Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Never forget, Bolis is more of an Armenian city than Turkish

It’s almost as if our compatriots in Bolis are working mightily to restore their home city to its status of a century-plus ago when, along with Tiflis (Tbilisi), Georgia, the two cities served as Armenia’s “capitals”—and from the point of activism, education, intellectual ferment, reform, religion, revolution… they really were!
Armenian graffiti (“pari luys”—”good morning”), in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district (Photo: Rupen Janbazian/The Armenian Weekly)
Unfortunately, in the political-governmental sphere, the Armenian Highland was bereft of an “on-site” focus considering the (then) five-centuries-plus nonexistence of Armenian statehood. Never forget, Bolis is more of an Armenian city than Turkish. One-third of Byzantine emperors were Armenians. After the Turks captured the city, we were still among the main artisans, builders, financiers, and merchants that made the city great.
You might wonder how I could possibly even think such a thing with so few Armenians left in Bolis, along with the Turkish-occupied portion of the Armenian Highlands, Cilicia, and Asia Minor. But that may be exactly why there’s so much happening there—the repression and “oblivion” forced upon Armenians through successive Turkish regimes’ policy. There may be an unspoken, understated, “we’re not gonna take it any more” attitude permeating our persecuted compatriots.
Here are the examples, both specific and general, very recent and somewhat less so, that have led to this thought and the article attempting to elucidate it.
On Oct. 27, Robert Haddejian completed 50 years of service as the editor of Marmara (named after the sea separating “European” from “Asiatic” Turkey, of course), which has been published in Bolissince Aug. 31, 1940. The very next day, Jamanak (“Time”), the longest continuously running Armenian language daily newspaper (a distinction held by Boston’s Hairenik until it went weekly several years ago), published in the same city, celebrated its 110th anniversary.
The 36th Annual International Istanbul Book Fair, held in early November, featured numerous books about Armenians, the Armenian Genocide, and Armenian issues.
There’s the ongoing saga, perhaps better referred to as a farce, of the Patriarchal elections, which have been stalled for months (years?) on end because of the Turkish authorities’ shenanigans, enabled through the power-hunger of certain individuals within our community. Then there is Garo Paylan’s involvement in bringing attention to prominent businessman and civil society activist Osman Kavala’s unjust detention by the Turkish authorities.
Of course, all this brings us to one of the medium term examples of Bolis’s intensity—having produced three Armenian members of parliament, in Turkey, in the June 2015 Turkish election. Also on the political front, Elmas Kirakos and Taylan Yıldız are founding members of a new Turkish political party, Iyi Parti (Good Party), led by Meral Akşener. Akşener is touted as a serious challenger to Erdoğan in the next Turkish presidential elections. But, most recently, she was in the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party), a chauvinist party usually associated with the Gray Wolves, a paramilitary youth group that has conducted many attacks. This seems like a strange place for Armenians to be. But then, Selina Doğan, one of the three Armenian members of Turkey’s Büyük Millet Meclisi (parliament) is in the CHP, the party of Ataturk, and Markar Esayan is in the AKP, Erdoğan’s party. Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.
Add to the above medium-term trends embodied in open commemorations of the Armenian Genocide, Crypto-Armenians’ coming out of hiding, Kurdish recognition of the genocide and active embrace of Armenians, the progressive (primarily Kurdish) HDP and its positions on matters Armenian, the difficulty that Islamized Armenians face when trying to re-adopt Christianity… All these ultimately lead back to Bolis.
In these, more trying times of Erdoğan’s ascendancy, let’s not forget our compatriots who are holding down the fort for us in old Bolis (Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul). If you have remote or close relatives there, keep up, strengthen, or re-establish your connections. Let’s make sure they do not feel alone. Let’s make sure they are well integrated with and attuned to the web of Armenian life that spans the globe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Armenian National Committee of Albany Endorses Don Boyajian for U.S. Congress

ALBANY, N.Y.—The Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Albany announced Friday its endorsement of Don Boyajian, Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, representing the Adirondack Mountains and Thousand Islands regions of the Empire State.
The ANC of Albany announced Friday its endorsement of Don Boyajian, Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District (Photo: Don Boyajian for Congress)
“ANC of Albany hereby endorses Mr. Don Boyajian as the candidate for Congress for the 21th District of N.Y.,” said ANC of Albany Chairperson Antranig Karageozian. “Don has shown in many ways that he has the ability, desire, and leadership skills to be the candidate we need for this job.”
Boyajian will face a primary election to win his party’s nomination; he would then challenge incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik, who has no meaningful record of support for Armenian-American issues.
If elected, Boyajian would be the third U.S. Representative of Armenian heritage serving in the U.S. House, joining Congresswoman Anna Eshooo (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif).
The grandchild of Armenian immigrants from Aintab on his father’s side and from Palu on his mother’s, Boyajian represents the third generation in his family to live and work in the U.S. During the years of the Armenian Genocide, his father’s family settled in Saratoga County, N.Y., where they operated a sheep farm, while his mother’s family put down roots in Providence, R.I.
(L to R) Boyajian with U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts (Photo: ANCA-ER/Azat Gevorgyan)
He and his family are active in St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church, where his mother recently received the Women’s Guild’s Woman of the Year Award.
Professionally, Boyajian is an environmental and municipal attorney at Dreyer Boyajian LLP, a firm his father co-founded. He graduated from Colgate University and Cornell Law School, where he clerked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office (NDNY), New York Office of the Attorney General (Environmental Protection Bureau), and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Boyajian also served as a Legislative Aide in the U.S. Congress, where he focused on agriculture, natural resources, and energy policy.
To learn more about his campaign or to volunteer, visit

Genocide Denied, Armenians Denied: Rejecting the Very Existence of Armenians in Turkey

Special to the Armenian Weekly
Last week, while criticizing Israel and the United States on President Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated with great conviction, “There has never been any genocide, holocaust, massacre, ethnic cleansing, or torture in our [Turkish] history.”
He said this without even batting an eye…
Over the years, there has been an effort to deny the very existence of the Armenians and their contributions to Turkey
This wholesale denial of historic facts regarding the treatment of minorities by the state is nothing new, but with each act of denial, history keeps repeating itself with sickening regularity—the massacres of Armenians were followed by the massacres of Greeks, Assyrians, Alevis, and Kurds.
This article will focus not on the denial of genocide, but on the denial of the very existence of the Armenians and the many contributions they have made in the country.
The Balyan Family Mausoleum (Photo: Daily Sabah)
In a previous article (“The Untold Stories of Turkey: An Armenian Island on the Bosphorus“), I had touched upon how a single family of Armenian architects, the Balyans, had shaped the skyline of Istanbul, particularly along the Bosphorus, with their creations of palaces, mansions, military barracks, and mosques. Although revered and respected as Royal Architects during Ottoman reign, their Armenian identity was denied by the Republic of Turkey and they were referred to as the Italian Balianis by official tour guides until the early 2000s.
Even more famous than the Balyan family, an architect living in the 16th century, Mimar (architect) Sinan (1489-1588) has left his mark all over the Ottoman Empire. He built 92 mosques, 55 schools, 36 palaces, 48 hamams (bathhouses), three hospitals, 20 inns, 10 bridges, six water channels, and hundreds of other government buildings—almost all of them still standing after five centuries. His masterpieces are the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, which are both registered UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The interior of the Sehzade Mosque (Photo: Muscol)
The average Turk knows Mimar Sinan as the “Great Turkish Architect Sinan,” and his name is given to fine arts and architecture universities. But little is known about the fact that he was an Armenian from the Agirnas village of Kayseri province, seized from his parents as a boy, Islamized, circumcised, and raised as soldier and subsequently as an architect by the state. When he died at the ripe age of 99, he was buried near Suleymaniye Mosque.
During the 1930s, the Turkish state was dominated by racist intellectuals who claimed that the Turkish race was superior to all other races and that there was a definable set of Turkish race characteristics in shape of skull and other features. To prove their point and to demonstrate that historically intelligent Turks match their defined racial characteristics, these so-called anthropology experts decided to exhume the remains of Architect Sinan, a most prominent Turk from the past. Unfortunately, Sinan’s skull did not match these experts’ theoretical Turkish skull dimensions, and as a result the skull was kept hidden. To this day, the whereabouts of the skull is still unknown, and Sinan’s body lies in his grave without a head.
A Turkish 10,000 lira note, featuring Mimar Sinan
Again in the 1930s, when President Mustafa Kemal decided to introduce the Latin alphabet and modernize the Turkish language, he turned to professor Hagop (Agop) Martayan, a prominent linguist, to head the Turkish Language Council. As a reward for his services to the Turkish language, Kemal gave him a new surname, Dilaçar, meaning “language opener” [i.e., one who bestows language]. In return, Martayan proposed the surname “Ataturk” to Kemal, which was eventually adopted by Parliament.
Hagop Martayan, or Agop Dilaçar, was the first secretary general and head specialist of the state-funded Turkish Language Institution (Türk Dil Kurumu, TDK) founded in 1932 in Ankara (Photos: Ara Güler)
When Martayan passed away in 1979, Turkish media announced his name as A. Dilaçar, without ever mentioning his Armenian identity. In fact, some newspapers further distorted his name, calling him Adil Acar. After Mustafa Kemal became Ataturk, he needed to create a new signature, and he called upon another Armenian, master calligrapher Vahram Çerçiyan (Jerjian). Çerçiyan’s Ataturk signature was adopted in 1934, and it appears on everything from Turkish banknotes to parliamentary records. Today, nearly nobody in Turkey remembers Çerçiyan.
Çerçiyan’s Ataturk signature was adopted in 1934, and it appears on everything from Turkish banknotes to parliamentary records
In 1932, the Turkish government commissioned a prominent Armenian musicologist and conductor, Edgar Manas, to create the harmony and orchestration for the Turkish National Anthem based on a melody by a Turkish musician. Today, nobody remembers Edgar Manas in Turkey, even though his composition of the national anthem is sung every week in schools, stadiums, and Parliament.
Edgar Manas
In Turkish cinema, movie stars Adile Naşit, Toto Karaca, Vahi Öz, Sami Hazinses, and Kenan Pars are known all over Turkey, after making millions laugh or cry in their films over the years. But very few Turks know or acknowledge that these stars are all Armenian. They all had unique reasons for hiding their Armenian identities, and many of their true roots were revealed only after they passed away. Adile Nasit was Adile Keskiner (1930-1987), Toto Karaca was Irma Felegyan (1912-1992), Vahi Öz was Vahe Ozinyan (1911-1969), Sami Hazinses was Samuel Agop Ulucyan (1925-2002), and Kenan Pars was Kirkor Cezveciyan (1920-2008).
Dikran Çuhacıyan (Tchoukhajian)
The first opera in Turkey was staged in 1874 in Istanbul by an Armenian; it was composed, conducted, and produced by Dikran Çuhacıyan (Tchoukhajian) (1837-1898). Turkish sources deny this and cite Turkish singers for much later dates. The first theater production in Istanbul was staged six years earlier, in 1868, again by an Armenian, by the name of Agop (Hagop) Vartovyan (1840-1902), also known as Güllü Agop and Yakub. Though it is safe to call Vartovyan the founder of modern Turkish theater, most Turkish sources deny this fact.
The first athletes representing Ottoman Turkey on the international stage were two Armenians and a Greek at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. The Armenians were Vahram Papazyan and Mgrditch Migiryan, both competing in track and field. Most Turkish sources deny this and cite Turkish athletes at later dates.
Examples of Armenian contributions, innovations, or accomplishments, denied or forgotten in Turkey, can be seen in nearly every imaginable field of arts, science, business, finance, banking, engineering, and publishing in Ottoman or Republican Turkey. One of the best sources to comprehend the role of Armenians in Turkey is an incredibly detailed series of four books called Western Armenians Throughout History (Tarih boyunca Batı Ermenileri), in Turkish, authored by Professor Parsegh Tuglaciyan (1933-2016), better known as Pars Tuğlacı.
(L to R) Armenian athletes Mgrditch Migiryan and Vahram Papazyan
Tuglaciyan is the author of the first Turkish Encyclopedia, called The Ocean Encyclopedia Dictionary, and several other books. However, perhaps his lifetime achievement is this four volume history of Armenians, based on hundreds of thousands of meticulously researched documents. Each volume totals about 900 pages, covering the periods of 289-1850 (Vol. 1), 1850-1890 (Vol. 2), 1890-1923 (Vol. 3), and 1923-1966 (Vol. 4). His last volume was published in 2009 in Istanbul.
Adile Naşit
Unfortunately, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he was not able to publish the fifth volume, which would have covered the period of 1966-2010.
The Cover of Tarih Boyunca Batı Ermenileri, authored by Professor Parsegh Tuglaciyan, better known as Pars Tuğlacı (Photo: Pars Yayın)
The most dramatic and indisputable evidence of the Armenian Genocide is in Tuglaciyan’s third volume (1890-1923), which reveals thousands of documents showing Armenian achievements in nearly every field imaginable, including within the Ottoman government. Until the mid-1910s, Armenians were prominent in all levels of the Ottoman foreign ministry and embassies, indispensable in state enterprises and the central bank, and highly influential in the fields of business, art, science, academic institutions in Istanbul as well as all the Ottoman provinces. The dramatic disappearance of all these Armenian names in 1915 is evidence enough of the Armenian Genocide.
When I once asked Professor Tuglaciyan how he was allowed to publish such a critical book in Turkey, he simply stated: “I am just presenting state documents showing promotions or rewards of Armenians in state bureaucracy, achievements of Armenians in arts, sciences, and business, promotional ads of Armenian enterprises or cultural events. They all existed before 1915, but no more after 1915. Who can dispute that?”
In conclusion, I urge all Armenian scholars in Armenia and the Diaspora to consider translating Professor Tuglaciyan’s hidden treasure to English and Armenian for future generations to better understand what we had, what we lost, and—perhaps most important—why we lost it.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

NSA Head Accuses Turkey of Pushing Extreme Islamist Ideology

General H.R. McMaster, President Tump's National Security Adviser
General H.R. McMaster, President Tump’s National Security Adviser
WASHINGTON—The United State national security adviser, national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, said Tuesday that Turkey was a prime source of funding that contributes to the spread of extremist ideology, reported Voice of America.
“A lot of Islamist groups have learned from” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), said McMaster.
It is he said a “model of really operating through civil society,” McMaster said, “then the education sector, then the police and judiciary, and then the military to consolidate power in the hands of a particular party, which is something we’d prefer not to see and is sadly contributing to the drift of Turkey away from the West.”
“We’re seeing great involvement by Turkey from everywhere from western Africa to Southeast Asia,” McMaster said during an appearance in Washington. “The Balkans is an area of grave concern now.”
McMaster stopped short of accusing Ankara of funding actual terrorist groups. Instead, he voiced concern that Turkey was following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, and more recently Qatar, by funding groups that help create the conditions that allow terrorism to flourish.
“We didn’t pay enough attention to how extremist ideologies were being advanced through madrassas and mosques, and so-called charities more broadly,” he said.
“The same Erdogan regime that the White House rightfully vilifies for sponsoring extremist violence today is – against all reason – granted a U.S. veto over honest U.S. remembrance of Turkey’s genocide of Armenians and other Christians a century ago,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s long past time for America to finally reject Turkey’s gag-rule, bring an end to Ankara’s denials, and overcome Erdogan’s ongoing obstruction of justice for this still unpunished crime,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticized McMaster’s remarks Wednesday, calling them “astonishing, baseless and unacceptable.”
“We expect the United States, which we continue to recognize as our friend and ally, to display the same stance to our country, to cease all forms of cooperation with terrorist groups such as YPG and provide more concrete and effective support in our ongoing determined fight against terrorism and radicalism,” the ministry said in a statement.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Paylan Sounds Alarm on Fate of Minorities in Turkey

Garo Paylan
Garo Paylan
ISTANBUL—Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has sounded an alarm on the fate of minorities living in Turkey, including the Armenian community.
Speaking after vandals targeted several Alevi home in Eastern Turkey, Paylan said told Al-Monitor that minorities in Turkey could “again be pawns of shadowy forces that seek to exploit the country’s current discontents.”
“They [minorities] remember what happened to their grandparents, or even their mothers and fathers, and they know that it is in the current environment, crimes can occur,” he told Al-Monitor.
“Some powers use minorities as a form of manipulation against each other [knowing] that people are biased against these groups,” he said.
Late last week week, vandals painted red “X”s on 13 houses in the predominantly Alevi district of Cemal Gursel in Malatya, where Paylan’s grandparents are from and currently is known as a conservative city with 800,000 residents.
Two days after the Alevi homes were vandalized, an Armenian church association was pelted with stones when the office was empty.
Local police have yet to investigate these incidents.
Malatya is home to about a few dozen Armenians. Before the Genocide, one-third of the city’s residents were Armenian.

Chris Cornell, Constantine Orbelian, Tigran Mansurian Receive Grammy Nominations

From left, Chris Cornell (Constantine Orbelian and Tigran Manurian were nominated for Grammy awards Tuesday
From left, Chris Cornell (Constantine Orbelian and Tigran Manurian were nominated for Grammy awards Tuesday
NEW YORK—The late singer Christ Cornell, the Armenian conductor Constantine Orbelian and the Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian were among performers nominated for Grammy awards when the roster was announced Tuesday morning on CBS “This Morning.”
Cornell was nominated in Best Rock Performance category for his song, “The Promise,” which was the theme song for the eponymous film about the Armenian Genocide that premiered in April in the United States.
Cornell, who was best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter, and rhythm guitarist for the band Soundgarden and as lead vocalist and songwriter for Audioslave, died in Detroit on May 17. He was 52.
Last month the Armenian National Committee of American-Western Region honored Cornell with a special tribute during its annual gala. Earlier this month, Cornell was honored at the Arpa International Film Festival 20th anniversary banquet and was posthumously awarded.
Orbelian  was nominated along with the late Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky Best Classical Solo Vocal Album category for “Russia Cast Adrift,” the world premiere orchestral recording of neo-romantic composer Georgy Sviridov’s song cycle set to the vivid and moving poetry of Sergei Yesenin.
Orbelian conducted the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra and the Russian folk music ensemble Style of Five for Hvorostovsky’s latest album “Russia Cast Adrift.”
Orbelian’ is the General and Artistic Director of the Yerevan Opera House, which in 2018 will mark the establishment’s 85th anniversary as well as the 150th anniversary of Armenian opera. Another album featuring Orbelian was nominated for Grammy 2015.
Mansurian was nominated for two Grammy awards in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition and Best Choral Performance categories for his “Requiem,” which is dedicated to the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims.
Mansurian is nominated along with his collaborators Alexander Liebreich, Florian Helgath and the Munich Chamber Orchestra and the RIAS Choir Berlin, which co-commissioned the piece.
“Requiem” reconciles the sound and sensibility of Armenian traditions with those of Western practices, the combination of ancient Armenian religious and secular music with the Latin Requiem text, which Mansurian says gives “rise to something unexpected.”
The 60th Grammy Awards will be held on January 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York and will be broadcast live on CBS.
This article was modified to include the news about Tigran Mansurian’s Grammy nomination. An earlier version did not reflect that fact.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Photographing Historical Armenia: Facing a Past of Pain, Creating a Future of Peace

pecial to the Armenian Weekly
Arriving in Istanbul, 2012 (Photo: Stepan Norair Chahinian)
A man of many talents, Stepan Norair Chahinian brings a new way of processing information through visual representation.
From generational branches that stretch back to Urfa, Marash, Iskenderun, and Kessab, Chahinian was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1979. His passion for photography was inspired by his grandfather, Avedis Shahinian, who migrated from Marash to Aleppo, where he founded Studio Photo Shahinian.
Chahinian received education in architecture and urbanism from Mackenzie University in 2001, and in 2007 a master’s degree in art history from São Paulo state university. He began his profession as a photographer in 1999, while at university.
After graduating, he traveled throughout South America, Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East to take on photography projects. Those photographs were published in various books, newspapers, and periodicals.
He visited Turkey for the first time in 2012 to follow his family’s footsteps after they had been forced to flee their homeland, Western Armenia.
In 2015, Stepan published The Power of Emptiness: Talking with Stones in Historical Armenia, in Istanbul, Turkey, during the commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. In the same year, he exhibited this work in Diyarbakir and Urfa, in Turkey. A year later, his project extended to Armenia, France, and countries in South America.
Below is our interview about The Power of Emptiness and related issues.
Lori Sinanian:  This is our second encounter since we met in Abril Bookstore’s Roslin Gallery in Glendale, Calif., for the release of your new, trilingual photography book, The Power of Emptiness.Please give our readers an understanding of who you are.
Stepan Norair Chahinian: I am a consequence of a genocide that happened more than 100 years ago. My four grandparents were victims, in different ways and scales of persecution. Their families were forced into exodus and were lucky enough to survive. So I am a classic example of a third-generation member of the Armenian Diaspora, from isolated Brazil. I graduated as an architect, and inherited photography from my grandfather as a language of art and as a path of expression and as means of reading humanity in its most different forms of manifestation.
L.S.: What is the reason behind your work?
S.N.C.: Justice, recognition, and peace among all nationalities, mostly between Armenians and Turks. I had in mind to visit Turkey and try dialogue through photography: facing a past of pain and being able to create a path of peace for the future. I have never conformed to the classical divisions within the Armenian community in which I grew up: Are you from this or that political party? Which church do you attend? Which club? Who is your father?
Since 1991, the independence—and the possibility of effective political action in a free country, with its parliament, its laws and regulations—that we were able to achieve after centuries of domination, in my opinion ended any need of political divisions inside the communities. What about being “just” Armenians? That is already a huge responsibility!
The interior of Nazarian family house in Aintab, 2013 (Photo: Stepan Norair Chahinian)
We can and need to have different opinions, but the fight for our culture, history, language, traditions must be our unified mission inside the society that we live. I do not believe that fueling hate and anger over the black past of the Turkish people will help us solve the problem, much less burn flags or swear justice via arms by preaching that one day we will conquer our rights with bullets…
My generation needs to go to today’s Turkey and face them! Show them that the plan to exterminate Armenians failed and we’re coming back. We have the truth on our side, and there is no better weapon than that. They are guilty, and this is [a] very heavy [burden]. In my case, I faced them with art, with photography, and it was an incredible experience. We have to reinvent ourselves and change the strategy in the diaspora…and we have already lost a lot of time… We have to build bridges instead of trenches.
Inside the Armenian priest’s house in Everek, 2013 (Photo: Stepan Norair Chahinian)
L.S.: What is the psychology behind your title, “The Power of Emptiness?”
S.N.C.: I wanted the title to express a sensation, the one that was with me in every city, home, church, or empty school I found in the four years of travel through our historic lands. They are empty today but there’s a lot of energy stored in their memories. The stones and spaces are witnesses of the Genocide. And it was those memories, full of power, that the stones shared with me, and which I tried to reproduce through photography.

L.S.: The power of nonverbal communication, the intertwining of the past and present through interpreting images beyond the actual image… these methods of photography overpower regular conversations. Through the moments you’ve captured, what is the first image that comes to mind?
S.N.C: Although it may seem incredible, it was not even a stone, a place, or a space that impressed me so strongly, but a human being. It was the meeting with a person, an Armenian woman, who—before being photographed—took a cross out of her dress, and asked me for that photo to carry a message wherever I went. She asked to tell everyone that she is Armenian, Christian, and that she lives in the very same village where her mother, an orphan of the genocide, lived. We were, we are, and forever will be in our land. We have to value these real Armenian heroes who live and survive on the frontlines. And it was right there, that I understood that the plan failed, and the third chapter of the book is all structured on the life of the Armenians in Turkey, today.

Armenian couple from Gerger, 2013 (Photo: Stepan Norair Chahinian)
L.S.: Talking about genocide through different mediums is a way of revisiting history to constantly remind and make sense of what has happened. The different ways to define Genocide offer a layering of different perspectives. Do you believe you allowed your audience to understand Genocide in a different way?
S.N.C.: At least it’s an effective attempt. I’m sure many people could never have imagined some of the stories behind the photos, and this is very comforting to me. I feel like a messenger. The book was all produced and published in Turkey—in five languages, and two different versions: one in Armenian, Turkish, and English; and the other in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. It was released on April 24, 2015, in the evening, during the centenary commemoration, in Istanbul. The publishing house is Armenian Aras. Throughout the four-year process, I have created great Turkish and Kurdish friends, heard countless apologies and recognition of the Genocide.
It’s clear that in the world of art there is more knowledge and consensus on our struggle. I was also arrested, and I was able to observe the more fascist side of the Turks who still manifest against the Armenians.
This increasingly latent ambiguity will make the political situation in Turkey even more confusing and spur the dissolution of the current dictatorship, which will one day certainly come. It will reveal the black face and all the dirt hidden for years. We need patience (yes, more…) and change the focal and action points.
In my case, I am very happy for the relationships and contacts I have established, and I hope that many others will experience it, too. One of my contacts, Mr. Osman Kavala, was arrested a few weeks ago without any real allegation by the Turkish government. He is perhaps the greatest reference in the world of arts and human rights in Turkey. Once again, a great mistake, like the death of Hrant Dink, that will further strain the relationship with minorities.

L.S.: Your photographs portray the voices of our ancestors, the voices of writers, lovers, creators, artists, philosophers. Your photographs give “the invisible stories, the marginalized stories” life and meaning. As an artist, what is your advice to photographers who wish to bring experiences of the past to the present moment?
S.M.C.: Let go of the stereotypes and old dogmas that are still alive in Armenians who haven’t had the chance to return to our historic lands and do not know the current Turkish society. I believe that there still are many people who fit the stereotypes, but also there are many [Turkish and Kurdish] people who are willing to help and apologize.
The ruins of Ani, former capital of Armenia, 2012 (Photo: Stepan Norair Chahinian)
Take time to produce images, think and observe the more unexpected details—of constructions and of people. And believe that before Armenians, Turks, Brazilians, or Americans, we are human beings and, therefore, there are moral values that are common to us all.
Photography is more than a tool to eternalize moments. It is a gateway to dive into the enormity of the human being.
Stepan Norayr Chahinian is currently archiving his grandfather’s depictions of Syria and will continue to make the project into something bigger. He hopes to be able to spread his work across the United States.
He last visited Los Angeles in the beginning of October for a “short, and for what felt fast” stay. “During my duration in LA, I felt flabbergasted by the huge community. I wish to one day meet the extended community all throughout the U.S., from coast to coast. I am ready for my educational journey that will provide growth on both spectrums: for my audience and for me,” Chahinian said. 
Chahinian’s book is available for purchase on Amazon and at Abril Bookstore