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Max Archak Sivaslian sent us the following in response to Anoush Ter Taulian's essay "A Woman's Right to Justice". We reprint it as received, with minor changes for the sake of clarity.

On the website of the Association of Investigative Journalists, which has been reproduced on the Groong Website, Anoush Ter Taulian publishes a story about violence against women in Armenia and Karabagh based on her own experience. To make her point, she tells in her story that she was the victim in Artsakh of a robbery and accuses me directly of being involved in the case, whereas I was just the witness of it and I did try to help her through this. If it is right to be vocal about the violence and even discrimination the women have to stand in both Armenia and Karabagh, I don't find it right to libel me.

Anoush Ter Taulian charges me first of stealing her video camera, or of being an active part in the theft so that Léo Nikolian could do it. Moreover, she says that I am guilty of not bringing her help during the assault.

I do not want to go to court, even though Anoush Ter Taulian's libel deserves it, but I wish to give my own version of what really happened, in order to preserve both my reputation and my pride.

In January 1993, I was in Stepanakert with Leo Nikolian, whom I had met a few days earlier there. In front of the Head Quarters of the Karabagh Armed Forces, we were both waiting for a means of transportation in order to go to Martuni, which was said to be the target of an Azeri attack.

As we were waiting, Anoush Ter Taulian arrived and asked if she could come with us. I was against it, since I thought the danger was too high, and could jeopardize Anoush's life, but Nikolian, whose video equipment was broken, said yes, under the condition of having the right to use Anoush's camera .

Once in Martuni, after we spent time at the armed positions under Monte Melkonian's supervision, Anoush and Leo started to quarrel more and more openly.

According to their previous deal, they were to use the same camera and the same tape, and Leo was putting constant pressure on Anoush, telling her what and when to shoot.

After a while, Anoush started to lose patience and when we were back at the HQ in Martuni, she was no longer ready to work with him, or to let him use her camera.

In the afternoon, Nikolian needed the camera because he wanted to shoot the meeting between four Armenian MPs and Melkonian. But Anoush was gone with her camera. We decided to go with Leo Nikolian to the Martuni hospital. There, we met with Anoush, who was shooting some interviews.

Nikolian asked her to come back to the HQ to shoot the MPs but she strongly said no.

He then reminded her that they had this deal - that she had come with us and agreed to let Nikolian use her camera - but she insulted him and refused firmly to let him use her camera.

Nikolian then resorted to a dirty trick: he asked the police to bring Anoush back to the HQ, and when she saw Nikolian and me on board the police jeep, she understood that the men were not offering her a ride, but had been asked by Nikolian to do so.

Anoush, realizing in a second what was happening, started to insult Nikolian, who translated word for word the insults to the policemen. The policemen were quick to react to Anush's insults saying,  "In Karabagh, we beat women if they dare to yell at us like this."

Then they dropped us at the HQ in Martuni, where we remained apart from each other, taking care of our own business.

A little while after, Nikolian told me he wanted to wait for Anoush and to have a talk with her.

As she was leaving the HQ zone, Nikolian told me to wait there, and I saw him running after Anoush, calling her and asking her to wait. She was not stopping at all and was yelling at him and insulting him. He kept running after her, and then arrived close to her.

At the same time, Komidas, Monte Melkonian's driver, pulled his Jeep over as I myself was running in Anoush and Léo's direction. Anoush wanted to get into the car but it turned out that Léo shouted to Komidas to go away, which he did.

When I saw Nikolian was beating Anoush with a stick, I myself ran in their direction, and getting close to them, I realized that Nikolian had sprayed her, and that Nikolian had lost his glasses - Anoush had thrown them away during the fight.

In fact, both Léo and Anoush were blinded by the spray Léo used against Anoush. Several times, Léo tried to grab her and I kept trying to pull him away from Anoush and to calm them both down, as they were also yelling at each other.

Eventually, Jacques, a French Armenian, whom Komidas obviously had told what was going on, appeared. We managed to calm down both of them and to have Anoush go back to the Headquarters.

It is true that I said to Anoush, "This is a men's world," but I do not remember saying, "This is a good lesson for you." Nevertheless, I could have said it: it was simply a way to tell her to watch out, because we were in a war, in Karabagh, and not in Boston or in Paris .

In a territory in war, anywhere, there are no more rights, no more laws - only a lot of pressure and tense situations. In no case, of course, was it a way to back up Léo and to blame Anoush.

It was merely a way to tell her that we were in a situation and among people who were carrying weapons, who were under a lot of pressure.

Monte Melkonian was furious when he learned about the fight, even if something like this can sound rather foolish when people die daily. Monte asked both Anoush and Léo to get ready to leave Martuni as soon as the next morning.

Later, in the room we were sharing-Jacques, Léo and I-I woke up and saw Léo with Anoush's camera. He said she forgot it and that he found it in the backyard. He also said he would give it back to her as soon as they were in Stepanakert, and only after he made a copy of the tape.

The next day, Monté was already gone for Stepanakert, and while waiting for a car to get ourselves back there, we saw Anoush coming in our direction with policemen and yelling that we took her camera.

Léo was ready to run back to the room and to hide the camera. Along with Jacques, we urged him to give back the camera but he refused. We then told him to at least put the camera back where he said he found it.

When he came back, Léo told us he had hidden the camera under the steps.

Then we urged him to follow the two policemen and we told him we were ready to force him to do so if he had it in mind to continue this crazy story. Eventually, he said to the policemen he had the camera and followed them.

A few hours later, we were called, Jacques and I, to the local police station. There, Léo had already made friends with the policemen, and obviously, they were already almost backing up Léo.

Anoush Ter Taulian has easily come to the same conclusion we all do when living in both Armenia and Karabagh: discrimination and even violence against women is widespread there. But in her story, published on hetq.am and reproduced on the Groong website, she takes as an illustration something which happened to her personally and which does not reflect at all the very situation, neither does it try to go deeper into the analysis of the violence women have to suffer from in Karabagh and Armenia .

Moreover, she writes specific accusations about me and the stealing of her video camera, telling in her story that I was there standing and watching Léo Nikolian attacking her and stealing her camera from her. The attack and the stealing are two different things, as it is easy to understand if you read my own version of the story above.

Then, there is a big difference between being attacked by somebody who has always proved he was capable of the worst to take a picture or to get an interview and being a victim of discrimination, or being attacked because of being a woman.

There is more than a misunderstanding in what Anoush writes: there is first a direct and false accusation against me; then, there is a real falsification of a fact, falsification which is done purposefully to make a point much wider about a wider issue. In fact, Anoush tries to have the reader believe that the attack was a perfect example of violence against women - and it simply is not.

It is an attack done by somebody, Léo Nikolian , whom we learned later was capable of doing even worse. This does not mean that the attack was justified, and I've never found it acceptable. I am perfectly aware of what the situation of women is, how it can be unbearable sometimes in Armenia and Karabagh, especially back into the 90's, in the middle of the war.

Then, one more time, trying to bring this sad story from which Anoush had to suffer as an illustration of the fate of mistreatment of women is a pure felony. Only a thorough investigative report and a well-documented story could serve this very purpose. But I do not think Anoush has ever thought of doing one about this issue, and I doubt she has the capacity of writing something of that kind.

It is much easier to imply things which are not true, to lower me to the rank of Nikolian just because I happened to be there during the event.

Anoush, let me remind you of one more vivid memory I have kept of you. When I was wounded in March '93, as I was trying to recover in Stepanakert after I had been operated on on the front line, I saw you entering my room in hospital.

I was too weak to be able to speak, and I told myself something like, "Oh, Anoush, nice of you to pay me a visit." Instead, you uttered something like "You son of a bitch, fuck you, if there were a God, you'd be dead." How nice, especially when you cannot answer and you are still not sure you won't be dead the next day.

Anoush, your heart is full of hatred, against men I assume, and being so full of bad feelings, you confuse them all, you confuse me with a guy like Léo, whom you were the victim of.

Your so-called story about discrimination against women is biased and does not serve the purpose, and you know it. It merely consists of attacking me and libelling me, telling lies, covering me with the mud your heart is full of.

Among all the demonstrations of courage we saw in Karabagh, from both women and men, in a time of war where the question was about the death or the life of our people, is this sad story the only thing you recall of them all, who are, most of them, dead now, who gave their life for you, for me, and for our whole nation?

Max Archak Sivaslian

Comments (3)

Anoush Ter Taulian
When I read Max Sivaslian's account, I am struck by how many lies and defamatory things he says. For example, he claims that I was insulting Leo as he was chasing me. I didn't know he was there until he attacked me. Then, Leo claimed that we had a deal, when I only agreed to let him use my camera once. We did not use the same tapes, regardless of what he may be telling people. Max did NOT try to help me when Leo attacked me. And he DID say, "This is a man's world. Let this be a lesson to you." Max also left out that Leo told the police that I was a spy, which had me banned from Artsakh. What happened to me is the perfect example of violence against women. No one tried to help me or believe me. This attack on me caused me a lot of pain and trauma and I don't think it should be minimized, especially since nothing was done about. Why wasn't Leo charged with assault and theft? It's a vicious stereotype to suggest that fighting for my rights means "I hate all men." It's not biased to tell your own story and women should not be discouraged from telling their own stories. And I did see him in the hospital, but I would never say that thing he accused me of saying. I still suffer the trauma of this event because Leo was never punished, and I spent months of my life trying to get back into Artsakh. It was a very painful time. You can't minimize the effects of violence against women, and that's what Max is trying to do.
Anahit Arpen
I'm writer, I have written a documentary roman about Nagorniy Karabakh. Now I write about sniper Margarita Sargsyan who is in the film «Children of Artsakh» by Anoush Ter Taulian, I want to write about Anoush too. Can you help me, please, to find Anoush Ter Taulian's e-mail address or another address to write her? Thanks.
Sorry Anahit, we don't have an email for Anoush.

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