Archive for July, 2008


Blogian may not be updated until after August 5.

Meet the Kardashians in Las Vegas

I received the following e-mail from my friend Ani in Las Vegas:

So I went to the bookstore this morning and the nice lady, who took my transaction, noticed on my ID that my last name ends in YAN and the first thing she says to me was ” are you Armenian?” and before I have a chance to reply “yes I am, and you?” she says ” oh just like the Kardashians!!!!”
I told her that we don’t claim them. I was afraid that this day would eventually come; we as people are now recognized for a big ass and a sex tape. :-{

Turkey: Hidden Armenians Suffer in Tokat

Genocided, Islamized, assimilated, and few – Tokat’s handful of hidden Armenians in this northern city of Turkey still face institutionalized and societal discrimination. Local Turks don’t give them daughters to marry, and the local government doesn’t give them jobs to work. The only Armenian monument, a cemetery, is full of garbage and human waste left by its usual visitors – vandals looking for gold.

Amberin Zaman, Turkey’s reporter for The Economist, has published a column in the Turkish-language Taraf  (July 10, 2008) detailing what she saw in a town once rich of Armenian life and culture. In her own words (translated by Amberin Zaman):

Recently I was in in Tokat, known as the breadbasket of Turkey and for its lush green vegetation. Tokat has been a city with a significant Armenian population, especially before 1915. […] Armenians living in the sancak of Tokat numbered 22, 733. There were seven Armenian churches and a monastery. Between 1910 and 1912, the magazine Iris was published first as a weekly, and later as a monthly newspaper. There were Armenians here, even if not that many, up until the 1960s. [According to the Dictionary of Toponymy of Armenia and Adjacent Territories, there were 400 Armenians in the 1930s and 40s – Blogian.] But today it is almost impossible to find traces of them. Their churches, houses, and schools have all been destroyed. Those who have remained are trying to continue their lives under the Muslim identity. But of course everyone knows they are Armenians.

The “secret” Armenians of Tokat, whose numbers are not known, are having problems. One man caught between his two identities who spoke to us on the condition that we not give his name said that the biggest problem was trying to find girls for their sons. “The Turks gladly take our daughters,” he said, “so our girls are very lucky.” But there is no one for our sons, because Muslims don’t give their daughters to Armenians.” (According to widespread interpretation in Islam, while it is fine to take on a non-Muslim girl, the same is not true of boys.) When we asked whether the boys could find Armenian girls to marry, the man shook his head. The reason is that Armenians, in a very modern practice, do not allow intermarriage to families of relatives going back seven generations. “Because our numbers are so small, we are all related in one way or another, so there are no eligible girls.” That being the case, the boys tend to migrate from Tokat, while the girls become assimilated.

Another problem that has cropped up in recent years is that Armenian residents can no longer get work from the municipality. While in the past the Armenians, who have been forced to work in the handcraft professions, had been able to get contract work from the municipal authorities, they complain that they have not been able to get work since the AKP came to power in Tokat. “They only give work to their own kind,” one said bitterly. Although we were unable to look into this further or confirm it with non-Armenians, there is one shame of the AKP municipality in Tokat that is clear for all to see.

The condition of the Armenian cemetery, the last remaining evidence of the existence of Armenians here, is a complete disaster. As soon as you go through the open, rusted door, you come across human waste, broken beer bottles, and all kinds of garbage. The condition of the graves, which we documented on film, is heart-wrenching. Most of them have been swallowed up by grass, while many of the gravestones that are visible are broken. Some of the headstones have been completely destroyed.

“People still come here to look for gold,” said Muharrem Erkan, a Tokat tour guide and one of the local directors of the Pir Sultan Abdal Association.

We didn’t get a chance to find out who is legally responsible for upkeep of the cemetery ? the Armenian Foundations? the municipality? — or what the laws and regulations say about this. But in fact that’s not what is important. Even non-practicing Muslims know that one of the fundamental principles of Islam is to show tolerance toward other religions. Tokat’s AKP Mayor, Adnan Cicek, needs to correct this human disgrace. He needs to get a lock for the gate, paint it, clean out the garbage, trim the grass, and for God’s sake plant a few trees and flowers there. We know that Mr. Cicek, who was deemed worthy of the title of Mayor of the Year, can succeed in getting this done, especially since the rest of the town is beautifully kept and perfectly orderly. It’s too late for those who have died, of course, but let us at least show respect to those of our Armenian citizens who remain here. NOW! PLEASE!


The Price of Djulfa

I am one of the few people on Earth who accept the following news with sorrow: UNESCO has listed three ancient and beautiful Armenian monasteries in the territory of Iran on its World Heritage List.

While I am happy to see Armenian culture getting appreciated and Iran’s tolerance of Armenian Christianity being noted, I hate the fact that I read more behind these simple lines than most people would:


[These churches] are the last regional remains of this culture that are still in a satisfactory state of integrity and authenticity.


One of these churches is part of the ancient Armenian city of Jugha (Djulfa), much of which today exists in the region of Nakhichevan, Republic of Azerbaijan. In September 2007, when UNESCO officials visited northern Iran to survey the Armenian monuments, they were shown a military rifle range across the border in Azerbaijan. That rifle range, until December 2005, housed the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery – Djulfa.

UNESCO did nothing to stop or condemn the final destruction of Djulfa. Now UNESCO lists these churches in a silent acknowledgment that the world’s largest Armenian historic site was erased, and in an indirect suggestion to forget about the tragedy.

Instead of listing these three different churches as one protected site, UNESCO should have listed the church at old Djulfa as part of a larger UNESCO site (like they did in 2003 with the Bamiyan valley after the Buddhas were destroyed in 2001) – including that rifle range which was a cemetery only a couple of years ago.

Armenia: Head of OVIR Fired (Congrats to Diasporans)

In a surprising move, one of Armenia’s strongest women officials has been fired for corruption allegations.

Alvina Zakaryan is a member of the so-called Karabakh clan (like the current president). Her agency, the Department of Passports and Visas at the Armenian Police (commonly known as OVIR), is widely considered to be Armenia’s most openly corrupt agency.

While firing Zakaryan is quite cosmetic – OVIR was really damaging Armenia’s image – it is interesting to see how the “fight against corruption” will continue in Armenia.

Turkish Censorship Getting More Coverage

Last month The Southern Poverty Law Center, a few days ago Inside Higher Ed, and now The Washington Post have stories about the ultimate firing of an American scholar by the Turkish government for changing his views from denying to admitting the Armenian Genocide.

What is quite interesting in this growing media coverage is a lesser-known mention of the firing by cartoonist Murad “Holdwater” Gumen at his hatesite. Back in October 2007, while mocking another piece by Inside Higher Ed on genocide denial, Gumen mentioned the following to demonstrate, according to Gumen, Turkey’s tolerance of academic diversity:

“As another example to demonstrate that the ITS [Institute of Turkish Studies] is out of the clutches of the Turkish government, not long ago its chairman was Donald Quataert, one of the 69 scholars who had signed the 1985 advertisement signifying there was no genocide. Quataert has since revised his views; one must suspect the historian has found striking new genocide evidence in order to have performed his 180 degree turnaround. From the bits and pieces I have gathered, an academician, whom I’m sure has no ties to the Turkish government, pointed out this oddity to some higher-ups, wondering why a ‘genocide advocate’ should be in charge of the ITS, and as a result, Donald Quataert was replaced.”

While the Turkish Ambassador, as quoted in the Washington Post, denies any personal or official involvement in the de facto firing, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Quataert lost his position due to his stance on the Armenian Genocide. But who are the “higher-ups” that Gumen mentions is interesting to find out. If Quataert was the chairman, who was “higher” than him in ITS?

PBS Great War Documentary on the Armenian Genocide

PBS has a series on WWI, called “The Great War.” One of the historians of the program has this to say about the Armenian Genocide: 

“The presence in the northeast of the country of a thriving cultured and relatively wealthy community of Armenians was a difficulty to Turks long before the First World War.

“It became a political and strategic threat when the war broke out because of the place of Armenians in the Russian Empire. However, most Armenians, two million of them living in the Turkish Empire, were no threat whatsoever.

“In many ways, it shows that the old idea that war is politics by other means is outdated in the 20th century. War is hatred by other means. And in this case, hatred means extermination. The First World War was the biggest war ever to date. The Second World War was bigger still. It’s not accident on my mind that both of them were marked by genocide. This is the logic of the brutalization of total war.”

Azerbaijan: European Delegation Refused Djulfa Investigation

When, in February 2006, the European Parliament officially condemned Azerbaijan’s December 2005 deliberate destruction of the world’s largest Armenian medieval cemetery – Djulfa – the Azeri authorities denied European delegations’ visit to the site.


Azerbaijan, which still claims Djulfa was never destroyed because it didn’t exist in the first place, then said that it would only agree to the visit IF the delegation visited Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan (which is impossible since Nagorno-Karabakh is in a technical war with Azerbaijan and the only real way to visit Nagorno-Karabakh is from Armenia).


In an apparent desperation in the face of Azerbaijan’s continuous tricks to keep the delegation out of Djulfa, Edward O’Hara  – head of the PACE Committee on Culture, Science and Education – has now suggested to drop the idea of visiting all countries at the same time and instead start off by visiting Azerbaijan first.


Azerbaijan’s response? NO WAY JOSE! Read the rest of the post at the Djulfa Blog.