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.