Archive for October, 2008

International Group Adopts Djulfa Resolution

ICOMOS has passed a resolution on the destruction of the Djulfa cemetery. Visit the Djulfa blog for more details.

Official Azerbaijan Denies Army Video

Two disturbing videos of Azerbaijani soldiers slapping fellow servants or each other (at least one of them seems to be a game) have been posted on According to the Russian-language (, a spokesperson of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense has denied the reality of the army game in the videos as a “provocation.” According to the official, nonetheless, the government is open to other “real facts and proofs” about the game. Apparently, videos don’t qualify as such.

Turkey: Genocide Memorials

While there is no single designated mass grave of Armenians in the Republic of Turkey, there are dozens of monuments, streets, and even schools honoring the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.

Some time ago I reflected on the fate of genocide-honoring monuments in Turkey in the aftermath of a possible Turkish recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Now, a long but interesting article in Londoon Review of Books – brought to my attention by fellow blogger Raffi Kojian – details some genocide memorials in Turkey.


Finally, there is the Armenian genocide, its authors honoured in streets and schools across the country, whose names celebrate the murderers. Talat: a boulevard in Ankara, four avenues in Istanbul, a highway in Edirne, three municipal districts, four primary schools. Enver: three avenues in Istanbul, two in Izmir, three in occupied Cyprus, primary schools in Izmir, Mugla, Elazig. Cemal Azmi, responsible for the deaths of thousands in Trabzon: a primary school in that city. Resit Bey, the butcher of Diyarbekir: a boulevard in Ankara. Mehmet Kemal, hanged for his atrocities: thoroughfares in Istanbul and Izmir, statues in Adana and Izmir, National Hero Memorial gravestone in Istanbul. As if in Germany squares, streets and kindergarten were called after Himmler, Heydrich, Eichmann, without anyone raising an eyebrow. Books extolling Talat, Enver and Sakir roll off the presses, in greater numbers than ever. Nor is all this merely a legacy of a Kemalist past. The Islamists have continued the same tradition into the present. If Talat’s catafalque was borne by armoured train from the Third Reich for burial with full honours by Inönü in 1943, it was Demirel who brought Enver’s remains back from Tajikistan in 1996, and reburied them in person at a state ceremony in Istanbul. Beside him, as the cask was lowered into the ground, stood the West’s favourite Muslim moderate: Abdullah Gul, now AKP president of Turkey.


The rest of the article is an interesting read.

US: Armenian Newspaper Gets New Website

The Armenian Reporter has a new website. So far, this seems to be the only well-designed website for any of the U.S.-based Armenian newspapers. Hopefully, this website will start a competition and we will see improvements among other newspapers.

Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation

Thursday morning I had my first guest lecture – through videoconference – for an Anthropology class on Truth and Reconciliation at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). My topic was the Armenian Genocide, and what are the prospects for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.

Thursday afternoon, I received an e-mail from a young Turkish woman from Scotland. She wrote:



i stumbled across your blog and just wanted to thank you. i am a turkish girl studying in scotland, my mother and our family come from malatya. my grandfather is an apricot farmer. well, he used to be. he is a very old man now. he has been saying for a few years now that he won’t be seeing very many more springs come into bloom. i’ve read a few of posts (i will sit down and devour more, i am actually meant to be writing a paper at the moment) the Hasan Cemal one really hit a nerve.
my mother knew Hrant Dink. when he use to phone her, he use to call her “Toprağım” (my earth/my land).
i’ve never seen her mourn the way she did when he was murdered.
i am not in the habit of writing such strangely emotional emails.
i am trying and not really succeeding, i am not entirely sure why i am crying in front of my laptop, for what it is worth in it’s own little way – i am sorry. i feel that your blog and the insight and information it provides is wonderful and do keep up the good work.

Thank you.


This e-mail brought smile to my face. The hours I had spent preparing my lecture was not worthless. Armenian-Turkish reconciliation is not only possible, but it is happening right now on some personal levels.


Anyway, here are a few excerpts from my 10-page (double spaced) talk this morning which was followed by questions from IUPUI students.




I have no records of a family tree that goes back before 1915 even though the world’s oldest map that we know shows Armenia as one of the few countries known to the ancient Babylonians. Naturally, I was brought up to hate those who committed the genocide. But, as a child, I was also taught of a kind Turkish woman who saved my father’s grandmother during the genocide and kept her as her own daughter for eight years.


I am alive because a Turkish woman helped my great-grandmother escape a Turkish massacre in 1915. So, naturally, the seeds to reconciliation between Armenians and Turks are to be found in harsh history itself.


(Later I reviewed the history of the Armenian Genocide and what has happened in the last 90 years in the conflict.) 


As some of you may know, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul visited Armenia last month to watch a soccer match together. Referred to as “soccer diplomacy,” this move was initiated by Armenia’s new and perhaps undemocratically elected president Serzh Sargsyan. Both presidents took huge risks by attending this unprecedented and historic event, and many people hoped this could be the start of a better future.


Today’s Armenia is a small, landlocked country with a decreasing population and a sad history. It’s most advanced neighbor, Turkey, has committed a genocide that it say never took place. If Turkey opens the border, Armenia could have access to open markets and business would benefit Armenia. But many Armenians, especially Armenians in the Diaspora, feel that Turkey must recognize the Armenian Genocide before Turkey and Armenia can become friends. And many Turks, think that Armenia should destroy its Genocide Memorial and forget history before Turkey should open the border.


Surprisingly, the leadership of the Republic of Armenia and Turkey seem to be open to change – openly supported by the West. Last month’s “soccer diplomacy” is a good public image for Turkey and a real economic opportunity for Armenia, but the question that haunts us is whether reconciliation or truth comes first. Will an unconditional reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey move Turks to recognize the Genocide? Does Armenia have the right to reconcile with Turkey without the Diaspora’s concern? Who is the Armenian Diaspora? Who speaks for the Diaspora? Nationalist leaders or people who spend money to their families in Armenia every month?


And, finally, what is it that will make Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide? What if Turkey doesn’t democratize for another 90 years.


These are questions with no satisfying or simple answers, but questions that raise the underlying issue of justice. Perhaps if Turkey is not ready to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it can start protecting and renovating Armenian sacred sites – cathedrals and cemeteries – places of memory that are the only proof that a historic Armenia once existed in what is today Turkey. Perhaps the Armenian Diaspora can establish more ties with progressive people in Turkey and tell them that even though we will never forget the Armenian Genocide, we will also never forget the kindness of those Turks who helped us during the Genocide. The path to reconciliation is impossible without acknowledging the past, but admitting realities can start with little things such as accepting that Armenians and Turks are human beings who have lived together for hundreds of years, that we both share values of justice, fairness, hospitality and family. That no matter how hard we try, we will never stop being neighbors.  


I am an optimist, and I think Armenians and Turks will one day see some part of themselves in each others’ eyes.

Their Big Armenian Wedding

There are a lot of stories of romantic heroism and good chapters in Armenia’s long history, but for some reason fun historical events rarely record in recent years. But this one is the exception.

Seven hundred couples from all over Nagorno-Karabakh were married during two separate ceremonies on October 16.


After the marriage rites, the couples celebrated, dancing and singing, at the stadium in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian pop stars held a gala concert for the newlywed couples later in the evening. A spectacular fireworks show followed.

Wedding certificates for the 700 couples were passed out during the evening’s celebrations. Leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh, along with guests from Armenia and the diaspora also took part in the daylong celebrations.

This unprecedented event was made possible by Russian-Armenian entrepreneur Levon Hairapetian, a native of Artsakh. Mr. Hairapetian presented each couple with a gift of $2,000 and a cow. He has also promised to bestow a monetary gift upon each child born to the couples. He has pledged to give the first child born to each new couple $2,000; the second child, $3,000; the third child, $5,000 – and for the more adventuresome – upon the birth of a seventh child, a gift of $100,000 to the couple.

In a world where donations are the right thing to do, benefactors almost always work through foundations only. I think Mr. Hairapetian’s direct investment in Armenian families is a better idea than millions of dollars sent by Armenian-Americans to Armenia’s government.

Cut the red tape. Help the people. Hope this program will grow and Armenian benefactors will join Mr. Hairapetian and pledge to help 10,000 people get married (who wouldn’t otherwise because of the economy) by 2010.

The Atlantic: McCain’s Armenia Problem

The Atlantic has an article discussing overwhelming Armenian-American support for Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections.

Sarah Palin on Armenia

Alaska, America’s 49th state where the current Republican vice presidential nominee hails from, and Armenia, a country the Obama-Biden ticket is vibrantly supportive of, have something in common – they are both a heartbeat away from Russia.

As Armenian-Americans overwhelmingly support Obama in this presidential race, the McCain-Palin ticket is trying hard to reach even a few Americans of Armenian heritage.

The Republican ticket’s not-so-profound support for Armenian causes aside, one wonders about even the awareness of such issues in the ticket. Senator McCain, who has been to Armenia, is definetly aware of issues that concern Armenian-Americans. But what about Governor Palin? Does she even know if such a country exists?

According to The National, Sarah Palin does know at least one Armenian-American. Here is the latter’s story:


Andrée McLeod is shouting into the phone from a desk set up in her bedroom as I wait for her at a kitchen table annexed by stacks of paper. “She’s only powerful if you think she is! This right here, if it turns out to be true, is a bunch of bull****!”

It is because of McLeod, a lovably obstreperous woman of Armenian descent somewhere in her fifties, that the world knows of Governor Palin’s preference for Yahoo over .gov – one of the little details from Alaska that suggest uncomfortable parallels between the modus operandi of the Palin State House and the Bush White House, which also liked to transact government business on private e-mail accounts.

The stacks covering the table are the fruits of McLeod’s request for e-mails and phone calls between Palin and two aides, whom McLeod suspected of working in concert to oust the Alaska Republican Party chair, Randy Ruedrich – a violation of the state executive ethics code, which forbids conducting party business on state time. It might seem a venial sin – but it was also precisely the accusation Palin had earlier wielded to eject Ruedrich from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission– with the help of Andree McLeod herself.

McLeod emigrated from Beirut with her family in 1963, and moved to Alaska from Long Island thirty years ago. She was apolitical until 1995, when she spied an opportunity to earn money for grad school by operating a falafel cart in Anchorage. The town fathers squashed her plans, declaring fried chickpeas “potentially hazardous.” She took the fight to city hall, wound up running for mayor, and her local state house seat twice, losing the last time in a tight race that required a recount.

McLeod told me that she’d met Palin shortly after her own failed state house bid in 2002. They’d stuck up an unlikely friendship, the home-grown beauty queen and the cerebral but scrappy and energetic import. Palin complained to McLeod about Ruedrich’s penchant for doing party work from his office at the AOGCC, where Palin also served – appointed by Murkowski after her losing bid for Lt. Governor marked her as a “comer” in the state party. McLeod got tired of Sarah’s ceaseless complaints and told her to do something about it already.

“She didn’t know how to go about it,” McLeod says. “I would guide. So that reporters would ask her, but there was a role I played in the background, making sure all the information was correct. But she did the exact same thing she accused Randy of doing. Had I known that I wouldn’t have given her the time of day.”

The takedown of Randy Ruedrich was Palin’s first public scalping (of a fellow Republican, no less) and it helped cast her as a dogged reformer.

“It’s true, Andrée’s almost responsible for creating Sarah Palin,” Rick Rydell, an Anchorage talk radio host and 2004 Alaska Republican Man of the Year, tells me over sushi a few days later. Rydell has just finished his show, which airs weekdays from six to nine in the morning. His Harley is parked out front and we’re sampling some hijiki and gyoza, talking about the Palinistas – his disparaging moniker for those still “drinking the kool-aid.”

McCain’s Letter on Armenia

U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain has sent a letter to Armenian-American groups. Senator McCain’s letter is available at

No Clash of Civilizations in Kosovo Vote

Europe’s only Muslim nation for some, and a secessionist region for others, Kosovo’s bid for recognition of its independence raises many questions with no answers. The question that has interested most of the world is – what precedent does Kosovo set for the rest of the world?

If one believes in the domino effect, Kosovo’s independence may see a boom in more states. But even as some European Union members don’t recognize Kosovo, one wonders if that “domino effect” is boom of self-declared republics recognized by some and unrecognized by others (such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia).

Whatever the case, Hungtington’s clash of civilizations is one theory not working in Kosovo. There is not a clear-cut clash of Christianity and Islam in the conflict – not at least in the walls of the United Nations.

Kosovo, reportedly, is failing to get Islamic support in the face of a Serbian-sponsored United Nations resolution that will ask an international court to consider the legality of Kosovo’s claim to independence.


Ironically, despite the fact that around 90 percent of Kosovo’s two million people are Muslims, only six members of the 57-state Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have recognized its independence.
The day after the independence declaration, OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu issued a statement declaring “our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there.”
“There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and will further enhance joint Islamic action,” he said.
But at an OIC summit in Dakar, Senegal, less than a month later, OIC heads of state resisted an initiative led by Turkey and merely voiced “solidarity,” leaving recognition up to individual member states.
The only six to have taken the step so far are Turkey, Albania, Afghanistan, Burkino Faso, Sierra Leone and Senegal.
Analysts attribute the Islamic states’ unwillingness to support Kosovo to a reluctance to anger Russia, Serbia’s historical ally, which strongly opposed the independence move.


While Russia might have influenced such behavior (although we should be observant of conventional anti-Russian explanation lately), the idea of “territorial integrity” is crashing Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” in international relations. Azerbaijan, for one, won’t support Kosovo due to the fear of the “domino effect” on Nagorno-Karabakh, the breakaway Armenian region. What is the future of unrecognized states?