A young girl walks over to a crowd during a festival in the village of Areni, Armenia.
© Otman Aitlkaboud
A young girl walks over to a crowd during a festival in the village of Areni, Armenia.
Last updated: April 24, 2016

From past to present: A photo journey through Armenian life in the Middle East

Banner Icon A gallery of Armenian history, culture and politics to mark the 101 year anniversary of the events that led to the mass deportation and genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

A photo essay by Otman Aitlkaboud.

An Iranian tourist looks out at a vista of Tbilisi, Georgia. It was under Russian rule in the 18th and 19th centuries that Tbilisi (also called Tifilis) became a cultural centre for eastern Armenians. Meanwhile, Istanbul represented the cultural and intellectual hub for western Armenians living in what is now modern day Turkey.

The poster of a candidate representing the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council (right) in the 2013 Iraqi Kurdistan parliamentary elections is shown alongside one for Armenian candidate Berunt Nissan Markos (left). Of the 111 seats available in the Kurdish parliament 11 are reserved for minorities, 5 of which are allocated to an Assyrian bloc and one seat to an Armenian candidate. 

A young girl walks over to a crowd during a festival in the village of Areni, Armenia.  

The Island of Akdamar on Turkey’s Lake Van, home to the 10th century Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral provides a popular day trip destination for people from Van city and beyond. Van once formed the centre of the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan and had a significant Armenian population up until 1915; today the majority of its inhabitants are Kurdish. 

The security detail of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan during a visit by the president to the Armenian province of Vayots Dzor. The region borders sensitive territories of Azerbaijani enclave Nakhichevan to the west and the Armenian backed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh to its east. 

An Armenian man in traditional clothes at Areni’s October wine festival in 2012. In 2011 it was revealed that a winery that was uncovered by archaeologists in Areni in 2007 was over six thousand years old – making it the earliest known winery in the world. 

People watch a sunset over Lake Van on an outpost on the perimeters of Van’s old city quarter.  
Worshippers light candles in prayer at Geghard monastery in Armenia’s Kotayk province
. According to a poll conducted by WIN/Gallup international in 2015 Armenia is the world’s second most religious nation. 

Kurdish Shepherds tend their sheep in the shadow of Mt Ararat in Turkey.  The mountain holds significant cultural symbolism throughout Armenian history, and particularly since the 19th century when Masis, as it’s known in Armenian, represented what was historical Armenia, at a time when a state did not exist. The mountain, being the place where in the Book of Genesis it is claimed Noah’s Ark settled, also holds biblical significance to many Christians. 

A group of elderly men play backgammon in the grounds of a disused fun fair in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri. Several buildings in the city still remain in a state of disrepair following a devastating earthquake that struck in 1988. 

A Jewish man walks by after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Jerusalem’s Old City has had an Armenian presence that dates back to the 4th century, making it the oldest Armenian community in the diaspora. The Armenian population of the city today numbers no more than 500 people and has been in decline since 1967 following the end of Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Other Armenian populations exist in Israel along with communities in Bethlehem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Two Armenian ladies look out over the cemetery at Khor Virap. The monastery originally built in 642 AD is on Armenia’s border with Turkey. The border was closed by Turkey in 1993 following Armenia’s war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Between 1991 and 1994 the majority ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Armenian Republic, fought Azerbaijan for control of the Azerbaijani enclave. The conflict saw the death of over 30,000 people and still occasionally claims casualties on both sides – an unprecedented level of hostilities between the two since the declaration of a ceasefire in 1994 claimed the lives of 30 people at the beginning of April and threatened to see all out war fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

A group of children observe friends engaged in a tug of war at a festival in the Armenian province of Vayots Dzor. With a population that is largely rural the province is Armenia’s most sparsely populated. 

Nairy is a Syrian-Armenian whose ancestors’ fled Ottoman Turkey for Aleppo over a century ago. She eventually left the country that had originally offered her and her family sanctuary, after violence erupted there following the battle of Aleppo in 2012. 

An Armenian church on the plains of Ani in Turkey’s Kars region. Ani once was an important seat of Bagratid Armenian kingdom; the impressive structures that remain are still an important source of pride for many Armenians.

A soldier from the IDF’s Northern Command division scans the Golan into Syria from a vantage point by Nimrod Fortress. Although military service for Israel’s less than 10,000 Armenians is not compulsory some Armenians occasionally do enlist in the military. David Papian who emigrated from Armenia and served in the IDF died in April 2008 when his convoy was attacked by Hamas militants on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

Victoria and her husband watch the sunset in Byblos, Lebanon. Victoria, a Syrian-Armenian, left Aleppo in Syria initially for Armenia but then moved to Lebanon, eventually moving to Canada to join her husband. 

Sarkis, a Syrian-Armenian, like a considerable number of Aleppo’s Armenian population fled for Yerevan, Armenia in the summer of 2012. His paternal ancestors who fled massacres carried out against the Armenian population in Sason in 1894 settled in Diyarbakir, and attempting to evade deportation or worse, lived among the Kurds in numerous villages before moving onto Al Hasakah in Syria in 1921 after it had become part of the French Mandate for Syria. His maternal ancestors, originally from Gaziantep, managed to evade the mass deportations of Armenians in the 20th century and left Gaziantep for Aleppo in the 1850s.

Otman Aitlkaboud
Otman is a community worker, working on improving relationships between Arabs and Jews in the UK and beyond through the Arab-Jewish Forum. He formerly worked at the political office of the European Union's External Action Service in Armenia.
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