Occupation, Liberation

At the Anatolian Festival last weekend


Nope, this article is not about the new movement that’s working to take back the reins of government from Wall Street. It’s about a strange juxtaposition, somewhat jarring, that exists in our Armenian reality. It struck me on the two days of this past weekend.

I, with my youngest brother to keep me well behaved, went to check out the “Anatolian Cultures and Food” festival (October 6-9) held in Orange County and the bitterness of occupation slapped me resoundingly. This festival is a huge production. I find it hard to believe it is the doing, exclusively, of the Pacifica Institute, whose name was plastered all over the place. I’m convinced the Turkish government has a hand in this (especially since a similar event has already taken place in Melbourne, Australia). That same Turkish government currently controls our lands, so they get away with representing the history, reality, and culture of the region any which way they please. Hence, that bitter taste of occupation.

Imagine, ambling down a walkway created by walls of history. One side is written in English, the other, Turkish. Hittites, Phrygians, Turks, and all other occupants of Asia Minor (NOT just Anatolia which, as Richard Hovanissian pointed out recently, includes Anatolia and the Armenian Plateau/highlands; the Turks are conflating the two for their own nefarious reasons). Except, of course, we, the Armenians, are largely missing. How is that possible? How is it possible to tell the story of the Roman conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean without ever mentioning Dikran the Great? It’s eminently possible if you’re a liar, a historical revisionist, and a genocidal state striving at all costs to avoid accountability.

After the walkway, on the right (the south end of the festival area), the visitor is treated to reproductions (images printed on material attached to framing) of parts of the Topkapi palace with pictures of various artifacts inside. There was even a reading going on, from what I assume was the Quran. Upon leaving this exhibit, I was struck by the size ofthe festival area, probably on the order of at least thrice the footprint of the Navasartian Games Homenetmen organizes at Birmingham High School.

Continuing to the right, there was a food preparation show, with audience participation, going on and dozens of dishes pictured on the wall. Next door were some booths— Pacifica Institute, books, the Turkish Journal, and the like. Then, the visitor turns right into the food area with various vendors and some on the spot preparation in traditional ways. Unfortunately, there was one booth with an Armenian name. This may be good or bad, and I’ve already encountered arguments on both sides of the issue. Regardless, it’s bad because it was not done in consultation with our community institutions. A substantial stage for various dance troupes and other performances bounds the packed food area on the north.

Beyond lay the most frustrating and insulting exhibit… a representation of Akhtamar. This is the height of cultural thievery, despite mention of Armenians as the builders, though as minimally as possible. Comically, the texts describing the church alternately used its correct name or the Turkified “Akdamar”, sometimes in sequential sentences! This is a clever Turkish revisionist tactic, essentially saying “yeah, there are these things called Armenians, and a few of them were around, even built a church, but they ain’t worth much mention beyond that”. They thus insulate themselves somewhat from criticism, but must be called out for every gimmick they use.

After Akhtamar, Constantinople, and other exhibits (all photographic representations as I described Topkapi) are laid out on the northern end of the festival area. Interspersed are booths with stone carving, carpets, various locales soliciting tourism, etc. The northwest corner was set up as a children’s playground. Finally, the western part had numerous booths selling handcrafts, more tourism-hawking towns, and, what might be the most interesting booth in this medley… an FBI and DEA recruiting station!

But the festival exhibits are not the only aspects of the festival that jarringly drove home the occupation of our homeland. The positive propaganda garnered for Turkey is immense. I heard lots of Farsi being spoken, followed by Arabic, three families speaking (Western) Armenian, and I saw many East Asians and Europeans wandering, gawking, and sampling. Add to this the lecture series proffered on Saturday and Sunday which not only gave an intellectual veneer to this propaganda-fest, but included a lecture by an Armenian titled “Cultural legacy of Armenians in Anatolia and in the Ottoman Empire”. For the same reasons as above, this presentation was out of line. It allows Turkish propagandists to claim “even-handedness” when we appear at their affairs. But again, I emphasize, the biggest problem with this is that our community institutions were not consulted, while the speaker’s biography referenced leadership posts held in some of our organizations. This makes the organizations unwitting accomplices to Turkish propaganda.

On the other end of the spectrum was liberation. The Artzakh Development Group had organized a conference on Sunday at the Glendale Public Library. Unfortunately, I could only attend the first half. It was very informative with discussions of development, propaganda activity by Azerbaijan in the scholarly war over that part of our homeland, and the diplomatic front. The lineup of speakers was impressive, as you’ve seen in media reports. But mostly, it spoke to me of the possibilities that open up for progress towards a free, independent, and united Armenia, when we actually control our lands and even more importantly… when we live on them.

Next time, let’s thwart the Turks’ taking advantage of the occupation of our lands.


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  1. Halo said:

    The Turks can start their exhibit with trying to explain how they are regarding themselves as an “Anatolian culture”. Anatolian means one of three things: Armenian, Greek, and to a lesser extent Kurd.

    I find this outrageous that an invading Turk coming from Asia is now “representing” our ancient history, and getting away with it. Shame too at all those Armenians who took part in this disgusting sham parody.

    The Turks have started celebrating April 24 as a mockery of genocide, so now Armenians should do everything possible to bring this so-called festival to its knees and expose it for what it is – a FRAUD.

  2. Arman said:

    Look at that huge eye hung under the main entrance arches. Is this Turkish superstition? Some evil forces will jinx them? The only thing they need to worry about is the long arm of justice that they’ve been running from. This eye reminds me of a scene I read about in Dr. Mabel Evelyn Elliott’s book “Beginning Again At Ararat.” She describes how in her care were women and girls rescued from Turkish houses and harems and how each of them had horrific stories of their experience to share. One girl is described as being very beautiful when looked at in profile and suddenly when she turned her face toward Dr. Elliott, it became painful to even look at her. One of her eyes had been surgically altered and made to point in a different direction than the other. According to the girl, the Turkish people that she was abducted by were getting tired with her “uncooperative” or “difficult” behavior, telling her “you have an evil eye…..we will fix that.” The girl was taken to a surgeon and one of her eyes altered to better suit the wretched superstitions of those Turks. Mabel Elliott noted how many thousands of Turkish soldiers lay dying on battlefields without good mecial care, and here a complex surgical procedure was done on a civilian having no need of such a grotesque and absurd procedure. Yet this made sense according to the workings of the Turkish mind. This is material from a chapter in Elliott’s book rightly entitled “Asia The Incomprehensible.” In other words, to Dr. Elliott the Turks’ and Kurds’ ways are so foreign to a Westerner that it’s obvious here in the Near/Middle East an entirely different set of mentalities exists among Turks, Kurds, and Arabs, as compared to Europeans or Americans. Massacres, great cruelties and persecutions are no more uncommon as mutual treatment among local peoples there, than local Western customs to the West. On YouTube one can watch footage of Kurds in Turkey’s southeast and Iraq’s northern regions, how they loosely control those lands and their problems dealing with the Turkish military and paramilitary forces. I was surprised however to find several clips of Kurds fighting one another, perhaps in a tribal rivalry method, since sometimes Kurds from Turkey and Kurds from Iraq have different interests. One of the Kurdish fighters, in broken English, said that they are fighting the other group of Kurds “not to finish them”, but rather “to teach them a lesson.” This example is true to Dr. Elliott’s observations, that here in the Near/Middle East and Southwest Asia, massacre and persecution is not something that happens only in wartime as in the West, but rather is far more common and is nothing to be impressed with. Certainly Turks and Kurds have shown no trepidation or discomfort in dealing with the Armenians as nothing more than so many sheep or cattle. They massacred and looted as nothing uncommon, the same way T.E. Lawrence’s Arab fighters were portrayed blowing up Ottoman trains and looting at will in the classic film “Lawrence of Arabia.” How can Armenians be so blind and so frozen by inaction, instead of making Dr. Mabel Evelyn Elliott’s eyewitness account into a world class film????? The first step is to actually READ that book. Before films can be made out of books, the books have to be read by people first and foremost. What’s most outrageous and appalling is the terribly low rate of Armenians themselves reading books about the Armenian Genocide. They sit on the shelves of the LA Public LIbrary, or the Glendale Central Library, collecting dust. And Turks are just delighted that no serious films having the impact of “Schindler’s List” are made, because Armenians are sitting on their hands. In closing I want to cite Jim Caveziel’s remarks about the film “Passion Of The Christ,” how he said “…if I was in the devil business, I’d make sure this film (“The Passion”) never sees the light of day…” , clealry saying that the film has had a profound impact on Christians around the world. I can comfortably assure Armenians that the Turkish Government wants a well made, well publicized Armenian Genocide film to never see the light of day. WAKE UP!!!!

  3. Christo said:

    Maybe, maybe they need to do some surveillance on Doctor OZ. He was born and raised in the united states, but instead of serving in the armed forces of his native country being the United States, he decided to serve in the turkish armed forces in order to retain his turkish citizenship. Then again, Mr. Homeland Security, Ms. FBI, explain to me how is that sacrificing yourself for the UNITED STATES?
    Since when can an american native serve in the armed forces of another country and take an oath to protect and serve another country while enjoying the benefits of the United States.When was an American native allowed to have a dual citizenship?

  4. Christo said:

    I don’t understand Garen, why won’t you expose this (Vasak) person who according to you “held leadership posts in our organizations…”.

    • Avery said:

      Christo: go to this site: http://www.anatolianfestival.org/lectureseries.

      scroll down. the Armenian gentleman is Edvin Minassian. you can read the bio.

      Garen is right: Mr. Minassian should have coordinated his lecture with the community organizations. We must always coordinate our efforts when dealing with Turk Denialists.

      Pacifica institute, which puts up the Anatolian Festival, is a Gulen front organization.
      No doubt the Turkish State finances both Gulen and Pacifica, and the festival.

      Unfortunately, many Armenians are too trusting and naive, and unwittingly advance Turks’ Anti-Armenian agenda.

  5. Viken said:

    Arman you are correct most Armenians aren’t reading Armenian Genocide books. Were too busy “keeping up with the Kardashian’s”.

  6. kate said:

    Haha you’re just jealous of there rich culture. Unlike Armenians they are able to enjoy themselves and not be bitter about the past, which isn’t a big deal anyway and you lot should move on. What happened isn’t and will never be a “genocide”.

    • SEROP said:

      DEAR kate, i am sure you are turkish, sure we are bitter, because most of our ancestors were brutally butchered by turkey, i am talking about Innocent, babies, children, women and men,, this is called GENOCIDE, WHICH THE CIVILIZED WORLD AND SOME TURKS RECOGNIZE, PLEASE THIS NOT A LAUGHING MATTER, THANK YOU

  7. Sossie Amerian said:

    Hey Kate; Merhaba

    Turks will never be able to “enjoy themselves” because they carry a dark cloud over them. The reason is not just the Armenians but the atrocities committed against many many others at the sake of expansionism of the Ottoman. Your evil ancestors that you should be confronting instead of honoring…for it is they and your denialism that cause you scorn worldwide.
    Maybe Kate would care to explain the Ottoman invasions and butchering of innocent people:
    Lebanese Maronites
    Eastern Europe to the gates of Vienna
    Middle east – offending and killing your moslem brothers (read the works of T.E. Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia and his uniting of the Arabic tribes against the bloody Ottomans)
    Pontic Greeks
    Cypriot Greeks

    Europe doesn’t want you, Russia whipped you in the Turko-Russo wars even your middle eastern moslem brothers know the Turk is not to be trusted. Now your only trading partner Israel is done with you.

    I was born in Iran and we have many Persian sayings:
    “Let no fruit grow where a Turk has been” or Esek Turkou (my favorite)

    Kate, good luck with trying to spread the Turkish version of history where the Armenians caused their own death of 1.5 million and those darn 150,000 Armenian orphans were to blame for being left homeless and parentless.

    The world knows, the Dutch, Austraila, French and other countries took us in as loyal and successful parts of their country. Not to mention they aided the Armenian orphanages and our survivors, extensive photos and records abound at the Vatican, American Library of Congress and via the memo and book by the American Ambassador of Turkey at that era Henry Morganthau who begged the Pashas to stop the butchery of the Armenian.

    Good Luck Kate…trying to convince the world of what they already know is impossible.
    Better to come to terms of your past instead of rewriting it or fake lame excuses like “Armenian traitors”

    Note: My name didn’t have to be “turkified” it is a proud Armenian name.

  8. Sossie Amerian said:

    What rich culture are you talking about? That which was stolen from the lands invaded by the Ottoman? You cannot be possible talking about your Mongolian roots of Central Asia? By the way , even your Turkic brothers in Central Asia want you out. They have closed their Gulen Turkish Schools in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Where your incidious group has extensive mining companies layered around the schools. Your silly Turkish mentality you believe everyone needs or wants your barbaric culture stolen and raped from others.

    Hell you didn’t even have an alphabet till 1924, 1 year after your baby nation was est. The Republic of Turkey (ROT) ROT indeed.