Armenian Studies Materials
Sunday , 23 April 2006
"On 25 January 2005 the General Prosecutor's Office in Armenia announced the arrest of the chairman of the small ultra-nationalist Union of Armenian Aryans, Armen Avetisian. Avetisian was charged with inciting ethnic intolerance ("inciting national racial or religious hostility," Article 226 of the Armenian Criminal Code) for making repeated antisemitic statements. Avetisian will face 3-6 years imprisonment if found guilty. His supporters have established a committee in his defense, maintaining that the real reason behind his arrest is his fight against homosexuality. In an interview with the weekly IRAVUNK in January 2005, Avetisian promised to make sure that the Jews were expelled from Armenia.
Members of the small Armenian Jewish community, who until recently had not been confronted with antisemitism, are alarmed over the rise in antisemitic propaganda since 2004, when Tigran Karapetian, owner of the private pro-government TV station ALM, used a talk show to disseminate antisemitic views, portraying Jews as dominating Armenia and the world and blaming them for Armenia's political and socio-economic problems."
Source: Yerevan Press Club, January 2005; Armenian News network, 26 January 2005; Eurosianet, 29 January 2005; Armenialiberty news, 25 January 2005; TruthNews, 26 January 2005.
REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA
Chairman, The Jewish Community of Armenia
ANTI-SEMITISM IN ARMENIA
To read the full story: http://www.eajc.org/program_art_e.php?id=6
The abstract from the letter from Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister in Armenia Mr. Ruben Shugaryan to the chair of Armenia’s Jewish Community, Mrs. Rimma Varzhapetyan, dated May 16, 2003.
“I would like to ensure you that the Armenian government unambiguously denies any hatred of other nationalities, which would be in itself alien to the Armenian people”.
I received this affirmation in response to my anxious letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia concerning the burning of the Turkish flag by representatives of the Dashnaktsutiun youth faction on the eve of April 24, the Day of Remembrance of the genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Lighting their torches from the burning flag, the organizers of the flag burning walked in procession while shouting hateful words about Turkey and Israel, which do not recognize the Armenian genocides. The Yerevan Russian language newspaper published a photograph of the flag on the front page of the paper, as well as the information about its burning. The Dashnaktsutiun faction arranged a similar event the year before.
“One must not see the anti-Semitism in the incident,” as Mr. Shugaryan urged us in his letter. He wrote: “We know the meaning of the 24th of April for the Armenian people, and specific displays of emotion amongst young Armenians in connection to this day do not represent the Armenian people’s attitude toward our Jewish neighbors or Jewish people in general, whom we respect and appreciate”.
Indeed, manifestations of anti-Semitism in Armenia are rare, but such events do occasionally take place.
In front of the Yerevan Writers’ House in February 2002, there was a presentation of Romen Episkopyan’s book The National System, published in Russian and Armenian. Nobody knows the author’s name in Armenia. The book was conceived as an instrument for forming some national system. In the book, the Turks are named the assassinator nation, and the Jews, the destroyer nation. In the chapter entitles The Greatest Falsification of the XX Century the author states that the Holocaust is a myth.
The book presentation attracted mainly the author’s followers, and there was not a positive response in the mass media. On the same day as the presentation, the popular A+ television channel gave me the opportunity to appear on air, to express my position and to call upon the Armenian society to denounce such theorists. Soon afterwards, the Russian-language newspaper The Republic of Armenia published an article condemning the book.
However, I met the ironic and surprising reaction of the President Counselor Mr. Davoyan when I asked him to officially condemn the book, and halt its sales. Mr. Davoyan was indifferent to my request.
It is possible to say that Anti-Semitism in Armenia is characterized by juxtaposing forces. On the one hand, the city administration reacted positively to the proposal to erect a memorial for victims of the Holocaust. In 1999, the city administration was open to the idea of a Yerevan center, and Armenian community representatives participated in the opening ceremony.
On the other hand, we feel anti-Semitic sentiments as a result of Israel’s bitter statements of non-recognition regarding the Armenian genocides. In the days following Israel’s statement, the fascist swastika appeared on the aforementioned memorial and the doors to the Jewish community. The press published anti-Israeli comments that took on a slightly anti-Semitic tone.
I would like to support Mr. Shugaryan in this issue. The Armenian community is extremely sensitive about the recognition of the genocide, or in this case, the non-recognition. In recent years many countries – Russia, France, Italy, Greece, Sweden, and many of the United States have officially recognized the Armenian genocide. Israel’s point-blank denial of this fact cannot be expected to pass without opening up an old wound.
I would like to bring attention to the positive role of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and especially Mr. Vardan Oskanyan, as well his deputy Mr. Ruben Shugaryan, in supporting Armenia’s Jewish community. It is essential to mention that following participation in the Annual AJC meeting in Washington (May 5-11, 2003), I visited Los Angeles, where a local Armenian television program invited me to speak on air. I used the opportunity to explain the position of Armenia’s Jewish community on the Armenian recognition issue, as well as relations between citizens and the government in Armenia. The show lasted over one hour, and was met with understanding, based on the phone calls we received. Hopefully these steps will allow us the opportunity to feel safe, just as before.
It is important to note that the appearance of anti-Semitism in Armenia is mainly the result of Armenian immigrants who moved to Russia and Ukraine in search of better economic prospects. Children and young people had never harbored negative perceptions of Armenian Jews in the past, but now immigrants are returning back to Armenia with new anti-Semitic ideas that were previously alien to Armenian society. The so-called Youth Party even distributed Nazi literature, which came from Russia.
The Tolerance – Lessons of the Holocaust seminar, which we organized under the sponsorship of EAJC, demonstrated the importance of this topic within the context of Armenia’s secondary schools. Some of the teachers were not open to our message in the beginning. Nevertheless, words of gratitude and the hope that we will continue to promote tolerance and mutual understanding were expressed at the end of the seminar. The Armenian side expressed its readiness to initiate the Tolerance course in the secondary school program, which we consider to be a serious achievement.