Sassounian: Turkish Propaganda Campaign, Part II: Exploiting Akhtamar Church Once Again

Readers may recall that the Turkish government embarked on a worldwide publicity stunt in 2007 when it renovated and reopened as a museum the Armenian Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van.

At the time, Turkey had gone to great lengths to lure Armenians from around the world to the opening ceremonies. Turkish officials did not conceal that their real purpose was to exploit this event for propaganda purposes. Even before the “Holy Cross Museum” was inaugurated, a Turkish Parliamentary delegation had arrived in Washington with a bulky photo album. Mehmet Dulger, then-chairman of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, relayed the following message to Members of the U.S. Congress: “See, the Turks, whom you accuse of genocide, have renovated an Armenian Church with taxes collected from Turks. And those photos are the evidence.” The photo album was distributed worldwide to all organizations advocating “Armenian Genocide claims,” according to the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Furthermore, Turkey invited to the opening of the “Holy Cross Museum” the culture ministers of all countries that had adopted or were considering to adopt resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

In my column of March 22, 2007, I had asked that the Turkish government to designate Holy Cross, not as a museum, but a church with a cross on its dome, and place it under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey. If not, I had urged Armenians to boycott the opening ceremonies in order to avoid being used as tools for Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial. In the end, the Turkish propaganda effort failed, as only a handful of Armenians from overseas traveled to Lake Van to attend the event.

Now that Turkish officials have grudgingly allowed church services to be performed for one day only—on Sept. 19, 2010—and a cross to be placed on the dome of this 10th-century church, they have embarked on Part II of their publicity campaign: All Turkish Embassies and Consulates worldwide have been instructed to invite large numbers of Armenians to this one-time church service in order to accomplish three objectives: 1) earn millions of dollars in revenue from 5,000 tourists expected on Sept. 19 and another million visitors during the next year; 2) secure concessions from Armenians in return for Ankara’s “magnanimous gesture”; and 3) score propaganda points with Europeans and Americans by presenting the image of a tolerant Turkish society.

Hakan Tekin, Turkey’s energetic consul general in Los Angeles, told Today’s Zaman that California’s “one million Armenians” are looking forward to take part in the upcoming religious worship. To impress his bosses in Ankara, Tekin proudly announced that the “one-day church service” has caused “a stir” among the Armenian community in Los Angeles—no doubt the result of his hard work! He expressed the wish that Armenia would take “reciprocal steps” in return for Turkey’s “constructive policy.” Tekin also hoped that such a “normalization process” would have a significant impact on Turkey’s relations with the Armenian Diaspora, “especially with Armenians living in California who are hard-liners.”

In sparing no efforts to publicize the planned “one-day worship,” the Turkish government has undertaken the following preparations:

  • Special solar panels are being installed on Akhtamar Island, so that tourists can visit the Holy Cross Church by day and night.
  • Since hotels are supposedly fully booked, plans are being made to house tourists in school dormitories and private homes in Van.
  • Large video screens are to be placed outside the church so the thousands of expected visitors can follow the services, as the building can only accommodate 50 worshipers.
  • A 90-page guidebook will be published in the Armenian language.
  • A 10-day Turkish-Armenian Cultural Festival is being planned in Van.
  • The border may be opened for a few days, so that tourists can directly travel from Armenia to Van, rather than spend a dozen hours to get there via Georgia, according to the president of Van’s Chamber of Commerce.

I urge all Armenians to boycott this new propaganda ploy, unless Turkish officials take the following steps:

  • Officially designate Holy Cross as a church, not a museum, opening it for year-round worship services, rather than for one day only.
  • Place the church under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, not the Ministry of Tourism.
  • Allow Divine Liturgy to be celebrated regularly, after Holy Cross Church is properly consecrated in accordance with Armenian religious rites.

Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Locum Tenens of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul, is the appropriate religious official to present these demands to the Turkish authorities, without whose participation they would be unable to carry out the Sept. 19 church services and propaganda campaign. It is doubtful, however, that such demands will be met by the Turkish government, given its traditional policy of callous disregard for the rights of the Armenian community in Turkey.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Turks will never stop their malicious propaganda to get what they want huh?  It is simply DISGUSTING…

    I hope that the Armenians won’t participate is such fakeness.. no matter how luring and promising this may sound..

    WOW.. they won’t stop at anything…

    Shame on them…

  2. Hello from istanbul, we love to see you in here, just for talking, nothing else. Best wishes with love.
    The City
    You said, “I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.
    Another city will be found, better than this.
    Every effort of mine is condemned by fate;
    and my heart is — like a corpse — buried.
    How long in this wasteland will my mind remain.
    Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I may look
    I see the black ruins of my life here,
    where I spent so many years, and ruined and wasted.”

    New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas.
    The city will follow you. You will roam the same
    streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
    in these same houses you will grow gray.
    Always you will arrive in this city. To another land — do not hope —
    there is no ship for you, there is no road.
    As you have ruined your life here
    in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world.

    Constantine P. Cavafy (1910)

  3. In Isfahan( Iran) there are many churches with crosses on he top, Iranian are proud of the Armenian churches. They like to name their girls Mariam(Mary) and their sons Isa(Jesus).They trust Armenians.
    This indicates the genes are different and religion has a small role to modify ethnicity.

  4. Harut’s right. This is just another insincere ploy at dolma diplomacy looking to bait as wide a net of suckers as possible in order to support Turkey’s active attempt at brandishing themselves as peace loving good samaritans.
    Ha! Nice try but their fascist forefathers burnt that cigar ages ago.

  5. on one side those  turkish barking kharabash destroyed more than 3000 Armenian churches, on the other side by “opening Aktamar holy cross”without cross will so-called  demonstrate  to entire world Turkey’s willingnes to dialogue a true turkish    diplomatic masquarede destinated to measlead public opinion.

  6. Istanbul, that poem by Cavafy is so beautifully awful… Just wondering, what do you mean?  Is this a message to Armenians to accept blame for their own ruin?  Please clarify your message?
    I would rather you quoted the new US poet laureate W.S. Merwin, and said “Your absence goes through me like needle through thread and colors each stitch of my life.”
    I agree with Sassounian that the Patriarchate should insist that the church come under its administration, have a cross permanently placed on it and have regular worship services held. This would be a positive step for Armenians on the part of Turkey, propaganda though it may be. We should be wary, but not undermine ourselves with a knee-jerk boycott.  If I could make it happen, I would instead bring every living Armenian on earth (and maybe even some Armenian remains in urns) to the island of Akhtamar on Sept.19, 2010 and rejoice in the sound of our voices singing Hayr Mer, Sourp Asdvadz, and Der Voghormia in unison.
    Sometimes God sends a log to save a drowning man and he drowns anyway waiting for a boat to come by.  Let’s work together to see how we can use this opportunity to advance our cause.  We should be present for this event and issue press releases asserting the correct history of the island and of Holy Cross Church.  We need to be more flexible in our diplomacy while being solid as Mt Ararat in our principles.  It can never be a bad thing for an Armenian worship service to be held on Armenian soil.
    This church was consecrated when it was first established.  It now needs to be re-consecrated because it has been defamed.  The bishops and priests involved in this service should make sure that this happens on Sept. 19.

  7. Boyajian jan.. i agree with IF we can pull this off… however, looking back and the history of how our govt approached to certain matters does not give me faith and strong belief that they can use this opportunity to our advantage… i just wish you are right..

    If the Armenians are going to participate, there should be a different program set forth to lean the world toward the Armenian history and demand..

    Turkey is a joke.. doing this sharade is a joke.. because we all know why they are doing it… however, we our govt uses this with the right approach it may very well serve our people and country the good deed that we are going after..

    So lets work on getting this done…and taghem yes Turqeri glugha..misht mi ban en anum vor mez sents xarnen…

  8. Dear Boyajian

    I enjoy reading your English articles,
    You’re talented Armenian
    But don’t tell me about  English poets
    When I read, I never read spirit in themes
    Those are not poems
    I call it rounded soulless phrases.
    If you read Arabic poetry 
    The soul ignites you there
    You cannot stop…!
    Don’t forget Armenian poems …
    Please read this and comment
    I’m waiting your phrases
    Even if it hurt my sense!
    I’ll be grateful if you correct…
    The Sultan and American Poet Laurent

    I don’t know Billy Collins
    I never… Him met
    By mistake, I bought his book
    The Nine Houses
    From Barnes & Noble
    And in it… I read his poem—
    About a place called Istanbul
    Where he had bath like Turkish Sultans
    It seems he never knew
    Who were those men…
    Tyrant killers,
    Castrated young men
    To serve them till death
    Never attempt to have sex
    With their illegal young wives.
    Killed millions
    Other than Armenians
    Till Anglo-Saxon race
    Able to bend killers head down
    Did Billy forgot ‘Remembrance date’!
    And praised the tyrants
    Who turned ‘Ayah Sofia’
    From Cathedral to Mosque
    Then Museum; advertising others’ art
    Attracting tourists from every place.
    Tyrants hanged more than two-hundred
    Of Billy’s Colleagues in Literacy—
    Armenians, Arabs, Europeans…
    Who suffered from Ottomans’ cruelty.
    Billy enjoyed his bath in Istanbul
    Once was a happiest city
    Till turned a site for genocide
    Like now, Darfur in African land.
    Poets must be elaborate at  cultures, humanity, history…  
    Before announcing them selves’ poets.
    And win Laureate of United states.

    What an awful hubris some poets act
    I feel shocked …
    Intending to lance my  already scared Cavernous !

    (C) Sylva-MD-Poetry

    April 24, 2008

  9. I realize that the analogy is not perfect, but for an Armenian to visit captive Akhtamar is almost like a Jew visiting Auschwitz under Nazi control–that is after an imaginary German victory in World War II.

    Auschwitz was a prison for human beings; Akhtamar–a church, a symbol of our architectural and artistic genius, an eloquent proof of our long presence in Western Armenia–is a prisoner of Turkey.

    The Turkish farce reminds me of the movie “Stalag 17”. When a Red Cross inspector was to visit the prisoners of war camp, the Nazi guards refurbished the dingy camp and made sure the Allied prisoners would tell the Swiss inspector that they were well treated. So Turkey removed the weeds from the roof of the church–sorry, museum. So Armenians have to cough up big bucks to attend badarak in an Armenian church which can’t have a cross on its kmpet. I am gobsmacked.

    Armenians who visit captive Akhtamar are blind actors (puppets?) is a cruel farce written, directed, and produced by Ankara propagandists. Actors are paid for their services. Armenians who visit Akhtamar have to PAY to take part in this clever Turkish concoction.

  10. Why not take it as a positive step it is instead of confronting it with such cynicism?  An important symbol of Armenian culture in Anatolia gets the attention it is due, what is wrong with it?  Of course there is propaganda value but nothing is wrong with positive propaganda.  Better than alternative. 

    I have no idea why it can not be a fully functioning church, with cross and all.  It is a product of small mindedness and I am sure in due time this will be overcome too. 

    My grandfather, an Ottoman officer, had discovered giant arms cache in a hidden basement of this church.  I wonder the basement is still there.

  11. Very good points Jirair, especially the irony of having to pay to attend mass in an Armenian church.  All due respect to you, but is it not possible for Armenians to take part at Akhtamar and not be puppets?  Could we not bring real honor by our presence to what would otherwise be an empty propaganda stunt?  We all know what the Turks are up to, but can’t we outsmart them somehow?

  12. Sylva did you really find this line to be a “rounded soulless phrase”?:
    Your absence has gone through me
    Like thread through a needle.
    Everything I do is stitched with its color.
    (W.S. Merwin, Separation)
    Note corrected quotation above.  I got it wrong earlier.  Was doing it from memory.
    I think it is beautiful; lyrical and mystical.  Makes me think of the missing Armenian thread in Asia Minor.

  13. Another ‘crumb’ offered by the Turk to Armenians… to tempt Armenians… just another example of the Turkish subordination of Armenians… Turks feel they can use this PLOY too, using our own church, to tempt us there – but on Turkish terms-benefitting Turks. 
    Sadly, the longing to see and be able to see our own church is difficult to deny – but too, when we Armenians recognize how the Turk is ‘using’ our love of our churches to ‘bait’ us… to actually trick us, are still Turkish policies in action against Christian Armenians.
    Using our church, with all its ‘bymones’ to suit the Turkish mentality, is sickening!  Using
    us to gain tourists to come to their ‘event’ is sickening.  Now, they may even make some ‘concessions’ to sweeten this function – rest assured, it will not last… Turkish style.

  14. Also to Sylva, I read the original Istanbul by Billy Collins and liked it, but  like you, find it difficult to read anything that glorifies Turkey.  But then I remind myself that so much of what Istanbul is was built on the backs of Armenians, Greeks, etc.,  I claim the city for all of us.  Hate kills the poet’s soul though constructive anger can invigorate it.  Just my opinion.

  15.     One of the reasons that we feel victimized is because at times we think like victims.
    While I agree with Harut’s position on the demands our people need to place on the Turkish government for the Holy Cross event, I would also encourage a parallel path to seize the opportunity.
        I don’t understand why we always have to view event as “not good enough” or “not in line with our plan”. With this approach, we miss many opportunities to advance our cause. We can take less than perfect situations( which is certainly what Akhtamar is and most issues for that matter) and exploit them.
           First on the demands….. our church must play a lead role in this.  If the Patriachate can not for obvious reasons then the Holy See of Etchmiadzin must lead. If they cannot because of the geo-politics of Turkey and Armenia, then the wild card leader must be the Holy See of Cilicia. Internal politics aside, we need to stand together.
            While this is in progress, our public relations machine(internationally) should be working overtime to connect the dots for the world public. For example, there should be
    highly visible articles on:

                 1. This is the first mass at this holy site since the Genocide
                 2. As a 10th century gem of Armenian history, what happened to the
                     parishioners of this church?
                3. For that matter, where are the parishioners of the other churches in ruin?
         We must understand that if we don’t play, we can’t get any cake. The Turks get to 
    reap the PR benefit to the EU buddies and still remain  in denial. We can always boycott, but I think a wiser path to to hold the mirror up to the Turks. Our passive resistance doesn’t work. Nobody cares if we don’t attend. Maybe the turks will miss the revenue.

            Let’s also keep in mind that to hear our beautiful Badarak in the Holy Cross church, no matter what the circunstances, is uplifting. It must be done with dignity!!!!
    Cross on the Cupola, it is a churchnot a museum under the Patriarchate and is not a “one time event”. That must be where we draw the line, but there is a lot more we can do to become the exploiter and not exploited.

  16. Stepan, I’m with you on this.  We can’t just wait for the perfect situation but have to seize every opportunity to show the world, with dignity, where we belong.

  17. 1) There was no arms cache hidden in the basement of Akhtamar Church, as all the weapons from Armenian citizens were confiscated as ordered by the Ottoman Army
    2) The second step after disarment was killing the Armenian men in the Ottoman Military. The Religious leaders and Scholars were gathered up next and slaughtered.
    3) My Grandparents were from Van Historical Armenia, the land of 1001 Churches that the Ottomans latter burned, turned into mosquest like St. Hagia Sophia or into goat stalls for Kurdish farmers.
    4) Young Turkish students touring this church always walk out scratching there head and wondering “What happened to the Armenians?”
    5) It is cyncism as it is once again Turkey’s government trying to dictate when we can worship and how we can worship, yet our people, land and culture resided in the area 3,000 years before the arrival of the Seljuk Mongolian Turks from Central Asia.
    6) Akhtamar was restored and reopened originally as a Museum, with Turkish writing on it and NO MENTION of the Armenian people. It doesn’t even have a cross.

  18.   The Turks are playing a dangerous public relations game… always straddling the line with multiple faces… one day the denier then the “open minded restroer of Holy Cross”
           The only reason they don’t get get caught more often in this game is because we choose to complain and wallow; while we wait for the perfect storm.
            Sons and daughters of Ararat… let’s wake up!!!! We must see this as an opportunity and not as only a ploy. It doesn’t mean that we trust the Turkish government. It means we know what we want and we are focused on that objective.
             How can the Turks open Holy Cross and the question of where the Armenian went not be raised? How is it not possible to take advantage of this? The opportunitites are right there, yet we findf a way to only discuss our mistrust and frustration.
               Let our beautiful shadagans echo on the shore of Lake Van and let’s work to counter the propaganda. We are no one’s dupe. We are there to honor our ancestors and to reclaim our beloved Soorp Khatch. Let the world hear this!!!!!!

  19. Stepan, Boyajian, et al. I fundamentally disagree, and here are my arguments. This is not an issue in tumultuous Armenian-Turkish relations to which a truism ‘if we don’t play, we can’t get any cake’ can be applied. Benefits that Turks will get out of this, i.e. as Sassounian stated, earn millions of dollars in revenue from tourists; secure concessions from Armenians in return for Ankara’s “magnanimous gesture”; and score propaganda points with Europeans and Americans by presenting the image of a tolerant Turkish society, are incomparable to the benefits that the Armenians will get, basically:   ‘our beautiful sharagans echoing on the shore of Lake Van.’ A political ‘play,’ as I understand it, presupposes acts of roughly similar significance and value, a classical ‘give-and-take’ scheme. In the case of Akhtamar church the acts played by the sides are not just ‘not good enough,’ they’re hugely disproportional. It has nothing to do with ‘victim mentality,’ on the contrary, I think it pertains to clear-headed calculation of what we actually get to advance our cause. Here I agree with Harut’s viewpoint on the demands that need to be placed on the Turkish government for the event. What is it that we get to advance our cause, if the Turks organize the event in line with their plan except for ‘hearing our beautiful Badarak in the Holy Cross church’? If our demands are not met, then I think we should let them proceed with their plan… without the Armenians. Tutks want to organize a mess? Fine. Then let them invite a designated priest and pay for his services. Turks want to show a ‘magnanimous gesture’ by gathering thousands of Armenians? Fine. Then let them cover their travel expenses. I’d like to clarify my point. I think we should ‘play’ if and when it’s worth playing to get dividends for our cause. In this case, I see virtually no substantial dividends that the Armenians can get.

  20. Well, Paul K., we do agree on at least one point… the demands as articulated in Harut’s commentary should be pursued. From there our respectives views well….diverge.
        With all do respect Paul, I think the approach you are advocating is what is wrong with our diasporan politics. When reading your thoughts, i am reminded of someone who eants to be on the team but only if the quarterback. How much of a return makes it wortrhwhile?
          I believe our resources are capable of at least managing a draw on the propaganda side of the equation. From an economic perpsective, what about all the Armenians that travel to Isstanbul and the interior of Western Armenia and stay in hotel, eat at restaurants and pay guides? Is that wrong because there is an economic benefit to the Turks or do the fact that some of our people are connecting with their roots enough of a “dividend”.
           I don’t thnik that we can be effective in this campaign until stop leading with anger
    and at times hatredI.’m not saying this because I am big on reconciliation, but rather because if we want to win then we have to stop the distractions. One of the big distractions is the inability of many Armenians to see anything worthwhile in Turks. Please read the account of his trip to Turkey in April by Khatchig Mouradian. The world is changing. We need to get on that bus. Disregarding any venture greatly limits our options.It is quite possible to participate and NOT be naive, but to be rather shrewd. It upsets us to admit it, but we get flanked by the Turks politically. If we want to change that paridigm, then we need to stay united and look for the opening.
          I would also add that that nothing but goodness will come from worshipping on the
    land of my grandparents… Western Armenia. It is our faith that has enabled us to survive the centuries of oppression and suffering. i would say that , in addition to the public currency we would gain from this effort, the thought of thousands of Armenians praying to our Lord on Western Armenian soil is a significant”dividend”.

  21. Paul, I have to say that I really understand where you are coming from and I agree that we Armenians should find a way to ensure that we get a dividend from this event.  But to boycott it altogether is a bad idea in my opinion.  Whether or not we participate, Turkey will get her dividend.  Why shouldn’t we capitalize on this opportunity to speak about what happened to the Armenians and how important it is that Turkey is beginning to realize the historical reality of Akhtamar and Holy Cross Church.  We can put our spin on it and draw public awareness to the fact that this church has been turned into a museum and can only celebrate mass there with governmental permission.  Does that sound like freedom of religion to anyone?  There are good reasons for us to participate, the least not being the opportunity to fill the island with the sound of the Badarak.  I doubt many in Europe and elsewhere will be fooled by this Turkish ploy, but to let them draw any gain while wasting our opportunity would be a shame.  I really don’t care if Turkey gains financially from this event, as long as we gain in dignity.  Its all in how it is played out.  This is our Akhtamar and we claim it by our presence, not by our boycott.

  22. Stepan, in reading Paul K’s words, I don’t see him as someone who wants to play on “the team” but only if he gets to be the quarterback. I see him as someone who recognizes that every player on “the team” is a water boy. Thanks.

  23. See how these bastard Turkish govt officials succeed in dividing us…  Do you see how well their plan is working?  They are doing things like this to put a line between the Armenians… because as I see it… this is the perfect example… do you see how one group believes we should use this opportunity for our own benefit and the other group wants to stay out of it.. which side is promising?  None. Both have its advantages and disadvantages… now how can we overcome this differences?  Hents da e hartsa… we have to get over all the differences and stand as one on any issue when it comes to protecting our nation, culture and land… only then we can’t win.. otherwise having divide between beliefs and ideas will never get us anywhere…

    Hence, why the Turks are always the winners to the world’s eye simply by doing things like this knowing very well it will hurt us but benefit them..we can’t allow this… we simply can not…


  24.    Good analogy.. My point is that if we are no longer of the subserviant Ottoman mentality vis a vis the Turks; then let’s show it. If this is our Akhtamar; then let’s behave like it is. Boycotting does nothing but limit our presence and as we have seen in Karabagh presence is everything.
            How about if a few thousand Vanetzi descendants from Armenia and the diaspora showed up for this event as the evicted faithful?

  25. My Dear Gayane, I do not agree that we are divided at all. Commentators here are all on the same page, wanting what is best for our nation. I feel in strong alliance with Harut and Paul, our goals are the same, out methods are different.  This dialogue is necessary and may generate something very positive.  I am glad that we are alive and vibrant enough to dialogue and hash out the issues.  Don’t give Turks credit for dividing us. They will be only to happy to take the blame.
    Let’s have more faith and confidence in each other and keep our eyes on what can be gained here.  To not participate at Akhtamar is tantamount to willingly relinquishing possession.  I know this is not what Harut or Paul are advocating and they are right to insist on certain conditions being met.  We were forced out before. We should come back now as rightful owners, ready to reconsecrate this church (not museum!) and even, for diplomatic purposes, be willing to thank Turkey for “doing what is morally correct.”  It’s all about spin at this point.  Don’t we have enough smart movers and shakers in our community to use this to our advantage?
    And bringing back some displaced Vanetzis?  Amen to that!  How about bringing representatives from our Oriental Orthodox sister churches as well.  The world

  26. Sorry dropped the end of the last sentence in my previous post.  Last paragraph should read:
    And bringing back some displaced Vanetzis?  Amen to that!  How about bringing representatives from our Oriental Orthodox sister churches as well.  The world should see Holy Cross Church in its proper context, not as some religious relic or a political stunt to show how Turkey cares for antiquities.

  27. Stepan, Boyajian – Your points were well taken from the outset, I’m not playing divisive ‘diasporan politics’ here and basically support attending the event not boycotting it. I hoped I made it clear in my previous post. I believe, however, that Armenians should think of drawing gains out of it and not just follow the rules set forth by the Turks. As things stand, I see virtually no substantial gains, except for psychological and spiritual ones that, without doubt, are important, but hardly sufficient. And Stepan, ‘anger and hatred’ and ‘inability of many Armenians to see anything worthwhile in Turks’ have nothing to do with my thoughts. On the contrary, I tried to lay them out free of anger and hatred, free of ethnic intolerance, free of historical grievances, and based on clear-headed calculations of what we gain of the event whose real purpose, as Turks themselves admit, is to exploit it for propaganda purposes. I shared my thoughts to know more, if possible, as to what we gain, if we attempt to ‘exploit’ it for our purposes? So far I basically heard: (1)one-time presence, (2)praying our Lord on Western Armenian soil and filling the island with the sound of the Badarak,(3)a draw on the propaganda side of the equation. I can’t rid myself of a fear that if Armenians admit silently whatever the Turks do for propaganda purposes by presenting to the world the image of their ‘tolerant’ society, our Cause may lose momentum and transform into something that Turks, Americans, and Europeans so much desire: peace without a look back at the past grievances; good-neighborliness without advancing justice for the Armenians; open borders, trade and commerce without financial reparations; friendship without land restitutions. I realize I may have gone too far, but if today Armenians silently agree to Turkish rules at a joint event at Akhtamar and some of us doubt that many in Europe and elsewhere will be fooled by this Turkish ploy, tomorrow Armenians will be invited to partake in the restoration of Ani, a year after they’ll be offered to build St. Karapet monastery anew, and I fear the time may come that many in Europe and elsewhere may be tempted to think: ‘well, they’re getting along pretty well’ or ‘the world is changing,’ as Stepan put it, then why not let bygones be bygones and build ‘a bright future for the Turkish and Armenian peoples’? I’m reluctant to think that such minor events in which Armenian will participate simply following the rules set forth by the Turks may benefit the Cause when the Cause itself is unfulfilled from legal, political, and moral perspectives. You may call it that I ‘advocate what is wrong with our diasporan politics’ or anything else, but this is what I honestly think and share with co-ethnics on these pages.

  28. Paul, I hear you!  I agree completely that we should use this opportunity and not blindly submit to Turkey’s rules behaving as if we are all making “nice-nice” now.  Too much is at stake.
    You ask what do we gain by participating?  In my opinion we gain by making the statement to the world that Armenians are still here and that we claim Akhtamar under the Armenian umbrella and we “commend” Turkey for making a courageous and morally correct gesture.

  29.  Paul K. Thank you for your response. I have read your words carefully and I do feel your sincerity and commitment(which at the end of the day is what binds us together).
    I understand the concern that we not lay down to the rules the Turks establish and I tend to agree with you. I think we are all advocating to take an active approach to ensure that ARMENIAN interests are served.
               My comments on diasporan politics was not intended to be directed to you personally. I obviously don’t know you well enough or is appropriate. What your thoughts brought to mind for me was a frustration I have that in the diaspora we have grown up with a “all things Turkish are bad” mentality(unless we want to hear some music). I am not criticizing the circumstances, but we need to find a way to get past that as we are entering a very exciting time for our nation.
               Who would have predicted some of the things that have been happening in Turkey as it relates to Armenians, both good and bad. I feel like the curtain is finally coming up forous on the world stage and after years of “practicing” on ourselves, we are ready to make progress.
              You sound like a sincere and thoughtful Armenian. I appreciate meeting people like you. Whether we agree 100% is far less important than hearing your thoughts and feeling your commitment to our common purpose.

  30. I know Boyajian jan…i know…

    That is what I am saying.. IF we are going to do this.. then we need to use this opportunity to spread the word to the world… our media should blast this matter all over the world… making sure the world knows we are doing this because Acktamar IS OURS and WILL ALWAYS BE… as you said along with many, we need to get our guns (aka brains) working and start to strategizing… in a way that will benefit US and not the Turks… We all know what the Turks are doing.. and this should also be out there for the world to know.. and we all due respect Stephan.. I personally don’t have faith in Turks for doing the right thing (simply due to their track record).. but i am also not dismissing all the great Turks who have contributed to our cause…i am very very greatful to them… however, to say that Turkish govt is doing this to show the world how much they care about the Armenians and we should thank them for this… well..i don’t agree with that… ..but then again i may be way off… who knows?

    We have to have great execution for this event.. GREAT ONE.. we can’t lose this opportunity and like Paul said.. can’t just follow the shepard like nice obedient sheeps.. we have to stand up…and start using avenues to further our cause once and for all… now i nominate Boyajian and Paul to run this  committee…:)…


  31. Very funny Gayanne!  Let me clarify that I don’t suggest that we thank Turkey as if they are doing us a great favor, but rather I suggest we commend them for doing the right thing.  Do you see the difference?  its a way of saying we are acknowledging that we are happy to receive what is rightfully ours and gratefully recognize that Turkey is moving in the direction of admitting their oppression of Armenian rights to preserve, restore and consecrate our religious and historical sites.

  32. I hear you my dear.. i hear you.. i just can’t get myself commend them for doing this… i just cant.. but if this means a unity on our part.. i am willing to jump on your team.. just so that we can get this going and win it…..:)

    Agghhh.. i just wish we can pull this off…


  33. Bring back the Vanetzis indeed! The true and original inhabitants of the area.   I really resent any government telling people how to worship or how many times a year they will “allow” us to worship.  
    The tourism office of turkey could have been smart and played this up as a cultural tour of historical Armenia and early Christian relics.  But no they want to play like the Armenians never existed. 

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