3555) May 2015 Media Scanner

  1. Canada, Turkey and the Armenians
  2. Relabeling: How to Diminish Armenian-Turkish Tensions
  3. Armenian Lobby Bribed The Vatican Bank?
  4. On the centenary of the Armenian genocide, eight writers from Turkey post this letter to their fellow Armenians
  5. Barsamian: A Century Is a Long Time. It Is and It Isn’t
  6. There Is No Peace without Justice
  7. Two Prominent Istanbul-Armenians: Two Widely Divergent Views of 1915
  8. Vatican and the Armenians
  9. Emeksiz Sisters of Istanbul: “The Armenians call us Turks, and the Turks call us Armenians”
  10. Archbishop Aram Ateshian: 'Women From Armenia Come To Istanbul, Marry Turks, And Cover Their Heads'
  11. Syrian-Armenian Singer Lena Shamamian: “The identity of my voice is Anatolian”
. . .

Canada, Turkey and the Armenians

By Louis A. Delvoie, May 1, 2015

The Harper government has once again made statements commemorating the so-called "Armenian genocide" of 1915, in this the centenary of the events concerned. It has done so over the strong objections of the Turkish government. This move is at one and the same time unwarranted, unwelcome and unwise.

The Harper government was elected (by 39% of the electorate) to govern Canada. It was not put into office to interpret the history of foreign countries. Yet that is precisely what it has done in this case. And one may legitimately ask to what extent the government is qualified to pass such judgments. Most of its members are career politicians, country lawyers, small businessmen or used car dealers. It is highly doubtful that there is even one member of the cabinet who can claim to be an expert on the history of the Middle East. And yet they do not hesitate to blunder into territory where most professional historians fear to tread. In so doing, they submit to political pressure from the Armenian-Canadian community, but are guilty of poor history and worse foreign policy.

It is sometimes best to go back to basics on questions of this sort. And the most basic issue in this case is the definition of genocide. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines genocide as the "deliberate extermination of a race, nation." From this definition arises one initial finding. If the government of the Ottoman Empire was bent on the deliberate extermination of the Armenian people, it was certainly not very successful in the endeavour. There are today millions of Armenians living in Armenia, in the Middle East, in Europe and in North America. They are certainly not an extinct people.

What happened to the Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is certainly not a simple or very edifying story. At the time, the Ottoman Empire was engaged in a life and death struggle in the midst of the First World War. To its southeast, it was confronted by a British army advancing from Mesopotamia. To its southwest, it had to deal with an expeditionary force of some 200,000 British and French troops who had landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. To the northeast, the Ottomans were experiencing a number of defeats at the hands of the advancing forces of the Russian Empire. All of this was enough to produce extreme nervousness in Ottoman ruling circles.

In 1915, the greatest threat to the survival of the Ottoman Empire was the advancing Russian army. In the course of its campaign, the Russians enjoyed the support of Armenian nationalist movements both in Russia and in Turkey. These movements saw the war as an opportunity to advance the cause of an independent Armenia. Some Armenian volunteer units actually served in the Russian army. Under these circumstances, it is perhaps not astonishing that the Ottoman authorities came to view the Armenian minority within their territory as a potential fifth column that might assist the Russians as they moved forward into Ottoman lands.

The Ottoman government decided to try to eliminate this potential threat by ordering the forced evacuation of Armenians from eastern and southern Anatolia. (In its intent, this move was comparable to the Canadian government's decision to remove all persons of Japanese descent from the coastal areas of British Columbia during the Second World War.) Unfortunately for the Armenians, the operation went terribly wrong. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deported towards Syria. A combination of the inhospitable terrain, disease and starvation took its toll on the refugees and countless thousands died. Other Armenians were deliberately killed by Turkish soldiers or by irregular auxiliaries. All in all, it was a truly appalling episode in the history of the 20th century. But was it genocide?

Canada's most distinguished historian of the modern Middle East, the late professor William Cleveland of Simon Fraser University, concluded his treatment of the subject in these terms: "It would be pointless to enter the debate that rages today between members of the Armenian community in Europe and the United States, who accuse the Ottomans of genocide, and the Turkish government, which insists that the excesses have been overemphasized. Any episode in which as many as one million civilians may have lost their lives is an appalling one, whether it is calculated or the unintended result of internal security measures."

And as is so often the case, it is well to remember that this is not a simple story of good guys and bad guys. The Armenians were not entirely innocent in this case. Not only did some of them actively collaborate with the Russians against the Ottomans, but some of them were also guilty of excesses. In his history of the Middle East, Prof. Glenn Perry of Indiana State University points out that: "In turn, Armenians organized to massacre Turks whenever they had the upper hand, as during the Russian occupation of northeast Anatolia. Thousands of Turks, fearing the Armenians, died of hunger or cold as they fled their homes in the face of Russian advances."

There is a curious dichotomy in all of this. On the one hand, eminently qualified historians who have examined the historical evidence are not prepared to use the word "genocide" to describe the events of 1915. On the other hand, members of the Canadian government who know next to nothing about the subject do not hesitate to do so. In the process, they are giving offence to the Turkish government and the Turkish people. Successive Turkish governments have maintained that it is up to historians, not foreign politicians, to interpret this episode in their history. In this they are quite right.

There appears to be a reluctance on the part of Canadian politicians to put themselves in the shoes of other people. One can only imagine how outraged Canadians would be if the Dutch or Norwegian governments were to issue statements condemning Canada for the Chinese poll tax or for the ill treatment of native children in the residential school system. Americans would be similarly outraged if the Italian or Greek governments were to make statements condemning the institution of slavery or racial discrimination in the United States. Viewed from this perspective, Canadian ministers should take on board two injunctions: "Mind your own damn business" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Unfortunately, Canadian politicians are all too prone to succumb to the demands of ethnic lobby groups in the hope of securing their support at the next election. In this case, they are doing so while paying scant attention to Canada's relations with Turkey, a country of ever-increasing political and economic importance on the world stage. This is a mistake.

Louis A. Delvoie is a Fellow in the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen's University.

Relabeling: How to Diminish Armenian-Turkish Tensions

Christopher J. Fettweis, April 25, 2015

It is late April, which means the annual drama between Armenians and Turks is about to begin. As happens every year, Armenians around the world will passionately demand that Turkey admit its crimes during World War I were genocidal, and Turks will deny it with equal vehemence.

Since this is the hundred-year anniversary of the events in question, the issue will receive increased attention. Partisans on both sides will present familiar, detailed arguments. Pro-Armenian resolutions will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The State Department will reiterate its neutrality, and hope that it all goes away. The issue is as predictable as it is intractable.

For a hundred years, Armenians and Turks have been arguing over how to classify the horrible events that took place during World War I. The very identity of Armenians, both at home and in the diaspora, has become attached to gaining global recognition of their ancestors’ suffering. Turks are equally passionate about denying that their government committed genocide. Largely as a result of this disagreement, the two neighbors carry on no formal diplomatic relations. As is so often the case, the past is poisoning the present.

A potential solution does exist. It will not prove popular with either side, at least at first, but there is no other way that the passions surrounding this issue can be calmed, and reason can return to their relationship.

For decades, crimes against humanity were generally viewed in black-and-white terms, as either genocide or not. This began to change in the 1990s, when a new term entered the lexicon of international politics. During the Bosnian civil war, as ethnic Serbs tried to expel the country’s Muslim population, the slaughter reminded a great many people of the genocides of the past. Scenes of emaciated men in concentration camps drew natural comparisons with the Holocaust. The events seemed a bit different, however: While Serb violence aimed to expel the Bosnian Muslims, the Nazis simply wanted the Jews dead.

Political scientists began referring to forced expulsion of a population as “ethnic cleansing,” which is similar, but not identical, to genocide. Both are major crimes against humanity, and unforgivable violations of basic human rights. They both lead to widespread suffering and enormous numbers of innocent deaths. But they are different, and that difference has important implications for our understanding of 1915.

While the perpetrators of genocide want their enemies dead, ethnic cleansers want their enemies out. Tremendous violence typically accompanies the process of expulsion, but the end is fundamentally different, even if the means often look similar. The Nazis committed genocide because their Final Solution to the Jewish problem was to kill, not to expel. Jews were herded like cattle into ghettos and hunted down if they fled. In 1994, Hutu extremists did not want Tutsis out of Rwanda. They wanted Tutsis dead.

The events in Darfur a decade ago were different. Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was the first to label the violence in Darfur “genocide,” he was incorrect, technically speaking. The primary goal of the murderous Janjaweed militias was not to kill all the Darfuris. It was to drive them out. They burned villages and slaughtered civilians in the hope of sending messages to nearby villages, many of which were heeded. Thousands of refugees still live in camps in nearby Chad, understandably reluctant to return. It was ethnic cleansing, not genocide.

A century ago, the Turkish government was reeling from a series of battlefield disasters. It accused its Armenian minority of conspiring with the hated Russians, and decided to deport them all and expropriate their lands and property. Over the course of the next few months, Turkish troops uprooted ancient communities and marched the inhabitants away, killing untold numbers in the process. They made little or no attempt to provide food or shelter for the people they were deporting, hundreds of thousands of whom succumbed to starvation, exposure and disease. It was as brutal a policy as can be imagined, a major crime against humanity, one the Turkish government has never acknowledged. But it was ethnic cleansing, rather than genocide.

Relabeling the events of 1915 is likely to please neither Armenians, nor Turks. Since ethnic cleansing does not seem to carry with it the same degree of evil that genocide does, Armenians are not likely to be fully satisfied. And it is probably still too much of a war crime to be accepted by Turkish people. But perhaps it could help both sides reach an accommodation, if not yet a reconciliation.

It is of course hardly clear that either side actually wants to reach such an accommodation. Armenians and Turks want to win the argument. Both sides want to have their version of history accepted and their essential identity validated by the international community. Victory is the key to their satisfaction, not compromise.

Compromises by nature do not fully please anyone. However, labeling the events “ethnic cleansing” could perhaps begin to diffuse the dangerous passions on both sides, allowing these two neighbors to begin to put the past behind them and move forward. Perhaps this compromise rhetoric, in addition to being accurate, could help make the next hundred years of relations better than the last.

Christopher J. Fettweis is associate professor of political science at Tulane University. His most recent book is The Pathologies of Power: Fear, Honor, Glory and Hubris in U.S. Foreign Policy, published by Cambridge University Press.


Armenian Lobby Bribed The Vatican Bank?

The Armenian lobby bribed the Vatican Bank, promising $25 billion to it, so that the Pope would call the 1915 events "Armenian genocide", the Turkish TV channel Haber7 said Apr. 14.

The promised sum must be transferred by a US businessman of Armenian origin Kirk Kerkorian, according to the channel.

Vatican Bank is a bank of Roman Catholic Church and is called the Institute for the Works of Religion. The bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII.

At the beginning of the Mass, dedicated to the centennial of the so-called Armenian genocide, Pope Francis said on April 12 that in the XX century, mankind experienced three "big unprecedented tragedies", the so-called Armenian genocide, Nazism and Stalinism. The Pontiff described the tortures endured at the beginning of the last century by Armenians, Syrian Catholics and Orthodox, Assyrians and Greeks, as "the first genocide of the twentieth century."

Turkey later said that the statement doesn't mean anything for the country, and that Vatican unilaterally evaluates the events of 1915, turning a blind eye to the fact that these events led to death of both a part of the Muslim population of Turkey and representatives of other religious minorities.

Armenia and the Armenian lobby claim that Turkey's predecessor, the Ottoman Empire allegedly carried out "genocide" against the Armenians living in Anatolia in 1915. Turkey in turn has always denied "the genocide" took place. While strengthening the efforts to promote the "genocide" in the world, Armenians have achieved its recognition by the parliaments of some countries.


Kirk Kerkorian

On the centenary of the Armenian genocide, eight writers from Turkey post this letter to their fellow Armenians.

Barsamian: A Century Is a Long Time. It Is and It Isn’t

Alternative Radio founder and director
Ankara, April 25

The commemoration was co-sponsored by 18 human rights groups and political organizations from Turkey, including the Human Rights Association, Dur-De, and the leading pro-Kurdish political party HDP. The commemoration event featured remarks by writers, artists, and human rights activists from Turkey and the Armenian Diaspora. Armenian Weekly Editor Nanore Barsoumian, scholar and activist George Aghjayan, co-founder and board member of the Genocide Education Project Roxanne Makasdjian, Seda Byurat, the great-great-granddaughter of prominent Armenian writer Smbat Byurat, and scholar Khatchig Mouradian were among the speakers.

It is important to complete the poems and eat the last pieces of lavash and sujuk. Our grandparents are singing, let’s finish their songs.

The lost child of Bitlis cries out: Mayrig, mayrig, Oor es? Minag em. Ge vakhnam.

Mother, mother. Where are you? I am alone and afraid.

Tarihini Bilmeyen Milletler, yok Olmaya Mahkumdur.

“A nation that does not know its own history will die out.”

“Those who control the present, control the past, and those who control the past control the future.”

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. … The assassination of Allende quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the bloody massacre in Bangladesh caused Allende to be forgotten, the din of war in the Sinai desert drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the massacres in Cambodia caused the Sinai to be forgotten, and so on, and on and on, until everyone has completely forgotten everything.”–Kundera

“Who speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

“The past is never dead. It is not even past.”

Yergeer. Memleket. Homeland. Water so clean, air so pure, fruits and vegetables so tasty. So survivors of the genocide told me, maybe with some exaggeration. Yergeer. A magical place full of wonder and cruelties.

Bedros, my father, was born in 1895, in Nibishi, near Palu, during the Hamidian massacres. In the same year, his father, Barsam, disappeared, never to be seen again. Bedros left Yergeer in 1912. Eighty years later he is hit and killed by a car on 87th and 1st Ave. in New York. The car was driven by a Turk. When I told my sister what happened, she said, “Jagadakeer.” Kismet. Fate. Written. I went to the accident site in March. I found two pennies in the street. I kept them.

Turkey: A crime scene. No more Enver and Talaat statues and streets. No more pretending it didn’t happen. No more macho posturing. Liberate yourselves from twisted and toxic nationalist narratives.

Ambassador Morgenthau: “Where are the Armenians heading?”

Talaat: “Their destination is the abyss.”

My mother Araxie remembered how in early 1915 there was a plague of locusts in her village of Dibne, north of Diyarbakir. The elders said it was a bad omen.

The Death March.

“The ground was so hot my feet were burning,” Sarkis Hagopian told me.

“We were so hungry we ate unripe fruit. We were so thirsty we wet our parched lips with horse urine,” my mother told me. The last time she saw her mother and brothers was in Urfa.

We, the keepers of memories and dreams, keep coming up like weeds to remind you and ourselves of the past. A faded but dear landscape drenched in blood. The burning of books and churches. We live in their ashes and beyond them.

“Against the ruin of the world? There is only one defense: The creative act.”

Let us play again in our gardens and fields and glory in the beauty of the flowers forever.

A century is a long time. It is and it isn’t.

Paree janapar. Safe travels.

Shnorhagalem. Thank you.

There Is No Peace without Justice

The genocidal process targeting Armenians had just begun when the Armenian version of the newspaper I edit, the Hairenik Daily, published the following telegram on May 6, 1915:

Treason against Armenians in Bolis [Istanbul]. All our ungers [comrades] and the intellectuals of the community, even former Minister Mardigian, former Patriarch Arsharouni, and other clergymen arrested. Situation frightful. Immediately organize protest meetings on international soil and appeal to government to influence through Ambassador in Bolis. Otherwise the Armenian people will be annihilated.

Fast forward to 2015.

It was about a month ago when I received an e-mail from a friend.

He told me he had an ad—that a friend hoped we could publish it in the Armenian Weekly.

When I saw the ad, I almost fell out of my chair.

It was a drawing of a young boy with bright blue eyes, and it had a message under it from a 109-year-old woman whose last wish is to find her older brother.

The woman and her brother had been orphaned during the genocide, and were separated after they were put in an orphanage.

The woman remembers crossing the blood-red waters of the Arax River, and she remembers her brother and the way she would ride high up on his shoulders.

We ran the ad on the front page of our newspaper.


Now think of all that was robbed from this woman—her parents, maybe grandparents, her home, maybe a favorite tree she used to climb, maybe that stray cat she used to play with when she would go visit her grandmother every Sunday. She lost her beloved brother, and she has not forgotten him even after 100 long years.

But most of all she lost her home and her land.

She was robbed of her right to stand where her grandparents, her great grandparents and their parents had stood, toiled, sweated, and finally bled. She lost all that they had built for centuries.


But this crime has countless victims, and survivors.

There are survivors and descendants of survivors among your neighbors, your teachers, your politicians, your grandparents, and your children. Tens of thousands of orphaned children were brought in to live with Turkish and Kurdish families. Some have told their children about it. Many have not. It must have been tremendously hard and painful to be a member of a hated people. I have met some of these survivors—as have my friends who are here with us today, and as have you…whether you have realized it or not.

Yes, this crime has countless stories of destruction, uprooting, and murder, but it also has stories of heroism and the triumph of compassion.

Let’s not bury these survivors with the crime. Haven’t they suffered enough? Let’s not bury justice with the crime—because there can never be peace without justice. And let’s not bury hope with the crime—because all of us, all our children, deserve better.



Jda // May 15, 2015
Nobody who lacked the courage to speak
Out as she and others did, in Turkey, should
Criticize. She, Ms. Makasdjian, Ms. Gunaysu, and others are very very brave.

Robert // May 14, 2015
The unfortunate fact is that the International community has not been strong enough to voice there displeasure to the Turks. The reason? What else but political motives. Truth never dies it is just denied or swept under the carpet for political reasons by those who need Turkey.

IKE ADAJIAN // May 15, 2015
” ..maybe a favorite tree she used to climb, maybe that stray cat she used to play with when she would go visit her grandmother every Sunday.. ”

” ..let’s not bury hope with the crime— because all of us, all our children, deserve better. ”

Thank you, Nanore & Armenian Weekly Friends.

Vahe // May 15, 2015
As I recall, some Armenians cooperated with the supposed reformers, the Young Turks, in the years leading up to the Genocide.
I propose that we be careful.

vart adjemian // May 15, 2015
A very thought provoking and emotions stirring speech, spoken from the heart.
” There can never be peace without justice”.
A simple,clear,but bold, and true assertion.
Vart Adjemian


Two Prominent Istanbul-Armenians: Two Widely Divergent Views of 1915
Anna Muradyan

March 18, 2015

Hetq talks to Bedros Sirinoglu and Dikran Altun, two influential members of the Armenian community of Istanbul regarding their perceptions of the events of 1915.

Bedros Sirinoglu serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Holy Savior (Surp Prgich) Armenian Hospital in Istanbul. His family roots are in Bardizag (now Bahçecik) near Izmit. His business interests are in construction, tourism and woodworking. He is known to have close relations with ruling Turkish government officials.

Erzurum born businessman Dikran Altun has supported building bridges between the Armenian community in Turkey and Armenia since the latter gained independence from the Soviet Union. He’s probably best known as the person who launched a charter air flight between Yerevan and Istanbul that operates twice a week despite the closed border between the two nations.

Hetq - What is your perception regarding the events of 1915?

Sirinoglu- What I’m about to say may seem strange to most Armenians in Armenia and to most Turks, but I believe that those events were planned by outsiders in an attempt to put an end to the Ottoman Empire.

It was done not only in the case of Armenians, but all nationalities. It was a plan to destroy the empire of the Ottomans.

Hetq – While you describe the current Turkish government in a positive light, I remember that in the past certain Armenians had good relations with the Turkish elite. And look what happened back then. Aren’t you afraid that the same will happen again?

Sirinoglu – Those actions were started by the Ittihat ve Terakki Cemiyet (Committee of Union and Progress – CUP). There were also Armenians in that organization. And Armenians murdered fellow Armenians.

There were powerful and rich Armenians living in Anatolia at the time. Of course there were also poor Armenians. But the CUP enlisted rich Armenians into its ranks and thus Armenians killed other Armenians.

In 1908 Patriarch Ormanian petitioned the people and asked ‘What are you doing? You are preparing to turn Anatolia into a sea of blood.’

Altun – True, Armenians killed one another and that other such things happened. But such things cannot be the cause to kill children, women, old people or an entire nation. Bedros only talks about the Genocide, but it continued after 1915.

While I cannot say if the plans of the CUP continue in this current government or not, but did we kill one another or were those 300,000 a threat to Turkey. [Altun refers to the estimated 300,000 Armenians who remained in Turkey after the Genocide. Due to a policy of state discrimination, many either converted to Islam or left the country. Estimates place the current number of Armenians in Turkey between 50,000 and 70,000]

The idea is the same. Armenians must be destroyed. Today, Erdogan is here and we are alright. But on different occasions when I meet with foreign ambassadors I tell them that they [Turks] do not want us here. They don’t trust us.

Hetq - If that’s the case, what’s the fate of the Armenian community in Istanbul?

Sirinoglu – What happened to Beirut or Syria? Or to Iraq? No one knows what will happen here. Right now Erdogan is powerful. What he will do for Turkey is unclear. If something happens we, as citizens, are in the middle of it and will be affected.

Syrian-Armenians were comfortable and content. But look what has happened. Where have they all gone? Some believe that I am against Armenia, but that’s not true. I too am Armenian. I do not seek revenge. Rather, I want the future to be good. I want our community and Armenians overall to continue to live in good conditions.

This is my view. Let’s put aside 1915 for a moment and forget. Let the border open and give people a chance to come and go. Later on, or at the same time, let the historians from France and elsewhere, including Armenia, sit down and discuss those events.

Altun – What exactly will they discuss? Did it happen or not? We know it happened. If they are to gather and discuss how it happened or why it happened, that is possible. But first, they have to accept that which happened.

Sirinoglu – This government will not accept such a thing.

Altun – Of course it will not because other things will follow if they do.

Sirinoglu – Sometime after 2004 an elderly couple approached me. I asked them if they had lived through the Genocide. They said they did. I asked them if only the Ottomans did wrong things. ‘Didn’t we do wrong things as well’, I asked. ‘We did many wrong things’, they answered. I then asked why they didn’t talk about this. The couple replied that they no longer had the heart to talk about such matters. ‘We began by only talking about the Ottomans and that outsiders [the diaspora-AM] continue only to mention the Ottomans’ was their reply.

Altun – Naturally, we did wrong things as well. I believe that the ARF (Dashnaktsutyun) did the most. But what does this resemble? Bedros, I do something wrong to you. I kill you and your family. And not only your family but to all those bearing the last name of Altun. I destroy them all and then say that you started it all. That you did wrong as well. This cannot be.

There is a hierarchy in this country. At the very top is the Turk. Then comes the Cherkez, the Laz, the Jew, and then the Armenian. At the very bottom right now is the Kurd. If any of them wants to move up the ladder or be equal, the order will be upset.

Sirinoglu – I accept all of this. But the ottomans were very powerful at the time and then they started to slowly weaken. Greece was separated and later Syria and the rest. Our people launched their own movements.

The outsiders, the English and French, regarded Armenians as an active and governing group. They came and told the Armenians that everything is in your hands, the money and industry. We will give you weapons and you strike from within. Most of us rejected these overtures but some accepted the offer. And those same people who were giving weapons to the Armenians went to the Sultan and told him that the Armenians are arming themselves. But the sultan doesn’t believe this so they take him and show him what Armenian homes have weapons. So the sultan becomes fearful and orders that the weapons be collected from the Armenians. That’s why Armenians hid their weapons in the walls.

Given this, the Russians enter the picture. They tell the Kurds that they will liberate them and will give all the Armenian property to them. So the Kurds killed us.

Many Ottomans protected us from the Kurds. Some people told them where the Armenians were hiding, in what Ottoman house. They trusted us so much and regarded us as faithful citizens that they couldn’t believe that we betrayed them. That’s why the situation went to the extreme [i.e. the Genocide-AM]

Afterwards, at the end of the war, the English and French fleets arrived and captured Istanbul. Why? Because they wanted to dissect the Ottoman Empire.

Altun – Those people entered the war and lost. Naturally, when you lose the war the enemy comes and captures your capital. Didn’t the same happen to Berlin?

You’re talking as if the Ottoman or the Turk hadn’t done a thing and was standing by peacefully and all of a sudden the English and French came and captured this place. This isn’t acceptable.

I have revealed the cause of the Genocide, at least for me.

Until the French Revolution there was no such thing as nationalism. There was only the feudal system. This concept made its way east from Europe. The first to be affected were the Greeks and the Bulghars, who wanted to separate from the Ottoman Empire and have their own nation state and maintain their national character.

Later on, that movement reached here. And who were the ones in contact with France and Europe? It was the Armenians.

That’s to say that the Ottomans didn’t know how to read or write. Let’s not say the Ottomans but rather the Muslims. From my grandfather I know that until 1936 in Kayseri (Kesaria) if one wanted to insult someone they’d call him a Turk; that’s to say an illiterate.

Thus, there were many nationalities at the time within the Ottomans who began to think about issues such as national identity. At the time, a Greek would say he was Greek, an Armenian would say he was Armenian. But if you asked any Muslim, he wouldn’t say he was a Kurd or an Arab, or a Turk. They’d all say they were Muslims.

When the CUP saw the Balkans slip away, then the Arabs, they realized that the unity based on Islam was no longer of any use. A new mortar was needed and it was being a Turk. But where would they find these new Turks? Greeks saw themselves as Greek and Armenians as Armenians. Thus, Turks would be created from Muslims without any notions or feelings of nationalism.

And the Greeks lost much more than us – Trabzon, Antalya, Izmir, and Konya. They lived on their lands as much as we did on ours. They were all packed on to ships and tossed into the sea to drown. If we left 2,100 churches behind, they left 10,000. The CUP didn’t want anyone but Muslims left on these lands.

Now, seeing that Turkishness hasn’t worked because people are standing up and saying we aren’t Turks but Kurds, the military and the state got together and discussed the matter. They understood that in order to prevent the dismemberment of the nation the mortar holding it all together must again be Islam.

Comments (8)
1. hayouzh 18 March, 2015
Shirinoglu has a hed full of manure, as there are catholics more than the Pope, he is more Turkish than some Turks. Hey sold out, sick historically illiterate Turkified idiot, The Armenians were murdered since the times of AbdulHamit and the reason for that is that Abdulhamit wanted to rid Western Armenia and not to have the Bulgarian or Balkan scenario redone in Armenia. After 40 of constant persecution, the Ittihat ve Terrake Nazis killed all the Armenians and kept some in the Turkish Museum, (people like you) to testify against the victims and for the murderers.

2. Vrezh - 18 March, 2015
Let me preface my remarks by saying that neither of these "prominent" Armenians have any real knowledge regarding their own people's history; especially regarding the Genocide. In this respect they are like the majority of Armenians, both in the Diaspora and Armenia, who have formulated their personal opinions based on hearsay and prejudicial notions that lack any academic basis in fact. Nevertheless, the point made by Shirinoglu and Altun that some Armenian political leaders of the day did make strategic policy mistakes cannot be overlooked. Naturally, perhaps the greatest blunder was the naive belief that foreign powers would come to rescue the poor Christian Armenians from the yoke of the barbaric Turk. Some of the actions of the so-called revolutionaries of the time were tailored to attract such outside intervention. Of course, the actions of a few misguided patriots does in no way condone the mass slaughter of a nation and its culture, but there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the past. Sadly, some continue down the dead-end path of seeking the intervention of the great powers of today to ameliorate the consequences of 1915. As if this approach is within the realm of possibility. To date, what has been lacking in the Armenian discourse has been a critical appraisal of the Armenian political leadership pre-1915. This has led the Armenian discourse down a one-sided road where everything is black and white. We will make no progress by believing such nonsense.

3. AraAS - 19 March, 2015
I do agree with Vrezh in his remarks;But to be fair I know Dickran Altun when I was a student at Melkonian Educational Institute in Nicosia Cyprus.Although he was older then me at least 3 to 4 years but I do remember him as a person of principal and he didn't take any crap when it came to his principal .Being in Melkonian and coming into contact with students from Turkey, I do understand their position due to the issues they faced as a minority and perhaps the most loathed of all minorities in Turkey.

4. Vrezh - 19 March, 2015
Far be it from me to state that life in Turkey as an Armenian has ever been easy. Especially for those who refuse to buckle under. It's easy to criticize from afar as many of our armchair patriots like to do. Instead of calling names perhaps a few of these "patriots" should hop on a plane and spend some time in the community there to get a taste of what it's like. In time, they may even come to admire people like Altun and even Shirinoglu for overseeing what's left of the Armenian inheritance in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey. These people have even been able to wrest back several properties that Turkey seized since becoming a republic. The diaspora has basically turned its back on the Istanbul Armenian community which is a real shame for it can serve as a bridge, a link, between exile in the Spyurk and western Armenia.

Apparently, all that talk of "our lands, our lands" has been and remains hollow rhetoric, otherwise the diaspora would have explored ways to connect to that community much more effectively.

5. GB- 20 March, 2015
Vrezh, Turkey does not have right democracy system, still they believe that Allah created Turks first. These Armenians are step goats of AKP party. Turkish leaders hoping that Diaspora Armenians will follow these "designated"? Istanbul Armenians and trap them into Turkish way of lies., change Armenian Genocide to "Turkish Genocide". Turkey's main foreign policy is to distorts and neutralize the truth of Armenian Genocide by any means!!

6. Vrezh - 20 March, 2015
GB - you're missing my point entirely. I was trying to point out the lack of critical analysis by Armenians regarding the actions of Armenian political leaders/parties pre-1915. I really do not believe that the distorted views of Shirnoghlu have any traction at all or will be followed by Armenians in the diaspora. Do you really believe that this guy has such clout? Istanbul Armenians know full well what happened in 1915; better than most Armenians in the diaspora. They live the same fears on a daily basis. Turkey can try and distort the truth all it wants. It is a failed policy. Look at Dikran Altun - he is an Isyanbul Armenian who knows the truth and speaks publicly about it. I stand by my statement that the diaspora has failed to morally support the community in Istanbul. WHY? Because the Diaspora and its traditional leadership have no intention of reconnecting to western Armenia. If its was sincere it would explore all possible avenues to connect with Istanbul Armenians because they ARE THE LAST LIVING LINK TO THAT REALITY. The fact that Armenians remain in Istanbul is far more patriotic than any hollow rhetoric emanating from Armenians in New York, Paris, Los Angeles or elsewhere.

7. Varouj - 22 March, 2015
Great dialogue above.

8. AypPen - 4 May, 2015
This is the paradigm of the Bolsahye. We know what happened, we don't know how to talk to the Turks about it. The view of 1915 is the same, it is the political and rhetorical aspect that they vary. In the diaspora, and former Soviet Republic, we are more free to speak but have more of a bias. We also have more bitterness, despite the daily prejudice that Bolsahyes face in Turkiye. The issue is how to proceed into the future, not how to articulate the past. I wish I had the courage to live in my ancestral lands.


The Vatican and the Armenians
2015-05-17 by Dr Pat Walsh

Pope Francis, on April 12th at St. Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics, said the following:

“Dear Armenian Brothers and Sisters,

“A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ (cf. John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001). Even today, there is not an Armenian family untouched by the loss of loved ones due to that tragedy: it truly was “Metz Yeghern”, the “Great Evil”, as it is known by Armenians. On this anniversary, I feel a great closeness to your people and I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayers which rise up from your hearts, your families and your communities.

“This faith also accompanied and sustained your people during the tragic experience one hundred years ago ‘in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century’ (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001). Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a ‘senseless slaughter’ (AAS, IX [1917], 429), did everything in his power until the very end to stop it, continuing the efforts at mediation already begun by Pope Leo XIII when confronted with the ‘deadly events’ of 1894-96. For this reason, Pope Benedict XV wrote to Sultan Mehmed V, pleading that the many innocents be saved (cf. Letter of 10 September 1915) and, in the Secret Consistory of 6 December 1915, he declared with great dismay, “Miserrima Armenorum gens ad interitum prope ducitur” (AAS, VII [1915], 510)”.

This was reported around the world as the Pope having called the events in Eastern Anatolia in 1915 a genocide.

Pope Francis was either unaware or did not mention that his famous predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, in 1920, had tried to obtain the release of those who were held by the British on suspicion of what Pope Francis called “the first genocide of the twentieth century.”

The documentary proof for this is in the British archives at Kew in the form of two documents. One document is the letter submitted to the British authorities by the Vatican. It has been translated from the French:

“Vatican, February 17, 1920
“The benevolent intervention of the Holy Father has been requested for some POWs who are being interned at the Island of Malta by the British authorities.
“The POWs being referred to here are SAID Halim Pasha, former Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, and eight or nine individuals (including DJERDED BEY) who are members of the Committee of “Union and Progress” of the Young Turks.

“We implore, if they are not granted absolute freedom, that at the least their captivity is softened and that their treatment is made consistent to their social status.

“His Holiness did not hesitate to make such a request, and he asks me to recommend a special care to be given to Your Excellency.

“Performing my best for this august work, I hope that it will not be impossible for Your Excellency to take this matter to heart and to call upon the most benevolent attention of the authorities.

“With this hope, I present to Your Excellency my thanks in advance and I pray for you to kindly accept this etc. etc.

“Signed, P. Cardinal Gasparri
“His Excellency, The Count of Salis etc. etc. etc.”

The other document is a note concerning the Vatican’s letter by the British ambassador in Vatican. This document can be found at: The National Archives, Kew Gardens (London) FO 371/5089/E 1114

“Palazzo Borghes, Rome
“February 25th 1920
“My Lord,

“I have the honour to enclose copy of a note from the Cardinal Secretary of State relative to Said Halim Pasha, Ex-Grand Vizer of the Ottoman Empire, and eight or nine other persons including Djevded Bey, all of whom stated to belong to the Committee of Union and Progress and who are at present interned in Malta.

“The Pope begs that your Lordship will give the matter favourable consideration, expressing his hopes that if absolute Liberty cannot be granted to these prisoners, they may at least be allowed special privileges consonant with their rank.

“I have the honour to be
“With the highest respect, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient humble servant,
“Count of Salis
“The Earl Curzon of Kedleston, K.G.
“etc. etc. etc.”

The two Turks named in the letter, whom the Vatican sought the release of, were intimately connected to what Pope Francis called “the first genocide of the twentieth century.” Said Halim Pasha, the ex-Grand Vizier, was later assassinated by Armenian death squads who accused him of complicity in the deaths of Armenians. Djevded Bey was the former governor of Van, where the most serious Armenian rising took place in 1915. He was one of the chief people accused by the British and their Armenian allies of the massacres.

So this is very curious and it indicates that Pope Benedict XV, who was well informed and in contact with the Ottoman authorities, did not think of such events in the way Pope Francis does. After all, no Pope ever called for the release of the Nazis from Nuremberg, despite any thoughts of forgiveness the Vatican may have had.

The Rev. Henry Rope, Benedict’s biographer, states that the Pope:

“… had directly pleaded with the Sultan and other princes able and willing to help. In many places he had obtained an end to the killings… Beside general massacre vast deportations, pillages and sacrileges, flight and famine had been the lot of this sorely tried people.” (Benedict XV, The Pope of Peace, p.211)

This very much implies that Pope Benedict did not see the Ottomans as intent on massacring the Armenians, but rather as a potential (and successful, in places) block on a war of extermination between different groups of citizens within a collapsing state structure. This is a rather more complex position than that of reducing the events of 1915 in Anatolia completely to the semantics of the appropriateness of a single word to describe historical events.

Finally, it should be noted that Pope Francis also said the following on April 12th, though the press were not interested:

“May God grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno Karabakh. Despite conflicts and tensions, Armenians and Turks have lived long periods of peaceful coexistence in the past and, even in the midst of violence, they have experienced times of solidarity and mutual help. Only in this way will new generations open themselves to a better future and will the sacrifice of so many become seeds of justice and peace.”

Those sentiments were much more in line with those of his illustrious predecessor, the Pope of Peace, Benedict XV, who tried valiantly to end Britain’s Great War, saving all the people of Anatolia, Moslem and Christian.


The Emeksiz Sisters of Istanbul: “The Armenians call us Turks, and the Turks call us Armenians”
Anna Muradyan

The Emeksiz sisters of Istanbul are on a mission to tell people in Armenia about the fate of their Armenian grandfather Khachik and others who shared the same fate due to the 1915 Genocide.

The two sisters, both Emeksiz, are named after their Armenian grandfather Khachik Emeksizian.
Born in the Uzunmahmud village in the Ottoman Kaza of Ordu on the Black Sea, Khachik Emeksizian was seven years old in 1915. The boy survived the Genocide because he was taken to a nearby village and given to a Turkish family who raised him as a Muslim. The law at the time was that children seven and younger would not be sent on the road to exile but would be distributed to local Turkish families.

The sisters, who call their grandfather Hachik (there is no letter “kh” in the Turkish alphabet), claim they feel neither Armenian or Turkish; just human beings.

“We are a part of history, and I want that within Armenian society my grandfather be known as an Armenian,” says the elder sister Emeksiz. “What happened to my grandfather wasn’t of his choosing and neither of mine.”

There were some 13,565 Armenians living in the Ordu Kaza (on the eve of 1915 according to Raymond Kevorkian’s The Armenian Genocide. Uzunmahmud is said to have had a population of 388. Kevorkian states that most of the Armenians of Ordu had roots in Hamshen and had settled relatively late in Ordu. Three thousand of the kaza’s Armenians resided in the principal town (Ordu) and the others lived scattered in about 29 villages.

Seven year-old Hacik never forgot that he was Armenian. He never forgot his parents, the house he lived in and where it was located. He even kept the root of his surname in the hope that one day he’d find lost relatives through the name.

The sisters told me that two years after the Genocide their grandfather found out that some people had come to the church in his old village. It turns out they were looking for Armenian orphans to send to the United States, France and elsewhere. Hacik told the sisters that he didn’t want to go and returned to his adoptive family. At the time, the boy was afraid that surviving family members might look for him and not find him.

One of Hachik’s cousins was sent to France in this fashion. Decades later, the sisters did a last name search and found the cousin.

At the age of twenty, Hachik married one of the daughters of the household and started a family.

“I am very angry because my grandfather was left alone without a family or possessions,” says the younger sister Emeksiz. “We know the family had land that was used by others.”

Hachik Emeksiz had six sons and many grandchildren. They all know his story but not all want to accept it. Emeksiz says her grandfather always told them the story, saying it was their history as well and that they must know it.

“My being angry will not change my grandfather’s life or past. But he is not alone. There were thousands of children like him,” says the younger Emeksiz. “We just want to talk about this matter to Armenians and Turks because Armenians call us Turks and Turks call us Armenians.”

She tells me that her grandfather always brought up the name of his sister, Nazlou. She had long hair, down to her waist, and he always played with her tresses.

“I am mad that they left no one from my grandfather’s family and he had to start his story anew,” says the younger sister. “For example, we have relatives on our grandmother’s side but no one on his side of the family. There were six or seven children in my grandfather’s family. The family which adopted him wasn’t his real family.

The sisters say they do not talk about their grandfather being Armenian everywhere. It could make them hate targets of Turkish nationalists very easily.

I am neither religious nor a nationalist. This creates problems in certain circles,” says the elder Emeksiz. “Many of my cousins don’t want the word to get out. They want this story to be forgotten.”

Nevertheless, she says that she tells the story about her grandfather being Armenian and that many Turks are amazed to hear that Armenians lived in Anatolia. They even ask when Armenians came to those lands.

Grandfather Khachik died fourteen years ago and the sisters now regret not spending more time with him. They didn’t live in the same house but visited periodically.

“When he died, only then did we realize that we should have spent more time with him and listened to him a bit more, says the elder Emeksiz. “We should have recorded what he said. I feel that we should do something for him.”

The elder Emeksiz studies film making at an Istanbul university. She’s decided to makr a film about her grandfather and the family story.

“My grandfather was seven when he was orphaned. There were thousands of kids like him. I want to tell this story to people through film.”

Comments (10)
Last comment via Google-translate
1. Robert
Fascinating story (yes... please make the film) that reminds me of my grandfather Avedis's younger brother Tigran. While my grandfather immigrated to the US in 1912 - 13, Tigran stayed behind in the town of Husenig (Kharpert/Elazig province) with his parents and younger sister. There's various stories about what happened to him. Some say he was shot in the back while trying to run from a burning church. As far as I know though, there is no definitive account of what happened to Tigran, or his parents and sister, so I've often wondered if somehow Tigran was adopted by Turks or Kurds and continued his life in the Old Country. There are so many stories like this that need to be told.

2. Hagop
"Turks are amazed to hear that Armenians lived in Anatolia. They even ask when Armenians came to those lands."... That's quite laughable, and an indication of what a good job the terrorist Genocidal Turkish government is doing brainwashing Turks into a history which is the opposite of reality. Please go tell those Turks, they should be asking when the Turks arrived on Armenia's lands instead, not the other way around. From central Anatolia to the east, Turks are uninvited foreigners in Armenia, and it will remain that way so long as Armenians exist anywhere in the world.

3. Ravi ekmekian
My grandfather was 7 when he was orphaned as well, but he did leave ourfa with his 2 sisters, on the way he got separated, got picked up by a bedwin, but ultimately ran away, & got reunited with his only surviving brother in Aleppo. Please make the film, let me know if you need help.

4. Berge
Dear Emeksiz sistres, You story is indeed similar to so many Armenians! However, to make it easy on you to understand where you belong i Will use your own words: angry

5. Zarik Hacopian
This is the story of more Turkish people than they or want to believe. Most Armenian grandparents his their identity out of fear. Khachik was a unique, brave victim...his granddaughters, Emeksiz sisters are great examples for so many like themselves. They need to make documentaries about the the Turkish descendants of stolen Armenian children. What shocks me is that in this time and age, with such easy access to information, how could the younger Turkish population not be aware of their own true history and that of the Armenians of Anatolia. I know the brainwashing and terror tactics of that country, but now there is internet access, tourism, travel to other countries. Turks here even in US colleges where there is so much contact with others, continue to maintain their government's lies. At that point, I believe it is no longer ignorance.....

6. Craig
My grandmother was from Ordu too. They lost everything. They had a hazelnut business. Land. The family name was Anmahian. Everyone was killed by the Turks

7. samo
For a long time I tried hard not to be a foreigner in Armenia (I was born there) and USA.. Now I kind of like it, I'll be foreigner when I die. Being a foreigner has it's benefits, less confusion once you accept it. The expectations are moderated. It's all wilderness until one crosses the Jordan.

8. Garegin Nalbandian
One cannot read this story without tears. Thank you for sharing!

9. Josette Vézina-Shamlian
Bon courage Harchiges. This is a message from Canada. My late husband Garo Shamlian lost sixteen membres of his family in Turkey during the Genocide. My two daughters Annik and Isabelle both speek, read, and write Armenian. In 2009, Annik and I went to Ani (Eastern Turkey) and we spread his ashes inside the Ani Cathédrale that he cherished so much. Please go ahead with your film and be proud of your origines. If you have a chance, go to Armenia, its beautiful and extremely rich culturaly speeking.

10. Hakarezhim
For me, being Islamized Armenians, the Armenians should be accepted, then the time is. And what shall we say, of those, that are not Muslim, but Muslims are worse ravishment and helpless people, robbing them up and throw in Armenia


Archbishop Aram Ateshian: 'Women From Armenia Come To Istanbul, Marry Turks, And Cover Their Heads'
Anna Muradyan

Hetq talks to Archbishop Aram Ateshian, General Vicar (Acting Patriarch) of the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.

After being in Istanbul for a few months, I get the impression that the Armenian community in Turkey Armenia isn’t all that connected to Armenia.
Long before Armenia gained its independence, our community members had a desire to see the homeland and to visit our compatriots there. Afterwards, singers, song and dance troupes, intellectuals and other individuals came to Turkey and, of course, people from here visited Mother Armenia as well.

Armenians from Armenia living here get medical treatment in our hospitals to the degree possible and their children receive totally free treatment. We take care of the baptisms. If the deceased cannot be transferred back to Armenia, we take care of the services and bury them in our cemeteries. We also participate in the education these children receive at the Hrant Dink School. I have personally become involved in this matter in the last few months. So how can you say that the connection has been broken?

At the same time it must be said that when our compatriots from Armenia first came to Turkey our community members opened their doors to them but, unfortunately, several families were robbed.

Your Holiness, aren’t you making a judgment based on a few cases?
Naturally, there are thieves and robbers in every people and community, and you cannot accuse the majority for the acts of the minority. Our community was simply hurt by this.

When a period of mourning was declared in Armenia over the tragic death of little Seryozh Avetisyan in January, we expected some reaction to the incident here as well.

Of course there was a reaction. When the newspapers covered that matter for days on end, our community members were also pained. The Patriarchate instructed all its churches to perform a hokehankisd (repose of souls) service. But since we didn’t tell the newspapers about this, many never heard of it.

How do you see the future of Armenians in Istanbul?
First, as Christian Armenians our future are our churches and schools, our language and culture, our national and church values. Individuals however search for their future in the country where they were born and raised.

The question is often raised as to why Armenians in Istanbul do not speak Armenian that well.
One must not forget that Bolis was a center of intellectualism and that many famous writers were born here who played a significant role in preserving our language and literature.

A majority of our community hails from the provinces where there are no Armenian schools. Thus, they couldn’t learn their mother tongue. It’s not their fault. Most of those enrolled in our schools come from such families. True, while they may not learn the language perfectly, we are still pleased with the result.

Over the past 40-50 years most of the classroom instruction in our schools has become Turkish. We changed the language to Turkish so that the students could pass the college entrance exams in Turkish. They couldn’t by using Armenian. And this wasn’t only the decision of the principals. It was community wide. It was decided to keep Armenian language and religion classes in Armenian and the rest in Turkish.

But we have the example of the Syrian Armenians, where the level of Armenian speaking and preserving the language is very high.
Syria, for the Syrian-Armenians, was a free country without discrimination where they were able to preserve the language, religion and culture.

And what about the Armenians who come here from Armenia? When I talk to some of them in Armenian, they answer back in Turkish. I ask them, ‘Aren’t you Armenian? Why do you speak Turkish?’ Their answer is that they can speak Turkish better. How many women are like this? It’s not just one, two, or three. And many of those Armenians come here and marry Muslims. There are Armenians who cover their heads. They thought differently back in Armenia and completely change after coming to Turkey. Sure, there are mixed marriages in all countries, but we have seen a rise her recently.

If there are mixed marriages in the Istanbul Armenian community, why such a negative reaction when Armenians from Armenia marry Turks?
I didn’t use the word Turk, but rather mixed marriage in which people of all religions and faiths can be involved. If the issue is marrying Turks, I will say that our compatriots from Armenia, being born and educated there, who learnt Armenian history there and who had different ideas about them [Turks], regarding them as the enemy, in a word hating them, they came here and, besides looking for a job, married them. Why?

The matter of Islamized Armenians is often talked about. On different occasions you have stated that Christianity is a criterion for being Armenian.
I would say that Christianity is an inseparable part of being Armenian. Nationality and religion are inseparable for us. Who has given more martyrs in the name of Christianity than the Armenian people?

But the grandfathers and grandmothers of many of those people were Armenian like you and me.
How can an individual prove that he or she is Armenian? The answer is a baptismal certificate. Should we accept them just when they state ‘I am Armenian’? The government of Armenia requires a baptismal certificate when one files for citizenship. That’s the right thing to do. Neither our nationality nor religion should be for sale so cheaply.

Let’s assume that a person wants to be baptized in the church.
In that case, they have to submit a request to the Patriarchate, take lessons, change that section of passport to read ‘Christian’, get baptized and become a member of the Armenian Church. But they do not want to change their documents. They just want to get baptized.

In that case, why do they desire to get baptized?

It’s because a baptism certificate opens many doors overseas. They want to become a member of the Armenian Church but, on the other hand, to show that they are Muslim. They want the flexibility to use both variants. If they go to Armenia or Europe they can use the baptismal certificate, while in this country they can play the Muslim card when it suits them. No one will accept this.

But you have reservations about Armenians who became Muslims in the late 1950s.
I have no reservations but hope because there are still Armenians in their midst; people who speak Armenian, who secretly make the sign of the cross. I have brought children and young people of those families, especially from Dikranagerd, to our schools here in Istanbul. The older ones have married other Armenians and all have been baptized and are members of the Armenian Church.

Comments (6)
Last few comments via Google-translate

1. Gary
I can't understand and accept those Armenians moving to turkey where there are not welcomed and allowed to talk their language or practice their culture. It is tragic but I think these stupid people Should change their names and forget Armenia forever. Why would anyone want to speak that horrible language anyway. So sad....

2. Vigen
Actually Gary, Armenians from Armenia now living and working in Turkey, mostly Istanbul, can and do speak Armenian openly and fearlessly in the streets. You would know this had you ever been in Istanbul. They do not carry the fears of the traditional Bolis Armenian community. In a way this is good, but on the other hand, they are somewhat naive about the risks of being discriminated against. As for you ridiculous comment as to "why would anyone want to speak that horrible language" many Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire spoke, sang and even prayed in Turkish. For some, in fact, it was their first language. Naturally, this was a product of centuries of cultural assimilation and not an overnight decision. Many move to Turkey for valid reasons - there is no work in Armenia, especially for women over a certain age. Who, pray tell are you, to so easily dismiss them? If Turkey ever opens the border with Armenia, there will be those who will move, mostly for business reasons, to Turkey, especially the eastern provinces. Are you saying they shouldn't? Armenians from Armenia, and not the Diaspora, will be the ones who return to historic Armenian lands now in Turkey.

3. Hovik
Gary, first of all a language cannot be horrible, it cannot be good or bad either. Second of all, please apologize to people for calling them stupid, it will be for your benefit. People, who left Armenia, had their reasons, don’t judge them. Third of all, travel more, meet new people, read more books, get more education. It is not late!

4. Istvan
I was in Armenia. I think there are a good reasons why Armenians leave Armenia. Political and economy situation in Armenia is bad, and I think this is the main reason why they leave Armenia.

5. Boar columns (Amsterdam)
For the Armenians of Turkey's political status and political factors, but national-religious. Armenians of Russia will not be a factor. Polsahaye something different from the Turks. speaking, the names of the Turkish and Turkish passports. Their "of being" the only tarberachapanishe, it is not surprising that "being Christian" in ................................. ..................... Interestingly, the Armenian Apostolic Church has remained a recluse. It will remind you of the real estate agency. Or you can ask why a Hermit ayska?n will intervene in the affairs of the nation. "One nation, one church," the slogan of preserving an effective way to keep split. The interest in this service. Christ saved the allegations regarding the 1915. The slogan will be "one nation, one homeland."

6. Karnig
Yes, Christ delivered in 1915. First, the strength of the Armenians prefer to die than to deny him, and thus become martyrs whose reward is great in heaven. Second: The Armenian NEW OPPORTUNITY developed as a fertile ground for the seed of the word of the gospel. As the Archbishop. Ardeshean says proves unfortunate that some Muslim marriage represents a greater value? Is the blood of Christ and then, holy Gregory suffering saint Hripsime, Kaya, and Koyserun blood, and not lose more than a million victims vcharats price as Christ chs vorvetsner that the gospel has come to Armenian GREAT sacrifices.


Syrian-Armenian Singer Lena Shamamian: “The identity of my voice is Anatolian”
Anna Muradyan

May 18, 2015

"I want to return to those lands and sing in Armenian..."

Lena Shamamian, a Syrian-Armenian singer renowned throughout the Arab world is a little known commodity to music lovers in Armenia. She describes herself as probably the best known Armenian female singer in the Middle East.

Recently, Shamamian gave a sold-out concert at the 3,700 capacity Harbiye Hall in Istanbul’s Congress Center. The audience was mostly comprised of Syrians who had fled the war back home and longed to hear echoes of a more peaceful time.

While she greeted the audience in Arabic and Turkish, Lena conducted the concert in English. There were a few Armenian songs in her repertoire as well, and at the end of the concert Shamamian said "thank you" in Armenian.

I caught up with Lena Shamamian at a rehearsal session before the concert.

Your biography notes that you graduated with a degree in economics management from Damascus University. What’s the connection between music and economics?

In Syria, the marks you get at high school determine your future. I had high marks. My parents didn’t agree that I should go to study art. I was forced to select something else.

I studied economics and specialized in arts management. I then continued in business management. But when I started to work with musical groups, I understood that music was my passion. I couldn’t be behind the stage but had to be on the stage. I left it all behind to study music. My love of singing began in childhood and I cannot picture my life without song.

You don’t speak Armenian that well, but most Armenians in Syria do. Why the difference?

Armenian is my first language. Later, I studied Arabic and French. English came with time. My mother isn’t Armenian. My father is. When he left for Canada there was no opportunity to speak Armenian at home. That’s the reason my Armenian isn’t great. But let me be frank. I went to an Armenian school but the fact that my mom was an Arab was a problem. That’s why they failed to teach me Armenian correctly. They didn’t have a right to do so and was a sign of their closed minds.

Now, many say that my western Armenian has improved since I sing western Armenian songs. I can understand the words. I still have difficulty speaking. To improve my Armenian I have to live in an Armenian setting. I feel very close to the Armenian culture but there aren’t many Armenians in my environment. This is especially true now since I live in Paris. I have started to work with André Manoukian, but he too doesn’t speak Armenian that well. (Manoukian is French-Armenian songwriter, arranger, jazz musician, and actor-AM)

Who writes the lyrics and music for your songs?

I mostly work on the words. I write the songs in Arabic or English; not French or Armenian. I look for the right words, which I translate. I take great care regarding the words. I write the music and also work with other musicians. I started a new Armenian project with André Manoukian.

What are your songs about?

The themes of my songs can be diverse. I don’t sing much about love. It all depends on the situation. I have no preferences and sing about those things which I experience.

But I like to sing about freedom; especially women’s freedom and making their voice powerful. I sing about how women should be their own masters and not allow others to control them. This is what I enjoy to sing about.

You note that Armenian songs have influenced your art greatly. Can you expand on this?

My music has always been influenced by Armenian melodies and harmonies. Even if I sing in Arabic, the roots are more Anatolian than Arabic. Even the way I sing Armenian songs is more in the Anatolian Armenian manner. I can say that the identity of my voice is Anatolian.

I really learnt much from Armenian songs. I learnt how to sing about hope, about going on living. Hope is a recurring theme in Armenian songs; that we always goes forward. This inspires me to do the same for y Arabic songs.

There are many Armenian songs about pain and longing’ about how people lose their land or loved ones. But there is also hope in the end. And that’s what I did for Arabic songs, for those Arabic composers dedicated to the Syrian people. So that they understand how to move forward given the present conditions of war in Syria.

You aren’t well-known in Armenia. What’s the reason?

I’d say that’s Armenia’s problem. I have a unique quality and tempo which I believe people enjoy. The music moves them. I think Armenia is a closed society. If you are Armenian but do not live there, they won’t establish close relations with you. I do not have many video clips to broadcast via television. My audience is reached in the new media – Facebook, YouTube, etc. I don’t know the reason, but I’d say it’s a shame that I, an Armenian singer, is better known in the Arab world than Armenia.

I am perhaps the best known Armenian female singer in the Middle East, I am also known in Turkey as an Armenian singer. In France, I’m known as an Armenian and Syrian singer.

In 2011, I received an offer from the Syrian Ministry of Culture to perform in Armenia. But it didn’t work out for reasons we all know. To date, I have received no such offers from Armenia.

I received an invitation to perform at the “Tzovi Tzovi” competition held in Moscow as an Armenian singer from the diaspora, not Armenia. I have never been to Armenia.

What’s your position regarding the Genocide and Armenian-Turkish relations?

I despise politics. It’s a like a poison that kills people. I don’t understand much about the Armeia-Turkey protocols and relations in general.

All I know is the following. My father hails from Marash and my mother from Mardin. Thus my roots are in Anatolia. I want to return to those lands and sing in Armenian. It’s important for me to say that I come from there. My identity is Armenian and I must sing in Armenian in Turkey.

I’ve never had any issues with Turks because my dealings are with progressive individuals. But at the beginning I was somewhat afraid because all I know about Turks was what I had heard; that they were our enemy.

I deal with people and not with politicians. I have no problems with Turks, the Turkish culture, music, language or religion. My problem is with the politicians.

In reality, I would like to invite all diaspora Armenians to Turkey. We belong to those lands. Those lands belong to us. This is important for me.

I feel this doubly so due to the war in Syria. France is a second diaspora for me.

But if I continuously focus on death I will not be able to go on living and doing that which I want. That’s my main message – to live. Let us live and go forward. I no longer wish to be afraid; to be afraid of death. If I’m to die, let me die. But before I do I want to live. I no longer want to focus on hate, even though I know very well what happened. I went through tough times because of it. Now, I want to sing about my story; that I want to live and that I want others to live.

There are numerous prominent Armenian musicians in the diaspora; for example Armen Chakmakian and Arto Tunçboyaciyan in the States. Wouldn’t you like to work with them?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Armenian musicians. They’re some of the best in the world. But I know many diaspora Armenian musicians who sing about the past. I sing about the future. I’m now working with André Manoukian because we have the same world view.

I have many Armenian songs. Naturally, the best known is “Sareri Hovin Mernem”. But I have others and, through my music, I force people to sing Armenian, starting from Algeria to Egypt to Turkey.

The biggest problem is that I don’t have an Armenian CD. Financing for such things comes from the Arab world. I can’t launch an Armenian CD with Arab money. But I always include an Armenian song in the repertoire. I still dream about having an Armenian CD.

What are your future plans?

My most important aim is to move forward. I am working on an Armenian album, as well as an English and French one. I perform around the world and will be working with different musicians. I’m also writing a new composition.

What would you like to tell the people of Armenia?

I would like to say that I miss them very much even though we have never met. I long to sing with them.

I want to come to Armenia and say that my name is Lena Shamamian.

Photo: Hayarpi Havhannisyan




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