Archive for the 'Film' Category

Bloggers Commemorate Djulfa’s Third Anniversary

Three years after a cemetery dating back to the 9th Century was deliberately destroyed in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, bloggers recall an ancient culture annihilated and condemn the world for closing its eyes to what many consider to be an official attempt to rewrite history.

NoThingfjord, a Turkish blog, writes:

Today is the commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of Djulfa’s destruction. …This [is] not only a crime against Armenian culture, but against our collective cultural heritage as humankind. Don’t let it go unnoticed.

Between 10-16 December 2005 over a hundred uniformed men were videotaped destroying the Djulfa cemetery using sledgehammers, cranes, and trucks. The video was taken from across the border in Iran.

More than just a loss to global culture, Ivan Kondratiev [RU] says that Djulfa’s destruction was meant to change the story of Nakhichevan’s indigenous heritage.

Азербайджанские власти на протяжении всего советского периода старались уничтожить этот некрополь, поскольку для них он был всего лишь свидетельством о том, что именно армяне были хозяевами этой территории на протяжении веков, вопреки тому, что говорилось в азербайджанских советских мифах о собственной “древности”… Это кладбище, вполне достойное названия чуда, было даже не внесено в реестр архитектурных памятников Азербайджана… После распада СССР, во время карабахского конфликта, продолжалось разорение кладбища, и, наконец, оно было окончательно уничтожено….

The Azeri authorities throughout all Soviet period tried to destroy this necropolis as for them it was only a testament that Armenians were owners of this territory throughout centuries in spite of Azerbaijan’s Soviet myths about own “antiquity”… This cemetery, quite worthy to be called a wonder, was not even placed on the register of architectural monuments of Azerbaijan… After USSR’s collapse, during the Karabakh conflict, the cemetery’s demolition continued, and, at last, definitively destroyed….

An Iranian blogger also argues that Djulfa was undesirable evidence of an inconvenient past.

آنان از سنگ قبر ارامنه هم نگذشته اند و با تخریب دوازده هزار قبر با سنگ قبر هایی منحصر به فرد که متعلق به چند قرن پیش بوده و جزئی از میراث فرهنگی ارامنه به حساب می آمد، هیچ اثری از ارمنی نشین بودن آنجا، بجا نگذاشته اند.

[After acquiring Nakhichevan, Azeris] did not even tolerate Armenian gravestones. They destroyed twelve thousand Armenian graves. These unique gravestones with several centuries’ history were part of Armenian cultural heritage. However, through destruction of these gravestones, [Azeris] destroyed all signs indicating the existence of Armenians in that land. [translated by Loosineh M.]

iArarat, remembers Djulfa by discussing Robert Bevan’s The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, a book that was “part of a class I teach at a Texas university on nationalism and ethno-political conflicts.”


While reading Bevan’s book I was inevitably reminded of the destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery in Jugha, presently in Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers at the command of their superiors without as much as blinking an eye would embark at destroying and erasing the last vestige of the Armenian civilization in that territory as if the Armenians had never as much as existed there, as if Armenians had never as much as created anything, something to celebrate their faith and commemorate their dead…

The Stiletto, an award-winning blog posts a well-researched account of Djulfa’s destruction and attempts by Azerbaijan to deny it ever existed.

Adding insult to injury, earlier this month Baku, Azerbaijan hosted a little-noticed two-day conference of Council of Europe culture ministers to discuss “Intercultural dialogue as the basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighboring regions.” In his opening remarks to the attendees Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, astonishingly claimed:

“Azerbaijan has rich history and the cultural monuments here are duly preserved, and a lot is being done in this direction…”

Meanwhile, nrbakert_tashuk [Ru] asks whether one should laugh or cry at attempts to represent other indigenous Armenian monuments as Turkish or Azerbaijani. However, Kornelij [RU] says Armenia is also to blame for not participating in a conference held early this month in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku.

Unzipped agrees.

[T]he Armenian Ministry of Culture failed to deliver a message by boycotting the conference. They either should have properly boycotted the conference by making an appropriate statement explaining the reasons for non-participation, or they should have participated there to raise the all important issues of destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in Azerbaijan, as well as protecting and restoring the multinational cultural heritage in all three South Caucasus countries [Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan].

old-dilettante [RU], says that Djulfa’s destruction was the last stage of Azerbaijan’s attempt to eradicate Nakhichevan’s Armenian heritage. Commenting on a post about churches in Georgia, she writes:

Теперь там не найдется ни одной армянской церкви, несмотря на фотографии и книги, изданные всего ничего – лет 20 тому назад. Все церкви уничтожены. Все могилы. Все хачкары.

И кто через 20 лет скажет, что там вообще жили армяне? … А ведь мой дед был “местным жителем”.

…Now, not a single Armenian church will be found [in Nakhichevan] despite of photographs, some as recent as 20-years-old. All churches are annihilated. All cemeteries. All khatchkars.

And who will say in 20 years that Armenians ever lived there? … It wasn’t that long ago that my own grandfather was a “local” there.

Also recalling family history, Washington-based Armenian journalist Emil Sanamyan, a native of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, commemorates the destruction of Djulfa.

In Baku Armenian cemeteries with less historical but more immediate sentimental value to many (including my family whose three generations made their home in Baku for nearly a century) were paved over for roads or new construction. That does not justify the disrespect they were afforded but makes some remote sense.

In the case of Jugha khachkars stood in the middle of nowhere and were simply crushed, dismembered, thrown into the river. They were targeted and wiped out as the last remaining Armenian outpost.

Sarcastically, the journalist-blogger considers how other Armenian monuments on Azerbaijani territory could be protected.

Now I am thinking, perhaps Armenians should disassemble the remaining Azeri mosques and gravestones on their territory and exchange them for the khachkars and other Armenian heritage items of value?

Certainly some of the Azeri items have cultural value for Armenia and I would rather not see them go. But what other options are there?

Reacting to a comment on his above-mentioned post, Ivan Kondratiev [RU] also says that if Azerbaijanis wanted to cleanse their territory of Armenian heritage, they could have at least given the monuments to Armenia even if such a transfer would amount to acknowledging Djulfa’s Armenian history.

Is the world willing to confront deliberate destruction of historic monuments? In her long post on Djulfa’s destruction, The Stiletto sees hope in an Obama administration.

[T]here is reason to be optimistic that [Barack Obama’s] foreign policy team will… have a very different response to the ongoing stonewalling by the Azeris than [current US Secretary of State] Rice’s utter disinterest [about Djulfa’s destruction], which is rooted in the Bush administration’s pro-Azerbaijani, pro-Turkey foreign policy.

In addition to secretary of state nominee Hillary Clinton […] prospective U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has a particular interest in genocide and is an advocate of military action to stop mass killings, rather than ineffective “dialogue” as slaughters continue apace. And Harvard professor Samantha Power, author of “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” (2002), has been quietly advising Obama behind the scenes […].

Given that past is prologue, with these women’s combined emphasis on championing human rights and genocide prevention, it will not be easy for the Obama administration to ignore or overlook the genocide that preceeded – and encouraged – all others in the 20th and 21st centuries, or the ongoing “cultural genocides” in Azerbaijan and Turkey against the archeological remains of a once-thriving, centuries-old Armenian population that is no more.

More photographs of the cemetery, before and after its destruction, are available at

Originally published at Global Voices Online.

Armenians Scream CNN Murder of their Genocide

Too short for Armenians and too long for the Turkish government, a two-hour CNN documentary by Christiane Amanpour on genocide includes a 45-second mention of the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenian population. Premiered on December 4, 2008, Scream Bloody Murder has made many Armenian bloggers angry, leading them to recall Hitler’s rhetoric for impunity, “Who, after all, remembers the Armenians?”

Armenia-based blogger, photographer and designer Arsineh had concerns even before watching the documentary. Writing on Ars Eye View, she says:


I’m preparing to watch the program for myself, but given this much prior information, I have to ask. If you are going to cover the epidemic of genocide, starting with the campaign to criminalize genocide, continue to show the struggle so many have endured to (as you titled your program) “SCREAM BLOODY MURDER” while the world turned a deaf ear only to allow genocide to continue around the world, shouldn’t you be talking about the biggest cover up of genocide, the very one which inspired Lemkin to coin the word, the very one which also inspired Adolf Hitler to follow through with the Holocaust? Afterall, it’s this denial that scares CNN from ever using the word “Genocide” in their reporting on related matters.


She also posts a video question to CNN.

Writing in detail, West of Igdir says a previous CNN press release suggested the coverage of the Armenian Genocide was going to be more intense.


The release specifically mentioned Armenia as one of the cases of genocide it would be examining. This naturally created some excitement that finally a major news organization would be dedicating a program partly to the so often overlooked Armenian Genocide of 1915 and inform a nationwide audience about it.


I had been feeling hopeful about the documentary and might have given it more of a pass on this omition until I saw this interactive map on the section of Scream Bloody Murder section of CNN’s website about the world’s killing fields. It appears that despite the fact when it had first been announced Armenia was prominently mentioned as one of the examples of genocide that would be covered, it was overlooked as being pinpointed on the interactive map as an example of genocide.


Clearly the documentary did not go unnoticed in Turkey, despite the fact it says almost nothing about the Armenian Genocide, as the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet yesterday declared “Genocide feature worrisome.”


Sevana at Life in the Armenian Diaspora is also unhappy.

When will this second class genocide victim status end? I guess CNN is afraid that CNN-Turk will be cut off the air if they include the Armenians… how very, very sad.

Another diasporan voice, Seta’s Armenian Blog posts an action alert by the Armenian National Committee of America to protest CNN’s almost exclusion of the Armenian Genocide.

The full post is available at Global Voices Online.

PBS: Ararat Without Armenians

The Moor Next Door has recently posted information on a PBS program by Bruce Feiler that talked about Mount Ararat – the national symbol of Armenia – without any reference to the Armenian people:

Isn’t it interesting how the PBS documentary Walking the Bible, which has been airing for sometime now, devoting a segment to Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, without giving even the slightest mention to the Armenians? Mt. Ararat is seen as an Armenian national symbol (their national soccer team is even named after it), and the area around contained many Armenians before the Genocide in 1915-23. In a documentary about Christianity, isn’t it strange that a segment about the national symbol of the world’s first Christian nation would leave that nation entirely unmentioned?

The program is apparently the repeat of the same show that I wrote about two years ago.  It is amazing that PBS would repeat a show that has plainly plagiarized and then distorted phrases from a 2004 National Geographic article on Armenia by Frank Viviano.

In particular, the PBS program states – as I reported in my previous entry – that “Ararat beckons. It is officially closed by the Turks [to the Kurds].”  The phrase doesn’t make sense because Ararat and the surrounding areas are mostly populated by Kurds some of whom even attempted to establish The Republic of Ararat in the 1920s in the lands – now in Turkey – were Armenians had been massacred in.

But the phrase does make sense once you have read Viviano’s article which was written before the production of the PBS film. The Viviano article talks about how Ararat beckons to Armenians to whom the Turkish border, and access to Ararat, is officially closed.

It is not too late for PBS to investigate what appears to be either plain plagiarism or result of ignorant censorship to remove Armenian references and subsequently the citation of the National Geographic article.

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.

Stone Time Touch

Today I watched yet another ‘unknown’ Armenian film and encourage everyone seeing it.

My friends and I went to to see Stone Time Touch (2007), which is being shown in Colorado as part of the 30th Denver Film Festival.

A summary of the film at The New York Times states:

Award-winning Canadian filmmaker Gariné Torossian interweaves memory, loss, and expectation in this experimental documentary, which follows actress Arsinée Khanjian through an Armenia that seems half-real and half-imagined. During her time spent filming director Atom Egoyan‘s Calendar in Armenia, Khanjian was treated to numerous stories of filmmaker Torossian‘s distant homeland. But so much can change over time, and now as these two curious souls explore a land rich in religious iconography and haunted by history viewers will bear witness to a decidedly nontraditional study in identity, home, and place.

Having born and lived in Armenia for over 16 years, I actually saw many things in the film that I didn’t know much about.  Instead of showing the developed side of Armenia, it takes you to the homes of the most oppressed people and makes you hear their stories.

A short reference to human trafficking almost brings one to tears, and yet the passage fails to explain what trafficking is and how it actually works.

The most interesting point of the film is the attempt to explain the connection of Armenians to their sacred stones.  And it’s a difficult task.  Although the film doesn’t articulate it, Armenian connection to historic churches is more than Christianity.  The stones give them sense of identity and are a sort of time travel to the days when Armenia was defining its identity.  It sounds like earth worshiping – closer to the way Native Americans honor the nature and mountains.

This film is a MUST see.

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.

“Internet Video: Making the Local Global”

The largest circulating worldwide Armenian Magazine, AGBU, makes mention of my film on the Djulfa destruction in its current, April 2007, issue.  

Titled “Internet Video: Making the Local Global,” Hrag Vartanian’s article tells of the videonet revolution and its Armenian connection. 


One veteran filmmaker, Ted Bogosian, was approached by Hollywood bigwig Danny DeVito to be part of a new movie portal called Clickstar ( Run by actor Morgan Freeman’s company and sponsored by Intel, Clickstar was launched last December. It allows users to have a more flexible movie experience by offering the ability to download movies either to rent or own, 24 hours a day.


With a brief note on Hetq’s “documentary on human trafficking from Armenia to Dubai” and an interview with freedom fighter Monte Melkonian, the article talks about the platform that has unintentionally provided to often hate videos denying the Armenian genocide.  At the same time, the article reveals a hypocritical gesture by YouTube censoring videos that “insult Turkishness.”

YouTube is quoted as saying the video giant will “remain committed to working with authorities in Turkey to address any concerns that they may have,” given a recent ban of YouTube by Turkey after a Greek video “insulted” Turkey’s founder Ataturk by calling the latter homosexual (the video was removed by YouTube).

As a reminder, the previous issue of AGBU magazine had an article on Armenian blogs that mentioned this blog in a few paragraphs.  The author of both articles, Hrag Vartanian, has recently set up his own interesting blog that has BoingBoing-like posts in addition to unique entries on Armenian issues

If the chance for abuse on YouTube is possible, others are utilizing the service for cultural or social activism. One Armenian blogger, Simon Maghakyan, posted a short documentary about the 2005 destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa in the Azeri-controlled region of Nakhijevan, The New Tears of Araxes-a story he was the first to spotlight on his website,

“It took two months to create, and I had no idea how to make a video,” Maghakyan says. “I received financial help from a non-Armenian foundation to purchase the satellite image used in the video. A scriptwriter helped, and I had someone lend a hand with the soundtrack.” Since its posting it last December, the five-minute video has received 8,000 views on YouTube and an additional 1,000 views on Google video-a competing site.

“There has been lots of feedback,” he explains. “The strangest response I received was from someone in Turkey who wrote in broken English that he or she accepted the Genocide and was sorry. I was surprised because the film didn’t deal with that at all.”“[Online video] is a powerful tool delivering messages and even conventional media is referencing YouTube,” Maghakyan says. “But there is still a prevalent idea that online videos aren’t as credible as videos in the library.”

My new film: Human Trafficking in Colorado

Today, in 2007, there are more slaves in the world than 200 years ago. Modern slavery is known as human trafficking and it is the fastest growing global crime.

Produced by two other University of Colorado students and myself in Spring 2007, “Rocky Mountain Slavery: The Story of Human Trafficking in Colorado” gives the picture of sex trade in the Centennial State.

An undercover investigator, an elected official and other community members share with us information about this heinous crime that most Coloradoans are not aware of.

An ordinary citizen in downtown Denver thinks human trafficking means “lots of people walking on the street.” We find out that there are, indeed, “lost of people” in trafficking, but they are not walking on the street at all. They are isolated, beaten, raped and dehumanized in the most unimaginable ways.

To watch the film at, go to

Slavery: The Nice Solutions, and the Real Solutions

Another piece by Andy Turpin from tomorrow’s The Armenian Weekly.

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The anti-slavery film “Amazing Grace” opens this weekend. It tells the story of abolitionist leader William Wilberforce and his lifelong efforts that ended the British slave trade through the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 (though it took strict enforcement by British officials throughout the 1830s before the slave trade was effectively curbed.) The film’s screenwriter is Stephen Knight, writer of “Dirty Pretty Things,” a story about illegal immigrant culture in Europe.

From a public relations perspective, “Amazing Grace” looks to be a thought provoking film and an adequate media send-off giving lip service to February as “Black History Month.” The producer of the film, Bristol Bay Productions, has also helped to disseminate information on the anti-slavery campaign, “The Amazing Change.” (For more information about this campaign, visit

Yet, the steps they list to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking are limited to raising awareness, forming a discussion group, and donating to their campaign.

These are the nice solutions. These are the solutions you tell your elementary schooler. These are not the solutions, though, that save lives.

I burst this bubble not to be uncouth or condescending, but because the people who continue these acts today are virtual demons in human guise. And because these are major issues in Armenia and the Diaspora, in such places as Greece, France and Israel, not to mention every major U.S. city.

These problems aren’t hidden. They are, rather, problems that only law enforcement has jurisdiction over or enough brute force to handle.

Petitioning and letter writing are still valuable avenues to pursue, but let’s walk through the most pragmatic ways to approach the problem: Stay informed and concerned for these people. To not is to de-humanize them. We’re not speaking of “let my people go” situations. We’re speaking of dark places from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Read Victor Malarek’s The Natashas for background, go to the Investigative Journalists of Armenia website at, then just check the archives of any Greek or Israeli newspaper to see how epidemic the problem is.

1. When it comes to lobbying, almost all countries have laws saying it is illegal to traffic humans or enslave them. Politicians aren’t the ones in charge of breaking down doors— law enforcement agents and peacekeeping soldiers are. Write to Interpol and American UN officers to search more transport vehicles at border checkpoints, and to ask women in these zones if they are in of need protection or are crossing borders of their own free will. (This seems basic, but not all officers are trained to do so.)

This request may not always prove successful due to scare tactics used on victims or their inability to speak the language of the officer, but observing such indicated fear or linguistic inability could be a tip-off to an agent.

Also, write your local customs office or port authority official and ask to increase the number of searched cargo containers. Many victims are smuggled into countries in this way. Ships often contain hundreds of containers, but increasing the requisite search number helps the odds of saving more people.

2. Though it may seem crass to assume that you may be seen in a “gentlemen’s club” of ill repute, such establishments are often fronts for sex slavery. If a dancer seems drugged or scared, ask them about it or discretely call the police. If it is a legitimate club, the dancers will most likely be registered with the proper authorities. If not, your call may help build evidence in a case against the traffickers.

3. As for making donations, “The Poppy Project” based out of London is a growing organization that specializes in therapy and safe harbor for victims of slavery and trafficking after they are cleared by law enforcement authorities.

What makes the fight against human trafficking and slavery so difficult is the passivity of governments, citizens, soldiers and law enforcement officers who, in most circumstances, are decent people.

To that end, especially if are traveling in Armenia, show vigilance towards potentially trafficked victims that may be Ukrainian or Russian. In Armenia, institutional corruption and cultural prejudices often hamper enforcement efforts.

Likewise, if traveling in Dubai or Israel specifically, be on the watch for Armenian women that may be victims.

These are not pleasant things to write about. However, apathy of good people in the presence of evil is tantamount to complicity. With concerted efforts, ground can be gained in this struggle against that which, more than a hundred years ago, curbed a similar hell on earth for people in slavery.

6 minutes from Lark Farm

You can watch 6 minutes from the Berlin Film Festival participant Italian film “Lark Farm” about Armenian-Turkish relations here. has links about the film here.

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