The California Courier Online, March 4, 2021

1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh
            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia
            By Harut Sassounian
            Publisher, The California Courier
            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com
2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation
            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as PM
Retains Power
3-         Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic
4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States
5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole
6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case
7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage
            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923
            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration
8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan
            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs
9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in Washington DC
10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

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1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh

            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier

            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

Words have meanings and consequences as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
found out when he told a journalist last week that the powerful
Russian Iskander missiles, supposedly fired by Armenia during the
Artsakh War last November, “did not explode or exploded 10 percent.”
This surprising statement was in response to an interview by previous
President Serzh Sargsyan in which he asked why Pashinyan had not
ordered the use of the Iskander missiles during the early part of the
Artsakh War.

Several days after the Prime Minister’s highly controversial
statement, his spokeswoman announced that Pashinyan “was not briefed
correctly regarding the Russian missiles.” But it was too late. The
damage was done.

No one could have predicted the chain of unexpected events that
followed Pashinyan’s words questioning the merits of the Iskander
missiles that Russia had exported exclusively to Armenia. A large
number of Russian military experts and political leaders reacted very
harshly to Pashinyan’s statement viewing it as disparaging of the
prized missiles of Russia and the prestige of its defense industry.

However, the reaction within Armenia was no less devastating. When
First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Tiran
Khachatryan, a Lieutenant General, was asked to comment on Pashinyan’s
statement about the Iskander missiles not exploding, he responded with
a chuckle that it was not possible and not serious.

Upon hearing of this slight, Prime Minister Pashinyan immediately
ordered the firing of the Deputy General Staff. His dismissal was
endorsed by Pres. Armen Sarkissian, according to the process outlined
in the constitution. The Prime Minister had surely overreacted to
Khachatryan’s snub, particularly since Pashinyan himself had appointed
him in June 2020 and awarded him the prestigious “National Hero” medal
for his outstanding role during the Artsakh War.

In retaliation, dozens of top Armenian military leaders released a
joint statement on Feb. 25, 2021, demanding the resignation of the
Prime Minister and his government. The statement was signed by Onik
Gasparyan, Chief of the General Staff and 40 other high-ranking
military Officers, including 17 generals and Commanders of all five
Army Corps. Later, several other military and police officials added
their signatures.

The military’s statement expressed its “resolute protest” against the
“short-sighted and baseless” dismissal of the First Deputy Chief of
the General Staff “without taking into account the national and state
interests of the Republic of Armenia, solely based on personal and
pretentious sentiments.” The statement added that “in such difficult
conditions for the country, such a decision is an anti-state and
irresponsible step. The Prime Minister and his government are no
longer able to make adequate decisions in this critical and fateful
situation for the Armenian people. The Armed Forces, for a long time,
patiently tolerated the ‘attacks’ by the incumbent authorities to
discredit the Armed Forces, but everything has its limits…. The
current authorities’ unproductive governing and the most serious
errors exhibited in foreign policy have brought the country to the
brink of collapse. Based on the created situation, the Armed Forces
demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and the government….”

Pashinyan immediately announced on his Facebook page the firing of the
Chief of the General Staff. The Prime Minister called the military’s
statement “an attempted military coup,” urging his supporters to
gather at the Republic Square where he joined them and marched in
Yerevan streets holding a megaphone. This was a highly irresponsible
act on the part of Pashinyan, venturing to the streets during what he
described as an attempted military coup, which could have led to
tragic consequences for the country had anyone harmed him.

After Pashinyan ordered the firing of Onig Gasparyan, Chief of the
General Staff of the Armed Forces, Pres. Sarkissian, having consulting
all sides of the political spectrum, refused to sign the Prime
Minister’s order, calling it unconstitutional. The Prime Minister then
submitted a second dismissal request to the President. Should the
President refuse to sign the order for a second time, then the issue
will be submitted to the constitutional court for its final decision.
It is curious as to why the President endorsed the Prime Minister’s
earlier order to sack the First Deputy of the General Staff but
refused to sign the order to dismiss the Chief of the General Staff.
After all, the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff’s wrongdoing
was simply chuckling at the Prime Minister’s statement about the
Russian missiles, whereas his boss, the Chief of the General Staff,
demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation.

In the meantime, the Armenian military took no further steps beyond
its call for the resignation of the Prime Minister which the Prime
Minister wrongly described as an attempted coup. However, the
statement could be viewed as interference in political affairs which
violates the constitution. It is clear that the military’s intent is
having the Prime Minister resign without taking any military actions.

Turning to the unconstitutionality of the military’s statement, there
are counter points to this argument. The military stated that they
could no longer remain quiet while the country is on the brink of
collapse. The national interest of Armenia has to be of paramount
importance. After all, the military is the guardian of the nation’s
security. Furthermore, Pashinyan and his supporters cannot all of a
sudden claim to be defenders of the constitution, when they have been
violating many of its provisions in the past three years. The Prime
Minister has repeatedly pressured the courts and has stacked the
Constitutional Court with his allies to get verdicts desired by the
government. Pashinyan and his supporters similarly pressured Pres.
Sarkissian to force him to sign the Prime Minister’s order.
Ironically, the democratic principles endorsed by Pashinyan when
coming to power have dissipated turning the country into a one-man
rule, a dictatorship. Given the Prime Minister’s partisans’
overwhelming majority in Parliament, other voices have been mostly
muzzled. All suggestions to form a government of competent experts
have been ignored, leaving Pashinyan with a mediocre and incompetent
cadre of officials and advisors.

Pashinyan’s only important attribute is that he is not corrupt—which
is very positive. But that alone is not enough to lead the state
through such turbulent waters. After all, Armenians are not looking
for a saint, but a competent leader who can solve the country’s
complex problems.

Furthermore, Pashinyan and his followers did not always practice what
they are preaching now. Back in 2018, when there were widespread
street protests by Pashinyan and his supporters, a large number of
Armenian soldiers illegally left their barracks and marched with the
demonstrators. Even though this was a violation of military rules and
interference in politics, Pashinyan did not take any action against
these soldiers. In a similar situation occurred in 1998, when Defense
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan forced then President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to
resign. No one complained that it was unconstitutional.

Shortly after this new crisis in Armenia, leaders in Azerbaijan and
Turkey issued self-serving statements on the situation in Armenia. In
my opinion, both of these countries, led by dictators, are in no
position to comment on developments in Armenia, let alone give
Armenians lectures about democracy. They should look at themselves in
the mirror and keep their mouths shut.

Having suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of our enemies in
the Artsakh War, Armenians cannot afford now to attack each other. We
need to place the national interest above all else. Having lost most
of Artsakh and thousands of soldiers, let’s not risk losing Armenia
itself. Pashinyan, the leader of the ‘Velvet Revolution,’ should not
have told his followers last week that there will be no more ‘velvet’
which could be interpreted as a threat to anyone who disagrees with
him. Should the military also adopt a no velvet approach, the outcome
would be tragic for the entire Armenian nation. The best solution
would be for the Prime Minister, having lost territories and thousands
of soldiers, to resign by his own volition without facing any threats
or protests. Otherwise, having demanded Pashinyan’s resignation, the
military leaders may carry out their demand by force, to ensure that
they themselves are not arrested. Such a group arrest would deprive
Armenia of its entire military leadership. Months from now, under
calmer conditions, new parliamentary elections should take place with
a clean slate, hopefully excluding Pashinyan and the other former
leaders. The people have the right to decide by a majority vote who
their new leader should be.

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2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation

            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as
     PM Retains Power (Combined Sources)—Armenia’s Prime Minister
Nikol Pashinyan defied calls to resign and accused the military of an
attempted coup on Thursday, February 25 as divisions over his handling
of last year’s war with Azerbaijan brought thousands to the streets.

Hours after the general staff of Armenia’s military made a shock call
for the government to step down, Pashinyan rallied some 20,000
supporters in the center of the capital Yerevan against what he said
was an attempt to oust him.

The opposition gathered some 10,000 of its own supporters not far
away, then began putting up tents and building barricades outside
parliament as it vowed to hold round-the-clock demonstrations.

Where they sent a letter demanding his resignation, there were however
no uses of force, attempts to seize power or or signs of any military
action against Pashinyan, who in fact ordered the armed forces to
stand behind the government.

“I am ordering all generals, officers and soldiers: do your job of
protecting the country’s borders and territorial integrity,” he said
during the rally. The army “must obey the people and elected
authorities,” Pashinyan said.

The defense ministry also issued a statement declaring that “attempts
to involve (the military) in political processes are unacceptable.”

Pashinyan said he was ready to start talks with the opposition, but
also threatened to arrest any opponents who “go beyond political
statements.”

The military’s general staff called for Pashinyan to step down, saying
in a statement that he and his cabinet “are not capable of taking
adequate decisions.”

Pashinyan hit back with an accusation that top brass were mounting an
“attempted military coup” and retaliatd by firing the chief of the
general staff Onik Gasparyan. On Saturday, February 27, President
Armen Sarkissian refused to endorse as required by law Gasparyan's
firing.

Pashinyan then led supporters through the streets of the capital,
surrounded by his family, ministers and security detail, as marchers
chanted “Nikol Prime Minister!” and “Nikol, Nikol, Nikol!”

He attempted to downplay the military statement, saying it had been an
“emotional reaction” to his firing the previous day of the deputy
chief of the general staff, Tigran Khachatryan.

Khachatryan had ridiculed claims by Pashinyan that Iskander missiles
supplied by Russia — Armenia’s main military ally — “did not explode,
or exploded ten percent.”

 On Monday, March 1, Pashinyan's Spokesperson Mane Gevorgyan said that
he received incorrect reports about the use of Iskander. “Upon hearing
the facts and comparing data, the Prime Minister has concluded that he
was provided incorrect reports.

Armenia’s opposition urged him to heed the demand to resign.

“We call on Nikol Pashinyan not to lead the country towards civil war
and to avoid bloodshed. Pashinyan has one last chance to avoid
turmoil,” Prosperous Armenia, the country’s largest opposition party,
said in a statement.

Prosperous Armenia and another opposition party, Bright Armenia,
called for the holding of an extraordinary session of parliament,
which is controlled by Pashinyan’s allies. Opposition supporters had
gathered outside parliament in the early evening, blocking traffic,
erecting tents and making barricades out of rubbish bins. “We will
bring tents, stoves, everything we need. We are staying here. The
lawmakers can either come or we will bring them to parliament,” said
Ishkhan Saghatelyan of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary
Federation.

Homeland Salvation Movement supporters chanted, “Azg, Panag,
Haghtanag”—“The Nation, The Army, Victory!”—throughout the rally.

President Sarkissian said he was taking urgent steps to try to defuse
the crisis, while Armenia’s Apostolic Church called for all sides to
hold talks “for the sake of our homeland and people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan and “called on all
parties to show restraint.”

The United States, which under President Joe Biden has redoubled
efforts to support democracy, warned the military and urged all sides
to avoid violence. “We remind all parties of the bedrock democratic
principle that states’ armed forces should not intervene in domestic
politics,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Pashinyan has faced fierce criticism since he signed a peace deal
brokered by Russia that ended the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an
ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a
war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with
Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey making steady gains.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000
lives, a ceasefire agreement was signed that handed over significant
territory to Azerbaijan and allowed for the deployment of Russian
peacekeepers. The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for
many in Armenia, though Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to
agree or see his country’s forces suffer even bigger losses.

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3 -        Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic

(Combined Sources)— Armenia will roll out the Covid vaccination in
March 2021, Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan told reporters last
week. She said the vaccination will be given on a voluntary basis.
People in risk groups will be vaccinated free of charge, she said,
adding that it’s not yet clear what it will cost for others.

According to Avanesyan, the government will import only the vaccines
that have successfully passed phase 3 of clinical trials.

Three vaccines—AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V—have so far been
approved by an expert commission.

“With regard to Pfizer, there are issues pertaining to the required
storage temperature, which need to be solved,” Avanesyan said.

The amount of vaccines to be imported will depend on several factors,
including their cost and how much money the state can allocate for the
purpose.

The European Union and the WHO Regional Office for Europe will work
together in a major effort to support the deployment of COVID-19
vaccines and vaccination in Armenia. The project funded by the
European Union and implemented by WHO will cover all
phases—constituting “end-to-end” support—of COVID-19 vaccine
deployment and vaccination and will serve as a major investment to
strengthen the routine immunisation system.

The project will be implemented by WHO over a three-year period as
part of a €40 million European Union-funded initiative to support six
countries in the WHO European Region in preparing, deploying and
monitoring rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. “Vaccines bring us closer
towards the end of the pandemic. However, we will never beat the
pandemic if the vaccination coverage concentrates only in certain
parts of the world. The EU stands by Armenia also during the process
of vaccination to ensure we soon can meet together without the fear
for lives of ourselves and our close ones. Together, we will beat this
pandemic faster,” said EU Ambassador to Armenia, Andrea Wiktorin.

“COVID-19 knows no borders; it unites and demands united solutions. It
is noteworthy that the solidarity principle made the world stand
together to fight this calamity in unity. The long-lasting cooperation
and the continuity of common projects between the Ministry of Health
of the Republic of Armenia, the European Union and the World Health
Organization is a valid proof for this. During the intensification of
the pandemic and the war, Armenia has always felt the results of the
strong support and cooperation. Even today, our colleagues are
standing strong next to us and are willing to assist in the process of
procuring vaccines. We are full of hope that 'Health and Peace' joint
initiative will help member states endure all the challenges that this
pandemic has posed,” said Avanesyan.

Egor Zaitsev, the WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country
Office in Armenia, said: “Thanks to this generous support, WHO can
strengthen its collaboration with the Government of Armenia to ensure
that vaccines can reach those who need them most, as soon and as
efficiently as possible.”

The funds will be used initially to support the first phase of
preparedness and deployment, with an emphasis on imminent needs in
strategic programmatic areas such as planning, equipment/supplies,
training of health workers and information campaigns. The project
builds on the European Union’s and WHO’s ongoing support to countries’
response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the joint €35 million EU
Solidarity for Health Initiative, aimed to support the partner
countries in their fight against the virus and address better the
needs of the most vulnerable people.

Armenia in January announced plans to purchase thousands of doses
directly from its main ally, Russia. At the same time, Armenia made
advance payments to COVAX to procure vaccines for 300,000 people. In
the meantime, Armenia continues its containment effort of the
coronavirus extending lockdown measures until July 11.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 5,510 active
coronavirus cases in Armenia as of March 1. Armenia has recorded
172,216 coronavirus cases and 3,195 deaths; 163,511 have recovered.

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4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States

(Combined Sources)— Chess grandmaster Levon Aronian said on Friday,
February 26 that he was leaving Armenia and would represent the United
States, citing what he said was Armenian officials’ indifference to
chess as one of the reasons.

The 38-year-old, who is ranked sixth in the world, announced his
decision on his Facebook page.

“The past year has been very difficult for all of us with a pandemic,
a war and in my case there was personal adversity and the state’s
absolute indifference towards Armenian chess,” he wrote, referring to
six weeks of fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces over
the Nagorno-Karabkah enclave.

“I was faced with a choice: quit my job or move to where I am valued,” he wrote.

Aronian led Armenia to an incredible trio of Olympiad victories in
2006, 2008 and 2012, complains of the “absolute indifference” to chess
of the new government of Armenia since 2018.

The Armenian chess team had the full support of the previous
government in Armenia, with Serzh Sargsyan, the President from
2008-2018, also the President of the Chess Federation.

The Armenian team received a hero’s welcome when they returned
victorious from the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012. Now Aronian says the
new government has turned away from chess in general and him
personally, with Aronian quoted as their saying, “Our experts find
that Levon Aronian has no more potential.” As Levon points out, he
followed that statement by beating world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen and
world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana in Norway Chess in Stavanger.

It’s now not just that Aronian will be moving to America, but that he
seems set to follow in the footsteps of Wesley So, Leinier Dominguez
and Fabiano Caruana and switch federations to represent the United
States—he would currently be the US no. 2, behind Fabi and ahead of
Wesley. Rex Sinquefield is again the driving force behind the move.
Aronian wrote: “I’ve received many attractive offers from different
countries for years, including the great American philanthropist and
chess lover Rex Sinquefield, who repeated his offer to move to the
United States every year. I’ve been rejecting everything. What the
state was doing was priceless for chess development and no material
value could compare to the respect that chess players enjoyed in
Armenia.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the renowned Rex Sinquefield
for still believing in me today. Thanks also to Fabiano Caruana, who
is America’s strongest player, supports me and shares my decision to
be teammates. I am very grateful to my family, relatives, friends and
all the people who know my principles and understand me.”

The U.S. team did indeed win the 2016 Chess Olympiad, and with Aronian
are likely to be favorites in 2022.

For Aronian, however, it’s clear that switching to the U.S. was a
traumatic decision. In his post he looks forward to a time when chess
is again respected in Armenia and notes that he will still do
everything for his country from a distance. For now in Armenia there’s
more at stake in the tense aftermath of losing land to Azerbaijan in
the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
accused the army of an attempted coup. Aronian is focused on the
challenges ahead.

“My mother often repeats the Armenian saying, “God gives every man a
test in his own way”. There have been many trials in my life, and
every new one I accept with humility and willingness to be better than
yesterday. I hope I overcome this one with dignity.”

Levon is likely to be back in action next when the 4th stage of the
Meltwater Champions Chess Tour starts on March 13. He’s also been
announced in the field for Altibox Norway Chess in May while it now
looks as though we might see him in action in the US Championship in
Saint Louis this October.

Smbat Lputian, deputy head of the Armenian Chess Federation, said he
regretted Aronian’s decision.

“This is a big loss for Armenian chess,” he told Reuters.

Mike Hoffpauir, president of the U.S. Chess Federation, said it
welcomed Aronian’s decision to relocate to the United States.

The Saint Louis Chess Club said Aronian was moving to the U.S. city to
continue his career and would represent the United States at future
competitions.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) told Reuters it could not
comment on Aronian’s intentions and plans.

“A player can represent the country/federations where he resides,”
FIDE said. “That doesn’t necessarily imply that he changes his
nationality.”

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5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole

The Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, February 24
reversed a decision by Governor Gavin Newson who rejected the parole
eligibility and application of Hampig Sassounian, court documents
obtained by Asbarez show.

Despite a recommendation in December 2019 by the Board of Parole in
favor of Sassounian’s suitability, Newsom, last May, rejected that
decision and denied his parole, saying in a lengthy decision that
while he acknowledged the steps Sassounian had taken over decades to
rehabilitate himself, he did not believe Sassounian to be fit for
release.

“I commend Mr. Sassounian for his rehabilitative efforts in prison,
but I find they are outweighed by negative factors that show he
remains unsuitable for parole at this time,” said Newsom in his letter
obtained by Asbarez at the time. “I believe that Mr. Sassounian has
not yet demonstrated that he has developed and sustained the necessary
insight and skills for a sufficiently long period.”

Saying Newsom’s decision was “arbitrary and procedurally flawed,” LA
County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan on Wednesday granted
Sassounian’s attorney’s motion to reverse the governor’s decision
ruling that Newsom “used an improper standard” when “considering both
the ‘import’ of his offense and the notoriety of his victim.”

Ryan also said it did not find evidence to support Newsom’s decision
that Sassounian “posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public
safety.”

With its ruling on Wednesday, the court vacated Newsom’s decision to
reject Sassounian’s parole and reinstated the California Parole
Board’s decision to grant Sassounian parole.

“The wheels of justice sometimes move slowly, but this is the right
time for this decision. I applaud the team of lawyers and activists
working on this case for decades,” California State Senator Anthony
Portantino told Asbarez on Thursday, February 25.

“This is an important case not just for his family but for California.
We have done many things in justice reform on behalf of teenagers and
it’s nice to see that it has benefitted Hampig,” added Portantino.
“The community can sleep peacefully and joyfully tonight.”

“Wednesday’s decision by the court is a welcome change in the status
for Hampig Sassounian, whose eligibility for parole was unjustly
rejected last year by the governor,” attorney Levon Kirakosian told
Asbarez on Thursday, February 25. “The Armenian community has waited
with bated breath for this moment and I am confident that Hampig’s
release will be imminent.”

“Hampig’s family and the entire Armenian community applaud and
appreciate the court’s ruling,” added Kirakosian, who for the past
four decades has worked on or closely with Sassounian’s legal team.

“As an organization which expressed its disappointment last year to
the governor for his decision to overturn the unanimous votes of two
separate Parole Boards to grant parole to Hampig Sassounian on
humanitarian grounds, we are gratified that the court has issued its
favorable ruling today in which it overturned the Governor’s unfounded
decision. We are confident that justice has finally been served, and
we are grateful that the court agreed,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq., the
chair of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.

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6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case

A Glendale, California attorney pleaded guilty on September 9, 2020
for conspiring to make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign
contributions during the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and
thereafter.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Assistant Director in Charge
James A. Dawson of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the
announcement.

Rudy Dekermenjian, 42, of Glendale, California, pleaded guilty to one
count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions, make excessive
contributions, cause false statements, and cause false entries in
records before the Honorable Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia.  A sentencing hearing has not yet
been scheduled.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, between
March 2016 and June 2018, Dekermenjian conspired with Ahmad “Andy”
Khawaja and others to make unlawful contributions to political
committees, thereby circumventing contribution limits and causing the
political committees to unwittingly submit false reports to the
Federal Election Commission.  Specifically, Dekermenjian admitted that
in October 2016, Khawaja gave him $50,000 to contribute in
Dekermenjian’s name to a political committee supporting a candidate
running for U.S. president in the 2016 election cycle.  The purpose of
making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name was to allow Khawaja to
exceed contribution limits set by federal law with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with a political event hosted by Khawaja in October 2016.

Additionally, Dekermenjian admitted that in January 2018, Khawaja gave
him approximately $50,000 to contribute in Dekermenjian’s name to
another political committee.

Again, the purpose of making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name
was to allow Khawaja to exceed contribution limits with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with another political event hosted by Khawaja in March 2018.

Charges remain pending against Khawaja, who is a fugitive, and others
in the indictment.  An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  It
merely alleges that crimes have been committed.  A defendant is
presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office
and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James C. Mann and Michael
J. Romano of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

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7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage

            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923

            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kate Fitz Gibbon

In the very last hours of the Trump administration, the United States
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) restricting the importation
of art, artifacts and antiques from the Republic of Turkey into the
United States. The last minute signing was widely seen as denying the
incoming Biden administration an opportunity to review this
controversial agreement.

The stated purpose of the MOU is to “reduce the incentive for pillage
of irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological material representing
Turkey’s cultural heritage.”

MOUs generally organize objects by the date and the materials of which
they are made. A Designated List, which is not yet issued, will
provide expanded descriptions of the types of objects covered. The
Turkish MOU will restrict entry (without a license, which Turkey does
not issue for antiquities) for archaeological material made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, painting, glass, wood, textile and other
organic material ranging in ages from 1,200,000 BCE to 1770 CE. It
will also restrict import of ‘ethnological material’ made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, stucco, painting, glass, wood, textile,
leather and parchment, and other organic material “from the 1st
century AD to 1923.”

Turkey will use its “best efforts” to protect its cultural patrimony,
to engage with other countries to halt trade in archaeological and
ethnological material from Turkey, and to promote appreciation of
Turkey’s cultural heritage. What the MOU does not say: it’s about
repatriation and politics.

The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News quoted Turkish Culture and
Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, who acknowledged that the chief
benefit of the Turkish MOU was that demands for repatriation of
Turkish objects from the U.S. would be much simplified by the
agreement:

“This important document, which will also constitute a legal basis for
operations of the U.S. law enforcement units, will bring active
results. Legal struggles that last for years with enormous costs will
be concluded in a very short time and with low costs. This is the
biggest deterrent we have.”

Well before the signing of the agreement, the State Department had
been given notice by Congressman Christopher Smith, a New Jersey
representative with a background in issues of human and religious
rights, that there were serious problems with the proposed MOU with
Turkey. When the State Department failed to give satisfactory answers,
he followed up with a forceful letter to Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo on December 31, 2020.

Congressman Smith wrote: “I am writing to strongly urge that the State
Department reject the memorandum of understanding (MOU) the Government
of Turkey proposed under the Cultural Property Implementation Act…”

“Turkey has not met the preconditions in the CPIA for an MOU limiting
the importation of cultural and religious property. Most
significantly, Turkey has not met the requirement that “the State
Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its
cultural patrimony.” Turkey under President Erdoğan has waged a
coordinated campaign of persecution of Greek Orthodox, Armenian
Orthodox, Alevi Muslims and others, expropriating their cultural and
religious patrimony, including the conversion of the churches of the
Holy Saviour in Chora and Hagia Sophia from museums into mosques
earlier this year, despite the near universal and global appeals to
the contrary. The MOU will thus effectively legitimize these seizures,
suggesting that the United States approves of these acts. The
incongruity of Turkey’s request for an MOU, purportedly for the
purpose of protecting the religious and cultural patrimony of cultural
and religious minorities, is all the more pronounced given Turkey’s
recently-heightened and aggressive campaign to suppress the rights of
these communities in Turkey.”

As Smith also noted, the agreement aligns the U.S. with President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian government, which Smith says
comes “at a time when Turkey has signaled its intent to act contrary
to American interests.”

The U.S.-Turkey cultural property agreement was urgently sought by
President Erdoğan, a strongman whose autocratic rule won favor with
the last U.S. administration. Erdoğan made Turkish nationalism and
Islamic revitalization a rallying cry for his Justice and Development
Party. His AK Party is strongly nationalist and has tolerated verbal
anti-Semitism and even physical attacks on members’ religious
minorities.

By handing Erdoğan a diplomatic plum, the MOU leaves minority
communities in Turkey even more vulnerable. “Congressman Smith was
right to raise the alarm that any MOU with Turkey would be a de facto
endorsement of the Erdoğan Government’s ownership and control of the
cultural heritage of its displaced Greek, Armenian and Jewish
populations,” Global Heritage Alliance’s Peter Tompa noted, saying
that the action “dismiss[ed] Congressional oversight over the State
Department’s administration of the Cultural Property Implementation
Act.”

The State Department decision to go forward with the MOU has alarmed
important U.S. constituencies including Turkish Jews and the Armenian,
Greek, Cypriot, Syriac, and Kurdish communities founded by minorities
who suffered under Turkish persecution in the 20th century.

Response to the MOU in the U.S. was swift.

“It is unconscionable that the State Department, during the 11th hour
of the Trump administration, would even consider entertaining, let
alone agree to, such a proposal by the government of Turkey, in the
light of its conversion of the Hagia Sophia and persecution of
religious minorities within the country, as well as religious leaders
such as the Ecumenical Patriarch. In this context, it is particularly
insulting and absurd that the US government’s official press release
announcing the agreement references “Turkey’s longstanding religious,
ethnic, and cultural diversity’.”

Opposition was also voiced by the Armenian National Council of America
(ANCA), Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), and In Defense of
Christians (IDC) and a host of cultural rights and museum groups
including the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the
Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP), the Global Heritage Alliance
(GHA), and the International Association of Professional Numismatists
(IAPN).

In testimony before the Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the
State Department, which later recommended that Turkey be granted a U.S
agreement, the Association of Art Museum Directors stated plainly
that, “For many types of cultural property, an MOU will not curb
looting and destruction because those actions are being carried out by
the Turkish state itself.”

Examples include the following: the Turkish government has destroyed
two World Heritage Sites at Diyarbakir, an important site in the
Hellenistic, Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman periods.
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and 800 historic
buildings and registered cultural monuments were bulldozed. The
Armenian Catholic Church of Diyarbakir, a 1700-year-old Syriac
Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary and a Jewish synagogue where Elijah
was thought to have become a prophet were destroyed during street
fighting by Turkish troops. The deeply venerated Armenian Surp Giragos
Catholic Church was ordered expropriated by the Turkish government in
what observers called a ‘legalized robbery.’

A Turkish dam project has inundated the ancient site of Zeugma, on
UNESCO’s Tentative List, where rushed salvage archaeology failed to
preserve many of its ancient remains, including mosaics. The town and
surrounding regions of Hasankeyf (pictured), a World Heritage site
containing more than 300 archaeological sites from the Prehistoric
through the classical Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, are today
submerged under the waters of the Ilisu Dam. Just a few years ago,
Turkish military bombed into rubble one of the most important Hittite
sites in the world, Ain Dara, just across its border in Syria.

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, formerly on the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom said that the Turkish MOU was “a
surreal moment in U.S. foreign policy… well-documented and extensive
evidence by cultural heritage experts leaves no doubt that the state
of Turkey is the single greatest threat to that country’s cultural
heritage.”

The Turkish agreement would ban entry to the U.S. of the religious and
community heritage of exiled peoples; Armenians, Greeks, Jews,
Orthodox and Syriac Christians forced from Turkey. The net effect of
these proposed agreements will not be to halt looting but to deny
access of displaced peoples to their heritage.

In a September 2020 interview Elias Gerasoulis of AHI noted that
Erdoğan “has talked about seizing Jerusalem and liberating the al-Aqsa
mosque. Erdoğan has been condemned by the U.S. State Department for
the partnership that he has with Hamas. His own AKP has talked about
the coronavirus being a Jewish conspiracy. I think it is sheer lunacy
to give someone who believes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories… to
acknowledge his full ownership of Jewish cultural property and
heritage.”

An agreement with Turkey will help President Erdoğan’s campaign of
religious extremism. President Erdoğan has incited religious
animosities to win political points and made mosques out of museums
that were formerly churches, including both the Hagia Sofia Museum and
the Kariye Museum, formerly the 14th century Byzantine Church of the
Savior in Chora. Together, the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church
exemplify the highest achievements of Byzantine art and architecture,
marking the early cultural height and the most developed final
_expression_ of Byzantine art. Though not as well-known as Hagia Sophia,
the Chora Church, while small, is a work of art in itself. It has been
described as filled ‘wall-to-wall-to dome’ with the most beautiful
murals and mosaics of the period—an artistic gem that influenced the
rise of Mannerist painting and the High Renaissance in Italy.

In August 2020, ten organizations signed a Joint Letter to the U.S.
State Department’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and the Cultural
Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at the Department of State, urging
them to address longstanding problems of fairness and serious process
issues at CPAC. The letter states that CPAC has long ignored concerns
among representatives of religious minority organizations. It has
approved MOUs with Middle Eastern countries that claim exclusive
rights over all cultural heritage, including the religious and
community property of oppressed minorities. The letter also criticizes
the lack of transparency in State Department actions and the failure
of requesting counties to provide factual documentation showing the
need for U.S. import restrictions.

Now, with the signing of an MOU with the repressive, dangerously
xenophobic Erdogan government, which openly claims as state property
the heritage of dispossessed minorities, it is more than ever time to
address the flaws in the system of cultural heritage administered at
the Department of State.

This article appeared in Cultural Property News on February 2, 2021.

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8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan

            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs

By Marilyn Thomsen

The University of La Verne announced today that it has selected Kerop
Janoyan, PhD, as its next provost and vice president for academic
affairs. He will join the leadership team headed by President Devorah
Lieberman this spring.

Currently, Janoyan is dean of the Graduate School at Clarkson
University in New York. He is also a professor in the Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering and recently served as interim
dean of the university’s Lewis School of Health Sciences and director
of distance learning.

As provost and vice president for academic affairs, Janoyan will
oversee key areas of the university, including academic affairs,
student affairs, the library, online programs, the nine regional
campuses, campus health and safety, athletics, housing, institutional
research, and the office of the registrar. He replaces Jonathan Reed,
who is returning to the faculty after six years as provost and vice
president for academic affairs.

Janoyan said that what drew him most to the university was “the
people. After I met the students, faculty, staff, and the leadership,
I had a sense of being ‘at home.’” He is also strongly supportive of
the university’s mission to the greater community as well as to
diversity and inclusion.

“I strongly believe that we must continue to innovate our educational
programs to inspire a diverse, highly trained pool of global citizens
and future leaders,” he said, “who will seize the opportunity to
tackle our region’s and world’s challenges and solve challenges we
don’t even know about yet.”

Janoyan has deep roots in Southern California. Born in Iraq, he’s
lived and attended school in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, and Italy
before coming to the U.S. with his family and enrolling in the
Glendale public schools for his secondary education. He completed his
bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in civil engineering at UCLA.
He speaks three languages.

The provost search committee considered more than 120 applications in
a diverse pool of candidates from across the country and
internationally. Janoyan “stood out as a systems thinker who has the
ability to bring a community together to achieve common outcomes and
who is thoughtful and strategic in his work,” she said.

An important priority of the new provost will be leading the
university in the execution of its recently approved 2025 strategic
plan. He will also guide the development of academic programs, with a
focus on expansion into health professions.

“I look forward to the specific opportunities at the University of La
Verne,” Janoyan said, “empowering faculty and staff, supporting
academic excellence, deepening the student experience, and building a
diverse and inclusive community.”

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9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in
Washington DC WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA) announced last week Alex Manoukian has joined its
professional staff in the nation’s capital as Director of Programs,
wherein he will oversee the organization’s internships, job placements
and youth programming.

“The ANCA is proud to have Alex Manoukian join our team of
professionals in Washington, DC,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian.
“Across many ANCA programs, we offer ladders of success for emerging
Armenian American professionals. We are confident that Alex is going
to build on these ladders to help young leaders reach their full
potential.”

Manoukian, who is studying toward a Bachelor's in Government with a
Minor in Arabic at Georgetown University, will steward the expansion
of the ANCA’s signature youth initiatives—the Leo Sarkisian Internship
and the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, as well as
Rising Leaders, an innovative multi-day series of interactive seminars
to introduce college-age Armenian Americans to Washington, D.C.

“I’m excited to join the ANCA Washington DC team as Programs
Director,” said Alex Manoukian. “I look forward to working with
students and recent graduates across the U.S. to share the incredible
resources that the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program and
Leo Sarkisian Internship have to offer—both in terms of career
development and pro-Armenian advocacy.  Whether it’s expanding the
Armenian American presence professionally in politics, policy, and
media or increasing our collective voice in Congress and State
Capitols across the United States—today’s Armenian youth are the game
changers who will take Armenian advocacy to new heights. And the ANCA
is ready to work with them every step of the way.”

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Manoukian attended Mesrobian Armenian
Catholic High School and the Melankton & Haig Arslanian Djemaran,
prior to moving with his family to Montebello, Calif., where he
studied at Armenian Mesrobian School in Pico Rivera.

He belongs to his local Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) DC “Ani”
senior chapter, serves as a member of the AYF Eastern Region Central
Executive, and is active in the Armenian Relief Society, the Armenian
General Athletic Union (Homenetmen), Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural
Association, Georgetown Armenian Students Association, and Soorp
Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church. He is fluent in Armenian and Arabic.

The ANCA’s Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, Leo Sarkisian
Internship Program, and newer initiatives like ANCA Rising Leaders and
the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship empower the next generation
of Armenian Americans by training university students as effective
advocates and helping recent graduates start promising policy,
political, government, and media careers in Washington, D.C.

Now in its 35th year, the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship has trained
hundreds of community leaders during annual intensive eight-week
programs designed to give them the tools necessary to effectively
advance issues of concern to the Armenian American community on the
federal, state, and local level. Former interns hold leadership
positions in the ANCA and across the Armenian community.

The Summer 2021 program will take place virtually from June 14 to August 6.

For more information and to apply, visit anca.org/internship.

The application deadline is March 31st.

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10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

By Farley Elliott

(LA Eater)—Burbank restaurant and bar Tinhorn Flats was back in the
news last week, because of city meeting on February 22 where the
Burbank City Council voted unanimously to revoke the business license
for the Tinhorn Flats restaurant for violations related to Los Angeles
County health orders and violation of the Burbank Municipal Code.

The Council ruled that ongoing activity at the bar violates state and
local emergency laws and “endangers the public health, safety and
welfare, and creates a public nuisance.”

Tinhorn Flats responded on February 23 to the vote on Instagram by
writing, “WILL NOT COMPLY. OPEN 12 NOON TOMORROW.”

The business, located at 2628 W. Magnolia Blvd., must close, according
to Burbank City Attorney Amy Albano, who added that if the
restaurant's owners do not comply a lawsuit will be filed and a court
order will be sought to close the business.

Owner Baret Lepejian and his family have been vocally against the
rolling county-led public health lockdowns during the coronavirus
pandemic, operating on-site dining (mostly outdoor, though social
media has shown some indoor bar seating as well at times) in direct
opposition to county mandates. Along the way they’ve racked up
countless fines and warnings, and tonight it could all be coming to a
head.

Per a flier sent around by the city of Burbank, which falls under the
jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,
consideration is underway to revoke the restaurant’s conditional use
permit, an essentially final step in making sure the business no
longer operates. County officials have also considered bringing formal
criminal charges against Lepejian and his family for “violating the
CUP’s Conditions of Approval.” That’s mostly just a formal way of
saying the restaurant stayed open for on-site dining after being told
to shut down by public health officials, who reduced restaurants to
takeout and delivery only back in late 2020 as COVID-19 cases
skyrocketed across the region. Restaurants were once again allowed to
resume limited-capacity on-site outdoor dining, with proper protocols
in place, late last month.

This time, though, they’re not alone, as it seems that one Mark
Geragos is now representing the restaurant in its fight with city and
county officials. Geragos is a lawyer and the owner of Downtown LA’s
Engine Co. No. 28, which filed a lawsuit with county officials last
year regarding the tricky question of causal data linking outdoor
dining at restaurants with a rise in coronavirus cases. Geragos and
others have held that a formal case must be made linking contact
tracing data back to restaurants in order for them to be legally
closed by public health mandate; county officials have maintained (and
courts have upheld) that they’re not required to show such data to act
in the interest of public health and safety during an emergency.

Geragos said the business has always been in compliance with health
orders and does not provide indoor dining or have its staff serve
anyone in their outdoor patio.

Lepejian said food is placed in to-go containers and disposable cups
are used and the restaurant is sanitized and workers wear masks.

Prior to tonight’s showdown, Lepejian has been a vocal anti-lockdown
advocate on social media, calling the loss of outdoor dining a
“tyrannical mandate” and saying that describing the wearing of masks
as nothing more than a tool of “control and fear,” among other things.

“Zero science behind any lockdown. The numbers are a hoax,” Lepejian
said. “These are pathetic socialist cowards with zero backbone and
zero American Values trying to peddle an illegal agenda.”

Tinhorn Flats had its health permit suspended by the LA County
Department of Public Health in December for violating health officer
orders. In January the county issued a cease and desist order and
later revoked the restaurant's public health permit.

This article appeared in LA Eater on February 22, 2021.

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California Courier Online provides viewers of the Armenian News News Service
with a few of the articles in this week's issue of The California
Courier.  Letters to the editor are encouraged through our e-mail
address, . However, authors are
requested to provide their names, addresses, and/or telephone numbers
to verify identity, if any question arises. California Courier
subscribers are requested not to use this service to change, or modify
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, or by phone, (818) 409-0949.

The California Courier Online, March 4, 2021

1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh
            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia
            By Harut Sassounian
            Publisher, The California Courier
            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com
2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation
            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as PM
Retains Power
3-         Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic
4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States
5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole
6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case
7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage
            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923
            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration
8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan
            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs
9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in Washington DC
10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

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

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

1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh

            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier

            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

Words have meanings and consequences as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
found out when he told a journalist last week that the powerful
Russian Iskander missiles, supposedly fired by Armenia during the
Artsakh War last November, “did not explode or exploded 10 percent.”
This surprising statement was in response to an interview by previous
President Serzh Sargsyan in which he asked why Pashinyan had not
ordered the use of the Iskander missiles during the early part of the
Artsakh War.

Several days after the Prime Minister’s highly controversial
statement, his spokeswoman announced that Pashinyan “was not briefed
correctly regarding the Russian missiles.” But it was too late. The
damage was done.

No one could have predicted the chain of unexpected events that
followed Pashinyan’s words questioning the merits of the Iskander
missiles that Russia had exported exclusively to Armenia. A large
number of Russian military experts and political leaders reacted very
harshly to Pashinyan’s statement viewing it as disparaging of the
prized missiles of Russia and the prestige of its defense industry.

However, the reaction within Armenia was no less devastating. When
First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Tiran
Khachatryan, a Lieutenant General, was asked to comment on Pashinyan’s
statement about the Iskander missiles not exploding, he responded with
a chuckle that it was not possible and not serious.

Upon hearing of this slight, Prime Minister Pashinyan immediately
ordered the firing of the Deputy General Staff. His dismissal was
endorsed by Pres. Armen Sarkissian, according to the process outlined
in the constitution. The Prime Minister had surely overreacted to
Khachatryan’s snub, particularly since Pashinyan himself had appointed
him in June 2020 and awarded him the prestigious “National Hero” medal
for his outstanding role during the Artsakh War.

In retaliation, dozens of top Armenian military leaders released a
joint statement on Feb. 25, 2021, demanding the resignation of the
Prime Minister and his government. The statement was signed by Onik
Gasparyan, Chief of the General Staff and 40 other high-ranking
military Officers, including 17 generals and Commanders of all five
Army Corps. Later, several other military and police officials added
their signatures.

The military’s statement expressed its “resolute protest” against the
“short-sighted and baseless” dismissal of the First Deputy Chief of
the General Staff “without taking into account the national and state
interests of the Republic of Armenia, solely based on personal and
pretentious sentiments.” The statement added that “in such difficult
conditions for the country, such a decision is an anti-state and
irresponsible step. The Prime Minister and his government are no
longer able to make adequate decisions in this critical and fateful
situation for the Armenian people. The Armed Forces, for a long time,
patiently tolerated the ‘attacks’ by the incumbent authorities to
discredit the Armed Forces, but everything has its limits…. The
current authorities’ unproductive governing and the most serious
errors exhibited in foreign policy have brought the country to the
brink of collapse. Based on the created situation, the Armed Forces
demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and the government….”

Pashinyan immediately announced on his Facebook page the firing of the
Chief of the General Staff. The Prime Minister called the military’s
statement “an attempted military coup,” urging his supporters to
gather at the Republic Square where he joined them and marched in
Yerevan streets holding a megaphone. This was a highly irresponsible
act on the part of Pashinyan, venturing to the streets during what he
described as an attempted military coup, which could have led to
tragic consequences for the country had anyone harmed him.

After Pashinyan ordered the firing of Onig Gasparyan, Chief of the
General Staff of the Armed Forces, Pres. Sarkissian, having consulting
all sides of the political spectrum, refused to sign the Prime
Minister’s order, calling it unconstitutional. The Prime Minister then
submitted a second dismissal request to the President. Should the
President refuse to sign the order for a second time, then the issue
will be submitted to the constitutional court for its final decision.
It is curious as to why the President endorsed the Prime Minister’s
earlier order to sack the First Deputy of the General Staff but
refused to sign the order to dismiss the Chief of the General Staff.
After all, the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff’s wrongdoing
was simply chuckling at the Prime Minister’s statement about the
Russian missiles, whereas his boss, the Chief of the General Staff,
demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation.

In the meantime, the Armenian military took no further steps beyond
its call for the resignation of the Prime Minister which the Prime
Minister wrongly described as an attempted coup. However, the
statement could be viewed as interference in political affairs which
violates the constitution. It is clear that the military’s intent is
having the Prime Minister resign without taking any military actions.

Turning to the unconstitutionality of the military’s statement, there
are counter points to this argument. The military stated that they
could no longer remain quiet while the country is on the brink of
collapse. The national interest of Armenia has to be of paramount
importance. After all, the military is the guardian of the nation’s
security. Furthermore, Pashinyan and his supporters cannot all of a
sudden claim to be defenders of the constitution, when they have been
violating many of its provisions in the past three years. The Prime
Minister has repeatedly pressured the courts and has stacked the
Constitutional Court with his allies to get verdicts desired by the
government. Pashinyan and his supporters similarly pressured Pres.
Sarkissian to force him to sign the Prime Minister’s order.
Ironically, the democratic principles endorsed by Pashinyan when
coming to power have dissipated turning the country into a one-man
rule, a dictatorship. Given the Prime Minister’s partisans’
overwhelming majority in Parliament, other voices have been mostly
muzzled. All suggestions to form a government of competent experts
have been ignored, leaving Pashinyan with a mediocre and incompetent
cadre of officials and advisors.

Pashinyan’s only important attribute is that he is not corrupt—which
is very positive. But that alone is not enough to lead the state
through such turbulent waters. After all, Armenians are not looking
for a saint, but a competent leader who can solve the country’s
complex problems.

Furthermore, Pashinyan and his followers did not always practice what
they are preaching now. Back in 2018, when there were widespread
street protests by Pashinyan and his supporters, a large number of
Armenian soldiers illegally left their barracks and marched with the
demonstrators. Even though this was a violation of military rules and
interference in politics, Pashinyan did not take any action against
these soldiers. In a similar situation occurred in 1998, when Defense
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan forced then President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to
resign. No one complained that it was unconstitutional.

Shortly after this new crisis in Armenia, leaders in Azerbaijan and
Turkey issued self-serving statements on the situation in Armenia. In
my opinion, both of these countries, led by dictators, are in no
position to comment on developments in Armenia, let alone give
Armenians lectures about democracy. They should look at themselves in
the mirror and keep their mouths shut.

Having suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of our enemies in
the Artsakh War, Armenians cannot afford now to attack each other. We
need to place the national interest above all else. Having lost most
of Artsakh and thousands of soldiers, let’s not risk losing Armenia
itself. Pashinyan, the leader of the ‘Velvet Revolution,’ should not
have told his followers last week that there will be no more ‘velvet’
which could be interpreted as a threat to anyone who disagrees with
him. Should the military also adopt a no velvet approach, the outcome
would be tragic for the entire Armenian nation. The best solution
would be for the Prime Minister, having lost territories and thousands
of soldiers, to resign by his own volition without facing any threats
or protests. Otherwise, having demanded Pashinyan’s resignation, the
military leaders may carry out their demand by force, to ensure that
they themselves are not arrested. Such a group arrest would deprive
Armenia of its entire military leadership. Months from now, under
calmer conditions, new parliamentary elections should take place with
a clean slate, hopefully excluding Pashinyan and the other former
leaders. The people have the right to decide by a majority vote who
their new leader should be.

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

2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation

            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as
     PM Retains Power (Combined Sources)—Armenia’s Prime Minister
Nikol Pashinyan defied calls to resign and accused the military of an
attempted coup on Thursday, February 25 as divisions over his handling
of last year’s war with Azerbaijan brought thousands to the streets.

Hours after the general staff of Armenia’s military made a shock call
for the government to step down, Pashinyan rallied some 20,000
supporters in the center of the capital Yerevan against what he said
was an attempt to oust him.

The opposition gathered some 10,000 of its own supporters not far
away, then began putting up tents and building barricades outside
parliament as it vowed to hold round-the-clock demonstrations.

Where they sent a letter demanding his resignation, there were however
no uses of force, attempts to seize power or or signs of any military
action against Pashinyan, who in fact ordered the armed forces to
stand behind the government.

“I am ordering all generals, officers and soldiers: do your job of
protecting the country’s borders and territorial integrity,” he said
during the rally. The army “must obey the people and elected
authorities,” Pashinyan said.

The defense ministry also issued a statement declaring that “attempts
to involve (the military) in political processes are unacceptable.”

Pashinyan said he was ready to start talks with the opposition, but
also threatened to arrest any opponents who “go beyond political
statements.”

The military’s general staff called for Pashinyan to step down, saying
in a statement that he and his cabinet “are not capable of taking
adequate decisions.”

Pashinyan hit back with an accusation that top brass were mounting an
“attempted military coup” and retaliatd by firing the chief of the
general staff Onik Gasparyan. On Saturday, February 27, President
Armen Sarkissian refused to endorse as required by law Gasparyan's
firing.

Pashinyan then led supporters through the streets of the capital,
surrounded by his family, ministers and security detail, as marchers
chanted “Nikol Prime Minister!” and “Nikol, Nikol, Nikol!”

He attempted to downplay the military statement, saying it had been an
“emotional reaction” to his firing the previous day of the deputy
chief of the general staff, Tigran Khachatryan.

Khachatryan had ridiculed claims by Pashinyan that Iskander missiles
supplied by Russia — Armenia’s main military ally — “did not explode,
or exploded ten percent.”

 On Monday, March 1, Pashinyan's Spokesperson Mane Gevorgyan said that
he received incorrect reports about the use of Iskander. “Upon hearing
the facts and comparing data, the Prime Minister has concluded that he
was provided incorrect reports.

Armenia’s opposition urged him to heed the demand to resign.

“We call on Nikol Pashinyan not to lead the country towards civil war
and to avoid bloodshed. Pashinyan has one last chance to avoid
turmoil,” Prosperous Armenia, the country’s largest opposition party,
said in a statement.

Prosperous Armenia and another opposition party, Bright Armenia,
called for the holding of an extraordinary session of parliament,
which is controlled by Pashinyan’s allies. Opposition supporters had
gathered outside parliament in the early evening, blocking traffic,
erecting tents and making barricades out of rubbish bins. “We will
bring tents, stoves, everything we need. We are staying here. The
lawmakers can either come or we will bring them to parliament,” said
Ishkhan Saghatelyan of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary
Federation.

Homeland Salvation Movement supporters chanted, “Azg, Panag,
Haghtanag”—“The Nation, The Army, Victory!”—throughout the rally.

President Sarkissian said he was taking urgent steps to try to defuse
the crisis, while Armenia’s Apostolic Church called for all sides to
hold talks “for the sake of our homeland and people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan and “called on all
parties to show restraint.”

The United States, which under President Joe Biden has redoubled
efforts to support democracy, warned the military and urged all sides
to avoid violence. “We remind all parties of the bedrock democratic
principle that states’ armed forces should not intervene in domestic
politics,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Pashinyan has faced fierce criticism since he signed a peace deal
brokered by Russia that ended the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an
ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a
war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with
Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey making steady gains.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000
lives, a ceasefire agreement was signed that handed over significant
territory to Azerbaijan and allowed for the deployment of Russian
peacekeepers. The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for
many in Armenia, though Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to
agree or see his country’s forces suffer even bigger losses.

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

3 -        Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic

(Combined Sources)— Armenia will roll out the Covid vaccination in
March 2021, Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan told reporters last
week. She said the vaccination will be given on a voluntary basis.
People in risk groups will be vaccinated free of charge, she said,
adding that it’s not yet clear what it will cost for others.

According to Avanesyan, the government will import only the vaccines
that have successfully passed phase 3 of clinical trials.

Three vaccines—AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V—have so far been
approved by an expert commission.

“With regard to Pfizer, there are issues pertaining to the required
storage temperature, which need to be solved,” Avanesyan said.

The amount of vaccines to be imported will depend on several factors,
including their cost and how much money the state can allocate for the
purpose.

The European Union and the WHO Regional Office for Europe will work
together in a major effort to support the deployment of COVID-19
vaccines and vaccination in Armenia. The project funded by the
European Union and implemented by WHO will cover all
phases—constituting “end-to-end” support—of COVID-19 vaccine
deployment and vaccination and will serve as a major investment to
strengthen the routine immunisation system.

The project will be implemented by WHO over a three-year period as
part of a €40 million European Union-funded initiative to support six
countries in the WHO European Region in preparing, deploying and
monitoring rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. “Vaccines bring us closer
towards the end of the pandemic. However, we will never beat the
pandemic if the vaccination coverage concentrates only in certain
parts of the world. The EU stands by Armenia also during the process
of vaccination to ensure we soon can meet together without the fear
for lives of ourselves and our close ones. Together, we will beat this
pandemic faster,” said EU Ambassador to Armenia, Andrea Wiktorin.

“COVID-19 knows no borders; it unites and demands united solutions. It
is noteworthy that the solidarity principle made the world stand
together to fight this calamity in unity. The long-lasting cooperation
and the continuity of common projects between the Ministry of Health
of the Republic of Armenia, the European Union and the World Health
Organization is a valid proof for this. During the intensification of
the pandemic and the war, Armenia has always felt the results of the
strong support and cooperation. Even today, our colleagues are
standing strong next to us and are willing to assist in the process of
procuring vaccines. We are full of hope that 'Health and Peace' joint
initiative will help member states endure all the challenges that this
pandemic has posed,” said Avanesyan.

Egor Zaitsev, the WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country
Office in Armenia, said: “Thanks to this generous support, WHO can
strengthen its collaboration with the Government of Armenia to ensure
that vaccines can reach those who need them most, as soon and as
efficiently as possible.”

The funds will be used initially to support the first phase of
preparedness and deployment, with an emphasis on imminent needs in
strategic programmatic areas such as planning, equipment/supplies,
training of health workers and information campaigns. The project
builds on the European Union’s and WHO’s ongoing support to countries’
response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the joint €35 million EU
Solidarity for Health Initiative, aimed to support the partner
countries in their fight against the virus and address better the
needs of the most vulnerable people.

Armenia in January announced plans to purchase thousands of doses
directly from its main ally, Russia. At the same time, Armenia made
advance payments to COVAX to procure vaccines for 300,000 people. In
the meantime, Armenia continues its containment effort of the
coronavirus extending lockdown measures until July 11.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 5,510 active
coronavirus cases in Armenia as of March 1. Armenia has recorded
172,216 coronavirus cases and 3,195 deaths; 163,511 have recovered.

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

4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States

(Combined Sources)— Chess grandmaster Levon Aronian said on Friday,
February 26 that he was leaving Armenia and would represent the United
States, citing what he said was Armenian officials’ indifference to
chess as one of the reasons.

The 38-year-old, who is ranked sixth in the world, announced his
decision on his Facebook page.

“The past year has been very difficult for all of us with a pandemic,
a war and in my case there was personal adversity and the state’s
absolute indifference towards Armenian chess,” he wrote, referring to
six weeks of fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces over
the Nagorno-Karabkah enclave.

“I was faced with a choice: quit my job or move to where I am valued,” he wrote.

Aronian led Armenia to an incredible trio of Olympiad victories in
2006, 2008 and 2012, complains of the “absolute indifference” to chess
of the new government of Armenia since 2018.

The Armenian chess team had the full support of the previous
government in Armenia, with Serzh Sargsyan, the President from
2008-2018, also the President of the Chess Federation.

The Armenian team received a hero’s welcome when they returned
victorious from the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012. Now Aronian says the
new government has turned away from chess in general and him
personally, with Aronian quoted as their saying, “Our experts find
that Levon Aronian has no more potential.” As Levon points out, he
followed that statement by beating world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen and
world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana in Norway Chess in Stavanger.

It’s now not just that Aronian will be moving to America, but that he
seems set to follow in the footsteps of Wesley So, Leinier Dominguez
and Fabiano Caruana and switch federations to represent the United
States—he would currently be the US no. 2, behind Fabi and ahead of
Wesley. Rex Sinquefield is again the driving force behind the move.
Aronian wrote: “I’ve received many attractive offers from different
countries for years, including the great American philanthropist and
chess lover Rex Sinquefield, who repeated his offer to move to the
United States every year. I’ve been rejecting everything. What the
state was doing was priceless for chess development and no material
value could compare to the respect that chess players enjoyed in
Armenia.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the renowned Rex Sinquefield
for still believing in me today. Thanks also to Fabiano Caruana, who
is America’s strongest player, supports me and shares my decision to
be teammates. I am very grateful to my family, relatives, friends and
all the people who know my principles and understand me.”

The U.S. team did indeed win the 2016 Chess Olympiad, and with Aronian
are likely to be favorites in 2022.

For Aronian, however, it’s clear that switching to the U.S. was a
traumatic decision. In his post he looks forward to a time when chess
is again respected in Armenia and notes that he will still do
everything for his country from a distance. For now in Armenia there’s
more at stake in the tense aftermath of losing land to Azerbaijan in
the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
accused the army of an attempted coup. Aronian is focused on the
challenges ahead.

“My mother often repeats the Armenian saying, “God gives every man a
test in his own way”. There have been many trials in my life, and
every new one I accept with humility and willingness to be better than
yesterday. I hope I overcome this one with dignity.”

Levon is likely to be back in action next when the 4th stage of the
Meltwater Champions Chess Tour starts on March 13. He’s also been
announced in the field for Altibox Norway Chess in May while it now
looks as though we might see him in action in the US Championship in
Saint Louis this October.

Smbat Lputian, deputy head of the Armenian Chess Federation, said he
regretted Aronian’s decision.

“This is a big loss for Armenian chess,” he told Reuters.

Mike Hoffpauir, president of the U.S. Chess Federation, said it
welcomed Aronian’s decision to relocate to the United States.

The Saint Louis Chess Club said Aronian was moving to the U.S. city to
continue his career and would represent the United States at future
competitions.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) told Reuters it could not
comment on Aronian’s intentions and plans.

“A player can represent the country/federations where he resides,”
FIDE said. “That doesn’t necessarily imply that he changes his
nationality.”

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

5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole

The Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, February 24
reversed a decision by Governor Gavin Newson who rejected the parole
eligibility and application of Hampig Sassounian, court documents
obtained by Asbarez show.

Despite a recommendation in December 2019 by the Board of Parole in
favor of Sassounian’s suitability, Newsom, last May, rejected that
decision and denied his parole, saying in a lengthy decision that
while he acknowledged the steps Sassounian had taken over decades to
rehabilitate himself, he did not believe Sassounian to be fit for
release.

“I commend Mr. Sassounian for his rehabilitative efforts in prison,
but I find they are outweighed by negative factors that show he
remains unsuitable for parole at this time,” said Newsom in his letter
obtained by Asbarez at the time. “I believe that Mr. Sassounian has
not yet demonstrated that he has developed and sustained the necessary
insight and skills for a sufficiently long period.”

Saying Newsom’s decision was “arbitrary and procedurally flawed,” LA
County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan on Wednesday granted
Sassounian’s attorney’s motion to reverse the governor’s decision
ruling that Newsom “used an improper standard” when “considering both
the ‘import’ of his offense and the notoriety of his victim.”

Ryan also said it did not find evidence to support Newsom’s decision
that Sassounian “posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public
safety.”

With its ruling on Wednesday, the court vacated Newsom’s decision to
reject Sassounian’s parole and reinstated the California Parole
Board’s decision to grant Sassounian parole.

“The wheels of justice sometimes move slowly, but this is the right
time for this decision. I applaud the team of lawyers and activists
working on this case for decades,” California State Senator Anthony
Portantino told Asbarez on Thursday, February 25.

“This is an important case not just for his family but for California.
We have done many things in justice reform on behalf of teenagers and
it’s nice to see that it has benefitted Hampig,” added Portantino.
“The community can sleep peacefully and joyfully tonight.”

“Wednesday’s decision by the court is a welcome change in the status
for Hampig Sassounian, whose eligibility for parole was unjustly
rejected last year by the governor,” attorney Levon Kirakosian told
Asbarez on Thursday, February 25. “The Armenian community has waited
with bated breath for this moment and I am confident that Hampig’s
release will be imminent.”

“Hampig’s family and the entire Armenian community applaud and
appreciate the court’s ruling,” added Kirakosian, who for the past
four decades has worked on or closely with Sassounian’s legal team.

“As an organization which expressed its disappointment last year to
the governor for his decision to overturn the unanimous votes of two
separate Parole Boards to grant parole to Hampig Sassounian on
humanitarian grounds, we are gratified that the court has issued its
favorable ruling today in which it overturned the Governor’s unfounded
decision. We are confident that justice has finally been served, and
we are grateful that the court agreed,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq., the
chair of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.

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

6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case

A Glendale, California attorney pleaded guilty on September 9, 2020
for conspiring to make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign
contributions during the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and
thereafter.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Assistant Director in Charge
James A. Dawson of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the
announcement.

Rudy Dekermenjian, 42, of Glendale, California, pleaded guilty to one
count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions, make excessive
contributions, cause false statements, and cause false entries in
records before the Honorable Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia.  A sentencing hearing has not yet
been scheduled.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, between
March 2016 and June 2018, Dekermenjian conspired with Ahmad “Andy”
Khawaja and others to make unlawful contributions to political
committees, thereby circumventing contribution limits and causing the
political committees to unwittingly submit false reports to the
Federal Election Commission.  Specifically, Dekermenjian admitted that
in October 2016, Khawaja gave him $50,000 to contribute in
Dekermenjian’s name to a political committee supporting a candidate
running for U.S. president in the 2016 election cycle.  The purpose of
making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name was to allow Khawaja to
exceed contribution limits set by federal law with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with a political event hosted by Khawaja in October 2016.

Additionally, Dekermenjian admitted that in January 2018, Khawaja gave
him approximately $50,000 to contribute in Dekermenjian’s name to
another political committee.

Again, the purpose of making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name
was to allow Khawaja to exceed contribution limits with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with another political event hosted by Khawaja in March 2018.

Charges remain pending against Khawaja, who is a fugitive, and others
in the indictment.  An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  It
merely alleges that crimes have been committed.  A defendant is
presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office
and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James C. Mann and Michael
J. Romano of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

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

7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage

            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923

            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kate Fitz Gibbon

In the very last hours of the Trump administration, the United States
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) restricting the importation
of art, artifacts and antiques from the Republic of Turkey into the
United States. The last minute signing was widely seen as denying the
incoming Biden administration an opportunity to review this
controversial agreement.

The stated purpose of the MOU is to “reduce the incentive for pillage
of irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological material representing
Turkey’s cultural heritage.”

MOUs generally organize objects by the date and the materials of which
they are made. A Designated List, which is not yet issued, will
provide expanded descriptions of the types of objects covered. The
Turkish MOU will restrict entry (without a license, which Turkey does
not issue for antiquities) for archaeological material made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, painting, glass, wood, textile and other
organic material ranging in ages from 1,200,000 BCE to 1770 CE. It
will also restrict import of ‘ethnological material’ made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, stucco, painting, glass, wood, textile,
leather and parchment, and other organic material “from the 1st
century AD to 1923.”

Turkey will use its “best efforts” to protect its cultural patrimony,
to engage with other countries to halt trade in archaeological and
ethnological material from Turkey, and to promote appreciation of
Turkey’s cultural heritage. What the MOU does not say: it’s about
repatriation and politics.

The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News quoted Turkish Culture and
Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, who acknowledged that the chief
benefit of the Turkish MOU was that demands for repatriation of
Turkish objects from the U.S. would be much simplified by the
agreement:

“This important document, which will also constitute a legal basis for
operations of the U.S. law enforcement units, will bring active
results. Legal struggles that last for years with enormous costs will
be concluded in a very short time and with low costs. This is the
biggest deterrent we have.”

Well before the signing of the agreement, the State Department had
been given notice by Congressman Christopher Smith, a New Jersey
representative with a background in issues of human and religious
rights, that there were serious problems with the proposed MOU with
Turkey. When the State Department failed to give satisfactory answers,
he followed up with a forceful letter to Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo on December 31, 2020.

Congressman Smith wrote: “I am writing to strongly urge that the State
Department reject the memorandum of understanding (MOU) the Government
of Turkey proposed under the Cultural Property Implementation Act…”

“Turkey has not met the preconditions in the CPIA for an MOU limiting
the importation of cultural and religious property. Most
significantly, Turkey has not met the requirement that “the State
Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its
cultural patrimony.” Turkey under President Erdoğan has waged a
coordinated campaign of persecution of Greek Orthodox, Armenian
Orthodox, Alevi Muslims and others, expropriating their cultural and
religious patrimony, including the conversion of the churches of the
Holy Saviour in Chora and Hagia Sophia from museums into mosques
earlier this year, despite the near universal and global appeals to
the contrary. The MOU will thus effectively legitimize these seizures,
suggesting that the United States approves of these acts. The
incongruity of Turkey’s request for an MOU, purportedly for the
purpose of protecting the religious and cultural patrimony of cultural
and religious minorities, is all the more pronounced given Turkey’s
recently-heightened and aggressive campaign to suppress the rights of
these communities in Turkey.”

As Smith also noted, the agreement aligns the U.S. with President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian government, which Smith says
comes “at a time when Turkey has signaled its intent to act contrary
to American interests.”

The U.S.-Turkey cultural property agreement was urgently sought by
President Erdoğan, a strongman whose autocratic rule won favor with
the last U.S. administration. Erdoğan made Turkish nationalism and
Islamic revitalization a rallying cry for his Justice and Development
Party. His AK Party is strongly nationalist and has tolerated verbal
anti-Semitism and even physical attacks on members’ religious
minorities.

By handing Erdoğan a diplomatic plum, the MOU leaves minority
communities in Turkey even more vulnerable. “Congressman Smith was
right to raise the alarm that any MOU with Turkey would be a de facto
endorsement of the Erdoğan Government’s ownership and control of the
cultural heritage of its displaced Greek, Armenian and Jewish
populations,” Global Heritage Alliance’s Peter Tompa noted, saying
that the action “dismiss[ed] Congressional oversight over the State
Department’s administration of the Cultural Property Implementation
Act.”

The State Department decision to go forward with the MOU has alarmed
important U.S. constituencies including Turkish Jews and the Armenian,
Greek, Cypriot, Syriac, and Kurdish communities founded by minorities
who suffered under Turkish persecution in the 20th century.

Response to the MOU in the U.S. was swift.

“It is unconscionable that the State Department, during the 11th hour
of the Trump administration, would even consider entertaining, let
alone agree to, such a proposal by the government of Turkey, in the
light of its conversion of the Hagia Sophia and persecution of
religious minorities within the country, as well as religious leaders
such as the Ecumenical Patriarch. In this context, it is particularly
insulting and absurd that the US government’s official press release
announcing the agreement references “Turkey’s longstanding religious,
ethnic, and cultural diversity’.”

Opposition was also voiced by the Armenian National Council of America
(ANCA), Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), and In Defense of
Christians (IDC) and a host of cultural rights and museum groups
including the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the
Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP), the Global Heritage Alliance
(GHA), and the International Association of Professional Numismatists
(IAPN).

In testimony before the Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the
State Department, which later recommended that Turkey be granted a U.S
agreement, the Association of Art Museum Directors stated plainly
that, “For many types of cultural property, an MOU will not curb
looting and destruction because those actions are being carried out by
the Turkish state itself.”

Examples include the following: the Turkish government has destroyed
two World Heritage Sites at Diyarbakir, an important site in the
Hellenistic, Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman periods.
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and 800 historic
buildings and registered cultural monuments were bulldozed. The
Armenian Catholic Church of Diyarbakir, a 1700-year-old Syriac
Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary and a Jewish synagogue where Elijah
was thought to have become a prophet were destroyed during street
fighting by Turkish troops. The deeply venerated Armenian Surp Giragos
Catholic Church was ordered expropriated by the Turkish government in
what observers called a ‘legalized robbery.’

A Turkish dam project has inundated the ancient site of Zeugma, on
UNESCO’s Tentative List, where rushed salvage archaeology failed to
preserve many of its ancient remains, including mosaics. The town and
surrounding regions of Hasankeyf (pictured), a World Heritage site
containing more than 300 archaeological sites from the Prehistoric
through the classical Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, are today
submerged under the waters of the Ilisu Dam. Just a few years ago,
Turkish military bombed into rubble one of the most important Hittite
sites in the world, Ain Dara, just across its border in Syria.

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, formerly on the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom said that the Turkish MOU was “a
surreal moment in U.S. foreign policy… well-documented and extensive
evidence by cultural heritage experts leaves no doubt that the state
of Turkey is the single greatest threat to that country’s cultural
heritage.”

The Turkish agreement would ban entry to the U.S. of the religious and
community heritage of exiled peoples; Armenians, Greeks, Jews,
Orthodox and Syriac Christians forced from Turkey. The net effect of
these proposed agreements will not be to halt looting but to deny
access of displaced peoples to their heritage.

In a September 2020 interview Elias Gerasoulis of AHI noted that
Erdoğan “has talked about seizing Jerusalem and liberating the al-Aqsa
mosque. Erdoğan has been condemned by the U.S. State Department for
the partnership that he has with Hamas. His own AKP has talked about
the coronavirus being a Jewish conspiracy. I think it is sheer lunacy
to give someone who believes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories… to
acknowledge his full ownership of Jewish cultural property and
heritage.”

An agreement with Turkey will help President Erdoğan’s campaign of
religious extremism. President Erdoğan has incited religious
animosities to win political points and made mosques out of museums
that were formerly churches, including both the Hagia Sofia Museum and
the Kariye Museum, formerly the 14th century Byzantine Church of the
Savior in Chora. Together, the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church
exemplify the highest achievements of Byzantine art and architecture,
marking the early cultural height and the most developed final
_expression_ of Byzantine art. Though not as well-known as Hagia Sophia,
the Chora Church, while small, is a work of art in itself. It has been
described as filled ‘wall-to-wall-to dome’ with the most beautiful
murals and mosaics of the period—an artistic gem that influenced the
rise of Mannerist painting and the High Renaissance in Italy.

In August 2020, ten organizations signed a Joint Letter to the U.S.
State Department’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and the Cultural
Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at the Department of State, urging
them to address longstanding problems of fairness and serious process
issues at CPAC. The letter states that CPAC has long ignored concerns
among representatives of religious minority organizations. It has
approved MOUs with Middle Eastern countries that claim exclusive
rights over all cultural heritage, including the religious and
community property of oppressed minorities. The letter also criticizes
the lack of transparency in State Department actions and the failure
of requesting counties to provide factual documentation showing the
need for U.S. import restrictions.

Now, with the signing of an MOU with the repressive, dangerously
xenophobic Erdogan government, which openly claims as state property
the heritage of dispossessed minorities, it is more than ever time to
address the flaws in the system of cultural heritage administered at
the Department of State.

This article appeared in Cultural Property News on February 2, 2021.

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

8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan

            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs

By Marilyn Thomsen

The University of La Verne announced today that it has selected Kerop
Janoyan, PhD, as its next provost and vice president for academic
affairs. He will join the leadership team headed by President Devorah
Lieberman this spring.

Currently, Janoyan is dean of the Graduate School at Clarkson
University in New York. He is also a professor in the Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering and recently served as interim
dean of the university’s Lewis School of Health Sciences and director
of distance learning.

As provost and vice president for academic affairs, Janoyan will
oversee key areas of the university, including academic affairs,
student affairs, the library, online programs, the nine regional
campuses, campus health and safety, athletics, housing, institutional
research, and the office of the registrar. He replaces Jonathan Reed,
who is returning to the faculty after six years as provost and vice
president for academic affairs.

Janoyan said that what drew him most to the university was “the
people. After I met the students, faculty, staff, and the leadership,
I had a sense of being ‘at home.’” He is also strongly supportive of
the university’s mission to the greater community as well as to
diversity and inclusion.

“I strongly believe that we must continue to innovate our educational
programs to inspire a diverse, highly trained pool of global citizens
and future leaders,” he said, “who will seize the opportunity to
tackle our region’s and world’s challenges and solve challenges we
don’t even know about yet.”

Janoyan has deep roots in Southern California. Born in Iraq, he’s
lived and attended school in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, and Italy
before coming to the U.S. with his family and enrolling in the
Glendale public schools for his secondary education. He completed his
bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in civil engineering at UCLA.
He speaks three languages.

The provost search committee considered more than 120 applications in
a diverse pool of candidates from across the country and
internationally. Janoyan “stood out as a systems thinker who has the
ability to bring a community together to achieve common outcomes and
who is thoughtful and strategic in his work,” she said.

An important priority of the new provost will be leading the
university in the execution of its recently approved 2025 strategic
plan. He will also guide the development of academic programs, with a
focus on expansion into health professions.

“I look forward to the specific opportunities at the University of La
Verne,” Janoyan said, “empowering faculty and staff, supporting
academic excellence, deepening the student experience, and building a
diverse and inclusive community.”

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

9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in
Washington DC WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA) announced last week Alex Manoukian has joined its
professional staff in the nation’s capital as Director of Programs,
wherein he will oversee the organization’s internships, job placements
and youth programming.

“The ANCA is proud to have Alex Manoukian join our team of
professionals in Washington, DC,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian.
“Across many ANCA programs, we offer ladders of success for emerging
Armenian American professionals. We are confident that Alex is going
to build on these ladders to help young leaders reach their full
potential.”

Manoukian, who is studying toward a Bachelor's in Government with a
Minor in Arabic at Georgetown University, will steward the expansion
of the ANCA’s signature youth initiatives—the Leo Sarkisian Internship
and the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, as well as
Rising Leaders, an innovative multi-day series of interactive seminars
to introduce college-age Armenian Americans to Washington, D.C.

“I’m excited to join the ANCA Washington DC team as Programs
Director,” said Alex Manoukian. “I look forward to working with
students and recent graduates across the U.S. to share the incredible
resources that the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program and
Leo Sarkisian Internship have to offer—both in terms of career
development and pro-Armenian advocacy.  Whether it’s expanding the
Armenian American presence professionally in politics, policy, and
media or increasing our collective voice in Congress and State
Capitols across the United States—today’s Armenian youth are the game
changers who will take Armenian advocacy to new heights. And the ANCA
is ready to work with them every step of the way.”

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Manoukian attended Mesrobian Armenian
Catholic High School and the Melankton & Haig Arslanian Djemaran,
prior to moving with his family to Montebello, Calif., where he
studied at Armenian Mesrobian School in Pico Rivera.

He belongs to his local Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) DC “Ani”
senior chapter, serves as a member of the AYF Eastern Region Central
Executive, and is active in the Armenian Relief Society, the Armenian
General Athletic Union (Homenetmen), Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural
Association, Georgetown Armenian Students Association, and Soorp
Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church. He is fluent in Armenian and Arabic.

The ANCA’s Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, Leo Sarkisian
Internship Program, and newer initiatives like ANCA Rising Leaders and
the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship empower the next generation
of Armenian Americans by training university students as effective
advocates and helping recent graduates start promising policy,
political, government, and media careers in Washington, D.C.

Now in its 35th year, the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship has trained
hundreds of community leaders during annual intensive eight-week
programs designed to give them the tools necessary to effectively
advance issues of concern to the Armenian American community on the
federal, state, and local level. Former interns hold leadership
positions in the ANCA and across the Armenian community.

The Summer 2021 program will take place virtually from June 14 to August 6.

For more information and to apply, visit anca.org/internship.

The application deadline is March 31st.

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

10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

By Farley Elliott

(LA Eater)—Burbank restaurant and bar Tinhorn Flats was back in the
news last week, because of city meeting on February 22 where the
Burbank City Council voted unanimously to revoke the business license
for the Tinhorn Flats restaurant for violations related to Los Angeles
County health orders and violation of the Burbank Municipal Code.

The Council ruled that ongoing activity at the bar violates state and
local emergency laws and “endangers the public health, safety and
welfare, and creates a public nuisance.”

Tinhorn Flats responded on February 23 to the vote on Instagram by
writing, “WILL NOT COMPLY. OPEN 12 NOON TOMORROW.”

The business, located at 2628 W. Magnolia Blvd., must close, according
to Burbank City Attorney Amy Albano, who added that if the
restaurant's owners do not comply a lawsuit will be filed and a court
order will be sought to close the business.

Owner Baret Lepejian and his family have been vocally against the
rolling county-led public health lockdowns during the coronavirus
pandemic, operating on-site dining (mostly outdoor, though social
media has shown some indoor bar seating as well at times) in direct
opposition to county mandates. Along the way they’ve racked up
countless fines and warnings, and tonight it could all be coming to a
head.

Per a flier sent around by the city of Burbank, which falls under the
jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,
consideration is underway to revoke the restaurant’s conditional use
permit, an essentially final step in making sure the business no
longer operates. County officials have also considered bringing formal
criminal charges against Lepejian and his family for “violating the
CUP’s Conditions of Approval.” That’s mostly just a formal way of
saying the restaurant stayed open for on-site dining after being told
to shut down by public health officials, who reduced restaurants to
takeout and delivery only back in late 2020 as COVID-19 cases
skyrocketed across the region. Restaurants were once again allowed to
resume limited-capacity on-site outdoor dining, with proper protocols
in place, late last month.

This time, though, they’re not alone, as it seems that one Mark
Geragos is now representing the restaurant in its fight with city and
county officials. Geragos is a lawyer and the owner of Downtown LA’s
Engine Co. No. 28, which filed a lawsuit with county officials last
year regarding the tricky question of causal data linking outdoor
dining at restaurants with a rise in coronavirus cases. Geragos and
others have held that a formal case must be made linking contact
tracing data back to restaurants in order for them to be legally
closed by public health mandate; county officials have maintained (and
courts have upheld) that they’re not required to show such data to act
in the interest of public health and safety during an emergency.

Geragos said the business has always been in compliance with health
orders and does not provide indoor dining or have its staff serve
anyone in their outdoor patio.

Lepejian said food is placed in to-go containers and disposable cups
are used and the restaurant is sanitized and workers wear masks.

Prior to tonight’s showdown, Lepejian has been a vocal anti-lockdown
advocate on social media, calling the loss of outdoor dining a
“tyrannical mandate” and saying that describing the wearing of masks
as nothing more than a tool of “control and fear,” among other things.

“Zero science behind any lockdown. The numbers are a hoax,” Lepejian
said. “These are pathetic socialist cowards with zero backbone and
zero American Values trying to peddle an illegal agenda.”

Tinhorn Flats had its health permit suspended by the LA County
Department of Public Health in December for violating health officer
orders. In January the county issued a cease and desist order and
later revoked the restaurant's public health permit.

This article appeared in LA Eater on February 22, 2021.

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

California Courier Online provides viewers of the Armenian News News Service
with a few of the articles in this week's issue of The California
Courier.  Letters to the editor are encouraged through our e-mail
address, . However, authors are
requested to provide their names, addresses, and/or telephone numbers
to verify identity, if any question arises. California Courier
subscribers are requested not to use this service to change, or modify
mailing addresses. Those changes can be made through our e-mail,
, or by phone, (818) 409-0949.

The California Courier Online, March 4, 2021

1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh
            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia
            By Harut Sassounian
            Publisher, The California Courier
            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com
2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation
            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as PM
Retains Power
3-         Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic
4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States
5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole
6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case
7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage
            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923
            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration
8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan
            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs
9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in Washington DC
10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

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

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

1 -        ‘Unexploded’ Russian Missiles in Artsakh

            Cause a Political Explosion in Armenia

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier

            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

Words have meanings and consequences as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
found out when he told a journalist last week that the powerful
Russian Iskander missiles, supposedly fired by Armenia during the
Artsakh War last November, “did not explode or exploded 10 percent.”
This surprising statement was in response to an interview by previous
President Serzh Sargsyan in which he asked why Pashinyan had not
ordered the use of the Iskander missiles during the early part of the
Artsakh War.

Several days after the Prime Minister’s highly controversial
statement, his spokeswoman announced that Pashinyan “was not briefed
correctly regarding the Russian missiles.” But it was too late. The
damage was done.

No one could have predicted the chain of unexpected events that
followed Pashinyan’s words questioning the merits of the Iskander
missiles that Russia had exported exclusively to Armenia. A large
number of Russian military experts and political leaders reacted very
harshly to Pashinyan’s statement viewing it as disparaging of the
prized missiles of Russia and the prestige of its defense industry.

However, the reaction within Armenia was no less devastating. When
First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Tiran
Khachatryan, a Lieutenant General, was asked to comment on Pashinyan’s
statement about the Iskander missiles not exploding, he responded with
a chuckle that it was not possible and not serious.

Upon hearing of this slight, Prime Minister Pashinyan immediately
ordered the firing of the Deputy General Staff. His dismissal was
endorsed by Pres. Armen Sarkissian, according to the process outlined
in the constitution. The Prime Minister had surely overreacted to
Khachatryan’s snub, particularly since Pashinyan himself had appointed
him in June 2020 and awarded him the prestigious “National Hero” medal
for his outstanding role during the Artsakh War.

In retaliation, dozens of top Armenian military leaders released a
joint statement on Feb. 25, 2021, demanding the resignation of the
Prime Minister and his government. The statement was signed by Onik
Gasparyan, Chief of the General Staff and 40 other high-ranking
military Officers, including 17 generals and Commanders of all five
Army Corps. Later, several other military and police officials added
their signatures.

The military’s statement expressed its “resolute protest” against the
“short-sighted and baseless” dismissal of the First Deputy Chief of
the General Staff “without taking into account the national and state
interests of the Republic of Armenia, solely based on personal and
pretentious sentiments.” The statement added that “in such difficult
conditions for the country, such a decision is an anti-state and
irresponsible step. The Prime Minister and his government are no
longer able to make adequate decisions in this critical and fateful
situation for the Armenian people. The Armed Forces, for a long time,
patiently tolerated the ‘attacks’ by the incumbent authorities to
discredit the Armed Forces, but everything has its limits…. The
current authorities’ unproductive governing and the most serious
errors exhibited in foreign policy have brought the country to the
brink of collapse. Based on the created situation, the Armed Forces
demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and the government….”

Pashinyan immediately announced on his Facebook page the firing of the
Chief of the General Staff. The Prime Minister called the military’s
statement “an attempted military coup,” urging his supporters to
gather at the Republic Square where he joined them and marched in
Yerevan streets holding a megaphone. This was a highly irresponsible
act on the part of Pashinyan, venturing to the streets during what he
described as an attempted military coup, which could have led to
tragic consequences for the country had anyone harmed him.

After Pashinyan ordered the firing of Onig Gasparyan, Chief of the
General Staff of the Armed Forces, Pres. Sarkissian, having consulting
all sides of the political spectrum, refused to sign the Prime
Minister’s order, calling it unconstitutional. The Prime Minister then
submitted a second dismissal request to the President. Should the
President refuse to sign the order for a second time, then the issue
will be submitted to the constitutional court for its final decision.
It is curious as to why the President endorsed the Prime Minister’s
earlier order to sack the First Deputy of the General Staff but
refused to sign the order to dismiss the Chief of the General Staff.
After all, the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff’s wrongdoing
was simply chuckling at the Prime Minister’s statement about the
Russian missiles, whereas his boss, the Chief of the General Staff,
demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation.

In the meantime, the Armenian military took no further steps beyond
its call for the resignation of the Prime Minister which the Prime
Minister wrongly described as an attempted coup. However, the
statement could be viewed as interference in political affairs which
violates the constitution. It is clear that the military’s intent is
having the Prime Minister resign without taking any military actions.

Turning to the unconstitutionality of the military’s statement, there
are counter points to this argument. The military stated that they
could no longer remain quiet while the country is on the brink of
collapse. The national interest of Armenia has to be of paramount
importance. After all, the military is the guardian of the nation’s
security. Furthermore, Pashinyan and his supporters cannot all of a
sudden claim to be defenders of the constitution, when they have been
violating many of its provisions in the past three years. The Prime
Minister has repeatedly pressured the courts and has stacked the
Constitutional Court with his allies to get verdicts desired by the
government. Pashinyan and his supporters similarly pressured Pres.
Sarkissian to force him to sign the Prime Minister’s order.
Ironically, the democratic principles endorsed by Pashinyan when
coming to power have dissipated turning the country into a one-man
rule, a dictatorship. Given the Prime Minister’s partisans’
overwhelming majority in Parliament, other voices have been mostly
muzzled. All suggestions to form a government of competent experts
have been ignored, leaving Pashinyan with a mediocre and incompetent
cadre of officials and advisors.

Pashinyan’s only important attribute is that he is not corrupt—which
is very positive. But that alone is not enough to lead the state
through such turbulent waters. After all, Armenians are not looking
for a saint, but a competent leader who can solve the country’s
complex problems.

Furthermore, Pashinyan and his followers did not always practice what
they are preaching now. Back in 2018, when there were widespread
street protests by Pashinyan and his supporters, a large number of
Armenian soldiers illegally left their barracks and marched with the
demonstrators. Even though this was a violation of military rules and
interference in politics, Pashinyan did not take any action against
these soldiers. In a similar situation occurred in 1998, when Defense
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan forced then President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to
resign. No one complained that it was unconstitutional.

Shortly after this new crisis in Armenia, leaders in Azerbaijan and
Turkey issued self-serving statements on the situation in Armenia. In
my opinion, both of these countries, led by dictators, are in no
position to comment on developments in Armenia, let alone give
Armenians lectures about democracy. They should look at themselves in
the mirror and keep their mouths shut.

Having suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of our enemies in
the Artsakh War, Armenians cannot afford now to attack each other. We
need to place the national interest above all else. Having lost most
of Artsakh and thousands of soldiers, let’s not risk losing Armenia
itself. Pashinyan, the leader of the ‘Velvet Revolution,’ should not
have told his followers last week that there will be no more ‘velvet’
which could be interpreted as a threat to anyone who disagrees with
him. Should the military also adopt a no velvet approach, the outcome
would be tragic for the entire Armenian nation. The best solution
would be for the Prime Minister, having lost territories and thousands
of soldiers, to resign by his own volition without facing any threats
or protests. Otherwise, having demanded Pashinyan’s resignation, the
military leaders may carry out their demand by force, to ensure that
they themselves are not arrested. Such a group arrest would deprive
Armenia of its entire military leadership. Months from now, under
calmer conditions, new parliamentary elections should take place with
a clean slate, hopefully excluding Pashinyan and the other former
leaders. The people have the right to decide by a majority vote who
their new leader should be.

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

2-         Military Leaders Demand Pashinyan's Resignation

            Homeland Salvation Movement Calls for Daily Protests as
     PM Retains Power (Combined Sources)—Armenia’s Prime Minister
Nikol Pashinyan defied calls to resign and accused the military of an
attempted coup on Thursday, February 25 as divisions over his handling
of last year’s war with Azerbaijan brought thousands to the streets.

Hours after the general staff of Armenia’s military made a shock call
for the government to step down, Pashinyan rallied some 20,000
supporters in the center of the capital Yerevan against what he said
was an attempt to oust him.

The opposition gathered some 10,000 of its own supporters not far
away, then began putting up tents and building barricades outside
parliament as it vowed to hold round-the-clock demonstrations.

Where they sent a letter demanding his resignation, there were however
no uses of force, attempts to seize power or or signs of any military
action against Pashinyan, who in fact ordered the armed forces to
stand behind the government.

“I am ordering all generals, officers and soldiers: do your job of
protecting the country’s borders and territorial integrity,” he said
during the rally. The army “must obey the people and elected
authorities,” Pashinyan said.

The defense ministry also issued a statement declaring that “attempts
to involve (the military) in political processes are unacceptable.”

Pashinyan said he was ready to start talks with the opposition, but
also threatened to arrest any opponents who “go beyond political
statements.”

The military’s general staff called for Pashinyan to step down, saying
in a statement that he and his cabinet “are not capable of taking
adequate decisions.”

Pashinyan hit back with an accusation that top brass were mounting an
“attempted military coup” and retaliatd by firing the chief of the
general staff Onik Gasparyan. On Saturday, February 27, President
Armen Sarkissian refused to endorse as required by law Gasparyan's
firing.

Pashinyan then led supporters through the streets of the capital,
surrounded by his family, ministers and security detail, as marchers
chanted “Nikol Prime Minister!” and “Nikol, Nikol, Nikol!”

He attempted to downplay the military statement, saying it had been an
“emotional reaction” to his firing the previous day of the deputy
chief of the general staff, Tigran Khachatryan.

Khachatryan had ridiculed claims by Pashinyan that Iskander missiles
supplied by Russia — Armenia’s main military ally — “did not explode,
or exploded ten percent.”

 On Monday, March 1, Pashinyan's Spokesperson Mane Gevorgyan said that
he received incorrect reports about the use of Iskander. “Upon hearing
the facts and comparing data, the Prime Minister has concluded that he
was provided incorrect reports.

Armenia’s opposition urged him to heed the demand to resign.

“We call on Nikol Pashinyan not to lead the country towards civil war
and to avoid bloodshed. Pashinyan has one last chance to avoid
turmoil,” Prosperous Armenia, the country’s largest opposition party,
said in a statement.

Prosperous Armenia and another opposition party, Bright Armenia,
called for the holding of an extraordinary session of parliament,
which is controlled by Pashinyan’s allies. Opposition supporters had
gathered outside parliament in the early evening, blocking traffic,
erecting tents and making barricades out of rubbish bins. “We will
bring tents, stoves, everything we need. We are staying here. The
lawmakers can either come or we will bring them to parliament,” said
Ishkhan Saghatelyan of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary
Federation.

Homeland Salvation Movement supporters chanted, “Azg, Panag,
Haghtanag”—“The Nation, The Army, Victory!”—throughout the rally.

President Sarkissian said he was taking urgent steps to try to defuse
the crisis, while Armenia’s Apostolic Church called for all sides to
hold talks “for the sake of our homeland and people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan and “called on all
parties to show restraint.”

The United States, which under President Joe Biden has redoubled
efforts to support democracy, warned the military and urged all sides
to avoid violence. “We remind all parties of the bedrock democratic
principle that states’ armed forces should not intervene in domestic
politics,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Pashinyan has faced fierce criticism since he signed a peace deal
brokered by Russia that ended the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an
ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a
war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with
Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey making steady gains.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000
lives, a ceasefire agreement was signed that handed over significant
territory to Azerbaijan and allowed for the deployment of Russian
peacekeepers. The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for
many in Armenia, though Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to
agree or see his country’s forces suffer even bigger losses.

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

3 -        Armenia continues to fight COVID-19 pandemic

(Combined Sources)— Armenia will roll out the Covid vaccination in
March 2021, Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan told reporters last
week. She said the vaccination will be given on a voluntary basis.
People in risk groups will be vaccinated free of charge, she said,
adding that it’s not yet clear what it will cost for others.

According to Avanesyan, the government will import only the vaccines
that have successfully passed phase 3 of clinical trials.

Three vaccines—AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V—have so far been
approved by an expert commission.

“With regard to Pfizer, there are issues pertaining to the required
storage temperature, which need to be solved,” Avanesyan said.

The amount of vaccines to be imported will depend on several factors,
including their cost and how much money the state can allocate for the
purpose.

The European Union and the WHO Regional Office for Europe will work
together in a major effort to support the deployment of COVID-19
vaccines and vaccination in Armenia. The project funded by the
European Union and implemented by WHO will cover all
phases—constituting “end-to-end” support—of COVID-19 vaccine
deployment and vaccination and will serve as a major investment to
strengthen the routine immunisation system.

The project will be implemented by WHO over a three-year period as
part of a €40 million European Union-funded initiative to support six
countries in the WHO European Region in preparing, deploying and
monitoring rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. “Vaccines bring us closer
towards the end of the pandemic. However, we will never beat the
pandemic if the vaccination coverage concentrates only in certain
parts of the world. The EU stands by Armenia also during the process
of vaccination to ensure we soon can meet together without the fear
for lives of ourselves and our close ones. Together, we will beat this
pandemic faster,” said EU Ambassador to Armenia, Andrea Wiktorin.

“COVID-19 knows no borders; it unites and demands united solutions. It
is noteworthy that the solidarity principle made the world stand
together to fight this calamity in unity. The long-lasting cooperation
and the continuity of common projects between the Ministry of Health
of the Republic of Armenia, the European Union and the World Health
Organization is a valid proof for this. During the intensification of
the pandemic and the war, Armenia has always felt the results of the
strong support and cooperation. Even today, our colleagues are
standing strong next to us and are willing to assist in the process of
procuring vaccines. We are full of hope that 'Health and Peace' joint
initiative will help member states endure all the challenges that this
pandemic has posed,” said Avanesyan.

Egor Zaitsev, the WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country
Office in Armenia, said: “Thanks to this generous support, WHO can
strengthen its collaboration with the Government of Armenia to ensure
that vaccines can reach those who need them most, as soon and as
efficiently as possible.”

The funds will be used initially to support the first phase of
preparedness and deployment, with an emphasis on imminent needs in
strategic programmatic areas such as planning, equipment/supplies,
training of health workers and information campaigns. The project
builds on the European Union’s and WHO’s ongoing support to countries’
response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the joint €35 million EU
Solidarity for Health Initiative, aimed to support the partner
countries in their fight against the virus and address better the
needs of the most vulnerable people.

Armenia in January announced plans to purchase thousands of doses
directly from its main ally, Russia. At the same time, Armenia made
advance payments to COVAX to procure vaccines for 300,000 people. In
the meantime, Armenia continues its containment effort of the
coronavirus extending lockdown measures until July 11.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 5,510 active
coronavirus cases in Armenia as of March 1. Armenia has recorded
172,216 coronavirus cases and 3,195 deaths; 163,511 have recovered.

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

4-         Armenian Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian Moves to the United States

(Combined Sources)— Chess grandmaster Levon Aronian said on Friday,
February 26 that he was leaving Armenia and would represent the United
States, citing what he said was Armenian officials’ indifference to
chess as one of the reasons.

The 38-year-old, who is ranked sixth in the world, announced his
decision on his Facebook page.

“The past year has been very difficult for all of us with a pandemic,
a war and in my case there was personal adversity and the state’s
absolute indifference towards Armenian chess,” he wrote, referring to
six weeks of fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces over
the Nagorno-Karabkah enclave.

“I was faced with a choice: quit my job or move to where I am valued,” he wrote.

Aronian led Armenia to an incredible trio of Olympiad victories in
2006, 2008 and 2012, complains of the “absolute indifference” to chess
of the new government of Armenia since 2018.

The Armenian chess team had the full support of the previous
government in Armenia, with Serzh Sargsyan, the President from
2008-2018, also the President of the Chess Federation.

The Armenian team received a hero’s welcome when they returned
victorious from the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012. Now Aronian says the
new government has turned away from chess in general and him
personally, with Aronian quoted as their saying, “Our experts find
that Levon Aronian has no more potential.” As Levon points out, he
followed that statement by beating world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen and
world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana in Norway Chess in Stavanger.

It’s now not just that Aronian will be moving to America, but that he
seems set to follow in the footsteps of Wesley So, Leinier Dominguez
and Fabiano Caruana and switch federations to represent the United
States—he would currently be the US no. 2, behind Fabi and ahead of
Wesley. Rex Sinquefield is again the driving force behind the move.
Aronian wrote: “I’ve received many attractive offers from different
countries for years, including the great American philanthropist and
chess lover Rex Sinquefield, who repeated his offer to move to the
United States every year. I’ve been rejecting everything. What the
state was doing was priceless for chess development and no material
value could compare to the respect that chess players enjoyed in
Armenia.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the renowned Rex Sinquefield
for still believing in me today. Thanks also to Fabiano Caruana, who
is America’s strongest player, supports me and shares my decision to
be teammates. I am very grateful to my family, relatives, friends and
all the people who know my principles and understand me.”

The U.S. team did indeed win the 2016 Chess Olympiad, and with Aronian
are likely to be favorites in 2022.

For Aronian, however, it’s clear that switching to the U.S. was a
traumatic decision. In his post he looks forward to a time when chess
is again respected in Armenia and notes that he will still do
everything for his country from a distance. For now in Armenia there’s
more at stake in the tense aftermath of losing land to Azerbaijan in
the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
accused the army of an attempted coup. Aronian is focused on the
challenges ahead.

“My mother often repeats the Armenian saying, “God gives every man a
test in his own way”. There have been many trials in my life, and
every new one I accept with humility and willingness to be better than
yesterday. I hope I overcome this one with dignity.”

Levon is likely to be back in action next when the 4th stage of the
Meltwater Champions Chess Tour starts on March 13. He’s also been
announced in the field for Altibox Norway Chess in May while it now
looks as though we might see him in action in the US Championship in
Saint Louis this October.

Smbat Lputian, deputy head of the Armenian Chess Federation, said he
regretted Aronian’s decision.

“This is a big loss for Armenian chess,” he told Reuters.

Mike Hoffpauir, president of the U.S. Chess Federation, said it
welcomed Aronian’s decision to relocate to the United States.

The Saint Louis Chess Club said Aronian was moving to the U.S. city to
continue his career and would represent the United States at future
competitions.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) told Reuters it could not
comment on Aronian’s intentions and plans.

“A player can represent the country/federations where he resides,”
FIDE said. “That doesn’t necessarily imply that he changes his
nationality.”

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5-         Court Reverses Newsom’s Rejection of Sassounian Parole

The Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, February 24
reversed a decision by Governor Gavin Newson who rejected the parole
eligibility and application of Hampig Sassounian, court documents
obtained by Asbarez show.

Despite a recommendation in December 2019 by the Board of Parole in
favor of Sassounian’s suitability, Newsom, last May, rejected that
decision and denied his parole, saying in a lengthy decision that
while he acknowledged the steps Sassounian had taken over decades to
rehabilitate himself, he did not believe Sassounian to be fit for
release.

“I commend Mr. Sassounian for his rehabilitative efforts in prison,
but I find they are outweighed by negative factors that show he
remains unsuitable for parole at this time,” said Newsom in his letter
obtained by Asbarez at the time. “I believe that Mr. Sassounian has
not yet demonstrated that he has developed and sustained the necessary
insight and skills for a sufficiently long period.”

Saying Newsom’s decision was “arbitrary and procedurally flawed,” LA
County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan on Wednesday granted
Sassounian’s attorney’s motion to reverse the governor’s decision
ruling that Newsom “used an improper standard” when “considering both
the ‘import’ of his offense and the notoriety of his victim.”

Ryan also said it did not find evidence to support Newsom’s decision
that Sassounian “posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public
safety.”

With its ruling on Wednesday, the court vacated Newsom’s decision to
reject Sassounian’s parole and reinstated the California Parole
Board’s decision to grant Sassounian parole.

“The wheels of justice sometimes move slowly, but this is the right
time for this decision. I applaud the team of lawyers and activists
working on this case for decades,” California State Senator Anthony
Portantino told Asbarez on Thursday, February 25.

“This is an important case not just for his family but for California.
We have done many things in justice reform on behalf of teenagers and
it’s nice to see that it has benefitted Hampig,” added Portantino.
“The community can sleep peacefully and joyfully tonight.”

“Wednesday’s decision by the court is a welcome change in the status
for Hampig Sassounian, whose eligibility for parole was unjustly
rejected last year by the governor,” attorney Levon Kirakosian told
Asbarez on Thursday, February 25. “The Armenian community has waited
with bated breath for this moment and I am confident that Hampig’s
release will be imminent.”

“Hampig’s family and the entire Armenian community applaud and
appreciate the court’s ruling,” added Kirakosian, who for the past
four decades has worked on or closely with Sassounian’s legal team.

“As an organization which expressed its disappointment last year to
the governor for his decision to overturn the unanimous votes of two
separate Parole Boards to grant parole to Hampig Sassounian on
humanitarian grounds, we are gratified that the court has issued its
favorable ruling today in which it overturned the Governor’s unfounded
decision. We are confident that justice has finally been served, and
we are grateful that the court agreed,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq., the
chair of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.

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6-         Dekermenjian Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution
Conspiracy Case

A Glendale, California attorney pleaded guilty on September 9, 2020
for conspiring to make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign
contributions during the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and
thereafter.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Assistant Director in Charge
James A. Dawson of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the
announcement.

Rudy Dekermenjian, 42, of Glendale, California, pleaded guilty to one
count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions, make excessive
contributions, cause false statements, and cause false entries in
records before the Honorable Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia.  A sentencing hearing has not yet
been scheduled.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, between
March 2016 and June 2018, Dekermenjian conspired with Ahmad “Andy”
Khawaja and others to make unlawful contributions to political
committees, thereby circumventing contribution limits and causing the
political committees to unwittingly submit false reports to the
Federal Election Commission.  Specifically, Dekermenjian admitted that
in October 2016, Khawaja gave him $50,000 to contribute in
Dekermenjian’s name to a political committee supporting a candidate
running for U.S. president in the 2016 election cycle.  The purpose of
making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name was to allow Khawaja to
exceed contribution limits set by federal law with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with a political event hosted by Khawaja in October 2016.

Additionally, Dekermenjian admitted that in January 2018, Khawaja gave
him approximately $50,000 to contribute in Dekermenjian’s name to
another political committee.

Again, the purpose of making the contribution in Dekermenjian’s name
was to allow Khawaja to exceed contribution limits with respect to the
political committee at issue.  The contribution was made in connection
with another political event hosted by Khawaja in March 2018.

Charges remain pending against Khawaja, who is a fugitive, and others
in the indictment.  An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  It
merely alleges that crimes have been committed.  A defendant is
presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office
and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James C. Mann and Michael
J. Romano of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

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7-         Turkish MOU: Last-Minute State Department Deal Sparks Outrage

            U.S.-Turkey Blockade on Artifacts and Art from 1,200,000 BCE to 1923

            Reveals Flaws in Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kate Fitz Gibbon

In the very last hours of the Trump administration, the United States
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) restricting the importation
of art, artifacts and antiques from the Republic of Turkey into the
United States. The last minute signing was widely seen as denying the
incoming Biden administration an opportunity to review this
controversial agreement.

The stated purpose of the MOU is to “reduce the incentive for pillage
of irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological material representing
Turkey’s cultural heritage.”

MOUs generally organize objects by the date and the materials of which
they are made. A Designated List, which is not yet issued, will
provide expanded descriptions of the types of objects covered. The
Turkish MOU will restrict entry (without a license, which Turkey does
not issue for antiquities) for archaeological material made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, painting, glass, wood, textile and other
organic material ranging in ages from 1,200,000 BCE to 1770 CE. It
will also restrict import of ‘ethnological material’ made of stone,
metal, ceramics, plaster, stucco, painting, glass, wood, textile,
leather and parchment, and other organic material “from the 1st
century AD to 1923.”

Turkey will use its “best efforts” to protect its cultural patrimony,
to engage with other countries to halt trade in archaeological and
ethnological material from Turkey, and to promote appreciation of
Turkey’s cultural heritage. What the MOU does not say: it’s about
repatriation and politics.

The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News quoted Turkish Culture and
Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, who acknowledged that the chief
benefit of the Turkish MOU was that demands for repatriation of
Turkish objects from the U.S. would be much simplified by the
agreement:

“This important document, which will also constitute a legal basis for
operations of the U.S. law enforcement units, will bring active
results. Legal struggles that last for years with enormous costs will
be concluded in a very short time and with low costs. This is the
biggest deterrent we have.”

Well before the signing of the agreement, the State Department had
been given notice by Congressman Christopher Smith, a New Jersey
representative with a background in issues of human and religious
rights, that there were serious problems with the proposed MOU with
Turkey. When the State Department failed to give satisfactory answers,
he followed up with a forceful letter to Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo on December 31, 2020.

Congressman Smith wrote: “I am writing to strongly urge that the State
Department reject the memorandum of understanding (MOU) the Government
of Turkey proposed under the Cultural Property Implementation Act…”

“Turkey has not met the preconditions in the CPIA for an MOU limiting
the importation of cultural and religious property. Most
significantly, Turkey has not met the requirement that “the State
Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its
cultural patrimony.” Turkey under President Erdoğan has waged a
coordinated campaign of persecution of Greek Orthodox, Armenian
Orthodox, Alevi Muslims and others, expropriating their cultural and
religious patrimony, including the conversion of the churches of the
Holy Saviour in Chora and Hagia Sophia from museums into mosques
earlier this year, despite the near universal and global appeals to
the contrary. The MOU will thus effectively legitimize these seizures,
suggesting that the United States approves of these acts. The
incongruity of Turkey’s request for an MOU, purportedly for the
purpose of protecting the religious and cultural patrimony of cultural
and religious minorities, is all the more pronounced given Turkey’s
recently-heightened and aggressive campaign to suppress the rights of
these communities in Turkey.”

As Smith also noted, the agreement aligns the U.S. with President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian government, which Smith says
comes “at a time when Turkey has signaled its intent to act contrary
to American interests.”

The U.S.-Turkey cultural property agreement was urgently sought by
President Erdoğan, a strongman whose autocratic rule won favor with
the last U.S. administration. Erdoğan made Turkish nationalism and
Islamic revitalization a rallying cry for his Justice and Development
Party. His AK Party is strongly nationalist and has tolerated verbal
anti-Semitism and even physical attacks on members’ religious
minorities.

By handing Erdoğan a diplomatic plum, the MOU leaves minority
communities in Turkey even more vulnerable. “Congressman Smith was
right to raise the alarm that any MOU with Turkey would be a de facto
endorsement of the Erdoğan Government’s ownership and control of the
cultural heritage of its displaced Greek, Armenian and Jewish
populations,” Global Heritage Alliance’s Peter Tompa noted, saying
that the action “dismiss[ed] Congressional oversight over the State
Department’s administration of the Cultural Property Implementation
Act.”

The State Department decision to go forward with the MOU has alarmed
important U.S. constituencies including Turkish Jews and the Armenian,
Greek, Cypriot, Syriac, and Kurdish communities founded by minorities
who suffered under Turkish persecution in the 20th century.

Response to the MOU in the U.S. was swift.

“It is unconscionable that the State Department, during the 11th hour
of the Trump administration, would even consider entertaining, let
alone agree to, such a proposal by the government of Turkey, in the
light of its conversion of the Hagia Sophia and persecution of
religious minorities within the country, as well as religious leaders
such as the Ecumenical Patriarch. In this context, it is particularly
insulting and absurd that the US government’s official press release
announcing the agreement references “Turkey’s longstanding religious,
ethnic, and cultural diversity’.”

Opposition was also voiced by the Armenian National Council of America
(ANCA), Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), and In Defense of
Christians (IDC) and a host of cultural rights and museum groups
including the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the
Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP), the Global Heritage Alliance
(GHA), and the International Association of Professional Numismatists
(IAPN).

In testimony before the Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the
State Department, which later recommended that Turkey be granted a U.S
agreement, the Association of Art Museum Directors stated plainly
that, “For many types of cultural property, an MOU will not curb
looting and destruction because those actions are being carried out by
the Turkish state itself.”

Examples include the following: the Turkish government has destroyed
two World Heritage Sites at Diyarbakir, an important site in the
Hellenistic, Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman periods.
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and 800 historic
buildings and registered cultural monuments were bulldozed. The
Armenian Catholic Church of Diyarbakir, a 1700-year-old Syriac
Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary and a Jewish synagogue where Elijah
was thought to have become a prophet were destroyed during street
fighting by Turkish troops. The deeply venerated Armenian Surp Giragos
Catholic Church was ordered expropriated by the Turkish government in
what observers called a ‘legalized robbery.’

A Turkish dam project has inundated the ancient site of Zeugma, on
UNESCO’s Tentative List, where rushed salvage archaeology failed to
preserve many of its ancient remains, including mosaics. The town and
surrounding regions of Hasankeyf (pictured), a World Heritage site
containing more than 300 archaeological sites from the Prehistoric
through the classical Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, are today
submerged under the waters of the Ilisu Dam. Just a few years ago,
Turkish military bombed into rubble one of the most important Hittite
sites in the world, Ain Dara, just across its border in Syria.

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, formerly on the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom said that the Turkish MOU was “a
surreal moment in U.S. foreign policy… well-documented and extensive
evidence by cultural heritage experts leaves no doubt that the state
of Turkey is the single greatest threat to that country’s cultural
heritage.”

The Turkish agreement would ban entry to the U.S. of the religious and
community heritage of exiled peoples; Armenians, Greeks, Jews,
Orthodox and Syriac Christians forced from Turkey. The net effect of
these proposed agreements will not be to halt looting but to deny
access of displaced peoples to their heritage.

In a September 2020 interview Elias Gerasoulis of AHI noted that
Erdoğan “has talked about seizing Jerusalem and liberating the al-Aqsa
mosque. Erdoğan has been condemned by the U.S. State Department for
the partnership that he has with Hamas. His own AKP has talked about
the coronavirus being a Jewish conspiracy. I think it is sheer lunacy
to give someone who believes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories… to
acknowledge his full ownership of Jewish cultural property and
heritage.”

An agreement with Turkey will help President Erdoğan’s campaign of
religious extremism. President Erdoğan has incited religious
animosities to win political points and made mosques out of museums
that were formerly churches, including both the Hagia Sofia Museum and
the Kariye Museum, formerly the 14th century Byzantine Church of the
Savior in Chora. Together, the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church
exemplify the highest achievements of Byzantine art and architecture,
marking the early cultural height and the most developed final
_expression_ of Byzantine art. Though not as well-known as Hagia Sophia,
the Chora Church, while small, is a work of art in itself. It has been
described as filled ‘wall-to-wall-to dome’ with the most beautiful
murals and mosaics of the period—an artistic gem that influenced the
rise of Mannerist painting and the High Renaissance in Italy.

In August 2020, ten organizations signed a Joint Letter to the U.S.
State Department’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and the Cultural
Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at the Department of State, urging
them to address longstanding problems of fairness and serious process
issues at CPAC. The letter states that CPAC has long ignored concerns
among representatives of religious minority organizations. It has
approved MOUs with Middle Eastern countries that claim exclusive
rights over all cultural heritage, including the religious and
community property of oppressed minorities. The letter also criticizes
the lack of transparency in State Department actions and the failure
of requesting counties to provide factual documentation showing the
need for U.S. import restrictions.

Now, with the signing of an MOU with the repressive, dangerously
xenophobic Erdogan government, which openly claims as state property
the heritage of dispossessed minorities, it is more than ever time to
address the flaws in the system of cultural heritage administered at
the Department of State.

This article appeared in Cultural Property News on February 2, 2021.

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8-         University of La Verne Welcomes Kerop Janoyan

            as Provost, VP for Academic Affairs

By Marilyn Thomsen

The University of La Verne announced today that it has selected Kerop
Janoyan, PhD, as its next provost and vice president for academic
affairs. He will join the leadership team headed by President Devorah
Lieberman this spring.

Currently, Janoyan is dean of the Graduate School at Clarkson
University in New York. He is also a professor in the Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering and recently served as interim
dean of the university’s Lewis School of Health Sciences and director
of distance learning.

As provost and vice president for academic affairs, Janoyan will
oversee key areas of the university, including academic affairs,
student affairs, the library, online programs, the nine regional
campuses, campus health and safety, athletics, housing, institutional
research, and the office of the registrar. He replaces Jonathan Reed,
who is returning to the faculty after six years as provost and vice
president for academic affairs.

Janoyan said that what drew him most to the university was “the
people. After I met the students, faculty, staff, and the leadership,
I had a sense of being ‘at home.’” He is also strongly supportive of
the university’s mission to the greater community as well as to
diversity and inclusion.

“I strongly believe that we must continue to innovate our educational
programs to inspire a diverse, highly trained pool of global citizens
and future leaders,” he said, “who will seize the opportunity to
tackle our region’s and world’s challenges and solve challenges we
don’t even know about yet.”

Janoyan has deep roots in Southern California. Born in Iraq, he’s
lived and attended school in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, and Italy
before coming to the U.S. with his family and enrolling in the
Glendale public schools for his secondary education. He completed his
bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in civil engineering at UCLA.
He speaks three languages.

The provost search committee considered more than 120 applications in
a diverse pool of candidates from across the country and
internationally. Janoyan “stood out as a systems thinker who has the
ability to bring a community together to achieve common outcomes and
who is thoughtful and strategic in his work,” she said.

An important priority of the new provost will be leading the
university in the execution of its recently approved 2025 strategic
plan. He will also guide the development of academic programs, with a
focus on expansion into health professions.

“I look forward to the specific opportunities at the University of La
Verne,” Janoyan said, “empowering faculty and staff, supporting
academic excellence, deepening the student experience, and building a
diverse and inclusive community.”

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9-         ANCA Welcomes Alex Manoukian as Director of Programs in
Washington DC WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA) announced last week Alex Manoukian has joined its
professional staff in the nation’s capital as Director of Programs,
wherein he will oversee the organization’s internships, job placements
and youth programming.

“The ANCA is proud to have Alex Manoukian join our team of
professionals in Washington, DC,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian.
“Across many ANCA programs, we offer ladders of success for emerging
Armenian American professionals. We are confident that Alex is going
to build on these ladders to help young leaders reach their full
potential.”

Manoukian, who is studying toward a Bachelor's in Government with a
Minor in Arabic at Georgetown University, will steward the expansion
of the ANCA’s signature youth initiatives—the Leo Sarkisian Internship
and the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, as well as
Rising Leaders, an innovative multi-day series of interactive seminars
to introduce college-age Armenian Americans to Washington, D.C.

“I’m excited to join the ANCA Washington DC team as Programs
Director,” said Alex Manoukian. “I look forward to working with
students and recent graduates across the U.S. to share the incredible
resources that the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program and
Leo Sarkisian Internship have to offer—both in terms of career
development and pro-Armenian advocacy.  Whether it’s expanding the
Armenian American presence professionally in politics, policy, and
media or increasing our collective voice in Congress and State
Capitols across the United States—today’s Armenian youth are the game
changers who will take Armenian advocacy to new heights. And the ANCA
is ready to work with them every step of the way.”

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Manoukian attended Mesrobian Armenian
Catholic High School and the Melankton & Haig Arslanian Djemaran,
prior to moving with his family to Montebello, Calif., where he
studied at Armenian Mesrobian School in Pico Rivera.

He belongs to his local Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) DC “Ani”
senior chapter, serves as a member of the AYF Eastern Region Central
Executive, and is active in the Armenian Relief Society, the Armenian
General Athletic Union (Homenetmen), Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural
Association, Georgetown Armenian Students Association, and Soorp
Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church. He is fluent in Armenian and Arabic.

The ANCA’s Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, Leo Sarkisian
Internship Program, and newer initiatives like ANCA Rising Leaders and
the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship empower the next generation
of Armenian Americans by training university students as effective
advocates and helping recent graduates start promising policy,
political, government, and media careers in Washington, D.C.

Now in its 35th year, the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship has trained
hundreds of community leaders during annual intensive eight-week
programs designed to give them the tools necessary to effectively
advance issues of concern to the Armenian American community on the
federal, state, and local level. Former interns hold leadership
positions in the ANCA and across the Armenian community.

The Summer 2021 program will take place virtually from June 14 to August 6.

For more information and to apply, visit anca.org/internship.

The application deadline is March 31st.

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10-       Burbank Closes Tinhorn Flats After Bar Flouts COVID-19 Rules

By Farley Elliott

(LA Eater)—Burbank restaurant and bar Tinhorn Flats was back in the
news last week, because of city meeting on February 22 where the
Burbank City Council voted unanimously to revoke the business license
for the Tinhorn Flats restaurant for violations related to Los Angeles
County health orders and violation of the Burbank Municipal Code.

The Council ruled that ongoing activity at the bar violates state and
local emergency laws and “endangers the public health, safety and
welfare, and creates a public nuisance.”

Tinhorn Flats responded on February 23 to the vote on Instagram by
writing, “WILL NOT COMPLY. OPEN 12 NOON TOMORROW.”

The business, located at 2628 W. Magnolia Blvd., must close, according
to Burbank City Attorney Amy Albano, who added that if the
restaurant's owners do not comply a lawsuit will be filed and a court
order will be sought to close the business.

Owner Baret Lepejian and his family have been vocally against the
rolling county-led public health lockdowns during the coronavirus
pandemic, operating on-site dining (mostly outdoor, though social
media has shown some indoor bar seating as well at times) in direct
opposition to county mandates. Along the way they’ve racked up
countless fines and warnings, and tonight it could all be coming to a
head.

Per a flier sent around by the city of Burbank, which falls under the
jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,
consideration is underway to revoke the restaurant’s conditional use
permit, an essentially final step in making sure the business no
longer operates. County officials have also considered bringing formal
criminal charges against Lepejian and his family for “violating the
CUP’s Conditions of Approval.” That’s mostly just a formal way of
saying the restaurant stayed open for on-site dining after being told
to shut down by public health officials, who reduced restaurants to
takeout and delivery only back in late 2020 as COVID-19 cases
skyrocketed across the region. Restaurants were once again allowed to
resume limited-capacity on-site outdoor dining, with proper protocols
in place, late last month.

This time, though, they’re not alone, as it seems that one Mark
Geragos is now representing the restaurant in its fight with city and
county officials. Geragos is a lawyer and the owner of Downtown LA’s
Engine Co. No. 28, which filed a lawsuit with county officials last
year regarding the tricky question of causal data linking outdoor
dining at restaurants with a rise in coronavirus cases. Geragos and
others have held that a formal case must be made linking contact
tracing data back to restaurants in order for them to be legally
closed by public health mandate; county officials have maintained (and
courts have upheld) that they’re not required to show such data to act
in the interest of public health and safety during an emergency.

Geragos said the business has always been in compliance with health
orders and does not provide indoor dining or have its staff serve
anyone in their outdoor patio.

Lepejian said food is placed in to-go containers and disposable cups
are used and the restaurant is sanitized and workers wear masks.

Prior to tonight’s showdown, Lepejian has been a vocal anti-lockdown
advocate on social media, calling the loss of outdoor dining a
“tyrannical mandate” and saying that describing the wearing of masks
as nothing more than a tool of “control and fear,” among other things.

“Zero science behind any lockdown. The numbers are a hoax,” Lepejian
said. “These are pathetic socialist cowards with zero backbone and
zero American Values trying to peddle an illegal agenda.”

Tinhorn Flats had its health permit suspended by the LA County
Department of Public Health in December for violating health officer
orders. In January the county issued a cease and desist order and
later revoked the restaurant's public health permit.

This article appeared in LA Eater on February 22, 2021.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS