Armenian church sues Getty museum over Bible pages
Friday, June 4, 2010; 12:03 AM
LOS ANGELES -- The Armenian church has sued the J. Paul Getty Museum to demand the return of seven pages ripped from a sacred Armenian Bible dating back to 1256. The Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles. The lawsuit alleged the church had the Bible authenticated in 1947 or 1948 and it was returned with the pages missing.
It states the identity of the thief was never determined.
A spokeswoman for the Getty said the museum legally acquired the pages, which is known as the Canon Tables, in 1994 from an anonymous private collector "after a thorough review of their provenance."
"A notable Armenian scholar who also was the primate of the Armenian Church of America acknowledged key details about the Canon Tables' provenance in a 1943 article, including the fact that they were owned by an Armenian family in the United States," spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said.
The seven illustrated pages by T'oros Roslin were once part of the handwritten Armenian Bible known as the "Zeyt'un Gospels." The rest of the sacred book is located at the Mesrob Mashotots Madenataran museum in Yerevan, Armenia.
The church's lawsuit contends the missing pages became part of a private collection of a family in Watertown, Mass. They were loaned to the Pierpont Morgan Library, now known as the Morgan Library and Museum, in New York in 1994 for an exhibition.
Michael Bazyler, a Chapman University law professor and member of the plaintiff's legal team, said Thursday that attorneys hope the pages can be returned during negotiation rather than litigation.
"We contend these seven pages are stolen property, and they can never get title," Bazyler said. "We are asking for the return of the seven pages back to the church."
Jaskol, the Getty spokeswoman, said the ownership of the pages has never been questioned until now, and that "the Getty believes the lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed."
Bazyler believes this is the first case filed in the United States for the return of cultural or religious objects taken around the time of World War I, when historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks.
The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
"It's a matter of historical identity and preservation of the Armenian culture," said Western Prelacy board member Levon Kirakosian. "It's important everyone realizes that."
Old Turkish-Armenian bridge to become peace passage
YEREVAN - Hürriyet Daily News
Projects for a historical bridge that is expected to connect the two sides of the Ani ruins between Turkey and Armenia are being accelerated. International Council of Monuments and Sites Chairman Gagik Gyurjian says the bridge should become a peace passage between the two countries. Others, however, say the project's goals should be more international
Despite almost negligible progress in the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, cultural representatives from both countries have been quietly restoring shared heritage important to both.
"We can collaborate with non-governmental organizations away from the shadow of politics. We do not need to wait for the opening of borders for a peace passage," chairman of the International Council of Monuments and Sites Gagik Gyurjian recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Both Turkish and Armenian experts have been focusing on restoration to the ruins of the ancient city of Ani, situated on the Armenian border in the eastern province of Kars , and work on the Surp Haç (Holy Cross) Armenian Church on Akdamar Island in the eastern province of Van.
The two countries should now focus on converting the ruined historic bridge at Ani into a peace passage joining Turkey and Armenia, the former Armenian Culture Minister said, adding that he was ready to start working with Turkish officials and nongovernmental organizations as soon as possible to realize the project.
Politics and debate on the holy cross
In spite of political tensions, Turkey has announced plans to open the historical Surp Haç (Holy Cross) Armenian Church on Akdamar Island in eastern Turkey for prayer once a year.
Scheduled to open for a service on Sept. 12, the church, whose restoration work was finished in 2007, is still the subject of controversy because no cross has yet been affixed to the top of the chapel.
Gyurjian, who represented Armenia during the church's restoration process, said he believes the cross will be put in its place before the church service.
"There was no debate about the cross before or during the restoration process. Now, a short time before the opening, news wondering whether the cross would be put on or not has begun to appear. The event has gained a political dimension, otherwise the cross would have been in its place in the opening."
As for the decision that the church will open for prayer once a year, Gyurjian said: "Prayers should not have been limited. This approach is not sincere."
The leader of the Armenian committee in Turkey, Aram Ateşyan, told the Turkish press last week that having the church open for services only once a year was insufficient. "I leave the matter of the holy cross to the consideration of our prime minister."
Turks and Armenians working in tandem
When asked about the common view that Turkey had made a leap in recent years toward the restoration of Armenian churches within Anatolia, Gyurjian said: "Our cultural artifacts have been destroyed up until this point and our traces have been denied. They are Armenian cultural artifacts, but they now form part of the richness of Turkey."
Discussing the collaboration of Turkish and Armenian experts on restoring the Ani ruins and the Surp Haç Church, Gyurjian said: "Some of the ruins are in Turkey and the other part is in Armenia. It should be protected as a whole. Both Turkey and Armenia are members of UNESCO, so our responsibilities are the same."
Ani was an international city
Although Gyrujian is determined to create a peace bridge between the two countries, Armenian Monuments Awareness Project President Richard Ney said the bridge should become an international world peace passage rather than just a link between Turkey and Armenia.
"The protection of the region around Ani is important because of the role the area played historically. As a fulcrum of the Silk Road, Ani was more than a capital for Armenia," he said.
"It was also a center of international trade and a city of peace. In its heyday, Arabs and Europeans, Christians and Muslims lived in peace and prosperity. Ani was truly an international city," he said
Israel Reminds Turkey of Armenian Genocide
4 June 2010
Last night there were big demonstrations in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv. The demonstrators were expressing their strong support of Israeli actions on the Freedom flotilla and some of the banners read "Remember the Armenian Genocide."
Already some voices emerge in Israel and even in Turkey that Israel will use the Armenian genocide as one of the weapons to fight Turkish propaganda. Israel had so far refrained from recognizing the Armenian genocide and according to some reports, had supported the Turkish Lobby in Washington from preventing the United States Congress to recognize the events of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey as Genocide.
Now this may change as Turkey presses Israel on human rights. Israel now basically tells Turkey "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
Today a prominent Journalist from CNN Turk Mehmet Ali Birand spoke of Israel possibly using the Armenian Genocide as a possible retaliation against Turkey. Birand said Turkey should be ready to fight an increasing number of countries recognizing the Armenian genocide. According to him Israel will recognize the genocide and will lobby for the US to recognize the events as genocide. Birand said it will be helpful if Turkey prepares for that from this very moment.
In another development Dr. Arash Irandoost published a very interesting story about Turkish Israeli relations called An Open Letter to Turkey. It has very revealing references about the Armenian issue and the issue of the minorities in Turkey.
Here are some quotes from Dr. Irandoost's open letter. "And when a country that persecutes its Kurdish, Assyrian and Armenian citizens, treat Iranian refugees like 3rd class citizens and hands them over to IRI thugs at every opportunity, and works tirelessly to appease a criminal regime, she must remember that we will not forget her erroneous ways."
In another paragraph Dr. Rash echoes Mr. Birand writing about the scrutiny that Turkey now must be ready to undergo for the Armenian Genocide. "You say you want an international investigation into the flotilla raid? Sure. Right after you allow an international investigation into that minor matter of Armenian genocide that you've been ducking for quite a while. As the new "standard bearer" in fighting for human rights, I'm sure you will agree that it's only fair that Turkey should undergo the same scrutiny it demands for other countries," Irandoost writes.
Then Irandoost goes on and blames Turkey saying its entire land is stolen from Armenians, and other mionrities. "You talk about stolen land, when your entire country is stolen land, from Cyprus to Istanbul. Your regime is a racist illegitimate entity based on the oppression of the Kurds, the Armenians, the Assyrians, Iranians, and numerous others," he writes.
Speaking of unilateral blockade of Gaza, Irandoost raises the qestion of Turkey's unilateral blockade of Armenia. For 16 years Turkey has blockaded Armenian border in support of Azerbaijan. Turkey did not even respect the protocols it signed with Armenia a year ago in Zurich aimed at normalizing relaions with its North Eastern neighbor. "But of course we know how strongly you feel about blockades. Like the time you blockaded Armenia for Sixteen Years. Very well then. If you insist on sending vessels flying the Turkish flag to aid Hamas, perhaps Israel should begin sending tanks flying the Israeli flag to aid the PKK," Irandoost continues.
It is good that now Israeli humanists wake up and start respecting justice in regard to Armenian genocide after denying for so many decades fearing not to spoil relations with its only ally in the region Turkey. However, it is sad that historical justice is not recognized because it is the truth, but because it suits political agenda.
As long as we keep violating the truth because i suits the political agenda we will never have justice or stability in the region. Israel should recognize the Armena genocide because that is the historical truth and because no one wants the repetition of it, but not because the political environment is suitable for the recognition of the Armenian genocide now after the strain in the relations between Turkey and Israel.
it's too bad that justice is done because of politics
Wednesday, 2 June 2010 14:39 UK
By Tom Esslemont BBC News, Baku
spenders, but publicity-shy
It is more than 100 years since Azerbaijan's first oil boom, but in
the glitzy centre of the capital, Baku, it looks like the glory days
Concert halls, caviar restaurants and car showrooms stand alongside
the turn-of-the-century apartments built on oil money at a time when
British, Dutch and Russian extractors were rushing to the city.
Then, the prime beneficiaries were the local and foreign oil barons.
These days, a new Azeri upper crust has most to gain from Azerbaijan's
Drilling for oil has spread in the Caspian Sea in post-Soviet times
The government controls the prices of most energy products and owns
In its 2009 corruption perceptions index Transparency International
placed Azerbaijan at 143 out of 180 countries.
But it is the widening gap between rich and poor which is the most
obvious result of the new energy boom.
The rich businessmen who preside over the city live in polished stone
and marble mansions nestled among Soviet-era concrete blocks.
The Azeri elite keep themselves to themselves, but most people know
who they are.
The Minister for Emergency Situations, Kamaladdin Heydarov, Transport
Minister Ziya Mammadov and the president's security chief are the
wealthiest and most powerful in the governing elite, according to some
The glamorous first lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, is a known
sponsor of major cultural projects and elite tourism ventures in Baku.
Hunting for information
However, the precise wealth of these powerful Azeris is not known. The
BBC made contact by letter with the offices of each of them, but did
not receive a reply.
I did get through to the son of the Emergencies Minister, Tale
Heydarov. His official title is president of Gabala Football Club, the
very same one where Tony Adams, the former England and Arsenal star,
has signed a lucrative contract as coach.
But Mr Heydarov's personal fortune is cloaked in mystery.
His powerful family is believed to run a huge company called Gilan -
which owns the football club - although he prefers to keep the exact
As he sits in a large office with plush carpets, marble lamps, four
telephones and a large desk, I ask him whether the widening wealth gap
and talk of corruption is a problem.
"As a normal citizen, I can say that any country faces challenges
[after its] independence. We are a very new and independent country
and among the ex-Soviet countries, Azerbaijan is one of the most
developed," he says.
Investors - particularly in construction - also appear to be reaping
handsome profits while the energy boom lasts.
Azerbaijan's oil riches have left a big mark on the landscape
Baku-based Turkish businessman Yavuz Keles, director of Tusiab - a
construction company based in Baku with $3bn (£2.1bn) of assets - says
corruption is not unique to Azerbaijan.
"It is a regional problem," he says. "Officials are already talking
about the problem, that is a start."
A feature of this boom is the concentration of oil revenue in the
hands of the political elite, one local expert says.
"Azerbaijan's oil is monopolised by the state, so of course the state
benefits," says Ilham Saban, an analyst at Turan news agency.
"The spending of oil money is only done with the approval of the president."
The situation is unlikely to change in the very near future.
President Ilham Aliyev's second five-year term is due to expire in
2013, but a referendum in 2009 made it possible for him to run for
office as many times as he wants.
Critics say this will allow him to preside over Azerbaijan's oil
production as it reaches its peak. With new explorations being
launched in the Caspian Sea by BP and others, the expected decline in
production might yet be postponed.
Recently, the Washington Post reported that nine waterfront mansions
in Dubai, worth a total of $44m, were purchased in the name of
President Aliyev's 11-year-old son.
Continue reading the main story
The rich rule society and that means we don't have access to the same
parts of the city as they do - they drive the four-by-four cars and
have access to big social events - we don't
Farhad Baku taxi driver
A senior official, Ali Hasanov, would not answer questions about the
story when he was contacted by the BBC in March by phone.
But, later, to local media, he did not deny it.
"Every person may possess anything. This is normal as long as he gets
it within law and the constitution," he told the Azeri newspaper, Yeni
Them and us
Outside Baku, there are signs of widespread unemployment and poverty.
The way Azerbaijan spends its money is frowned upon by Western governments.
A Baku taxi driver, calling himself Farhad, drove me towards villages
just 20km (12.4 miles) from the capital which have limited gas and
"The rich rule society and that means we don't have access to the same
parts of the city as they do. They drive the four-by-four cars and
have access to big social events. We don't," he says.
The divide is as clear-cut as the glass-and-metal skyline of booming Baku.