24 February 2006

Interview with Gibrahayer e-magazine Editor Simon Aynedjian

Azad-Hye, Dubai, 24 February 2006: Simon Aynedjian was born in Nicosia, Cyprus in 1959. He attended elementary education at the Ouzounian-Melikian School (present-day Nareg) and The English School in Nicosia. He studied Communications and International Relations in the US and continued his graduate studies at Intercollege and through correspondence. He is a Director in his family owned clothing manufacturing factory and in the last 3 years he has joined a leading Logistics company and holds the position of Executive Director of a major IT company in Cyprus - GAP Vassilopoulos E-Media Ltd, which is one of the companies within the GAP Group.

He is married to Louise Kaprielian and they have two daughters and a son. He has been active in the Armenian community for three decades.

He is also active in tennis. He is the over 35 and over 45 champion of Cyprus. In 2005 he won international championships on the world tennis tour and finished 2005 in the top 100 on the world senior tour.

Below is an interview with Simon Aynedjian specially for the readers of our webiste:

Could you tell us a few words about the Armenian community in Cyprus?
The Armenian community in Cyprus is not a newly formed one. It has a continuous history of almost one thousand years. However, the biggest wave of Armenians arrived in Cyprus after the Adana massacres (1909) and continued up to the time of the Genocide (1915-1921). The survivors of these two tragic historical events have created the Armenian community as we know it today numbering around 3,000. There have been population fluctuations though.

In the 1940s and 50s we witnessed the repatriation of hundreds of Armenians from Cyprus to Armenia. When the EOKA struggle and the inter-communal disturbances began in Cyprus in the 1950s another wave of movement, this time to the United Kingdom further reduced the number of Armenians. After the Turkish invasion in 1974, a fresh wave of emigration took place chiefly to the UK, further decreasing the numbers.

The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991) and the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979) resulted in an influx of temporary immigrants in Cyprus. They considered Cyprus as a transit station to the West, although some of them settled down in Cyprus and others returned back to their respective countries.

The latest wave comes from Armenia itself, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The economic difficulties in Armenia caused many to find shelter in countries providing employment and prosperity. However it should be noted that the majority of these Armenians were actually the children and grandchildren of those who had emigrated to Armenia during the repatriation period of 1940s and 50s.

In numeric terms the number of Armenians in Cyprus are about 3,000, around one third of them consist of Armenians who have come to Cyprus during the last 15 years. Unfortunately, this portion of Armenians is not yet fully integrated in the Armenian community, except for the elementary school where their children attend. I believe that this pattern is more or less true in all diaspora communities.

How about the political structures of the community?
The present political structure of the community could be characterized by the presence of two factions: Dashnaktsoutiun (ARS, AYMA/HMEM, Hamazkayin, AYF, ANC) and AGBU "affiliated" organisations (Ramgavars, Henchaks, Communists) pretty much in the same structure as all Armenian diaspora communities globally.

Recent elections (October 2005) for the post of the community Representative in the House of Representatives of Cyprus resulted in the election of Dr. Vahakn Atamyan (AGBU "affiliated") with a margin of 52% while Dr. Antranig Ashdjian (Dashnaktsoutiun) received 44 % and Parsegh Zartarian (independent) 4%.

And the life of Armenians in Cyprus?
The Armenian community of Cyprus is fully Armenian spoken. The average Armenian Cypriot speaks also fluent Greek and English. The older generation knows also Turkish to a certain degree. Before the 1974 invasion Armenians lived with the Turkish Cypriots in harmony. The invasion resulted in loss of considerable Armenian properties, which are now under Turkish occupation such as the Armenian monastery of Sourp Magar in Kyrenia, the Ganchvor Church in Famagusta and the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church, Armenian elementary schools and Armenian Prelature in Nicosia.

The community has been active for the last three decades in supporting the Armenian Cause in all possible ways, especially propagating awareness about the Genocide in Cypriot political and media circles.

The community has sent large amounts of humanitarian and other assistance to Artsakh. In this effort which continues presently through the programs of the Armenian Relief Society Sossee Cyprus Chapter, the community always has the moral and financial support of Greek Cypriots. Currently, through a program administered by The Armenian Relief Society (HOM), some 400 orphans in Armenia and Artsakh are sponsored by Armenian and Greek Cypriots.

Relations between Armenia and Cyprus are cordial and at a very high level, with frequent visits of state delegations. The State Dance Ensemble of Armenia has recently performed in Larnaca and Nicosia.

A major setback in the life of our community has been the closure of Melkonian Education Istitute, and I believe that the full extent of the damage will surface in years to come. In the mean time I feel it is important that all parties - the AGBU and local administrators - involved in the scandal of the closure of the school account for their role in it.

Thousands of Armenians worldwide, especially those who use the Internet and electronic media, have been receiving Gibrahayer e-magazine. Could you give us an idea about this extremely popular project?
Gibrahayer is seven years old. It started with a list of 50 subscribers and has reached 5,000 subscribers globally (only 15% of the subscribers are from Cyprus). Cyprus is in the center of civilizations and conflicts. It is a politically vibrant area where Armenians live and prosper. The political, social and religious mix no doubt creates an active atmosphere and the need to communicate both at a community level and globally at Diaspora level and build bridges of communication between Cyprus, the diaspora and our homeland.

We feel we are an integral part of Cyprus. It is important that Armenians in Cyprus live and prosper. We feel that we have to stay here to safeguard whatever belongs to us: our church, our schools, our history, our homes, having in mind our new role of aiding economically and politically our newly formed Republic of Armenia and newly liberated lands in Artsakh and supporting our national cause. I am convinced that the Armenians of Cyprus will also become an example of co-existence with the Turkish Cypriots and as an extension will pave the road for a new Armeno-Turkish understanding.

The role of Gibrahayer therefore is to form a kind of bridge. You will be amazed - as you already know yourself as a subscriber of our e-magazine - by the articles received, letters as well as the discussions that have been taking place lately by our readers. A number of our subscribers have re-discovered each other through the pages of Gibrahayer.

Old friends, past students of the Melkonian Educational Institute, emigrants, people who have left Cyprus a long time ago and now live in other countries, have found each other and have renewed their friendships.

Where does the funding of Gibrahayer e-magazine come from?
The subscription of the e-magazine is free and will remain as such. It is neither funded by any organization nor does it accept financial assistance from anyone. We sometimes urge readers to donate sums for noble causes, our latest appeal being the assistance to a young Armenian tennis star, 15 year old Zarouhi Haroutyunyan from Armenia who currently practises with the Cyprus National Tennis Team. During the period that our readers have funded her tours, she has climbed an incredible 700 positions on the ITF Tour from 1245 to 575.

Is there any political line adopted by Gibrahayer e-magazine?
Any opinion or any event, even the simplest of statements, contains a degree of political attributes. Gibrahayer therefore has its political direction and a unique way that it views society and politics. This is visible in the way it presents news and the choice of articles and editorials.

Personally I have been involved in Dashnaktsoutiun and its affiliated organizations. That does not mean that I always adopt the "party line" as it comes.

We need to keep under check our organisations and parties and this is done through democratic institutions and procedures as well as transparency. In the case of party members and people involved in community affairs it is achieved through increased participation in our community structures and decision making processes.

I would like to think that Gibrahayer is also a tool that besides the information gateway it provides to its readers, it also invites them to think and act on the way we live our life in our communities and the way we contribute to our homelands.


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