Archive for April, 2006


Many Jewish intellectuals recently harshly criticize the Israeli government for its official denial of the Armenian genocide. A newest article, “Denying the Undeniable,” appears in Haaretz’s 28 April 2006 issue.

“For interests of realpolitik, Israel is guilty of complicity in denying the Armenian genocide. Thus, how can we accuse other nations of debasing themselves by denying the Holocaust for reasons of realpolitik?” writes Yossi Sarid. He goes ahead to say that Israel not only has to change its sinister policy of denying the Armenian genocide, but also must champion establishing a United Nations day for commemorating the Armenian martyrs’ day.

Attached Image
Yair Auron's famous book has been finally published in Hebrew

Israel has many times been labeled “Holocaust denier” by Israeli intellectuals, and lately it is becoming very popular in that country to confront the government about its double standard policy. And it is not only the Armenian genocide that is ignored in a country established as a result of the WWII genocide: Jewish high school students don’t even learn that Gypsies were also the victims of the Holocaust.

But it is not only some arrogant Jews and Israel denying and ignoring the Armenian genocide. Many arrogant Armenians have similar approach to the Holocaust, though not on official level. The essay that has won me America’s highest college award deals with the issue of genocide awareness within people who have witnessed genocide. I am posting it here with the expectation of receiving hate e-mails by some people who will not like the idea of me saying that many Armenians are ignorant toward the Holocaust (and I have known Holocaust deniers in Armenia…). This is the reality and we have to face it. We must learn how to learn about others.

Simon Maghakyan
Arapahoe Community College

The Worst Human Choice

Attached Image

“Genocide is not an accident. It is a choice. It occurs because human beings make it happen and let it happen.” Professor Emeritus Roger Smith ended class with this final thought last August. Among twenty students attending a graduate course in Canada was I: a descendant of the Armenian people who had suffered this “worst human choice” during WWI. My heritage leads me to advocate preventing humans from making the worst choice.

Roots of my genocide awareness project go back to Armenia. I began by studying, then writing, then publishing articles. Moving to America in 2003, I found a greater need to speak and write, promoting awareness. Supported by ACC’s International Student Organization, I screened the notorious genocide film, Ararat. In April 2004, I attended a national conference in Washington, D.C. In workshops I learned lobbying, then visited Congress to advocate for genocide recognition. While I was in Washington, the Arapahoe Observer (college newspaper), Daily Targum (university newspaper in New Jersey) and Gorizont (Colorado-based Russian newspaper) published my columns on the Armenian genocide.

Initially, I imagined the Armenian genocide as unique. But a program I conceived and directed at ACC became a learning experience for me. I know now that genocide is not unique; it has happened in all the parts of the world, and it happens now. When Hitler mentioned Armenian massacres as examples of getting lebensraum in 1931, many were skeptical that genocide might ever occur in Germany. The same behavior can be seen today: many ignore the genocide in Sudan, thinking our society is safe from facing crimes against humanity.

How did I learn of the Parallel ignorance exists among people who have faced genocide, yet do not want to learn of others’ experiences. Both Armenian and Jewish communities generally think “their” experience unique. But on April 21, 2005, the Armenian and Jewish communities of Colorado were invited to learn of each other’s tragedies and donate money for the genocide survivors in Sudan.

The idea of having a remembrance event came to me early in 2005. What resulted is the most moving educational experience I have had at ACC. Supported by my Phi Theta Kappa chapter and Armenian and Jewish groups, I organized, coordinated, publicized, and hosted ACC’s first Genocide and Holocaust Commemoration. I spoke, a survivor of Auschwitz spoke, and an Armenian scholar spoke. Student attendees learned history; Armenians and Jews discovered that they were not alone in their tragedies. Everyone listened, cried and prayed together. A week after the event the Holocaust speaker wrote to me: “I want to include pictures of the Armenian genocide in my presentations. Let me know where to get them.”

A month later, our school screened Hotel Rwanda. We again collected donations for Sudan. Many of those who came knew of the Genocide and Holocaust Commemoration. Again, I spoke out: the genocide in Sudan is not over. To make “never again” reality, we need to work, work harder and work together, we: the Armenians, the Jews, the Rwandans and the rest of us. We are all human, and only we can prevent ourselves from again making the “worst human choice.”

Official Summary Of My Recent Trip

Below is the official press release regarding my recent national awards in the U.S. In short, I was awarded with America's most prestigous student award. Only top 20 community college students get the award every year.

Attached Image

For Immediate Release
Cindy Murphy, Communications Specialis
Arapahoe Community College
Phone: (303) 797-5709
E-mail: [email protected]

ACC’s Maghakyan earns national honors

Arapahoe Community College (ACC) student Simon Maghakyan, of Littleton, has been named to USA Today’s All-USA Community College Academic First Team. This honor, co-sponsored by USA Today, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, was bestowed at the April 24 AACC convention in Long Beach, California.

Attached Image
Opening of the American Association of Community Colleges Convention on 22 April 2006 in Long Beach, California

Maghakyan, originally of Armenia, received an All-USA Academic Team medallion and commemorative trophy, as well as a cash award. Annually, 20 students are named to the First Team out of approximately 1500 nominees from two-year colleges across the nation. The nominees must have a 3.25 GPA and an extensive record of community and campus activities. Judges considered how well the students applied their academic and intellectual skills in the various communities in which they live, work and learn.

While attending the AACC convention, Maghakyan was also the community college student representative for the State of Colorado and honored as a New Century Scholar along with 49 other students.

Attached Image
Receiving the New Century Scholar award on 23 April 2006 in Long Beach, California

Prior to attending the American Association of Community Colleges Convention, Maghakyan was recognized as a Guistwhite Scholar at the 88th Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Convention in Seattle, Washington. He was selected to the 20-member group out of 600 applicants.

Attached Image
Receiving the All-USA Academic First Team award on 24 April 2006 in Long Beach, California. From left to right, Bert Glandon, Arapahoe Community College President; Simon Maghakyan, All-USA Academic Team member; Bob Dull, former Executive Editor of USA Today. The latter opened his introductory speech about me by mentioning the importance of April 24, the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day, to me.

Maghakyan served as president of ACC’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter during 2004-2005, and is currently leading ACC’s Student Leadership Council. One of his academic successes was the completion, in summer 2005, of the graduate-level “Genocide and Human Rights Studies” course organized by the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies in Toronto. His participation in the program was made possible by a full scholarship from Colorado-based philanthropists Kaloust and Arous Christianian.

Maghakyan will be graduating from Arapahoe Community College on May 13 and plans to continue his political science studies at a four-year university. USA Today published Maghakyan’s photograph and biography in the April 24 issue.

A March in California

While I was in Long Beach (California), my cousin Arman picked me up and we went to the Armenian Genocide commemorative march in Little Armenia (aka, LA) on 24 April 2006.

Attached Image

After moving to America in 2003, I had not seen so many Armenians in one place; it was very moving. With tears on my eyes I was watching the young and the elderly getting ready for the walk. Tears, not only for those one and a half million, including my own relatives, who perished 90 years ago, but also tears for those present who had no chance of mourning.

Attached Image

They do not have the time to mourn since they must “demand justice;” they do not have the ability to remember in silence since they have to fight the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Attached Image

What happens if Turkey admits the Genocide? Are Armenians ready for that moment and what are they going to do next? With these and other questions in my mind I keep walking.

Attached Image

Confused feelings; sadness for hearing English speech from the mouths of Armenian children when they talk among themselves: after all, wasn’t the Genocide to kill what was Armenian? Isn’t assimilation equivalent to the long-term purpose of genocides?

Attached Image

Then I cannot hide my admiration of the beautiful Armenian eyes that are walking around me. I look at them with fear in my heart for those of us in Armenia: what if Turkey does it again? What if Turkey invades the current tiny Republic of Armenia?

Attached Image

This is when I swear “never again” in my heart; this is when I know that one day I will return to Armenia and not leave it ever again in order to make never again a reality…for at least during my lifetime.

[written on an airplane from Long Beach to Phoenix, 24 April 2006; all photographs by Simon Maghakyan/]

Out of Office

I will be traveling from Thursday, 20 April until Tuesday, 25 April 2006; therefore I will not be able to update blogian during this short period of time. To find out WHY I will be traveling, check out America’s most circulated USA TODAY daily’s 24 April 2006 (Monday) issue under Life > Education section.

Attached Image

Faces of Hatred

Attached Image
Baku, AZERBAIJAN: Demonstrators carry an Azerbaijan's state flag during a rally against the sentencing by a Hungarian court of an Azerbaijani officer found guilty of axing to death an Armenian lieutenant in Baku, 17 April 2006. Safarov was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 13 April in a Budapest court for his murder of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian in 2004 while the two were attending a NATO-sponsored training course in the city. AFP PHOTO OSMAN KERIMOV (Photo credit should read OSMAN KERIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
via Getty Images

Genocide Memorial Vandalized

Attached Image
Lyon, FRANCE: A member of the Armenian community reads the inscriptions written on the memorial dedicated to the 1915 Armenian genocide and reading "blessed thou who is turkish", 18 April 2006, barely a week after the erection of the monument to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Genocide. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE MERLE (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE MERLE/AFP/Getty Images)

There is One Truth and One Truth Only…

Without comments…

Institute for War and Peace Reporting,

Caucasus Reporting Service
Caucasus home
Azerbaijan: Famous Medieval Cemetery Vanishes

IWPR reporter confirms that there is nothing left of the celebrated stone crosses of Jugha.

By IWPR staff in Nakhichevan, Baku and Yerevan (CRS No. 336, 19-Apr-06)
Jugha Cemetery (13th-16th centuries)
Photographs from 1970s and 2006
View more…
It has become one of the most bitterly divisive issues in the Caucasus – but up until now no one has been able to clear up the mystery surrounding the fate of the famous medieval Christian cemetery of Jugha in Azerbaijan.

The cemetery was regarded by Armenians as the biggest and most precious repository of medieval headstones marked with crosses – the Armenians call them “khachkars” – of which more than 2,000 were still there in the late Eighties. Each elaborately carved tombstone was a masterpiece of carving.

Armenians have said that the cemetery has been razed, comparing its destruction to the demolition of two giant Buddha figures by the Taleban in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan has hit back by accusing Armenia of scaremongering, and of destroying Azerbaijani monuments on its own territory.

Now an IWPR contributor has become the first journalist to visit the site of the cemetery on Azerbaijan’s border with Iran – and has confirmed that the graveyard has completely vanished.

The European Parliament, UNESCO and Britain’s House of Lords have all taken an interest in the fate of the Jugha cemetery. A European Parliament delegation is currently visiting the South Caucasus. But so far none has been allowed to visit the site itself.

If international observers can confirm that the cemetery has been razed, it is sure to spark a new high-voltage row between the two countries, which have engaged in a bitter war of allegation and counter-allegation since fighting ended in the Nagorny Karabkah conflict in 1994.

The IWPR contributor was accompanied by two Azerbaijani security service officers and was restricted in his movements. He was unable to go right down to the River Araxes, the site of the former cemetery, as it lies in a protected border zone. However, he was able to see clearly that there was no cemetery there, merely bare ground. Nor was there, as some Armenians have claimed, a military training ground.

He did manage to see a 20th century cemetery with Armenian tombstones that lay untouched in a nearby village.

This is one of the most inaccessible parts of Europe, located in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, which is surrounded by Armenia and Iran and – because of the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute – is only accessible from the rest of Azerbaijan by air.

Old Julfa, or Jugha as it is known by the Armenians, sits on the northern bank of the River Araxes which divides Nakhichevan from Iran.

According to Armenian and other historians, Julfa was a flourishing Armenian town in the Middle Ages. But in 1604, Shah Abbas of Persia forcibly resettled the inhabitants to Isfahan, where to this day there is still an Armenian quarter known as New Julfa.

The ruined town and its cemetery remained, and were visited by a number of travellers over the years. British Orientalist Sir William Ouseley arrived in July 1812 and found “a city now in perfect decay”, and the remains of what had been one of the most famous stone bridges in the world.

He wrote, “I examined the principal remains of Julfa, where 45 Armenian families, apparently of the lowest class, constituted the entire population.

“But of its former inhabitants, the multiplicity was sufficiently evinced by the ample and crowded cemetery, situated on a bank sloping towards the river, and covered with numerous rows of upright tombstones, which when viewed at a little distance, resembled a concourse of people or rather regiments of troops drawn up in close order.”

Historian Argam Aivazian, the principal expert on the Armenian monuments of Nakhichevan, said that Jugha was a unique monument of medieval art and the largest Armenian cemetery in existence. There were unique tombstones shaped like rams, a church and the remains of a massive stone bridge. Nowhere else in the world, he said, was there such a big concentration of thousands of khachkars in one place.

Aivazian last visited the site in 1987, when it was still mostly intact, despite its poor upkeep during the Soviet period.

Artist Lusik Aguletsi, a Nakhichevan-born Armenian, also last visited the cemetery in 1987, although she was under escort.

“There is nothing like it in Armenia,” she said. “It was a thrilling sight. Two hills completely covered in khachkars. We weren’t allowed to draw or photograph them.”

Armenian experts now accuse Azerbaijan of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism.

“The destruction of the khachkars of Old Jugha means the destruction of an entire phenomenon in the history of humanity, because they are not only proof of the culture of the people who created them, they are also symbols that tell us about a particular cultural epoch,” said Hranush Kharatian, head of the Armenian government’s department for national and religious minorities.

“On the entire territory of Nakhichevan there existed 27,000 monasteries, churches, khachkars, tombstones and other Armenian monuments,” said Aivazian. “Today they have all been destroyed.”

Although the historical provenance of the cemetery is disputed in Azerbaijan, its cultural importance is confirmed by the 1986 Azerbaijani book “The Architecture of Ancient and Early Medieval Azerbaijan” by Davud Akhundov, which contains several photographs of the cross-stones of Jugha.

In Akhundov’s book, the stones are said to be of Caucasian Albanian origin, in line with the official theory taught in Azerbaijan that the Christian monuments there are the work not of Armenians, but of the Albanians. The Caucasian Albanians – a people unconnected with Albania – lived in the south-eastern Caucasus but their culture began to die out in the Middle Ages.

Nowadays, there is a village of some 500 inhabitants known as Gulistan near where the cemetery used to lie. The climate is harsh and dry and the houses are mostly built of wattle and daub and stones from the river.

The local inhabitants are tight-lipped, denying there was ever an Armenian cemetery here

“In some parts of Julfa there are historic Christian cemeteries, but they are monuments of Caucasian Albania and have nothing to do with Armenians,” said political scientist Zaur Ibragimli, who lives in Julfa.

He added that there is a large Armenian cemetery and church, still preserved, near the village of Salkhangaya.

Husein Shukuraliev, editor of the Julfa local newspaper Voice of Araxes said the destruction of the cemetery began as early as 1828, when Azerbaijan became part of the Russian empire. Thousands of tombstones were then destroyed at the turn of the 20th century when a railway was constructed, he said.

Safar Ashurov, a scholar with Azerbaijan’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography disputed that the cemetery was Armenian, calling the ram shapes an “element of exclusively Turkish Muslim grave art”.

However, two other witnesses told IWPR that there has been more recent destruction of the cemetery – though it may have started much further back than Armenians allege.

A man named Intigam who works repairing tin cans in Baku said he was posted in Julfa with the Soviet army in 1988-89. At the end of 1989, the radical Azerbaijani nationalist politician Nemat Panahov dismantled the border-posts on Nakhichevan’s border with Iran. Intigam said that part of the Julfa cemetery was destroyed at that time.

Panakhov himself declined to comment when contacted by IWPR, saying, “Journalists always deceive me, and I don’t want anything more to do with them.”

A second witness, who asked for his name not to be given, said that there were khachkar stones on the site up until 2002, but they were then removed on the orders of the Nakhichevan military command.

An Armenian architect, Arpiar Petrossian, told IWPR he visited the Iranian side of the border in 1998 with a friend in order to look at the monuments on that side. They also viewed the remains of the bridge. Looking across the river into Azerbaijan, he said, they noticed a flat-bed train apparently removing the cross-stones from the cemetery.

Armenian deputy culture minister Gagik Gyurdjian said his government raised the alarm in 1998.

“Then we got the entire international community up in arms and stopped the destruction,” he told IWPR. “But in 2003 the destruction started again. Many khachkars were buried under the earth, and the rest were destroyed and thrown into the Araxes.”

In the last few months, the propaganda war over Jugha has reached a new intensity – just as the latest round of Karabakh peace talks between presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian, held in February, ran into trouble.

Azerbaijani president Aliev angrily denied Armenian allegations about the Jugha cemetery last week, saying the claims were “a lie and a provocation”.

International institutions are now demanding to be allowed to visit the site of the cemetery. The European Parliament passed a resolution in February condemning the destruction of the cemetery.

However, Azerbaijan said it would only accept a European parliamentary delegation if it visited Armenian-controlled territory as well. Around one seventh of what is internationally recognised as Azerbaijani territory has been under Armenian control since the end of the Karabakh conflict.

“We think that if a comprehensive approach is taken to the problems that have been raised, it will be possible to study Christian monuments on the territory of Azerbaijan, including in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic,” said Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Tahir Tagizade.

The Azerbaijani foreign ministry says old Muslim monuments have disappeared from Armenia. In a statement, it said that at least 1,587 mosques and 23 madrassas had been destroyed in what was once the Muslim-governed Yerevan Khanate – now part of Armenia. In the Zangezur and Echmiadzin areas alone, more than 830 mosques have been demolished, it said, adding that more than 500 Muslim cemeteries have been destroyed within the territory of Armenia. The statement did not specify when this destruction occurred.

Avetik Ishkhanian, president of Armenia’s Helsinki Committee, blames the international community for not reacting sooner to the razing of Jugha, contrasting the response with the outcry that followed the Taleban’s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamian in 2001.

“Why has there not been the same reaction in this case?” asked Ishkhanian. “At that time, world public attention was directed against the Taleban regime, and this act of barbarism was used as a propaganda weapon to launch military action against them.”

Reporting by Idrak Abbasov in Nakhichevan; Shahin Rzayev and Jasur Mamedov in Baku; and Seda Muradian, Narine Avetian and Karine Ter-Sahakian in Yerevan.

Confession or What?

Dr. Laciner has responded to Maral's sixth letter and has made another interesting comment: "Turks never and ever accept that they are the worst creator [sic] in the world." I am not sure what he exactly means, but it sounds like correct.

Laciner makes another hilarious case by saying, “the Armenians were relocated by force,” and then saying but “it was not a deportation.” The guy apparently does not deny facts in this particular example; he simply does not have the courage to admit that relocation by force is a deportation.

And a general, big request to Dr. Laciner, the Editor of an English-language Turkish publication. PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE, use spell check before putting something in your weekly.

Dr. Laciner vs. Der Ohanesian

A Turkish Doctor of something finally reacted to Maral Der Ohanessian’s last letter regarding the Armenian Genocide (he did not publish Maral’s letter until today).

In his opening letter, Dr. Laciner makes a fantastic confession saying, “Both sides do not listen to each other.” He has undoubtedly stolen this phrase from righteous Turkish professor Halil Berktay, but the latter used that sentence in another context. But Dr. Laciner at least admits a possibility of him being ignorant; this is a major accomplishment for a person who just a few months ago alluded Turks were superhuman creatures incapable of crimes and misdeeds.

I want to congratulate Maral for her achievements (I have warned her many times that Dr. Laciner will never turn around saying, “Maral jan, you are right – the Genocide did indeed happen,” but changes are made little by little): Dr. Laciner, for example, tries to make up one of his previous stupidities that said that the Armenian Genocide did not take place simply because no Turk is capable of committing genocide. Maral’s previous letter has made him think.

Attached Image

In his defense he now says that Turkey is a multiethnic country and therefore the high level of tolerance would never permit a genocide to take place; “I am not racist and I do not think that the Turkish race is greater than the others. However, the Turkish nation is a mixture of the Central Asian and Balkan races. Turkey was and is an immigrant countries and it has been more multi-national than the U.S. is. Compare the modern Turks in Anatolia with the Central Asian Turks and you would realize the differences. No Anatolia Turk could claim that he or she is a pure Turkish. ‘Turkish nation’ is a name of a civilization, more than a race.” No comments on this.

One thing I cannot praise Maral is her inability of teaching proper English to Britain-educated Dr. Laciner. Maral, angleren chkrtsar sovoretsnel ad toktorin! laugh.gif

Dr. Laciner’s parting words are, “I understand you, but thanks.”

A Turkish Letter on Genocide Commemoration

I just received a letter from University of Minnesota professor Fatma Gocek that is addressed to all Armenians on the eve of the 91st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Since I will not be in Colorado this 24 April, and will thus miss the local commemoration plus my presentation on cultural genocide, I have forwarded this to the organizers for a possible inclusion in the program. Feel free to circulate.

Attached Image

Even though I cannot be there with you on this very significant day, I want you to know that as an ethnic Turk I am not guilty, but I am responsible for the wounds that have been inflicted upon you, Armenians, for the last century and a half.

I am responsible for the wounds that were first delivered upon you through an unjust deportation from your ancestral lands and through massacres in the hands of a government that should have been there to protect you. I am also responsible for the wounds caused by the Turkish state denial to this day of what happened to you back then.

I am responsible because all of this occurred and still occurs in the country of which I am a citizen. Yet I want to tell you that I personally travel every year to your ancestral lands to envision what was once there and what is not now. When I am there, I realize again and again how much your departure has broken the human spirit and warped the land and the people. I become more and more aware of the darkness that has set in since the disappearance of so many lives, minds, hopes and dreams.

It is for all these reasons that I think it is time for the Turks too to recognize that vast loss, to start to uplift that darkness and begin the process of healing. I therefore firmly believe that soon in the future you will find among you many Turks who too will recount the names of all those brilliant Armenian intellectuals of Istanbul forcefully deported on this very significant day only to be massacred, Turks who will mourn with you this vast loss of ours, Turks who will work alongside you on your ancestral lands to help recreate what was once there.

Associate Professor Fatma Muge Gocek
University of Michigan
Sociology Department
1225 S. University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Next Page »