Sunday, September 30, 2007

Survivors of Armenian genocide urge Chinese pressures on Sudan

28 Sept. 2007
Sudan Tribune, Sudan

September 25 — At a genocide commemoration ceremony at the Armenian Genocide Memorial, religious leaders passed a symbolic Olympic Torch to call for an end to the genocide in Darfur. From left: Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Sept 25, 2007.Less than one year before Beijing Olympic Games begin, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and prominent human rights activists pointedly connected the government of China to the first genocide of the 21st century in a torch lighting ceremony at a site commemorating the first genocide of the 20th century.

Archbishop Williams stated, “Today, we honored victims and survivors of genocides of the past century, linking them together through our passing of a torch signifying the hope that we share for an end to the violence in Darfur. I join these survivors in standing up to say that although the international community has stood by silently again and again while the blood of innocent human beings is shed, we must now make the phrase ‘never again’ a reality.”

“Following many years of indifference, the Chinese government is now asserting that it has been a leader for peace in Darfur. But even in the best of scenarios, there will not be an adequate peacekeeping force on the ground for many months,” said Jill Savitt, Director of Dream for Darfur. “We must continue pressing China so that the next Olympic Games, an international symbol of peace and brotherhood, are not hosted by a nation that is complicit in the ultimate international crime.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Darfur advocates and Armenian genocide survivors, lit the torch at the eternal flame at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. The torch was then passed around the eternal flame in a somber ceremony honoring survivors of genocide and remembering the lives lost both in Darfur, and in previous genocides of the 20th century.

“This flame honors those who have been lost and those who suffer; this flame celebrates the courage of those who have survived; this flame represents the hope we all share for an end to the violence and a safe return home,” said Omer Ismail, a Sudanese survivor from Darfur, as he passed the torch.

"Armenians worldwide understand the realities and pain of genocide, even today, 92 years after the Armenian Genocide. Today’s event demonstrates our solidarity with the people of Darfur, and with all those who have been subjected to genocide," said Arpi Vartanian, Armenian Assembly of America Country Director for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

The Dream for Darfur symbolic Olympic Torch Relay began on the border of strife-ridden Darfur and Chad in August, where Mia Farrow and other Darfur advocates lit the torch. The Relay then traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, where survivors of the Rwandan genocide passed the torch from the site where thousands of Tutsis were killed after UN forces withdrew.

After Armenia, the Torch Relay will continue to other countries associated with genocide and mass slaughter – Bosnia, Germany, and Cambodia, ending in Hong Kong to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, China’s own experience with the murder of innocents.

Dream for Darfur, a year-long campaign undertaken with the support of a worldwide network of Darfur advocates, is both asking and demanding that China, in its role as Olympic host and close partner of Sudan, use its unique influence with Khartoum to end the suffering in Darfur—before the Games begin in August, 2008. The campaign motto is “China, Please: Bring the Olympic Dream to Darfur.”

In solidarity with the international torch relay, a relay will be held in 25 states in the United States between September and December to build public pressure on China in regard to its dual roles as Olympic host and sponsor of a genocidal regime. More info can be found at: National relays are also slated for Canada, Italy, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, and South Africa.

In seeking to enlist China’s intensive involvement in resolving the Darfur crisis, the Dream for Darfur campaign is contacting the IOC, national Olympic committees, and corporate sponsors of the ’08 Olympics.

“We welcomed China’s recent UN vote to allow a peacekeeping force into Sudan, but China now must press Sudan to ensure that the words on paper translate into action,” said Savitt. “We will continue our campaign until China uses its influence with Khartoum and we see adequate and verifiable security on the ground in Darfur.”

On the net:

(Dream for Darfur/ST)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Breakaway state still struggling for recognition

By Levon Sevunts
September 30, 2007

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh

Even if a draft law forcing the govern-ment of Armenia to recognize the inde- pendence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is rejected by the Armenian parliament, residents of this breakaway republic say they will continue their struggle for international recognition.

Populated mostly by Armenians this lush mountainous region, slightly larger than Rhode Island, broke away from Azerbaijan after a bitter war between 1990 and 1994.

Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, supported by their brethren in Armenia, emerged victorious from a bloody conflict that killed more than 35,000 people on both sides.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic formally declared its independence in 1992. At the time, many critics dismissed the move as a shrewd political maneuver by Armenians — who were starting to win the war — to deflect international criticism from Armenia proper.

Today, Karabakh possesses almost all the trappings of a state. It has its own flag and its own army. It issues entry visas to foreign visitors and its residents regularly vote in elections to all levels of government.

But Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto independence hasn't been recognized by any country, not even its closest ally: Armenia.

And Armenian authorities have made it clear they have no plans to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state despite pressure from a major opposition party.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


World Bank puts Armenian fraud case on hold

Sunday September 30, 2007
The Observer

Britain wants action on reports that a water project is mired in corruption. Heather Stewart reports

Britain is urging the World Bank to investigate allegations of corruption and embezzlement in a $35m (£17m) water project in Armenia, which the Washington-based body says are only of 'medium priority'. Bruce Tasker, a British whistleblower, says he has presented the bank with evidence of large-scale fraud in a project to improve the water supply in the Armenian capital Yerevan, but it has so far refused to carry out a full-blown investigation.

With its conciliatory new boss Robert Zoellick at the helm, the World Bank is keen to make a fresh start after the humiliating departure of Paul Wolfowitz earlier this year. Wolfowitz stormed into the bank promising to crack down on corruption, but ended up being embroiled in an ethics scandal of his own concerning lavish pay rises for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.

Persuading the world's richest countries that their taxpayers' money is being well spent is a critical part of Zoellick's job, but the Armenian case is just one of a backlog of allegations waiting to be examined by the Bank's Institutional Integrity Department - or INT, as it is known.

INT wrote to Washington-based pressure group the Government Accountability Project (Gap), which is backing Tasker's claims, saying the case was 'rank ordered "medium" priority, and as such remains in a queue pending the availability of investigative resources'.

The British Ambassador in Armenia has written to the World Bank, urging it to carry out a full investigation.

'We've run into a wall,' said Gap's director, Bea Edwards. 'We have extensive documentation. It involves high-level government officers, a lot of money and basic services. What else do they want? They've been completely unhelpful.'

She says the Armenian case is important, because it could point to potential problems in the way other World Bank projects are run, particularly in the former Soviet Union.

Tasker is a British engineer appointed by an Armenian parliamentary commission investigating the Yerevan scheme. He claims that as soon as he began to examine the details of the project, it became clear that it was riddled with corruption, 'from start to finish, from top to bottom. The fact is it was not an isolated case of a few thousand dollars here or there, it was tens of millions of dollars.'

The original purpose of the project was to repair Yerevan's pipelines, and improve the water supply to households, but he says that by the time the work got under way it had shifted to installing water meters instead.

Tasker claims contractors were able to pocket up to $10 profit on the sale of each meter by charging customers for installation. His commission was told that the average number of water meters per customer was 1.5.

The bank's failure to pursue the allegations underlines the critical findings of a panel chaired by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, which revealed serious weaknesses in the way the way INT investigates allegations of wrongdoing. INT is run by a Wolfowitz appointee, Suzanne Folsom. Volcker's team found that the unit had achieved 'some notable successes', but warned of 'serious operational issues and severe strains in relations' with other parts of the bank, and said its work had sometimes contributed to 'counterproductive relations' with both donor and recipient countries.

Wolfowitz's critics had accused him of cracking down hard on alleged corruption in countries where the US has a political axe to grind, but turning a blind eye to problems in more friendly regions of the world.

Jeff Powell, of pressure group the Bretton Woods project, said it was still too often left to politicians to decide which allegations to pursue. 'This case is indicative of the fact that senior management and the board of the World Bank have not taken seriously the issue of corruption,' he said.

A World Bank spokesman said he would not comment on a specific case.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Turkish PM: There was no Armenian genocide

Sep 29, 2007
Jerusalem Post, Israel
Isn't this a big surprise that the Turkish PM denies the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks? The whole issue by Turkey's PR is to change the fact of the Armenian genocide into a debate. It is also so clear how the pressure put by Turkey on Israel and the US is allowing Erdogan to deny the genocide with impunity. The genocide denial is a matter for all people. It is not a question between Armenia and Turkey. So please stop pulling the wool on the eyes of the readers.
In a meeting with representatives of the Jewish community, Turkey's prime minister rejected allegations that the massacre of Armenians during WWI was an act of genocide.

Speaking with officials from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and other groups, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the genocide claims were not supported by any scientific or historical documentation.

Erdogan also reiterated Turkey's call to Armenia to establish a joint commission to study historical facts, and asked the Jewish representatives to continue to support good relations between Turkey and the US Jewish community, according to a statement released following the meeting.

After disagreement between its New England chapter and national headquarters, the ADL in August recognized the massacres of Armenians as "tantamount to genocide," reversing the organization's longstanding refusal to do so. ADL's recognition stopped short of supporting two congressional resolutions that would call on the US to formally recognize the genocide.

ADL national director Abraham Foxman reiterated Wednesday that the issue should not be the subject of congressional resolution, according to MSNBC.

"We believe that a matter between Turkey and Armenia related to history should be tackled between the two parties, not in the US Congress or the parliament of any other country," he said. "This is not a political matter and those in the Congress are not historians."

"I believe that we should focus on the future, not the past. If the Jewish community, the United States and the Congress are willing to assist, they should bring together Turkey and Armenia for the [sake of the] grandchildren of the two parties," Foxman said.

ADL's national policy-making body is expected to discuss the congressional resolutions at its annual meeting on November 1.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Armenians to celebrate teacher

Jessica Klinkenberg
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 28, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - If you are an Armenian teacher working in Yellowknife stop reading this right now.

Hmayak Mikayelyan is throwing a surprise party this Sunday for a woman who has been teaching Armenian children their language and the culture.

"It's very important that our kids know their language and where they're from," said Mikayelyan.

The celebration is a way to say thanks to the teacher who volunteers her time on behalf of almost 100 Armenians who have made Yellowknife their home.

Traditionally in Armenia, which shares borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, the second week of October is a national holiday that honours teachers.

However he wasn't able to get a venue for then, so he's decided to celebrate it early in the Calvary Community Church basement.

"Every Saturday and Sunday she's teaching our kids. Parents are working all week so they're tired."

This is the third celebration that Mikayelyan has organized.

One was to celebrate New Years in 2006, and before that to mark Armenian genocide day on April 24, 2005.

Sunday will be a busy day for Mikayelvan. At 1:45 p.m. he's slated to perform at International Music Day at Squatterz.

Following that he said he'll be rushing to the church to get things ready for the 3 p.m. party.

There will be speeches and poetry readings by the children.

If you know the woman, don't tell her. And while the party will be primarily Armenian, Mikayelyan said that everyone is welcome.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Artists without borders between Yerevan and Istanbul

Saturday, September 29, 2007
Turkish Daily News

A group of Turkish artists held a workshop for university students in Armenia. The best way to solve the discord between the two countries is to remove prejudices between youths, say artists who believe Armenia and Turkey can unravel their problems through dialogue

Moved by developments in the wake of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink's murder, Turkish artists journeyed to the Armenian capital Yerevan last month to meet with local artists and learn about the Armenian way of life. Some Armenian and Turkish intellects have taken action since Dink was killed, launching discussions on bilateral problems. While leaders remain silent for political reasons, artists were undeterred by the closed border gates and scarce flights between the two countries; they set out for peace and conciliation.

During the visit, internationally renowned Turkish curator and art critic Beral Madra held the workshop together with Xurban Collective, Güven İncirlioğlu and Ahmet Atıf Akın for students at Free University of Yerevan. Artists visiting Armenia for the first time had the opportunity to observe daily life in Armenia and to take pulse of Armenians. Traumas in the past can be overcome only through art and dialogue, said the artists, calling on Turkish and Armenian youth to participate in the dialogue. Madra shared her experience with the Turkish Daily News.

Prejudices addessed in a war vault:

Artist and a professor at Free University Ruben Arevshadian repeated the call made by the Turkish group in Yerevan. Madra along with Yerevan artists also reached out to students at Free University to join the workshop. The Armenian youth discussed political issues with the Turkish group of artists during eight-hour sessions. The venue was a vault-like building built in the Soviet period. “Students had many questions about Turkey. We talked about every issue beyond limits and taboos. When they believed in our sincerity, the students forgot about prejudices and approached to the present tension between the two countries from different angles.”

Participants discussed art and political relations from the Soviet-era communism to Nazi Europe. They also explored the social structure in Yerevan, said Madra. They evaluated in social aspects of building a beautiful church in a poor neighborhood in Yerevan. “The students also shared their opinions about historic sites in Yerevan which were practically re-built under the guise of restoration,” she said.

An artist ‘opposed' to Turkish stance:

Admitting that she was quite impressed by Armenia and Armenians, the curator believes if the border were opened relations would mellow. Feeling at home in Armenia, she termed political disputes a “contradiction”. “When I saw Mount Ararat from Yerevan, all borders between the two countries disappeared,” Madra said, not hesitating to add that she is opposed to Turkey's stance on the subject. Underlining the rising tide of nationalism in Turkey recently, Madra asserted that Turkey does not square accounts with its own traumas. According to Madra, the notion of nationalism is lingering, unattached to reality; therefore, it comes across as reactionary and aggressive.

Periods of modernism in the republics founded after the Soviet collapse should be examined; they differ significantly from modernism in Turkey, she added. Turkey quickly dived into a neo-liberal system without going through modernism. On the other hand, the republics established after the Soviet collapse experience modernism deeply in many areas, primarily in art and culture. Neglected neighbors, Madra said, tend to experience art deeply, too.

Who is Beral Madra:

Art critic and curator Beral Madra, 1942, was the curator of the first two Istanbul biennials. She is the director of BM Contemporary Art Center, a non-profit institution. She has also contributed to the Venice biennials assuming the role of curator assistantship of the "Maternities and Memories - Recent Works from the Islamic World" exhibition. She is founding member of Foundation for Future Culture and Art, International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Turkey and Anadolu Kültür A.Ş. She is also a member of the European Cultural Association and Cultural Consciousness Development Foundation. She wrote two books; “Post-peripheral Flux” A Decade of Contemporary Art in Istanbul, and the second one is “Biennial Texts, 1987-2003.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Corruption Survey: No Improvement

Volume 73, No. 39, September 29, 2007
Armenian Weekly, MA

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Endemic government corruption in Armenia has not decreased in the past year despite Armenian leaders’ assurances they are addressing the problem in earnest, according to an annual global survey released this month by Transparency International, a global NGO committed to fighting corruption.

The Berlin-based Transparency International again rated countries of the world on a 10-point scale, with zero indicating an extremely high degree of corruption as perceived by experts, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens.

Armenia and five other states ranked 99th out of 180 nations covered by the Index. It was assigned a score of 3.0, faring slightly worse than it did in the previous CPI released one year ago. The score is based on seven corruption-related surveys conducted in Armenia by other organizations, including the World Bank.

Armenia was again judged to be less corrupt that most other ex-Soviet states, including Russia and Azerbaijan. The latter occupies 150th in the rankings. By contrast, Armenia’s other former Soviet neighbor, Georgia, jumped to 79th place, having seen its CPI score rise from 2.9 to 3.4.

Armenia’s score was taken from a combination of six surveys carried out by experts from the Asian Development Bank, Bertelsmann Transitional Index, the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Freedom House, the Global Insight, the International Union of Merchants and the World Economic Forum.

The survey focuses on corruption in the public sector and among politicians. The organization defines corruption as “the misuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

More than half of the 180 states that were examined received scores of three or less, which indicates that funds needed for education, medicine and infrastructure are being pocketed by politicians.

Amalia Kostanyan, head of Transparency’s Armenian affiliate, the Center for Regional Development, said the findings of the latest survey are further indication of a lack of progress in the Armenian government’s stated anti-corruption efforts. She said those efforts have proved ineffectual because of their heavy emphasis on legal amendments and what she called a lack of government commitment to rule of law.

Kostanyan argued that prosecution of senior government officials on corruption charges remain extremely rare. “Risks involved in corrupt practices remain very low,” she said.

The government claims to have successfully implemented a three-year plan of actions aimed at tackling bribery and other corrupt practices. However, there is little evidence that the set of mainly legislative measures, unveiled in late 2003, has had a major impact on the situation on the ground.

Earlier this year, Kostanyan resigned from a government body monitoring the program’s implementation in protest against its perceived inactivity. The resignation followed the publication of a CRD opinion poll, which found that nearly two-thirds of Armenians believe that corruption has increased in recent years.

In a Dec. 2006 interview with RFE/RL, the late Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan admitted that his government’s anti-corruption drive has not been “as effective as we hoped.” He said Yerevan would ask Western donors to help it draw up a new strategy that “ascertain[s] mechanisms for putting the [anti-graft] legislative framework into practice.” It is not clear if his successor, Serge Sargsyan, intends to do that.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Takes on Politics of Genocide

Volume 73, No. 39, September 29, 2007
Armenian Weekly, MA
By George Shirinian

“…I find in particular the approach of Ittihat Terakki’s collective punishment of Armenians quite wrong. It wasn’t the whole Armenian community who took up arms against the government, but I believe the Turkish Republic should not be accused of what happened then. The diaspora would say that it should be accused as long as there is a denial of what happened.”

“…But the Government of the Committee for Union and Progress, being in charge of the country, is chiefly responsible for the painful events that occurred and the great suffering that was endured. If you do not hold the government in charge of the behavior of the country as responsible for that behavior, then whom will you hold responsible? Instead of eliminating in their local areas the armed Armenian factions who were in rebellion, the Government of the Committee for Union and Progress sent all Armenians in the Ottoman Empire on a sort of death march to the Syrian Desert; it sentenced them to death. Therefore this party is chiefly culpable for the 1915 events.”


These words come from Mesrob II, Patriarch of the Armenian community of Turkey, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman on Sept. 17, and quoted in an editorial by Harut Sassounian on Sept. 20.

Why is the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey involving himself in such a highly politicized issue as the Armenian genocide? Doesn’t he know that whatever he may say or do publicly regarding this emotionally charged subject will never be considered strong enough by some Armenians in the diaspora, and that he will be perceived by many as a tool of the Turkish state? At the same time, doesn’t he know that he will always be considered with suspicion by nationalistic elements of Turkish society, simply because he is an Armenian leader?

The purpose of this commentary is not to advocate any position, but merely to raise questions in an attempt to understand what is happening and its implications.

Why the Today’s Zaman interview now? According to Zaman, the paper had been trying to interview the Patriarch unsuccessfully since before Hrant Dink’s death. He declined then and continued to do so because of the many threats he received. Did he accept to be interviewed now because of the recent election, from which the AKP is flush with victory? Did he do so because of his concern to improve relations between the newly re-elected government and Turkish society with the Armenian minority? Did he do so because of his concern to improve relations between Turkey and Armenia, as part of that?

Why take this risk now? Is he not aware that he may be dragged into the courts on the basis of Penal Code Article 301? After all, it is well known that the Armenian Patriarch operates under considerable constraints, due to the social and political environment in Turkey being so explosive, particularly as a result of the legacy of the genocide and the notorious Article 301.

Is he not aware of the current political environment in Turkey, eloquently described by Yavuz Baydar in an article titled “Free speech hell, hate speech paradise?”:

“Turkey is a peculiar country where free speech is still limited and hate speech goes mostly unpunished and ignored. The latest act of shame was the song video posted on YouTube that openly praises the murder of our colleague, Hrant Dink. As we brought attention to the act in the Turkish press, reactions of the singer and some supporters were not of defensiveness but of aggression. This is the mood that still prevails, despite the election results, in Turkey. Not a day passes without a newspaper or TV channel spreading hatred, lies, anti-Semitism and enmity of certain countries/nations. A few days ago, a sports columnist called a German footballer ‘Gestapo.’

“The sad part is, while the prosecutors and courts (including the higher courts) are busy and keen on sentencing people who ‘denigrate Turkishness’ or ‘insult the military,’ almost none of them care (or dare) to deal with hate speech cases. DTP deputy Akýn Birdal was almost murdered because of hate reports by daily Hurriyet; the Armenian Patriarchate was stoned and steadily threatened as daily Tercuman portrayed Mesrob II—the patriarch—as a villain, even after Dink’s murder! These acts of shame have been going on for years.’’ (Today’s Zaman, Sept. 20)

Is it the case, as Harut Sassounian wrote, that “…the sinister hand of the Turkish government [is] orchestrating the Patriarch’s speaking engagements, using the connections of high-powered lobbying firms hired by Ankara,” and that “He must at all cost resist the pressures exerted upon him by Turkish officials, in order not to allow them to use him as a propaganda tool serving Turkey’s denialist agenda”?

Is the Patriarch a tool, and if so, is it by force or by choice? Is it possible that some of his remarks were part of a strategy to help break down state taboos over discussion of the Armenian genocide, as a part of the democratization process of Turkey, like Hrant Dink used to do? Were these carefully considered statements from an individual in his prominent and precarious position utilizing “a change in the style and modalities of discourses dealing with history,” as Taner Akcam put it? (see “Dialogue across an International Divide: Essays towards a Turkish-Armenian Dialogue,” Cambridge, Mass., and Toronto: Zoryan Institute, 2001, p. 28.)

Is there a chance that this interview is part of a strategy to open up discussion on taboo Armenian issues? This could be in keeping with an important principle: “A society that erects taboos against a discussion of historical events and institutes related prohibitions can not have a democratic future. The road to achieving a state based on law and justice, which we wish to be the case for our country, Turkey, must pass through a gate where one can ponder and come to terms with one’s past. Those who can not bring themselves to discuss history openly, can not have a future, either.” (Akcam, p. 29.)

Could one consider the questions above as possibilities when analyzing some of the Patriarch’s other statements in that interview?

When asked if he thought the investigation into the murder of Hrant Dink had been conducted thoroughly, he stated, “I’d like the real perpetrators behind this crime to be found. Otherwise justice won’t be served.”

Without pointing fingers or making direct accusations, did he in effect answer “No?”

Was the Patriarch, in his efforts to preserve the future of the Armenian community in Turkey, trying to assert the historic rights of the Patriarchate (granted originally by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, as the interviewer notes) by (a) calling for the restoration of assets seized by the state since 1936, (b) pointing out that the former president vetoed religious foundations* and expressing the hope that the new president will approve them, and (c) calling for schools to develop clerics and the Armenian language?

If this was his objective, then why get mixed up in the genocide issue?

One wonders if Patriarch Mesrob II is using the interview in Today’s Zaman as an opportunity to highlight his primary concern and responsibility for the survival and welfare of what is left of the Armenian community in Turkey. Is it fair to assume, then, that (a) he is using this opportunity to introduce a new language to educate Turkish civil society about the Armenian genocide, by referring to it as “collective punishment” and a death sentence for all Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, without using the “G-word,” and (b) he is doing this with the hope that, ultimately, the Turkish state, government and society are able to accept the culpability of the Committee for Union and Progress, the perpetrator regime, and through such acceptance eliminate the tension, which has been menacing the Armenian community since 1915?

It seems that through the interview, the Patriarch raises serious questions regarding the rights of the Armenian community in Turkey. These rights are seldom discussed in the Diaspora, while they are vital to the Armenian community in Turkey. By referring to them, the Patriarch not only re-affirms them, but also contributes to the current efforts to transform Turkey into a legal, rational state that should have an inclusive approach to its minorities.

It is incumbent on all of us—Armenians, Turks and others—to read critically and with an open mind what a person in the Patriarch’s circumstances says. It is by asking such questions as those raised in this text that we can promote rational public debate. This has been one of the main goals of the Zoryan Institute from its inception.

*Religious foundations refers to the General Directorate for Foundations, which regulates the activities of non-Muslim religious groups and their affiliated churches, monasteries, synagogues and related religious property, including approximately 50 Armenian sites. In 1974, amid political tensions over Cyprus, the High Court of Appeals ruled that the minority foundations had no right to acquire properties beyond those listed in the 1936 declarations. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling launched a process under which the state seized control of properties acquired after 1936.

George Shirinian is executive director of the Zoryan Institute.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


The Art of Denial: Turkey’s evolving denials of the Armenian Genocide

28 November 2007, Armenia
By Dr. Rouben Adalian
Director, Armenian National Institute

Many across the Jewish community in the United States seemed to have breathed a sigh of relief when the influential Anti-Defamation League acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. The growing gap between public understanding of the historical events and the political concerns of the Jewish-American leadership over relations with Turkey had become untenable.

The longstanding policy of the Turkish government to deny the Armenian Genocide has suffered yet another embarrassment. Virtually everywhere the Armenian diaspora has a presence it has had its voice heard by local communities and host governments. With one major exception, the United States, twenty countries have on record formally recognized the Armenian Genocide.

It is no secret that the Jewish community has been divided over the issue of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. To curry favor with Turkey on behalf of Israel’s security and strategic interests, most key organizations representing the Jewish-American community in Washington have supported the Turkish Embassy’s lobbying strategies to hinder approval of congressional resolutions. Of course they are not alone in opposing such legislation. The Departments of State and Defense have also consistently disagreed with proposed congressional resolutions on the argument that relations with Turkey would be harmed. There is no real evidence that relations between Turkey and the United States would rupture as nothing of the sort has happened upon recognition by other countries. Nor can it be argued that a relationship built upon a half-century long United States - Turkey alliance is so shaky that it can be undone by one congressional resolution. Still the debate continues.

What is apparent through all this is the failure of the Turkish government to convince the rest of the world of its position on the events of 1915, That position, which only twenty-years years ago was unchallenged is now viewed as inconsistent with the facts and offensive in its propositions. How far Turkey has retreated is evident in the continuously evolving denial arguments manufactured somewhere in Ankara. As one case after another was discredited, more arguments were contrived. Even the politicians in Turkey have lost sight of where their government started and where it has ended up.

Turkey’s starting point was complete denial that anything out of the ordinary had occurred in Armenia in 1915. At best a program to relocate Armenians from the war zone with Russia was allowed and Ankara argued that this was done out of humane consideration for the benefit of the Armenians in order to remove them from harm’s way. This absurd line of argument proving too ludicrous to maintain for long was replaced with another arguing that wartime conditions precipitated the resettlement of the Armenians because they had become an unreliable population.

Heatedly denying the commission of atrocities, in the face of the growing evidence that began to be issued mostly retrieved from official archival sources, the enormous loss of life suffered by the Armenian population begged an explanation. First the theory of epidemics was promoted, attributing the death to passive causes. Then the theory of wartime military exigency and the lack of sufficient manpower to oversee the wholesale relocation of the Armenians was advanced, and thereby shifted the blame for the casualties to lawless elements and especially unruly Kurds. Finally a civil war was posited to deal with the matter of the scale of the atrocities. As dismissal of the evidence attesting to such could no longer be sustained, the denials began insidiously to imply that Armenians invited the calamity upon their own heads and got what they deserved by taking up arms. The argument also ignored the logic that if there was a civil war then there might have been legitimate cause for people to defend themselves. The blame was laid upon the victims for starting the conflict, ignoring the fact that the Ottoman state had fully equipped armed forces and Armenians constituted a largely unarmed civilian population.

When all failed, a country that had always prided itself in its military might contrived the strangest defense yet. If it is true that Armenians were subjected to genocide, the Turks were the victims of genocide also, a bizarre combination of admission and accusation that possibly made facing the historical evidence more palatable.

The pressure upon the public, the media and academia inside and outside Turkey to sustain these rationalizations only delayed the reckoning that was occurring in many quarters all across the globe. As the scholarship on the Armenian Genocide grew and improved, skepticism in academia retreated, so much so that a mere handful nowadays defends the official Turkish version of events. That scholarship proved rigorous enough to raise questions in the mind of Turkish academics. For a brief moment in 2005 they dared convene a conference in Istanbul to address the issues and possibly usher in a new beginning in the debate over the Armenian Genocide. In response prosecutors invoked Article 301 of the Turkish penal code criminalizing reference to the Armenian Genocide. Then the assassination in January of 2007 of the outspoken Hrant Dink, who was motivated by honorable intentions, spread fear and silenced those who had dared challenge the system.

Dink was allowed a public funeral and even the Turkish media conceded its shock upon the demise of man who never advocated violence and who passionately strived to cure some of the sources of the hatred that poisoned relations between Armenians and Turks. The reality of an independent Armenian state symbolized for him a new scope of possibilities and the Turkish media had found in him an interlocutor who could help explain the rancor and offer remedies.

In some small way perhaps the Turkish government thought that it could ease the situation by announcing the re-opening of the renovated Church of the Holy Cross, more simply known as Akhtamar, one of the very rare still intact places of worship once venerated by Armenians.

However, the occasion of the re-opening of Akhtamar was squandered by the lack of coordination with the Armenian community in Turkey and by the hoisting of the national flag and a giant poster of Ataturk upon the entrance to the church. Everyone is entitled to raising the flag of their country upon an appropriately positioned mast, but the hanging of a giant portrait of Ataturk where people once worshiped the Deity bespoke of the vast distance remaining between Armenians and Turks. The Turkish authorities may have wanted to leave the impression they had permitted the renovation of an Armenian church, and certainly they allowed the media to spread that notion widely. What they actually announced was the formal secularization of the onetime church as a museum and as a tourist site, and in so doing stressed less its renovation and more its appropriation as a Turkish cultural heritage site.

Finally, there is a long way to go before a common language is shared by Armenians and Turks. One thing is certain, however, the vindication of the memory of the Armenian Genocide has made men and women of conscience take note, and governments to take heed, and for some Turks to take steps toward a rapprochement that does not discard the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide that caused so much loss and so much injustice.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Erdogan enlists U.S. Jews’ support for opposing the Armenian Genocide Resolution


Turkey’s Prime Minister has used a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Jewish community to discuss ways of denial of Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman in 1915. Meeting with representatives of groups including the Conference of Presidents, the Appeal of Conscience, the Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and Bnai Brith International in New York late Wednesday Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the genocide recognition claims as “baseless and not supported by any scientific or historical grounding.”

"The Prime Minister also recalled Turkey’s call to Armenia to establish a joint commission to study historical facts, and stated that Turkey expected the Jewish community to confirm its support," a statement issued after the meeting said. Following the meeting, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that “at times there could be disagreement between friends, referring to the League’s had accepted the events of 1915 as being tantamount to genocide.”

However, Foxman said that the issue should not be the subject of a resolution of the U.S. Congress.

"We believe that a matter between Turkey and Armenia related to history should be tackled between the two parties, not in the U.S. Congress or the parliament of any other country," he said. "This is not a political matter and those in the Congress are not historians," he said.

"I believe that we should focus on the future, not the past. If the Jewish community, the United States and the Congress are willing to assist they should bring together Turkey and Armenia for the grandchildren of the two parties,” he said, NTV MSNBC reports.

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Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian FM reacts to former US secretaries of state letter to Pelosi


YEREVAN (YERKIR) - Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian sent a letter to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to an earlier letter by former US secretaries of state.

The letter says:

It is with dismay that I read the content of the letter signed by former US Secretaries of State urging Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to derail H. Res. 106.

It is quite unfortunate that eight experienced diplomats would buy into Turkish manipulation. There is much to disagree with in that letter, especially about the purported dangers of such a resolution. I will only address the insincere claim that such a resolution would “damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.”

I regret to say that there is no process in place to promote normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey. Expressing concern about damaging a process that doesn’t exist is disingenuous.

Armenia has always been ready to have normal relations with its neighbor. Yet, every initiative that would lead toward normalization has been rejected by Turkey. Instead, it continues to place pre-conditions. Turkey makes offers that are simply invitations for open-ended talk, without serious commitment to arriving at minimal, ordinary relations between neighbors. Even their call for a historical commission to discuss painful, historic events is not serious, given their prohibitive penal consequences for open speech and discussion and the adversarial environment Turkey has created by maintaining closed borders with Armenia.

I have already written to Speaker Pelosi to express our deep concerns and to dismiss as unfounded any implication that a resolution that addresses matters of human rights and genocide could damage anyone’s bilateral relations.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Foxman: US Congress can’t debate ‘genocide’

Today's Zaman, Turkey - Sep 27, 2007

The leader of a major US Jewish group that last month endorsed Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the late Otto-man Empire said on Wednesday that the US Cong-ress was not the right venue to discuss the issue.

"I believe this issue should not be debated at the US Congress or the French National Assembly," Abraham Foxman, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in New York. He also said he hoped Armenians would somehow respond to calls from Turkey to set up a joint commission of academics to investigate what happened in the past.
The ADL last month reversed its long-held policy and decided to call events of the World War I era genocide, although it still says two resolutions pending in the US Congress endorsing the genocide claims would not help resolution of the disputes between the Turks and Armenians. The policy shift angered Turkey, which categorically rejects the genocide charges. Turkish authorities also appealed to Israel and warned that passage of the resolutions in the US Congress, which now seems even more probable because of the change of stance on the part of the ADL, would harm not only Turkish-US but also Turkish-Israeli ties.

Foxman said disputes between Turks and Armenians can best be settled between the two countries, not via resolutions passed in parliaments. "US congressmen are not historians. Therefore, they cannot judge what happened in history," he said. Commenting on his meeting with Erdoğan, he said it was very useful and asserted that "friendships are not ruined because of words."

Erdoğan said at the meeting that the Armenian genocide allegations had no basis and that they were not supported by any scientific or historical document, according to a statement released by the Prime Ministry after the meeting. "The prime minister said Turkey expected the Jewish community in the US to continue their support, as it has done to date," the statement said.

The meeting was attended by representatives from some 20 US Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, Bnai Brith International and the UJA Federation.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenia: Impossible Is Nothing

Moscow News,№38 2007
By Anna Ozar

No, I am not talking about the weekend I had a bit too much to drink at a friend's birthday, but rather last week when I visited Armenia to report on the occasion of the anniversary of Ararat Cognac Winery. So I took a lengthy break from parties to prepare my liver for such a trip, then I packed my bag and left for Yerevan with a group of journalists from other magazines and newspapers.


Mount Ararat, which has experienced a long and tumultuous history, has long been a symbol of Armenia. Ararat fell under the control of the Armenian Kingdom under the Bagratuni Dynasty early in the ninth century A.D., which was annexed by Byzantium in 1045. But following the decisive battle of Manzikert in 1071, the territory fell under the yoke of the Seljuk Turks. But with the pendulum swing of historic events, Ararat again went over to Armenia until the dramatic geopolitical changes occurred in 1918. In the aftermath of World War I, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the October Revolution, the area became part of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, but the republic's existence was short. With the invasion of the Red Army, the area became part of the Soviet Union. Following the Treaty of Kars in 1923, the area was divided up between Turkey and the Soviet Union, and the new border, which became internationally recognized, placed Ararat on the Turkish side.

Unfortunately, for many Americans, Europeans and Russians, Armenia is just a tiny landlocked nation hidden somewhere between some other countries, like Georgia and Iran. Most people would probably have trouble finding the country on the map. But the majesty of this land becomes clear as soon as you make your first steps on the land of Yerevan, Armenia's capital.

Though Mount Ararat is no longer a part of the country, you still feel it belongs to Armenians - you can marvel at its snow-covered peak from nearly every part of the city (for example, from Erebuni, which is a lovely hill in the centre where sits a half-destroyed citadel). Immediately after dropping off our bags at the Marriott, a bus took us to the foot of Erebuni. Then this group of smoking Moscow journalists had to climb the mountain to reach the citadel.

The trip to the top of Erebuni was the first big surprise courtesy of Ararat Cognac Winery. As we crossed some ancient walls and made it to the pinnacle, we found ourselves surrounded by Armenian waiters in white shirts. There we took seats at a long table where we were greeted with bottles of 20-year-old Nairi Cognac, There, during a brilliant Armenian sunset, I tasted real cognac. And for the first time in my life I felt the steps that cognac has on the senses: the first is warmth (unrelated to the alcohol itself), the second is the smell of oak in the air and the last is chocolate or at least some hints of chocolate. The Nairi variety is viscous and tender; it immediately became my favorite representative of Ararat.

The next day we set off for Jermuk, a picturesque town famous for its mineral waters that is 2,000 meters above sea level. On the way to Jermuk we pay a visit to the Noravank Monastery where the first and the last picture of God the Father was made. Actually, Christians are forbidden from making pictures of God himself, but Armenia was the first place where Christianity became an official state religion, so maybe they are allowed a bit more religious liberalism.

Jermuk greeted us with its cold and fragrant mountain air. After tasting various mineral waters we started to taste samples of Ararat Mixology, cocktails based on cognacs - one of Ararat's latest innovations. The favorite seemed to be "After Love" which carried a nice lime taste.

The next day, on our way back to Yerevan, we finally reached The Khor Virap (which in Armenian means "deep dungeon") monastery which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia. It is where Gregory the Illuminator's imprisoned for 14 years before he converted King Trdat III to Christianity in the year 301, which made Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The dungeon is a dark shaft in the rock where Gregory spent many days and nights in prayer. The Khor-Virap is very close to the border between Armenia and Turkey. From the observing area of Virap you can marvel at Mount Ararat and Small Ararat Mount... just a few kilometers away.

We began the next day with a visit to the home of the deceased Armenian film director Sergei Parajanov, whose world outlook is similar to that of Federico Fellini and Salvador Dali. Parajanov was a friend of Andrei Tarkovsky, the director of Solaris and Andrei Rublev.

After some years of making ordinary Soviet movies, Parajanov headed to the mountains to make his own movie. Later, his Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors won the prestigious BAFTA award (by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts). The topic did not conform to the strict standards of the Soviet board of censors and Parajanov found himself quickly ‘blacklisted.'

The next fifteen years of Parajanov's life were spent in and out of a prison so frightening, so void of light, that it is truly amazing he survived the ordeal. And yet, years later, he was able to comment that those "years of squalor were the best years of my life," and they gave him "an amazing deathlessness."

Parajanov died in 1990. He left one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century, his Color of the Pomegranate, a biography of the Armenian ashug Sayat Nova (King of Song) which will have to be the topic of another article. Or maybe just watch it. Anyways, we felt like Parajanov's guests, in his former residence that is filled with dolls and collages, such as "Voting Among Marionettes," which gave the feel of some parallel world. A doll dressed in a striped costume in a cap with ear-flaps reminded of prison...


The last day of our journey was completely devoted to Alco... sorry, Ararat. We arrived to Ararat Winery in the suburbs of Yerevan, where we saw trucks loaded down with grapes. We entered the workshop where an Ararat representative explained the wine-making process. Ararat uses only special French barm for making wine, (the grape waste, which looks and smells like fresh grass, is good food for cattle, by the way).

The wine-making process is 100 percent computerized - so the whole process of fermentation is observed 24/7. Large metal barrels filled with barm, grape juice and sugar are refrigerated with water so the constant temperature is 25 degrees above zero. After 8 days, it is already possible to drink the wine.

Things are much more difficult with cognac. The process of making an oak barrel for cognac takes some time; it even has to be burnt inside for some minutes. The oak, by the way, is also French. The age and size of the barrel is its great advantage - the older and thinner the barrel, the better the cognac placed there. The age of the cognac always conforms to the age of its barrel, when you need to change the barrel of the cognac you have to choose its coeval.

After visiting the Winery, we were invited to the garden for sampling young wines, which was quite tasty. It put everybody into a nice mood, as wine has that natural effect, of course.

Then, we moved to the central part of Ararat Winery where The Special Anniversary Cognac Barrel was signed by everybody and put into the line of similar barrels to be opened in 30 years. I suppose this cognac is going to be called "120." It is hard to describe the exciting moment of signing the barrel.

So I travelled to Yerevan, fell in love with Armenia, and became one of those 40 people who were happy to become a part of history with the help of this magical land. That's why after a short pause I wrote the slogan of "Adidas" on the barrel: "Impossible Is Nothing!"

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


"The Armenian Genocide" book by Armenian scientist published in Hungary


The Hungarian translation of "The Armenian Genocide", a work by a renowned Armenian scientist, member of the National Science Academy of Armenia, prof. Nikolay Hovhannisian, was recently published in Budapest. The publication was undertaken by the "Armenian Roots of Transylvania" culture center. The translation was made from the publication of 2005, dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Genocide.

President of the "Armenian Roots of Transylvania" company and the editor of the Hungarian version of the book Charlotte Iszekutz said that the translation of the book was aimed at representing a rich material on the first Genocide of the 20th century to the wide public and the political circles of Hungary. She also said that their company is striving for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Parliament of Hungary.

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Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Former U.S. Secretaries of State oppose Armenian Genocide Resolution


Fearing an imminent vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106), Turkey’s multi-million dollar lobbyists have solicited the assistance of eight former U.S. Secretaries of State in seeking to derail this human rights legislation, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)

"Facing a growing bipartisan Congressional majority demanding passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, Turkey’s lobbyists - out of desperation and a never ending desire to squeeze more billing dollars out of Ankara – have turned to the very architects of our government’s failed policy of appeasing Turkey," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "Sadly, successive U.S. administrations have found themselves lacking the moral courage to end the cycle of genocide – from Cambodia, to Rwanda and, today in Darfur – precisely because of their legacy of caving in to, rather than confronting genocidal regimes."

"We are, as Americans, especially troubled that, in warning Congress not to make a simple anti-genocide statement for fear of upsetting Turkey, these officials would outsource our nation’s moral conscience to a foreign government," added Hamparian.

In their September 25th jointly-signed letter, former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker III, Warren Christopher, Laurence Eagleburger, Alexander Haig, Jr., Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and George Schultz, urged Speaker Pelosi to, "prevent the resolution from reaching the House Floor," thereby denying House
Members an opportunity to vote their conscience on the Armenian Genocide. The former State Department officials expressed concern that passage of the resolution "could endanger our national security interests in the region, including our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey."

Introduced on January 30th by Rep. Adam Schiff along with Representative George Radanovich (R-CA), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), the Armenian Genocide resolution calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide. The resolution is cosponsored by 226 Members of Congress from 39 states. A similar resolution in the Senate (S.Res.106), introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) currently has 31 cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

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Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Armenia ranks 39 in WB Doing Business 2008


The World Bank released its annual Doing Business 2008 ranking of the ease of doing business in 178 economies.

A high ranking on the ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is conducive to the operation of business. This index averages the country’s percentile rankings on 10 topics, made up of a variety of indicators, giving equal weight to each topic.

Georgia, ranking 18, is leading among the CIS member states. The country intensified protection of investors and passed a new law on bankruptcy. It also speeded up the issue of permissions for construction works and simplified registration of property rights.

Armenia is the 39th with establishing a new private credit bureau and launching a new e-system of data exchange for customs officers.

Macroeconomic policy, infrastructure quality, currency fluctuations and crime level are not taken into account.

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Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Different priorities on different sides of Atlantic

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Turkish Daily News
Sylvia Tiryaki
Sylvia Tiryaki talks about the Armenian Diaspora not willing to listen to Patriarch Mesrob II. The simple fact is that Turkey is using both the Turkish community and Armenia as hostages to force the Diaspora drop their pursuit of the recognition of the Genocide of Armenians by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

The Diaspora knows when Turkey is sincere and will respond to its advances accordingly. For example the Aghtamar church restoration was a fiasco as far as I am concerned because Turkey mishandled it and lost a major opportunity for rapprochement. You do not get liked when you lock Armenia out of regional development and blame the stance of the Diaspora on the genocide recognition. I hope Sylvia Tiryaki gets the drift.
Not writing in line with the rhetoric of the Armenian Diaspora (basically American - and French) regarding Turkish-Armenian relations usually leads to a flood of unwanted reactions.

Empirically speaking, some of the "feedback" is unpleasant, some of it very unpleasant, some very insulting and full of hatred. However, all the e-mails [which for instance have labeled me as a person maximally stupid, uneducated, primitive with the "Ottoman medieval mentality," and also cursed me in such vulgar ways that this paper would have to blush if even the "most innocent" of those invectives was written here] had one thing in common: Their "authors" were from states like California or Florida.

Well, I must admit, that at the time when I started receiving all this "attention" I wasn't much interested in the demographic composition of the federal states. I just believed that both Turkish and Armenian people could highly benefit from a potential reconciliation. Although I have learnt "enough" about the demographic compositions since than it remains perplexing why considering the establishment of the amity in the Caucasian region (or elsewhere) more important than any pushing of the "Armenian genocide denial bills" through creates such volatile reactions.

Yet, this "who doesn't play with us plays against us" mindset of the powerful Armenian lobby in the United States seemed to play a role also a few days ago when Patriarch Mesrob II (Mutafyan), the spiritual and religious leader of the Turkish Armenian Orthodox community, was visiting the States. Patriarch Mesrob II, who is of course deeply concerned with the relations between Armenians and Turks, wholeheartedly supports the reconciliation through intercultural and inter-religious dialogue between the two. It is needless to say that the unilateral campaigns for the adoptions of the "Armenian genocide resolutions," like those currently pending both in the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States, don't set a healthy ground for mutual rapprochement.

A blow to dialogue

Be it as it may, Mesrob II's speech titled "The Impasse between Turks and Armenians Must Be Broken" which was scheduled to be delivered at the Woodstock Theological Center of Georgetown University has been indefinitely postponed, reportedly as a result of the Armenian U.S. Diaspora's pressure.

Apparently, people who didn't want him to speak in the U.S. about the necessity and possible ways of understanding between the two peoples don't desire any healthy dialogue. Or at least its continuous absence doesn't disturb them. And indeed, why should it? Why should those living in the U.S. mind the nature of the relations between Turkey and Armenia?

However, things look different from the other side of Atlantic. So are the priorities. Thus it might not be too far stretched to presume, that had the presentation by Mesrob II been scheduled in Armenia, it wouldn't have been canceled. Basically because breaking the impasse between Turks and Armenians is desired by many living in the region where the reconciliation is more than needed.

According to polls, the good relations with their neighbors – that would naturally result to the inclusion of Armenia into the regional structures and its development – are the priority for the majority of Armenian Armenians. And this doesn't necessarily correspond with the primary agenda of those living on the other side of the Atlantic.

* Sylvia Tiryaki can be reached at

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Armenian PM tells EU: too soon to make Turkey a member

Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:24am EDT
By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Armenia said on Tuesday the European Union would be making a "strange" decision if it admitted Turkey before Ankara had made progress in settling disputes with Yerevan.

Turkey shut its borders with its tiny neighbour Armenia in 1993 in protest at Armenian forces' capture of territory inside Azerbaijan, Ankara's historic Muslim ally, during fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The two countries are also at odds over Anakara's refusal to acknowledge as genocide the massacre of large numbers of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey at the start of the last century. Turkey has no diplomatic ties with the former Soviet republic.

"I believe it would be very strange for the Europeans to accept to their family a country which sometimes employs principles running counter to the principles of the European Union," Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan said.

But Sarksyan, speaking at a news briefing during a visit to Russia, a close ally, said he believed the EU application would pressure Ankara into changing its stance on the border with Armenia and on diplomatic relations.

"I believe ... the more time passes the harder it gets for them to stick to this position, because Turkey aspires to join the European Union and faces a long negotiation process."

"So the ball is in Turkey's yard, nothing depends on us," said Sarksyan, a close ally of Armenian President Robert Kocharyan. Many observers expect that when Kocharyan steps down next year, Sarksyan will replace him as president.

Armenians and some European nations describe the 1915-17 killings of Armenians, as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, as genocide. Turkey maintains they were part of a partisan conflict in which many Turks, Armenians and other nationalities died.

It is a crime in Turkey to call the killings genocide.

Earlier this year a French parliamentary bill making it a crime to deny the killings were genocide soured relations between Paris and Ankara. Turkey suspended talks on a major gas pipeline with Gaz de France in protest at the bill.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Iran - Turkey rivalry boosts Russia's influence

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
EnerPub, TX

A closer look at Turkish-Iranian rivalry in Central Asia and the Caucasus and its impact on Russia

by Michael Alguire

While the global news media has given extensive coverage to the geopolitics of energy resources in the former Soviet Empire, little attention has been paid to the competition between Turkey and Iran in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and its impact on Russia.

Firstly, Russia’s fear of a rising Turkic nationalism among its Turkic minorities has been one of the factors that have led Russia to seek an alliance of convenience with Iran. Secondly, while competition for spheres of influence in the Caucasian and Central Asian regions exists between all three powers (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), Turkey’s alignment with the West on energy issues has served to create a common interest between Russia and Iran in preventing the emergence of Turkish and Western dominance over Caspian Sea energy resources. Finally, Russia appears to be using ethnic tensions in the Caucasus to secure its dominance of the region, and prevent the European Union (EU), the United State (U.S.), Turkey, and Iran from bypassing Russia in their quest for energy resources.

The origins of the Turkish-Iranian rivalry lie in the competition for hegemony in the Middle East between the Ottoman and Persian empires under Persia's Safavid (1501-1724) and Qajar (1795-1925) dynasties. From the late 19th century onward, several new factors emerged that affected the nature of the rivalry. Firstly, during the late 19th and early 20th century, there was the emergence of the ideology of Pan-Turkism (which strives for the cultural and physical unity of all peoples of Turkic origins). The second factor was the founding of the present-day Republic of Turkey as a secular state under the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in the aftermath of the First World War. The final factor was the Iranian revolution of 1979 that transformed Iran into an Islamic theocracy. All of these elements coalesced to define the renewed Turkish-Iranian rivalry that began with the formation of the states that compose the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS states) in the aftermath of collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Soviet Union’s collapse left a power vacuum in Central Asia and Azerbaijan that was quickly filled by Iran and Turkey. The rivalry between the two countries has two-dimensions: firstly, each promotes its own form of government i.e. Turkey advocates secular democracy, while Iran promotes its model of Islamic government. The second dimension involves the exploitation of ethnic and linguistic ties. Turkey promotes Pan-Turkism, patronizing the Turkic-speaking populations of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; Iran has attempted to extend its influence into Tajikistan, whose inhabitants are culturally Iranian and speak an eastern dialect of Persian. More recently, Turkey has voiced its opposition to the Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons. This rivalry has multiple implications for Russia, particularly with regard to Turkey’s position in this contest.

To begin with, the ideology of Pan-Turkism was created by Turkic groups like the Crimean Tartars living in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a response to efforts by the Russian state to assimilate them into Russian culture. Russia feared a revival of this ideology after 1991. The present-day Russian Federation has significant Turkic minorities living within its borders, and an upsurge in Pan-Turkism could lead certain regions, such as Tataristan, Baskirdistan, and Yakutistan, to seek independence. Turkey is also a long-standing ally of the United States, and the U.S. has been trying to extend its influence into the former Soviet empire (and particularly the energy-rich Caspian Sea region), since the early 1990s. Furthermore, Turkey has also been working closely with the EU in efforts to create a natural gas pipeline running from Central Asia across the Caspian Sea, through Azerbaijan and Turkey into the Mediterranean, thereby reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian energy pipelines. In 2006, the EU and Turkey announced the approval of Nabucco gas pipeline, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2008 and will route the gas of the Caspian region through Azerbaijan to Austria, via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. The pipeline is scheduled to start transporting gas in 2011.

Yet Russia has managed to match this achievement. On May 12, 2007, the governments of Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan announced plans to construct a natural gas pipeline that will pump gas from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan to Russia. Russia already buys Turkmen gas at below-market levels, and also effectively controls Turkmenistan’s gas reserves through its network of Soviet-era pipelines owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Thus, this newest pipeline will both increase Russia’ controls over Turkmen gas reserves, as well as allow Russia to continue exporting its own gas to Europe more profitably. While Russia has won an important victory in the competition for Caspian region resources, the struggle for these resources continues, particularly in the Caucasus. In that region, Russia, Turkey, and Iran either have used or appear to still be using ethnic tensions as a means to impede their competitors’ ability to gain a solid handle on energy resources. These ethnic tensions have a complex history.

After taking power in late 1917, Vladimir Lenin appointed Joseph Stalin as the Commissar of Nationalities, responsible for carrying out the new government’s policies towards the former Russian empire’s numerous nationalities. Both Lenin and Stalin were committed to retaining as much of the empire as possible, and Stalin adopted the policy of “divide and rule,” setting boundaries of the Soviet republics in such a way as to leave large ethnic minorities in each republic, separating ethnic groups across two or more republics. These minorities would then serve as fifth column inside these republics, preventing a particular republic from separating from the Soviet Union in order to avoid potentially harsh treatment under a particular independent republic’s ethnic majority. Such was the case with the three breakaway regions in the Caucasus: Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.

Abkhazia was incorporated into Georgia in 1931 by Stalin, and in 1992 the Abkhaz began fighting for independence from Georgia (allegedly with Russian assistance), which they declared in 1993. A CIS peacekeeping force composed mostly of Russian soldiers has been stationed in the region since 1994, and Russia continues to use a military base at Gudauta, despite a 1999 treaty that committed the Russians to abandoning the base. Russia has made it easy for residents of Abkhazia to obtain Russian passports, which most people now hold. In addition, the Russian ruble is widely used in the region.

South Ossetia, the other region which has broken from Georgia, was originally part of a united Ossetia that was divided between the Georgian and Russian republics by the Soviet authorities in the 1920s. The Ossetian struggle for independence from Georgia began in 1989, ending in 1992 with an agreement for the deployment of Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Russian peacekeepers remain in the region today, although the Georgian parliament has called for them to be replaced with an international force.

As in Abkhazia, most South Ossetians have Russian passports and the Russian ruble is commonly used in trade. In January 2006, the Georgian government accused Russia of orchestrating several explosions on a gas pipeline in North Ossetia, thereby sabotaging Georgia’s main gas pipeline. The Georgians claimed that this operation was carried out in response to the Georgian parliament’s demand that Russian troops be removed from South Ossetia. Russia claimed that the explosions were carried out by pro-Chechen insurgents. Russia has also pressured Georgia to sell its pipeline network to Gazprom. The Russian military presence in Georgia proper will end in 2008, when Russia will vacate its two remaining military bases inside the country. However, so long as Russia maintains its troops in these breakaway regions and supports their separatist governments, it will be able to preserve its sphere of influence in this part of the Caucasus as well as compete with the United States (which is providing training and support to the Georgian military) and Turkey (which serves as an exit point for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline that transports oil under Georgia). Russia will also be able to counter any Iranian initiatives in the area.

Finally, there is the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabkh, a de facto independent region that is surrounded by Azerbaijan’s territory. Like Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Soviet authorities established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan in the early 1920s as part of a policy of “divide and rule.” The Region was populated predominantly by Armenians, and Armenian discontent with this situation smoldered throughout the Soviet period. Ethnic Armenian-Azeri frictions exploded into further violence in the late 1980s. As the violence escalated, the ethnic Azeri population fled Nagorno-Karabkh and Armenia, while ethnic Armenians fled the rest of Azerbaijan. Outside powers used these ethnic tensions to their advantage.

Both Russia and Iran were angered by the staunchly pro-Turkish stance which the Azeri government adopted in its foreign and domestic policies following independence, policies which were formulated on the basis of the Azeris being a Turkic ethnic group. Russia wished to maintain its long-standing influence in the country. Iran wished to use a common religious heritage (both Azerbaijan and Iran have Shi’a Muslim majorities) to influence the country. It also strove to prevent the rise of a strong Azerbaijan that could push for unification with Iran’s own large Azeri population.

In pursuit of these goals, both Iran and Russia provided encouragement and financing to ethnic communities inside Azerbaijan that were resisting the government’s policy of “Turkification.” To a certain extent, this included the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabkh. The Nagorno-Karabkh conflict ended in 1994 with the signing of a Russian-backed ceasefire that left Nagorno-Karabkh under ethnic Armenian control. Sporadic fighting has occurred since the ceasefire, and in December 2006 the territory held a referendum in which 98% of the voters supported a constitution that declares the region to be sovereign state that is completely independent of Azerbaijan.

This development is interesting in light of the fact that Russia still operates a military base in Armenia itself. Furthermore, in April 2006, Russia purchased Armenia’s pipelines and a power plant in exchange for setting domestic Armenian gas prices at half of European levels until 2009. This deal also gives Russia control of a pipeline which runs from Iran into Armenia, allowing Russia further influence over Iranian policy in the Caucasus. The Armenians welcome the Russian military presence as a counterweight to its western neighbor and diplomatic foe, Turkey. Thus, given that Armenia is already a diplomatic ally of Russia, and in spite of Azeri government’s insistence that the referendum was illegal, a resolutely independent Nagorno-Karabkh could serve as a client state for the Russians inside Azerbaijan, in the same way that Abkhazia and South Ossetia appear to be serving as its client states in Georgia.

All of these separatist regions allow Russia to maintain its influence throughout the Caucasus in absence of the direct territorial control it enjoyed in the Soviet era. This apparent policy of “divide and conquer” may eventually lead to Russia gaining near complete control of the energy resources of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. Thus, while the Turkish-Iranian rivalry has helped to make Russia and Iran allies of convenience, Russia’s policy of “divide and conquer” in the Caucasus could lead to Iran losing the battle for definitive control of the Caspian region’s energy resources.

Michael Alguire is a political analyst and Trinity College Scholar, who recently completed a Specialist Program in History at the University of Toronto. This was published at Robert Amsterdam's site, "Perspectives on Russia, Europe, and International Affairs."

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Being heard on campus

Washington Times, DC - Sep 24, 2007
By Tulin Daloglu
September 25, 2007
The difference is that Ahmadinejad gave his opinion with no threats on his life at home, while Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan is bound to tow the Turkish government's line under threat on his life and that of his flock. If Tulin Daloglu cannot see this then he is blinded by his nationalism.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia University made me think about freedom of speech on America's college campuses.

Mr. Ahmadinejad — who represents a country the State Department calls a state sponsor of terror, who represents a country that helps Iraqi militias to kill American troops and who denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel's destruction — was allowed to speak at one of America's most prestigious campuses. But Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan, the Armenian patriarch of Istanbul, was denied the same privilege last week at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

When the archbishop first visited the United States in April, he spoke at Southern Methodist University, and said something Armenian-Americans never question. Last Thursday, Harut Sassounian, the publisher of the California Courier, a weekly English-language Armenian newspaper based in Los Angeles, explained that Mr. Mutafyan had challenged the notion that Armenians were innocent victims of the Ottomans during its last days. "Did some Armenian political parties promote armed rebellion in the Armenian community?" the archbishop asked in his April speech. "They did. In some areas, did armed Armenian gangs work together with the Russian army? They did. But the government of the Committee for Union and Progress, being in charge of the country, is chiefly responsible for the painful events that occurred and the great suffering that was endured." He charged both Armenians and Turks with making peace with their past and acknowledged that Armenians must also clarify their history.

Mr. Mutafyan is voicing an unheard split within the Armenian community as support grows in the House for congressional legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide. If he could have spoken at Georgetown, he would have been able to say that "[w]e have to change the mentality shown by some Armenian historians who still see the Turks as uncultured barbarian emigrants from Central Asia." But the Armenian American lobby is determined to keep that perception of Turkey in the United States.

The Armenian National Committee of America quoted Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, the lead sponsor of the House Armenian Genocide Resolution, as saying, "In order to perpetuate its campaign of denial, Turkey seeks to intimidate all Armenians worldwide, but especially the Armenians in Turkey who must live with daily threats." Mr. Schiff said that "[t]he editor of the... Armenian language newspaper in Turkey, Hrant Dink, was assassinated for writing about the genocide this year, and a popular video now being circulated in Turkey celebrates his killers and threatens Armenians." Mr. Schiff did not acknowledge that the assassination of Mr. Dink, a beloved Armenian-Turkish journalist, was a crime — and has been treated as such. And while that disturbing video exists, there is another, even more popular video, which calls for unity and shows the protests by thousands of Turks against Mr. Dink's murder.

Mr. Schiff can cherry-pick examples to criticize Turks and Turkey, but he neither shows the whole picture nor acknowledges the society's true nature and values. Mr. Mutafyan, however, admits that there is much unity in the gray areas. Nearly 40,000 Armenians work in Turkey illegally; surely they would not if they felt they were in constant peril. "trategists sin by...turning the youth of the two countries against each other," he has said.

The Armenian National Committee of America, in a letter circulated last week to members of Congress, said that "Patriarch Mutafyan... lives in constant fear of acts of discrimination and retribution by a Turkish government that actively persecutes those who speak freely" in recognizing genocide claims. So it blocked his speech. Mr. Mutafyan's "political statements are made under Turkish pressure and do not reflect his true views on the Armenian genocide," says Sassounian. However, when I interviewed the archbishop, he said, "It is all lie. I am here with my own free will." But he was sad. "I learned that the speech is cancelled due to threats to my security... America should have been the country of freedom, but things do happen here, too," he said.

There is an admirable elegance in the way the Armenian-Americans promote freedom of speech in Turkey, but one has to wonder whether they really believe in total freedom of speech. Is it so outrageous to think that the Armenian patriarch of Istanbul would sincerely call upon all parties — Turks, Armenians and others — to consider looking for "new primary sources?" What if he really believes that both sides will heal by strengthening today's relationships and assuring tomorrow's friendships? What if he believes that the House resolution will only please the Armenian diaspora?

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian resolution:’ Bad for Armenia, Turkey and the US

Today's Zaman

Dear Murat Yulek, while Armenia is ready to enter into relationship with Turkey without any preconditions, Turkey is piling up conditions. If Patriarch Mesrob II wants to make a statement why not make statements to the Armenian communities directly as opposed to the American people? Have Turkey's politicians stooped that low to force a cleric to the lobbying for them?
Countries are free to let their parliaments decide on historical issues. For example, you may have the Japanese parliament vote unanimously that it was the American air force who first struck Japan to start the eastern episode of World War II.

That will not change history, but may have repercussions on the politics and economics of the day.

Letting parliaments decide on historical facts may also seem one of the silly features of the political system of our times when future political historians, say a hundred years from now, describe the beginning of 21st century.

One of the prime weaknesses of democracies is probably the possibility of making parliaments hostage to strong lobbies. Lobbies are not bad per se; so long as they are a means to convey sincere preferences of voters to parliament, they are a useful ingredient of the democratic system. They are bad when they become just a stick to prod a parliament to vote as a specific clique wants; the parliament then becomes a stamping authority of the strong lobbies of smaller cliques.

What Armenia needs today is economic growth and political stability. When a poor country invading its neighbor’s land is no news to the world, one can conclude there is a problem somewhere, including for the invading party. Armenia, instead of using its resources properly to drive growth and development for its people, is allocating today a significant portion of those resources to feed its official and unofficial invasion army in Azerbaijan.

The result is closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and animosity instead of cooperation for Armenia. Armenia has about 70,000 illegal workers in Turkey, maybe more. It could trade freely with Turkey and Azerbaijan to create mutual prosperity. It could see higher growth rates and a more prosperous society. Its invasion of Azerbaijan does not help all this.

A vote of so-called genocide by the US Congress will also not help. The prime result will be increased animosity with Turkey. Nor will Turkish-US relations benefit from a Congress-stamped slander of Turkey which will also be taken as encouragement of a country’s invading its neighbor.

The Armenian diaspora in the US sabotaged a speech by Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II (Mutafyan) to be delivered at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., last week. The patriarch was probably going to voice his appeal for more cooperation instead of hostility, more dialogue instead of bickering. Perhaps Congress should listen to him.

I am not sure if the Armenian diaspora will also be ultimately happy with a “Congress victory.” Their insistence on unduly affecting US policy will result in damaged US foreign relations, a further damaged Armenian economy and a damaged Turkish openness to dialogue with Armenia.

The Turco-American economic relationship spans more than 100 years. This is a close relationship, but still weak compared to its potential. A vote by congress will damage that potential as well. This is probably what the diaspora wants. Is this what all Americans want?

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Torch Relay campaign against genocides reached Armenia


The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) is organizing a special commemorative event to take place at the Tsitsernakapert Genocide Memorial on Tuesday, September 25 at 10.30 AM in Yerevan.

In collaboration with "Olympic Dream for Darfur" the AAA will organize an Olympic-style torch relay, as Armenia is the third stop on an international symbolic Olympic Torch Relay campaign that calls for an end to the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur. Special guests in attendance will consist of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Rwandan Genocide and Darfur Genocide as well as His Holiness Garegin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The torchlight procession that started in Eastern Chad today will march through the states which suffered from genocide in different times. In a couple of months the action participants will cross Rwanda and Cambodia and reach Armenia. Afterwards they will head for Sarajevo.

The purpose of the procession is to attract attention of the international community to the problem of genocide, specifically to the situation in Darfur. The action was initiated by UNICEF goodwill ambassador, actress Mia Farrow, who is dealing with the Darfur problem.

“We constantly speak of prevention of genocides. However, they are repeated again and again. The activities of the Sudanese government in Darfur can be described as the first genocide of the 21st century. It should be stopped,” Ms. Farrow said.

The procession started August 8. On this very day the Summer Olympic Games will kick off in Beijing next year. China, as Sudan’s major economic partner, was chosen as one of the targets of the action.

“The Sudanese government empowered Chinese oil companies to use nature resources of the country while 80% of the income is spent on military operations in Darfur. Cooperating with China, we support the perpetrators of the genocide in Darfur,” Ms. Farrow noted.

! Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to «PanARMENIAN.Net».

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Monday, September 24, 2007


24 September, 2007

“We have received no congratulation from the RA authorities on this great holiday. Despite the authorities’ indifference, we are punctual tax-payers and RA citizens,” Rima Varjapetyan, the head of Jewish community in Armenia, told A1+.

A few days ago the community celebrated Rosh Hashanah –Jewish New Year in Armenia. One of the popular practices of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). They walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, in the afternoon and empty their pockets into the river, symbolically casting off their sins.

On the whole, the Jewish community is content with the country’s attention to national minorities.

“We would like to participate in decision makings and various actions in Armenia. Unfortunately, so far we have been denied participation,” Rima Varjapetyan said.

The Jews support Armenians in everything, especially in the recognition of the Genocide. In this regard they even came into conflict with the Jewish community of Azerbaijan.

“They attempt to support Azerbaijan in view of the Karabakh conflict resolution and intervene in its recognition. But I am more than convinced that they do it forcibly, against their will,” says the head of Jewish community in Armenia

According to Ms. Varjapetyan the two communities had better undertake a peacekeeping mission to promote dialogue between the two countries.

It is due to mention that the Armenian Jewish community is comprised of 300 members. Most of them live in Yerevan, Vanadzor and Gyumri. The community has carried out different cultural programmes over the past 16 years.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Turkish archives may shed light on history of 30 countries

Today's Zaman, Turkey

I find this frank admission below:

"Since access to the state archives became forbidden or restricted, many archived documents were either damaged or lost. The bill contains tight measures against such acts. Any person who steals, destroys or removes documents from the state archives may be sentenced to one to six years in prison and fined up to YTL 5,000."

I wonder which documents were these. See Missing Ottoman Archival Records on the Armenian Genocide, 1915.
The General Directorate of State Archives and the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) have conducted joint work to classify the Ottoman archives.

This classification showed that Ottoman archives contained records and documents that contain important information about the history of 30 countries, established after the disintegration of the Ottoman State. Upon request, these documents and records will be provided to the respective countries. Translation of the archives into English, German and French has already started. The classification work has been under progress for many years and it is about to be finalized to a great extent. During this work, important documents and records have been unearthed which will shed light on the history of not only Turkey, but also of 30 countries in the Balkans, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

In particular, it was discovered that the Ottoman archives contained very important documents and records pertaining to Armenia, about which Turkey offered to open all archives to international researchers in connection with the so-called Armenian genocide.

The records in the Ottoman archives cover 400-500 years of the history of these countries, which include Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Georgia, Armenia and Cyprus. Officials from the General Directorate of State Archives note that the number of countries that make use of the Ottoman archives had been low, adding that individual researchers will now be given access to the archives.

National archives bill

The bill on national archives, prepared after the conclusion of research and classification work in the Ottoman archives, is expected to be enacted after the opening of the Turkish Parliament on Oct. 1. During the previous parliamentary term, the bill had been negotiated at the parliamentary Plan and Budget Commission, which referred it to a sub-commission. The government is preparing to enact this bill as soon as Parliament reconvenes. This bill will ensure that the archives are handled in accordance with scientific methods.

Since access to the state archives became forbidden or restricted, many archived documents were either damaged or lost. The bill contains tight measures against such acts. Any person who steals, destroys or removes documents from the state archives may be sentenced to one to six years in prison and fined up to YTL 5,000.

The bill empowers the General Directorate of State Archives for the determination of archive documents and documents capable of being archived, their protection, their usage in line with national and public interests and their elimination and destruction when necessary.

Documents produced by public organizations and institutions except those of the Presidency, the Parliament, the General Staff, the Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will be archived by the General Directorate of State Archives. The records of the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and the Turkish Aviation Association (THK) will also be archived.

Archived documents will not be taken out of the archive buildings or the places where they are kept. Permission of the general director will be required for their display at exhibitions or other scientific or cultural activities.

The documents archived at the General Directorate or other archive buildings will be opened for access 30 years after their first processing and classification. Real or corporate persons will not be allowed to keep archive documents other than those relating to their correspondence with public authorities, nor sell, purchase, reproduce, destroy or make them accessible to third parties.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.