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Ancient Armenian architecture in Tu...
Van
By David Grigoryan
19 Oct 2016

Parts from Varagavnk monastery. Often used like a storage.

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Ancient Armenia architecture in Turkey
Van
By David Grigoryan
18 Oct 2016

Parts from Varagavnk monastery. Often used as storage

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Armenia and Azerbaijan Face-off at 20...
Baku
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

ONLY FOR PRINTED PUBLICATIONS / ARTICLE WRITTEN ON DEMAND

WIDER EDIT AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

SOUND AND RECORDINGS AVAILABLE TOO

PHOTOS: Jacob Balzani Lööv WORDS: Andrew Connelly

The inaugural European Games opened in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on the 12th June, 2015. A continent-wide sporting extravaganza costing an estimated $10bn featuring 6,000 athletes from over 50 different countries. As is so often said, sport is above politics. But for one national team competing in Baku, that could hardly be further than the truth.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union began to crumble, simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh erupted into full-scale war. The mountainous lands where Muslim Azeris and Christian Armenians used to live together in relative harmony, had become a source of dispute thanks in large part to divide and rule strategies by the Russian, and then Soviet, empires. When fighting finally subsided in 1994 following a Russian-brokered ceasefire, over 100,000 had been killed and Karabakh became de-facto state administered by Armenia but not officially recognised by any countries in the world. Azerbaijan lost 20% of its territory, including land outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh hotspot, which is internationally recognised as occupied Azeri territory.

Although Armenians and Azeris meet peacefully around the world, they are practically banned from each other’s countries and the level of mutual hostility is comparable to Israel-Palestine. The European Games in Baku is the biggest sporting event ever hosted in the South Caucasus and for both sides, there is huge pressure for their athletes to better the opposing team. For the Azeris, it means a victory over the ‘occupiers’ to whom they lost the war, for Armenians, the chance to raise their flag and sing their anthem in the enemy capital has incredible symbolic power. So much for the Olympic truce.

Meanwhile, despite a ceasefire in place, villagers living on both sides of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border live in the shadow of sniper positions, and endure regular exchanges of fire. Far away from the capitals of Yerevan and Baku, people here speak respectfully of their brothers on the other side and express their frustration that their governments prolong and provoke endless conflict.

In a little-known region, a forgotten conflict divides peoples that in living memory were neighbours and friends. With no direct dialogue between the warring states and no progress by international institutions, many people ominously warn of a renewed conflict which could devastate the region and catch the world by surprise.

As the athletes face each other in Baku, (ironically both sides excel in fighting sports such as boxing and wrestling), the mantra of sport as an apolitical tool for peace risks being overshadowed by raw geopolitics, and an opportunity for nationalism and chauvinism to be exhibited, in a region which can ill afford more.

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Armenians in Baku Games 07
Berkeber, Armenia
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

Daily life in the armenian village of Berkeber. The other side of the lake is Azerbaijan and there are regular shootings beetween the military positions on both sides but often targeting also the villages.

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Armenians in Baku Games 19
Sumgait, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

The final torchbearer of the European Games Ilham Zakiyev portrayed in Sumgait. Ilham Zakiyev was a soldier on the frontline before he was shot in the head by an Armenian sniper and blinded. He is now a world champion blackbelt Paralympic judoku. "My partecipation was a secret until the last hour, I know I was chosen to be a scream to the world to remind that 20% of our land is occupied by Armenians"

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Armenians in Baku Games 20
Sumgait, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

Training on the seafront in Sumgait. Sumgait was the teatre in 1988 of the first post-soviet etnic conflicts between armenians and Azerbaijanis.

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Armenians in Baku Games 21
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

The trainer of Armenia during a match of Sambo.

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Armenians in Baku Games 22
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

Reaction of the public to the elimination of Armenia during a wrestling match. Armenian athletes get a hostile reception from the Azerbaijani audience at the European Games in Baku.

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Armenians in Baku Games 23
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
25 Jun 2015

Greco-Roman wrestlers Roman Amuyan from Armenia and Elman Mukhtarov from Azerbaijan square off in the Heydar Aliyev Sports Centre.

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Armenians in Baku Games 24
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
14 Jun 2015

Armenian Greco-Roman wrestler Mirhan Harutyunyan takes a silver medal, while his opponent Hasan Aliyev from Azerbaijan took bronze. Russian gold-medal winner Artem Surkov brings the athletes together on the podium.

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Armenians in Baku Games 18
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
12 Jun 2015

The elaborate opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku. A gigantic pomegranate opens up to release a flurry of heart-shaped balloons. The fruit is abundant in both Azerbaijan and Armenia and both countries consider it a national symbol.

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Armenians in Baku Games 17
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
11 Jun 2015

Azerbaijani team dancing in the Olympic Village in Baku. It has been speculated that the Azerbaijani government spent up to $10bn in preparation to host the European Games. Of more concern for Armenia is Azerbaijan’s dramatic increase in their military budget up to almost $5bn, more than Armenia’s entire domestic budget. Baku has consistently promised to use military force to regain captured territory if peace talks fail.

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Armenians in Baku Games 06
Chinari, Armenia
By lordcob
02 Jun 2015

A villager in the town of Chinari in northwestern Armenia, shows the bullets found in his own garden. In the mountains above, Azeri and Armenian sniper positions stare at each other. Violations of the 1994 ceasefire are frequent not only in Nagorno-Karabakh but also along the main border between the two countries. Most of the casualties are soldiers but villagers are often targeted and have lived in an atmosphere of tension for over twenty years.

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Armenians in Baku Games 16
Berd, Armenia
By lordcob
02 Jun 2015

A signpost in Armenia points to the road leading to Azerbaijan, a relic from a time when the countries were at peace.

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Armenians in Baku Games 03
Voskevan, Armenia
By lordcob
01 Jun 2015

Armenian children walk to the football ground in the village of Voskevan on the Azerbaijan border. The ground is in the shadow of sniper positions and the children have to consult with their parents, or the military, to play at times when there is calm on the frontline.

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Armenians in Baku Games 15
Koti, Armenia
By lordcob
01 Jun 2015

A Taekwondo class in the village of Koti, a village in the northeastern Tavush province of Armenia where some buildings bear the bullet holes of recent sniper fire.

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Armenians in Baku Games 12
Abovyan, Armenia
By lordcob
29 May 2015

Vovik Khojanyan trains youngsters in the art of Sambo in the gym that he built himself in the village of Abovyan, Armenia. Vovik was born in Azerbaijan but his family left in the fifties.

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Armenians in Baku Games 02
Geghakert, Armenia
By lordcob
22 May 2015

Felix Aliyev, 76, trains a pupil in a gym in the village of Geghakert, Armenia. Despite having coached children who would become world champions, Aliyev’s gym lacks even toilet or showering facilities. During the ethnic conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis that erupted in the early nineties, many escaped to their respective countries. Some decided to stay and change their identities but despite sharing the same surname as the president of Azerbaijan, Aliyev has lived in peace ever since. During the war, his pupils took shifts to sleep at his house to protect him just in case. Both Armenians and Azerbaijanis remain virtually banned from each others countries.

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Armenians in Baku Games 14
Geghakert, Armenia
By lordcob
22 May 2015

Yuri Sargsyan, 54, supervises a young wannabe weightlifter in a gym in the village of Geghakert. A weightlifting world champion several times over, he is now the coach of the Australian Olympic team. Many athletes choose to migrate to other countries due to the dire economical situation of Armenia. After 1991, the country remained geographically isolated, cut off from Azerbaijan and Turkey, and industry formerly dependent on the Soviet Union all but collapsed. Most of the country survives on remittances from family living abroad.

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Armenians in Baku Games 05
Yerevan, Armenia
By lordcob
13 May 2015

Armenian boxers take a timeout during a training. Some will visit Baku for the inaugural European Games though most Armenians have never seen the country with whom they are at war.

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Armenians in Baku Games 11
Yerevan, Armenia
By lordcob
12 May 2015

Businessmen stop to pump some iron at an open-air gym in Yerevan. In the run-up to the European Games, a big debate raged in the country dover whether Armenian athletes should participate. Ironically, both countries excel in fighting sports such as wrestling and boxing.

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Armenian-Egyptians Commemorate 'Genoc...
Cairo
By Mohamed AbouElenen
23 Apr 2015

Cairo, Egypt
April 23, 2015

Egyptians of Armenian descent commemorated the centenary anniversary of the massacres committed against their ancestors by the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. Dozens of spectators examined photographs, artifacts and books that tell the story of the mass killings in 1915 as well as the Armenian diaspora around the world. The exhibition was organized by The Armenian Club in Cairo.

The Armenian community in Egypt, which was formed mainly of people who fled the killings by Ottoman Turks, dwindled in the 1950s, as many non-Arabs left the country under the weight of nationalization policies conducted by President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Around 8,000 Armenians live in Egypt today according to an interviewed activist.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Various of young women in traditional Armenian garbs
Various of spectators examining artefacts that belonged to Armenian refugees
Various of event attendees eating traditional Armenian snacks

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Garen Garbouyan, A young Armenian-Egyptian taking part in commemoration
00:30 – 01:14
“This event is being held because April 24 is nearing. This year is the 100th anniversary of the genocide. On this occasion, we are holding several consecutive events. In this celebration, we are introducing people to the old four Arminian provinces. We are showing how people used to dress in each province, as well as what people there used to eat and the activities they did. I am here today because my ancestors fled the massacre and came by boats to Port Said.”

Various of embroidered artefacts
Tilt down of icon with inscription in Armenian

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Marlo Zamanian, Armenian-Egyptian attending the exhibition

01:35 – 01:52
“My mother’s grandfather was forced to flee in 1915. He fled the massacres; his parents were able to flee the massacres and eventually reached Egypt.”

Various/ Close-up of artefacts
Wide of spectator examining a poster
Close-up/ Zoom out of necklace
Various of map featuring the massacres against Armenians
Various of exhibited items

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Marlo Zamanian, Armenian-Egyptian attending the exhibition
02:41 – 03:16
“My mother says that her father used to say… [LAUGH] that on a day in April – on April 24, 1915 – that the Turks knocked on their door. They come from a province called Kharpet. The Turks knocked on their door and took my mother’s grandfather who never returned. They took him to an unknown location. This was their end. My mother’s grandmother was able to rescue her children. She had a boy and two girls. She was able to leave and take them with her.”

Various of photographs depicting people who were killed in the massacres
Various of exhibition items and photographs

Close-up of a comb. NAT Sound (Arabic) 03:56 – 04:04
“This is from 1909. Look at the design.”

Wide of two girls wearing traditional costumes and holding a metal artefact

Close-up of metal artefact. NAT Sound (Arabic) 04:09 – 04:14
"This is the goblet I was talking about. It was used to fill water.” Close-up pf traditional puppet

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Marlo Zamanian, Armenian-Egyptian attending the exhibition
04:21 – 04:42
“We thank Egypt as well as the entire Arab homeland. This was the closest area to us, the [Armenian] migrants. From the desert of Deir al-Zor, we entered Syria and Lebanon. Other people fled to Greece. I feel that Arab countries were more welcoming towards than Europe.”

Various of event attendees having traditional snacks
Various of books about the Armenian genocide

Cutaways of Armen Mazloumian, An Egyptian-Armenian activist working on commemorating the Armenian genocide

SOUNDBITE Armen Mazloumian, An Egyptian-Armenian activist working on commemorating the Armenian genocide
05:29 – 06:23
“My grandfather’s family was a leading a decent life in Turkey. They were among the prominent merchants who traded in figs and pureblood horses in Turkey. His father and brothers were all killed in the massacres. He was young and another family smuggled him to Greece. In Greece, he worked for several years at the harbour with Onassis. As you know, Onassis became one of the world’s billionaires. Afterwards, my grandfather came to Egypt where lived and worked. He owned Nassibian film studio.”

Cutaways of Armen Mazloumian, An Egyptian-Armenian activist working on commemorating the Armenian genocide

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Armen Mazloumian, An Egyptian-Armenian activist working on commemorating the Armenian genocide
06:24 – 06:48
“Currently, about 8,000 Armenians live in Egypt. Their number was more than 50,000 during the 1940s and 1950s, but most of them immigrated to Armenia -- they returned to Armenia – as well as Europe, America and Australia.”

Cutaways of Viken Gezmiziyan, The head of the Armenian Charitable Society in Cairo

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Viken Gezmiziyan, The head of the Armenian Charitable Society in Cairo
06:56 – 07:10
“The method to slaughter [Armenians] is the same as the one that is being deployed by ISIS. They were lined up and killed with knives. The target was extermination; to make that area devoid of Armenians.”

Cutaways of Viken Gezmiziyan, The head of the Armenian Charitable Society in Cairo

Wide of man contemplating ‘Genocide Map’

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Viken Gezmiziyan, The head of the Armenian Charitable Society in Cairo
07:25 – 07:50
“There are about 3 million people living in present-day Armenia, while 9 million [Armenians] live outside. These 9 million did not appear out of nowhere. Our ancestors fled Armenia, and therefore Armenians were displaced in the entire world. Yet, some say that the massacres did not take place. Each one of us Armenians has a story to tell and knows how his grandfather fled the massacres. We see this as a problem.”

Cutaways of Mohamad Rifaat al-Imam, Head of History Department at the University of Damanhour

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Mohamad Rifaat al-Imam, Head of History Department at the University of Damanhour
08:06 – 08:47

“The Armenian issue surfaced in 1878, as a result of Article 61 of the treaty of Berlin, which stipulated the implementation of reforms in ‘Armenistan’, or Ottoman Armenia in eastern Anatolia. Ottoman authorities refused to carry out these reforms. Armenians then had to resort to revolutionary action to pressure Europe and the Ottoman Empire to implement Article 61.”

Cutaways of Mohamad Rifaat al-Imam, Head of History Department at the University of Damanhour

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Mohamad Rifaat al-Imam, Head of History Department at the University of Damanhour
09:11 – 09:43
“If Turkey to recognizes the massacres, it would have to return eastern Anatolia as well as all the funds, the assets and real estates that were confiscated from Armenians. Turkey would have to spend huge amounts of money as indemnities to the Armenian people who succumbed to a genocide, which the entire world is heading to recognize.”

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Armenians in Baku Games 13
Tsakhadzor, Armenia
By lordcob
15 Apr 2015

Taekwondo champion Armen Yeremyan, takes a break in the restaurant of the high-altitude training centre in Tsakhadzor, Armenia. He sits with his with his trainer, and his Iranian sparring partner. Armen used to be good friends with a Taekwondo athlete who plays for Azerbaijan until his friend told him that he was forbidden to speak with him. These days, when they meet at international competitions, they merely nod at each other.

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Armenians in Baku Games 08
Abovyan, Armenia
By lordcob
14 Apr 2015

Sambo champion Ashot Danielyan, during a training for Baku with the Armenian National Team in Abovyan, Armenia. Ashot was born in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. During a recent medal ceremony in Moscow, his Azerbaijani opponent squatted in protest during the national Armenian anthem. Sambo, a mixture of judo and wrestling is common in post-Soviet countries and has its origins in the Red Army.

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Armenians in Baku Games 09
Baku, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
13 Apr 2015

Greco-Roman wrestler Arsen Julfalakyan is served lunch during a training camp in Yerevan.In addition to sports, Julfalakyan is also completing a PhD in International Relations and speaks four languages, including Turkish. He is boycotting the European Games in protest at Azerbaijan'€™s human rights record. In addition, he has bad memories of his previous visit to Baku in 2007 where security was too overbearing, and the audience hostile.

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Armenians in Baku Games 04
Yerevan; Armenia
By lordcob
10 Apr 2015

Armenian shooters train at a range in Yerevan underneath a poster of Nagorno-Karabakh surrounded by photos of war veterans. The region is currently a de-facto independent state, not recognised by any countries in the world and supported by Armenia. The territory is considered by the international community as part of Azerbaijan.

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Armenians in Baku Games 01
Yerevan, Armenia
By lordcob
03 Apr 2015

Albert Azaryan, 86, observes one of his pupils at his eponymous gym in Yerevan, Armenia. Azaryan is a sporting legend of the Soviet era, in a time where it was harder for smaller republics of the Union to shine. Thanks to the strength he gained working as a blacksmith in Kirovabad (currently Ganja, Azerbaijan), he was the first gymnast to win two consecutive medals for rings. The incredible contortion of his signature ‘Azaryan cross’ move has never been copied, though many try.

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Armenians in Baku Games 10
Sumgait, Azerbaijan
By lordcob
06 Oct 2013

A military shop in Sumgait, Azerbaijan with a poster of Ramil Safarov. Safarov was an Azerbaijani soldier that murdered a sleeping Armenian soldier with an axe during a NATO language training in Budapest in 2004. Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan in 2012 and immediately lionised as a national hero prompting waves of outrage in Armenia.

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Minorities in Georgia (27 of 37)
Bolnisi, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
14 Oct 2012

A cross overlooks a few villages in Bolnisi region in Southern Georgia. Bolnisi region is traditionally populated mostly by ethnic and religious minorities, mostly Azerbaijanis. Such crosses are common throughout the country and are usually symbolically installed by local Orthodox priests and their congregation. In 2003 such cross was installed right at the town square of one of the biggest villages in Bolnisi region, populated mostly by Muslim Azerbaijanis. Offended, the villagers were ready to dismount the cross. After receiving the call about this incident sheikh of Georgia Vagif Akperov, then a mollah in Tbilisi mosque, told villigares to guard the cross day and night, so that nobody would touch it, while he settled the issue down with the Georgian Church officials. "It was a provocation," says Akperov. "Whoever installed this cross, wanted us to destroy it, in order to say later that we're aggresive towards Christian symbols." The case has been quickly settled and the cross has been removed peacefully.

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Minorities in Georgia (34 of 37)
Marneuli, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
19 Jan 2012

A weekly cattle market near Marneuli, Georgia. Marneuli, a town in southern Georgia, close to both Armenian and Azerbaijani borders, is widely populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis, traditionally sheep and cattle herders. The market is a place of cattle trading not only for local Azerbaijanis, but also for Georgians, Armenians and others, who come here every sunday looking for a good deal.