Friday, 30 December 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian...Armenian and Azerbaijani forces clash on border 
Attacks are a sign that international efforts to mediate conflict have stalled 

An Armenian serviceman guarding an area near the village of Movses, close to the border with Azerbaijan in February. Armenia and Azerbaijan said at least three soldiers were killed in a clash on their border on Thursday © AFP 


by: Kathrin Hille in Moscow 

Armenia and Azerbaijan said at least three soldiers were killed in a clash on their border on Thursday, in a sign that international efforts to mediate one of the longest-running conflicts between former Soviet republics have stalled. 

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Yerevan and Baku accused each other of an incursion at the border far north of Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory at the heart of the two South Caucasus countries’ bitter dispute. 

The Armenian defence ministry said its army had repelled a “sabotage attack” from Azerbaijani forces at the border south-east of the village of Chinari. It said an Armenian officer and two soldiers were killed. A ministry spokesman claimed that seven Azerbaijani soldiers also died in the attack. 

“The military-political leadership of Azerbaijan carries the responsibility for the provocation,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Azerbaijan rebuffed the Armenian version of events. It said an Armenian military reconnaissance group crossed the border and was then ambushed by Azerbaijan’s army. 

“The adversary was forced to retreat with big losses as a result of the subsequent gun battle,” Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said. 

Their accounts could not be independently verified. The conflict is monitored by observers under an arrangement set up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international body. But the monitoring process has been criticised as toothless because it does not allow for unannounced missions. 

Observers said they were alarmed by the clash on a section of the border that has long been quiet, despite heavy fighting in erupting in Nagorno-Karabakh in April. 

The territory’s population is predominantly Armenian, but Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as being a part of Azerbaijan. The dispute has poisoned the two republics’ relations ever since Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians sought to break away from Azerbaijan in the last days of the Soviet Union. 

“This incident is really very strange and surprising,” said Olesya Vartanyan, South Caucasus analyst at the International Crisis Group. “Although tension is always high along the border, there have been very few incidents outside Nagorno-Karabakh this year.” 

The fighting by Armenia and Azerbaijan forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in April was the worst escalation of the conflict since a 1994 ceasefire. But violence has been concentrated in that territory. The last time the region around Chinari was hit by clashes was in 2014, according to a database curated by Saferworld, the non-governmental group. 

Since April, Russia, several other countries and the OSCE have been trying to reduce tensions by hosting the two countries’ presidents for talks. But their efforts have produced few results. Most recently, bilateral talks about a potential international monitoring mission on the border ended in failure. 

“It is notable how Armenia is publicising this. It may be related to the negotiations earlier this month where the Armenians pushed very hard for a deal to deploy international monitors along the border but failed,” said Ms Vartanyan.
CSTO calls Azerbaijani diversionary incursion against Armenia ‘provocation’
December 29.

The Russia-controlled Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) expressed today its deepest concern over an armed incident reported near the Armenian village of Chinari on the border with Azerbaijan today morning.

CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said in a statement that the organization considers these actions on the territory of a CSTO member state as a provocation, especially against the background of an unprecedented upsurge of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh in April when heavy weapons and armored vehicles were used.

According to the CSTO Secretary General, it seemed, given the efforts that have been made on both sides, as well as by the leaders of a number of states, that the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process would finally gather momentum.

"However, the reports from the region about regular violations of the ceasefire, and especially the incident on 29th of December, resulting in death of servicemen, are causing serious concern," – the statement said.

Armenian defense ministry reported earlier today that Azerbaijani troops attempted a diversionary incursion in the early hours of December 29 southeast of the village of Chinari in Tavush province. It said Armenian armed forces neutralized the aggressive action of Azerbaijani troops, driving them back into Azerbaijani territory.

According to Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman for Armenian defense ministry, Azerbaijan’s casualties amounted to seven servicemen. During the fighting, three Armenian soldiers were also killed.

The Azerbaijani attempted attack made Armenia’s foreign ministry call on the international community asking it to condemn Azerbaijan's military adventure.

‘We condemn in the strongest terms today’s the diversionary incursion attempt by Azerbaijan on the state border with Armenia, which resulted in human loses. We express our deepest condolences to the relatives and fellow servicemen of the fallen soldiers,’ the statement reads.

‘While the most serious damage caused to the settlement process in the result of the Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) this April has not been overcome yet, Baku embarks on a new adventurism grossly violating the agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg summits and the commitment to settle the issue through peaceful means. This is how Baku responds to the Foreign Ministers of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries who urged in Hamburg to adhere strictly to the 1994/95 ceasefire agreements.

On numerous occasions the international community, via the Co-Chairs, has called to maintain the ceasefire, especially during the holidays. By undertaking military diversionary incursion on the Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Baku acts against the universal human values.

The international community, first and foremost the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries should take immediate steps to sober up the Azerbaijani leadership, who has lost the sense of reality, ignores and opposes with defiance to their calls and demands,’ the statement says.

A recommendation from Christopher Walker
26 December 2016 

The best book on the history of Edessa is J.B. Segal's Edessa: 'The Blessed City' , 1970 and reprints. Segal was so highly regarded as a scholar that in 1979, despite his being Jewish, he was appointed visiting professor at Ain Shams university, Cairo. He was also given the freedom of the city of Urfa in 1973, though what he would have made of the present situation, goodness knows.

RFE/RL Report
More Armenians Said To Leave Syria
December 27, 2016

More ethnic Armenian citizens of Syria have decided to relocate to Armenia soon, a Yerevan-based charity assisting in their resettlement said on Tuesday.

The Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA) foundation, which was set up by the Russian-Armenian philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan, allocated in October $250,000 to support Syrian Armenians gravely affected by the bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern state.

The funding is aimed, among other things, at helping them settle and find employment in Armenia through three local non-governmental organizations. One of those NGOs called Halep (Aleppo) unites Syrian Armenians living in their ancestral homeland.

In a statement, IDeA said 37 Armenians from Aleppo have already moved to Armenia thanks to its project. Eighteen others have told Halep representatives that they want to follow suit, it said.

The announcement follows the capture by Syrian government troops of all districts in Aleppo remaining under rebel control. The city was home to the majority of an estimated 80,000 Armenians who lived in Syria before the civil war.

According to Armenian government estimates, only about 7,000 ethnic Armenians remain Aleppo at present. Virtually all of them live in the city's western government-controlled districts that were for years shelled by rebel forces.

Up to 20,000 Syrian Armenians are thought to have fled to Armenia in the last five years. Many of them have been struggling to find jobs in a country that has long suffered from high unemployment.

IDeA said that starting from next month another Yerevan-based NGO, Mission Armenia, will use its funding to cover housing expenditures of some of those migrants.

The charity hoped to also obtain funding from other organizations and individuals in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora when it launched the aid scheme two months ago. It has raised only about $22,000 so far. 
How Ancient Volcanoes Created Armenia’s Pink City
In the capital city of Yerevan, volcanic rock flows pink
By Jennifer Billock
December 28, 2016 2:59PM 

As you approach the Armenian capital of Yerevan, you can look up and see Mount Ararat towering in the distance, casting its shadow on a city shrouded in pink. Yerevan has come to be known as Armenia’s Pink City for exactly this view: its Soviet-era buildings constructed out of pink stones from the surrounding landscape. The color is brightest at sunrise and sunset , and changes throughout the day based on where the sun hits it.

Yerevan itself its one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world , though it’s been known by many other names over the years. It was founded in 782 B.C.E. by Urartian King Argishti I, who named it Erebuni, though the territory had been settled and was actually in use since the 4th century B.C.E. . From that time, 11 cities have come and gone on the same spot, evolving into present day Yerevan, the 12th capital of Armenia.

In November 1920 , the Soviet regime made its way to Armenia. Yerevan then became the capital of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of 15 member states of the Soviet Union. Under Soviet leadership, the city was transformed from a small town to a modern metropolis of more than one million people. Russian-born architect Alexander Tamanian rebuilt the city in a circular layout, destroying many of the old buildings and replacing them with contemporary Soviet-style buildings made from the same local pink stone. The stone was abundant in the region and created a uniform and symmetric appearance that differed in shade from the grays seen in most Soviet cities. Ultimately the Soviet Union fell in 1991, at which point Yerevan took its place as capital of the Independent Republic of Armenia—its pink buildings intact.

Yerevan’s unique building stone is actually lava rock, though not the typical black hue found in far-flung destinations like Iceland and Hawaii; rather, this lava rock bears various shades of pink, ranging from light pastels to bright with a hint of orange. Scientifically, it’s known as tuff, a rock made of compacted volcanic ash that was ejected from a vent during an eruption. Though a similar rock type can be found in pockets in Turkey and parts of the U.S. southwest, pink tuff is rare outside of the region and Yerevan is the only major city built out of this stone.

Jack Lockwood , a volcanology consultant and author who was an exchange scientist in the USSR, said the difference in color is due to both the speed of the lava flow, where it ends up, and the oxidation. “Pink rock is oxidized ignimbrite, or welded tuff, from the upper portion of thick pyroclastic flows widely present in this part of Armenia,” he told

That means the original flow from the volcano was dense and destructive, an explosion of hot ash, gases, and lava fragments that poured downslope very quickly. “Pink is the original oxidation color, formed as the pyroclastic flows cooled. But it's not the quick emplacement that counts [for the color]. It's the building up into a thick deposit on flat terrain, sometimes far from volcanic source.”

By contrast, Lockwood said the black lava rocks found throughout the world are basalt , or hard crystalline volcanic lava, resulting from a slow flow and a mixture of plagioclase and pyroxene minerals .

Despite its widespread use throughout Yerevan, Lockwood points out that the welded tuff is not very strong by nature, and it cannot support immense structural loads. So instead, basalt was commonly used on the lower floors, and the pink tuff—which has an even texture and can be easily cut into blocks and carved—was relegated to the upper two or three floors.

In recent years, new construction materials have begun to vary, breaking up the uniform pink tones, but stroll through the Republic Square at sunset to bath in the city's unique rosy glow.

The Times
Martyrdom of the Armenians
15 December 2016 
Dec 14, 1916 The Times, UK

The Blue-book published today upon the treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire tells the story of the tragic destruction of an inoffensive and intelligent race during the year 1915. The documents form a long catalogue of horrors for which hardly any parallel can be found in ancient or modern history. There were perhaps 1,800,000 Armenians dwelling within the Turkish Empire at the beginning of 1915. A process of "deportation" was inaugurated, and the Armenians in Asiatic Turkey were torn from their homes. It is estimated that about 600,000 are still alive, though under wretched conditions, in exile within Turkish territory; 600,000 were either forcibly converted to Islam, or are hiding in the mountains, or have escaped beyond the Turkish frontier, and about 600,000 have been done to death under circumstances of almost inconceivable brutality. The Blue-book, which is terrible reading, teems with examples of the awful treatment meted out to the Armenian women and girls.

One fact alone will suffice to show the callous thoroughness with which the dispersal and partial extirpation of the Armenians was conducted. Last year there were about 580,000 Armenians in the vilayets of Erzrum, Bitlis, and Van. When these areas passed into Russian hands only 12,100 Armenians were found alive. The rest were dead or driven forth.

The massacres were systematic and deliberate. They were planned far in advance at Constantinople. District after district was dealt with in turn, until throughout Asiatic Turkey the Armenian quarters in towns and villages had been depopulated. The gendarmerie and local administrators, the Kurds and other tribesmen who wrought the worst crimes, were all culpable; but the guilt rests primarily upon the leaders of the Young Turks. The Turkish Government conceived the scheme, yet the guilt does not end in Constantinople. "The Times History of the War", in its chapter on these atrocities, declared that Germany "signified in the clearest manner that the Young Turks' attempt to exterminate their Armenian subjects was right in German eyes." No protest has gone forth from Berlin. Herself stained with innumerable barbarities, Germany has found in the authors of these massacres comrades entirely to her liking.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Former minister dismisses arguments
Former minister dismisses arguments suggesting Armenia’s development hampered by Karabakh conflict 

Armenian former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, who days ago announced his decision to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in 2017, has issued a lengthy statement, presenting his views on regional security issues, specifically the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement, which he sees as “crucial issue in itself for the Armenian people and the state”. 

Ohanyan says Armenia should find a dignified peace formula to co-exist with its neighbors, including Azerbaijan, with all the state and people’s resources to be used for that end. 

The former minister suggests a new formula of the country’s development and dignified peace in the view of the factors such as the permanent external threats, global and regional developments, various interests of the global power centers and the possibility of collision of those interest, as well as approaches of the regional states over joining different security systems. 

“The Artsakh issues is not an impediment on the road of having a developing and a secure Armenia statehood, quite the opposite. The argument that Armenia may not develop without swift settlement of the Karabakh conflict is fundamentally erroneous and a consequence of genuine misperception. Not only is it far from the reality (in the course of the unresolved conflict, Armenia recorded double-digit economic growth and immigration), but also weakens Armenia’s posture in the settlement process,” reads a part of the statement. 

Ohanyan sees the country’s rapid development as a crucial precondition to resolve the Artsakh issue and reach a lasting peace, saying “unilateral concessions or hastily made compromises may not bring peace, rather increase the risk of renewal of the war”. 

And while the former minister acknowledges the valuable mediation efforts by the Co-Chairing states of the Minsk Group, he views the key to the [Karabakh] settlement to stay in Yerevan and Stepanakert, that should find a settlement option with Baku. “The Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a full-fledged party to the conflict and should reach international recognition,” insists Ohanyan. 

He next suggests Armenia should exist ‘the current trap of economic relations’ to ensure sustainable development with an atmosphere of tolerance and just competitiveness, true progress in all spheres of life to be established. 

Seyran Ohanyan expresses his confidence that the Karabakh conflict can be solved through negotiations and peaceful means. “We can achieve mutual understanding with Azerbaijan and should work toward that end. It remains quite difficult to record tangible progress in the settlement process unless a mutual trust between the conflicting parties is established,” continued the former minister, adding mutual understanding may contain certain compromises based on solely military analysis and expert assessments of the military sphere. 

“The scenarios of mutual concessions that are being considered today are illogical and unacceptable, especially when official Baku never speaks of compromises with its current aggressive stance, representing a threat to us,” said the former minister. 

Ohanyan argues that mutual understanding will be possible once Azerbaijan refuses its aggressive expansionist ambitions, acknowledges the right of self-determination of the Artsakh Armenians and the existence of the Artsakh statehood.
Turkish police arrest reporters, call them “Armenian scums”
26 December, 2016 

Turkey continues jailing reporters in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, Agos reports. 

The Police arrested Diken’s editor Tunca Öğreten, Dihaber’s editor Ömer Çelik and journalist Metin Yoksu, Yolculuk newspaper representative Eray Sargın, BirGun newspaper worker Mahir Kanaat on charges of being “members of terrorist group”. 

Dihaber’s editor Ömer Çelik was arrested in his house. The police forces entered his house and cursed him by saying you are “Armenian scums”.
Armenian tenor Hovhannes Georgiyan nicknamed "Russian Pavarotti", among the 92 victims of the Tupolev-154 Russian crash in the Black Sea 

Krikor Amirzayan 
Armenian tenor Hovhannès Georgiyan is one of 92 victims of the crash of the Russian plane Tupolev-154 which crashed on Sunday December 25 in the Black Sea off Sochi (Russia). The majority of the victims were members of the Alexandrov Choir of the Red Army. Hovhannès Georguiyan was a well-known singer in Russia and in the world, in tenor he was the star of the opera "The Phantom of the Opera".

H. Georgiyan was born on 9 February 1967 in Lugansk (Ukraine). A mechanical engineer by training, his love of song had led him to music. In 1994 he finished his studies at the SS Prokofiev Institute of the school of music of Donetsk (Ukraine). After settling in Moscow, he worked with many theaters. At the "Serenade" in Moscow, he met Tatiana, his future wife. He then became the soloist of the Moscow Academy of Music. He had inherited the prestigious nickname of "Russian Pavarotti."
Lake Sevan level up 30 centimeters in 2016 – environment minister
December 27. 

The level of Lake Sevan has climbed 30 centimeters since the beginning of this year to 1 900 meters and 48 centimeters, Artsvik Minasyan, Armenian environment minister, said Tuesday at a news conference.

Water has been taken from the lake over a period between June 7 and September 12 for irrigation.

In his words, 167.135 million cubic meters have been used instead of the 170 million allowed by the law.

“This is less than in 2015 by 0.608 million cubic meters,” he said.

Sevan is one of the largest mountainous lakes in Europe and Asia. It sits in the middle of Armenian

Highland at an altitude of 1914 meters. The lake’s water surface is 1,500 square kilometers.

Sevan is the main resource of drinking water in the region.
Narek Hakhnazaryan plays on the musical instrument of Giuseppe Guarneri made in 1707 

Armenian world-famous cellist, the winner of the gold medal for cello at the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition Narek Hakhnazaryan has been playing on the historical musical instrument for a year and half made by Giuseppe Guarneri, a member of the famed Guarneri instrument-making family of Cremona, Italy.

Hakhnazaryan has acquired the instrument from a Canadian-based Chinese, who is one Hakhnazaryan’s music lover and gifted the cello to the musician by a contract for three years’ initial term.

“This appears to have been a great event in my life. It is a dream for each musician to have such an instrument, legendary, fantastic one. And I am honored to perform on this instrument,” Hakhnazaryan told reporters, adding he has been looking for funds and sponsors over the recent years to obtain such an instrument.

“I have played on a modern, average instrument for three years. It is quite difficult if you want to convey your musical thought to the audience, yet the instrument does not sound at its best. Guarneri’s instrument offers endless opportunities and horizons,” the cellist described his experience of producing music on the cello.

Speaking of the upcoming concerts, Hakhnazaryan informed about his scheduled concert in Amsterdam in January, then in famous concert halls of Berlin. The Armenian, however, stressed that concerts are planned to be held in Yerevan throughout the year as well.

Narek continued that he books a separate flight ticket for the cello while travelling from state to state: “My instrument is my friend, a close person,” the cellist explained.

From a UK National Newspaper:

'Suffering Moyes stung by an Armenian Scorpion'
'Phenomenal Mkhitaryan getting better and better, says Mourinho'

'The Armenian, returning from injury, brought the house down with a stunning piece of improvisation....'
Mkhitaryan scores stunning goal as Man United beats Sunderland - Video
26 Dec 2016 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored an acrobatic back flick to wrap up Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Sunderland in the English Premier League on Saturday, ensuring a miserable return to Old Trafford for former United manager David Moyes, according to the Associated Press.

On as a second-half substitute, Mkhitaryan met Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s right-wing cross with a flicked finish with the heel of his right foot that flew into the corner in the 86th minute.

Mkhitaryan was in an offside position but it didn’t stop home fans at Old Trafford saluting a player who is growing in importance in his first season at United.

Ibrahimovic also set up the opening goal for Daley Blind in the 39th before scoring his 16th goal of the season in the 82nd after being played through by Paul Pogba.

Sunderland’s consolation was scored by Fabio Borini in stoppage time.

It was Moyes’ first game at Old Trafford since he was fired by United in April 2014, 10 months into his ill-fated tenure as Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked replacement.

United has won its last four league games to power back into contention for the Champions League qualification places.
Armenians of Diyarbakir longing for Surp Giragos
Varduhi Balyan

The discrimination that Stephan Yepremyan has been subjected for trying to maintain his culture and the torments that Hangül Özbey went through because of her Kurdish and Armenian identity reveal the suffering caused by being an Armenian of Diyarbakir.

With the restoration of Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir, the Armenian population in the city was revived. Being forced to conceal their identities for years, Armenian locals of Diyarbakir had the opportunity to come together, maintain their culture and perform their religious rituals. Because of the clashes in Sur province of Diyarbakir, destruction of Sur and Surp Giragos' being out of reach, Armenians of Diyarbakir once again “retired into their shells like turtles”, as they put it.

The discrimination that Stephan Yepremyan has been subjected for trying to maintain his culture and the torments that Hangül Özbey went through because of her Kurdish and Armenian identities reveal the suffering caused by being Armenian of Diyarbakir. I just want to let them speak for themselves.

Stephan Yepremyan begins to tell about his story: “My family is from Adıyaman. They still live there. My father is Armenian and my mother is Syriac. I was born in Kahta as the youngest child of a family with 7 children.

“I came to Diyarbakir after I completed my secondary education and I still live here. I am a mechanical engineer. I knew that I am Armenian all my life. Like any other Armenian, I didn't have the chance not to know it. Even in elementary school, people keep reminding you who you are.” “ I have always been isolated”

For years, Stephan Yepremyan has been living in Diyarbakir that he loves so much. He says that preserving Armenian identity and living as Armenian is a kind of struggle: “For me, living like a human is more important than living like Armenian or Christian. However, being isolated or insulted because of being Armenian is of vital importance. My humble struggle has always been about this. I don't know why we came to call it a struggle. Why would you call living like yourself a struggle? I have never considered identity or belief as a tool; I have never promoted it, but made it visible. And I will keep doing it. I have always been isolated because I chose to do it. There were times even my relatives or Islamized friends felt ashamed of me. They pushed me away, wrote me off their lives, unfriended me on social media.” “ It wouldn't be counted as good deed, if he is Armenian”

Defining his experiences of isolation as “funny”, Yepremyan tells about some anecdotes from his life: “Actually, we don't know each other, though we are living together. I don't know what to call it; it might be called unrecognition, hatred or ignorance. Regardless of what you call it, this fact sometimes leads to funny situations without bad intentions. For instance, an intern from the office went to his village and brought some food that his grandmother had cooked. I thanked him and his grandmother and he said: “There is a problem, brother. It turned out that we cannot do a good deed for you. I told my grandmother that I will give the foods to an Armenian and she said, 'I wouldn't be counted as good deed, if he is Armenian, but give them anyway. Let God decide, maybe he will accept it.'”

And one day, a friend visited me at home. He said to my mother, 'This son of yours is so indifferent. He never inquires after us and visit us at home. How come you never call someone you see as a brother, you cruel, giaour man?”

“ I owe to my mother”

“Even in elementary school, I heard the word 'giaour' many times,” says Yepremyan. “They called me giaour in school, because I didn't fast. That evening, I asked my father what it means. I guess, that was when I started to think about identity. Even if you don't know who you are, people would remind it. They even keep questioning the ones who are converted to Islam. I have relatives who are very devoted Muslims. There were some people who don't perform namaz with them; they were saying, “What good could come from namaz that this giaour makes us perform?” Putting aside the ones who converted to Islam voluntarily, they even call the ones whom they forced to convert to Islam giaour. This is how I learned to refuse anything imposed on me. I mean, I became myself. I owe it to my family, especially to my mother. They managed to preserve their life style and traditions and they chose to transfer the past instead of erasing it.” “ Better insulted than dead”

Saying that he wants people to accept him as he is, Yepremyan talks about his feelings: “Every insult I have heard so far came with 'Armenian'. Some people even say, 'So what? Better insulted than dead.' When they see that you wear a cross, they say, 'No need for such things. We are all brothers and sisters. Just hide it.' That is exactly the problem: if I hide it, if I live the way they see me, if I talk and pray like them, then we would be the same. I don't need them to call me brother; what is important is to call me brother after you accept me as I am.”

Preserving Armenian culture with his songs, Yepremyan wrote a song for Surp Giragos. Stating that Surp Giragos has a significant role in his life, Yepremyan says that Armenians of Diyarbakir grew apart because it is forbidden to enter the church: “We are unable to contact each other.” He says that he couldn't have entered the region called “Giaour neighborhood”, where Surp Giragos is located, for 8 months. He says that it is agonizing to see the current situation of the neighborhood.

A life from Vartanuş to Hangül

Hangül Özbey's story is similar to the stories of many people who found out their Armenian identity later. She was born in Silvan to a family with 8 children. “When I was a child, I didn't know that my father's mother is Armenian. I was defining myself as Kurdish. My grandmother told us that she is Armenian in '80s. My grandfather is Kurdish. My grandmother was one of those Armenians who were forced to convert to Islam.” Özbey lives in Diyarbakir since 1997.

She introduces herself as Hangül. It is the second name of her grandmother's aunt Vartanuş. “I took my name after my grandmother's aunt. Her name was Vartanuş, but then they started to call her Hangül. They did it because they were afraid that soldiers might kill her. Vartanuş's husband was killed by aghas during the genocide. It was a time when people were encouraged to kill Armenians by making them believe that a person who kills 7 Armenians will go to heaven. Vartanuş was left alone with her 2 children and became Hangül. Since she was so beautiful and had lots of gold, everybody wanted to have her. Refusing the marriage proposal for a long time, Hangül finally decided to marry with a man who would accept her children as well. When a man accepted it, she jumped from the bridge over River Murat with her children and golds. The other aunt of my grandmother went blind, because she cried so much during the genocide. She was the one who wanted me to have this name. My grandmother used to tell me, 'If you have a daughter, name her Vartanuş.'”

“ We found out who we are by researching”

Saying that people in Silvan don't isolate her because she is Armenian, Hangül says: “There were many Armenians living in Silvan in the past. Everybody knows it. There is a church and many people who were saved by locals during the genocide. We didn't have the chance to know the Armenian culture. We learned about it by researching and started to get to know ourselves. We had always defined ourselves as Kurdish. This may be the reason why we want to establish stronger ties between peoples. Being Armenian and Kurd at the same time gave us an internationalist perspective.”

Hangül says that they were subjected to serious violence in Silvan during '90s: “During '90s, we were subjected to violence by the groups organized in guise of religion. When I was in high school, I was attacked with sticks and guns. I was in coma for 13 days. Then, my family moved to Adana, where I was detained just because I am Kurdish. I was tortured. I was so injured that I still suffer. After a police officer said that I am Armenian, they started torturing me even more heavily. Then, my family moved to Antalya for financial reasons. I couldn't find a job there. During the interviews, they were asking where I am from after they heard my accent. I escaped from lynching attempts for several times. Once, I was working as a nurse in a neighborhood where the funeral of a solider died in Şırnak was held and people shouted 'Here is a Kurd' as I walked by. They tried to attack me, but then a few people intervened and said, 'She gave an injection to us. She is nice.' That was what saved me.”

“ Now, it is worse that '90s”

Living in Diyarbakir, Hangül says that oppression started again and it is even worse than '90s: “Lately, we have been living under serious oppression. For instance, when a police vehicle is raked, they break in a house randomly to search for weapons or guerrillas. Something like this happened to us in August. One day, around midnight, our house was raided. 14 special operation officers with masks tried to enter the house by breaking the door down. When we opened the door, they pointed guns at us, made us lie on the ground face-down and told us not to move. They said that they are searching for terrorists. You feel like they would kill you right there, if you move. They searched through the house for about an hour. I cannot even tell how I felt. It is even worse than '90s.”

“ They took away our right”

Saying that Surp Giragos Church is a place where Armenians live their culture, Hangül Özbey says that this right is taken away from them: “With the restoration of Surp Giragos, the people who are the same but grew apart had the chance to come together again. I was really enjoying our gatherings. 2 years ago, a great mass was held in Surp Giragos with participation of Aram Ateşyan. It was a whole new experience. I felt like we will live peacefully together in this land once again. During the so-called peace negotiations, people were feeling hopeful. I know many Armenians who were afraid to tell that they are Armenian; they also started to talk about their identity.”

Hangül also talks about her testimony to the recent events and her deep sorrow: “Curfew was imposed after clashes started in Sur. I hadn't been going to Surp Giragos for a long time. I tried to go there once or twice, but there were walls around it. Surp Giragos was Armenians' place for gathering, performing their religious rituals and maintaining their culture. Now, we cannot get close to the church. We are not able to come together anymore. It is not easy to contact those people. Especially the ones who moved from the neighborhood are having difficulties. They took away our tradition to learn and teach Armenian and right to know each other and ourselves.” 

Armenian Church News - Latest E-Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 35 27 December 2016

Dear E-Newsletter subscriber, please find volume 2, issue 35 of the Armenian Church News of the Diocese via the link below.Some subscribers have reported that they have not been receiving our newsletters - firstly, please check your spam folders as sometimes emailing systems erroneously put emails in there. Also in Gmail accounts, check your "Promotions" tab and transfer the newsletter that may be in there into the "Primary" inbox. If someone still cannot find their newsletters, please forward this email on to them so that they can read these instructions.

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The Primate's Greetings on the Occasion of New Year and Christmas!
Dear faithful,

I congratulate you wholeheartedly on the upcoming feasts of New Year and Christmas. Our joyous festivities started with the celebration of western Christmas with our fellow brothers and sisters on 25th December. Our celebrations will conclude with the festivities of Sourb Dznound on 6th January.

2016 passed very quickly. We celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Independence of Armenia. We worked hard and have had several great community events, which strengthened our bonds as a united and cohesive community. There were also precious losses for us as we lost many beloved brothers and sisters in Artsakh and in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq as a result of ongoing conflicts.

When Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem three wise men visited him from the East. The Magi gave Him gifts; gold, myrrh and frankincense. Second century church fathers originally said that they brought him “gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to the God.” Jesus is the King and God, but became one of us and mortal, even vulnerable in the manger of Bethlehem. There is one message. It shows the life of Jesus who is a king and who suffered, and at the end triumphed with His resurrection. Pain and suffering do not have a place in God's ultimate plans. The triumph will come and human suffering will end as we embrace the journey of hope, faith and love.

Christmas is an invitation to renew ourselves with this message and to follow the way He showed us. It is an invitation to remember His commandments, the greatest of which is taught by our Lord Himself: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Charles Dickens in his famous novel on Christmas, wrote “that man must be a misanthrope indeed in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused - in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened - by the recurrence of Christmas.” Indeed, our spirits are filled with the joy of merriments and there is no one who cannot share in this joy.

We have a jovial spirit and do believe strongly that 2017 will be a year of peace and of great achievements. With this festive spirit let us welcome the New Year and Christmas. I wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year and a merry and blessed Christmas!

Christ is born and revealed amongst us!
Good tidings to you all!
Bishop Hovakim Manukyan
International Armenian Youth Conference
The Armenian Church Youth Organisation held an International Conference in London in December.  To view a video about this event, click below:
ACYO London Conference
Christmas Carol Service
ACYO (London Chapter) held their Annual Christmas Carols at St. Yeghiche.  To view a video about this event, click below:
Christmas Carols
Upcoming Events over Christmas and New Year:

New Year's Eve and Blessing of Pomegranates
Saturday, 31st December in St. Sarkis Church at midnight
His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan will preside over a prayer service and blessing of pomegranates.

New Year's Day and Blessing of Pomegranates
Sunday, 1st January 2017, Divine Liturgy starts at 11:30am in St. Yeghiche Church
His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan will preside over a prayer service and blessing of pomegranates.

Christmas Eve
Thursday, 5th January 2017 at 5:30pm in St. Sarkis and St. Yeghiche Churches

Christmas Day
Friday, 6th January 2017 at 11am in Holy Trinity Church, Manchester, St. Sarkis and St. Yeghiche Churches
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, May 2017
Please join us on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 2nd - 9th May 2017.
The cost is £1250 per person for a twin room, the single room supplement is £300.
Link to further information
The Primate's Office
c/o The Armenian Vicarage
Iverna Gardens
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Monday, 26 December 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian economy growing by 5%

Web India 123
Dec 24 2016
Bite into history with spicy Armenian Christmas cake

Fruitless Christmas cakes anyone? Try the spicy Armenian variety, a savoury reminder of the community that has made the city home since the 17th century.

Third generation Armenian Brunnel Arathoon has put her oven mitts on to churn out these tasty Christmas delights for her maiden, home-based, bake-to-order initiative, with the hope that people will get to know about the Armenians history and legacy in Kolkata.

"My motivation was to let everybody know that we as a community are still there and lot of people don't know about Armenians and our Christmas celebrations," Arathoon told IANS.
Proud to showcase her roots in the Eurasian nation through food, Arathoon said the uniqueness of the traditional Armenian Christmas cakes lies in the absence of candied fruits.

"They are fruitless. They are made with almonds, walnuts nutmeg and cinnamon. The cake comes out to be spicy and sweet and not extremely sweet that you normally get. So when you open the box you can smell it," she explained.

In a week since she began making them, Arathoon has sold 75 pieces and the demand is growing and along with the buzz comes a newfound recognition and respect for the community.
Kolkata has been home to the Armenian Christians since the 17th century and as many as 30 Armenian families continue to be an integral, yet quiet, part of the bustling metropolis. They celebrate Christmas on January 6.

"We are close to 5000 (that have Armenian bloodline) but not baptized in the Armenian Church. So a lot of us tend to go as Anglo-Indians," she said.

A pivotal aspect of their culture is the nearly-300-year-old Holy Church of Nazareth, located in Burrabazar in the central part of the city.

All in all, there are five magnificent churches across the state and several splendid edifices erected by them, including Stephen's Court in Park Street.

RFE/RL Report
Government Defends More Foreign Borrowing
December 22, 2016
Hovannes Movsisian

The government played down Armenia's rising sovereign debt on Thursday as it sought parliamentary approval of $180 million in fresh loans allocated to it by international lending institutions.

Deputy Finance Minister Armen Hayrapetian insisted that Armenia will not become a heavily indebted country even though its combined debt will soon be equivalent to about 55 percent of Gross DomesticProduct.

"At the end of the year, Armenia's entire debt will stand at
approximately $5.9 billion," Hayrapetian told the National
Assembly. He said $4.85 billion of the sum is owed to foreign
creditors by the government and the Central Bank of Armenia.

Hayrapetian argued that the government has to continue to resort 
to foreign borrowing in order to finance its budget deficit and essential capital spending.

Opposition lawmakers rejected this explanation, saying that the
government is increasing the country's debt burden instead of
improving tax collection and pursuing more sustainable economic

"We just cannot repay this debt," claimed Aram Manukian of the
Armenian National Congress (HAK).

"Do we know where we are headed?" said Naira Zohrabian, the
chairperson of the Prosperous Armenia Party. "Does this government
know what it is going to do?"

"Believe me, each of us is concerned about the rising debt,” 
insisted Hayrapetian. He dismissed opposition claims that the government could eventually default on its debt repayments.

The public debt stood at less than $2 billion before the 2008-2009
global financial crisis plunged Armenia into a severe recession. 
The government has since borrowed heavily from the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other external sources to prevent
massive spending cuts and finance infrastructure projects.

Economic growth in Armenia has been sluggish in the last few years, translating into shortfalls in tax revenue and bigger budget deficits.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's cabinet is due to cut its
expenditures next year in line with the state budget passed by the
parliament last month. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian said in
September that the spending cuts will not only reduce the budget
deficit but also help the government keep the debt under control.

"We should be [fiscally] more conservative in the coming years to
prevent further growth of the debt," said Aramian.

David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said 
earlier this month that the Armenian authorities intend to "ensure that debt remains below 60 percent of GDP over the medium term."

Armenian economy in 2016 grows by 0.5 percent

Armenian economy in 2016 grows by 0.5 percent
YEREVAN, December 23. /ARKA/. Armenia’s economy has grown this year by 0.5%, down from the 2.2% growth projected by the government, finance minister Vardan Aramyan told the final news conference in the outgoing year.

According to him, the pricing environment throughout the year has been quite modest and therefore ‘ we will close this year  with a lower price environment and almost zero deflator.’

"We expect the gross GDP growth to be about 2%, however, the real GDP is expected to be around 0.5%," - Aramyan said.

The minister blamed agriculture for the decline in the major economic indicators, as other sectors have seen growth. More precisely, the industrial output has grown by 6.2% year-on-year and services have grown by  4.4%.

"We projected a positive growth in the agriculture, however, given the recent developments we expect it to decline. However,  we believe that the reason is not economic, but has to do with accounting. This is evidenced by the market prices, which have not changed. Actually, prices are the first to respond to the economic recession", - said Aramyan.  --0--
RFE/RL Report
Four Men Sentenced Over Yerevan Unrest
December 22, 2016
Ruzanna Gishian

Two men were sentenced to three years in prison and two others
received suspended jail terms on Thursday for their alleged role 
in this summer's clashes between riot police and supporters of 
opposition gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.

Hundreds of radical opposition supporters fought pitched battles 
with the police near the besieged police compound late on July 20. The angry crowd tried to break through a police cordon, hitting 
security forces and throwing stones at them. The police officers 
clad in riot gear pushed back and dispersed it, using shields, truncheons and stun grenades.

The police said that 46 officers were injured in the clashes that
broke out three days after armed members of the Founding 
Parliament opposition movement seized the compound. The gunmen 
demanded President Serzh Sarkisian's resignation and the release 
of their jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian.

The police detained dozens of people in the following hours. Some of them were subsequently prosecuted on charges of participating 
in “mass disturbances" and assaulting policemen.

The four young men convicted on Thursday denied the charges at the
start of their trial. But they later pleaded guilty. Only two of 
them were set free as a result, with a Yerevan court giving them 
three-year suspended prison sentences.

The father of Hayk Hovannisian, one of the defendants who will 
remain behind bars, condemned the verdict, saying that it was 
ordered by Armenia's political leadership. "The court only 
executes orders,” he told RFE/RL's Armenian service (
According to Ara Papikian, a defense lawyer, many of the other men
prosecuted in connection with the July 20 have also decided 
to plead guilty to the accusations in court in hopes of getting 
milder punishments. "We must understand the young men who have 
been in jail for months and want to regain their freedom as soon 
as possible, even through a suspended sentence or probation," said Papikian.

Matenadaran branch to be established at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

22 Dec 2016 17:34:53 +0000

Society 20:09 22/12/2016 Armenia

Matenadaran branch to be established at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

The Cabinet has adopted a decision on establishing a branch of Matenadaran Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscript named after Mesrop Mashtots at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh.  The justification for the decision reads that hundreds of unique manuscripts and archival documents are kept at Matenadaran that were created in Artsakh and spread light on the spiritual and cultural heritage of the historical Armenian land.

The decision is aimed at popularization of those values and encouraging research, considering also the fact that in 2015 an exhibition was opened in the monastery that presented over 100 Artsakhi manuscripts dating from early Middle Ages to modern times, unique originals and copies of the documents related to the history of Artsakh, as well as ancient books.

According to the decision, the branch will operate in the seminary of the monastery with its own charter and in line with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic legislation.

Armenia placed 86th in FIFA World Rankin

22 Dec 2016

Armenia is ranked 86th (up from 87th last month) in FIFA World Ranking released today. Armenia’s 3-2 win against Montenegro helped the team jump the largest number of places in the ranking table last month.
Argentina will end the year on top of the world, leading the way in the final FIFA World Ranking of 2016 from neighbors Brazil in second.

Turkey: Historic Urfa Church Given to Islamic School Foundation
December 23, 2016 
The interior of the historic Assyrian Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Photo:

According to sources, the church was used actively until 1924, when Assyrians (Syriac Christians) left for Aleppo.

Locals call the church “the Regie Church”, because Tekel, the Turkish tobacco and alcoholic beverage company, had once used it as a tobacco factory.  This tobacco factory had been known as the Regie Tobacco Company in Ottoman times, and was nationalized in 1925.

It was also used as a grape storehouse for decades. After its restoration in 1998, it hosted a carpet-making class. In 2002, it became the “Kemalettin Gazezoglu Cultural Center,” named after the governor of the city. Today, a part of it has been given to a foundation that runs the Islamic school at the city’s university.

Turkey has used the historic church for many different purposes—except for its intended purpose: a church.
The courtyard of the historic Assyrian Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Photo:

Called Edessa in ancient times, Urfa has been inhabited since prehistoric times.  The modern city was founded in 304 B.C by Seleucus I Nicator.

In the late 2nd century, as the Seleucid dynasty disintegrated, it successively became a Parthian, Armenian, and Roman state, and eventually an Eastern Roman (Byzantine) province. It was frequently conquered during periods when the Byzantine central government was weak, due to its location on the eastern frontier of the Empire. It fell to the Muslim conquest in 639 but was briefly retaken by Byzantium in 1031. It then fell to the Turkic Zengid dynasty in 1144, and was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517.

Edessa was an important early center of Syriac Christianity. For Armenians, too, the city is significant since it is believed that the Armenian alphabet was invented there.

The writing on the wall of the church reads “Provincial Special Administration -Governor Kemalettin Gazezoglu Culture and Art Center May 24, 2002 (Photo:

But the traces of Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek Christians have been systematically erased from the city by Muslim governments and residents throughout centuries.
Scholar Ian Wilson describes the current absence of the Christian heritage in his proposal for an archaeological survey of the city as follows:

“For any Christian… Urfa appears to offer nothing of Christian interest even when you get there. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single Christian church, and certainly not an ancient one, the Moslem minaret being all-pervading…Yet if we could turn the clock back just over a thousand years, say to 943 AD, what a different picture of Edessa/Urfa we would find! Despite the city even then having fallen under Moslem control (though Arab rather than Turkish), we would find a full-blooded city, as distinct from a town, almost literally bristling with Christian churches and monasteries, numbering more than three hundred, according to one Arab geographer. At least three different rival denominations were represented, and the Christian pilgrim and tourist trade was then already at least six centuries old.”

All this is history now. Urfa today is an all-Muslim city. Christians were exposed to mass murders several times
ever since Turks arrived from the Central Asia in Anatolia and Mesopotamia in the 11th century.
Between 1894 and 1896, for example, a series of massacres spread through nearly every major Armenian-inhabited town of the Ottoman Empire.

The massacres culminated in the single worst atrocity “with the burning of the Armenian cathedral of Urfa within whose walls some 3,000 Armenians had taken refuge during the siege of their neighborhood,” according to the Armenian National Institute.

Assyrian Christians too were targeted in the massacres. “In October 1895 the Turkish army and Hamidian troops entered Urfa and killed 13 thousand Assyrians,” writes Dr. Anahit Khosroyeva in her article “A History of the Assyrian Genocide.”

But the gravest attack that exterminated the majority of Assyrian Christians in the region happened in the 1915.
Historian Paul R. Bartrop writes in his book Encountering Genocide: Personal Accounts from Victims, Perpetrators, and Witnesses:
“The Assyrian genocide… took place alongside those of the Armenians and the Pontic and Anatolian Greeks, during and after World War 1. At the start of the twentieth century, the Assyrian population in the Ottoman Empire numbered about one million, and was concentrated largely in what are now Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. As with the Armenian genocide, a large proportion of the Assyrian deaths occurred as a result of death marches into the Syrian Desert. Most of those who died were the victims of heat, starvation and thirst, exposure, and incessant brutality… The Assyrian population throughout the Empire was subjected to massacre, deportation, dismemberment, torture, and other atrocities. Whole cities were depopulated, and, when not killed outright, the inhabitants were sent on the aforementioned death marches.”

The Ottoman Turkish party the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) was the planner and organizer of the genocide. According to many scholars, including Professor Bartrop, the major motivations of the perpetrators were the Turkification and Islamization of the region.

“One of the major factors contributing to the Turkish campaign against Christian minorities was the pre-war commitment to the Turkification of the empire. Accompanying this was an Islamic incentive, whereby the Turkish national dimension could be wedded to an Islamic revival for the caliphate… Accordingly, on Oct. 11, 1914, Sultan Mehmet V declared jihad (holy war) against all the Christians living in the Empire. The call to holy war was reaffirmed on Nov. 14, 1914, by the Sheikh al-Islam, the most senior Islamic cleric in the Ottoman Empire. It was directed toward all Christians, hitting particularly hard for those of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek descent,” Bartrop writes

What followed was the confiscation, plunder, and seizure of Christian properties.

“The state-orchestrated plunder of Armenian property immediately impoverished its victims,” according to scholar Umit Kurt, in his article “The Plunder of Wealth through Abandoned Properties Laws in the Armenian Genocide.”

“This was simultaneously a condition for and a consequence of the genocide. The seizure of the Armenian property was not just a byproduct of the CUP’s genocidal policies, but an integral part of the murder process, reinforcing and accelerating the intended destruction. The expropriation and plunder of deported Armenians’ movable and immovable properties was an essential component of the destruction process of Armenians… Genocide does not only mean physical annihilation,” according to Kurt. “What is important is the complete erasure of the traces of the Armenians from their ancient homeland.”

This attempt to erase the traces of the genocide victims has been applied to Anatolian Greeks and Assyrians, as well.

The homes, businesses, churches, monasteries, and other economic, religious and cultural sites of Assyrians were systematically seized by government officials or Muslim locals. Churches and monasteries were either destroyed or used for sacrilegious purposes, such as stables or storehouses.

Turkey today has a smaller Christian percentage of its population than all of its neighbors including Syria, Iraq and Iran. Only less than 0.2% of Turkey’s population is now Christian.

Though the constitution is officially secular, Christianity as well as other non-Muslim faiths are under the constant pressure and attacks at the hands of the Turkish government.  Persecution stemming from this destructive worldview has turned the indigenous and once flourishing Christian community into an almost-extinct, second class minority that are still not allowed to live as equal citizens who can freely practice their faith on their native lands.