Interview with Gibrahayer e-magazine Editor Simon Aynedjian
Azad-Hye, Dubai, 24 February 2006: Simon Aynedjian was born in Nicosia,
Cyprus in 1959. He attended elementary education at the
Ouzounian-Melikian School (present-day Nareg) and The English School in
Nicosia. He studied Communications and International Relations in the
US and continued his graduate studies at Intercollege and through
correspondence. He is a Director in his family owned clothing
manufacturing factory and in the last 3 years he has joined a leading
Logistics company and holds the position of Executive Director of a
major IT company in Cyprus – GAP Vassilopoulos E-Media Ltd, which is
one of the companies within the GAP Group.
He is married to Louise Kaprielian and they have two daughters and a
son. He has been active in the Armenian community for three decades.
He is also active in tennis. He is the over 35 and over 45 champion of
Cyprus. In 2005 he won international championships on the world tennis
tour and finished 2005 in the top 100 on the world senior tour.
Below is an interview with Simon Aynedjian specially for the readers of
Could you tell us a few words about the Armenian community in Cyprus?
The Armenian community in Cyprus is not a newly formed one. It has a
continuous history of almost one thousand years. However, the biggest
wave of Armenians arrived in Cyprus after the Adana massacres (1909)
and continued up to the time of the Genocide (1915-1921). The survivors
of these two tragic historical events have created the Armenian
community as we know it today numbering around 3,000. There have been
population fluctuations though.
In the 1940s and 50s we witnessed the repatriation of hundreds of
Armenians from Cyprus to Armenia. When the EOKA struggle and the
inter-communal disturbances began in Cyprus in the 1950s another wave
of movement, this time to the United Kingdom further reduced the number
of Armenians. After the Turkish invasion in 1974, a fresh wave of
emigration took place chiefly to the UK, further decreasing the numbers.
The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991) and the Islamic Revolution in Iran
(1979) resulted in an influx of temporary immigrants in Cyprus. They
considered Cyprus as a transit station to the West, although some of
them settled down in Cyprus and others returned back to their
The latest wave comes from Armenia itself, after the collapse of the
Soviet Union. The economic difficulties in Armenia caused many to find
shelter in countries providing employment and prosperity. However it
should be noted that the majority of these Armenians were actually the
children and grandchildren of those who had emigrated to Armenia during
the repatriation period of 1940s and 50s.
In numeric terms the number of Armenians in Cyprus are about 3,000,
around one third of them consist of Armenians who have come to Cyprus
during the last 15 years. Unfortunately, this portion of Armenians is
not yet fully integrated in the Armenian community, except for the
elementary school where their children attend. I believe that this
pattern is more or less true in all diaspora communities.
How about the political structures of the community?
The present political structure of the community could be characterized
by the presence of two factions: Dashnaktsoutiun (ARS, AYMA/HMEM,
Hamazkayin, AYF, ANC) and AGBU "affiliated" organisations (Ramgavars,
Henchaks, Communists) pretty much in the same structure as all Armenian
diaspora communities globally.
Recent elections (October 2005) for the post of the community
Representative in the House of Representatives of Cyprus resulted in
the election of Dr. Vahakn Atamyan (AGBU "affiliated") with a margin of
52% while Dr. Antranig Ashdjian (Dashnaktsoutiun) received 44 % and
Parsegh Zartarian (independent) 4%.
And the life of Armenians in Cyprus?
The Armenian community of Cyprus is fully Armenian spoken. The average
Armenian Cypriot speaks also fluent Greek and English. The older
generation knows also Turkish to a certain degree. Before the 1974
invasion Armenians lived with the Turkish Cypriots in harmony. The
invasion resulted in loss of considerable Armenian properties, which
are now under Turkish occupation such as the Armenian monastery of
Sourp Magar in Kyrenia, the Ganchvor Church in Famagusta and the Sourp
Asdvadzadzin Church, Armenian elementary schools and Armenian Prelature
The community has been active for the last three decades in supporting
the Armenian Cause in all possible ways, especially propagating
awareness about the Genocide in Cypriot political and media circles.
The community has sent large amounts of humanitarian and other
assistance to Artsakh. In this effort which continues presently through
the programs of the Armenian Relief Society Sossee Cyprus Chapter, the
community always has the moral and financial support of Greek Cypriots.
Currently, through a program administered by The Armenian Relief
Society (HOM), some 400 orphans in Armenia and Artsakh are sponsored by
Armenian and Greek Cypriots.
Relations between Armenia and Cyprus are cordial and at a very high
level, with frequent visits of state delegations. The State Dance
Ensemble of Armenia has recently performed in Larnaca and Nicosia.
A major setback in the life of our community has been the closure of
Melkonian Education Istitute, and I believe that the full extent of the
damage will surface in years to come. In the mean time I feel it is
important that all parties – the AGBU and local administrators –
involved in the scandal of the closure of the school account for their
role in it.
Thousands of Armenians worldwide, especially those who use the Internet
and electronic media, have been receiving Gibrahayer e-magazine. Could
you give us an idea about this extremely popular project?
Gibrahayer is seven years old. It started with a list of 50 subscribers
and has reached 5,000 subscribers globally (only 15% of the subscribers
are from Cyprus). Cyprus is in the center of civilizations and
conflicts. It is a politically vibrant area where Armenians live and
prosper. The political, social and religious mix no doubt creates an
active atmosphere and the need to communicate both at a community level
and globally at Diaspora level and build bridges of communication
between Cyprus, the diaspora and our homeland.
We feel we are an integral part of Cyprus. It is important that
Armenians in Cyprus live and prosper. We feel that we have to stay here
to safeguard whatever belongs to us: our church, our schools, our
history, our homes, having in mind our new role of aiding economically
and politically our newly formed Republic of Armenia and newly
liberated lands in Artsakh and supporting our national cause. I am
convinced that the Armenians of Cyprus will also become an example of
co-existence with the Turkish Cypriots and as an extension will pave
the road for a new Armeno-Turkish understanding.
The role of Gibrahayer therefore is to form a kind of bridge. You will
be amazed – as you already know yourself as a subscriber of our
e-magazine – by the articles received, letters as well as the
discussions that have been taking place lately by our readers. A number
of our subscribers have re-discovered each other through the pages of
Old friends, past students of the Melkonian Educational Institute,
emigrants, people who have left Cyprus a long time ago and now live in
other countries, have found each other and have renewed their
Where does the funding of Gibrahayer e-magazine come from?
The subscription of the e-magazine is free and will remain as such. It
is neither funded by any organization nor does it accept financial
assistance from anyone. We sometimes urge readers to donate sums for
noble causes, our latest appeal being the assistance to a young
Armenian tennis star, 15 year old Zarouhi Haroutyunyan from Armenia who
currently practises with the Cyprus National Tennis Team. During the
period that our readers have funded her tours, she has climbed an
incredible 700 positions on the ITF Tour from 1245 to 575.
Is there any political line adopted by Gibrahayer e-magazine?
Any opinion or any event, even the simplest of statements, contains a
degree of political attributes. Gibrahayer therefore has its political
direction and a unique way that it views society and politics. This is
visible in the way it presents news and the choice of articles and
Personally I have been involved in Dashnaktsoutiun and its affiliated
organizations. That does not mean that I always adopt the "party line"
as it comes.
We need to keep under check our organisations and parties and this is
done through democratic institutions and procedures as well as
transparency. In the case of party members and people involved in
community affairs it is achieved through increased participation in our
community structures and decision making processes.
I would like to think that Gibrahayer is also a tool that besides the
information gateway it provides to its readers, it also invites them to
think and act on the way we live our life in our communities and the
way we contribute to our homelands.