On Monday July 6, 2020, ANCA-WR Summer 2020 Interns were provided an exclusive opportunity to meet with LA County District Attorney candidate George Gascón. Gascón spoke about his experiences as a former Los Angeles police officer and Mesa, Arizona, police chief, and his eventual ascent to the District Attorney position in San Francisco. He recalled the reforms he implemented in San Francisco including the open-source bias mitigation tool that uses artificial intelligence to remove the potential for implicit bias from prosecutors’ charging decisions. He went on to explain the jails he has visited in Europe and drew comparisons with those in the US that often lead to mass incarceration. He focused on his relationship and open-dialogue with his children and the kind of reforms he would like to implement when elected.
The interns then had a chance to ask about his policies on human trafficking, prosecutorial transparency, and other issues he plans to tackle in office. During the conversation, Gascón said that he was proud to be an ANCA-WR endorsed candidate and reiterated his support to continuously engage with the Armenian-American community, as well as other marginalized communities to ensure that Los Angeles thrives in a safe environment. At the conclusion of the meeting, Gascón urged the interns to exercise their right to vote during the upcoming elections and continuously engage with issues that affect their communities.
On Monday, we were pleased to have Assemblywoman Laura Friedman with us. Alongside her Field Representative Victoria Dochoghlian, the interns were able to hear about the structure and function of her duties. Since Asm. Friedman is responsible for representing a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities in a handful of cities, it was incredibly informative to hear about how she applies inclusivity in all aspects of her work in Sacramento. Some of the questions posed by the interns included those on police reform, lobbying, and COVID- 19 relief efforts. Towards the end of the presentation, the interns also had a chance to meet her dog who greeted everyone on Zoom.
On Tuesday, the interns were honored to the Executive Director of ANC Australia, Haig Kayserian join us. During this call, we were able to understand how important Armenian outreach within smaller communities is, and just how intertwined we really are. Some efforts pointed out by Haig were those of relief centers for Armenian refugees, internship opportunities, and legislative action potentials regarding Artsakh’s recognition. We were beyond thrilled to have a chance to learn more about advocacy work undertaken throughout Australia and also asked him questions about the Armenian community in New Zealand, how the process of passing bills work, and the importance of lobbying.
We kicked-off Wednesday with a 21st birthday (quarantine and internship edition). Happy Birthday to Moss! Shortly after, we were given a wonderful presentation by Shaunt Kevork, the Chair of ANCA Professional Network. He gave us insights regarding networking, setting up professional outreach on LinkedIn, and the importance of establishing reliability and connections within the professional network. The interns were then able to ask advice on how to set up a successful LinkedIn profile, develop a professional image, and foster enduring connections.
The interns checked in on Thursday to another birthday! Happiest birthday to our program director and mentor Verginie, as we are beyond happy to have her alongside us and appreciate her guidance. We were joined by Alik Ourfalian, a graduate student pursuing international law who has devoted her interest to the study of Artsakh conflict. She shared a powerpoint presentation with us that went into an in-depth explanation about notions like territorial integrity, rights to self-determination, and what can be done to promote impactful affirmation of Artsakh’s independent status internationally.
Friday was our traditional check-in session, which allowed us all to unpack and speak a bit about the week we experienced, both outside and within the internship. It was also Martin’s birthday, and we wish him the happiest one on his flight to Hawaii!
The interns discussed the presentations, how interesting and compelling they all were, and what to expect of the upcoming week. We were also able to discuss the projects each of us are working on with our assigned supervisors, and how they related to the guest speakers’ presented topics. Whether this ranges from our interns working within the Education Committee to the Professional Network, all projects have been so informative and are worked on very efficiently.
I have the honor of working beside Anna Azaryan, under the supervision of ANCA-WR Government Affairs Director, Arsen Shirvanyan on Education related initiatives and on the HyeCount campaign, to encourage the Armenian community to complete the Census by marking themselves Armenian on the questionnaire.
Our third week of the 2020 ANCA-WR summer internship program began on Monday, June 22 with a virtual meeting with Sevag Belian and Aram Balian, the executive directors of the Armenian National Committee of Canada and the ANCA Eastern Region respectively. Both speakers discussed their experiences working in the respective regions, giving the interns an insight on the different challenges and opportunities in advocating for the Armenian Cause. While Armenian National Committees worldwide essentially have the same set of goals, political and demographic factors can influence the means utilized to reach them. We learned about the efforts of how each office engages members of the community as well as how their methods of advocacy differ due to a number of circumstances. Both the ANCC and ANCA-ER are successful in advancing the Armenian Cause, and it was valuable to get a broader perspective on the political power of the ANCs in North America.
Later that day, we briefly met with the ANCA-WR Board of Directors. All the interns had a chance to introduce themselves. Each intern spoke on their academic and professional ambitions, why we chose to participate in the internship, and the project they have undertaken during the internship. It was inspiring to see how long many board members have been working with this organization, as well as how accomplished they were in their lives outside of the organization.
On Tuesday, William Bairamian spoke with our internship class regarding his experience working with the Armenian community. After working at the ANCA Western Region and founding The Armenite, he decided to move to Armenia to continue his efforts there. During his time there, he witnessed the Electric Yerevan Protests and the Velvet Revolution, two major political developments in the country. He advised us to examine the sources we get news from and be mindful of the potential biases the outlets may have, and shared with us his self-proclaimed unorthodox views on Armenian politics. This lecture helped provide a differing perspective on Armenian politics and living in Armenia that many of us otherwise would not have heard.
On Wednesday, rather than hear from a guest lecturer, we had a trivia game testing our knowledge on American politics and civics. This was Moss’ opportunity to redeem himself from last week’s Armenian trivia, and he seized it unequivocally, soaring to the top of the leaderboard right off the bat and staying there for the entire game.
On Thursday, we met with Roxanne Makasdjian, co-founder and executive director of the Genocide Education Project and produier of the 1991 documentary film Charles Garry: Streetfighter in the Courtroom. Her discussions on the Genocide Education Project provided us with an understanding of the efforts to include the Armenian Genocide in public school curricula, and the steps being taken to ensure teacher training and capacity development. The bulk of our discussion, however, pertained to her documentary. Interns had a chance to watch the film prior to this meeting, which outlined the career of an Armenian-American civil rights attorney Garabed Garabedian, better known as Charles Garry. She created the documentary with the intent of outlining parallels between the issues faced by Armenians and other minorities in America, while also telling the story of a unique lawyer who resonated with the public and brought political questions into the courtroom. The documentary is particularly significant right now, with the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests calling for similar reform that Garry was fighting for in the courtroom decades ago.
On Friday, I was invited to visit the ANCA-Glendale office and work from there. My project for this internship involves working alongside ANCA’s Glendale chapter to keep up to date on the activities of our local institutions, and this week I received an assignment to organize a virtual town hall forum. In the Glendale office, I worked alongside my mentor, Hasmik Burushyan, to decide on a topic for the forum and establish a groundwork to execute the project. Being located in the Glendale Youth Center, a number of other Glendale-based Armenian organizations conduct their business from the same building; I didn’t even know this building existed, so it was amazing to see all the work our community does in one place.
As for the general meeting with all the interns, Friday, as always, was our check-in session wherein we all provide updates on our personal projects and discuss the lecturers from the week. It’s always interesting to hear about the other interns’ work, and it shows how multifaceted the ANCA is with all the different sorts of projects it conducts at the same time. We concluded the session by talking about a number of ways Armenians have taken action against genocide denial, and watched videos showcasing that.
As was the case with the weeks preceding it, week 3 has further fueled my excitement for the future of this internship, and I am looking forward to the weeks to come.
Glendale Community College (GCC), Political Science
ANCA-WR 2020 Summer Intern
Our virtual internship began on June 8, 2020, over Zoom, with a welcoming message from Verginie Touloumian, which was then followed by an ice breaker activity where we learned about all the other interns and surprisingly found out that we had students from Arizona and Nevada, and an LA-native that goes to school in Washington, DC. After getting to know each other, Verginie continued to explain the logistical details about the internship and how we can best work through the virtual program. We were then assigned to specific teams, where either with partners or individually, we learned about our projects and learned from our mentors.
Our first lecturer was Nora Hovsepian, Chair of the ANCA-WR, who spoke to us regarding the ANCA’s objectives, mission, and goals. She started off by providing a brief history into the Armenian Cause. A few important historical facts worth mentioning are efforts like The Near East Relief, which was the first philanthropic effort by the U.S. to aid foreign countries. In response to the genocide of 1915, Americans quickly responded by sending aid to people in need. These efforts resulted in the construction of refugee processing centers, and sent 1,000 volunteers to aid overseas. In terms of more contemporary efforts organized by the ANCA, she also provided ongoing projects of the ANCA that included advocating for direct US aid, the Double Tax Treaty, Direct Flights from LAX to Yerevan, etc. She then provided a bit of important background information regarding Artsakh and the Royce-Engel Peace Proposals.
The following day, Elizabeth Chouldjian, Communications Director of ANCA, joined our conversation from our nation’s capital and spoke to us about community efforts and outreach campaigns that the ANCA takes great effort to conceive. Initiatives such as HyeVotes, Rapid Responder Program, and other similar programs allow the Armenian community to remain united and work together to achieve mutual goals. She even highlighted some recent achievements including the legislation passed in Colorado that mandates the education of the Armenian Genocide within schools. Without a doubt, programs such as the ANCA Action Alerts, and the Grassroots Conferences and a plethora of other campaigns undertaken by individuals within the ranks of ANCA make it possible for important legislation to be implemented. Later on, Tereza Yerimyan, Government Affairs Director of ANCA, highlighted the importance of working to counter Azerbaijani and Turkish propaganda, and how she advocates for Armenian-American policy priorities in the halls of Congress.
On Wednesday, Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA, delved into the importance of ANCA’s constant efforts of lobbying, creating coalitions, and advocating in Congress. He discussed the evolution of the Armenian Cause and the Armenian Diaspora by highlighting the challenges and opportunities that each decade brought. He specifically walked us through the protests that began to sprout all over the world, in order to educate the global audiences, awaken the call of duty in fellow Armenians, and achieve justice for our cause.
Following this presentation, Raffi Hamparian, Chairperson of the ANCA, highlighted many ongoing Armenian-American policy issues, such as US Aid to Artsakh, COVID-19 Relief, Double Tax Treaty, Social Security agreement, and other national and international goals that the ANCA pursues. It was interesting to learn about the Social Security agreement, which would allow diasporan Armenians working in the US to retire in Armenia, while receiving their Social Security paychecks.
On Thursday, June 11, 2020, Leeza Arakelian, Assistant Editor of the Armenian Weekly, joined the interns to talk about the importance of community reporting and journalism. She began by giving an overview of the history of the 86-year old newspaper and how it’s been an honor for her to continue its mission. Working adjacent to the archives room that holds newspapers from the Armenian Weekly and its counterpart, the Hairenik, gives her the courage she needs to continue reporting the news of the community, homeland, and the world, to its readers. She also trained the interns on how to write press releases, a skill that we will be able to use in our academic, professional, and organizational careers.
At the culmination of the first week, interns had a check-in meeting where we provided individual insight as to what was learned, how we are able to contribute, and the effectiveness of week 1. Overall, every intern shared the mutual feeling of excitement and eagerness to continue their educational journey. Over the first week, every intern showed great concern with the political issues that were brought to light by many keynote speakers. These speakers allowed us to get a glimpse of the various issues that many Armenian communities face, whether diaspora or domestic, how to take action, and provided innumerable connections and valuable information that will carry onto the next 11 weeks.
On June 16, our group convened again to hear a lecture from Ara Khatchadourian, long-time editor of LA-based newspaper, Asbarez. He spoke about the humble beginnings of the newspaper in Fresno and how back then many advertisements were surrounding agriculture, an industry which Armenians were involved in. He reminisced about his days of reporting during the Artsakh Liberation movement and the red and black marker he used to mark the laminated map that indicated which territories were liberated.
On Wednesday, digital news producer at KTLA and former ANCA-WR intern, Sareen Habeshian, joined the interns to discuss her academic and professional journey. Sareen’s visceral presentation of the ongoing issues in Artsakh, as well as domestic issues within Armenia provided tremendous insight into the seemingly distant home country. By interviewing many of the locals and listening to them speak about their experiences, we can understand how different parts of the country are doing on a micro level. For example, in Artsakh, the HALO Trust – which is a non-profit organization that trains local individuals to be able to demine and make use of land which was once a warzone – is making efforts to begin rebuilding and revitalizing the land. In an area that was once a minefield, lies a garden that bears fruit for the villagers. Efforts like these allow for locals to return to normal life, as well as broadcast the issues going on within Armenia.
Thursday came as a great relief to a busy week. We were quizzed on facts about Armenia. Toward the end, it was no surprise that Martin was crowned the champion. It’s almost like he lived in Armenia!
The weekly check-in started with each intern giving a brief description of how they were doing on their group project, also talking about their favorite presentation. Overall, there was a shared sense of pride that followed in completing the second week, and it’s fair to say we’re ecstatic to see what next weeks will bring.
A lecture on the “Adolescent brain” to take place at Armenian Mesrobian School
PICO RIVERA, Calif.–On Wednesday, October 17 at 7 p.m., Armenian Mesrobian School Principal David Ghoogasian will make a presentation about “The Adolescent Brain,” as part of the school’s Parent and Community Education Series.
“Presentations such as these bring the school’s mission of education beyond classroom walls and directly into the community,” said school officials.
The presentation, which is open to the public, will explore how adolescent and pre-adolescent minds develop. It will take place on the Mesrobian School located at 8420 Beverly Rd, Pico Rivera, CA 90660.
“The purpose of the lecture is to educate the local community about how the young mind develops and to foster a healthier understanding of human relationships, and connecting with adolescent children and teenagers,” said the school.
Mesrobian Parent and Community Education workshops provide educational and thought-provoking experiences for parents and general community members.
Principal Ghoogasian, whose educational practice includes research and findings in fields as diverse as education, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, behavioral economics, communication, and other fields. He is also an educational consultant/trainer and school improvement facilitator, who has a rich background in education, which includes teaching, counseling, administration, and professional development. The University of California, San Diego, Irvine, and Riverside education extension programs are among the schools through which Ghoogasian has taught and trained. He is a member of the Gift and Talented Education (GATE) and Professional Teaching certificate program advisory boards at UCI Division of Continuing Education.. He has served on visiting committees for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Schools and has been a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the California Association for the Gifted (CAG).
Armenian Mesrobian School, established in 1965, is fully accredited from Preschool through High School by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is the nation’s first Armenian Elementary School. The college preparatory High School curriculum is certified to the University of California. Mesrobian School includes Ron and Goharik Gabriel Preschool (which serves students 2-5 years old), Elementary, Middle School and a college preparatory High School on the same campus. A major convenience for parents who may have children at multiple ages, Mesrobian offers a unique perspective and opportunity for students, teachers, and parents to grow together, and for students to get the attention and nurturing they need to be successful in school and in life. The school offers transportation from the Pasadena/Greater San Gabriel Valley, Glendale and Orange County areas. Mesrobian’s Alumni Network and Mentorship Program connects students with over five decades of alumni who have distinguished themselves in fields as diverse as education, science, business, medicine, music, law, dentistry, chiropractic, politics, art, marketing, engineering, veterinary medicine, and psychology. Every day is an Open House at Mesrobian School! If you are interested in scheduling a campus visit or enrolling your child, please contact the school at (562) 699-2057 or (323) 723-3181, or email email@example.com. Follow the Armenian Mesrobian School Facebook Page for latest updates.
David Barsamian to Speak in Glendale as part of the ARF’s “Armenians and Progressive Politics” endeavor
GLENDALE—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western United States will be hosting an upcoming talk with David Barsamian, as part of its “Armenians and Progressive Politics” initiative. The event will take place on Wednesday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mariam and Kirkor Karamanougian Youth Center in Glendale.
Barsamian’s talk, titled “Rise Up and Resist,” will touch upon what it takes for a people to move from passivity to active resistance. History has presented numerous instances of people defying tyranny and fighting back regardless of the odds. Barsamian will draw upon an example from Nazi Germany, often considered the benchmark of evil. Even though opposition to the regime was highly dangerous, Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with others at the University of Munich, formed the White Rose Movement and called on Germans to recognize their moral duty and overthrow the government. Their resistance led to their arrest and murder in 1943, but their resistance and courage is recognized and honored to this day. Barsamian will attempt to answer just when enough really becomes enough and people are deemed to take certain risks.
The event is free and open to the public, and is cosponsored by the Armenian Youth Federation – Western United States, and the ARF Shant Student Association.
As a tireless and wide-ranging investigative journalist, David Barsamian has altered the independent media landscape, both with his weekly radio show “Alternative Radio” and his books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Richard Wolff, Arundhati Roy, and Edward Said. In his work, he covers world affairs, imperialism, capitalism, propaganda, the media, the economic crisis, and global rebellions. Barsamian is the recipient of the Media Education Award, the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. He has been named by the Institute of Alternative Journalism as one of its “Top Ten media Heroes.” Barsamian has a forthcoming book with Noam Chomsky titled, “Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy.”
The Mariam and Kirkor Karamanougian Youth Center is located at 211 West Chestnut Street, Glendale, CA 91204. Additional parking is available in the adjacent St Mary’s Armenian Church parking lot. For questions please contact Razmig Sarkissian at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (323) 236-4399.
If you look beneath my skin tone, you will see My indigenous Armenian marginalized reality Granddaughter of pained survivor 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks
Black, brown, red, yellow skinned indigenous people Share the same fate Of genocide, displacement and racial hate.
It is not my people’s shame that Ottoman Turks Wore necklaces of Armenian women nipples in 1915. Just like American soldiers wore nipple necklaces When they killed Native women in Sand Creek 1865.
Demented conquerors deny genocides Offer no reparations, just fake history Leaving millions of ghost spirits Seeking justice.
When I say that I am a Woman Of Color I am sometimes ignored, mistrusted and Mislabeled white by those who know little About world history and geography
Whiteness is just a construct So many try to fit into for the privilege it accords My indigenous origin, though not obviously visible Survives inwardly in infinite depth
My light skinned African American, Latina, Native, Asian And mixed race sisters also face identity challenges, But unlike them, I have no fixed category Western Asian, Native of Near East?
Some WOC groups just put Arab and mistakenly Leave out other Near/Middle Eastern peoples of color I do not want to be other. I want my WOC herstory included –
I arise indigenous Armenian Birthed from sacred Mt. Ararat Cultural identity of all Armenians Guardian spirit Apricot blossomed Anatolian plain
Ethereal duduk flute music Wandering like Armenian refugees exiled Forced death marches by Ottoman Turk murderers Who savored the stench of 2 million dead
Stolen indigenous land and homes Eastern Turkey is really Occupied Western Armenia 3,000 years of culture wiped out Barb wired Mt.Ararat under Turkish control
Escaped, terrorized Grandmother refugee Hiding her secrets in the oven Circles my inter-generational trauma Displaced identity
I cringe when I am mislabeled European Mistakenly connected to US slave past My grandmother was a sex slave in a Turkish harem The naked slave master whipping her tears
Under pretext of holy jihad against Christians Ottoman Turks tried to wipe out all Armenians Armenian school teachers hung from mulberry trees Police skinning Armenians alive screaming
Traumatized refugee survivors came Under Asian quota changed to white So they could have homes prove they were ok Real identity, there but not there
Tried to bury past humiliation, shame Under blending/passing, While the spirits of raped slave brides And stolen Armenian children keep surfacing
Lost memory of indigenous past Offerings to river and tree Spirits Little acknowledgement of whose Genocided indigenous land we occupy now
In the US I am a light skinned woman of color privilege I am not profiled, harassed or murdered by racists But I am not in denial of my indigenous heritage Have to constantly explain my non-white ancestry and responsibilities
If you put me in the “white boat” you are just Helping white supremacists who are afraid Of dark-skinned people taking over and Want to claim light skinned people of color as white.
I have jumped out of the boat In solidarity with all indigenous freedom struggles Hoping we can help each other resist assimilation I welcome support to counter Turkey’s constant attempt to squash the truth
So called democratic US covers up and hides Turkey crimes of genocide Who knows that US white controlled Corporations doing business with Turkey Like Coca Cola, Pfizer, GE and Lockheed Lobby US Congress not to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide?
I choose to elevate my ancestral truth I resist assimilation to honor my ancestors Who died to save Armenia
Treasured interviews of Armenian Genocide survivors Like Vartouhi with blue tattoo marks on her face Signifying Kurdish abduction.(2)
My body damaged by bomb/mine explosions heavy metal In 90’s when joined armed self-defense struggle To liberate Armenian Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh) from Azeri control (3)
Our blood soaked homeland
Far flung diaspora of exiled descendants Swinging between language/culture Connections/ disconnections Remaining small Eastern Armenia Republic
Blockaded, impoverished, needing aid
Migrating storks still returning building Magnificent 10ft rebirthing nests Storks nests in our hearts Opening and closing Armenia
Armenians are now being driven out of Middle Eastern countries they fled to after the genocide like Syria, Iraq, by anti-Christian extremists.
Some Kurdish tribes helped Turks kill Armenians.
Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey, is currently attacking Armenians in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh)
Anoush Ter Taulian
Anoush Ter Taulian is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley. In 1992, she decided to relocate to Artsakh where she volunteered in the liberation struggle alongside Monte Melkonian. She has depicted the Armenian struggle for freedom in poetry, paintings, videos, and radio. A lifelong activist speaking in schools, churches, and at anti-racism conferences, Anoush continues to bring up current attacks on Artsakh at indigenous, women’s, and political conferences.
Maternal Warrior, 2017 (Acrylic and UV coated Ink on mylar)
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 13. Exhibit run through November 16
LOS ANGELES—Tufenkian Fine Arts will present Gegam Kacherian: Refractions, a new exhibition featuring selected works by Gegam Kacherian. The opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 13, beginning at 7 p.m. The show will remain open through November 16th, 2018. This will be Kacherian’s first solo exhibition at Tufenkian Fine Arts. He most recently participated in That Layered Look, a group show curated by Peter Frank.
‘Refractions’–Gegam Kacherian’s Recent Work
BY CONSTANCE MALLINSON
Since 2006 Gegam Kacherian’s paintings might best be described as a journey into a hallucinogenic or dreamlike whirlwind. Dynamic compositions with allusions to Western art history from the Baroque to Surrealism incorporate a vast array of finely detailed, photo inspired representational images, folk art decorative motifs, and swirling, psychedelia inspired gestural “mini paintings”, often set within vibrant landscapes. In Kacherian’s painted world, the borders between fantasy and reality, magic and observable fact, the cosmic and personal, the past and present, the superficial and the deep, are breached, creating metaphors for the complicated experience of contemporary life.
Time-Touch-Related Act, 2017. (Acrylic on canvas)
In this latest series, Kacherian, restless to further explore his formal possibilities and never satisfied with previous victories, has expanded his conversation with the photograph; instead of simply source material as in the earlier works on canvas, the photograph has been elevated to an essential component at times indistinguishable from the painted image. Photography and painting have historically maintained an antagonistic relationship, with the emergence of photo realist painting in the 1960’s attempting to harmonize the photographer’s ease in creating compelling images with a painter’s inimitable touch. The mediums, however, were never confused for each other. Fast forward to the present where no certainties whatsoever exist; defined art categories, gender, nationalities, predictable seasons, political protocols are constantly shifting and morphing. Much critical verbiage is expended trying to comprehend these monumental changes. Kacherian in, seeing “how far from painting one can go and still be a painting” takes viewers into the eye of that storm. Moving from pure painting, he now employs a process of collaging from his collection of photographs, re- photographing and Photoshopping the assembled images, then printing the photo images on Mylar. From there, exquisite painted “doodles” are applied, gyrating and dancing across the surface, or in some cases, augmenting the figurative elements or enlivening broad expanses of rich color. Exotic flora and fauna, bisected architecture, human nudes and atmospheric effects play hide and seek in these wildly polychromed spaces. Painted areas can be difficult to differentiate from reproductions. Abstraction becomes figuration and figuration dissolves into gorgeous painted puddles. Refracting stained glass windows, kaleidoscopes, Cubist painting, Op Art, Kandinsky’s early abstractions, all come to mind. The effects are mesmerizing, especially when in catching a fleeting glimpse of oneself in the reflective Mylar, one realizes he/she is part of this fluctuating vision.
Witness, 2017. (Acrylic and UV coated ink on mylar)
Kacherian has described these newer hybridizations of painting and photography as “trying to translate ideas of differences”—for example, day v. night, here v. there. Interpreting his intentions as a dualistic contest, however, is to not grasp the larger implications of these artworks. Questions of difference and contrast are certainly engaged throughout, particularly when trying to discern pictorial genres, fixed identities, locations, and perspectives. In Kacherian’s these elements veer and shift imparting a sense of instability and precarity. Refractions dramatically visualizes a world transforming right before us.
In August 2018, US President Trump angrily announced that sanctions will be implemented against Turkey, and personally against the Turkish ministers of interior and justice. What was the reason for Trump’s fury? The refusal to release Andrew Brunson, a US evangelical pastor arrested and jailed over two years ago, on still unproven charges of aiding terrorist organizations in Turkey and aiding the failed coup attempt against President Erdogan in June 2016.
The alleged mastermind of the failed coup attempt is Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and Erdogan has repeatedly demanded his extradition from the US. In the absence of any real evidence, the Americans have not complied with the Turkish demands for Gulen’s return, and therefore, Turkey resorted to an age old tactic of hostage taking to achieve its objectives. The arrest and jailing of pastor Brunson, as well as several Turkish employees of the American Embassy in Turkey were meant to pressure the US to exchange them for Gulen. President Erdogan was even quoted a few months ago to have stated: ‘You give me my cleric, I give you your pastor.”
The use of hostages is a normal state of affairs in Turkish politics. Other recent examples include the arrest of a German journalist of Turkish descent, used as a hostage to secure the return of several Turkish military officers who had sought asylum in Germany. A similar demand for the return of Turkish military officers who fled to Greece was made by Turkey by taking hostage a Greek soldier who allegedly crossed the Greek-Turkish border.
The Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities living in Turkey have been treated as hostages by the Turkish state throughout history. The religious and community leaders of these three minorities are pressured to declare their allegiance to the government, despite openly discriminatory conditions, unfair legislations, denials of historic facts, and so on. The pressure on the hostage minorities is maximized during crisis times. The most recent example is again related to the Pastor Brunson affair. Just as Trump demanded the release of the pastor, for no apparent reason, out of blue, all the minority religious leaders including the Armenian Acting Patriarch, the Greek Patriarch, the Jewish Chief Rabbi were paraded with one of the presidential aides of Erdogan and signed a declaration that “minorities live happily in Turkey, completely free to practice their religious and citizenship rights without any pressure.” It was obvious that the declaration that the minorities are not under pressure was obtained by pressure applied by the state on the minority leaders who had to comply obediently – or else… Sometimes, the state does not even have to exert any pressure and, as a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome, some minority leaders like the chairman of an Istanbul Armenian hospital foundation, voluntarily profess their love for their Turkish masters or parrot the state version of history.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed by Turkish authorities, was freed on Friday, Oct. 12
This pattern keeps on repeating itself in Turkey. During the Cyprus crisis in the 1960s and 1970s, the Greek Patriarch in Istanbul was obliged to condemn the Greeks and praise the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. When German Parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide and acknowledged its responsibility, the Istanbul Armenian Acting Patriarch condemned the decision and defended the Turkish version of history. When Israel takes any steps against Palestinians or Moslems in general, the Jewish minority in Turkey pays for it with attacks and vandalism against Jewish synagogues, shops and homes. When Greece is perceived to treat its Moslem citizens unfavorably, the Greek minority in Istanbul is punished by the state as retribution.
Sometimes one hostage community is used against another hostage community. When Armenians worldwide started to push for Armenian genocide recognition in the parliament of several states, the Jewish minority leaders in Istanbul were pressured to actively engage Jewish parliamentarians and influential political leaders in those countries to stop the genocide recognition legislation. The Jewish minority leaders in Istanbul were ‘persuaded’ by the Turkish state to convince the Jewish lobby in the US to counteract Armenian and Greek lobbies.
But the most obvious and painful hostage incident in Turkish history relates to the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. When World War One ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey in 1918, the victorious Allies started occupying Istanbul and other regions of Turkey. In cooperation with the occupying British forces, the new Ottoman government went after the Ittihat Terakki leaders for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and for wholesale massacre of its own Armenian citizens. Turkish and British police started rounding up dozens of Ittihat Terakki leaders and commanders, at least the ones who had not fled yet. Trials ensued in Istanbul and most of the wartime Ittihat Terakki leaders, including Talat, Enver and Cemal who had already fled, were sentenced to death in absentia. Two lesser officials who were sentenced to death were executed by hanging in Beyazid Square in Istanbul in April 1919. The Turkish public opinion was dead set against these hangings, and concerned with increased protests against them, the British decided to transport all the jailed Ittihat Terakki leaders to the British colony island of Malta in the Mediterranean, and continue the trials there. 148 Turkish leaders were interned in Malta. Almost all of them were actively involved in the massacres and deportations of Armenians from various regions of Anatolia. Some of them had amassed great fortunes with stolen property, possessions and lands left behind by the murdered or deported Armenians.
In the meantime, the Turkish resistance movement led by Mustafa Kemal in Anatolia started to gain momentum against the Istanbul government, which was regarded as a puppet regime friendly to the occupying Allied forces. Mustafa Kemal and the newly formed government in Ankara demanded the release of the Malta prisoners. The Allied forces had sent British Colonel Rawlinson to Turkey to assess the situation in Eastern Anatolia, ahead of the Sevres Peace Treaty negotiations. Rawlinson had met with Mustafa Kemal, other Turkish commanders and community leaders. He was married to the niece of Lord Curzon, who was the British Prime Minister and chief decision maker at the peace treaty negotiations. Declaring that Rawlinson is a ‘valuable catch’, Mustafa Kemal promptly decided to arrest Colonel Rawlinson in order to force the British to release the Ittihat Terakki leaders jailed in Malta. After several rounds of negotiations, the British resolve to hold on to the Malta prisoners started to weaken. The hostage taking tactic of Mustafa Kemal succeeded, as Lord Curzon finally declared that “one Briton is worth more than a shipload of Turks.” An exchange of prisoners was agreed and Colonel Rawlinson, along with 20 other British prisoners of war, was exchanged for the 121 Turkish prisoners of Malta at the port of Inebolu in the Black Sea in October 1921. The freed Ittihat Terakki leaders were never tried for their war crimes nor their roles in the Armenian Genocide. In fact, most of them assumed leading positions in the new republican government as ministers and members of parliament. The state policy of hostages, denial of historic injustices and racist ultra nationalistic hatred of minorities inherited from Ittihat Terakki leaders continue today.
Editor’s Note:Turkish authorities on Friday release Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Revolutions don’t need elections, except to consolidate and legitimize what they’ve already achieved. Once elections are being held, or even discussed, a de-revolutionizing process has already commenced.
In light of this, being questioned as to whether I’m “with or against” the revolution (referring to developments in our homeland since April) is trite and annoying but it is happening, and that seems to be because I dare address some potential pitfalls. Questioning my support for revolution is laughable, given my membership in the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and my very public history of positions taken and ideas espoused. It is especially comical when it is done from a place of assessing my support for, and agreement with, Armenia’s current leader who seems to have drunk the neo-liberal Kool-aid when it comes to economic policy. But that’s a topic for another time.
The current challenge the Republic of Armenia faces is transitioning from a kleptocratic system foisted on it as a result of the ridiculous prescriptions western “advisors” (the same neo-liberal types mentioned above) rushed to write for the countries emerging from the collapsed Soviet Union and its satellites. This abomination saw the obscene enrichment of the few and immiseration of the many, leading to the uprising of Spring, 2018.
The leaders, principally Pashinyan, of the uprising tapped into a deep font of dissatisfaction, but it was no “revolution” with all that the word connotes – years of organizing, preparation, and a guiding ideology. What started out as a tiny group of people swelled into a real popular movement that swept away the first, outermost, layer of a system built on the rot of corruption.
Naturally, that corruption was the first target of the new regime. Very public actions were taken. This built confidence and allowed the new regime time to consolidate its new-found power. The next step taken was also very clever and aptly timed – the pursuit of the culprits of March 1, 2008. This further solidified support for the regime. But none of this could be permanent without an election to bring into office, formally, the people who led the movement in the streets.
The first step was electing a new city council and mayor for Yerevan. In this case I think the new regime did better than it initially imagined. The election was belatedly and artificially labeled a “referendum” and when the new regime’s candidates garnered 81% of the vote, its leadership realized the time was ripe to strike.
Despite some agreement/arrangement/understanding among the parties in parliament (back when Pashinyan was first elected Prime Minister) that snap parliamentary elections would be called in May or June of 2019, the new regime wanted to consolidate and legitimize itself through an election immediately while its support was at its peak. This is where the heavy-handedness and public relations tone-deafness of the other three parliamentary caucuses (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Prosperous Armenia party, Republican Party of Armenia) manifested itself. Concerned that the new regime would marshal its supporters into the streets and prevent parliament from convening, they passed legislation (as yet unsigned by the president) on October 2nd to circumvent such a possibility. Yet, instead of getting out front and explaining what they were doing and why, they tried to do it stealthily and ended up further empowering the new regime.
All hell brook loose, or so it seemed. But analyst/commentator Tatoul Hagopian/Tatul Hakobyan explained it well when he said in a recent interview that “manipulation” (of public opinion) is what defines politics. He attributed that behavior to both sides of this kerfuffle, and contended, rightly, that all this should be taken in stride. Indeed, what seemed like an explosive situation when the October 2nd legislation passed has already settled down with one party, PAP, already agreeing with Pashinyan to hold snap elections in December. Sixteen members of the RPA have also stated they support early election. The ARF has said that it, too, supports snap elections as long as certain conditions – reforms to the country’s election laws – are met.
So the whole crescendo of people being labeled anti-revolutionary over a relatively minor political conflict was ridiculous. The descent to the streets and takeover of parliament’s grounds may have re-energized Pashinyan’s activists, but unfortunately, it also opened the doors to attacks on the Republic of Armenia from other quarters.
A retired American diplomat turned lobbyist, Joseph Adam Ereli, penned an article titled “Anarchy in Armenia” for the Washington Times. While this is not the most reliable of news sources, it still has significant reach. Arming people such as Ereli with opportunities to attack Yerevan does Armenians a disservice. It’s not clear to me why he did so. He has an association with Mercury/Clark & Weinstock, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm, which was hired earlier this year by both the Turkish Embassy and Turkey-U.S. Business Council. Yet the type of attack contained in the article reeks more of Azerbaijan’s style. On the other hand, it might even have been done at the behest of Robert Kocharian, similar to the case documented by Ara Khachatourian in “Kocharian Hires Western Lobbyist Who Worked for Azeri Interests” a few weeks ago.
If we want improvements to continue to our quarter-century-old third republic’s political, and consequently economic and social life, we had better stop fetishizing events and idolizing people and stick to the hard work of making up for the missed opportunities and abuses of the last 27 years while saving and expanding the few bright lights that shone through that period of relative darkness.