Johan Cruyff dies of cancer aged 68

Dutch icon Johan Cruyff has died at the age of 68, the Daily Mail reports.

Cruyff, who represented Holland 48 times as well as playing for Ajax and Barcelona, passed away in Barcelona on Thursday after a battel with cancer.

A statement on Cruyff’s website read: ‘On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer.

‘It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.’

US Election 2016: Trump and Clinton win big in Arizona

US presidential front-runners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, have continued their winning streaks, taking Arizona, the BBC reports.
The issue of immigration loomed large in the south-western state, the biggest prize in the latest round of contests.
Polls showed that Mr Trump’s anti-immigration message resonated with the state’s conservative voters.
With Arizona’s growing Latino population, Mrs Clinton continued her success by courting minority voters.

Keeping his campaign in the race, Democrat Bernie Sanders decisively won caucuses in two smaller states, Idaho and Utah.

Armenian FM attends EPP meeting in Vienna

On March 13 Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian participated in the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European People’s Party (EPP) initiated by Austrian FM Sebastian Kurz.

Attending the meeting were Foreign Ministers of twelve countries, EPP President Joseph Dole, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok, Commissioner Johannes Hahn, other high-ranking officials.

Issues on the agenda included fight against terrorism and radicalism and migration.  Discussions focused on issues existing in the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus and the ways of their resolution. Reference was made to cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.

Speaking about the flow of migrants, Minister Nalbandian said: “Armenia has provided refuge to about 20 thousand Syrian refugees, being the third European country with the number of migrants hosted per capita.”

The Armenian Foreign Minister stressed that “when seeking solution to migration issues, it’s first of all necessary to refer to their causes.” Minister Nalbandian attached importance to the joint fight against migration and the political process of settlement of the Syrian crisis.

Edward Nalbandian referred to the relations between Armenia and the European Union, emphasized the talks on a new legal framework, noting that the new agreement would reflect the depth of cooperation and the achievements.

The Armenian Foreign Minister briefed his counterparts on the efforts of Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group towards the resolution of the Karabakh issue and stressed that there’s no alternative to a peaceful settlement.

Azerbaijan to blame for lack of solution to Karabakh conflict, Armenian FM says

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has blamed Azerbaijan for lack of solution to the Karabakh conflict. “We have always appreciated the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Azerbaijan is to blame for the lack of solution to the Karabakh conflict, not the Co-Chairs or Armenia,” Minister Nalbandian said in an interview with Russian Kommersant Daily.

“The Karabakh conflict is one of the rare cases where countries like Russia, the US and France have a common approach. They have made concrete proposals reflected in five statements by Presidents of the co-chairing countries that could lead to a settlement,” Edward Nalbandian said. He noted that while Armenia has accepted the proposals, Azerbaijan continues to pretend there have not been any [statements] at all,” he said.

Minister Nalbandian stressed that “there is no alternative to peace talks” and reiterated Armenia’s willingness to continue to works with the Co-Chairs towards a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Speaking about the military-technical cooperation between Yerevan and Moscow, as well as the supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan, the Armenian Foreign Minister said: “We have to make efforts to keep the balance in the region and exclude new escalation. It’s well known that Azerbaijan has considerably increased its military expenses, with the military budget reaching several billion dollars. Under these conditions Armenia has to make efforts to keep the balance of power in the region.”

“We have allied relations with Russia and close military-technical cooperation. It’s no secret that we are buying weapons primarily from Russia. The fact that Russia sells weapons to different countries is natural, because Russia is one of the largest producers of armament and is very competitive on the market. Of course we cannot be delighted by the fact that Azerbaijan buys weapons from Russia and threatens to launch new war every day. We cannot be content with the fact that Baku is buying weapons from our partner, which is trying hard in cooperation with Armenia and within the framework of the CSTO to maintain peace and stability in our region,” Minister Nalbandian said.

As for the perspectives of military-technical relations with Russia, the Armenian Foreign Minister said “the close cooperation will continue into future.”

Perspectives of Armenia-NATO cooperation discussed in Yerevan




Issues related to Armenia-NATO relations and perspectives of cooperation were discussed at a conference in Yerevan co-organized by the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs, the Armenian Center for National and International Studies with the support of the NATO Office in Tbilisi and the Embassy of Poland in Armenia.

Armenia-NATO relations are seen by many as ‘exceptional,’ as Armenia continues the effective cooperation with the North-Atlantic Council despite being part of a different security bloc.

“Some objective and subjective factors have somehow affected the relations over the past years, but the cooperation continues to develop dynamically,” said Styopa Safaryan, founder of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies.

Poland’s Ambassador to Armenia Jerzy Marek Nowakowski noted that there is will on both sides to implement different programs of cooperation.

“There are broad opportunities for cooperation and the North-Atlantic Alliance is ready to provide necessary assistance for the development of comprehensive relations. The cooperation must not be necessarily military, since the Alliance is not just a security organization, but also a system of values. I’m confident that the deepening of cooperation between Armenia and NATO will continue, since Armenia’s interests ties it to democratic states,” the Ambassador stated.

Political dialogue has always had an important place in the Armenia-NATO relations ever since 1992, said Gagik Hovhannisyan, Head of Foreign Ministry’s NATO Division. He briefed on a number joint programs.

UN first air drop delivers aid to Deir al-Zour, Syria

The UN says it has carried out its first air drop of aid in Syria to help civilians in an eastern city besieged by Islamic State (IS) militants, the BBC reports.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council that the plane dropped 21 tonnes of humanitarian items on a government-held part of Deir al-Zour.

Initial reports indicated that the aid had successfully reached the target area, Mr O’Brien said.

The UN says 200,000 civilians are living under siege in Deir al-Zour.

In a recent report, the UN said those trapped in the besieged areas were facing “sharply deteriorating conditions” with reports of “severe cases of malnutrition and deaths due to starvation”.

Last week, more than 100 lorries carrying food and other basic goods reached 80,000 people in five other besieged areas of Syria. Two more convoys were sent to two towns besieged by government forces on Tuesday.

“Earlier this morning, a WFP (World Food Programme) plane dropped the first cargo of 21 tonnes of items into Deir al-Zour,” Mr O’Brien told the Security Council.

He said teams from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on the ground confirmed that “pallets have landed in the target area as planned”.

Armenian Genocide survivor Knar Bohjelian turns 107

Horizon Weekly – Armenian Genocide survivor Knar Bohjelian turned 107 this past weekend.

Knar Bohjelian-Yeminidjian was born in 1909 in Kayseri. When the armenian massacres and the assault on Kayseri began, she and her family sought refuge in a barn for a few months. Her family was then deported, but not too far from their home, the reason being that her father was a soldier in the Turkish military. Growing up, Bohjelian recalls how her mother tied a scarf to her brother’s head so that he would pass for a girl, given that all the men were being rounded up and killed.

Following a governmental decree and with their grandmother’s backing, Bohjelian’s family was forced to Turkify themselves in order to survive. Subsequently, Bohjelian and her entire family bore Turkish names. Once a cease-fire was announced, her parents decided to flee the region. In 1928, they travelled to Ankara, then Constantinople. After staying for 11 months, they made their way to Greece by boat and two days later, arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. She was 19 years old by then.

Bohjelian claims that the only reason they survived the Armenian genocide is because they took up Turkish identities. She remains grateful towards her grandmother who (surely reluctantly) encouraged the Bohjelian family to take on Turkish identities. Bohjelian got married and lived in Egypt for over 40 years before moving to Montreal in 1971 with her family.

She survived the genocide against all odds. Bohjelian has two children, three grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

One of the world’s oldest churches damaged in Turkey’s renewed violence

One of the oldest churches in the world has been evacuated after coming under fire and being damaged in clashes between the Turkish police and the Kurdish guerrilla group, the PKK, reports.

The third century St Mary’s Assyrian Church in Sur, the old district of the south-eastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, has been at the centre of fighting which has worsened since the end of a ceasefire last summer.

The priest, Father Yusuf Akbulut, said he had ordered his congregation to leave and taken his own children to safety, but had tried to stay put in his lodgings in the church compound.

But after rocket-propelled grenades had hit the building and broken its doors, he had been forced to flee carrying a white flag.

“We were being shelled by tanks and rocket launchers and we felt like the house was going to collapse on us,” he told The Telegraph. “Our water was cut, the electricity was cut. Then we called the police.

“They told us it was a dangerous area and they could not get there. ‘You should try to save yourselves,’ they said. So my wife and I took white flags and escaped from the area.”

For much of its 1,800-year history, St Mary’s was a part of the extraordinary patchwork of religions and sects that made up the heart of the Ottoman Empire.

Until 100 years ago Diyarbakir was a mixture of Kurdish Sunni Muslims, Turks, Armenians – who were largely Orthodox Christians – and Assyrians, mostly members of the Syriac Orthodox church.

During the First World War, the Ottoman authorities turned on its Christian minorities, with hundreds of thousands killed in the Armenian genocide.

However, Assyrians were also killed and driven out in large numbers. Fr Akbulut last year described to The Telegraph how he had been arrested as late as 2000 for referring publicly to the killings of his community.

There are now around 25,000 Assyrians still living in Turkey, but just 40 in Diyarbakir, the epicentre of the genocide.

“The Assyrians have always suffered a great deal and they have always been the oppressed community,” Fr Akbulut said. “Due to what is going on in Sur, everybody is trying to save their possessions and they are leaving for other places.

“Some go to leave with their relatives, some to other places, some rent houses. Everybody is leaving for somewhere else.”

More than 40,000 people are estimated to have died in a three decade-long war between the Turkish authorities and the leftist PKK, who are demanding more autonomy for the Kurds.

Arpa International Film Festival announces 2015 winners

Best Feature Film Award – “Lost Birds” (Turkey) Ela Alyamac, Aren Perdeci

Best Director Award – “Lost Birds” (Turkey) Ela Alyamac, Aren Perdeci

Best Documentary Film Award – “My Life in China”  (USA) Director, Kenneth Eng

Best Short Film Award – “The Loyalist”, (South Korea) Director, Minji Kang

Best Screenplay Award – “Three Windows and a Hanging” ( Kosovo ) Zymber Kelmendi

Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award – “Lost Birds” Ela Alyamac and Aren Perdeci (writers-directors-producers)

– The 18th Annual Arpa International Film Festival (November 13- 15, 2015) screened 46 films from 22 countries.

The sold out event, opening night’s World Premiere Film “LOST BIRDS” stole everyone’s heart. This heartwarming film from Turkey, in Armenian and Turkish languages was filmed in Capadoccia, Turkey.  The story takes place in 1915, from the point of view of two children.  It is about Bedo, played by (Heros Agopyan) and Maryam, played by (Dila Uluca), whose beautiful, warm, and happy lives in Anatolia comes to an end when their grandfather played by (Sarkis Acemoglu) is taken away by soldiers.  Out of extreme fear, their mother, played by (Takuhi Bahar), forbid the children to go outside, but being children, they sneak out to their favorite spot to play, only to come back to an empty home and an empty village. Their fear takes over, and with their bird that they had saved, they embark on a journey toward Aleppo to find their mother, and their fellow villagers.

During the three days of the festival, the filmgoers enjoyed such films as Sabre Dance (USA), I Want to be a King” (Iran), Our Village (Armenia), Straw Dolls (USA), The Loyalist (South Korea), Armenopolis, Armenian Soul (Romania), Daylight after the Century (UK), Shattered, (Canada), Armenia Sings in our Hearts (Brazil), Family Dance (USA), While they were Flying to the Moon (Serbia), Three Windows and a Hanging (Kosovo), Paul The Birdman (USA), Get Up (Australia) and many more.

The evening’s Master of Ceremonies was award winning producer, director, chair of AFFMA Advisory Board Charles Davis.  Seven presenters, Michael Arabian, Anne Bedian, Bertila Damas, Rick Rosenthal, Janet Roth, Hrach Titizian, and Karina Weeks graced the stage and introduced the award winners. Half-way through the ceremony, soulful singer, Shaherah White warmed the room singing, My Funny Valentine.

The closing night festivities started with a short film by Levon Minasian of Paris, France titled “The Sandwich Island Man” which entertained the audience.

“I love Arpa International Film Festival with all my heart. I love the organizer, Sylvia Minassian who has managed this challenging work with inexhaustible energy for over 17 years. I am grateful that all of my films have been a part of the festival over the years. I have never been able to attend in person, but I hope to personally show my film to the faithful festival public,” was the comment made by the filmmaker Levon Minasian in an interview with Sharon Swainson, a freelance writer.

The Awards ceremony started with the announcements of the winning films followed by honoring actor David Dastmalchian with the Rising Star Award, who touched the audience with a moving acceptance speech that focused on giving back and supporting creative expression. He thanked the Festival for “helping young actors and struggling filmmakers all over the world to continue to express themselves and tell their story;” and he assured everyone that “no matter how little our stories are, they are worth telling.”

The final award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Esai Morales, an outstanding actor and activist, or “Actorvist”, who captivated the audience, by ending his powerful speech with the following statement:

“Take on your fears. Don’t let your fears shut your greatness down. You have a reason for being on this planet. Find it. And fight your challenges and let them (your challenges) make you a better person.”

Morales received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Founded in 1995, Arpa Foundation for Film, Music, and Art is a non-profit organization, formed for the purpose of promoting the arts and enhancing the cultural environment of our community by supporting artists who bridge the cultural divide, unifying diverse people and cultures through the arts.

Since its inception, AFFMA has supported a spectrum of artists including writers, photographers, filmmakers, dancers, designers, actors and musicians, by staging networking events, concerts, art exhibits, book signings, fashion shows, talent shows, musical performances, lectures, forums, comedy nights, special screenings, private premiers, and most significantly staging its signature event, the Arpa International Film Festival since 1997.

For over 18 years, Arpa international film festival continues to promote independent filmmakers, cultivating cultural understanding and global empathy in the heart of Hollywood. Through the generous support of our donors and sponsors, our yearly film festival event inspires people of all backgrounds and creates opportunities for creative expression. Arpa’s dedicated production team is committed to make a difference in fueling the global arena of independent cinema.

The committee has already begun working on the 2016 Arpa International Film festival.

Pope Francis to make movie debut playing himself in children’s gospel film

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images


Pope Francis, the head of the global Catholic church, is to be the first pope to appear in a film, reports.

The pontiff will play himself in Beyond the Sun, an Italian-made family movie based on the gospels, which was inspired by the Pope’s call for film-makers to cater for children when thinking about how Jesus’s message should be communicated through cinema.

All profits from the film are to be donated to two Argentinian charities that help at-risk children and young adults. Shooting is due to begin imminently in Italy.

Andrea Iervolino, co-founder of AMBI Pictures, who will fund and distribute the film, said:

Our excitement and gratitude toward His Holiness, Pope Francis, participating in this film is beyond words. This is not just a movie for us, it’s a message, and who better to have on your side to deliver an important societal and spiritual message than the Pope?

However, there are conflicting reports about the scale of Pope Francis’s involvement in the project. Initial indications suggested he would figure significantly through the movie; information on AMBI’s site mentions only “an epilogue from Pope Francis telling children how and where to find Jesus”.

“The pope is not an actor,” a Vatican spokesman said, downplaying suggestions that Francis would be making any kind of film debut.