Yesterday the Western Armenian National Council finished its conference in Nicosia. They discussed the fate of the Melgonean school. To remind the readers - Melkonian was closed a few years ago by the AGBU. The main motive, it is alleged, is to sell the real estate that it sits on. Those who have been in Nicosia have seen that the Melkonian area is a high growth place with ever increasing real estate prices.
Melkonian issue raised at Western Armenian conference in Cyprus
BUSINESSMEN and academics of the Armenian Diaspora met in Cyprus last weekend where they raised the issue of the closure of the historic Melkonian School, calling for the US-based charity responsible to reopen the school in Nicosia.
Anoushavan Danielyan, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Western Armenian National Council, said he would raise the issue with the leadership of the AGBU in New York.
“If there are 1,200 schools in Armenia, adding one more would simply bring the total to 1,201, while closing a school in the diaspora will have dire consequences for Western Armenians that would also impact on present-day Armenia,” Danielyan said. He was commenting on the AGBU announcement that plans are under way to start a ‘Melkonian Summer School’ near the capital Yerevan to teach the Armenian language and culture to about 400 diaspora youths for three months each year.
Six speakers were invited by the 40-member central committee meeting held at the Holiday Inn in Nicosia to elaborate on the history of the school and the reasons behind its closure, as well as to explain whether there was any hope or grounds for the school to reopen.
Ambassador Nicholas Makris, a member of the Council of Europe committee that drafted the Charter for European Minority Languages, said that the Melkonian should reopen, otherwise the whole of the Armenian community of Cyprus would disappear. He said the government of Cyprus had an obligation to implement the Charter, and this was best done through the reopening of the school.
Dr Akabie Nassibian-Ekmekdjian, historian and director of the school in the 1980s gave a historical overview of the school, saying that the Melkonian Education Institute, initially established in 1926 for orphans that survived the genocide, has produced hundreds of scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers and other professionals, who moved on from their studies to excel in their fields and become community leaders.
Yeran Kouyoumdjian, editor of a community newspaper, and Armen Urneshlian, an educator from Lebanon, argued that the closure of the Melkonian was not for financial reasons and was already having a negative effect on the Armenian diaspora. Vartan Tashjian, former headmaster of the Nareg elementary schools, spoke of his personal experiences and explained how Cypriots in general were opposed to the school’s closure and how they supported the struggle to reopen it.
The final speakers of the session included Masis der Parthogh, journalist and alumnus, who said that the school’s closure was planned years in advance with the intention to exploit the land, and Manouk Yildizian, journalist, who explained the legal aspects of community and minority rights in Cyprus and gave an overview of the government’s pledge to support the school, both financially and academically.
Present among the few seats reserved for observers from the community was former AGBU Central Board member Benon Sevan, who said that it was “unfair” that only one side of the argument was heard.
The session’s chairman argued that the AGBU’s positions were very clear and that the committee members wanted to hear about the prospects of reopening the historic school.
Dr Ekmekdjian added that the worldwide Melkonian alumni and friends had always wanted a dialogue, but it was the AGBU that refused for years to discuss keeping the school open.
The three-day meeting ended on Sunday with the central committee members visiting the Melkonian School grounds and laying wreaths at the founders’ monument.
This was the sixth meeting of the Organising Committee of the Western Armenian National Council that is expected to reconvene later this year to discuss several issues related to the Armenian Diaspora, such as social, community and historic aspects of the Western Armenian language, history and heritage.
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