California Courier Online, August 5, 2004

California Courier Online, August 5, 2004

1 – Commentary
Armenians: Latest Victims of Bush
Administration’s War in Iraq

By Harut Sassounian
California Courier Publisher
2 – Demirjian Introduces Book on Armenian
American Veterans to Fresno Audience
3 – Fresno’s First Annual AECP Dinner
Benefits Armenians with Eye Disease
4 – Elephant From India
Will be Airlifted
To Yerevan Zoo
5 – AGBU-AYA Basketball
Clinic Held in Pasadena
6 – APN-WD to Host JAA’s Top
Students at Diocese Complex
7 – Hagopian’s Film to be Featured
At Rhode Island Festival, Aug. 12
8- Steering Committee Formed for
USC Institute of Armenian Studies
1 – Commentary
Armenians: Latest Victims of Bush
Administration’s War in Iraq

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

During the past two years, the Bush Administration kept changing the
reasons why it invaded Iraq. The war had nothing to do with weapons of mass
destruction or bringing democracy to Iraq. It was simply based on a lie
concocted by Pres. Bush’s neo-conservative aides (neo-cons) who had plotted
to dominate the Middle East long before September 11, 2001. They used the
9/11 attacks as the excuse to implement their long-cherished, not so secret
After a relatively easy invasion of Iraq, the American troops got bogged
down in the ensuing chaos. Sadly, more than 900 U.S. soldiers sacrificed
their lives for the sinister agenda of the neo-cons who had concentrated
all of their attention on going to war, but had paid little attention to
having an exit strategy. They did not need one, because they had planned to
stay there a very long time.
To make matters worse, the Americans removed along with Saddam, the way of
life (no matter how bad it was) that most Iraqis had gotten accustomed to.
Unfortunately, certain segments of Iraqi society are worse off now, after
being “liberated.” Women now are subjected to abuse and physical attacks if
they do not dress modestly and cover their faces in public. The owners of
liquor stores are now targets of assassination for violating the Islamic
ban on alcoholic drinks. Most Christians freely worshipped in their
churches. Now they are blown up during church service.
If the real purpose of the neo-cons were to remove Saddam from power, there
are many more countries that have similar brutal leaders. Is the Bush
Administration going to spend billions of more dollars and risk the lives
of thousands of more U.S. soldiers under the guise of bringing democracy to
all these countries? Furthermore, even if the Administration were foolish
enough to attempt such a thing, the chaos and the violence that it would
unleash would be just as bad as the inhuman conditions that these people
live under now.
Last Sunday, for the first time, an Armenian church full of worshippers was
attacked in Baghdad. It goes without saying that the real culprits are the
terrorists who blew up that sanctuary along with five other Christian
churches in various parts of the country. However, a degree of the
responsibility for the deaths and destruction also falls on those who
removed the “Butcher of Baghdad” without caring for the consequences of
their actions on the innocent people that they ostensibly were trying to
The sad truth is that those who decided to invade Iraq, contrary to their
lofty pronouncements, were not interested at all in the welfare of the
local people. The innocent Iraqi-Armenian worshippers who were injured in
that church last Sunday, regrettably, became their latest victims.
Democrats Launch Kerry-Edwards Campaign
I attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston, last week. It was
very exciting to be with thousands of screaming delegates, hundreds of
distinguished political figures, and many celebrities. There were dozens of
speeches to listen to each day and scores of receptions to attend over the
four-day period.
Since both John Kerry and John Edwards have already expressed their support
for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, I tried to meet as many of
the Democratic officials as possible to acquaint them with Armenian issues.
Given the disappointing experiences with other presidents, Armenian
Americans want to make sure that they are not deceived again as they were
by presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Last week, the Armenian National Committee of America endorsed John Kerry
for President. The ANCA usually waits until right before the election to
endorse the candidate that takes the stronger stand on Armenian issues.
This year the ANCA did not have to wait, because it is obvious that the
Bush Administration had nothing to offer to the Armenian community.
Senator Kerry, on the other hand, has a 20-year record of support on
Armenian issues, including voting for the Armenian Genocide Resolution in
the past and co-sponsoring the current Senate Resolution.
At the Democratic Convention, I met scores of Armenians from various
organizations, including some Republicans, who were supporting Kerry. There
is a good chance that, if elected President, Kerry would continue to be
supportive of Armenian issues. It is up to the Armenian community to get
involved in his campaign so that when the time comes to make decisions on
Armenian issues, Armenian-Americans would be among the decision-makers in
the Kerry Administration, rather than mere spectators waiting to see if
Kerry would keep his word.

2 – Demirjian Introduces Book on Armenian
American Veterans to Fresno Audience
FRESNO – Author Richard Demirjian chose the 60th anniversary of the Allied
Invasion of Europe to introduce his book “The Faces of Courage: Armenian
World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Heroes” to members of the St. Paul
Armenian Church in Fresno on June.
Demirjian addressed the group following services at the Haig Berberian
Hall. “Let us all stand and pay tribute to all those who served and died in
World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and other conflicts,” said
Demirjian, who also honored the memory of President Ronald Reagan, who had
died recently.
The Faces of Courage is an anthology of combat stories recounted by
Armenians who served in the United States military. “The best part of this
book was talking to the people and taping their stories,” said Demirjian.
“There are a lot of Armenians who served in the military. We’ve traveled
the country to find out some of their stories. They must be remembered for
their deeds.”
Demirjian singled out 10 members of the local community who were among the
45 subjects of the book. He summarized for the St. Paul audience the
stories of Jack Ekparian, Ron Markarian, Victor Maghakian, Sam Boghosian,
Ernest Tavlian, Arpeni Mirigian, Sam Kalfayan, John Jerry Najarian, Helen
Koomjan, and Seto Balakian.
Ekparian was a member of the 1st Infantry Division. Markarian, a Major
General, was the highest-ranking Armenian American in United States
military history. Maghakian, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of
the most decorated Marines in World War II. Boghosian was sent to the
Philippines in 1941, taken prisoner, and managed to survive more than three
and one half years as a prisoner of the Japanese. Tavlian, a sergeant in
the U.S. Army Air Force, survived the Bataan Death March and three and one
half years as a prisoner of war. Mirigian served in the U.S. Navy Waves in
World War II, and she served the United States by learning the Japanese
codes and eavesdropping on Japanese radio messages. Kalfayan, a U.S. Army
private during World War II, was fluent in four languages, and served as
General George Patton’s interpreter. Najarian received the Distinguished
Service Cross after completing 26 bombing missions in World War II. Koomjan
of the Army Nurse Corps in WWII survived a kamikaze attack on the USS
Comfort during the invasion of Okinawa. Balakian, a U.S. Marine Corps
corporal, received a Purple Heart for his service in the Pacific theater in
“We have to pay tribute to those who served and to those who died,” said
Demirjian, 77, who lives in Moraga, Calif.
3 – Fresno’s First Annual AECP Dinner
Benefits Armenians with Eye Disease
FRESNO – To honor George Deukmejian, 35th Governor of California, Dinner
Co-Chairs, Debbie Poochigian and Don Kuzirian brought together all of the
elements of a memorable evening for more than 100 guests who gathered at
the Sunnyside Country Club in Fresno on June 24. Benefiting the Armenian
EyeCare Project, guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner,
background music provided by pianist Ken Kennedy and a presentation on the
EyeCare Project by Dr. Roger Ohanesian.
“The event exceeded all of our expectations,” said Co-chair Don Kuzirian
Roger Ohanesian, the EyeCare Project’s President and Founder echoed his
comments. “The organizing committee and event Co-Chairpersons, Debbie and
Don, exceeded all expectations. We are extraordinarily grateful to them for
their hard work and for helping us establish a presence in Fresno. I
believe we have set a high standard for future events. It was a delightful
evening and everyone who attended is still singing its praises. Don
Kuzirian went on to say, “This was our first annual benefit. We’ll be right
back next year. Absolutely. Debbie and I are ready to go right now.”
Debbie Poochigian, Co-Chairperson, commented on the evening: “Most guests
arrived without knowing anything about the EyeCare Project, but wanting to
be supportive. Everyone walked away with a terrific understanding about
what a great job the AECP is doing.”
Debbie and Don enlisted the support of friends and family to make the
evening a success. Hostesses for the evening included Laura Poochigian,
Amanda Poochigian, and MaryAlice Kaloostian.
Out-of-town guests included Gov. George Deukmejian; EyeCare Project
Chairman, Dr. Roger Ohanesian with wife Eileen; and board members Jack
Kayajanian and Ken and Meredith Khachigian.
Also from out-of-town were long-time AECP benefactors Kosti and Marian
Shirvanian, Newport Beach, and Haig Papaian, owner of Commerce Casino.
Shirvanian and Papaian underwrote the transportation costs for the evening.
The evening’s wine was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Keledjian and Senator
and Mrs. Poochigian. “So many people that I had not met came together to
make our first event in Fresno a terrific success,” commented Dr. Ohanesian
as he circulated during cocktail hour to meet all those who had gathered to
benefit the project he founded in 1992 to eliminate preventable blindness
in Armenia.
Following dinner, Sen. Poochigian, long-time friend and supporter of the
evening’s honoree, spoke briefly about the AECP and then turned his
attention to introducing his mentor-Governor George Deukmejian.
The Governor talked about the important work of the AECP ophthalmologists
saying, “The AECP is doing extraordinarily important work for the Armenian
people and the ophthalmologists who travel to Armenia twice a year, at
their own expense, are an inspiration to us all. I commend them for their
dedication and hard work.”
Contributing to the ambiance of the evening and the striking table
decorations were Bob and Andy Azzaro of San Francisco Floral who donated
giant bundles of beautiful blue Iris-arranged into eye-catching
centerpieces by talented Nancy Poochigian. Ms. Kathleen Elia donated her
time and photography services for the evening. Table favors for each guest
were keepsake “Children of Armenia” 2004 Calendars and small round silver
tins with a private blue and white AECP label, “First Annual Fresno Dinner,
June 24, 2004,” and filled Altoids candy.
As the program got underway Governor Deukmejian said a few more words and
introduced AECP President, Dr. Roger V. Ohanesian. State Senator Chuck
Poochigian, and Don Kuzirian also spoke about the AECP.
Kuzirian told the assembled guests, “The benefit this evening was like
waiting for your first child to be born. All of a sudden, there’s your
baby.” He also reflected on “How fortunate I am to be in America. I have
health care and I have my choice of doctors for that care,” he said. “Our
brothers and sisters in Armenia don’t have that opportunity. We’ve got to
help them.” Speaking from his own personal experience with eye disease
Kuzirian, who suffers from uveitis, an inflammation of the eye, had to
spend a few days in the hospital during the planning of the benefit-making
phone calls to prospective sponsors all the while.
Ohanesian gave a slide presentation, which highlighted the many
accomplishments of the Project during the past 12 years and focused on its
new Initiative, “Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes”-a five-point program
focusing on direct patient care; medical education and training; public
education and training; research; and capacity building.
Major sponsors of the evening included Gottchalks, represented by Don
Kuzirian, the Sequoia Chapter of Triple X, and Mrs. Deran Koligian and
Family. Hosts for the evening included Ken and Meredith Khachigian, Luther
and Glenda Khachigian, Ed and Jeanne Kashian, The Stephen Philibosian
Foundation, Dr. Frederick A. Richburg with the Valley Eye Institute, Henry
and Nancy Sanoian, Nubert and Jeannette Baker, Costi and Marian Shirvanian,
and Sante Health System, Inc.
Other guests enjoying the evening included Red and Nancy Arnold, Larry and
Joanie Bedrosian, Ernie and Carlotta Bedrosian, Kenneth and Lilyan
Chooljian, Varoujan Der Simonian, Dr. Robert and Sharon Garabedian and
daughter Kristina Garabedian (founder of Armenian Shoe Box Project), Dr.
Ara Hairabedian, Paul Jamushian, Mike and Nellie Kutnerian, Gary Malazian,
Robert and Jackie Manselian, Aram and Alice Michigian, Steve and Lucille
Pilibos, Sarkis and Iris Sahadtjian, Don and Barbara Serimian, Dr. David
Taylor, and Cliff and Roxanna Tutelian.
Debbie Poochigian summed up the evening, which raised more than $20,000
for the Project. “We have a wonderful supportive Armenian community in
Fresno.” And Don Kuzirian reiterated, “Absolutely. We’ll be right back next
year. Debbie and I are ready to go right now.” And they already have a head
start on the 2005 AECP Fresno Dinner with a committee in the making and
notices in the newspapers requesting people to donate their used eyeglasses
for Armenians.
To learn more about the AECP, please visit , or call
949-675-5767. To make a donation, call the AECP toll-free number,
1-866-GIV-AECP, donate online at or mail a check to
337 E. Bayfront, Newport Beach, CA 92662.
4 – Elephant From India
Will be Airlifted
To Yerevan Zoo
MYSORE, India – (VG) – The staff at the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens
are all agog with excitement as Komala, the eight-year-old female elephant,
is to go to Armenia.
According to Zoo Director Kumar Pushkar, Komala will be paired with a
nine-year-old Asian elephant at Armenia Zoo. The Armenian Zoo had written
to the President of India requesting for a female elephant from one of the
zoos in India.
The Central Zoo Authority’s search for a healthy female elephant ended in
Mysore, Pushkar added.
“Central Zoo Authority’s Member-Secretary Dr. Rajesh Gopal and Armenian
Embassy’s Advisor Mr. Arman Kachatrian selected Komala and she will be
airlifted to Armenia within a month,” he said.
Pushkar said Komala is a gift to the Armenian President from the President
of India. Giving away one elephant is not a loss as the Mysore Zoo had
successfully bred elephants in captivity.
The central government will bear the expenses of constructing an enclosure
required to airlift Komala to Armenia. Meanwhile, Komala is being trained
to remain in the enclosure for long hours as the journey would take about
18 hours, Pushkar disclosed. The pachyderm will be accompanied in its
journey by a veterinarian and two keepers.
A doctor from Armenia and an elephant caretaker have arrived in the Mysore
Zoo to study the elephant’s behavior and the ambience that needs to be
created at the Armenian Zoo in Yerevan.
5- AGBU-AYA Basketball
Clinic Held in Pasadena
PASADENA – The Second Annual AGBU-AYA Youth Basketball Clinic was held at
the AGBU Center in Pasadena on July 17.
AGBU-AYA boys, 10-12 years of age, participated from both the Valley and
Pasadena AGBU chapters. Each clinic participant received team and
individual instruction in the fundamentals of basketball, and competed in
games and contests.
AGBU Valley men’s basketball team member’s Diron Ohanian, Toros Yetenekian,
Zareh Kouyoumdjian and Carl Bardakian, winners of the first and second Pan
Armenian Games in Yerevan in 1999 and 2001, coached and instructed the
AGBU-AYA boys. The AGBU Southern California Central Sports Committee
organized the event.
6’11”, 290-pound center Rafael Araujo, who was selected eighth in the 2004
NBA Draft on June 24 by the Toronto Raptors, spoke to the participants and
signed autographs for them. Araujo instructed the youth in various
basketball drills and took photos with them. Araujo also encouraged the
AGBU-AYA athletes to focus on their academics and on the fundamentals of
The Valley and Pasadena AGBU-AYA boys played in their first league game on
Saturday, July 24 at the AGBU Manoogian-Demirjian School in Canoga Park.
If interested in becoming a member of the AGBU-AYA basketball program,
contact the AGBU Pasadena Center at 626-794-7942 or AGBU Valley Chapter at
6 – APN-WD to Host JAA’s Top
Students at Diocese Complex
BURBANK – On August 24, the newly-formed Armenian Professionals Network of
the Western Diocese (APN-WD) will host a community mixer welcoming Junior
Achievement of Armenia’s (JAA) most outstanding economics students from the
2003/04 school year and the 2004 participants of JAA’s annual Summer Study
Abroad program. The August 24 mixer will be a wine and cheese reception
held from 7:30 to 9 pm. at the Western Diocese Complex, 3325 North Glenoaks
Blvd, Burbank, Calif.
The three JAA students and one administrator, Anna Avetisyan, Haykuhi
Khachatryan, Matevos Mheryan, and Grigori Nazaryan, have been selected from
the thousands enrolled in economics for their exemplary academic
achievement and mastery of the English language.
Distinguished guest speaker Christina Tusan, Deputy Attorney General,
California Department of Justice, and JAA Board member, will introduce the
JAA visitors to the APN-WD and describe how JAA fulfills its mission to
give Armenian youth the necessary skills and knowledge to compete and
succeed in the local, national, and global arenas.
Each summer since 1995, Junior Achievement of Armenia has rewarded its top
students with the opportunity to participate in JAA’s Summer Study Abroad
program. This year’s program will begin in early August at the 34th Annual
Canadian National Junior Achievement Conference (CANJAC) held in Saskatoon.
On Aug. 21, following this one-week program, the JAA visitors will travel
to Southern California where they will, among other activities, visit
businesses, meet elected officials and policy makers, interact with
community leaders, and engage in regional and social events.
For more information contact Vahe Ashjian at (818) 212-9976 or visit the
organization’s website at
7 – Hagopian’s Film to be Featured
At Rhode Island Festival, Aug. 12
THOUSAND OAKS, CA – “Germany and the Secret Genocide” is to be featured in
the Jewish “side-bar” of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, Aug.
12. The award-winning film by J. Michael Hagopian will be screened at 7:30
p.m. at the Pawtucket Visitor’s Center in Providence.
This is the second film of “The Witnesses” trilogy on the Armenian
Genocide, prepared by the Armenian Film Foundation.
“Germany and the Secret Genocide” was introduced to the Rhode Island
International Film Festival by Dr. Sharon Rivo, Executive Director for the
National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University. She was a panelist
at the recent East Coat premiere of Hagopian’s film by the National
Association of Armenian Studies and Research in Belmont, Mass. Dr. Rivo was
highly impressed with Hagopian’s work and expressed the desire to introduce
it to the Jewish community of America.
Glenn Farr, co-producer of “Germany and the Secret Genocide,” said he is
gratified by growing Jewish acclaim for the film.
Earlier this year, the film won coveted first place awards and special
recognitions at the One World Human Rights Film Festival in Prague, the
Athens Ohio International Film Festival and the prestigious U.S.
International Film and Video Festival, the largest festival of its kind.
8 – Steering Committee Formed for
USC Institute of Armenian Studies
LOS ANGELES – The long-held dream of the Armenian community of Southern
California, as well as thousands of USC Armenian Alumni to establish an
Institute of Armenian Studies is well on its way to realization.
A group of prominent community leaders, meeting at the Bistro Gardens on
July 14, responded enthusiastically to the establishment of an
institutethat would strengthen and perpetuate the century-long partnership
between the Armenian community and the University of Southern California.
At the dinner hosted by noted community leader, Charles Ghailian, the
attendees became acquainted with the institute’s unique mission as a
multidisciplinary center of Armenian studies, covering a variety of fields
— law, business, religion, politics, music, film, media, the
arts and sciences. Speaking passionately about the bright future of the
institute, Charles Ghailian welcomed the opportunity to establish a
world-class think-tank that would promote learning and scholarship about
the Armenian-American community, the global Armenian Diaspora, and the
Armenian Republic.
The attendees were: Dr. Mihran & Eliz Agbabian, Alex Baroian, John
Berberian, Sylva Bezdikian, Albert Boyajian, Mark Chenian, Dr. R. Hrair
Dekmejian, Charles Ghailian, Armen Janian, Esq., Onnik Mehrabian, Varant
Melkonian, Gerald Papazian, Esq., Harut Sassounian, Hagop & Mina
Shirvanian, Sinan Sinanian, The Honorable Dikran Tevrizian, Ralph & Savey
Tufenkian, Arda Yemenidjian, and Edward Zohrabian.
After a lively discussion, the assembled guests unanimously resolved to
commit themselves to bringing the vision of the institute into reality. By
forming a Steering Committee, the members plan to raise “seed money” and
make plans for fund raising and other activities involving many additional
members in the Armenian community.
Since its founding over a century ago, USC has educated thousands of
Armenian-Americans who have gone on to distinguished careers in business,
government and the professions. It is only fitting that USC serves as the
home of an unprecedented venture in multidisciplinary Armenian studies –
the first of its kind in the United States and the larger Diaspora.
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