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November 10, 2007 — From the front section
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1. Turkey’s prime minister, in U.S., seeks support against Kurds (by
* Acknowledges Kocharian’s offer on relations
2. Armenian-American soldier from Philadelphia is killed in Iraq
3. From Washington, in brief (by Emil Sanamyan)
* U.S., France declare revival in relations
* Azerbaijan fails to disrupt Armenian cultural heritage exhibit
* Turkish lobby to hold conference in Washington
4. Georgian president cracks down on opposition (by Emil Sanamyan)
* Proposes early election
5. EU wants reforms to continue in Turkey (by Talin Suciyan)
6. Deniers discuss Armenian Genocide at Johns Hopkins (by Nareg Seferian)
* "Hamlet, without a prince of Denmark"
* No Armenians are on the panel
7. Terry Davis continues to mock Armenian concerns (News analysis by
* Council of Europe’s secratary general visits Yerevan
8. In the OSCE, Armenia follows Russia’s lead (News analysis by Tatul Hakobyan)
* Joins proposal to restrict election monitoring
9. First ARF-Ramgavar interparty forum held in Armenia (by Maria Titizian)
10. Mariam Marukyan from Armenia helps the UN fight poverty (by Betty
11. Armenia’s underground wonders (by Charles G. Chavdarian)
* An eyewitness account of the first official U.S. caving expedition to Armenia
12. Memorial tree planting held at Tsitsernakaberd (by Armen Hakobyan)
13. Armenians evenly split as to whether their country is on the right
track, poll says
* Presidential preferences starting to shape up
14. Armenian Assembly celebrates 35th anniversary
* Pays tribute to Hrant Dink
15. Commentary: The history of the Armenian Genocide Museum and
Memorial in Washington (by John J. Waters, Jr.)
* Part 3 of 4 — The launch of AGM&M, Inc.
16. Living in Armenia: The things that make me happy and sad (by Maria Titizian)
17. Commentary: "The Paper Ladle" — and a legacy of integrity (by
18. Commentary: 2007 ARPA International Film Festival (by Sylvie Tertzakian)
* The price of expediency (Daniel Ajamian)
* More Armenia (Ara Hakopian)
20. Editorial: Armenia mulls its options
1. Turkey’s prime minister, in U.S., seeks support against Kurds
* Acknowledges Kocharian’s offer on relations
by Emil Sanamyan
WASHINGTON — Kurdish protestors and tight security accompanied
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he visited here earlier
this week to secure U.S. support against Kurdish rebels.
He also used the opportunity to deny the Armenian Genocide again and
indicated no plans to improve relations with Armenia.
* No change in Turkey’s Armenia policy
Speaking at the National Press Club on November 7, Mr. Erdogan again
denied the Genocide and claimed that Turkey wants "to reach a common
understanding of this painful period in our history, but I still today
have not received a response to my letter of 2005" on establishing a
commission of historians.
"Since we have not received a response, there is nothing I can say
further on the subject."
But just hours later at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS), the Turkish prime minister was reminded by Arman
Israelian of the Armenian Embassy in Washington that Armenia’s
President Robert Kocharian had in fact responded to the letter and
offered to establish relations without preconditions along the lines
of Armenia’s long-standing policy.
Two and a half years after that exchange, Mr. Erdogan acknowledged
the response, adding "but that was not the answer I was looking for."
He went on to insist that Turkey would not establish relations with
Armenia or open the border unless Armenia agrees to what amounts to
questioning the facts of the Armenian Genocide.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, during a November 7 visit to
Azerbaijan similarly said that "as long as Armenia initiates decisions
on events in the Ottoman Empire in parliaments around the world, it
should not expect normalization of relations with Turkey," the
Itar-Tass news agency reported.
* Erdogan upbeat on U.S. position on Kurds
Following talks with President George W. Bush, Mr. Erdogan told
Turkish press that "we got what we came for," the Jamestown Foundation
reported the next day, implying that the U.S. would not object to
Turkish attacks against Kurdish rebels inside Iraq.
Mr. Bush reportedly promised to provide Turkey with "good, sound
intelligence delivered on a real-time basis, using modern technology"
to deal with Kurdish rebels.
"Nobody told us not to launch a military operation. They just told
us we were right," Mr. Erdogan said as hundreds of protestors waved
Kurdish flags and chanted "Turkey out of Kurdistan!" and "Stop Turkish
Aggression!" just outside the White House.
Much of the Turkish press appeared to agree with Mr. Erdogan’s
assessment and claimed that Turkey would continue to stage small-scale
aerial and ground operations inside Iraq aided by intelligence
provided by the U.S., which has opposed a large-scale invasion.
Such an invasion has been all but ruled out for now, with former
Turkish Armed Forces chief Gen. Hilmi Özkök arguing that it would
serve no significant military purpose. But other generals suggested
that a credible threat of invasion was necessary to win the
cooperation of U.S.–backed Iraqi Kurds.
Passions inside Turkey have diminished somewhat as Kurdish rebels
released eight Turkish soldiers its forces captured last week.
* * *
Nareg Seferian contributed research for this report.
2. Armenian-American soldier from Philadelphia is killed in Iraq
PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Department of Defense announced on October 26
the death of Private First Class Adam J. Chitjian, a Philadelphia
native who was killed while fighting in "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
The 39-year-old Corporal Chitjian (he was promoted posthumously to
that rank) died on Thursday, October 25, in Balad, Iraq, of injuries
sustained when he came in contact with enemy forces using small arms
during combat operations.
Cpl. Chitjian was assigned to the Third Battalion, Eighth Cavalry
Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division, based out
of Fort Hood, Texas. He was due to end his second tour of duty in Iraq
next month, at which time he was scheduled to return home to
The powerfully built, 5-foot-11-inch man who grew up in the city’s
Somerton section and graduated from George Washington High School
worked as a commercial painter until he was inspired to join the U.S.
military in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He joined
the army four years ago.
His aunt, Sophia Chitjian, also of Philadelphia, told the Armenian
Reporter that Adam "loved the Army. He dieted and exercised so he
Because he was older than many of his fellow soldiers, Chitjian was
called "Pappy" by the members in his squad.
Shirley Chitjian, Adam’s wife of one year, told the Philadelphia
Inquirer that the Army promoted her husband to "corporal" after his
death as a sign of respect. The two had met when Chitjian was
stationed in Texas, and married in the summer of 2006, after he
returned from his first tour of duty in Iraq. The couple had no
* What "giving" means…
Sophia Chitjian remembered her nephew as "a very, very, special young
man … a fantastic, wonderful Italian-Armenian-American."
"This was his second tour of duty. He was due to come back in four
weeks — and then this happened," she said, adding: "The Army gave him
a beautiful military funeral."
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cpl. Chitjian’s elder brother
Martin, 41, a lawyer in Bucks County, said, "I would have bet my life
[Adam] would have come back without a scratch. I don’t really believe
it happened." He said that his brother had considered joining a
private security firm at the end of his duty in Iraq.
Joseph Froundjian, a family friend who knew Adam Chitjian as a
child, recalled that the immediate family was not especially active in
the local Armenian community. However, Sophia Chitjian, Adam’s
father’s sister, is an active member of the city’s St. Gregory the
Illuminator Church, and she asked the parish pastor, Fr. Nerses
Manoogian, to offer a prayer prior to Cpl. Chitjian’s November 1
funeral at the Diagiacomo Funeral Home in Philadelphia, which was
followed by a private burial.
Speaking with the Reporter, Archpriest Manoogian recalled his words
to a U.S. Army general in the quiet time before the funeral: "I said
to him, ‘We don’t know what giving is — we don’t know what patriotism
is — until we see such a person in a casket. Then we what giving
Cpl. Adam Chitjian is survived by his wife Shirley; his father
Martin; brother Martin Jr.; sister Kara; four nieces and nephews; and
his aunt Sophia. His mother, Edith Curcio Chitjian, died from cancer
3. From Washington, in brief
by Emil Sanamyan
* U.S., France declare revival in relations
French President Nicolas Sarkozy received a warm welcome in Washington
this week, heralding a revival in U.S.-French relations that have been
cool for over a decade. In meetings with President George Bush and an
address to Congress, Mr. Sarkozy shared his amity for the United
"Every time, when an American soldier falls somewhere in the world,
I think of what the American Army did for France [in World War II]; I
think of them, and I am sad, as one is saddened to lose a member of
one’s family," Mr. Sarkozy related in his speech to Congress,
eliciting a rapturous applause.
Mr. Sarkozy expressed his "love" for the American people, promised
to help U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, avoided mentioning
Iraq — on which the two countries have disagreed — and reiterated
concern over Iran’s nuclear program.
"It is unacceptable that Iran should have at any point a nuclear
weapon," said Mr. Sarkozy, adding that the issue should be tackled
through a combination of sanctions and dialogue. Neither he nor Mr.
Bush made a mention of possible military action against Iran.
But Mr. Bush said in reference to the French president, "I have a
partner in peace, somebody who has a clear vision, basic values, who
is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace."
* Azerbaijan fails to disrupt Armenian cultural heritage exhibit
Azerbaijan’s embassy in the U.S. tried to thwart an exhibit on the
destruction of the Armenian cultural monuments in Azerbaijan that
opened this week at Harvard University (see story in the Community
Section of this newspaper). The destruction was condemned by the
European Parliament and decried by U.S. officials last year.
In a November 1 letter, distributed at a pre-exhibit panel
discussion and made available to the Reporter, the Azerbaijani embassy
said: "Azerbaijan denounces continuing hysterical ungrounded
allegations by part of the Armenian Diaspora of stone-crosses’
destruction in a Julfa (Nakhchivan) cemetery" (sic). It further
claimed that the cemetery razed at the end of 2005 was not Armenian,
and is "under state protection."
The letter went on to allege the destruction of "Azerbaijan’s unique
cultural heritage amounting almost $7 billion" in Armenia and
Karabakh. The embassy did not explain how it arrived at that estimate.
The Armenian and Karabakh governments have in recent years spent
public funds to catalogue and preserve Muslim monuments now in
Armenian territory, even as the destruction of Armenian monuments has
continued in Azerbaijan.
Despite the Azerbaijani embassy’s efforts, the exhibit will be on
display at Harvard’s Davis Center through November 19.
* Turkish lobby to hold conference in Washington
The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and the Turkish
Coalition of America (TCA) will host a joint conference titled
"Turkish Americans Gaining Power through Grassroots" on November
15–16, according to a notice the groups sent out last week.
The groups’ activists are invited to lobby congressional offices,
attend advocacy skills workshops and a fund-raising reception at the
home of Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy.
A joint ATAA-TCA event earlier this year was funded in part by the
Livingston Group, which is in turn being paid by the Turkish
government to lobby primarily against Armenian Genocide affirmation.
Former House Speaker Bob Livingston will be one of the conference
************************ ************************************************** *
4. Georgian president cracks down on opposition
* Proposes early election
Georgia will hold an early presidential election on January 5,
President Mikhail Saakashvili announced on November 8 amid
international criticism of his government’s crackdown on protestors in
Tbilisi the day before. Mr. Saakashvili said he needed a renewed
"unequivocal mandate" from the nation to "tackle foreign threats,"
On November 7 security forces beat protestors and seized dissident
television stations and the government announced a 15-day state of
emergency and closure of private news broadcasters, Georgian and
international news agencies reported.
Georgia is Armenia’s key conduit to the rest of the world. Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanian reiterated the importance of Georgia’s
stability to Armenia on November 8, saying that "Yerevan is
attentively following the events in Georgia and hopes that the
situation will be soon settled politically," the Mediamax news agency
Many thousands of protestors held peaceful demonstrations for six
days through November 7, when police used rubber bullets, tear gas,
water cannon, and truncheons to disperse them. More than 500 were
reported injured in ensuing street clashes, with dozens of activists
Mr. Saakashvili, who has enjoyed strong U.S. support since his
election in 2004, expressed fears that the protests may lead to a
civil war and claimed they were fomented by the Russian government,
his long-time nemesis. But with most Georgian opposition parties
supporting pro-Western policies, no Russian involvement in protests
was immediately apparent.
Security forces seized a station co-owned by local tycoon Badri
Patarkatsishvili and Rubert Murdoch’s News Corporation, reportedly
detaining its staff at gun-point. Mr. Patarkatsishvili, who has
promised to bankroll the opposition protests, said he was abroad
during the crackdown.
The government announced that the state-controlled television will
have a monopoly on news broadcasts and that all street protests or
strikes would be illegal in the next 15 days. Opposition leaders
reportedly called off further protests citing safety reasons.
Mr. Saakashvili, who himself came to power following street
protests, defended the crackdown, saying that "[Georgian] democracy
needs the firm hand of the authorities." But the Georgian
Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II condemned the violence as "completely
U.S. and European officials expressed "concern" over developments. A
White House spokesperson, Gordon Johndroe, urged "that any protests be
peaceful and that both sides refrain from violence."
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer criticized the
government’s actions as "not in line with Euro-Atlantic values." The
European Union said it would dispatch its regional envoy Peter Semneby
– Emil Sanamyan
5. EU wants reforms to continue in Turkey
by Talin Suciyan
YEREVAN — On November 6, the European Union issued its Turkey
Progress Report. The report states that the reform process has slowed
down. The protection of minorities and human rights, the notorious
Article 301 of the penal code, property rights, problems of community
foundations, a lack of institutions for educating clerics, and other
issues which have been repeatedly raised by the EU, remained unsolved.
The 82-page report covered a wide range of issues under four main
categories: relations between the EU and Turkey; political criteria
and enhanced political dialogue; economic criteria; and ability to
assume the obligations of membership. Many of the issues related to
minorities were mentioned under the category of political criteria.
Some of the important points raised in the report are the following:
* Murder of Hrant Dink, supporting the perpetrators.
The report refers to the assassination of Hrant Dink, editor of the
Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos. It states: "While his death led to a
movement of solidarity in Turkish society, there were also expressions
of support for the perpetrators. There is a need for full
investigations, including allegations of police negligence."
* Article 301 remains in force.
The report points out that freedom of expression remains a concern,
and that the number of individuals prosecuted for their politics
increased in 2006 compared to 2005. Many of the charges were brought
under Article 301, which criminalizes insulting "Turkishness," the
republic, and the organs and institutions of the state.
Recently under the same article, Arat Dink, son of Hrant Dink, and
Sarkis Seropyan of Agos were sentenced to one year of imprisonment.
Their sentence has been suspended.
* Issues regarding the property rights of non-Muslim foundations
The Turkish government has confiscated the properties of non-Muslim
foundations, on the basis of a Court of Cassation decision of May
1974. A new law was prepared by the parliament but was later vetoed by
then President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
According to Prof. Hüseyin Hatemi and lawyer Kezban Hatemi, the
pending Law on Foundation is not enough to resolve the problems of
foundations. The General Directorate of Foundations had confiscated
hundreds of properties belonging to non-Muslim foundations and sold
them to third parties. The new law excludes the properties sold to
third parties. The report mentions that the Armenian Hospital
Foundation brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights
regarding the confiscation of its property, which it acquired in 1943
and 1963. An out-of-court settlement was concluded between the Turkish
government and the foundation whereby the government agreed to return
* Dual presidency at minority schools and discriminatory language in
the textbooks remain issues.
There is a dual presidency system in minority schools, under which
the vice president of each school is chosen and sent from the Ministry
of National Education. An Armenian school, for example, would have an
Armenian president and a Turkish vice president. The report states the
need to remove discriminatory language from textbooks.
Here a further point can be added, which is not included in the
report but it is related to the point mentioned above: Minority
schools receive no subsidies from the Ministry of National Education,
although education is fully subsidized by the state in state schools.
Thus, the financial burden of the minority schools remains on the
communities. The community needs its properties in order to rent them
and finance the schools. Thus, confiscation of properties has a direct
impact on communities’ financial resources.
* Restrictions on the training of clergy continue to remain an issue.
Non-Muslim communities have no institutions to educate clerics.
Until the 1970s, the Halki (Heybeliada) Greek Orthodox seminary served
to educate clerics. With a court decision, the seminary was closed. To
this day, none of the non-Muslim communities has any institutions
within which to educate clerics.
* Relations with Armenia.
The report refers to the invitation of Turkey to Armenian
representatives for the funeral of Hrant Dink in January and for the
inauguration of the restored Armenian Church of the Holy Cross in
Aghtamar in March. However, the report does not touch upon the fact
that in reality the church has been opened as a museum and the cross
has not yet been replaced on its roof.
The EU sees these steps as symbolic because no further developments
took place. It is also mentioned in the report that the land border
between Armenia and Turkey remains closed.
* The killing of three Protestant Turks in Malatya in April.
The report states that attacks against clergy and places of worship
of non-Muslim communities are reported. "Missionaries have been
portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the
integrity of the country and non-Muslim minorities as not being an
integral part of Turkish society. To date, use of language that might
incite hatred against non-Muslim minorities has been left unpunished."
According to the report, Turkey has made no progress in ensuring
cultural diversity and promoting respect for, and protection of,
minorities in accordance with European standards.
The report confirmed the December 2006 decision of the European
Union Council that the negotiation chapters with Turkey will not be
launched until Turkey opens its ports to the Republic of Cyprus.
6. Deniers discuss Armenian Genocide at Johns Hopkins
* "Hamlet, without a prince of Denmark"
* No Armenians are on the panel
by Nareg Seferian
WASHINGTON — "Armenian Resolutions: Symbols or Substance?" This was
the title the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (CACI) at Johns Hopkins
University chose for a forum it held on October 31. One of the stated
goals of the forum was to explore "what lies behind such resolutions"
and their "implications for the Caucasus neighborhood and for European
and American relations there."
CACI chairperson Prof. Fred Starr, known a strong promoter of U.S.
friendship with authoritarian leaders in Central Asia, moderated the
Sources familiar with preparations for the forum told the Armenian
Reporter that Mr. Starr contacted the Turkish and Armenian embassies
to propose speakers for the event.
The Armenian embassy declined, citing the organizers’ refusal to
properly refer to the Armenian Genocide. Former U.S. ambassador John
Evans, who was present at the event, commented that the forum,
especially with such a title, might be perceived as containing a bias
And as it became clear during the event, the Turkish Embassy had
proposed Bruce Fein, its longtime consultant and longtime denier of
the Armenian Genocide, but CACI had declined to invite him.
In the end, the panel included Alex Van Oss, a radio journalist who
teaches at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute; Mamuka
Tsereteli, director of the America-Georgia Business Council who also
teaches at the American University in Washington; and Adil Baguirov,
an Azerbaijani activist and post-doctoral fellow at a Russian Foreign
Ministry–affiliated university in Moscow.
Mr. Starr, the moderator, explained that the purpose of the forum
was to understand how passing resolutions pertaining to the Armenian
Genocide affected the countries in the Caucasus. "However strong"
one’s views may be, this was to be a focused discussion, Mr. Starr
In spite of this insistence, Mr. Van Oss’s perspectives were not
very tangible or specific. He referred to a panel discussion held on
September 28 event at the Library of Congress, where the five former
U.S. ambassadors to Armenia spoke, quoting former Amb. Michael Lemmon,
who offered a more spiritual take on the Genocide issue. Mr. Van Oss
also referred to different authors who held varying perspectives on
the events of 1915.
Mr. Tsereteli commented that he, like the other speakers, felt like
"tamadas [toastmasters] at a wedding without a bride and groom,"
because of the absence of an Armenian or Turkish speaker." After a
general overview of the Caucasus, he added that Georgia’s main
political issues continue to be with Russia, and that the Armenian
Genocide resolution doesn’t really have a direct impact on the
Mr. Baguirov’s presentation outlined Azerbaijani state policy
against Armenia and Armenians. His slides were aimed at discrediting
Armenia and he suggested the diaspora should not focus so much on the
Following these presentations, Mr. Fein, now affiliated with the
Turkish Coalition of America, got up to complain that he was
"disinvited" from speaking. Mr. Starr countered that while the Turkish
Embassy proposed that Mr. Fein speak, CACI had never invited him. Mr.
Fein went on to describe the forum as "Hamlet, without a prince of
Denmark," since the Caucasus countries have little sway over
Armenian-Turkish relations, and there were no representatives from
Armenia or Turkey present.
The 20 to 30 people in the audience appeared confused and there was
an uncomfortable silence before Mr. Starr tried to shift gears to
Russia and the North Caucasus, and then Iran.
A diplomat from the Turkish Embassy was in the audience and took the
floor toward the end to reiterate the Turkish position on the issue.
A member of the Azerbaijani parliament, Jamil Hassanli, who was also
present, then expressed surprise as to how this issue of the Armenian
Genocide has been gaining momentum over the past ten years. Mr.
Baguirov noted that Turks see this as a European conspiracy to
undermine Turkey; but Mr. Baguirov himself blamed the Armenian
diaspora, suggesting that Armenia was not as interested.
This correspondent said that while individual Armenians might differ
in their approaches to the issue, no Armenian is indifferent to the
attempted destruction of his or her nation. And further, the very
existence of an independent Armenia has contributed to the increase in
public awareness of the Genocide.
Mr. Starr finished the discussion with a call on Armenia and Turkey
to make peace, predicting that both societies will grow tired of
squabbling over this issue after a while.
While the discussion was held in an open and even positive
atmosphere, its essence and reasons for holding it remained
********************** ************************************************** ***
7. Terry Davis continues to mock Armenian concerns
* Council of Europe’s secratary general visits Yerevan
News analysis by Tatul Hakobyan
YEREVAN — Terry Davis, the secretary general of the Council of
Europe, who many years ago was the first rapparteur on Karabakh for
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), was in
Yerevan on November 5. During his visit he made several distasteful
remarks and offensive announcements about the authorities in
Stepanakert. Mr. Davis’s statements and stern admonitions aren’t
surprising. What is surprising is the silence from Armenian
authorities about his posturing. Terry Davis and other high-ranking
officials from the Council of Europe have made similar unrefined
statements from Strasbourg regarding Nagorno-Karabakh; what is a new
development is that they give themselves the right to make these
statements in Armenia.
Terry Davis was in Armenia on an official visit, during the course
of which he had meetings with prime minister Serge Sargsian, Speaker
Tigran Torossian and former president Levon Ter-Petrossian.
* Kosovo vs. Karabakh
After a meeting between Mr. Davis and Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian, a joint press conference was held. Here Mr. Davis said that
he is carefully following the Karabakh negotiations. He referred to
the authorities in Karabakh as a "regime" and as "separatists" who in
the secretary general’s words, are no different from the regimes in
South Ossetia, Abkhazia, or Transdnestria. Journalists at the press
conference tried to have Mr. Davis clarify why he doesn’t consider
Kosovo as a separatist regime.
"There is a big difference between Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh," he
responded. "There is no regime in Kosovo; it is the United Nations who
is administering — UNMIK — the UN mission in Kosovo. The group of
soldiers called KFOR, which are EU soldiers, who are doing their best
to guarantee security in Kosovo, are totally different. There is no
breakaway regime in Kosovo. There is a provisional institutional
government in Kosovo and that is based on UN resolutions. That is not
the case in Nagorno-Karabakh. The people running Nagorno Karabakh are
in a same group, if you like, as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and
Transdnestria and other places like that, breakaway separatists."
The Council of Europe, like many other international organizations,
still does not recognize elections that take place in Karabakh; on the
contrary, they publicly condemn them. However, the Council of Europe
made no derogatory statements about recent local elections in
Nagorno-Karabakh. When asked by the Armenian Reporter whether there
has been a change in their position regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, Terry
Davis said that they had adopted a policy where they do not always
need to speak.
"The regime in Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized internationally.
Just because I do not go around condemning people here and there,
everywhere, does not mean that I recognize them. Sometimes silence is
the best expression of disapproval. Every time there is an incident
involving some sort of demonstation or demonstration is forbidden or
it is made difficult to have a demonstration, things like gay marches
or something like that, I do not comment every time, because if I did
in all my life I would be commenting on detailed things that are
happening in Council of Europe’s member states. So because I do not
comment on local elections in Nagorno-Karabakh speaks for itself."
* At Yerevan State
Terry Davis continued with his musings on the Karabakh peace process
and the relationship between Armenia and its neighbours at Yerevan
State University (YSU). In his speech at the university, Mr. Davis
said that the strained relations that Armenia has with its neighbors
complicates both Armenia’s and its neighbors’ future.
"History has not been kind to your country, and there are many
painful memories of past injustices and sacrifices. But it is
important to remember that the other side has its own and different
perception of the past. You may not agree with it, but you need to
recognize and even respect it. . . . Unfortunately, the fact remains
that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is still the greatest obstacle to
peace, stability, and cooperation in this part of Europe."
It is important to note that when Armenia was not yet a member of
the Council of Europe, high-ranking officials of that body never gave
themselves the right to talk about Karabakh in this manner. On the
contrary, representatives from Karabakh were invited to Strasbourg,
where they were provided with a podium. In 1994, the Council of Europe
organized hearings regarding Nagorno-Karabakh and Karen Baburian, the
speaker of the Karabakh parliament at the time, was invited to speak.
While answering questions from the students at YSU, Mr. Davis was
careful not to condemn Azerbaijan’s recent warmongering statements,
saying that when he is in Yerevan he criticizes Armenia and when he is
in Baku he criticizes Azerbaijan. He told the students to think about
the reasons why Azerbaijanis have been making such coarse statements.
When asked by one of the students if Azerbaijan would ever concede to
losing Nagorno-Karabakh, just as Great Britain came to terms with the
loss of its colonies, Terry Davis’s short answer was: "Karabakh is not
a colony; it is a part of Azerbaijan."
Terry Davis believes that the solution to the Karabakh conflict is
up to Armenians and Azerbaijanis and their willingness to live
together and go forward together and not within the format of the OSCE
When talking about Armenia-Turkey relations, Mr. Davis did not use
the word Genocide. He did not even use the word tragedy. He avoided
any comments about Turkey’s blockade of Armenia, and its hostile
stance, which has continued for 13 years.
‘This relationship is still difficult because of the events which
took place not ten years but more than ninety years ago. I understand
your pain. Of course you remember the victims, but time is an
important factor. It does not erase the past, but it should be given a
chance to heal the wounds. Everyone must accept that history can be
neither ignored nor legislated. . . . Reconciliation is difficult, and
it takes much more courage than confrontation. It is especially
difficult, and therefore even more important, to make the first step.
But reconciliation is the only way forward."
* Relations with the council
The secretary general of the Council of Europe had come to Yerevan to
strengthen relations between the organization and Armenia. During
talks, Armenia’s responsibilities before the Council of Europe, the
upcoming presidential elections, democracy, freedom of the media, and
the struggle against corruption were discussed among other things.
Mr. Davis also discussed with both Mr. Oskanian and Mr. Sargsian the
possibility of sending experts to conduct an investigation on the
situation of Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan.
Armenia has demanded that a mission of experts be sent to Julfa,
where in the last several years Azerbaijanis have completely destroyed
thousands of Armenian stone crosses. Baku maintains that Armenia is
destroying Azerbaijani cultural and religious monuments within its
borders and is also demanding that experts be sent to Armenia.
"I am very glad that we have a clear understanding that I can send
experts to Armenia to look anywhere we want to go where there have
been accusations particularly from Azerbaijan about damage or
destruction of religiuos or cultural monuments," Mr. Davis said. "We
also had accusations from Armenia about about damage or destruction in
Azerbaijan. These sets of accusations are not linked together any
more. I think that it is very welcoming that Armenia has taken the
attitude that you have nothing to hide. And I will send my experts
here as soon as we can make the arrangements."
Mr. Davis said that he received assurances from Mr. Sargsian that
Armenia would allow a PACE mission to come to Armenia to investigate
cultural and religious monuments even if Baku does not agree to allow
a delegation to go to Nakhichevan or Azerbaijan.
8. In the OSCE, Armenia follows Russia’s lead
* Joins proposal to restrict election monitoring
News analysis by Tatul Hakobyan
YEREVAN – On September 18 Moscow sent an official document to the
delegations of the 56 member states of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This document proposed restricting
the powers of the observer missions of the Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The ODIHR functions under the
auspices of the OSCE and is the organization’s main
election-monitoring structure. The document proposed setting the
maximum number of members on long-term election-observation missions
The Russian proposal would also forbid OSCE observers from making
any comments on the procedure and atmosphere of the elections until
the official publication of the final election results. The document
is titled "Basic principles of organizing monitoring of national
elections by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights."
Russia’s parliamentary elections will be held on December 2. Western
experts think that by this action Russia is trying to reduce
monitoring by OSCE observers of the parliamentary elections, as well
as the upcoming presidential elections in March 2008. The United
States and the OSCE’s ODIHR have already criticized Russia’s
Russia’s desire to stay as far away as possible from European
observers and European values is understandable. Russia has serious
issues with the West regarding democracy, free and transparent
elections, and human rights issues. Armenia signed the document
presented to the OSCE at Russia’s "request."
How can Armenia’s position be understood?
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, which
are considered by the West to be authoritarian countrie, with
inclinations toward dictatorship, have also signed the document.
* A clarification
On November 5, during a joint press conference with Terry Davis,
secretary general of the Council of Europe, Armenia’s foreign minister
said that there has been a misunderstanding, and the essence of the
issue has been incorrectly presented by the Armenian media.
"The proposal which Armenia has also joined refers to the missions
that are financed by the OSCE’s overall budget. In the proposal it is
clearly stated that missions that are financed by the overall budget
must be restricted; the OSCE only finances the long-term observer
missions from the overall budget. In the proposal it is stated that
the number of long-term observers should not exceed 50, as that is
very costly for the overall budget. This is mainly a budgetary issue.
This proposal can never affect Armenia. Why? Because to date the
number of long-term observers has not surpassed 30 during any of the
elections in Armenia. In other words, even if it is limited to fifty,
this will not affect Armenia, since short-term observers are financed
by individual states and this proposal, this restriction does not
concern those observers who are financed by their own countries,"
Vartan Oskanian said.
* No effect on Armenian elections
Terry Davis gave an evasive answer to the same question. He simply
made assurances that the approval of the document will not affect
presidential elections in Armenia.
Christian Strohal, director of the Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights, arrived in Armenia on a short visit at
the end of October. He discussed Russia’s proposal and the reasons
behind Armenia’s joining it with authorities in Yerevan.
The ODIHR sends long-term and short-term observers to 56 member
countries of the organization. Those OSCE countries that regularly rig
elections are at the center of attention. The ODIHR presents its
initial report on the day following the elections; six weeks after the
end of the election process, it presents its final report.
* Approval unlikely
Russia’s proposal has not yet been approved; it is in the discussion
phase. At the end of November, during the OSCE Council of Ministers
session in Madrid, the fate of the presented document will become
apparent. It is predicted that many OSCE states will oppose the
document and it will not be approved.
"Even if we assume for a moment that the document passes and if the
OSCE wishes to send 200 or more short-term observers for the Armenian
presidential elections in 2008, this new decision will not affect it,"
said Mr. Oskanian.
If the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has
not sent more than 30 long-term observers to Armenia in any past
election, then Armenia’s decision to join Russia in its proposal is
not motivated by a desire to limit the number of observers in Armenia.
It appears that Armenia has signed on at Russia’s urging.
To this assertion, Mr. Oskanian replied: "The document that has been
presented by those countries is a joint proposal and is aimed at
improving OSCE’s and ODIHR’s activities. This was our aim. Let me
state that for some years now Armenia has had the most active
integration and is one of the leaders of the 56 countries as far as
OSCE reforms are concerned — in all directions not just ODIHR. The
document simply envisages assisting and making the activity of ODIHR
more productive and transparent."
This is the second incident in recent years that Armenia has joined
a Russian proposal addressed to the OSCE. On July 3, 2004, at an
unofficial presidential summit in Moscow, most member states of the
Commonwealth of Independent States — Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan —
but not Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova — approved a Russian
proposal that condemned some of the activities of the OSCE, primarily
those of the ODHIR.
The document stated, "Though occupying a crucial position in the
architecture of European security, under current conditions the OSCE
has been unable to adapt to the demands of the changing world and to
make effective decisions on issues of security and cooperation in the
Russia and CIS countries criticized the activity of the OSCE because
the organization did not put fundamental documents into action,
including the Helsinki Final Act (1975), the charter of Paris for a
New Europe (1990) and the charter for European security (1999). "Basic
Helsinki principles such as that of respecting the autonomy of states
and not interfering in their internal issues are not being
9. First ARF-Ramgavar interparty forum held in Armenia
by Maria Titizian
YEREVAN — The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the
Ramkavar Azadagan Party (Armenian Democratic Liberal Party) held an
interparty forum for the first time in their histories on November 6,
in Yerevan. The objective of this gathering was to discuss a wide
range of issues including the recognition of the Armenian Genocide,
the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the rights of Armenians in Javakhk,
Armenia-diaspora relations, and the political process in Armenia.
Leaders of both parties made opening remarks to the approximately
100 participants who had arrived in Armenia from different parts of
the world. Hrant Margarian, chair of the ARF Bureau welcomed the
delegates to the forum. He recalled that Armenians always call for
"unity" and "cooperation," and said that the leadership of his party
had heard that message. "We hope that this forum will serve as an
example and establish a new culture of cooperation in the political
life of the country," he said.
The Ramgavar Party’s central committee chair, Michael Kharabian,
said that this was an unprecedented meeting of the two political
parties. "We will jointly discuss and evaluate issues like the
Armenian Cause, international recognition of the Armenian Genocide,
the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, and enhancement of Armenia’s
In February 2007 in Paris, leaders of the three national Armenian
parties, the ARF, the Ramgavar Party, and the Social-Democratic
Hunchakian Party, met to discuss possible future cooperation. This
initial meeting was at the initiative of the Ramgavar Party.
During the Paris meeting the three sides agreed to form a steering
committee which would study the areas where the three parties could
work together. These discussions would then culminate in a forum like
the one held in Yerevan a few days ago.
In the beginning of this very ambitious process, the Hunchak party
took part in the organization of the forum. According to a recent
statement, however, they welcome close cooperation between the three
traditional Armenian political parties, but they did not participate
because they felt that enough discussions had not taken place before
the forum itself took place.
This forum coincided with the Ramgavar Party’s leadership
consultations taking place in Yerevan, where they were to discuss
several key issues. The first was studying the possibility of moving
the party’s official headquarters to Armenia. For the Ramgavar party
this became a tangible possibility with the lifting of the restriction
on dual citizenship, which resolved another requirement of Armenian
law which allows only Armenian citizens to become members of political
parties. The second issue on the Ramgavar party’s agenda was the
question of uniting with two other political parties, the Dashink
(Alliance) Party led by Samvel Babayan, and the National Rebirth Party
led by Albert Bazeyan.
At the end of the one-day interparty forum, a joint declaration was
unanimously adopted by the delegates.
The parties agreed
1. to intensify efforts directed at the development and strengthening
of the Republic of Armenia, securing the efficient utilization of the
potential of all Armenians in that regard.
2. to continuously pursue the international recognition of the
Armenian Genocide, the aim of which is to pressure Turkey to recognize
the rights of Armenians.
3. to cooperate to further organize the diaspora and raise its
potential to tackle new challenges. In this regard to cooperate
especially for the preservation of the security and political
independence of Lebanese-Armenians.
4. to continue to regard the strengthening of Artsakh as a national
priority and to assist in the efforts for a legal resolution of the
conflict. To continue in coordinated efforts to reveal the
anti-Armenian policies and crimes of Azerbaijan.
5. to defend the political and human rights of the Armenians of
Javakhk and to assist in the resolution of their social, economic,
cultural, and spiritual problems.
6. together to foster unity and solidarity in all segments of Armenian
society in the homeland and in the diaspora to resolve national
The ARF-Ramkavar interparty forum also decided to form a Leaders’
Council of the signatory parties which would coordinate interparty
cooperation regarding the above mentioned priorities.
10. Mariam Marukyan from Armenia helps the UN fight poverty
by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian
YEREVAN — Thirteen-year-old Mariam Marukyan is an agent of change in
the United Nations’ fight against poverty.
Together with thousands of children around the world, Mariam took
part in an art competition for children to design a UN stamp on the
theme "We can end poverty." Her stamp design was one of six winning
Mariam lives in the Nor Nork district of Yerevan, where she attends
drawing lessons at the Hayordiats Toun (Armenian house), a community
and art center for children and young adults.
Mariam has always been into drawing. When she was ten, she did the
illustrations for a little book of poetry her aunt had written. A
quick look at the paintings reveals that she picks out the bright
sides of life with the most cheerful of colors and expressions. Mariam
paints in this vein despite the loss of her mother in 2002 and the
permanent absence of her father, who left for Russia 10 years ago and
never came back.
She took part in the UN competition together with her friends in her
drawing class at Hayordiats Toun.
"We had to draw something that could help people overcome poverty,"
Mariam said. "Then I thought that I could draw the harvest, because it
is a direct way to show that when people work they will receive the
fruits of their work." That was the first time Mariam did a drawing
with the poverty theme. Winning the competition was beyond her
The drawing in bright red, orange, purple, and green portrays an
orchard set against a bright and cheerful sky. It embodies a national
tradition. It portrays a simple life, where cooperation, love, peace,
and good will lead to bounty.
For the competition, Mariam had described her entry with the
following words "To my mind, work will help people live fairly. That
is why in the picture I depicted people working in the garden. They
gather the harvest through their hard work and it is very rich. It is
a sunny warm day. The weather is pleasant. It is in harmony with the
mood of the people. Besides using it as food for themselves they can
sell the harvest and use the profits for their needs."
Mariam was one of 475 Armenian children who took part in the
International Children’s Art Competition. In addition to the six
winning designs, another 45 drawings received special commendation.
Armenia was proudly represented among those honorable mentions too.
Nine other children from Armenia, Khachik Gharibyan, Kristine
Hovsepyan, Eladdea Khachatryan, Hripsime Ghazaryan, Anahit
Martirosyan, Lusine Nersisyan, Nonna Gasparyan, and Suren Sahakyan
received a special commendation and were included in the special
exhibition at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The competition was organized by the United Nations Department of
Economic and Social Affairs in collaboration with the Department of
Public Information (DPI) and the United Nations Postal Administration
to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on
October 17 and the first United Nations decade for the eradication of
This information was sent to all UN offices in member countries. Two
United Nations institutions in Armenia, the DPI Yerevan Office
together with the Armenian United Nations Association took an active
interest in the project. Apart from distributing the information, both
organizations helped to organize the participation of Armenian
children in the project.
"We prepared drawing papers with the format of a stamp, with boxes
for participants’ personal information, and distributed 1,000 copies
of it in schools and art centers throughoutYerevan, as well as in the
regions of Lori, Shirak, and Kotayk. The participants had to be
between the ages of 5 and 15," said Karen Asatrian, president of the
Armenian UN Association.
Choosing a formal format for the competition paper served two ends.
"It was a hint for the children to envisage their drawings as future
stamps. We also intended to have our own exhibition at the UN building
in Yerevan before sending the stamps to New York," explained Mr.
The exhibition took place on the International Day of the Child on
June 1 at the UN Armenian offices in Yerevan and lasted for ten days.
By the end of June, the Armenian submission was sent to the United
Nations Headquarters in New York to join approximately 12,000
submissions from all over the world. At this stage of the project,
UNICEF joined the DPI Yerevan Office and the Armenian United Nations
Association and funded the shipment of the drawings
Mariam Marukyan and her teacher went to New York on October 15 for a
The panel of judges selected the best six designs to be issued as UN
stamps in 2008. The winners were announced during a commemoration
ceremony on October 17. Mariam was present at the ceremony, together
with her art teacher.
"It was an unforgettable trip to New York," says Mariam, adding that
her trip was primarily funded by the AGBU Armenia office. During her
five-day stay in New York, the ambassador of Armenia at the United
Nations, Armen Martirossian and his wife welcomed Mariam and also gave
her an easel as a gift. "No other gift could have given me more
pleasure than the easel that the ambassador gave me," said Mariam.
Along with the ambassador, AGBU volunteers also welcomed her with open
arms. "I made a lot of new friends. Every day AGBU volunteers would
accompany me around the city. I had an excellent time," says Mariam.
11. Armenia’s underground wonders
* An eyewitness account of the first official U.S. caving expedition to Armenia
by Charles G. Chavdarian
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following article describes natural, wild caves in
Armenia. As distinct from "tourist" or "show" caves (also known as
"developed" caves), wild caves should only be explored by trained
individuals, who have received permission to do so.
VAYOTS DZOR, Armenia — Following more than a year of planning, the
first United States caving (cave exploring) expedition to Armenia was
undertaken on August 5, 2007. The expedition was assisted with a grant
>From the National Speleological Society (NSS) in the United States,
and organized with assistance from AdvenTour in Yerevan.
I planned and coordinated the expedition, which was comprised of
five NSS cavers from the U.S. and the San Francisco Bay Area: Steven
Johnson, James Wilson, Gregory Chavdarian, Seda Chavdarian, and
myself. Steven, James, and myself are all members of NSS, a voluntary
organization with 11,000 members, all trained in proper caving
techniques. Seda and Gregory, my wife and son, are both active cavers
(Seda is a French professor at U.C. Berkeley; Gregory is a graduate
student in geology at U.C. Davis).
We were joined in Armenia by Vrezh Nazaryan, an Armenian caver and
guide for the expedition.
(As an aside, despite my long association and deep connection with
the NSS, I have yet to discover another Armenian-American caver, other
than my family members.)
The American expedition members returned to the U.S. on August 21,
having explored four of Armenia’s significant caves within the Vayots
Dzor Marz (province) of Armenia. Extensive photographic documentation
Prior to this expedition, the last major caving expedition to Vayots
Dzor occurred nearly 20 years ago, by Russian cavers.
Although there are many natural and man-made caves within Armenia,
little of this is known outside the country. The findings of this
expedition will provide a window into some of Armenia’s underground
* A world-class cave
With a base camp at 5,500 feet in elevation and near the village of
Mozrov (several kilometers from the town of Yeghegnadzor),
explorations of Mozrovi Cave, Arjeri Cave (or Archeri Cave — the
"Cave of the Bears"), and Karmir Cave ("Red Cave") were undertaken
over several days. The camp was located in an undeveloped , rugged
area near the remains of many ancient khatchkars, dating back to the
Mozrovi Cave was the first to be explored. The cave currently has
approximately 700 meters of known passage. It is notable for its large
main chamber, its wonderful multi-colored speleothems (limestone
formations), and passages of pristine coral formations, all of which
were photographed by the cavers.
Karmir Cave is the highest in elevation of the three caves (at
nearly 7,000 feet) and required a lengthy, steep, and cautious hike to
reach the entrance. Samvel Shahinyan, head of the Armenian
Speleological Centre in Yerevan, joined the American cavers for this
portion of the expedition and lead the team to Karmir Cave. The group
was also accompanied by a videographer from Yerevan. The name of the
cave derives from the stark red color of the cave mineralization which
was encountered throughout much of the interior passages. While in the
cave, the team also came upon the remains of a panther (mountain
A major amount of expedition time was spent in the largest of
Armenia’s caves: Arjeri Cave (Archeri Cave), currently known to have
approximately 4 kilometers (2.3 miles) of passage.
It quickly became evident — and later was supported via three days
of exploration — that Arjeri is a world-class cave, one that all
Armenians can be very proud of. After entering the cave, large columns
of calcite (limestone) flowstone within Arjeri’s massive entrance
chamber were encountered. As the team progressed through the cave,
they were constantly met with a wide variety of speleothems:
stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, columns, draperies, bacon. Very
few caves possess such a quantity (and size) of these calcite
formations throughout the extent of the cave. It was a remarkable
To reach most locations in the cave, we negotiated walking passages,
crawls, squeezes, climbs, and climb-downs (assisted by
rope/hand-lines). This cave never ceased to amaze us: one would come
upon beautiful formations nearly everywhere.
In addition, the team did find the skeletal remains of a bear in the
cave. The name of the cave is derived from such animal remains.
Arjeri Cave was documented with extensive photography. But above
all, it is imperative that every effort be made to protect and
preserve this magnificent cave. We discussed the matter with the
Armenian speleologists, in the hope that a means will be found to
prevent potential destruction or vandalism within the cave.
* A significant role in Armenian history
The final portion of the expedition required setting up camp near
Areni in Vayots Dzor, a small town with the distinction of being the
heart of Armenia’s burgeoning wine-making industry. The famous
Noravank monastery is located in this general area. The main cave in
this locale is Mageli Cave, with approximately 2 kilometers (1.3
miles) of known passage.
Mageli is a conglomerate cave: many of its walls look like coarse
gravelly concrete, as opposed to classic limestone or calcite. There
is not much in the way of speleothems or cave formations, due to the
conglomerate nature of the cave; but there are large, high, narrow
booming passages, crawls, climbs, squeezes, and the like in the cave.
It should only be negotiated by skilled cavers. Mageli Cave is also
home to a large bat colony — so care is required when exploring near
the colony. This cave was also documented through photographs.
During our stay in Armenia, the team had an opportunity to visit the
magnificent man-made cave monastery of Geghard, and the natural cave
church of Jerovank, near the town of Arpi. Natural or man-made, caves
have played a significant role in the history of Armenia and the
There are several other caving regions in Armenia, and it is our
hope to eventually return to Armenia and continue to explore and
document this remarkable "natural resource" of the country.
* * *
Charles G. Chavdarian, Ph.D., a pharmaceutical scientist who lives in
San Ramon, Calif., has been involved in professional caving for the
past 14 years. He is planning a series of presentations in various
locations throughout the U.S. on the Armenian cave exploration trip
described in this article, with a view to writing the first
English-language book on the caves of Armenia. He can be contacted at
In keeping with policy adhered to by responsible cavers and
international caving organizations, no actual cave locations have been
given in this article, nor will be through any correspondence with the
12. Memorial tree planting held at Tsitsernakaberd
by Armen Hakobyan
YEREVAN – On November 3, the almost-50-year-old Tsitsernakaberd Park
was replenished with saplings of elm trees, maples, ash trees, and
Japaneese sakura. Synopsys Armenia initiated this project, which was
made possible through the sponsorship of Synopsys for Armenia
Charitable Foundation with the assistance of the Armenia Tree Project,
which provided necessary saplings and later will also provide
specialists to take further care of the trees.
Dozens of employees of Synopsys Armenia visited Tsitsernakaberd with
their children and family members. Under the direction of the general
manager of the company, Hovik Musaelyan, they first paid their tribute
to the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide by
the eternal flame. The participants of the event, among them the vice
president of Armenia Tree Project, Mher Sadoyan, and the director of
the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Hayk Demoyan, placed flowers
on the memorial to the victims of the Genocide.
Thanking Synopsys Armenia and the Armenia Tree Project for this
initiative, Mr. Demoyan said: "You all know that Tsitsernakaberd is
the largest green zone of our capital. It cannot belong to a single
organization, social group, or individual; it is the property of all
our people, and each of us must bring our contribution to the
improvement and planting of greenery in this park. By planting a
sapling today you make your contribution for the future generations.
The message of this initiative is kind and its pursuit is fair."
It is significant that Synopsys Armenia has turned tree planting
initiatives into a tradition. Last year, again in cooperation with the
Armenia Tree Project, the employees of the company planted 400 trees
in the Haghtanaki Aigi (Victory Park). While planting a tree on on a
relatively barren slope of Tsitsernakaberd Park, Mr. Musaelyan told
the Armenian Reporter, "I am in good spirits, and I am proud that in
paying tribute to the victims of the Genocide our team tried to make
it material in this way. It has already become a tradition that
leading officials of our company during their visits to Armenia always
come to the Genocide memorial and lay a wreath. I think that it was
not accidental that we chose to carry on planting here this time as
However, the initiative was focused more on deeds rather than words,
so Mr. Musaelyan decided to follow this approach, and spoke only after
planting and watering more than ten saplings. The mood was touching,
especially when witnessing scenes such as five-year-old Arman, son of
Synopsys Armenia vice president Andranik Hovhannisyan, digging with a
shovel three-times his size. "These tree planting initiatives are
already becoming a tradition for us. Synopsys practices this all over
the world — when our employees, once or several times a year,
volunteer for the communities in which their divisions work. In this
case we came to help the whole community of Yerevan. I came with my
son, Arman. He is five, and see how excited he is to plant the first
tree in his life," Mr. Hovhannisyan said, giving assurances that their
interest extends to the future of the planted trees.
Later, Synopsys employee Arman Baloyan accompanied by Sona was
placing a sapling into the ground with the thoroughness inherent in
engineers. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Nerses Gevorgyan will probably never
forget how he planted trees with the director of the Genocide
Museum-Institute in Tsitsernakaberd Park.
During the fall tree-planting season, besides these 400 saplings,
around 2,500 more trees and bushes are going to be planted in
Tsitsernakaberd. Mr. Demoyan told the Reporter that all these
saplings were provided by the Armenia Tree Project. This particular
tree planting initiative is also significant, as it marks the first
since the threat that Tsitsernakaberd Park might be passed to the City
Council was finally removed from the agenda. Thus, the park, including
approximately 100 hectares of land, will remain under the jurisdiction
of the Genocide Museum-Institute. Moreover, as a direct result of the
visit of the prime minister back in September 2007, further
improvements of the park will be realized. According to Mr. Demoyan,
the work of cleaning, improvement, and forest restoration will be
accomplished by the year 2015.
"During the last ten to fifteen years, the park has experienced
serious losses due to the absence of overall care and the loss of
plant covering. It is visible to the naked eye," Mr. Demoyan said,
adding that during the last couple of months five trucks of inorganic
and construction waste, accumulated during the last ten to fifteen
years, which was a serious threat to the environment, have been
removed from the green zone. Additionally, the museum-institute has
managed this year to initiate a clean-up of 100-120 square meters of
land, removing all the snags, dried branches, and rotting and rotted
trees. According to Mr. Demoyan they have managed to improve, and
clean of thickets the boundaries of the memorial (about 30 hectares of
land) on their own. Mr. Demoyan highlights one of the most important
steps: "We have completely closed off all car entrances to the park.
Barriers have been placed which don’t allow cars to enter the
territory of the park." He adds that, "the next direction of our work
is the creation of recreation zones. We plan to make seats from the
timber of cut-down trees and place them in the clearings."
For the care and improvement of the Tsitsernakaberd memorial and
park, the museum-institute and the Armenian Forest Recovery Foundation
will draw up plans for a project together along with a preliminary
budget. That project, according to Prime Minister Serge Sargsian, will
be financed from the state budget.
13. Armenians evenly split as to whether their country is on the right
track, poll says
* Presidential preferences starting to shape up
YEREVAN — A poll conducted by the British firm ComRes and sponsored
by CS Media (with which the Armenian Reporter is affiliated) found
Armenian citizens evenly split on whether Armenia is on the right
Two thousand adults, a national representative sample, were
interviewed face-to-face between October 25 and 31. The margin of
sampling error for a sample of this size is plus or minus two
percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are
In response to the question, "Generally speaking, is Armenia on the
right track?" 48 percent responded yes, up from 43 percent in an April
Asked to rate their feelings about other countries on a 100-point
scale, respondents expressed warm and favorable feelings toward Russia
(89 points), France (80), the European Union (72), the United States
(58), and Iran (53). They were favorably disposed toward both the CIS
Feelings toward Azerbaijan (6 points) and Turkey (12), on the other
hand, were very cold and unfavorable.
* Presidential contest
Armenia’s next presidential election is slated for February 2008. Over
half the respondents (56 percent) said they were certain to vote.
Poll respondents were asked whom they would vote for if the election
were held on the next Sunday. The results suggest that 38 percent
would vote for Prime Minister Serge Sargsian. Another 13 percent would
vote for Raffi Hovannisian, the American-born former foreign minister
who was elected to the National Assembly in May. Another 12 percent
would vote for former Speaker Artur Baghdasarian, leader of the
Country of Laws Party.
Artashes Geghamian, who came in third place in the last presidential
election, could expect 8 percent of the vote. And former president
Levon Ter-Petrossian, who announced his candidacy while the poll was
being conducted, could expect 6 percent.
Respondents were asked which candidate would best deal with specific
issues. On strengthening Armenia’s economy, 33 percent mentioned the
prime minister, 22 percent Mr. Hovannisian, 21 percent Mr.
Baghdasarian, and 20 percent Mr. Geghamian. On the "problem of
Nagorno-Karabakh," 45 percent mentioned Mr. Sargsian, 11 percent Mr.
Hovannisian, and less than 10 percent mentioned other candidates.
Responses were similar for dealing with the risk of war and protecting
On dealing with corruption, 20 percent mentioned Mr. Sargsian, 20
percent Mr. Baghdasarian, 17 percent Mr. Hovannisian, and 15 percent
Fully 67 percent indicated that they expected Mr. Sargsian to win.
Armenian Presidential Election Poll
14. Armenian Assembly celebrates 35th anniversary
* Pays tribute to Hrant Dink
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Armenian Assembly celebrated its 35th
anniversary with a gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The opulent
affair highlighted the accomplishments of the Armenian-American
advocacy group and its achievements in the past 35 years.
Dignitaries, including the chair of Armenia’s Constitutional Court,
Gagik Harutyunyan, Armenia’s consul general, Armen Liloyan,
Massachusettes State Representative Rachel Kaprielian and the mayor of
Glendale, Ara Najarian, joined in the banquet’s festivities.
California State Assembly Member Greg Alexanian served as master of
Armenian Assembly members and sponsors participated in a program
that featured speeches from members on Armenian Assembly’s Board of
Trustees and a series of video presentations that visually transported
the audience through the annals of the organization’s lobbying efforts
in Washington and its years of service in Armenia.
Edele Hovnanian spoke on behalf of her father, Hirair Hovnanian,
chair of the Board of Trustees of the Assembly. Mr. Hovnanian, who was
scheduled to speak, attended the event but did not take the podium
"For some, the many transitions that the Armenian Assembly is
undergoing are unsettling," Ms. Hovnanian said. "Not only the
transition of staff leadership, but also within the board structure,
but we believe that these transitions are good for the Assembly and
are the necessary foundation for preparing for its future."
A resolution signed by State Senator Joe Simitian and Assembly
members Paul Krikorian and Greg Aghazarian was presented to Ms.
Hovnanian, honoring the Armenian Assembly and its summer internship
* Tribute to Dink
The highlight of the evening was a tribute to Hrant Dink, the
Turkish-Armenian editor who was murdered in Istanbul on January 19 in
broad daylight in front of the office of his newspaper Agos. In
homage, a video presentation was projected on two large screens; it
showed a montage of pictures and home videos from Mr. Dink’s life.
His widow, Rakel Dink, gave a powerful speech. While their son Arat
was recently convicted by a Turkish court of the same charges of which
Hrant Dink was convicted — insulting Turkishness — she encouraged
Armenians to continue on with the dream of her late husband.
"My husband always defended the fundamental rights and freedoms and
tried to reach others’ hearts with his unique style," Mrs. Dink said.
"He used to make people remember the suffering of the past, telling
people to empathize with others, try to understand and share their
Mrs. Dink continued, "He also had different dreams for the Armenians
of the world, but he was murdered by the very people who insisted not
to understand the essay in which he was trying to express this very
Referring to the Armenian Genocide resolution in the House of
Representatives, Mrs. Dink said, "I’d like to ask, what is being voted
on? Will the things that live in our body and soul so deeply be real
with the approval of the Members of Congress? Or unreal if not
She continued, "They say that it is genocide, but they do not put
their signatures on it. Why? Because they, the politicians, have other
agendas. They had their own agendas in 1915 and also in the 1940s.
They dealt with Rwanda the same, as with Darfur today."
The president of the Assembly’s Board of Trustees and founder of the
Armenia Tree Project, Carolyn Mugar, presented Mrs. Dink with a
Distinguished Humanitarian Award that was a metal sculpture of a dove
symbolizing peace and hope.
"This award goes to her husband, Hrant Dink, an Armenian hero whose
life inspired and whose martyrdom shook millions of people around the
world, and whose message of liberty, civility, truth, and
bridge-building . . . guides us today," Ms. Mugar said.
Before presenting the award, Ms. Mugar made a connection between
Hrant Dink’s martyrdom and the hundreds of Armenian intellectuals who
were massacred 92 years ago in the Armenian Genocide; her remarks
brought to attention the systematic and ongoing suppression of free
thought the Turkish government carries out.
"Hrant Dink went on to join the 240 other Armenian intellectuals and
community leaders whose freedom and subsequent lives were violently
taken away at the early morning hours of April 24, 1915."
* Internship program
As the evening continued, the Assembly also celebrated the 30th
anniversary of the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship program.
The internship program was launched in 1977; over the past 30
summers, some 860 students nationwide have trekked to Washington to
spend eight weeks interning in the nation’s capital. Young Armenians
have had the opportunity to work closely with state legislators and in
some of the world’s most prestigious offices including the World Bank,
the Federal Reserve Board, C-SPAN, and the Department of Commerce.
In 1999, the Assembly expanded its internship program to Yerevan,
and has been sending over 15 students every year to be apprentices in
various public and governmental offices in the homeland.
Joe Piatt, who is the current intern program manager for the
Assembly, expressed the important role the internship program has
played in his life and in the lives of many other interns.
"It brings students from all over the world together and they bond,
and they create friendships that are long lasting," Piatt said. "In
the cultural aspect, I am a quarter Armenian, and the internship
program made me feel apart of the whole, and I owe that to this
program." Piatt also mentioned how the internship program gave him and
many other Armenians a chance to really understand the inner workings
of politics in Washington.
15. Commentary: The history of the Armenian Genocide Museum and
Memorial in Washington
* Part 3 of 4 — The launch of AGM&M, Inc.
by John J. Waters, Jr.
The purchase of a site in Washington for the proposed Armenian
Genocide museum and memorial was announced in March 2000. In the seven
years since that announcement, the project has failed to move forward.
The Armenian-American community should know why.
This part three of the history reviews the events that led to the
formation of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Inc., the
independent entity established in 2003 to develop and implement plans
for a museum and memorial in Washington.
* The initial structure
Almost immediately after the site of the former National Bank of
Washington (NBW) was identified in January 2000, discussions began on
the best way to organize the ownership and management of the proposed
Armenian Genocide museum and memorial project.
It was initially determined that the Armenian Assembly of America,
Inc., would own the property and have the primary responsibility for
management and fundraising for the project. The Armenian National
Institute (ANI), at the time a close affiliate of the Assembly, would
be active in the development of the vision, programming and content of
The NBW property, purchased with funds donated solely by Anoush
Mathevosian and Gerard Cafesjian, was the first property acquired in
Washington to develop a museum and memorial commemorating the Armenian
Genocide. The founding donations to purchase the NBW site were granted
to the Assembly, and the NBW site was purchased in the name of the
When the project was launched, the Assembly formed a Museum and
Memorial Planning and Development Committee. The committee, made up of
representatives from the Assembly, ANI, and major donors, was to be
responsible for establishing a vision for the project and preparing
both site-development and fundraising plans. The committee’s plans and
recommendations were to be approved by the Assembly Board of Trustees
by the end of 2000, with a goal of opening the museum and memorial by
The committee met several times throughout 2000. Nevertheless, the
first deadline for presentation of plans came and went. The year ended
with more questions than answers. There was still no clear vision to
guide decisions. There was no plan and no fundraising. The lack of
funds and experience were obstacles to moving forward.
In December 2000, Ross Vartian, the longtime executive director of
the Assembly, was nudged out of his position at the Assembly and
appointed as the project director for the AGM&M. In the first ten
weeks of 2001, Mr. Vartian, working closely with committee chair Edele
Hovnanian and me, reviewed all of the materials from 2000, and
consulted with numerous trades and specialists in museum design,
construction, and management. In preparation for the March meeting of
the Assembly Board of Directors to be held in Boca Raton, Florida, in
conjunction with the Annual Board of Trustees meeting, Mr. Vartian
prepared a detailed report with an estimated project timeline, a draft
budget, and a list of proposed trades and consultants to be engaged to
complete the project to what he hoped would be the highest possible
standard competitive with the best historical museums in our nation’s
* Fifteen minutes
Fifteen minutes. That was the amount of time allocated on the agenda
to discuss the AGM&M report. When the moment arrived, and before one
word of presentation was made, Hirair Hovnanian flipped open his
presentation package to the draft budget and in a loud, angry voice
demanded that Mr. Vartian explain "where in hell" he came up with such
Before Mr. Vartian could offer an explanation, Mr. Hovnanian spun on
his chair toward his daughter, Edele, and berated her for her
participation in the preparation and endorsement of the report. Edele,
humiliated, left the room in tears. A stunned board sat silent, and
the meeting was adjourned. No discussion. No decisions.
In the weeks that followed, over a year after the project was
launched, a decision was taken to conduct a master plan and
feasibility study for the AGM&M project. In April 2001, two different
groups, each composed of a real estate project management firm, an
architectural firm, and a museum content design firm, bid to complete
a master plan and feasibility study. But 2001 passed and no decision
was taken. Again, the lack of project funds, coupled with the failure
of the Assembly to act on committee recommendations, kept the project
>From moving forward.
* Time for a new organization
In January 2002, Mr. Cafesjian invited the Assembly leadership to meet
with him in Miami to discuss the lack of progress on AGM&M. At that
meeting, Mr. Cafesjian suggested the Assembly once again give serious
consideration to the option of moving the AGM&M project out of the
Assembly and into a new, independent entity. It was not a new idea.
>From the outset it had been considered as one of several options for
organizing the project. At that meeting, Hirair Hovnanian, Assembly
Board of Trustees President Carolyn Mugar, and the other attendees
agreed that it was the right thing to do.
Several factors contributed to this consensus decision. First and
foremost, the Genocide is an integral aspect of the life of every
Armenian. The Genocide is a shared trauma that has impacted and shaped
the life of every survivor and descendent. The subject and the scope
of the project mandated the broadest possible community participation
in order to succeed.
The project scope and project budget continued to grow. Although no
formal master plan or feasibility study had been conducted, the expert
advice that had been solicited had a consistent message. An exhibition
hall would need to be at least 20,000 to 25,000 square feet to
effectively engage the visitors and properly tell the story of the
Armenian Genocide. Typically museums are usually two to three times
larger than their exhibition space, to support the museum programs.
More land, more space, bigger exhibits, and a larger endowment —
everything pointed to the need for a more significant budget.
Even if the Assembly could have been considered a potential proxy
for the Armenian community, the Assembly membership was not considered
likely, on its own, to fund what was expected to be a $100 million
The situation was further complicated at the time by the Assembly’s
participation in and support for the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation
Commission (TARC). The decision to participate in TARC, a major
decision taken by only a handful of the members of the Assembly’s
executive board, had severely damaged the Assembly’s standing in the
When TARC was announced in July 2001, several Assembly members
resigned in protest. After learning about TARC from a newspaper
announcement, Mr. Cafesjian, having just been appointed an officer of
the Assembly Board of Trustees and a member of the Assembly’s
executive board, demanded that the Assembly withdraw from TARC or
accept his immediate resignation. Ultimately, the Assembly officially
withdrew its support of TARC. The lingering effects of TARC clouded
prospects for the Assembly to engage in communitywide fundraising.
It was agreed that a new entity, with a new board, new donors, and
broader community involvement would be better able to move this
important project forward. That decision was taken in January 2002.
In announcing the decision at the Assembly’s March 2002 trustee
meeting in Florida, Mr. Vartian, stated: "The subject of the Genocide
is of vital interest to all Armenians. We believe it is essential to
provide meaningful opportunities for our diverse and global community
to join us — and we have concluded that an independent entity is the
best vehicle to help insure that our community rises to the occasion."
It would be 19 months before the new entity was formed.
Nevertheless, during that time, despite the ongoing limited
availability of funds, efforts were made to move the project forward.
In July 2002, over two years after the launch of AGM&M, the Assembly
finally approved and hired Concord Partners, a Washington-based
project-management firm, to oversee project management and
development. As part of the scope of services, the project-management
firm would assist in the selection of both an architect and a museum
In October 2002, Rouben Adalian, executive director of ANI, together
with the museum design firm of Gallagher and Associates, convened a
gathering of experts in Washington, to discuss planning of the
mission, content, and exhibits of the proposed museum and memorial.
In November 2002, Concord Partners distributed an initial design
brief and request for qualifications to over 60 national and
international architectural firms, seeking expressions of interest in
participating in a design competition for the proposed museum and
As January rolled around, another year had gone by. Another year
with few decisions taken and no significant progress in planning,
development or fundraising.
* Another outburst
In late February 2003, the ANI Board scheduled a meeting in Delray
Beach, Florida, in conjunction with the annual Assembly Board of
Trustees meeting. The first item on the ANI agenda was a report on the
planning for the AGM&M. Mr. Adalian came prepared to present a report
submitted by Gallagher and Associates. And, just as had happened the
prior year, before Mr. Adalian could complete his first paragraph, Mr.
Hovnanian erupted in a fit of anger, demanding to know why a planning
session he did not attend had occurred — a session to which he had no
recollection of being invited.
Efforts by Robert Kaloosdian, chair of the ANI Board, to respond
only further infuriated Mr. Hovnanian. Finally, Mr. Hovnanian stood,
threw his copy of the report on the table, and stormed out of the
room. Once again, meeting adjourned. No discussion. No decisions.
The Assembly Board of Directors also had a meeting in Delray Beach.
During the review of the Assembly’s annual budget, Mr. Hovnanian again
became angry. The Assembly was short of funds. TARC was still having a
negative impact on dues and fundraising. The AGM&M and ANI were a
financial burden for the Assembly. Mr. Hovnanian expressed his severe
displeasure with ANI’s performance and his regret for ever having made
a grant to ANI. He then insisted that ANI, and more importantly, the
responsibility for funding ANI, be transferred to the new entity being
formed for the AGM&M.
In late October 2003, negotiations around the formation of the new
entity were finally concluded. Motivated in large part by the
potential to save $250,000 in fees on the transfer of the property
located at 1334-36 G Street, the Assembly finally agreed to move
forward and the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Inc., was
incorporated on October 29, 2003.
On November 1, 2003, just prior to the Assembly gala in Desert
Springs, California, the Assembly agreed to transfer all of the AGM&M
assets, liabilities, and outstanding pledges to the new AGM&M, Inc.
* AGM&M, Inc., is launched
The AGM&M, Inc., was launched with over $27.5 million in assets,
funded grants, and pledges. Ms. Mathevosian had granted $3.5 million
to launch the project and to fund the purchase of the NBW site. In a
tremendous act of generosity and a strong show of faith, brothers
Sarkis and Nishan Kechejian, without ever even being asked, pledged $1
million to the project. James Keshishian and Edgar Hagopian
contributed valuable antique Armenian carpets. Other donors had
generously pledged or contributed over $200,000.
Simultaneous with the creation of the new entity, Hirair Hovnanian
pledged $5 million, and Mr. Cafesjian and the Cafesjian Family
Foundation made an additional, conditional grant in the amount of
$12.85 million. In doing so, Mr. Cafesjian raised the total amount of
his contribution to the now $27.5 million AGM&M project to over $17.85
The AGM&M, Inc., was launched with great expectations. Three and
one-half years had already gone by, and little had been accomplished.
But the new entity had a one of a kind property in a spectacular
location just two blocks from the White House and a renewed sense of
the opportunity that lay ahead.
* * *
Cash Pledges to AGM&M as of November 2003
Gerard Cafesjian and CFF $17,850,000
Hirair Hovnanian $5,000,000
Anoush Mathevosian $3,500,000
Sarkis and Nishan Kechejian $1,000,000
Other Donors $200,000
Contributions funded by current and former Board of Trustee members
for the benefit of the AGMM as of September 2006
Gerard Cafesjian and CFF $ 14,400,000
Anoush Mathevosian $ 3,500,000
Hirair Hovnanian $ 1,500,000
John Waters $ 25,000
Robert Kaloosdian $ 100
Van Krikorian $ 0
Total Board of Trustee Contributions $19,425,100
* * *
John Waters is the vice president of the Cafesjian Family Foundation
(which is affiliated with this newspaper) and a trustee of the
Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Inc.
16. Living in Armenia: The things that make me happy and sad
by Maria Titizian
Northern Ray Boulevard: This past Sunday we took a stroll along Teryan
Street, which cuts Northern Ray Boulevard, to get a first-hand look at
all the buildings that make up this new neighborhood of downtown
Yerevan. It has been under construction for the last several years.
The architecture, the color, the glorious inlaid colorful stones on
the walking paths were fantastic. I told my husband that 20 years from
now, with some wear and tear and loving care, it would resemble a new
Sadly, whoever planned this new neighborhood forgot about the fact
that there are things called grass and bushes and trees and flowers.
You feel as though you are in a concrete bubble — yes there are
colors of coral and pink and brown and yellow that adorn the facades
of these buildings, but the color green is blaringly absent. Along one
stretch of Northern Ray Boulevard that begins on Toumanian Street,
where Guess and Ecco have opened their new stores, there was a
half-hearted attempt to plant some trees in large, square concrete
planters. Only four are living; the rest have withered and died.
Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes.
Singing fountains in Republic Square: Stunning, beautiful,
breathtaking; these are some of the words used to describe the newly
constructed singing fountains in Republic Square. For weeks, every
night when the sun would be setting, hundreds of Yerevantsis would
gather around the fountains and watch the spectacular light-and-music
show in awe. During the day, however, the square has been turned into
one huge parking lot. Every possible square meter of free space is
used to park the cars of government employees and others who work in
the vicinity. Well, at least they took down the huge screen that had
replaced Father Lenin. Now there are flowers planted in that spot.
What will eventually be erected there is still up for wild discussions
and disagreements. Hopefully it will be a symbol for all Armenians and
not in honor of some popular figure or regime.
New roads, bridges, overpasses, underpasses: Fewer potholes to
contend with; new traffic lights; new street lights; new bridges and
overpasses and underpasses; and ultimately better flow of traffic.
However what Yerevantsis have to contend with is unbelievable,
unimaginable congestion, traffic, complete paralysis of the city’s
transportation network. Hopefully I will be able to maintain my
composure and sanity in the coming weeks and months until everything
is completed, as promised by city of Yerevan officials. I hope that I
will not allow myself to disintegrate into a mass of unspoken
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis’ recent
visit to Armenia: It’s a good thing when important people come to
Armenia. It makes us feel special. However, when they claim that
Karabakh is a separatist regime, maybe they should read a little more
about history, including their own. (See story above.) When asked by a
student at Yerevan State University if he could point to one British
colony that didn’t disintegrate into war or mayhem or complete
collapse when the British were withdrawing, Terry Davis said he could
think of probably one but wouldn’t say which one so it wouldn’t be
used against him. In his speech at Yerevan State University, Mr. Davis
kept talking about reconciliation. With respect to relations between
Armenia and Turkey he had this to say: "This relationship is still
difficult because of the events which took place not ten years but
more than nine decades ago. We all know that many people died, but the
time has surely come to pay respect to the victims but also look to
the future." I hope that people who come to our little country, in
this far-flung corner of the world from places "where the sun never
sets" they should take a long, hard look at their own history and then
wag their aristocratic fingers and try to "educate" us.
The Catholicos in America: His Holiness Karekin II was in the United
States meeting with Armenian-American communities and blessing newly
built churches. What a fantastic opportunity, both for the Vehapar and
his flock to meet one another, to be inspired by one another. For
hundreds of thousands of Armenian-Americans to receive the blessings
of the Catholicos is surely an experience they will remember and
cherish. At the same time, dear friends, hundreds of desolate villages
dispersed throughout Armenia are without churches, or ministers or
priests or even a shack with a makeshift altar where they may go to
pray, to beseech their Lord for some mercy and repreive. Where must
these people go to for spiritual guidance? Do they not need religious,
spiritual inspiration? I hope that we start thinking about them.
The production of the first Armenian soap opera: After airing
Brazilian and Mexican soap operas, and hearing the complaints of
viewers in Armenia and abroad, someone came up with the brilliant idea
of producing an Armenian soap opera. Kudos for their briliance. The
only thing is that it is worse than the Brazilian/Mexican ones. I hope
as the country ages, and we gain more experience and hopefully sources
of funding, we can begin producing better-quality programming for our
Internationally known brand name clothing stores opening in Yerevan:
After years of not being able to find clothes that fit or that suit
my, let’s call it "appropriate for my age" style, there are finally
familiar brand name stores opening in Yerevan. Gone are the days when
I have to go to Hrazdan Hanrakhanout or Hayastan Hanrakhanout and
battle other hardened customers to get to a pair of pants that just
might not have any glittery rhinestones plastered on areas only good
for sitting. I no longer have to try on clothes in makeshift
changerooms which are constructed in tiny corners of even tinier shops
with shower curtain rods, providing a peek show for cigarette smoking,
pointy shoe adorned salespeople who like to stare incessently. Nor do
I have to try tops on kneeling behind a pile of clothes with a towel
held over my head by a salesperson. (I swear this is true.) However,
as elated I am that there are clothes that I would now like to
purchase, the price of said clothes is so ridiculously expensive it
makes you wonder who can afford to buy them. I certainly cannot
justify buying designer pantyhose on sale at Wolford’s for $175. I
don’t know who can. I suspect that the vast majority of women young
and old browsing in these stores are simply window shopping. I hope
that more stores open not only in Yerevan, but throughout the country,
but not catering only to the rich folk who can afford them.
Beautiful fall weather: This year autumn has been blessing us with
beautiful warm weather and glorious sunsets. But as with most years,
beautiful fall weather bears the promise of a cold and unforgiving
winter. I hope, for all those still relying on wood burning stoves in
Yerevan and throughout the country, that this time I am wrong.
There are many things that make me happy and sad at the same time.
Hopefully the happy will always outweigh the sad.
17. Commentary: "The Paper Ladle" — and a legacy of integrity
by Varoujan Froundjian
Khrimian Hairik, whose 100th death anniversary will be celebrated here
in the U.S. and undoubtedly in every Armenian community around the
globe, is a monumental figure in the pantheon of Armenian clergymen
who down through the centuries have helped to shape our spiritual,
national, and cultural identity.
But when we try to put his legacy into an historical perspective,
his contribution at a first glance falls short when compared to the
achievements of Mashdots, Naregatsi, Shnorhali, and later Komitas:
figures who elevated our national experience into world-class art and
Yet Khrimian remains one of the most idolized clergyman in our
history. As a sign of that affection and appreciation, the nation
bestowed on him the title of "hairik": translating it in the usual way
as "father" — or even as the more literal "dad," "daddy," or "papa"
— hardly reflects the passion and sentiment Armenians felt, and feel,
towards this leader.
Armenians simply adored the man. They still do.
Mkrtich Khrimian reached to the highest ranks of the priesthood by
becoming the Patriarch of Constantinople (1869-1873) and then
Catholicos of All Armenians (1892-1907). But he was first and foremost
a simple human being. A catholicos of the people and common folk, he
was more deeply engaged in the wisdom and imagination of his
countrymen than in matters of theology. He was the champion of the
farmer, fisherman, merchant, craftsman and the ordinary men and women
who managed to live decent lives under the brutal regime of the
Criticized at times for acting more like a hotheaded activist than a
humble priest, he urged his congregation to rise and stand up for
their rights. This man even defied the powerful tsar of Russia when
the latter ordered the confiscation of Armenian lands. During those
dark days when in some areas even uttering Armenian words might cost
someone his tongue, Khrimian instilled in the hearts of his people a
longing for nationhood.
It was this longing that caused him to lead a delegation to Berlin,
to take part in a conference where he planned to propose the creation
of an autonomous Armenian entity within the Ottoman Empire. The
conference turned out to be a disaster. Describing this venture in
what is now remembered as his famous "Paper Ladle" sermon, Khrimian
likened the conference to a herissa feast, where powerful nations,
armed with cast-iron ladles, dug deep into the pot — leaving
Armenians to return empty handed because their ladles were made of
Khrimian’s eloquent "Paper Ladle" sermon is heartbreaking to read,
even a century after the man’s death. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of
disillusionment and hopelessness: a slap in the face to the national
aspiration and pride Armenians hold dear. It is an illustration of the
embarrassing political naiveté of the delegation and of Khrimian
The imagery itself is striking: after all, what else could a "paper
ladle" possibly symbolize other than impotence?
Reflecting on this, I find myself asking, Why is the story of the
"Paper Ladle" retold by Armenians, over and over? Why has it captured
our national imagination, if it is only an expression self-pity?
The answer, in my view, is that the story is not, ultimately, about
self-pity. Its larger meaning lies not in the historic outcome of the
episode, but in the figurative elegance of the story and the integrity
of the storyteller. Khrimian created an allegory which will be forever
engraved in the Armenian psyche.
Herissa, of course, strikes deeply into our collective
consciousness: a dish created by our mothers, who would stir the pot
>From sundown to sunset, thereby allowing the meat and barley to
dissolve as the aroma of heavenly soup would spread through the
villages, inspiring hope and sense of wellbeing. In today’s parlance,
we would call it "comfort food"; yet in Khrimian’s telling, that
comforting, homey imagery is spoiled and desecrated by the intrusion
of foreign powers. As an image, it pretty much sums up our entire
Yet Khrimian delivered his sermon without a hint of bitterness.
There is no politicking or assigning blame in his parable; no
cover-up, and also no suggestion of "moral victory" in the face of
material defeat and disappointment. Khrimian gave voice to the harsh
reality of the Armenian situation, in words of purest poetry. Even in
defeat, he remains the embodiment of humility and dignity.
That fact should make us love him all the more, and cherish his
legacy for yet another 100 years.
* * *
Varoujan Froundjian is a web designer and educator. He lives in Bayside, N.Y.
18. Commentary: 2007 ARPA International Film Festival
by Sylvie Tertzakian
A well heeled crowd, wearing evening gowns and tuxedos, filled the 450
capacity ballroom of the Universal Sheraton on November 4. The event
was the gala celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ARPA
International Film Festival.
The previous day my husband, Garo, and I attended the screening of
short films by Los Angeles filmmakers. Our son, Aram produced two of
the shorts. Needless to say, I had tears of joy reading his name on
the big screen.
Having attended many Galas in the past thirty years in Southern
California, we found the ARPA gala unique. The fashion and the style
was not an adoption of Hollywood, it was Hollywood. The Armenian and
non-Armenian industry invitees walked the red carpet in the style of
the Oscar night. I was watching a dream come true: Armenian film
makers, old and young, making their stamp on the entertainment
The Festival proved that as a community, we have arrived. Our young
generation has taken wings to pursue their passion, and the skeptic
parents of the past have become the supportive parents of the present.
Throughout the evening, we heard the professionals from the podium
advising the young talents to follow their dreams. Speaking from his
experience, Ken Davitian of Borat, encouraged the young film makers to
follow their passion even if it takes a lifetime. Or, as in his case,
The Gala also proved that ARPA is a venue where non Armenians,
Armenians from Armenia, and the Diaspora meet and collaborate. It also
added a different dimension to the existing themes of the Hollywood
movies. Social consciousness, human rights, Genocide/Holocaust, social
issues, and bringing change to the big screen were the leitmotif of
The moving force behind the Festival and the Gala was Sylvia
Minassian, the founder of ARPA. Together with the co-directorship of
Tina Yesayan and Alex Kalognomos, and a team of young and energetic
young people, including our daughter, Taleen, they made the impossible
We left the Gala confident that the new generation are breaking the
barriers and following their passion. Who knows, perhaps on the 20th
anniversary of ARPA, some of these talented artists will be honored
as Academy Award recipients. Knowing Sylvia’s dedication and the
ambitions of the film makers, I am sure that it will happen.
The price of expediency
Once again, realpolitik trumps all in United States foreign policy —
at the expense of morally and ethically defensible positions. While
painfully true under the current administration, it is not unique to
this administration or to this party.
The recent battle in Congress regarding the issue of the Armenian
Genocide is certainly a case in point. Despite overwhelming evidence
of genocide by the Ottoman government against its Armenian subjects
during World War I, this administration allowed the immediate concerns
of the moment to trump a moral stand. While this could be viewed as
beneficial to our security within the narrow window of the immediate
moment, it only makes our country more vulnerable to a multitude of
risks in the long run.
As I was watching news of the events in Pakistan — with President
Musharraf suspending the constitution and President Bush and Secretary
Rice giving some lip service to condemning the actions — it struck me
that we are witnessing the same approach. Regardless of the behavior
of Mr. Musharraf, the United States will continue to support his
regime. For the immediate the moment, one could make an argument for
the necessity of this support. However, once again, such support makes
our country vulnerable in the long term.
These are only two examples in a long history of examples that the
United States has offered the world. Thugs and brutes throughout the
world know this, and take advantage of this foreign policy approach
whenever it suits their needs. In the case of Pakistan, this results
in the supporting of Musharraf by the United States government to the
detriment of the Pakistani people. In the case of Turkey and Armenian
Genocide recognition, the stand of the United States government sends
a message to the world that we will ignore truth and justice if we get
a better offer. The result is a continued and building hatred toward
the United States government by millions of people around the world
who are either victimized by unjust rulers supported by us, or who see
that we will turn a blind eye to even the most heinous act of
genocide. For this, we pay a price today and will continue to do so in
It will not come as a surprise if one day we learn that the events
regarding the stoppage of the Armenian Genocide resolution helped
convince Musharraf that he would pay no price with the United States
administration for his military crackdown.
Our actions of realpolitik will not provide safety and security for
our country — in fact, we will reap continued insecurity. We are
supposed to be better than this. The United States will only be safe
when it acts in an ethically and morally defensible manner regarding
its international relations.
Very truly yours,
San Diego, Calif.
I have recently subscribed to the Armenian Reporter and have read only
five editions of the paper. I like it. It is very informative about
the Armenian communities, events, and politics in the U.S.A.
I would love to see more detailed news about Armenia. I feel I need
to know more about its political parties, elections, economics, and
Thanks for your devotion and hard work.
Very truly yours,
20. Editorial: Armenia mulls its options
Armenia is expected to hold presidential elections in February 2008.
Armenians and the international community will be looking carefully at
the field of candidates as well as the conduct of the elections — and
that encompasses not just Election Day, but also the months leading to
The candidate of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia is Prime
Minister Serge Sargsian. He is President Robert Kocharian’s endorsed
successor, but his victory at the polls is by no means a foregone
conclusion. Unlike some former Soviet republics, Armenia holds
elections, not coronations.
The opposition in Armenia faces a tough challenge. Two parties
supporting Mr. Sargsian’s candidacy, the Republican Party of Armenia
and the Prosperous Armenia Party, together won 47.5 percent of the
party vote in the parliamentary elections in May. The prime minister
thus enters the race with strong support. This is confirmed by a
recent poll. (See story above.)
If no candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote in February, there
will be a runoff election among the top two vote getters.
Of the parties not supporting Mr. Sargsian’s candidacy, the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) won the largest portion of
the May vote, 12.7 percent. It will be running a presidential
candidate, either Vahan Hovannessian or Armen Rustamian.
Next came the Country of Laws Party, at 6.8 percent. Its leader,
Artur Baghdasarian has declared his candidacy. The Heritage Party,
which won 5.8 percent of the May vote, has not yet declared its
The smaller opposition parties have generally acknowledged that they
have no chance of prevailing in first- or second-round balloting
unless they coalesce around a single, joint candidate.
Enter Levon Ter-Petrossian, the former president, who recently broke
10 years of public silence. Respected as an effective orator and
debater, and a learned and intelligent man, he is also blamed for the
collapse of Armenia’s economy and the energy crisis in the early 1990s
and the attendant misery, and for allowing the political cronyism and
corruption he now criticizes.
Speaking in Freedom Square — the very venue in which he won the
trust of the Armenian people in mass rallies in 1988 and 1989 and
emerged as a leader of the Armenian democracy movement — Mr.
Ter-Petrossian launched a sharp attack on Mr. Kocharian and Mr.
Some of the criticism offered by Mr. Ter-Petrossian (reported in
last week’s edition of this newspaper) rang true: official corruption
is indeed widespread; some people do live in opulence, and while a
growing segment of the population enjoy the benefits of Armenia’s
extended economic boom, a majority do still live in or near poverty.
In his denunciation of Mr. Kocharian and the Kocharian
administration, he makes the same arguments and allegations as those
made by the various radical opposition parties over recent years. What
Mr. Ter-Petrossian offers that has been absent from recent political
discourse is his perspective on the Karabakh conflict. And this
perspective appears to encompass his vision for the future.
Mr. Ter-Petrossian insists today, as he did 10 years ago as
president, that Armenia cannot prosper without the formal resolution
of the Karabakh conflict. Asserting that an increasingly wealthy
Azerbaijan will be progressively more unwilling to compromise, Mr.
Ter-Petrossian advocates making concessions resisted by Mr. Kocharian
and his administration.
The argument that Armenia cannot prosper has become harder to make
in the light of over six years of very rapid growth. The former
president claims the growth is not real, making the surprising claim
that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund treat the "real"
state of affairs as a closely guarded secret.
Like almost everyone else, Mr. Ter-Petrossian argues that Armenia’s
exclusion from several regional transportation and energy projects is
bad for Armenia. But, unlike most others, he surmises that with the
formal resolution of the Karabakh conflict, surely Armenia will no
longer be excluded from such programs.
It’s an old story. Gerard Libaridian, one of Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s
top advisors as president, argued back in 1998 that Mr. Ter-Petrossian
had introduced a "revolution in Armenian political thought." The crux
of this revolution was an effort to establish "normal relations with
Turkey without preconditions" and a willingness to settle for the
people of Karabakh having "their individual, collective, and
territorial rights respected," without necessarily having
However, the absence of malice on Armenia’s part does not
automatically engender an absence of malice on the part of Turkey and
During Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s presidency, as today, Turkey refused to
establish diplomatic relations with Armenia, and Azerbaijan refused to
compromise in Karabakh. "Ter-Petrossian had nothing to show for the
revolutionary thinking he had displayed," Mr. Libaridian acknowledged.
This thinking is now back on Armenia’s political stage. It remains
to be seen whether the various political groups that share Mr.
Ter-Petrossian’s antipathy for the current governing circle will
embrace his vision for Karabakh and foreign relations.
The return of the first president of Armenia to active politics and
his reemergence as a presidential candidate has naturally generated a
great deal of attention. He is certainly not the only significant
opposition candidate, and currently not the most popular one.
As the various candidates’ campaigns continue, there will be
rallies, speeches, pamphlets, and more. This is a healthy and
important part of the democratic process and must be embraced.
Some recent phenomena around this campaign are cause for concern.
Publicly funded television has been blatantly campaigning against Mr.
Ter-Petrossian, with constant reminders of cruel living conditions
during his presidency. Police have clashed with a group of opposition
campaigners, and there are credible allegations of police brutality.
Tax inspectors have appeared suddenly at the businesses of the most
prominent entrepreneur among Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s supporters, and
there’s no indication that this is part of a broader crackdown on tax
Mr. Kocharian and Mr. Sargsian, who have spoken out against such
practices, can ensure that they not recur. The presidential elections
will have to be conducted at least as well as the parliamentary round
in May. Armenia has the historic opportunity to conduct a competitive
national contest in full compliance with its own laws and
international commitments. It can and must do so.
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