Thursday, 31 March 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian...The End of the Ottomans

A major two part program from ARTE TV
The End of the Ottomans
In French with English subtitles. 

[the Turkish authorities return to their old habits]

A list of lands and buildings in Diyarbakir's Sur district--including
the Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic and the Armenian Catholic
Churches--have been expropriated by the Turkish government, according
to reports.

Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos reported that an "urgent expropriation"
cabinet decision was taken regarding 6,300 plots of land, citing
the March 25 issue of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey
(T.C. Resmi Gazete), the country's official journal that publishes
new legislation and official announcements. Based on the report,
the Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church,
and the city's Protestant church have also been expropriated.

Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural Heritage Director Nevin
Soylukaya told Agos that some properties belonging to the municipality
have also been expropriated, and that the local government will
initiate legal action. She also urged owners of other expropriated
properties to take legal action. Armenian Weekly contributor and member
of the Surp Giragos Church reconstruction project Raffi Bedrosyan said
that there will be a strong effort to reclaim the lands. "All legal and
political channels will be mobilized within Turkey and internationally
to stop this legalized robbery," Bedrosyan told the Armenian Weekly.

According to Agos, lands in Abdaldede, AlipaÅ~_a, Cemal Yılmaz,
Camikebir, CevatpaÅ~_a, Dabanoglu, Hasırlı, Ä°nönu, Ä°skenderpaÅ~_a,
Lalebey, Malikahmet, Ozdemir, Suleymangazi, SavaÅ~_, Å~^emhane, and
Ziyagökalp neighborhoods, as well as two neighborhoods in YeniÅ~_ehir
province have been expropriated through the decision.

On February 14, reports emerged that the Armenian Catholic Church
of Diyarbakir had sufferedextensive damages during clashes between
Turkish armed forces and Kurdish militants in recent months. A
series of images depicting the extent of the damage to the church
were posted on the "Armenian Church Surp Giragos and Surp Sarkis in
Diyarbakir" Facebook page. The Armenian Catholic Church is located
in the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir, which has been a target
of military operations by the Turkish state.

Bedrosyan in a Jan. 7 article had written that "[The historic Sur
district] is now mostly in ruins. Most of the buildings have been
destroyed by rockets and cannon fire from army tanks. The Surp Giragos
Church has escaped relatively unscathed with only broken windows
and some bullet holes. But the Armenian Catholic Church had its doors
broken down and some internal damage. The most important mosque in Sur,
the historic Kursunlu Mosque--originally the St. Theodoros or Toros
Armenian Church, converted to a mosque in the 16th century--has been
completely burned down."

Armenians from around the world flocked to Surp Giragos Church in
Diyarbakir on October 22, 2011, to attend both the consecration
of the largest Armenian Church in the Middle East and theBadarak
held the following day. The church was renovated by the Surp Giragos
Armenian Foundation, with the support of the local Kurdish-controlled
municipality of the time. 

Armenian News Network / Groong
March 28, 2016
By Arthur Hagopian

Easter in Jerusalem in 2016 is bound to go down in history as one
of the most memorable the Holy Land has experienced in decades,
following the momentous announcement of plans to renovate the tomb of
Jesus, located in the Holy Sepulchre Church, after a 200-year hiatus.
    The news has been greeted with widespread acclaim throughout the
Christian world, troubled as it is by the prevalent feeling of
insecurity and spiritual anguish in the wake of the horrendous wave of
terrorism gripping our planet.
     "About time," one Facebook subscriber commented.

 "Our congregations need regular such shots in the arm to rekindle
their faith, and arm them against the evils of the world," one priest
     "Hallelujah Jerusalem!" proclaimed another believer.
The announcement by the three Guardians of the Holy Places, the Greek
Orthodox and Armenian Patriarchates and the Franciscan Custodia,
indicated a welcome breach in the unending impasse that has hampered
restoration work at dangerously crumbling portions of the Holy
Sepulchre, centre of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians every

The new development reinforces the conviction that the three Guardians
have succeeded in burying their differences sufficiently to assert
they are ready to begin the restoration work at the tomb at the earliest
     The tomb of Jesus lies within an enclosure, the Edicule, that
sports a number of long openings in its wall: it is from one of these
holes that the miraculous holy fire bursts out into the world on the
Saturday before Easter.
     Work is scheduled to start within weeks with completion expected
by the end of the year. Armenian renovation experts will be in the
vanguard of the team that will undertake the painstaking work. The
University of Florence is also expected to field its own experts.
     This will be the first time in over two centuries that the
Edicule is being refurbished. The last time such an enterprise had
been launched was in 1810, following a destructive fire two years
     According to the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem
the decision to embark on the restoration project was based on the
recommendation of a team of specialists from the National Technical
University of Athens who arrived at their conclusion following a
technical examination of the structure.
     The action has been spurred by reports from the architects who
are also to take part in the work, of structural damage to the
building caused by condensation from the breath of the thousands of
pilgrims who visit the church every year.
   This is leading to a deterioration in the fabric of the mortars.
The report also cited the use of lighted candles that cause a great
deal of thermal stress on the marble used in building the Edicule.
     It is understood that the Edicule will be dismantled piece by
piece so the damaged parts can be replaced.
     The church, one of the most venerated spiritual edifice for the
whole of the Christian world, will remain open for worship as the
restoration progresses.
    While no estimate of the cost of the repairs is available, it is
understood that the three Guardians will bear the major load with
contributions from other denominations that share custody of the
    The announcement is of particular ecumenical significance because
it puts an end to the inertia gripping the Guardians and breaks the
impasse that has prevented them, for years, from moving ahead with
vital restoration works within the church.
     "Things have not been made easy with each of the various churches
placing a sometimes conflicting interpretation of the 1853 status quo"
that governs relations among them all and sets down in minute detail
the principles and parameters of demarcation, responsibilities and
jurisdiction over the holy sites in the Holy Land, according to a
local historian.
    The status quo came into force following the issue of a "firman"
(decree) by the Ottoman overlords grown weary of the unending turf
battles among the various Christian denominations, that often resulted
in physical violence.
    However, the fact that the keys to the only entrance to the church
have been entrusted for safekeeping to two non-Christian families, the
Nusseibehs and Judehs, has somewhat helped ease further tension. The
practice is said to stem back to a decision made by the Caliph Omar
who, after entering Jerusalem in 638, had rejected his generals'
entreaty to pray inside the Holy Sepulchre, as
would have been their right as conquerors.
Instead, Omar had picked up a stone and flung it as far as he could,
telling his men to pray where it landed.

Embattled Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli, who several years ago
published a novel telling about the 1988 pogroms of Armenians, was
detained at Baku's airport today, Azerbaijan's Turan agency reports.

Aylisli was reportedly to travel to Venice, Italy, together with his
son to participate in an international literary festival, but was
not allowed to leave the country.

Aylisli became a target of criticism in Azerbaijan in 2012 for
authoring and publishing in Russia a novel "Stone Dreams" that tells
about violence against ethnic Armenians in Sumgait and elsewhere in
Azerbaijan in 1988-1990. He was then labeled traitor.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stripped Aylisli of his People's
Writer title amid a mass hysteria against the novelist that included
calls for burning his books, depriving him of citizenship and expelling
him from the country.

The United States, the European Union and international organizations
then condemned the persecution of Aylisli and called for measures to
ensure his personal safety.

It is yet unclear whether Aylisli's detention is connected with his
recent activities, and specifically with publishing the book about
Armenian massacres.
29 Mar 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Member of the UK House of Commons, member of the British delegation
to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Mark
Pritchard visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial today accompanied by
Armenian lawmakers Hermine Naghdalyan and Naira Zohrabyan.

Mr. Pritchard laid flowers at the Memorial to the Armenian Genocide
victims and paid tribute to their memory with a minute of silence.

The British MP toured the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute and left
a note in the Book of Honorary Guests.

The Hawaii State Legislature adopted a resolution on Tuesday
recognizing the Independence of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.

It is one more significant step in international recognition of
independent Artsakh, which is a victory of the Armenian people,
David Babayan, Spokesman for the NKR President, told

According to him, it is a great political, legal and moral victory,
which stems from national values and special respect for Artsakh.

"We believe that it is one more significant victory of the Armenian
people and one more significant step in international recognition of
independent Artsakh. It is our common victory as it has been built
up due to our unity - Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora," Mr Babayan said.

Mr Babayan expresses gratitude to the Hawaii people and authorities.

"It is noteworthy that the State of Hawaii is the first to recognize
independent Artsakh in that geographical area, and this is a great
event, indeed."

And Hawaii is the seventh US state to recognize independent
Nagorno-Karabakh, following Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Louisiana,
Maine, California, Georgia.

As to the fact that the resolution was adopted on the threshold of
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to the nuclear summit,
with a message, Mr Babayan said:

"We are not going to be interested in this matter. Let him go
wherever he wants for them to see who they are dealing with. And
the triumphant process of recognition of Artsakh's independence will
receive nw impetus." 

RFE/RL Report 
Armenian-Azeri Fighting Again Intensifies

Three Azerbaijani soldiers have reportedly been killed in action after
the Armenian military accused Baku of again intensifying ceasefire
violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone late last week.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on Monday that two of those
soldiers, one of them a lieutenant, died on Sunday when Armenian
troops "attempted to invade" the Gazakh district in western Azerbaijan
bordering Armenia's northern Tavush province.

The combat deaths were announced two days after an Armenian soldier
serving in the area was wounded and hospitalized as a result. Another
Armenian, a 64-year-old civilian resident of Berkaber village close to
the Azerbaijani border, was wounded by cross-border gunfire late on
Friday. He too required hospitalization.

The third Azerbaijani casualty, an army sergeant, was reportedly shot
dead on Friday. The Azerbaijani military did not specify whether he
died on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border or "the line of contact"
around Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh - Yevand Firian, a Karabakh Armenian farmer, receives
medical treatment after being wounded in Azerbaijani rocket fire,

According to Karabakh's Armenian-backed Defense Army, fighting along
"the line of contact" intensified on Friday night and Saturday
morning, with Azerbaijani forces firing more than 100 mortar shells
and rockets. The reported rocket fire left a Karabakh Armenian farmer
injured in the head.

The Defense Army said its frontline troops responded to the truce
violations with "punitive actions." A separate statement by the
Defense Ministry in Yerevan released on Saturday said the Armenian
military is conducting operations aimed at "restraining the
Azerbaijani side" and "stabilizing the situation." It did not

The ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said on Monday that the
situation at the Tavush-Gazakh section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani
frontier was tense over the weekend. "The Armenian army's actions were
proportionate," he told the Armenpress news agency. "We responded to
all targeted [Azerbaijani] gunshots."

The latest escalation came just days after Andzrej Kasprzyk, the top
OSCE official monitoring the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone,
called on the warring sides to avoid any truce violations during the
Nowruz and Easter holidays celebrated in Azerbaijan and Armenia and
Karabakh respectively. Each side now accuses the other of ignoring the

Announcing its latest casualties on Monday, the Azerbaijani Defense
Ministry urged the international community to condemn the "Armenian
provocations." An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman, for his
part, claimed that the Armenians are heightening tensions in order to
cement the Karabakh status quo.

Unlike the Armenian side, Baku has repeatedly rejected specific
safeguards against ceasefire violations that are sought by U.S.,
Russian and French mediators. As recently as on March 19, Azerbaijani
President Ilham Aliyev denounced the proposed confidence-building
measures, saying that the mediators are "helping to freeze the
conflict" and thereby supporting Armenia. 
29 Mar 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan

In November Kolkata will witness the biggest congregation of
Armenians in recent times. They will gather in the city to be a part
of celebrations lined up by their alma mater - Armenian College and
Philanthropic Academy (ACPA), which will turn 195 this year. The
get-together of sorts will also help the community relive its past,
connecting with old acquaintances now spread across the globe, the
Times of India reports.

Amid all the hype, ACPA has embarked upon the most difficult task of
creating a databank of Armenians from Kolkata. "This is the first such
databank since 1956," said Rev. Zaven Yazichyan, the India-Armenian
Spiritual Postorate, ACPA.

Entrepreneurial and devout Christians, Armenians arrived here in
early 1600s, some 60 years prior to East India Company. When Kolkata -
then Calcutta - was the British capital, the Armenians poured money
into colonial mansions, virtually transforming the wilting city into
what Kolkata eventually became.

Though they called it their home, Armenians started leaving 'Calcutta'
even before the British started moving out. For the last six decades,
their numbers have dwindling alarmingly. The city of 4.5 milling barely
has 150 Indian Armenians left now. According to the Armenian General
Benevolent Union news magazine, the number of students dropped from
206 in 1961 to just six in 1998. Among the 68 students studying here
now, only two are Armenian-Indians. The school relies on students
from abroad - mostly immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Russia and Armenia -
to fill its dormitories.

"Kolkata is the last surviving home to Armenians in India, and the
195-year celebrations will tell this to the world and bring to the
fore the proud past that we Armenians have," said Rev. Yazichyan.

The school is being renovated in a big way and several projects are
being taken up. The Araratyan library has been computerized and its
books are being preserved with modern methodology. The school has
tied up with different international educational institutions. The
swimming pool, which is the second oldest in Kolkata, is getting a
new lease of life. The school has also started weekly online chat on
Skype so that students can interact with their parents living abroad.

Even as numbers have been diminishing every year, two more Armenian
Indians will be added next year, informed Sasoon Zarookien, an alumnus
who hails from Tehran. So instead of brooding over the vanishing
world of Armenians, the celebrations will re-establish Armenian's
bond with Kolkata, felt Yazichyan. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Central Bank Approves Another Rate Cut
Emil Danielyan

The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) lowered the minimum cost of
borrowing in the country for a third time in as many months on
Tuesday, citing a further drop in inflation and "weak" consumer

The CBA's governing board cut its refinancing rate by 0.25 percent to
8.25 percent. The two previous rate cuts were announced on February 16
and December 22.

The benchmark rate stood at 6.75 percent when the Armenian dram began
weakening against the U.S. dollar in October 2014 amid falling cash
remittances from Armenian migrant workers in Russia. The CBA raised it
to 9.5 percent in January 2015 and 10.5 percent in February 2015, a
move that helped to stabilize the Armenian currency's exchange rate.

The Central Bank began gradually easing its monetary policy in
August. The authorities in Yerevan have since reported a steady
decrease in inflation.

A statement by the CBA said the national consumer price index was
actually down by 1.4 percent year on year last month. It attributed
the deflation to the decreased cost of foodstuffs imported to Armenia.

"In case of anticipated economic developments as well as the absence
of additional internal and external risks, the CBA Board will continue
to ease monetary terms," added the statement. That could further
stimulate economic activity in Armenia.

According to official statistics, the Armenian economy grew by around
3 percent last year despite a fall in domestic consumption, another
consequence of the decreased remittance inflows. The World Bank
forecast last month that economic growth in the country will slow down
to 2.5 percent this year.

Government data indicates, however, that Gross Domestic Product
increased more rapidly in the first two months of the year on the back
of strong performances of the manufacturing and non-trade services
sectors. The National Statistical Service (NSS) also recorded a nearly
24 percent surge in Armenian exports in January-February 2016.

The CBA said on Tuesday that these reported upswings offset the
macroeconomic impact of what it described as "weak consumer demand."
According to the NSS, the total volume of retail and wholesale trade
fell by around 2 percent. This might also explain why Armenian imports
shrunk by over 22 percent in the two-month period.

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