Saturday, March 25, 2017

Documentary about Islamized Survivors of the Armenian Genocide Premieres in Istanbul

Special for the Armenian Weekly
A new Turkish documentary about Islamized survivors of the Armenian Genocide premiered in Istanbul on Feb. 9.
The English poster of The Children of Vank (Courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
The documentary The Children of Vank tells the story of what happened to the few survivors of the 1915 genocide in the province of Dersim (“Tunceli” in Turkish) and of the 1937-38 Dersim massacre.
According to the documentary, the Armenian survivors of these two genocides were exiled by the Turkish government to other places across Turkey.
Due to the forced Turkification and Islamization policies of the Turkish government, the Armenian names of the survivors were changed and they were given Turkish names. They were then made to convert to Islam by reciting the Shahada, the public recitation of Islamic belief that is declared by all converts to Islam. Some were raised as Alevis in Alevi households.
A still image from the documentary (Photo courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
The film is named after the Surp Garabed Vank (Saint Garabed Monastery) in the village of Halvori in Dersim. The word “Vank” means monastery in Armenian.
The Surp Garabed Vank, which is believed to have been built in the ninth century, was the only Armenian place of worship in Dersim that was not destroyed in the Armenian Genocide.
The monastery was bombed by Turkish forces in 1937 and its priest was arrested. It was completely demolished in the massacre in 1938 and the priest was brutally murdered—alongside other Armenians and Qizilbash/Alevis in the village of Halvori Vank.
“The Turkish state targeted all Qizilbash/Alevis across Dersim as well as the Christian community in that village in the 1937-38 genocide,” said Kazim Gundogan, the producer of the movie, speaking to the Armenian Weekly. “Almost all of them were killed. That is why, we named the people whose stories we told 75 years after the genocide ‘the children of the monastery (Vank)’.”
A still image from the documentary (Photo courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
Kazim Gundogan and Nezahat Gundogan, the researchers of the movie, traced the Armenian survivors of these two genocides in the provinces of Konya, Bolu, Istanbul, Izmir, and Dersim and conducted interviews with them. Kazim Gundogan also wrote a book about the Armenians of Dersim entitled The Children of the Priest: Armenians of Dersim 1. “Our research on Armenians of Dersim is ongoing. We will publish a second book about the stories of the Alevi, Muslim, atheist and Christian Armenians of Dersim at the end of this year,” said Gundogan.
The documentary details the courageous yet traumatic lives of the surviving children and grandchildren of the monastery. It describes their shattered memories, their efforts of searching for their roots and their journey back to Dersim.
A still image from the documentary (Photo courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
Gundogan emphasized that he would like to share the documentary with those who want to learn more about the Armenians of Dersim and the 1938 massacre by organizing premiers and talks about the movie across the world.
Ahmet Ak, who learns about his grandmother’s Armenian identity, says in the documentary: “I think she was so scared that she did not share anything with us. It is so hard to be an Armenian in these lands. And they lived through these difficulties in person so deeply.”
Kazim and Nezahat Gundogan have also produced two ground-breaking documentaries about the 1938 Dersim massacre: Two Locks of Hair: The Missing Girls of Dersim (2010) and Unburied in the Past (2013).
A still image from the documentary (Photo courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
In 2012, the two also published a historic book called The Missing Girls of Dersim, which contains more than a hundred stories as well as several documents detailing the painful experiences of the surviving children of Dersim, who were kidnapped by Turkish soldiers or bureaucrats following the massacre.
At the press conference organized during the premier of the Children of Vank, the director, Nezahat, said that it took them four years to complete the making of the documentary.
“We all know that historical truths are covered up, hidden and denied by the official ideology and the official history narrative in our country. Hence, it takes a very long time to chase the truths and reveal them,” said Nezahat. “It is hard to be a Kurd, an Alevi, a woman, a homosexual, a child—to be the ‘other’— in these lands… But being an Armenian is even more difficult. Armenians are seen as ‘the other of the other,’” Nezahat added.
A still image from the documentary (Photo courtesy of Kazim Gundogan)
According to Nezahat, the documentary is not just movie, it is what the filmmaker calls “a struggle for truth.” “I hope this movie will pave the way for revealing many other untold stories,” Nezahat explained. “And I hope it will help stop even greater sufferings and atrocities from taking place again.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Armenian Genocide Billboards Displayed Across Massachusetts

Peace of Art began its 2017 genocide awareness campaign by displaying billboards across Massachusetts from March 10-April 30, 2017 (Photo: Peace of Art)
Peace of Art began its 2017 genocide awareness campaign by displaying billboards across Massachusetts from March 10-April 30, 2017 (Photo: Peace of Art)
BOSTON, Mass.—Peace of Art’s 2017 campaign of Genocide awareness has begun. In commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, starting March 10th to April 30, 2017, at seven locations: Route 1A in Lynn, Route 1 in Malden, 495 in Methuen, and on April 1st on South East Expressway Boston, Massachusetts.
Peace of Art will display a message of peace on electronic billboards, calling on the international community to recognize the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian Genocide.
“April 2017 is the month of remembrance of the Holocaust and all genocides in the world, and on this occasion we are calling on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide by honoring the memory of the innocent victims of all genocides,” Daniel Varoujan Hejinian, the Peace of Art president said. “The billboards reflect the historical moment, when His Holiness Karekin II, together with Pope Francis on behalf of the Armenian and Catholic community worldwide, released doves soaring towards Mt. Ararat, sending a message of peace to Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide.”
Highway view of billboard (Photo: Peace of Art)
Highway view of billboard (Photo: Peace of Art)
Every year since 1996, Hejinian has been displaying the Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards. In 2003 Peace of Art, Inc., began to sponsor the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Billboards. In 2015, Peace of Art, Inc. launched its Armenian Genocide Centennial awareness billboard campaign, “100 Billboards for 100 Years of Genocide,” in the U.S. and Canada to commemorate not only the victims of the Armenian Genocide but also the victims of all genocides.
Peace of Art is dedicated to the peace keepers and peace achievers around the world, and those who had the courage to place themselves on the line for the betterment of humanity.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Contributions of Armenian Women in Turkey Highlighted at Parliament

Armenian member of Turkish parliament Selina Dogan raises awareness about role of Armenian women in Turkish society
Armenian member of Turkish parliament Selina Dogan raises awareness about role of Armenian women in Turkish society
ISTANBUL—Selina Dogan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the Republican People’s Party (CHP) used the occasion of International Women’s Day on Wednesday to highlight Armenian women who contributed to Turkish society, reported the Agos newspaper.
Dogan named Armenian intellectuals Elbis Gesaratsyan, Sırpuhi Düsap, Zabel Asadur, Zabel Yesayan ande Hayganuşh Mark, who are considered as the first feminists of Turkey.
The member of parliament stressed that while many statements had been on the occasion of International Women’s Day, the absence of these prominent women gave her pause.
“This means that either the way we discuss this issue is not right or we are not being sincere,” said Dogan who argued that minority women were being forgotten in history of women’s struggle in Turkey/
“While Halide Edip is naturally remembered with respect, her contemporary Zabel Yesayan, with whom she exchanged letters, is ignored. While dear Sabiha Sertel has the place she deserved in the feminism history of this country, nobody remembers her contemporary Elbis Gesaratsyan. While Nezihe Muhiddin, who struggled for enfranchisement of woman and whom I respect deeply, was making feminist history, her counterpart Hayganush Mark, who published a women’s magazine for 14 years, is not remembered at all,” said Dogan.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ümit Kurt Explores Turkey’s Laws on Armenian Genocide-Era Dispossession Cases

Dr. Ümit Kurt speaks at George Washington University Law School
Dr. Ümit Kurt speaks at George Washington University Law School
George Washington University Law School and the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) cosponsor talk by Dr. Ümit Kurt
Washington—Dr. Ümit Kurt, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, outlined the complex laws promulgated by Turkey to systematically dispossess Armenians of their properties during and after the Armenian Genocide, in a February 28 talk at George Washington University Law School.
“We were honored to partner with George Washington University Law School and Dean Susan Karamanian on the lecture by Dr. Ümit Kurt, which has revealed many important questions about Armenian property claims that the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights will continue to systematically pursue,” Kate Nahapetian, Executive Director of the Armenian Legal Center noted.
“One of the many unsettled consequences of the Armenian Genocide is the status of the property once held by the Armenians. Dr. Kurt provided critical insight into the laws and practices of the Ottoman Empire as they related to the property of Armenians and their continuation under the Republic of Turkey. His work relied on important original sources and shed new light, in particular, on the liquidation of Armenian assets,” explained Susan Karamanian, Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies at George Washington University Law School, who hosted the talk.
In his talk, Dr. Kurt noted that the state-orchestrated plunder and impoverishment of victims was an integral aspect of the Armenian Genocide. “Despite widespread incidents of private plunder and corruption, there is no doubt that the seizure of Armenian property was primarily state-orchestrated genocide. . . . By losing all their … assets… [Armenians] were turned from existence to non-existence,” Dr. Kurt explained. The impoverishment of the victim ensured that they would not be able to return to their native lands and helped fund the genocide machine.
The dispossession did not stop after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but continued into the new Turkish Republic. Dr. Kurt explained that both the Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and Turkish Republic’s Kemalist leaders concocted ways to make the illegal process of property confiscation look legal through complex laws, regulations and decrees.
For instance, the first act of the new Turkish Republic’s Kemalist government was to annul provisions meant to return properties to Armenians. The Kemalist government brought back the liquidation laws of the Ottoman perpetrators and even expanded them.
After the Lausanne Treaty was signed, which required the return of confiscated properties, Turkey created a virtual wall that prohibited Armenians’ return and ability to reclaim their assets, Dr. Kurt observed.
Convoluted laws and regulations were used, once again, to consolidate the fruits of the genocidal crime. Dr. Kurt focused on the US-Turkey Compensation Agreement of 1934 as an example of this. After the genocide, Armenians, who had not received Ottoman permission to become naturalized American citizens, were, for practical purposes, stripped of Turkish citizenship rights and prohibited from returning. However, when the United States tried to resolve their property claims through the US-Turkey Compensation Agreement of 1934, Turkey insisted that Armenian American claims be excluded, refusing to recognize their US citizenship. As a result, Americans of Armenian heritage were denied justice in both their adopted and native countries.
(From left to right) Associate Dean Susan Karamanian, Dr. Ümit Kurt, and Kate Nahapetian
(From left to right) Associate Dean Susan Karamanian, Dr. Ümit Kurt, and Kate Nahapetian
Dr. Kurt also touched on the issue of archival records, noting that the abandoned properties and liquidation commissions set up to dispose of Armenian properties kept meticulous records, but these records are still inaccessible. Dr. Kurt tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to gain access. He was able to publish one record from the commissions, which was maintained by an Armenian family, that detailed the properties down to the spoons and knives that were taken and to whom they were sold.
As for the Land Registry records, which are well-organized and can provide a detailed history to Armenian heirs of their families’ properties, Dr. Kurt explained that plans in 2005 to make them publicly accessible were quickly prohibited by Turkey’s National Security Committee.
Ümit Kurt received his Ph.D. from Clark University, History Department, in 2016. He got his MA and BA degrees in Turkey at Sabancı University and Middle East Technical University respectively. He taught in the Faculty of Arts and Science in Sabancı University and has been a visiting professor in the Armenian Studies Program at California State University. He has published numerous articles on confiscation of Armenian properties during the genocide. More details about Ottoman and Turkish laws surrounding the plunder of Armenian assets can be found in his latest book with Taner Akcam, The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015).
The Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) fights to redress human rights violations emanating from the Armenian Genocide that continue to this day and undermine stability in a region that has for far too long been marred by policies founded on genocide, not human rights and justice. ALC promotes scholarship on the legal avenues for addressing the challenges emanating from the Armenian Genocide, in addition to pursuing cases in national and international courts, while promoting the protection of Armenian cultural heritage through the return of stolen properties and artifacts.
Video of the lecture will soon be posted on the ALC’s Facebook page.

AYF Statement on Turkish Propaganda Film

We write to inform our community about the film The Ottoman Lieutenant, a primarily Turkish-funded production that perpetuates denial of the Armenian Genocide under the guise of neutrality. We urge you to refrain from watching this film in theaters or supporting it in any way, but we do feel it is important for our community to be aware of the fact that genocide denial is present and still a major issue, even outside of the Republic of Turkey.
The Ottoman Lieutenant, starring Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett, and Ben Kingsley, pretends to be an “objective” love story set in Ottoman Turkey during World War I, but in reality, the movie furthers the currentRepublic of Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial through feel-good historical revisionism. It portrays the Armenian Genocide as a ‘two-sided’ conflict of equal suffering in the fog of war. At face value, this may signal a willingness to discuss the Armenian Genocide. However, this is a new chapter in the classic state-sponsored genocide denial which seeks to recast the narrative as two-sided suffering.
While one character in this film stated that measures were taken to stamp out the Armenian “rebels” who sided with the Russians against the Ottoman Empire, another character acknowledged that there was, in fact, a campaign to rid Anatolia of its Christian population. It seems the writers of this film aimed to take a neutral stance on the issue, attempting to represent multiple viewpoints. But let this be clear: it is not possible to be neutral on the issue of genocide, and attempting to do so merely supports the modern propaganda of the Turkish government.
A producer of the film is quoted almost verbatim repeating the contemporary Turkish state’s language of genocide denial in a Turkish daily newspaper saying, “As objective and respected to common sufferings of both Turks and Armenians, we wanted to show the audience what happened during World War I in Eastern Anatolia, a subject that has not been handled before.”
While Turks were inherently affected by the state of war in the region — along with all civilians of the Ottoman Empire — their suffering cannot be equated with the systematic massacres and campaign of extermination suffered by the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks living on those lands.
Thankfully, some objective viewers of this film were able to see through the veil of neutrality and soft propaganda it attempts to push. Film critic Dennis Harvey, in a review featured on, states, “Violent tensions between Armenian Christians and Turkish Muslims are already beginning to impact this remote area, soon to be exacerbated by the outbreak of WWI. But in this primarily Turkish-funded production, the historical, political, ethnic and other intricacies — not to mention that perpetual elephant in the room, the Armenian Genocide, which commenced in 1915 — are glossed over in favor of a generalized ‘Whattaya gonna do… war is bad’ aura that implies conscience without actually saying anything.”
We cannot stress enough that going to see this film in theaters will only give it support and undeserved positive attention in the long-run. In the coming days, the AYF will be writing letters to theaters and campuses hosting screenings to educate them about our concerns with this film. We recommend others join us, and we are ready to provide resources and language translations for individuals who wish to do so.
Take the creation of this film as a reality-check. Denial is real and is present, and it is now being pushed in new and subtle ways through avenues one would not expect. The Turkish narrative and strategy of evading reparations has changed multiple times in the last 102 years, and has included everything from claiming Armenians committed genocide against the Turks, to minimizing the severity and describing it with words like “civil war” and “common pain.” We must always remain vigilant, and should never tolerate any form of denial no matter how mild or well-disguised it may be. The softer form of denial this film perpetuates is the most dangerous form of all, and it often goes unnoticed.
Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over 17 regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.

Monday, March 6, 2017

TURKEY ISNT A DEMOCRACY YET--Paylan to Take His Case to European Court of Human Rights

Garo Paylan
Garo Paylan
ISTANBUL—Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) will take his case against the Turkish legislature to the European Court of Human Rights after Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected his appeal, reported Agos.
Paylan was barred from participating in three consecutive session of the Turkish Parliament after he called the events of 1915 Genocide during parliamentary deliberations on Turkey’s new Constitution. He appealed the decision to the Constitutional Court, which rejected his case.
“I wish the court of my country would have solved the problem. If the court would have issued a verdict on eliminating that decision which is a blow to democracy, the situation would be different. In this case I am going to appeal to the ECHR”, Paylan said.
At a parliament session on January 13, Paylan’s speech was interrupted because he used the word “genocide.” The transcript of his speech was subsequently deleted from the parliamentary minutes and he was banned from the legislature for three sessions.
Garo Paylan appealed to the Constitutional Court on the grounds of “violation of parliamentary immunity and abolishment of freedom of expression” and he demanded the decision is reversed. The Court rejected Garo Paylan’s demand on February 27.

The Promise Has a New Trailer. Film to debut in theaters nationwide on April 21

The Promise Has a New Trailer. Film to debut in theaters nationwide on April 21

Baku Hides Truth about Sumgait Pogrom says Armenian Envoy

MOSCOW, Russia (—A ceremony of laying flowers to commemorate the innocent Sumgait Armenian massacre victims on February 27-29, 1988 took place at the Armenian Apostolic Church in Moscow on Tuesday, press service of the Armenian Embassy in Russia reported.
According to the statement, Ambassador of Armenia to Russia Oleg Yesayan, permanent representative of the Republic of Artsakh in Moscow Albert Andryan, representatives of various agencies of Armenia in the Russian Federation and the Armenian Community took part in the event.
Yesayan noted in his speech that the massacre of the Armenians, which took place 29 years ago, has not received a corresponding legal and political assessment yet.
“Currently, Azerbaijan attempts to hide from the nation the truth about the Sumgait events. Events, which took place near Aghdam 25 years ago, also serve the same purpose,” he said. “The Azerbaijani side presents those events in a completely falsified way and calls them ‘Khojaly genocide’ in order to attribute them to the Armenians and hide the real scene in that way.”
According to Yesayan, official Baku uses the so-called “Khojaly events” for political and propagandistic purposes trying to divert attention from the Armenian genocide in Sumgait, Baku, and Maragha.
On February 26-29, 1988, in terms of actual complicity of local authorities and inaction of the USSR government, mass pogroms of civilians were organized in Sumgait city of Azerbaijani SSR, accompanied by unprecedented brutal murders, violence and pillaging against the Armenian population of the city. Armenian pogroms in Sumgait were carefully organized. At the meetings, which began on February 26 in the central square, city leaders openly called for violence against the Armenians.
On February 27, protests, which were attended by hundreds of rioters, turned into violence. Armed with axes, knives, specially sharpened rebar, rocks and cans of gasoline and with the pre-compiled lists of apartments where Armenians lived the rioters broke into the houses, turning everything upside down there and killing the owners. At the same time, people were often taken out to the streets or to the courtyard for jeering at them publicly. After painful humiliations and torture the victims were doused with gasoline and burnt alive. On February 29 army troops entered Sumgait but without an order to intervene. Only in the evening, when the mad crowd began to attack the soldiers the military units took up decisive steps.
The exact number of victims of Sumgait pogroms is still unknown. According to official data, 32 people were killed; however there is ample evidence that several hundred Armenians have been killed in the city in three days. There is also evidence that the riots were coordinated by KGB in Azerbaijan. Executioners of Sumgait were subsequently declared as national heroes of Azerbaijan.
On February 26, 1992, during the Karabakh war, around 200 to 300 people (according to Human Rights Watch, and 600 according to the version propagated by Azerbaijan) were killed in unknown circumstances near the city of Aghdam. They were deliberately withheld by the Azerbaijani authorities in the midst of the military actions. The authorities of Azerbaijan intentionally kept the population in the village for months by force and did not evacuate them in order to use them as human shields later as the village was one of the firing points for shooting at the blockaded Stepanakert (among five others).
The residents of Khojaly, coming out through the humanitarian corridor the self-defense forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic had left open, freely passed more than 10 km and reached the Aghdam city controlled by the Azerbaijani troops. Later, dead bodies of the villagers were found not far from the positions of Azerbaijani troops. The exact death toll remains unknown as the official Baku publishes data contradicting each other. Parliamentary Commission investigating the tragic death of the civilians at Aghdam city was dissolved by the order of Heydar Aliyev, the investigative materials are kept secret.