Thursday, 23 April 2015

Armenian News...A Topalian ... Prepare for the 100th - News and Route your Roots

100routes - Route your Roots

This project, on the Armenian Genocide Centennial, is dedicated to the memories of the 1.5 million Armenian families that lost their lives in 1915. The descendants of these survivors can now be found in the four corners of the Globe, forming communities, building churches, and founding schools. This interactive site aims to collect all of these journeys by mapping the dispersement paths of Armenian families in the years following their expulsions from their ancient homelands. As descendants of these survivors, You can trace our roots by inserting:
  • Your name/family name (or choose to remain anonymous)
  • Your family’s point of Origin in the Armenian Highlands - Հայկական լեռնաշխարհ / Anatolia
  • Search for up to 4 cities where your family members have resided over the last century. If your desired city isn’t in the list, please choose the closest large city to it.
  • Compare your family’s journey with that of other users!
A small country but a big nation: how genocide shaped the 
Armenia of today 
22 April 2015

As Armenians mark the beginning of violence that left 1.5 million dead, Turkey’s lack of contrition leaves descendants struggling to reconcile loss and renewal
Ian Black in Yerevan

In the beginning you hardly notice them: little lapel buttons in purple, yellow and black to mourn the dead and a lost homeland. But then there are the posters, T-shirts, umbrellas, bumper stickers, even cakes, all bearing the same forget-me-not flower designed to commemorate the tragedy of a nation.

It is the symbol of the centenary of the Armenian genocide of 1915, being marked this week in solemn ceremonies in Yerevan and wherever in the world this ancient people fled in the wake of the mass atrocities suffered in the dying days of the Ottoman empire.

This newly invented tradition, a poppy-like throwback to the killing fields of eastern Anatolia, has triggered complaints about commercialisation. But it has caught on. Across Armenia , in schools and homes, and as far away as the diaspora community of Glendale, California, children have picked up crayons and scissors to make their own paper flowers or have planted the real thing in remembrance of the horrors that beset their forebears.

The centenary on 24 April provides a rare opportunity to focus global attention on killings that were once notorious, then faded from view, were fought over in a vicious propaganda war, and are now widely seen as a crime on a monumental scale – and a grim precursor to the Nazi Holocaust. In their different ways, the pope and the reality TV star Kim Kardashian both highlighted the issue last week, much to the fury of Turks who continue to dispute the Armenian version of events.

Final preparations for Friday’s commemoration are under way at Armenia’s genocide memorial on the Tsitsernakaberd plateau, overlooking Yerevan. It features a bunker-like museum and a tapering grey stele pointing skywards like an accusing finger. To the south, on the Turkish side of the long-closed border, Mount Ararat beckons through spring clouds, snow-covered and majestic.

The big names on the day will include Vladimir Putin and François Hollande, leaders of the largest of the 20 countries to have formally recognised the genocide. But western governments that have not, including Britain, are sending low-profile officials to Yerevan, and far more senior representatives to Turkey to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, the date deliberately and cynically chosen by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – so furious Armenians believe – in order to sabotage their own ceremony. 

“I am proud to be here and I understand why I am here,” said Milena Avetisyan, 16, looking formal in black suit, white blouse and sensible pumps, standing with an honour guard of her classmates outside the memorial’s cone of basalt slabs, an eternal flame burning at its centre. “It is a call to the world to recognise the Armenian genocide. It is to show that we remember and demand.”

Analysis The Armenian genocide – the Guardian briefing 

Turkey has never accepted the term genocide, even though historians have demolished its denial of responsibility for up to 1.5 million deaths

The slogan lies at the heart of the campaign for the Turkish state to recognise that its Ottoman predecessor annihilated up to 1.5 million Armenian citizens, starting on 24 April 1915 with the arrest of intellectuals in Constantinople and continuing with a centralised programme of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1922. The shadowy Teskilat e-Mahsusa (“special organisation”) drew up plans and sent coded, euphemistic telegrams to provincial officials and dispatched its victims on railway journeys to oblivion in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. Henry Morgenthau, the US ambassador, described the Turks as giving “a death warrant to a whole race”.

On 23 April, at Etchmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic church, the martyrs will be canonised collectively – renewing a tradition dating back 1,700 years. “We have to liberate our own people from hostility and hatred,” explained Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan. “And we have to liberate the Turks, to cleanse themselves from the pain of genocide.”

It was at Etchmiadzin in 1965 – the 50th anniversary of the slaughter, a key moment of Armenian national awakening, and when many witnesses were still alive – that the bleached bones of the dead were brought from Deir ez-Zor in Syria for reburial.

Numerous centenary events, such as conferences, exhibitions and concerts, underline how closely this country’s identity and future are bound up with the bloody past. Raw emotion, competing narratives and an ongoing diplomatic crisis make for a difficult combination.

“International recognition is fine but, if Turkey doesn’t do it, then we won’t have the security we need,” said Tevan Poghosyan, an MP for the nationalist Heritage party. “It is a security issue because the genocide happened to us. It is our nation that lost its homeland and was scattered around the world. It is not just a historical issue.”

History does cast a long shadow. Modern Armenia won its independence in 1918, but was taken over by the Soviet Union two years later and only regained its freedom in 1991. Landlocked and poor, its 3 million people include many descendants of the survivors of the genocide, though far more of them live in the diaspora of 7 million to 10 million, concentrated in Russia, the US and France – a split that has had a powerful effect on the politics of commemoration and the closely linked question of the troubled relations between Yerevan and Ankara.

Scholars say denial is the last stage of the crime of genocide Vigen Sargsyan, Armenian presidential adviser

Turkey’s behaviour is seen as consistent with its traditional animosity towards the Armenians. The border has remained shut since 1993, part of the continuing stand-off over Nagorno-Karabakh , the ethnic Armenian region of neighbouring Azerbaijan, in which Ankara supports Baku. That “frozen conflict” has heated up into a shooting war in the past year so the issue is live and dangerous. People and goods do get through from Turkey by air and by land via Georgia but the blockade is damaging to an already fragile economy and ties it uncomfortably closely to Russia.

“Turkey has engaged in a proactive policy of denial, and scholars say denial is the last stage of the crime of genocide,” said Vigen Sargsyan, the presidential adviser in charge of centennial events. “Genocide is based on xenophobia and it has a tendency to affect the current policy of the state that denies it. Turkey has an anti-Armenian policy. The burden of proof is with them to show that it does not.”

Independent Armenian voices readily acknowledge the changes that have taken place in Turkey, where liberal intellectuals, civil society and Kurdish groups accept that genocide occurred. Thousands signed the “We Apologise” petition in the spirit of the Armenian-Turkish writer Hrant Dink , who was murdered in 2007. Memorial ceremonies will be held in Istanbul and elsewhere, and Turkish delegations will be in Yerevan on 24 April. Last year Erdoğan referred to the victims as “Ottoman citizens” and sent “condolences” to their descendants.

But his Gallipoli manoeuvre has been a crude reminder of the refusal of the Turkish state to go any further than what many in Yerevan dismiss as “repackaged denial”.

The cultivation of memory is presented as a national duty. There is a striking parallel with Israel, where the Nazi holocaust is seen as part of the state’s raison d’etre. Like Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Yerevan’s genocide memorial is invariably the first stop for visiting foreign VIPs – many of their names inscribed on plaques under the trees in its “alley of memory”.

New interactive exhibits are being installed so that an Armenian child of today can connect to one of his or her own age in those times of savagery and terror. “We try to avoid the most horrible photographs of human remains,” said Suren Manukyan, the museum’s deputy director, “or at least to use them on touch screens rather than on public display.”

It is not only the atrocities that are remembered

Individual memories do not need to be curated by the state. It is common to hear stories of a grandmother fleeing to the screams of men burning alive; of orphans blinded and girls abducted.

But it is not only the atrocities that are remembered. In Nerkin Sasnashen, a village of simple stone houses, unpaved roads and a ruined 7th-century monastery, locals talk animatedly about their roots in Sasun, a mountainous region of what is now Turkey’s Batman province and a stronghold of Armenian resistance to Turks and Kurds – who carried out a notorious massacre in 1894. The second word of the village’s name means “built by people from Sasun”.

Handfuls of earth from Sasun are thrown into graves and at one recent baptism the proud parents gave the priest consecrated oil brought from there. “We even name our children after the towns and villages of western Armenia,” said Andranik Shamoyan – his own first name recalling the most celebrated of his people’s national heroes .

Arayan Hendrik, a leathery-faced 72-year-old sitting back after a festive lunch of kebab, lavash bread and vodka toasts, sang movingly of the beauty of Sasun in the dialect spoken there in 1915. “Our children dance the same dances as their great-grandparents did,” he said. “They are part of our history that we want to hand down to the next generations. They are a connection between us and the lands we left.”

Many have travelled to Turkey to seek their roots but say they find it an unsettling, emotionally wrenching experience. Others refuse to visit their homeland as tourists. If the border were open, it would be just a 90-minute drive from Yerevan to Ararat. As it is, the journey there, via Georgia, takes 14 hours. Unlike Palestinians, few Armenians articulate a “right of return” to their lost patrimony. “It is not that people don’t dream about their land,” suggested Poghosyan. “But they do have a state now and they need to build it.”

We live in a small territory but we are a big nation Hranush Hakobyan, Armenia's minister for the diaspora

Armenian government policy does not include demands for territory or reparations, as organisations in the more militantly nationalist diaspora would like. Yerevan seeks normalisation of relations with Ankara, starting with the crucial reopening of the border, to promote reconciliation that it hopes will eventually bring genocide recognition – even if that takes decades.

Optimism peaked in 2009, when protocols brokered by the Swiss and endorsed by the US and EU were signed in Zurich, crucially with no mention of the horrors of 1915. But they were never ratified – because the Turks insisted on linking them to progress on Nagorno-Karabakh. It has been downhill ever since, relations now frozen in an atmosphere of deep mistrust. The vacuum is being filled by strident, anti-Turkish voices from the diaspora, and attitudes are hardening at home as well.

Talk of greater unity is rife. “We live in a small territory but we are a big nation,” said Hranush Hakobyan, minister for the diaspora. “Anyone who deals with us is dealing with 12 million Armenians.” The country’s entry to this year’s Eurovision song contest will be sung by a six-strong band – one singer each from the five continents of the diaspora and one from the republic. The title of the song is Don’t Deny.

“Nationalist tendencies are gaining the upper hand,” warned Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, a highly regarded historian of Turkey. “People feel that we tried to help the Turks to come to terms but they failed, so why should we trust them again?”

No one expects much to change after 24 April, even if Erdoğan comes up with another expression of qualified contrition that avoids the totemic G-word. There are signs, however, of a debate about the style of the genocide commemoration, dominated by the ubiquitous forget-me-not. The forget-me-not flower designed to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian genocide.The forget-me-not flower designed to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian genocide. Photograph: PR

“I was a bit critical of this campaign at first but it is the first time Armenians have associated themselves with a symbol,” said Ter-Matevosyan. “This is about modernising genocide discourse, a sort of rebranding. Now it is the fifth generation since the genocide so you do need to reach out to young people with a different message.”

But Tigran Matosyan, a sociologist, warned of “a ritual without reflection” that was not relevant to the country’s needs. “Armenia has lots of problems and I wish the centennial could be used as an opportunity to reflect on them,” he said. “Armenia wants to be a democracy, but it’s not. There’s huge social injustice as well. That’s not becoming for a people who suffered genocide.”

Isabella Sargsyan, who promotes Armenian-Turkish reconciliation, remembers her first meeting as a teenager with a Turk from Kars, her family’s ancestral home, and bursting into tears, lost for words. “It’s not that I am not sorry for the genocide,” she said. “I am. But I don’t like the way it is dealt with publicly. And it is also not the only thing that shapes my identity. The old diaspora is focused on the genocide. It’s an identity issue for them. We are citizens. The fact that we have this tiny piece of land is a miracle. The primary goal for the Republic of Armenia is to be a decent place for the people who live here.”

Still, time alone, it seems, cannot heal the open wounds of a century ago. Remembering is the easy part. Fulfilling the demand that goes with it is far harder. “Other genocides have been recognised, but ours has not been,” said Andranik Shamoyan. “It will be part of our lives always. You cannot just turn this page.”
from the magazine  section
The Armenian rugs that tell two stories
By Liana Aghajanian Los Angeles
22 April 2015

The story of two rugs, one given to US President Calvin Coolidge, and another recently found in a home in San Diego, helps unravel the history of the US's first humanitarian aid effort and the tragic fate of Armenians in Turkey 100 years ago.

When Maggie Mangassarian-Goschin walked into the home of 97-year-old Elibet Kunzler last July, she instantly knew the importance of what she had found.

Lying in the middle of the living room was a striking, colourful rug with more than 800,000 hand-tied knots. It was decorated with exotic plants, prancing deer and leopards that almost looked like they were leaping off the ground. To Mangassarian-Goschin it was clear this was an incredible missing piece of history.

The rug was woven by refugee orphans in Lebanon who had been saved from the 1915 Ottoman-era massacre of 1.5 million Armenians - a massacre that many scholars regard as genocide. More than 3,000 rugs were made and given to American donors who had paid for the children to be looked after.

This one remained hidden for almost 70 years in Kunzler's home, travelling with her from Lebanon, to New York, New Hampshire and finally San Diego, where she settled with her husband and children.

"I had a feeling, that there was something with this rug, because I had never seen anything like this in my entire life," says Mangassarian-Goschin, director of the Ararat-Eskijian Museum in Mission Hills, California, which specialises in Armenian antiquities. Close up of leopard or lion

Now, on the 100th anniversary of the massacre, this orphan rug and others like it are serving as a reminder of the US's first humanitarian relief effort, and allowing Armenians to connect with an important, if bitter part of their heritage. A poster for the American Committee for Relief in the Near EastThe American Committee for Relief in the Near East pioneered the use of posters in campaigning

The American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief, now known as the Near East Foundation, was the first nonsectarian international relief campaign to exist in the US.

It was founded in response to the plight of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians who were subject to deportation, forced marches, starvation, and execution at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, in the early months of World War One.

Cans of condensed milk were collected at film screenings across the US, and child actor Jackie Coogan who starred in Charlie Chaplin's classic, The Kid, passionately campaigned to raise funds. More than $110 million - an incredible sum at the time - was donated to fund schools, orphanages and other facilities. These efforts saved the lives of a million refugees, including more than 100,000 Armenian orphans.

Kunzler's father, Jacob, was a Swiss missionary working for the relief committee as an orphanage director, evacuating Armenian orphans from Urfa, in Turkey, by foot, wagon and donkey to the mountain village of Ghazir in Lebanon. Once they were settled, he created rug-weaving facilities in the orphanage with the help of Armenian master weaver Hovhannes Taschjian, who trained more than 1,400 Armenian girls in the art of weaving, dyeing and patterning. The orphans were being taught a vocational trade to ensure their economic survival, while also creating the rugs to be sold and donated for fundraising. The rug, left, sewn for Coolidge

Affectionately called "Papa and Mama Kunzler", Jacob and his wife Elizabeth were singlehandedly responsible for saving the lives of 8,000 Armenian orphans, and they were so loved that the girls decided to make a rug for their family too.

Elibet, the youngest of the four Kunzler girls, born in Urfa, was invited to choose colours, and eventually decided on blue. The orphans worked to create the rug, which Papa Kunzler then gave to Elibet. Eventually, her parents shipped it to her from Lebanon to the US, just after the end of World War Two.

Polly Marshall, Elibet's youngest daughter, who is now set to inherit the rug, remembers playing marbles with her siblings on it as a child. The Kunzler girls would incorporate the plants and animals in the rug's design - said to depict the Garden of Eden - within their game.

"It was a part of our daily life, completely," she says. "Now the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of my mother play on it and I'd like to think that there's some way that spirit of these children are in this rug and [that] it attracts children through generations."

What makes the Kunzler rug even more significant is that it is considered to be a sister to the rug given to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, as a sign of gratitude for the US relief effort, by this time renamed Near East Relief. President Calvin Coolidge and the rug

Though the Kunzler rug is much smaller, both rugs contain the same animals, plants, medallions and Armenian symbolic imagery.

When the Coolidge rug briefly went on display last year at the White House Visitor Center, Polly Marshall was one of those who paid an emotional visit to see it, and even found herself sneaking behind the rope to touch it. A poster for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East

"It was like my link to my grandparents, who I never met, and the orphans. I felt like I was touching all those lives," she says. "It's such a striking statement about these people and what they went through."

When Mangassarian-Goschin approached Marshall to see if she would allow the Kunzler rug to be displayed, she agreed without hesitation. If people couldn't see the White House rug - which has spent most of its life in storage, and was quickly returned there - they should have the chance to see its sister, she thought.

It is now slated to be exhibited temporarily at the Ararat-Eskijian museum in May.

"If this rug can help ease people's pain or help connect people to their ancestry, it's the least we can do, to make it available," Marshall says.

Hratch Kozibeyokian, a third-generation master weaver and president of the Armenian Rugs Society, says the global Armenian community is slowly realising the power of the story the carpets tell.

"There are only a few places our history is recorded - in our folk songs and our carpets," says Kozibeyokian, who helped decipher the similarities between the Coolidge rug and Kunzler rug.

But the rugs are unravelling a little-known part of American history, too.

This year, the Western region of the Armenian National Committee of America launched a campaign called America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief, to pay tribute to the organisation for rescuing Armenian orphans and other survivors of the massacres. Hundreds of children form the words "America We Thank You"

Shant Mardirossian, the grandson of survivors and chair of the Near East Foundation's board of directors says the story of the American generosity helps bridge the gap in the dual identities of third and fourth-generation Armenian-Americans. The US is now home to the second largest Armenian population outside Armenia.

"I couldn't be more proud of this history, that Americans who knew nothing about Armenians 8,000 miles away gave something to help them," he says. "In fact, one could even argue a whole generation of Armenians wouldn't be here today had it not been for their support."

Daily Record, UK
April 18 2015
Kim Kardashian turns spotlight on a forgotten holocaust that inspired
Hitler's Jewish death camps
18 April 2015

KIM KARDASHIAN has used her global superstar status to shine light on
a dark, forgotten part of history: the Armenian genocide.

As she stepped forward to lay flowers at a memorial to her murdered
Armenian ancestors, Kim Kardashian walked into an unholy international

With deliberately controversial timing, the reality TV star was using
her fame to nudge one of the darkest chapters in history back into the

Her trip coincided with this month's 100th anniversary of the start of
a massacre of 1.5million Armenians by the Turks. By tweeting her
31million followers about her "emotional day at the genocide museum",
Kim, 34, whose great-great grandparents fled the bloodshed, helped
remind the world of a forgotten holocaust.

Her high-profile visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan with sister
Khloe came as Pope Francis also entered the controversy.

At a special Sunday mass at St Peter's Basilica, he met the head of
the Armenian Apostolic church, Karekin II, and branded the massacres
"the first genocide of the 20th century." The Pope's words have
enraged Turkey, who (along with their Nato allies Britain and America)
still refuse to acknowledge the mass hangings, death marches and
starvation as a genocide.

But many see it as Adolf Hitler's blueprint for the extermination of
six million Jews in World War II.

"It was the lesson from history that wasn't learned," said Armenian
Assadour Guzelian, 85, who lost many relatives to the atrocities.

"In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, he said he'd order his units to
'exterminate without mercy.' And when one of his generals questioned
this, he replied, 'Who remembers today the extermination of the

"If the Allied powers had brought Turkey to a Nuremberg-style trial,
he would not have dared to say that, and millions of Jews would not
have been subjected to the Holocaust.

"There is no way you cannot refer to this as genocide. Before World
War I, two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. After the
war, there were a few hundred thousand.

"So what happened to the rest?"

Attacks on Armenian "vermin" began in the 1890s under despotic Sultan
Abdul Hamid II. Like the Jews in 1930s Germany, this largely Christian
minority was seen as richer and better educated than Turkish Muslims
and a potentially disloyal element.

The violence meted out was branded as "The Armenian Solution" - an
eerie pre-echo of Hitler's Final
Solution of 1942-1945. And when Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin first
coined the word "genocide" during the later war, it was after studying
the Armenian massacres.

Kardashian's great-great grandparents, Sam and Harom Kardaschoff, were
among those who abandoned their homes and escaped to the US in the
early 20th century, avoiding the full-scale massacres which began on
April 24, 1915.

The family of Guzelian, a retired lecturer now living in London, were
not so lucky. His parents Garabed and Rahel survived the genocide but
his sister Varthoui was bayonetted to death when she was four by a

"They didn't want to waste bullets so they just drove them into the
desert and nobody heard from them any more," said Guzelian. "My
uncles, aunts, great uncles all disappeared.

"There was almost no chance of surviving the death marches. Hunger
came, then diseases like typhoid and cholera. Some killed themselves,
others were killed by the soldiers."

He added: "My sister was killed after my mother, her feet swollen and
bleeding, begged the soldiers for just five minutes' rest. They were
being delayed and my mother said, 'I am just trying to hold my child
up' and one of the soldiers got mad and just put his bayonet into my

"But my mother was happy. She told me the child would no longer suffer."

Guzelian's parents escaped death only because the Turks brought them
back from the desert to build roads. They went on to have four more
sons and he is the youngest.

These death marches turned desert plains into killing fields littered
with corpses and skulls. There are stories that children were thrown
to their deaths from mountains or had their knee tendons slashed to
amuse sadistic soldiers. Young women were raped or forced into
prostitution, older women were beaten to death and babies left by
roadsides to starve.

Chillingly, the mass-murder was observed by army officers from
Germany, an ally of Turkey in World War I. Konstantin Freiherr von
Neurath, sent to "monitor operations" against the Armenians, later
became Hitler's foreign minister, working alongside Holocaust
architect Reinhard Heydrich.

Other German officers are believed to have witnessed the scale and
methods of the killing, and aspects of both campaigns are disturbingly
similar. Both nations set up concentration camps and Armenians were
crammed 90 at a time into
railway wagons, just as the Nazis did when sending Jews to their deaths.

Igor Dorffman-Lazarev, a specialist in Armenian history at the School
of Oriental and African Studies in London, said: "In some cases,
German generals and officers even participated in the organisation of
the deporting of Armenians.

"In 1931, Hitler presented the Armenian genocide as a model. He said,
'We intend to introduce vast
politics of transfer of populations... recall the extermination of the

But the Turkish government, still insist the conflict was a civil war
in which atrocities were com--mitted by both sides.

Dorffman-Lazarev explained: "They have always claimed the Armenians
had revolted against the state. There were several local revolts but
they started after the beginning of the killings and deportations, as
a reaction to the state's violence."

In Turkey, many Armenians still feel persecuted and they keep a low
profile to this day. And it is illegal to call the Armenian conflict
an act of genocide.

Newspaper editor Hrant Dink was prosecuted for doing that and, in
2007, a Turkish nationalist murdered him.

The government even helped defend a man who was prosecuted for calling
the genocide claim "an
international lie".

In 2008, Dogu Perincek was convicted of racism in Switzerland, where
denying the genocide is illegal.

But with Turkish backing he
successfully appealed at the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This
was challenged earlier this year by human rights barrister Amal
Clooney, wife of movie star George.

She said the decision "cast doubt of the reality of genocide that
Armenian people suffered a century ago...the stakes could not be
higher for the Armenian people".

A century may have passed since the atrocities but international
fallout looks set to continue for many years more. Controversially,
Turkey, now plans to stage a commemoration of the World War I
Gallipoli campaign on the anniversary of the genocide.

Armenians see this as a blatant attempt to overshadow the centenary -
and quash any discussion of a shameful episode in history.
21 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

This afternoon, 100 people will go on hunger strike on Downing Street
to commemorate the Armenian genocide, London 24 reports.

The hunger strike is also a vigil for the million or more people who
were killed in the Armenian genocide 100 years ago - and a protest
against Turkey's continued insistence that the deaths never happened.

In 1915, Ottoman forces in Turkey began systematically slaughtering
the Armenian Christian minority.

Turkey has never accepted that the murder of half of the Armenian
population was genocide.

Now, a century later, Turkey has moved the annual commemorations
of the battle of Gallipoli - which are usually held on March 17 and
April 25 - to April 24, which clashes with the annual commemoration
of the Armenian genocide.

Vigil organiser Bernard Nazarin believes that this change is
deliberate, and is condemning the UK's decision to take part in the
Turkish celebrations:

"We believe the British government should know better. Other European
leaders are ignoring the Turkish invitation."

Mr Nazarian, who helped to organise the vigil and hunger strike said
it is 'outrageously insensitive' that "the British Government is
sending Prince Charles to Istanbul without question".

World leaders who have rejected Turkey's invitation include Russia's
President, French President Hollande of France, and the Pope. Instead
they are commemorating the centenary of the genocide in Armenia's

The ethnic cleansing of between one million and a million and a half
Armenian people by Turkish forces in WWI is often compared to the
Jewish Holocaust in WWII, and Mr Nazarian said the two tragedies stir
up similar emotions.

"When people speak about it there is nothing but pain and sorrow. I
as a human being and Armenian feel the pain as I do for the Jewish
Holocaust in Germany - but at least the perpetrators of that Holocaust
have been punished."

'I know many people, close relatives who were affected. My uncle's
family escaped from Van in the east of Turkey,' Mr Nazarian said.

The vigil and hunger strike is taking place today opposite 10 Downing
Street until 4pm on Saturday April 25. There will also be a vigil
outside the Turkish Embassy on Friday April 24 from 1pm to 7pm. 

Deutsche Well, Germany
April 21 2015

Turkey's prime minister has said the government "shares the pain" of
descendants of Ottoman Armenians killed in 1915. Germany, meanwhile,
looks set to follow the pope and others in calling the killings

Ahmet Davutoglu sought to reach out to Armenians on Monday, saying
Turkey wanted to heal the wounds of the past 100 years after the
mass killings of their ancestors under the Ottoman Empire. However,
the Turkish prime minister's statement stopped well short of recent
comments by Pope Francis and the European Parliament, never referring
to the events as "genocide."

"We once again respectfully remember and share the pain of
grandchildren and children of Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives
during deportation in 1915," Davutoglu said in a statement released by
his office to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the killings,
observed on Friday, April 24.

The pope angered Ankara this month by calling the deaths the 'first
genocide of the 20th century'

Armenians consider the mass killings to be genocide, a term Turkey
has consistently rejected; the prime minister again criticized the
debate on Monday.

"To reduce everything to a single word, to put responsibility through
generalizations on the Turkish nation alone ... is legally and morally
problematic," Davutoglu said. The prime minister also said that the
"Ottoman Armenians" would be remembered at a service to be held in
Istanbul on Friday, saying Turks and Armenians should "heal their
wounds from that century and reestablish their human relations."

In apparent reference to recent debate over the term genocide, he
also warned "third parties" to refrain from reopening "historical
wounds," saying efforts should be made for a peaceful future based on
"fair memory."

Germany to use G-word, but softly

Germany's grand coalition government on Monday supported a statement
with stronger-than-expected language on the killings of up to 1.5
million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I.

German Green politicians Cem Ozdemir and Ekin Deligoz, both with
Turkish roots, visited an Armenian monument to the dead in Eriwal
last month

"The government backs the draft resolution in which the fate of the
Armenians during World War I serves as an example of the history of
mass murders, ethnic cleansings, expulsions, and, yes, the genocides
during the 20th century," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman,
Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin, citing the document agreed
to by Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

The federal Bundestag parliament will hold a ceremony in memory of
the victims on Friday, while German President Joachim Gauck is also
expected to use the term "genocide" at a religious service scheduled
for Thursday in the capital.

Previous official comments from government officials had avoided
the word, prompting speculation that Germany would not join France,
Pope Francis and the European Parliament in using the designation.

In 2011, when France first used the term, Turkey responded by
suspending diplomatic ties with Paris. In recent weeks, both President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu have been highly
critical of Pope Francis and the European Parliament's use of the word.

"We now have to wait," a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said when
asked how Ankara might react to Berlin's move. 

The Week, UK
april 20 2015

As the 100th anniversary of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman
Turks approaches, controversy over what took place shows no sign
of abating.

What happened?

On 24 April 1915, Ottoman authorities began arresting the members
of the two million-strong minority Christian community, explains
The Guardian. First, around 50 community leaders and intellectuals
were arrested and executed. The same fate befell Armenians in the
Ottoman army.

In the months that followed, Ottoman Turks deported Armenians en masse
from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert and other areas. They
were killed or died from starvation or disease. It was the biggest
atrocity of the Great War.

Describing the horrors the victims faced, the New York Times quotes
respected historian David Fromkin, who wrote: "Rape and beating were
commonplace. Those who were not killed at once were driven through
mountains and deserts without food, drink or shelter. Hundreds of
thousands of Armenians eventually succumbed or were killed ."

Who were the Armenians and why were they targeted?

Armenians, an ancient people who converted to Christianity in the
third century AD, had been persecuted in Ottoman Turkey in the late
19th and early 20th centuries. Turkish propaganda began to present
the Armenians as traitors and a pro-Russian "fifth column".

How many died?

This remains one of the event's most contentious issues. Armenians say
1.5 million were killed, but Turkey estimates the total to be 300,000.

According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars,
the death toll was "more than a million".

Was it genocide?

This, too, is still a fiercely debated question. Article Two of
the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948 describes genocide
as carrying out acts intended "to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".

Turkey has never accepted the description of "genocide". Officials
accept that atrocities were committed but say they happened in wartime,
when death was widespread. They insist that there was no systematic
attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people.

However, scholars widely view the episode as genocide and so do many
other states. Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Russia and Uruguay
are among more than 20 countries that have officially recognised
genocide against the Armenians. However, the UK, US and Israel are
among those who do not.

Among Israelis, the state's refusal to recognise the genocide has
caused red-hot debate. A recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post argued
that Turkey's actions influenced and emboldened Adolf Hitler to later
target Jews.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently acknowledged that
Armenians had suffered and offered his condolences. This was the
furthest any Turkish leader has gone on the issue, but he remains
unbowed on the genocide point.

"The Armenian diaspora is trying to instil hatred against Turkey
through a worldwide campaign on genocide claims ahead of the centennial
anniversary of 1915," he added recently. "If we examine what our
nation had to go through over the past 100 to 150 years, we would
find far more suffering than what the Armenians went through."

How is the anniversary being marked?

On April 24, Armenians from Turkey and the diaspora will assemble
in Istanbul's central Taksim Square. There will also be a concert
featuring Armenian and Turkish musicians.

However, rather than formally recognise the anniversary, Turkish
authorities have scheduled for the same day a centennial commemoration
of a separate event - the Battle of Gallipoli.

Reality television star Kim Kardashian - who has Armenian ancestry
has visited Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to draw attention to
the issue.

In response to the headlines the visit generated, Turkish media
complained about "'genocide' propaganda" and accused the Armenian
lobby in the US of making Kardashian into a "genocide' ambassador".

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