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Turkey Undermines its own Propaganda

By Desecrating Armenian Church
By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

The Turkish government finally carried out last week its much touted but ultimately failed public relations effort for the reopening of the Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island. It was a textbook case of how not to carry out a propaganda campaign.


By orchestrating such a high profile show, Ankara intended to impress the international community by trying to make the point that while Armenians are accusing the Turks of having committed genocide against them, the Turkish government was so magnanimous and gracious as to spend $1.5 million of its own money to renovate an ancient Armenian Church.

Due to sheer incompetence and no small degree of malice, Ankara botched just about every aspect of this ceremony. Here is a short list of the many missteps of the Turkish authorities which undermined their own objectives and interests:

1)      Changed the date of the opening ceremonies 3 or 4 times, thus making it obvious to the world that Turkey was trying to find the most politically opportunistic time to score the maximum possible propaganda effect.

2)      The Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles sent a large number of invitations to Armenians less than two weeks before the “Akdamar” (sic) ceremony. This mailing list was recently acquired from a “moderate” Armenian and the invitations were sent out in cheap brown envelopes, similar to the paper bags used by grocery stores.

3)      Leaked to the Turkish media a fake list of the names of Diaspora Armenians who were supposedly attending the reopening ceremony, while in reality, not a single one of them was at Akhtamar.

4)      Labeling the Armenians that were invited by Ankara to Akhtamar as “moderates,” served to undermine their credibility and standing in the Armenian community.

5)      Forced the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople to attend the ceremony without allowing him to say even a prayer.

6)      Invited Armenian Church leaders to the reopening of a sacred Armenian Church, and then told them that it would be a museum and not a church, and that there would be no religious ceremony, no cross on the Church’s dome and no affiliation with the Armenian Patriarchate. No wonder not a single Armenian Church leader showed up at the ceremony either from Armenia or the Diaspora, except for the Patriarch.

7)      Invited high ranking Armenian government officials and then not allowed them to cross the border, thus forcing them to drive 15 hours to get to Lake Van via Georgia, rather than the 4 hours needed directly from Armenia.

8)      Invited to the ceremony Israeli and American diplomats whose governments have refused to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide

9)      Rejected the offer from a world famous Armenian-American pianist Shahan Arzruni, formerly of Istanbul, to perform at the opening ceremony on Akhtamar Island. Instead, they arranged for a Turkish pianist who played Turkish, Jewish and Armenian music.

10)  Hoisted huge Turkish flags all over Akhtamar Island, including a large one on the church wall itself along with a massive banner of Ataturk.

11)  When a couple of pious Armenian visitors lit candles inside the church, Turkish security agents quickly put out all the candles and confiscated them.

12)  When Atilla Koc, the Minister of Culture of Turkey, was asked if mass could be held at the renovated Church once a year, he responded by saying that he is waiting for a decision from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thus making it perfectly clear that the whole ceremony was a big political charade.
If Turkey wanted to impress international public opinion and win over Armenians everywhere, it should have done the exact opposite of what it actually did. As an Armenian Church leader recently told this writer, if the Turks truly desired to befriend the Armenians, they should have placed crosses all over the Holy Cross Church, instead of Turkish flags and posters of Ataturk. Rather than impressing Armenians, Turkey actually ended up insulting them by desecrating their historic Armenian Church!
Cengiz Candar, in his commentary published in the Turkish Daily News, had very harsh words for the Turkish authorities. He described their actions at Akhtamar as a “disgrace” and even “cultural genocide.”
One can always count on Turkish officials to undermine their own state interests. That is why they are often referred to as “the gang that cannot shoot straight!”

Shushi Renaissance: Foundation intends to restore Shushi’s fame by turning it into cultural center of Armenians

By Julia Hakobyan
ArmeniaNow reporter
On March 23, 1920 joined Turk-Azeri troops burned the Shushi town of Nagorno Karabakh. About 20,000 Armenians were killed and 7,000 houses were demolished. The elimination of Shushi, the cultural and trade center of Armenians was a part of a plan to annihilate Armenians and the traces of their existence in the region. Today, 87 years later, an Armenian foundation is working to reverse the damage of history . . ..

Bakur Karapetyan’s desk is flooded by hundreds of photos, mostly black and white, some crumple or yellowed but still clearly detecting the images of old cities with churches and bridges, buildings with decorated arks and ornamented balconies, people in old-fashioned dress. For some that disorderly pile may seem just the scraps of days gone by. For Karapetyan it is more than old photos. He hears their stories in these photos, the stories of the history of Armenian people.

For 10 years, Karapetyan, a writer and a photographer with more than 45 years of experience has been maturing the idea of creating a National Gallery of Photography in Shushi.

The photos displayed in the gallery of his dream will be collected from Armenians from all corners of the world to give a true picture of cultural and social life of the Armenian people, the cities and towns they lived, architectural monuments they built, wars and trials they endured.

The ‘Shushi” Non-Governmental Oganization founded by Karapetyan appeals through its website asking people to contribute to the foundation of the gallery by providing photos.

“We inherited a great amount of photos of historical events from 19th and 20th centuries, public or natural phenomena, moments of everyday lives. Almost in each Armenian family there are photos of old times, which are tarnished and spoiled because of storage, taking away the valuable evidences of our people’s history. We appeal to our compatriots to help us founding the gallery. The restored photos and the proper storage will save from oblivion the memory of our ancestors and cities in which they lived,” says Karapetyan.

Karapetyan believes the comprehensive photo material will become a target for scientific research and may fill the unexplored pages of history.

He plans to copy and digitalize the photos then give back to the owner. Many photos that have already been collected are at The on-line gallery has the showrooms of Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, United States, Europe, Middle East, Latin America, and other places. The photos illustrate the different aspects of life, such as politics, culture, rural and urban lives. So far the foundation has more than 3,000 photos.

Karapetyan says that a building in Shushi could be turned into a gallery if he can find $300,000 for renovation and equipment.

However founding the gallery is not the final goal of the photographer. He says it is just a small part of his ambitious plan to turn Shushi into nation-wide cultural, educational and tourism center, to make it more than a town which was crowned as a symbol of Armenian victory. (Shushi was liberated from Azerbaijani occupation on May 9, 1992, a day that Armenia and Karabakh mark as the turning point of the Karabakh war.) The foundation wants to see Shushi become a center of pan-Armenian culture and research. “Shushi was crowned as a hero city, a symbol of victory. It deserves much more attention than it gets now.”

Even after the Karabakh war, Shushi has preserved most of its monuments, dating from a time when it was a noted publishing and cultural center. The “Shushi” foundation together with professors and students from the Yerevan State Engineering University carried out architectural research in Shushi and registered 525 architectural monuments, including tombs, cemeteries, khachkars and residential buildings. Besides some 200 Bronze age tombs were founded in Shushi. Most of the monuments are in poor conditions and need urgent restoration.

“The buildings that present a historical value are being demolished now and the stones are used for other constructions. The authorities should take steps in saving them, otherwise we can not maintain even former fame of Shushi which survived wars and invasions.”

Some visitors call Shushi “phantom-town” for the great number of destroyed multi-stories buildings and houses, few people in the street and the atmosphere as if war ended only yesterday. However Karapetyan believes that only Shushi’s glorious history is enough to be chosen as a cultural center of Armenians. “I believe that even the ruined Shushi has such potential,” he says.

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