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Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Solvang, California

SOLVANG, CA — The 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was commemorated in Solvang, California on Sunday, May 14, 2017. The event was organized by the “Friends of Maria Jacobsen” and was attended by the congregation of Bethania Lutheran Church and members of the Armenian community from Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo. On October 23, 2016, Maria Jacobson’s bust was unveiled in the courtyard of the Church in the presence of hundreds of her admirers, including her former orphans. Maria Jacobsen, an extraordinary Danish humanitarian and missionary, was a key witness to the Armenian Genocide. For her humanitarian efforts, she is known as “Mama” for having saved thousands of Armenian orphans during the Genocide. In 1922, she transferred many orphans to Beirut, Lebanon and through the efforts of Danish missionaries and the Women’s Missionary Workers, under Jacobsen’s leadership, an Armenian orphanage was established in Jbeil (Byblos), Lebanon, lnown as the Birds Nest.

In his opening remarks, Rev. Chris Brown, Pastor of the Bethania Lutheran Church, expressed his appreciation to the Armenian American community for establishing an exemplary partnership with the Church and the Danish American community. He exalted the virtues of Maria Jacobsen describing her as a courageous missionary who followed the principles of the Bible, which brought hope to thousands of Armenian orphans during the Genocide. He then invited Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan, Chairman of “Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee” and President of Mashdots College, for his remarks. Dr. Der-Yeghiayan thanked Pastor Brown and the Congregation for their cooperative spirit andsteadfast support, congratulating all mothers present at the event. “It is no coincidence that we are commemorating the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Mother’s Day honoring the memory of a brave missionary who is revered by the Armenian World, especially the orphans, who are eternally grateful to their beloved Mama” he said. .Dr. Der-Yeghiayan quoted Jacobsen’s diary entry regarding the deportation of Armenians on June 26, 1915 when she stated, “It is obvious that the purpose of their departure is the extermination of the Armenian people.” He concluded his remarks by emphasizing the fact that “one person, one humanitarian, one missionary, one truth-teller can make a difference.” He then invited Committee members to lay a wreath at the bust of Maria Jacobsen. It was a solemn occasion when Danish American and Armenian American community members holding hands togther expressed their gratitude to a great humanitaian and honored the memory of 1.5 million Armenian martyrs of the first Genocide of the 20th century.

Dr. Der-Yeghiayan announced the establishment of the “Maria Jacobsen Essay Contest” for high school students residing in Solvang, California. Winners will receive monetary awards and their names will be announced in Solvang in April of 2018.

A special luncheon hosted by the “Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee” followed the ceremony in the Fellowship Hall of the Church.

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Historian Taner Akçam Reveals Another Document on Armenian Genocide

“The houses of the ones who hide Armenians will be burned and they will be executed”

ISTANBUL (Agos) — Historian Taner Akçam reveals another document of critical importance, after Bahaettin Sakir’s telegram which might be regarded as the document of Armenian Genocide. The telegram sent by III. Army Commander Mahmut Kamil Pasa to the regions from where Armenians had been deported is in fact dreadful. Mahmut Kamil Pasa wrote that the houses of the ones who hide Armenians will be burned. We wonder how long the authorities will stay silent after all of these documents.

We have the microfilm of the original version of III. Army Commander Mahmut Kamil Pasa’s telegram which was written on a paper with the letterhead of Ministry of Interior. At the bottom of the telegram, there is the stamp of the ministry: “true to original text”. In this letter, Mahmut Kamil Pasa informed that the houses of the ones who hide Armenians will be burned and they will be executed in front of their houses, and soldiers or civil servants who had done it will be dismissed immediately and tried in military commission.

Here is the modern Turkish version of the telegram dated July 24, 1915: “It is understood that Muslims are hiding Armenians in some villages and towns from where residents were deported. The houses of householders who hide and protect Armenians against the order of the government must be burned and they must be executed in front of their houses. Make sure that there is no Armenian left who is not deported and inform us about your conduct. The Armenians who converted to Islam will be deported as well. If there are members of armed forces who protect [Armenians], they will be reported to the related ministry, dismissed immediately to be tried later. If they are administrative authorities, they will also be dismissed immediately and referred to military commission.”

Just like Bahaettin Sakir’s telegram dated July 4, 1915, this telegram is also included in the file of Committee of Union and Progress trials, which had been held in Istanbul in 1921-22. In the indictment against CUP executives, this telegram was quoted at length and it was noted that the number of this document is “section 13, document 1” [tertîb 13 vesîka 1].

Armenian transliteration of Mahmut Kamil Pasa’s first telegram

Second telegram
Mahmut Kamil Pasa wrote another telegram about the same issue. On August 1, 1915, he sent another order to the regions as an explanation to the one sent on July 24. In this second telegram, he wrote the execution order does not apply to “the ones who host women and children who were officially settled [in Muslim houses] by the government”. He noted that the punishment “applies to ones, regardless of their religion, who hide Armenians without informing the government” and these people will be executed.

This order reveals a fact: in villages and towns, many Muslims were hiding Armenians in their houses and the government wanted to prevent it. This is why threat of burning the houses and execution was posed.

All these documents revealed during CUP trials in Istanbul are still kept confidential in secret vaults of the state! Since these documents couldn’t have been found for years, they had been treated as “invalid in the absence of originals”. For years, there had been a strange coalition. The state hid the documents and some academics spread the claim that “since there is no original document, they cannot be regarded as evidence”.

American historian Guenter Lewy was a leading actor who defended this claim. In his book published in 2004, he wrote “since the originals of the documents used in the court cannot be found, it is not right to regard the claims as reliable in terms of science of history.” In 2005, soon after this book was published, he was invited to Turkey and granted an award. The person who handed over this award was Bülent Arinç, Turkish parliamentary speaker at the time.

This comedy of “blind leading the blind” must come to an end now. The documents belonging to Bahaettin Sakir and Mahmut Kamil Pasa are just the beginning. We have plenty of original documents from Istanbul trials. More than hundred telegrams obtained by investigation committee formed on November 1918; telegrams sent from the regions, prosecution investigations of some suspect as in the case of Yozgat Governor Kamil, testimonies of Ottoman soldiers and civil servants, inspector reports… All of them will be made accessible online soon.

I expect the government to end this meaningless game that has been played for more than 100 years and serves for nothing but harming ourselves. The truth has a bad habit of revealing itself one day. It is meaningless to conceal and deny. It is about time to face with the history of Turkey, if we are not already late. Once we start with this confrontation, we will see that many basic problems in terms of democracy and human rights will started to be solved as well!

How were the documents collected?
Before Istanbul trials in 1921-22, an investigation committee was formed on November 1918. This commission traveled to the regions and collected documents concerning deportation and killing of Armenians in 1915-17. After the court started to work, it regularly applied to Ministry of Interior in accordance with newly-revealed facts and asked for extra documents. Upon the application of the court, the ministry sent letters to regions and asked them to send the documents on various matters to the ministry. From the documents in court files, we understand that some telegrams sent in 1915 were sent from many regions to Istanbul at the same time. For instance, Sivas Provience sent the copies of Mahmut Kamil Pasa’s telegrams dated July 24 and August 1, 1915 to Istanbul on January 8, 1919.

The ministry sent these documents and telegrams coming from the regions to the court. For instance, in a letter from Ministry of Interior to Court Martial written on April 2, 1919, it was noted that 42 telegrams were sent to them from Ankara and they sent these documents to the court.

Mahmut Kamil Pasa and Bahaettin Sakir documents are among the ones that were obtained during the investigations. In some indictments and decisions, many documents along with these two were quoted. Since indictments and decisions were published in the official journal of the time, we knew about these documents, but the originals had never been published so far.[1]

Mahmut Kamil Pasa’s second telegram

Documents are in the archive of Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
A considerable part of the court documents about Istanbul trials were in Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul once. In 1922, the patriarchate sent them to Marseilles. Afterwards, they were sent to Manchester and then to Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This course can be traced from the stamps on the Mahmut Kamil Pasa and Bahaettin Sakir documents. On the top right corner of the documents, there are a stamp and a number on Ottoman letterhead. The stamp belongs to Armenian Diocese of Marseilles. It was written “Armenian Patriarchate of Marseilles” [Հայոց Առաջնորդարան Մարսելի] in Armenian at the center of the stamp and in French around the stamp. Jerusalem archive record consists of an Armenian letter and a number. Since Jerusalem archive is not open to researchers, it is impossible to access these documents for now.

We found the document in the archive of Catholic Priest Krikor Gergeryan, who died in 1988. The detailed information on Gergeryan and his archive can be found in the book Naim Efendi’nin Hatirati ve Talat Pasa Telgraflari (Iletisim, 2016) [Memoir of Naim Efendi and Talat Pasa Telegrams]. Here is how Gergeryan obtained those documents:

How did Gergeryan obtain the documents?
Life is full of coincidences. Krikor Gergeryan, who lost his parents and 6 siblings and many of his relatives in Armenian Genocide, was from Sivas and moved to Cairo for living with his brother. After he graduated from the seminary school in Rome, he decided to doctorate in the murder of Armenian religious leaders and started to collect documents. In ’40s, he came across with Kurdish (Nemrut) Mustafa Pasa in Cairo, one of the judges of Istanbul martial court. In 1922, Kurdish Mustafa Pasa fled to Cairo out of the fear of arrest, after Ankara government seized Istanbul.

Pasa gave an important information to Gergeryan: during Istanbul trials, Armenian Patriarchate was allowed to be included in the case as complainant party and the patriarchate legally had the right to get the copies of case documents. Pasa also noted that these documents are in the archive of Jerusalem Patriarchate.

After that, Gergeryan went to Jerusalem and photographed the documents there. He shared what he had with many researchers. In 1983, Armenian Assembly photographed the entire archive of Gergeryan. These microfilms are open to researchers theoretically, but they are hard to use due to lack of proper cataloging.

Krikor Gergeryan died in 1988 and his nephew Dr. Edmund Gergeryan preserved his archive. On April 2015, Dr. Edmund allowed me to see this archive, giving me the opportunity to access majority of the documents from Istanbul trials. These documents will be accessible online as soon as possible.

After years of concealing the truth, destroying or hiding documents, Turkey has come to the end of the road. This meaningless policy of denial, which only serves for harming the country and prevents Turkey from become a civilized nation, must be ended. We hope that these documents we have published would serve as the beginning of a beautiful future. Elimination of denialism and facing with the historical truth will be the precursor of a good start for this country and its people.

[1] During our research, we found that a faint copy of Bahaettin Sakir’s telegram was published by Vahakn Dadrian in Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Volume 22, No. 1 Summer 1994 (s.69).

Article source:

President Trump Issues Statement Commemorating “Meds Yeghern”

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement on Armenian Remembrance Day but followed his predecessors in stopping short of calling the century-old killings a genocide. He described the killings as “Meds Yeghern” — the Great Tragedy.

The statement released by president’s press office is as follows:

“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.

As we reflect on this dark chapter of human history, we also recognize the resilience of the Armenian people. Many built new lives in the United States and made indelible contributions to our country, while cherishing memories of the historic homeland in which their ancestors established one of the great civilizations of antiquity.

We must remember atrocities to prevent them from occurring again. We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history, which is a critical step toward building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future.”

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Erdogan Sends Message of Condolences to the Turkish-Armenian Community

ISTANBUL (Agos) — In a written statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his condolences to the descendants of Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire a century ago. The statement was read during an April 24 mass that was held in Surp Vartanants Church in Istanbul this morning.

Here is the full statement:

“I respectfully commemorate the Ottoman Armenian who died under the tough conditions of World War I and offer my condolences to their grandchildren.

Turks and Armenians, as the ancient peoples of the region, shared a history and culture in this land where they have been living together for thousand years.

Armenian society raised great children, both during Ottoman times and Republican era, and made great contributions to the development of our country.

Armenians have always been equal and free citizens of our country and they have important parts in every fields of our social, political and commercial life.

Two peoples who shared joy and sorrow for centuries should dress the wounds of the past and strengthen their relations further; this is what we all aim to.

In this regard, we have taken many steps in 14 years and realized historic reforms.

Our efforts for protecting the memory of Ottoman Armenians and Armenian cultural heritage will continue.

On this occasion, I would like to emphasize this point: peace, safety and happiness of the Armenian society in our country are particularly important for us.

We don’t tolerate marginalization, isolation and disparagement of a single Armenian citizen.

I hope the patriarchal election will be held as soon as possible and I wish you the best in your preparations.

With these thought, I once again commemorate the Ottoman Armenians who died at the beginning of 20th century.

May God rest the souls of millions of Ottoman citizens who died under tough conditions of World War I.”

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USHMM Special On-Line Issue on the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian National Institute is pleased is to bring to your attention that for a limited time – until July 15 – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is providing free access to a special online issue on the Armenian Genocide of its academic journal, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, printed by Oxford University Press.

The special issue may be accessed here: The volume is introduced by Professor Robert F. Melson and includes six articles published over the span of the past ten years on several aspects of the Armenian Genocide. The authors include Peter Balakian, Shaun O’Dwyer, Taner Akçam, Donald Bloxham, Jonathan Markovitz, and Katharine Derderian.

Per USHMM, “Between the onset of World War I and the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 approximately 1.5 million Armenians, or more than half of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population, died as a result of deportations, starvation, serial massacres, and mass executions. With the intent of informing, Holocaust and Genocide Studies offer this special edition reflecting on the Armenian Genocide, featuring selected articles from past issues. The six articles included in this virtual issue examine various aspects of the genocide, including its denial, and are available to read online for a limited time.”

Available online:

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Truth, Justice & Remembrance Prevail in Times Square

By Taleen Babayan

The vow to Keep the Promise was in full effect on Sunday, April 23 as an impressive number gathered in Times Square to remember the 1.5 million martyrs and pay homage to their legacy, proving that the Armenian Genocide commemorations have only gained momentum since the centennial.

The relevant and inspiring program, organized by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan since 1985, once again attracted thousands of supporters who waved the vibrant tricolor flags of Armenia and Artzakh in the heart of New York City as the past was remembered and a renewed effort was made to strengthen the Armenian Diaspora and the homeland.

Steadfast supporters of the Armenian Genocide were once again in attendance to speak, particularly committed elected officials, including Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who acknowledged the accomplishments of the Armenian Diaspora in championing genocide recognition around the world.

“Recognition will happen if all of you continue to march, write letters and take action,” said Pallone, founder of the Congressional Caucus of Armenian Issues, who recently introduced a new resolution for the U.S. Congress to recognize the genocide.

Pallone remarked that conflict in Armenia and Artzakh is ongoing, recognizing the war there last year and warned that although the genocide was over 100 years ago, violence is still being used against the Armenian people.

“Continue your efforts,” urged Pallone. “You being here today helps with genocide recognition and we as a people must speak out against genocide wherever it occurs.”

A fellow member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) promised to “confront a stubborn resistance.”

She said all nations have a responsibility to recognize the systemic extermination of the Armenians and that until the resolution is passed to recognize the Armenian Genocide in the U.S., “we will not stop.”

Appearing every year without fail, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is the current Senate Minority Leader, pledged to “stand with all of you in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and nothing less.”

He praised the energy and collective spirit of Armenians a century after the massacres and hailed the production of the major motion picture, The Promise that “finally shines a light on this story and puts it in the mainstream for all to see.”

Honoring the memory of his late friend Sam Azadian, founder of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square, Schumer said he attends the commemoration every year “because I believe it is our duty to speak out for the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.”

“The Armenian Genocide was the first Holocaust of the 20th century but not the last,” said Schumer. “These events are a stain on humanity and I stand with all of you today to remember the pain of the past.”

Scholar David Phillips, who worked towards reconciliation with Armenia and Turkey as former chair of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission, said he always believed that “hard problems can be solved through hard dialogue.”

“But dialogue is impossible if one side wants to humiliate the other,” said Phillips, noting the efforts of Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian towards reconciliation, while Turkey’s then Prime Minister Recep Erdogan reneged on their discussions.

“It takes two to talk,” said Phillips, who is currently the Director of the Peace-building and Rights Program at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. “But Erdogan is not reconciliatory,”

He called for Washington to investigate Erdogan for war crimes “to lay the groundwork for accountability.”

“Your work and presence here today is so important,” said Phillips. “For the Armenians today in Nagorno Karabakh, for the Yazidis in Iraq and for all who suffer from crimes against humanity.”

Urging the next generation to take genocide recognition into their own hands, celebrity attorney Mark Geragos told the thousands of young people at the commemoration to “go outside the political process to create a movement to never forget.”

“If you as the next generation don’t keep the promise, we are doomed to repeat it.”

Geragos remarked that Turkey spends millions of dollars to “cover up and perpetuate a lie” and the following generations need to do their part to continue the fight for justice and remembrance.

Knights of Vartan Grand Commander Steven Kradjian and Daughters of Vartan Grand Matron Sona Manuelian recognized and honored Olympic wrestler Migran Arutyunyan and MMA champion Albert Ghazaryan, along with their coach Hayk Ghukasyan with special Knights of Vartan medals for their accomplishments in sports.

Dr. Rachel Goshgarian, Professor of History at Lafayette College and Armen McOmber Esq., New Jersey attorney, ably served as MCs for the program.

Remarks by sponsoring organizations were made by Steven Mesrobian, Armenian National Committee of America, Talin Yacoubian, Armenian Assembly of America, Natalie Gabrielian, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Shahe Sanentz, ADL-Ramgavars, Souren Israelyan, Esq., Armenian Bar Association, Natalie Sarafian, Armenian Council of America, Shant Mardirossian, Near East Foundation and Rev. Haig Kherlopian, Armenian Missionary Association of America and Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, gave the invocation and Very Rev. Fr. Vazken Karayan, pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Church, representing Archbishop Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), offered the benediction. Other clergy in attendance included Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.

The winners of this year’s Knights of Vartan Essay Contest were announced at the program: Raffi Salbashian, 1st place, Stephan Havatian, 2nd place, and Samantha Khorozian, 3rd place.

The Hovnanian Armenian Day School students sang the national anthems of the United States and Armenia, as well as “God Bless America.”

The Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey, led by director Vartan Abdo streamed the event live in video format worldwide, reaching more than 50,000 people, with the assistance of his dedicated volunteer staff.

The 102nd Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square was organized by the Mid-Atlantic chapters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan. Co-sponsors included the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of America, the ADL-Ramgavars, and the Armenian Council of America. Participating organizations included the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Prelacy of the Armenian Church, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Presbyterian Church, the Armenian Evangelical Church, the Armenian Catholic Eparchy for U.S. and Canada and numerous Armenian youth organizations, including the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, the Armenian Network of America, the Armenian Youth Federation, Homenetmen Scouts, Hamazkayin Cultural Association, Tekeyan Cultural Association, Noyan Tapan of Brooklyn,  Armenian Students Association, Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble NJ, NY Armenian Old Age Home, AGBU Young Professionals, Armenian Youth Talent Association, tri-state Armenian college and university clubs, including the Cornell Armenian Student Organization, Princeton Armenian Society and Yale Armenian Network.

Photo Credits: Albin Lohr-Jones  Anoush Gulian

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Architects of Denial: First Person Account of the Armenian Genocide

Montell Williams and Dean Cain have produced a new documentary film ‘Architects of Denial – A Genocide Denied, Is a Genocide Continued” which delves into the Armenian genocide and the denial by the Turkish government and other authoritative bodies that atrocities ever took place.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, Genocide Watch founder Dr. Gregory Stanton, FBI Whistleblower and journalist Sibel Edmonds, famous British attorney Geoffrey Ronald Robertson and genocide survivors are featured in the film.

“Armenians have been persecuted for centuries. It’s unreal,” Cain told “Fox Friends” recently when discussing his upcoming project. “They were the first bastion of Christianity. They were the first country to, I think, recognize Christianity, and they are the only bastion of Christianity in the Middle East.”

“Turkey has gone around the world aggressively lobbying to make sure there are no references to the Armenian genocide,” said Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange in the recently released trailer for “Architects of Denial.”

“Architects of Denial” not only digs into the persecution of Armenians and Christians in the Middle East, both past and present, but also sheds light on those politicians who refuse to acknowledge an event many historians and scholars accept as a sad reality.

The trailer shows camera crews confronting two Democratic members of Congress, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

“Do you deny that the Armenian genocide happened?” asks one of the filmmakers of Rep. Johnson.

She replies, “I do deny that.”

Architects of Denial is a first person account of genocide through the eyes of its survivors. Also included are several experts who graphically illustrate the real connection between its historical ‘denial’ with present day mass exterminations in conflict zones around the world.

This film warns that those responsible for genocides who are not brought to justice and confronted with the truth of their crimes, will only set the stage for more worldwide massacres in the future.

Dean Cain and Montel Williams are executive producers of the decumentary directed by David Lee George.

The film is scheduled to be released October 2017 in limited theaters.

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What Happened to the Armenians of Arjesh (Ercis) in 1915?

Write-up by Leon Aslanov

The Van region of eastern Turkey, the site of the eponymous uprising, massacres and deportations, was a focal point of the tumultuous events that took place in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. The Van Uprising has been often used by denialist historians to establish a pretext for the general deportation of Armenians from that region and elsewhere. However, a closer study of the Ottoman state’s policies vis-à-vis Van and the experiences of its Armenian inhabitants conjures up a different reality; the sheer magnitude of the violence that visited this region, and the difficulties associated with attempts at the analysis and description of that violence, has left much for historians to debate .

Presenting his research on this subject was Ara Sarafian, an archival historical specialising in late Ottoman and modern Armenian history and director of the Gomidas Institute. This lecture was organised by Dr Krikor Moskofian (Director of the Programme of Armenian Studies) and supported by the Armenian Society of UCL (University of London). The chair was Raphael Gregorian.

The events that befell the Armenians of Arjesh (Ercis), a town to the north-east of Lake Van, are at odds with denialist discourse; Mr Sarafian’s talk focused on this history, using it to contextualise the Van Uprising. In 1914 the region – which at the time contained more than fifty Armenian villages, home to over 10,000 Armenians – would see armed conflict between the Ottoman and Russian Empires. Sarafian’s investigations are part of a wider move to study the events of the Van region at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Sarafian places great importance on the demography of eastern Turkey as a tool for understanding late Ottoman history and the early days of modern Armenia. It remains a highly-contested sphere of debate due to the limitations imposed on access to archives, and the few existing studies of the demography and geography of these eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire suffer from inaccuracies. In the case of Arjesh, Sarafian relies on a study of a Russian military intelligence officer called Mayevsky, who was based in Van. Mayevsky conducted a systematic study of the population and political geography of Van and Bitlis for military purposes. His meticulous studies show the names of villages which he personally visited, as well as those which he encountered on other maps, while populations are broken down according to ethnicity, and even tribal associations. This is significant, since many equivalent Ottoman demographic maps do not distinguish the ethnic composition of Muslim communities, who supposedly constituted a unified Islamic community, or ümmet. According to Mayevky’s survey, the Armenians of Arjesh district, comprising roughly 17% of the population, were a minority among the Muslim population (61% Kurds, 22% Turks). According to Sarafian, looking at such demographic surveys allows us to gauge positions of various social groups vis-à-vis the state and each other.

Amirdol Monastery Arjesh

More descriptive accounts of the Van region describe Kurds as predominantly pastoral, Armenians as mostly peasants; indeed, the Arabic word fella? (‘peasant’) has been used by Kurds of the region to describe Armenians even to this day. The merchant class was also Armenian, while the administrative class was Turkish. Furthermore, the Kurds were organised into tribes, each tribe enjoying different relations with the state and with each other. Tensions existed between nomadic groups (generally Kurds) and the sedentary population. If looked at from a Marxist perspective, these tensions can be seen to have arisen mostly out of ecological-economic disputes, rather than ethnic or religious ones. For example, during periods of drought and famine, pastoral Kurds would lose a significant proportion of their livestock, while sedentary Armenians would lose their crops. The Armenians, however, would be able to make up for the losses much quicker than pastoral Kurds, and so the Kurds would be more susceptible to long-term damage resulting from times of hardship, thereby sowing the seeds for conflict with Armenians. Relations were not always so strained, though, and there were periods of positive co-existence and trade between these social-ethnic-economic groups.

An Armenian intellectual named A. Do (Hovhannes Der-Mardirosian) was sent to Van to compile a report on the events there between 1914-1916. His work is the single most valuable source in the study of the violence of this period. A. Do had access to a range of records, including access to eyewitness, for his comprehensive analysis of the background to the Van Uprising.

Sarafian went on to explain that recently a new trove of affidavits have been unearthed and published in Armenia concerning the Armenian Genocide. These eyewitness accounts were collected from survivor-refugees in different parts of the Caucasus in 1916. The first volume is entirely on the province of Van, including Arjesh. Sarafian explained that his case study of Arjesh 1915 was originally undertaken for an independent evaluation of A. Do’s work, which, he added, withstood such scrutiny to a remarkable degree.

Given the data at hand, Sarafian stated that it is possible to present a critical account of what happened in Arjesh in 1915. The massacres started on 19 April 1915. According to affidavits, there is no evidence of Armenian armed activity preceding this date; the Armenians of Arjesh compliant, trusted their kaymakam Riza Bey, and did not harbour any expectations of an imminent massacre. Yet they were identified, trapped and killed in a methodical manner over two days. On 19 April, Riza Bey summoned Armenian men to the government office supposedly for conscription, where they were imprisoned, tied up and killed. Systematic killings were carried out by policeman, clearly at the direction of a central authority. The number of those murdered in the city of Arjesh hovers around the 2,500 mark.

A couple of intriguing aspects of these massacres again hint at the organised nature of the crime, as opposed to the work of an aimless horde of murderers. Women and children were, by and large, not killed. They were even kept safe and fed – an indication of directives fulfilled from above. Secondly, the main killers were not the looters; the state later brought in Kurdish elements to rob and burn villages. Although there are cases of local Kurds saving Armenians, the typical narrative is that of Armenian villages succumbing to a rabble. There are other accounts of young men in other locations in the province of Van being ordered by the authorities to assemble and surrender their weapons, so the murders in Arjesh were most probably part of a broader plan to destroy Armenians. Whereas a large-scale self-defence operation was organised in the city of Van, the Armenians of Arjesh made no such plans and were more inclined to escape to the Caucasus if they could. It becomes evident that the Ottoman state was intent on destroying Armenian communities throughout the Van region.

Sarafian placed his case study of Arjesh in the general context of Armenian studies today. In the lecture, he described the field as “patchy”, with an abundance of primary material but a lack of engagement with it, and says that such detailed analyses of particular episodes of the Armenian Genocide and late Ottoman history enable a more complete picture of modern Armenian history to come to the fore. Sarafian criticised the field for allowing too much “speculation” rather than answering questions with research and empirical data as an essential component of good history. He argued that much of modern Armenian history has still not been written because people did not expect more of “establishment historians.” In Sarafian’s view, detailed case studies are part of the bedrock of reliable historiography.

In the question and answer session following the lecture, Sarafian regretted the situation regarding access to archives, which are not all equally open to all scholars. Archives maintained by institutions with political interests either keep a substantial amount of material classified, or provide access only to those scholars who will use the material in their favour. This hierarchy of accessibility means that some scholars are unable to verify and criticise the claims and work of other scholars who hold differing views, and so creates a major obstacle for well-intentioned historians whose aim is a fair analysis and description of history, rather than the instrumentalisation of history for political purposes which can be seen on both the populist Armenian and denialist camps.

Mr Sarafian delved deeper into the perspective of denialist Turkish historiography and its portrayal of Armenians as rebels in 1915. This characterisation is often used as justification of the mass murder and deportation of Armenians as a measure to eliminate further instability and counter the threat of Russian encroachment. Nevertheless, the fact is that this argument is illogical and bereft of tangible historical evidence. Turkish nationalist historians – deniers of the Armenian Genocide – avoid any discussion of the context that led to Armenians resorting to self-defence in 1915, or for that matter, the very defensive nature of the actual fighting that took place with Armenians barricading themselves in city quarters. Sarafian referred to a book called The Armenian Rebellion in Van, co-authored by Justin McCarthy and three Turkish denialist historians, in which the Armenians are presented as causing unrest in the Van region since 1912, but which contains no discussion of the events of 1915, the village massacres and the background to them. The analysis of these authors is beguiling but unfounded, neatly omitting vital events and contextual points. For denialists, it is not about engaging with the historiography, but rather excluding key information. Edward Erickson is mentioned as a newcomer to the denialist game who looks at the Armenian issue through the lens of the Turkish military. While Erickson cites the Ottoman military archives in Ankara, a historian like Sarafian is not granted access to those archives to scrutinise Erickson’s work. Similarly, in the 1990s, while examining the work of Justin McCarthy, Sarafian was denied access to McCarthy’s sources at the Prime Ministry Archives in Istanbul. For his part, Mr Sarafian states that while he has seen some of the ARF archives in Boston, he does not cite them in his work because access to them remains restricted. He said he believed that all scholars must be given equal access to all records – even Turkish state intellectuals denying the Armenian Genocide.

Mr Sarafian finds another example of denialist historiography in Yusuf Sarinay. In a work on the events of 24 April 1915, Sarinay claims that the intellectuals arrested in Istanbul were kept safe in state custody until they were released in 1918, using the political prisoners sent to Ayash as his focus. Sarinay’s work was entirely based on Ottoman records. However, Sarafian investigated Sarinay’s assertions work and found them to be fabricated. Mr Sarafian wrote a reply to Sarinay in the Istanbul-based Armenian paper Agos, but Sarinay chose not to respond. The job of the denialist historian is not to engage with arguments based on evidence, and so, predictably, Sarinay did not respond.

The question of whether non-Armenian sources existed for the purposes of studying a case such as Arjesh was raised by the audience. Mr Sarafian mentioned that American missionaries wrote accounts of what happened in the Van region, and that he suspects that there are a host of Russian accounts in military archives which could be used to elucidate the situation in the Van region at the time. Sarafian expressed his frustration towards the lack of useful Ottoman Turkish records on this topic; the only record available to his knowledge is that of an account released by the military archives of a massacre of a Turkish/Kurdish village. On a related case, he gave the example of a reported massacre near Diyarbekir in 1915. When he went to the village in question, the local villagers stated categorically that no Muslims were massacred there in 1915, only Armenians. In the case of Arjesh after the arrival of the Russian army, there are accounts of Russians and Cossacks, not Armenians, looting Muslim shops in the city of Arjesh. The Turkish nationalist discourse does not tend to make this distinction. What took place in eastern Turkey during Russian occupation is still unclear and necessitates further research.

Mr Sarafian ended the lecture by noting that some of the best academic research on Armenians in late Ottoman history is by scholars from Turkey. One such example is Yektan Türkyilmaz, a Turkish scholar of Kurdish origin who also knows Armenian. He is not alone. Umit Kurt, Ugur Ungor, among others, are producing sound academic work on this topic. This shared past that was experienced by all ethnicities of the region, and collaborative efforts that transcend ethnic boundaries are to be encouraged in order to write a more objective history.

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Armenians in Iraqi Kurdistan Commemorate Genocide 102nd Anniversary

ZAKHO, Kurdistan Region ( –The Armenians who have sought refuge in the Kurdish city of Zakho on the Turkish border commemorated the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

They fled their places of origin, and were scattered around the then Turkish empire, with some heading south of the border with what is now the Kurdistan Region. There are now 200 Armenian families in the city, some 200 km northwest of the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

“There are just a few of us in Kurdistan. But thanks to God, we have been given most of our rights,” Ishkhan Milko, an Armenian member of the Duhok Provincial Council, told Rudaw, “We have a seat in the Kurdistan parliament as well as a seat in the Duhok Provincial Council.” They arrived in Zakho following the genocide that started on April 24, 1915.

“The Armenians immigrated from [their areas], in Bitlis, Erzurum, Van, Mush, and many other locations in Northern [Turkish] Kurdistan,” Dr. Hogir Mohammed, a Kurdish researcher in Armenian genocide said as he made reference to Turkish cities located east and southeast of Turkey, “They took many different routes, some went towards the Syrian desert, of whom some stayed in Syria, and others went as far as Jordan and Egypt. Some of them came to Iraqi Kurdistan as well where their main entrance route was Zakho. “

There is a school that teaches the Armenians in their own language. A board on the entrance reads that it was founded in 1969. “Many Muslims received schooling in the Church. We were studying with the Armenians and then afterwards, they came here,” Fahmi Ahmad, the head of the Armenian school said while pointing to the school behind him, “and this time around the Armenians were studying alongside the Muslims. We were being taught about Islam and them about Christianity.”

Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks and today Armenians are one of the world’s most dispersed people. It is estimated that more than half of Armenians live outside of Armenia.

Many nations have recognized the mass killings as genocide. Others, including the United States, resist such acknowledgement. Turkey denies that the killings constituted genocide and says that the figures are exaggerated and estimates the total killed to be 300,000.

Every year on April 24th, the day when the attacks against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire began, Armenians remember the Medz Yeghern, or the ‘great catastrophe’. A stone cenotaph on a hill in the Armenian capital Yerevan, featuring an eternal flame, is a center point of the commemorations.

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Spanish City of Villena Officially Recognizes and Condemns Armenian Genocide

VILLENA — The city of Villena of Spain adopted an institutional statement according to which it officially recognizes and condemns the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian Embassy in Spain has reported.

The statement, adopted by the Villena City Council, describes the 1915 events as Genocide and crime against humanity.

The condemnation of such crimes is important in terms of excluding new similar events. It is worth mentioning that before the voting the Turkish side tried to exert pressures as a result of which the representatives of the People’s and Socialist parties changed their stances at the last moment, however, this didn’t have any impact on the voting results which included Villena in the list of over three dozen Spanish cities that recognized the Armenian Genocide.

The results of voting of parties represented in the City Council are the followings: European Greens (Los Verdes Europa) – 11 votes in favor, People’s Party (PP) – 7 votes against, and the Socialist Party (PSOE) – 3 votes abstained.

Villena is a city in Spain, in the Valencian Community. It is located at the northwest part of Alicante, and borders to the west with Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia, to the north with the province of Valencia and to the east and south with the province of Alicante. It is the capital of the comarca of the Alto Vinalopó. The municipality has an area of 345.6 km² and a population of 34,928 inhabitants as of INE 2008.

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'Genocide Monument'

Using the unrecognized Genocides of the past as a reason to keep vigilance on all current ones around the world. The iPhone app is now available free on the Apple App Store. The Android and Blackberry versions of 'Genocide Monument' are currently being funded for production.