18 January 2006

Interview with Hagop Dikranian, Hunchack Party Chairman in Cyprus

Azad-Hye, Dubai, 18 January 2006: Hunchak Party is namely one of the three
Armenian traditional parties that survived in Diaspora for many decades
before being able to return back to the motherland, after the 1991
Independence. Hunchak Party is one of the oldest political parties operating
in the Middle East. Azad-Hye had the chance to conduct a meeting in Nicosia
with Hagop Dikranian, the Chairman of the newly formed branch in Cyprus.
Below is the text of the meeting:

1- Could you describe the present situation of the Cypriot Armenian
The Cypriot Armenian Community is one of the oldest Diaspora Armenian
communities. Armenians have settled in Cyprus since long time ago. During
the period of the Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia (9-13th centuries A.D., known
also as Lesser Armenia), the Armenians established close relationship with
their neighbors in Cyprus, just across the Mediterranean coast of Cilicia.

The number of Armenians in Cyprus is now estimated at 3.000, concentrated
mainly in the capital Nicosia and in another two cities (Limasol and
Larnaca). There are Armenian churches in each of these three cities. The
Prelacy of Cyprus is under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia
(based nowadays in Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon). Armenian daily schools (under
the name “Narek”) function in the above three cities, enjoying the support
and assistance of the Government of Cyprus.

Although the Community is small in numbers, nevertheless it is considered to
be a very active one. Armenian traditional political parties, cultural and
sports unions, etc. run their usual activities. There are Armenian clubs in
the major cities. There are two monthly publications: “Artsakank” (Echo) and
“Azad Tsayn” (Free Voice). The Prelacy publishes “Keghart” information
bulletin. The well known Armenian program is aired on Cyprus Radio daily for
a limited time.

2- We would like to know about the difficulties the that Melkonian
Educational Institute (MEI) has faced until its recent closure. After months
of the misfortunate decision how is the situation assessed now?
Unfortunately, despite the pan-Armenian outcry, the AGBU’s (Armenian General
Benevolent Union) leadership proceeded in executing its treacherous decision
resulting in the closure of this historical institute of education and
science. This year, for the first time the school bell of the MEI did not
ring. No students were accepted to the empty classrooms. As a consequence
not only the Cypriot Armenians, but also Armenians from many other
Communities in Diaspora were deprived from this vital source of light and
knowledge. The Institute served young Armenian generations from abroad who
were staying in the boarding school.

Our Community is facing more troubles now. The wave of assimilation is
threatening in a direct way, especially now that the parents are obliged to
send their children to foreign schools where no Armenian secondary education
is provided. Even the Cypriot circles have expressed their concern and
anxiety on the same issue. The Parliament of Cyprus described the step taken
by AGBU as an “act of hostility”. Moreover, the Government suggested
financial assistance for the survival of MEI.

While the Central Administration of AGBU and its closer circles appeared in
the controversial position of staging the closure of an Armenian school, the
Melkonian Alumni Associations worldwide launched intense struggle to save
their beloved school. The situation was complicated when the other
guarantor of the MEI, the Patriarchate of the Armenians of Constantinople
(Istanbul) took legal and judicial steps against the danger of closure. This
process commenced in California and now is transferred into the Cypriot
Court, where it waits for proper verdict. Meanwhile the school remains
closed and the property unused. Two historical Armenian bodies (AGBU and
Patriarchate of Armenians of Constantinople) are now facing each other,
waiting for the judgment of the Court, anxious to see if the school will
remain closed or reopen. This is a shameful and outrageous situation.

It is worth mentioning here that the Hunchak party, in Cyprus and abroad has
expressed its clear position on this subject, opposing this damaging policy
of AGBU. The 18th Congress of the Party, which was held recently in Cyprus,
condemned the decision to close the doors of Melkonian in front of the
students, considering it an assault against our people, history and
heritage. We consider the silence and indifference of our both
Catholicosates regarding this topic, a matter of condemnation, especially
while celebrating the 1600th anniversary of the Armenian Alphabet and the
90th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (both marked nation-wide just
months ago).

3- It is an opportunity to know more about the presence and activities of
the Social Democrat Hunchak Party in the Middle East. Also it would be
interesting to know more about the Party’s 18th Congress, which was held in

As a historical and well-rooted structure, the Social Democrat Hunchak Party
actively functions in many locations where noticeable Armenian population
exists. The Party, along with its parallel organizations, such as Armenian
Athletic Organization (H.M.M.) and “Nor Serount (New Generation) Cultural
Union”, enjoys substantial presence in major Armenian Communities in the
Middle East (from Lebanon to Damascus and Aleppo, from Egypt to Kuwait). In
Lebanon we have a Member of Parliament, a weekly newspaper (“Ararad”), an
educational network, dynamic athletic and cultural life, many followers at
school or university levels. In Aleppo also we have similar units. The Dance
Ensemble of the “Nor Seround Cultural Union” and the Instrumental Music Band
there are popular.

The Hunchak Party in Damascus has its decisive role in the religious and
national life of the Community. During recent elections it achieved victory
in local elections, securing the installment of a sympathetic personality in
the position of the Head of the Church. The “Meghri” Dancing Ensemble in
Damascus also is flourishing. In Egypt we have club and press (“Tchahagir”).
Quite recently H.M.M. of Kuwait is experiencing a flare of activity.

In 2005 the Cyprus Hunchak Unit was set up, reviving the traditions of the
“Nor Seround Cultural Union” and the “Armenian Athletic Union / H.M.M.”.
Indeed, this could be considered as the newest event in the Cypriot Armenian

There are many Hunchak followers in other countries, where organizational
structure unfortunately does not exist.

The 18th Congress of the Hunchak Party, which was recently convened in the
coastal city of Larnaca (Cyprus), could be considered as crucial and
significant. The Congress discussed almost all aspects that concern the
Armenian public life, having on the agenda all national priorities:
Armenian-Turkish relations, Javakhk issue (in present day Georgia), Karabagh
crisis, democratization process and the overall political situation in
Armenia, the ecclesiastical crisis, relations with other organizations,
economic subjects, administrative issues, ideological aspects, cultural
concerns, etc., just to name the basic ones. The delegates taking part in
the Congress elected the new leadership, which could be characterized as
young, motivated and mobilized. Without a doubt, new horizons have opened in
front of the Party.

The Party greeted the Government of Cyprus for the granted hospitality and
expressed its support to a just and integrated solution of the Cypriot
Issue, against the Turkish illegal occupation.

4- How can we characterize the attitude of the Republic of Cyprus towards
the Armenians?

It is best characterized as caring and noble. The Armenian Community is one
of three officially recognized minorities in the country (besides the
Maronites and the Latins), having thus the complete right to preserve its
language and culture. The Cypriot Armenians feels in this country as a free,
complete and integrated citizens, with the same obligations and rights as
other citizens. Within the House of the Representatives of Cyprus, the
Armenian Community elects, in a democratic way, a Representative for a five
years term. The Government provides great help to the three Armenian
elementary schools, supports the Church and encourages cultural and athletic
activities. In fact the Government is concerned in preserving the national
character of the Armenian Community. For example, in the case of the
Melkonian Educational Institute, the Government and the people of Cyprus
sided explicitly against the closure decision, considering it as an act
against the national and cultural values of the whole Cypriot society. The
Government is consistently supporting the teaching of Armenian language in
the Armenian schools, offering financial backup if needed.

“Armenia-Cyprus Friendship Committee” enhances the friendship and cultural
interaction between the two nations, creating more opportunities for mutual
acknowledgment and appreciation, especially that the Armenian-Greek
relationship has historical roots and many correlations. Cyprus also suffers
from the same enemy, who occupied parts of the country in 1974. There are
similarities in the history of the two nations. Summarizing, we can conclude
that Cyprus is a civilized, democratic and pro-Armenian state, where all
resources are available in front of the Armenian Community to continue its
existence, to prosper in all domains and to feel proud and confidence as
trustworthy citizens. 

Full text with photo at:

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