritual journey in happiness with fasting, prayer, forgiveness, donating to charities and doing voluntary work as the Gospel instructs us (Mathew 6:1-21). As a wise man would say “we have holydays to recover physically, likewise we need to observe the Great Lent to recover and cleanse spiritually.”
Yours truly,
Bishop Hovakim Manukyan
12 February 2018
Read more here
13th of February on the eve of the feast of presentation Primate presided over the vesper's service at St. Yeghiche Armenian Church. At the end of the service special rite of blessings of the newly wed couples was conducted by His Grace and the procession holding a lit candle from the main altar moved the Church yard where traditional Tiarnendaraj fire was lit.
With us Armenians, abstinence, as a canonical religious mandate, calls for avoiding, abstaining from, the consumption of foods containing meat, fats, milk products, and eggs, of alcoholic drinks, and also of participating in merriment. Instead, it is prescribed to eat vegetables, grains, and foods based on them, prepared with vegetable oil or olive oil. Honey is also permitted.
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