Detroit Tekeyan Chapter, ADL Kick off Armenian Cultural Month

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Prof. Gerard Libaridian, right, with Edmond Azadian

By Betty Apigian Kessel

DETROIT — The local Armenian Democratic League (ADL) and Tekeyan Cultural Association always manage to present an interesting array of people and topics to educate and entertain the local community in honor of Armenian Cultural Month. Their October 1 presentation of “Aghet: A Genocide,” was the perfect beginning. The film was shown at the Alex and Marie Manoogian Day School in Southfield.

The German production, described as a world-class documentary, had been at the top of my list as a “must see” because I had heard from California connections what a magnificent, factual film it was. My desire to view “Aghet” was further enhanced knowing it had created great consternation for the Turks, causing them to parade in protest of the film’s graphic content. It left no doubt as to the culpability of their Ottoman predecessors.

The film’s content was derived from German archives and was very graphic. They began by showing the slain body of Hrant Dink as he laid in the street, his body covered with a sheet, shot in the back by a cowardly Turk. I can finally say, “God bless the Germans.” My non-Armenian husband emphasized I should write that it is absolutely essential for everyone to see “Aghet.” He saw how visibly shaken I was at the film’s conclusion, and my useless attempt to suppress tears. After decades of marriage to an Armenian, he knows well the history of Armenia and the Turkish massacre of his father-in-law’s family in Keghi.

Aghet” has complete credibility. How fortunate for us that the German archives contained such valuable material, only adding to authenticity of the Genocide. The Turks can’t say the Armenians fabricated all this visual evidence.

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Aghet” is the production of German National Television filmmaker Eric Friedler and producer Katharina Trebitsch. A screening was hosted in July of this year in Washington, DC by California’s Rep. Adam Schiff to a standing-room-only audience of legislators and activists.

It has seldom been seen in the US. Demand to see “Aghet.” Have it screened in your towns, schools and in every place of influence that can further the Armenian Cause. I hesitate to call it a public relations tool, but one must fight fire with fire and this is the type of documentary that only helps further bring down the Turkish wall of lies and denial.

Germany recognizes and prosecutes Holocaust deniers but Turkey prosecutes its own citizens who speak of the Armenian Genocide.

Friedler is affiliated with a TV channel in Berlin. That is how he got access to the German Archives. As we know, Germany and Turkey were allies during WWI.

Aghet or Aghed is defined as “calamity”; we call it “genocide.”

Prof. Gerard Libardian with some attendees

On October 9, the ADL and the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) presented an evening of “current events” with Prof. Girard Libaridian. His talk was titled “Russia, Turkey: Another Round — Recent Developments, Historical Antecedents and future prospects.”

Edmond Azadian began the evening by paying tribute to Libaridian’s mother who had recently passed away after a long and productive life at age 88. He stated, “She was a mother who has given us a scholar the caliber of Gerard Libaridian,” The audience rose for a moment of silence in her remembrance.

Libaridian lovingly described his mother as stubborn and feisty. He commented she died without suffering any illness or pain and was still her typical self, planning an ambitious agenda of international travel to be with family and friends covering the next 25 years.

Azadian explained, the professor this evening “would untangle the web and untangle prospects for the future.”

Libaridian has earned an extensive list of credentials to the point of being overwhelming. Currently he teaches in the History Department of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and holds the Alex and Marie Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History. He has published extensively. He served as a senior advisor to former president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosian, and has lectured internationally. He was cofounder of the Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research in Cambridge, Mass., its director for eight years, and editor of The Armenian Review. He has accepted the invitation to join the Board of Transaction Publishers, the largest independent scholarly publisher in the US besides being its editor of the Armenian Studies Special Series of Transaction Books.

His audience consisted of a large number of University of Michigan students from Armenia who afterwards swarmed around Libaridian, eager to express their appreciation for his historical acumen concerning events in their homeland.

He began his talk by saying, “What I say are my own thoughts. Do not get angry with them. I hope you don’t agree with everything I say.”

He then asked the audience what they felt were the most striking issues being written about in Armenian newspapers. Some of the responses were Karabagh, economics, brain drain, (depopulation) lack of democracy and the Protocols. He commented on all the above and also addressed the issue of Armenian women being sold into prostitution.

He continued that in 1988 perestroika and unity were being discussed and it seems we have accepted what is going on without questioning it. He does not see a mechanism to check our analyzers to see if we were right or wrong. “We are functioning as a computer with set defaults,” he said.

Most big issues are related to Turkey, Akhtamar, Karabagh, the Protocols and Russia. “It’s through that prism that we look through. As for Turkey, it is essentially that they are bad,” he said.

He feels that having political parties we have a role to play in our own interests. We say “they” are responsible for everything bad that happens to us and we exaggerate our influence of Armenia and its importance in the region. We are critical of the world but need to solve our own problems. We feel others have not done their part. “We see ourselves as victims and are on the moral high ground as victims.”

That is not political strategy. We tend to focus on areas where others are responsible. Our role is of the demander. This kind of thinking has infiltrated the party of the president of Armenia.

What did the world do when Azerbaijan began hostilities? They said you should have made concessions. He traveled to Paris, Bonn and Moscow for this reason. Libaridian says, “We are not guests in the world. We have to take care of our own problems.”

The Protocols began in 1992 to open borders with Turkey with no pre-conditions. Turkey even allowed wheat to come into Armenia to stave off a famine but no one writes about that. In April of ’93 the trains bringing wheat stopped. They said what are you doing in Lachine?

He said diplomacy with Turkey has failed. Russian troops stationed in Armenia comprised mostly Armenian men. “If Turkey attacks Armenia, Russia will not come and destroy Turkey.”

Concerning the flap over the appointment of Matthew Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan, he said, “He has a Turkish wife, I like vulnerable ambassadors. We have much bigger problems than Bryza.”

He noted he feels Armenia is in a worse position with this president than with Ter-Petrossian.

One of the things he said which surprised the audience was that the depopulation of Western Armenia began with the Artsruni kings and princes a thousand years ago when they relocated 100,000 people from Van to Sepastia. He said he does not respect those Armenian princes whom we now glorify. That statement made many sit up and take notice.

The honesty of the presentation left many feeling discouraged but at least well informed.

Libaridian offered to meet with those interested in continuing the discussion taking place that evening. He opened our eyes and that is what is needed. It’s a tough world and Armenia is located in a difficult geographic location.

We want to be informed with the honest facts and with what Armenia is facing with her surrounding neighbors. As a statesman Libaridian gave his knowledgeable opinion. Sometimes we have to hear what is reality not the fantasy that we prefer.

Edmond and Nora Azadian of the Tekeyan Cultural Association, Hagop and Diana Alexanian for the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, metro Detroit Chapter and David Terzibashian were instrumental in presentating these important and informative programs held at the AGBU School.