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Ed Webb

Cultural heritage and violence in the Middle East | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • According to reports of the activist Facebook group Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger, all six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been damaged, major museum collections at Homs and Hama have been looted, and dozens of ancient tells have been obliterated by shelling.

    In Iraq, recent media stories recount ISIS fighters’ use of antiquities to raise revenues. So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.

    As devastating as this news is, Syria and Iraq are simply additional chapters in the long-running story wherein conflict is characterised by a two-fold assault on humanity: human bodies themselves as well as the objects and sites that people create and infuse with cultural meaning.

  • So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.
  • Current scholarly discussion on the Armenian genocide, however, focuses almost exclusively on the human destruction, not taking into consideration the systematic annihilation of Armenian sites and monuments that has taken place since then
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  • The destruction of human communities is incomplete without cultural violence. This was the conclusion of lawyer and human rights advocate Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born jurist who coined the term “genocide” and fought successfully for its recognition by international legal bodies as a crime. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), he argued:

    By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group…[It signifies] a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. (Lemkin 1944: 80)

    Among the “essential foundations” of the life of human societies, Lemkin argued, were cultural sites, objects, and practices. The Holocaust galvanised his human rights work, but it was the tragic case of Turkish Armenians during the beginning decades of the twentieth century that served as the basis for Lemkin’s theory of genocide.

  • Also significant in this context was the systematic replacement of Armenian place names (on streets, buildings, neighbourhoods, towns, and villages) with Turkish names. The erasure of Armenians from collective memory was completed during the Turkish Republic; in their history textbooks, Turkish children hear nothing about Armenian culture or learn simply that they were enemies of the Turks.
  • the Turkish state and its governments have systematically removed all markers of the Armenians’ civilisation
  • This is cultural death, and it is especially dangerous because it legitimates the denial of diversity by authoritarian states and their societies.

  • Historical records document previous erasures of peoples and their culture: the Native Americans and First Nations of north America; the Mayas and Aztecs of Mesoamerica; and the Roman destruction of Carthage (north Africa), which some scholars point to as the earliest recorded organised genocide.
  • the harrowing plight of Syrian journalist Ali Mahmoud Othman, co-founder of Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger. Othman was arrested by government forces in March 2012 and has not been heard of since his televised “confession” in May 2012
  • Recurring Internet images of ISIS fighters beheading western men obscure the equally outrageous and horrific acts of sexual violence against women, torture of children, and destruction of homes, markets, churches, Shi’a mosques, and ancient monuments. All of this constitutes the challenging environment in which cultural activists must do their work.
  • Lemkin’s teachings still have something to say to us today: without monuments and cultural objects, social groups are atomised into disaffected, soulless individuals
Ed Webb

Armenians in Syria and Lebanon: Displaced again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Hagop looked bewildered when asked if he had heard of such a massacre. He says no one was killed—a statement repeated by Anjar’s mayor, Sarkis Pamboukian.

    The Armenians accuse an old foe for their woes. Scenes of mass panic on the day the town fell were sparked largely by rumours of a Turkish invasion, reopening wounds in the collective memory of the Armenians, victims of what is widely recognised as a genocide at the Turks’ hands in 1915. “I heard explosions, so I called friends, who said there was an attack from the Turkish border,” says Hagop.

    No Turkish invasion materialised, but Anjar’s residents are adamant their historic adversaries were the masterminds behind the attack. “This is a continuation of Turkey’s project to take Kassab,” says Mr Pamboukian. “The rebels couldn’t have entered without their [Turkey’s] permission,” says Hagop, repeating claims made by non-Armenians too. Turkey’s foreign ministry says the accusations are “entirely baseless”.

    There are around 100,000 Armenians in Syria, which has been a safe haven for minorities and displaced people including thousands of Palestinians, who are now finding themselves uprooted once more. Partly for this reason, Syrian Armenians and their Lebanese brethren in Anjar share quiet support for Syria’s Assad regime. 

Ed Webb

BURAK BEKDİL - What the collective Turkish memory refuses to recall - 0 views

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    Comments quite illuminating (at time of bookmarking, anyway)
Ed Webb

Turkish-French spring may end early due to new bill over 'genocide' denial - 1 views

  • “Turkey is aware of the relations between the Socialist Party and the Armenian lobby in France. Therefore, Turkey didn’t think that the Armenian claims in France would end with the election of Hollande,”
  • Turkish-French ties deteriorated sharply during Sarkozy’s rule, not only because of the genocide debate but also due to the former French leader’s outspoken opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. Thus, his election defeat in June opened the door for a new era between France and Turkey, with Ankara praising the new administration’s willingness to restore ties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations.

    “Turkey was hopeful of Hollande because the newly elected French president was positive towards Turkey-EU relations. If Hollande brings up the genocide issue as a factor that would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU, then not only would Turkey’s relations with France be affected, but also its relations with the EU would be affected,”

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