Archive for July, 2007

Fighting 301

Just noticed that there is a new petition online targeting Turkey’s Article 301.  Below is the text: Arat Dink, Serkis Seropyan, Karin Karakashli, Aydin Engin, all members of the staff of “Agos” weekly in Istanbul, and Erdal Dogal, the Dink family lawyer, are charged with “denigrating Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Some of them may face three years of incarceration if convicted. The pretext is the publication of an old interview with the Reuters News Agency in which the late assassinated Hrant Dink made reference to the Genocide of the Armenians.Renowned writers, scholars and journalists such as Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, Taner Akçam, Ragip Zarakolu and others were charged with similar criminal offences over the last while. Some of them have chosen self-exile and are now living in Europe, the United States and elsewhere for fear of their own lives and avoiding the destiny that the late Hrant Dink faced.We, the undersigned, strongly protest against the disdainful use of article 301 of the Penal Code. Its application has proven to be an abhorrent violation of the exercise of freedom of expression and thought. Internationally it has brought nothing but scorn, and locally it has fomented an atmosphere of hatred and xenophobia. It is a painful reminder of the disingenuous call of the Turkish authorities to have a mixed commission of historians to study the past.In solidarity with scholars, artists, journalists, human rights activists who seek freedom of expression and thought, we call upon the Turkish authorities to scrap the Draconian article once and for all.

Holdwater, in denial, responds

My photograph from USA TODAY, published for my membership to the All-USA Academic First Team, has appeared in the anti-Armenian – a website that hatefully denies the Armenian Genocide.

Holdwater, the ghostwriter of the hatesite, is apparently pissed off at my blogging about Turkish historian Taner Akcam’s findings that Holdwater is Murad Gumen, an ex-Disney cartoonist of Turkish desent.

Hilariously enough, Holdwater is now denying that he is Murad Gumen by saying his communication with the United States Holocaust Memorial Council he wrote about wasn’t really his because somebody else had written it and in order not to get somebody else in trouble he said he had written it. (It was through this communication that Akcam made Holdwater’s identity public). Mr. Gumen, stop embarrassing yourself.

The idiot, who continuously claims he has proven the Armenian Genocide never happened and is now saying he is not who he said he was, is even unable to find the source that first wrote about his comparison of Armenians to rodents.

I remember other aspects of Akcam’s more aggressive article, but I’ll bring up only one more: Taner Akcam claimed that I, Holdwater, called Armenians “rodents.”


But ask yourselves: before Akcam got his piece[s] through, there was no mention anywhere that I had called Armenians “rodents.”

In fact, if our haterguy looked closely at the same blog he is linking to (the previous website of Blogian) in his response, he would find out that I, not Taner Akcam, first reported Gumen’s comparison of Armenians to rodents, and in fact, a year ago. As quite usual, Gumen is lying – Akcam has never written about Gumen’s comparison of Armenians to rodents.

Interestingly enough, Gumen doesn’t bother to defend his racism by saying he actually created a “cute phrase” – Armeni-Lemmings – and placing it under a photograph of a rodent.

I had come up with a cute, and now actually rarely used (when I began the site, and was outraged to discover the massiveness of Armenian propaganda, there was more flippancy to my tone) phrase to describe the phenomenon, “Armeni-Lemmings,” which of course would not describe all Armenians; only the irrational genocide fanatics.

It is upsetting that Gumen refuses to take into consideration the fact of the importance of the commemoration and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide to every single Armenian.

The self-proclaimed humanist says he is calling rodents (“Armeni-Lemmings”) only those who are “irrational genocide fanatics,” knowing very well the extent of significance of the memory of the Armenian Genocide to the Armenian people.

No matter how much Gumen believes that the Armenian Genocide did not happen, he should know the line of respect to an entire people (if he is not a racist as he claims).

But again, consider the idiot you are dealing with.

To prove that I am a “fanatic”, for example, he refers to my “angry letter to The Jewish Advocate, criticizing them for identifying a photo as “alleged victims of the Armenian genocide.”

The fact of the matter is that “Armenian genocide” photos are undocumented, even Armin Wegner’s; some Armenian sites have sunk so low as to use documented photographs of Ottoman Muslims slaughtered by Armenians, in order to represent Armenian victims. While I don’t know which photograph The Jewish Advocate made use of, if the source of the photograph cannot be verified, an ethical journal must use a word such as “alleged.”

There are lots of things that Mr. Gumen doesn’t know, including the fact that he can be embarrassingly ignorant and stupid. The webpage he refers to has a link to my actual letter that he failed to read (oh, what a researcher).

If the idiot opened that link, he would see the photo I had written about (in fact, The Jewish Advocate acknowledged its mistake in silence by removing the ridiculous article from its website and its archives). And guess what the photo is?

I wonder if anything else on Earth can be more convincing to Murad Gumen than an old photograph with skeletons and a banner mentioning “Armenian cranes.” But again, genocide denial is not a simple rejection of the word “genocide” to describe the destruction of Ottoman Turkey’s native Armenian population. Denial is the micro-level refusal of accepting that a crime was committed against Turkey’s Armenian population.And to understand how embarrassingly short-sighted Mr. Gumen is, consider his unchallenged acceptance of a Turkish nationalist’s comment at this blog that “the recently discovered cave with the mass grave said to be of Armenian victims has been confirmed by European scientists to have been a Roman site.”If the idiot were to do a little bit research, he would find out that the Roman site had been reused during World War I as a mass grave. Whether used for Armenians or others, though, it will never be known. Because for some reason Mr. Gumen’s beloved Turkish Historical Society covered up the destruction of the mass grave by the Turkish military.We are not talking about a 90-year-old document, Mr. Gumen. This is a documented, photographed mass grave from last year that has been erased from the face of the Earth. Even if you don’t think there was Armenian Genocide, one wonders why would deniers like you not even accept the possibility of even one small mass grave of Armenian victims in Turkey.

And I wasn’t really able to grasp the point of your ass-kissing move, Mr. Gumen, of calling me an “obviously extremely intelligent person.” Perhaps the USA TODAY article you borrowed the photograph from gave you some insights to my activities, most of which are not Armenian as you might have noticed.

And may I ask why you failed to provide the link to the article? Is it because you didn’t want your readers to find out that I am not only Genocide “fanatic” but also Holocaust “fanatic” and that one reason USA TODAY named me one of America’s top students was for organizing Genocide and Holocaust Commemoration?

Or were you shocked with the coincidence that the USA TODAY article was from April 24, 2006 – the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide? Perhaps you will be pleased to find out that when I was given the honor the founder of USA TODAY started his introduction with honoring the memory of the Armenian genocide victims. How about that for a “fanatic” like me?

Actually, I owe you for calling me a fanatic. Your name-calling balances out my “Armenian traitor” accusation I have received from some nationalist Armenians for my views on Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.

And I still believe in the reconciliation, Mr. Gumen. Because even though racist Turks like you 90 years ago have obviously carried out the Armenian Genocide, my own great-grandmother was saved by an ordinary Turkish family during the same horrors that some people you consider heroes brought upon my race.

Slim K to Portray Turkish Assassin

According to a video, that I learned about from a post at the forum, Slim Khezri (also known as Slim K), “an opinionated and well-experienced Artist” who plays the Arab pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 plays Turkish assassin Zeki Abaz in a short movie by Matt Van Gelder and Barry Taft – inspired by the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink by a young Turk nationalist on Jan. 19, 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Slim Khezri is Germany-born, Los-Angeles living Tunisian.

According to the preview (that actually has a few grammar errors), the film will be released in the Fall of 2007.

Int’l Reaction to Djulfa Cemetery: Only Words

This week’s Reporter (June 30, 2007) has my newest article on the destruction of Djulfa cemetery that I just wrote for them using much information from my last semester’s research.

You can download the PDF version of current issue’s Section A – where my piece is – from here.

Here is the article in full:

International Reaction to Djulfa cemetery destruction has been only words and no action

by Simon Maghakyan

June 30, 2007

DENVER, CO. – After several failures to visit Djulfa (Jugha), where the largest medieval Armenian cemetery was reduced to dust by Azerbaijan’s military a year and a half ago, officials at international organizations are talking again about sending experts to the region.

      While reports about plans to send a mission by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Armenia and Azerbaijan have again appeared in the media, words are all that have reached so far the remote shores of the Araxes where an archeological monument with thousands of ancient Armenian burial stones, khachkars, existed not too long ago.

      Still a UNESCO spokesperson says their talks are serious and, according to Armenpress, the organization is now working out the details of a visit both to Nakhichevan – where Djulfa is located – and Karabakh, where Azerbaijan alleges Armenians have destroyed Azeri monuments.

      And this week, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian said that UNESCO has already determined the make-up of its monitoring group and that currently the issue is with the visits’ timing.

      Armenians and others have long urged UNESCO to interfere in the destruction of the Djulfa cemetery and other Armenian monuments.

      In October 2006, an international group of parliamentarians from Canada, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Russia and Switzerland traveled to UNESCO’s Paris headquarters in order to request that Director-General Koїchiro Matsuura take up an investigation in Djulfa.

      Canadian Parliamentarian Jim Karygiannis, a member of the delegation to Paris, this week told this author that he still has not heard back from UNESCO.


      In addition to UNESCO, the Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis has expressed interest in sending experts to monitor cultural sites whenever a relevant agreement with Armenia and Azerbaijan is reached.

      But efforts by the European Parliament to send a delegation to Djulfa, headed by British MP Edward O’Hara, first in 2006 and again in April 2007 have been unsuccessful. This was despite the February 16, 2006 European Parliament resolution condemning the destruction of Djulfa and calling on Azerbaijan to allow “a European parliament delegation to visit the archaeological site of Djulfa.”

      O’Hara told this author that no party but himself is to blame for this year’s postponement which was “entirely due to domestic commitments.” This explanation is different from last year’s cancellation, which as The Art Newspaper (London) reported in June 2006, was due to Azerbaijan’s refusal to allow ten delegates to enter its territory.

      Meantime, there has been no reaction towards claims by Azeri officials and nationalist historians that the cemetery did not exist or was not Armenian. Foreign diplomats and organizations with presence in Baku have also been quiet toward Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian activities. Former Norwegian Ambassador Steinar Gil, who publicized a case of vandalism at an Armenian church in central Azerbaijan, remains the only exception.

      Thomas de Waal, an expert on Armenian-Azerbaijani relations says that “foreign investors and diplomats in Azerbaijan are very sensitive towards anything that touches on the Armenian-Azerbaijani issue and the peace process and are therefore very timid about raising the issue of the destruction of cultural monuments.”


      Azerbaijan’s continuing military build-up and threats to launch a new war to win control over Nagorno Karabakh add on to the concern for the peace process. But Human Rights Watch has also blamed the West, especially the United States, for trading human rights for oil in Azerbaijan for inaction to condemn broad range of human rights violations.

      The U.S. State Department did not react on the Djulfa vandalism until pressed for comment. Following a congressional hearing on February 16, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a written response to Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) acknowledging U.S. awareness of “allegations of desecration of cultural monuments” and urged Azerbaijan to “take appropriate measures to prevent any desecration of cultural monuments.” She also said the U.S. has “encouraged Armenia and Azerbaijan to work with UNESCO to investigate the incident.”

      During a visit to Armenia in March 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza called the destruction a “tragedy.” He said: “it’s awful what happened in Djulfa. But the United States cannot take steps to stop it as it is happening on foreign soil. We continually raise this issue at meetings with Azeri officials. We are hopeful that the guilty will justly be punished.”

      Later that month, Bryza’s State Department manager, Assistant Secretary Dan Fried, told the Armenian Assembly of America conference in Washington that he “would be happy to raise issues of Armenian historical sites” with Azerbaijani officials because respect and protection for cultural sites is “a universal policy of the United States.”

      And in her May 12, 2006 response to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), U.S. Ambassador-designate to Azerbaijan Anne Derse noted that the U.S. is “urging the relevant Azerbaijani authorities to investigate the allegations of desecration of cultural monuments in Nakhichevan. If I am confirmed, and if such issues arise during my tenure, I will communicate our concerns to the Government of Azerbaijan and pursue appropriate activities in support of U.S. interests.”


      The destruction of Djulfa, nonetheless, did not make it into the State Department’s 2006 International Religious Freedom Report on Azerbaijan released on September 15, 2006. The report only repeated the previous years’ language that “all Armenian churches, many of which were damaged in ethnic riots that took place more than a decade ago, remained closed.”

      Likewise, the report failed to notice the words of the Norwegian Ambassador that a church in the village of Nizh was in early 2006 “restored” with Armenian lettering eliminated from its walls and nearby tombstones. That “restoration” was part of the Azerbaijan’s effort to present the Armenian cultural heritage on its territory as “Albanian” – that is belonging to a culture that became extinct hundreds of years ago – and therefore not Armenian.


      The most detailed outsider’s account of Nakhichevan’s Armenian heritage remains that of Steven Sim, a Scottish architect who visited the area in the summer of 2005. During his visit he found no trace of a single medieval Armenian church he had travelled to research, with local interlocutors denying there were any churches there in the first place.

      Still, while traveling along the border with Iran, Sim did manage to see the Djulfa khachkars from his train before the hand-crafted stones were erased from the face of the Earth in less than half a year.

      More than 350 years ago before Sim’s visit, a foreign traveller to Djulfa had estimated 10,000 khachkars in the cemetery. By 1998, less than seven decades after a Soviet agreement with Turkey placed Nakhichevan under Azerbaijan, there were only 2,000 khachkars remaining while the entire Armenian population had disappeared.

      According to eyewitness reports cited by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Azeri authorities made efforts to destroy much of the Djulfa cemetery in 1998 and again in 2002. Describing what he saw in Djulfa in August 2005, Sim reported “what I saw was real savageness, but I cannot say that they did not leave anything, since there are still lying khachkars.”

      Four months later, on December 15, 2005, Russia’s Regnum News Agency was the first international outlet to quote reports of approximately “100 Azerbaijani servicemen penetrate[ing] the Armenian cemetery near Nakhichevan… using sledgehammers and other tools… to crush Armenian graves and crosses.”

      This final stage of destruction, which also amounted to desecration of Armenian remains underneath the burial monuments, had reportedly started on December 14 and lasted for three days, leaving no trace of a single khachkar.

      An Armenian film crew in northern Iran, from where the cemetery was visible, had videotaped dozens of men in uniform hacking away at the khachkars with sledgehammers, using a crane to remove some of the largest stones from the ground, breaking the stones into small pieces, and dumping them into the River Araxes using a heavy truck.

      Nevertheless, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev told the Associated Press that the reports of the destruction are “an absolute lie, slanderous information, a provocation.”

      By March 2006, photographs of the cemetery site showed that it had been turned into an army shooting range. An Azerbaijani journalist who visited the area on behalf of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting in April 2006 similarly found no traces of the cemetery left.

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