Armenian Reporter – 5/12/2007 – front section

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May 12, 2007 — From the front section

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1. Aronian beats world chess champion Kramnik, 4–2

2. Armenians joyfully mark the 15th year of Shushi’s liberation (by Armen
* Shushi’s revival will be a great victory too

3. From Washington, in brief (by Emil Sanamyan)
* Jewish groups weigh in on Congressional resolutions
* Kasparov: Jewish organizations’ opposition to Genocide recognition is "a
policy of double standards"
* Members of Congress displeased with State Department report
* Forces from 25 U.S. allies still in Iraq
* France elects a new president

4. Sahakian, Mayilian, 3 others seek NKR presidency (by Hrachya Arzumanian)

5. With friends like these… (by Tatul Hakobyan)
* As Turkey and Azerbaijan keep up the blockade, and Russia bottles up
Georgia, Armenia’s only open doorway to the world is Iran

6. U.S. immigrants from Armenia send 10 percent of their income back to
Armenia (by Armen Hakobyan)

7. Alexander Arzoumanian, former foreign minister, arrested

8. Commentary: Guess who answered "The Knock at the Door" (by Anoush Ter
* Anti-Armenian propagandists disrupt a book signing event in New York

9. Commentary: The act of giving (by Nubar Dorian)

10. Commentary: Community expects swift action, Los Angeles Times executives
told at a meeting (by Harut Sassounian)

11. Editorial: An F for Freedom House

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1. Aronian beats world chess champion Kramnik, 4–2

YEREVAN — Levon Aronian of Armenia defeated the world champion Vladimir
Kramnik 4–2 in a rapid-chess match held May 4 to 6 at the Opera House here.
Aronian, who has rapidly risen to the fifth-ranked player in the world,
displayed active play, tactics, and execution.

After losing the first game, the young Armenian reeled off three wins in
row, and then held a dramatic game 5 draw to win the match. Kramnik is known
to be an excellent rapid chess player, armed with fantastic opening
knowledge as well as vast match experience. However, it was Aronian, playing
on his home soil, who appeared to be directing the style — and outcome —
of the match.

The fireworks lasted throughout the three-day match. Even during game 6,
with the match outcome no longer in question, the packed Opera House
spectators — including President Kocharian in shirtsleeves — sat on the
edge of their seats (or in the aisles, on the handrails, or on each other)
fascinated by the final moves that were blitzed out until the final draw was

Kramnik attributed his less-than-optimal performance to exhaustion, coming
off of a busy schedule (in particular, a recent rapid match against Peter
Leko). The world champion nevertheless acknowledged that Aronian is among
the best in the world at rapid chess, an opinion with which few would
disagree. Aronian was gracious as victor, and was understandably content
with his fine performance.

In the closing ceremony, Prime Minister Serge Sargsian, who is also chair
of Armenia’s chess federation, said the match will fire up interest in chess
among younger Armenians. The previous world champion, Garry Kasparov, is of
Armenian descent, as was Tigran Petrossian, the world champion from 1963 to

See story in Arts & Culture section.

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2. Armenians joyfully mark the 15th year of Shushi’s liberation

* Shushi’s revival will be a great victory too

by Armen Hakobyan

SHUSHI — May 9, a double holiday for Armenians, was celebrated festively
here in Shushi. The 15th anniversary of the liberation of this onetime
center and capital of Artsakh, and the 62nd anniversary of the Allied
victory over Nazi Germany were marked with a military parade in Veradznoond
(Renaissance) Square in Stepanakert, the present-day capital of the
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Taking the salute was Karabakh’s minister of
defense, Lt. Gen. Seyran Ohanian, who will shortly take over as chief of
staff of Armenia’s armed forces; 15 years ago, he led one of the units of
freedom fighters who liberated Shushi. Also on the podium were the
presidents of the two Armenian republics, Robert Kocharian and Arkady
Ghoukassian, the speakers of the two parliaments, Tigran Torosian and Ashot
Ghulian, and the primate of Artsakh, Archbishop Barkev Martirosian.

The people of Stepanakert and guests from near and far applauded with
vigorous enthusiasm the fighters of Karabakh’s defense forces — the
guarantors of its people’s security, the defenders of its independence,
democracy, and achievements from neighboring Azerbaijan’s menacing,
authoritarian regime.

* This is the city our forefathers built

In the center of Shushi, 10 km (6 miles) up the road from Stepanakert, under
the statue of Shushi native fighter pilot Nelson Stepanian — twice Hero of
the Soviet Union, the Eagle of the Baltics — I meet one of the officers of
Artsakh’s antiaircraft units, Sr. Lt. Armik Suleimanian. His dress uniform
is decorated with medals for bravery and meritorious service. He is 44, and
has served in uniform since 1992. I ask him what feelings he has every time
he comes to Shushi. "My forefathers left Shushi; or more accurately, they
were driven from Shushi with the 1920 massacre. But this is what our
forefathers built. And in 1992 we finally liberated our dear city from the
other’s yoke. Now when I come to Shushi I feel joy. As for the ruins that
still exist here," he pauses, "you can see for yourself there’s building
going on. Shushi will be rebuilt because it is now irrevocably an Armenian

* Shushi’s new cinema

The celebration started in Shushi on May 8. It started simply and
beautifully with the opening of a cinema. The cinema was funded by the
Shushi Revival Fund and is equipped with cutting-edge German sound and
projection technology.

Among the guests at the opening were film director Arman Manarian,
cinematographer Mikayel Dovlatyan, the manager of Yerevan’s Golden Apricot
Film Festival, Ara Khanjyan, and the designer of Shushi’s logo and scion of
one of the city’s old families, Yerevan-based artist Ruben Arutchian. Also
present were Yervand Zakharian, mayor of Yerevan and chair of the revival
fund’s Board of Trustees, board members Archbishop Martirosian and Zori
Balayan, and many Shushi residents, especially the young.

"There is nothing interesting for young people in Shushi to do," says
Armine Balasanian, 19, a culture major at Shushi College, as she entered the
cinema. "This cinema can be a cultural Mecca for the youth." Her friend Ani
Hovsepian adds, "We thank God for the Shushi Revival Fund. We have gone to
training programs they’ve organized. We are grateful to the teachers.
Everything has gone well. We did our practicum in Yerevan. I think the fund
will create jobs here. That’s what young people need."

Arayik Khachatrian, who moved to Shushi from Yerevan and says he is proud
to live in such an Armenian city, is the manager of Shushi’s cultural center
and the projectionist for the new cinema. "I am thrilled that we finally
have something like this here. The tickets will be affordable to all."

The first film shown was a music video of a song dedicated to Shushi
jointly performed by Armenia’s pop stars. Then they showed the first part of
Arman Manarian’s unfinished David of Sassoun animation. He promised that the
world premiere of the finished film will be in Shushi. Then they showed
Tigran Keosayan’s comedy Rabbit on the Cliff, which the organizers of Golden
Apricot had brought with them, promising that Shushi henceforth will be the
site of many premieres.

* Torch lit at Etchmiadzin

While the parade went on in Stepanakert, relay runners arrived in Shushi
with a torch lit at Holy Etchmiadzin. The Victory Run was organized by the
Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutiun). Among the runners were many of the freedom fighters who
participated in the liberation of Shushi 15 years ago as part of the ARF
company. One of these freedom fighters, Aragatz Mkrtchian, who now farms in
Talin, says it is wonderful to be back in Shushi in peacetime. Another,
Gokor, now a battalion commander, adds, "We are thrilled, and we keep our
fighting spirit high, especially as the war is not formally over."

A little later the runners — freedom fighter Igor Sargsian, along with
ARF Youth Organization member Shahen Suleimanian, and Gegham Grigorian, Edik
Khachatrian, Arpine Sargsian, and dozens of other young people — approach
Archbishop Martirosian. With the primate are President Kocharian, President
Ghoukassian, and other dignitaries. The archbishop blesses the torchbearers,
and the fire brought from Etchmiadzin is taken inside the Ghazanchetsots
Church, where it is used to light votive candles.

A service is performed in the church. The Dashnak youth hand out bowls of
harisa. Shushi is celebrating. And the joy is visible, above all, in the
eyes of the children.

* A new city plan

The holiday celebrates past victories, but is also a chance to look ahead.

Seda Yaghoubian, principal of Sema & Associates of Irvine, Calif., leads
the planning for the new Shushi. She presents the new city plan right there
in the new cinema. She tells the heads of state and other assembled leaders,
"The new city plan is a debt of respect paid by my colleagues and me to
Shushi’s history and traditions, to its singular significance in Armenian
history. And though the plan is a result of the efforts of international
experts in architecture, civil engineering, city planning, construction, and
transportation, it will be incomplete without another ingredient: the
political will to see the city revived to a significant extent."

The vision behind the new city plan is that over the next decade Shushi
will become a vivid expression of the Armenian people’s national traditions,
at the forefront of Armenian history, architecture, art, science, and
literature, a prosperous city that is good for its residents.

The plan divides the city into districts — tourist, spa, educational, and
arts — anchored on the existing historic structures.

Mr. Zakharian, the mayor of Yerevan, said he wants to see Shushi revived
in a thoughtful, planned way. "I want it to become a spiritual and cultural
center for Armenians, as it was in the past. That is our whole purpose. We
want to help the government of Karabakh achieve that, and I don’t think the
revival fund alone should be responsible for that. We think all Armenian
organizations and individuals around the world should participate in the
revival of this jewel of a city."

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3. From Washington, in brief

by Emil Sanamyan

* Jewish groups weigh in on Congressional resolutions

In May 5 letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), the Jewish Community of Armenia (JCA
see ) urged Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

The letter, signed by community leader Rimma Varzhapetyan-Feller, noted
that "Jews and Armenians share a tragic history of discrimination and
genocide. Despite thorough documentation of the Holocaust, the Jewish
community worldwide is witnessing attempts to deny this undeniable fact of
history. The Jewish Armenian community lives among a people who are facing
the denial of their own genocide."

"For these reasons, we, perhaps more than any other people, understand the
pain of the Armenian Genocide and appreciate the Armenian people’s efforts
to secure international recognition of this crime," the letter stressed. "We
must reject those who, for reasons of expediency, counsel silence or, even
worse, denial in the face of crimes against humanity."

The JCA letter followed an earlier communication from a Turkish Jewish
organization that urged against Congressional consideration of the
resolutions, citing Turkey’s relations with Israel and the U.S. That letter
was forwarded to Congress by the American Jewish Committee (AJC),
Anti-Defamation League (ADL), B’nai B’rith International, and the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

On April 26, the Turkish Daily News interpreted this as opposition to the
resolutions. The Jewish Journal reported on May 4 that JINSA supported the
letter’s view opposing the affirmation and that in comments to the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency ADL appeared to align with the Bush administration’s
position. AJC and B’nai B’rith have not taken a public position on the

At the same time, the Jewish Journal wrote that there was considerable
solidarity within the Jewish-American community with the Armenian American
effort. It cited the House resolution’s original sponsor Rep. Adam Schiff
(D.-Calif.) as noting that the resolutions have been endorsed by 21 out of
30 House members and eight out of 11 Senators who are of Jewish descent.
Overall, House Resolution 106 is supported by 190 members and its Senate
counterpart by 31 senators.

* Kasparov: Jewish organizations’ opposition to Genocide recognition is "a
policy of double standards"

"You can’t talk about the Holocaust and deny the Armenian Genocide in
Turkey," leader of the Russian opposition United Civil Front Garry Kasparov
said in a response to a question about reports that some Jewish
organizations, like the ADL, oppose Congressional affirmation of the
Genocide. Mr. Kasparov told National Public Radio’s "On Point" program on
May 2 that he has "no doubt that Turkey will have to recognize the Genocide
if it wants to join the European Union and I don’t think there is any other
way but for Turkey to recognize these horrible massacres of 1915."

"And if there are activities of [Jewish groups] supporting Turkey in their
attempt to stifle the recognition of the Genocide, then it is of course
another policy of double standards. And that I reject most of all."

Mr. Kasparov, who is of Armenian and Jewish descent, was forced to flee
Baku during anti-Armenian pogroms there in January 1990. The longest-reining
world chess champion (1985–2000) made it on the Time magazine’s 2007 list
of "100 People Who Shape Our World." Time cited Kasparov’s political
activism in opposition to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

* Members of Congress displeased with State Department report

Co-chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus Reps. Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.)
and Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.), together with a House Foreign Affairs
Committee member Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), raised concerns with Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the wording of the State Department’s
annual report on human rights, the ANCA reported on May 3.

The report incorporated Azerbaijan’s propagandistic language when
describing Nagorno-Karabakh. While U.S. officials admitted that the wording
was improper, the department eventually declined to correct it. (See this
column in April 28 Reporter).

The members of Congress argued that the wording set "a troubling precedent
by allowing a foreign state to shape the assessments of our human rights
report" and urged the department to set the record straight.

On May 7, Rep. Pallone also addressed the issue on the House floor, noting
that "under the Soviet Constitution, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh declared
their independence. They then conducted a referendum as set forth in the
same Soviet Constitution, and they are now an independent republic and
should be recognized as a nation."

He said that any misrepresentations undermine U.S. "credibility as an
impartial mediator and jeopardize prospects for successful peace

* Forces from 25 U.S. allies still in Iraq

About 160,000 U.S. forces in Iraq are still augmented by over 13,000 troops
from the so-called Coalition of the Willing, Dr. Nile Gardiner of the
Heritage Foundation said on May 9.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International
Organizations, Dr. Gardiner said that at this time, the largest contingents
come from Great Britain (7,000), South Korea (2,300), Poland (900), Georgia
(900), Romania (600), Australia (550) and Denmark (460).

While Polish forces are expected to start pulling out later this year,
Georgia is planning to double its contingent to 2,000. The Georgian Army
deputy chief of staff Lt. Col. Vladimir Chachibaia told IWPR that the
reinforcement will be deployed in the town of al-Kut.

"The Georgians will have their own area of activity," Mr. Chachibaia said.
"Units from around nine countries will be subordinate to them." This may
also include the small Armenian contingent now based in al-Kut. Last
December, the Armenian parliament extended the deployment by another year.

* France elects a new president

Center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of France,
defeating socialist Ségolène Royal in the second round of voting on May 6.
In a message of congratulations, President Robert Kocharian, who first met
then–Interior Minister Sarkozy last February, expressed certainty that
bilateral ties will continue to expand.

Last September, France’s outgoing president Jacques Chirac became the
first major Western leader to visit Armenia. Like Mr. Chirac, the
52-year-old president-elect has been a supporter of the Armenian Genocide

Mr. Sarkozy is also seen as a proponent of closer relations with the
United States. At the same time, he has been in open opposition to Turkey’s
bid for European Union membership, which U.S. administrations have long

Turkish media reported this week that Ankara, already concerned with
Sarkozy’s position on membership, is also worried that a veteran member of
parliament and Sarkozy advisor Patrick Devedjian may be appointed France’s
foreign minister. Mr. Devedjian is being mentioned as one of several
possible candidates for the position.

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4. Sahakian, Mayilian, 3 others seek NKR presidency

by Hrachya Arzumanian

STEPANAKERT – National Security Service Director Bako Sahakian and Deputy
Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, along with three lesser-known figures, last
week formally applied for registration as candidates for the presidency of
the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

The local Central Electoral Commission will review the nominations by the
middle of next month, when the election campaign will officially start. The
election itself is scheduled for July 19.

On April 20, Mr. Sahakian was nominated on a non-party citizens’
initiative, and on May 7 he received a joint endorsement from the leaders of
the four political parties represented in Artsakh’s parliament — the ruling
Democrats and Free Fatherland (Azat Hayrenik), as well as opposition-leaning
Dashnaktsutiun and Movement-88 — making Mr. Sahakian the favorite in the
race. But several senior Movement-88 members are supporting Mr. Mayilian,
who submitted his nomination on May 5, also on a non-party citizens’

As was previously discussed in these pages (see March 3 Reporter), based
on local opinion polls Mr. Sahakian and Mr. Mayilian, along with parliament
Speaker Ashot Ghulian, who decided not to run, have been repeatedly named as
the preferred candidates for the presidency.

* Bako Sahakian

Owing to his professional responsibilities National Security Service
director, the 46-year-old Bako Sahakian has not been a public figure until
recently. His main support base comes from government personnel, especially
the officers of the Defense Army, security, and law-enforcement services.
This is natural since much of this fairly large and influential stratum of
Karabakh’s society would probably prefer to see a person with military and
security experience in the post of president.

Mr. Sahakian has been at his current job since August 2001 and previously
served as NKR’s minister of the interior between 1999 and 2001. From 1997 to
1999 Mr. Sahakian was a senior aide to Armenia’s minister of national
security and the interior, who at the time was Serge Sargsian. Until 1997,
Mr. Sahakian held senior positions with NKR’s Defense Army. He participated
in the May 1992 Shushi-Lachin and April 1993 Kelbajar operations, and was
awarded the Combat Cross medal, first degree (the highest Armenian military
decoration for valor in combat).

Somewhat surprising has been Mr. Sahakian’s nomination not by the ruling
establishment or a political coalition, but as a non-party citizens’
candidate. This likely reflects Mr. Sahakian’s effort to appeal not just to
his natural support base, but the entirety of Artsakh society.

The main challenge for Mr. Sahakian and his electoral team currently being
assembled would be to receive the support of the civil society and avoid
being painted as solely a candidate of the state bureaucracy. Mr. Sahakian,
with his significant organizational experience, appears up to this task.

* Masis Mayilian

Mr. Mayilian’s emergence as an independent political player is a new
development for Artsakh and in a way it reflects the society’s
democratization. Although he has been a state official for much of his adult
life, the 40-year-old Masis Mayilian has positioned himself as a
civil-society candidate. His nomination came just before the deadline, after
lengthy and apparently complicated consultations with all of the main
political and civic actors.

Karabakh’s deputy foreign minister since 2001, Mr. Mayilian has been with
the Foreign Ministry since its establishment in 1993 and is one of the few
local officials with substantial exposure to international politics. He was
a key staff member of NKR’s delegation to peace talks with Azerbaijan in the
early to mid-1990s. From 1992 to 1993, Mr. Mayilian was a senior expert in
the Department of Information and Press of NKR’s State Defense Committee.

Mr. Mayilian’s candidacy has generated considerable enthusiasm, with
hundreds of would-be activists turning out to the launch. The initiative
group supporting Mr. Mayilian’s candidacy includes representatives of nearly
all of Artsakh’s political and civic groups.

The likelihood of success for Mr. Mayilian’s bid will to a great degree
depend on his and his electoral staff’s ability to conduct a dynamic, agile,
and well-organized campaign. A considerable challenge for them is to win
over the traditionally conservative segments of Artsakh’s society. But good
coalition management and effective outreach can address these challenges.

* The other candidates

Three others — non-partisan NKR parliament member Armen Abgarian, local
Community Party leader Hrant Melkumian, and Artsakh State University
Professor Vanik Avanesian — are also seeking registration as presidential
candidates, but their ultimate chances appear remote.

Elected to parliament from a Stepanakert constituency in June 2005, Mr.
Abgarian was the only one of 33 parliament members to vote against the NKR
constitutional proposal in November 2006. In the late 1990s, Mr. Abgarian
was former Karabakh Army commander Samvel Babayan’s deputy for logistics.
Since leaving the military, Mr. Abgarian has been engaged in private

Mr. Melkumian first sought the NKR presidency in November 1996. At the
time he finished a distant third, behind Robert Kocharian and Boris

For Mr. Avanesian, this is a first presidential bid.

* Reflections and outlook

So far, Artsakh politics have not followed the left-center-right divide of
traditional democracies. To a great extent, this is a reflection of a social
consensus over urgent challenges facing the republic as national security,
state development, and continued democratization and civil-society building
remain paramount. With consensus on strategic goals, the differences are on
the means to reach them.

Appreciation of this reality has allowed the outgoing president, Arkady
Ghoukassian, to distance himself, at least on the surface, from the process
of candidates’ nomination. In recent interviews, Mr. Ghoukasian has declined
to endorse or campaign for any of the candidates. Artsakh society has proved
its maturity and is quite capable of deciding on who it wants to see as its
leader for the next five years.

The 2007 presidential elections in Artsakh will be a true contest, rather
than an imitation of struggle. The people are set to open a new chapter in
Armenian political history — unusual, unfamiliar, but promising — as they
move ahead on the path of strengthening the revived Armenian statehood.

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5. With friends like these…

* As Turkey and Azerbaijan keep up the blockade, and Russia bottles up
Georgia, Armenia’s only open doorway to the world is Iran

by Tatul Hakobyan

YEREVAN — Much of the world sat up and solemnly took notice in early April
when Russian media reported that the United States was about to start
Operation Bite, a plan to bomb Iranian nuclear targets. The specter of
military action became even more ominous soon after, when 15 British sailors
were taken captive by Iran, as the U.S. Navy readied itself for maneuvers in
the Persian Gulf.

But the captured British personnel were returned, and the talk of
Operation Bite was relegated to the arena of psychological — as opposed to
actual — warfare. Western media declared that Iran’s president, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, had succeeded in humiliating Great Britain and its allies.

Weighty developments, to say the least, which should consume the interest
and concern of Iran’s neighbors.

But in Armenia, the latest news from and about Iran is only superficially
covered, with almost nothing in the way of serious analysis. Iran is one of
Armenia’s four contiguous neighbors: the Armenian-Iranian border stretching
along the Arax River is 40 kilometers long — and if you factor in the
regions of Zangelan, Jebrahil, and part of Fizuli, which have been under
the control of Karabakh forces since 1993, the effective shared border grows
to 140 kilometers. In addition, Islamic Iran is still home to one of the
world’s largest Armenian communities — a legacy of centuries of interaction
between the two neighboring nations.

* The political map

"Neighbor" may be an insufficient word, however, to describe Armenia’s
present relationship with Iran. A look at the political map tells the larger

Over 80 percent of Armenia’s borders are blocked up. In the west there is
the "Turkish wall": the two frontier points of the Turkish-Armenian border,
Akyaka-Akhurian and Alijan-Margara, which were open even during the Cold
War, providing a major transport node between the Soviet Union and Turkey
via the Kars-Gyumri railroad, have been closed by Ankara since April 3,

In the east, Armenia’s frontier with Azerbaijan is strewn with mines,
extending along the border with Nakhichevan on the west.

The northern neighbor, Georgia, is periodically blocked up or threatened
by Russia, a military ally of Armenia and its number-one business partner.
Several years ago the Kazbegi-Upper Lars land road connecting Armenia with
Russia — which passes through Georgia — began periodic shutdowns, and
since June 2006 it has been closed entirely. The Russians claim that
restoration work is being done in this sector, but considering the current
level of Russian-Georgian relations, the work might just last forever.

No one can choose their neighbors, let alone their geography. Armenia is
no exception. The fact is that the only neighbor with whom it has been able
to maintain stable political, economic, and cultural relations during the 15
years of independence has been Iran. But not everything is running smoothly.
The Iranian government has serious problems with the international
community. America and Iran have been in a long-lasting confrontation, with
an absence of diplomatic relations. And then there’s the latest serious
crisis over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

* Industrial-level uranium

On March 24, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1747, reaffirming
the existing sanctions set in its previous resolution of December 23, 2006.
The five permanent and 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council
agreed that by May 24 Teheran must halt its uranium enrichment program or
face a stricter UN resolution.

But Tehran is signaling that it is not ready to compromise or suspend its
nuclear ambitions. On April 9, speaking at the uranium enrichment facility
in Natanz, Mr. Ahmadinejad publicly announced that Iran had brought the
enrichment of uranium to the "industrial level." And Iran has declared that
it may follow the lead of North Korea and drop out of the nonproliferation
treaty altogether. On the nuclear issue, Iranians "will not back down even
an iota from their international rights," Mr. Ahmadinejad said on April 16,
as he called on world powers to stop "bullying" Iran. Pressure won’t give
results, but will harm those who employ it, he said.

But according to Iran expert Emma Begijanyan, there is no ground for
serious concern yet, because the likelihood of American attacks on Iranian
nuclear targets remains low. "The United States and Israel are instead
adhering to economic and political pressure. It is possible that after May
24 the pressure will be strengthened," Begijanyan says.

She adds that Armenia would not have any serious impact on the situation:
as a country it is not large or consequential enough to be part of the
West’s pressure policy of isolating Iran. "Moreover, the West will certainly
take into consideration the fact that Armenia is in a blockade," says
Begijanyan. "On the other hand, Russia is not interested in complicating the
situation in Iran, nor in encouraging political changes in the country or
establishing a Western-oriented regime there. That would not be advantageous
to Russia, and both it and China will try to keep sanctions reasonable."

"Europe also isn’t eager to restrict them," she adds.

It is worth noting that the U.S. never misses an opportunity to affirm
that it is not against the development of Armenian-Iranian economic ties,
including ties in the energy field — as long as these do not conflict with
the sanctions imposed on Iran. Last spring, then–U.S. Ambassador to Armenia
John Evans, and subsequently State Department officials Matthew Bryza and
Daniel Fried, announced that they would encourage Armenia to pursue an
energy diversification policy as an alternative to the Iran-Armenia gas
pipeline recently put into operation.

* Just talk? Or an imminent danger?

Rouben Safrastyan, head of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Armenia’s
National Academy of Sciences, emphasizes that Armenia’s policy towards Iran
must be grounded in the mutual agreements between the two countries, as well
as in international law. In other words, Armenia’s stance should be
consonant with its international rights.

"It can hardly be said that the isolation of Iran has reached an alarming
point," Safrastyan says. "No; I think there is enough time before the end of
May, during which all kinds of developments are possible. The UN Security
Council is going to address this issue in late May-early June, by which time
the two-month period will have come to an end. I don’t think that it will
result in the organization of an attack on Iran, or in an attempt to obtain
a permit for that purpose from the Security Council."

"Potential peaceful ways of resolving the crisis have not been exhausted,"
he notes, "and diplomatic efforts among the European Union, Russia, and Iran
are working actively in this direction. Whatever other ideas are put into
circulation are just elements of an ‘information war,’ which the Americans
organize to put Iran under the pressure."

But others find cause for a more pessimistic appraisal. Stepan Safaryan,
coordinator of the Armenian Center for Strategic and National Studies,
believes that the prospect of an isolated Iran is pregnant with danger for
Armenia, which risks the deepening of its own isolation in the region. Until
now, Armenian diplomacy has been able to exploit the "Iranian factor" as a
counterweight to the "Turkish factor"; the weakening of the former would
obviously destabilize that balancing act.

Safaryan does feel that Armenia should seek good neighborly relations with
Iran. But the unpredictable course of Russian-Iranian relations places yet
another wrinkle in an already complex situation. "Iran could become weaker,
and loses its defensive capacity once again," he says. "Consequently, a
really dangerous situation for Armenia would be created in the region, in
which one of its doorways to the outer world — which had resisted closure
even during the Karabakh war — is placed in jeopardy."

* An untapped resource

In such a situation, what is Armenian diplomacy to do?

Safaryan laments that Armenia has no serious role to play in the regional
equation. But through diplomatic channels and its various declarations and
announcements, Yerevan needs to articulate that international decisions
concerning Iran will have inevitable consequences — and very likely bad
ones — for Armenia’s security. And Armenia must make clear that when any
action is considered for implementation against Iran, the interests of the
other countries in the region need to be taken into account.

To make itself heard, Safaryan advises, Armenia should take a broad view
of the venues available to it. "When I mention ‘diplomatic channels,’ I
include our Armenian diaspora and lobbying organizations as well, which are
so supportive of our diplomacy today. In light of them, Armenia could take
up a very interesting political stance regarding U.S.-Iran relations —
especially in consideration of the large diaspora communities resident in
both Iran and the United States."

"Unfortunately, this resource has not been used yet," concludes Safaryan.
"But I think that today these concerns regarding our national security could
be raised by the Armenian diaspora, as well."

************************************* **************************************

6. U.S. immigrants from Armenia send 10 percent of their income back to

by Armen Hakobyan

YEREVAN — For many people in Armenia, their most reliable — and sometimes
their only — source of income is personal money transfers from relatives
who have migrated to foreign countries. These money transfers do help many
in Armenia to endure the country’s still-difficult economic conditions. But
such external transfers also have an impact on Armenia’s internal economic
life, and affect foreign currency rates. According to official estimates, in
2003–2005 money transfers received through the banking system alone
constituted 15 percent of Armenia’s gross domestic product.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, an estimated 90 percent of immigrants from
Armenia living in and around Los Angeles have regularly transferred money to
their relatives in Armenia. In 2005, on average, each Armenian immigrant
living in the Los Angeles area transferred $2,700 to Armenia.

That notable figure was one the findings of a survey conducted by the P.A.
Consulting firm for the Central Bank of Armenia with assistance from USAID.
The survey was conducted between October 6 and November 27 of last year in
Los Angeles, Glendale, North Hollywood, Burbank, and other cities in the
metropolitan area.

The final survey findings have recently been released, and in an interview
with the Armenian Reporter, the chief of the Central Bank’s statistical
service, Martin Galstian, discussed the outcomes of the study.

* Russia vs the U.S.

The Central Bank said this large-scale study was aimed at making a general
evaluation of foreign money transfers, their role in augmenting
native-Armenian household income, and the resultant pressures caused on the
currency exchange market.

According to Central Bank figures, remittances — transfers to family,
rather than business transactions — carried out through the banking system
increased by a mean of 37 percent in 2003–2005. But according to the
Central Bank’s official press communiqué on the survey results, "information
received through the banks does not provide a complete picture of the scale
of transfers, and is not enough for implementing a corresponding economic

The release went on: "According to some evaluations, total remittances are
only 20 to 30 percent more than those received through the banking system

With assistance from the World Bank, the Central Bank of Armenia initiated
its first survey on the matter in February-March of 2006. The survey,
carried out by the Alpha Plus Consulting Agency, looked at three major
dimensions of the issue: it studied 2,000 households in Armenia that receive
money transfers; 2,000 individuals transferring money from Moscow; and
several organizations functioning in Armenia that specialize in receiving
and distributing money transfers.

According to the results of the survey, in 2005 Armenian households
received around $940 million in foreign money transfers. Thirty-seven
percent of the Armenian households receiving foreign money transfers
belonged to the middle class. The proportion of poor households was small,
and the proportion of the extremely poor was negligible.

Thirty-four percent of the monetary transfers were received by residents
of Yerevan. Moreover, 72 percent of the transfers were from Russia, 14
percent from the U.S., and another 5 percent was the combined share of other
countries including Germany, Greece, and Ukraine.

* Avoiding banks

The total number of those surveyed was 1,443 — which is sufficient to
establish a complete picture. "The survey was carried out on two levels,"
Mr. Galstian said. "First the interviewers asked whether those being
surveyed did indeed send money to Armenia. If the answer was yes, then the
respondent was passed to the next level of the survey."

One finding of the survey was anticipated: that the mean yearly sum of
money being transferred from the U.S. considerably exceeds the money
transfers through the banking system. The mean indicator of personal money
transfers carried out through the banking system was $1,400: that means that
individuals from the U.S. annually send a mean of that much money to Armenia
through the banking system. On the other hand, Mr. Galstian said, "Our
research showed individuals in the study sending an annual mean of $2,700
from the U.S." to Armenia.

He added: "The main conclusion that we can reach — and it is verified
through our inquiries — is that a large part of the sums being sent from
the United States evades the banking system."

The problem for investigators is that in the United States there are
institutions that carry out money transfers without a license. They operate
in parallel with established licensed transfer systems such as Western Union
or Moneygram. In a typical scenario, according to Mr. Galstian, a person
simply gives the sum of money to the unlicensed party in Los Angeles, and
his or her relative in Yerevan receives an identical amount, less fees. "We
cannot name any institutions, because they function in the shadow economy
and are not identified. The surveyed people have not mentioned names, either
— maybe out of fear," said Mr. Galstian.

According to him, the survey’s other conclusion verified the earlier
hypothesis: that only 20 percent of those surveyed — just one in five —
has carried out money transfers through the banking system.

Based on the first survey, Mr. Galstian noted: "Nearly 80 percent of the
money transfers from Russia are carried out through banking system. It is
possible in Russia, but not so much in the United States. The main idea is
that people go to Russia to work with short-term contracts or long-term
agreements, and there is no such thing as legal or illegal alien status, as
there is in the U.S. But in the U.S., in order to get a visa, the individual
must settle certain issues, and many in Los Angeles do not have legal
residency status. Therefore, to avoid having to present documents which they
lack to make money transfers through the banking system, they prefer to
transfer the money in informal or other ways."

* When did you get here?

According to the survey, 76 percent of the individuals transferring money to
Armenia have left the country in the last 10 to 15 years. As Mr. Galstian
mentioned, the results of the survey show that those who have recently left
Armenia transfer money more frequently than the "traditional diaspora."
About 90 percent of all immigrants from Armenia send money home, and those
surveyed said that the amount of money they transferred in 2005 had either
increased or remained unchanged compared to that of 2004. Only 2 percent
said that the amount of money transferred had decreased.

"The other interesting conclusion is that one of the reasons for the
increase in the amount of money being transferred cited by the respondents
i.e. the approximately 82 percent of those surveyed who had increased the
amount of the money being transferred] is the increase in the value of the
Armenian dram," Mr. Galstian noted. He cited further survey results
indicating that the occupations of those transferring money from Los Angeles
are diverse in nature, with 21 percent of respondents identifying themselves
as businesspeople or self-employed, 17 percent as skilled workers, 8 percent
as administrators, and 8 percent as drivers, with the balance employed in
the construction, transport, finance, and art sectors.

The main part — nearly 74 percent of those surveyed — said they send
money to their relatives so that the latter can take care of their daily
expenses. "Another interesting fact compared to the Armenian residents of
Russia is that 4 percent mentioned that they send money so that other
members of the family can migrate to the United States. There was no such
description of expenses in the case of the Russian population," said Mr.

Of those surveyed in the U.S., 70 percent answered the question asking
what percentage of their income was being transferred. Those who answered it
said that they transfer around 10 percent of their income to Armenia. Thus,
it may be estimated that the mean income of those answering this question is
around $27,000 — which is quite low compared to the mean annual income in
Los Angeles.

Also, 99 percent of those surveyed said they would continue transferring
money. Hence, money transfers from foreign countries, in this case from Los
Angeles, can be expected to continue. Mr. Galstian stressed that the Central
Bank can take certain estimates based on that information into account as it
formulates its own policy.

* Do you see your future in Armenia?

The participants in this survey were asked whether they saw their future in
Armenia in parallel with another question: namely, what they would do if
they received a lump sum of $100,000. Interestingly, according to Mr.
Galstian, 4.7 percent of those surveyed said that they would return to
Armenia; 7.8 percent said they would buy a house in Armenia; and 8.4 percent
said they would send the money to Armenia for current expenses.

"Only 30 percent of those surveyed gave answers related to Armenia," Mr.
Galstian said. "The remainder mainly connected their answer to the United
States — they would buy a house in Los Angeles, pay off a house loan in Los
Angeles, establish a business in Los Angeles, and so on."

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that 75 percent of those surveyed who
were born in Armenia said that they would never consider moving back to
Armenia, no matter what happened in the country. Another 14 percent said
they would consider returning — but only if their mean monthly salary in
Armenia reached 2,500 U.S. dollars.

The demands of the Armenians who migrated to Moscow were by far more
modest, which was reflected in the results of the earlier survey. Those
transferring money from Moscow send 27 percent of their income to Yerevan;
28 percent of them said there is no way they would work again in Armenia; 44
percent said they would work in Armenia provided their salary was between
$300 and $1,000.

And on the subject of the earlier survey, households receiving money
transfers use the main part — 76 percent — for daily consumption needs; 6
percent use it for education and other related expenses. The proportion of
money transfers used for buying real estate, for business, and for savings
is 4.3 percent.

* An ongoing issue

Life goes on in Armenia — and so do the money transfers from those who have
left the country to make a living elsewhere. The figures presented by the
Central Bank suggest that the amount of transferred money will have a
tendency to increase.

Thus, if in 2005 personal transfers received through the banking system
were $752.8 million, then in 2006 they reached $960.9 million — nearly 40
percent more than the sum of money transferred during the same period in the
previous year.

A dollar influx on this scale has a serious effect on the exchange value
of the Armenian dram, and accordingly on the entire economy of the country,
as the experts of the Central Bank confirm. A greater supply of dollars can
mean that a dollar fetches fewer drams, and that puts pressure on immigrants
to send more dollars. But remittances are far from being the only factor
determining the exchange rate.

That said, the Central Bank’s monetary policy is directed toward keeping
the value of the dram steady and predictable.

************************************ ***************************************

7. Alexander Arzoumanian, former foreign minister, arrested

YEREVAN — Alexander Arzoumanian was arrested here on May 7 on charges of
politically motivated money laundering. He is being held in pretrial
custody. In the 1990s, Mr. Arzoumanian was Armenia’s chargé d’affaires in
Washington, his country’s permanent representative to the United Nations,
and later, foreign minister. After leaving public office, he became involved
with the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission initiated by the U.S.
State Department.

Arzoumanian, who is now a leader of a group called the Civil Disobedience
Movement, was arrested two days after National Security Service officers
searched his Yerevan apartment and confiscated $55,400 kept there. They also
confiscated a large amount of cash from the Yerevan apartment of Vahan
Shirkhanian, another movement leader and former government minister.

Investigators say the two oppositionists have received a total of $180,000
from Levon Grigori Markos, an ethnic Armenian citizen of Russia who has been
under investigation by Armenia’s prosecutor general since 2005. The two men
deny receiving cash from Mr. Markos and claim that the case is politically

************************** *************************************************

8. Commentary: Guess who answered "The Knock at the Door"

* Anti-Armenian propagandists disrupt a book signing event in New York

by Anoush Ter Taulian

I never thought much about what kind of person would disrupt a book signing
— until last week. I had gone on May 1 to the Barnes and Noble on East 86th
Street in New York, to hear Margaret Ajemian Ahnert discussing her book The
Knock at the Door, which chronicles the memories of her mother Ester
Meinerajian, a Genocide survivor born in Amasia in 1900.

In her presentation, Margaret Ahnert was relating that as a child she
wondered why she had no living relatives on her mother’s or father’s side.
When she posed the question to her mother, her father interjected, "Forget
the past." In Mrs. Ahnert’s telling, "The Jews say remember, remember; but
Armenians said forget, forget." She went on to read a passage from her book
where she asks her mother, "Do you hate the Turks today … ?" and her
mother replies, "No, I don’t … Hatred is like acid that burns through the

Suddenly during her reading five men stood up and started passing out
leaflets. The "disrupters" turned out to be Turks, and their handouts were
Armenian Genocide denialist literature (if that’s the proper word). One
read: "Hey Margaret Ajemian, what religious freedom are you talking about?
There are many Armenian chuches in Istanbul, but is there even one Turkish
mosque in Yerevan?"

Of course the leaflets didn’t mention that Armenians are not allowed to
worship or even erect a cross atop their ancient church at Aghtamar; nor did
they mention that there is a functioning (and finely maintained) mosque in

The Turkish contingent also distributed publications by the Assembly of
Turkish American Associations (ATAA) which depict Armenians as having
perpetrated a genocide against Turks during World War I (four million Turks,
no less — this is probably the textbook definition of "adding insult to

The ATAA publications also dismiss the reports of Henry Morgenthau, the
U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman empire during the Genocide period, as false.
One wonders whether the Turkish disrupters felt any shame or embarrassment
(or intimidation?) at the fact that Morgenthau’s grandson, longtime
Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, was present at the book
signing. Also in attendance that evening was former New York governor Hugh
L. Carey.

As the disruption continued, a bookstore staffer warned the Turks, "You
cannot pass things out. This is not a public place. This is a book signing
which you cannot disrupt." One of the Turks snapped back, "This is a free
country. Hear another viewpoint," and continued to pass out his leaflets.

After another request to sit down and another refusal, the police were
called in. In the meantime, the lecture had been stopped cold, and there
were worried expressions on the faces of more than a few listeners.

When the police arrived they tried to escort the disrupters out, but
41-year-old Erdem Sahin refused to leave. He was charged with resisting
arrest, inciting a riot, unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct for
disrupting a lawful assembly. Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor punishable
by up to a year in jail; but in Sahin’s post-arrest appearance before a
Manhattan criminal court, Judge Rita Mella ruled that the case against him
should be dropped in six months if Mr. Sahin is not arrested again.

Ironically, I had spoken with Sahin just prior to the May 1 lecture. He
had approached me and said, "I know you." In fact, I didn’t recognize him;
but he said he had seen me a week earlier, during the April 21 Turkish
anti-Armenian demonstration near Times Square, which I had gone to witness.
[A report on that event appeared in the Reporter’s April 28 edition.] I
showed him some pictures I had taken on the occasion, one of which showed a
balding man holding a sign reading "Armenian Pinocchio Talks About the so
called Genocide."

"That’s me," said Sahin.

I asked him if he had read any of the Turkish scholars who acknowledge the
Armenian Genocide, but his response was that he believed his grandfather’s
stories about Armenians killing Turks. Later, Mr. Sahin would publicly say,
"We are fighting for freedom of speech." But did he or his accomplices
extend the same courtesy to Margaret Ahnert?

* Something new?

The fact that the Turkish government uses intimidation tactics to stifle
discussion of the Genocide is old news; it’s been going on for 80 years and
more. But this kind of "street theater" on the part of Turks — with its
faux "civil disobedience" veneer — taking place in America, seems like
something new.

All of the disruptions, demonstrations, and dissembling by Turks over the
past several months lie in the shadow of the murder of Hrant Dink. One has
to ask (as I was asked after the lecture), do writers like Margaret Ahnert
now have cause for concern about being attacked — here in the U.S.? In the
1970s, the editor of Leslie Davis’s Slaughterhouse Province did indeed go
into hiding, out of fear of being shot. Thirty years later, in America, do
Armenians have to wonder how far a Turkish extremist would go to create fear
and stress, to discourage authors from writing about the Armenian Genocide?
Should we be investigating who these disrupters are, and trying to figure
out how to stop them in the future? Should we protest the slap on the wrist
Judge Mella meted out to Erdem Sahin?

I had the opportunity to interview Margaret Ahnert the day after the
Barnes and Noble episode, by which time the Turkish disruption had been
publicized in a widely-distributed New York Times article. In that article,
Mrs. Ahnert was quoted as saying, "It was the first time I had that
ugliness" — to which she added: "It’s not pleasant, but this is America.
Everyone has free speech." On the previous night she had been very cool and
collected throughout the disruption.

It took her 10 years to write her book, and her mother’s memories give us
an insight into how Armenians of an earlier time survived abuse on a far
more lethal scale. We learn how an Armenian is forced by a Turkish court to
pay for a Kurd’s sword that broke on a walking stick the Armenian raised in
self-defense, to prevent being decapitated. We learn, too, that Ester has
the courage to talk about the horror of being raped and becoming a slave
bride. The crime was common in those days, it is terrible to relate; but
such courage was and is rare.

Ahnert said of her mother’s experience: "Despite all the trauma she went
through, my mother was a positive, happy, humorous person." She told a story
of Ester’s daring resourcefulness: how she was on her way to market when
four Turkish women blocked her path shouting, "Here comes the gavur." They
surrounded her, swinging their walking sticks at the level of Ester’s head,
but she ducked and the assailants hit each other instead.

When I interviewed Margaret Ahnert I asked her what she thought of the
Armenian-Americans who are lobbying Congress to recognize the Armenian
Genocide, and those who are suing financial institutions for the assets owed
to the heirs of Genocide victims. She replied, "I am not political. There
are people looking for justice, but I am not in that category."

Even so, events like the book signing disruption suggest that merely
speaking about the Genocide is a political act — whether or not we intend
it to be so. Indeed, in some places, merely being Armenian is a political
act: we cannot forget that Hrant Dink was also called a "gavur" by his
assailant, just like the heroine of The Knock at the Door; although unlike
her, he was not given the chance to dodge away. Full justice for the
Armenian case — whether through recognition, restitution, or something else
— still lies somewhere in our future. In the meantime, though, through this
outstanding book, Margaret Ajemian Ahnert has found a form of justice for
her mother, and for countless others like her.

* * *

Anoush Ter Taulian, a writer and activist in New York, was among those
present throughout the May 1 reading and book signing for The Knock at the

*************************************** ************************************

9. Commentary: The act of giving

by Nubar Dorian

The old Jewish proverb — "If God lived on earth, we would break His
windows" — should not be hard to understand for diaspora Armenians who find
themselves asking whether we will continue to exist as a community, miles
away from the homeland, in the years to come.

I respectfully submit that the issue of our perpetuation, far from being
frivolous, is fundamental and must take center stage in our community. It
needs to be discussed by every involved person among us — and especially by
our leaders, thinkers, editors — all of whom need to find the means to to
ensure the future wellbeing of our community.

All of us thickly lay on the old and tired — but true! — cliché that
"our children are our future." Yes, the destiny of our community depends on
the degree of involvement of our children and those yet to be born. But it
should be our passionate responsibility to build clear guideposts for them
to follow. On this score, sociologists, philosophers, and other thinkers
come up with a variety of theories and statistics; but among all the
options, the simplest and the best to adopt is to teach our children — by
example, not words — the Act of Giving.

Even in our babyhood, we experience the full power and worth of the Act of
Giving. We are fed, sheltered, clothed, educated, and cared for. We witness
the multifaceted nature of giving, wherein devotion, comfort, and love vie
among each other, as it were, for dominance. As we mature, we realize that
without the Act of Giving, life would be meaningless: love, compassion,
commitment would be empty words, and their would be little difference
between life itself and merciful oblivion.

For most of us, the Act of Giving does not extend beyond family and
friends. But it is our collective misfortune when we "leave it to others" —
with an easy conscience. We forget that if those "others" were to follow our
example, our Armenian community would be left uncaring, helpless — and
surely on the road to non-existence. In that case, all the sacrifices made,
all the time and treasure given, all the great edifices built or words
published, would all go to waste, and no one would be left to mourn our

Impossible, you say. But history proves you wrong.

History is still the best teacher, and it has a tendency to repeat itself.
Most of us know that there was a time in Armenian history, generations back,
when Armenians were forced to leave their homeland, and some of the exiles
established hearth and home in Poland and Spain. With hard work,
determination, and love of their religion, values, and heritage they
established churches, schools, and libraries; built shrines for their
martyrs and saints; even named streets after them. They built thriving
Armenian communities. But gradually, over time, more and more people left to
"others" the Act of Giving. The few involved souls watched as their vibrant
institutions crumbled, and the Armenian communities in both countries

Now, what makes us imagine that we will be spared this fate? Indeed, we
will not be spared, unless we — and not just a few, but all of us —
practice the Act of Giving. We could, of course, dispense with the Act of
Giving altogether, and stake our hopes on some kind of miracle. But I am
afraid that miracles like that just do not happen!

If we fail to collectively practice the Act of Giving — offering our
time, talent, and treasure for the greater good of the community — and more
importantly if we fail to teach our children to follow that example, we will
be courting deep trouble. The Armenian spirit and atmosphere of past years
is no more. To our young, most of our customs are "irrelevant," "passé,"
"ancient history." New values born of new forces are constantly straining
for their attention. And so it is left to us to teach our young that the
struggle for opulence, success, fame or comfort is fine — as long as the
Act of Giving always remains an integral part of life for

* * *

Mr. Dorian lives in Cliffside Park, N.J.

******************************************** *******************************

10. Commentary: Community expects swift action, Los Angeles Times executives
told at a meeting

by Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

A group of Armenian-Americans held an hour-long meeting with Publisher David
Hiller and Editor Jim O’Shea, at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times
last Thursday.

ANCA Western Region Board member Zanku Armenian, USC political science
professor and director of the Institute of Armenian Studies Hrair Dekmejian,
Armenia Fund of Western U.S. chair Maria Mehranian, California Courier
publisher Harut Sassounian, and former Glendale mayor Larry Zarian told the
top two executives of the Times that they must act swiftly to resolve the
hostile environment created within the newsroom by Managing Editor Douglas

Last month, Mr. Frantz blocked an article on the Armenian Genocide written
by Armenian-American reporter Mark Arax. Mr. Frantz accused Mr. Arax of
having a personal bias because of signing a "petition" in 2005 with five
other reporters, and not having followed "normal" internal channels in
submitting his article for publication.

During last week’s meeting, the Times executives admitted that both
charges against Mr. Arax were unfounded. They attributed the controversy to
a miscommunication. An internal investigation established that Mr. Arax and
his five colleagues had not signed a "petition," but a letter with the
intent of bringing to the attention of the editors the newspaper’s repeated
violations of its own policy of referring to the Armenian Genocide as

The Armenian community group that met with the newspaper’s executives
reminded them that the Times’ own Code of Ethics requires that "a staff
member who receives a complaint about the accuracy of a story should inform
an editor." The Code further state: "Readers and staff members who bring
mistakes to our attention deserve our gratitude."

Even though Mr. Arax was fully exonerated, the editors went ahead and
assigned his completed article to another reporter who ended up writing a
much weaker piece, using mostly Turkish sources. An attempt by the editors
to pressure Mr. Arax into allowing his name to appear jointly on the byline
of the rewritten article was rejected by Mr. Arax because it had little
resemblance to the article that he had originally prepared.

The Armenian group told Mr. Hiller and Mr. O’Shea that since both of Mr.
Frantz’s accusations against Mr. Arax were proven baseless, the only
conclusion that one can draw from this episode is that Mr. Frantz was
looking for a pretext to block Mr. Arax’s article on the Armenian Genocide.

Mr. Hiller and Mr. O’Shea responded by saying that they had not found any
bias on the part of Mr. Frantz on this issue. They acknowledged, however,
that their investigation had failed to uncover some basic facts about Mr.
Frantz’s past articles. For instance, when he was the Istanbul Bureau chief
for the New York Times, he had written an article that described the
Armenian Genocide simply as "the killings of tens of thousands of
Armenians." The New York Times had to publish a correction on January 18,
2001, to rectify this erroneous reference. In an article published one month
later, on February 15, 2001, Mr. Frantz referred to the Armenian Genocide as
"Armenians say 1.5 million people were killed by Turkey in 1915." Mr. Hiller
and Mr. O’Shea said they were not aware of these facts and promised to look
into Mr. Frantz’s earlier misrepresentations on the Armenian Genocide.

While the Armenian group said it appreciated Mr. Hiller’s personal
attempts in recent months to reach out to the local Armenian community, it
expressed its clear concern over the newspaper’s inaction in the Frantz
controversy. The group emphasized that the community expects the Times to do
the right thing by taking swift and decisive action in this matter.

The Armenian group objected strongly to Mr. Frantz’s plans to moderate a
panel at a conference in Istanbul on May 13, presenting Turkey’s "democratic
experience" as a role model for other countries. One of the panel members is
Andrew Mango, a notorious denier of the Armenian Genocide. To make matters
worse, the Times is paying Mr. Frantz’s travel expenses to Istanbul, which
makes the newspaper an accomplice to his chairing a panel with a revisionist

Last week, the ANCA issued a strongly worded action alert demanding the
resignation of Douglas Frantz (
700496&type=3DCU). As a result,
more than 4,000 e-mails were sent to Mr. Hiller, Mr. O’Shea and Managing
Editor Leo Wolinsky. During the meeting, the publisher and the editor said
they were not happy that they were receiving thousands of e-mail messages,
mostly through the ANCA action alert. They also expressed their displeasure
at the two previous columns on the issue written by this writer.

The Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America sent an urgent
e-mail to its entire membership, which included a copy of this writer’s
column as well as a link to the ANCA action alert: (
=3D433&PHPSESSID=3D1d3bf10618b75ccd0e8d71968af 6665f

Appo Jabarian, the executive publisher of USA Armenian Life Magazine
forwarded his own as well as this writer’s column along with the link to the
ANCA action alert to thousands of e-mail addresses, asking everyone to send
e-mail messages to Publisher Hiller and Editor O’Shea.

The Jewish Journal ( 3D17609);
the Fresno Bee ( ); and the
L.A. Weekly (
-latimes/16232/) published
lengthy articles on the Los Angeles Times controversy. Articles and
editorials on this subject were published by several Armenian newspapers in
this country and overseas. The press in Turkey and Azerbaijan also covered
this issue. Furthermore, dozens of non-Armenian websites reported this
controversy or posted this writer’s columns on this topic. See for example:


This writer was also interviewed by several radio programs. To listen to
them, please follow the links below:

— KVPR: (click on "Listen" on the
May 1 program);

on "Listen on the April 25 program);

— CounterSpin (the media analysis radio program of Fairness & Accuracy in
Reporting). The interview is currently airing on 135 radio stations around
the country on different days.
(cl ick on the button next to

ontent&task=3Dview&id=3D2101&Itemid=3D 135&lang=3Den(scroll
down to May 3, 2007 shows and look for "4 O’clock Thursdays — Maria
Armoudian" and click on "Play" at the end of that line).

Please continue sending e-mails to Publisher David Hiller:
[email protected]; and Editor Jim O’Shea: [email protected]

Hopefully, the executives at the Los Angeles Times will realize the
seriousness of the problem created by Managing Editor Douglas Frantz and act
to eliminate as soon as possible the hostility that he created in the
newsroom. It would be a shame if the Times ends up paying a heavy price for
the indiscretion of one of its executives as a result of widespread
community outrage and possible legal action.

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11. Editorial: An F for Freedom House

This is Armenia’s entry in Freedom House’s draft report on freedom of the
press in the world in 2006, released last week. The annual report is one of
several Freedom House publications that seek to raise awareness about the
state of freedom in the world. Freedom House is respected as an advocate for
liberty and we usually look forward to these reports: As a leading Armenian
media organization, we have an abiding interest in protecting and defending
our ability — and our colleagues’ ability — to uncover, report, and
disseminate the news without legal impediments or risk to life, limb, or

[The rest of this editorial has the form of 9 annotations to the Freedom
House draft report. It is best read in its formatted version, which is
available at ]

Status: Not Free [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 2]
Legal Environment: 20 [of 30, where 30 is the worst]
Political Environment: 24 [of 40]
Economic Environment: 20 [of 30]
Total Score: 64 [of 100]

"The Armenian constitution guarantees freedom of the press, although the
government and those closely connected to the ruling party frequently fail
to respect press freedom in practice. Libel remains a criminal offense. A
coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — including the Yerevan
Press Club, the Journalists’ Union of Armenia, Internews Armenia, the
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, and the Investigative
Journalists’ Association — drafted a proposal to abolish Article 318 of the
Armenian Criminal Code, which establishes criminal liability for insulting
public official. [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 3] Armenia adopted freedom of
information legislation in 2003, but the law has been poorly implemented.

"In September 2006, Arman Babajanian, editor of the opposition daily
Zhamanak Yerevan, was sentenced to four years in prison for falsifying
documents to avoid military service. Although he pleaded guilty, media
organizations expressed concern that the trial was politically influenced,
since the sentence was unusually harsh for such an offense. The president
appoints all the members of the National Commission for Television and Radio
(NCTVR), the body that oversees the broadcast media. [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 5]
The commission’s actions are government controlled and not transparent.
During the year, A1+, once a vocal and politically independent television
station, continued efforts to obtain a frequency license, but all 12 of its
applications over the past four years have been denied by the NCTVR. [SEE
EDITORIAL BLOCK 6] In 2002, the NCTVR had revoked A1+’s license and
subsequently gave it to a progovernment national television station. Since
then, the station has remained vocal by producing television programs and
internet publications. Each year, Armenian journalists organize protests on
the anniversary of the station’s license revocation. The Armenian National
Academy of Sciences filed a lawsuit in March 2006 demanding that A1+ vacate
the building it had occupied for the past 15 years. The academy owned the
building and won the lawsuit, and the journalists were given 24 hours to
leave. Separately this year, the government proposed a draft law that would
have changed the composition of the NCTVR, with half the members appointed
by the parliament and the other half by the president. The legislation also
sought to reduce television coverage of the parliament. However, lawmakers
rejected the bill in September.

"While the government does not exert direct control or censorship over the
media, it maintains a firm grip, particularly over broadcast media, through
informal pressure on outlet owners. [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 7] Print
publications are typically free to report diverse views, partly because
their low circulation and lack of presence in rural areas make them a less
likely target for government pressure. [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 8] The
highest-selling daily, Haykakan Zhamanak, sells less than 6,000 copies a
day. Since A1+ was taken off the air, most television stations have grown
more politically aligned with the government, remain selective in their
reporting, and routinely ignore opposition members. Armenian Public
Television, which has national reach, avoids criticizing the government amid
the evident climate of self-censorship in the broadcast media. Toward the
end of the year, as the campaign for the spring 2007 parliamentary elections
intensified, opposition figures faced discriminatory coverage and high
prices for campaign advertisements. There were reports throughout the year
of physical violence inflicted against members of the press. In July, Gagik
Shamshian, a freelancer writing for the opposition weekly Chorrord
Ishkhanutyun and the independent daily Aravot, was allegedly assaulted by
the local government leader’s brother and other assailants, and Chorrord
Ishkhanutyun’s offices were damaged by an arson attack. In September,
Hovhannes Galajian, editor in chief of the opposition-sponsored Iravunk
newspaper, was attacked and beaten. [SEE EDITORIAL BLOCK 9]

"The print media are privately owned, except for the government-subsidized
Hayastani Hanrapetutyun and its Russian-language version. But print
publications struggle with financial difficulties, and few newspapers are
able to function independently of economic or political interest groups. The
government has further restricted the print media’s distribution ability
with new legislation that requires delivery companies to apply for costly
licenses. The legislation threatens to bankrupt smaller companies and force
all print media to use either Armenia’s postal service or the main kiosk
vendor, both of which are government-affiliated. In 2006, due to the Russian
transportation embargo on Georgia, Armenia faced a shortage of newsprint.
Most television stations are also privately owned, but the owners are most
often progovernment politicians or government-affiliated business magnates.
Internet access remains low at 5 percent of the population thanks to high
connection costs, but there have been no reports of official restrictions
imposed on its use."

BLOCK 1 [Armenia]

Freedom House does not maintain a presence in Armenia. It does not send a
team of investigators to spend time studying the situation on the ground.
Nor does it have a panel of Armenia experts, with language skills and inside
knowledge, to lend their expertise to the findings. It falls upon an
employee of the Economist Intelligence Unit in London to prepare this report
on the side, making some calls and exchanging email with a handful of people
— but without the resources and access to do a satisfactory job. If the EIU
happens to send this employee to Armenia (as it did briefly in late 2006),
the employee squeezes in some meetings with contacts for Freedom House. The
draft report and proposed ratings are vetted by Freedom House employees and
board members in New York and Washington.

BLOCK 2 [Status: Not Free]

Freedom House assigns each country a status: free, partly free, or not free.
The status assigned to Armenia — and the sloppy work behind it — matters
beyond the reputation of the country. Under the $237 million Millennium
Challenge Compact between the United States and Armenia, Freedom House’s
assessment is one of the factors considered in determining whether to
disburse funds to Armenia. Freedom House is lobbying the Millennium
Challenge Corporation to automatically cut funding to a country whenever
Freedom House chooses to give the country a low rating. But Freedom House
has yet to show that it deserves the power it already has.

BLOCK 3 [Criminal libel law and Article 318]

The report rightly calls for the abolition of the laws that make libel a
criminal (rather than a civil) offense and "insulting a public official" a
crime. It should have noted, however, that there were no prosecutions in
2006 under these statutes; moreover, newspapers routinely publish attacks on
public officials. It would come as no surprise to anyone who follows the
Armenian press, for example, that the editor of Haykakan Zhamanak, which
this report identifies as Armenia’s highest-selling daily, is running for
parliament on the Impeachment ticket.

BLOCK 4 [Freedom of information law implementation]

Before allowing an assertion like this one, we would ask our correspondents
to document at least one case of an unsuccessful lawsuit under the freedom
of information act in 2006.

BLOCK 5 [NCTVR composition]

The Freedom House report for the United States does not mention the fact
that the president appoints all the members of the Federal Communications
Commission, which has similar regulatory powers. The report for Armenia
notes that parliament in September 2006 rejected a law that would allow it
to appoint half the members of the nctvr, but it fails to note that the law
was later passed — in February 2007. While 2007 is outside the scope of the
report, any auditor knows she or he has an obligation to note significant
"subsequent events" that occur before the report is issued.

BLOCK 6 [A1+]

This sentence is carefully worded to avoid acknowledging the fact that A1+
did not bid for a frequency license in 2006. One of the criteria for winning
or renewing a frequency is having a plan to invest in the station. A1+ in
2002 made the tactical choice to submit an application that did not show a
serious plan to invest in the station, and it ended up losing to a station
with a plan. The report neglects to mention that after A1+’s failed bid,
Public Television offered the station a block of time to continue
broadcasting its news programming, which was highly critical of the
government. This was an indication that the airwaves were not as tightly
controlled as the Freedom House report would have us believe. In the event,
the owner of A1+ chose to turn down the offer.

BLOCK 7 [Government control]

For several years now, Freedom House has focused on A1+ and has failed to
recognize the emergence of new, independent TV companies: Shant, Yerkir
Media, and most notably Armenia TV. Armenia TV has become the largest, and
the first-rated television station in Armenia. The station’s owners, Gerard
L. Cafesjian and Bagrat Sargsian, have a strong commitment to fair and
balanced journalism as practiced in countries with an established tradition
of free and independent media. This is a glaring omission in the Freedom
House report.

BLOCK 8 [Print publications]

This sentence says it all about Freedom House’s report on Armenia. It cannot
simply acknowledge that the print media are free. If it does so, the
absurdity of its overall rating of "not free" becomes obvious. So it frames
the acknowledgement as an indirect criticism: Oh, who cares about print
media anyway? Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Armenia’s literate society
knows that reports of any interest — substantiated or otherwise — in the
print media immediately become part of public dialogue.

BLOCK 9 [Harassment]

We deplore every case of violence against our colleagues. We also find it
indicative of Freedom House’s unreliability that Armenia — with the 3 cases
listed here — is rated "not free" when Turkey is rated "partly free"
notwithstanding the fact, noted by Freedom House, that "the number of
prosecuted journalists, publishers, and activists rose to 293 in 2006 versus
157 in 2005" and "72 individuals were tried in 2006 under the new penal
code’s especially controversial Article 301 alone."

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