An interactive map of endangered languages, showing 2,500 out of 6,000 tongues at risk, has been released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Among 18 languages at risk in the Republic of Turkey are Western Armenian, the language of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenians who were almost entirely eliminated during WWI, and Homshetsma, the language of some Islamized Armenians, considered a distinct dialest of Western Armenian, yet has classical and medieval Armenian at its roots but also has heavy Turkish and Arabic influence. Many of the Homshetsma speakers survived the Armenian Genocide unlike those who spoke Western Armenian. Homshetsma is also listed as at risk in the Republic of Georgia.
The full list of languages at risk in Turkey are:
Cappadocian Greek (Turkey)
Gagauz (South Balkans)
Western Armenian (Turkey)
The full list of languages at risk in the Armenian Republic are:
Suret (otherwise known as Suryaya Swadaya, Lishana Aturaya, Lishana Kaldaya, Suryani, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Christian Northeastern Neo-Aramaic)
The full list of languages at risk in Azerbaijan are:
The full list of languages at risk in Georgia are:
Weeks after an angry exchange between Turkey’s and Israel’s leaders over the attack on Gaza, things are not getting better between the two Middle East allies. In CNN’s words:
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador to the Turkish capital of Ankara on Saturday to issue a formal complaint over a top Israeli commander’s reported remarks criticizing Turkey.
The complaint is part of the escalating war of words between the two regional allies, stemming from Turkey’s outspoken criticism of the recent conflict in Gaza.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it had requested an “urgent explanation” from Ambassador Gabby Levy for recent remarks reportedly made by a top Israeli military commander.
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi told an international conference that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should “look in the mirror” before criticizing Israel.
The “mirror” indeed, is the oppression of Kurds and genocide of Armenians that Turkey refuses to accept. It is also Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s relationship with Sudan’s criminal president, Omar al-Bashir, who hopes his Turkish friend will get him off the hook from being arrested over the genocide in Darfur.
But the “mirror” also shows – at least until recently – Israel with its eyes covered standing next to Turkey, closing its eyes on the Armenian genocide and other violations by the Turkish government so long as the latter doesn’t bring up the issue of Palestinians.
Unfortunately, it is the flash from CNN that is blurring the mirror for its readers. A flash so simplifying everything that it’s hard to tell what Israel and Turkey are talking about.
Turkey’s Prime Minister’s January 29, 2009 World Economic Forum confrontation with Israel’s President over Gaza offensive seems to have excited many Armenians, giving the latter hope for long-waited Tel Aviv and Washington D.C. recognition of the Armenian genocide. My friend Harut Sassounian, for instance, writes enthusiastically on the Huffington Post that “Israel May Retaliate Against Turkey by Recognizing the Armenian Genocide.” His post appeared even before Prime Minister Erdogan’s angry remarks at Davos, Switzerland. So, perhaps, there is a chance for genocide recognition.
But should Armenians celebrate a short-term conflict between conservative Turkish and Israeli forces – both up for reelection and, thus, appealing to their respective nationalist voters – just because it may result in Armenian genocide recognition?
My answer is no. My answer is no because Erdogan brought up a valid point – Israel’s actions in Gaza were disproportionate and left many civilians dead. My answer is no because the Armenian argument for genocide recognition has been on moral grounds – and should stay so. My answer is no because even if Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide out of anger, realpolitik will dictate Israel and Turkey to come back together – especially after the elections. Even if there is short-term recognition of the Armenian genocide under these circumstances, it won’t be a sustainable one. My answer is no because an unrelated genocide shouldn’t be recognized as a result of dispute over Palestinian and Israeli blood.
If you ask me, the Davos panel had an opportunity for real genocide talk. But that opportunity is not what many Armenians think. The Washington Post journalist who moderated the panel that Erdogan angrily left is of Armenian origin. Instead of not allowing Turkey’s Erdogan to react to Israel’s Shimon Peres, moderator David Ignatius should have asked the Turkish Prime Minister, “You bring up the death of Palestinian civilians, but why is your government so unwilling to recognize oppression against Kurds and admit the systematic destruction of indigenous Armenians during WWI?”
Five months after the war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgian authorities have reportedly arrested two members of its Armenian minority on suspicion of espionage and forming an armed gang. Underrepresented in the local government of a region where they make up the majority, some Armenian demands for autonomy of Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region (map) are once again being heard.
On January 22, 2009 the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia detained Grigor Minasyan, the director of the Akhaltskha Armenian Youth Center of Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia and Sargis Hakobjanyan, the chairman of “Charles Aznavour” charitable organization. They were charged with “preparation of crime”, according to Article 18 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, and “formation or leading of a paramilitary unit” (Part 1 of Article 223) and “espionage” (Part 1 of Article 314).
The announcement also reads:
The «Yerkir» Union considers these arrests as a deliberate provocation by the Georgian authorities, aimed at deterioration of the situation in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and worsening the Armenian-Georgian relations…Only a democratic Georgia, respecting its ethnic diversity, can avoid further disruption and guarantee the sustainable development of the country.
While XUSSR NEWSreminds of earlier arrests of ethnic Armenians in Georgia, there is little information in the conventional media about the new development and limited discussion in the blogosphere.
[Think-tank] Mitq […] continues to play the nationalist card by warning of a second Armenian Genocide [in Georgia]. The same news site carries a report quoting a former Armenian Ambassador who not only lays claim to the region, but potentially risks encouraging a new armed conflict.
And as Armenian nationalists openly boast that “after Karabakh, Javakhk is next,” more diplomatic initiatives and sensitive handling by both Yerevan and Tbilisi seems more necessary than ever.
The blog, nonetheless, acknowledges problems in the region and especially with Council of Europe demands to repatriate Meskhetian Turks deported from the region by Stalin in 1944. Other bloggers in Armenia staged a mock funeral in 2008 outside the Georgian Embassy in protest at an ongoing dispute over church property in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
As an indication of some concerns that Armenians have about the level of cultural rights in Georgia, smbatgogyan [AM] has detailed an Armenian textbook published in Georgia with countless typos and grammatical errors.
Գնացել էի գյուղ, որը գտնվում է Վրաստանում` Ջավախքում: Այնտեղ արդեն մի-քանի տարի է, ինչ դպրոցներում փորձում են վերացնել հայերենը: Սակայն նրանց մոտ ոչինչ չստացվեց` ծնողները հրաժարվեցին իրենց երեխաներին քիմիա, աշխարհագրություն և համաշխարհային պատմություն սովորեցնել վրացերենով: …Վրաստանի կրթության նախարարությունը սկսել է հայերեն լեզվով դասագրքեր տպել Վրաստանի հայկական դպրոցների համար և պարտադրում է ուսանել այդ գրքերով: Ահա այդ գրքերից մեկը…:
…I went to a village in Georgia’s Javakhk [region]. [The Georgian authorities] have been trying to eliminate the Armenian language at schools there. But they were unsuccessful: parents refused to let their children learn chemistry, geography and world history in Georgian…. Georgia’s ministry of education has started to print textbooks in Armenian and requires to use them at school [as opposed to textbooks published in Armenia]. Here is one of those books…
The blog posts the cover of a mathematics textbook for second-grade students with the large title containing two typos in the word “mathematics.”
Interestingly, an earlier post dealt with translating textbooks into minority languages in Georgia. Writing for TOL Chalkboard, Swiss-Armenian journalist and regional analyst Vicken Cheterian detailed the project.
When we […] carried out bilingual education studies in Georgia […] we wondered how the images of minorities were reflected in the pages of Georgian history textbooks[…].
Their report […] found something startling: Armenians and Azeris in Georgia were by and large absent from Georgian history books. When they were noted, it was in a negative sense.
A workshop held in November  […] concluded that the Georgian Education Ministry is moving forward in its efforts to change the way history is taught. At the event […] Georgian educators presented their ongoing project to develop new textbooks with the aim of giving more space to minorities in the official version of history presented to youngsters from majority and minority linguistic communities.
These new texts should begin appearing soon in Armenian and Azeri schools, and be in use in all history classes in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli by 2011.
[…]Georgian history teachers and authors are moving from a position of negation of ethnic minorities to one of recognition. But important obstacles remain in the path toward an integrated narrative of history in which minorities move from being the “other” coexisting with “us” into being part of society.
…[I]n a turbulent political climate following the catastrophic August war [with Russia], Georgian education authorities and many educators continue to press for change.
Will the process of “change” include enough Armenians and Azeris so that relations, let alone words, are not lost in translation?
An e-mail I received invites attention to a news items in Turkey’s largest-circulating newspaper with two different versions. While the English translation talks about monentum in Armenian-Turkish relations, the original Turkish has qutite a different tome. Ara Arabyan’s e-mail to a list of Armenian and Turkish scholars/activists, published by his permission, below:
I wrote earlier that I found the Hurriyet story (in English) about Turkey and Armenia being “very close” to normalizing relations interesting because I had not seen that story elsewhere. When I checked the Turkish version of the same paper for similar news I found only the following in its 22 January 2009 edition (translation/summary follows in green).
The two reports (one in English and the other in Turkish) about the same story are very different in tone. The English one underscores that the two countries are “very close” to normalizing relations (with no problems mentioned), while the Turkish one emphasizes that Armenia is not backing down on the recognition of the genocide. Hurriyet is Turkey’s largest mass-circulation daily and is read by tens of millions of people each day. It’s curious why the paper would choose to promote the same story in a more negative tone inside Turkey and in an upbeat tone to English readers. It is understandable that the politicians of both sides would wish to appear tough on the other side when addressing their home audiences but take a softer and more reasonable stand when talking to each other in private. It is less understandable for mass-circulation media to echo that dichotomy in their reporting.
Regardless, real negotiations are evidently under way and some breakthrough is quite likely in the near future (barring some unexpected development that may bring down the current government in Turkey).
And here is the translation of the Turkish version by Ara:
Speaking at a press conference, [Armenia’s foreign minister] Nalbandyan said that Armenia will accept the formation of an intergovernmental commission [on the events 1915] only if Turkey opens its borders and establishes diplomatic relations with Armenia without any preconditions.
According to the Armenian press, Nalbandyan said at the press conference that ““Turkey is not doing us any favors by normalizing our relations.” He also said at the same press conference: “Yerevan will not make any sacrifices to normalize relations with Ankara.” Nalbandyan continued:
“Armenia will never renounce its policy of seeking recognition for the Armenian Genocide by the international community. The dark pages of history must be turned over but the lessons of the past must never be forgotten. Armenia will never question the reality of the Armenian Genocide.”
‘Agree With Babacan’
The Armenian foreign minister also said that he agrees with his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, that the two countries are nearing reconciliation. He added however: “The problems can be solved only if Turkey agrees to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey unconditionally.”
Nalbandyan also said that he will attend the planned meeting of the Turkish-sponsored Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.
The Biblical flood left Mount Ararat still, but a murdered journalist’s legacy has been moving mountains between Armenia and Turkey, two states separated by holy Ararat and an unholy history. After Hrant Dink’s January 19, 2007 assassination in front of his Istanbul office of Agos, an Armenian weekly he edited, thousands of Turkish citizens came to his funeral chanting, “We are all Hrant Dink; we are all Armenians.” The killing of one of Turkey’s few surviving indigenous Armenian Christian voices by a Turkish ultranationalist has shocked the world, but equally mesmerizing is the ignited hope for peace that lives on two years after Dink’s murder.
Cyber commemorations are also taking place. Over 1,700 members of the networking Facebook site, for instance, have posted Hrant Dink’s photo as their profile picture and updated their status to “We are all Hrant Dink,” an event hosted by my blog. Dozens of Turkish blogs have posts commemorating Dink.
Он был одним из тех, кто пытался найти пути и способы примирить армян и турок…”Армяне — врачи турок, — продолжал он, — а турки — врачи армян. Нет других докторов. Диалог — вот единственный рецепт”.
He tried to find ways of reconciling Armenians and Turks… “Armenians are Turks’ doctors,” he continued, “and Turks, Armenians’ doctors. There are no other doctors. Dialogue is the only recipe.”
Himself in exile in London, Grigorian says that Dink’s murder was followed with unparalleled progress in Armenian-Turkish relations: the first visit of the Turkish president to Armenia and an online apology by thousands of Turks to Armenians for their WWI extermination in the Ottoman Empire. Yet:
…проблема так велика, а пропасть между двумя народами так глубока, что сдвиги в сторону сближения вызывают у националистов негативную реакцию, а то и отторжение. Примером этого можно считать опубликованную в одной из турецких газет фотографию, на которой группа мужчин держит плакаты с надписями: “Собакам вход разрешен, евреям и армянам вход воспрещен “.
…the problem is so great, and the division between the two nations so deep, that steps toward coming closer [to each other] bring about negative reactions among nationalists. One example is a [recent] photo published in a Turkish newspaper showing a group of men holding signs reading, “Dogs are allowed; Jews and Armenians are not allowed.”
While nationalism in Turkey is prominent, one Turk has made an unprecedented step toward reconciliation. His letter, posted on my Blogian, explains what he’s done:
When I found out that the properties that I and my brothers inherited from our father wasn’t our own, but properties taken from the murdered Assyrians in 1915 I felt an indescribable feeling of guilt and shame… I have personally apologized to every Assyrian and Armenian I’ve met. But this does not get rid of the crime our ancestors committed. Even if I am personally not responsible for what happened in 1915, I felt as I had to do more than just to apologize. Finally, I came to the decision to give back all properties that I inherited from my forefathers to [an Assyrian organization].
In death, Dink has also opened Armenian eyes. Armenian-American Mark Gavoor, while pondering Dink and Armenian-Turkish relations, says:
I, my family, we… were led to believe that Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was both a communist and a womanizer.
…It strikes me very odd that many Armenians I knew growing up had a dislike for blacks. When I look back at both the Armenian Genocide and the life work of Martin Luther King, I am struck with one thing. Armenians for the most part focus on our own tragedy, almost exclusively. We can live in this great country and see little irony that we as disposed people live on the lands of disposed American Indians….
Incidentally, the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the United States in 2009, celebrated the second Monday of January, coincides with Dink’s second anniversary. Two years ago, right after Dink’s murder, Canada-based Armenian blogger Vahe Balabanian compared the two:
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was shot… In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday.
Hrant Dink’s story still remains to be written in Turkey…his unwavering trust that we all would manage to live together in peace one day.
It is now Turkey’s turn to demonstrate its greatness by making Hrant Dink Turkey’s Martin Luther King.
Boti’s letter to Sabri Atman, founder and director of the Assyrian Seyfo Center in Europe who will now be responsible for the returned land (south of the Lake Van), states:
“When I found out that the properties that I and my brothers inherited from our father wasn’t our own, but properties taken from the murdered Assyrians in 1915 I felt an indescribable feeling of guilt and shame. I’ve been thinking long and hard before I have come to this decision. I tried to put myself in their position. I have personally apologized to every Assyrian and Armenian I’ve met. But this does not get rid of the crime our ancestors committed. Even if I am personally not responsible for what happened in 1915, I felt as I had to do more than just to apologize. Finally, I came to the decision to give back all properties that I inherited from my forefathers to Seyfo Center, which works for the recognition of the Seyfo (Assyrian) genocide in 1915” (slightly edited – Blogian).
While I have received a number of personal letters from individual Turks apologizing for the Genocide, this one is addressed to all Armenians: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them.”
The thousands of Turkish signatories of the apology statement are not saying sorry for the genocide itself (which they call “the Great Catastrophe,” translating from the Armenian Metz Yeghern). The apology is for the convenient “ignorance” and “denial” about the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenians for about nine decades. The message, as I see it, is not recognizing a historical fact but recognizing humanity. To recognize genocide means to recognize a victim group’s humanity. The reverse can, apparently, be true as well.
What is also true is that there are thousands of Turks who are willing to risk their lives and comfort in order to break an ancient silence. As one Turkish friend told me, “[i]t’s a bit like putting your name on a ‘wanted’ list.” The “wanted list” is pretty big: over 22,000 signatures on the main website, http://www.ozurdiliyoruz.com/, by December 24, 2008, and over 3,400 on Facebook (as of Dec 20) with their real names and photographs (the Facebook event list seems to have since become a private one).
Nevertheless, Turkish media are openly calling Canan Arıtman, the female member of a social-democratic party who suggested Gul is a traitor because of his alleged Armenian origin, a “fascist” and a “racist.” Suggesting that the politician be expelled from her party, one Turkish columnist writing for Sabah says, “Arıtman is racist. What place can racism and questioning ethnic origins have in social democracy, an ideology that has freedom, equality and brotherhood as its fundamental tenets?”
Writing even harsher, a liberal Turkish columnist asks what if all Turks have Armenian origin:
“Arıtman and those like her are the strongest reason we have to apologize to the Armenian community. If these people can readily put into circulation statements that are racist, low and self-aggrandizing, the entire community is responsible for that. We all have a share in this crime. I have questions to ask people who approach this issue reluctantly and who think that it is unnecessary as an agenda item. Have you ever thought about this? Maybe we are all really Armenians. We may all have people in our lineage who were forced to act like Muslim Turks.”
A Zaman columnist says Turks “should thank the racist CHP deputy” for reminding the history of her political party. Apparently that political party is the hereditary of the chauvinist “Union and Progress” that committed the Genocide in 1915.
Furthermore, some of Arıtman’s colleagues in the parliament have compared her to Hitler: “”It was a similar stance that led German dictator Adolf Hitler to burn thousands of people of Jewish origin. Arıtman sees Armenians as enemies.”
When was the last time when any media in Turkey was outraged against insulting Armenians? Indeed this is unprecedented and demonstrates the power of the apology – no matte how vague and not-enough it may be. This maybe the reason why there is so much ultranationalist outrage in Turkey against the apology (even if some self-perceived progressives silently suggest the apology serves Turkey’s national interests). The website of the apology, for instance, was “suspended” according to a message which appeared on it around 1:30 AM standard US eastern time on December 23, 2008. Days ago it was also hacked. Furthermore, a group of nationalists have opened their own website called “I don’t apologize.” Almost 50,000 nationalists have signed it as of December 24. Another counter campaign claims twice as many supporters, although neither websites have received much – if any coverage – in Turkish or other media.
Hated by Turkish ultranationalists, the apology initiative has inspired similar (though low-profile) campaigns in the region. I have received a text that is being circulated among Cypriot Turks and Greeks asking both communities to apologize to each other:
“Initiative for Apologizing for the atrocities committed by ones’ own community
1. This is an initiative to collect signatures on a document apologizing for the atrocities committed by ones’ own community against the other. Following the initiative of 200 Turkish intellectuals, who found the courage to apologize for the Armenian genocide, we believe it is time for Cypriots to assume responsibility for the crimes allegedly committed in their name and to express regret and condemnation.
2. The initiative also aims at putting an end to the decades- long practice of concealing the truth about the events, of denying that they ever took place or attempt to justify them. This amounts to a crime of massacre denial which can no longer be tolerated. At the same time each one of us must assume responsibility for the actions we can take as parents, teachers, activists, journalists, politicians to put an end to the decades-long conspiracy of silence about our regrettable past.
3. We call on all interested persons and organizations to engage in a process of consultation on how best to promote this initiative and to formulate the text to be signed.”
Full of more potential for good than for bad, the Turkish apology is one that surprises many. In fact, it might not have been possible without one person. According to the Irish Times:
Others attribute the initiative to the shock that followed the murder of the Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink. A leading advocate of a more humane debate on the Armenian issue, Dink was gunned down by a nationalist teenager in January 2007.
“When he died, it was as if a veil had been torn from the eyes of the democratic-minded citizens of this country,” says Nil Mutluer, a feminist activist who signed the letter. “People realised there was no time to be lost.”
The road ahead looks hard. The chief organisers of the 1915 massacres continue to be commemorated in street names across the country….”
The road is a hard one, but not unprecedented. Around the globe, there is a global recognition of indigenous rights which have often been repressed through genocidal policies. One such injustice was recently corrected by the country of Nicaragua when it gave title of traditional land to a native nation. A simple apology seems to please many Armenians, though, even it comes froma group of liberal Turks who are ashamed of a 90-year-old campaign to silence and rewrite history.
When I gave my father a print-out of the apology in western Armenian, his initial reaction was: “They took all of our land and memory and all they give us is an apology by a group of small people who don’t even use the word genocide?” To my surprise, he then added, “I accept their apology.”
And earlier this April, when a group of Turkish lobbyists and community organizers denied the Armenian genocide during a commemorative lecture at University of Denver, an Armenian friend of mine (who openly calls himself a nationalist), said to the audience that if a Turk told him “sorry” for the Genocide he would give that Turk a “big, Armenian hug.”
My friend owes 20,000 Turks big, Armenian hugs. Let’s hope the number grows so big that he will never be able to give so many hugs in 90 years.
Three years after a cemetery dating back to the 9th Century was deliberately destroyed in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, bloggers recall an ancient culture annihilated and condemn the world for closing its eyes to what many consider to be an official attempt to rewrite history.
Today is the commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of Djulfa’s destruction. …This [is] not only a crime against Armenian culture, but against our collective cultural heritage as humankind. Don’t let it go unnoticed.
Between 10-16 December 2005 over a hundred uniformed men were videotaped destroying the Djulfa cemetery using sledgehammers, cranes, and trucks. The video was taken from across the border in Iran.
Азербайджанские власти на протяжении всего советского периода старались уничтожить этот некрополь, поскольку для них он был всего лишь свидетельством о том, что именно армяне были хозяевами этой территории на протяжении веков, вопреки тому, что говорилось в азербайджанских советских мифах о собственной “древности”… Это кладбище, вполне достойное названия чуда, было даже не внесено в реестр архитектурных памятников Азербайджана… После распада СССР, во время карабахского конфликта, продолжалось разорение кладбища, и, наконец, оно было окончательно уничтожено….
The Azeri authorities throughout all Soviet period tried to destroy this necropolis as for them it was only a testament that Armenians were owners of this territory throughout centuries in spite of Azerbaijan’s Soviet myths about own “antiquity”… This cemetery, quite worthy to be called a wonder, was not even placed on the register of architectural monuments of Azerbaijan… After USSR’s collapse, during the Karabakh conflict, the cemetery’s demolition continued, and, at last, definitively destroyed….
آنان از سنگ قبر ارامنه هم نگذشته اند و با تخریب دوازده هزار قبر با سنگ قبر هایی منحصر به فرد که متعلق به چند قرن پیش بوده و جزئی از میراث فرهنگی ارامنه به حساب می آمد، هیچ اثری از ارمنی نشین بودن آنجا، بجا نگذاشته اند.
[After acquiring Nakhichevan, Azeris] did not even tolerate Armenian gravestones. They destroyed twelve thousand Armenian graves. These unique gravestones with several centuries’ history were part of Armenian cultural heritage. However, through destruction of these gravestones, [Azeris] destroyed all signs indicating the existence of Armenians in that land. [translated by Loosineh M.]
iArarat, remembers Djulfa by discussing Robert Bevan’s The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, a book that was “part of a class I teach at a Texas university on nationalism and ethno-political conflicts.”
While reading Bevan’s book I was inevitably reminded of the destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery in Jugha, presently in Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers at the command of their superiors without as much as blinking an eye would embark at destroying and erasing the last vestige of the Armenian civilization in that territory as if the Armenians had never as much as existed there, as if Armenians had never as much as created anything, something to celebrate their faith and commemorate their dead…
Adding insult to injury, earlier this month Baku, Azerbaijan hosted a little-noticed two-day conference of Council of Europe culture ministers to discuss “Intercultural dialogue as the basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighboring regions.” In his opening remarks to the attendees Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, astonishingly claimed:
“Azerbaijan has rich history and the cultural monuments here are duly preserved, and a lot is being done in this direction…”
[T]he Armenian Ministry of Culture failed to deliver a message by boycotting the conference. They either should have properly boycotted the conference by making an appropriate statement explaining the reasons for non-participation, or they should have participated there to raise the all important issues of destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in Azerbaijan, as well as protecting and restoring the multinational cultural heritage in all three South Caucasus countries [Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan].
old-dilettante [RU], says that Djulfa’s destruction was the last stage of Azerbaijan’s attempt to eradicate Nakhichevan’s Armenian heritage. Commenting on a post about churches in Georgia, she writes:
Теперь там не найдется ни одной армянской церкви, несмотря на фотографии и книги, изданные всего ничего – лет 20 тому назад. Все церкви уничтожены. Все могилы. Все хачкары.
И кто через 20 лет скажет, что там вообще жили армяне? … А ведь мой дед был “местным жителем”.
…Now, not a single Armenian church will be found [in Nakhichevan] despite of photographs, some as recent as 20-years-old. All churches are annihilated. All cemeteries. All khatchkars.
And who will say in 20 years that Armenians ever lived there? … It wasn’t that long ago that my own grandfather was a “local” there.
In Baku Armenian cemeteries with less historical but more immediate sentimental value to many (including my family whose three generations made their home in Baku for nearly a century) were paved over for roads or new construction. That does not justify the disrespect they were afforded but makes some remote sense.
In the case of Jugha khachkars stood in the middle of nowhere and were simply crushed, dismembered, thrown into the river. They were targeted and wiped out as the last remaining Armenian outpost.
Sarcastically, the journalist-blogger considers how other Armenian monuments on Azerbaijani territory could be protected.
Now I am thinking, perhaps Armenians should disassemble the remaining Azeri mosques and gravestones on their territory and exchange them for the khachkars and other Armenian heritage items of value?
Certainly some of the Azeri items have cultural value for Armenia and I would rather not see them go. But what other options are there?
Reacting to a comment on his above-mentioned post, Ivan Kondratiev [RU] also says that if Azerbaijanis wanted to cleanse their territory of Armenian heritage, they could have at least given the monuments to Armenia even if such a transfer would amount to acknowledging Djulfa’s Armenian history.
[T]here is reason to be optimistic that [Barack Obama’s] foreign policy team will… have a very different response to the ongoing stonewalling by the Azeris than [current US Secretary of State] Rice’s utter disinterest [about Djulfa’s destruction], which is rooted in the Bush administration’s pro-Azerbaijani, pro-Turkey foreign policy.
In addition to secretary of state nominee Hillary Clinton […] prospective U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has a particular interest in genocide and is an advocate of military action to stop mass killings, rather than ineffective “dialogue” as slaughters continue apace. And Harvard professor Samantha Power, author of “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” (2002), has been quietly advising Obama behind the scenes […].
Given that past is prologue, with these women’s combined emphasis on championing human rights and genocide prevention, it will not be easy for the Obama administration to ignore or overlook the genocide that preceeded – and encouraged – all others in the 20th and 21st centuries, or the ongoing “cultural genocides” in Azerbaijan and Turkey against the archeological remains of a once-thriving, centuries-old Armenian population that is no more.
More photographs of the cemetery, before and after its destruction, are available at www.djulfa.com.
Turkey is nowhere close to recognizing the 1915 genocide it committed against Armenians and Assyrians, but at least a museum in the historic Armenian town of Van, now claimed by local Kurds, has removed artifacts that previously showed “Armenian atrocities” against Turks:
In the words of a visitor to the newly-renovated Van museum:
Now that the museum is open, we can make our own assessment of the renovation it underwent between 2006 and 2008.
The ground floor remains very much the same, with wonderful Urartian artifacts that include pottery, metalwork, jewelry, and furniture. There isn’t a great deal, but what one can see is both fascinating and beautiful.
The “Armenian atrocities” section on the upper floor is removed. It is replaced with more Urartian artifacts, as well as ethnographic materials, such as kilims, period costumes, Ottoman swords, rifles, and revolvers, as well as household items and Korans.
Considering all the effort that has gone into the removal of the “Armenian atrocities” section of the museum, and all the thought that must have gone into the content of the newly designed upper floor, one is disappointed to see that Armenians have been made invisible in this new museum: there is nothing that refers to Armenia or Armenians anywhere. Although there is a map of the region showing a number of churches and monasteries, they are not identified as Armenian churches or monasteries, nor is there any explanation anywhere in the museum that mentions either Armenia or Armenians in a historical context.