Thursday, 28 April 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Lady Prize Winner

RFE/RL Report
Burundi Activist Wins Prize Created In Memory Of 

Armenian Genocide

A woman who saved thousands of children in Burundi from 
extermination received on Sunday a new international humanitarian
award created in memory of the 1915 Armenian genocide in 
Ottoman Turkey. 

Hollywood star George Clooney awarded the first Aurora Prize for
Awakening Humanity to Marguerite Barankitse, a humanitarian worker
from the African state, at a ceremony held in Yerevan.

The award was established last year by three prominent Diaspora
Armenians: philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan and
Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New
York. It is designed to honor individuals around the world who risk
their lives to help others.

The prize is named after Aurora Mardiganian, an Armenian genocide
survivor who witnessed the massacre of relatives and told her story in
a book and film.

Barankitse, the founder of an orphanage in Burundi, was one of four
finalists picked last month by an international selection committee
co-chaired by Clooney and Elie Wiesel, a prominent Holocaust
survivor. The committee also includes three other Nobel laureates:
Iranian human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi, Costa Rica's former
President Oscar Arias and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.

Barankitse, who had to flee Burundi last year, has saved some 30,000
children who became orphans as a result of bloody ethnic conflicts
that plagued her country as well as neighboring Rwanda over two
decades ago. Her Maison Shalom charity has sheltered and educated

"This is a victory of love over hatred," Barankitse said at the award
ceremony timed to coincide with official commemorations of the 101st
anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

"Marguerite Barankitse serves as a reminder of the impact that one
person can have even when encountering seemingly insurmountable
persecution," Clooney said for his part.

The American actor and director emphasized the importance of the
award. "Tonight's award celebrates heroism and bravery far beyond what
most of us can do in a lifetime," he said.

"We also honor the 1.5 million lives that were lost 101 years ago, and
we honor those lives by calling their tragedy by its true name:
genocide, the Armenian genocide," added Clooney. "Hitler once famously
said, `Who remembers Armenia?' The answer is the whole world."

Australia's former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, another member of
the Aurora selection committee, made a similar point. "The driving
impulse of the prize was to ensure that we never forget, as some
people want us to do, the Armenian genocide, and that we do continue
to understand the incredible risks there are in so many places around
the world of going back to the edge of that particular volcano," Evans
said at the ceremony.

The prize carries a $100,000 personal grant to Barankitse. She was
also awarded $1 million to donate to organizations that inspired her
work. Barankitse chose three charities from Luxembourg as its

The committee co-headed by Clooney also awarded $25,000 to each of the
three other finalists: Tom Catena, an American doctor running the sole
hospital in Sudan's Nuba Mountains, Syeda Ghulam Fatima, a Pakistani
advocate of destitute workers, and Rev. Bernard Kinvi, a Catholic
priest who has saved the lives of over 1,000 Muslims in the Central
African Republic.

Unlike the other finalists, Catena, who is based in a rebel-held
region in southern Sudan, was unable to travel to Armenia for the
ceremony. Addressing it by Skype, he appealed for urgent international
humanitarian aid to the region.

"We are sort of a small Syria in a lot of ways," he said, accusing
Sudan's ruling regime of perpetrating a "quiet genocide" there for the
past two decades.

100 LIVES, a pan-Armenian group which launched the Aurora Prize, also
teamed up with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to give
its first Integrity in Journalism Award to Rukmini Callimachi, an
investigative reporter with "The New York Times." Callimachi has
written extensively on the ordeals of thousands of Yazidi women in
Iraq captured and used as sex slaves by the Islamic State extremist

"In bearing witness to the suffering of these women, I hope that one
day that suffering may end," Callimachi said as she received the award
at the Yerevan ceremony.

RFE/RL Report
Truce Violations In Karabakh Again Intensify

Fighting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani "line of contact" around
Nagorno-Karabakh reportedly intensified on Saturday, with the warring
sides accusing each other of violating the shaky ceasefire there with
heavy artillery fire.

Karabakh's Armenian-backed Defense Army said Azerbaijani forces have
fired since Saturday afternoon more than 250 mortar and howitzer
shells and rockets at its positions in northeastern Karabakh and
frontline sections east of the Armenian-populated territory. It said
one of its soldiers was seriously wounded shortly before the
"intensive fire" began.

A statement by the army added that Karabakh Armenian troops responded
with actions aimed at "restraining the enemy." It described the
skirmishes as further proof that the Azerbaijani side is not fully
complying with a Russian-mediated agreement that stopped heavy
fighting in the conflict zone on April 5.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed, meanwhile, that the Armenian
troops shelled Azerbaijani settlements northeast of Karabakh before
trying to launch overnight an "offensive" involving tanks. "The enemy
was repelled after approaching Azerbaijani positions," it said,
according to Azerbaijani news agencies.

The Karabakh Defense Army was quick to deny the claim as a "propaganda
ploy" designed to cover up Azerbaijani truce violations. It insisted
that it has not attempted any offensive operations along "the line of
contact" after the April 5 ceasefire agreement reached in Moscow.

Russia's leaders have since repeatedly urged the conflicting parties
to bolster the ceasefire regime. Visiting Yerevan on Friday, Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov said they should agree to specific safeguards
against truce violations without "further delay." Those include, among
other things, international investigations of armed incidents on the
Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines.

Armenia and the Karabakh Armenian leadership support the safeguards
sought by the Russian, U.S. and French mediators. Azerbaijan has
opposed them until now.

"We will do everything to ensure that the ceasefire holds," Armenia's
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Sunday. He said that is
essential for creating an "atmosphere of trust" between the parties
and thereby reviving the Karabakh peace process.

Ohanian made clear at the same time that the Armenian side is prepared
to fight back a fresh Azerbaijani offensive.

RFE/RL Report
Rosatom: No economic ground for new nuke station 
construction in Armenia
April 22, 2016 

Russia believes there is no economic ground for the construction of a
new nuclear power plant in Armenia, Kirill Komarov, the first deputy
chairman of the Rosatom Company, said this week. He said that the
construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia can only be
talked about if there are appropriate calculations and justifications.

Two years ago, Armenia’s government decided to extend the working life
of the nuclear power plant in Metsamor (a town in the Armavir
Province) by repairing it, for which a loan of $270 million and $30
million grant from Russia were received. After that, the power plant
is scheduled to be run until 2027.

According to Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Areg
Galstyan, there is no deviation from the repairing of the plant. The
research phase of the plant is completed. Now the renovation and
replacement of equipment are to be done.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s government intends to find financing for the
construction of a new nuclear power plant. According to last year’s
estimations, about $5.5 billion is needed to construct a 1060 MW power
plant. It seems that Russia is not in the forefront of those who would
like to provide funding.

“In terms of technology, it is possible to build one more block on the
Metsamor platform. The key issue is to provide economic criteria
needed for the construction, which will allow us to make it cost
effective,” stated Komarov in capital Yerevan.

However, according to Komarov, it is important to calculate the amount
of energy consumption in Armenia and export possibilities to
neighboring countries.

“Together we are working in this direction, and if we see that a
window of such opportunities has opened, we will realize the project
with pleasure. You know that an intergovernmental agreement has been
signed on this matter. It continues to operate, and is not canceled.
When we see that there are economic grounds for the construction of a
new nuclear power station, of course, we will try to implement this
project,” he said.

The authorities of Armenia trusted the construction of a new nuclear
power plant to Rosatom, and the company in turn announced that it will
be able to finance the construction of a new structure by only 20
percent, the rest, about $4 billion, will have to be found by Armenia.

“And who will give $4 billion to Armenia if Armenia has already given
Russia the right to construct. Armenia will hardly find fools.
Instead, it has found itself in a ridiculous situation,” wrote Hakob
Badalyan, a commentator of

According to the analyst, the new plant for Armenia has not only
economic, but in practice even military-political importance, because
the current power plant will not run forever.

“When Kirill Komarov says that there is no economic basis for the
power plant, he only represents the interests of Gazprom. Because
there is an economic basis for a nuclear power plant: it simply means
that gas produced amount of electricity in Armenia will be restricted,
and it is the most expensive kind of power,” said Badalyan, adding
that Armenia’s domestic market is enough for the nuclear plant to have
no problem with power consumption.
Turkey’s seizure of Churches and land alarms Armenians
24 Apr 2016
Siranush Ghazanchyan
Ceylan Yeginsu
The New York Times 

The Turkish government has seized the historic Armenian Surp Giragos
Church, a number of other churches and large swaths of property in the
heavily damaged Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, saying it wants to restore
the area but alarming residents who fear the government is secretly
aiming to drive them out.

The city, in the heart of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast,
has been the scene of heavy fighting for nearly a year, since the
Turkish military began a counterinsurgency campaign against militants
from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which ended a two-year cease-fire
in July. Many neighborhoods have been left in ruins, and hundreds of
thousands of people have been forced from their homes. Surp Giragos,
one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, was damaged
in the fighting and forced to shut its doors.

Both the Armenians, for whom Surp Giragos is an important cultural
touchstone, and the Kurds have discerned a hidden agenda in the
expropriations. They say the government plans to replace the destroyed
neighborhoods they shared with other minorities with luxury rentals
and condominiums affordable only to a wealthier, presumably
nonminority class of residents.

Some analysts agree, saying even some of the better-off Syrian
refugees in Turkey could end up there.

“Solving ethnic and religious strife through demographic engineering
is a policy of the Turkish government that goes back well over a
century,” said Taner Akcam, a prominent Turkish historian. “The latest
developments in Sur,” he added, referring to the historic heart of
Diyarbakir, “need to be viewed through this framework.”

Indeed, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s governing
Justice and Development Party has displayed a predilection for
sweeping projects. It was a proposal to build a shopping mall in place
of a razed central park in Istanbul that set off mass antigovernment
demonstrations in 2013.

Mr. Erdogan announced the government’s urban renewal plans for
Diyarbakir in 2011, saying they would “make the city into an
international tourism destination.”

Shortly after that speech, the local housing administration started
tearing down decrepit residential buildings in Sur, but opposition
soon brought a halt to the demolition. Many of the buildings in Sur
are protected, prohibiting big restoration projects. Mass construction
can be carried out only if the government declares an urgent
expropriation, as it has done now.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said recently that the government would
rebuild Sur to look like the scenic Spanish city of Toledo. “Everyone
will want to come and appreciate its architectural texture,” he said.

Yet for the Armenians and the Kurds, distrust of Turkey’s intentions
runs deep. Armenians still have vivid memories of what historians now
call the World War I genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turks, in
which 1.5 million of their countrymen died, and the Kurds have fought
the Turkish government on and off for generations.

Diyarbakir is a polyglot city that is home to small Christian
congregations of Assyrians, Chaldeans and Turkish converts, as well as
to Armenians and Kurds.

Surp Giragos (“Surp” means saint in Armenian), which stands in Sur,
closed in the 1960s for lack of parishioners but was renovated and
reopened in 2011, part of a reconciliation process begun by the
Erdogan government that has returned dozens of properties that the
Ottoman Turks confiscated during World War I.

To many Armenians in the area, who lost touch with their family
histories after the genocide and were often raised as Muslims by
Kurdish families, the church has served as an anchor as they
rediscovered their identities.

These “hidden Armenians” emerged as Turkey relaxed its restrictions on
minorities, but now they say they again feel threatened.

That helps explain why the government’s seizure of the church struck a
particularly raw nerve with the Armenian diaspora and rights groups,
who say the expropriation of religious properties and 6,300 plots of
land in Diyarbakir is a blatant violation of international law.

“This is reminiscent of the events leading up to the start of the
Armenian genocide on April 24, 1915, when properties were illegally
confiscated and the population was displaced under the false guise of
temporary relocation for its own protection,” said Nora Hovsepian, the
chairwoman of the Western Region of the Armenian National Committee of

“That temporary relocation,” she added, “turned out to be death
marches and a permanent disenfranchisement of two million from their
ancestral homeland.”

The Turkish government denies that those killings amounted to
genocide, saying thousands of people — many of them Turks — died as a
result of civil war.

The local governor’s office defended the decision to expropriate the
property in Diyarbakir, saying in a written statement that the main
aim was to bring Sur’s potential as a historic quarter to light by
restoring registered buildings and replacing irregular structures with
new ones that fit the city’s historical fabric. Local officials have
said the properties will be returned once they are restored.

But many communities in the area have lost trust in the government,
and official statements have been dismissed as insincere.

“The government wants to seize the heart of Diyarbakir and singularize
it, ridding it of its rich multifaith and multicultural structure,”
Abdullah Demirbas, a former mayor of Diyarbakir, said in a telephone

A video distributed by the prime minister’s office to illustrate the
government’s vision for the project has also been criticized for its
focus on mosques and residential areas over other prominent religious
establishments in the area.

One line of narration in particular drew the attention of religious
minorities: “The call to prayer that rises from Diyarbakir’s minarets
will not be quieted down.”

The Diyarbakir Bar Association has sued the government, claiming that
the project is a work of “military and security reconstruction” and
that it will not benefit Sur. The Surp Giragos Church is also
preparing to take legal action against the order.

The developments in Sur have marred the steps taken by the Turkish
government in recent years toward reconciliation with the nation’s
Armenian population.

Last year, a historic Armenian orphanage, built by dozens of
descendants of people who survived the genocide, was returned by the
government to the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation,
after months of campaigning and the intervention of Mr. Davutoglu.

At the time, Armenians worldwide hailed the decision as an example of
how activism by Turkish Armenians could bear fruit.

But critics argued that the restitution of the land just before
important elections was politically motivated, and said they doubted
that other confiscated properties would be returned in a timely

“How can we have any trust left when the government backtracks on
every positive step taken?” asked Anita Acun, a leader in the Armenian
community in Istanbul. “But even so, the situation in Sur came as a
surprise. We never imagined history would repeat itself.”

That history, and the traumas associated with those bloody events,
have been passed down through generations, and continue to reverberate
among Armenians.

“We haven’t been able to go to the church for months, and it’s
devastating to hear that it has been damaged in the fighting,” said
Onur Kayikci, a Kurdish resident of Sur, who recently became aware of
his Armenian ancestry. “For us, it’s not just a building or a place of
worship. It’s where we would come to put together the pieces of our
history and identity together.”

[what do you think of this cheeky line of argument?]
April 25 2016
Erdogan: Turkey is 'Most Meaningful Place' to Mark 
Armenian Genocide
By Damien Sharkov On 4/25/16 at 10:15 AM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves the Ottoman-era
Dolmabahce mosque after Friday prayers in Istanbul, April 15. He has
declared Turkey the “most meaningful place” to commemorate the
Armenian Genocide, which Ankara does not recognize as such.Murad
WorldRecep Tayyip ErdoğanArmenian Genocide

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared Turkey the “most
meaningful place” to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, which Ankara
does not recognize as such.

The killing and deportation of around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians
from territories held by the Ottoman empire between 1915 and 1920 is
annually commemorated in April both in Armenia and Turkey. The issue
is highly contentious, however, as Armenia has been campaigning for
decades to officially have the event recognized as a genocide,
instigated by the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey, the successor state to the empire, has vehemently refused to
do so, arguing no deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing took place.
The violence was part of a crackdown on Armenian movements to secede
from the Ottoman Empire, according to Turkey.

While many Armenians and foreign dignitaries travel to Yerevan’s
memorial to the victims of the mass killings each year, Erdogan hailed
Turkey as the place to honor the “Ottoman Armenians who lost their
lives under the tragic conditions of the First World War.”

The Turkish leader visited the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, in
Istanbul on Sunday, where he issued a carefully worded statement,
urging people not to “politicize history”.

Erdogan made no mention of “genocide” and repeatedly referred to the
victims as “Ottoman Armenians,” stressing that the dead were “Ottoman
citizens” and Turks and Armenians “share this common pain.”

“I welcome this commemoration which is taking place once again in
Turkey, the most meaningful place to share the grief endured by the
Ottoman Armenians, as well as to honor their memories,” Erdogan said.

“In the lands of Anatolia, where humanitarian duties are never
neglected and happiness and grief are sincerely shared, the sense of
conscience and justice are held above all,” he said, referring to
Turkey’s Asian region, bordering the South Caucasus.

He extended his condolences to the children and grandchildren of
Armenians whose ancestors perished during the massacre.

“We will always remind and remember the culture of cohabitation
between Turks and Armenians which has a history of almost one thousand
years,” Erdogan said.

Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to respond to
Erdogan’s statement, accusing him of falsely equating victims of war
to victims of genocide.

In a statement, the ministry called Erdogan’s words “yet another
failed manifestation of denialism” and “an explicit attempt to put the
responsibility for the genocide committed by the authorities of
Ottoman Empire against the Armenians on the Armenians themselves.”

“Turkey continues its efforts towards equalizing the victims of war
and those who became victims of genocide pre-planned and perpetrated
on the state level,” the statement reads.

“Turkey’s denialist stance further deepens the gap between the
Armenian and Turkish people, while the best way to fill it is facing
history and repentance.”
Cultural Genocide

Acts and measures undertaken to destroy any nation's or ethnic group's
culture are called ‘cultural genocide’. The word ‘Genocide’, coined by
Raphael Lemkin, does not only refer to the physical extermination of a
national or religious group, but also to its national, spiritual and
cultural destruction. The concept of cultural genocide was not
included in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
the Crime of Genocide.

Many facts prove that along with the massacres and deportation, the
Young Turk government was also implemented a premeditated and planed
destruction of the material testimonies of the Armenian culture.
Realizing the role of the church and Christian faith for the Armenian
nation, they intentionally massacred Armenian clergymen, destroyed
churches, monasteries, thousands of medieval manuscripts and other
church property.

An Arab witness of the Armenian Genocide, Fayez el Hussein, writes in
his memoirs "... After the massacres of the Armenians, the government
established commissions that were engaged in selling the leftover
property. Armenian cultural values were sold at the cheapest prices...
Once I went to a church to see how the sale of these things is
organized. The doors of the Armenian schools were closed. Turks used
the textbooks and scientific books in the market for wrapping cheese,
dates, sunflowers... "

In 1912-1913 the Armenian Patriarchy of Istanbul presented an account
of the churches and monasteries in Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia)
and in the Ottoman Empire. More than 2300 were accounted for including
the early unique Christian monuments of IV-V centuries. But most of
them were looted, burned and destroyed during the genocide.

The policy of destruction adopted by the Young Turks with regard to
Armenian historical and cultural heritage has been continued in
Republican Turkey, where these relics have been viewed as the
undesirable witnesses of the Armenian presence.

At the end of 1920s, Turkey began changing the names and titles
(toponymy) of certain locations in Western Armenia. Nowadays 90% of
the Armenian cities, towns and buildings in Western Armenia have been
Turkified. The names of Armenian geographical sites have also been
replaced with Turkish names. Devising a systematic method of
destruction, hundreds of architectural monuments have been destroyed
and all Armenian inscriptions erased.

In 1974 UNESCO stated that after 1923, out of 913 Armenian historical
monuments left in Eastern Turkey, 464 have vanished completely, 252
are in ruins, and 197 are in need of complete repair.

Armenian architectural buildings are consistently being demolished
with dynamite explosions and used as targets during Turkish military
training exercises; the undamaged stones are also used as construction
materials. In some rural places, Armenian monasteries and churches
serve as stables, stores, clubs and in once case, even a jail. On many
occasions the Turkish government converted Armenian churches into

On June 18, 1987 the Council of Europe adopted a Decree demanding from
the Turkish government to pay attention to and take care of the
Armenian language, culture and educational system of the Armenian
Diaspora living in Turkey, also demanding an appropriate regard to the
Armenian historical monuments that are in modern Turkey’s territory.

Cultural genocide against the Armenian heritage on the territory of
Turkey continues ...

From the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia.

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