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#1 Yervant1

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 04:51 PM

Is this the same church that complains when others desecrate our cemeteries? Unbelievable shame on you! 

 

BODIES OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE SURVIVORS TO BE EXHUMED FOR BEACH RESORT IN BYBLOS, LEBANON

14:17, 30 Jun 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Barely two months after the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide, relatives of those who survived the mass killings are
now fighting to prevent the graves of their loved ones from being
exhumed to make way for a luxury resort in the coastal town of Byblos,
according to Beirut Report.

Escorted by police, a group of laborers arrived at the historic
cemetery Monday morning to begin digging up the graves, but they were
stopped by a last minute court order filed by the relatives of one
of the deceased. Relatives had previously filed a complaint in March
soon after the project was first announced and a judge had opened an
investigation into the case. Yet despite this ongoing investigation,
an attempt to dig up the graves was made yesterday, according to Vartan
Avakian, great-grandson of Hagop Avakian, who was born in 1894 in
Turkey and among the earliest genocide survivors to settle in Lebanon.

The younger Avakian, who has been researching and lobbying officials
about the case for the last few months, says his family members
notified local authorities when the workers showed up. Through
a lawyer, they then contacted Judge Joseph Ajaka of the court of
urgent matters who has now issued a temporary stop order until the
investigation is complete.

But despite this intervention, Avakian worries about rumors that a
second attempt to exhume the bodies is being imminently planned.

According to the source, the Armenian Church that manages the cemetery-
The Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia- has apparently made
a deal with a developer to lease the seaside property for a beach
resort. There is concern that the church building itself, one of the
oldest Armenian churches in Lebanon-may also be used to host a spa
or restaurant for the future resort, which is reportedly linked to
former telecom minister Jean-Louis Qordahi.


In the early 1900s the site known as "Bird's Nest" was part of a
Dutch missionary orphanage and school thatsheltered large numbers of
genocide survivors, and later became an anchor for one of Leabanon's
earliest Armenian communities.

However Avakian contends that the cemetery property is actually
under the jurisdiction of the state's Directorate of Antiquities,
since the land is just a few meters from the 10,000 year old Byblos
ancient port site and has also seen very recent excavations. Following
Avakian's claim, Judge Ajaka has ordered excavation works stop until
the Directorate has clarified its position.

The Church has announced that the bodies will be honored at a new
shrine far from the coast, but this will reportedly serve as a mass
grave. It's hard to imagine why a developer or the church don't find
it problematic to exhume the graves of genocide survivors. The idea
that the church itself could be used for a resort project is likely
to upset many in the community who frequented the place of worship
for family events or attended a primary school that was part of the
church complex.


The Byblos area hosts one of the few publicly accessible coastal areas
in Lebanon, yet a number of private resorts have been controversially
built along the shore, including the well-known and extraordinarily
priced Edde Sands. The entrance fees of these resorts are far out
of the price range of the average Lebanese person. Because they are
patrolled by guards and fences, very little of the coast remains
natural and open to the public as can be seen in this map:

http://www.beirutrep...ach-resort.html

http://www.armradio....byblos-lebanon/

 

 


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#2 Yervant1

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Posted 01 July 2015 - 09:23 AM

HOME CULTURE & HERITAGE ARCHEOLOGY BODIES OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE SURVIVORS TO BE EXHUMED FOR BEACH RESORT

Beirut Report, Lebanon
June 30 2015

Bodies of Armenian Genocide survivors to be exhumed for beach resort

Barely two months after the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide, relatives of those who survived the mass killings are now
fighting to prevent the graves of their loved ones from being exhumed
to make way for a luxury resort in the coastal town of Byblos.

Escorted by police, a group of laborers arrived at the historic
cemetery Monday morning to begin digging up the graves, but they were
stopped by a last minute court order filed by the relatives of one
of the deceased. Relatives had previously filed a complaint in March
soon after the project was first announced and a judge had opened an
investigation into the case. Yet despite this ongoing investigation,
an attempt to dig up the graves was made yesterday, according to Vartan
Avakian, great-grandson of Hagop Avakian, who was born in 1894 in
Turkey and among the earliest genocide survivors to settle in Lebanon.

The younger Avakian, who has been researching and lobbying officials
about the case for the last few months, says his family members
notified local authorities when the workers showed up. Through
a lawyer, they then contacted Judge Joseph Ajaka of the court of
urgent matters who has now issued a temporary stop order until the
investigation is complete. Here is a copy of it:

But despite this intervention, Avakian worries about rumors that a
second attempt to exhume the bodies is being imminently planned.

As I reported in March, the Armenian Church that manages the cemetery-
The Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia- has apparently made
a deal with a developer to lease the seaside property for a beach
resort. There is concern that the church building itself, one of the
oldest Armenian churches in Lebanon-may also be used to host a spa
or restaurant for the future resort, which is reportedly linked to
former telecom minister Jean-Louis Qordahi.

In the early 1900s the site known as "Bird's Nest" was part of a
Danish missionary orphanage and school that sheltered large numbers of
genocide survivors, and later became an anchor for one of Leabanon's
earliest Armenian communities.

However Avakian contends that the cemetery property is actually under
the jurisdiction of the state's Directorate of Antiquities, since the
land (plot 642) is just a few meters from the 10,000 year old Byblos
ancient port site and has also seen very recent excavations. Following
Avakian's claim, Judge Ajaka has ordered excavation works stop until
the Directorate has clarified its position.

The Church has announced that the bodies will be honored at a new
shrine far from the coast, but this will reportedly serve as a mass
grave. It's hard to imagine why a developer or the church don't find
it problematic to exhume the graves of genocide survivors. The idea
that the church itself could be used for a resort project is likely
to upset many in the community who frequented the place of worship
for family events or attended a primary school that was part of the
church complex.

Beyond the obvious threat to community and cultural heritage, this case
raises a number of legal questions. How could workers be deployed to
the site to begin digging when an court investigation over the legality
of the digging is still ongoing? How is it that the Church is able to
lease property that may fall under the jurisdiction of government and
antiquities authorities and may still contain important historical
and archeological data?

Finally, what will be the impact on public access to the sea- a
right enshrined in Lebanese law- if more private resorts are built
on the coast?

The Byblos area hosts one of the few publicly accessible coastal areas
in Lebanon, yet a number of private resorts have been controversially
built along the shore, including the well-known and extraordinarily
priced Edde Sands. The entrance fees of these resorts are far out
of the price range of the average Lebanese person. Because they are
patrolled by guards and fences, very little of the coast remains
natural and open to the public as can be seen in this map:

We have already seen the coast being privatized in Beirut with very
little left for citizens to access, a story I have recently reported
on for The Guardian. So far activists have managed to make some
headway in that case, with the help of public pressure and strong
legal research. Will civil society also be able to make its voice
heard in Byblos?

I encourage readers who value this site to share this information
and help pose these questions. Facing the power of the church and
well-connected investors, the relatives of the survivors are fighting
a lonely battle and could use all the help they can get in publicizing
this case.

UPDATE: Here is a report LBC has just aired about the site:
https://www.youtube....h?v=2RUZkcJYHaA

http://www.beirutrep...ach-resort.html
 



#3 Yervant1

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:23 PM

BIRD'S NEST ORPHANAGE REFUTES ERRONEOUS PRESS REPORTS

about 1 hour ago 06/07/15

The Bird's Nest Orphanage in Lebanon

ANTELIAS, Lebanon--Last week, articles appearing in various Lebanese
press outlets, in several languages, reported that the historic
Bird's Nest (Trchnots Puyn) Orphange was being sold to make room for
a beach-front development.

One of the last vestiges of the Armenian Genocide, the Bird's Nest
facility, which was run by the efforts of Near East Relief and founded
by Danish missionary Maria Jacobson, was a refuge for orphans who
survived the Genocide and today continues to operate as a safe-haven
for underprivileged children under the auspices of the Catholicosate
of the Great House of Cilicia,

The Board of Directors of Bird's Nest issued an announcement on Sunday
refuting those claims, with its executive director Seta Khedeshian,
in an interview with CiliciaTV, also criticizing the press for
irresponsible reporting that has created furor in the community,
as well as on social media.

The focus of the controversy is a beach front portion of the Bird's
Nest property that has not been is use for decades. Given the rising
costs of maintaining the facility, the board has leased that portion
of the property, which will be developed by the lessee. After the
completion of the lease, the ownership of that developed property is
slated to revert to the Catholicosate.

Currently, an old building on the soon-to-be-leased portion of the
property, which was a dining hall, is now being used as a church. That
building, which is in poor condition, will be demolished and a new
Armenian church will be constructed, through a $1 million pledge by
the lessee on the perimeter of the current facility.

The development on this portion of the property will provide Bird's
Nest with much-needed income to continue to serve the children of
the community.

"The income generating project currently under construction at the
bottom half of the orphanage (under the supervision of the Lebanon's
directorate of antiquities) is to help with the maintenance of the
Orphanage, the Museum, the Armenian Church and the community as a
whole," said the Bird's Nest announcement.

"The project was carefully selected out of many proposals, because
the maintenance of our space (30,000 square meters of land) needs
special attention and funding. The financial income will serve to
repair many of the old buildings within the orphanage that would
cause a threat to the inhabitants as well as visitors. Furthermore,
the land in question is not public, it is private and not located
within the perimeters of the Byblos archeological site. All claims
that this land is public and that the implementation of this project
restricts the public access to the sea, are absolutely false and
intended to create problems," added the announcement.

Khedeshian clarified that no edifice within the facility will be
demolished. In fact, she pointed to additions and renovations to the
current facility, which will greatly enhance Bird's Nest and make it a
focal point for community service, as well as it historic significance.

One of those improvements is related to an abandoned cemetery on the
site of the proposed development. The remains of those interred at
the cemetery, which include some orphans of the Genocide but mainly
of Bird's Nest staff members, will be exhumed and transferred closer
to where founder Maria Jacobson--known as Mama--is interred, making
it a focal point of the facility.

"The abandoned cemetery which is currently in very bad shape and in
an insecure location, is carefully planned to be relocated next to
Miss Maria Jacobsen's grave (The founder of the Orphanage) and the
new Museum, in order to showcase the importance of the cemetery,"
said the announcement.

A decade ago, the board of directors of the Bird's Nest embarked on
a project to build an Armenian Genocide orphans' museum on the site
of the orphanage to memorialize the surviving orphans and pay tribute
to the founders of the orphanage. The museum will have its official
opening next week, with an inauguration ceremony to be presided over
by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

"The museum design consists of artifacts, photos and a collective
cemetery of the children and employees buried within the Bird's Nest
compound to portray to the world the daily life of the orphans,"
explained the Bird's Nest Board announcement.

Khedeshian also discussed the refurbishing of the dormitories,
which is being sponsored by benefactor Aleco Bezikian. The completed
dormitories will be named for the benefactor's son, Zareh.

The Bird's Nest board clarified in its announcement that recent press
headlines "are deliberately false, manipulative and intentionally
omitting facts intended to provoke unjustified emotions against both
projects. Far from being under any threat, the historical Bird's Nest
orphanage is thriving and becoming more important."

Khedeshian also echoed similar sentiments in her interview.

http://asbarez.com/1...-press-reports/
 



#4 Yervant1

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 09:17 AM

REPORT: THE BIRD'S NEST ARMENIAN ORPHANAGE IN BYBLOS (LEBANON)

Jadaliyya
July 13 2015

by Jadaliyya Reports

The Bird's Nest in Byblos (Jbeil, Lebanon) was an orphanage built
to house the Armenian refugees who had escaped the 1915 Genocide. It
served generations of Armenian children. The southern part of the plot
includes the Saint Kayaneh chapel, built by the orphans themselves
in 1921. That chapel is the only place of worship for the Armenians
of Byblos

On 21 February 2015, the Armenian Catholicosate of the Greater House
of Cilicia, keeper of the Bird's Nest since 1967, announced that it
will be renting out the southern section of the plot to real-estate
developers who will transform the area into a beach resort. The
Catholicosate's statement specifies that the nearly one hundred
year-old Saint Kayaneh chapel will be included in the handover. In
addition, the thirty-three bodies who have been resting for over
eighty years in the cemetery will be dug up, moved to the northern
section of the plot, and put into a collective tomb. Recently, an
attempt was made to exhume the remains, and destroy the cemetery,
but a complaint was filed and the works stopped.

A group named "Protect the Bird's Nest in Byblos" has organized
a petition calling on the Armenian Catholicosate and the Lebanese
Directorate General of Antiquities to preserve the site, demanding
that the Lebanese Ministry of Culture declare the Bird's Nest to be
a "site of importance." They have authored a report, with maps and
images, that documents the site's history and landmarks.

"On the hundredth year commemoration of the Genocide, we take a
stance against the erasure of more Armenian history and heritage. We
refuse the desecration of more cemeteries and the displacement of
more bodies. We are all the more resistant to this given the fact
that these actions are being undertaken by the hands of our very
own representatives.

With this petition, we as Armenians, as Lebanese and as Citizens,
ask that all concerned authorities exercise their duties and
responsibilities towards us and towards history, our patrimony and
human dignity."

For signing the petition to put a stop to the unearthing of the
remains of the Genocide survivors in the Bird's Nest, click here:
http://www.ipetition...ocide-survivors

http://www.jadaliyya...nage-in-byblosn

[Groong note: the dossier for Byblos plot #642 can be found here:
http://issuu.com/byb...ossier_for_isuu ]
 



#5 Yervant1

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 09:02 AM

CATHOLICOS ARAM I SUSPENDS PLANS REGARDING BIRD'S NEST CEMETERY

10:58, 16 Jul 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Asbarez - The Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Bird's Nest
Orphanage Seta Khedeshian said His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of
the Great House of Cilicia has ordered the suspension of plans to
move the graves of the Orphan's Cemetery.

According to Lebanon's Aztag daily, Khedeshian told Voice of Van
radio station that the Catholicos decided to suspend plans in order
for the Catholicosate to provide a more comprehensive explanation to
the public, and to create a calmer atmosphere so that the issue is
analyzed in a broader way.

Over the past few months, several reports were published claiming
that there were plans to build a luxury beach resort on two-thirds of
the historic Bird's Nest Orphanage plot in Jbeil, Lebanon. In early
February, the Board of Directors of Bird's Nest informed the public
that plans for the site envision relocating the 33 individual graves
to 2 collective tombs on the upper part of the Bird's Nest plot.

Around two-thirds of the graves are of orphans; one-third are of
genocide survivors or employees of the orphanage born before 1915. The
decision to relocate the bodies was purportedly made to "bring the
remains of these orphans closer to the grave of Maria Jacobsen,
the founder of the orphanage."

http://www.armradio....-nest-cemetery/


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#6 Yervant1

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 09:14 AM

Don't touch the cemetery period! :(

IT'S THE ORPHANS' CEMETERY, PEOPLE!

Garo Armenian

BY GARO ARMENIAN
Published July 13, 2015
Asbarez Armenian Section

We now have the statement of the Board of Trustees of the Bird's Nest,
the historic Armenian orphanage, regarding the fate of the Orphans'
Cemetery, and the facts are finally clear.

On the scenic shores of the City of Jbeil on Lebanon's coastline,
there is a small, secluded cemetery that is home to the humble
tombstones of orphaned Armenian Genocide survivors, i.e. children
who could not survive the consequences of the mass murder of 1915 and
died while they were under the care of the orphanage. The orphanage
itself was originally set up by the great humanitarian Maria Jacobsen,
who herself witnessed the horrors of the mass killings working as a
Danish missionary in Kharpert.

I have visited this cemetery several times. (My first visit was with
the late Nerses Serpazan, himself an orphan of the first generation).

I have stood in front of those meek and tiny headstones and have tried
to mentally reconstruct the heroic battle of this handful, marked by
that missionary zeal, to save the last surviving breath of our people.

I have referred to this cemetery many a time while lecturing interns
at the ANCA (Hai Tahd) office in Washington, D.C., urging our new
generation of young men and women to make the pilgrimage to Jbeil
following the footprints of the great Maria Jacobsen discover this
living testimony of the genocide orphans. This cemetery is the only
place in the world where our orphans continue to live. They maintain
a powerful presence despite all denial and neglect. And, sure enough,
a century later, they still persevere and continue to speak to us.

We owe a permanent debt of gratitude to the Vehapar Catholicoi of the
Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia for having taken the Bird's Nest
under their paternal wing and for having carried the torch of Maria
Jacobsen's sacred humanitarian mission to this day. Also, we owe it
to the vital role of the Trustees of the Bird's Nest (as well as our
central executive bodies), the ongoing viability of this important
institution. Needless to say, funding the budgets of our organizations
is a difficult task and every Armenian organization must make tough
choices in seeking to meet the demands of its priorities. But where
should we draw the line? What are the set of criteria pointing to
the danger zone.

For one thing, we must all agree, once and for all, that our
national heritage is not expendable under any circumstance. It is not
"available" to any governing body to dispose, however "lucrative" the
alternative propositions would conceivably be. Our heritage belongs
to all the generations of our people, past, present, and future;
our responsibility is to preserve it in its authentic identity and
to hand it over to the coming generations with discriminating care.

What may seem an insignificant burial ground is, in fact, a uniquely
important living witness of our national memory, which must be kept
in its original place and in its original form. Moreover, it must be
made an inseparable part of the Orphans' Genocide Museum in the Bird's
Nest campus, a project conceived and led by His Holiness Aram I and
made possible by the noble support of Mr. and Mrs. Alecco and Annie
Bezikian and their entire family. This is the only way. There cannot
be any other option. The idea of "sacrificing" the cemetery, i.e.

ceding it to commercial interests in return for cash, to fund other
projects, albeit useful, is in shocking contrast to the core principle
of erecting a Genocide Museum. It is morally unacceptable to have the
Orphans of the Genocide fund what has to be our responsibility. I
suggest we turn this page without further argument. The cemetery
must remain where it has always been. It is the responsibility of the
Board of Trustees to keep the gravediggers away from this sacred place.

http://asbarez.com/1...emetery-people/

 

 



#7 Yervant1

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 08:29 AM

Mighty dollar at work again, leave the cemetery alone!

FATE OF BIRD'S NEST ARMENIAN ORPHANAGE SHOULD BE DECIDED BY REFERENDUM


BY STAFF
- POSTED ON JULY 15, 2015POSTED IN: APPO JABARIAN, COLUMN

BY APPO JABARIAN
Executive Publisher
& Managing Editor
USA Armenian Life Magazine
www.armenianlife.com

Soon after the below article was sent to print Tuesday night His
Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia has ordered
the suspension of plans to move the graves of the orphans' cemetery
to allow time for the Catholicosate to provide a more comprehensive
explanation to the public, and to create a calmer atmosphere so that
the issue is analyzed in a broader way.

His Holiness Aram I's step addresses temporarily only one of several
more fundamental issues raised in this article.

The following is the article:

The historical Bird's Nest Armenian Orphanage in Byblos, Lebanon,
once sheltered the orphaned survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The
Saint Kayaneh chapel was built by the orphans themselves in 1921 on
the lands of the orphanage.

On February 21, 2015, the Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House
of Cilicia, keeper of the Bird's Nest since 1967, announced that it
will be renting out the southern section of the plot to commercial
developers. The Catholicosate's statement specified that the nearly
100 year-old Saint Kayaneh chapel will be included in the handover.

Reportedly, the 33 bodies of genocide survivors who have been resting
for over 80 years in the cemetery will be dug up, moved to the northern
section of the plot, and put into a mass grave!

According to official documents, around two-thirds of the graves are
of orphans; and one-third of genocide survivors or employees of the
orphanage born before 1915.

The unilateral decision to relocate the bodies was purportedly made
to "bring the remains of these orphans closer to the grave of Maria
Jacobsen, founder of the orphanage." They will rest next to a new
museum dedicated to the orphans and the orphanage. The museum is
slated to officially open on July 18.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the tenant,
former Minister and Mayor of Byblos (Jubeil) Jean Louis Kordahi and
the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia detailing the duration
and purpose of land use.

Recently, an attempt was made to exhume the remains, and destroy the
cemetery, but a complaint was filed and the works stopped.

On June 29, without any legal documentation, workers began digging at
the site. They were stopped by members of the Avakian family who had
obtained a court order to temporarily halt the construction activities
in the cemetery.

Vartan Avakian, the great-grandson of Hagop Avakian, who was born
in 1894 in Fendijak, Turkish-occupied Cilicia, and who was among the
earliest genocide survivors to settle in Lebanon and later be buried
in this cemetery, researched the church's plan and began lobbying
against the project.

When all attempts failed, opponents of the project created a website
and an online petition to raise awareness among the public and to
explain the reasons behind their objection. Here's the link to the
petition:http://www.ipetition...ocide-survivors

In an early July interview with Cilicia TV, Seta Khedeshian, executive
director of the Bird's Nest, labeled the opponents of the project as
"irresponsible" and accused them of spreading "false information." She
said the plan to move the graves was made prior to the new plans --
and that by relocating the graves it was the Bird's Nest Foundation's
goal to offer visitors a testimony to the lives of the orphans of
the genocide. Many concerned members of the community claimed that Ms.

Khedeshian did not address some of the main concerns of the critics of
the plan that were raised in the petition, which has garnered nearly
a thousand signatures.

Bird's Nest is a non-negotiable historical site for many members of
the community in Lebanon and around the world. It is a testimony of
the will of the Armenian people to survive, live, and create in spite
of the genocide and the resulting great dispossession.

It's important to note that the cemetery lies in the buffer zone of
a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a unique spot for a genocide memorial.

Those who have proper understanding of the history of the site have
tremendous respect and reverence toward each and every component of
the site. Furthermore, they have deep commitment to the preservation
of each and every integral part of the holy site.

To its credit, Lebanon's Directorate General of Antiquities refused
an early plan to develop the section of the plot adjacent to the
archeological site and has identified it as an archeological buffer
zone. The 4,000 square meters where the cemetery is situated is in
the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site.

Members of a group named "Protect the Bird's Nest in Byblos,"
organizers of the petition, are calling on the Armenian Catholicosate
and the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities to preserve the
site; and are demanding that the Lebanese Ministry of Culture declare
the Bird's Nest to be a "site of importance." They have authored
a report, with maps and images that documents the site's history
and landmarks.

So far, a limited public debate has taken place under the cloud of
accusations and counter-accusations regarding the crucial issue of
deciding the fate of the Bird's Nest. Many agree that this important
issue has not been put through adequate public scrutiny. Therefore, in
the spirit of fostering transparency more debate is needed coupled with
an extended hold on the proposed conversion to a commercial project.

We, as a nation in dispersion, should welcome public debate on issues
such as the Bird's Nest.

The Bird's Nest Armenian Orphanage issue threw wide open several
critical issues affecting Armenian Diaspora's collective interests. It
triggered many crucial questions including the question of whether
'a select few' as opposed to the general public should decide the
fate of national assets.

Today's hot issue is the Bird's Nest. Tomorrow may be an issue of
management on another national treasure.

It's high time for Diaspora Armenians to discard the outdated as well
as counterproductive Turkish Ottoman-imposed "Millet" system that
enables 'a select few' to hijack the collective will of the people
as a whole.

During the despotic Turkish Ottoman rule, once a sovereign state in
Western Armenia and Cilicia, Armenians were systematically reduced
to a "Millet" ("Ottoman subject Community") under Turkish Ottoman
occupation and despotic rule.

On community level, instead of being governed by the will of the
people through universal suffrage, Armenians were stripped of their
right to be governed by popularly elected representatives and were
herded under Ottoman-approved religious hierarchy.

Armenian civilians had no say in crucial matters that pertained to
their collective life and management of their national assets and
treasures. These matters were arbitrarily decided by the religious
hierarchy and a select number of elite civilians who were mostly
co-opted by the Sultan and felt 'privileged' at the expense of the
Armenian masses. Of course, the Millet system was exploited by Turkish
Ottoman authorities to suppress and eliminate Armenian civilians'
collective sense of initiative.

I am sorry to report that even to this day Diaspora Armenian civilians
are coerced to let 'a select few' decide their collective fate.

Today's Diaspora-wide Millet system is being controlled by Armenian
religious and organizational hierarchy while none of the entities
can justifiably claim to have jurisdiction over the entire Armenian
population of the Diaspora. Even though the 'select few' control
the majority of Diaspora religious and civilian institutions, none
whatsoever can claim to have a popularly voted mandate to represent
the Armenian masses of the Diaspora -- let alone unilaterally deciding
the fate of the Bird's Nest or any national asset or treasure.

The Bird's Nest Armenian Orphanage in Byblos, Lebanon, is a national
treasure for Lebanon and Armenians worldwide -- and for that matter
for survivors of all genocides. Any tempering with its integrity
is blasphemy to the Holy memory of survivors of the Genocide and an
insult to the human will to survive and triumph against all odds.

Let there be a series of debates shedding more light on the inner
dealings surrounding the Bird's Nest. And ultimately let the public
discourse be culminated by a public referendum deciding the fate of
the Bird's Nest.

http://www.armenianl...y-referendum-2/

 

 



#8 Yervant1

Yervant1

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Posted 09 November 2015 - 12:20 PM

You cannot honour the dead without honouring the bodies themselves

While we come together to remember fallen soldiers, the remains of
orphaned survivors of the Armenian genocide are about to make way for
a luxury hotel

Robert Fisk
@indyvoices
16 minutes ago 08/11/15


The skeletal remains of more than 150 Armenians killed during their
exodus from persecutions by the Ottoman government in 1915 are
displayed at the Saint Stephanos chapel in the Armenian Orthodox
Archdiocese in Antelias JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

Do we honour the dead or the corpses? I'm not talking about those
poppy fashion accessories worn by the BBC's clones, or PR Dave's
obscene bit of crimson Photoshopping, but the real, actual remains of
the human beings slaughtered in the Great War of 1914-18. And, in this
particular case, I'm talking not of the soldiers but of the civilians
buried in 33 graves which I looked down upon last week from a windy
hilltop beside the old Roman city of Byblos in Lebanon. Beneath those
tombstones lie the bones of some survivors of the greatest war crime
of that titanic conflict, the genocide of a million and a half
Armenian Christians by the Turks in 1915. They died in one of the huge
orphanages opened for thousands of children amid cholera and disease
by European doctors and NGOs after the Great War ended, and were
buried in the orphanage grounds.

Many of them saw their parents slaughtered in front of them, but
escaped the massacre only to die in Lebanon. Some lived on to work
among the orphans and died of old age. But they are the `honoured'
dead, as surely as the soldiers who lie today in the cemeteries of the
Somme and Verdun and the graves of those who endured the conflict. Or
are they? For these individual Armenian graves, most of them bearing
the names of the survivors, are soon to be disinterred and buried `
mixed together ` in a `common grave' beside the nearest Armenian
church. Their names already appear on a marble stone near the hole
where their bones will be placed ` but their individuality will
disappear, skulls and backbones and femurs jumbled together. What is
left of their bodies will have lost their uniqueness.

Read more

Persecuting people for not wearing poppies ` now that's real courage

Worse still, their own Armenian church which `protects' the old
orphanage site, is to rent the land to a company that plans to
construct a beach-front boutique hotel of wooden villas and, while the
land where the graves now stand cannot be used for construction ` it
is too near the ancient Roman city ` it will be landscaped and used,
it now seems, for wedding photographs. The brides and grooms will not
know whom they have displaced.

But Vartan Avakian will know. He took me to Byblos to show me the tomb
of his own great-grandfather Hagop in this very cemetery, and Hagop's
remains will be among those disinterred. `Those who escaped the mass
graves of our genocide should not be moved into another mass grave,'
he said bitterly. Vartan and seven other Armenian friends have been
hunting through local construction documents and discovered that the
exclusive resort will be called the Diplomatic Club. So poor old
Hagop, who witnessed but survived the genocide at the age of 21, must
make way for the wealthy company that will rent this land from the
church for its privileged hotel guests.

The Armenian church can say ` justifiably ` that the names of the dead
will be more greatly honoured, because their cocktail of bones will
lie beside an Ottoman building that now houses a magnificent museum of
the genocide, containing a photographic record of the Armenian
Holocaust ` the first holocaust of the 20th century. Pictures of the
dead hang in corridors haunted by most beautiful Armenian liturgical
church music. `Remember!' it says in Armenian on a nearby wall. `Life
is short, death is real, eternity is immortal.' Which, I suppose, is
the Armenian version of our own remembrance of those who grow not old
as we grow old.

But moving the dead worries me. True, in 1918 the Armenian survivors
carried some of the bones of their own dead from the Syrian desert to
a chapel at Antelias, north of Beirut, where they can be seen to this
day. I have myself dug the skulls of dead Armenians from the killing
fields of northern Syria ` originally left by their Turkish murderers
to be covered by the waters of the Khabur river ` and given them to
the priests of the genocide memorial church at Deir Ezzor. But these
bones had been lying unknown, without any Christian grave. They were
placed in the crypt amid other remains where, alas, they were
discovered by Islamist fighters last year ` and hurled into the street
before the church was dynamited.

True, graves of British soldiers on the Somme were removed to another
cemetery when a new French motorway route to the Channel was under
construction not long ago. But they were reburied with honour under
their own individual tombstones and their disinterment was in the
interest of a project that would benefit a new generation of humanity.
Besides, when tens of thousands of soldiers `known unto God' were
simply atomised into the fields of the Somme by shellfire during the
war itself, should bones really carry the same power as our historical
memory? And didn't we ourselves bring back an `Unknown Soldier' to lie
in state for ever in London?

But to stand on the Somme and know that a dead man, often named, lies
just below the ground a few feet from us provides a most unique
reflection on humanity's cruelty and tragedy. Hagop was a survivor but
his bones, albeit unseen, and his tombstone possess an individuality
that recovers the dead and brings them back, in our consciousness, to
the world of the living. A common grave may be a place of prayer `
surely that is what the ash pits of Auschwitz have become ` but it
cruelly destroys the unique identity of each human being who died
there ` which, in the case of Auschwitz, was, alas, the Nazis'
intention.

Time matters, of course. We do not weep for the dead of Agincourt and
Waterloo. They were routinely thrown into mass graves. And our world
is for the living, not the dead. Ashes do return to ashes. Yet in the
shadow of the last century's Golgotha, I suspect that bodies, corpses,
human remains ` however decayed ` should still be important to us.
Their identities are more important than poppies ` and certainly more
profound than the profits of a boutique hotel.


http://www.independe...s-a6726466.html
 



#9 Yervant1

Yervant1

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 02:23 PM

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By Garin Boghossian on July 14, 2015

 

BEIRUT, Lebanon (A.W.)—Over the past few months, reports have appeared in various media outlets claiming that a a luxury beach resort will be built on two-thirds of the historic Bird’s Nest Orphanage plot in Jbeil, Lebanon (see map for exact areas). In early February, the Board of Directors of Bird’s Nest (Trchnots Pooyn, in Armenian) informed the community—particularly the relatives of those who are buried in the cemetery—that plans for the site now envision relocating the 33 individual graves to 2collective tombs on the upper part of the plot. Around two-thirds of the graves are of orphans; one-third are of genocide survivors or employees of the orphanage born before 1915. The decision to relocate the bodies was purportedly made to “bring the remains of these orphans closer to the grave of Maria Jacobsen, the founder of the orphanage.” They will rest next to a new museum dedicated to the orphans and to the orphanage. The museum is slated to officially open on July 18.

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The Bird’s Nest Cemetery after workers attempted to relocate one of the graves on the right (Photo: Vartan Avakian)

The church released a statement in late February that reads, “Taking into account the financial difficulties that the Bird’s Nest has been facing, and the abandoned state of the seaside area of the plot, it was found appropriate to lease the mentioned land to be used by families for social and sporting purposes. The tenant is former Minister and Mayor [of Jbeil] Jean Louis Kordahi. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the tenant and the Catholicosate of the Greater House of Cilicia detailing the duration, and purpose of use of the land.”

Vartan Avakian, the great-grandson of Hagop Avakian, who was born in 1894 in Fendijak, Cilicia (Ottoman Empire), and who was among the earliest genocide survivors to settle in Lebanon and to later be buried in this cemetery, researched the church’s plan and began lobbying against the project. When all attempts failed, opponents of the project created a website and an online petition to raise awareness among the public, and to explain the reasons behind their objection.

Last week in an interview with Cilicia TV, Seta Khedeshian, the executive director of Bird’s Nest, labeled the outspoken critics of the project as “irresponsible,” and accused them of spreading “false information.” She said the plan to move the graves was made prior to the new plans, and that by relocating the graves it was the committee’s goal to offer visitors a testimony of the lives of the orphans of the genocide and the that care “Mama” Jacobsen provided the children. Khedeshian, however, did not address some of the main concerns of the opponents of the plan that were raised in the petition, which has garnered more than 800 signatures.

 

Concerns over the Project

Bird’s Nest is historically symbolic for the Armenians of Byblos, Lebanon, and the to the diaspora in general. It is a testimony of the will of the Armenian people to survive, live, and create despite the genocide. For many members of the community in Byblos, it also represents the center around which the Armenian neighborhood was later formed.

Opponents of the plan argue that the beachfront project would not only harm the character of the site and disrupt the residents’ sense of belonging, but would also affect two important landmarks situated on the plot: the cemetery and Nicol Hall, which houses the St. Kayane Chapel.

 

Exhuming the Bodies of Genocide Survivors

The Bird’s Nest Cemetery is viewed by many as a memorial to Lebanon’s historical role as a refuge for victims of humanitarian catastrophes. Each of the 33 graves of the Armenian Genocide survivors is a testimony to and legacy of their journey and survival. Removing their bodies from what should have been their final resting place and into a “mass grave” is a tragic disruption, argue opponents of the plan. “The symbolism behind moving people who have survived the genocide … from their individual tombs to a collective mass grave, seems to have escaped the decision makers,” says Vartan Avakian. “A collective mass grave is a symbol of genocide rather than survival.”

In the interview with Cilicia TV, Khedeshian claimed that the cemetery has long been neglected, and that some of the graves no longer bear the names of the deceased, nor are they visited by their families. A nearby resident, however, related that families visit the cemetery at least twice a year on Merelots, that the site is seen as a place of pilgrimage, and that it is often visited during genocide commemoration events, even if it is poorly maintained by the institution in charge.

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As the map shows, the surface area of the cemetery, which located on the east side, is 250 square meters (roughly 2,691 square feet, or 1 percent of the area of the plot), and is classified as public domain under the zoning regulation for the preservation of the historical site of Byblos.* Furthermore, the municipality of Byblos has plans to construct a pedestrian walkway bridging the old port of Byblos to Armenia Street. This new walkway would give the cemetery of the genocide survivors its due value by improving its visibility and accessibility. Importantly, the cemetery also lies in the buffer zone of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a unique spot for a genocide memorial.

On June 29, without any legal documentation, workers began digging at the site. They were stopped by members of the Avakian family, who had obtained a court order to temporarily halt the construction activities in the cemetery.

The online petition urges the Catholicosate to put an end to the destruction of the cemetery for ethical and historical reasons, taking into consideration that it comprises only 1 percent of the 20,000 square meters (or about 215,278 square feet) of the land being leased.

“[Mass graves] occur when unidentified or ownerless human remains or bodies are found as a result of mass murders or massacres,” wrote architect Diran Harmandayan on the petition page. The graves at the Bird’s Nest “are not ownerless or unidentified. They belong in the first place to the Armenian community in Lebanon and to the Lebanese at large, as a heritage, and constitute authentic witnesses of the calvary of the Armenians who found refuge in Lebanon.”

 

Nicol Hall – St. Kayane Chapel

Since the zoning and building laws in Lebanon do not allow for any more permanent structures to be erected on this plot, the plan will appropriate the 1921 Nicol Hall, which was built by the orphans, and either demolish it or use it as the main building for the resort. It will also house a restaurant and a boutique hotel, according to the architectural plans reviewed by some of its critics.

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Nicol Hall – Kayane Chapel

Khedeshian claimed that Nicol Hall has long been a dining hall that only recently was being used as a church. However, some Byblos residents say that the hall has two sections: The Danish hall, which was used as an auditorium by the orphans and later by the residents, and the St. Kayane Chapel, which has served as the only place of worship for Armenians in Byblos since prior to the 1950’s. In fact, the structure is recognized as a church in the Real Estate Certificate and Cadastral Survey of 1949.

The questions that have been raised seem to be: How ethical is it for a religious institution to lease land of such historical and cultural value for a luxury beach resort? And should the fate of a building that dates back to the early 1900’s, that was used as a church and as a school facility by those saved from the genocide, be turned into a resort or a restaurant?

The petition calls for the preservation of the St. Kayane Chapel because the current plan, if carried out, will erase an important part of Armenian history, memory, and patrimony in Byblos.

 

Issues of Transparency

The interview with Khedeshian, although it aimed to clarify the so-called “fallacies” that have been circulating in the media, did not clarify important details about the project.

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Bird’s Nest Cemetery (Photo: Vartan Avakian)

No clear report has yet been given regarding the type and scope of the project, although Khedeshian stated that the Bird’s Nest Committee had issued announcements detailing each and every plan the institution foresees for the site.

The committee did not circulate a map of the leased area or clarify the number of years it will be leased, the type of deal made between the institution and the investor, and how the institution stands to profit from the project.

When asked about what it will gain from this “profitable project,” Khedeshian simply said that a new church, worth $1 million, will be built on the upper part of the plot, and a few structures will be renovated.

Opponents to this development say that such a project should be openly discussed in a town hall-style meeting with the presence of community members, as well as professionals in the fields of architecture, heritage, urban planning, and archeology. And that it is the right of every Armenian and Lebanese at large to question the proposed project, especially as it includes plans that so significantly affect the cemetery.

 

Real profits vs. Real Losses

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Plot Overview

The fact that the institution would like to use its empty land to cover its expenses may seem reasonable to many, including some of the opponents of the beach resort project. Khedeshian argued that the cost of maintaining the property has increased, and that the financial flow from external sources has dried up. If the plan succeeds, she said, the developer would offer $1 million to construct a new church on site. She insisted that no structures would be demolished.

Yet, there needs to be a proper understanding of the history of the site, proper respect shown to its many components, an appreciation and preservation of the value each carries, and consideration of its meaning to the people, insist opponents of the plan.

One recurring question that they are asking is: What would the institution lose if the cemetery were to remain in place, at the edge of the plot, and an investment that respects the historical and national heritage of Bird’s Nest is designed for the rest of the land?

Although the Bird’s Nest Committee has repeatedly stated that the relocation of the graves is within the scope of another project—that of bringing them closer to the resting place of Maria Jacobsen—opponents fear that it is largely motivated by the desire to make way for the new seafront development, as a resort adjacent to a cemetery might not be too appealing for vacationers.

“The 33 graves are history’s witnesses in the face of humanity that will convey their powerful message only if kept in their natural state. They should not be subject to any change,” said architect and urbanist Arpi Mangassarian, adding that with a little landscaping, the site could become an important destination for visitors of Byblos and Lebanon.






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