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.
I just came across to imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev’s case on the European Court for Human Rights website. Fatullayev was initially imprisoned for challenging Azerbaijan’s official version of the Khojalu massacre (by Armenians) during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s. Below is the full facts as summarized by the court:
09 September 2008
Application no. 40984/07
by Eynulla FATULLAYEV
lodged on 10 September 2007
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The applicant, Mr Eynulla Fatullayev, is an Azerbaijani national who was born in 1976 and lives in Baku. He is represented before the Court by Mr I. Ashurov, a lawyer practising in Baku.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant was the founder and chief editor of the newspapers Realny Azerbaijan (“Реальный Азербайджан”), published in the Russian language, and Gündəlik Azərbaycan, published in the Azerbaijani language. The newspapers were widely known for often publishing articles harshly criticising the Government and various public officials.
Prior to the events complained of in this application, on 26 September 2006 the applicant had already been convicted for defamation and conditionally sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He had also been sued for defamation in a number of civil proceedings.
In 2007 two sets of criminal proceedings were brought against the applicant in connection with, inter alia, two articles published by him in Realny Azerbaijan.
A. “Karabakh Diary”
In 2005 the applicant visited, as a journalist, the area of Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories controlled by the Armenian forces. There he met with, among others, some officials of the self-proclaimed unrecognised “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”. In the aftermath of this visit, in April 2005 the applicant published an article called “Karabakh Diary” (Russian: “Карабахский дневник”) in Realny Azerbaijan.
One of the topics discussed in “Karabakh Diary” concerned the Khojaly massacre of 26 February 1992. Discussing this topic, the applicant made certain statements which could be construed as differing from the commonly accepted version of the Khojaly events, according to which hundreds of Azerbaijani civilians had been killed by the Armenian armed forces during their assault on the town of Khojaly in the course of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Specifically, the article contained the following passages (translated from Russian):
“For the sake of fairness I will admit that several years ago I met the refugees from Khojaly, temporarily settled in Naftalan, who openly confessed to me that, on the eve of the large-scale offensive of the Russian and Armenian troops on Khojaly, the town had been encircled [by those troops]. And already several days prior to the attack, the Armenians had been continuously warning the population about the planned operation through loudspeakers and proposing that the civilians abandon the town and escape from the encirclement through a humanitarian corridor along the Kar-Kar River. According to the Khojaly refugees’ own words, they had used this corridor and, indeed, the Armenian soldiers positioned behind the corridor had not opened fire on them. Some soldiers from the battalions of the NFA [the National Front of Azerbaijan, a political party], for some reason, had led a part of the [refugees] in the direction of the village of Nakhichevanik, which during that period had been under control of the Armenians’ Askeran battalion. …
When I was in Askeran [in Nagorno Karabakh], I spoke to the deputy head of the administration of Askeran Slavik Arushanyan and compared his recollection of the events with that of the Khojaly inhabitants who came under fire from the Azerbaijani side. I asked S. Arushanyan to show me the corridor which the Khojaly inhabitants had used [to abandon the town]. Having familiarised myself with the geographical area, I can say, fully convinced, that the conjectures that there had been no Armenian corridor are groundless. The corridor indeed existed, otherwise the Khojaly inhabitants, fully surrounded [by the enemy troops] and isolated from the outside world, would not have been able to force their way out and escape the encirclement. However, having crossed the area behind the Kar-Kar River, the row of refugees was separated and, for some reason, a part of [them] headed in the direction of Nakhichevanik. It appears that the NFA battalions strived not for the liberation of the Khojaly civilians but for more bloodshed on their way to overthrow A. Mutalibov [the first President of Azerbaijan] …”
On 23 February 2007 Ms T. Chaladze, the Head of the Centre for Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons, lodged a civil action against the applicant with the Yasamal District Court. She claimed that the applicant “has, for a long period of time, insulted the honour and dignity of the victims of the Khojaly Tragedy, persons killed during those tragic events and their relatives, as well as veterans of the Karabakh War, soldiers of the Azerbaijani National Army and the entire Azerbaijani people”. She alleged that that the applicant did so by making the above-mentioned statements in his article “Karabakh Diary” as well as by making, in 2006 and 2007, similar insulting statements on the interactive forum of the website called AzeriTriColor. These internet forum postings, the authorship of which Ms Chaladze attributed to the applicant, contained the following statements:
“I have visited this town [Naftalan] where I have spoken to hundreds (I repeat, hundreds) of refugees who insisted that there had been a corridor and that they had remained alive owing to this corridor … But a part of the Khojaly inhabitants had been fired upon by our own [troops] … not by [some] mysterious [shooters], but by provocateurs from the NFA battalions … [The corpses] had been mutilated by our own [soldiers] …”
In his submissions to the court, the applicant argued that the forum postings at the AzeriTriColor website had not been written by him and denied making these statements. He also argued that, in “Karabakh Diary”, he had merely written about the information given to him by persons that he had interviewed.
On 6 April 2007 the Yasamal District Court, presided by Judge I. Ismayilov, upheld Ms Chaladze’s claim and ordered the applicant to pay compensation in the amount of 20,000 New Azerbaijani manats (approximately 16,000 euros).
Thereafter, a group of former soldiers and other persons who had been involved in the Khojaly events, represented by Ms Chaladze, filed a criminal complaint against the applicant with the Yasamal District Court, under the procedure of private prosecution. They asked that the applicant be convicted for defamation and false accusation of Azerbaijani soldiers of having committed an especially grave crime.
At a preliminary hearing held on 9 April 2007, the applicant filed an objection against the entire composition of the Yasamal District Court. He claimed that all of the judges of this court had been appointed to their positions in September 2000 for a fixed five-year term and that their term of office had expired in 2005. He therefore argued that such a composition of the court could not be considered as a “tribunal established by law”. This objection was dismissed.
The hearing of the criminal case took place on 20 April 2007 and was presided over by Judge I. Ismayilov.
In his oral submissions to the court, the applicant pleaded his innocence. In particular, he denied making the statements on the forum of the AzeriTriColor website and maintained that those statements had been made by someone else who had used his name for this purpose.
The court heard a linguistic expert, who gave an opinion on the applicant’s statements, and a number of witnesses, who testified about the Khojaly events. The court also found that the internet forum of the AzeriTriColor website, in essence, replaced the internet forum of the Realny Azerbaijan website, which had become defunct in 2006, and that the statements posted on that forum under the screen name “Eynulla Fatullayev” had indeed been made by the applicant himself. Lastly, the court found that, through his statements made in “Karabakh Diary” and his internet forum postings, the applicant had given a heavily distorted account of the historical events in Khojaly and had deliberately disseminated false information which damaged the reputation of the plaintiffs and accused them of committing grave crimes which they had not committed. The court convicted the applicant under Articles 147.1 (defamation) and 147.2 (defamation by way of accusing a person of having committed a grave crime) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to two years and six months’ imprisonment.
The applicant was arrested in the courtroom and taken to the Investigative Isolator No. 1 on the same day (20 April 2007). Until 23 April 2007, his lawyer was not allowed to visit him as he was required to obtain a court’s permission to do so.
On 6 June 2007 the Court of Appeal upheld the Yasamal District Court’s judgment of 20 April 2007.
On 21 August 2007 the Supreme Court dismissed the applicant’s cassation appeal and upheld the lower courts’ judgments.
B. “The Aliyevs Go to War”
In the meantime, on 30 March 2007, Realny Azerbaijan published an article called “The Aliyevs Go to War” (Russian: “Алиевы идут на войну”). The article was written by the applicant but published under the pseudonym “Rovshan Bagirov”. This analytical article was devoted to possible consequences of Azerbaijan’s support of a recent “anti-Iranian” resolution of the UN Security Council, which had called for economic sanctions against that country. The article referred to the current Azerbaijani government as “the Aliyev clan” and “the governing tribe” and expressed a view that the latter sought US support of President Ilham Aliyev’s “remaining in power” in Azerbaijan in exchange for Azerbaijan’s support of the US “aggression” against Iran.
The article continued as follows (translated from Russian):
“It is also known that, immediately after the UN [Security Council] had voted for this resolution, [the authorities] in Teheran began to seriously prepare for the beginning of the “anti-Iranian operation”. For several years, military headquarters of the Islamic regime had been developing plans for repulsing the American aggression and counter-striking the US and their allies in the region. After 24 March 2007 Azerbaijan, having openly supported the anti-Iranian operation, must prepare for a lengthy and dreadful war which will result in large-scale destruction and loss of human life. According to the information from the sources close to official Paris, the Iranian General Staff has already developed its military plans concerning Azerbaijan in case Baku takes part in the aggression against Iran. Thus, the Iranian long-range military air force, thousands of insane kamikaze terrorists from the IRGC [the Islamic Revolution’s Guardian Corps] and hundreds of Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles will strike the following main targets on the territory of Azerbaijan …”
The article continued with a long and detailed list of such targets, which included, inter alia, active oil platforms on the shelf of the Caspian Sea, the Sangachal Oil Terminal and other oil plants and terminals, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, the building of the Presidential Administration, the building of the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, buildings of various ministries, the Baku seaport and airport, a number of large business centres accommodating offices of major foreign companies doing business in Azerbaijan, etc.
Further, the article continued to elaborate on the issue of possible unrest, in case of a conflict with Iran, in the southern regions of Azerbaijan populated by the Talysh ethnic minority who are ethnically and linguistically close to the Persians. Among other things, the article appeared to imply that the current ruling elite, a large number of whom allegedly come from the region of Nakhchivan, engaged in regional nepotism by appointing people from Nakhchivan to government posts in southern areas of the country, including the Lenkoran region. In particular, the article stated:
“Thus, the Talysh have long been expressing their discontent with the fact that [the central authorities] always appoint to the administrative positions in Lenkoran persons hailing from Nakhchivan who are alien to the mentality and problems of the region. … The level of unemployment in the region is terribly high, drug abuse is flourishing, every morning hundreds of unemployed Talysh cluster together at the “slave” [that is, cheap labour] market in Baku. Is this not a powder keg?”
On 16 May 2007 the investigation department of the Ministry of National Security (“the MNS”) commenced a criminal investigation in connection with this publication under Article 214.1 of the Criminal Code (terrorism or threat of terrorism).
On 22 May 2007 the investigation authorities conducted searches in the applicant’s apartment and in the office of the Realny Azerbaijan and Gündəlik Azərbaycan newspapers. They found and seized certain photographs and computer discs from the applicant’s apartment and twenty computer hard drives from the newspaper’s office.
On 26 May 2007, pursuant to a decision of the Sabail District Court, the applicant was transferred to the MNS detention facility.
On 31 May 2007 the Chief Prosecutor made a statement to the press, noting that the article published in Realny Azerbaijan, founded by the applicant, contained information which constituted a threat of terrorism and that a criminal investigation had been instituted in this connection by the MNS.
On 3 July 2007, by a decision of an MNS investigator, the applicant was formally charged with committing the crimes of threat of terrorism (Article 214.1 of the Criminal Code) and inciting ethnic hostility (Article 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code).
On the same day, 3 July 2007, pursuant to a request by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the Sabail District Court ordered the applicant’s detention on remand for a period of three months in connection with this criminal case. The court’s decision reiterated the charges against the applicant and justified the necessity of the applicant’s detention as follows:
“Eynulla Emin oglu Fatullayev, if he remains at large, may escape the investigation and trial and hinder the determination of the objective truth in [this criminal] case.
Due to the above considerations, the prosecutor’s request to select the preventive measure of detention on remand in respect of Eynulla Emin oglu Fatullayev is well-founded and must be granted.”
The applicant appealed. On 11 July 2007 the Court of Appeal upheld the Sabail District Court’s decision.
On 4 September 2007 the applicant was also charged with tax evasion under Article 213.2 of the Criminal Code due to the alleged failure to duly declare taxes on his personal earnings as a newspaper editor.
During the trial, among other evidence, the prosecution produced evidence showing that in May 2007 the full electronic version of “The Aliyevs Go to War” had been forwarded by e-mail to offices of a number of foreign and local companies in Baku. A number of employees of these companies testified that, after reading the article, they had felt disturbed, anxious and frightened. On 30 October 2007 the Assize Court found the applicant guilty on all charges and convicted him of threat of terrorism (eight years’ imprisonment), inciting ethnic hostility (three years’ imprisonment) and tax evasion (four months’ imprisonment). Partial merger of these sentences resulted in a sentence of eight years and four months’ imprisonment. Lastly, the court partially merged this sentence with the applicant’s sentence of two years and six months’ imprisonment imposed on him in the previous criminal case, which resulted in a total sentence of eight years and six months’ imprisonment.
On 16 January 2008 the Court of Appeal upheld the Assize Court’s judgment of 30 October 2007.
On 3 June 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ judgments.
1. The applicant complained under Article 3 of the Convention about the conditions of his detention in the Investigative Isolator No. 1 and the MNS detention facility. In particular, he complained that he had not been allowed to receive newspapers and magazines, had been handcuffed and searched every time when taken out of his cell, had not been allowed personal visits, and had been held in a single cell of 8 square meters which had been badly ventilated and in which the electric light had been switched on throughout the day and night.
2. The applicant complained under Article 5 §§ 1 (c), 3 and 4 of the Convention about the detention order of 3 July 2007. In particular, he complained that there had been no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime and that the domestic courts had failed to give sufficient reasons for his detention on remand.
3. The applicant complained, relying on Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention, that:
(a) the court of first instance in the first set of criminal proceedings had not constituted a “tribunal established by law” because the terms of office of its judges had expired in 2005;
(b) that the domestic courts in both sets of criminal proceedings, and in particular the court of first instance in the first set of criminal proceedings, had not been independent and impartial; and
(c) that he had been deprived of his right to have a fair determination of the criminal charges against him and right to an effective domestic remedy.
4. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 2 of the Convention that his presumption of innocence had been violated by the fact that on 31 May 2007, before the trial in the second criminal case, the Chief Prosecutor had made a public statement accusing him of having committed a serious crime, as well as by the fact that, during the trial, he had always been brought to the courtroom in handcuffs and placed in a metal cage during the hearings.
5. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 3 of the Convention that, despite having been transferred to the MNS detention facility on 26 May 2008 due to investigation-related reasons in the second set of criminal proceedings, he had not been informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him until 3 July 2008.
6. The applicant complained under Article 7 of the Convention that the acts for which he had been convicted did not constitute a criminal offence.
7. The applicant complained under Article 8 of the Convention that the searched conducted on 22 May 2007 in his apartment and the newspaper’s office had violated his right to respect for his home.
8. The applicant complained under Article 10 of the Convention that his convictions in both sets of criminal proceedings had violated his right to freedom of expression.
QUESTIONS TO THE PARTIES
1. Did the applicant have fair hearings in the determination of the criminal charges against him in both sets of criminal proceedings, in accordance with Article 6 § 1 of the Convention? Moreover:
(a) Could the court which heard the applicant’s first criminal case be considered as a “tribunal established by law”, as required by Article 6 § 1 of the Convention? Had the term of office of the presiding judge expired before the trial commenced and, if so, did he have competence to participate in the trial?
(b) Was the court which dealt with the applicant’s first case independent and impartial, as required by Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, given that the applicant’s criminal trial was presided over by the same judge who had previously examined the civil claim against the applicant relating to the same subject matter?
2. Was the presumption of innocence, guaranteed by Article 6 § 2 of the Convention, respected in the present case? In particular, was the Chief Prosecutor bound to respect the presumption of innocence when making his statement to the press on 31 May 2007?
3. In connection with each of the applicant’s criminal convictions, has there been an interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression, in particular his right to impart information and ideas, within the meaning of Article 10 § 1 of the Convention? If so, was that interference necessary in terms of Article 10 § 2?
4. The parties are requested to submit, inter alia: (a) a full copy of the applicant’s article entitled “Karabakh Diary”, as published in Realny Azerbaijan; (b) a copy of the Yasamal District Court’s judgment of 6 April 2007 concerning the civil claim against the applicant; (c) copies of all the evidence, as contained in the case file of the criminal proceedings, which was examined by the Yasamal District Court during the trial for the purpose of establishing the applicant’s authorship of statements posted on the forum of the AzeriTriColor website; and (d) copies of all appeals and any objections filed by the applicant during both criminal trials, including a copy of his objection to the participation of the judges of the Yasamal District Court in the first set of criminal proceedings.
FATULLAYEV v. AZERBAIJAN – STATEMENT OF FACTS AND QUESTIONS
FATULLAYEV v. AZERBAIJAN – STATEMENT OF FACTS AND QUESTIONS
While I have been silent on the recent developments of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, it doesn’t mean I have not been following the news. My silence reflects a complicated mixture of cautious optimism, confusion, excitement, fear, cynicism, and a busy schedule (which includes observing the US presidential elections). We live in historic and unpredictable times. These unknown globalized waves can translate into almost anything in Nagorno-Karabakh – from long-term solutions to further conflict.
Internationally, Obama’s election, Georgia’s unsuccessful bid for South Ossetia, Turkey’s continuous struggle to join the European Union, and international – particularly US and Russian – interest in the South Caucasus have contributed to the recent developments in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process, which was vocalized in a set of principles that Azerbaijan and Armenia signed in Moscow in early November 2008. One can only hope that Armenian and Azeri leaders will make tough choices and negotiate for a solution. Locally, both countries have a great chance to make the piece.
For those of you who don’t know, Nagorno-Karabakh is an indigenous Armenian region (called Artsakh by locals) within the country of Azerbaijan. This small territory declared its independence from Soviet Azerbaijan in 1991, less than seventy years after USSR chief Joseph Stalin gave Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. The conflict escalated into a war between Armenia/Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, killing thousands of people and leaving many more homeless.
Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally unrecognized republic with a common border with mother Armenia. Nationalist sentiment is at peak high in Azerbaijan where most people see Armenians as invaders and aggressors. The sentiment was reflected in December 2005, when a contingent of Azerbaijan’s army reduced the largest medieval Armenian cemetery – Djulfa – to dust. (Official Azerbaijan until this day denies the destruction, even though it was videotaped.) While most Armenians are nowadays much less antagonistic against Azerbaijan, during the war, in 1992, armed Armenian groups massacred a few hundred Azeri civilians when fighting in Khojalu, although both official Armenia and some Azeri sources question some of the facts of the tragedy: particularly suggesting that Azeri forces deliberately banned Khojalu’s residents to leave through a humanitarian corridor the Armenian army had left for civilians. Furthermore, Armenians claim that the conflict itself started in Azerbaijan when mobs attacked hundreds of Armenian citizens, killing several dozen, in their homes in Sumgayit in 1988 while the Police stood by. Azeris claim that there were riots against their kin in southern Armenia at the same time.
Armenian and Azeri Attitudes:
In short, both Armenia and Azerbaijan see themselves as the victim and the enemy as the aggressor in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And while abuses by both sides have been almost always symmetrical in the conflict, official Azerbaijan – until recently – has been using both verbal threats and disproportional acts of destruction. Threats have included official statements by Azerbaijan’s president to win Nagorno-Karabakh back by any price, including by war, and predictions by a senior Azeri military chief that Armenia will not exist in several years. Disproportional acts of destruction by Azerbaijan have included total elimination of all ancient indigenous Armenian monuments on its territory, especially in the exclave of Nakhichevan (another region granted to Azerbaijan by Stalin). This is not only inconsistent with Azerbaijan’s self-promotion as “the world’s most tolerant country,” but is also an act of cultural genocide (what I call “genocidal vandalism” in my honors thesis) which in no way contributes to the peace process.
Armenia’s diplomacy in the conflict has been more moderate, which may be a reflection of the following: Armenia’s victory in the early 1990s war, oil-rich Azerbaijan’s military boom, and limited open international support for Armenia in the conflict. Moderate diplomacy, nonetheless, hasn’t resulted in worldwide condemnation against Azerbaijan for blockading Armenia (although until George W. Bush, the United States didn’t give military aid to Azerbaijan). And in general, the world has been very careful not to take sides in the conflict (neither in the case of the Khojalu massacre by Armenians nor in the recent case of Djulfa’s destruction by Azeris): an approach which is difficult to determine as productive or not.
Ideal Solutions and Militant Positions:
One reason why it has been difficult to defend one position or another has been the polarized Armenian and Azerbaijani demands, a “normal” situation in every conflict.
Azerbaijan wants to return its borders to pre-1991, entirely reversing what the bloody war did before the 1994 cease fire. It says that Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will be Azerbaijan’s citizens, but that they will never have the right or the option to succeed from Azerbaijan. In short, the legal concept of “territorial integrity” has been the supreme law and the sacred doctrine in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has about a million refugees who live in horrible conditions. Azerbaijan hopes that all these people will return to their homes, now under Armenian control. Armenians say and an Amnesty International report agreed last year, that Azerbaijan is deliberately ignoring its refugees and making their lives even miserable in order to gain international support.
Armenia says that Nagorno-Karabakh’s return to Azeri control would mean giving 150,000 Armenian lives into captivity. If Azerbaijan reduces unarmed ancient Armenian graves to dust, what will it do with live Armenians? Many, if not most, Armenians insist on also keeping the seven regions around Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian forces gained control of during the war. While not many Armenians lived on these lands during the war, there are hundreds of ancient monuments that Armenians see as proof for their historic claim to the land. Some Azeris criticize Armenians for capitalizing on history and, thus, denying Azeri inhabitants the right to return to their homes. Some Armenians respond that Azerbaijan is trying to capitalize on rewriting history, and denying indigenous Armenians their right to self-determination.
On surface, Azerbaijan doesn’t agree to any solution that will let Nagorno-Karabakh be separate from it. In the same way, many Armenians consider the possibility of giving much of the seven surrounding territories back to Azerbaijan a loss. Neither party considers all the damage that has happened – and will continue to happen – to people in both countries because of the unresolved conflict. Nationalism has overridden cost-benefit analysis (with a human rights perspective) or mutual respect for the rights of the other.
Undemocratic regimes in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have perhaps contributed to the conflict. Wars unite populations, and perhaps the conflict has worked well for both Azeri and Armenian political elites. A few months ago, a former Azerbaijani serviceman (now studying in the United States) told me that Azerbaijan’s economic elite is using nationalism to hold power in the country. While Azerbaijan’s economy is booming due to oil exports, ordinary people are not experiencing change in their lives. Hatred against Armenia, some Azeris say, is the perfect tool for Azerbaijan’s rich class to distract the majority’s attention. And in Armenia, between 1992 and 1994, people would die from hunger and economic desperation. While the government was blaming everything on the war, several government-protected families were illegally becoming superrich. According to widespread claims, independent Armenia’s regime (both Levon-Ter Petrosyan’s and Kocharyan’s) elites stole billions of dollars from the people of Armenia through neoliberal privatizations of several industries and by other means.
Time for Change?
But even undemocratic regimes can solve problems, especially when their hegemony and reputation is at stake. In the last few months, there have been interesting developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. First, Azerbaijan’s ally and Armenia’s historic enemy Turkey demonstrated diplomatic will to cooperate with Armenia. Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul accepted his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan’s invitation to watch a soccer match between both countries in September 2008. The historic event, deemed as “football diplomacy,” was followed by recent meetings brokered by Moscow between Armenia and Azerbaijan where, for the first time, leaders of both countries seemed to be pleased. More surprisingly, Turkey has been reducing its pro-Azerbaijan rhetoric while trying to become a mediator between its two South Caucasus neighbors.
Many Armenians, who are usually skeptical in international relations given their experience of genocide, are discouraged with the recent development. Skeptics see Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan, who came to power following a bloodshed during the March 2008 post-election protests, as trading his own presidency for a solution unbeneficial for Armenia. Turkey’s involvement in the process is less encouraging for the residents of Armenia, a country that Turkey has been blockading since the Karabakh conflict.
While Turkey may not be a friend of Armenia, it sure has its interest in helping the Nagorno-Karabakh process. Turkey is under enormous pressure to open the border with Armenia (which Turkey thinks will help persuade US president-elect Barack Obama to back off from his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide). It will be very hard to open the border, though, without solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Thus, by helping to broker a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey’s current regime would silence the United States (and also its own ultranationalist deep state), have better prospects for joining the European Union, and make a claim to sort things out in the region (Turkey has surely expressed interest in brokering a deal between the United States and Iran, and unsuccessfully tried the same with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).
Azerbaijan may be more interested in solving the problem now than in the past. Authoritarian leader Ilham Aliyev, the son of Azerbaijan’s former, now deceased, president Heydar Aliyev, just won a second (and final term) with the opposition boycotting the election (and giving him a perfect argument for a democratic victory). Not having to worry about reelection, Aliyev may be more interested in toning down his militant rhetoric. More importantly, the recent Georgian-Russian escalation over South Ossetia has likely demonstrated to Azerbaijan that war is not as good of a choice as Azerbaijan thought it might be. After all, Georgia not only didn’t win South Ossetia back, its attempt to get international sympathy faded away, if not being replaced with anger and distrust toward Tbilisi. Furthermore, the United States may want to partner with Azerbaijan even further more, especially in the case of an escalation with Iran, if it solves its problem with Armenia.
Armenia may be more inclined to change not only due to alleged pressure against president Sargsyan, but also due to the fact that an open border with Turkey will be a great asset for Armenia (Turkey thinks it may not be able to afford the border without a Karabakh solution). Furthermore, in two years, there won’t be many 18-year-olds in Armenia to qualify as soldiers. That’s because 1992-1994 are Armenia’s “dark and cold days,” when few families had children. So if there is to be war in the next four years, Armenia will have few bodies to fight.
A fight between Armenia and Azerbaijan, nonetheless, is not desired (at least at this time) by any of the superpowers, especially by the United States. Back in July, when I met with the acting US Ambassador to Armenia, I heard extremely nice remarks about president Serzh Sargysan’s offer of watching football match with his Turkish counterpart. The United States is seeking stability, especially with the mess that the Iraq war has created. Russia is also interested in stability between Armenia (a strong ally) and Azerbaijan (an ally), especially since Moscow’s interest in the Baku oil. Thus, internationally speaking, prospects for a peaceful Karabakh deal are possible, if not real.
Both sides need to accept that no solution is going to be perfect for either side. I don’t want to suggest what the solution should or will be, but it is clear what the solution cannot be. Azerbaijan cannot recover all the territories that it had before 1991; Armenia cannot retain all the territories that it gained after 1991. This is not a simple cliché, but a psychology that Azerbaijani and Armenian governments must start embedding in their populations. Any solution, though, would be a hard-sell both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The governments in both countries might want to employ the same tactic they have used for a long time – information wars. Instead of dehumanizing the enemy this time, Armenian and Azeri TV channels (both are government-controlled to a large degree) should broadcast stories that rehumanize their neighbors. This strategy hardly needs to be called ‘affirmative propaganda,’ because there are so many true stories of mutual help and respect that can help in bringing change. One thing that is clear is that a peaceful solution at this time would be great for Armenia, Azerbaijan, their neighbors and the world.
Timid and emotional, Georgia’s Mikhail Saakashvili is no longer the confident democratic president the South Caucasus leader was a few weeks ago. Underestimating the right of might, his wish to win back breakaway South Ossetia has become a nightmare in his ex-Soviet country. In an ironic way, Saakashvili might have strengthened Russia instead.
“When the president ordered to attack Tskhinvali [the capital of South Ossetia], we knew then we were doomed,” told a Georgian woman to Newsweek. “How come he didn’t realize that?” Saakashvili might have recognized the hardships that Ossetian and Georgian families were going to face in the face of the military action, but he either didn’t realize Russia’s role in Eurasia or hoped for American military build up in his country.
Understandably, Saakashvili is popular in Georgia right now. During wars, people tend to support their leader, especially when the enemy is someone considered long-rooted colonizer. But the war, despite the de jure cease fire, is not going to help Georgia in the short run. Perhaps Saakashvili thought it might help Georgia in the long run. Here are some convictions that might have had a role in the Georgian president’s decision.
Assumption 1. Saakashvili takes his democratically-elected (while forgetting his not-so-democratic crackdown on the opposition) status a privilege. To some extent it is true, but right is not always might in the realpolitik – especially when you are the president of an entire country.
Assumption 2. Saakashvili thinks his western education and pro-western attitude is an extraordinary asset. Having a degree from Columbia doesn’t change the world imperial order.
Having the above convictions, these are two scenarios that might have crossed Saakashvili’s mind.
Scenario 1. U.S. Military build up in Georgia would follow a Russian action after provoking the latter to attack Ossetia. This would be a perfect opportunity to invite NATO and U.S. soldiers to Georgia (forgetting that the U.S. has already has a front with Russia with the NATO bases in eastern Turkey).
The bases could be used in a possible strike against Iran (especially if Saakashvili’s old friend John McCain becomes the president, and especially if Azerbaijan continues being an authoritarian country, and, thus, proving to be an unsuitable U.S. ally).
Scenario 2. Given the history of Ajaria (another breakaway region that Saakashvili was able to reunite with Georgia without a single bullet), Georgia’s respect in the West (Bush visited Tbilisi a few years back) for its democratic image, and Georgia’s possible prospects to become more energy-independent from Russia due to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Saakashvili might have thought Russia would either ignore the attack on South Ossetia or would try to negotiate with Georgia.
Neither the above nor any other scenario would have been beneficial for Georgia. The attack on South Ossetia was a perfect opportunity for Russia to showcase its power and new role in the region and in the world. Few political analysts would have expected inaction from Russia. So Saakashvili must have expected counterattack as well, but he either overestimated his abilities or underestimated Russia’s capable aspirations. Or he had a long-term vision of Iranian invasion. In either case, neither thought makes him a good leader for his people.
Russia’s rhetoric was even more ironic. Claiming that it was defending its citizens, Russia came to “protect” a people who are generally treated as second-class citizens, to say the least, in Moscow. Like the rest of the people from the South Caucasus, Ossetians are part of the Russia’s “blacks,” people without blond hair who are often killed on the streets for simply not looking ethnic Russians. While it is not hard to understand racism among bitter and uneducated youth, Russian government’s inaction to prevent or even fully prosecute hate crimes in Moscow and other cities is inexcusable.
Double-standards and hypocrisy is no news in politics. But even if Scenario 1 works and the U.S. moves in, Georgia’s people and their neighbors are not going to win in the long run. Small states working for a superpower don’t win. They need to work with superpowers, all of them. That’s one lesson Saakashvili didn’t learn at Columbia.
One needs to applaud Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict expert Tom de Waal – an IWPR editor – for his equal concern for Armenian and Azeri monuments.
Although rarely mentioned in these days, the unbelievable destruction of Djulfa has, perhaps, shook off people that cultural heritage protection is not a pr issue but a real concern.
The academic community seems to share the view. The world’s premier, and probably the oldest, history magazine, is interested in documenting cultural destruction. In its upcoming November issue, History Today will feature an article on the Djulfa destruction by this author.
An article from the English Economist quotes Hasan Zeynalov as saying he doesn’t believe in dialogue. Zeynalov is the one who is working to keep the Turkish-Armenian border closed, as we mentioned several weeks ago. Our “findings” on Zeynalov are at http://blogian.hayastan.com/2007/04/22/the-godfather-of-hate/.
May 17th 2007 | KARS
From The Economist print edition
Beleaguered Armenians in Turkey—and a closed border with Armenia
FOR a seasoned diplomat, Hasan Sultanoglu Zeynalov, Azerbaijan’s consul-general in Kars, eastern Turkey, is unusually indiscreet. He openly complains about Naif Alibeyoglu, the mayor, who is promoting dialogue between Turkey, Azerbaijan and their common enemy, Armenia, just over the border. “I don’t believe in dialogue,” Mr Zeynalov snorts. He recently ordered his compatriots to boycott an arts festival organised by the mayor after finding that “there were Armenians too.” Like his masters in Baku, Mr Zeynalov is unnerved at the thought of his country’s biggest regional ally suddenly making peace with Armenia.
He will have been cheered by the victory of Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia’s nationalist prime minister, in a general election on May 12th. Mr Sarkisian is said to have engineered a last-minute ban on Turkish observers of the election. “I think it would be unnatural to receive observing representatives from a country that does not even wish to have a civilised official dialogue,” he commented… (see the Economist website for the rest of the article)
I couldn’t help but think about the irony and the cynicism of honoring a Muslim monument – just next to the vanished cemetery – in a time when Azerbaijan vehemently denied (and still does) that the vandalism ever happened. What this a coincidence or a message to the Azerbaijani people? If it was a message, then what was it? A sense of satisfaction of finalizing the Jughacide? A reminder that the Azerbaijani people should only think about the Muslim heritage? What about the sarcastic speeches of Azerbaijani tolerance?
The stamp for Aliyev’s 70th Anniversary had three grammar errors in one word: Nakhichevan, the Armenian region (now part of Azerbaijan due to J.V. Stalin’s order in the 1920s) where Aliyev was born. The regular Azerbaijani spelling for Nakhichevan is Naxçıvan (“c” with a tale on the bottom and “i” without the dot on the top), yet the 1993 stamp wrote the name as “Haxcivan” (H- for Heidar Aliyev?).
We have a unique opportunity to document the Armenian culture and material history before it is completely wiped out in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. This would cost about 1 million dollars, but I highly hope rich Armenian foundations will realize the importance of such a project. In terms of fully satellizing the destruction of the Djulfa cemetery, it would only require about $3,000.
Although having access to American satellites, NATO member Turkey has decided to lunch an 80-centimeter-resolution satellite into the orbit by 2011. According to The Space Review (“Turkey’s military satellite program: a model for emerging regional powers”), “Space-based observation is one important way that they can keep track of activities in places like Armenia” and other places.
The government-owned Turksat already has several broadcast satellites for promoting “cultural, economic, and political influence” from Turkey to Central Asia – the area that many Turkish nationalists have hoped to unite in a Pan-Turkish empire.
The report says the Turkish military plans to spend 200 million dollars on the project. Turkish personnel have been training in Torrejon, Spain for satellite interpretation and technology. The military satellite will be used for “taking pictures of nations that directly border on Turkey.” According to the Turkish Press, November 17, 2006, was the deadline for “bidding in the tender for Turkey’s first military-purpose satellite project.”
But Turkey has already started documenting its neighbors. It “is already buying imagery from commercial sources” – that are available to everyone for the same price.
The report about Turkey’s satellite ambitions came three weeks after I purchased a 2003 satellite image of Nakhichevan’s (part of the Republic of Azerbaijan) Julfa’s (Culfa, Jugha) region’s western portion – that shows the ancient Armenian cemetery (now destroyed), the village Gulustan, several other monuments such as caravanserais, churches, and a historic Mulsim tomb.
I purchased the image from Digital Globe. Since then I have been wondering whether the Armenian government owns this available-to-everyone satellite images of the region. It would cost Armenia about 1 million dollars to get Digital Globe’s entire coverage of the Armenian Republic and the Republics of Azerbaijan and Turkey, at least the immediate bordering areas.
If you are wondering about the image posted above, it is the September 2003 inverted satellite image of now-gone Djulfa cemetery. Although I have no expertise or training in satellite interpretation, there are still many conclusions that can be made from that image without having professional background:
1. The cemetery was over 70% intact in September of 2003, even after the deliberate acts of official vandalisms in 1998 and 2002 that UNESCO had ordered to stop.
2. The 1998 and 2002 vandalisms were done by heavy technology – the entire level of the soil was scrapped off. The darker side is the most recent and the deepest scrap. This could not have been done by a group of hooligans. This was not done in a search for treasure.
3. The scrapped trace proves the intent of totally wiping out the cemetery even before 2005. A very thick level of the soil had been removed. Hundreds of skeletons must have been exhumed in this process and destroyed.
4. Although it is not too clear – but if it is zoomed in and studied closely it can be noticed that most, if not all, headstones (khachkars) were pushed down to the ground and none were standing in Sept. of 2003. This may have been done either in 1998 or 2003, as a first step of destroying the headstones. In fact, if you compare a December 2005 photograph with the Sept 2003 satellite image you will notice that in both places the khachkars were laying down on the ground instead of standing in their regular positions.
I do have many other images of the surrounding area, but would like to keep them for sharing on possible future presentations about the vandalism. All the images are from the big file that I got from Digital Globe.
The negative aspects of Digital Globe satellite imagery are that these areas are taken on different dates and times. Thus, “coverage” of the region could have been from 2002-2006, and many things might have changed in the meantime. Another problem would be getting detailed imagery. Digital Globe does not provide 80-cm imagery, as the one that Turkey aspires. But even so, the satellite images will provide much information. In fact, Azerbaijan is aware of what I am talking about. When this hostile neighbor accused Armenia of deliberately “burning forests,” they immediately provided several satellite images of the area with different dates of download (these images are available here).
How did Azerbaijan get this imagery (that didn’t really “prove” anything other than that the forests were really destroyed due to a fire)? Digital Globe, as far as I know, would not have been able to provide information that fast. In fact, it takes them up to 60 days to download a current image of an area. So, Azerbaijan either used U.S. technology with the help of its ally and NATO-member Turkey, or has another secret access to satellite imagery, OR, there is another simple access to such images that Armenia is not even aware of. The images say “Space image,” but my Google search did not provide such a copyright holder. I doubt that Azerbaijan has its own satellite in the orbit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had one very soon.
The text released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry gives confusing details about the satellite imagery they obtained. According to the statement, the satellite imagery show that “[o]n the 132,2 square km area a number of towns, villages, agricultural lands, cultural and historical monuments, existing flora and fauna, living dwellings have been destroyed or burnt by the fire.” Interestingly, the statement also mentions the possibility that the fires “are nature-caused,” yet it holds Armenia accountable and says “these actions by Armenia constitute a gross violation of international humanitarian law.”
I have discussed it earlier that there is no reason that Armenia would have burnt forests. But an Azerbaijani blog says that the fire was deliberately done “perhaps in an attempt [to] clear land mines at the perimeter of the disputed area.” This wouldn’t make sense either, because there are no people living in these areas, and, as far as I understand, Armenia is planning to give up the particular territory to the Azerbaijanis in the future peace deal. Nor does Nagorno Karabakh President’s assertion – that Azerbaijanis have shot fire starting balls to the forests to blame the Armenians – make sense. Again, I don’t think any side would have deliberately started destruction of forests – although both Armenian and Azerbaijani governments are infamous for environmental degradation in their countries. Though, wait a minute, I may have double thoughts about Azerbaijan on this… I mean, it would be totally “worth” to cause forests fire in Karabakh to blame on Armenia in Azeri officials’ eyes, to balance the pressure on Azerbaijan for destroying the Djulfa cemetery. But, no, I don’t think they are that sick. What if ones of those mines blew up and started the fire? In any case, I think had the conflict was solved earlier the forest fire would have not been so widened in the area. Now let’s get back to satellite wars.
I wonder whether the Armenian government knows that satellite images can be purchased. By didn’t the foreign ministry purchase satellite images of the Djulfa cemetery before and after the destruction? As I already mentioned, I purchased the before image for “The New Tears of Araxes,” but I haven’t found a sponsor to help purchase a current satellite image that would cost between $1,200 and $2,000. It would cost only $1,500 years to have a final documentation of the vandalism, but interested parties are either not genuinely interested or don’t know they can do this.
After all, sometimes satellite images are not helpful at all. Look at the satellite image of Iran’s Embassy in Armenia.
Would you be able to figure out from this that a small Armenian Nazi group (the “Armenian Aryans”) gets financial support from this building?
In fact, not really having much hope for the current Armenian government, I hope an Armenian organization (a library, museum, etc.) in America will find ways to document historic Armenia in satellites (and then perhaps share the info with the Armenian government). We have a unique opportunity to document the Armenian culture and material history before it is completely wiped out in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. This would cost about 1 million dollars, but I highly hope rich Armenian foundations will realize the importance of such a project. But first we need people who would be interested to communicating and organizing all these. An Armenian Research Center at a U.S. university sounds the best option here. One non-Armenian university professor, according to the CNN, has already purchased many photos of Mount Ararat with the ambition to find Noah’s ark.
Finding Noah’s ark would not be the next cool thing after documenting the Armenian monuments. The non-Armenian monuments of historic Armenia should also be documented. If Armenia ever ends up liberating more historic lands, these monuments must be preserved, and we need to document them today so that we take care of them tomorrow. I don’t want the non-ingenious people of historic Armenia (the Turkic-Mongoloid peoples) die and disappear, but history shows that, in the long-run, Armenians end up staying in their homeland, while the newcomers continue their journey.
The Muslim tomb Gulustan (middle ages) not too far from now-gone Djulfa
More realistically, this (80 million Turks leaving the region) will not happen, but future liberation of Nakhichevan – the region that Stalin gave to Azerbaijan and the region where the Djulfa cemetery was wiped out along with thousands of other ancient Armenian monuments – is realistic, so even though all of the Armenian culture has been wiped out there, we should document the Muslim culture to preserve it in the future.
Speaking of preserving culture, let’s talk about our own. A Blogian reader from the Czech Republic has visited Armenia lately and got shocked after seeing the treatment of the Armenian monuments in Armenia. He sent us a photo of a tonir (the well where the traditional Armenian bread – lavash – is made) from one of Armenia’s most ancient monasteries – Khor Virap, where Grigor Lusavorish (Krikor the Illuminator) was imprisoned for many years before he converted Armenia to Christianity in 301 A.D. The tonir in the sacred site has been used by a garbage bin by visitors.
A local Armenian would blame the government – or whoever is in charge of taking care the historic monastery – for not putting trashcans in the area. But I think it also has to do with the visitors. For one reason, I can almost swear that no Diasporan Armenian would have thrown trash into the tonir. Has to do a lot with “dastiarakutyun” (the English term doesn’t come to mind); has to do a lot how people are taught about this world. There is lots of chances that even if the monastery was overpacked by trashcans people would still throw garbage into the tonir.
I visited Mother Cabrini’s shrine in Colorado last year. The sacred Catholic site had a sacred water fountain where people say water was found by God’s guidance. There were free plastic cups to drink the water and, as you can imagine, dozens of trashcans all over the place. When I tried to put a small donation in the huge can next to the water fountain, I saw used plastic cups smashed in it that blocked from putting the money in. Why would they do that? Well, perhaps they did not understand the “donation” sign, because most people who go there are Hispanics and perhaps don’t speak English. But hey, what has happened to the thing called common sense? I guess the mere presence of trashcans is not the final and complete solution.
(Khor Virap by Andy Abrahamian)
Well, let’s blame the absence of trashcans for the tonirtrash in Khor Virap, but what about the graffiti on the same monastery done by Armenians? Oh, these are done by unholy communists who hated the Armenian Church. Well, what about the 2005 Alphabet statues? Why is there graffiti on them too?