Archive for February, 2007

It was not genocide

The International Court for Justice held today that the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s by Serb militias was not a genocide, reports the New York Times.

In short, Serbia is not guilty of genocide.

I am really confused. I mean, I am a graduate of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies where we learned about the Bosnian genocide. An entire generation has been taught about the genocide, and today the Court says it is not genocide.

Is this to say that a court qualifies a crime a genocide? I don’t really have much to say at this time, but I have a thinkstorm going on in my mind right now and I will tell you later if I figure out what I think.

Slavery: The Nice Solutions, and the Real Solutions

Another piece by Andy Turpin from tomorrow’s The Armenian Weekly.

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The anti-slavery film “Amazing Grace” opens this weekend. It tells the story of abolitionist leader William Wilberforce and his lifelong efforts that ended the British slave trade through the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 (though it took strict enforcement by British officials throughout the 1830s before the slave trade was effectively curbed.) The film’s screenwriter is Stephen Knight, writer of “Dirty Pretty Things,” a story about illegal immigrant culture in Europe.

From a public relations perspective, “Amazing Grace” looks to be a thought provoking film and an adequate media send-off giving lip service to February as “Black History Month.” The producer of the film, Bristol Bay Productions, has also helped to disseminate information on the anti-slavery campaign, “The Amazing Change.” (For more information about this campaign, visit

Yet, the steps they list to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking are limited to raising awareness, forming a discussion group, and donating to their campaign.

These are the nice solutions. These are the solutions you tell your elementary schooler. These are not the solutions, though, that save lives.

I burst this bubble not to be uncouth or condescending, but because the people who continue these acts today are virtual demons in human guise. And because these are major issues in Armenia and the Diaspora, in such places as Greece, France and Israel, not to mention every major U.S. city.

These problems aren’t hidden. They are, rather, problems that only law enforcement has jurisdiction over or enough brute force to handle.

Petitioning and letter writing are still valuable avenues to pursue, but let’s walk through the most pragmatic ways to approach the problem: Stay informed and concerned for these people. To not is to de-humanize them. We’re not speaking of “let my people go” situations. We’re speaking of dark places from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Read Victor Malarek’s The Natashas for background, go to the Investigative Journalists of Armenia website at, then just check the archives of any Greek or Israeli newspaper to see how epidemic the problem is.

1. When it comes to lobbying, almost all countries have laws saying it is illegal to traffic humans or enslave them. Politicians aren’t the ones in charge of breaking down doors— law enforcement agents and peacekeeping soldiers are. Write to Interpol and American UN officers to search more transport vehicles at border checkpoints, and to ask women in these zones if they are in of need protection or are crossing borders of their own free will. (This seems basic, but not all officers are trained to do so.)

This request may not always prove successful due to scare tactics used on victims or their inability to speak the language of the officer, but observing such indicated fear or linguistic inability could be a tip-off to an agent.

Also, write your local customs office or port authority official and ask to increase the number of searched cargo containers. Many victims are smuggled into countries in this way. Ships often contain hundreds of containers, but increasing the requisite search number helps the odds of saving more people.

2. Though it may seem crass to assume that you may be seen in a “gentlemen’s club” of ill repute, such establishments are often fronts for sex slavery. If a dancer seems drugged or scared, ask them about it or discretely call the police. If it is a legitimate club, the dancers will most likely be registered with the proper authorities. If not, your call may help build evidence in a case against the traffickers.

3. As for making donations, “The Poppy Project” based out of London is a growing organization that specializes in therapy and safe harbor for victims of slavery and trafficking after they are cleared by law enforcement authorities.

What makes the fight against human trafficking and slavery so difficult is the passivity of governments, citizens, soldiers and law enforcement officers who, in most circumstances, are decent people.

To that end, especially if are traveling in Armenia, show vigilance towards potentially trafficked victims that may be Ukrainian or Russian. In Armenia, institutional corruption and cultural prejudices often hamper enforcement efforts.

Likewise, if traveling in Dubai or Israel specifically, be on the watch for Armenian women that may be victims.

These are not pleasant things to write about. However, apathy of good people in the presence of evil is tantamount to complicity. With concerted efforts, ground can be gained in this struggle against that which, more than a hundred years ago, curbed a similar hell on earth for people in slavery.

Russia’s Beautiful Bruised Mistress

Below is an interesting piece on racism in Russia by Andy Turpin from the Armenian Weekly, Feb 24, 2007 issue (received via e-mail)

The image of the soft but undernourished girl, shivering by the riverbed of a Gotham city, is everywhere. Take your pick from the songs of Edith Piaf, Puccini’s Mimi, Pasternak’s Lara or Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”

It is cliché and sentimentalist to a fault, but that is sometimes how I imagine Armenia when it comes to her relationship with Russia, especially in the wake of the ongoing number of hate crimes against Armenians and other Caucasians in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Financially, Russia may feed and employ Armenia’s many economic migrants and keep its utilities in check through ownership of gas and electric companies. The Cossack bear may even protect Armenia from its Turkic neighbors by supplying arms and barracking soldiers in Gyumri. But when such crimes are allowed to continue unchecked by Russian authorities, how can one call such backhands love for Armenia and her people?

One could always argue that Armenians shouldn’t take the crimes too seriously, that Russia is a place of death and chaos for anyone, not merely Armenians. They are just the targets of the hour.

Some argue that Russia lives in constant states of extremes: part police state, part mafia state, part prison, part wilderness, and never punctual with the rest of the world in her political and social trends. It is not a country for the faint of heart.

Certainly Armenians must be on guard to Russia’s growing sense of radical nationalism. Though unlike Turkey’s Grey Wolf form of nationalism, Russia’s berserker rage is not directly antagonistic to Armenia and the Diaspora, but is more of a xenophobic breakdown in Russian society. Domestic abuse is also rampant in Russia, so both figuratively and physically one could say that Armenia is taking the hits.

What is to be done? There lies the rub. How do you seek solutions to acts of violence against a specific group of people when criminality, corruption and violence abound on the streets of the Russian federation?

Most often the perpetrators of these hate crimes are not even deemed by judges to be murderers or criminals, but hooligans instead. How can justice be demanded of a culture that often sentences human traffickers to casual sentences of three years in prison?

Some hayastantsis have the option of seeking jobs with relatives in the Diaspora, but what of the Russian-Armenians persecuted without hope of justice in their own backyards?

I have no clear-cut answers to these problems, and from the silence of the Kremlin, it seems that Vladimir Putin doesn’t either.

A beautiful way of celebrating power

Advertisement boards in Armenia’s capital Yerevan honoring the 15th Anniversary of the national army are not full of patriotic or nationalist slogans. They feature Armenian singers and actors saying their weapon is art.

The photo below, taken in Yerevan this week and sent to Blogian, shows pop singer Shusan Petrosyan saying, “My weapon is my song.”

Reported Change in Pro-Israeli Lobby toward the Genocide

A groundbreaking article just published by The Jewish Daily Forward writes that “Despite fears of upsetting a top Israeli and American ally in the Muslim world, Jewish organizations are reluctant to respond to Turkish calls to fight a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide.”

The Forward writes Israeli Prime-Minister Olmert said in Turkey it is up to the U.S. Congress to decide whether pass a resolution on the Armenian genocide or not, thus suggesting that Israeli officials or the pro-Israeli lobby will not lobby against the resolution this time.


It seems Nancy Pelosi’s leadership has a lot to do here. If you remember, she refused a meeting with the visiting Turkish foreign minister Abdulla Gul several days ago. She seems to be adamant on the issue.

Representatives of Jewish organizations who attended the meeting were reluctant to offer their help to Gul, sources told the Forward. They told the Turkish foreign minister that the chances of blocking the House leadership on this issue were slim, and that — as one participant later said — “no one wants to take on a losing battle.”

This Will Not Make You Cry

via LiveScience

Human Compassion Surprisingly Limited, Study Finds
By Sara Goudarzi
February 16, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO—While a person’s accidental death reported on the evening news can bring viewers to tears, mass killings reported as statistics fail to tickle human emotions, a new study finds.

The Internet and other modern communications bring atrocities such as killings in Darfur, Sudan into homes and office cubicles. But knowledge of these events fails to motivate most to take action, said Paul Slovic, a University of Oregon researcher.

People typically react very strongly to one death but their emotions fade as the number of victims increase, Slovic reported here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“We go all out to save a single identified victim, be it a person or an animal, but as the numbers increase, we level off,” Slovic said. “We don’t feel any different to say 88 people dying than we do to 87. This is a disturbing model, because it means that lives are not equal, and that as problems become bigger we become insensitive to the prospect of additional deaths.”

Human insensitivity to large-scale human suffering has been observed in the past century with genocides in Armenia, the Ukraine, Nazi Germany and Rwanda, among others.

“We have to understand what it is in our makeup—psychologically, socially, politically and institutionally—that has allowed genocide to go unabated for a century,” Slovic said. “If we don’t answer that question and use the answer to change things, we will see another century of horrible atrocities around the world.”

Slovic previously studied this phenomenon by presenting photographs to a group of subjects. In the first photograph eight children needed $300,000 to receive medical attention in order to save their lives. In the next photograph, one child needed $300,000 for medical bills.

Most subjects were willing to donate to the one and not the group of children.

In his latest research, Slovic and colleagues showed three photos to participants: a starving African girl, a starving African boy and a photo of both of them together.

Participants felt equivalent amounts of sympathy for each child when viewed separately, but compassion levels declined when the children were viewed together.

“The studies … suggest a disturbing psychological tendency,” Slovic said. “Our capacity to feel is limited. Even at two, people start to lose it.”

6 minutes from Lark Farm

You can watch 6 minutes from the Berlin Film Festival participant Italian film “Lark Farm” about Armenian-Turkish relations here. has links about the film here.

The Ugly Truth

The ugly truth about ugly leaders who want Armenia’s death is revealed. A 2,000-year-old coin that reads “Antoni Armenia devicta” (“For Antony, Armenia having been vanquished”) has another side. Turn it around and you will see the face of Antoni’s young lover thought-to-be-hot Cleopatra, as bad as her and her degenerate Antoni’s desire to see Armenia vanquished.

2,000 years… and ugly politicians still hope they will kill Armenia one day. BBC link

Racism for home, tolerance for abroad

Editorial note: The entry below is an original article written by a Blogian reader who would like to remain ananymous. Readers can submit their original (unpublished in other places) work to [email protected] for consideration.

Both sides of the story

Complaining about international film depictions of the Armenian Genocide, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s foreign policy advisor supports a new international film about Turkish benevolence towards Jews during the Nazi era. Oddly enough, the Turkish-American production company is best known for a 2006 domestic hit film which was widely criticized as anti-Semitic.

The Turkish Daily News reports that BMH Worldwide Entertainment is filming The Ambassador, about a Turkish diplomat who saved Jewish lives during World War II.

BMH’s 2006 film, The Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, wildly successful in Turkey, was heavily criticized in Turkey, Germany, and Israel as racist and anti-Semitic. Gary Busey co-stars as a Jewish U.S. military doctor who cuts out the organs of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and sells them to wealthy clients in New York, London, and Tel Aviv. There is no sympathetic Jewish character to balance out this portrayal, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The initials BMH stand for the company’s co-founders: Los Angeles sports promoter Bjorn Rebney; Chicago financier, Assembly of Turkish American Associations former Midwest VP and past president of the Turkish American Cultural Alliance Mehmet Çelebi; and Chicago PR/marketing executive Hüma Alpaytaç Gruaz, who is reportedly married to Rebney.

Based in Los Angeles and Chicago, BMH shares a fax number with the Alpaytac PR/marketing firm, which promotes the Chicago Turkish Festival. Alpaytac’s clients include the Turkish American Cultural Alliance and the Turkish Consulate.

Confirming official Turkish support for The Ambassador, Çelebi told TDN:

BMH Worldwide Entertainment has been working with Member of Turkish Parliament and previous President of the Federation of Turkish-American Associations Egemen Bagis, who has spent many years in the United States and is very aware of and concerned about Turkey’s image around the world. He has been a great supporter of this and other projects that will enhance Turkey’s image across the globe.

Bagis, the president of the U.S. Caucus in Turkish Parliament, had given the first clue about the project last week in Parliament. Bagis, also a member of advisory council of the Turkish Film Council in the United States, suggested,

Prominent figures of the diaspora pay Hollywood to make genocide movies. We too have wealthy people; however, we don’t have a culture of investing in Hollywood. We should also be relying on such methods and commission movies explaining Turkey’s side of the story.

Two sides to the story? Sure. Racism and anti-Semitism for domestic consumption, tolerance and harmony abroad.

TIME documentary is online

The Armenian Genocide documentary, distributed by TIME (Feb 12, 2007) magazine in Europe for free, has been hijacked and is available online at Google.

from the TIME (Feb 12, 2007) indirectlytly paid by Turkish militants advertisement declaring TIME’s policy on reporting the Armenian genocide

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