Thursday, 20 October 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Turkey and the Armenian Ghost...

Allow me to recommend to you a book, Turkey and the Armenian Ghost, 
written by two French journalists based in Turkey, Laure Marchand 
and Guillaume Perrier, now translated into English by MeQueen Gill 
University Press (very readable, it's not an academic book). 

In contrast with most other books, this looks at Turkey today, the 
position of its minorities and the atmosphere in the country with 
the hopes of changes to come (written before the present coup). 
There are chapters on the diaspora and those within Turkey, recent 
events that led to the current situation, visiting Western Armenia, 
the problems faced by Islamised Armenians, the Armenians in the 
Kurdish resistance movement, and so on. I felt that it gave me a huge 
update that makes me understand the present far better than before
Armenia’s Tsakhkadzor among five most popular mountain 

ski resorts 
in CIS 

YEREVAN, October 18. Armenia’s Tsakhkadzor will be among the 
five most popular for Russians mountain ski resorts in the 
Commonwealth of Independent States and the states of the near 
abroad during this New Year holidays, reports.

The rating is based on the data of search of hotel reservation and 
accommodation for New Year holidays – from December 30, 21016 
to January 8, 2017.

Top ten mountain ski resorts in the ranking are Chimbulak (Kazakhstan), 
Gudauri (Georgia), Lagoysk (Belarus), Shakhdag (Azerbaijan), 
Tsakhkadzor (Armenia), Bakuriani (Georgia), Bukovel (Ukraine), 
Chimgan (Uzbekistan), Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) and Silichi (Belarus).

According to TourStat analysis agency, demand for winter rest in 
CIS and near abroad countries among Russians rose 15%, 
compared with the previous winter.

In the last three years, (HotelsCombined) is recognised 
the best hotel search resource, according to World Travel Awards.
Second Phase of Austerity Plan in Government: Layoff Expected
18 October 2016, 11:50 

According to the Hraparak Daily, on these days the members of the 
executive are submitting lists for optimization. Earlier hovik Abrahamian 
had announced the start of optimization but he apparently feared that 
its implementation would cause a social uprising.

“Karen Karapetyan is determined. First, he announced that he is not 
satisfied with reduction of old broken cars, reduction of old broken cars 
does not change anything, it is necessary to cut real and many office 
cars. Now the heads of agencies are in trouble, they don’t know 
whose car to take away,” the newspaper writes. 

The second direction will be the layoff in the government departments 
and regional divisions.

The prime minister said every manager should figure out the way their 
divisions can do the same work with fewer employees. The increase 
in workload will not be reflected in the salary. And while in the capital 
city people whose salary is at 150,000 are facing loss of jobs, in the 
regions those who receive 60,000 drams are facing layoff.
October 17, 2016 Monday 10:40 AM GMT
Mkhitaryan criticised over Manchester United move
Henrikh Mkhitaryan left Borussia Dortumd for Man Utd in the 
summer in a deal worth nearly £30m.
By Rob Dawson

Henrikh Mkhitaryan's decision to join Manchester United in the summer
was 'strange', according to Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Mkhitaryan arrived at Old Trafford in the summer but has started just
once in the Premier League so far this season.

After recovering form a thigh injury, the 27-year-old is set to return
to the squad against Liverpool at Anfield on Monday night.

But Watzke has suggested the Armenia international made a mistake when
he left Dortmund after taking his time to settle in following his move
from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.

He said: "Any intelligent player should consider in advance what kind
of environment they are moving to.

"When you are playing in surroundings where things are working for
you, like in Dortmund, then it is quite strange to give that away
again once things have finally started to work out for you after a long time settling in."

RFE/RL Report 
Yerevan Scoffs At Azeri Offer Of Autonomy For Karabakh
October 18, 2016

Armenia on Tuesday dismissed as "self-deception" Azerbaijani President
Ilham Aliyev's latest offer to grant Nagorno-Karabakh the status of an
autonomous region in Azerbaijan.

"We will never agree to grant Nagorno-Karabakh independence," Aliyev
told Russian state television in an interview aired earlier in the

"But there can be a compromise on local self-government in
Nagorno-Karabakh in the future; if we reach agreement it could be an
autonomous republic," he said. "We cannot make more concessions."

The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to scoff at Aliyev's
remarks. "Azerbaijan's leadership had better stop engaging in
self-deception and misleading the Azerbaijani society," the ministry
spokesman, Tigran Balayan, said in written comments to RFE/RL's
Armenian service (

"The Azerbaijani leader already publicly acknowledged a week ago the
real content of [Karabakh peace] negotiations when he said that Baku
is being urged to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh's independence," added

Speaking at an October 6 cabinet meeting in Baku, Aliyev complained
that "pressure is exerted on Azerbaijan so that it agrees to
Nagorno-Karabakh's independence." He appeared to refer to the U.S.,
Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group.

Peace proposals made by the mediating troika over the past decade have
called for a gradual liberation of virtually all seven districts
around Karabakh that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh
Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. That would
be followed by a referendum in which Karabakh's predominantly Armenian
population would determine the disputed territory's internationally
recognized status.

Armenian leaders have long stated that the Karabakh Armenians' right
to self-determination must be at the heart of any Armenian-Azerbaijani
peace deal. 
Garo Paylan files criminal complaint over anti-Armenian hate speech
18 Oct 2016 

Member of the Turkish Parliament representing HDP Party Garo Paylan 
has filed a criminal complaint over “Armenian bastards” slogan, which 
audience shouted during President Erdogan’s speech in Trabzon, 
Agos reports.

HDP Istanbul MP Garo Paylan filed a criminal complaint against 
“Armenian bastards” slogan, which audience shouted during President 
Erdogan’s speech in Trabzon on October 15. Paylan appealed to Istanbul 
Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal 
Law that bans “inciting hatred and hostility among peoples and denigration”.

In the complaint, Garo Paylan stated: “On October 15, there was a rally 
in Trabzon, where President Erdogan gave a speech. The audience, 
which is claimed to be AKP members, repeatedly shouted ‘Armenian 
bastards cannot discourage us.’ The president, ministers and member 
of organization committee didn’t do anything to prevent people from 
shouting that slogan. This slogan, apart from the fact that it insults 
Armenian people who have been living on these lands for centuries, is 
considered as hate speech under the international laws to which Turkey 
is a party and the practices of ECHR. Unfortunately, such expressions 
about Armenian people are nothing new. It is self-evident that hate 
speech has the power of leading to public indignation and constitutes 
a danger to safety of life and property of Armenian citizens, for this fact 
has been a part of the rulings of national and international judicial 
authorities. Especially the silence of the president, who is supposed to 
treat equally to all citizens, increases the power of hate discourse and 
facilitates the targeting of Armenians. In addition, by constituting an 
obstacle to the practice of living together peacefully, this slogan incited 
hatred and hostility against a section of the population on the basis of 
their racial difference and denigrated Armenian people.”
Garo Paylan: Only democratic Turkey can recognize Armenian Genocide

Garo Paylan, the Turkish-Armenian MP who recently filed a lawsuit against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shared his concerns over the human rights situation in Turkey in an interview with Hayreniq Weekly (US-based Armenian publication).

According to the politician, who was elected to Turkey’s parliament from the People’s Democratic Party, Turkey isn’t likely to ever recognize the Armenian Genocide unless its builds a statehood anchored on the principles of democracy.

The interview, with partial abridgements, is provided below:

What do you think should be an Armenian lawmaker’s obligation in Turkey’s parliament?

My co-thinkers and I are striving towards making Turkey a country built on democratic laws. Only the Turkey governed by rules of democracy can recognize the Armenian Genocide. What happened were terrible massacres which the authorities are hiding to date. Inventing various lies and excuses, they are trying to consign the horrendous calamity to oblivion.

I have to confirm, to your surprise, that the overwhelming majority of the lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament are not aware, or rather, are misinformed, of the Armenian Genocide.

Many believe in the opposite scenario, i.e. – that we, the Armenians, used threats and exploited the local residents and even committed manslaughters.

And many parliament members are confident that this is the reality.

That mentality, of course, brings us on the nationalistic track. You can often hear Turkish parliamentarians say that the Armenians and Kurds spare no effort to undermine the Turkish state. Those people are in fear, and their allegations add fuel to the fire. And that influences the democracy building process inside countries.

The Turkish parliament currently has three members of Armenian descent. Selina Dogan of the opposition People’s Democratic Party and Margar Yesayan of President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Democratic Party are colleagues. Do you collaborate with one another or is that possibility missing?

I have repeatedly emphasized over and over again that I am inclined to pursue transparent policies and lead a fierce battle against denial, especially when it comes to our community.

I feel on my own skin the entire responsibility and consciousness of dealing with Armenians' affairs. As for the other two Armenian parliament members, I have known Selina Dogan for many years. She too, believes and fights for democracy. But I have told her and repeated time and again her party builds its policies on nationalistic rather than democratic principles.

I maintain permanent contact with Selina in matters relating to the Armenians. As for Margar Yesayan who represents Erdogan’s Justice and Development party, his factor needs to be considered from various angles. Given the party’s ideology, Yesayan never adopts a pro-Armenian stance. That’s understandable on the one hand and subject to criticism on the other.

What is the role of Azerbaijan and its lobby in Turkey’s Parliament and political life?

Azerbaijan is clearly sparing no effort to make use of Europe and trap it by repeatedly applying for material aid. On the other hand, Ankara and Baku are maintaining close ties. By operating its material aid and lobbying machinery, Azerbaijan keeps on raising the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and distorting historical facts by claiming occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia.

The Azerbaijani lobby has intensified its activities, which arouses concern. Do you establish contacts with other progressive political scientists, writers and art critics?

For example, Cem Özdemir, Co-Chairman of the German political party Alliance '90/The Greens, whose consistent work made recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the German Bundestag possible. Or famous writers Orhan Pamuk and Elif Şafak. We were greatly interested in the developments at the German Bundestag. It was due to the MP of Turkish descent Cem Özdemir that Germany recognized the Armenian Genocide committed by its ally Turkey. Let us hope Cem Özdemir will continue his activities and afford opportunities for cooperation. On the other hand, well-known columnists and literary critics seem to be disappointing. For example, Orhan Pamuk spends most of his time in New York, while Elif Şafak has settled down in London.

In conclusion, what can you say about last June’s parliamentary elections and developments since the failed coup attempt this July?

The recent days are harder than the first post-election days last year. And the situation may even worsen. Regrettably, the West has played a major role in this grave situation. But I hope that we can continue our struggle and democracy will triumph.
A beautiful mosque and the dark period of the Armenian genocide
Robert Fisk

The ‘Liberation’ Mosque is a fine, neo-classical, almost Gothic construction with striped black-and-white stone banding, unusual for a Muslim holy place but a jewel in the Tepebasi district of the old town of Gaziantep. Its stone carvings and mock Grecian columns beside the window frames are a credit to another, gentler age. The minarets perch delicately – and I had never seen this before – on square towers that might have been church towers had there been Christians in this ancient city.

But of course, there were. What no-one will tell you in Gaziantep, what no guidebook mentions, what no tourist guide will refer to, is that this very building – whose 19th century builders were none other than the nephews of the official architect of Sultan Abdulhamid II – was the Holy Mother of God cathedral for at least 20,000 Christian Armenians who were victims of the greatest war crime of the 1914-18 war: the Armenian genocide. They were deported by the Ottoman Turks from this lovely city, which had been their families’ home for hundreds of years, to be executed into common graves. The murderers were both Turks and Kurds.

Altogether, up to 32,000 Armenians – almost the entire Christian population of 36,000 of what was then called Antep – were deported towards the Syrian cities of Hama, Homs, Selimiyeh, to the Hauran and to Deir Ezzor in 1915. The Muslim citizens of Aintep then apparently plundered the empty homes of those they had dispossessed, seizing not only their property but the treasures of the cathedral church itself. Indeed, the church, ‘Surp Asdvazdadzin Kilisesi’ in Armenian, was turned into a warehouse – as were many Jewish synagogues in Nazi Germany and in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe during the Second World War – and then into a prison.

Prowling around the church-mosque enclosure, I found some of the prison bars still attached to the window frames, although the building has been functioning as a mosque since 1986. The main gate was closed but I pushed it open and found not only that the structure of the magnificent building is still intact but that scaffolding has been placed against the walls for a renovation. Behind the church – and separate from the building – was an ancient stone cave whose interior was blackened with what must have been the smoke of candle flames from another era, perhaps a worshipping place because the cave appears to have been a tomb in antiquity. The caretaker came fussing up to us to tell us that the mosque was shut, that we must leave, that this was a closed place. But he was a friendly soul and let us take pictures of the great façade of the church and of the minarets.

The only sign of its origin is the date “1892” carved in stone on the east façade of the original church, marking the final completion of the work of the great Armenian architect Sarkis Balian – he was the official architect of the 19th century Sultan Abdulhamid II, a terrible irony since Abdulhamid himself began the first round of Armenian massacres of 80,000 Christians (the figure might be 300,000) in Ottoman Turkey just two years after the Armenian stonemason Sarkis Tascian carved the date on the façade. In the later 1915 Armenian Holocaust – even Israelis use this word for the Armenian genocide – a million and a half Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks. It is a shock to realize that Aintep’s vast toll of dead were only a small fraction of this terrifying war crime.

Outside the church, I found an elderly Syrian refugee sitting on the pavement by the closed gate. He greeted us in Arabic and said that, yes, he knew this was once a church. Just over a century ago, the Arabs of northern Syria – the land now occupied by Isis – were among the only friends the Armenians found in the vast deserts into which they were sent to die. Some took Armenian children into their homes. Others married Armenian women – the degree of coercion involved in this ‘charitable’ act depends on the teller — although more than twenty years ago I met a Syrian man and his ‘converted’ Armenian wife near Deir Ezzor, both around a hundred years old and both of whom has lost count of their great-great-grandchildren.

A Turkish man in a shop below the cathedral was less generous. Yes, it had been a church, he said. But when I asked him if it had been an Armenian church, he chuckled – dare I call it a smirk? — and looked at me, and said nothing. I suppose a kind of guilt hangs over a place like this. So it is a happy thought that some Armenian families have in recent years – as tourists, of course – visited the city that was once Antep and have spoken with warmth to members of Turkey’s leftist parties and celebrated the work of American missionaries who cared for both the Armenian and Turkish Muslim population here before 1915. One Armenian identified his old family home and the Turkish family who lived there invited him in and insisted that he should stay with them and not in a hotel. For this was also his home, they said.

But tears of compassion do not dry up the truth. For when the First World War ended, Allied troops marched into Antep. First came the British, led by the execrable Sir Mark Sykes – of Sykes-Picot infamy – and then the French in October 1919 , who brought with them, alas, elements of the Armenian volunteers who had joined their ‘Legion d’Orient’ in Port Said. The Muslim elites who had taken over the town – and the Armenian homes and properties – feared the newcomers would demand restitution. Fighting broke out between Muslims and the French and their Armenian allies and the Muslims discovered a new-found enthusiasm for the independence struggle of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Thus began the false history of the city.

Perhaps the greatest font of knowledge on this period is a young Harvard scholar, Umit Kurt, of Kurdish-Arab origin, who was born in modern-day Gaziantep. Mr Kurt is now an academic at Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Armenians of Antep from the 1890s with a special focus – this is the important bit for readers – on property transfers, confiscation, deportation and massacres. Mr Kurt’s conclusion is bleak.

“The famous battle of Aintab [sic] against the French,” he says, “…seems to have been as much the organised struggle of a group of genocide profiteers seeking to hold onto their loot as it was a fight against an occupying force. The resistance…sought to make it impossible for the Armenian repatriates to remain in their native towns, terrorising them [again] in order to make them flee. In short, not only did the local…landowners, industrialists and civil-military bureaucratic elites lead to the resistance movement, but they also financed it in order to cleanse Aintab of Armenians.”

They were successful. The French abandoned Antep in December 1919 and the Armenian volunteers fled with them. The new Turkish state awarded the Muslim fighters of the city with the honourific Turkish prefix ‘Gazi’ – “veterans” – and thus Antep became Gaziantep and the great church of old Sarkis Balian would eventually be renamed the ‘Liberation Mosque’ – “Kurtulus Cami” – to mark the same dubious victory over the French and Armenians, the latter being defamed as killers by those who had sent the Armenians of the city to their doom in 1915.

Not much justice there. Nor in the official Turkish version of that terrible history of the Armenian Holocaust in which – this is the least the Turkish government will concede – Armenians died ‘tragically’ in the chaos of the First World War, as did Muslims themselves. German military advisers witnessed the genocide. Hitler was later to ask his generals, before the invasion of Poland and the destruction of its Jews, who now, in 1939, remembered the Armenians. The official Turkish account of the fate of Gaziantep’s original Armenians refers to their “relocation” – a word used by the Nazis when they sent the Jews to their extermination in eastern Europe.

No, we shouldn’t contaminate the Turks of modern Turkey with the crimes of their grandfathers. Umir Kurt wrote his dissertation for the brilliant and brave Turkish historian Taner Akcam, whose work on the Armenian genocide has revolutionised historical scholarship in Turkey. Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan deliberately moved the date of the 1915 Gallipoli commemorations to the very day of the anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide in an attempt to smother any memory of the crime – but the government allowed Armenians to parade through Istanbul in honour of their 1915 dead. Yet if the historical narrative from the 20th century’s first holocaust to its second holocaust is valid, then the path upon which the first doomed Armenians of Antep set out in their convoy of deportation on 1st August 1915 led all the way to Auschwitz. The ‘Liberation’ Mosque is a milestone on the journey.         

No comments: