The California Courier Online, June 11, 2020

1 -        Turkish Government Wastes $1.5 Million

            By Paying US Firm for Useless Lobbying

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier


2-         Armenians in Yerevan Join International Movement Against
Racial Injustice

3 -        Aivazovsky painting 'Bay of Naples' fetches 2.3 million
pounds at Sotheby’s

4-         Book Review: Antonia Arslan’s Silent Angel

5-         Anoush Pogossian of Glendale awarded 2020 US Presidential
Scholars in the Arts



1 -        Turkish Government Wastes $1.5 Million

            By Paying US Firm for Useless Lobbying

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier


On January 15, 2020, the Turkish government renewed a major contract
with the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. lobbying firm of Greenberg
Traurig for a total fee of $1,538,000 for one year ending on December
31, 2020. Greenberg Traurig has been lobbying for the government of
Turkey for several years. The agreement was signed by Serdar Kilic,
Turkish Ambassador to the United States, and Robert Mangas on behalf
of Greenberg Traurig. Violating the requirements of U.S. law, a copy
of the agreement was not submitted to the Justice Department’s Foreign
Agent Registration Act office until May 31, 2020, almost five months
after its signing.

Greenberg Traurig will distribute during 2020 most of the Turkish
payment to several subcontractors which will assist in the lobbying
effort. They are:

1) Capital Counsel LLC will be paid a fee of $432,000.

2) LB International will be paid a fee of $270,000.

3) Venable LLP will be paid a fee of $270,000.

That leaves a net amount of $566,000 for Greenberg Traurig. Several
other U.S. lobbying firms have been hired by the Turkish government
for a number of years.

The contract requires that Greenberg Traurig provide the following
services to the Turkish government:

“Lobbying and government relations services to Turkey, which shall
consist of those services ordinarily and customarily provided in
representing a foreign sovereign before the United States Congress and
Executive Branch.

These services shall include, but not be limited to:

(a) Proposing and pursuing passage of legislation and other U.S.
government action that promotes Turkey’s interests and provides a
positive image of Turks, Turkey, and the United States-Turkey

(b) Preserving and enlarging the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and
Turkish Americans;

(c) Educating Members of Congress and the Administration on issues of
importance to Turkey;

(d) Promptly notifying Turkey of any action in Congress or the
Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey;

(e) Preparing brief analyses of developments in Congress and the
Executive Branch on particular issues of concern to Turkey;

(f) Identifying official gatherings and social events to which Embassy
personnel ought to attend, including to the extent possible, obtaining
the necessary invitations;

(g) Identifying and/or arranging speaking engagements locally and
nationally for Embassy personnel or their appointed or suggested
proxies in settings that will improve Turkey’s image and advance its
causes on Capitol Hill. Such would be, if so directed by Turkey,
coordinated with Turkey’s existing public relations service providers;

(h) Maintaining and forging alliances with other interest groups whose
goals are similar to or shared by Turkey.”

The contract further requires that Greenberg Traurig comply with the
following requirements:

“1) Personnel and Other Service Providers: Except as noted below,
Greenberg shall compose its own team to achieve the best possible
results in providing the services described above. It will provide
Turkey at the earliest possible date a list of personnel, including an
indication of their areas of expertise and/or how they will be
utilized. This list will be updated from time to time as required.

2) Additional Costs and Expenses: Should Greenberg incur extraordinary
costs and expenses on Turkey’s behalf that are not otherwise
contemplated in the fees described above, Turkey shall reimburse these
costs provided that Turkey gives explicit advance approval.

3) Monthly Reporting and Quarterly Performance Assessment: Greenberg
shall provide monthly a written report to Turkey succinctly describing
its work on Turkey’s behalf. Such reports need not include
calculations of the time spent by the individual members of the
Greenberg team. Further, every three months, or as often as Turkey may
desire, Greenberg shall present to Turkey a written assessment of its
performance during the preceding period. If, upon reviewing the
assessment, Turkey is not satisfied with Greenberg’s performance,
Turkey may, at its sole discretion, terminate this Agreement according
to the terms stated herein.”

The Turkish public and opposition parties should be aware that their
government has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars of their taxes
over the last few decades to pay American lobbying firms. Most of this
money has been spent with no benefit to Turkish citizens at a time
when the country’s economy is in shambles, the Turkish Lira has
dropped in value precipitously and Turkey owes hundreds of billions of
dollars to foreign banks.

Despite the gargantuan amounts of money spent on lobbying in the
United States, last fall the House of Representatives (overwhelmingly)
and the Senate (unanimously) adopted resolutions recognizing the
Armenian Genocide. The U.S. lobbying firms are experts in siphoning
money from their foreign clients. They talk a good game, present rosy
reports, but at the end of the day, they accomplish very little!

Neither the Armenian government nor Armenian-American organizations in
Washington, D.C. have hired lobbying firms thus saving their funds for
more productive work. Armenians do not need lobbyists to convince the
U.S. government that their cause is just. No matter how much money the
Turkish government spends, it will never be able to whitewash its
dirty laundry of past and present-day crimes!


2-         Armenians in Yerevan Join International Movement Against
Racial Injustice

            By Raffi Elliott

YEREVAN—A small group of demonstrators protested in front of the
United States Embassy in Armenia on Thursday under the banner
“Armenians for Black Lives.” The group consisting of a dozen mostly
Armenian American repatriates joined similar actions in cities across
the world to demand justice for the murder of an unarmed black
man—George Floyd—at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis,
Minnesota just over one week ago.

Protesters demanding an audience with US ambassador Lynne Tracy were
met by police who asked them to maintain social distancing guidelines
and refrain from photographing the embassy grounds.

“Why does this affect me? I’m only an Armenian American because of the
injustice perpetrated against the Armenians a century ago during the
Genocide which displaced my ancestors to the US,” explained Maggie
Ovian, a native of Madison, Connecticut now residing in Yerevan. “My
great-grandparents were able to build a new life by benefiting from
white privilege which is what allowed me to repatriate to Armenia.”
Ovian added that as genocide survivors American Armenians have the
opportunity to harness the pain of injustices being perpetrated
against black Americans for centuries and fight for those who continue
to be persecuted. As protesters formed a line along the US Embassy
lawn holding posters with popular slogans from the movement, a police
loudspeaker announced in both Armenian and English that due to the
ongoing State of Emergency situation in place, all public
demonstrations have been ruled illegal and gave the protesters five
minutes to disperse.

Police, however, did agree to allow two of the demonstrators to enter
the diplomatic mission in order to deliver a letter on behalf of
Armenians condemning not only the murder of Floyd, but
institutionalized racism and police brutality in general.

The demonstrators then read out the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud
Arbery and other people of color who have died in police-related
incidents in recent years. With the demonstration over, they walked
back to central Yerevan with police in tow.

Gabriel Alejandro Atjian from Tucson, Arizona, said of the whole
experience, “As the son of immigrant Armenian and Mexican parents,
I’ve felt the difficulties that minority communities have to deal with
on a day-to-day basis. Now, it’s time for our different communities to
come together and build a better foundation for the future by standing
in solidarity with our brothers and sisters back home who have been
oppressed since the foundation of our nation to show that we won’t
allow them to fear for their or their children’s future.”

This article appeared in The Armenian Weekly on June 4, 2020.


3 -        Aivazovsky painting 'Bay of Naples' fetches 2.3 million
pounds at Sotheby’s

Hovhannes (Ivan) Aivazovsky’s painting the (1878) fetched 2.3 million
pounds ($2.9M) in an online auction at Sotheby’s.

The painting was initially estimated at 800,000 – 1,200,000 GBP,
according to the auction’s website.

At over two meters wide it is one of the largest paintings by
Aivazovsky to appear on the open market and is instantly recognizable
as a work by his hand.

It combines many of the elements for which he is best known and which
continue to resonate with the public today, more than a century after
the artist’s death.

These include the diffuse sunlight filling a hazy sky which here
occupies two-thirds of the canvas, and the reflection of light on the
calm, only slightly rippling water.

Another painting by Aivazovsky – the Passing Ship on a Moonlight Night
(1868) – sold for 435,000 pounds ($236,000).


4-         Book Review: Antonia Arslan’s Silent Angel

By Rita Mahdessian

Silent Angel (May 2020, Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press,

112 pp., $14.95, on Amazon) was meant to be released in April, the
month of Genocide commemoration. COVID-19 delayed its release. But
this delay was Providential. Silent Angel speaks more meaningfully in
today’s world than it would have a month ago, when we might not have
listened to it, thinking that we already know the story. We all have
our dead, our grandparents, our cousins. The weight of their stories
is burden enough for each of us. Why listen to someone else’s story?

But this delay was Providential. We are all stuck at home. We have not
gotten together on April 24 to yell “baykar minchev verch”—struggle
till the end. We have not had our yearly catharsis, that moment when
we stand together and for an instant believe that it might just be our
time again.

It is in the walls of our homes, in today’s silence that we can
perhaps hear Antonia Arslan’s loving voice when she tells us not her
story (she did that in the Skylark Farm, in the Road to Smyrna, in Il
Rumore delle Perle di Legno and the other books of her world famous
saga) but our story, the story of all of us. It is a brief story. You
can read it in an afternoon. Like the bards of old, she gently brings
us back to the lost ancient homeland. She sings of the colors and
smells of Mush. She paints the joyous women of Mush swimming in the
foggy Aratsani river. She brings us to the majestic plane tree and the
little spring, “the flowering garden with its lettuce, purple
eggplant, and zucchini that have grown disproportionately …..and the
rows of gerania neatly arranged at the windows as well as the colorful
zinnias—the pride of … rustic gardening.”

In the walls of our home, Antonia Arslan tells us the story that we
all know, the story of two Armenian women who found the Homiliary of
Mush, cut it in half and carried it on their backs to save it from the
Turks. One of the halves reached Echmiadzin through torturous paths
brought by one of the two women. The other half was wrapped in cloth
and buried in a churchyard in Garin—or what the Turks now call
Erzerum. It was eventually found by a Polish officer in the Russian
army and delivered to the Madenataran where both halves of the
manuscript are currently housed.

In the walls of our home, we can let our authentic storyteller gently
touch our wounds. And if we do so, we will hear her once again put us
in a true crisis, a moment in which we risked losing everything, home
and family, and yet did not lose our determination to save our
priceless heritage no matter the cost.

We, Armenians, we have been through far grimmer days than the ones
that we are living today. We have survived far far worse than
COVID-19. We have survived stay home orders far far worse than ours
now. We have survived not being able to work. We have survived fire,
the sword, our fear. We walked through hell on earth. And we can do so
again, and again, and again.

Yes, we Armenians have “learnt to bow … [our] head[s] when persecution
rears its head, to shut … [ourselves] up in opaque silence, to
disconnect from … [our] own thoughts.” We know how to “Cry, but cry
silently … then focus on surviving…”

And when we think that we cannot again go back to look at what our
fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers had to go through
when they hid and when they marched through deserts, that it will tear
us apart to do so, Arslan gently reminds us that destruction is not
the last word. Once the danger is passed, once the sword is sheathed,
we “slowly get back up. Like stalks of wheat after the storm has
crushed but not broken … [us, we] sway in the breeze the next day.”
Resurrection follows death. Our faith, our culture, are stronger than
the sword, if only like the two women, we take them on our backs and
climb the high mountains towards safety. “We shall not perish as long
as the book survives.”

And if we actually see what Antonia Arslan was and is able to do, we
will realize how right she is when she says this. She writes her books
not just for us, but for the world. She sings not just for us, but for
our neighbors and friends, for those we know and those we do not, for
those who know of our pain and for those who learn of it for the first
time. And her voice is itself proof of our resilience, of our faith,
of our culture. The world listens to it. The first review of this book
was not written by an Armenian, and it was not released by the
Armenian press. It was written by an American and published by the
American press. The book itself was not translated by an Armenian, but
by an American professor, Siobhan Nash-Marshall. It was not published
by Armenians, but by an American publishing company: Ignatius Press
and the St. Augustine Institute.

Yes, the release of the book now is Providential. The story of the
book is our story. This is why Arslan wrote it in the present tense.
Perhaps we can learn to see ourselves through Arslan’s eyes, not as
homeless orphans who have something to prove to the world, but a great
people with a magnificent culture.

Perhaps we can now take our nation’s books on our backs and climb the
high mountain together.

5-         Anoush Pogossian of Glendale awarded 2020 US Presidential
Scholars in the Arts

(Armenpress)— Armenian-American clarinetist Anoush Pogossian, 17, of
Glendale (Verdugo Academy) has been awarded the 2020 US Presidential
Scholars in the Arts.

“National YoungArts Foundation congratulates the 56th class of U.S.
Presidential Scholars, with special acknowledgment to the 20 U.S.
Presidential Scholars in the Arts who are YoungArts award winners and
were nominated for the honor by YoungArts,” the Foundation said.  The
United States Presidential Scholars Program is described as “one of
the Nation’s highest honors for students” in the United States of
America. “It is my privilege to congratulate the Presidential Scholars
Class of 2020 on their outstanding academic achievement, community
service, and leadership,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy
DeVos. “These exemplary young people have excelled inside the
classroom and out. And, while they are facing unprecedented challenges
as they graduate from high school into a world that looks much
different than it did just a few months ago, their determination,
resilience, and commitment to excellence will serve them well as they
pursue their next steps.”


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