Archive for March, 2007

Hope in Comedy

There is hope in the shameful comedy of the official Turkish opening of an ancient Armenian church as a museum.  Turkish newspapers are speaking out… with a surprisingly courageous and progressive voice. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Today’s Zaman has started referring to the name of the island where the church is situated on with the proper and historical name – Akhtamar.  The Turkish Daily News has published a powerful column – that makes a reference to cultural genocide of Armenian heritage in Turkey – and a reporting about the opening.

Saturday’s issue of The Turkish Daily New, for example, gives some details of the opening ceremony that nobody heard before:

A small demonstration by nationalists in Van preceded the ceremony. Everyone acted as if it had not occurred. Some Turkish officials appeared distressed when dignitaries from Armenia, which Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with, entered the church wearing small Armenian flags. There were a few strange looks when some of the Armenian guests crossed themselves at the end of the ceremony, placed dozens of candles from Armenia in various parts of the church and lit incense. And when the regional governor offered his remarks, his lack of a word of welcome to the Armenian Minister of Culture Gagik Gürciyan and Turkey’s Armenian Mesrop Mutafyan, was lost on no one. And the fact that none from the Armenian delegation were asked to speak at the ceremony was bit of silence that rang in everyone’s ears.


A column from the same newspaper’s Friday issue by Cengiz Çandar (that I encountered through made points that if they were made by Armenian authors the latter would be libeled “nationalists.”

I see hope in the Turkish newspapers.  I see more hope in Turkey overall when I found out that Taner Akcam has been acquitted of “insulting Turkishness” charges.”

Armenians and the Left

There are many things I would like to do this weekend, but if I had the opportunity to travel I would go to Boston to attend the “Armenians and the Left Symposium.”

Edik Baghdasaryan, editor of, Jeffrey Tufenkian, president of Armenian Forests NGO, Halil Berktay, history professor from Istanbul, and many others  will most likely generate a fascinating discussion from deforestation to Armenian-Turkish relations.

So those of you have them chance of living in or leaving for Boston, make sure to have a meaningful Saturday.

You can learn more about the symposium by visiting their website at

Shameless Opening

Instead of a cross, other “sacred” symbols decorate the Armenian church (converted to a museum) of Akhtamar – a poster of Ataturk and a Turkish flag. 

The shameless “ceremony” of converting the Armenian church of Akthamar to a museum has been further desecrating.  The poster of Ataturk and a Turkish flag was placed on the church wall – on both sides of the main entrance – during the opening of the “museum.”



ALSO: Check this article from the Independent via

Akh, Tamar…

The beautiful Armenian church of Surp Khach (Holly Cross) on Van’s Akhtamar island will be opened as a museum by the Turkish authorities in a few hours.  Although I used to think this was a progressive step by Turkey – no matter the anti-genocide recognition propaganda factor – I changed my mind after I found out that…

– the church will open as a museum

 – it will not have a cross on the top of the dome

– it will not be under the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul

and more…

An editorial by California Courier’s Harut Sassounian gives some insights:

No Self-Respecting Armenian Should
Accept Turkey’s Invitation to Akhtamar
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

The Turkish government has launched a worldwide campaign to exploit, for
propaganda purposes, the renovation of the 10th century Holy Cross Church on
Akhtamar Island, in Turkish-occupied Western Armenia. Ankara has sent out
invitations for “the inaugural” ceremonies to more than 3,000 guests from around the
world, including officials from Armenia and Armenians from the Diaspora.
According to the Turkish Zaman newspaper, the Turkish government’s intent
is to use the restoration of the church on March 29 as part of its accelerated
efforts to counter the adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution by the
U.S. Congress.
Last week, when a Turkish delegation came to Washington to lobby against
that resolution, Mehmet Dulger, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission
of the Turkish Parliament, announced that he had brought with him photos ofthe
renovated Akhtamar Church. Dulger said he would show the photo album
published by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to U.S. Congressmen and tell them:
“See, the Turks, whom you accuse of genocide, have renovated an Armenian Church
with taxes collected from Turks. And these photos are the evidence.” The
Turkish government reportedly spent more than $1.5 million for the restoration.
Zaman reported that the album would be distributed worldwide to all
organizations advocating “Armenian genocide claims.” Furthermore, “the culture
ministers of all countries that have adopted or will adopt Armenian genocide bills=80¦
are invited to the opening,” Zaman wrote.

To make maximum propaganda use of this opportunity, an official from the
Turkish Ministry of Culture even suggested that the long-blockaded
Armenian-Turkish border be temporarily opened for guests from Armenia wishing to cross into
Turkey. He also spoke about the possibility of a special direct flight from
Yerevan to Van on that occasion. However, the Turkish military vetoed both
Turkish officials came up with ridiculous explanations when asked why the
renovated Holy Cross Church did not have a cross on its dome. Reporters were
told that the cross could be the cause of a lightning strike that would burn
down the church! Another official ridiculously claimed that he could not find any
old photos of the church with a cross on its dome.
Even the date of the planned ceremonies has been subject to much political
speculation and a comedy of errors. The Turkish government originally set the
date for April 24. But after complaints from the Armenian Patriarch, the date
was changed to April 11. When Turkish officials learned that April 11 was in
fact the same date as April 24 in the old calendar, they changed it yet again
to March 29, hoping that they would thus be able to pre-empt the negative
impact on Turkey of the worldwide commemorations of the Armenian Genocide held in
April of each year.
Once the final date was set, the Turkish Foreign Ministry immediately
instructed its ambassadors and consul generals around the world to extend
invitations to Armenians and non-Armenians alike to attend the ceremonies on March 29.
Invitations were received by scores of Armenians whose addresses had been
provided to local Turkish consulates by a couple of Armenian individuals who do
the Turkish government’s bidding apparently for personal gain.
The invitations offend the invitees by describing the Holy Cross Church as
the “the Monumental Museum of Akdamar [sic] Church.” Even more offensive is
the two-page enclosure which states that the carvings of the church walls “show
an influence of 9th and 10th century Abbasi art, which was itself influenced
by Central Asian Turkish Art.”
The invitation indicates that the guests are expected to arrive in Ankara
on March 28 and leave for Akhtamar in the early morning of March 29, flying
from Ankara to Van by private plane. After the conclusion of the opening ceremony
— which may be attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Foreign
Minister Abdullah Gul — the invitees will be given lunch, taken on a tour of
the city of Van, including the historic castle and then depart to Ankara later
that afternoon. After asking them to fly to Turkey, in some cases from halfway
around the world, the guests are expected to be on Akhtamar Island not more
than an hour and a half which would include the opening ceremony and a recital
by a Turkish pianist.
While it is obvious that the Turkish government is only interested in the
propaganda value of this ancient Armenian Church, it is much less clear whyany
Armenian would want to be a part of its unholy ploy. Why would any
self-respecting Armenian, whether from Armenia or the Diaspora, allow himself or herself
to be used by Turkish authorities for anti-Armenian purposes, specifically in
Turkey’s efforts to counter the recognition of the Armenian Genocide?
Armenians should boycott and denounce this cynical Turkish ploy. If Turkish
officials are truly interested in restoring the Holy Cross Church, here are
the steps they must take:
1) Designate it as a church, not museum, and open it for Christian
2) Place it under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of
Constantinople, not the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
3) Place a cross on its dome.
4) Remove all false references to a non-existent Turkish influence on
the architecture of the Holy Cross Church.
World public opinion should be told that Turkey deserves very little credit
for renovating this Armenian church. There were thousands of Armenian
churches and monuments before the genocide of 1915 throughout today’s Turkey. Most of
them were confiscated and converted to non-religious use, abandoned to the
ravages of time or outright demolished by Turkish officials. To deserve any
credit, Turkey should restore these churches and monuments and return them to the
Armenian Patriarchate.
Until the Turkish authorities implement the above four stops, no
self-respecting Armenian should in any way assist or support Ankara’s use of the
renovation of an Armenian church for Turkish propaganda purposes.

Having also read one of the Turkish invitations to the “Armenian Diaspora” – a few hundred individuals – I realized I would not wish to attend the opening ceremony.  The letter made no reference to Surp Khach, and used the dearmenianized genocidal term of the island – Akdamar – that word by word translates to white/clean vein in Turkish.  Thanks to David Davidian for sendming me a scan of his personal invitation (that he rejected).  The only “positive” thing in the opening is perhaps the fact that a few hours ago the Turkish Today’s Zaman newspaper started referring to the island with its historic and Armenian name – Akhtamar – as opposed to using the Turkified Akdamar.  

Roma action

If you have noticed, most of my posts deal with Armenian issues.  But in this entry I would like to invite my readers’ attention to injustice against the Roma (the “gypsies”) .  The letter below says it all with specific examples.  If you remember, Roma were also victims of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and there is still lots of prejudice and hatred against this people.  Now I can go to see my emergency doctor.  Thank you, Borat for making me more human.

An exhibition “Watch out, gypsies!
Luxembourg, 26.3.2007, 16:04, (Roma network) The European Roma and Travellers Forum recently expressed its dissent with the organisation of an exhibition “Watch out, gypsies! The story of a misunderstanding” by the Luxembourg-City History Museum in cooperation with the Museum Astra in Sibiu/Romania. This exhibition is currently shown at the Luxembourg-City Museum in the context of “Luxembourg: European Capital of culture 2007” and will, later this year, be presented in Sibiu/Romania, Luxembourg’s partner city for this year.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum which represents Romani interests at European level criticises the fact that the exhibition has been conceived and implemented without participation of Roma organisations and their representatives.

The mere choice of the title and the use of the word “gypsies” throughout the whole exhibition constitute a provocation against Romani people who in 1971 at their first World Congress after WWII expressed their wish to be called Roma.

I have complained in the past about conferences on Roma which have taken place without any Roma participating or helping organize; most recently Alena Aissing ([email protected]) of the University of Florida has created such an event — a week long — consisting almost entirely of song and dance performances by non-Roma. The programme is reproduced below, and the promotional poster is attached.This kind of exploitation for academic gain has to stop. I urge all Romani organizations to e-mail your protests to the persons ultimately responsible: Amie Kreppel, Founding Director of the Center for European Studies ([email protected]) and in particular Jean Monnet, who is Chairman of the Miami European Union Center (reachable through [email protected]). Both of these individuals should know better, given the reality of the Romani experience. A conference to discuss Africans, or Jews, or Armenians, or Native Americans without their active participation would be unthinkable in this day and age; the same respect should apply. To promote racist stereotypes and inaccuracies (“Irish Gypsy Kelts”, “American Tribal Gypsy”) is a shameful reflection upon the institution of higher learning it represents.

Toronto reportings

Upon insistence of of my girlfriend, I am posting a summary of my recent talk in Toronto by one of the organizers of the event.  I have the cold. 🙁

This is me and Hon. Jim Karygiannis, a Toronto MP (like the national Canadian representative) who joined us at the end of the lecture.  I had e-mailed him a few days before the talk and he made the commitment to attend.  I am shocked with the accessibility of Canadian elected officials.  My own American representative, the Tom Tancredo, would never attend such a meeting even though he has paid tribute to me in the U.S. House a few years ago.  Wow, a lesson for us Americans to learn.

Simon Maghakyan, a 20 year old student at the University of Colorado, flew to Toronto and in the span of three days, he participated in an Armenian Genocide related Workshop in Montreal over the weekend, then gave an excellent talk on the destruction and vandalism of Djulfa khatchars.  His talk took place on Monday, March 19, 2007, at 8:00pm, in the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Toronto.  Without the help of Rev. Arch Father Zareh Zargarian, the pastor of the Church, this event would not have taken place.

Simon began his presentation with his 5-minute film – “The New Tears of Araxes” – that documents the destruction of thousands of khatchkars.  The film was followed by his talk on the destruction discussing its connection to oil, politics and cultural rights.  At the end, his PowerPoint presentation showed satellite images of the Djulfa cemetery before its 2005 final destruction. These images had not been shown to the public before

Simon’s talk was enthusiastically received by the audience, as evidenced by the lively question and answer period at the end.  Here is a comment from one of the attendees.

Simon’s lecture was enlightening and he inspired hope in our new generation. God bless him and hope it will inspire other youth to go  in his footsteps. We the grown ups should keep an eye on these youth, help them every which way, so they will be encouraged.”

The Toronto Armenian youth was conspicuous by its absence.  Perhaps this was due to excusable circumstances, such as bad timing, late advertising, etc.  Here are some other comments from other members of the audience.

  …he [Simon] has all the qualities to become a scholar.  We thank all those who helped organize the special event.

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed Simon Maghakyan’s lecture yesterday, he had strong and energetic presentation skills at that young age with the knowledge of someone twice his age, a very bright young man, and he wasn’t shy at all, may he have a very successful future, my heartiest congratulations to him. I just wish that this lecture was advertised sooner.. as I believe there would’ve been a larger audience attending.

Thank you Simon.

Artin Boghossian, Toronto

Ethnic Armenian Journalist Fired

Talin Suciyan, an ethnic Armenian journalist for the liberal Turkish Nokta magazine, has been apparently dismissed for reasons that connect to her background.

I personally suspect that Suciyan’s recent article about the Mardin mass grave (aka collaboration) for Diaspora’s The Armenian Reporter might have been a factor for her dismissal.  Perhaps Nokta would not want to be associated with Armenian groups outside Turkey.

A group e-mail from Suciyan concerning her dismissal, posted below, was received by us in Turkish and then in English.

Those emails concerning my dismissal from Nokta magazine contain remarks about a presumed environment of pressure related to/caused by the news pieces authored by me, rather than attributing it to my “ethnic background”.  I am not aware whether or not such an environment of pressure caused my dismissal, or for that matter, whether or not such an environment existed. The justification of my dismissal as told to me does not point to that direction.   Of course, when a journalist is let go, one is most curious whether the subject matters of the news pieces authored and the quality of the news were ever in question.  There cannot be anything more natural than that.  During my 18 week s of employment at Nokta magazine I had 15 news pieces (including 1 translation), of which 7 were related to the Armenians.  And I believe they were mindful of professional ethics and in accordance with the basic tenets of journalism.    The situation being what it is and the justification of my dismissal as told to me is so unfounded that no one gives credence to it, opening the way to various views and interpretations.

The justification of my dismissal as told to me by Alper Gormus is my having a “negative” attitude and the inability of, especially, my editor Ferda Balancar (in addition to himself and Hasim Akman) to work with me.   I inquired as to why it was not communicated to me earlier, why we had not debated this issue previously, and why Ferda had not openly shared her discomfort with me.  In the same vein, when I mentioned I did not think this was the real reason, I received the answer “let’s not argue any further”.   If he could not work with me in a weekly magazine for 18 months, how could the 15 news pieces/articles be published?

In my opinion, what needs to be debated is the dismissal of a journalist not on the basis of one’s profession but in a capricious and baseless fashion.   When I was being let go, none of the reasons of my continued employment as a journalist in a magazine were mentioned, such as the quality of my work, its contribution to the magazine, what kind of responses my wok elicited, and how my work was received in the national and international press (some of my news pieces were translated to 4-5 other languages and placed in a multitude of newspapers, magazines and internet news sites).   In this case, I was laid off from a media organization without a due consideration of my work, without an objective and professional evaluation, and without prior warning.  On the other hand, there can be no justification for the “negative” attitude displayed towards me because there is no incident that can be described as “quarrel” with my co-workers or with the aforementioned individuals; there is no case of someone insulting somebody else; or there is no case of a disgraceful crime.   If all these are not true but there is still discomfort due to “negativity”, would the appropriate first step be dismissal from work?  Be as it may, if you start laying one off for being “negative” and another for being “positive”, what can we call this?

There is an email issue which is said to be the “last straw” involving my forwarding of a professional invitation for me to visit abroad to Alper Gormus before I forwarded it to Ferda Balancar.   Apparently intimating an action against the ruling hierarchy, I was told by A. Gormus it was a “mistake” and the “last straw”.  We are facing here a non-democratic, non-transparent, non-egalitarian, capricious and unjust practice by the editor-in-chief of a media organization that claims to have adopted the values of democracy, transparency, deliberation, egalitarianism, human rights and freedom of speech.   In my opinion, if there is to be a debate, it should be along those lines.

In Toronto on March 19, 2007

I will be in Canada upcoming week to talk in Toronto about cultural rights on March 19, 2007.   See the flyer below (click on if it doesn’t show the details)

AW Interview with Blogian

The Armenian Weekly has published an interview with this blogger in their March 3, 2007, online edition.


Activist of the Hye Plains

Up-and-Coming Denver Blogger and Filmmaker Simon Maghakyan Tells it Like it is

By Andy Turpin


WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—When you think of Colorado, you likely picture the Rocky Mountains, rough-and-tumble cowboys, granola-munching trust fund hippies, or perhaps the enjoyment of a Coors beer.

But it doesn’t usually scream Armenian.

There is a vast land of tumbleweeds between Racine and Glendale where few Armenians reside. That is changing, though, with high profile Armenians like David Barsamian broadcasting his views from Boulder, Colo., and a younger generation shaping itself out of Denver.

Simon Maghakyan, 20, currently a student at the University of Colorado in Denver, is part of a recent wave of immigrants who have come to Colorado from Armenia or Russian-Armenian communities like Sochi.

In 2006, Maghakyan was named the USA TODAY All-USA Academic First Team recipient for community colleges students. He was also selected as Colorado’s New Century Scholar, which is an award given each year by the American Association for Community Colleges to a top student from each state.


Armenian Weekly—When did you and your family come to the U.S.?

Simon Maghakyan—I came to America in July 2003 with my mother. My father and older brother had moved to America before that.


AW—Why did you choose Colorado?

SM—Colorado wasn’t my choice. My father had originally moved here from California. That’s how I ended up coming here. But I am glad I have the chance to go to the University of Colorado in Denver and work at the State Capitol.


AW—Tell me about the Denver Armenian community and your experiences.

SM—Colorado’s Armenian community is diverse, like almost any Armenian community. There are Armenians from Armenia, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Russia and refugees from Azerbaijan. And there are many Armenians who have come from California.

The earliest mention of Armenians in Colorado dates back to the late 1800s, when Denver’s oldest newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, wrote about Armenian merchants who hoped to return to their homeland. A flood of articles about the Armenian Genocide reached many of Colorado’s newspapers between 1915 and 1923. Even today, Colorado’s State Capitol honors the Armenian Genocide with a quarter-century-old memorial in an Armenian garden in its northeastern grounds.

The Genocide was part of Colorado’s daily life during WWI, when many joined together to raise funds for the “starving Armenians.” One local newspaper, The Littleton Independent, was so outraged that it published an editorial suggesting massacring the Turks in order to save Armenian lives and American money sent for the Armenians.

In Colorado, you will always meet people who have Armenian last names or will tell you that they have some Armenian blood. When I was visiting a friend at the hospital, her doctor walked by and had an Armenian last name on his nametag. I asked him in Armenian whether he spoke Armenian, and his answer in English was, “I don’t speak Arabic” and ended up saying that his father spoke Arabic and so he had assumed that Arabic was the language of the Armenians.

There was also this former deputy cabinet minister (I think of environment or forestry) from Armenia who suddenly appeared, and soon disappeared, from nowhere in 2005. While here, he decided to “unite” the Armenian community by establishing The Armenian Heritage Center of Colorado, and purchased a church building in order to “do business in Colorado.” In addition to hosting church services, he was planning to open a tourist agency and bingo. He had apparently earned his millions from Armenia’s poor population and through deforestation, and then had escaped to America. He once threw a huge party for his birthday at an Armenian restaurant and invited every Armenian in Colorado. Of course, I did not attend. I’ve gotten my share of Armenia’s deforestation already. My little niece in Yerevan has trouble breathing in the polluted streets.

Even though I had no respect for this individual, I was still surprised that he wanted to use the stolen money in an Armenian community and make money out of it again. Most former bosses like him—there are dozens and dozens—just run to places where no Armenians will find them, such as Spain.


AW—Is there much solidarity among Armenians in Colorado?

SM—The answer can be both yes and no, depending on several factors. If you are an Armenian from Sochi, you will tend to be friends with Armenians from Sochi more than with Armenians from Lebanon. I think this is human nature. I should also note that I live in a Denver suburb that has few Armenian families, so I don’t really get to experience the daily Armenian life in Colorado. But every time I go to an Iranian store (where many, if not most goods are imported from Glendale), I will meet new Armenians who always ask who my father is. I guess that’s solidarity, because Armenians think they know every other Armenian in this world. Lots of Armenians will share their phone numbers, having just known each other for five minutes. Yet most of the time, we don’t end up calling each other.


AW—What is the general public’s view on the Genocide in your experience?

SM—On political level, the State of Colorado has acknowledged the Armenian Genocide for five consecutive years. Even so, the average person doesn’t know about such resolutions. However, there is the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action, which is a unique and diverse organization founded by Roz Duman that deals with contemporary genocide education and tries to prevent the continuation of the Darfur genocide. It is an inclusive organization that has tried and continues to try and reach all communities in Colorado. On Jan. 22, I, along with other members of the Armenian community, was invited to speak at a comparative genocide studies seminar for Colorado seniors. This was a very well informed group, and I wish there were more Coloradoans like them.


AW—What are some of your current and future projects?

SM—I continue to develop and update my website when time permits, and help with organizing Armenian Genocide commemoration events for this upcoming April 24. With the mentorship of Native American studies professor Glenn Morris, I am researching the destruction of the Julfa cemetery and the oil politics behind it for my Cultural Rights class. I often consult him when I am not balanced in my research. I don’t want to produce a biased work that makes Azerbaijani people look evil. I will be talking in front of a Toronto audience in mid-March about cultural rights. I am also planning to work on a short video about human trafficking for my International Women’s Resistance class. I hope students from the class will help me with the project. I am also trying to get more involved with the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action, which has invited me to serve on their board of directors.

Simon Maghakyan’s short documentary films on Armenia’s deforestation crisis and the destruction of Armenian monuments in the old Julfa region of present-day Azerbaijan may be seen on , keyword: Blogian.

YouTube Censores Video Amid “Insulting” Ataturk

The video giant has removed a Greek video that declared Turkey’s founding father Kemal Ataturk a homosexual, reports AP via MSNBC.  This followed a Turkish court’s order to block in Turkey for insulting allmighty Ataturk.

Apparently, insulting Turkishness is not only a crime in Turkey but also in YouTube.  If you want to get a sense of the video war in for the homosexual comments, search “gay Ataturk” in

Computing from the UK has more:

Turkey shoots down Youtube over insulting video

Video rulted offensive to nation’s founder Ataturk

Tom Sanders in California,, 08 Mar 2007

A Turkish court has ordered local ISPs to block access to the Youtube video sharing service in response to the publication of a video that mocked the nation’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The video displayed pictures of the founding father of the modern Turkish with insults written over it in English.

Youtube has since removed the video and the ban on the website has reportedly been lifted. It’s unclear when access to Youtube will be restored.

The video was reportedly uploaded by an ethnic Greek from Cyprus. Turkey and Greece have been battling each other over control of the island. Turkey in 1974 invaded the territory and created the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that is only recognized by Turkey.

Turkey has an uneasy relation with freedom of speech. The nation’s penal code makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness”. Courts routinely press charges against writers and journalists for mentioning the Armenian genocide of 1915-1917. Turkey denies that a coordinated ethnic cleansing ever occurred and blames the deaths on collateral war and natural circumstances.

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