Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Land of our Grandparents

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on December 18, 2014

Some background

In the summer of 2005 I was shooting a film in Srebrenica, Bosnia, about the fall of the UN enclave 10 years earlier which led to the death of around 8000 muslim men and boys. My colleague Kay Mastenbroek (who later co-directed Land of our Grandparents with me) was curious about a book – an autobiography – written by my paternal grandfather, an Armenian born in Sis (now Kozan in southern Turkey) who fled his homeland during the time of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

There was much to connect these two moments in history: mass killings, nationalism, religious strife, international meddling, but I could only place my grandfather as I knew him in the flesh – a soft spoken old man with whom I spent much time in his apartment in downtown New York talking about life, but never about the genocide.

When I remembered his book, which he wrote a year or so before his passing, my first feeling was that I didn’t like how hateful he was. That emotion just didn’t chime with the person I knew and I was too young to delve any deeper. Bosnia was a catalyst in this sense: Seeing how events of such a cataclysmic nature can form you and stay with you forever.

Anyway, a few months later I was advised by a friend of mine to attend a lecture at the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. The lecturer was a young eloquent scholar – Ugur Ungor.

Ugur was presenting his PhD thesis on the Armenian Genocide. After the lecture I introduced myself to him and he immediately asked me if I was the grandson of a man also named Goekjian who had written a survivor memoire. I was shocked. I thought only our closest family had known about the book. Ugur and I became friends and in time I came to learn that he wasn’t driven to this subject by intellectual curiosity alone.

It had started for him one summer while still an undergraduate during a visit to his grandmother, a Turkish woman. As he says in the film: “She was peeling onions at the time..”. She told him that she had heard stories from her own family about how the Armenians in her village were deported and killed. That was the start of our journey to the east: a mutual interest in the stories our grandparents.

That’s it. Except that as I write this I’m also thinking of a person not mentioned even in the credits of the film who was very important to me – a brave Turkish sound man from Istanbul who took the journey with us and stuck it out despite feeling that the country he loves was often under attack. I hope that he still believes that this has never been my intention. I can honestly say that I have never encountered a more warm and open hearted people than I did in Turkey.

Alexander Goekjian

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