Deprecated: Hook custom_css_loaded is deprecated since version jetpack-13.5! Use WordPress Custom CSS instead. Jetpack no longer supports Custom CSS. Read the documentation to learn how to apply custom styles to your site: in /home/hhdam/public_html/armeniancause/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078
October 2017 – Armenian Cause Foundation

European Court Finds Catholicosate’s Suit Inadmissible; And Could Not Be Appealed

( The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (headquartered in Antelias, Lebanon) filed a lawsuit on April 25, 2015, against the government of Turkey seeking the return of its historic seat in Sis (present-day Kozan district of the Adana Province) which was confiscated in 1921.

The first of its kind lawsuit was filed in the Constitutional Court of the Turkish Republic because the claim raised issues of property rights that lower courts would not have jurisdiction to overturn the maze of laws adopted by Turkey in 1915 and succeeding years. At the recommendation of the Justice Ministry of Turkey, the Constitutional Court referred the Armenian Church lawsuit to the lower courts. The lawyers for the Catholicosate of Cilicia, however, decided to appeal the case directly to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, on December 8, 2016.

The issue of sidestepping submission of the Catholicosate’s lawsuit to a lower court in Turkey is critical in view of the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights that before any case is brought to the ECHR, all local legal remedies must first be exhausted, starting with the lowest court and ending with the highest court of the country being sued.

On October 19, 2017, addressing the conference of the Armenian Cause in the European Parliament in Brussels, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia criticized the single judge from ECHR who had rejected the Armenian Church’s lawsuit finding it inadmissible. Until this announcement, there was no news about the status of the lawsuit. I contacted the ECHR headquarters in Strasbourg inquiring about the Armenian Church’s claim. I was informed that a single judge indeed has the authority to reject any lawsuit, which in this case was not first submitted to a lower court in Turkey in order to exhaust all local remedies, and that the letter of rejection was sent to the Catholicosate in March 2017. More ominously, I was told by ECHR that the judge’s decision could not be appealed!

I then contacted Payam Akhavan, a member of the Catholicosate’s legal team and Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, inquiring why no announcement was made earlier by the Catholicosate regarding the rejection of the lawsuit six months ago. Prof. Akhavan explained that the ECHR judge had sent the letter to the wrong address! The Catholicosate then wrote to that judge “expressing serious concern on miscarriage of justice; that a single judge could throw out what was clearly a well-argued case, and waited until recently for a standard response that there is no appeal, and the decision is final.”

In his Brussels speech on Oct. 19, 2017, Catholicos Aram the First harshly condemned the ECHR for rejecting the Church’s lawsuit: “Why would the European Court of Human Rights so easily reject our case knowing that no lawyer would dare to bring such a case before the Turkish courts? How could a single judge throw out a 900-page Application, historically and legally well substantiated by some of the best international lawyers? Why was our legal team not given a chance for a hearing? Is everybody now afraid to confront Turkey’s appalling record of human rights violations? We are astonished and, in fact, deeply disappointed at this miscarriage of justice, particularly at this crucial juncture of modern history when Europe is expected, in faithfulness to its values and principles, to consider justice above geopolitical interests…. Europe is essentially a community of values, not merely political and economic interests. Therefore, I still hope that the European Court of Human Rights will reconsider the admissibility of the case on the basis of justice and human rights. In spite of the denial of justice, the Armenian people will continue to struggle for justice.”

Prof. Akhavan called the ECHR judge’s decision “scandalous.” He then added in his email to me: “By the measure of several highly experienced ECHR lawyers, this decision is totally unacceptable. It shouldn’t be forgotten that our counsel was Tim Eicke QC [Queen’s Counsel], who is now the British judge on the ECHR. He of course is conflicted from involvement in the case, but there is a sense among many that the Court is too afraid of confronting post-coup Turkey with such controversial cases.”

Prof. Akhavan also stated that the next steps for this lawsuit “are either to re-submit the case with some new facts such as the impossibility of going back to the Turkish courts under current circumstances, or to go back to the Turkish courts, waste a lot of resources, and come back to the ECHR once again. It is a ludicrous decision because everybody knows that is exactly what will happen. It is a hot potato the ECHR doesn’t want to handle….”

In conclusion, I would suggest that the Catholicosate of Cilicia make public the complete files of its lawsuit, including the 600-page submission to the Turkish Constitutional Court and its response, and the 900-page filing to the European Court of Human Rights and its response. After all, this is not a private lawsuit, but one dealing with the Armenian nation’s property demands from Turkey!

Harut Sassounian

The Armenian Genocide in Feature Films

( With the recent release on DVD of the major motion picture “The Promise,” greater numbers of people will be able to gain insights into aspects of the Armenian Genocide. The film, starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon, was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Terry George, who had been involved in the production of “Hotel Rwanda,” about the 1990s genocide in Africa.

“The Promise” was an unorthodox production in several ways: financing ($100 million provided by Armenian-American Kirk Krikorian); massive numbers of pre-film release reviews that were either extremely negative or highly praising; and significant challenges and even genocide denialist-imposed obstacles in distribution.

“The Promise” is the most recent in almost a century of efforts to portray in feature films the horrors of genocide. Most of these films have appeared in recent decades and all are attempts to “describe the indescribable.”

Among the more notable of the feature films that deal with the Armenian Genocide are “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls” (1919), “America, America” (1963), “Nahapet” (1977), “Forty Days of Musa Dagh” (1982), “Mayrig” (1991), “Ararat” (2002), “Lark Farm” (2007), “The Cut” (2014), “1915” (2015), and most recently “The Promise” (2016). Often, those films are based on survivor memoirs or historical novels.

What is little known publicly today is that a pioneering Hollywood film from the silent-film era dealt with the Armenian Genocide. “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls” is the biographical account of a young orphan girl, Arshaluys Mardigian (later renamed Aurora Mardiganian), who, having witnessed most of her family being killed, managed to flee the massacres and later immigrated as a teenager to the United States. Her biography, titled Ravished Armenia: The Story of Aurora Mardiganian: The Christian Girl Who Lived Through the Great Massacres, was first serialized in the Hearst newspapers and later published as a book in 1918. The memoir was then turned into a film.

The historical 85-minute movie was a silent film (with subtitles). It portrayed the mass deportations, rapes, and massacres of Armenians. It had Aurora Mardiganian herself as the lead character. Remarkably, the movie also featured in actual person Henry Morgenthau, the former US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The film was shot in California in 1918 with a cast of thousands of extras. Initially titled “Ravished Armenia,” the movie was renamed “Auction of Souls.” It was, in all likelihood, the first major Hollywood picture to portray genocide. In a number of ways, it was a pioneering film. To cast a genocide survivor as the lead actress is rare. As a post-WWI film, it certainly challenged conventional mores regarding violence, rape, and nudity. It also raised the censorship issue, both morally and politically. Turkish opposition in later years reinforced the latter.

The U.S. film premieres took place in Los Angeles and New York in 1919. Although film screenings were initially numerous and well-attended, the frequency of airings diminished. Over time, copies of the film were lost or destroyed, or they deteriorated. No known remaining full copy exists today. The history books on the early silent film era have mostly ignored the movie “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls.” What had been an often seen and cited movie that helped to raise crucial humanitarian relief funds for Near East Relief was now mostly ignored either by accident, bias, or malevolent design.

The Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan has an important section of its exhibition devoted to Aurora Mardiganian, her memoirs, and the film. For some, Aurora Mardiganian is the “Anne Frank of the Armenian Genocide.”

Franz Viktor Werfel wrote the novel “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” which dealt with the siege of the villages of Musa Dagh during the Armenian Genocide. The novel tells the story of one of the few examples of armed resistance by the Armenians to the deportations and killings by the Young Turk regime. The episode is also one of the few historical examples of foreign power humanitarian assistance arriving in timely fashion. French naval ships in the Mediterranean saw the besieged civilians and escorted them to safety in British-controlled Egypt. Efforts by the major Hollywood studio MGM to make a film version of the novel between the 1930s and 1970s were all unsuccessful—largely as a consequence of significant foreign pressure and interference by the Turkish government, supported by the U.S. State Department. Decades later, a lower-budget version directed by Sarky Mouradian was filmed in 1982, but achieved very little distribution.

The Greek-American Elia Kazan penned an autobiographical book about the suffering of his extended family, along with fellow Greeks and Armenians, under Turkish rule. In 1963, he turned the book into the epic film “America, America.”

“Nahapet” (1977) (Patriarch, also released as “Love Triumphs” ) is a Soviet-era film based on a novel by Hrachya Kochar and describes how a genocide survivor (Nahapet) attempts to rebuild his life amid the rugged mountains of Soviet Armenia. One of the recurring scenes in the film directed by Henrik Malyan involves scores of red apples falling from a tree, rolling into a river, and floating en masse downstream. The scene is a painful symbolic reminder of the multitude of Armenian bodies thrown into the Euphrates by the Young Turk regime during the genocide.

“Mayrig” (Mother) is the title of a 1985 semiautobiographical French-language novel by Henri Verneuil (born Ashod Malakian,) a French-Armenian author and filmmaker. The story is about a multigenerational family’s efforts to survive post-genocide exile and is a powerful account of the lingering intergenerational effects of genocide, even decades later.

“Ararat” (2002) by Atom Egoyan is a multilayered, complex drama. Egoyan’s actual film portrays a fictional director making an historical drama about the heroic Armenian people’s resistance to the Turkish military siege of the city of Van in 1915. A young Armenian boy and his beloved mother endured dreadful conditions during the bombardment and siege. She later dies as a refugee, and the young boy eventually emigrates to the United States, changes his name, and becomes the prominent artist Arshile Gorky. His melancholy twin paintings “The Artist and His Mother” are iconic and play a key role in the film. “Ararat” dwells on these works of art to convey the anguish and grieving for a deceased mother and a fractured family life. Among the reoccurring threads woven into film are the enormous impact of genocide, intergenerational transmission of trauma, and the continuing pain of ongoing Turkish denial. The closing hymn “Oor es, mayr eem/Mother, where are you?” sung by international soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, is heart-breaking.

The novel “Skylark Farm” by Italian-Armenian writer Antonia Arslan was made into a film under the title “The Lark Farm” (Italian: “La masseria delle allodole“) (2007) by directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. A multi-country co-production, with a cast that included Arsinee Khanjian, the film describes intergenerational transmission of traumatic memories of the author’s extended family. It portrays a diaspora Armenian living in Italy who hopes to reunite with his Armenian family in Anatolia. But with the onset of WWI, the Young Turk dictatorship closed the border, with Ottoman Armenian civilians trapped inside to face mass deportations and slaughter. A great many perished, but some Armenian family members survived the long and perilous death marches into the Syrian Desert and eventually reached safety in Italy.

“The Cut” (2014) by Fatih Akin follows the painful odyssey of a young Armenian man who is conscripted, along with fellow Armenians, to do forced road labor, and barely survives the Turkish cutting of the throats of the unarmed Armenian workers. Now mute from the cut, this lonely survivor endures further hardship and danger and gives up hope that any in his family is still alive. He travels from one place of exile after another, eventually ending up in the United States, where to his surprise he reunites with part of his surviving family.

Garin Hovannisian’s and Alex Mouhibian’s film “1915” was released on the 100th memorial year of 2015, and the story is based on a director’s and his actress wife’s staging a play in Los Angeles about the Armenian Genocide. The historical play draws protest demonstrations outside and mysterious incidents and apparitions inside. The ghosts of the genocide from the past press powerfully onto the present in this hauntingly powerful film.

Terry George’s “The Promise” (2016) tells the story of an American reporter who befriends two young Armenians, and the three form a complex love triangle. With the onset of WWI and increasing dictatorial rule by the ultranationalist Young Turk military regime, the foreign journalist bears witness to the mass deportations and massacres of Armenians. Among the scenes portrayed is the self-defense resistance at Musa Dagh. Unlike the fate of most of their fellow Armenians, many of those inhabitants survive with the help and rescue of nearby French naval ships.

In this contemporary video-oriented era, feature films remain an important means to convey the deep and enduring impact of genocide. They can shed some light on an exceedingly dark era, but ultimately they are attempts to “describe the indescribable.”

Alan Whitehorn*

Photo: A still from Terry George’s “The Promise” (2016) (Photo: Survival Pictures)

Note: Portions of this article draw from several entries from Alan Whitehorn, ed., The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO Press, 2015).

*Alan Whitehorn is an emeritus professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and author of a several books on the Armenian Genocide, including “Just Poems: Reflections on the Armenian Genocide.” He is also the editor of “The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide.”

Armenian Legal Center Announces Property Documentation Database Project

ALC Executive Director Kate Nahapetian outlines road to reparations at ANCA-WR Grassroots Conference in Pasadena, Calif.

( PASADENA, Calif.—Kate Nahapetian, executive director of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC), announced the ALC’s Property Documentation Database Project while discussing several of ALC’s initiatives and the path to reparations at the Armenian National Committee of America—Western Region (ANCA-WR) Grassroots Conference on Oct. 7.

The Armenian Legal Center announced its project, a database documenting stolen, confiscated, or lost property during the Armenian Genocide, such as homes, orchards, land, bank accounts, insurance policies, bonds, art, jewelry, and other properties.

During the talk, Nahapetian noted that a collection of this information is vital to our efforts to realize reparations, and can act as a reliable source of data that will strengthen the Diaspora’s ability to advocate for justice in the political and legal spheres, as well as future diplomatic discussions or arbitration with Turkey.

Because of the mass violence and destruction associated with the Genocide that resulted in the loss of documentation of properties, the ALC will not only collect physical documentation but also testimonies on properties from survivors or their descendants, which the ALC hopes can eventually be compared with Turkey’s own records.

In a talk co-sponsored by the ALC earlier this year at the George Washington School of Law, Dr. Ümit Kurt, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, spoke on the issue of Turkey’s property records, noting that they are well-organized and can provide a detailed history to Armenian heirs. Dr. Kurt noted that despite plans in 2005 to make land records public, they still are not because of Turkey’s National Security Committee’s intervention. The abandoned properties and liquidation commissions set up to confiscate Armenian properties also kept meticulous records, he said.

The ANCA-WR conference panel, titled Road to Reparations, included UCLA Law professors Asli Bali and Jessica Peake, who are, respectively, the faculty director and the assistant director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights. Nahapetian noted ALC’s partnerships with law schools, including UCLA Law and University of Southern California’s Human Rights Clinic. Through such partnerships with pro bono attorneys and students, the ALC is examining novel approaches to reparations and the best venues to pursue claims.

The ALC fights to redress human rights violations emanating from the Armenian Genocide that continue to this day and undermine stability in a region that has for far too long been marred by policies founded on genocide, not human rights and justice. ALC promotes scholarship on the legal avenues for addressing the challenges emanating from the Armenian Genocide, in addition to pursuing litigation, while promoting the protection of Armenian cultural heritage through the return of stolen properties and artifacts.

To submit documentation concerning stolen or lost properties from the Armenian Genocide, please visit:

The Armenian Legal Center can be contacted with questions or inquiries by emailing or calling +1 (202) 742-8702.

Photo: Kate Nahapetian, executive director of the Armenian Legal Center, announces Property Documentation Database Project at the ANCA-WR Grassroots Conference