Archive for October, 2007

Those Employed to Guard Ani are Destroying It

Disturbing photographs and documentation of recent desecrations in Ani, western Armenia, as observed by Steven Sim.



Those Employed to Guard Ani are Destroying Ani

During the 1980s and 1990s, when the whole site of Ani was under the full control of the Turkish Army, very little damage was done to the remains as a result of the activities of treasure hunters. This was in marked contrast to most other archaeological sites in Turkey.

In 2004, as a result of a decision made by the Turkish Ministry of Defence, the responsibility for the day-to-day control of the Ani archaeological site was passed from the Turkish Army to the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The immediate effect of this was that it was now possible to travel to Ani without needing a permit, photography within the site was now permitted, and only a token number of soldiers would now patrol the site.

Part of the conditions set by the Turkish army before allowing this hand-over was that civilian guards had to be appointed to supervise the site and replace the duties previously performed by the soldiers. These guards are not actually employees of the Ministry of Culture because the task of guarding Ani was subcontracted to a Kars-based business.

All the guards are inhabitants of Ocakli village, located just outside Ani’s walls. At night they use their position of authority to roam the ruins at will, digging anywhere they think may contain treasure. The following photographs document some of the damage they have done. All of this destruction took place between August 2006 and August 2007.

Photographic Evidence

It is probable that considerably more damage has been done to the remains than is depicted here. In many cases the evidence is located in little-visited parts of Ani and would be be noticeable when actually walked over.

In 2002 and 2003, French archaeologists from the Sorbonne excavated a series of structures located beside the west façade of the cathedral. A row of three chambers was uncovered. At the southern end of the row is a chamber open to the south. Inside it is a grave that may have been that of Queen Katranide who had the cathedral completed. The archaeologists excavated the contents of the grave, but no human remains were found. Treasure hunters have now dug out the entire contents of the grave.

To the north of the Katranide tomb is a small chapel, then there is a rectangular chamber that contains a row of six gravestones, two of which have inscriptions on them. Because of the significance of the location, in the shadow of the cathedral, it is probable that only Ani’s most important personages would have been interred there. The above photograph shows the chamber in 2006.

The above photograph shows the same view in 2007.

The broken gravestone and the upturned gravestone were the two stones that had inscriptions in Armenian on them.

On the floor of the apse of the cathedral, an area of disturbed ground indicates the spot where the Ani guards had dug a large hole in their quest for treasure.

The photographs above show a series of sarcophagus-like structures, almost certainly graves, located near the Church of St. Gregory of the Abughamirs. Between 2006 and 2007 their contents were dug out, then roughly filled in again.

This photograph was taken inside the Church of Tigran Honents. Several large gravestones set into the floor in front of the apse have been moved and the ground beneath them has been dug up.

Inside the north-west corner of the Tigran Honents church. The medieval floor paving has been pulled up to allow the digging of a hole, and has then been roughly re-laid.

This part of Ani is located to the east of the cathedral and overlooks the Tigran Honents church. It contains the site of a medieval cemetery. Several of the graves have been dug up, and gravestones and capping slabs have been broken.

Human bones are visible inside one of the desecrated graves.

Aliyev “Warns” Armenia

No, I didn’t Google to find the worst possible photograph of Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president who is now warning Armenia with a war if Armenia fails to return Karabakh that the Soviet Leadership had annexed from Armenia to Azerbaijan in the early 1920s.

This photo is from the Armenia Liberty article that talks about Aliyev’s threats:

Azerbaijan will increase its defense spending by nearly one third next year to build up its strength in a long-running territorial dispute with Armenia, President Ilham Aliev said on Monday.

He told a government meeting that the military budget will grow by $300 million to $1.3 billion in 2008.

“The country will allocate funds to buy new hardware, weapons and ammunition, to create a powerful military-industrial complex and improve the professionalism of the military,” Aliev said. “We are creating a powerful army.”

The message of the 45-year-old president was primarily targeted at Armenia, the main backer of Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The insincere behavior of Armenian occupation forces, dragging out the negotiation process, forces us to devote greater attention to military issues,” Aliev said. “Azerbaijan must be ready to liberate its lands by any means.”


Just Pretend It Never Happened (Cartoon)

Here is an interesting cartoon from the Fresno Bee via the Armenian Assembly of America. Click ON THIS LINK to see the entire cartoon.

The Burning Ghosts of the Ancient Cemetery

Here is a true ghost story for Halloween, based on facts and a bit of superstition…

On a cold December day soldiers in the Djulfa region of a remote area in the mountainous region of the Caucasus were told they had to travel to the Iranian border where an old cemetery of their enemy existed. 

When the Muslim soldiers said they were not going to walk in the cold just to see an old Christian cemetery of their enemies, the head of the Djulfa army said, “You will be the last people to see the cemetery; don’t worry.”

As the soldiers reached the remote cemetery, they were given sledgehammers and told to smash every single gravestone to dust. It was December 14, 2005. They had to come beck the next day, because there were too many graves there.

On their second visit to the cemetery soldiers saw some men in the Iranian border taping what they were doing. The soldiers were reluctant to continue, and although some didn’t touch one gravestone, most of them followed the orders and there was no more cemetery left in the next few days.

When the police chief of Djulfa, Asif Guliyev, read in newspapers that their enemies had videotaped the destruction of the cemetery and showed it to the world, he got angry at the reports.  He had given approval for the destruction of the cemetery and had promised to cover it up.

On the night of December 24, 2005, Guliyev – a Muslim – could not sleep. He knew it was the day for a Christian holiday, and he was fearful that the ghosts of the Christian cemetery destroyed in his region wound hunt him.  This was because his grandfather had told him that if anyone touched the graveyard of any person they would die.  And the gravestones in this case that had been destroyed were not of one person – but of about 10,000 medieval Armenians.

Guliyev heard knocks on his door.  He reluctantly opened the door and saw a thousand white spirits looking at him with blood dropping from their eyes as tears. He shook his head up and the ghosts had disappeared.

The next day Guliyev saw the same dream, and also someone who might have been the prophet Muhammed telling Guliyev he should arrest those who destroyed the cemetery. But instead, Guliyev decided to leave his region for a vacation to the city of Nakhichevan with a friend visiting from Baku.

TREND news agency tells the rest:

In the night for 8 January [2006] the head of the Djulfa district police department Asif Guliyev and his family members died at the result of the fire which had broken out in his apartment in Nakhchevan, the press service of the Interior Ministry told Trend.

The cause of the fire was malfunction in the “Aygaz” type heater in the apartment of the people died. After the fire had been distinguished the corpses of Guliyev, his wife and two daughters, as well as the Baku resident Faig Imanguliyev have been found.   

Whether “Aygaz” (an Armenian male’s name otherwise spelled as Haygaz) or any of the 10,000 Armenian ghosts of the Djulfa cemetery had killed Guliyev was not known.  But since his bosses and no one in his country were going to punish him or be punished for the destruction, people say that he burnt his apartment down after being visited by the Djulfa ghosts every single day.

And it is said that whoever reads this story and denies or glorifies the destruction of Djulfa will be visited by the ghosts of the ancient cemetery who are roaming across the world to find a place where they can rest with no fear of being disturbed again.

Time for Oakland to Put Pastor Byron Williams Back to Order

I wasn’t even considering to post this unoriginal Huffington Post entry on the Armenian Genocide resolution, that echoes the State Department’s official guidelines in denying recognition for the Armenian Genocide, until I saw at the buttom of the post that the author was a pastor!

It is always great to see a pastor-blogger, but it also surprises to see a pastor who doesn’t dear truth as dear as Jesus, or in fact any other founder of a religion, would.  After openly talking about the Armenian Genocide without denying it, the pastor-blogger goes ahead to the tale that State Department and the administration have been telling in the last ten days.

Like its predecessors, the Bush administration, opposes the measure, calling it an insult to a key ally. Moreover, strategic reasons also play into the president’s thinking, as an estimated 70 percent of U.S. military cargo bound for Iraq goes through Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

“Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that is providing vital support for our military every day,” the president opined at a press conference last week.

The president is absolutely right!

[…] However important it may be to publicly acknowledge Armenian genocide, it is more important that we put our own house in order now.

However important it is for Pastor Byron Williams to practice his freedom of speech, it is more important that folks in Oakland put their Pastor back to order – perhaps a theology school where Christianity’s core value – TRUTH – and not genocide denial for political gains is a priority.


10 Years for Hate Crime

I am reading at Today’s Zaman that the 17-year-old ultra-nationalist Turk who killed Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink was given about 10 year sentence recently. I remember the court hearings of the several weeks ago but for some reason I don’t recall anything about the actual sentence.

I feel like I missed the news of the sentence. Anyhow, if I am not mistaken the underage murderer could have received up to 18-years of jail time, but apparently killing an Armenian in Turkey in an act of hate is not the worst type of killing.

Oh, and by the way. The Turkish Ambassador who left Washington for “consultations” is back from Ankara. That’s one day less from the anticipated 10-day absence. 

Oh, and here is an excellent coverage of recent blogenocide by Onnik Krikorian.  

17 Turks > 32 Kurds + 1.5 Million Armenians

In case you missed, the news that Kurdish rebells have killed 17 or so Turkish soldiers has made world headlines. 

But the fact that, according to the same sources, “Turkey’s military general staff said 32 rebels were killed in continuing clashes in the southeast” doesn’t make headlines such as “32 Kurdish rebells killed.”

It’s the Turkish soldiers who we care about, because “Turkey’s tougher stance has helped propel global oil prices to record highs over the past week.”

And for that reason, perhaps, America’s president Bush “strongly condemns the violent attacks in Hakkari Province and extends his condolences to the families who lost loved ones and to all the people of Turkey.”  

But when it comes to extending his condolences to all the Armenian people for the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, Mr. Bush… “HEY, the gas prices are rising I have to run.”

So yes, 17 Turkish soldiers are worth more than 32 Kurdish rebells and 1.5 million Armenian civilians. 

Thanks to our reader Ani for bringing the news item to our attention.

Armenia PM: “I don’t think Turks will invade Armenia”

In a recent interview to the Los Angeles Times, visiting Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan said he doesnt think “Turks will invade Armenia” if the United States House of Representatives passes a symbolic resolution calling the Armenian Genocide as such.

The Genocide and the Jews of Boston

An interesting article in The New York Times about the Armenian Genocide and some Jewish communities of the East summs up the Foxman issue that wasn’t brought up to such a national level at the time of the heat a few months ago.

Our friends at are also quoted in the article. Click here to read the article.

The debate in this affluent Boston suburb, home to many Jews and Armenians, centered on a local program to increase awareness of bias. The issue was not the program itself, but its sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish advocacy group, which has taken a stand against a proposed Congressional resolution condemning the Armenians’ deaths as genocide.

“If you deny one genocide,” said Dr. Jack Nusan Porter, a child of Holocaust survivors and a genocide studies scholar who attended the meeting, “you deny all genocides.”

Can we discuss the Armenian question?

A wonderful article by a brave Turk in the Turkish Daily News

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Orhan Kemal Cengiz  There is a book on my bookcase which has been waiting for some time to be read. There is a picture on the cover of the book: Turkish and Armenian flags tied to each other. The name of the book is “The Truth Will Set Us Free” and it is written by George Jerijan, a British citizen of Armenian descent. While I was again considering reading the book I came across a newspaper article and I learned that the book had already been translated into Turkish and Mr. Ragıp Zarakoğlu, the owner of the Belge publishing house that translated and published the Turkish version of the book, is now being tried under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. This Thursday the directors of the weekly Armenian journal Agos were punished with one year of imprisonment under this article.

  What happened in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire cannot be discussed in Turkey freely. Either prosecution or “street violence” can interfere with any discussion on this matter at any time. We do not discuss it and we are very angry if foreigners discuss it too. Unfortunately an American resolution will not contribute to this “no discussion situation” in Turkey in any positive way. On the contrary, we will witness a sharp increase in xenophobia and ultra-nationalism, and we may witness some violent acts against non-Muslim minorities who have always been regarded as the “internal extension of external enemies.” I really hope the government is now taking the necessary security precautions to protect these vulnerable groups and make sure that they will not be harmed by any vandalism potentially perpetrated by ultranationalist groups in the wake of the passage of the Armenian genocide resolution in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress.

  Turkey is going to do everything in its power to stop the passage of this bill by the U.S. Congress. Every year we have the same “crisis.” This resolution appears on the agenda of the U.S. Congress and Turkey does whatever it can do stop the passage of this resolution and then we “achieve” to stop it. But no one discusses how we stop it. Do we convince the Americans that nothing like the genocide has happened in our history or is it stopped as a result of threats to American interests? How long can Turkey continue to “convince” Americans on this subject? What are we going to do with other countries that have already accepted similar resolutions in their parliaments and with those in the process of accepting them? How long can we continue this “I am not discussing it and I will not allow the discussion of this matter by anyone else!” attitude? Us versus the rest of the world! I am one of those people who believes that the discussion of and confrontation with our past is first and foremost necessary for our own “psychological health”! How long can Turkey continue with this total amnesia about some parts of its history? I think that the label, the name or qualification, of what had happened in history is not very important at the moment. Something terrible happened in these territories. When the topic arises we keep saying, “Armenian gangs attacked Ottoman forces, Armenians were about to break up some parts of the country, they killed Turkish people, they were in alliance with foreign forces,” but what else? Many things happened, there is no doubt about that. But what happened to the Armenians? Why do not we see any emotional reaction to what happened to the Armenians? We are a nation that pays respect even to its enemies who tried to invade this country. We have monuments to the memory of Australian and New Zealander soldiers who lost their lives trying to occupy our country. Why don’t we see anything built to the memory of the Armenians? Why don’t we witness any trace of sorrow or pain for Armenians who lost their lives in Anatolia? We are talking from our heads only and nothing comes out of our hearts! Is this possible? We, Turks and Armenians, lived together for hundreds of years side by side, we shared good and bad. How can we not feel anything for those people, for our old neighbors?

  Armenian reactions not healthy either

  On the other hand, I do not find Armenian reactions healthy either. I witnessed Armenians saying “Turks are not human beings.” I heard Armenians saying that “I cannot stand to see a Turkey on its feet.” I saw the hate in their eyes still burning! These are not healthy feelings either. Maybe they are thinking that if they do not keep their hate alive, Turkey one day will manage to convince the world that nothing happened. There are also Armenians who fight against racism towards Turks, who condemn the Armenian gentleman that sees Turks as “animals.” There are healthy, wise people on both sides and I believe they will create the future. I would like to finish this article with the remarkable comments of George Jerjian, whom I mentioned at the beginning. He says: “Armenians will need to overcome their high expectations of what Turkish recognition of the genocide will mean and, in turn, the Turks will need to overcome the serious limitations of their high school history syllabus. Reconciliation can only take place when truth and truce are declared. What happened cannot be undone, but we need not be prisoners of the past. The truth will set us- Armenian and Turk- free.”But, everything starts with courage, openness and loyalty to the truth. To be able to do this we need to discuss everything and we should be free to be able to that. Turkey should get rid of 301 and similar articles as soon as possible and Armenians should also get rid of their 301s. Then maybe, first with reason and after with our hearts we will really comprehend what happened! 

  * Orhan Kemal Cengiz can be contacted at [email protected]

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