Stamp Out Corruption, U.S. Rock Star Tells Armenian Authorities

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Source: 9-140504.asp


Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down, the world’s most
famous ethnic Armenian rock band, has added his voice to long-standing
calls for the eradication of widespread government corruption in
Armenia, singling it out as the most serious obstacle to the country’s
development. In an interview with RFE/RL, Tankian said bribery and
other corrupt practices are the main reason why fellow diasporans
in the United States and elsewhere in the world avoid large-scale
investments in their historic homeland.

“Corruption must be eliminated,” the U.S. rock star of Armenian descent
said from Los Angeles. “Like the Jews, Armenians have quite a strong
diaspora, which is always ready to help the homeland. But every time
diaspora Armenians work with businessmen in Armenia they encounter
many difficulties because of corruption, mafia, and various problems
with the government. Things must be more open because the country
needs investments.”

“The most important thing is that we return to the roots which the
Armenian people had before the Soviet times,” he added in fluent
Armenian. “That means we must put an end to political corruption,
the corrupt system and think about our people.”

Those comments revealed a new message in the political discourse
of the California-based band better-known for its advocacy of
international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and other,
more global causes. A vocal critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq,
Tankian teamed up with other American rock musicians in 2002 to form
Axis of Justice, a group fighting against corruption and standing up
for workers’ rights.

System of a Down’s commitment to genocide recognition found a new
outlet in a benefit show which the progressive-metal quartet staged
in a sold-out Los Angeles hall on 24 April, the day of the annual
remembrance of some 1.5 million Armenians killed in Ottoman Turkey. The
Souls Benefit concert aimed to raise U.S. rock fans’ awareness of the
tragedy. Proceeds from the concert have been donated to the Armenian
National Committee of America and other diaspora groups which have
been lobbying the U.S. Congress to officially recognize the mass
killings as genocide.

Tankian described the show as a big success. “Not only the concert but
media coverage of it have had a quite powerful impact,” he said. “We
have raised the issue of genocide recognition from the day of the
band’s creation [in 1995].”

Tankian revealed that he is aware of the political crisis in Armenia,
saying he hopes it will be sorted out by “democratic and political
means.” “I think it’s very important for people to stand up for their
rights,” he said in an apparent reference to the recent antigovernment
demonstrations in Yerevan.

Tankian said he visited Armenia on a private trip two year ago and
would like to go there again with System of a Down’s three other ethnic
Armenian members. “We would like to come and we would like to throw a
very good concert and maybe even record a live DVD album. But we have
not yet planned the details and it is still not clear when,” he said,
adding that “one or two years” is the most realistic time frame.

In the meantime, System of a Down will work on its new album which
is due be released by the end of this year. Its new hits, according
to Tankian, will maintain the blend of traditional Armenian tunes
and modern rhythms. “Armenian music is part of our identity,” the
singer said. “We don’t need to spend time on a particular kind of
music because whatever we do, Armenian music will be in it.” (Anna