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?
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.
Too short for Armenians and too long for the Turkish government, a two-hour CNN documentary by Christiane Amanpour on genocide includes a 45-second mention of the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenian population. Premiered on December 4, 2008, Scream Bloody Murder has made many Armenian bloggers angry, leading them to recall Hitler’s rhetoric for impunity, “Who, after all, remembers the Armenians?”
Armenia-based blogger, photographer and designer Arsineh had concerns even before watching the documentary. Writing on Ars Eye View, she says:
I’m preparing to watch the program for myself, but given this much prior information, I have to ask. If you are going to cover the epidemic of genocide, starting with the campaign to criminalize genocide, continue to show the struggle so many have endured to (as you titled your program) “SCREAM BLOODY MURDER” while the world turned a deaf ear only to allow genocide to continue around the world, shouldn’t you be talking about the biggest cover up of genocide, the very one which inspired Lemkin to coin the word, the very one which also inspired Adolf Hitler to follow through with the Holocaust? Afterall, it’s this denial that scares CNN from ever using the word “Genocide” in their reporting on related matters.
Writing in detail, West of Igdir says a previous CNN press release suggested the coverage of the Armenian Genocide was going to be more intense.
The release specifically mentioned Armenia as one of the cases of genocide it would be examining. This naturally created some excitement that finally a major news organization would be dedicating a program partly to the so often overlooked Armenian Genocide of 1915 and inform a nationwide audience about it.
I had been feeling hopeful about the documentary and might have given it more of a pass on this omition until I saw this interactive map on the section of Scream Bloody Murder section of CNN’s website about the world’s killing fields. It appears that despite the fact when it had first been announced Armenia was prominently mentioned as one of the examples of genocide that would be covered, it was overlooked as being pinpointed on the interactive map as an example of genocide.
Clearly the documentary did not go unnoticed in Turkey, despite the fact it says almost nothing about the Armenian Genocide, as the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet yesterday declared “Genocide feature worrisome.”
Carrying a black casket labeled “The Newborn Georgian Democracy,” a group of bloggers in Yerevan have marched toward the Georgian Embassy protesting what they call the destruction and desecration of Armenian cultural monuments in neighboring Georgia. Bloggers tell the story.
Posting a YouTube video of the march, ahousekeepersays the bloggers’ November 27, 2008 action was “[i]n response to regular desecrations, vandalism and attempts (often successful) to appropriate Armenian churches by Georgian clerics.”
Հայերի համար Վրաստանը միշտ էլ մոտիկ երկիր է եղել։ Բայց վերջին 5 տարիների փորձը ցույց տվեց մի բան, որ այդ երկիրը շարժվում է դեպի ֆաշիզմ։ … Մեզ հետաքրքրում է մի բան՝ կատարվում է հանցագործություն, բացահայտ խուլիագնություն. գերեզմաններ են քանդում,
փոշիացնում են պատմական հուշարձաններ:
For Armenians, Georgia has always been a close country. But the experience of the last five years shows that [Georgia] is moving toward fascism… All that interests us is one thing – a crime, blatant hooliganism is going on: [Georgians] are destroying Armenian cemeteries, reducing historic monuments to dust.
The recent controversy surrounds the removal of Armenian gravestones from Norashen, a church that Georgian priests are accused of taking over.
At a difficult time when thousands of people are evacuating Georgia for Armenia, one person is doing the exact opposite. Yerevan-based British photojournalist and fellow blogger Onnik Krikorian is in Georgia covering the conflict with Russia.
But, I also have to say, I was not impressed and wondered what the U.S. Secretary of State thought of sharing center stage with a man who likened the Russian invasion of Georgia with a girl being raped because she wore a short skirt. Such statements during the press conference did not appear sufficiently presidential, in my opinion, and were seemingly not reported by the mainstream media.
Hetq.am, a popular investigative news source in Armenia, has published an article covering the role of blogs in delivering information during the state of emergency in Armenia in March 2008. This blog is also mentioned.
A Seattle-based young Turkish lady who, as I have reported, courageously writes about the Armenian Genocide has been compelled to tell her family story after a fellow Turk indirectly but publicly questioned her “Turkishness.” The blogger’s response, as summarized in a comment, was direct:
My education, upbringing and cultural exposure has always been in Turkey and amongst Turks. My name is Turkish. My religion is Islam. My mother tongue was and still is Turkish. My beginning years and life began in Turkey. I have had little elementary exposure to much else, regarding my own ethnicity, save for my experience in the university. My parents always saw the Turkish girl in me and it was always very clear I was Turkish, it is what I feel and where I feel most comfortable defining myself. There has been no argument in regards to this. There is still none, so I am not entirely sure how else I should answer your question.
And in the actual post talking about her roots – that date back to 1345 – the Turkish blogger gives details of her ancestors. One of them, she says, was the first milk mother of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
My great great grandmother, Aziz Haydar Hanim, was a ferocious figure to be reckoned with! In Pars Tuglaci’s book, Tarih Boyunca Istanbul Adalari (found in Robinson Crusoe bookstores in Istanbul), he writes of her fiery speeches alongside Ataturk. She championed the causes of women’s rights and immigration rights for those coming into the new Republic from the Balkans and even her hometown of Selanik, that of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
On the night of Ataturk’s birth, a ragged and tired Zubeyde Hanim, came to my great great grandmother. She came because she had no way to nourish her new born. Because Aziz Haydar Hanim was not only a school teacher/professor but a nurse by trade, she was the first milk mother of Ataturk. Ataturk always treated her like a second mother and until her final days, the albums my family has preserved show a smiley faced Ataturk hugging and embracing her, like one does a dear old aunt. Those old, dusty, torn photographs always brought a smile to my face.
Wow, a descendant of Ataturk’s ‘second mother’ challenging the ‘sacred’ establishment defended in the very name of Ataturk.
The story of the Turkish lady from Seattle is almost surreal. And her story is just another example of hope for lasting Armenian-Turkish friendship. Hrant Dink didn’t die for no reason; I can feel him smiling.
My good friend Oreet, who used to edit Blogian several years ago, has set up her own blog at YourHub.com. Titled the Mind of Oreety, the blog features her first post – “Genocide & Apathy: its intertwined journey.”
“Never again” the Jews proclaimed as they walked out of the ashes of Aushwitz- Birchenau, Buchenwald and all the other camps of terror, death, famine and injustice.
Such a thought, such a proclamation undoubtedly uttered and escaping out of the trembling mouths of countless individuals who have suffered at the hands of evil; the Armenians, Rwandans, and now the victims of Darfur.
The world watches, immobilized and thinking, “Such a calamity, what sorrow, but what can a mere person do under such circumstances?” Thus, one continues to view the atrocities unfolding, to take another breath, as those whom are helpless are taking their last.
The world is not in search of a savior, or a mythological creature that shall render all that is the epitome of injustice in this world nullified, but we are in search of human compassion and words to be not solely founded upon thoughts, but actions.
Путь в Джульфу европейским экспертам лежит только через разрушенные азербайджанские могилы и памятники в сегодняшней Армении и оккупированных азербайджанских территориях. Только после того, как каждый до последнего разрушенный и осквернённый азербайджанский объект будет наведан, задокументирован, зафиксирован европейцами, только после этого можно будет им сказать Welcome to Julfa!
(The road to Djulfa for the European experts lies only through [the examination] of destroyed Azerbaijani graves and monuments in modern Armenia and [in] occupied Azerbaijani territories. Only after that, when the very last destroyed and desecrated Azerbaijani object is visited, documented, and noted [fixed?] by the Europeans, only after that they can be told, “Welcome to Julfa!”)
Ironically enough, Armenia has agreed to the examination of the state of Azerbaijani monuments in Armenia by European experts. During such a visit last year to Armenia and Azerbaijan, the delegation was denied access to Nakhichevan where Djulfa lies. But you don’t tell this to Azerbaijani academicians, because they know it very well.
So why not go ahead and do it? Let’s have the delegation examine the ethnic artefacts and cultural sites of both countries. Although I have not seen reports of Armenian army or authorities destroying Azerbaijani monuments, I am sure Armenia is not an angel either – especially given the fact that even Armenian monuments are neglected in Armenia.
Unfortunately, it seems that the examiniation of Azerbaijani monuments is not Azerbaijan’s real intention. They don’t care about these monuments. They just want one thing – no foreigner witness what they have done in Djulfa. And here is how Seidov, for example, makes the transformation:
Да и вообще, я думаю тема памятников исчерпала себя и и её пора закрывать.
(And actually, I think, the topic of monuments has exhausted itself and it it time to close it.)
What was the whole point of Dr. Seidov’s post if he concludes that Armenian and Azerbaijani monuments should not be of concern?