The California Courier Online, February 28, 2019

The California Courier Online, February 28, 2019

1 -        Azerbaijan’s Destruction of Armenian

            Monuments Exceeds ISIS Crimes

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier


2-         Armenian Diaspora Mourns Loss of Philanthropist Louise
Manoogian Simone

3 -        Pyunic to Host 30th Anniversary Brunch Fundraiser

4 -        Janet Shamilian Elected President of USC Gould School SBA

5-         Armenian Assembly, AUA Mourn Passing of Dr. Mihran Agbabian

6-         Serzh Sargsyan's brother returns $18.5 million to Armenian government



1 -        Azerbaijan’s Destruction of Armenian

            Monuments Exceeds ISIS Crimes

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier


“A groundbreaking forensic report tracks Azerbaijan’s destruction of
89 medieval churches, 5,480 intricate cross-stones, and 22,700
tombstones,” is the subtitle of an incredible article by Simon
Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman, published in the Hyperallergic Magazine
last week. The article is titled: “A Regime Conceals its Erasure of
Indigenous Armenian Culture.”

In April 2011, when the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan wanted to visit
Nakhichevan, an Armenian territory classified by the Soviets as an
“autonomous republic” of Azerbaijan, to verify the destruction of
thousands of historical medieval Armenian khachkars (cross-stones), he
was blocked by Azeri officials who told him that reports of their
destruction was fake news.

Under Azeri oppression, the longstanding Armenian community of
Nakhichevan had dwindled to zero. Not content with ethnic-cleansing,
the Azeris proceeded to eliminate all traces of Armenian monuments,
claiming that no Armenians had ever lived in Nakhichevan.

“In December 2005, an Iranian border patrol alerted the Prelate of
Northern Iran’s Armenian Church that the vast Djulfa cemetery, visible
across the border in Azerbaijan, was under military attack. Bishop
Nshan Topouzian and his driver rushed to videotape over 100
Azerbaijani soldiers, armed with sledgehammers, dump trucks and cranes
destroying the cemetery’s remaining 2,000 khachkars; over 1,000 had
already been purged in 1998 and 2002,” reported Maghakyan and Pickman.

The flattened land, where the khachkars stood for centuries, is now a
military rifle range. The “demolition was the ‘grand finale’ of
Azerbaijan’s eradication of Nakhichevan’s Armenian past,” wrote the
two authors.

Maghakyan and Pickman reported that “the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) employed remote sensing technologies in
its pioneer investigation into cultural destruction. Their 2010
geospatial study concluded that ‘satellite evidence is consistent with
reports by observers on the ground who have reported the destruction
of Armenian artifacts in the Djulfa cemetery.’”

“Absolutely false and slanderous information … [fabricated by] the
Armenian lobby,” proclaimed Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who
makes frequent threats against Armenia and distorts its history.

The authors also quote from public decree No.5-03/S on December 6,
2005, by Nakhichevan’s “local autocrat” Vasif Talibov, a relative of
Pres. Aliyev, “ordering a detailed inventory of Nakhichevan’s
monuments. Three years later, the investigation was summed up in the
bilingual English and Azerbaijani ‘Encyclopedia of Nakhchivan
Monuments,’ co-edited by Talibov himself. Missing from the 522-page
‘Encyclopedia’ are the 89 medieval churches, 5,840 intricate
khachkars, and 22,000 tombstones that [Armenian researcher Argam]
Ayvazyan had meticulously documented. There is not so much as a
footnote on the now-defunct Christian Armenian communities in the
area—Apostolic and Catholic alike. Nevertheless, the official
Azerbaijani publication’s foreword explicitly reveals ‘Armenians’ as
the reason for No. 5-03/S: ‘Thereafter the decision issued on 6
December 2005 … a passport was issued for each monument … Armenians
demonstrating hostility against us not only have an injustice [sic]
land claim from Nakhchivan, but also our historical monuments by
giving biassed [sic] information to the international community. The
held investigations once again prove that the land of Nakhchivan
belonged to the Azerbaijan turks [sic]….’”

Any Azerbaijani who dares to speak out in defense of Armenians is also
attacked as an enemy of Azerbaijan. A courageous Azerbaijani writer,
Akram Aylisli, paid a hefty price for telling the truth about the
destruction of Armenian monuments in his hometown of Agulis (known
today as Aylis). The well-known novelist was furious that the Azeri
government was destroying Armenian churches. In his novel, “Stone
Dreams,” the protagonist, an intellectual from Agulis, refers to
memories of the town’s eight of the 12 medieval churches that had
survived until the 1990’s, and protects a victim of anti-Armenian
pogroms in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Pres. Aliyev revoked Aylisli’s
pension and title of “People’s Writer.” His writings were removed from
school curricula, his books were publicly burned, and his family
members were fired from their jobs. He has been under de facto house
arrest since the release of his novel. Aylisli protested the
destruction of the Armenian churches in Agulis and resigned from his
position as Member of Azerbaijan’s Parliament. He fearlessly sent a
telegram to Pres. Heydar Aliyev in 1997, calling the destruction of
the Armenian churches in Aylis an “act of vandalism being perpetrated
through the involvement of armed forces and employment of anti-tank

The two authors spoke with Russian journalist Shura Burtin who after
interviewing Aylisli in 2013 traveled to Nakhichevan and reported that
he didn’t see “a trace of the area’s glorious past.” Burtin concluded:
“Not even ISIS could commit such an epic crime against humanity.”

The authors reported that Aylisli’s 2018 non-fiction essay in
Farewell, claimed “that a mosque built five years ago on the site of
one of the destroyed churches has been boycotted by locals because
‘everyone in Aylis knows that prayers offered in a mosque built in the
place of a church don’t reach the ears of Allah.’”

Argam Ayvazyan, a native of Nakhichevan who spent decades
photographing the local Armenian monuments before their destruction,
was quoted by Maghakyan and Pickman as decrying the world’s silence:
“Oil-rich Azerbaijan’s annihilation of Nakhichevan’s Armenian past
make it worse than ISIS, yet UNESCO and most Westerners have looked
away.” ISIS-demolished sites like Palmyra can be renovated, Ayvazyan
argued, but “all that remain of Nakhichevan’s Armenian churches and
cross-stones that survived earthquakes, caliphs, Tamerlane, and Stalin
are my photographs.”


2-         Armenian Diaspora Mourns Loss of Philanthropist Louise
Manoogian Simone Louise Manoogian Simone passed away at the age of 85
on February 18, 2019. She dedicated her life to civic leadership,
philanthropy, and was first and foremost passionate about the
promotion of Armenian culture and heritage.

Most who knew her will remember her as an intelligent, outspoken,
witty woman who strived for excellence in herself and others. The
driving principle in all that she did was to beneficially impact
people lives and she achieved that goal many times over.

Louise was born in Detroit, Michigan to Alex and Marie Manoogian. Her
father Alex, an Armenian immigrant who left Turkey after the Armenian
Genocide, developed the Delta single-handed faucet and went on to
become one of America’s leading industrialists as the founder of MASCO
corporation. Upon achieving business success, Alex used his resources
to work tirelessly for the benefit of the Armenian people worldwide.

Louise inherited her parents’ passion for Armenians, which led her to
follow in her father’s footsteps and serve on the board of the
Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the world’s largest
non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage
through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs around the
world. In 1982, Louise made her first trip to Armenia, then still a
Soviet Republic. She quickly fell in love with the country and over
the next few years, returned frequently, bringing others with her,
whether it be to make documentaries or to connect and contribute in
other ways. Her brother, Richard Manoogian, joined her in supporting a
number of projects in Armenia.

In 1988, after a devastating earthquake hit Armenia, killing 25,000
people and leaving hundreds of thousands wounded and homeless, Louise
was on the first U.S. cargo plane delivering relief supplies and
rescue teams to the disaster area. She spearheaded the disaster relief
on behalf of AGBU. An iconic picture of her standing in the ruins near
the epicenter of the quake is remembered by many affected by the

In 1989, Louise was elected the international president of AGBU and
began directing operations in 31 countries and 74 cities and oversaw
the building of and continued funding of schools, churches, scout
programs and services for Armenians worldwide. She opened an office in
Yerevan, Armenia and when Armenia became an independent country
following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Louise through AGBU and
her own resources focused efforts on rebuilding a newly independent
homeland. She was a charter board member and major benefactor of the
American University of Armenia in Yerevan.

After a million miles traveling the world to oversee operations and
projects, in 2002 Louise retired as President of AGBU. However, she
continued her huge charitable efforts through the Manoogian Simone
Foundation working with, among others, the Armenian Apostolic Church,
reconstructing and maintaining hospitals, schools, children’s and
cultural centers and historical monuments. And as was always a theme
throughout her life, Louise was a significant supporter of the arts
and many artists.

Though she was most passionate about Armenian causes, Louise was also
a great benefactor to American Universities, Museums and cultural
institutions, including the University of Michigan, Wayne State
University and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She received many honors
throughout her life, among them the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

She is survived by her children Christine, David, and Mark; two
grandchildren; and her brother, Richard and his family.

Current AGBU President Berge Setrakian, who served as Vice President
under Simone’s leadership, described her as a pioneering spirit and a
woman far ahead of her time. “She was called upon to steer the AGBU
through many challenges, rising to become a driving force behind many
of the successes and benefits that Armenians across the world enjoy
today. She was a role model for all who had the good fortune to work
with her and watch her brilliant mind at work. Always idealistic, yet
practical, efficient and wise, she managed to see past the immediate
obstacles to find solutions that would yield lasting results,” said
Setrakian. “The sheer number of fronts on which she operated on any
given day was truly astounding, not only managing all the moving parts
with grace, but also maintaining all the existing AGBU educational,
cultural and artistic programs across the diaspora.”

The American University of Armenia offered its condolences upon the
passing of Manoogian Simone. “It is with deep sorrow that we announce
the passing of Louise Manoogian Simone, the most generous benefactor
of AUA. Serving as the President of the Armenian General Benevolent
Union, Manoogian Simone made a historical decision in 1989 to provide
funding in the initial years of the University that made the
establishment of AUA a reality. It was through her efforts that the
Armenian government under President Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Speaker of
the Parliament Babken Araktsian granted the use of the Convention
Meetings Building of the Communist Party to AUA. Furthermore, it was
her communications with President David Gardner of the University of
California that led to the affiliation between the UC System and AUA
that continues and remains a tremendous asset to the University to
this date. We are proud that our College of Business and Economics
bears her name and will continue to prepare the future business
leaders in Armenia and the region living up to her vision. Louise
Manoogian Simone will forever be remembered as one of the greatest
philanthropists of her time and will be immensely missed by the AUA

The Eastern Diocese of America offered its condolences upon her
passing. “She was a national hero, a passionate Armenian and a highly
capable leader,” said Diocesan Primate the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel
Findikyan. “Louise wanted above all that the Armenian people be strong
as a nation and as a church. And she gave of herself without
reservation.” Manoogian Simone was the very first woman elected to the
Diocesan Council (in 1979) who served as treasurer during her term.
She played an important role in the history of St. Nersess Seminary,
advocating for its mission and fundraising on its behalf at a critical
time, thus laying the foundation for a significant expansion of its
academic role and outreach to students. In 1991 she sponsored the
first international gathering of Armenian clergy, which convened at
the Diocesan Center in New York.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan extended his condolences upon
the death of Manoogian Simone. “With deep sorrow I learnt the news of
passing of Armenian-American philanthropist Louise Manoogian Simone.
Her contribution for earthquake victims, refugees from the Nagorno
Karabakh war, promotion of Armenian culture worldwide and charitable
efforts are invaluable,” Pashinyan said on Twitter.

The President of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic/NKR), Bako Sahakyan, on Wednesday, February 20, sent a letter
of condolence to the family of Manoogian Simone. “We have learned with
deep sorrow in Artsakh about the death of Armenian national
philanthropist, public figure Louise Manoogian Simone,” the letter
reads, Central Information Department of the Office of the Artsakh
President informed Armenian “All her life she always
stood with her own people, outlived their concerns, supported the
Motherland, actively participated in the process of establishing and
strengthening Armenian national structures in the Diaspora, continuing
with dignity the patriotic mission of her family. With the immediate
contribution of Lousie Manoogian Simone, multiple projects of
strategic importance have been implemented in Artsakh in different
spheres. The great philanthropist enjoyed infinite and genuine respect
in Artsakh. On behalf of the Artsakh people, authorities and myself
personally, I express my deepest condolences and support to the
relatives and friends of the deceased wishing them endurance and
strength of spirit. The name of Louise Manoogian Simone will always
remain bright in the hearts of those who knew her, and in the memory
of our people.”

The Armenian Missionary Association of America and its Board of
Directors also offered condolences upon her passing. “Louise Simone’s
bold, ahead of her time, visionary contribution in the development of
the Homeland and Artsakh left an indelible mark on the present and
future state of the nation and the Homeland. Louise Simone’s
philanthropic priorities took center stage in her benevolent strategy
which were farsighted, discerning and judicious. The nation will long
applaud her legacy and live to experience its impact,” said AMAA
Executive Director and CEO Zaven Khanjian.


3 -        Pyunic to Host 30th Anniversary Brunch Fundraiser

GLENDALE—Pyunic, the Association for the Disabled in Armenia, will
host its 30th anniversary fundraising brunch on Sunday, March 10 at
the Chevy Chase Country Club, in Glendale.

Pyunic was founded in February 1989 to provide support to hundreds of
children who became disabled as a result of the injuries suffered in
the devastating, December 1988 Spitak Earthquake in Armenia.

Since its inception, Pyunic has been a leading non-governmental
organization in Armenia providing a variety of programs and services
to children and young adults with disabilities to help them become
contributing members of Armenia’s society.

Pyunic has updated and modified its programming to accommodate a
variety of services to meet the ongoing needs of children and young
adults with disabilities. These programs are carried out at the Pyunic
centers in Yerevan and Gumyri. All programs and services provided by
Pyunic are free of charge to the individuals with disabilities and
their families. Pyunic’s programming includes: Paralympic training for
disabled athletes, education programs for developmentally disabled
individuals, partnerships with the EU to advocate for the rights and
opportunities of the disabled, vocational training, and arts and
crafts opportunities for children. For more information, visit

The event is free of charge but space is limited. To RSVP, email
[email protected]


4 -        Janet Shamilian Elected President of USC Gould School SBA

Third-year law student Janet Shamilian was elected president of the
USC Gould School of Law Student Bar Association. Janet was born and
raised in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Southern
California with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a
minor in Leadership. She earned her Master’s in Public Administration
from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. During her time at
Gould, Janet has been involved with the SBA as a 1L Representative in
her first year, and as Class President in her second year. She is also
a member of USC’s Small Business Clinic, and the National Moot Court
Team. During her first summer of law school, Janet externed for the
Honorable Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California.
During her second summer, she worked in-house for NIKE Legal. Though
Janet is not looking forward to graduating, since this will mark the
end of her near decade at USC, she is looking forward to starting her
career as a litigator.


5-         NY Conference Examines Meaning, Importance of Truth

Some scholars conclude that we now live in a “post-truth world,” where
facts have become irrelevant in our own lives and in the choices and
actions of our leaders. What does it mean to live in a “post-truth
world?” And, more importantly, how are we to defend and promote truth
in such a world?

The Manhattanville Philosophy Department, in association with the
World Religions and Political Science Departments, invites all
students, educators, community members, and lovers of truth to this
year’s Mary T. Clark Event. This year, the event will take place over
two days, April 1 and 2, and welcome various speakers to discuss the
central theme, Living in a Post-Truth World. Speakers will include
Mary Ellen Bork, American human rights activist; Armen Morian,
Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York; Antonia Arslan,
Author and Professor at the University of Padua; Marco Liviero,
Professor of Literature at Eton College, and more. When available, the
full schedule of events and speakers will be released on the
Manhattanville Philosophy Department webpage.

The event will conclude with the annual Mary T. Clark Lecture at 6
p.m. on the April 2, to be delivered this year by Abp. Anoushavan
Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Orthodox

At Reid Castle, Manhattanville College, 2900 Purchase Street,
Purchase, NY 10577. Speakers begin at 1 p.m. on both days. Attendance
is free of charge. For more information, call (315) 731-0958.


6-         Serzh Sargsyan's brother returns $18.5 million to Armenian government

On February 19, Aleksandr Sargsyan, the brother of ex-president Serzh
Sargsyan, made an $18.5 million payment to the Armenian government
budget, Civilnet reported, citing a written inquiry the news outlet
sent to the office of the Prime Minister.

Speaking at a September rally in Yerevan, then acting Prime Minister
Nikol Pashinyan said that Aleksandr Sargsyan pledged to withdraw $30
million he kept in a local bank and return the amount to the state

Pashinyan said it was the money Aleksandr Sargsyan extorted from local
businesses during his brother Serzh Sargsyan’s 2008-2018 rule. He
claimed that Armenian businesspeople were forced to give Aleksandr 50
percent stakes in their lucrative firms. According to Pashinyan, that
was why Aleksandr Sargsyan was nicknamed ‘Sashik 50 Percent.’

The Office of Prime Minister told Civilnet that during the
investigation into criminal cases initiated against Alexander
Sargsyan, the latter voluntarily donated the amount equivalent to
$18.5 million to the state budget.


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