Sunday, 13 March 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian Woman Donates Stem Cells
Armenian Woman Donates Stem Cells to Save Life of Cancer 

Patient In Israel

Stem cell harvesting procedure performed by Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry

LOS ANGELES'Seven years ago, when Maria, a Yerevan resident, became a
bone marrow stem cell donor with the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor
Registry (ABMDR), she had no clue that someday she would actually be
able to help save someone's life. That opportunity presented itself on
March 9.

After Hadassah Medical Center's Bone Marrow Transplant Department, in
Jerusalem, contacted ABMDR for a matched-donor request, Maria, 36, was
identified as a match for a cancer patient in Israel. As further tests
confirmed Maria as a perfect match, Hadassah requested from ABMDR that
her stem cells be harvested for a bone marrow transplant that could
save the life of the Israeli patient.

Maria's stem cells were harvested at ABMDR's Stem Cell Harvesting
Center, in the Armenian capital. Once the painless, non-invasive
harvesting procedure, performed by Dr. Andranik Mshetsyan, was
completed, the donated stem cells were flown to Israel through a
special courier. Maria has been an ABMDR bone marrow stem cell donor
since 2009. She is a nurse and the mother of two children: Alex, 15;
and Knarik, 18 months old.

Present at Maria's harvesting procedure were ABMDR Executive Director
Dr. Sevak Avagyan and Medical Director Dr. Mihran Nazaretyan, as well
as Dr. Bella Kocharian, former First Lady of Armenia. Dr. Kocharian
became ABMDR's very first registered bone marrow donor when the
organization was established in 1999, and has served as its Honorary
Chair ever since.

`We Armenians are a Mediterranean people, and, as such, share our
genes with peoples throughout the region, whether they be Jews,
Greeks, Italians, or Ethiopians,' Dr. Avagyan said. `Today we are
absolutely delighted that the life of a patient in Israel is poised to
be saved through an Armenian bone marrow donor. Nothing can be more

The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry was established in 1999, and
is a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians and non-Armenians
worldwide survive life-threatening blood-related illnesses by
recruiting and matching donors to those requiring bone marrow stem
cell transplants. To date, the registry has recruited over 28,000
donors in 28 countries across four continents, identified over 3,500
patients, and facilitated 26 bone marrow transplants. For more
information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit

Eurasia Review
March 10, 2016 Thursday

Pope Francis has donated a symbolic stone to the Holy Martyrs Armenian
Apostolic Church in Gyumri, a letter from the Holy See says.

Stressing union and communion as a symbol behind the move,
Cardinal-Archpriest Angelo Comastri said in the letter that the stone
was placed in the door of St. Peter's Cathedral in 2000.

The stone was reportedly taken from the Basilica while opening
the jubilee mercy year on December 8, 2015, during the Immaculate
Conception Holy Day.
11 Mar 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Turkish court's decision to appoint the mother of ailing Armenian
Patriarch Mesrob II as his custodian, has revived the long-standing
debate over his potential successor, Daily Sabah reports.

While the Patriarchate in Turkey, headed by acting patriarch Aram
AteÅ~_yan, insists on keeping Mutafyan as its leader, some prominent
members of the Armenian community have repeatedly called for the
election of a new patriarch.

Incumbent Patriarch Mesrob II has been in a vegetative state since
2008, after being diagnosed with dementia. Several plaintiffs have
filed a lawsuit for appointment of a custodian for the patriarch in
his absence, while Tatyos Bebek, a prominent figure in the Armenian
community who was one of the co-plaintiffs, has sought a court order
to that extent so that a new patriarch can be elected when the court
officially recognizes the patriarch cannot fulfill his duties anymore.

An Istanbul court on Wednesday appointed the patriarch's 78-year-old
mother, Mari Mutafyan, as his custodian. She will be eligible for
representation of her son by the court order.

AteÅ~_yan, who had reportedly pledged that an election would be held
in 2014, though the council of bishops failed to reach a consensus on
an election, was seeking a rejection of the lawsuit by the court. He
still has the option of appeal to the court's ruling.

The patriarch acts both as a religious leader and a leader of Turkey's
ethnic Armenian community concentrated in Istanbul, as the patriarchate
also runs several non-profit organizations.

Mesrob II, 59, is the 84th patriarch of Turkey's Armenian Orthodox
community who succeeded Karekin II in 1998.

Bedros Å~^irinoglu, president of the Armenian community's Yedikule
Surp Pırgic Hospital Foundation and a proponent of the election of a
new patriarch, told Agos daily that the appointment of a custodian is
a legal testament to the end of Patriarch Mesrob II's rule. Pointing
to a divide in the community amid those supporting the election and
those opposing it, Å~^irinoglu said a continued divide would harm
the community and electing a new patriarch instead of an "acting"
one would help the community "to recover."

Turkish law bans the election of a new patriarch while his predecessor
is alive. A patriarchal election is required to be held by the synod,
and the synod has to apply to the Interior Ministry after approving the
election. The government ruled out an election of a new patriarch,
but a group of Armenians filed a lawsuit for the removal of the
regulations blocking the election. The legal process is still underway.

The Armenian patriarchate was established in Istanbul after the
city's conquest by the Ottoman Empire, and oversees Armenian churches
throughout the country. 

RFE/RL Report 
Karabakh Warns Azerbaijan Over Artillery Fire

Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian military authorities have warned
Baku against further escalating the situation at the volatile line of
contact after accusing Azerbaijani forces of targeting, for the first
time since the 1994 ceasefire, positions deep inside
Stepanakert-controlled territory with artillery fire.

The Defense Ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement on Friday,
claiming that its advanced units managed to repulse another commando
raid attempted by Azerbaijani forces overnight, killing two and
wounding several Azerbaijani troops. It said Armenian forces sustained
no losses in the engagement.

It further suggested that Azerbaijan's armed forces fired 5,500 shots
from firearms of different calibers and also used mortars of different
calibers and gun-howitzers to shell Armenian positions on March 10-11.

"It is remarkable that last night the enemy used artillery fire not
only against Armenian positions located in the direction of Akna
(Aghdam), but also territories that are located at quite a distance
from the line of contact. This is unprecedented since the signing of a
ceasefire agreement in May 1994. One can draw one conclusion from
this: the adversary has adopted a tactic aimed at destabilizing the
situation in the conflict zone, which is fraught with unpredictable
consequences," the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry said.

"In order to suppress the activity of the enemy advanced units of the
Defense Army resorted to purposeful punitive measures. Armenian forces
confidently control the situation along the entire perimeter of the

Earlier, the military authorities in Stepanakert also denied reports
in Azerbaijani media that Armenian armed forces fired at civilians in
Azerbaijan's Aghdam district.

Meanwhile, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovannisian
denied Azerbaijani reports about Armenian casualties in recent
days. Azerbaijan claims up to 15 Armenian servicemen were killed and
some Armenian military equipment was destroyed by Azerbaijani forces
in the conflict zone in recent days. Baku also accuses the Armenian
side of violating the truce.

Talking to RFE/RL's Armenian Service (, Hovannisian
linked the latest escalation of tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone
with the March 10 meeting of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian with
his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow during which the two
leaders also discussed issued related to the Karabakh settlement

"Azerbaijan always escalates the situation at around the time of such
high-level meetings," he said, denying reports about some Armenian
positions in Karabakh being seized by Azerbaijani forces.

The current escalation comes amid stalled internationally mediated
negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan aimed at finding a
peaceful solution to the protracted dispute.

President Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev last
met in Bern, Switzerland, in December for talks organized by the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group and
its American, Russian and French co-chairs. The meeting brought little
calm to the region where dozens of soldiers on both sides are killed
annually in ceasefire violations.
11 Mar 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Architects, art historians and engineers from Turkey, Greece and
Armenia have come together to review Turkey's Greek, Armenian and
Jewish heritage.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, project coordinator, Cagla Parlak, said
that they aimed to reach an estimated 140 structures across Turkey
which are at risk.

The group will document findings from their visits to sites in seven
regions across Turkey, including the central Anatolian province of
Kayseri, the southern region of Adana and Aegean Izmir.

Financed by the U.S. embassy in Ankara, the project took a year to
come together and ran parallel with the foundation of the association
in 2014.

The project has publicized its first results by publishing a book
called 'Kayseri: With Its Armenian and Greek Cultural Heritage'
in February.

The team conducted a risk assessment of 18 Greek and Armenian buildings
in Kayseri such as the Surp Asdvadzadzin Church, Surp Stepanos Church,
Sakis GumuÅ~_yan School, the School in Molu and the Agios Georgios

Kayseri, like many other parts of the country, was home to various
minorities until the beginning of the 20th century but their numbers
fell during republican-era.

The Armenian population in the city was around 15,000 at the end of
the 19th century, the book states. Today only one Armenian lives there,
according to local media.

The group uses an inventory prepared by the Istanbul-based Hrant Dink
Foundation, registration decisions by local heritage Protection Boards
and literature reviews, Parlak said.

The Hrant Dink Foundation was founded in the name of a Turkish-Armenian
journalist who was assassinated by a Turkish nationalist in front of
his Agos newspaper in 2007.

The foundation worked for more than two years making an inventory to
gather information about Turkey's cultural heritage.

It found out more than 10,000 monuments across Turkey. According to
the research, there are 4,600 Armenian, 4,100 Greek, 650 Assyrian
and 300 Jewish structures across the country.

"Each structure is ranged in according to its risk rating," she
said: "If a structure is at the top of the list, this means that
this building should have priority for restoration in that region,"
Parlak added.

"Our main aim is to ensure the protection of 'abandoned' structures,"
she said.

National Geographic
Issue: March 2016
March 11 2016

Where Armenians once flourished, the 'great catastrophe' is an enduring
reminder of pain and controversy.

By Paul Salopek Photographs by John Stanmeyer PUBLISHED April 2016

One million Armenians--some say more, some say less--were killed a
century ago in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.

A stone cenotaph in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, commemorates
this tragic event: the Medz Yeghern, or "great catastrophe," of
the Armenian people. Each spring--on April 24, when the pogroms
started--many thousands of pilgrims climb an urban hill to this shrine.

They file past an eternal flame, the symbol of undying memory, to
lay a small mountain of cut flowers. Just 60 miles to the northwest,
and a few hundred yards across the Turkish border, lie the ruins of
an older and perhaps more fitting monument to the bitterness of the
Armenian experience: Ani.

What is Ani? Ani was the medieval capital of a powerful, ethnically
Armenian kingdom centered in eastern Anatolia--the sprawling Asiatic
peninsula that today makes up most of Turkey--and straddling the
northern branches of the Silk Road. It was a rich metropolis that
hummed with 100,000 souls. Its bazaars overflowed with furs, with
spices, with precious metals. A high wall of pale stone protected it.

Renowned as the "city of 1,001 churches," Ani rivaled the glory of
Constantinople. It represented the flowering of Armenian culture.

Today it crumbles atop a remote, sun-hammered plateau--a scattering of
broken cathedrals and empty streets amid yellow grasses, a desolate
and windblown ruin. I have walked to it. I am walking across the
world. I am retracing, on foot, the pathways of the first ancestors
who abandoned Africa to wander the world. I have seen no place on my
journey more beautiful or sadder than Ani.

"They don't even mention the Armenians," marvels Murat Yazar, my
Kurdish walking guide.

And it is true: On the Turkish government placards erected for
tourists, the builders of Ani go unnamed. This is intentional. There
are no Armenians left in Ani. Not even in official histories. So
just as Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan calls to remember, Ani is a
monument to forgetting.

Last year the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the world's oldest
Christian communities, made saints of all the victims of the genocide
of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the sprawling and multiethnic
state that gave rise to modern Turkey. A veiled woman attends the
canonization ceremony in Ejmiatsin, Armenia.

On April 24, 2015, the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of a
mass slaughter that many historians label the first genocide of the
modern era, crowds join a torchlight procession through the Armenian
capital of Yerevan to honor the dead. During the annual commemoration,
part somber memorial and part nationalist rally, the grieving can
turn overtly political--participants sometimes burn Turkish flags.

One of the oldest and most intractable political disputes in the
world--a toxic standoff that has locked Armenia and Turkey in acrimony,
in enmity, in nationalist extremism for generations--can be reduced
to the endless parsing of three syllables: genocide. This word is
freighted with alternative meanings, with shadings, with controversy.

It is codified by the United Nations as one of the worst of crimes: the
attempt to obliterate entire peoples or ethnic, racial, or religious
groups. And yet when does it apply? How many must be slaughtered? How
to weigh action versus intent? By what ghastly accounting?

The Armenian version of events: The year is 1915. World War I is nine
months old. Europe is herding its young into the fires. The vast
and multicultural Ottoman Empire--the world's most powerful Muslim
polity--has allied itself with Germany. A large Christian Armenian
minority, once so peaceful and trusted as to be labeled by the sultans
as the millet-i sadıka, or loyal nation, is wrongfully accused of
rebellion, of siding with the Russian enemy. Some Ottoman leaders
decide to resolve this "Armenian problem" through extermination and
deportation. Soldiers and local Kurdish militias shoot Armenian men.

There are mass rapes of women. Armenian villages and city
neighborhoods are looted, appropriated. The dead clog the rivers and
wells. Cities stink of rot. The survivors--ragged columns of women
and children--straggle at bayonet point into the waterless deserts
of neighboring Syria. (Today just three million Armenians live in
Armenia; eight to ten million are scattered in diaspora.) The Armenian
population in the Ottoman Empire drops from about two million to
fewer than 500,000. Most historians call this subtraction the modern
world's first true genocide.

The sturdy friendship between the Armenian Christian family of Nuran
TaÅ~_ (second from left) and the family of Nizamettin Cim, a Kurdish
Muslim (center rear), whose grandfather helped shelter the TaÅ~_es
from intolerance, offers a counterpoint to a history of ethnic tension
in eastern Turkey, where the Armenian population was mostly killed
or expelled during World War I. The Armenian and Turkish governments
have yet to kindle such trust and amity.

"I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no
such horrible episode as this," wrote Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the U.S.

ambassador to Constantinople at the time. "The great massacres and
persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with
the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915."

Turkish authorities categorically deny this account. Their version
of the "so-called genocide" goes like this: It is a time of supreme
madness in history, a time of civil war. Armenians suffer, it is true.

But so do many other groups trapped inside the Ottoman Empire as it
splinters during the Great War: ethnic Greeks, Syriac Christians,
Yazidis, Jews--even the Turks themselves. Blood flows in all
directions. There is no systematic extermination plan. And the
Armenian death tolls are exaggerated, fewer than 600,000. Moreover,
many Armenians are in fact traitors: Thousands join the armed ranks
of invading coreligionists, the imperial Russian Army.

Challenging this official view still carries risks in Turkey. Though
prosecutions have eased, Turkish judges deem the term "genocide"
provocative, incendiary, insulting to the nation. When speaking of the
Armenian calamity, even such luminaries as Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish
novelist and Nobel Prize winner, have faced charges of denigrating
Turkishness or the Turkish state.

"It is our hope and belief," then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
declared in a carefully worded speech in 2014, "that the peoples of an
ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners,
will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and
to remember together their losses in a decent manner."

What is the special power of this word "genocide"?

The Armenian diaspora has spent decades funding lobbying campaigns to
urge the governments of the world to deploy this term when describing
what occurred under the Ottomans. In Diyarbakır, a Kurdish city in
eastern Turkey, I am conducting an interview at a newly reopened
Armenian church--a small, fragile gesture of Turkish-Armenian
conciliation--when a man strides up to me.

"Do you recognize the genocide?" he demands. He is Armenian. He is
agitated. He peers into my eyes.

I am startled. I'm working, I tell him.

"I don't care," he says. "Do you or don't you recognize the genocide?"

I put down my pen. He repeats his question, over and over. He is
telling me: I am not a ghost.

The question of memory: Never forget. But of course we do. Eventually
we always forget.

"People have been making war for thousands of years," observed the
Polish journalist and writer Ryszard KapuÅ~[ciÅ~Dski, "but each time
it is as if it is the first war ever waged, as if everyone has started
from scratch."

In a town outside of Yerevan a shrunken old man slumps on a couch. His
name is Khosrov Frangyan. He is bundled against the nonexistent
cold--in blankets, in a pile jacket, in a knit cap, with socks pulled
over his gnarled hands--because his heart and veins are antique. He is
105 years old. He is one of the last living survivors of the Armenian
massacres. These frail elders, now mostly gone, are cherished as
national heroes in Armenia. Because they are the last palpable links
to the crime of 1915. Because they are a breathing rebuke to denial.

They have repeated their stories so many times that their delivery
seems dry, remote, rote--worn as smooth as well-rubbed coins.

"I was five when the Turks came," Frangyan rasps. "They chased us up
the mountain."

He recounts his story in shards. It is a fabled incident from the
genocide. Some 4,700 residents of six Armenian villages in what is
now southern Turkey fled up a coastal mountain called Musa Dag. They
rolled rocks down on their Turkish pursuers. They held out for more
than 40 days. The desperate survivors waved a handmade banner at
ships steaming past along the Mediterranean shore. "CHRISTIANS IN
DISTRESS--RESCUE." By some miracle French warships saved them and
carried them off to Egypt, to exile.

Frangyan's brown eyes are watery and red rimmed. He does not dwell, as
some Armenian witnesses do, on the horrors, on the summary executions
of parents in front yards, on mass rapes, on decapitations. No. His
voice rises as he recalls instead the fruits of his lost village: "The
gardens! My grandfather had figs--each tree was 50 meters high! I want
to eat those bananas now! I want to keep the memory of those bananas!"

Frangyan's middle-aged daughter shakes her head. She apologizes. The
old man gets confused, she says. But he is not confused. I have been
to his homeland in Hatay Province, Turkey. I have stood near his old
village amid orchards lush with tangerines and lemons. It is indeed a
subtropical paradise. And I have peered from a hilltop overlooking the
same blue sea where the warships dropped anchor. His chance salvation
reminded me, unreassuringly, of the conclusion to that novel of human
evil Lord of the Flies: How adults finally splashed ashore on a remote
island of innocent, castaway children--children who had devolved,
unsupervised, into murderers--to save the day.

A century ago the French Navy rescued Frangyan and his family. But
who will save the French sailors from human darkness? And who will
rescue the rest of us?

I walk out of Africa. I follow the footsteps of our Stone Age
ancestors. Wherever these pioneers appeared, other resident hominins
disappeared. They vanished.

In eastern Turkey I walk by derelict Armenian farmhouses. Trees sprout
from their rubble, their roofless rooms. I walk past old Armenian
churches converted to mosques. I sit in the mottled shade of walnut
orchards planted by the long-ago victims of death marches.

"We fought the Armenians, and many died," says Saleh Emre, the gruff,
white-haired mayor of the Kurdish village of TaÅ~_kale. He suddenly
softens. "I think this was wrong. They belonged here."

Muslim Kurds occupy a strange place in the violent history of eastern
Turkey. From a frontier gendarmerie who did the Ottomans' dirty work
a century ago, they have become a besieged ethnic minority, demanding
more political rights in modern Turkey. Victimhood now binds many
Kurds to their long-departed Armenian neighbors.

Emre says his family acquired the land for his village from Armenians.

It came very cheap. He lets this fact sink in. He ticks off the names
of nearby towns that once were majority Armenian: Van, Patnos, Agrı.

Few or no Armenians live in them now.

When does a genocide officially end? At which point is the act of
mass annihilation complete--finished, documented, resolved? Surely
not when the gunfire stops. (This is far too soon.) Is it when the
individual dead disappear from the chain of human memory? Or when
the last emptied village acquires a new population, a new language,
a new name?

Or is it sealed, at long last, with the onset of regret?

If everything reminds us of our past burdens, then we lose the future,
no? All this victimization makes us beggars.

Elvira Meliksetyan | women's rights activist

My guide, Murat Yazar, and I inch northward. We trek across yellowing
steppes where wolves run before us, pausing to gaze back over
their shoulders in silence, then trot on. We pass Mount Ararat. The
16,854-foot peak shines to the east, smeared white with snow. The Bible
links the mountain to Noah's high-altitude anchorage. The beautiful
volcano is sacred to the Armenians. (A popular misconception has it
that Armenian Apostolic priests even wear caps shaped like Ararat's
cone.) In August 1834 the Russian meteorologist Kozma Spassky-Avtonomov
climbed to the mountain's icy summit. Ararat towers so high that he
thought he might see stars twinkling during the daytime. His expedition
was the perfect Anatolian quest: He was trying to discern what is
always there yet invisible. This is a landscape haunted by absences.

"Chosen trauma" is how the political psychologist Vamık Volkan
describes an ideology--a worldview--by which grief becomes a core of
identity. It applies to entire nations as well as individuals. Chosen
trauma unifies societies brutalized by mass violence. But it also
can stoke an inward-looking nationalism.

I slog across the Lesser Caucasus Mountains from Turkey into the
republic of Georgia. I throw stones to knock frozen apples from bare
trees. Pausing in Tbilisi, I ride a night train to Yerevan. It is
April 24, the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Billboards festoon the Armenian capital. One shows weapons--a scimitar,
a rifle, a hatchet, a noose--arrayed to spell out "1915." Another
bluntly pairs an Ottoman fez and "Turkish" handlebar mustache with
Adolf Hitler's brush mustache and comb-over. The least combative
symbol of mourning is the most poignant: forget-me-not flowers.

Millions of violet petals brighten Yerevan's parks and medians. The
corollas are reproduced on banners, on stickers, on lapel pins:
a blossom of genocide. "I remember and demand"--this is the slogan
of the commemoration.

But demand what?

This is the key question that Armenians are asking themselves. Is
the past a guide? Or is it a trap?

Apostolic Bishop Mikael Ajapahian, of the Armenian city of Gyumri:
"In Armenia there is no enmity toward Turkey. We hold nothing against
ordinary Turks. But Turkey must do everything--everything--to heal
the wounds."

Elvira Meliksetyan, women's rights activist: "We don't know what we
want. If everything reminds us of our past burdens, then we lose
the future, no? We have no strategy. All this victimization makes
us beggars."

Ruben Vardanyan, billionaire philanthropist: "A hundred years later
we are the winners. We survived. We are strong. So saying thank you,
giving back something to the people who saved us, including Turks, is
the next step. A hundred years ago some of their grandparents saved
our grandparents. We need to connect those stories." (Vardanyan has
funded an award, the Aurora Prize, to honor unsung heroes who rescue
others from genocide.)

There is a torchlight march. There are photo exhibits. There is a
concert by an Armenian-diaspora rock band from Los Angeles. ("This is
not a rock-and-roll concert! To our murderers, this is revenge!") The
Tsitsernakaberd with its eternal flame--the hilltop monument to the
dead--is crowded with diplomats, academics, activists, ordinary people.

At a genocide-prevention conference, an American historian dryly
lays out the case for Turkish reparations. It is "not an absurd or
immaterial proposition," he suggests, for Turkey to cede the six
traditionally Armenian provinces of the Ottomans to Armenia. (Germany
has paid more than $70 billion in compensation to the victims of
Nazi atrocities.)

The most wrenching story I hear on my Armenia side trip comes from
a young man with eyes like open manholes.

"I was just a baby, maybe one year old. I was dying in the hospital. I
had pneumonia--I think it was pneumonia. The doctors could do nothing.

A Turkish woman in the maternity ward noticed my mother crying. She
asked my mother if she could hold me. She unbuttoned her dress. She
took me by my ankles and lowered me down the front of her body. It
was like she was giving birth to me all over again. She did this
seven times. She said prayers. She shouted, 'Let this child live!' "


"I got better." He shrugs. "The Turk saved my life."

Ara Kemalyan, an ethnic Armenian soldier, tells me that story inside
a frontline trench about 150 miles southeast of Yerevan. There are
pocks of distant gunfire. A dusty white sun. Rusty cans hang on barbed
wire--a primitive alarm system against infiltrators. For more than
20 of his 38 years Kemalyan, a fighter from the breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh, has been squared off against soldiers--his former
friends and neighbors--from the central government of Azerbaijan,
a secular Muslim state. Up to 30,000 people, mostly civilians on both
sides, have died in the violence over Nagorno-Karabakh since the late
1980s, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. This poisonous
little war, paralyzing the Caucasus, has virtually nothing to do with
the older violence under the Ottomans. Yet Kemalyan still dubs the
woman in the hospital, the Azerbaijani midwife who saved him with
magic, an enemy "Turk." The specters of 1915 have occupied his heart.

Before walking out of these ghost lands, I revisit Ani. The medieval
ruin in Turkey. The monument to denial. This time I see it from the
Armenian side of the frontier.

The closed Armenia-Turkey border is one of the strangest boundaries
in the world. Turkey shut its land crossings in 1993 out of sympathy
with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The Armenian side also
remains sealed, owing in part to pressure from the diaspora against
normalizing relations with Turkey. The result: Roads traversing a
storied intersection of the globe--a fulcrum point between Asia and
Europe--go nowhere. A train station on the Armenian side has not seen a
locomotive pass in 22 years. A sleepy clerk sweeps the station office
once a day while the rails silently rot. (A ghost airline does fly
direct between Armenia and Turkey; it operates from a nondescript
office in Yerevan.) As a result, the economies of both countries
suffer. People on both sides of the line are cut off, isolated, poorer.

The Russian Army guards the Armenian side of the border with Turkey as
part of a mutual-defense pact. This is how Moscow maintains influence
in the strategic region. The sight is surreal: Strands of Armenian
barbed wire, Russian watchtowers, and checkpoints face open fields
in Turkey, which demilitarized its side of the border many years ago.

Russian and Armenian troops face off against Turkish shepherds. The
shepherds wave.

"I always keep my kitchen fire lit," says Vahandukht Vardanyan, a
rosy-cheeked Armenian woman whose farmhouse sits across the barbed
wire from Ani. "I want to show the Turks that we're still here."

I climb an overlook by her home where Armenian pilgrims disembark
from buses. These tourists come to gaze longingly across a fence at
their ancient capital in Anatolia. I look too. I see exactly where
I stood months earlier in Turkey. A ghost of my earlier self roams
those ruins. Nothing separates any of us except an immense gulf
of loneliness.

----- Follow National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek on his seven-year
walk around the world at, where he
posts personal dispatches and photographs from his journey.

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