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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

AGBU Europe Hosts Groundbreaking Conference on Armenian Heritage in

Brussels, Belgium - On November 13, AGBU Europe organized a conference
in the European Parliament, entitled "A Journey of Cultural Rediscovery:
Armenian Heritage in Turkey." The event highlighted the efforts of
individuals in Turkey who are currently trying to reclaim the memories
of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and rescue its cultural heritage today in
their country.

Many attendees were either of Armenian or Turkish backgrounds,
professional educators or journalists, as well as representatives of the
European Commission and Parliament, all of whom predominantly expressed
unreserved support for the objectives of the conference.

Speakers throughout the day discussed years of research, documentation
and results surrounding the striking highlights of worthy Armenian
contributions to Turkey, which mostly remain unknown to a majority of
people in their country. For example, the Armenian architect Sinan
created a beautiful 16th-century mosque in Edirne and an Armenian school
in Erzerum hosted Ataturk's Erzerum Congress.

Fethiye Cetin, a Turkish author, spoke about her own journey after
discovering late in life that her grandmother was Armenian. She spoke
about the moving and overwhelmingly sympathetic response to her book in
Turkey, and stressed how personal emotions can lead the way to
reconciliation and a fresh start for Armenian-Turkish relations.

Historian Ara Sarafian, returning from another prolonged stay in eastern
Turkey, reported on two parallel yet competing currents and personal
stands in the country: one seeks to continuously portray Armenians as
alien and threatening, while the other is concerned with the rediscovery
of positive Armenian-Turkish bonds.

Lastly, Professor Patrick Donabedian from France described in great
detail some disheartening examples of Armenian architectural
destruction, both intentional and through neglect, which is happening in
present-day Turkey. On a more positive note, there are several
initiatives in Turkey to protect the few remaining vestiges of Armenian
heritage. Recently the minister of culture declared a museum would be
built in honor of Armenian-American author William Saroyan in his
parents' hometown of Bitlis. Donabedian is hopeful that one day the
Turkish government may even give back several buildings that have been
confiscated from the Armenian Church.

The head representative in the European Commission's Turkey team
presented a three-million-euro cultural heritage project launched in the
Balkans to serve as inspiration for similar work with Turkey, stressing
the importance of such issues in European Union policy.

A tone emphasizing the importance of preserving and rejuvenating the
Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey was universal among the audience
and presenters. There was also common consensus that with the help of
European institutions, research, education, and shared personal
experiences, steps can be taken to reach this goal and, with a revived
Armenian culture in Turkey, important developments can then be made in
Turkish society, positively affecting the Armenian diaspora.

Established in 1906, AGBU ( is the world's largest
non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City an
annual budget of $36 million, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian
identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian
program, annually serving some 400,000 Armenians in 37 countries.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress