‘Classic case of ethnic cleansing implemented by Azerbaijan in the 21st century,’ – senior diplomat on NK exodus


YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 26, ARMENPRESS. Azerbaijan must be held accountable for perpetrating ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia’s Ambassador-at-Large Edmon Marukyan has said.

“Rivers of cars are flowing to Armenia with refugees forced out of Nagorno Karabakh, from their ancestral land, their homes, communities, villages and cities, because no one guaranteed their rights and securities in Nagorno Karabakh. This is a classic case of ethnic cleansing implemented by Azerbaijan in the 21st century. There is no doubt Azerbaijan must be held accountable for this act,” Marukyan said on X, posting a video showing multiple cars lined up along the Stepanakert-Goris road in Lachin Corridor.

Mojalet Dance Presents George Kirazian’s Expanded ‘Book of Ruth’ Ballet in San Diego

“The Book of Ruth: The Ballet” flyer

SAN DIEGO—Armenian-American composer George Kirazian’s new and expanded ballet based on “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet” will premiere as a full-scale dance production by Mojalet Dance Collective. The performance will be held on September 30 and October 1 at the Poway Performing Arts Center, along with three additional contemporary dance pieces.

“The Book of Ruth” was composed by author, professor, and composer George Kirazian, and will be directed by Faith Jensen-Ismay, Mojalet’s Founder and Artistic Director. Based on the Old Testament story of the Hebrew woman Ruth and her family, the new work will combine traditional and modern dance components, choreographed by Jensen-Ismay to Kirazian’s music, recorded by The Parnassus Ensemble of San Diego.

Mojalet did a workshop production at the Vine Arts Village in April 2023, and the strong audience response prompted Jensen-Ismay and the company to expand the production to an extended version with additional music composed by Kirazian, which will premiere on the Poway stage.

“I am again excited to bring the classic story of ‘The Book of Ruth’ to life through the lens of dance. A story of dedication, perseverance, loyalty, acceptance and redemption gives us hope in humanity and for a more positive future,” said director Faith Jensen-Ismay.

When the elder Jewish woman Naomi loses her husband and both her sons, she implores both her widowed daughters-in-law to go back to their native land of Moab. One of them, Orpah, leaves. The other, Ruth, insists on staying with her mother-in-law Naomi, to embrace her people and her God. They go to Judah, where after a period of poverty, they meet a generous landowner named Boaz, who changes their lives.

“The Book of Ruth” in the Old Testament might well be the world’s first short story. The story also teaches its audience that love and devotion can heal after great losses and enable us to rise above our harmful prejudices against others.  

Mojalet Dance Collective has been entertaining and inspiring San Diego audiences for more than 30 years with traditional, modern and contemporary dance productions, including many world premieres, as they are dedicated to developing new and groundbreaking work. Artistic Director Faith Jensen-Ismay has an extensive history as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, working throughout the entire county of San Diego and beyond.

A longtime member of the Armenian community who helped establish the first Armenian Church in San Diego, composer George Kirazian is a retired college instructor of Humanities, English Literature and Composition, and Opera Appreciation. Born and raised in New Jersey, he completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at New York University and taught English Literature and Composition at Grossmont College for nearly 40 years and served as Chairman of the English Department. He also taught Opera and Music Appreciation at San Diego State University. He is a longtime resident of San Diego with his wife Dikranouhi. They have three daughters: Yvette (husband John Harpootian), Andrea (husband Steven Urrutia) and Lisa (husband Steve Kradjian), and six grandchildren: Mark, Eric, Zari, Dante, Ani and Mari.

Kirazian’s musical compositions include “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet,” various art songs, hymns, and a new version of “The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church,” which has been performed and recorded by Pacific Camerata of San Diego, the Paros Chamber Choir of Armenia, and also performed by members of the Armenian Church of San Diego. He has also published fiction and non-fiction: “Easy Writing: A Practical Guide for Practically Everybody”; “A Time for Fathers” (short novel), and five young reader books: “The Sleeping Violet,” “Perry the Peacock,” “Beyond the Koala Kingdom,” “Leo and the Mulberry Flute,” and “The Princess of December.” To learn more about Kirazian and his work, visit his website.

The two performances of “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet” will be held on Saturday, September 30 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, October 1 at 2 p.m. at the Poway Performing Arts Center. The performances will be combined with three other original dance pieces performed by Mojalet: The Requiem (Excerpts composed by W.A. Mozart); Bubbles (Featuring music of Johann Strauss II); and Liquid Gold (Music mix by Jensen-Ismay), all directed by Jensen-Ismay.

Resident dancers performing in the production include: Amylin Canaria, Alyssa Combs, Avery Goudswaard, Jasmyn Hamblin, Alia Ismay, Robby Johnson, Alyssa Kinnear, Kathryn McLean, Nef Valle, Nicole Wooding, and Christina Wutz.

To purchase tickets, visit the website. To donate to the production or for general information, visit the Mojalet Dance Collective website or all (858) 243-1402.

Film: Movie review: "Amerikatsi" Brings Armenian cinema to a new audience

Sept 6 2023

Director: Michael A. Goorjian
Writers: Michael A. Goorjian
Stars: Michael A. Goorjian, Hovik Keuchkerian, Nelli Uvarova

Synopsis: Charlie escapes the Armenian genocide as a boy by fleeing to the United States, but he returns as an adult and is arrested. He watches an Armenian couple from his prison cell, finally learning about his homeland.

During the lengthy period in which the Cold War raged on, the tensions between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc figured prominently in a number of Hollywood blockbusters. For most, the slightly jingoistic action films of the 1980s serve as the most obvious example of anti-Soviet propaganda. Top Gun (1986) and Red Heat (1988) heavily emphasized the fact that Soviets were unemotional, robotic killing machines who lacked warmth and psychological depth. In thinking back on this period, we tend to forget about the light, fluffy comedies that attempted to view Soviet politics through a satirical lens. They were often guilty of presenting a somewhat glib analysis of the ideological and cultural differences that separate Americans from their Soviet counterparts but they serve as valuable socio-historical documents. In the modern day, the average American’s perception of post-Soviet states has radically altered, so it’s more than a little surprising to see a contemporary film that echoes the thematic concerns of Moscow on the Hudson (1985). 

In mounting a highly sentimental, feel-good comedy about the clash between American and Soviet Armenian culture, director Michael A. Goorjian must have known that he was out of step with the times. Here, he attempts to construct a delicate fable about a naïve American Charlie Bakchinyan (Michael A. Goorjian), who repatriates to Armenia in the wake of World War II. He has Armenian ancestors but his family was forced to flee Turkey during the Armenian Genocide. While in Armenia, he hopes to gain a deeper understanding of his cultural identity. He is placed in peril after befriending Sona (Nelli Uvarova), the wife of a powerful government official. As a result of this innocent flirtation, he is imprisoned on bogus charges. Initially, he responds to being isolated from the outside world by growing despondent. However, his spirits begin to improve when he realizes that he can observe the day-to-day life of a young couple living in an apartment that is located across the street from the prison. 

The plot of the film is pretty standard Hollywood fare but Goorjian makes an admirable effort to inject the story’s skeleton structure with dashes of Armenian dark humor. He casts himself as an archetypal wide-eyed American but finds room to complicate the binary between freedom-loving Americans and overly censorious Armenians. Most of the Armenian characters in the film are viewed through a sympathetic lens and while the film doesn’t offer up a sophisticated dissection of the political corruption that plagued Armenian society during this period, it thankfully avoids indulging in too many stereotypes. Then again, you can’t blame the viewers who yearn for a more dense, thematically complex picture, that might have included a more intellectually rigorous critique of Stalinist policies. 

Amerikatsi’s virtues really come to the fore during lengthy sequences in which Nerses Sedrakyan and Avet Tonoyants’s production design is allowed to take center stage. They have clearly taken great pains to accurately represent era-appropriate interior design trends and color schemes. One naturally assumes that they weren’t working with a massive budget, so it’s very impressive that they managed to invest every location featured in the film with so much texture and pathos. All of this effort also helps to infuse a relatively conventional plot with a much-needed personal touch. This sort of skilled craftsmanship is often undervalued and there is something appealing about the fact that the imagery in this film has a tactile, visceral quality that is missing from a lot of modern cinema. You can tell when something has been precisely constructed and the ‘little things’ really do play a role in elevating Amerikatsi beyond some of the limitations that typically hold period pieces back. 

There is also something to be said for the small scale that the film operates on, as Goorjian could never be accused of overstuffing the plot. The languid, measured pacing ensures that scenes play out in a naturalistic fashion and largely avoid straining for effect. He finds a delicate balance between mainstream comedy and culturally specific comedic references, without sacrificing the opportunity to jerk tears out of audience members. It’s not going to revolutionize Armenia cinema but it might go a long way in bringing elements of their national cinema to a wider audience. 

Iran envoy meets Armenian defense minister

Sept 2 2023
  1. Politics
September 2, 2023 – 17:47

TEHRAN – The Iranian Ambassador to Armenia, Mehdi Sobhani, met on Friday with Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan.

The meeting took place amid a new escalation between Yerevan and Baku. 

“On September 1, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Armenia Suren Papikyan received the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani,” the Armenian defense ministry said in a statement. 

The statement added, “The meeting was attended by the Defense Attaché of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Armenia, Colonel Bahman Sadeghin. A number of topics of Armenian-Iranian cooperation, as well as regional security issues, were discussed.”

Sobhani is a veteran Iranian diplomat with experience in serving in hotspots. Previously, he was Iran’s ambassador to Syria, where a decade-long conflict turned the Arab country into a hive of diplomatic activity.

He has been recently posted to Armenia, which is locked in a dispute with Azerbaijan over a number of issues, including an Azerbaijani insistence to open a land corridor cutting through southern Armenia.

According to the statement, the Armenian defense minister briefed the Iranian ambassador on “the details about the Azerbaijani provocation near Sotk, on September 1.”

Tensions flared up again between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Friday, with Yerevan accusing Baku of starting a new provocation that resulted in the killing of four Armenian servicemen. 

In late August, Armenian media quoted the Iranian ambassador to Yerevan as stressing Tehran's support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia.

“Our fundamental policy is to develop relations with the Republic of Armenia. Iran always defends the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia. The two countries have never had any problems in any field or level, especially since Armenia regained its independence,” said Mehdi Sobhani while visiting an economic exhibition in Yerevan.


Central Bank of Armenia: exchange rates and prices of precious metals – 29-08-23


YEREVAN, 29 AUGUST, ARMENPRESS. The Central Bank of Armenia informs “Armenpress” that today, 29 August, USD exchange rate up by 0.16 drams to 386.15 drams. EUR exchange rate up by 0.01 drams to 417.27 drams. Russian Ruble exchange rate down by 0.03 drams to 4.02 drams. GBP exchange rate up by 0.48 drams to 486.09 drams.

The Central Bank has set the following prices for precious metals.

Gold price up by 9.85 drams to 23780.95 drams. Silver price up by 0.13 drams to 300.26 drams.

Europeans started to see that Azerbaijan has gone too far – Armenian Ambassador ahead of Belgian FM’s visit

 11:15, 21 August 2023

BRUSSELS, AUGUST 21, ARMENPRESS. Ambassador of Armenia to Belgium and Head of the Mission of Armenia to the European Union Anna Aghadjanian has lauded the very high-level political dialogue between Armenia and Belgium.

In an interview to ARMENPRESS ahead of the Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib’s visit to Armenia, Ambassador Aghadjanian spoke about the current relations between the two countries and the areas with potential for cooperation.

Lately, Armenia and the region have been under the focus of the EU and its member states, and Belgium’s decision to open an embassy in Armenia attests to that.

Currently there is a rather high-level political dialogue. The Belgian side has been displaying active interest for us in the recent period,” the Ambassador told ARMENPRESS Brussels correspondent Lilit Gasparyan.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib’s visit to Armenia aims at boosting ties, she said.

The main goal of the visit is to boost relations, further develop political dialogue and identify new areas of cooperation. A delegation of the Belgian chamber of commerce plans to carry out an exploratory visit to Armenia in October. In a sense, Minister Lahbib’s visit will lay the political foundation for trade-economic relations. Now Belgium is very interested in the region. In the past they used to say ‘we are part of the EU stance, we don’t have an individual stance, we are not making statements’. But the opening of an embassy in Armenia is a serious signal, especially given that in the past years they were saying that they don’t have material resources and are forced to shut down embassies. But I have to emphasize that Lahbib played a very serious role in the decision to open an embassy of Belgium in Armenia,” the Armenian Ambassador said.

I think the decision on opening an embassy is a result of treating the region more seriously and willingness to be involved in processes, a result of understanding that Armenia could be a foothold in the region,” she added.

Noting Belgium’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide not only on the legislative level but also the executive, the Armenian Ambassador said that Belgium had the courage to do so in person of the then-Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Now we can say the same about the Artsakh conflict. The federal and regional parliaments and the Senate were very active during the war, they adopted serious resolutions, an urgent resolution was adopted regarding the return of prisoners of war. Last year, the friendship group visited Armenia days after the Azerbaijani military invasion into Armenia. Member of Parliament George Dallemagne visited Armenia and Artsakh during the war. There’s been attention for Artsakh at least during my tenure,” the Ambassador added, lauding the Belgian government officials for their willingness to be informed in detail on Artsakh.

A month after the 2020 war ended, the Belgian foreign ministry donated a serious sum of money to the Zinvori Tun (Soldier’s Home) Rehabilitation Center to support the recovery of Armenian war veterans, in what the ambassador commended as a “very beautiful and touching” gesture. Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib will visit the Soldier’s Home during her upcoming trip.

Noting the great potential for cooperation in the political and economic areas, Ambassador Aghadjanian said that areas of potential partnership in economy include IT, services, high-tech agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other sectors.

Aghadjanian’s term as Ambassador will end in September.

Asked on the difficulties and challenges during her tenure, she said: “For many years we were viewed as a pro-Russian country, a country depending on Russia. Set aside whether or not this is justified. But this has become a stereotypical viewpoint in the EU, also due to the fact that we did not sign the EU Association Agreement in the last moment. Naturally, this had its reasons, but it’s not up to me to judge. But that was a ‘disaster’ for a European politician thinking within a clearly defined circle, like, ‘look they went to the Russians, they are bad, they are pro-Russian’. However, when we look at our cooperation objectively, it has always been very broad. In some areas we were even ahead of some other countries who are considered to be closer to the EU. But since we’ve never expressed ourselves against Russia, we’ve been perceived as a country depending on Russia. Our serious reforms helped us for the EU to try and break this stereotype of Armenia not having chosen the European path. Some lawmakers who used to criticize us claiming that we were not democratic are today calling for helping Armenia because it is advancing on the path of democracy. This is the most important assessment for me. On the other hand, the fact that our region wasn’t a priority for the EU was a challenge. The approaches changed when the war in Ukraine began, and now our region is more important for the EU. I have to mention that the EU itself is in a difficult condition today. Virtually all financial resources are directed to Ukraine, and if they find some resource for us today, we should appreciate it. We must also appreciate that parallel with the issue of Ukraine, which is of principled importance for the EU, the EU is dealing with our region and conflicts. It’s not up to us to assess whether it’s done good or bad. In the recent weeks, there’s been significant ‘enough is enough’ approach by the Europeans, referring to Azerbaijan having gone too far. Somethings we’ve been saying, but they wouldn’t believe. We were warning that Azerbaijan will start a war, they were telling us not to overreact and exaggerate. Now we’ve come to a point when they are trying to speak in a strict language.

Nagorno-Karabakh seeks to request Russia or other actors to organize and participate in meeting with Azeri authorities


YEREVAN, AUGUST 25, ARMENPRESS. Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan in a video message on Friday attached importance to holding a meeting with Azerbaijani authorities, but with the participation of a third party.

“I think we should request the Russian Federation, all actors who are interested in the situation, to organize a meeting with Azerbaijan around the current situation, security issues and the disastrous humanitarian situation in Artsakh,” Nersisyan said.

He warned that no one can guarantee the physical security of Artsakh citizens in Azerbaijani territory, thus that meeting could only take place in the base of the Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh or any other safe location in the presence of a third party.

Azerbaijani forces open fire at combine harvester in Nagorno-Karabakh


YEREVAN, AUGUST 17, ARMENPRESS. The Azerbaijani military has again opened gunfire at a combine harvester in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Ministry of Defense said in a statement Thursday.

The Azeri troops opened small arms fire around 11:30, on August 17, in the direction of a combine harvester working in the fields of Sarushen.

No one was hurt in the shooting.

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said they’ve reported the incident to the Russian peacekeeping contingent’s command.

Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Armenia and Azerbaijan

United States Mission to the United Nations
Aug 16 2023

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York


Let me start by thanking you, Director Wosornu, for being here with us this afternoon.

Colleagues, the United States is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. And we are deeply troubled by the closure of the Lachin Corridor, which has cut off access to essential goods and exacerbated the humanitarian situation. Access to food, medicine, baby formula, and energy should never be held hostage.

We urge the government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor – so commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles can reach the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.

We also note the possibility of compromise on additional routes for humanitarian supplies. And understand that, since last December, the ICRC has facilitated medical transfers for more than 700 people in need of medical care thanks to a critical lifeline for medically vulnerable individuals through the Lachin Corridor. Neutral, impartial, humane, and independent humanitarian access and assistance – including medical transfers – must not be hindered. Full stop.

Colleagues, I want to stress the need for the parties to continue talks aimed at a lasting, peaceful resolution to the conflict – and the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. These peace discussions require all parties to exercise creativity, flexibility, and compromise. And let me be clear: peace in the region must include protections for the rights and security of individuals in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The United States urges restraint and the immediate cessation of any activities that undermine the peace process. And we call on all sides to fully meet their obligations under international humanitarian law. The international community must continue to engage diplomatically to facilitate dialogue and a durable, dignified peace.

Negotiations are vital to a lasting peace. And we support any format that allows Armenia and Azerbaijan to continue dialogue toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We encourage all parties to engage in direct talks, including between officials in Baku and representatives of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The United States is committed to promoting a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future for the South Caucasus region. And we will continue to engage bilaterally and multilaterally with all partners to help build this brighter future.

Thank you.


Is Nagorno-Karabakh the New Darfur? By Michael Rubin

Aug 10 2023

By Michael Rubin


Speaking at the United Nations last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke out about famine, quoting President Biden’s declaration, “If parents cannot feed their children, nothing else matters.” It was unfortunate, but symptomatic of his cynicism, that Blinken ignored the famine underway in Nagorno-Karabakh caused exclusively by Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade.

Not everyone ignores the crisis. On August 7, 2023, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, issued an opinion labeling the deliberate starvation of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 Christians to be an act of genocide.

Rather than stand on principle, Biden and Blinken fund Azerbaijan as it perpetrates ethnic cleansing. Such funding is illegal. Azerbaijan neither meets the terms of a waiver on Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act to allow American aid due to President Ilham Aliyev’s open calls for a military solution, nor does the Humanitarian Aid Corridors Act allow the United States to provide assistance to any country that interferes with the delivery of American assistance to any other territory or entity. Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor does just that. Unlike with Section 907, there is no waiver.

Aliyev argues Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory, and that its residents must subordinate to his rule, one of the world’s most authoritarian dictatorships. For too long, the State Department has deferred to Aliyev’s claim of sovereignty. US recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh upon Azerbaijan’s renewed independence was never cut-and-dry; rather, recognition of sovereignty over the region depended upon Azerbaijan’s agreement to peaceful resolution of the dispute and balancing principles of territorial integrity and self-determination. Even if Blinken bullies Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan into renouncing Armenian claims over the region, Pashinyan has neither the right nor the ability to forfeit residents’ legal rights to self-determination.

Aliyev believes that he is absolute sovereign over the territory; this exposes his sense of impunity. If Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians are Azerbaijani citizens as he insists, then his deliberate starvation of the community suggests parallels at play between Aliyev and Omar al-Bashir, the former dictator of Sudan, who targeted for genocide the inhabitants of Darfur. That they were Sudanese citizens did not mean open season for slaughter. Sudan, like Azerbaijan, is not party to the Rome Statute, and thus does not place itself under the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Still, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to extend ICC jurisdiction over Sudan for crimes in Darfur enabling Bashir’s indictment.

It is unlikely the UN Security Council treat Azerbaijan the same way. While the United States, France, and Russia might hold Aliyev to account, China is a wildcard and the United Kingdom would veto due to BP’s multibillion dollar partnership with Aliyev. Even if London stood on principle, Azerbaijan would buy the votes of non-permanent Security Council members to hamper any resolution.

There is another path to an Aliyev indictment, however, as Azerbaijan has ratified the Convention Against Genocide.

For too long, the State Department has believed balance the key to successful diplomacy. This is wrong, as Aliyev only stakes out more extreme positions figuring Blinken will simply meet him in the middle. The latest example are arguments Azerbaijan voiced yesterday that Armenia is to blame for starvation in Artsakh. This is akin to a judge privileging a child who murders his parents because he is an orphan.

It is time instead for USAID to send trucks flying the American flag to the Lachin corridor under the observation of US diplomats stationed in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan impedes diplomats’ movement, it is time to send its ambassador home. If it refuses to allow the flow of relief supplies or, worse, threatens to kill Western observers as Azerbaijan’s ambassador in Brussels recently did, then it is time for sanctions. There is no shortage of options. Biden can put an end to the Section 907 waiver, enforce of the Humanitarian Assistance Corridors Act, designate under the Magnitsky Act, and even support Aliyev’s indictment under the Genocide Convention.

Africans are right to argue that near exclusive indictment of Africans by international courts and tribunals is unseemly if not racist. Bashir is still a fugitive, but Liberia’s Charles Taylor could use a roommate. Aliyev could be just that man.