Friday, 24 March 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Patriarch speaks at Jesus tomb
Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem speaks at Jesus tomb reopening ceremony
22 Mar 2017 

An Armenian official delegation headed by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian attended the reopening of the Jesus tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. 

Attending the event were Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, high-ranking officials from other countries, Christian church leaders, thousands of pious people. 

Earlier the day Minister Nalbandian had visited the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to meet with Patriarch, Archbishop Nurhan Manukian. 

Archbishop Nurhan Manukian delivered a speech at the ceremony along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos II. A message from His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, was read out. 

The tomb where Jesus is believed to have been buried was unveiled today following nine months of restoration. 

Three main Christian denominations – Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches – jealously guard separate sections of the church, but they put aside their longstanding religious rivalries to give their blessing for the restoration. Armenian architects were involved in reconstruction works.
With Rhinoplasty on the Rise, Whither the Armenian Nose?
Iris Molenaar
March 22 2017

The Armenian nose is a source of national pride, but Armenians – especially young women – are increasingly opting for rhinoplasty in an effort to conform to the idealized Western appearance. 

The Armenian nose is a source of national pride, sometimes said to be like the country’s impressive mountains: high, proud, and honest. 

But what looks good in a landscape painting does not necessarily meet today’s global beauty standards. And increasingly, Armenians – especially young women – are opting for rhinoplasty in an effort to conform to the idealized Western appearance. 

“As a country, we try to be Western, and this applies to the beauty standards, too,” said Kristina Grigoryan, who has practiced plastic surgery in Yerevan for 16 years. “We are still proud of being Armenians, but less proud of having such features.” 

Armenia does not keep national statistics on it, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the procedure is becoming more popular: Grigoryan’s clinic performs about 500 nose jobs a year, up from 150 to 200 five years ago, she said, and more and more clinics are offering the procedure. 

The Armenian nose may be ancient, but the Armenian nose job is a recent innovation. In the Soviet Union, plastic surgery was mostly restricted to reconstructive cases. The massive 1988 earthquake in Armenia boosted the demand for reconstructive plastic surgery, an expertise that doctors later took advantage of to go into the cosmetic surgery business. “This is how plastic surgery started to develop in Armenia,” said Karen Danielyan, a plastic surgeon in Yerevan. “And now rhinoplasty is the most popular and most common plastic surgery in Armenia – three out of four operations are rhinoplasties.” 

Danielyan is one of the pioneers of rhinoplasty in Armenia: in 2002, he started the “Most Armenian Nose” competition, with the first prize being a free nose job by the doctor himself. Back then, he said, the contest was a publicity stunt to drum up business. Now, it is no longer necessary to create awareness of the procedure. He estimates that he does about 1,500 rhinoplasties per year, but the number is closely dependent on the cyclical nature of the economy. 

“If the [economic] situation is bad, there are fewer operations; if the situation is good, there are many more operations,” he said. The recent economic downturn has hurt, he said, “Now is not a good time for Armenia. The economic situation is not very good, so not many people have operations.” 

But it is not only Armenian citizens who get nose jobs in Armenia. A developed infrastructure and low costs (when compared to the West) have facilitated a medical tourism boom, one driven mainly by demand for plastic surgery. Raffi Elliott, CEO and co-founder of a medical package tour company, said that his clientele among the Armenian Diaspora is disproportionately coming to get rhinoplasties. 

For a nation with a strong sense of pride and national identity, the trend to make the “Armenian nose” look less Armenian can seem contradictory. Danielyan, who sports a humble nose himself, says that these days people are more looking to get noses that suit their faces, rather than simply copying the popular small, curved, Slavic noses. However, he does continue to get many requests to recreate Angelina Jolie’s nose, the most popular celebrity example when it comes to rhinoplasty. 

With nose surgeries becoming more accessible, accepted, and popular, is there a danger of the “Armenian nose” disappearing? Danielyan laughed and recalled a question he got from one of his patients: “If I get my nose fixed, will my child get my new nose?” 

A rhinoplasty does nothing to the genes, of course, so the characteristics are not likely to change, he explained. 

Elliott, the medical tourism entrepreneur, also expressed his respect for the emblematic feature: “I like the Armenian nose. It gives character.” 

And some Armenian women are bucking the trend: one pop singer, Silva Hakobyan, has shot down tabloid rumors that she plans to reduce her quintessentially Armenian nose, and says she is proud of her natural features. 

Many women still worry that typically Armenian features may damage one’s marriage prospects, Danielyan said, noting that the most common rationale stated by his patients is the wish to find a partner. “If you have a big nose, you won’t get married, and if you don’t marry, it’s not good,” he said. 

Rouben Abrahamyan, the winner of the inaugural Most Armenian Nose competition – and its only male entrant – says he still feels bad for his runner up. “She was very beautiful, but her big nose damaged her appearance,” said Abrahamyan, a journalist and university lecturer in Yerevan. He entered the contest because he had an injury to his nose that caused difficulty breathing, and is glad to have that cleared up. Still, he said, “I felt like changing places with her so that she could have a better nose. In my case, it was just a medical treatment, but she would look better with a smaller nose.” 

[internal Turkish politics appears to be interfering with justice]

Anadolu Agency (AA)
March 21, 2017
Istanbul prosecutor links Gulen to 2007 murder

An Istanbul prosecutor on Tuesday requested an arrest warrant for
U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen in connection with the 2007 killing of a
prominent Armenian-Turkish journalist, a legal source said.

Gulen and other suspects linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization
(FETO) were named by Gokalp Kokcu, a counter-terrorism prosecutor, as
being involved in the shooting of Hrant Dink, the source said on
condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.

FETO is said to have orchestrated last July’s attempted coup that left
249 people dead.

Among those named alongside Gulen, who Ankara is attempting to
extradite from the U.S. over his alleged role in the coup bid, were
former prosecutor Zekeriya Oz, former Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem
Dumanli, journalists Faruk Mercan and Adem Yavuz Arslan and lawyer
Halil Ibrahim Koca.

Dink was killed in front of his office in Istanbul in January 2007. He
was one of the founders of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper

His murder sparked widespread protests and led to speculation about
the involvement of far-right groups amid claims of a cover-up.

Ogun Samast was jailed for 23 years in 2011 for the killing. Samast,
who was aged 17 at the time of the shooting, claimed he killed Dink
for “insulting Turkishness”.

Reporting by Murat Kaya; Writing by Sibel Ugurlu
Armenia’s Parliament Has Handed Over Its Legislative Function to Government, Report Says
March 21, 2017| 

Armenia’s fifth convocation National Assembly almost completely handed over its main legislative function to the Government; it also failed to implement its function of overseeing the operations of other state institutions. In the past 5 years, 92% of the 1078 adopted laws were government-initiated, while the NA only voted to pass them, according to the final report by the Parliament Monitoring project.

Lusine Vasilyan, in charge of the project, said during the presentation of the report that the weakening role of the parliament as a legislative body is also evidenced by the fact that exactly half of the laws were passed in extraordinary sessions convened by the government. “If in case with the parliament of the fourth convocation there were 196 special order bills, in the fifth one there were 645 – four times more,” Vasilyan stated.

According to the project manager, at extraordinary sessions, the parliament does not tend to comprehensively discuss the government-initiated bills but passes them as quickly as possible within 24 hours. At the same time, bills introduced by opposition forces often do not get discussed at all: the fifth convocation refused to include 58 opposition-initiated bills in its agenda.

The adopted laws, Vasilyan went on, mainly concerned the state-legal and administrative fields; the Code on Administrative Offences, for instance, was changed 40 times; “It is noteworthy that the laws that underwent insignificant changes coincide with the fields that the government considers a priority. The law on foreign investment, for example, was last changed 10 years ago.”

According to Gor Abrahamyan, an expert with the NA Monitoring project, the parliament also did not exercise its control function; “The NA failed to discuss the Control Chamber activity programs in due time. Which is even more absurd, the parliament did not hold any discussions on the General Prosecutor’s and the Human Rights Ombudsman’s 2016 reports.”

Erdogan Imposes Favorite Candidate on Istanbul Patriarchate
Mirror Spectator
Editorial 3-25 March 2017
By Edmond Y. Azadian 

Byzantine laws in Turkey have contributed to the delays and complications in the election of a new patriarch in Istanbul. For nine years, the authorities have given the runaround to the lay and spiritual leadership of the community and at every stage have further complicated the process.

Archbishop Aram Ateshyan has time and again proven his loyalty to Turkey’s rulers to the detriment of his spiritual obligations to his flock. That is why the authorities rewarded him by extending artificially his rule at the Patriarchate, in the meantime using him as a political tool. He has been used on many occasions as the voice of the Armenian community in support of the government’s anti-Armenian stance. His rush to apologize for the German parliament’s resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide discredited him as a religious leader of the community, but endeared him to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s circle.

The tenuous situation in the community, however, could not last forever, as Archbishop Ateshyan abused his position and resorted to various ruses to emerge as the sole candidate for the office of Patriarch which had been vacant for the last nine years, since the incapacitation of Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan.

The situation came to a boil when an open row developed between Ateshyan and Bishop Sahak Mashalyan, president of the Clergy Council and a potential candidate in the election. That clash took place on February 16 and it shook the entire community.

After long deliberation amongst the community leaderships, it was decided to send both candidates to Holy Echmiadzin and defuse the situation through the mediation of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. The two men were later joined by Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, Primate of Germany, and Archbishop Sebouh Chouljian, Primate of Gougark in Armenia, who also submitted their names for the position.

A deal was struck at Echmiadzin creating a process to hold an election of a Locum Tenens (deghabah) at which time, Archbishop Ateshyan would resign from his position as vicar (patriarchal deputy) and the elected locum tenens would conduct the process of electing the Patriarch.

In the meantime, an electoral committee would be selected and an election request date would be submitted to the authorities. That date was tentatively set for May 29, 2017.

The election of the locum tenens is the prerogative of the Clergy Council.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Chouljian was eliminated from the race and Bishop Mashalyan withdrew his candidacy in favor of Archbishop Bekjian. Therefore, the contest became a race between Bekjian and Ateshyan.

In view of the fact that the members of the Clergy Council are beholden to Ateshyan for their livelihoods and the latter is the perceived favorite of the authorities, it was a foregone conclusion that he would emerge as the victor.

The election took place on March 15 and out of 34 votes, Bekjian astonishingly received 24 while Ateshyan received 11.

The courage and independence of the members of the Clergy Council were celebrated and all the participants, including Ateshyan himself, congratulated Archbishop Bekjian for his election.

The drama began when Ateshyan literally pulled a trick out of thin air. After the election, he returned to his office and emerged with a letter signed by Deputy Mayor of Istanbul Aziz Merjan, stating that holding an election at that date was not permitted. It was “illegal” yet no specific law was cited in support of the decision.

At the conclusion of the election, the entire community had expressed a sigh of relief that the controversies were left behind and a peaceful election process was unfolding.

Mr. Merjan’s letter cynically alluded that the election may repeat the turmoil created on February 16 and the annulment of the election would contribute to calm, especially when the community already had a spiritual leader in the person of Archbishop Ateshyan.

Although people are very cautious in their expressions under Erdogan’s dictatorship, Bishop Mashalyan blew his top by announcing that the election is the prerogative of the Clergy Council and the government has no right to intrude.

That was the general sentiment of the community, except of some of the more docile leaders, one of them being Bedros Sirinoglu, president of the Holy Cross Hospital and head of the VADIP (group of charitable and religious organizations).

Instead of blaming the government’s crude interference in the community’s religious affairs, Siringolu, in his immense wisdom, has blamed the community for not having patience for a few more months, forgetting clearly that the community has been enduring for nine years the government intrigues with respect to Armenian spiritual matters in Istanbul. He also betrayed the real truth in this charade by making the following statement: “I don’t express myself on behalf of Ateshyan nor Bekjian, but if the election had taken place between three candidates, Ateshyan would be the winner. Had Ateshyan won, the government’s letter could not have been issued.”

The leadership of the community has decided to seek an appointment with the governor of Istanbul for an explanation. While refusing to resign, Ateshyan has cynically agreed to accompany Mashalyan to the governor’s office, if and when an appointment is granted. He is already certainly aware what kind of “explanation” the governor has in store.

For all practical purposes, the governor will delay that appointment forever to extend Ateshyan’s tenure, until the community is exhausted and is ready to heed the “wisdom” of leaders such as Sirinoglu, advising them to acquiesce to the government’s dictate.

Archbishop Bekjian has emerged as a courageous leader. He had announced that he would visit Germany for a few days to take care of some urgent business and return to Istanbul to assume his responsibilities as locum tenens. That is, of course, if the authorities do not detain or deport him.

This interference in the community’s religious affairs opens a Pandora’s box, especially at this juncture, when Turkey can ill afford more adverse publicity.

By waging a war of words against the major European countries, President Erdogan has become a pariah among world leaders. As if his challenge to Europe were not enough, he is also trying to provoke Russia by closing the Straits to the Russian merchant marine, in clear violation of the Treaty of Montreux of 1936.

The Turkish government’s intrusion in the community’s religious affairs also contravenes the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, whereby Turkey must guarantee the freedom of minorities. Article 40 of the above treaty specifically stipulated that they have [non-Muslims, Armenians] “equal rights to establish, manage and control, at their own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and other establishments of training instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and practice their own religion freely.”

Turkey has been intervening in Cyprus and occupying one third of that country under the pretext of defending fellow Turks. It has also sent troops to Iraq, despite the vociferous protests of its government, supposedly to protect Turkomans.

If there is such an international law to protect fellow nations, then Armenia must take advantage of it, too. Realistically, Armenia cannot send troops to Turkey because it is no match for Turkey but at least it can raise its voice at international quarters, such as the United Nations, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union.

In addition, the issue, related to religious freedom, Echmiadzin can appeal to the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and other religious centers.

Also, other groups in the diaspora can and must raise their voices.

Now that Turkey has demonstrated its truce face, our appeals will certainly resonate further in various world quarters.

Erdogan’s diktat is not directed only at the Istanbul Armenians. It is a challenge to Armenians around the world.

The Washington Post
Hollywood takes on a tragedy of history
Vanessa H. Larson
M`rich 19 207  
Charlotte Le Bon stars as an Armenian woman raised in France, and Christian Bale as an outspoken American journalist in “The Promise.” (Jose Haro/Open Road Films)

Turks and Armenians have been in a bitter, long-running dispute over the deaths of more than 1 million Armenians during World War I in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians call it a genocide; the Turkish government says the killings were not systematic, occurring in the midst of war.

Now, the dispute has come to Hollywood. Two films this spring feature an intense love triangle that unfolds in this historic setting - but their political agendas are vastly different.

"The Promise," opening nationwide April 21, is the first major Hollywood movie to portray what a consensus of historians calls the Armenian genocide, which involved forced-march deportations and mass killings over several years starting in 1915.

Oscar Isaac plays a young Armenian man who moves from his small village to Istanbul in 1914 to study medicine. There, as the predominantly Muslim Ottoman Empire enters the war on the side of Germany and turns on its own minority Christian Armenian population, he meets and falls in love with an Armenian woman raised in France (Charlotte Le Bon of "The Walk"), who is romantically involved with an outspoken American correspondent for the Associated Press (Christian Bale).

Talaat Pasha, considered the mastermind behind the killings, is one of the real-life figures in the film, which spares none of the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians, from the brutal labor camps for young men to the massacres of women, children and the elderly.

Though "The Ottoman Lieutenant" appears similar on the surface, it offers a very different interpretation of history. The film - which opened March 10 with a limited release - tells the fictional story of a headstrong American nurse (Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar) who travels to eastern Anatolia (now Turkey) to work at an American Mission Hospital. During the war, she is pulled between two men seeking her affections: an American doctor (Josh Hartnett) and a Muslim Ottoman lieutenant (Michiel Huisman of "Game of Thrones").

The film takes an approach similar to the position of the Turkish government, which has long held that there was no state-organized policy of ethnic cleansing against Armenians. Rather, Turkey insists, during the fighting on the Ottoman Empire's eastern front against the Russians, Turkish and Armenian civilians alike died in the course of wartime violence.

Taner Akcam of Clark University, one of the few historians from Turkey to recognize the events as a genocide, says that the country's government refuses to acknowledge Turkish culpability partly because of the sensitive issue of reparations for survivors and their descendants. But the stance also stems from deeper roots: the country's founding in 1923 on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

"If you acknowledge the Armenian genocide, then you have to acknowledge that an important number of Turkish founding fathers were either involved directly in genocide or became rich during the genocidal process" through the seizure of Armenian property, said Akcam.

Both films were in the works well before the April 24, 2015, centenary of the tragedy , which helped increase awareness of the subject.

"The Armenian genocide is one of the most well-documented humanitarian catastrophes of the 20th century," said Eric Esrailian, lead producer for Survival Pictures, which produced "The Promise" - his first film, as he's also a physician at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. "It was, in real time ... frequently written about in U.S. newspapers. There was a huge humanitarian relief effort."

It is largely due to Turkish pressure on the film industry that a movie like "The Promise" was not made sooner. In the 1930s, MGM acquired the film rights to "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," Franz Werfel's best-selling novel inspired by the true story of several thousand Armenians who survived a mountaintop siege. But lobbying by Turkish Ambassador to the United States Mehmet Munir Ertegun (whose son Ahmet went on to found Atlantic Records) forced the studio to drop the project.

Recent years have seen a couple of small-scale indie features that deal with the tragedy, including Armenian Canadian director Atom Egoyan's "Ararat" (2002) and Turkish German director Fatih Akin's "The Cut" (2014).

"The Promise" was also developed outside the studio system, financed entirely by the late mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who owned MGM for many years and later founded Survival Pictures in 2012.

"The 'promise' means so much to us personally," said Esrailian. "The promise was from Mr. Kerkorian to make the film. The promise was from us to complete the film. The promise is for us to never forget. And the promise is for us to also vow to do something so that it never happens again."

With a budget of nearly $100 million, the film is one of the most expensive independent films ever made, according to Variety. And the entire endeavor is not-for-profit: Survival Pictures has committed to donating all proceeds to nonprofit organizations, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation and "other human rights and humanitarian groups."

"The Ottoman Lieutenant" was also made with private financing, in this case from a group of Turkish producers working in film, TV and advertising. They teamed up with producer Stephen Joel Brown ("Seven"), as well as an American director, Joseph Ruben ("The Forgotten"), and screenwriter, Jeff Stockwell ("Bridge to Terabithia"), to make a feature that would have high production values.

In an interview, Brown maintained that their film was not seeking to promote a particular political agenda, describing it as "a classic love story, set at a time and place that we really haven't seen in cinema."

While foregrounding the clandestine romance between the American nurse and the Ottoman lieutenant, the movie does not completely shy away from showing the suffering of the Armenians, particularly in one crucial scene involving Turkish soldiers. "That [scene] seems kind of unequivocally saying, Turks force-marched Armenians and then slaughtered them along the way," said Stockwell, the screenwriter. "Whatever you want to quibble about, there it is. Now, is there enough? Is it soft-pedaled?"

Nevertheless, focusing the action on the town of Van and showing one of the few Armenian insurgencies, which took place there in April and May 1915, has the effect of promoting the Turkish narrative, which points to the Van resistance as a justification for repression of the Armenians.

"The official Turkish argument is that deportation of Armenians was a response to Armenian uprisings," said Akcam (who has not seen "The Ottoman Lieutenant"). "This is the reason the Van event is crucial in Ottoman Turkish historiography. This argument is not correct, because ... we know that the decision for deportation was already taken before the Van uprising."

(The studio did not make the Turkish producers available for interviews.)

A sizable contingent of Turks, as well as many in the Armenian diaspora, have been aware of "The Promise" for some time. Last October, outlets including the Independent reported that it had more than 85,000 ratings on IMDb, nearly all of them either 1 or 10 stars. Given that the film had had just three public screenings by that point, it seemed clear that users who had not even seen it were "rating" it based purely on their politics.

Similarly, before "The Ottoman Lieutenant" had even opened, it was quickly dismissed in Armenian American publications and in YouTube comments sections as Turkish propaganda.

While neither movie is likely to settle the debate over the events of World War I, these portrayals might prompt some Americans to look into the historical record - and draw their own conclusions.

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