Bodies of Armenian Genocide survivors to be exhumed for beach resort in Byblos, Lebanon

Barely two months after the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, relatives of those who survived the mass killings are now fighting to prevent the graves of their loved ones from being exhumed to make way for a luxury resort in the coastal town of Byblos, according to

Escorted by police, a group of laborers arrived at the historic cemetery Monday morning to begin digging up the graves, but they were stopped by a last minute court order filed by the relatives of one of the deceased. Relatives had previously filed a complaint in March soon after the project was first announced and a judge had opened an investigation into the case.  Yet despite this ongoing investigation, an attempt to dig up the graves was made yesterday, according to Vartan Avakian, great-grandson of Hagop Avakian, who was born in 1894 in Turkey and among the earliest genocide survivors to settle in Lebanon.

The younger Avakian, who has been researching and lobbying officials about the case for the last few months, says his family members notified local authorities when the workers showed up. Through a lawyer, they then contacted Judge Joseph Ajaka of the court of urgent matters who has now issued a temporary stop order until the investigation is complete.

But despite this intervention, Avakian worries about rumors that a second attempt to exhume the bodies is being imminently planned.

According to the source, the Armenian Church that manages the cemetery– The Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia– has apparently made a deal with a developer to lease the seaside property for a beach resort. There is concern that the church building itself, one of the oldest Armenian churches in Lebanon–may also be used to host a spa or restaurant for the future resort, which is reportedly linked to former telecom minister Jean-Louis Qordahi.

In the early 1900s the site known as “Bird’s Nest” was part of a Dutch missionary orphanage and school thatsheltered large numbers of genocide survivors, and later became an anchor for one of Leabanon’s earliest Armenian communities.

However Avakian contends that the cemetery property is actually under the jurisdiction of the state’s Directorate of Antiquities, since the land  is just a few meters from the 10,000 year old Byblos ancient port site and has also seen very recent excavations. Following Avakian’s claim,  Judge Ajaka has ordered excavation works stop until the Directorate has clarified its position.

The Church has announced that the bodies will be honored at a new shrine far from the coast, but this will reportedly serve as a mass grave. It’s hard to imagine why a developer or the church don’t find it problematic to exhume the graves of genocide survivors. The idea that the church itself could be used for a resort project is likely to upset many in the community who frequented the place of worship for family events or attended a primary school that was part of the church complex.

The Byblos area hosts one of the few publicly accessible coastal areas in Lebanon, yet a number of private resorts have been controversially built along the shore, including the well-known and extraordinarily priced Edde Sands. The entrance fees of these resorts are  far out of the price range of the average Lebanese person. Because they are patrolled by guards and fences, very little of the coast remains natural and open to the public as can be seen in this map:



Armenian President meets Georgia’s Minister of Justice

President Serzh Sargsyan received today Thea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice of Georgia, and Giorgi Mghebrishvili, Minister of Corrections of Georgia.

The president welcomed the guests and their participation in the first Armenian-Georgian Forum for Legal Cooperation held in Yerevan. Expressing his satisfaction with the fact that Armenia and Georgia continue to conduct high-level political dialogue and deepen multi-sectoral cooperation, Serzh Sargsyan stressed that it lays the groundwork to add new dimensions for partnership. In that context, the Armenian president attached importance to the relationship between the two countries’ legal affairs ministries and expressed the hope that the forum for legal cooperation will continue on a regular basis, thereby bringing its contribution to the further strengthening and development of friendly ties between Armenian and Georgia. Serzh Sargsyan underscored that the mentioned ministries mainly deal with problems faced by both Armenian and Georgian citizens, and, hence, it is important to find effective solutions to them through mutual discussions and exchange of experience so that citizens can feel the difference.

At the meeting, President Serzh Sargsyan once again expressed his sincere support for the friendly people of Georgia on the occasion of the floods and natural calamity in Tbilisi and expressed the hope that Georgia’s government and Tbilisi’s local authorities will try their best to quickly overcome the effects of the calamity. The Armenian president reiterated Armenia’s readiness to render necessary assistance to the friendly country of Georgia.

During the meeting, Serzh Sargsyan also emphasized that our country is keen on developing and deepening Armenian-Georgian interstate relations under new conditions created by Armenia’s membership in the EAEU and the conclusion of the Georgia-EU Association Agreement.

Ministers Thea Tsulukiani and Giorgi Mghebrishvili underscored that they intend to follow the legal cooperation format established during the Armenian justice minister’s visit to Georgia and make it a tradition, as well as to conduct exchange of experience and promote cooperation between the two friendly countries.

ODIHR Director calls on Armenian authorities to respect right to freedom of peaceful assembly of protesters in Yerevan

Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), today called on the Armenian authorities to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of those taking part in a peaceful protest in central Yerevan.

“Armenia, like all OSCE participating States, has committed itself to protect and promote the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly, and must fully respect the rights of the protesters in Yerevan to exercise this freedom,” the ODIHR Director said. “The reports of the actions of law enforcement agencies yesterday morning, including the use of water cannons against and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful protesters, raise serious concerns.”

OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly not only guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration, but state that any restrictions on this right have to be prescribed by law and consistent with international standards.

“The law-enforcement authorities have the duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies, and any police measure has to be legitimate, necessary and proportionate,” Director Link said. “All allegations of the excessive use of force or unjustified or indiscriminate arrests should be impartially, thoroughly and promptly investigated to hold those responsible accountable.”

The protests against a looming 17 per cent rise in electricity prices began last Friday, and thousands took to the streets in Yerevan on Tuesday morning. The demonstrators were charged by police and fired upon with water cannon after they blocked a main street in the capital. More than 200 protesters were reportedly arrested, while 14 demonstrators and 11 police were injured. Those detained on Tuesday have since been released. Hundreds of demonstrators returned today to continue the protest.

Three Austrian swimmers hit by bus at European Games in Baku

Three Austrian synchronised swimmers have been hurt in a collision with a bus while walking in the athletes’ village at the European Games in Baku, the BBC reports.

The Austrian Olympic Committee (AOC) said Vanessa Sahinovic was “severely injured” and would be flown to Vienna for further treatment.

Luna Payer will also be flown back to the Austrian capital after suffering injuries to her arms.

Verena Breit bruised her right thigh and has returned to the village.

The AOC said the collision happened at 08:30 local time on Thursday, when the athletes were walking on the pavement in the Olympic village.


US hit by massive data breach

Chinese hackers are suspected of carrying out a “massive breach” affecting the data of millions of US government workers, officials said, the BBC reports.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) confirmed on Thursday that almost four million current and past employees have been affected.

The breach could potentially affect every federal agency, officials said.

Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it was thought to have originated in China.

The Chinese embassy in Washington warned against “jumping to conclusions”.

Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan told Reuters news agency that the accusations were “not responsible, and counterproductive”.

Paris ‘love locks’ removed from bridges

Paris city officials have started to remove padlocks symbolically fastened to one of the French capital’s main bridges by loved-up couples, the BBC reports.

Tying a “love lock” on to the Pont des Arts before throwing the key into the River Seine beneath has become a tourist tradition in recent years.

But part of the bridge’s railings collapsed under the weight last year.

Close to one million locks – weighing 45 tonnes – are due to be cut off over the next few days.

Workmen began removing grilles from the side of the Pont des Arts early on Monday morning.








The Pont de l’Archeveche, near the Notre Dame cathedral, is also having locks removed from its side.

Metal grilles on the side of the Pont des Arts, which dates from 1804, will be replaced by panels painted by street artists over the summer, before transparent panels are put in place later this year.

“It’s the end of the padlocks,” said Bruno Julliard, Paris deputy mayor.

“They spoil the aesthetics of the bridge, are structurally bad for it and can cause accidents.”


Turkey hires former CIA Chief as lobbyist

The Turkish government has hired former CIA Director Porter Goss for lobbying activities, according to a form filed with the US Department of Justice that was published online, reports.

The form, filed pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, was published on Friday by The Intercept, an online publication that focuses on reporting on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Goss, who served as the CIA director from 2004 to 2006 under the George W. Bush administration, registered through his new employer, Dickstein Shapiro, a law firm which The Intercept said has a long standing relationship with the Turkish government.

According to the form, Goss will “provide counsel in connection with the extension and strengthening of the Turkish-American relationship in a number of key areas that are the subject of debate in Congress, including trade, energy security, counter-terrorism efforts and efforts to build regional stability in the broader Middle East and Europe; educate Members of Congress and the Administration on issues of importance to Turkey; notify Turkey of any action in Congress or the Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey; and prepare analyses of developments in Congress and the Executive Branch on issues of importance to Turkey.”

The form, dated April 23, indicates that Goss’ services will continue indefinitely.

The Intercept report called Goss’ decision to work for the Turkish government as an “odd choice” for the ex-CIA director, who once declared “there is no viable alternative to freedom – only freedom offers men and women the opportunity to reach their full potential,” given the poor press freedom record of the Turkish government, which has arrested dozens of journalists, has violently suppressed peaceful protests and has censored social media.

Torch of the 6th Pan-Armenian Games lit in Shushi

On 8 May Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan attended the festive ceremony of lighting the torch of the 6th Pan-Armenian Games in Shushi and delivered a speech.

In his remarks President Sahakyan said that it was the second time the festive ceremony of lighting the torch of the Pan-Armenian Games took place in Artsakh, considering it a sign bearing profound meaning.

According to the President, the unique character of the Pan-Armenian Games lies in the fact that there are no losers and the gained victories are victories of the whole Armenian people.

Bako Sahakyan called the games an important means to appear before the world as a civilized, consolidated, self-reliant nation, which, despite being scattered across the globe, is inseparably connected with its historic homeland and does its best for the long-term development and strengthening of the independent Armenian statehood.