Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Armenian News...A Topalian... How did the Genocide shape your history?

How did the Armenian genocide shape your history?
Maeve Shearlaw
13 April 2015 

As centenary commemorations of the 1915 massacre begin we’re 

asking Armenians to share stories about the impact it had on their 

Preparations are under way to mark the centenary of the Armenian
 genocide. According to historical estimates 1.5 million people lost 
their lives in state-organised violence at the hands of Ottoman 
forces, in what was then eastern Turkey.

The massacre, which is commemorated on 24 April 2015, also 
saw hundreds and thousands of Armenians displaced .

The term genocide is controversial. Turkey has refused to recognise 
the event, claiming tha t although between 300,000 – 500,000 
Armenians died, at least as many Turks lost their lives as Armenians 
rose up against their Ottoman rulers siding with invading Russian 

In recent years the Turkish government has made moves to 
recognise the suffering, but Armenia has accused the Turks of 
continuing to ignore the facts.

In special mass at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis called 
the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century”, a message 
which Turkey received with “great disappointment and sadness”. 

Your stories

If you are in Armenia, or part of the Armenian diaspora living 
abroad, we want to hear your stories of how the genocide 
shaped your family history.

Have you held on to artefacts, letters or photos from the time? 
Did your family escape, and how has that affected where you 
live today? We’d also like to hear how you commemorate the 
anniversary – and if you are doing anything special to mark 
the centenary. 

Email maeve.shearlaw@theguardian.com and we’ll use some of 
them in our coverage of the anniversary 
or click here to share your story. 


Pope boosts Armenia's efforts to have Ottoman killings 
recognised as genocide
Ian Black in Yerevan and Rosie Scammell in Rome
12 April 2015

Pope Francis delivers powerful message by recognising atrocities 
between 1915 and 1922 as genocide in speech at Vatican on eve
of centenary 

Armenia’s efforts to promote greater awareness of the massacre 
of 1.5 million of its people by Turkey during the fall of the Ottoman 
empire were given a dramatic boost on Sunday by the pope’s 
description of the atrocities as “the first genocide of the 20 th century”
 – days ahead of the centenary of the event. 

Pope Francis used a special mass in St Peter’s Basilica to mark 
the anniversary , and referred to “three massive and unprecedented 
tragedies” of the last century. 

“The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the 
20 th century, struck your own Armenian people,” the pontiff said. 
“Bishops and priests, religious women and men, the elderly and 
even defenceless children and the infirm were murdered.” 

Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were 
killed in state-organised violence between 1915 and 1922. Russia, 
France and about 20 other countries recognise it as genocide. 

The US and Britain do not, however: most likely to avoid angering 
their Nato ally. The Turkish government rejects the term and 
emphasises wartime conditions, although in recent years it has 
acknowledged Armenian suffering. 

Turkey immediately summoned the papal ambassador to Ankara 
to express its displeasure and later recalled its ambassador from 
the Vatican. The foreign ministry said the pope had contradicted 
his message of peace and dialogue during a visit to Turkey in 

Expressing “great disappointment and sadness”, it called the 
message discriminatory because it only mentioned the pain 
suffered by Christian Armenians, and not Muslims and other
 religious groups. 

The fate of the Armenians and impunity for their killers has come 
to be seen as foreshadowing the Nazi extermination of 6 million 
Jews 25 years later. The concept of genocide was recognised 
by the UN in 1948. Armenia hopes wider international recognition 
will increase pressure on Turkey, though their relations are 
complicated by other factors, including the conflict between Armenia 
and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Strictly speaking, it was not the first such announcement. In 2001 
Pope John Paul II and Kerekin II, the leader of the Armenian
 Apostolic church, used identical language to that used by Pope 
Francis on Sunday. The original statement, however, was issued 
in Echmiadzin, the Armenian equivalent of the Vatican, rather than 
in Rome. 

Analysts said the timing was also highly significant, coming so 
close to the 24 April commemoration event in Yerevan and around 
the world. Turkey has infuriated Armenians by choosing to mark 
the centenary of the wartime Gallipoli landings on exactly the same 
date, a move deliberately designed to overshadow remembrance 
of the genocide. Gallipoli has never before been commemorated 
on that day. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also ignored an invitation from 
the Armenian president, Serž Sargasyan, for him to come to Yerevan. 
The Armenian government is expected to welcome the statement 
when Sargasyan, who attended the mass, returns from Rome. 

“This is the first time a mass was dedicated to the Armenian 
genocide victims in St Peter’s,” said commentator Ara Tadevosyan. 
“The pope’s acknowledgement that ours was the first genocide of 
the 20 th century is very important. It’s another sign that the civilized 
world is accepting what happened to us despite all the pressure 
from Turkey.” 

The pontiff’s decision to bracket the mass killing of Armenians 
with the crimes perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism gives the 
Vatican’s “highest sanction” to genocide recognition, said Theo 
van Lint, a professor of Armenian studies at the University of 
Oxford. “I think it’s very important to realise he gave space to the 
leaders, the heads of the Armenian church and Armenian Catholics, 
to fully give their view of events. It’s very clear that the pope accepts 
that it is a genocide.” 

The pope was joined by Kerekin II, Sargasyan and other dignitaries. 
Allowing Armenian leaders to speak in St Peter’s Basilica was 
described as a “strategic move” by Van Lint. 

Igor Dorfmann-Lazarev, a researcher on Armenian history at the 
School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London, said the 
ceremony also demonstrated the pope’s efforts to put peripheral 
Christian groups at the centre of the Catholic church. “This is the 
first time that Armenia is the centre of attention of Catholic life 
and the Christian world,” he said. “It’s meant to draw attention 
to the Christian east.” 

Pope Francis also declared a 10th-century Armenian monk, 
St Gregory of Narek, a “doctor of the church”. The mystic and 
poet is celebrated for his writings, some of which are still 
recited in Armenian churches. 

Britain will be represented at the Yerevan genocide centennial 
by the Conservative MP John Whittingdale, the chairman of the 
British-Armenian all-party group. The UK representation at the 
Gallipoli anniversary will be led by the Prince of Wales. 

The Associated Press in Ankara contributed to this Report 

[there is an error in the above report. John Whiiingdale is no longer
an MP after the dissolution of Parliament. So the British government
is to be represented by a private individual whilst the two other
co-signatories of the May 1915 Statement are to be represented 
by their Heads of State. Shame on the British government.] 

April 13 2015

Anger over Armenia

AS THIS weekend's rupture between the Vatican and the Turkish
government demonstrated, upsetting people has become an integral
part of being pope these days. On April 12th Pope Francis delivered
an address in which he came down more publicly than ever before
in favour of the Armenian interpretation of the state-sanctioned
persecution in Anatolia a hundred years ago that killed as many as 1.5m
Armenians. At a mass attended by Armenia's president, Serzh Sargsyan,
Francis called it "the first genocide of the 20th century". Turkey
hit back by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See for consultations
and declaring that the pope's remarks were based on "prejudice".

Roman pontiffs are in a better position than most chief executives
to speak undiplomatic truths. They have no career prospects to worry
about, and since they (along with most of the world's 1.2 billion
baptised Catholics) believe they are God's chief representatives on
earth, they feel they have a moral duty to tell it like it is--or,
at least, how they believe it to be. The deceptively mild-mannered
Benedict XVI succeeded at different times in offending Muslims,
Jews and large numbers of Latin Americans, in some cases unnecessarily.

His successor Francis has carried on the tradition. But until this
week, his barbs were directed mostly at people who had few means of
retaliation, such as worldly Vatican bigwigs and capitalists lacking
in social conscience. The Turkish government, on the other hand,
is making the Vatican pay a diplomatic price.

Why the fuss? This is not the first time that Francis has called the
Armenian genocide by its name. He did the same on June 3rd, when
he met a delegation of Armenians led by a patriarch of the Middle
Eastern diaspora. Then, the Turkish authorities limited themselves
to expressing "disappointment" and calling in the Vatican's envoy
for a telling-off. But there is a big difference between making
such a remark at a small event that went nearly unreported in the
international media, and doing so in a much-awaited speech 12 days
ahead of the Armenian genocide's official centenary commemoration.

Turkish diplomats are understood to have lobbied hard to prevent
Francis from referring to the Armenian massacres as genocide. Turkey
has fought for decades to prevent widespread acceptance of a term
that places the Ottoman authorities of the early 20th century on the
same plane with the Nazis, Stalin, Pol Pot or the perpetrators of
atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia. The effort seems quixotic, given
that Raphael Lemkin, the inventor of the term "genocide", used the
Armenian case as his model.

In deciding to ignore Turkish entreaties, the pope and his diplomatic
advisers in the Secretariat of State will have weighed two factors. On
the one hand, there is no Muslim state with which the Holy See has
built warmer relations than Turkey. Both Francis and Benedict have
visited the country, and Vatican officials recognise that under its
current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has gone further than
ever in acknowledging what happened to the Armenians.

But such goodwill apparently counted for less than the Vatican's
growing desperation over Islamist persecution of Christians, and
what officials see as the failure of Muslim clerics and politicians
to effectively oppose it. Recent months have seen mass killings
of Christians by Muslims in Nigeria, Libya and Kenya. Top of the
Vatican's list of concerns are Iraq and Syria, where the pope and
his advisers believe they are witnessing a decisive phase in the
eradication of Christianity from countries where it has been present
for millennia. Turkey's equivocal response to the activities of
Islamic State has not helped.

For more than a decade, the Vatican has been the scene of a tug-of-war
between proponents of careful dialogue with Islam and advocates of
bluntness. The latter group feel that tact has got Christians nowhere,
and that plain speaking is required even if it proves offensive. This
group clearly had the upper hand under Benedict. Francis's latest
comment suggests they are back in the ascendancy. 

independent .co.uk 
Friday 10 April 2015  

The Ottoman empire murdered 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 

Kim and Khloe Kardashian are on a tour of Armenia to raise awareness 
of the 100th anniversary of the genocide that claimed the lives of 
1.5 million people. 

Their trip, which has almost taken on the nature of a state visit - 
has seen them meet the Prime Minister, Hovik Abrahamyan, and look at 
monuments in Yerevan, all while flanked by hysterical mobs of teens 
and paparazzi. 

Describing her visit as the "journey of a lifetime", Kim Kardashian - 
who is of Armenian heritage - has praised her ancestral home. 

"Hovik Abrahamyan hailed the fact that members of the Kardashian 
family never forgot their roots and added that their visit would make 
[Armenia] better recognizable," Public Radio of Armenia broadcast 
after the Kardashian sisters met the Prime Minister. 

A government statement said: "The Kardashians apologised for not 
speaking Armenian but said they are learning their native language." 

It added: "They pledged to continue the struggle for international 
recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide." 

Kim Kardashian has documented the trip on social media, and has been 
accompanied by her husband Kanye West and their daughter North. 

In 1915, the Ottoman empire committed a holocaust against Armenian men, 
women and children. 

Kim Kardashian has long been a strong voice to remember the massacre. 

"I have been really passionate about getting people to acknowledge 
the Armenian genocide," she said in in 2012. 

The Kardashian family escaped Armenia in 1913, before the genocide. 

She has won plaudits from some of the most unlikely people for her 
work for the Armenian people. 

"For all the flak people give Kim Kardashian, I could say that with 
her yearly commemorations of the Armenian genocide and spreading that 
word, she's been valuable. She's been great," Armenian-American Serj 
Tankian, System of a Down front man, told Rolling Stone. 

It is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on 24 April. 

Channel 4 News
April 13 2015
Jonathan Rugman on Foreign Affairs

The Pope has called the massacre of Armenians a hundred years ago
"the first genocide of the 20th century", ensuring that this year's
centenary of the killings between 1915 and 1923 is making headlines
the Turkish authorities would rather not read.

The Turks would prefer to focus on the centenary of the Gallipoli
landings this year, a great Ottoman victory which left over well over
100,000 dead in battle.

How many Turks died defending the Dardanelles is another matter of
dispute - probably more than some Turkish historians claim. But the
truth of both incidents - the killings of Armenians and the Gallipoli
campaign - exposes a fragility at the heart of modern Turkey, dating
back to the era of Ataturk, the country's founder, which has never
gone away.

The Turks have long struggled to come to terms with the facts of the
violent birth of their country from the ruins of the Ottoman empire.

There has always been a degree of myth-making about modern Turkey.

Much of that myth was deemed necessary to create a single, unitary
state from competing nationalities, languages and creeds - Greeks,
Kurds, Armenians and so on.

And, by and large, that project of Turkish nationhood has been a
phenomenal success, not always acknowledged by what we might now
call the liberation movements which went to war with the Turks as
the empire collapsed. (Compare Turkey's success with its southern
neighbours today, Syria and Iraq, or with the Caucasus, including
Armenia, under the Soviet yoke.)

Nevertheless, it is hard for those who are not Armenian to appreciate
how significant Turkey's acknowledgement of what happened would be.

This argument about "genocide" is not, as it has sometimes been in
the past, a political stick with which to beat the Turks. If anything,
modern Turkey as a vibrant free market democracy has the opportunity
to disassociate itself from the crimes of its Ottoman forebears,
although this may now be harder since President Erdogan harks back
to the glories of the Ottoman empire and is therefore less likely to
dwell on its mistakes.

That said, Erdogan has gone further than his predecessors. And the
timing of the Pope's remarks could be deemed inappropriate, given
the vast number of refugees from modern-day massacres in Syria and
Iraq now seeking refuge in Turkey - far, far more refugees than any
nominally Christian nation has taken in.

In fact, the present-day plight of Christians in the turbulent
Middle East may well have been on the Pope's mind when he spoke about
the Armenians yesterday - and, in that sense, upsetting the Turks,
however unintentionally, was perhaps not the best idea.

Still, this Pope is inclined to speak his mind, and now he has. And it
is time that Turks came to terms with the Ottoman past. A past which 
is not, after all, entirely theirs. Meanwhile, the bones of many 
Armenians who died on forced marches across Syria 100 ago now 
reside in territory not occupied by Turkey but by ruthless jihadists 
of "Islamic State".

Jonathan Rugman is the author of Ataturk's Children 

Catholic Herald
April 13 2015
by Francis Phillips

A new book describes why Turkey is right to have an uneasy conscience
over its treatment of the Armenians

Yesterday, before celebrating Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope
Francis made a pointed reference to the centenary of what is called by
Armenians their "martyrdom" and by others as their genocide. Speaking
of the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 and
addressing members of the Armenian rite who were present at Sunday's
Mass, the Pope recalled that "in the past century our human family has
lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first,
which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the twentieth
century', struck your own people, the first Christian nation."

His words were quoted from a common declaration signed by both St John
Paul II and Supreme Armenian Patriarch Karekin II in 2001. Inevitably,
they have caused great annoyance in Turkey, which has never publically
admitted the part it played in the events of 1915.

It so happens I have been reading a fascinating book, Family Politics:
Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival 1900-1950 by Paul Ginsborg,
professor of Contemporary European History at the University of
Florence, in which, along with Spain, Italy, Russia and Germany,
he examines the history behind the rise of modern Turkey. He makes
it quite clear that although the numbers currently thought to have
died in the genocide, roughly 1.5 million Armenians, are probably
somewhat lower, actual historical evidence for what happened is

As with other 20th century genocides, such as that of the Jews under
Nazism, the deliberate killing of the Ottoman Armenians came about for
several reasons. The "Young Turks", under their Committee of Union and
Progress (CUP) had wrested power from the crumbling Ottoman Empire in
1913. Their political objective was "Turkism", a deliberate appeal
to the nationalistic aspirations of the majority Muslim population
of Turkey. The two million Armenians among the population, who for
centuries had co-existed side by side with their Muslim neighbours
in a mainly cordial fashion, were now regarded with growing hostility.

World War I brought its own huge upheavals to this increasingly
unstable situation. Turkish Armenians were accused of making contact
with Russia, the Turks' official enemy; in Anatolia and the Caucasus
land ownership began to be disputed between the Turks, the Armenians
and the Kurds; and the Armenians themselves had started to assert their
own nationalistic aspirations. Ginsborg adds two more elements that
tipped this volatile situation into genocide: the huge death toll of
WWI which brought its own callousness and indifference to the value
of life; and "a Turco-Ottoman leadership intent on the survival of
their state at any cost."

The Turks had also suffered terrible losses at the hands of the
Russians in the Caucasus in 1914. Their fury at defeat made them turn
on the Armenians whom they identified as their principal internal
enemy. The CUP leaders began the grisly process of ethnic cleansing
and mass deportations in the spring and summer of 1915. Generally
the men were killed immediately and the women and children were
subsequently deported on appalling long forced marches into what is
today northern Syria and Iraq. The CUP masked the deliberate genocide
of their Armenian population as the "transference" of peoples to
another location. They also covered up the evidence of their deadly
policies by ordering all corpses on the march to be buried and their
effects immediately burned.

According to Ginsborg, most genocide scholars estimate that, through
the killings and deaths from exposure, starvation and thirst, between
700,000 and 900,000 Armenian Ottomans died - some 50% of the pre-war
population. He also argues that the victorious Western Powers were
complicit in what took place: faced with the existence of the new
Republic of Turkey and morally exhausted by the War, they let the
question of genocide drop in their wish to make peace with Mustafa
Kemal's new country.

Thus the new Republic was never called to account for its crimes when
the historical evidence was still fresh in people's memories. It was
allowed to deny that genocide had ever taken place without protest
and to pretend that what happened was simply part of the civil and
political unrest and chaos during WWI. Nonetheless, Ginsborg is clear
that Kemal's regime was "packed from top to bottom with participants
in the murders of 1915-1916". That their successors today still
cannot face what their predecessors did - unlike Germany after WW2 -
is a sign of a nation with an uneasy conscience. To refer to the word
"genocide" became a crime in Turkey, an indication of a wound that
still festers in the nati 

Catholic Herald
April 13 2015

Francis was speaking delivered a message at a Mass at St Peter's
Basilica on Sunday

Dear Armenian Brothers and Sisters,

A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a
true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died
as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ (cf. John Paul
II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September
2001). Even today, there is not an Armenian family untouched by the
loss of loved ones due to that tragedy: it truly was "Metz Yeghern",
the "Great Evil", as it is known by Armenians. On this anniversary,
I feel a great closeness to your people and I wish to unite myself
spiritually to the prayers which rise up from your hearts, your
families and your communities.

Today is a propitious occasion for us to pray together, as we proclaim
Saint Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church. I wish to express my
deep gratitude for the presence here today of His Holiness Karekin II,
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Aram
I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses
Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics.

Saint Gregory of Narek, a monk of the tenth century, knew how to
express the sentiments of your people more than anyone. He gave voice
to the cry, which became a prayer, of a sinful and sorrowful humanity,
oppressed by the anguish of its powerlessness, but illuminated by
the splendour of God's love and open to the hope of his salvific
intervention, which is capable of transforming all things. "Through
his strength I wait with certain expectation believing with unwavering
hope that... I shall be saved by the Lord's mighty hand and... that I
will see the Lord himself in his mercy and compassion and receive the
legacy of heaven" (Saint Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations, XII).

Your Christian identity is indeed ancient, dating from the year 301,
when Saint Gregory the Illuminator guided Armenia to conversion
and baptism. You were the first among nations in the course of the
centuries to embrace the Gospel of Christ. That spiritual event
indelibly marked the Armenian people, as well as its culture and
history, in which martyrdom holds a preeminent place, as attested
to symbolically by the sacrificial witness of Saint Vardan and his
companions in the fifth century.

Your people, illuminated by Christ's light and by his grace, have
overcome many trials and sufferings, animated by the hope which comes
from the Cross (cf. Rom 8:31-39). As Saint John Paul II said to you,
"Your history of suffering and martyrdom is a precious pearl, of
which the universal Church is proud. Faith in Christ, man's Redeemer,
infused you with an admirable courage on your path, so often like
that of the Cross, on which you have advanced with determination,
intent on preserving your identity as a people and as believers"
(Homily, 21 November 1987).

This faith also accompanied and sustained your people during the tragic
experience one hundred years ago "in what is generally referred to as
the first genocide of the twentieth century" (John Paul II and Karekin
II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001). Pope Benedict
XV, who condemned the First World War as a "senseless slaughter" (AAS,
IX [1917], 429), did everything in his power until the very end to
stop it, continuing the efforts at mediation already begun by Pope
Leo XIII when confronted with the "deadly events" of 1894-96. For
this reason, Pope Benedict XV wrote to Sultan Mehmed V, pleading
that the many innocents be saved (cf. Letter of 10 September 1915)
and, in the Secret Consistory of 6 December 1915, he declared with
great dismay, "Miserrima Armenorum gens ad interitum prope ducitur"
(AAS, VII [1915], 510).

It is the responsibility not only of the Armenian people and the
universal Church to recall all that has taken place, but of the
entire human family, so that the warnings from this tragedy will
protect us from falling into a similar horror, which offends against
God and human dignity. Today too, in fact, these conflicts at times
degenerate into unjustifiable violence, stirred up by exploiting
ethnic and religious differences. All who are Heads of State and of
International Organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a
firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.

May this sorrowful anniversary become for all an occasion of humble
and sincere reflection, and may every heart be open to forgiveness,
which is the source of peace and renewed hope. Saint Gregory of Narek,
an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which
are prophetic for us: "I willingly blame myself with myriad accounts
of all the incurable sins, from our first forefather through the end
of his generations in all eternity, I charge myself with all these
voluntarily" (Book of Lamentations, LXXII). How striking is his sense
of universal solidarity! How small we feel before the greatness of his
invocations: "Remember, [Lord,]... those of the human race who are our
enemies as well, and for their benefit accord them pardon and mercy...

Do not destroy those who persecute me, but reform them, root out
the vile ways of this world, and plant the good in me and them"
(ibid., LXXXIII).

May God grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the
path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno
Karabakh. Despite conflicts and tensions, Armenians and Turks have
lived long periods of peaceful coexistence in the past and, even in
the midst of violence, they have experienced times of solidarity and
mutual help. Only in this way will new generations open themselves
to a better future and will the sacrifice of so many become seeds of
justice and peace.

For us Christians, may this be above all a time of deep prayer.

Through the redemptive power of Christ's sacrifice, may the blood
which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his
disciples. In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal
friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian
Apostolic Church.

The witness of many defenceless brothers and sisters who sacrificed
their lives for the faith unites the diverse confessions: it is the
ecumenism of blood, which led Saint John Paul II to celebrate all the
martyrs of the twentieth century together during the Jubilee of 2000.

Our celebration today also is situated in this spiritual and ecclesial
context. Representatives of our two Churches are participating in this
event to which many of our faithful throughout the world are united
spiritually, in a sign which reflects on earth the perfect communion
that exists between the blessed souls in heaven. With brotherly
affection, I assure you of my closeness on the occasion of the
canonization ceremony of the martyrs of the Armenian Apostolic Church,
to be held this coming 23 April in the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, and
on the occasion of the commemorations to be held in Antelias in July.

I entrust these intentions to the Mother of God, in the words of
Saint Gregory of Narek:

"O Most Pure of Virgins, first among the blessed, Mother of the
unshakeable edifice of the Church, Mother of the immaculate Word of
God, (...)

Taking refuge beneath your boundless wings which grant us the
protection of your intercession, we lift up our hands to you, and
with unquestioned hope we believe that we are saved".

(Panegyric of the Theotokos)

(From the Vatican, April 12 2015)

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