Archive for May, 2006

No Escape from Being Different

Imagine fleeing a country to avoid your people’s persecution. Imagine you were three at the time, and the country you were born in had different religion and different ethnic dominant group, and they hated your people.

You escaped to a new country, where most people had your religion and did not want to kill you. You became a citizen of that country but you were killed when you became 19 because your hair color was not blond.

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Yusuf Sultonov, whose 9-year-old daughter was beaten and stabbed to death [for being a Tadjik] in St. Petersburg on February 9, 2004 (TASS)

I just told you the story of the latest non-Russian killed in Russia. 19-year-old Artur Sardaryan was stabbed on the train by people who called “Long live Russia.” Artur was born in Azerbaijan. His family fled the country during the anti-Armenian pogroms of 1989. He was killed in Moscow before becoming 20.

The wave of hate crimes continues in Russia and their government seems not to care about Russian fascists.

The World Has Awaken

It took over six months for Europe to realize that the destruction of one of the most ancient and beautiful cemeteries of world heritage should be condemned. More and more articles are published day by day in world known newspapers about Jugha's destruction.

Azerbaijan 'flattened' sacred Armenian site
The Independent, UK
http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article621782.ece
By Stephen Castle in Brussels
Published: 30 May 2006

Fears that Azerbaijan has systematically destroyed hundreds of 500-year-old Christian artefacts have exploded into a diplomatic row, after Euro MPs were barred from inspecting an ancient Armenian burial site.

The predominantly Muslim country's government has been accused of "flagrant vandalism" similar to the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

The claims centre on the fate of rare "khachkars", stone crosses carved with intricate floral designs, at the burial ground of Djulfa in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan, an enclave separated from the rest of the country by Armenia.

The works – some of the most important examples of Armenian heritage – are said to have been smashed with sledgehammers last December as the site was concreted over.

The Azerbaijan government, which denies the claims, is now at the centre of a row with MEPs, some of whom it accused of a "biased and hysterical approach". Its ambassador to the EU also says the European Parliament has ignored damage to Muslim sites in Armenia. Azerbaijan has refused to allow a delegation of Euro MPs permission to visit the 1,500-year-old Djulfa cemetery during their trip to the region last month.

Most of original 10,000 khachkars, most of which date from the 15th and 16th century, were destroyed by the early 20th century, leaving probably fewer than 3,000 by the late 1970s.

According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), the Azerbaijan government removed 800 khachkars in 1998. Though the destruction was halted following protests from Unesco, it resumed four years later. By January 2003 "the 1,500-year-old cemetery had completely been flattened," Icomos says.

Witnesses, quoted in the Armenian press, say the final round of vandalism was unleashed in December last year by Azerbaijani soldiers wielding sledgehammers.

The president of Icomos, Michael Petzet, said: "Now that all traces of this highly important historic site seem to have been extinguished all we can do is mourn the loss and protest against this totally senseless destruction."

Some MEPs believe that, boosted by its oil revenues, Azerbaijan is adopting an increasingly assertive stance in the region. Charles Tannock, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European parliament, argued: "This is very similar to the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban. They have concreted the area over and turned it into a military camp. If they have nothing to hide then we should be allowed to inspect the terrain."

When MEPs passed a critical resolution in February, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, made a formal protest. Then, when the parliament's delegation for relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, asked to combine a mission to Armenia with a visit to the Djulfa archaeological site, their request was refused.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly hopes to visit the site and its secretary general has offered to set up an expert group to examine cultural sites in Azerbaijan and Armenia. MEPs insist that the authorities in Azerbaijan should open their doors if they have nothing to hide.

Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian socialist MEP and member of the committee barred from examining the site, said he hopes a visit can be arranged in the autumn. He added: "If they do not allow us to go, we have a clear hint that something bad has happened. If something is hidden we want to ask why. It can only be because some of the allegations are true."

And he warned: "One of the major elements of any country that wants to come close to Europe is that the cultural heritage of neighbours is respected."

Fears that Azerbaijan has systematically destroyed hundreds of 500-year-old Christian artefacts have exploded into a diplomatic row, after Euro MPs were barred from inspecting an ancient Armenian burial site.

The predominantly Muslim country's government has been accused of "flagrant vandalism" similar to the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

The claims centre on the fate of rare "khachkars", stone crosses carved with intricate floral designs, at the burial ground of Djulfa in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan, an enclave separated from the rest of the country by Armenia.

The works – some of the most important examples of Armenian heritage – are said to have been smashed with sledgehammers last December as the site was concreted over.

The Azerbaijan government, which denies the claims, is now at the centre of a row with MEPs, some of whom it accused of a "biased and hysterical approach". Its ambassador to the EU also says the European Parliament has ignored damage to Muslim sites in Armenia. Azerbaijan has refused to allow a delegation of Euro MPs permission to visit the 1,500-year-old Djulfa cemetery during their trip to the region last month.

Most of original 10,000 khachkars, most of which date from the 15th and 16th century, were destroyed by the early 20th century, leaving probably fewer than 3,000 by the late 1970s.

According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), the Azerbaijan government removed 800 khachkars in 1998. Though the destruction was halted following protests from Unesco, it resumed four years later. By January 2003 "the 1,500-year-old cemetery had completely been flattened," Icomos says.

Witnesses, quoted in the Armenian press, say the final round of vandalism was unleashed in December last year by Azerbaijani soldiers wielding sledgehammers.

The president of Icomos, Michael Petzet, said: "Now that all traces of this highly important historic site seem to have been extinguished all we can do is mourn the loss and protest against this totally senseless destruction."

Some MEPs believe that, boosted by its oil revenues, Azerbaijan is adopting an increasingly assertive stance in the region. Charles Tannock, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European parliament, argued: "This is very similar to the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban. They have concreted the area over and turned it into a military camp. If they have nothing to hide then we should be allowed to inspect the terrain."

When MEPs passed a critical resolution in February, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, made a formal protest. Then, when the parliament's delegation for relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, asked to combine a mission to Armenia with a visit to the Djulfa archaeological site, their request was refused.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly hopes to visit the site and its secretary general has offered to set up an expert group to examine cultural sites in Azerbaijan and Armenia. MEPs insist that the authorities in Azerbaijan should open their doors if they have nothing to hide.

Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian socialist MEP and member of the committee barred from examining the site, said he hopes a visit can be arranged in the autumn. He added: "If they do not allow us to go, we have a clear hint that something bad has happened. If something is hidden we want to ask why. It can only be because some of the allegations are true."

And he warned: "One of the major elements of any country that wants to come close to Europe is that the cultural heritage of neighbours is respected."

Triumph of Tolerance or Vandalism?

An article I did a few days ago appeared in Hetq today.

Triumph of Tolerance or Vandalism?

[May 29, 2006]

The recent opening of a newly restored Christian church for the Udi (Uti) minority in Muslim Azerbaijan's village of Nij (Nizh) was praised as “triumph of Azerbaijan's tolerance.” These were the words of Salman Musayev, the deputy chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Department.

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Musayev was quoted in a recent BakuTODAY.net article that broke a one-year silence regarding what the Norwegian Embassy in Baku had officially denounced as an “act of vandalism.” The Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise (NHE), the sponsor of the church's reconstruction in Nij, joined the Norwegian Embassy in a February 11, 2005 press release informing the public about the destruction of three Armenian inscriptions on the church walls during the restoration. The Armenian letters on nearby tombstones were also polished out, while the decorations, hand-carved by Armenians, were left untouched, Norway's Ambassador to Azerbaijan Steinar Gil told Hetq.

Read the entire article at http://hetq.am/eng/politics/0605-vandalism.html.

To Preserve Azeri Monuments

Armenia’s response to Azerbaijan’s recent vandalistic destruction of hundreds of medieval Armenian cross-stones and the decision of converting Baku’s Armenian church to a library is surprising. Armenia’s government allocated 2 mln 308 thousand drams (5,100 USD) on 4 May 2006 to register and document the existence of Azerbaijani cemeteries and historic-cultural monuments (though these are not too many) on the territories of the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Of course the move is political, and of course the decision wants to show the international community that Armenia is not like Azerbaijan. But I wish Azerbaijanis at least wanted to pretend that they are not destroying Armenian monuments. The reality is far worse. Azerbaijan’s government does not even acknowledge the existence (well, perhaps not any more?!) of thousands of Armenians monuments in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, let alone the need to register or preserve those.

I so hope that the war between the two countries does not restart. But if it starts, the one good outcome will be (hopefully) the persecution of Azerbaijani officials who are directly responsible for the destruction of Azerbaijan’s Armenian heritage.

Link

From the Art Newspaper – 25 May 2006

World watches in silence as Azerbaijan wipes out Armenian culture
Western governments have failed to condemn the destruction of a unique medieval cemetery by Azerbaijani soldiers

By Lucian Harris | Posted 25 May 2006
The Art Newspaper, United Kingdom
http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article01.asp?id=281

LONDON. A delegation of European members of Parliament was last month refused access to Djulfa, in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan, to investigate reports that an ancient Armenian Christian cemetery has been destroyed by Azerbaijani soldiers.

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Armenia says the Christian cemetery of Jugha, dating from the ninth to 16th centuries, has been completely destroyed by Azerbaijani soldiers.

The delegation of ten MEPs from the commission on EU-Armenia parliamentary co-operation travelled to Armenia on 17 April following a resolution passed by the EP’s conference of presidents on 6 April. An EP spokesman told The Art Newspaper that when the party tried to enter Nakhichevan, it was “opposed by the Azerbaijan authorities”.

This was despite the Muslim country’s outright denial that the cemetery has been destroyed—and despite the fact that Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe and thus committed to respecting cultural heritage.

According to witnesses, as quoted in Armenian reports, in a three-day operation last December, Azerbaijani soldiers armed with sledgehammers obliterated the remnants of the Djulfa cemetery (known as Jugha in Armenian). Until the early 20th century it contained around 10,000 khachkars, dedicatory monuments unique to medieval Armenian culture. They are typically carved with a cross surrounded by intricate interlacing floral designs.

A great number of khachkars, the majority of which date from the 15th to 16th centuries, were destroyed in 1903-04 during the construction of a railway, and by the early 1970s only 2,707 were recorded.

Armenian culture has always had a precarious existence sandwiched between Russia and the Islamic spheres of Turkey and Iran. The Armenians are still fighting to get acknowledgement of the genocide of their people by the Ottoman Turks which reached its peak in 1915. After 1921, when the southern enclaves of Nakhichevan and Nagorno Karabakh were absorbed into Soviet Azerbaijan, many Armenians fled the area and much of their cultural heritage was destroyed. By the late 1980s when the Soviet Union crumbled, less than 4,000 Armenians remained in Nakhichevan—so few that the exclave avoided the ethnic warfare that exploded in Karabakh where a larger Armenian population remained under the administration of Muslim Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani army began clearing the Jugha cemetery in 1998, removing 800 of the khachkars before complaints by Unesco brought a temporary halt. But the destruction commenced again in November 2002, and by the time the incident was written up by Icomos in its World Report on Monuments and Sites in Danger for that year, the 1500-year-old cemetery was described as “completely flattened”. It is not clear exactly how many khachkars were left, but on 14 December 2005, witnesses in Armenian reports said that soldiers had demolished the remaining stones, loading them onto trucks and dumping them in the river, actions that were filmed from across the river in Iran by an Armenian Film crew, and aired on the Boston-based online television station Hairenik.

Armenians say the destruction of the Jugha cemetery represents the final move in Azerbaijan’s systematic cleansing of Armenian cultural heritage from Nakhichevan, mostly carried out between 1998 and 2002.

On a visit to Armenia in March, the director of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky, whose mother is Armenian, reacted to the destruction by likening it to the Taleban’s obliteration of the Bamiyan Buddhas. His comments elicited an angry response in the Azerbaijani press. However, the lack of international condemnation of Azerbaijan’s actions has been a source of frustration to many Armenians. Baroness Cox, a long-standing campaigner for the protection of Armenian heritage in Azerbaijan who has urged the British government to take action, told The Art Newspaper that, despite the influential Armenian Diaspora, both the US and UK administrations are more concerned with cultivating close relations with oil-rich Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey, than with Armenia.

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Azerbaijani soldiers photographed destroying headstones at Jugha

A response issued by the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels in January, insisted that Armenian allegations were made “to delude the international community” and detract attention from “atrocities committed by the Armenian troops in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, where no single Azerbaijani monument has been left undamaged”. It also contained an implied historical claim on the Jugha cemetery stating that it was not Armenian but created by “Caucasian Albanians”.

The Azerbaijani allegations, which claim the destruction of hundreds of mosques, religious schools, cemeteries and museums in the Shusha, Yerevan, Zangazur and Icmiadzin districts of Armenia, have undoubtedly compounded the reluctance of international organisations to get involved in a situation described to The Art Newspaper by Guido Carducci, the head of Unesco’s International Standards Section, as “a political hot potato”.

According to Baroness Cox, even during the war, mosques in Armenia were generally protected by the Christian population, but with so many emotive claims and counter claims being made, and both sides accusing each other of rewriting history, non-partisan monitoring and verification of all alleged cultural crimes seems more important than ever. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Mikhail Piotrovsky said: “Any destruction of the cultural heritage is a crime, whether that heritage be Armenian, Russian, Azerbaijani, or Iraqi. The cultural heritage belongs to the entire world, not just to one nation.”

The Hero of the Feature

There is a plague at Colorado’s State Capitol’s first floor in memory of former governor Ralph Carr. The plague calls him a humane person who did not adopt the American bigotry toward Japanese-Americans during WWII.

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During the War, Americans of Japanese origin were sent to concentration camps. Colorado’s governor was the only official who not only welcomed the internees to Colorado, but also made sure that they were treated with respect and honor. Governor Carr said in a speech to the people of his state:

If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you.

Back in those days the concept of “Human Rights” was unheard of. Governor Carr was a pioneer of human rights, a just person. His righteousness cost him reelection. His honorable actions killed his career. But Governor Carr is one of the most, if not the most, respected leader in Colorado’s history.

There will be a plague at U.S. State Department’s first floor in honor of former Ambassador John Evans in several years. The plague will call him a courageous person who did not adopt the American political injustice toward the Armenian people and their memory.

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John Evans refused from taking the order of his bosses to avoid using the term “genocide” while speaking about the Armenian holocaust. The Republic of Turkey gets very mad when a country uses that word: that is why America does not want to have a sick turkey. John Evans did not take that order. John Evans, America’s Ambassador to Armenia, has been recalled by President George W. Bush.

To see the plague in memory of John Evans at the U.S. State Department, visit the building several years from now. For now, that plague is in the heart of every living Armenian in this world.

Greek-Turkish Aircrash

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Turkish pilot Lieutenant Halil Ibrahim Ozdemir is carried to a hospital in Mugla, Turkey May 23, 2006. Greek and Turkish fighter planes collided in mid-air on Tuesday while shadowing each other in the southern Aegean, where the two NATO allies have long disputed control over airspace. REUTERS/Ihlas News Agency

More from the New York Times: In April alone, Turkish jets violated Greek airspace no less than 53 times, Hellenic Air Force officials said today.

Armenia: 8th Place

Armenia was just announced the 8th place in EuroVision's song contest. This means next year Armenia will directly get to the final.

The first place is Finland… I had the "chance" to watch their performance online. I can't believe they got any votes, really.

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Finland won… On the other hand, if George Bush can be America's President, why can't Finland win the Eurovision?

Surprisingly, Armenia got 10 votes from Turkey (the maximum votes a country can get is 10). Russia voted for Armenia (12 votes).

Why Turkey gave so many surprising votes to Armenia? According to me, it is because there are thousands of "covered" Armenians in Turkey, namely people who changed their identity during the Genocide to stay. According to my Mom, Andre's song was half-Turkish, that's why we got so many votes from Turkey.

In any case, Andre was great. Finland sucked too much, but they won. Russia is the second place.

3:00am, 21 May 2006, Yerevan (Armenian) – Littleton, Colorado – Athens, Greece

Caviar and Armenians

Armen Petrossian, the world's leading distributor of caviar, is Armenian.

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Monaco, MONACO: Armen Petrossian poses 19 May 2006 in front of his new restaurant in Monaco. Petrossian, the world's leading distributor of caviar, is to expand its cafe-bar empire by selling gourmet fish eggs in China and Russia, whose increasingly wealthy populations have a penchant for luxury goods. Petrossian currently owns two restaurants, in Paris and New York, and five boutiques, in the French cities of Paris and Lyon as well as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the United States. The family-run business, founded in Paris by the current president's Armenian father and uncle, Moucheg and Melkoum, last year posted sales totalling 40 million euros (48 million dollars), half of which were earned outside France, mainly in the United States. AFP PHOTO JACQUES MUNCH (Photo credit should read JACQUES MUNCH/AFP/Getty Images)

A Triumph of Azerbaijan's Tolerance

If you think that all Armenian religious monuments are being wiped off from the face of the earth in Muslim Azerbaijan, you are damn wrong.

One of the Armenian churches in Azerbaijan, for exampple, has been restored, and a Muslim leader called that act “a triumph of Azerbaijan's tolerance.”

Norwegians restored the church: the same Norwegians who one year ago stopped the reconstruction due to what they called “vandalism” against the Armenian heritage. The church was an Armenian one, but its Armenian identity was neutralized by destroying the Armenian inscriptions, and now it is called an Udi (Albanian) church. The same ole story folks, the same ole story.

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The raped Armenian inscriptions

The website of “Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise” published a photo of the “reconstructed” church on 19 April 2006, stating “Today it is exactly a month to the opening of the newly restored Udin Albanian Chirch in Nich.”

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The Armenian face of the church before the reconstruction

So what happened to “humanitarian” Norwegians to change their mind and support what they themselves called “vandalism” a year ago? Did they think this was a better way than destroying thousands of medieval Armenian cross-stones?

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The church after Norwegian "reconstruction"


Here is the newest article from the Azerbaijani media regarding the “restoration”


Restoration of Albanian Church Great Day for Udins
BakuToday.net
20/05/2006 07:46

[…]

The Director of the Norwegian humanitarian mission in Azerbaijan, [b]Alf Henri, expressed gratitude to Azerbaijan's authorities for creating conditions for restoration of the church.[/b]

Deputy Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Department, Salman Musayev, called the church's opening ceremony a triumph of Azerbaijan's tolerance.

Religious services in the church will be held in accordance with Orthodox Church's canons. Religious men will be trained in Russia's spiritual seminaries.

Here is an article from Agence France Press from last year regarding the “restoration”

"Christian minority in Azerbaijan gets rid of Armenian eye sore"

(AFP, February 17, 2005)

When a Christian people in this predominantly Muslim republic ground away the Armenian inscriptions from the walls of a church and tombs last month to erase evidence linking them to Azerbaijan's foe, they thought they had the interests of their small community in mind.

[…]

Since then nearly everything associated with Armenia in Azerbaijan has been wiped away, although hundreds of thousands of Armenians lived here before the war.

Armenian-sounding city names have been changed, streets named after Armenians have been replaced with politically correct Azeri surnames, while Soviet history glorifying Armenian communist activists has been rewritten in school textbooks.

But the white-stone church in Nij, some two centuries old, had not been tampered with until the Udi undertook to reconstruct it with help from the state financed Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise (NHE).

"It was a beautiful inscription, 200 years old, it even survived the war," Norway's Ambassador to Azerbaijan Steinar Gil told AFP. "This is an act of vandalism and Norway in no way wants to be associated with it."

[…]

"They think they have erased a reminder of being Armenian … instead they have taken away the chance to have a good image when the church is inaugurated," the director of the NHE in Azerbaijan, Alf Henry Rasmussen said, adding that a visit to the church by Norway's prime minister will probably now be cancelled.

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