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  • Rasputin
    The Armenian community of Istanbul is the most isolated when it comes to relations with the Republic of Armenia. The Armenians of Turkey hardly feel the presence of Armenia in whatever sector you wish to name. However, the Armenians in Istanbul and in the hundreds of residences throughout Western Armenia have remained Armenian, even without knowing the language, converting to the Muslim faith, changing their names and surnames and professing to be of another nationality.

    It’s the same across the board; they have remained Armenian due to the fact that they are labeled as “giavour” (infidel) and their domicile as the “village of the giavour”. Perhaps there will come a time when they can openly profess their identity, I can’t say. Today, however, the reality is otherwise. The Armenian community in Turkey really has no connections, no relations, with their Armenian counterparts in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. In any event, those Armenians coming to Istanbul from the Anatolian provinces attempt to rediscover who they really are. When they go to church they stand off in a corner by themselves, not mingling with the Bolsahay’s. For the most part, the “bourgeoisie” Bolsahay’s don’t even let these provincials approach them. These are the same Bolis Armenians that the great satirist Hagop Baronian described so many years ago and whose bust is located in the courtyard of the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Orta Kyugh (Ortakoy).

    It was the last Sunday of June that we found ourselves inside the walls of the Sourp Harutyun Church in Kumkapi. In the courtyard were assembled around ten or so elderly Armenians. Further away a woman of about thirty was seated. Her face and hands were rough and worn and I recognized her to be of village stock. Seated away from the rest, it seemed as if there was an invisible boundary line running down the middle of the courtyard and that she wasn’t permitted to cross it. I later learned that she was an Armenian who had just moved to Istanbul from Sassoun. The woman didn’t speak a word of Armenian. The words uttered by Pakrat Estukyan, the Armenian Editor at Agos, quickly came to mind, “And when we speak of the Armenian community of Istanbul we must understand that we are talking about a certain “petty-bourgeois” lifestyle. This “accepted” lifestyle only wishes to see Armenians who fit the prescribed mould…Those Armenians who have lived outside the Istanbul community for long periods and who, whether preserving their identity or losing it, are aware of it today. This segment of Armenians can never fully integrate into the dominant Bolsahay community.”

    Sourp Harutyun is a small but charming church that the Bolsahay’s have nicknamed the “Fishermen’s Church”. For hundreds of years the Armenians of Istanbul were engaged as fishermen and fishmongers and their families attended services at this church, which by the way is close to the main fish market in the city. Their descendants continue to call Sourp Harutyun their local parish church

    The number of working Armenian churches in Istanbul today stands at 36. However, the number of those attending religious services decreases yearly. On any given Sunday, one would be hard-pressed to see a large number of young people at church.

    Baronian, in his masterful work, “A Stroll through the Neighborhoods of Bolis”, described the district of Pera and its inhabitants thusly, “There are four churches in this neighborhood; Sourp Yerrortutyun, Khor Virab, Vosgeperan and Sourp Harutyun. Go to all four and you will not find four pious Christians amongst them.” The issue of finding four pious Christians doesn’t only relate to the Armenians of Istanbul. Today, in Yerevan, there are other “pious” Christians who are building churches. These individuals steal from the people and then build private churches with the ill-gotten proceeds. They then engage in charitable works, giving back mere crumbs to the people they stole from, and are praised on the TV screen and in the papers. The problem of “pious Christians” is one of those seemingly eternal themes that came to my mind, out of the blue, in the land of Baronian.

    Baronian continues to write that, “In this neighborhood reside the most famous of wealthy compatriots who in recent years have opened up their money bags in the name of charitable works…but they only contribute to those benevolent works for which their names will be published in the papers and they themselves glorified. They will not give a cent, however, to those good works worthy of national honor and glory, since such contributions will not be covered in the papers. It would be downright stupid for one to give two bucks to the national fund and not get his name in the papers.”

    It seemed that all conversations between Bolsahay’s and average Turks soon revolved around the topic of Hrant Dink. One evening, when our taxi driver learnt that we were from Armenia, he told us that he was an Alevi (a branch of Islam whose followers don’t pray in mosques) and that Armenians and Alevis are brothers. Of course I found that brotherhood difficult to believe but the fact remains that Alevis in Turkey are facing repression and Hrant Dink, in addition to everything else, was a champion of minority rights in Turkey. Our Alevi taxi driver stated that his coreligionists were present at Hrant’s funeral procession. “We cried that day, the burly Turk said and continued; there are 30 million Alevis in Turkey, 20 million Kurds and only 20 million actual Turks. We will eventually triumph.”

    Hrant Dink forced the average Turk to think and to ask himself questions. Through his TV debates and interviews he made the problems facing Armenians comprehensible for the Turkish populace at large. For Turks, Hrant represented the Armenian community and in a way became the symbolic Armenian. His was a representation that was quite sympathetic and which charmed the Turkish intellectuals and political leaders who seemed to throw in the towel of defeat whenever they debated Hrant. But Hrant also had another mission in mind - to make the Armenian community stand up and listen to what he had to say as well. Armenians were obliged to take notice as well because his views on the Genocide and Armenian-Turkish relations were quite different from the generally accepted viewpoints. And it was hard to come out on top in a debate with Hrant because his sincerity would defeat all comers.

    For Turkish national chauvinists, Hrant Dink was the most dangerous Armenian around and thus his murder didn’t happen by chance. We now know that his assassination had been planned quite a while ago. Hrant, however, was also not acceptable to many Armenian circles as well, whether in Istanbul, Armenia or the Diaspora. It’s sufficient to note two facts in this regard - Mesrob Mutafyan, the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, had banned the advertising of any church-related activities in the newspaper Agos and that Hrant was labeled a “spy” throughout much of the Diaspora.

    Janet, one of our Bolsahay acquaintances, declared, “Who brought the greatest pressure to bear down on Hrant, the Turkish government or the Armenian Church? Hrant was being attacked from all quarters. And all of us followed the spectacle, like we were seated at a circus, with Hrant in the center ring being fired upon day and night. We kept him at arm’s length, alone and isolated. When they took him to court we didn’t even go to the trials. Hrant also sacrificed himself for us. His voice was silenced because the people started to wake up. He was becoming dangerous.”

    As the Bolsahay’s put it, a state of confusion and turmoil reigns within the Agos offices today. It halls and rooms have become the meeting place of choice for progressive Turks and Kurds; the Turkish policeman posted outside constantly monitoring the entrance way.

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  • Rasputin
    Due to its strategic significance, Armenia was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between the dominion of Persia and the Ottomans. At the height of the Turkish-Persian wars, Yerevan changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737.

    Map of the Erivan khanate.In 1604, Shah Abbas I pursued a scortched-earth campaign against the Ottomans in the Ararat valley. The old Armenian town of Julfa in the province of Nakhichevan was taken early in the invasion. From there Abbas' army fanned out across the Araratian plain. The Shah pursued a careful strategy, advancing and retreating as the occasion demanded, determined not to risk his enterprise in a direct confrontation with stronger enemy forces.

    While laying siege to Kars, he learned of the approach of a large Ottoman army, commanded by Djghazadé Sinan Pasha. The order to withdraw was given; but to deny the enemy the potential to resupply themselves from the land, he ordered the wholesale destruction of the Armenian towns and farms on the plain. As part of this the whole population was ordered to accompany the Persian army in its withdrawal. Some 300,000 people were duly hearded to the banks of the Araxes River. Those who attempted to resist the mass deportation were killed outright.

    The Shah had previously ordered the destruction of the only bridge, so people were forced into the waters, where a great many drowned, carried away by the currents, before reaching the opposite bank. This was only the beginning of their ordeal. One eye-witness, Father de Guyan, describes the predicament of the refugees thus:

    It was not only the winter cold that was causing torture and death to the deportees. The greatest suffering came from hunger. The provisions which the deportees had brought with them were soon consumed... The children were crying for food or milk, none of which existed, because the women's breasts had dried up from hunger... Many women, hungry and exhausted, would leave their famished children on the roadside, and continue their tortuous journey.

    Some would go to nearby forests in search of something to eat. Usually they would not come back. Often those who died, served as food for the living.
    Unable to maintain his army on the desolate plain, Sinan Pasha was forced to winter in Van. Armies sent in pursuit of the Shah in 1605 were defeated, and by 1606 Abbas had regained all of the territory lost to the Turks earlier in his reign.

    The scortched-earth tactic had worked, though at a terrible cost to the Armenian people. Of the 300,000 deported it is calculated that under half survived the march to Isfahan. In the conquered territories Abbas established the Erivan khanate, a Muslim principality under the dominion of the Safavid Empire. Armenians formed less than 20% of its population ).as a result of Shah Abbas I's deportation of much of the Armenian population from the Ararat valley and the surrounding region in 1605.

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  • Rasputin
    Ottoman-Safavid Rivalry and the Depopulation of Armenia

    Tamerlane's invasion at the end of the fourteenth century and the wars between the Black and White Sheep Turkmen dynasties in the fifteenth century had a devastating effect on the population of historic Armenia. The latter part of the fifteenth century witnessed the weakening of the White Sheep and the attempts of the Ottoman sultan, Bayazid 11 (1481-1512), to take advantage of the situation and to extend his domains eastward into Armenia and northwestern Iran. At the dawn of the sixteenth century, however, Iran was unified under a new dynasty, the Safavids (1501-1732) and after some nine centuries once again acquired the sense of nationhood which has continued into the present.

    The Safavids assumed importance during the early fourteenth century when Sheikh Safi ad-Din established his Sufi order in Iranian Azerbaijan. A century later, the order, now known as the Safavi, had assumed a wholly Shi'i nature and began gathering support among the Turkmen tribes of northwestern Iran and eastern Anatolia. The order obtained the support of a number of major Turkic tribes, who called themselves the kizil-bash, or "red heads" (from the red caps that they wore). By 1501 the Safavid leader Isma'il seized Transaraxia from the White Sheep and declared himself shah. Ten years later he managed to gain control over Iran, historic Armenia, and much of eastern Transcaucasia, and he founded a theocratic dynasty that not only claimed to be descended from 'Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, but that also portrayed the shahs as reincarnations of the Shi`i imams or saints. Shi' ism thus became and remains the state religion of Iran. The emergence of the Safavids and the rise of Shi'ism in eastern Anatolia were major threats to the Ottomans, whose claim to the caliphate and the leadership of the Muslim world was challenged by the new Iranian dynasty. In 1514 Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) crossed the Euphrates River and for the first time entered historic Armenia. Shah lsma'il was not ready to fight the Ottomans and withdrew his forces, burning many villages en route to forestall the advancing Ottoman army. Thousands of Armenians were force to leave their land. The Ottomans pushed deep into Armenia and on August 23, 1514, at the Battle of Chaldiran, destroyed the Iranian army through superior numbers and artillery. Although Selim captured Tabriz, the admimistrative center of the Safavids, he had to withdraw a week later, as Ottoman military leaders refused to winter in Tabriz or to pursue the enemy into the Iranian highlands. This pattern was to be repeated a number of times, particularly during the reign of Shah Tahmasb I (1524- 1576), who also pursued scorched-earth policy when he had to face the mighty Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566). The harsh Armenian climate and difficulties in transportation and in communications with Constantinople made it possible for the Safavids to repeatedly survive such defeats. Although the Safavids managed to recover Tabriz, Iran relinquished most of eastern Anatolia. The first peace agreement between the two powers in 1555 left the western parts of historic Armenia in Ottoman bands, while the eastern parts ended up under Iranian control. Realizing the vulnerability of Tabriz, Tahmasb moved the capital south to Qazvin. The uncertain situation over Tahmasb's succession encouraged the Ottomans to invade Armenia again in 1578 and to continue their campaign until 1590, taking most of Transcaucasia and once again occupying Tabriz.

    Caught in the middle of these warring powers, some Armenians were deported by the Ottomans to Constantinople from Tabriz, Karabagh, and Nakhichevan and others, by the Iranians, to Iranian Azerbaijan from Van. To replace them, Sultan Selim and his successors settled Kurdish tribes in Armenia, a policy which continued into the seventeenth century. Indo-European speakers like the Armenians, the Kurds were Muslims who were divided into Sunni, Shi'i, and Yezidi sects. They were a nomadic people who were exempt from cash taxation, but had to present a quota of their herds and guard the border regions. Their settlement in historic Armenia was to create a major problem later for the Armenians when the state was powerless to control the Kurds or, conversely, when it actually used them against the Armenians. The protracted Ottoman-Safavid war and the resulting forced migrations depopulated parts of historic Armenia, and the Kurdish settlement changed its social and ethnic balance.

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  • Rasputin
    For decades the United States has funded an effort intended to help Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews escape persecution in Iran. Now some of their leaders are questioning American motives as sects that have endured here for thousands of years dwindle rapidly as a result of the migration.

    Since the late 1980s, the U.S. government has made it easier for certain foreigners fleeing religious oppression overseas, such as in the former Soviet Union or Indochina, to immigrate to America.

    But leaders of Iran's non-Muslim religious minority groups say their communities are not mistreated by the Iranian government, whose actions are overseen by Shiite Muslim clerics. Instead, some Christian and Zoroastrian leaders say, their members are leaving mainly to take advantage of the program's offer of a streamlined path to legal residence in the United States for a fee of $3,000.

    "Christians and Zoroastrians leave because of unemployment, the bad economy, but these problems affect all Iranians," said Yonathan Betkolia, an Assyrian Christian leader and member of Iran's parliament who holds the United States responsible for his community's decline. "They give all those green cards to our people. Their only goal is to propagate the idea that Iran is mistreating its minorities."

    The program is coordinated by the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, which traditionally has helped resettle Jews in the United States. It received about $3.4 million in U.S. government funding last year to help non-Muslim minorities leave Iran.

    There are no reliable numbers on the sizes of those communities in Iran, a predominantly Shiite country of 65 million to 70 million that is also home to Muslim ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis. According to a census taken in 1976, there were 420,000 non-Muslims in a population of nearly 34 million. Many non-Muslims fled the country after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Despite the Iranian government's bellicose approach to Israel, Jews in the country say they can practice their religion freely. More than 25,000 Jews remain in Iran, community leaders say, making it the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel.

    The State Department says 2,842 Jews have left Iran for the United States under the program in the past decade, compared with more than 18,000 members of other non-Muslim minority groups. More than 10,000 Iranians are waiting now to travel to Vienna, where HIAS facilitates their passage to the United States as refugees, according to a former U.S. official familiar with the program.

    "The migration is a big, big problem for all non-Muslim minorities in Iran," said Kurosh Niknam, a parliament member representing Iran's Zoroastrians, adherents of the pre-Islamic national faith that he estimates has shrunk by half since the 1979 revolution. "I wish everybody would come back to Iran, but I guess they won't. It looks like there will be no Zoroastrians left in this country in 30 years."

    HIAS was selected early this decade by the State Department to be the sole agency for processing Iranian minorities from Vienna, where it operates what it calls an "overseas processing entity." In 2004, Congress passed a law that made it easier for religious minorities from Iran to qualify as refugees.

    U.S. funding for HIAS' work on behalf of Iranians has almost tripled, from $1.24 million in 2002 to $3.46 million in 2007, because of an increase in applications. The United States, which is at odds with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and role in the war in Iraq, classifies Iran as one of eight "countries of particular concern" because of what the State Department calls severe violations of religious freedom.

    This designation "provides the substantive basis for running a refugee program for Iranian religious minorities," said Gideon Aronoff, chief executive of HIAS. "It speaks for itself that there are people who feel there is a need for this type of program to provide them with safety."

    One Armenian Christian businessman in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his family's persecution-based application for legal U.S. residence, struggled to come up with a list of reasons to leave Iran. For more than a decade, he said, he had been looking for reasons to stay.

    "One, our Iranian passports are useless; we need visas for every country. Two, the Iranian economy is destroyed. Three, my daughters are forced to wear the Islamic head scarf," he said. The 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the businessman continued, had increased the sense of uncertainty. "There are foreign threats, there might be a war. We feel pressure every day."

    Sitting in his dining room, he took another sip of cognac, which like all other alcoholic drinks is illegal for Muslims to consume in Iran, and smiled wearily. "I guess our reasons for migrating are no different from other Iranians who want to go. But as Christians, it's so much easier for us to leave Iran."

    Betkolia, the Assyrian Christian parliament member, said he and his co-religionists were "freer in Iran than our Muslim brothers." The politician sat in his large office in the Assyrian club in Tehran. "We can drink, our boys and girls can mingle in our clubs freely and we can dance and sing," he said. "Muslims are not allowed to do those things in here."

    Members of the Bahai faith, however, face arrest and other forms of persecution, according to U.S. and other officials. Followers of Bahaism, which was founded in 19th century Persia and emphasizes religious unity and racial equality, are not allowed to practice their religion or study at universities. The government regards the faith as heretical, while Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are respected as being members of traditional monotheistic religions.

    The former U.S. official familiar with HIAS said persecution of non-Muslims continues. "The fact is that this regime treats religious minorities very poorly. It has acted viciously toward some of them," the former official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the program. "For Christians and others, it's a lower grade of persecution. They're treated like third-class citizens, day in and day out. If you are not a Shiite, you're going to face severe discrimination," he said.

    "Maybe people grow accustomed to it and may learn to live with it," the former official said. "But to say they're living an OK life and they're just economic refugees is ridiculous."

    The recent increase in applicants has caused a significant backlog, he said. "If the Iranians wanted to, they could stop cooperating and create trouble for the program."

    But according to some Iranian authorities, that would not happen. "There is no way that the Iranian government would block members of religious minorities from leaving. This would cause an international outcry," said Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and a Shiite cleric.

    "If HIAS would open its doors for Muslims, lots of Iranians would leave for America. I guess the same would happen in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia," Abtahi said. "I am sad people of other faiths leave Iran. But for that to change, big problems which affect all Iranians need to be tackled."

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  • Rasputin
    Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has said that Yerevan has a resolve to boost deep-rooted ties with Iran as a vital country.

    In a meeting with the outgoing Iranian Ambassador to Yerevan Alireza Haqiqian, the premier praised the growing trend of relations in all fields, calling for the expansion of bilateral economic cooperation.

    He added that joint projects including a gas pipeline and electricity transfer network between Iran and Armenia, as well as construction of a power station on the Aras River would improve the already-bright prospects for bilateral cooperation and prepare the ground for implementing major projects.

    The Iranian ambassador said that Iranian and Armenian officials have had good cooperation at the international level thanks to their political will.

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  • Rasputin
    Harman, a former sponsor of the genocide resolution, recently changed her mind and sent a letter to Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame) urging him to withdraw the bill. Harman did not return calls to her office late this week seeking comment.

    But in a Times Op-Ed piece Friday, she said that although she recognizes that the Armenians were victims of genocide, she realized after visiting Turkey earlier this year that passing the genocide resolution "would isolate and embarrass a courageous and moderate Islamic government in perhaps the most volatile region in the world."

    The Turkish government acknowledges that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died as a result of the forced relocations from eastern Turkey in 1915, but argues that it was not a systematic Ottoman government effort, but the result of World War I, famine and disease that killed Turks, too.

    In response to the House's action, the Turkish government recalled their U.S. ambassador. The conflict could jeopardize transportation of U.S. military supplies to Iraq that pass through a key air base near the southern Turkish city of Adana.

    A showdown on the resolution is expected on Capitol Hill in coming weeks.

    Carla Garapedian, the granddaughter of survivors and a Los Angeles native, is scheduled to travel to Washington next week to screen her new documentary about the genocide, "Screamers," for members of Congress. Earlier this year she was summoned for a private screening of the film, which features Armenian Los Angeles rockers System of a Down, with David and Victoria Beckham in Beverly Hills.

    "We're angry. It is our generation that is making people listen," Garapedian said.

    The Armenians of Southern California intend to keep lobbying in coming weeks, the old and the young.

    "A lot of people ask me why we care so much, especially the youth because we are a few generations out from the genocide," said Caspar Jivalagian, 20, of Pasadena, a senior psychology major at Cal Poly Pomona who has fasted and marched for the cause, most recently outside of Harman's El Segundo office Friday afternoon. "Every Armenian we have it in us, under our skin."

    Zeitountzian, the survivor, said he was cheered by this week's progress.

    "I am glad for the victory we have started," he said, but his real goal is to live long enough to see Congress finally pass the genocide resolution.

    "That will make me very happy if I live," he said, blue eyes shining. "I am optimist."

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  • Rasputin
    A quest cuts across the generations

    Hrant Zeitountzian, 97, of Pasadena still remembers being forced from his village into Syria by Turkish soldiers in 1915. He was 6 years old.

    His father, a mule driver, had already been taken from the family farm by Turkish soldiers. As Zeitountzian marched to Syria, he watched his brother and sister, both toddlers, fall ill and die, bodies in the mud, two of an estimated 1.5 million who would die during the

    It was stories like his, told by Armenian survivors in the decades following the mass deaths, that fueled a growing movement seeking official recognition of the killings. This week, Zeitountzian and others feel that they are closer than ever to winning official recognition in Washington of the genocide.

    Until now, their quest has been blocked for geopolitical reasons: The U.S. is a close ally of Turkey, which strongly opposes any official recognition of the genocide.

    Many in Washington have argued that it is more important to respect the Turkish government than to address past wrongs. Congress failed to pass legislation recognizing the genocide in 1975 and 1984, due in part to intense lobbying by Turkish groups.

    But the latest resolution, sponsored by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week and has the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

    "We've been through this game," said professor Richard Dekmejian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.

    But this time, "There seems to be a moral tipping point in favor of the Armenian genocide precisely because it has happened in other places, in Rwanda and Darfur, the feeling that if we don't come clean, they are going to happen in other places," he said.

    For Armenian Americans in Southern California, which has the largest Armenian community in the United States, the campaign had become a multi-generational obsession. The movement included outreach to non-Armenians and the Bush administration, which is fighting the measure, saying that it would hurt relations with Turkey.

    Many first-generation Armenian immigrants pushed the painful history aside to assimilate in America, settling where they found work in the Rust Belt, the mill towns of New England, in Glendale and Fresno.

    A second wave of immigrants arrived in the 1960s, fleeing wars in Lebanon, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, and settled primarily in Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and an area that became known as "Little Armenia" in east Hollywood. They opened businesses, built ornate churches and schools, and sought elected office. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a third wave of Armenians flocked to hubs in Glendale and Hollywood, boosting the community's political clout.

    Together they would become the country's largest Armenian enclave, with more than 60,000 in the city of Los Angeles and more than 300,000 in Southern California, a large chunk of the 800,000 Armenians in the U.S., Dekmejian said.

    "Everybody has relatives who were lost," Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said of Armenians in Southern California. "People are very motivated."

    Each year, thousands of Armenians gather to commemorate the genocide on April 24, and as their numbers have grown, so have the ceremonies. Eventually, winning a national acknowledgment of the tragedy became a civil rights struggle. In 1965, on the 50th anniversary of the genocide, local Armenians unveiled the country's first memorial on public land in Montebello.

    Former Gov. George Deukmejian, who recently recorded two promotional video messages in favor of passing the resolution, remembers standing with thousands of fellow Armenian Americans, watching then-Gov. Ronald Reagan dedicate the white concrete monument in Montebello's Bicknell Park, with its plaque commemorating the "Armenian victims of genocide" and "Men of all nations who have fallen victim to crimes against humanity."

    Deukmejian said having Reagan attend the event was a huge moment for many Armenian Americans, giving them hope that they could also win recognition in Washington.

    Father Vazken Movsesian, an Armenian American priest in Glendale, agreed.

    "We realized at that moment that it wasn't just a family story, it was a community story," Movsesian said. "There is a struggle that has to be answered."

    In recent years, the cause has been taken up by a younger generation of Armenians in their 20s and 30s who learned about the genocide from their elders.

    Young people as well as survivors have traveled to Washington to share their stories. Armenian youth fasted outside the Turkish Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard, marched from Fresno to Sacramento and last week protested outside the office of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice).

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  • Rasputin
    Nakhchivan khanate (Naxçıvan xanlığı in Azerbaijani) was a feudal state that existed in the territory of the present-day Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

    The khanate was ruled by local Azeri-Turkic Kangarli dynasty and the population of the khanate was mostly Muslim (Azeri-Turkic and Kurdish). It was founded in 1747 by Haydar Quli Khan, who declared himself the ruler of Nakhchivan after the death of Nadir Shah Afshar, the ruler of Persia. During the rule of Panah khan of Karabakh khanate Nakhchivan was the dependency of Karabakh.

    During Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813, Russian forces under general Gudovich briefly occupied Nakhchivan in 1808, but as a result of Treaty of Gulistan it passed into Persian hands. After the second Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828 and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Nakhchivan khanate passed into Russian possession in 1828. The ruler of the khanate Ehsan khan supported Russia in the war against Persia and was conferred by the Russian authorities the rank of major-general of the Russian army and the title of campaign ataman of Kangarly militia.

    With the onset of Russian rule, the tsarist authorities encouraged massive resettlement of Armenians from Persia and Turkey to Nakhchivan and other areas of the Caucasus. Special clauses of the Turkmenchay and Adrianople treaties allowed for this. According to Russian envoy to Persia Alexandr Griboyedov, the number of Armenian population resettled to Nakhchivan in 1828 exceeded all reasonable limits, and this resulted in tensions between the newcomers and local mainly Muslim population. Griboyedov requested Russian army commander count Ivan Paskevich to give orders on resettlement of some of the arriving people further to the region of Daralagoz to quiet the tensions.

    Nakhchivan khanate was dissolved in 1828, its territory was merged with the territory of the Erivan khanate, which in 1840 was renamed the Erivan province of the Russian Empire. Nakhchivan became the Nakhchivan uyezd of the province.

    After dissolution of the khanate the khans of Nakhchivan remained the most influential power and de-facto rulers of the region. Nakhchivan khans became known in the Russian empire by the surname of Khan Nakhchivanski and the men of the family traditionally chose military service. Six Khans Nakhchivanski became generals in Russian tsarist, Soviet and Iranian armies. Sons of Ehsan khan Ismail khan and Kalbali khan were both awarded orders of Saint-George of IV degree for the services in battle and were generals in Russian army. Son of Kalbali khan Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski was a prominent Russian military commander and adjutant general of the Russian Emperor, and his nephews Jamshid and Kalbali were generals in Soviet and Iranian armies respectively.

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  • Rasputin
    زیارت مذهبی ارامنه ایران در قره کلیسا در منطقه چالدران

    بیش از سه هزار تن از ارامنه ایران و سایر کشورها، تابستان هر سال در منطقه دره چالدران در شمال غرب ایران جمع می شوند تا در کلیسای تادئوس مقدس یا قره کلیسا نیایش کنند.
    تادئوس مقدس حدود یکصد سال پس از میلاد حضرت مسیح به دست مشرکان کشته شد و این کلیسا در محل شهادت او ساخته شده است.

    زیارت مذهبی ارامنه به قره کلیسا، که توسط دولت ایران در فهرست میراث ملل یونسکو به ثبت رسیده، سه روز طول می کشد و آنها در طول این مدت در چادرهایی که اطراف کلیسا برپا داشته اند اقامت می کنند.

    امسال، بمانند سالهای گذشته، سپوه سرکیسیان اسقف اعظم ارامنه تهران و شمال ایران در مراسم نیایش شرکت داشت.

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  • Rasputin
    Christian pilgrimage holds strong in Islamic Iran

    CHALDORAN, Iran (AFP) - The tents of thousands of pilgrims dot the hillside, the air is heavy with the scent of incense and the sounds of the church bell toll across the valley.

    This is the Armenian Christian pilgrimage marking the feast of the 1st century missionary St Thaddeus, deep in the northwestern mountains of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Every summer for the past half century, thousands of Armenian pilgrims from Iran and beyond have descended on the remote Qareh Kelisa (black church) for three days of worship and relaxation with fellow Armenians.

    It may seem remarkable that such a tradition holds strong in one of the world's most strictly Islamic countries, but Iran is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenians and a string of historically important churches.

    "This is a gathering point which brings people together in one place. It creates solidarity among Armenians from both inside and outside Iran and is the most important date in the calendar," said Hayk Norouzian, a handicrafts dealer from Tehran.

    This year up to 4,000 pilgrims, mainly from Iran, neighbouring Armenia and Arab countries with important Armenian populations like Lebanon and Syria have pitched their tents on the hillside to mark the event.

    They filled the church -- Iran's most important Christian monument which dates back to early decades of the faith -- for the climax of the weekend, a church service attended by the patriarchs of Tehran and Tabriz.

    "The most important thing is that in a Muslim nation we have preserved this church," said Ani, 32, a female computer scientist and choir singer.

    "In Turkey, some Armenian churches have been ruined. It is a point of pride that in this country we have this church. The government of Iran values it and appreciates it," she said.

    The church, built on the site of St Thaddeus' grave after he was slain by a pagan king, has withstood over one-and-a-half millennia of wars and earthquakes to dominate this landscape.

    Its distinctively Armenian pyramidal cupolas and mighty defensive walls perch on a mountain ridge in the north of Iran's West Azarbaijan province, just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the border with Turkey.

    But the pilgrimage is not only about religion -- it also offers Armenians separated by national borders the chance to come together and celebrate their culture without any interference.

    It's only 9:00 am but the early morning chatter of the pilgrims emerging from their tents is joined by joyful sounds of an accordion which has struck up accompanied by a drum.

    Arms aloft, two other men surround the musicians in a traditional dance, joined immediately by two women who kick their legs and twirl their hands in time to the music.

    The authorities allow the Armenians considerable freedom in celebrating the ritual and the Islamic dress rules that everyone normally has to obey in public in Iran are relaxed.

    Women walk around in T-shirts without the headscarves that are obligatory everywhere else in Iran, although they cover their heads in church.

    "We are free here to make our prayers and do as we wish. The government organisations help us to feel really free. Nobody bothers us here," said Gevork Vartanian, one of two MPs who represent Iranian Armenians in parliament.

    It is not possible for Muslims to attend the pilgrimage without a special reason. Checks are carried out by Armenian staff on the only road into the church where local government officials are also in attendance.

    Beyond that line, visitors enter, for that weekend at least, a distinctively Armenian Christian world.

    "People come here from all over the world for this ceremony. We welcome all Christian people," said Vartanian.

    "The authorities carry out this work of separation in order for us to be free," he added.

    The campers play Armenian "rabiz" music and have brought copious amounts of food to indulge in one of the most Armenian of passions -- the "khorovats" or open-air barbecue.

    "What I like is that our youth comes here regardless of whether their main purpose is religious, historical or social. People get to know one another here," said Rene Ahour, a freelance filmmaker from Tehran.

    Iran has always emphasised it gives its Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian religious minorities full freedom of worship, although large numbers from these communities have emigrated abroad in recent years.

    The presence of Armenians in northern Iran dates back thousands of years and Persian Shah Abbas famously brought hundreds of Armenian craftsmen to his imperial capital of Isfahan in the 17th century.

    The entrance to Qareh Kelisa is adorned with pictures of two Armenian patriarchs flanking images of Iran's modern leaders -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    But an official message pinned to the church from the Lebanon-based head of the Armenian church, Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I, emphasised the foremost importance of the ritual.

    "Our religion and our culture are interwoven together and must be preserved. By being Christian, Armenians have preserved their strength throughout history. This pilgrimage should be looked upon as a duty to keep Armenian unity."

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  • Rasputin
    The earliest Christian accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Armenia date from the 1st century.

    The Church teaches that it was first preached by two Apostles of Jesus, St. Bartholomew and St. Jude. The Armenian Apostolic Church claims to been in existence since the days of the apostles and therefore would be one of the oldest denominations of Christianity. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted Tiridates III (the King of Armenia) and members of his court , traditionally dated to 301 (after Mikayel Chamchian 1784). The Church teaches that St. Gregory was imprisoned by Tiridates in an underground pit, called Khor Virab, for 13 years, after which he healed the King of an incurable disease, whereupon Tiridates accepted Christianity[citation needed].

    The official name of the church is the "Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church"; "Gregorian Church" is not preferred by the church, as they view the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew as the founders, and St. Gregory as merely the first official head of the church.

    Christianity was strengthened in Armenia by the translation of the Bible into the Armenian language by the Armenian theologian, monk and scholar Saint Mesrop Mashtots.

    Historically, the Armenian church has been labeled monophysite because it (just as the Coptic Orthodox Church) rejected the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon, which condemned monophysitism. The Armenian Church officially severed ties with the West in 554, during the second Council of Dvin where the dyophysite formula of the Council of Chalcedon was rejected.

    However, the Armenian Orthodox Church argues that this is a wrong description of its position, as it considers Monophysitism, as taught by Eutyches and condemned at Chalcedon, a heresy and only disagrees with the formula defined by that council. The Armenian church instead adheres to the doctrine defined by Cyril of Alexandria, considered as a saint by the Chalcedonian churches as well, who described Christ as being of one incarnate nature, where both divine and human nature are united. To distinguish this from Eutychian and other versions of Monophysitism this position is called miaphysitism.

    In recent times, both Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian churches have developed a deeper understanding for each other's positions, recognizing the substantial agreement while maintaining their respective theological language. Hence, the Monophysite label is avoided to describe the Armenians' or Copts' belief regarding the Nature of Christ.

    The Armenian Apostolic Church is headed by a Catholicos (the plural is Catholicoi). (The Armenian Apostolic Church should not be confused, however, with the Armenian Catholic Church, which is an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the See of Rome (whose bishop is the Pope). At present, the Catholicos of All Armenians is his Holiness Karekin II (sometimes spelled as Garegin), who resides in the city of Echmiadzin, west of Yerevan. A second Catholicos, His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of Cilicia, who resides in Antilyas in Lebanon, leads churches belonging to the Holy See of Cilicia. The division stems from frequent relocations of the Church headquarters under Ottoman Rule and was further reinforced during the period in which Armenia was part of the Soviet Union.

    However, the Catholicos of All Armenians claims theoretical sovereignty over the Catholicos of Cilicia. The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of a few denominations in the world to have a democratic system; the people decide if they want to keep priests in their churches and may ask for different ones, as do some other connectional ecclesial structures, such as Presbyterians.

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  • Rasputin
    Iran, the favorite country of Armenians

    Armenian Ambassador to Tehran Karen Nazarian said in Isfahan on Sunday that Iran is the favorite country of the Armenians. In a meeting with Isfahan Mayor Morteza Saqaian-nejad, he reiterated interest of his fellow countrymen in Iranian culture.

    He said that the memorial ceremony marking the martyrdom of Armenians held in Isfahan was warmly welcomed by the people of Armenia and accounts for further popularity of Iranians in this country.

    "Iran-Armenia relations over the past centuries have brought their nations closer to each other citing the monuments with Iranian-Islamic architecture observed in Armenia," he added.

    The Armenian diplomat said that the support of Iranian government and people for his country, the presence of Armenian community in the provincial capital of Isfahan and the sister cities of Isfahan and Yerevan are the factors effective for strengthening bilateral ties.

    For his part, Saqaian-nejad said that special attention is paid by the municipality of Isfahan to reconstruction of Julfa neighborhood in this central city which is resided by the Iranian Armenians.

    Meanwhile, he called for further expansion of relations between the two countries.

    "Inauguration of Iran-Armenia gas pipeline shows the deep ties between the two states," he added.

    Saqaian-nejad said that cooperation between the two sides are expected to increase in educational, trade and tourism sectors.

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  • Rasputin
    در سال ۱۸۵۰ میلادی، سردبیران دو روزنامه ارمنی زبان که یکی در هند و دیگری در سنگاپور منتشر می شد مناظرات بیشماری پیرامون موضوع مهاجرت ارامنه به استرالیا انجام دادند.
    سردبیر روزنامه آراراتیان که در کلکته هند منتشر می شد معتقد بود که نه تنها در مهاجرت دسته جمعی ارامنه به استرالیا نفعی وجود ندارد، *بلکه سبب می شود موقعیت اجتماعی ممتازی که ارامنه به سختی آن را در آسیا و خاور دور به دست آورده اند به راحتی از دست برود.

    از طرف دیگر سردبیر روزنامه ارمنی زبان اوسوم ناپر در سنگاپور عقیده داشت که مهاجرت ارامنه به استرالیا، باعث شکوفایی بیشتر اقتصاد ارامنه میشود و بازارهای جدیدی را برای کالاهای صنعتگران ارمنی زبان فراهم می آورد.

    آرامیس میرزائیان در کتاب خود به نام "ارمنیان سرگردان" پایان این مناظره را چنین به تصویر می کشد: "اگرچه هر یک از این سردبیران، سخنگوی طیف های مختلف فکری ارامنه بودند اما سرانجام سردبیر روزنامه آراراتیان موفق شد که حرف خود را به کرسی بنشاند و در مناظره برنده شود و مانع از مهاجرت دسته جمعی ارامنه به استرالیا در آن زمان شود. اما وضعیت بدین صورت باقی نماند و ارامنه رفته رفته قدم به استرالیا گذاشتند. زیرا نفع در ماندن نبود بلکه در رفتن بود."

    ارامنه ایرانی در استرالیا

    سرزمین ایران، از دیرباز پذیرای اقوام و مهاجرین مختلف جهان بوده است که هر یک تاثیراتی را بر این سرزمین کهن به یادگار گذاشته و متقابلاً از آن تاثیر پذیرفته اند.

    در این میان، ارامنه نقش برجسته تری در میان دیگرمهاجرین ایرانی داشته اند، زیرا منشا خدمات زیادی برای جامعه ایرانی بوده اند.

    حضور ارامنه در ایران تاریخی ۴۰۰ ساله دارد و اولین بار شاه عباس اول به آنان اجازه اسکان در ایران را داد. از آن زمان تاکنون،* تصویری که در ذهن ایرانیان از ارامنه نقش بسته حکایت از مردمی سخت کوش، صنعتگر و هنرمند دارد که صداقت در تجارت، خلاقیت در نقاشی ، دلنشینی در موسیقی،* نوآوری در معماری، دلپذیری در صنایع غذایی و صد البته خوشگواری در نوشیدنی های دست ساز از* بارزترین ویژگی آنان است؛ خصلت هایی که ره توشه سفر خود از سرزمین تاریخی ایران به استرالیا نیز بوده است.

    طبق آمار ، جمعیت ارامنه در سراسر جهان ۹ میلیون نفر برآورد شده *است که حدود ۳ میلیون نفر از ارامنه در موطن اصلی خود جمهوری ارمنستان زندگی می*کنند و پس از آن آمریکا، لبنان و سپس ایران بیشترین تعداد ارامنه در دنیا را دارا هستند.

    در حال حاضر آمار دقیقی در خصوص تعداد ارامنه یی که در ایران زندگی می کنند، وجود ندارد و برخی کارشناسان تعداد آنان را کمتر از 100هزار نفر برآورد می کنند.

    اما آنچه که در این میان حائز اهمیت است این است که بسیاری از ارامنه ایران پس از انقلاب به کشورهای دیگر جهان مهاجرت کردند و از میزان آنان بسیار کاسته شده است.

    ارامنه را می توان یکی از پیشگام ترین ملل مهاجر در استرالیا به شمار آورد. تمراز هوسپیان، سردبیر مجله ارمنی زبان گارون در خصوص تاریخچه حضور ارامنه در استرالیا می گوید: "طبق شواهد و اسناد موجود، *ارامنه از سال ۱۸۵۰ میلادی، بتدریج در استرالیا سکنی گزیدند که مهاجرین اولیه اکثرا از کشورهای ایران، هندوستان،* سنگاپور، *لبنان، *سوریه، *ترکیه بوده اند. پس از کشتار ارامنه در سال ۱۸۹۶ و همچنین آنچه "نسل کشی ارامنه" در سال ۱۹۱۵ خوانده می شود به میزان مهاجرت ارامنه افزوده شد و برآورد میشود که در هنگام جنگ جهانی اول، تعداد ۶۰ تا ۸۰ ارمنی در استرالیا زندگی می کردند و در سال ۱۹۶۰ مهاجرت ارامنه به استرالیا شدت بیشتری یافت."

    شواهد نشان می دهد که در ۲۵ سال گذشته و به دلیل مسائل اجتماعی و سیاسی که بر دنیا و بویژه بر ایران حاکم بوده است، رشد مهاجرین ارمنی تبار به استرالیا زیاد بوده است. بسیاری از آنان پس از انقلاب اسلامی، استرالیا را به عنوان موطن جدید خود انتخاب کردند.

    آقای هوسپیان در خصوص تعداد ارامنه استرالیا می گوید: "تعداد کل ارامنه در استرالیا حدود ۴۰ تا ۵۰ هزار نفر تخمین زده می شود که قسمت اعظم آنرا ارامنه ایران تشکیل می دهند. اما باید گفت که ارامنه از ۴۳ کشور دنیا در استرالیا گرد هم آمده اند و در حال حاضر جمعیتی یکپارچه را شامل می شوند که بیشتر این جمعیت در سیدنی و ملبورن زندگی می کنند."

    زندگی فرهنگی و اجتماعی

    همچون دیگر اقوام مهاجر،* ارامنه نیز در هر کجای جهان که سکنی گزیده اند، *اولویتهایی را در محل زندگی جدید خود مقدم شمرده و به آن عمل کرده اند.

    اولویت ها یی که در طول قرون متمادی حافظ و رمز تداوم قومیت و ملیت ارامنه بوده است عبارتند از ساخت کلیسا و مدرسه.

    طبق این اندیشه و در ۲۵ سال گذشته ارامنه ایرانی تبار مبادرت به ساخت سه مدرسه به نامهای آرشاک و سوفی گالستان ، آلکساندر و سورپ گریگور کرده اند که در مقاطع مختلف تحصیلی کودکستان، دبستان و دبیرستان دانش آموزان در آنجا مشغول به تحصیل هستند
    اکثر ارامنه ایرانی در استرالیا به صور گوناگون ارتباط و پیوندشان را با زادگاهشان ایران حفظ کرده اند و اکثرا هر چند یکبار به ایران سفر میکنند و با بستگان و دوستان دیرینه خود دیداری تازه می کنند.

    لوریس ارمنی ایرانی تباری است که ۲۵ سال است به استرالیا مهاجرت کرده . او ۵۴ سال دارد و خاطرات شیرینی از وطن خود ایران دارد. او می گوید: "من شیرین ترین لحظات زندگی ام را در ایران گذراندم. منزل ما در محله نارمک بود و دو سال پیش که به ایران رفتم ، سری به محله قدیمی مان زدم . خاطرات کودکی در ذهنم زنده شد. دلم هوس بازیهای کودکانه و بخصوص هفت سنگ کرده بود . من ایران را از ته قلب دوست دارم و همیشه دلتنگ ایران هستم."

    تعدادی ارامنه ایرانی تبار در استرالیا توانسته اند به مدارج مختلف ورزشی، هنری و سیاسی نیز دست یابند . به عنوان مثال می توان به ویک دارچینیان اشاره کرد که از ورزشکاران نامی در رشته بوکس است و شهرت جهانی دارد. در زمینه نقاشی نیز میتوان به میلانادا دموند اشاره کرد که آثار وی در جهان شناخته شده هستند و در سیاست نیز خانم گلادین برجیکیان تنها کسی از ارامنه است که توانسته به مجلس استرالیا راه یابد.

    هوانس پسر ۲۲ ساله ای است که وقتی پنج سال داشت از ایران به استرالیا آمد. وقتی پدر هوانس قبل از آغاز مسابقه فوتبال ایران و استرالیا از او پرسیده بود که دوست دارد چه کشوری برنده نهایی مسابقه شود، هوانس در پاسخ به سئوال پدرش مردد بود. هوانس می گوید: "واقعاً نمی دانستم که چه جوابی به پدرم باید می دادم. وقتی بازی شروع شد و ایران ۲ گل عقب افتاد در غم عمیقی فرو رفتم. برایم احساس عجیبی بود. من قسمت اعظم زندگی ام را در استرالیا گذرانده بودم و در تمامی این دوران هیچگاه به ایران بر نگشته بودم و بهمین خاطر دلیل ناراحتیم را درک نمی کردم. فکر نمی کردم که ایران موفق به زدن گل شود. اما ، پس از اینکه گل اول ایران زده شد،* بسیار احساس شادمانی کردم و پس از گل تساوی ایران ، آنچنان جیغ بلندی کشیدم که خانواده ام هاج و واج فقط به من نگاه میکردند. وقتی بازی تمام شد و ایران به عنوان تیم برنده راهی جام جهانی شد ، بسیار خوشحال بودم و احساس خوبی داشتم."

    پدر هوانس ، وقتی دلیل شادمانی پسرش را پس از پایان مسابقه فوتبال پرسیده بود، پاسخ هوانس این بود: "در رگهای من خون ایرانی جریان داشت و من به این حقیقت ، پس از پایان مسابقه فوتبال ایران و استرالیا پی بردم."

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  • Rasputin
    در بولوار برند Brand در شهر گلندل Glendale به يکی از اولين فروشگاه هايی که پا می گذاری تا سراغ آدرس انجمن ارامنه را بگيری به آقايی بلندقامت با موهای بلند جوگندمی برمی خوری که با رويی خوش از شما استقبال می کند.
    معلوم می شود هامو سوکياسيان صاحب "شرکت بزرگ فرش" ارمنی ايرانی است و گفتگو فورا به فارسی برمی گردد.

    او که سال 1987 از تهران به گلندل مهاجرت کرده تقريبا هجده سال است که اين فروشگاه را در قلب جامعه ارامنه در ناحيه بزرگتر لس آنجلس می گرداند.

    با گشت و گذار کوتاهی در شهر می توان حضور ديگر ارامنه را به راحتی حس کرد: رستوران ها، کتابفروشی ها، دکه ها، آرايشگاه ها، کليسای بزرگ ارامنه و مهمتر از همه چهره هايی که بعضی از آنها شايد به خاطر آنکه تداعی گر گذشته هاست در ذهن نقش می بندد: مثل جوانی که روبروی کليسا دکه ساندويچ فروشی دارد يا زن و شوهر پيری که روبروی سينما در يک روز بهاری (وسط زمستان) روی نيمکت نشسته اند.

    حروف ارمنی که 1600 سالگی ابداع آن اخيرا جشن گرفته شد و به اعتقاد زبان شناسان يکی از قديمی ترين حروف الفبا در جهان است که هنوز کاربرد دارد، در جای جای شهر به چشم می خورد.

    گلندل از سه دهه پيش همزمان با تحولات بزرگی که در خاورميانه شکل می گرفت مقصدی تازه برای قومی شد که گويی سرشتش با مهاجرت عجين شده است.

    در دهه 1970 با بلند شدن موج ملی گرايی عرب (پان عربيسم) در مصر و سوريه و اسلام گرايی در ايران، و آغاز جنگ داخلی در لبنان، که مراکز مهم سکونت ارامنه بودند، هزاران تن از آنها خاورميانه را به مقصد غرب به خصوص آمريکا ترک کردند و خيلی از آنها در بخش هايی از ناحيه بزرگتر لس آنجلس ساکن شدند.

    براساس برخی تخمين ها اکنون 40 درصد جمعيت گلندل را ارامنه تشکيل می دهند، يعنی چيزی در حدود 85 هزار نفر. تعداد زياد ديگری در شهرهای اطراف از جمله بربنک، هاليوود، پاسادينا، فرزنو، مونتبلو، هاليوود شمالی و حتی محله ای که "ارمنستان کوچک" نام گرفته زندگی می کنند.

    آقای سوکياسيان در گلندل فروشگاه فرش و موکت دارد

    جمعيت ارمنی آمريکا حدود يک ميليون نفر رقم زده می شود و 80 هزار ارمنی نيز در کانادا زندگی می کنند.

    نفوذ ارامنه در گلندل به قدری زياد شده که در سال 2005 اکثريت اعضای شورای شهر برای نخستين بار به آنها - سه عضو از پنج عضو - تعلق گرفت.

    گلندل، در شمال غرب لس آنجلس، پای ارتفاعات بنا شده و دو طرف بلوارهای شمالی آن را نخل هايی که انگار سرشان ميان ابرهاست پوشانده اند. منظره خانه های ويلايی با سقف های روشن در پای کوه بی شباهت به برخی محله های شمال تهران نيست.

    بلوار برند در قلب گلندل يک مرکز مهم تجاری است که بخش بزرگی از آن در دست ارامنه است.

    اما فعاليت های اين قوم از امرار معاش فراتر می رود. اين جامعه ای است که نشانه های بلوغ آن در قالب موسسات و فعاليت های خيريه و جمعی خودنمايی می کند.

    برای ارمنستان

    در بلوار "گلن اوکس" کمی بالاتر از مرکز گلندل در بخش آرامتر مسکونی شهر، ساختمان "انجمن امداد ارامنه" (Armenian Relief Society) جا خوش کرده است.

    خانم ژاسمين بنياتيان-جراحيان، جدی و پرانرژی و بی تعارف، که رئيس حسابداری بنياد است همه بخش های سازمان را نشان می دهد و با افتخار از خانم هايی صحبت می کند که سازمان را اداره می کنند. او 25 سال پيش پس از ترک ايران در گلندل رخت اقامت افکند و 16 سال است برای اين سازمان کار می کند.

    کليسای مريم مقدس بزرگترين کليسای ارامنه در آمريکا 31 سال قدمت دارد

    "انجمن امداد ارامنه" يک سازمان مستقل با هدف حفظ ميراث فرهنگی ارامنه و رفع نيازهای اجتماعی، پزشکی و آموزشی جوامع ارمنی در ارمنستان و ساير نقاط دنياست.

    اين بنياد که اصلا در سال 1910 تاسيس شد توسط زنان به صورت داوطلبانه اداره می شود. شعبه غرب آمريکای اين انجمن در گلندل در کنار سازمان دولتی "خدمات اجتماعی" که اکثر مراجعه کنندگان آن نيز ارامنه هستند قرار داد.

    برای مهاجران ارمنی سراسر دنيا به غير از تاريخ و زبان مشترک عنصر ديگری وجود دارد که آنها را هر از گاهی گرد هم می آورد: عشق به سرزمين اصلی آباء و اجدادی يعنی جمهوری ارمنستان امروز.

    ارامنه سه ماه پيش، در روز پنجشنبه 23 نوامبر 2006، با شکستن مرزهای جغرافيايی، طی يک برنامه 12 ساعته تلويزيونی که از گلندل پخش می شد از سراسر جهان گردهم آمدند تا برای بهبود ارمنستان کمک جمع آوری کنند.

    هدايت آن برنامه را که نهمين در نوع خود بود خانم ماريا مهرانيان، ايرانی الاصل، به عهده داشت.

    او آن روز به يک روزنامه محلی گفت: "اين شبکه ای خارق العاده از کسانی است که برای 12 ساعت از سراسر جهان گرد هم می آيند... کسانی هستند که ممکن است هرگز همديگر را ملاقات نکنند يا حتی اگر همديگر را می ديدند از هم خوششان نمی آمد؛ اما ايجاد چنين اتحادی خيلی لذت بخش است. ما برای 11 قرن متمادی در پی اتحاد ارمنی ها بوديم."

    اين صندوق مستقر در گلندل، که در چندين کشور ديگر هم شعبه دارد، از تقريبا 10 ميليون ارمنی سراسر جهان برای کمک به ساخت جاده ها، مدارس، بيمارستان ها و ساير تاسيسات زيربنايی در ارمنستان پول جمع آوری می کند.

    اين صندوق طی 15 سال فعاليت 160 ميليون دلار جمع آوری کرده است. برگزارکنندگان برنامه 23 نوامبر گفتند قول پرداخت 13 ميليون و 600 هزار دلار به آنها داد شده که 92 درصد آن بلافاصله دريافت شد.

    دود کباب

    ارامنه زندگی مسالمت آميزی در جامعه آمريکا دارند اما بخواهی نخواهی اصطکاک فرهنگ ها گاه در مواردی غيرقابل اعتنا پيش می آيد.

    محله های شمالی گلندل روی تپه های بلند قرار دارد

    اخيرا قانونی در شهر وضع شد که رستوران ها را از درست کردن کباب در هوای آزاد، چنانکه عادت بسياری از رستوران های ارمنی است، منع می کرد.

    مردم شهر شکايت داشتند که از بوی کباب که تمام روز شهر را گرفته خسته شده اند. در مقابل صاحبان رستوران ها می گويند که مشتريانشان انتظار بهترين کباب را از آنها دارند بنابراين بايد با زغال درست شود.

    علت پيروزی ارامنه در انتخابات اخير شورای شهر گلندل هم تا حدودی همين بود، اما اعضای ارمنی 4 رای لازم برای لغو اين دستور را به دست نياوردند و اکنون رستوران های ارمنی به تدريج مجبور به پيروی از آن شده اند.

    همچنين تنش هايی ميان جوانان ارمنی و اسپانيايی زبان در مدارس شهر گزارش شده است.

    آقای سوکياسيان، صاحب "شرکت بزرگ فرش" شکايت می کند که برخی جوان های ارمنی اين روزها به جای درس و تحصيل و کار بيشتر در پی دردسر هستند.

    نسل آينده

    ارامنه همواره در طول تاريخ رابطه کم و بيش عاشقانه ای با زبانشان داشته اند و عليرغم سکونت طولانی در کشورهای مختلف زبانشان را محفوظ داشته اند و سعی کرده اند آن را به نسل های بعد منتقل کنند.

    اما گويی برای اولين بار نسل های دوم و سوم ارامنه در آمريکا که در اين کشور به دنيا آمده اند يا بزرگ شده اند ديگر اين دلبستگی را نشان نمی دهند و اين تا حدودی باعث نگرانی نسل های قبلی شده است.

    آقای سوکياسيان درباره دو فرزند خود که در ايران متولد اما اينجا بزرگ شده اند می گويد: "بخواهی نخواهی جذب می شوند. خيلی وقت ها که با خواهرم و بچه هايش جمع می شويم بچه ها با هم انگليسی صحبت می کنند... بايد به آنها بگوييم که شما يک زبان ديگر هم داريد."

    در پاسخ به اين سوال که آيا بچه ها حالا کاملا آمريکايی شده اند می گويد: "اگر هم نشده اند در راه هستند."

    اما چنانچه قوميت های ديگر در آمريکا شهادت می دهند شايد اين سرنوشتی باشد که از آن گريزی نيست.

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  • Rasputin
    A new law granting the right of dual citizenship in Armenia has come under fire from critics who say they are worried it is open to abuse.

    Citizenship in Armenia is a major issue because twice as many Armenians live outside the country as inside it. The republic’s population is officially three million people, while more than twice that number live elsewhere. There are large diaspora communities in United States, France, Lebanon and elsewhere, mainly descendants of the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire. The largest community is in Russia, formed during the Soviet Union and by large-scale migration there since 1991.

    President Robert Kocharian made a law on dual citizenship one of his first pledges, before he first took office in 1998. However, Armenia’s 1995 constitution explicitly ruled out the possibility of dual citizenship and it was not until 2005 that a referendum was held that approved constitutional amendments and allowed for a new law to be adopted.

    This week, parliament has been debating amendments to Armenia’s citizenship law, which will allow under certain conditions for the first time citizens of other countries to hold Armenian citizenship as well. The assembly will vote on the draft law on February 26.

    The most passionate support for the change has come from the nationalist Dashnaktsutiun party, which has a strong base outside Armenia. One of the Dashnak leaders, Hrant Margarian, said dual citizenship was the first step towards uniting the Armenian people.

    Dashnaktsutiun parliamentary leader Hrair Karapetian said it was important from a moral point of view to accept the principle of dual citizenship. “Historical justice will be restored regarding the Armenians, who lost their motherland against their will,” he said.

    Karapetian also argued that dual citizenship would help attract more diaspora money to Armenia. He said that up to now the diaspora’s economic potential has not been fully used, because Armenians living abroad feel offended, thinking that in Armenia they are seen as “milk cows” who provide investments but get nothing in return.

    The draft law allows citizens of other countries to take up Armenian citizenship but under certain conditions. If they are male, they are eligible for military service in Armenia, unless they have already done in another country.

    In parliament, Justice Minister David Harutiunian said that foreigners seeking to obtain Armenian citizenship would be stripped of their right to diplomatic protection on Armenian territory, while businessmen who were dual nationals would no longer benefit from the privileges enjoyed by foreign investors.

    Additionally, a dual citizen of Armenia will enjoy the right to vote if they are on Armenian territory, but cannot be a candidate for the presidency or parliament.

    Critics of the bill have focused their concerns on the possibility that a large number of foreigners could suddenly acquire the right to vote in Armenia, saying this could open up elections to abuse.

    Several leading opposition politicians have said they will only support the new measures if dual citizens are not given the right to vote.

    Armenia is due to hold parliamentary elections in May this year and presidential elections next year.

    Suren Sureniants of the opposition Republic party said that including foreign Armenians in voter registers would make it easier to manipulate electoral lists, which he said already contain the names of thousands of dead people.

    Sureniants called the plans “absolutely unacceptable both politically and morally, and even from the viewpoint of the country’s national interests”. “People from countries with opposing interests [to ours] could become dual nationals and make Armenia the setting for the collision of these interests,” he told IWPR.

    Prime Minister Andranik Margarian rejected the accusations, saying that the number of dual citizens who would actually vote would be small.

    Two American Armenians told IWPR that they were hurt by the implication that dual citizens could pose a threat to their historic homeland.

    Nairi Balanian from Philadelphia told IWPR that she would abide by all citizenship regulations and her son would be ready to serve in the army. “I will travel to Armenia to vote, I will pay taxes for Armenia,” she said.

    Asbet Balanian, also from Philadelphia, said, “I find the official position of the Armenian Republic very offensive when they classify overseas Armenians as ‘odar’ (“foreigner” in Armenian). I am no less Armenian than an Armenian who was born in Armenia. I am even better than many Armenians who migrated from Armenia, to countries of the world and lost their Armenian identity and became real odars.”

    Balanian said that diaspora Armenians should have analogous rights to Jews, who have the right to go and settle in Israel and receive citizenship - so long as they paid taxes and obeyed the laws of the country.

    To the charge that the new law would put the fate of Armenia in the hands of foreigners, Margarian countered that Armenians abroad already wielded strong influence over the economy of the country. “If we think that way, we should pull down an iron curtain and not allow our compatriots to work in Armenia,” he said.

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