Category Archives: English I Անգլերէն

The Arabs Are Coming! The Arabs Are Coming!

ngar“Have you tried Pizza?”

 “Have you been on a train before?”

“How come you speak English well?”

These were some of the many questions asked to us, the Arabs, while on our journey to the States. What was more interesting is that they came from students, several of which were graduates, that had this weird, uncivilized, and apparently Bedouin view of us.

Stereotypes exist on both sides. I guess it’s something universal, and it may not necessarily be negative. However, there’s a difference to what extent we go with our imaginations, prejudices and perceptions. Arab societies usually see the West as blonds, having green or blue eyes, individualistic, often too liberal, etc. And in the Western part of the world, individuals generally see us as Muslims, fundamentalists, backward, oh and terrorists (we better not forget the last one).

potential    Edward Said, one of my favorite authors of Orientalism, wrote in Islam Through Western Eyes: “…it is only a slight overstatement to say that Muslims and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression” (The Nation, 1980).

The question is why? Why so? Why would the average American think that an Arab Muslim is not safe to be around? Why would a “beautiful blonde” have a panic attack when seeing a dark veiled woman? Why would a tourist from our part of the world be subject to extra examination and profiling while entering the borders of the land of the free? And the questions are endless.

Most Americans I met and had contact with were amazing people. Their smiles and enthusiasm were beyond clear. They were nice folks and worth starting a conversation with. They live peaceful lives and their actions and gestures reflect that. And I’m confused that why would such great people have such a negative impression on our societies. It doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe US citizens are victims of their own system. Maybe (and I’m just saying “maybe” to be polite) they are misinformed, ill-informed and uninformed.

All this said, it is worth mentioning that the “Big Five” own much of the media outlets we know. The Five are Time Warner, Walt Disney Company, News Corporation (Rupert Murdock), Viacom and General Electric, and to a lesser extent Sony, Vivendi, Hachette and Bertelsmann. These literally control what you get to know and what you don’t. They censor what goes out to the public and what does not. Media affects our perception and formulates prejudice. We have an illusion of diversity, but in reality they are all a few outlets. The dominant voice is the West. Thus, the Arab world is portrayed to the world how they see it. In fact how the western governments would like them to see the Arabs.

Dr. Jack Shaheen studied 700 movies made during the last 70 years in Hollywood. In one way or another, directly or indirectly, implicitly or explicitly Arabs are portrayed as terrorists, aggressive, merciless killers. Movies made in the West show Arabs either as bandits or as a savage, nomadic race, or shows Arab women as belly dancers serving their men. The Bedouin Arab is reflected through tents and camps.  An important image that comes again and again is the Arab terrorist. This means that 10 best seller Hollywood movies per year are feeding the public misconceptions and wrong impressions on this part of the world.

Shaheen explains the happenings with the ‘4 Ps’:

  • Politics: Hollywood –Washington Cooperation
  • Profit: Viewers like to see Americans saving the world against the enemies. They sell.
  • Prejudice: Stereotypes in Society and in the people’s heads.
  • Presence: Few Muslims/Arabs in Hollywood.

Come to think of it why is the Arab Region called “Middle East”? What does this show? It is believed that the terminology is a western phenomenon, a discourse in language, which we have adopted it as well. Our region is referred to as Middle East because Europe is taken as the reference. We fall on the East side and to be exact in the middle, that is, between Europe and the yellow race. It is a way of using language to portray power differences and relationships in society. Thus, Europe (and the West in general) is considered as the center of the world. That political power of Europe for quite some time now was transmitted to America, and apparently the Europeans are claiming back some power (at least in its ‘soft’ sense).

My point is prejudices and stereotypes can be formed as means of political tools to shape directions, perceptions and thus outcome. Maybe after the Cold War and the fall of the Reds, America needed to create a new enemy to justify its political and military expansion. Yet, Islam fundamentalists and many of the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world didn’t make it easier for the Arabs to prove otherwise. Maybe this compromises a bigger and more essential problem to the issue raised above.

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Aïshti Visits the Garden of Eden


This is a semiotic analysis of an Aïshti advertisement.

Aïshti is a Lebanese luxury and stylish department chain store which under one roof gathers some of the most prestigious fashion labels and top designers in the world. The advertisement chosen is a division of the Aïshti Campaign that was created by the famous designer Stephan Sagmeister and is part of a series of images promoting the premium lifestyle promised by Aïshti.

The advertisement was seen in every medium possible (Women and lifestyle magazines, Television ads, Online spreading, outdoor covers and billboards). However, we will be focusing on the humongous billboards found in Downtown Beirut.

A scientific, systematic and semiotic analysis of the advertisement has been undertaken, with Feminist and Marxist approaches, based on the concepts of Semiotics (Roland Barthes, 1965), Superstructure-Media (Karl Marx, 1848), the Beauty Myth (Naomi Wolf, 2002) and the Decoding of Advertisements (Judith Williamson, 1978) with least possible subjectivity.

The above mentioned advertisement included three elements:

–         The famous orange Aïshti box

–         Silhouette of a woman wearing a short dress

–         A naked woman holding a pair of scissors in her right hand

Story Line: Aïshti visits the Garden of Eden

The advertisement under study cannot be interpreted alone, rather a comprehensive look is needed to better understand the message that the designer wants to convey. Thus, by looking at the other images of the 2011 campaign a story line could be inferred. The naked woman is the ‘virgin’ woman in society. By ‘virgin’ we mean outside the Aïshti kingdom. She is still primitive. She is Eve. She is limited with her knowledge and understanding. She knows nothing but the Garden she was put in. At first we thought that the silhouette on the orange box is the shadow, but soon we reasoned that there is already a shadow beneath her. How can a person have two shadows? The dark ‘shadow’ image on the box is what Aishti can make out of a woman. That is, what they can make you become; from the state of nudity to the finest clothing sensation ever. Finally, the Aishti ‘Eve’ is seduced. Eve took a bite of the prohibited fruit and consequently she gets to know the ‘Truth’ (she was falsely promised to know as equally to what God knows). She is given a pair of scissors, and she chose to cut the elegant ribbon that separates her and the products compacted in the box. As the box opens, the Aishti products seem to jump outside with great force. It includes all what a woman wants. In contrast to the Biblical Eve, the Aishti Eve utilizes all that was given to her, with maximum satisfaction and joy. She is now lured into the Aishti world which gives her satisfactory emotions as sexual intercourse would have provided.


Decoding the Advertisement

Judith Williamson in “Decoding Advertisements” argues that a three step process is needed in effective advertising. The first is Association. All Aishti ads include the yellowish orange box very similar to the color and the rectangular shape of gold bars. The background is typically dark black, creating a great color contrast and making the Aishti brand more eye-catching. Furthermore, the real woman and the silhouette have symmetrical positioning. The woman with the naked body looks directly to the eyes of the audience. Although the ad is not clear whether it is promoting Aishti clothing, accessories, restaurant, magazine or architecture, it is clear is that the orange box represents the Aishti identity as a whole. “Advertising’s technique is to… gain meaning and to correlate them to tangible objects, linking the unattainable with the attainable” (Omni-Semiotics, 2009). Hence, Aishti will become associated with luxury.   

To be so, a Differentiation is needed. “The way in which difference is created is by means of an image” (Ibid). Williamson, in reference to Barthes, argues that products take on meaning as the signified: the orange box, from one system of meaning (the language level or the referent system) is transformed into a new signifier for the signified of the product: Aishti as luxury (at the myth level). Once this transfer has taken place the product itself comes to mean an image.

The image is the above stated Aishti identity: the luxurious lifestyle. This is what differentiates between this high class chain store and any other clothing store! You are not just any other shopper, you’re an Aishti client. They sell you beyond the product you buy.  They sell you more than clothing. They sell fashion. They sell more than an appearance. They sell a lifestyle. That is what makes you different as a client! You are now regarded as a high class citizen.  The box that represents Aishti products can, at some point, move from signifying meaning to actually generating meaning. That is, from meaning luxury to being luxury.

The third phase is the Repetition that Aishti excelled in doing. In all its ads it uses the trademark orange box with aishti2the elegant ribbon and the black contrast. According to Sagmeister “We honed Aïshti’s signature orange gift box, making it the visual centerpiece of the campaign” (Brofessional Review, 2012). The box quickly became a symbol for the brand, turning into an object of luxury.  Furthermore beautiful women are used on regular basis to promote the brand. The Aishti Campaign is like a Tsunami wave. When it hits, it is everywhere from billboards to magazines to online and TV coverage. They all convey the same message in a repetitive way. And, on the long run, it has its effects on the audience, as the redundancy effect is clearly obvious by now.

Aïshti’s golden box clearly reflects a certain lifestyle achieved through the purchase of Aishti products. This lifestyle, commonly sought, is the luxury life, the good life. Of course, the ‘good life’ as defined by the consumerist diction; where the ability to afford and purchase over-priced (if not insanely priced) branded products inevitably signify a happy good life and a social standing. Not to mention that the ad also aims to spread consumerism with ‘the more you buy the happier you can be reasoning (or mal-reasoning).

Through deconstructing the ad, the golden box is a sheer symbolic representation of Aïshti’s lavish image. The naked woman, with her fancy shadow, seems to reflect a consumerist-materialistic reality where the impression and value of a woman is not by her intellectual capabilities and unique character, but rather by how she looks like, her ‘shadow’ image.  The lighting, and its angle, is quite peculiar in this advertisement. For instance, the only source of light is that which creates a fancy shadow of the naked woman. In other words, there is no other way to light her up.

            aishti_campaign_canoeThe beauty myth is quite evident in this campaign. “The ads were seen   as sexist and another example of “sex sells”… identifying art from eroticism became an almost impossible task to accomplish” (Brofessional Review, 2012). First and foremost, the usage of a female element and complete nudity to attract eyeballs is very stereotypical! The body of the woman is that of an ‘ideal model’ skinny body. This, by itself, reflects the stereotypical marketing through media towards women; targeting their insecurities and questioning their self-image. Also, from a Feminist perspective, Aïshti’s ad campaign and all what it stands for demeans the character and image of women into a shadow character existing exclusively to look lavishly good and impress the other sex. “I used to love Aïshti’s previous ads. They communicated glamour, exclusiveness and made me dream. But this advertisement came as a shocker to me… It felt like if I’m not dressed from Aïshti, I should feel naked” writes a famous blogger and a loyal client Ivy Says, frustrated from that specific image.

“Advertisements put without more serious considerations about location are made to fail. There is a problem though…we live in an advertising jungle in Lebanon” writes Rita Kml in Advertising: the Case of Lebanon (2012). Located in Solidere, Downtown Beirut, one can infer the target audience: the upper class. In other words, Aishti is the commercial manifestation of the upper class’s lifestyle. Women incessantly seek to look superhumanly perfect and become ‘shopaholic’ due to the consumerist mentality that they were fed. It’s true that billboard advertisement is common and relatively cheap. But, the location of Aïshti’s billboard ads makes it an exception. All billboards are well-centered around Downtown Beirut; not to mention that this advertisement campaign was well promoted in other types of media.

            The most dangerous outcome of such advertisements is the manufacturing of consent. When people are heavily bombarded with such ads, they generally endorse the concepts and notions upheld in it as normal. The process of promoting a consumerist lifestyle, with all the sexism, beauty myths, class segregation and racism that are its marketing tools, has been successful due to people’s general consent towards media; whereby accountability and questioning seem to be qualities exclusive to political processes. While for the media, and all its ever-increasing mediums, consent has been smoothly manufactured through the keen targeting of the masses’ insecurities, ignorance, ego, greed, sexuality and individualism.

Hrag Avedanian and Ibrahim Halawi

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Change Starts With a Whisper


Elections at the Lebanese American University are back, but what comes with them is unclear.

After the postponement last semester, due to political tensions, the administration announced that March 30 is the new Election Day on the Beirut and Byblos campuses. “March 30, 2012 will be a defining day on LAU campuses: you, LAU students, will exercise democracy”, the collective email from the Dean of Students said.

However, a student cannot but remember previous experiences with elections at LAU, when clashes occurred between the two renowned political blocs, March 8 and 14. A number of security measurements were taken to ensure students’ safety and their democratic right to vote.

Recall Aristotle’s definition of the human being: “Man is by nature a political animal”. Thereby, it is a healthy phenomenon to be politically active. Personally, I prefer to deal with people who have different ideologies from mine than those who have no ideologies at all.

LAU after all is committed to “…student centeredness, civic engagement, the education of the whole person, and the formation of leaders in a diverse world”, another letter from the university declares. Allowing democratic elections can mean opening a gate to the formation of leaders. Yet, who ensure fair and democratic elections? And to push the point further, what will happen to the losers? Will their voice be silenced for good? What chance of being heard do minorities have in the midst of a sea of majorities?

There are questions that remain unanswered. It is worth mentioning though that the election rules at LAU have changed to a “one man, one vote” system. Since this will be implemented in the upcoming election, students will have an equal opportunity to be elected, at least in theory. This, alongside the fact that the university administration has allowed the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections to monitor the elections, will hopefully ensure fair play.

Another such assurance comes from strict security measures on Election Day. All entrances will be monitored. Students will not be allowed to park on campus.  Political and religious cheering and sloganeering will not be allowed. Wearing vests with campaign or groups’ logos or indicating any political factions’ colors will not be tolerated. Cell phones or similar electronic devices will not be permitted in the counting rooms. Elections results will not be verbally shared with students on campus and many more. If there is any disruption on the day of elections, responsible students will be severely sanctioned. This could include immediate suspension.


Something we’re far from is ‘unity in diversity’. Imagine the contribution of all the students acting as one. I’m certain that we can reach that stage, if we decide to change. Sportsmanship and ethics should define us, not ignorance and violence. Students should feel secure as they enter our gates, and not the way around.

Unfortunately, however, Election Day has become an intimidating term for many LAU students; this is why some of them have already decided that they will vote by not voting. On the other hand, some are still wondering along with Shakespeare, “To vote or not to vote, that is the question.”

Personally, I am voting. I am voting because it is my obligation as a committed youth. I am voting because I believe that we can change, and change starts with a whisper, your vote. And that whisper grows and becomes a call.

I call on LAU students of both campuses, not to avoid Election Day, but to go to the voting rooms and vote. Vote for the concepts you believe in. Vote for the runners who share your vision. Yes, you can! Raise your voice. Be heard!


Hrag T. Avedanian



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    Lebanon, with its strictly sectarian system, is a unique nest of interreligious coexistence. Three monotheistic religions and about eighteen official sects are integrated in the Lebanese people’s daily lives. The religious pluralism gives rise to political instability within Lebanon’s civil and public spheres. Putting aside the once-in-a-while political ups and downs, the Lebanese have learned to tolerate the “other”, share their land, breathe the same air, live under the same sun, and declare everlasting brotherhood. This partnership reached a new horizon when interreligious marriages were not so uncommon anymore, and religious conversions were not that much of a “big deal”. Lebanon being the window to the Middle East is an ideological bridge, linking the East to the West, would be one of the first countries to be influenced by the notion of globalization, where the world would become, in Marshall McLuhan’s words, a ‘global village’, where geographic, political, economic, cultural and religious boundaries are no more respected, actually no more exist. Such is the case in Lebanon and the issue of interreligious marriages. Would the Lebanese also find a way to ‘solve’ this issue? Or would the “Christian Mohammads” and “Muslim Georges” carry Lebanese nationalities without having a real sense of identity to a single faith? For many couples religion unifies and strengthens their marriage, but for others it tears them apart. The latter is much more predictable. 

   Views regarding interreligious marriages are very much diverse, yet overlapping. Human rights activists vigorously fight that love is a sacred right. They back up their argument with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 16th article, where it states that: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family”. However, how realistic and future-oriented is this view? Do humans also have the right to be selfish? To live the present and forgo the future? To live romance and gamble faith? And to choose love over religion? When individuals from two different religions marry, they sometimes begin a lifetime of disagreements that can be devastating to the sacred union of marriage and parenthood. When disagreements arise, they are often over different views on core values, such as faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, and compassion. These differences can stir up difficult conflict over religious upbringing of children, over decisions about how to handle life events such as birth, death, and holiday celebrations, and over the absence of a religious bond in the relationship. 

   Those who follow the philosophy of Kahlil Gibran are very much open to interreligious marriages. Gibran had a unique view of religious diversities as such: “I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church; for you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit” (The Voice of the Poet). However religious texts clearly state that religions are very much different and many of their verses forbid interreligious marriages. In general, Muslim men are not permitted to marry non-Muslim women. “Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe” (Qur’an 2:221). An exception is made for Muslim men to marry Jewish and Christian women, who are referred to as “People of the Book”. The children of such a union are always to be raised in the faith of Islam. Yet Gibran states: “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts” (On Children, The Prophet). The Quranic verse continues: “Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe”. No exception is given for women to marry Jews and Christians, so the law states that she may only marry a believing (Muslim) man. A Muslim woman does not follow the leadership of someone who does not share her faith and values. According to the Torah, Jews should not intermarry because their children will turn to other religions. “You shall not intermarry with them (other nations), do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For you will turn your children away from Me to worship other gods…” (Deuteronomy 7:1-3). Even St. Paul is exhibiting total intolerance of non-Christian faith groups; “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Some may argue that these religious texts as old-fashioned, but that may even give rise to questioning God Himself.

 Political activists validate their tolerance of interreligious marriages with the argument that if multiple religions are tolerated within a country, multiple religions within a family should be allowed too. However, take the concept of Ashura. Shockingly, asking Muslims about the religious event would not just result in different but also contrasting answers. The two viewpoints belong to the Shiite and Sunni sects that although sub branches of a single religion, hold diverse perspectives of the same religious event. There are differences and misunderstandings within one religion and between sects; then what if it were in between two different religions? So now try to imagine a child having a Shiite father and a Sunni mother. How would both approach to teach their child religious obligations, such as Ashura? Whose perspective is the priority? Having in mind that we are still a patriarchal community to a certain extent, the father’s sect would have primary loyalty than the mother’s. So would the mother’s sect and beliefs be completely ignored? And what happened to women’s rights and equality? Although the Jewish community in Lebanon is small and ‘hidden’, but let’s take the surprising combination of a Jewish and Shiite couple. Who would the child tend towards? The Shiite community, where they shed tons of blood and martyrs to free the country’s Southern region and achieve Lebanon’s geographic integrity? Or towards the Jewish state, where they lead an immoral war against innocent people to regain the integrity of the ‘promised land’? Furthermore Orthodox Judaism considers a person born of a Jewish mother to be Jewish, yet in Islam, the child must be raised in the faith of Islam. So who “wins”?

   Romantics believe that “love is blind”. They stress that one cannot just choose his/her life partner; instead, destiny has already chosen his/her soul mate for him/her. You can see couples bragging about their ‘love at first sight’, that butterfly feeling in their stomach, the increase of adrenaline in their veins, the sudden heart pumps, and cupids flying above them. Tolerating interreligious marriages, they stress that no one can forbid the other from loving and being loved, for “What God has united, man must not divide” (Matthew 19:6). While interfaith relationships develop based on a mutual respect for religious diversity, sometimes major differences in fundamental beliefs pose difficulties in finding a common ground. Religious differences could bring complexities in their married life, starting with religious conversions. Religious conversion may be a matter of just a brief ceremony, but do not underestimate this ritual as a trivial matter. Taking this oath will set a tone for your life and your children’s lives. You will soon find out that the conversion was not just a matter of satisfying the sentimental obsession of the parents-in-law, but a binding commitment guarded by every member of the new community. As associating partners with Allah is the greatest of all sins. Offering prayers or supplications to anyone, living or dead, is an unpardonable sin. Therefore, one should be prepared to acceptconversion to a new religion as a serious and irreversible process.

   Other activists argue that, in the truest sense, marriage is a secular act and not a religious one. Unfortunately, some religious leaders and communities would like to use the wedding as a tool for their ambition of religious expansion. This is not true. It is not a case of religious expansionism rather than preservation of generations, heritage, culture, values, traditions, and sovereign identities. Those who do not view marriage in its religious aspect are not looking at marriage in its future sense. In an inter-faith couple there is often no room to compromise without one spouse giving up some of their beliefs. Religious conversion is not a hollow ritual devoid of any meaning or consequences. Let’s take a Christian-Muslim marriage as an example. As per the Shahada oath to convert to Islam, one accepts and declares that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. Further, you acknowledge that associating others (like Jesus) with Allah is the greatest of all sins. Similarly, baptism before a church wedding means conversion to Christianity and a commitment to repudiate former practices (of Islam) and to live with Christ forever. Young children get confused with mixed and often conflicted messages. When confronted with such duplicity, children lose faith in any God or religion. Children with unclear religious orientations tend to be more nonreligious to avoid such complexities. This would cause a much more serious problem of atheism. Plus, to understand the relationship between the two religions a question pops up: “Is Jesus’ father, Mohammad’s God?” That is another story.

   Do you see how complex these situations are? These were simple examples with no exaggerations whatsoever. There are many more simple things that make a big difference in interreligious marriages. The family kitchen and cuisine could be one of those simple complexities, where one’s national dish may be a ‘Haram’ to the other’s culture, or the wardrobe of one would be an insult to the other’s religion. When Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana (Lebanon) and when the wine ran out Jesus turned water into wine by performing a miracle. Wine is also used in religious ceremonies in almost all churches. However in Islam alcohol is strictly forbidden. Eating pork meat is another sin for Muslims, yet several cultures include pork meat in their dishes, the Armenian cuisine being one of them. And the complexities continue. Further, divorce rates in interfaith marriages are double compared to within the same faith marriages. A survey done by in March 2002 show that 50% of interfaith couples don’t last, separate and divorce; 25% of couples endure marriages which are almost totally lacking in intimacy; they co-exist in two solitudes, and the remaining 25% live in happy, mutually supportive marriages.

   The Holy Bible states: “Love is patient, love is kind… It is not self-seeking”. (Corinthians 13:4-5). Be patient. Choose your life partners with care. Love both with heart and mind. Do not be self seeking, but rather think of who would come after you. Think about the infants you give life to, about their future, their psychological stability, their self-esteem and confidence, their identity and their relationship with God Almighty. You may be wise and faithful to your primary cultural group or you may go ahead and sing Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”. You’d better choose the first!

Hrag T. Avedanian

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A Must Watch Documentary

“The film takes you on a fascinating journey and by putting the pieces of
the puzzle together, step by step it breaks down the walls of silence.

Göran Gunner,
Associate Professor,
Church of Sweden Research Unit.

“Grandma was not like any old granny.
She was weird. Nobody liked her.
She avoided physical contact.
She never hugged, or wanted to be hugged.
She never kissed, she never smiled.
Her blue tattoos on her face and hands were appalling.
The children were scared of her. What was wrong with grandma?
Why did she have these tattoos?
Who tattooed her?
Why did she speak Kurdish?”

Grandma’s Tattoos: A story about a brutal past, about war, sexual violence and slavery. A journey in search for the truth.


Grandma’s Tattoos unveils the story of the Armenian women driven out of Ottoman Turkey during the First World War.

The documentary was well appreciated worldwide, yet it had its fine percentage of critics usually from Turkish oriented sources…  As usual: A DENIAL OF THE TRUTH.

Suzanne Khardalian is a Lebanese-Armenian film maker, graduated from the American University of Beirut with a degree in Biology and Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University with an MA in International Relations.

She had the guts to speak about the unspoken and she shared it with the world.

The premier in Lebanon on November 10, 2011 was ‘full room’ and well carved in the minds of the crowd.

The documentary was on Al Jazeera several times early this year and made a big controversy in the press. You can watch it on this link:

You can read an interview with Suzanne Khardalian in Armenian, conducted by Nora Parseghian, an Editor in Aztag Daily Newspaper. The interview is of two parts. Follow the following links:

You can find out more about the documentary and access the gallery through the official website of the documentary:

Thank you Suzzane Khardalian for breaking the silence.