Archive for November, 2007

Britannica Online on Djulfa Cemetery

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online has added my recent article on the destruction of Djulfa cemetery, published in History Today, in its “Related Articles” page on Azerbaijan available at and fully accessible to subscribers only.  The short summary of my article at Britannica is as follows:

Sacred Stones Silenced in Azerbaijan.

By: Maghakyan, Simon. History Today, Nov2007, Vol. 57 Issue 11, p4-5
The article discusses the destruction of Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan, Azerbajian. Cemeteries of memorial stones, known as khachkars, were allegedly destroyed by Azerbaijani troops as a reaction to war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabakh region. Azeri officials have denied destroying the stones and denied Armenians ever lived in the region. Reading Level (Lexile): 1700;

Those of you who can’t afford subscribing to Britannica or History Today to read the article, send me an e-mail and I will share it with you with the understanding that you won’t republish it. 

Djulfa Documentary Goes to Congress

According to

“Djugha” documentary about demolition of the ancient Armenian cemetery in Old Djugha (Nakhichevan) was circulated in the U.S. Congress. Expert in Armenian architecture Samvel Karapetian told a PanARMENIAN.Netreporter that 2000 copies of the film were distributed by the Organization of Armenian Architecture Studies in the Congress and Los Angeles basing NGOs.

Mr Karapetian informed that copies of the documentary will be shown in Armenian, Russian, English, French and Turkish in 2008. “The documentary made a deep impression. After the Strasbourg screening some MEPs condemned Azerbaijan’s barbarian policy,” he said.


With all due respect to the work of Samvel Karapetian and RAA in documenting destruction of Armenian heritage in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, the “Djugha” documentary I have seen is quite difficult to follow, unprofessional (it uses shoots from a Soviet-era movie about Shah Abas – Persian ruler who deported Armenians from Nakhichevan to Iran in the early 17th century) and somewhat racist (it ends with a western quote that basically says all that “Turks” do is destruction).

I would suggest to Armenian organizations not to distribute this unproductive documentary, although the part on the actual December 2005 destruction is moving, depressing and unfortunately very real.

The story of Djulfa’s silenced stones is too sacred and important to mis-tell it.  And, quite honestly, there is no professional film on Djulfa that I have seen that adequately tells the story.

Azerbaijan Ready for War (As Always)

The alarmist article by the Associated Press that Azerbaijan Defense Minister Hints at War (Nov 27, 2007) is somewhat surprising.

Image: Azeri scientist Kerim Kerimov’s artistic depiction of the possibly upcoming war between Armenia and Azerbaijan from his own website

The long-standing dispute over the Armenian-controlled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh could spark a new war if it remains unresolved, Azerbaijan’s defense minister said Tuesday.

“As long as Azerbaijani territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to 100 percent,” Safar Abiyev said during a meeting in Kazakhstan of defense chiefs from ex-Soviet republics.

His startlingly worded remark was a reminder that Azerbaijan has not ruled out use of force in recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territory that is also part of Azerbaijan have been controlled by Armenian and ethnic Armenian forces since a shaky 1994 cease-fire ended one of the bloodiest conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The six-year war killed 30,000 people and drove more than 1 million from their homes, including many of the region’s ethnic Azeris.

Azerbaijan and Armenia remain locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh despite more than a decade of coaxing from international mediators led by the United States, Russia and France to resolve the region’s status.

Gunfire breaks out regularly along the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and in the regions near Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian Defense Minister Mikhail Arutyunian said he sees no alternative to a peaceful settlement, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Surprising in a sense that anyone would be surprised from this conventional militant statement by official Azerbaijan. 

Three Azeris Die in Removal of Armenian Cemetery

According to Azerbaijani media, three Azeri workers died as the stone fence of an Armenian cemetery – underway for destruction – collapsed on them as they were “removing” it to clear the historic site for a commercial road.

During removal of a stone fence surrounding an old Armenian cemetery located behind the Odlar Yurdu University, three employees of the Bakielektrikshabaka OJSC ( Baku electricity network) were trapped in the ruins.

One victim aged 25 and 30 years old, was taken to the hospital and died, the other two are still in the hospital, according to a Trend correspondent reporting from the scene of the accident.

A road is being constructed through the Armenian cemetery. The area was fenced due to construction work.

The Narimanov District Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the reports and said an investigation has been launched into the case.

The above quoted info was originally posted at Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency’s website. After Hyelog reposted it, the Agency “updated” the story confirming all the three Azeris had died and removing previous references to the Armenian cemetery.  A Google news search of “Armenian cemetery” excerpts the original post of Trend’s report.

It would be evil to be pleased with the death of these employees who have families and are quite young. But one can’t help and wonder whether this is a mere coincidence. As the same Azerbaijani website reported, last year the head of Djulfa’s police was burnt along his family in less than a month after a hundred Azeri servicemen in his district reduced to dust the world’s largest Armenian cemetery.

Mentally Ill Forced to Vote in Armenia?

This is somewhat old news, but I just discovered for myself that patients in an Armenian mental institution were forced to vote for the ruling Republican party during the parliamentarian elections earlier in 2007.  Source: 168 Hours

According to the patients of the psychic institution of salt mine were made to vote for the 15th number of the proportional ballot, that is the Republican Party.

The citizen who provided this information is one of the relatives of the patients. The patient called him and said that the ballot-box was brought in, however the patients were not allowed to vote on their own and cast ballots in the boxes.

The nurse threatened the patients to give a shot if they vote on their own. Only after the alert call the patient, who made noise was allowed to vote alone.

But 15 others were made to vote for the 15th number in the ballot. After the alert several other patients were able to vote on their own.

Turkey: A Hidden Armenian No More

The story of Turkey’s hidden Armenians is not so hidden any longer as a groundbreaking book by a famed Turkish human-rights lawyer breaks the silence of her suppressed Armenian roots that she learned about at an adult age.

Amazon announces the date of the release of the English translation of “My Grandmother: A Memoir” – March 1, 2008:

When Fethiye Çetin was growing up in the small Turkish town of Maden, she knew her grandmother as a happy and universally respected Muslim housewife.

It would be decades before her grandmother told her the truth: that she was by birth a Christian and an Armenian, that her name was not Seher but Heranush, that most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915, that she, along with most of the women and children, had been sent on a death march.

She had been saved (and torn from her mother’s arms) by the Turkish gendarme captain who went on to adopt her. But she knew she still had family in America. Could Fethiye help her find her lost relations before she died?

There are an estimated two million Turks whose grandparents could tell them similar stories. But in a country that maintains the Armenian genocide never happened, such talk can be dangerous. In her heartwrenching memoir, Fethiye Çetin breaks the silence.

Sri Lanka Court Decide on Elephant Gift to Armenia

Sri Lanka’s government is eager to emigrate an elephant to the largest zoo in Armenia, but some activists say Armenia’s climate is not suited for the protected animal – a growing controversy that has landed in the highest court of the South Asian country.

10th birthday anniversary of elephant Grant at Yerevan's Zoo. 

Image: Hrantik (from Wikipedia) awaiting for a ruling by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court on whether he will be joined by a female partner in a controversial Yerevan Zoo

The Sunday Times Online informs that the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka will decide on the transfer in February of 2008.

An elephant has been taken to court, not just any court but the highest in the land, the Supreme Court. Asokamala, born and bred at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, has kicked up dust being in the centre of a controversy over whether she should be “exported” as a gift from Sri Lanka to Armenia.

While animal rights activists battle the authorities in the Supreme Court, in a fundamental rights case, Asokamala, oblivious to being in the eye of the storm is following her routine. Her fate will be decided in February next year.


He compares and contrasts Pinnawela to the elephant shed at Yerevan Zoo. One is like being under ‘house arrest’ and the other in ‘solitary confinement’. Although Asokamala was born in captivity she lives in an open area at Pinnawela, walking on grass under the blue skies with food such as kitul and kos leaves. Under house arrest, the detainee has all the comforts and facilities. But Yerevan will be solitary confinement with all its hardships, the harsh climate and a concrete box. It will be cold and dreary. What will be her fodder?

The Sunday Times understands that elephants need to walk and zoos are found to be unsuitable places for them as their foot pads get thick and crack if they don’t walk enough, and foot rot can set in, with snow aggravating the problem. Adds environmental lawyer Gunawardena: “Male elephants are loners but females are herders. So when they are isolated there could be deviant behaviour due to stress and this brings us back to the question of who ensures the maintenance and wellbeing of an animal as mandatorily required by CITES.”

Didn’t you see all the letters from the Armenian government denying all the allegations made here, Minister Lokuge asked The Sunday Times, while another official source who refused to be identified said that the first requirement for the export of an elephant was that the authority mandated under CITES in the recipient country must initially secure a CITES import permit for the animal.“All requirements have been checked out there,” was the answer of the official when The Sunday Times asked whether Asokamala would be able to bear the winter.

Refuting claims by animal rights activists that there was a confectioner involved in the deal to “gift” Asokamala to Armenia, Minister Lokuge went on to explain that they already have a bull elephant reported to be the offspring of an elephant gifted to Russia by Sri Lanka in the past. “That’s why they wanted a Sri Lanka elephant,” he said adding that talk of heavy winters were not true because the elephant would be living close to the Iranian border which was quite warm.

However, this what an internet search discloses as recorded by Wikipedia: “Winters (in Armenia) are quite cold with plenty of snow, with temperatures ranging between -5° and -10°C. Winter sports enthusiasts enjoy skiing down the hills of Tsakhkadzor, located thirty minutes outside Yerevan.” About the two elephant deaths in Armenia, the Minister claimed the Armenian authorities had said that the animals were killed during unrest in the country.


This is not the first time of an export of elephant controversy involving Armenia.  But others say Hrantik – a male elephant in the Yerevan Zoo of Armenia – needs to get laid.  A lobbying campaign by some activists calls on the Sri Lankan government not to send Asokamala to Hrantik. 

Armenia Sells Internal Organs of Azerbaijanis?

via Boratoglu’s December 23, 2007 post (I thought today was Nov 24, 2007), BayBak, an ultra-nationalist Azeri website operating in Iran,  says “Armenia sells internal organs of Azerbaiani captives.”

According to BayBak,

Regarding information given to Olaylar by MP Asim Mollazadeh, there are several facts those proves Armenians removed organs of Azerbaijani captives, mainly women’s during and after 1994s conflict.

It is under examination and new evidences will be found about this claim, MP added.

In the invasion of Karanbakh and nearby regions, many people were killed and many captured by Russian backed Armenian forces helping Armenian separatists to occupy Azerbaijani territories.

Boratoglu has also posted a cartoon by Azeri scientist Kerim Kerimov saying it is “photographic documents by my reverend friend Kerim Kerimov [that] show armenia holdings Azeri organism in its right hand.”

Make Armenia Stronger NOW!

My little niece in Armenia has never asked me for money. Today she did. Not for her though, but for Armenia.

Today is the 10th International Telethon of Armenia Fund, the organization that has been building roads and schools in Armenia and Karabakh.  The ongoing live broadcast is shown all over the world, and you can watch it online at

As a student and an immigrant family with financial problems, it is hard for us to donate money. In the last two years I have donated to Armenia Fund during their telethones about more than a quarter of my monthly salary.  But this year I was more than broke (have been using my credit card for a while), so we had to convince my Mom – who works less than me – to donate.

You don’t have to donate a lot of money. Even a $10 donation would make a difference. And if 10% of all daily Blogian readers did so that would be 70 times $10 = $700. 

You can either donate online at or call the toll-free number (from the United States)  1-800-888-8897.

One nation, one future.  If not you and if not now, then who and when?

Kars: Restoration of a Church or a Mosque?

After I shared the news of a famous Armenian church being restored in Turkey to be converted to a museum with an online group of Armenian-Turkish scholars and students, I received some upsetting account by a Turkish member of the listserv who was in Kars last week and is unhappy with the restoration work. Below is the entire e-mail:

Attached Image

Image: St. Apostles of Kars as seen in August of 2007 by a group of members; for more photos click here

Dear all,

I was in kars last week and I had the chance to see the restoration works. Unfortunately, as the church is being used as a mosque since 80’s, now the restoration work which is leading by general directory of vaqf (foundation) is going through a restoration of a mosque more than a church.

The municipality is not totally involved in to the restoration.

I m not an art historian, but the picture that I saw last week was terrible. Some of you may know that there were still some frescoes on the dome, but now unfortunately there are some Islamic paintings or figures instead of the frescoes.

I just wanted to inform you about the situation.


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