Thursday, 9 April 2015

Archive recording of Komitas singing with evocative film

This address contains the songs performed by the Chilingirian Quartet: 
click to the Komitas entry. Then click on the Youtube recording of the 
Badarak that comes up at the end under a group of Armenian clerics 
for a delightful listening session. 

Video produced in Iran by Armenians in commemoration of the 
100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 perpetrated 
by Turkey, the "Inconvenient Genocide" of the 20th century. 
Armenian Genocide novel named as Amazon's best book of April 

The Armenian Genocide novel, Orhan's Inheritance, by Aline Ohanesian 
has been chosen as Amazon's Best Book of the Month for April 2015, 
listed alongside literary giants like Toni Morrison. 

The book has also been selected by the independent bookselling 
community as the #1 Indie Next pick for April and by Barnes & Noble 
for their Discover Great New Voices program for Summer 2015, the 
Armenian Weekly reports. 

Algonquin Books is thrilled by the reception for this debut novel, and 
especially at how an Armenian Genocide novel will be front and center 
in every bookstore in the county. National media attention is 
forthcoming in the New York Times Book Review, Elle, Entertainment 
Weekly, National Public Radio, and much more. 

Ohanesian will be launching her national book tour on April 7 at 7:30 
pm Skylight Books in Los Angeles. The general public is welcome to 
attend. Ohanesian will continue on to 15 additional stops around the 
country as part of her national book tour. 

Ohanesian was a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Bellwether Award for 
Socially Engaged Fiction founded by Barbara Kingsolver. A descendant 
of genocide survivors, Ohanesian spent six years researching the 
novel, and even traveled to the region of the Ottoman Empire, known as 
Sepastia to Armenians and Sivas to Turks, where story takes place. 

Not only is Orhan's Inheritance a profoundly moving and beautiful 
story, but it also gives voice to millions of silent victims and a 
forgotten part of history. When Orhan Turkoglu's grandfather passes 
away, he returns to the village of Karod, Sivas for the funeral, only 
to discover that his grandfather left the family home to a total 
stranger, Seda Melkonian, in a Los Angeles nursing home. Left with 
only Kemal's ancient sketchbook and intent on righting this injustice, 
Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he will not only unearth 
the story that Seda so closely guards but discovers that Seda's past 
now threatens to unravel his future. Her story, if told, has the power 
to forever change the way Orhan sees himself, his family, and his 
country. Moving back and forth in time, between the last years of the 
Ottoman Empire and the1990's, Orhan's Inheritance is a story of 
passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the 
hidden stories that can haunt a family for generations. 
Armenians call for German apology on genocide issue
04 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

For years, Germany's politicians have debated the question of whether
the Armenian Genocide should be referred to as such. Shortly before
the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the discussion has entered a
new round.

On April 24, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of
the Armenian Genocide. But instead of a proper commemoration in the
Bundestag, there is controversy, Richard A. Fuchs writes in an article
published by Deutsche Welle.

On the day of the anniversary later this month, the German parliament
will devote an hour to the debate over the crimes committed against
Armenian Christians in the former Ottoman Empire. In the place of
cross-party unity, dissent is expected to prevail.

The Greens and the Left Party are in favor of recognizing the
massacre, which took place from 1915 to 1916, as a genocide. But
that's just what the governing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU)
and Social Democrats (SPD) want to prevent - likely over the fear that
such a decision would lead to a deep freeze in diplomatic relations
with Turkey. Ankara has steadfastly rejected any acknowledgment of the
past events as genocide.

The involvement of the German Empire in the deportation of Armenians
has long been considered as fact by historians. What has remained
controversial, however, was the extent to which Germans were involved.
Were they witnesses - or complicit?

But Christin Pschichholz, a historian at the University of Potsdam,
says "The German government was fully aware of the policy of
extermination of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire," she
said, after reviewing documents from Germany's Foreign Office. Death
marches, executions and forced labor - German diplomats meticulously
recorded everything that was going on around them at the time."

"The conclusion, that between the years 1915 and 1918 a genocide took
place on the territory of the Ottoman Empire, has been known by the
German government for the last 100 years," said Rolf Hosfeld, of the
House of Lepsius Organization, which runs a genocide studies program
together with the university.

Bu that knowledge is not reflected in action. Government
representatives have always avoided the use of the word genocide in
connection with Armenia, instead using the terms "massacre" and

According to the author, all eyes will be on the official
commemoration on April 24 in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. And also
on the German delegation that will travel to Armenia to mark the

Here, too, it seems Germany has deferred to Turkish sensibilities and
will send only a small delegation. DW has found out that the
government's human rights commissioner, Christoph Strässer, and Deputy
Foreign Minister Michael Roth will travel to Yerevan.

Neither Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier are planning to take part in an event which will see many
other prominent world leaders - including French President Francois

Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of Germany's Green party, who traveled
through Armenia last month, sharply criticized Germany's behavior in
the Tagesspiegel. "With false regard to Mr. Erdogan, the government is
downplaying the Armenian Genocide," he said. "Hardly a dignified
response toward the victims and their descendants." 
Turkey creating obstacles for Armenian Genocide conference
4 April, 2015

YEREVAN, 4 MARCH. Istanbul Bilgi University has annulled
its decision to hold a conference with the title "Armenian Genocide:
Concepts and Comparative Perspectives", as Agos Weekly reports,
according to "Armrenpress".

 The real reason for cancelling the conference is unclear. The
University's administration informed that it couldn't hold such a
conference and advised seeking another venue for the conference.

 The History Foundation and UCLA, the organizers of the conference,
have started looking for another venue. 
Swiss TV: Switzerland keeps quiet on Armenian Genocide

Switzerland tries to keep quiet with regard to the question of the
Armenian Genocide, as reported by TV Svizzera website.

"During the events devoted to the Commemoration of the Armenian
Genocide, Switzerland will be represented only on the level of the
ambassador. Swiss Federal Council explains this decision by the
traditional intermediary role of the country.

As reported by the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement
released on Wednesday, it is not the first time the Swiss Government
has condemned the tragic events of 1915, seeking to regulate the
relations between Turkey and Armenia," the article states.

Switzerland recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003. 
Debating Genocide in the German Bundestag
Friday 3 April 2015 - 10:34

The German Bundestag will hold a one-hour debate on April 24, the
anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide according to the
German Der Tagesspiegel.

The paper says that a dispute over an appropriate commemoration
shortly before the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide has
surfaced in the Bundestag. While the Green Party and the Left want any
final resolution from that debate to include the word Genocide, the
coalition composed of the socialist SPD and Angela Merkel's CDU
(Christian Democratic Union) have made clear their concerns about
antagonizing Turkey, who continues to deny the Genocide.

An informal working group of politicians representing the
parliamentary groups has been discussing how to deal with the
anniversary. Cem Ozdemir, Chair of the Greens and Petra Pau of the
Left Party have made it clear that their factions will call it a
Genocide. However, the CDU and SPD have said that a resolution passed
by the Bundestag a decade ago in 2005 should be upheld. That
resolution, titled "Remembrance and commemoration of the expulsion and
massacre of the Armenians in 1915 - Turkey must contribute to the
reconciliation between Turks and Armenians" refrained from using the
word genocide.

In a joint text formulated late last week, the word genocide was
included in the title but after the leaders of the factions of the
coalition and the Foreign Office got involved, the word disappeared.
Apparently, the general consensus is that it is an inopportune time
and feared that Turkey would consider this an affront, according to
the German newspaper. Their concern stems from upcoming elections in
Turkey in June and that Turkey's involvement in the fight against the
Islamic State is necessary. The issue will be discussed among the
coalition members on April 21 to agree on a final text.

Turkish-born Cem Ozdemir, has been critical of the federal government
for not having the fortitude to call it a genocide 100 years later. He
said, "The Federal Republic is the legal successor of the German
Empire and at the time,the closest ally of the Ottoman Empire,
therefore shares in the responsibility." He went on to say that as the
Ottoman Empire's military ally, Germany was aware of the deportations
and killings of the Armenians but failed to exercise any pressure on
the Turkish leadership.

In an interview with CivilNet on March 18, Cem Ozdemir had said, "As
you know, Germany was on the same side as the Ottoman Empire at that
time and we somehow became an accomplice. Therefore, we also have
obligations in this regard, to commemorate and pass the memory on to
the next generations."

Dietmar Nietan of the SPD has found his party's position unfortunate.
"Personally, I am disappointed at the lack of courage to say what
really happened," Neitan said and added that he didn't think it was
beneficial to bow to Turkish pressure. "If the German Parliament uses
the word Genocide openly, we would be aiding in strengthening those in
civil society in Turkey."

CDU politician Christoph Bergner said that the Armenian case was
pivotal in the drafting of the UN Convention on Genocide and that
Germany "should try to clearly identify the proper dimension of the
events that took place 100 years ago."

The German Foreign Office has said, however that a "culture of memory"
should not be imposed from outside. Michael Roth, the German Minister
of State for Europe said that they welcome the fact that it is no
longer a taboo to talk about the "infinite suffering resulting from
the deportation and murder of Armenians" in Turkey. 

Le Monde Diplomatique, France
April 2 2015
A century's silence in Turkey: Armenian ghosts
by Vicken Cheterian

For 100 years Turkey has struggled to face up to the murder and
deportation of two thirds of the Armenians in the Ottoman empire in
just a few months in 1915.

After the genocide of 1915-6, the fate of the Armenians who converted
to Islam and became "Turkified" was taboo in Turkey; not until 2008
did lawyer and human rights activist Fethiye Çetin dare break the
silence by publishing a memoir of her grandmother, an Armenian who had
been a child when her family were deported or murdered, and who had
been brought up in a Turkish family (1). Many who had been through
similar experiences wrote to Çetin, who published their testimonies in
another book (2); none dared reveal their name or date of birth.

It is still hard to estimate how many descendants there are of the
2,000-3,000 Armenian women and children who were forcibly converted.
For decades, they remained silent on their origins and the fate of
their ancestors. But people around them knew, and looked down at those
who had converted to Islam not out of belief but to escape death. They
were kýlýç artýklarý (remains of the sword) (3) and stigmatised in
Turkish society. The state held documents on their origins and denied
them access to certain jobs, such as in education or the army.

Commemorating the centenary of Armenian genocide is not just about
remembering. It reveals things about the living, and casts a harsh
light on modern civilisation and some of its failures. There has been
no justice for the victims, and Turkey's denial of the events, and the
indifference of outside observers, had been tolerated all this time.
Turkey still denies genocide, claiming the deaths were due to conflict
between communities, and that the deportation of most of the Armenian
population was a military necessity (Turkey had entered the first
world war, on the side of Germany), or that the Armenians were rebels,
guilty themselves of mass murder, or working for Russia.

When genocide takes place in the shadows of war, and the world behaves
as if nothing had happened, what then? A crime that goes unrecognised
also goes on. Though the Armenians were the principal victims in 1915,
they were not alone: Ottoman Greeks, Assyrians and Yezidis were also
murdered and deported to destroy their communities. At the end of the
war, when the Ottoman empire was defeated and occupied by the Allies,
some Armenian and Assyrian survivors were able to return home. But
with the arrival of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), the nationalist forces
undertook a population exchange with Greece, forcing the returnees
into exile in Syria, then under French control, or Iraq, under British
control. Anatolia was emptied of Christians.

Istanbul, with a mostly Christian population in 1914, was the only
place in Turkey where Greeks and Armenians stayed on. But the state
still persecuted them, depriving them of their livelihoods and
threatening their security. In the 1930s much property belonging to
the Armenian Church or Armenian charities was confiscated, including
the Pangaltý Armenian cemetery, near Gezi Park, now the site of luxury
hotels. The affluent Jewish community of European Turkey was reduced
by massacres organised by the Turkish state, the "Thracian pogroms" of
1934 (4). During the second world war, under the pretext of combating
"speculation", the government introduced a wealth tax, assessed
arbitrarily by municipal officials and payable only in cash: an
Armenian might have to pay 50 times more than a "Muslim" (5). This tax
was designed to eliminate the bourgeoisie among minorities. Their
possessions were sold off at prices well below actual value. Those who
could not pay had their property confiscated and were sent to labour
camps near Erzurum, in the east.

Memories erased

The Cyprus conflict reduced the minorities still further. In September
1955, after false rumours of an attack on the house where Atatürk was
born at Salonica (now Thessaloniki), in Greece, the intelligence
services bussed men into Istanbul's Pera district (now Beyoðlu), where
they attacked businesses, schools and religious institutions belonging
to Greeks and other minorities, while the police looked on. Tens of
thousands of Greeks went into exile.

In Anatolia, memories of the deported populations were erased.
Atatürk's replacement of Arabic script by the Roman alphabet was
celebrated as a victory for modernity. But it also allowed the
replacement of Armenian, Assyrian, Kurdish and Arabic-sounding place
names with Turkish-sounding ones. Thousands of churches and
monasteries were dynamited (6). In 1914, according to the Armenian
patriarchate, the Ottoman empire had an Armenian population of nearly
2 million, out of 16-20 million. Today there are only around 60,000
Armenians in Turkey. Out of 2,500 Armenian churches, only 40 have
survived, 34 of them in Istanbul.

During the first world war, Ottoman forces were under German control
and thousands of German officers directly witnessed, or even took part
in, the murder of Christians of the Ottoman empire. Between the wars,
Germany, facing a great crisis, failed to learn lessons from this: the
Nazis even drew inspiration from the Turkish nationalists (7).

The worst consequences have been in Turkey. In the eastern provinces,
the Kurds -- who had played a key role in the destruction of the
Armenians -- were stigmatised in turn. They had remained loyal to the
Ottomans, the Young Turks and Atatürk. But when Atatürk went back on
his promise of autonomy and replaced the caliphate with a Turkish
national state, the Kurds rebelled. Their uprisings were crushed, and
murders and deportations followed. Kurdish identity was denied: the
Kurds did not exist, and anyone who dared say differently was

Turkey failed to rid itself of this heritage. Those responsible for
the Armenian genocide later formed the backbone of Atatürk's republic:
the Teþkilt-ý Mahsusa (special organisation, SO) was a secret
organisation within the Committee of Union and Progress, the party in
power under the Ottoman empire, and had been established to foment
unrest among Muslim populations of the Russian and British empires.
Though the mission failed abroad, the SO played a key role at home.
Former officers of the SO were crucial in the Turkish war of
independence (1920-2), launched by Atatürk against Greek, French and
British forces, and later became the keystone of the "deep state", a
network of officers within the Turkish republic who enjoyed unlimited
power and were above the law; they repressed democratic progress,
carried out political assassinations and fought Kurdish and leftwing
guerrillas. Under the shelter of the state, they also trafficked

In the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkey sided with Azerbaijan; from 1993
it imposed a blockade against Armenia and the autonomous region of
Nagorno-Karabakh, under de facto Armenian control. The
Turkish-Armenian border remains sealed and heavily guarded. In 2009,
following former Turkish president Abdullah Gül's visit to the
Armenian capital Yerevan, the Zurich protocol was signed, raising
hopes of progress to a peaceful solution (8), but the protocol has not
been ratified. This February Armenia's president Serzh Sargsyan said
Armenia was withdrawing from the process, complaining that the Turkish
government lacked political will and was undermining the spirit and
terms of the protocol. Azerbaijan threatens to use force to resolve
the conflict, and the Turkish government seems to encourage a
maximalist position.

'We are all Armenians'

After decades of silence, Turkey is now remembering the Armenians,
thanks to the work of a few courageous men and women. Ragýp Zarakolou,
a human rights activist and publisher, has translated books on the
genocide into Turkish; as a result, he and his late wife were
imprisoned many times. Taner Akçam, a historian, uncovered the
Armenian massacres in the late 19th century and then the genocide; he
has published in collaboration with the Armenian historian Vahakn
Dadrian (9), and re-established friendship and links between Armenian
and Turkish intellectuals. Academics at the University of Michigan
have undertaken an interdisciplinary study of Turkish-Armenian history
-- the seven international conferences they have organised have moved
Armenian history from the margins to the centre of Ottoman studies

But the most credit goes to Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist
and editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos. He spoke simply but clearly
to Turkish consciences: there used to be people known as Armenians
living here, but they are no longer here. What happened to them? He
once said both peoples were sick: "The Armenians are suffering from
trauma, the Turks from paranoia." Dink was persecuted by the Turkish
state, regularly prosecuted, and murdered outside his paper's offices
in Istanbul in 2007; 100,000 people took to the streets and joined his
funeral procession, chanting: "We are all Hrant Dink. We are all

Vicken Cheterian is a journalist and the author of Open Wounds:
Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide, C Hurst & Co, London,

(1) Fethiye Çetin, My Grandmother: a Memoir, Verso, London and New York, 2008.

(2) Ayþe Gül Altinay and Fethiye Çetin, The Grandchildren,
Transaction, Piscataway (New Jersey), 2014.

(3) Laurence Ritter and Max Sivaslian, Kýlýç Artýklarý (The Remains of
the Sword), Hrant Dink Foundation, 2014.

(4) See Rifat N Bali, Model Citizens of the State: the Jews of Turkey
During the Multi-Party Period, Fairleigh Dickinson, Madison, 2012.

(5) See Stanford J Shaw and Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman
Empire and Modern Turkey, vol 2, Cambridge University Press, 1977.

(6) Raymond Kévorkian, The Armenian Genocide: a Complete History, I B
Tauris, London and New York, 2011.

(7) See Stefan Ihrig, Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, 2014.

(8) Vicken Cheterian, War and Peace in the Caucasus: Russia's Troubled
Frontier, C Hurst & Co, London, 2009.

(9) Vahakn N Dadrian and Taner Akçam, Judgment at Istanbul: the
Armenian Genocide Trials, Berghahn Books, New York, 2011.

(10) Some of their work has been published in Ronald Grigor Suny,
Fatma Müge Göçek and Norman M Naimark (eds), A Question of Genocide:
Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, Oxford
University Press, 2012.

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