"The Armenian Weekly"; August 4, 2007; Commentary

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The Armenian Weekly; Volume 73, No. 31; August 4, 2007


1. Armenians in Turkey Continue on Same Path
By Khajag Mgrditchian

2. An Unreasonable U.S. Concern: Armenian-Iranian Cooperation
By Michael G. Mensoian

3. Health Care in Armenia Yesterday and Today
By Inna Mkhitaryan

4. Taxi
By Simon Beugekian

5. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Reflects on Secularism and Islam in Turkey

6. Letters to the Editor


1. Armenians in Turkey Continue on Same Path
By Khajag Mgrditchian

ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)-The Turkish general elections took place on Sunday,
July 22, and were concluded with the victory of Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip
Erdogan’s ruling AK (Justice and Progress) Party. This basically means that
Turkey has chosen to continue on the same path it has taken over the last
four years.

In the previous elections AK party gained 34 percent of the vote, and out of
the 550 seats in the parliament, it had 363, which was enough for the party
to create a government by itself. This time around, despite the fact that
the party received 47 percent of all votes, it actually lost some seats in
the parliament, and now has 340. This decrease in the number of seats that
is not congruent with the popular vote is the result of the Turkish
electoral laws, which put a quota of 10 percent of votes for parties to
enter the parliament.

The results, which don’t change the political landscape, were however not
alone in defining the latest Turkish elections. There were many other
phenomenon which make these elections unique.

One of these events was the setback suffered by the Republican Democratic
Party (CHP), lead by renown left-winger Deniz Baykal. Clearly, this party
has left behind its leftist principles and has lately been becoming more and
more Kemalist, acting as one of the extremely nationalist groups in Turkey.

The latest wave of nationalism in Turkey allowed another party to enter the
parliament: the National Movement Party (MHP), which does not even attempt
to disguise its extreme nationalist approach. The party has been able to
garner 71 seats in the Parliament. With the entry of this party-which
sponsors the nationalist "Grey Wolves" movement-into the parliament, a new
Turkish opposition emerges. In the past, the only opposition party was the
CHP. The popularity of the MHP is evidence of the latest wave of nationalism
that has spread as a backlash to Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning policies.

Thus, the progress recorded by nationalist movements is the second unique
event that distinguishes the Turkish elections. The rise of nationalism
compels friends of democracy to pick the less of two evils, in this case the
AK Party.

The same view was upheld by the Turkish-Armenian community, which, for the
first time, participated with relative zeal, expressed its views and
attempted to have some say in the government. Most of the renown
Turkish-Armenian figures openly preferred Erdogan and his party. "I think
that the other parties have very little chance of receiving our votes,
because, in my opinion, we have lost trust in them. They have all been put
to the test, and they have all come and gone without helping us, while AKP
has, and where it has failed to reach its goals, it is not to blame. We know
what kind of opposition they are facing, and groups both within and outside
of the government are doing whatever they can to impede its plans," said
Rober Haddejian, editor of the "Marmara" newspaper to Hairenik/Armenian
Weeklies adding that if the AK Party remains in leadership, then "our
expectations might be met, and the situation might improve."
In an interview with "Hairenik," Sarkis Seropian, an editor of the "Agos"
newspaper, expressed a very similar view, mentioning that the AK Party is
the less of evils and is acceptable by the Armenian community in Turkey,
"because the other, so-called democratic parties, do not follow their own
creeds. The Republican Democratic Party itself claims to be left wing, but
in my opinion, it is on the extreme right, it is even possible to call it a
jingoistic party. And the positions of the right-wing nationalist party are
well known. I believe it is almost impossible to distinguish these two
parties. There are other parties, but they unfortunately won’t be able to
pass the 10 percent mark."

In order to circumvent the above-mentioned minimum limit of votes to enter
into the parliament, some parties orchestrated their campaigns in a way that
would allow them to propose independent candidates; and the large number of
independent candidates who got elected was another feature of these

The Kurdish-leaning Democratic Party (DTP) made good use of this strategy.
Twenty-four delegates of this party, who were campaigning as independent
candidates, were elected to seats. In fact, this Kurdish party, by
circumventing the 10 percent requirement, can form its own grouping in the
parliament. This large presence of Kurdish delegates is yet another feature
of the elections.

There are some names among the independent delegates that are worth
mentioning, including the former leader of the "Our Homeland" party, former
Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mesut Yilmaz, as well as the
head of the "Grand Union" Party (BBP) Muhsin Yazicioglu and the head of the
"Freedom and Union Party" (ODP) Ufuk Uras.

Translated by Simon Beugekian
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2. An Unreasonable U.S. Concern: Armenian-Iranian Cooperation
By Michael G. Mensoian

Recently, the United States Charge d’Affairs in Yerevan, Anthony Godfrey,
indicated that Washington had concerns regarding the degree and direction of
Armenian-Iranian cooperation, especially relating to energy resources. For
the past 30 years Iran has been the principal adversary of the United States
in the Middle East and its client state Israel. Its determination to develop
nuclear technology for peaceful or alleged non-peaceful purposes or, again,
its support of what is described in the Western media as radical Islamic
groups is beyond the purpose of this discussion. However, what is important
is that Armenia and Iran enjoy a symbiotic relationship that both nations
have assiduously nurtured since Armenia’s independence. It should be noted
that there are several hundred thousand Armenians in Iran; most having lived
there for generations.

Although the United States has a right to question Armenia’s relationship
with Iran, that concern must be evaluated within the context of the close
economic and military ties Washington maintains with Turkey, Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan, which loom large in the strategic
interests of the United States, have adopted policies whose sole purpose is
to weaken Armenia. Georgia, a third recipient of United States military and
economic largess, maintains a cooperative stance in its relations with
Armenia, yet it does not hesitate to enter into agreements with Turkey and
Azerbaijan that are inimical to Armenia’s economic interests. Far out
weighing any economic and humanitarian aid Armenia receives from the United
States are the close ties that bind Ankara, Baku and Tbilisi to Washington’s
policy of challenging Russia and Iran for the energy resources of Central
Asia and the Caucasus. As a result, Armenia has been left, literally, to its
own devices. So much for that.

As one of 44 land-locked countries in the world, Armenia’s relationship with
its neighbors must be placed in a special category. Georgia’s interest in
Armenia is primarily pragmatic; the type and volume of trade, transit
concerns, the degree and purpose of Armenia’s military cooperation with
Russia and the political interaction between Yerevan and the Javakhk
Armenians. Its economic and political viability does not depend on Armenian
cooperation. Armenia, however, has a strategic interest in Georgia. That
country represents the only land route to the Black Sea ports of Batumi and
Poti through which most of Armenia’s imports and exports pass. Similarly the
pipeline that delivers gas from Russia to Armenia transits Georgian
territory. It is obvious that there is no parity in their relationship. This
lack of symmetry emboldens Georgia to participate in economic ventures
without regard for their adverse impact on Armenia. With Armenia excluded,
Georgia’s strategic importance to Turkey increases exponentially as the only
practical land connection to Azerbaijan and ultimately to Central Asia
across the Caspian Sea. One only need look at the route of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline as well as the proposed Kars-Tbilisi-Baku
railroad which will replace the existing line that passes through Gyumri in
Armenia that Turkey boycotts. Both of these Turkish sponsored ventures were
meant to harm Armenia and exclude her from the potential economic benefits
that the region will experience.

Paradoxically, economic development in which all countries share is a goal
that the United States claims is vital to creating political stability
within the region. Yet the pipeline route was supported by the United States
knowing that it would have an adverse impact on Armenia. As for the
projected railroad, the United States again exerted no pressure on Turkey to
reopen the existing line through Gyumri. The tepid response from Washington
was that no financial aid would be provided if it by-passed Armenia. With
the wealth that Turkey and Azerbaijan have at their disposal, financial
support from the United States was never a determining issue.

The geostrategic interest of the United States in the Caucasus and Central
Asia not only benefits Turkey and Azerbaijan, but paradoxically has elevated
the importance and strategic role of Iran vis-à-vis Armenia’s national
objectives. In March of this year, ceremonies were held at Agarak, Armenia,
to inaugurate the opening of the gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia. From
Agarak the pipeline connects to the Armenian gas distribution net at
Kajaran. This is a major development that should have greater significance
in the future. Presently, any gas that is imported from Iran must be used to
generate electricity which will then be "sold" to Iran. An ancillary benefit
is that the villages in the southern Syunik district will have access to gas
for domestic purposes for the first time. In an emergency situation, should
deliveries from Russia via Georgia be cut-off, Armenia will be able to draw
on this new supply of gas.

On the main highway north from Megri in southern Armenia, any casual
observer will notice a steady stream of Iranian trucks which carry an
estimated 500,000 to 600,000 tons of goods annually. At an economic summit
in Yerevan this July, Armenian and Iranian officials met to discuss a wide
range of economic issues. As reported by Armenpress, Iran’s foreign minister
Manouchehr Mottaki indicated that several joint ventures were being
considered. These included building a hydropower facility on the Arax River,
a refinery in Armenia to process Iranian oil to gasoline for export to Iran,
and a new railroad link between the two countries. He reported that trade
between Armenia and Iran had reached $200 million annually with the
potential for reaching $1 billion annually.

Although it doesn’t have a contiguous border with Armenia, its fifth
neighbor is Russia. Both countries do depend upon each other, but Armenia is
the "junior partner" so to speak in this relationship. Presently, Armenia is
a "captive" of Russia’s Gazprom: a quasi-state run enterprise that supplies
a significant part of its energy needs at prices that are not set at "arms
length" negotiations. One can seriously question the desirability of join
ventures by the two countries or, especially, the ownership of any segment
of Armenia’s economic infrastructure by Russia. The Russian garrison in
Armenia does provide a stabilizing influence along the Turkish-Armenian
border. Armenia reciprocates by providing Russia with its last foothold
south of the Caucasus.

In the long term, Russia and Iran are adversaries both in the Caucasus as
well as in Central Asia. However, in the short term their objectives
coalesce to prevent Turkey from dominating the Caucasus and extending its
influence into Central Asia. Present United States policy seeks to exploit
the energy resources of Central Asia and control its movement into
international markets. For the present at least, Turkey and Azerbaijan are
willing partners.

Armenia has a crucial if passive role to play in thwarting this expansion of
Turkish influence. As mentioned earlier, Russian military units stationed in
Armenia represent a major deterrent to any ill-advised Turkish military
venture. The presence of Russian forces is a reminder that she has not
abdicated her historic interests in the region or her support of autonomy
for Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. Additionally, Armenia represents
the only route for a potential pipeline for the delivery of Iranian gas to
Georgia-an important bargaining chip in future Georgian-Armenian
cooperation. An alternative source of gas would lessen Georgia’s future
dependence on Russia as well as on Azerbaijan, whose ability to meet her
increasing demands is questionable.
Present United States policy is a direct response to the disintegration of
the Soviet Union and the transformation of the several Soviet republics into
independent nations. To fill the resulting political vacuum, the U.S.
Congress passed the Freedom Support Act in 1992. Its underlying purpose,
shorn of its altruistic rhetoric, was to challenge Russia in the Caucasus
and to extend U.S. influence into Central Asia with its vast deposits of oil
and natural gas. Turkey was a key component of this strategy. However, the
official objective of the Freedom Support Act was to provide economic and
humanitarian aid and to promote democratic institutions in these recently
independent countries. This objective ran counter to Russia’s official
policy, which was to regain hegemony over its Near Abroad, the former soviet

In recognition of Armenia’s position vis-à-vis Azerbaijan, Title 9, Section
907 of the Act stated that "United States assistance.may not be provided to
the government of Azerbaijan until the President determines and so reports
to Congress that the government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps
to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and

In every year since its passage, President Bush has waived Section 907 which
lifted restrictions on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan. According to the
Office of the Press Secretary, U.S. Department of State, the waiver was
necessary ".to support United States efforts to counter international
terrorism" [and] ".to support the operational readiness of the United States
Armed Forces.to counter international terrorism; [it] is important to
Azerbaijan border security; and will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts
to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used
for offensive purposes against Armenia."

Coupled with these annual waivers, it is instructive to look at President
Bush’s latest recommendations for the fiscal year 2007 budget as reported in
a press release by the ANCA. Contrary to an agreement struck with Congress
in 2001 to maintain parity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan,
the President proposed ".cutting.economic aid to Armenia from.[the 2006]
appropriation of $74.4 million to $50 million, a nearly 33 per cent
reduction." For Azerbaijan, the figure was $28 million and $58 million for
Georgia. The Foreign Military Financing proposals were $3.5 million for
Armenia, $4.5 million for Azerbaijan and $10 million for Georgia.

With respect to the President’s recommendations for International Military
Education and Training the figures are $790,000 for Armenia, $885,000 for
Azerbaijan and $1,235,000 for Georgia. The President’s fiscal year 2008
budget seeks 20 percent more in military aid to Azerbaijan than to Armenia.
So much for parity.

The Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues formed in 1995 has been
instrumental in protecting Armenia’s interests. However, the role of the
present administration should indicate the importance it places on the
Turkish-Azerbaijan-Georgia triumvirate. United States influence within these
countries is the key objective in its attempt to counter Russian influence
and to achieve its goal to control the exploitation and movement of energy
resources to global markets. The $1.5 billion in humanitarian and technical
aid received by Armenia since 1992 from the United States masks the inequity
between the aid given to the "triumvirate" and Armenia when Armenia is added
to the equation.

During this same period, Armenia has endured the adverse economic effects
caused by the blockade imposed by Turkey and its ally Azerbaijan, contrary
to the requirement that the waiver will not be granted ".until the President
determines.that the government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to
cease all blockades.against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh." Failure to meet
this requirement has not dampened the President’s enthusiasm to waive this
prohibition each year.

For the United States to ignore the effect of its pro-Turkish policy begs
the question as to what should Armenia’s response be with respect to Iran? A
key component of Armenia’s economic and political viability depends on
maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with its southern neighbor.
Its cooperation with Iran in no way affects United States interests. It
could well be that the ideological and strategic objectives of the United
States and Iran are so great as to defy any immediate meaningful
accommodation. However difficult that may be for the United States, Armenia
must be left to develop its relationship with Iran in a manner that enhances
its legitimate national objectives. Rather than question Armenian-Iranian
cooperation, the United States should reconsider the aid given to Azerbaijan
and Georgia and increase its support to Armenia if only because it is the
one emerging democratic nation in the Caucasus region, a key objective of
the Freedom Support Act.
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3. Health Care in Armenia Yesterday and Today
By Inna Mkhitaryan

According to statistics, Soviet Armenia had the highest life expectancy of
all the Soviet Republics and a more advanced health care system. After
independence, however, difficult economic and social conditions badly
affected the health care sector as well.

Among the organizations that have helped the sector recover are several
American ones:


The Armenia office of USAID was founded in 1992, and since then the agency
has helped the government in its efforts to provide high quality health care
and equity in health care.

USAID, in cooperation with the Armenia Ministry of Health, works to finance
and develop mechanisms to execute plans to improve primary healthcare (PHC)
services. According to USAID/Armenia, "The objective has a twofold approach:
(1) strengthen national institutional capacity for PHC reform; and (2)
reinvigorate provision of PHC services at the facility level."

Access to all communities is essential in order to take care of the medical
needs of the population. Given that people living in remote areas and under
harsh socio-economic realities have limited access to medical services,
USAID provides mobile medical teams. Attention is also given to providing
communities with awareness on health issues.

In the first half of 2006, the cooperation between the U.S. and the Armenian
governments in the health project that had begun in 2005 continued through
USAID. Observers periodically visit Armenia and prepare reports on the
registered progress in the project, which is worth $17 million.

The main partners of USAID in this project are the Armenian Ministry of
Health, provincial authorities, educational/medical institutions, as well as
some international and local organizations.

One of the important goals of the USAID is to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in
Armenia; to educate youth about AIDS; to target sections of the population
that are particularly at risk (intravenous drug users, prostitutes,
homosexuals, prisoners); to improve the quality of the health services that
individuals with AIDS receive; to ensure that the disease does not pass from
pregnant women to their children; to lessen the social and psychological
effects of the AIDS epidemic; and to encourage the educational system to
help stop the spread of AIDS. In 2005, this project reached the Davoush and
Shirak provinces, and in 2006, it was being implemented in 90 percent of the
clinics in Kodayk and Keghakounik. In the next three years the project will
be implemented in five other provinces: Armavir, Arakatzodn, Ararat, Vayots
Tsor and Syunik.


For about a year, the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) and the "Jinishian
Memorial" Fund have financed and overseen the "Provincial Doctors
Re-training" project. The project has already re-certified and re-trained
about 60 doctors from different provinces in Armenia, Javakhk and Artsakh.
The training takes place in some of the most modern and advanced clinics of
Yerevan: "Arapgir," "Kanaker-Zeritoun," "Nork Marash," "Shenkavit,"
"Diagnostica," and "Erepuni" medical center and the mother and child health
center. The project also provides free medical equipment for doctors.

This project, jointly financed by the Jinishian Memorial Fund, also strives
to create a medical network, encouraging doctors with the same specialties
but from different areas to interact.

In one month, provincial doctors are not only instructed of the most recent
developments in international medicine, but they also learn English, receive
computer lessons and learn to use the Internet. This information later helps
them when they participate in international seminars.

Armenian-American Wellness Center (Mamography Center)

The Armenian-American Health Center was founded in 1997, thanks to
Armenian-American philantropist Rita Balian and member of the Armenian
National Assembly Hranoush Hakobyan.

The aim of the center is to preserve and improve women’s health by
preventing breast cancer, as well as to support family health by providing
yearly medical visits that focus on preventing diseases. The center has a
radiology section, a laboratory and a family health section.

The executive director of the center, Khatchanoush Hakobyan, informed us
that in 10 years, the center has served more than 80,000 individuals with
different health problems; 7,000 of those examined were diagnosed with
breast cancer. In more than 2,500 young women, breast cancer was found early
and thanks to that the women’s lives were saved. Sixty percent of all
patients of the center are treated for free. The number of yearly visits to
the center has reached 15,000.

Satenig Krekorian, who has visited the center twice, informed that about a
year ago, feeling some pain around her breasts, she came for an examination,
and her results were negative. As per expert advice, she gets a mammography
at least twice a year.


For years the ARS optic centers in Talin, Yerevan and Vanatsor have provided
optical services to the Armenian public. The center, cooperating with the
government and international organizations, provides 300-400 prescription
eyeglasses each year for free to pensioners, orphans and other socially
unstable individuals.

The ARS Mother and Child Clinic in Akhourian

The clinic was opened in 1997 and is equipped with the most modern medical
equipment, a modern laboratory and a pharmacy. The center provides free
medical services to the population of the area. In the last nine years, the
highly qualified staff of the center has served more than 72,000 patients.

In 2005, a maternity ward was attached to the center. As of today, 1,185
babies have been born there.

The center regularly organizes lectures and lessons on health issues.

Armenian Bone Marrow Fund

The Fund was created in 1999 in Armenia. The President of the Fund is the
First Lady of Armenia Bella Kocharian. The president of the board is Frida
The Fund was created to help children suffering from leukemia or other forms
of cancer. The laboratory is unique not only in Armenia, but in the region
as a whole. Unfortunately, because Armenians have quite a unique genetic
structure, it is difficult for them to find matching, fitting donors in the
world. Due to genetic differences, Armenians suffering from bone marrow
issues die. Thus, it is essential that a database is created for all
Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora in order to help those of us suffering
from leukemia and other such cancers. The goal of the project is to organize
campaigns all over the world where Armenians can sign up and thus create a
large network. After all, the bigger the database, the bigger the chance of
finding fitting donors.

Rubina Ghazarian, who works for the fund, says that about 13,000 potential
donors have registered from Armenia, Artsakh, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Greece
and the United States. Eight hundred thirty-nine patients have applied to
the Fund, not only from Armenia but from across the world, and 623 have
found fitting donors. Six bone marrow transplants taken place in Armenia,
Europe and the U.S. Efforts are now being focused on creating a bone marrow
transplant center in Yerevan.

Vahe Vartanian, who lives in the city of Ardashad, gave some blood to the
Fund in 2003 and was listed on the database. When it was found that he was a
matching fit to a five-year-old Italian girl, Vahe flew to Cyprus and
underwent three months of medical exams. Vahe says he keeps in contact with
the girl through letters and that her health is improving.

‘Howard Karageuzian’ Center

The Howard Karageuzian Center has implemented several projects in Armenia,
especially related to children’s health and social issues. The cooperation
between the center, which has been active in Armenia for 10 years, and the
Armenian government is one of the best examples of cooperation between
Armenia and the diaspora. The clinic in the Yerevan Nork Marash community
was instrumental in providing healthcare to children, especially in
dentistry and ophthalmology, after independence. Children who are seven
years or older can benefit from the high quality dentisry and ophthalmology
services of the center. They receive yearly medical exams and other free
medical services until the age of 14.

According to Kohar Akhajanian, her 8-year-old son has received services from
the center for about two years. She praises the center for its services, and
little Aram is especially thankful for the warmth of the doctors.
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4. Taxi
By Simon Beugekian

As August approaches in Armenia, taxi drivers are mobilizing, and a serious
controversy is brewing in Yerevan. The cause of the uproar is a list of
rules the government of Armenia passed last March to regulate the
transportation industry there.

For a few years now, the taxi business has been growing exponentially.
Anyone who has visited Yerevan in particular knows how common they are and
how essential they are for transportation, especially for tourists. The
industry has created thousands of jobs, ensuring the livelihood of thousands
of Armenians. In March, the government moved to regulate the industry; the
new rules state that all taxis must be cars that are less than 10 years old,
all drivers must install electronic fee meters in their cars, and they must
pay an annual tax of 200,000 AMD ($590) to the government. The new rules
were initially set to take effect August 1.

On Wednesday, July 25, about 60 mostly self-employed taxi drivers staged a
protest outside the main government buildings in Yerevan, on the city’s
Republic Square. They honked their horns and turned their headlights full on
in protest to what they described as unfair changes in the rules, which they
see as benefitting large corporations and undermining independent cab
drivers. The response from the government was pathetic. Reportedly, Arshak
Petrosian, head of the Public Transportation division of the Transportation
Ministry, came out to greet the protestors with the words, "By gathering
here you are interfering with the government’s day-to-day work." He later
met with five representatives of the drivers.

The drivers’ protests finally resonated, and on July 30, Prime Minister Serj
Sarkisian met with dozens of drivers protesting again outside his office. In
a rare moment where an Armenian leader shows sincere empathy with the
everyday man, he told the protestors, "The decision affects the livelihood
of thousands of people and we must give them more time." He said the law was
passed in haste, and announced that its enforcement would be postponed.
However, he still defended the government regulations, saying it is
important to make sure cab drivers pay necessary taxes and their cars meet
safety standards.

What is this controversy about? To me, at least, it seems like a clear case
of class struggle. The regulations passed by the government of Armenia
clearly benefit one group while harming another . Those who benefit are
those who can actually afford to abide by the regulations-oligarchs who are
at the helm of large taxi companies. It is a strange "coincidence" that many
oligarchs who own taxi businesses are either in the government or are allies
of government officials.

Those who stand to lose the most are independent taxi drivers, who are using
the cars they have to make an honest living. These people cannot afford to
pay $590 a year to the government, which would be a large chunk of their
income. Many of them drive cars that are older than 10 years old, and cannot
afford to buy newer cars. With the passage of these new laws, these cab
drivers will literally lose their livelihood and income, and thousands of
families will suffer.

The parties that are currently heading the government, including the ARF,
during the May 12 parliamentary elections, issued electoral platforms that
stipulated support for small businesses and assistance to the working class
in its struggles. All parties stated their goal to combat and put an end to
poverty. The controversy surrounding the new taxi regulations put the
authorities before the challenge of an issue that purely relates to their
electoral platforms. If they impose these laws strictly, they will be
stifling small and independent businesses, and will, unfortunately, increase
poverty. Armenians must expect their representatives to stand up to the
occasion and come to the aid of these taxi drivers whose livelihoods are in
jeopardy. The ARF, which states that it is the historic protector of the
Armenian worker, should be at the helm of a movement to resolve the issue.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the taxi business in Armenia does not need
to change. Cars that are more than 10 years old can be environmentally
damaging and often lack the modern safety features that ensure the safety of
the driver and passenger alike. Electronic fee meters are obviously needed
for transparency of transactions, and taxes must be paid to the government
(currently, only a small percentage of taxes are actually collected by the
Armenian authorities).

However, an egg doesn’t hatch in a single day, nor can the whole
transportation system of Armenia be changed overnight. History shows that
when it comes to these issues, evolution is better than revolution-meaning,
you can’t just take a system that feeds thousands of families and turn it
upside down. Real people are affected, and families are left without income.
These changes must come over time in order to ensure that the government isn’t
actually harming its citizens-an ironic phenomenon that occurs way too often
in Armenia.

The government must do everything it can to reach a compromise, which would
ensure that no cab driver loses his income, and that he is given time and
incentives to comply with the new regulations. The most important thing to
remember is that Armenia cannot allow large taxi companies run by oligarchs
to take over the business at the expense of independent drivers who suddenly
find themselves without income.
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5. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Reflects on Secularism and Islam in Turkey

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)-In the Summer 2007 issue (Vol. 24, No. 3) of the New
Perspectives Quarterly (), Somali immigrant, feminist and
former Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an article titled "Don’t Disarm
Secularism," analyzing the current clash between secularism and Islam in

Hirsi Ali, who recently published her memoir Infidel, criticizes the leaders
of the AK Party in Turkey for wanting "to run state affairs on Islamic
principles." She notes, "The proponents of Islam in government such as Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, Abdullah Gul and their Justice and Development Party have
been remarkably successful. They have understood and exploited the fact that
you can use democratic means to erode democracy."

According to Hirsi Ali, the Islamists will benefit if Turkey joins the
European Union, as the military will no longer be able to interfere in the
country’s political affairs. "[T]he army and the court in Turkey-besides
defending the country and the constitution-are also, and maybe even more
importantly, designed to protect Turkish democracy from Islam," she says.

In her concluding paragraphs, Hirsi Ali presents her concept of "true
secularism" in Turkey: "Bringing back true secularism to Turkey does not
mean just any secularism. It means secularism that protects individual
freedoms and rights, not the ultra-nationalist kind that breeds an
environment in which Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a bestseller, the Armenian
genocide is denied and minorities are persecuted. Hrant Dink, the Armenian
editor, was murdered by such a nationalist."

Benhabib Responds

Asked about Hirsi Ali’s article, Seyla Benhabib, professor of political
science and philosophy at Yale University, told Daniele Castellani Perelli
("Mosque and State," Dissent Magazine, Fall 2007) that "Miss Hirsi Ali’s
language is a language of confrontation that basically presents a
homogeneous, orthodox Islam as closed to reform and transformation. And it
is a language that presents a unified, uncritical and un-reflectively
positive view of liberal democracies-as if they didn’t have their own
problems and reasons to be criticized."

Benhabib says the AK party is "carrying out an incredible experiment and it
is unusual for some one who is a democratic socialist like myself to be
supporting, and watching very carefully, a party like them. But we are all
watching carefully because they also represent a kind of pluralism in civil
society, which is absolutely essential for Turkey."

Talking about the Turkish military, Benhabib charged, "The Turkish army has
been involved in Turkish politics for the last half century and anybody who
considers themselves a liberal democrat and who wants the return of the army
to power cannot know the history of repression caused by the army in
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6.Letters to the Editor

Looking for Family Members

Dear Editor,

Senekerim (Seno) Tonoyan of Yerevan, grandson of a Senekerim Tonoyan who was
born in Constantinople and who fled in 1915 to Bdjni in Eastern Armenia, is
looking for his grandfather’s son and nephews in the United States.

While in Bdjni, the elder Senekerim married a woman named Srpuhi, and had a
family. He joined WWII in 1941 and was a POW somewhere in Europe before he
escaped to France. While in France he established another family and had
four sons, all of whom eventually moved to the United States.

Anyone with information about Senekerim Tonoyan or his sons and families,
please contact Andranik Michaelian at [email protected].

Andranik Mikaelian


Flying Colors

Dear Editor,

Regarding Tom Vartabedian’s column "Where Does Our Loyalty Rest?" (July 21),
loyalty has nothing to do with the positioning of the Tricolor. The rule for
flying the American flag states that no other flag may be flown above it on
the same flagpole. Tom was correct to fly the American flag above the
Armenian flag and I agree with everything else that he wrote.

Let there be no mistake. I, too, love to see the Tricolor flying. There was
a house on the beach at Wells, Maine, with a Tricolor on a flagpole. I used
to walk from Ogunquit Beach to Wells Beach just to see that flag and salute
it. Long may our Tricolor wave!

Ada Hamparian
Burlington, Mass.