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SHIP SHAPE: CILICIA COMPLETES SECOND LEG OF ITS HISTORIC JOURNEY AROUND EUROPE

By Tony Halpin
ArmeniaNow editor

The crew of the sailing ship Cilicia returned to Armenia this week
after completing the latest leg of their epic sea voyage.

The replica of a 13th Century Armenian merchant vessel has arrived in
Great Britain, where it will spend the winter.

The Cilicia docked at Portsmouth harbor on the southern English coast
on August 19. The city’s Mayor and around 100 members of Britain’s
Armenian community gathered on the quayside the next day to welcome
Karen Balayan, the captain, and his crew.

Baroness Caroline Cox was also present to greet her friend Zori
Balayan, the writer and Nagorno Karabakh activist who is a member of
the Cilicia’s crew. The flags of the United Kingdom and Nagorno
Karabakh flew beside each other on the ship’s mast.

Cilicia’s arrival in England completed the second stage of its
journey, which had begun in the Italian city of Venice in
April. Cilicia started its voyage from the Georgian port of Poti in
July 2004, tracing the mediaeval trade routes of Armenian merchant
sailors.

The third stage of its journey to 21 countries will resume in 2006
when it leaves Portsmouth for Amsterdam then heads north through the
Baltic Sea to St Petersburg in Russia, the final destination.

Each leg of the trip has cost around $100,000 in sponsorship, but the
ship’s presence in ports throughout Europe has generated considerable
interest in present-day landlocked Armenia. The crew dresses in
Armenian costumes from the period when they arrive in each port,
creating a buzz of curiosity among local residents.

For Balayan, the historical experiment also restores links between
Armenia and countries in Europe more than six centuries after the
decline of the Cilician Kingdom in what is now modern Turkey.

The ship’s voyage is the culmination of a 20-year dream to revive
Armenia’s sea-faring traditions. Balayan founded the Ayas Nautical
Research Club in 1985 and decided with fellow enthusiasts in 1990 to
build an exact replica of an Armenian ship, using the techniques
available at the time to their mediaeval ancestors.

They pursued their dream through the collapse of the Soviet Union and
the economic hardships of Armenia’s early independence. Finally, the
Cilicia, measuring 20 meters in length and 5 meters in width, launched
in Lake Sevan in May 2002 and began its journey in the Black Sea two
years later. (Click here to see previous ArmeniaNow reports of
Cilicia’s history.)

`Many people didn’t believe that it would happen, but we always knew
that the day would come when we would sail,’ recalls Balayan.

Cilicia visited Ayas, the Cilician port after which Balayan named his
club, during its voyage along the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

`The ship came to its motherland after 20 years and for me,
emotionally, it was the most important stop. We all sat on the deck in
silence and tried to understand what we had done,’ he says.

`Ayas was the main harbor of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. We were
the first Armenian boat back in that harbor for hundreds of years.’

During this leg, Balayan and his 14-member crew navigated from Italy
to England via ports in Spain and France. They spent up to seven days
at sea between each stop, relying on the wind to power the Cilicia at
a typical speed of just 4 knots.

They expect to arrive in St Petersburg to coincide with festivities to
mark the year of Armenians in Russia. Balayan says that the ship will
return to the Black Sea via the river waterways of Russia, before
crossing overland from Georgia back to Armenia.

The overland journey from Armenia to the Black Sea in 2002 produced
one of the most unexpected meetings of the expedition. As they moved
the ship along narrow mountain passes, they encountered a replica of a
Viking ship heading in the other direction that a Swedish crew was
bringing to the Caspian Sea.

`I could not believe I was seeing a Viking ship in the mountains of
Georgia and you can only imagine the faces of the Swedish crew when
they saw our ship,’ says Balayan.

Zori Balayan was met in Portsmouth, as he was at a previous stop in
Italy, by police officers acting on an Interpol complaint from
Azerbaijan demanding his arrest. The authorities in Azerbaijan allege
that Balayan was involved in a terrorist bombing of the metro in Baku
in 1994.

The officers left after he showed them a letter signed by the general
secretary of Interpol, which stated that the agency considered the
complaint politically motivated and that it had removed Balayan from
its wanted list as a result.

Balayan says that he is suing Azerbaijan for damages totalling $178
million – one million dollars for each of the 178 countries on
Interpol’s alert network. He says the Azerbaijani authorities are
trying to take revenge for his prominent role in Karabakh’s struggle
for independence.

`Azerbaijan sends a telegram everywhere I go, including this time in
Portsmouth. The police came, looked at the letter and left,’ he said.

TATARSTAN MEETING PRODUCES NOTHING NEW FOR PEACE TALKS: JUNE OPTIMISM
DISAPPEARS IN KAZAN

By Aris Ghazinyan
ArmeniaNow reporter
Reported from Kazan and Yerevan

Another meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the
Karabakh settlement took place in Kazan, Russia, on August 27 on the
sidelines of the summit of CIS heads of state held in the capital of
Tatarstan. Earlier, on August 23, the foreign ministers of Armenia and
Azerbaijan met in Moscow to discuss separate details of the
forthcoming negotiations in Kazan.

No specific information on the subject of discussions at the Moscow
meeting were made public, however Armenia’s Minister of Foreign
Affairs Vardan Oskanian is known to have stated that `the
self-determination of Nagorno Karabakh is a priority that should be
shown in the light of the population to decide their fate
independently.’

The position of official Baku also remained constant. It was voiced
immediately after the Moscow negotiations by Minister Elmar
Mamedyarov: `Azerbaijan proceeds from the fact that Nagorno Karabakh
is part of the Azerbaijani Republic and must remain within it.’

The meeting of the presidents in Kazan was preceded by curious events
that deserve a special mention. It had been expected that during this
very meeting a `Working Document’ on the settlement of the conflict
drafted by the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen would be presented to the
presidents. It was frequently spoken about in early July, however by
the end of that month no concrete statements on this account were made
by the mediators.

Considering the fact that today Azerbaijan is on the threshold of
parliamentary elections and Armenia is facing a referendum on
constitutional amendments, many political analysts expressed the
opinion that this meeting could not promise any essential shifts. In
this aspect it was said that Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has much
more problems than his Armenian counterpart.

`President Ilham Aliyev is gradually losing the limit of foreign and
domestic trust to himself saved up by his father,’ political analyst
Rafael Zakharyan says. `The West wishes to see in him a reliable
partner who is in a position to solve problems, including the Karabakh
problem. Washington’s certain concern over Ilham Aliyev’s political
behavior received a new display also during the visit of the former
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Baku at the end of
July. It was not even excluded that by the moment of the Kazan meeting
with Armenian leader Robert Kocharyan slated for August 27,
Azerbaijan’s leader would have a new team.’

Interestingly, practically immediately after the Albright visit,
several opposition newspapers in Azerbaijan (`Baky Khabar’, `Yeni
Musavat’, `Azadlyg’, and others) published extensive materials
regarding the state of affairs within the country’s law-enforcement
system and corruption of the state authorities.

There is also information that during the meeting with the former U.S.
Secretary of State Azerbaijan’s Aliyev promised to carry out a serious
rotation of his team and dismiss the most influential officials of his
staff. The dates of the `revolution from above’ were mentioned in
separate messages – until August 21.

`During her visit to Baku, the former U.S. Secretary of State denied
the information linked to the press regarding a possible revolution in
Azerbaijan if the outcomes of parliamentary elections are rigged,’
Baku’s `Novoye Vremya’ newspaper wrote in this regard. `But a
trustworthy source also reports that at a dinner with U.S. Ambassador
to Azerbaijan Rino Harnish, Mrs. Albright made a no less sensational
statement telling the ambassador and the guests attending the dinner
about an arrangement with President Alyiev that no later than August
20 he would dismiss the most influential ministers, the head of the
presidential administration Ramiz Mehtiyev and many of the leading
workers of this staff close to him.’

Quoting this newspaper, the REGNUM news agency reported in early
August that the `terms of the U.S. Administration are accepted –
President Aliyev is to carry out a serious rotation of his team until
August 21, something that the Euro-Atlantic politicians have been
expecting him to do for a long time. Then, he will be given the last
chance to develop Azerbaijan in an evolutionary way.’

Albright’s visit was followed by the visit of Azerbaijan’s Foreign
Minister Elmar Mamedyarov to Washington that resulted in a
`postponement’ of the rotation of state personal up until the
parliamentary elections. However it became clear that in Kazan, Aliyev
would be least concerned by the Karabakh question.

Kocharyan also went to the capital of Tatarstan with a load of certain
problems connected with the discussion of constitutional amendments at
the National Assembly planned for August 29. Before his visit to Kazan
he gave an interview to Public Television of Armenia regarding this
problem.

In any case, the negotiations between the two leaders took place on
the announced day – August 27. It was also planned that at a certain
stage of bilateral negotiations of the leaders of Armenia and
Azerbaijan in Kazan the talks would be joined by the President of the
Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and also the cochairmen of the OSCE
Minsk Group. However, the Russian leader was not present at the
meeting and the negotiators themselves were limited only to the role
of a diplomatic trio meeting and seeing off the presidents.

The first to have arrived to the building of the Kazan town hall was
Aliyev, who, accompanied by the OSCE Minsk Group mediators headed for
the room prepared for the negotiations. Five minutes later, the
motorcade of the Armenian president approached the same building, and
Kocharyan, with the same entourage, came up to Aliyev, greeting him at
the door.

Negotiations between Kocharyan and Aliyev began at noon and lasted
till 2 pm. Soon the media were informed that there would be no
statement of the heads of state.

Two months before this meeting, the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen were
in a more optimistic mood and even did not rule out the possibility of
reaching a settlement of the conflict in the most foreseeable
future. A little bit later, there was not a trace of the former mood
of the mediators, and the degree of June optimism was going down as
the Kazan meeting was drawing closer. It is impossible to say
precisely what happened during these two months. Oskanian did not give
a concise answer to this question, but did not exclude that `the
latest statements by President Aliyev could have served the occasion
for that.’ (The latter did not consider possible any concessions on
the part of Baku).

`In view of the confidentiality of the negotiating process I am not
authorized to report which questions were discussed by the presidents
at the Kazan meeting,’ the minister said. `It is obvious, however,
that there can be no agreement accepted by the world community without
mutual concessions.’

On the whole, the minister positively evaluated the results of the
Kazan negotiations, but the commentary of the Armenian leader was even
more interesting. On board the plane back to Yerevan, he had noted
that `the negotiations passed rather not bad and if they went ahead
that way, then perhaps some end is being seen.’ The Armenian leader
stopped short of making any other commentaries on this account.

THE WOUNDS OF WAITING: FAMILIES OF MISSING IN ACTION SUFFER NOT KNOWING

By Marianna Grigoryan
ArmeniaNow reporter

Their dresses are black, their faces tired of waiting and
sad. Handkerchiefs are either in bags or in hands. Endless mourning;
longing for news.

On August 30th the Vanadzor Office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly
organized an event in respect to the International Day of Missing
People. At the American University of Armenia business center, about
40 people gathered to remember those who are still missing from the
Karabakh war.

Samara Grigoryan turns the documents she holds, puts in order her
letters and inquires addressed to different people and structures and
her own handwritten papers about the military service of her son,
Vrezh. She takes a small picture of her young son. Her eyes fill with
tears again.

It has been 13 years since she hear from him. He was 20 then. The last
time was in 1992 when Vrezh Grigoryan was fighting in Mardakert region
among the fighters of the `Arabo’ detachment. On June 29th there were
fierce fights and on June 30th the news came that Vrezh was missing.

`As the sun rises we hope our son will be found, as the sun goes down
we are hopeless again,’ tells Samara Grigoryan, age 57. `89 people
were missing from `Arabo’ detachment. My Vrezh was with them, he
volunteered to protect his homeland.’

Samara says everything was confused after Vrezh was lost. The family
sold its apartment to finance their search for the son. Last
September, Vrezh’s father Azat, died. Samara says it was due to the
pain of losing his son.

`No news for 13 years, we couldn’t get any information. We are still
without answers,’ says Samara, `This pain of soul has griped all of us
– those who have lost sons, husbands, brothers.’

In February 2004 the International Committee of Red Cross handed over
the list of the people missing as a result of the conflict to the
authorities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the de facto authorities of
Nagorno-Karabakh. The updated list at present contains 3,165 names.

`The International Committee of Red Cross continues supporting the
authorities of the two countries in fulfilling their obligations under
the international humanitarian law and to find out the things that
have happened to those people,’ says delegate of the ICRC Catherine
Patronoff. `We try to cooperate with the authorities of the Republic
of Armenia. They will get significant support in this matter from us,
but they should undertake the major operation.’

Representatives of Armenian NGOs that are engaged in the issues of
missing people, assert the state is deficient in that matter.

`When we began the work, we saw how the relatives of the missing
people were desperate, for they had no structure to address to or any
opportunity to get support, and the state does not care for the
problem,’ says the President of the Vanadzor Office of Helsinki Civil
Assembly Arthur Sakunts.

Sakunts says getting information about the issue from state structures
is also difficult.

`Just to get statistics we lost long months, not to speak about the
lists of the missing people that are still not published,’ he says.

According to the data given to Sakunts by the Ministry of Defense the
total number of soldiers missing, taken hostage and prisoners of war
in RA and NKR as of July 29, is 947.

`I know my son is alive, I am sure, but we can’t learn anything; they
seem like to have an arrangement to say one thing and do not want to
say either your son is alive or he is not. I can’t stand it any more,’
says Maxim, father of missing soldier Felix Galstyan.

Maxim says he has tried to find his son by his own means and he has
been told his son is alive. But, aside from that information, the
father does not know anything about his son’s health, place or status.

President of the Community and Right NGO Samvel Lazarian says
independent of whether the victims have been lost in the battlefield,
or as a result of violence, their relatives have the right to know
what has happened to them and the role of the state here is big.

`The state should seriously be engaged,’ says Lazarian. `The NGOs
should support the state in this matter, but it seems to be the
opposite; that is why there is no result.’

Fate, uncertainty and endless expectations…

`My mother is 88,’ tells a mother of a missing son in the film `Hope
Dies Last’, who does not accommodate to the loss. `When you bury your
son, it is a great sorrow. If your son is missing, that is an endless
illness I wouldn’t wish to anyone.’

The film `Hope Dies Last’ shot in 2004 with the support from the Dutch
`Inter- Church Peace Council’ is a collection of small stories about
people missing in different conflicting countries, including Armenia
and Azerbaijan.

`It is planned to show the film on TV channels so that society becomes
aware and closer to this problem,’ says Sakunts. `And maybe that will
also make possible to keep the problems of the missing in the center
of attention.’

President of the Soldier’s Mother NGO Greta Mirzoyan says publishing
the lists of the missing in press will help people get oriented.

`Several years ago we handed the documents of the people killed in the
conflict to the Azerbaijani side collected by one of our soldiers,’
says Mirzoyan. `If our statesmen also publish the lists of the
missing, the problem will somehow be alleviated.’

However before clarifying anything the participants of the event say
they have found themselves in not knowing whom to address and where to
go.

`Each time that we go to Yerablur monument of freedom fighters, every
mother deep in her heart believes the monument has nothing to do with
her son, that her son is alive and will some day return home,’ says
Samara Grigoryan. `And the state bodies either keep silent or say it
is not their business.’

The parents say they have done whatever they could do without the
state interference, but they haven’t reached any results and now they
expect the state support.

`Our sons have gone to fight for their homeland and have been
missing,’ they say. `Years have past but we wait for them, but the
state instead of making efforts to find out information about them and
returning them to the homeland, posthumously honors them with the
Medal of Bravery.’ Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian will
visit Strasbourg on September 13th the Press Service of the Armenian
MFA reports. From September 14th-18th Oskanian will take part in the
work of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly. September
23rd-24th he is scheduled to visit Venice and Bologna.

OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel
will visit Baku on September 6th. Next day Rupel is expected in
Armenia. Within the framework of the visit Rupel intends to get
information about the outcomes of the recent Kazan meeting of the
Armenian and Azeri presidents. In the course of his regional visit the
OSCE head will meet with presidents of both countries. With Azeri
officials Mr. Rupel is expected to discuss the process of preparation
to the parliamentary election in Azerbaijan. While in Armenia, the
matter will concern the coming referendum on introducing changes to
the Constitution of the country.

The Central Electoral Commission of Azerbaijan did not respond to the
application of the Armenian charitable nongovernmental organization
‘Azat Hayk’ to include it in the list of the international
organizations on monitoring over the parliamentary elections in
Azerbaijan, Leader of Azat Hayk Rouben Mnatsakanian informed.

Upon a decree of Armenian President dated August 29th General Mikhail
Grigoryan has been released from his post of Deputy Defense Minister
of Armenia.

Armenia will host the final stage of the 10th annual Russian-Armenian
tactical exercises on September 13th, a spokesman said
Tuesday. Colonel Seiran Shakhsuvaryan, the press secretary to the
Armenian defense minister, said a reinforced mechanized infantry
regiment would represent Armenia, and Russia would field servicemen
from the 102nd military base, which is deployed in Armenia. “The aim
of the exercises is to practice defense interaction,” the spokesman
said. Russian-Armenian military exercises were last held at an
Armenian testing range on August 26th-27th 2004.

Official Yerevan plans to protest the construction of
Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway, hoping to prove to the international
community that the project is useless. Vartan Oskanian, RA foreign
minister, stated at the press conference on August 30th that `Georgia
and Azerbaijan have no moral right’ to invest financial sources in the
construction of the railway that bypasses Armenia, as there exists
Kars-Gyumri railway that stopped functioning because Turkey still
keeps Armenia in blockade.

The Committee for Economic Rivalry Protection informs that the
administrative action of ArmenTel to review the fining terms was
partially satisfied. A representative of the company accepted the fact
of providing unqualified telecommunication to the subscribers thus
violating RA laws “On Communication”, “On Consumers’ Rights” and “On
Economic Rivalry”. In view of these violations the Committee did not
call off the fine levied on ArmenTel that amounts to 1 percent of last
year’s profit of the company. ArmenTel has to pay the fine within one
day of receiving the decision of the Committee. In case of refraining
from payment, the state has the right of confiscation.

HARD LESSONS: SOME CHILDREN STAY OUT OF SCHOOL DUE TO LACK OF MONEY

Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

While other children dressed in new clothes and toting flowers for
teachers skipped off to the first day of school yesterday, 9-year old
Alina and 7-year old Serob stayed at home.

`How can they go to school, what should they put on, we don’t have
money even for a copy book,’ says Paytsar Manucharyan, a mother of
four. `I can hardly feed them. Maybe I’ll send them to school next
year . . .’

Paystar’s children, bunched in the ruins of the former Arts College
building in the fourth cul-de-sac of Atsakh Street in Yerevan are not
the only ones who won’t start the school year. Many children living in
this yard have only heard about school and have dreamt about it, and
some have attended only two or three years.

`All of my three children would study well, but they haven’t attended
school since the 4th grade,’ says Zhanna Khachaturova, 48, a resident
in the same yard. `I would have to give 600 drams (about $1.30) every
day only for transportation. But there are days when I don’t have 100
drams for bread, how can I send them to school?’

According to Arsen Adamyan, head of the Education Department at the
municipality of Shengavit community, there are no children in their
community not attending school: `We help everyone, everyone gets
education,’ he says.

Even during the harsh years of the early `90s, school attendance was
at 97 percent. Now, however, according to Human Poverty Study, the
number is only 77 percent. `It is impossible to tell exactly how many
children have left schools before graduating, how many have not
attended school at all,’ says program head of the UNICEF Armenia
office Naira Avetisyan. `These numbers are being distorted like the
mortality toll in previous times,’

According to her the number of children who have left school and are
engaged in work in rural communities has grown, but it is not declared
officially, as those children are registered at school.

`Compared to some countries the index of school engagement in Armenia
is good,’ Avetisyan says. `But it is disturbing that the problem is
not paid serious attention, numbers are hidden, and the tendency of
children leaving schools is growing; if it goes this way the indices
will decrease in several years.’

In an effort to curb the trend, this year the Ministry of Labor and
Social Issues of RA has implemented a new program in which
socially-vulnerable families who have children attending the first
grade can apply for a one time help of 20,000 drams (about $44).

`According to research there are 8-9 year old children who have not
yet gone to school, due to financial problems,’ says the head of the
Social Assistance Department Astghik Minasyan. `According to
preliminary data 6,500-6,700 children from families receiving
allowances in the republic are going to become schoolchildren this
year. The aim of the initiative is to somehow alleviate the problems
of those families. Five thousand have already received the money.’
Among them is Zhanna Mnatsakanyan, a mother of five, who will send her
9-year-old son to the first grade this year, two years later than he
should have started.

`Having three schoolchildren at home is just impossible,’ Mnatsakanyan
says. `My Karlen should already be in the third grade. There was no
money every year to send to school; my poor child is ashamed to sit
with 6-7 year old children.’

She says in the beginning of each academic year she spends at least
$50 for each child for clothes, bookbags, shoes and stationary, and to
purchase textbooks.

`We need to buy 8-11 books for each child. It seems cheap to pay
300-800 drams, but it makes a huge sum for three children,’
Mnatsakanyan says. `With an allowance (from the state) of 27,000 drams
(about $60) how can I cover the expenses and provide food at the same
time?’

According to Nurijan Manukyan, Head of the Public Education
Supervision Department at the Ministry of Education and Science, the
social situation will improve sooner or later, but the problem is that
the attitude towards education changes.

`In the years when I studied there were children who would come to
school totally barefooted and studied well,’ says Manukyan. `The
values have changed today. School has become a place to show off.’

According to Manukyan, children in the age of compulsory education
(age 16) who do not attend school should be the responsibility of the
communities, who should take account of those children and should do
everything to give them education.

ArmeniaNow contacted departments of education in all 10 districts of
Yerevan. None admitted having delinquent Armenian children in their
district (though they did say that those not attending school were
only Kurds or Yezidis).

Zhanna Khachaturova says that during last election campaign, parents
in her neighborhood asked for a van to be provided for children who
couldn’t afford transportation to school. She says there are seven
such children in her building alone and about 20 in her block.

`They only promise, then forget and say there are no such children,’
the mother says.

ZARMANDUKHT’S MEMORIES: FIVE YEAR OLD VICTIM, 95 YEAR OLD SURVIVOR

By Suren Deheryan
ArmeniaNow reporter

Five years short of a century in age, Zarmandukht Khachatryan has no
particular complaints about her health. She says that her appetite is
good, her hearing is sharp, and she used spectacles only until she was
80 years old; after that her eyesight seems to have restored.

She complains of fluctuations of blood pressure or headaches, but not
frequent ones. She feels no lack of sense of humor. As she herself
says laughing, she doesn’t drink coffee – only three cups a day, and
doesn’t eat chocolate at all.

`That’s why I have lived so long,’ she says.

After hiding for some time from the summer heat of Yerevan in a summer
cottage, Zarmandukht returned to the capital a few days ago to the
house built by her husband where she lives with the family of her
youngest son. However, here her everyday life does not essentially
differ from the days spent in the tranquility of her dacha.

During the day she sits in a small yard in front of the house – under
the vine, surrounded by family members, and in the evening she watches
TV.

`And sometimes I serve my daughter-in-law,’ Zarmandukht jokes again.

The memories of her 95 years seem inexhaustible.

`I remember everything as if it happened today, from my early
childhood till today,’ she says. And from her childhood till today
Zarmandukht went a long way, which several times collided at the
crossroads of light and darkness shaping nerves as hard as steel.

Starting in 1914, as victims of genocide, Zarmandukht’s family moved
three times from their village of Panik, in the Surmalu province of
historical Western Armenia (presently situated in Turkey).

Those were the darkest years of her life when a little five-year-old
girl could not perceive the drastic changes brought about by extreme
and horrible events. She had known a village in which everybody seemed
to lead a peaceful life. She grew into a world in which she lost her
father, elder sister and the families of her three uncles – remaining
with her mother alone.

`The village of Panik is about three kilometers away from Igdir (the
administrative center of the Surmalu province). If I go there now, I
will stand on my house, but my son says, why did that house remain for
you to go there and find it?’ says Zarmandukht and adds: `I remember
the house like a dream.’

Using her hands she begins to describe figuratively: `It was two
houses like this with gates, in one my uncle’s family lived, in the
other were ours and my other uncle’s family. Men yoked oxen with carts
and went to the orchards. There were peaches, grapes, grains . . .’

The province of Gavar belonged to the province of Yerevan at the
beginning of last century, it was situated in the Ararat valley – on
the right bank of the river Arax. The province’s administrative center
of Igdir was situated 40 kilometers to the south-west of Yerevan. The
location of Igdir is flat, it is known for its orchards and poplar
trees.

In 1914, Igdir had a population of about 10,000 people. They were
engaged in farming, vineyards, orchards, cotton, crafts and
trade. There were two gymnasiums in Igdir (one for boys and the other
for girls) and three churches.

In the autumn of 1920, during the Armenian-Turkish war, Igdir was
seized by the troops of Karabekir pasha and was never returned. By the
1921 Kars Agreement between the Soviets and the Turks the province of
Surmalu, including Igdir, was handed over to Turkey, to which it had
never belonged. Now it is a Turkish-populated town where the number of
Azeris from Nakhijevan has been growing lately.

`We emigrated three times,’ Zarmandukht continues to tell of her
bitter memories. `They sounded alarm three times, come out, the Turks
are coming. We went out and ran. We crossed the Araz (Arax) and
stopped. Then they would say – the Turks retreated, come back.’

`With a meal on the fire, my mother put a lid on it, put out the fire
and we would run away. My father drove a cart, my mother clutched me
and wrapped me with a blanket so that I would not get frozen in the
cart. That way we would go and come back until 1917. The last time we
came to Echmiadzin and didn’t go back.’

`Still when we were in Panik, the Turks drafted my uncle’s young sons
to the army, then they came and said that the snow on Mount Ararat
melted and they remained under it. We never found them. Their families
also died on the roads of deportation. My uncle’s wife died in the
middle of the road, with her baby in her arms.’

A new life-and-death struggle began in Echmiadzin, where many of the
thousands of deportees who had gathered in the monastery yard could
not stand hunger, cold and diseases and died.

`Children would die under the walls of the monastery and remained
there unburied, they didn’t even have time to collect their dead
bodies. There was a pregnant woman who had lost her husband, she came
and sat on our bags and gave birth to a child.’

Zarmandukht’s 12-year-old sister decided to go to Gyumri’s orphanage
on foot together with her nephew – in search of food and clothes. They
both died on the road.

Zarmandukht and her mother settled down in the village of Yonjlakh and
later 17-year-old Zarmandukht married Aramayis Khachatryan, who was
also a deportee from Igdir. They moved to Yerevan where her husband
occupied high posts until his death.

`The fate of my husband’s family was even worse. He lost his father
and three little children died in the orphanage. And his
seven-year-old sister, Ovsanna, was secretly taken from the orphanage
and transferred to an orphanage in America.’

`My mother-in-law would tell her son every day: write an application
to the monastery, let the monastery get information from America
whether my daughter is alive or not. But who had contacts with America
then?’ says the old woman.

Zarmandukht was the happiest during the years of her marriage when
Aramayis was regional committee secretary (prefect), besides he also
occupied other positions. She says that due to the hard work of her
husband they lived a carefree life, mixed with the families of almost
all high-ranking officials of Soviet Armenia.

In their joint life they had four children, but in 2003 her
63-year-old and 73- year-old sons died within a space of half a year.

`I believed in God, but lately I have lost my faith. How can God take
my two sons from me during one year? And such clever boys,’ she says.

Zarmandukht’s birthplace in her passport is indicated as Turkey,
although in 1910 Panik, Igdir or Surmalu did not historically belong
to Turkey.

Towards the end of the conversation the 95-year-old woman
enthusiastically offers to sing the `Surmalu’ patriotic song. Then she
stops.

`I seem to have forgotten the words . . .’

MONUMENTAL EFFORT: SCOTSMAN WANTS TO PROVE AZERI POLICY OF CULTURAL
DESTRUCTION IN NAKHIJEVAN

By Gayane Lazarian
ArmeniaNow reporter

A Scotsman, Steven Sim, takes out books about Armenian historical and
cultural monuments from his backpack, as well as maps of contemporary
and historical Armenian territories. He says that he is in love with
Armenian monuments, and this love was born in him 20 years ago when he
visited the ruins of Ani, once Armenia’s capital, and made his first
photograph there.

`During these years I visited Turkey many times and photographed
Armenian monuments. I even photographed the monuments in the waters of
the river Arax that remained under water when the river’s dams were
built,’ says Steven. Armenian monuments are of interest to me by
their original beauty, and because they are not known to the world.’

Currently on one of his visits to Armenia, Sim was just in Nakhijevan,
visiting the famous Armenian cemetery in Nor Jugha, from where he
returned angry and disappointed.

`I was advised to leave the place as soon as possible unless I wanted
trouble,’ Sim says.

Ten years ago Sim was in Iran and saw the Jugha khachkars across the
border. He says that from that moment he had been longing to visit
the place and see the cultural values of world importance.

`Generally, the photographs of the monuments of Nakhijevan were
published in numerous books. I was also advised to go and see them by
the chairman of the Research on Armenian Architecture organization
Armen Hakhnazaryan, with whom I have close ties,’ says Sim.

Sim fulfilled his dream two weeks ago. He went to Turkey, and from
there to Nakhijevan (which is under Azerbaijan rule), then he took a
train to Jugha to see the khachkars of the cemetery on the road, as
the railway directly passes by the cemetery. But he was quickly
spotted as a foreigner. Sim says that controllers strictly prohibited
him from taking photographs or even to look out of the window.

`They did everything to distract my attention, even by treating me to
tea,’ Sim says. `Before reaching Jugha two of the controllers left the
compartment and I had time to look through the window. I was taken
aback, because there was not a single standing khachkar (stone cross)
there. All of them were lying, facing the ground, or
ruined. Meanwhile, 10 years ago I saw from across the border 2,000
standing khachkars.’

The Jugha cemetery situated on a territory of 1,600 sq. meters is
located on the west side of Jugha – on three hills. It is famous for
its khachkars. In 1648, according to the data of traveler Alexander
Rodes, it had 10,000 well- preserved khachkars. In 1903-1904, after
the construction of a railway, along with the destruction of a number
of the town’s monuments also destroyed were part of the cemetery’s
khachkars. During that time there were 5,000 standing and collapsed
khachkars registered. According to the data of 1915 and then 1928-29,
there were up to 3,000 khachkars and a few thousand flat, two-edged,
cap-shaped tombstones. In 1971-1973, only 2,707 were preserved in
Jugha, and in the cemeteries of churches and the All-Savior monastery
and elsewhere there were 250 khachkars, and 1,000 tombstones.

Sim says that a great part of the cemetery situated on a hill next to
Jugha does not exist anymore. The khachkars on the other two hills are
turned upside down.

In 1998-1999, Iranian-Armenian architects photographed evidence that
the Azeris were using bulldozers to destroy the last vestiges of
Armenian culture in the territory across the Arax.

`What I saw was real savageness, but I cannot say that they did not
leave anything, since there are still lying khachkars,’ says Sim.

After Jugha he decided to go to see the current condition of the
churches that he saw in books.

He took a taxi from Nakhijevan to the town of Abrakunis to see Surb
Karapet Church (1381). Sim photographed from the same spot, the same
scene that he saw in the books, but without the church.

`They razed it to the ground, they did not leave even the slightest
thing reminding of the church, it was totally cleared. When I asked
the locals where the village church was, they showed the empty
territory situated near the entrance. The only thing that reminds of
the existence of a church in the past was the pieces of brick buried
in the ground,’ says Sim.

After Abrakunis he went north and visited the villages of Khanega,
Ilandagh (Odzasar) and Khachi Sar. There he also found ruined and
destroyed Armenian monuments and churches. The following day he took a
bus to Ordubad to go to on to Agulis from there. However, the police
prohibited him from going to Agulis. They even prohibited him to
leave the center of the town.

`I did not oppose the ban, as tension was already obvious. Officially
the purpose of my visit there was to see Islamic and Armenian holy
places. In Nakhijevan they treat foreigners with suspicion. It does
not matter whether you are an Armenian or a representative of another
nationality. In Ordubad, too, every Armenian thing was destroyed,’ he
says.

Thereafter, Sim went to one of the remotest regions of Nakhijevan to
see whether such a situation was everywhere. He went to the village of
Shorut. What Sim saw there brought him to one conviction: `It is a
special state policy being implemented throughout Nakhijevan.’

Nothing is left of the churches once situated in Shorut – the churches
of Patriarch Hakob, Grigor Lusavorich, Surb Stepanos, Surb
Astvatsatsin, nor the khachkars dated 924-926. The villagers claim
that there were no Armenian churches there. The oldest of them even
began to speak Armenian with Sim to try to identify his nationality.

Having visited Turkey and Azerbaijan, studying the Armenian monuments
Sim says: `I don’t think that there is a central government program in
Turkey to destroy monuments. There, it is even possible to purchase
travel guides telling about numerous Armenian churches. But a special
state policy of destruction is being implemented in Azerbaijan. In
Turkey, after 90 years of staying empty, there are still standing
churches today, meanwhile in Nakhijevan, all have been destroyed
within just 10 years.’

After Shorut Sim returned to Turkey, and from there came to Armenia.

`I raise my voice of protest and want everybody to listen to me. If
such monuments are being destroyed, then it is an evil deed directed
against all of mankind,’ Sim said on a visit to ArmeniaNow
newsroom. `The khachkars of Jugha are cultural values of international
importance. Once, the problem was raised at UNESCO, however Azerbaijan
did not receive its representatives, which shows that they are hiding
the facts. And the photographs are very, very important. It will be
possible to prove the truth through them.’

www.armenianow.com

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