Screening of “Ravished Armenia” in Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

On Saturday, April 30, the Lebanese public had a unique opportunity to watch the first Armenian Genocide film “Ravished Armenia” that was produced in 1919. The Armenian Evangelical Cultural Association (AECA) organized a special evening to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The event took place at the First Armenian Evangelical Church in Beirut.

The program began with the opening word of the chairperson of the AECA Miss Shushan Artinian, who noted that the evening was a special tribute to all the survivors of the Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government, and especially to Arshalouys ‘Aurora’ Mardiganian, a witness and survivor during the first World War. She then introduced the guest speaker, Miss Katia Peltekian, currently a faculty member at Haigazian University, who spends her time researching for old archival material related to the Genocide, her main interest being compiling newspaper reports and articles of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The evening’s program began with poetry recital. Sero Kelougian recited Siamanto’s “I Want To Die Singing” and was accompanied with duduk melody performed by his father Hagop Kelougian. Then Miss Peltekian took the podium and introduced the film “Ravished Armenia.” Her presentation included information about the making of the movie at the end of 1918 in Hollywood, including information about the producer, the director, and the cast which included Arshalouys herself and Mr. Henry Morgenthua, US Ambassador to Turkey at the time. Miss Peltekian then showed a few ads she had collected from different newspapers of the time promoting the film in different cities of the USA, Canada, and Britain. The ads specifically indicated that the purpose of the movie was to raise $30 million to help the orphans that had survived the massacres during 1915-16. One interesting news item came from Great Britain, where the League of Nations Union wanted to screen the movie at the Royal Albert Hall; political intrigue from the Foreign office resulted in censoring by the Scotland Yard and the Home Office five scenes from the movie in order not to raise any anti-Turkish sentiments as the Peace Conference with Turkey was still going on. The censoring of crucial scenes was implemented, and the word “Christian” was erased from all subtitles before it was given permission to be shown to the public.

Afterwards, Miss Peltekian related the story of 14-year-old Arshalouys Mardiganian, who had witnessed not only the murder of every single member of her family on the deportation route, but also the daily sufferings and mass murders of her fellow-Armenians. In fact, Arshalouys was also abducted and sold to Turkish pashas and beys for their harems. She escaped the two-year ordeal and was finally saved by an American missionary in Erzuroum and brought to New York with the help of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.

The audience then watched the movie. The original movie was 85 minutes long, but it is considered lost. However, a 20-minute segment was discovered a couple of decades ago and is now reserved at the Genocide Museum in Yerevan. The nitrate based film was newly restored and produced by the late Richard Kloian from the Armenian Genocide Resource Center of

Northern California. The audience, some with tears in their eyes, watched the excruciatingly disturbing and stirring scenes that depicted every single crime that constitutes Genocide.

After the movie, Miss Peltekian described the last days of Arshalouys Mardiganian, who had married in 1929 and had a son. However, although she had lived and survived the worst atrocity in the history of mankind, her life ended in more tragedy as she died alone and her body was not claimed by anyone, not even her son. Her ashes were buried with around 2100 other unclaimed ashes of those who had passed away in 1994. Arshalouys did not even have a gravestone with her name carved on it.

At the end of the evening’s program, the Arakelots’ Chamber Choir, conducted by Krikor Alozian and accompanied by Hasmig Kasbarian on the piano, performed Mesrob Mashdots’ “I Stand Before Thee” and “ Have Mercy on Me, Oh Lord!” and Magar Yegmalian’s “Holy Holy.”

The evening was concluded by Pastor Hrayr Cholakian.

Press Release
Armenian Evangelical Cultural Association
The First Armenian Evangelical Church
Mexique Street, 11-2508
Riyad El Solh, Beirut 1107-2110, Lebanon Email:
May 1, 2011