Armenian News Network / Groong By Onnik Krikorian November 30, 1998 YEREVAN, Armenia -- Sunday morning started with an Armenian coffee at a cafe on Abovian, allowing me to relax and pass the time before attending what I had been told was simply a Kurdish event at the Russian Theatre further on up the road. I knew I had the right day when a large group of both young and old people walked by - the women wearing the Kurdish colours of red, green and yellow. I felt like saying "Rojbash" as they walked by, but decided against it - fashion in Yerevan can be a confusing and fickle affair. However, there was no mistaking the darker-skinned people that were congregating outside the Theatre as I approached it. Vans parked alongside the road had PKK and ERNK flags adorning them, and about twelve Armenian policemen stood to their side, pleasantly chatting among themselves. As I approached the entrance I could hear new arrivals greet each other with "Rojbash". They were definitely speaking Kurmanji, and this was definitely a PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] affair. The marshall on the door - a young man of about twenty-five - bore an ERNK [National Liberation Front of Kurdistan - the political wing of the PKK] identification tag, and after I introduced myself he proudly declared that he had been to Turkey to fight with the guerillas. The mimicking of firing a rifle as he murmured "partisan" was a nice touch, I thought. He did however look confused when I asked him if he was Yezidi. He was definitely Kurdish he declared, but did admit that he was a follower of the Yezidi religion in Armenia. A bus from Talinn arrived, and about twenty children departed and neatly assembled as they unfurled their PKK and ERNK flags, and held high photographs of fallen PKK martyrs and of Abdullah Ocalan, President of the Kurdistan Workers Party. After a steadying of nerves they marched along the street to the entrance of the Theatre, screaming "Biji Apo, Biji PKK, Biji Kurdistan" [Long Live Abdullah Ocalan, Long Live the PKK, Long Live Kurdistan] and making the sign of victory. Only thing - the door was locked. After a few giggles, they regained their composure and ventured to the side door - kind of cute, I thought. The event inside was about to start. There must have been about two thousand or more Yezidi of all ages, and from all over Armenia chanting yet more pro-PKK slogans, and while dancing in time to the recorded Kurdish revolutionary songs that were playing as final preparations were being made. On stage, the instruments of some of the many bands about to play were being set up, and a stern looking young woman - I would say definitely a Turkish Kurd [She appeared to speak only Kurdish] - readied herself with her Armenian translator standing by. With a passion and a fire that I have not experienced since journeying to southeast Turkey last year, she screamed her support for Ocalan, proudly gazing upon the overpowering portrait of her leader with an unmistakable look of admiration and allegiance. The recorded message from Ocalan to the audience was delivered in a manner befitting a true and irrefutable leader. Film crews from Armenian television recorded her very expressions of resistance before turning to record the fervor that had by now overtaken the entire audience. When the first band appeared the audience went wild. Old Yezidi women dressed in Kurdish colours to beautiful young Yerevan-chic Yezidi girls all linked fingers and danced in a manner typifying every Kurdish event from London to Diyarbakir. Hundreds of Yezidi danced in circles through every aisle in the auditorium, and small children appeared on stage waving PKK flags twice or three times their size. The front row of the audience consisting of representatives from Dashnaktsutiune, the Communist Party, the Armenian media and the Greek Community looked on with both delight and respect. Even after the music had died down, rousing speeches of support for the Kurdish national liberation movement from Sergey Badalyan - leader of the Communists - and Gegham Manukyan - representing Dashnaktsutiune - brought the audience back to their chanting. Manukyan's message in Kurdish for the success of the PKK in liberating Kurdistan was particularly appreciated - it turns out that his imprisonment during the Ter-Petrossian years, and his sharing of a cell with three Kurdish asylum seekers, gave him an excellent opportunity to learn Kurmanji. Passion eventually gave way to a small group of Greek children singing a song about farmyard animals. The audience didn't understand the lyrics, but found the animal noises particularly funny and touching. Later one of the girls - about five - danced with some Yezidi children in amongst a sea of passion personified. As if from nowhere, the number of ERNK and PKK flags seemed to double, and even outside the auditorium, three Armenian policemen were nodding in approval to the PKK literature and magazines made available for all to read. Inside, an Armenian operatic singer was now delighting the audience with a rendition of Shoregh-jahn before the Theatre once more resonated with the fast tempo of Saz and Zorna, and the beautiful sight and sound of Yezidi women - dressed in traditional costume - singing contemporary Kurdish dance music as only Kurdish women can. Rabiz and Rai music have nothing on this... When the event was over, and as I left, I could not help but think about the fact that to most Armenians, since the migration of Armenia's Moslem Kurdish population almost a decade ago, Armenia was devoid of all Kurds. As the last buses rolled away to Talinn and Hoktemberian, and as Yerevan's Yezidi proudly marched back to their homes, there was no doubting that the Kurdish national liberation movement had come to Armenia. The transformation of Armenia's Yezidi, and the re-awakening of their national and political aspirations was now complete. -- Onnik Krikorian is a journalist, photojournalist and new media consultant who has spent over three years working on projects surrounding the Kurds in Turkey and the Caucasus. He currently lives and works in Armenia. His work on the Kurds can be seen online at: http://www.freespeech.org/oneworld/photo/ His photographs of the Kurds in Turkey and Armenia are to be published toward the end of December in the next edition of "Armenian Forum".
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