Chicago’s Armenian community embarks on a remarkable renovation journey

In the tapestry of time, Armenian communities across the globe have woven a narrative of resilience, unity and commitment. The Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church and Community Center in Chicago stands as a symbol of this enduring spirit. Reflecting the need to strengthen bonds within the community, the Chicago “Christapor” Gomideh of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the Board of Trustees of the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church have embarked on a transformative journey—one that goes beyond bricks and mortar.

The renovation project of the beloved church and community center serves as a testament to the commitment of Chicago’s Armenian community to renew, revitalize and fortify its ties to Armenians both within the local community and the broader diaspora, as well as the homelands of Armenia and Artsakh.

Over the past one and a half years, the Chicago Armenian community has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to this cause. The cherished community center, with its rich history spanning more than four decades, became the focal point of an ambitious and much-needed renovation project. The initiative was sparked by a collective recognition of the imperative to reflect on and renew the interconnectedness between the local community, the diaspora and the homelands.

The urgency to address facility-related issues last year served as a catalyst for change. In response, a dedicated building committee was formed, tasked with identifying and managing all aspects of the facilities’ revitalization and repair. The primary goal was not only to address safety concerns but also to enhance the overall usability and rental potential of the space.

As the community progressed through the first two phases of the comprehensive renovation, addressing critical infrastructure needs and internal upgrades, a remarkable transformation unfolded. Aging structural issues were tackled head-on, ensuring the safety and stability of the essential community hub. Now, the community stands at the cusp of Phase 3, which extends to the outdoor space south of the facilities.

The vision of a renewed commitment to each other is not limited to physical improvements alone; it extends to the very fabric of community bonds. The final phase, Phase 4, is a rallying call to the community to come together and secure the financial foundation by paying off the mortgage. The goal is clear: to ensure the ongoing prosperity of the community and leave a legacy unburdened by debt for the generations to come.

Plans for the exterior renovations

Amidst this transformative journey, the community invites its members to participate in shaping the legacy of the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church and Community Center by contributing through naming rights opportunities. This unique chance to leave an indelible mark is a testament to the collective community effort.

As the Chicago “Christapor” Gomideh of the ARF and the Board of Trustees express their gratitude for the steadfast support received, they extend an open invitation for all Armenians to join hands in this renewal. Through unity and dedication, the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church and Community Center in Chicago is not only renovating its physical space, but also rejuvenating the bonds that tie Armenians across the community, the diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh. In the heart of Chicago, a renewed home for all Armenians is taking shape—one that resonates with the echoes of a timeless commitment that transcends borders and generations.

For any questions, please contact the Chicago Christapor Gomideh: [email protected]

Is BP financing Armenia’s destruction?

Nov 24 2023
BELTWAY CONFIDENTIAL

As Hamas partisans continue the calumny that Israel’s counterterror operations equate to genocide, real genocide looms in the South Caucasus. In September, Azerbaijani troops seized the entirety of Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing the exodus of its 120,000 indigenous Christians.

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey long used the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute to justify hostility to Armenia. Their actions subsequent to the conquest of the largely Christian region, however, hint that diplomatic dispute was more an excuse for their hostility rather than its true cause.

Driving along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, military fortification in Azerbaijan is obvious. Whereas Armenia builds customs posts and observatories, Azerbaijan constructs helicopter landing pads, airfields, rocket installations, and advanced radar stations. Barracks house dozens of troops at remote locations along the border. Azerbaijani forces have already seized territory within Armenia. President Ilham Aliyev, meanwhile, says that even Armenia’s capital Yerevan is Azerbaijani territory. The implication is clear: Azerbaijan prepares for a new war rather than a lasting peace.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan encourages such belligerence. In the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, he declared, “Like Armenia, Israel will fail too.” His description of the terror war as a struggle between “crescent and cross” reflects his true mindset. American and British diplomats may see Turkey’s army as an important NATO contingent, by Erdogan himself describes it as the “Army of Muhammad.” Both Erdogan and Aliyev regularly belittle Armenians, insult rivals by calling them Armenian, and describe Armenians as dogs or insects.

There are ample reasons why the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has issued a “red flag alert” warning of the possibility of Azerbaijan perpetrating genocide against Armenia and Armenians. The question policymakers should ask is why after 30 years, the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict suddenly erupted and why Aliyev so confidently dismisses diplomacy.

Some pundits may cite developments in Turkey or Russia, but they miss the forest for the trees. The reason why beginning three years ago, Azerbaijan rebuffed diplomacy and turned instead to war was a change in the regional balance of power.

The Azerbaijani economy is a one-act show. SOCAR, its state oil company, works in conjunction with BP (formerly British Petroleum) to finance the Azerbaijani government. BP has little interest in the quality of Azerbaijan’s government or its descent into a brutal dictatorship. While ordinary Azerbaijanis wallow in poverty, the Aliyevs spend hundreds of millions of dollars on London real estate and billions of dollars on new weaponry.

Azerbaijan imported nearly 70% of its arsenal in recent years from Israel. In one extreme example, an Israeli drone company seeking to win an Azerbaijani contract demonstrated its system by attacking an Armenian military position. Earlier this month, Baku purchased a $1.2 billion Barak MX air defense system from Israel.

So long as Azerbaijan can undertake a military buildup to give itself both a qualitative and quantitative edge over its neighbors, the chance for peace in the region is zero. Military balance matters. While democratic states fund their people more than their militaries, Aliyev does the opposite. In effect, he diverts the revenue BP’s decades-old contract provides to finance aggression and perhaps even genocide. BP may not be legally responsible, but it is shortsighted. As Aliyev ignores his own public, the risk of assassination or even revolution increases in the long term. No ex-Soviet dictatorship expects a color revolution until the day it erupts.

Should Aliyev order an outright invasion of Armenia, the resulting disruption will likely end BP’s ability to transport its gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey. If Azerbaijan, overconfident in its gas windfall, seeks to end the oldest Christian state completely, BP may shrug its shoulders, but it will be impossible for BP to sidestep its reputational stain. Simply put, its contract enables Azerbaijan to purchase weaponry from Israel and Turkey to pursue genocide against Armenian Christians.

BP may want to sidestep politics, but Aliyev will not give it the chance. It is time for BP to tell Aliyev: Enough is enough, BP will not be party to any dictator’s genocidal ambition.

Michael Rubin (@mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/is-bp-financing-armenias-destruction 

Armenia Strengthens Defence capabilities with India’s MArG 155mm howitzers

Financial Express
Nov 21 2023

Armenia is set to bolster its military capabilities through the acquisition of India-made MArG 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzers from Pune-based Bharat Forge. Representing a cutting-edge artillery system, these howitzers embody power, precision, and mobility.

The MArG 155mm/39 calibre stands out for its exceptional all-terrain manoeuvrability, capable of negotiating gradients up to 30°. Its ‘shoot and scoot’ capability adds versatility, making it a formidable weapon in modern combat scenarios.

This move signifies a pivotal moment for India’s export of indigenous defence technology. The MArG 155mm/39 calibre – BR, with its exceptional mobility and precision, represents a significant leap in artillery systems.

Armenia’s decision to acquire these howitzers is deemed a ‘significant development for India’s defence industry.’ Recent visits by Armenian officials to India involved testing the artillery system and finalizing the deal with Bharat Forge. This acquisition builds upon the growing strategic partnership between the two nations, positioning India as a key supplier of defence equipment to Armenia.

In 2020, Armenia procured four Swathi mobile radar units from India, and in September 2022, a US$245 million contract was signed for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank rockets, and various types of ammunition.

This latest purchase adds to a series of acquisitions by Armenia from India since 2022, including the Akash Surface-to-air missile system, 155mm towed ATAGS howitzers, Zen Anti-Drone Systems, 30mm and 40mm grenades, PINAKA multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank munitions, and ammunition. These acquisitions underscore the deepening collaboration in defence between the two nations, reinforcing Armenia’s defence capabilities.

Based on information in the public domain, since 1991, tensions have brewed between Azerbaijan and Armenia, sparked by the Armenian military’s occupation of Karabakh—an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan—along with seven neighboring regions.

It has been reported in a section of the media that in a decisive move during the autumn of 2020, Azerbaijan liberated a significant portion of this territory through a war that concluded with a Russian-brokered peace agreement, paving the way for diplomatic normalization.

However, in a recent development this September, the Azerbaijani army launched a counterterrorism operation in Karabakh, aiming to establish a constitutional order, resulting in the surrender of illegal separatist forces in the region.

According to Russia’s Tass News Agency, the two sides have been able to agree to basic principles for a peace treaty, but still are speaking different diplomatic languages.

https://www.financialexpress.com/business/defence-armenia-strengthens-defence-capabilities-with-indias-marg-155mm-howitzers-3312545/

ANALYSIS: Armenia and Kazakhstan Reveal Cracks in Russian-Led Regional Blocs

Kyiv Post, Ukraine
Nov 16 2023



Armenia’s snubbing of Moscow-led summits combined with Kazakhstan’s leader’s behavior during President Putin’s recent visit may indicate a fundamental change in the existing power dynamic.

By Steve Brown

Russia has tried to maintain control of many of its former Soviet republics through two bodies that are analogous to similar bodies in the West.

The Russian-led Collective Treaty Security Organization (CTSO) is a military alliance formalized in 2002, that attempts to be Russia’s equivalent to NATO with, currently, six members Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, along with Armenia and Belarus.

In an echo of NATO’s Article 5 treaty, CSTO’s Article 4 states: “If one of the Member States undergoes aggression, it will be considered by the Member States as aggression to all the Member States of this Treaty… all the other Member States at the request of this Member State shall provide the latter with the necessary help, including military… in accordance with the right to collective defense pursuant to article 51 of the UN Charter.”

Although it has been in existence for over 20 years, the Article has only been used once when a small force deployed to Kazakhstan in January 2022 to deal with political unrest that Moscow categorized as a coup attempt backed by “foreign terrorists.”

Recent events may be the first signs of the cracks appearing in Russia’s hold over their southern partners.

The other body that Russia has used to retain its influence is the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) a quasi-equivalent of the European Union that calls itself a regional intergovernmental organization.

It was formed in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union ostensibly to assist its members’ transition into free democratic nations although, the cynic would say it was an attempt by Russia to keep some semblance of control over its former vassal states.

The stated aims of the organization are: to facilitate and strengthen cooperation in the political, economic, ecological, humanitarian, cultural, and other fields among its member states, who are currently: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.

Although Ukraine ceased active participation in the statutory bodies of the CIS in 2018 in protest at Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued aggression in the Donbas it has never formally withdrawn from the CIS Free Trade Area, even following Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion.

Recent strains show in the Armenian-Russian relationship

Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, announced on Tuesday that he would not participate in the Nov. 23 CSTO meeting in Minsk, Belarus. Commentators see this as another example of the deteriorating relationship between Yerevan and Moscow.

In 2020 the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Armenian separatist region Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a Moscow-brokered peace plan that included deployment of a Russian peacekeeping force. Armenia became unhappy with the peacekeepers’ reluctance to fulfil their mandate, which was exacerbated by the Kremlin’s refusal to intervene during this year’s outbreak of hostilities.

Pashinyan in turn angered Russia by canceling its hosting of the annual CSTO military exercises, but later held joint exercises with US forces, declined to attend a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Bishkek where Putin made his first trip outside Russia since being indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after which Armenia then voted to join the ICC.

According to TASS, Russia’s state media outlet, the former defense minister and head of Armenia’s opposition party, Seyran Ohanyan, accused Pashinyan of threatening the country’s security through this rebuff of Moscow:

“As threats surround us in a complicated military and political situation, not taking part in CSTO events puts Armenia’s security at further risk. We are a member of this alliance. In many cases, Armenian authorities played a part in the deterioration of relations.”

And the Russian-Kazakhstan relationship?

On Nov. 9 at what was called a “routine bi-lateral” meeting between the leaders of Kazakhstan and Russia, Putin was unable, not for the first time, to correctly pronounce Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s name on several occasions. Perhaps in payback for that and also, in what some commentators have categorized as a power move, gave his closing speech in Kazakh rather than the usual Russian, much to the confusion of the visiting Moscow delegation.

Kazakhstan had earlier hosted a visit by French President Emanuel Macron, as part of his tour of Central Asia, during which deals were agreed in relation to oil and rare earth metals that Kazakhstan has in abundance, as well as pharmaceuticals and aerospace contracts.

With sanctions imposed on Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine having resulted in a major reduction in Russian oil exports to the EU, Kazakhstan is now the EU’s third-largest supplier behind Norway and the US.

At a meeting with President Tokayev, Macron thanked him for not siding with Moscow in its war on Ukraine and commented:

“I don’t underestimate by any means the geopolitical difficulties, the pressures… that some may be putting on you… France values the path you are following for your country, refusing to be a vassal of any power and seeking to build numerous and balanced relations with different countries.”

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where Macron traveled on his next visit, have refused to recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories and have pledged to abide by Western sanctions against Moscow.

"The European Union isn’t hiding its intentions to restrain Russia in every possible way and push it out of Central Asia and the South Caucasus.” – Sergei Lavrov

A BBC report quoted the Kazakh political analyst Dosym Satpayev, who said the war in Ukraine had resulted in a diminishing of Russian influence in the region. “There is less military co-operation, the perception of Russia since the war has worsened. Central Asian governments are not talking openly about it – but it is happening.”

Russia in turn has voiced concern at the West’s growing commercial and diplomatic activity in the former Soviet nations of central Asia.

Asked for his views on Macron’s visit and comments, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Kazakhstan, as a sovereign state, was free to develop ties with any countries, but emphasized his view that Moscow valued its relations with Kazakhstan “very highly.” He then told reporters: “In our turn, we have historical ties, ties of strategic partnership with Kazakhstan, they are our allies and our interests are united in many international bodies.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, took a less conciliatory line. In an interview broadcast on Sunday, he accused the European Union of attempting to drive Russia out of Central Asia. He said the West was trying to pull Russia’s “neighbors, friends and allies” away from it.

“The European Union isn’t hiding its intentions to restrain [Russia] in every possible way and push it out of Central Asia and the South Caucasus,” he said. “These attempts are futile. We have been historically present there and are not going to disappear.”

Nevertheless, a number of commentators suggest these recent events may be the first signs of the cracks appearing in Russia’s hold over their southern partners.

It is not only the EU nations that are focusing on an area they have long neglected. China is becoming ever more active in Central Asia with its “Belt and Road” project. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also shown growing interest in the region.


Tragedy and Opportunity in Nagorno-Karabakh

The National Interest
Oct 4 2023

The United States has tended to think about this crucial region too little and too late. But a strategic opportunity still exists.

by Daniel Sneider

In the span of mere days, the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to Armenians since antiquity, has disappeared as a political entity. By the evening of September 29, almost 100,000 people, over 80 percent of the enclave’s population, had crossed to Armenia, fleeing with the clear encouragement of the Azerbaijan regime.

The Azerbaijanis seized back control of this region from a self-styled independent state, closely tied to Armenia itself, in a series of military campaigns beginning in 2020 and culminating in a lightning strike on September 19-20. The triumphant mood was palpable in Baku when I visited just prior to the latest attack—from huge electronic displays of patriotic flag waving on the skyscrapers that had been built with oil and gas riches to a carpet woven with a map of Nagorno-Karabakh, which a museum guide breathlessly described as “our land.”

Back in Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, the mood was considerably darker. On the first day of the beginning of the latest attack, a senior Armenian foreign ministry official was anticipating the collapse of resistance. “It’s a series of actions that can lead to only one thing—the complete ethnic cleansing of Nagorno Karabakh,” he told me.

This humanitarian disaster is taking place as the world watches, issuing ritual statements of condemnation but apparently unable to intervene. Armenia is left largely on its own to cope with a massive influx of people who have been forced to leave possessions and homes, some lived in for centuries, with no hope of return. Azerbaijani forces are arresting Karabakh Armenian leaders, preparing to hold show trials for their “crimes” of resistance. Any acts of resistance are likely to justify brutal and violent repression of those who remain.

Armenians are haunted by the historical memory of the Turkish genocide of 1915, when a million or more Armenians were murdered by the Ottomans amidst the chaos of World War I. U.S. Agency for International Development director Samantha Power, a witness to similar scenes of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the author of a hallmark study of the failure to respond to genocide, came to Armenia immediately after the attack, offering condolences and a mere $11.5 million in refugee aid.

This war in what seems like a distant and peripheral corner of the world deserves our attention. It is a test of the willingness to tolerate acts of violation of fundamental human rights, at a time when these values are on the line in the nearby war in Ukraine. As in that war, the Russian state is asserting its imperial heritage and is determined to punish those whom it sees as disloyal and turning to the West.

The Azerbaijani offensive is possible only because of a de facto alliance of autocrat Ilham Aliyev with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey. Armenia and its democratically elected government led by Nikol Pashinyan are being punished by Putin for the crime of seeking to broaden ties to the United States and the European Union. Weakened by war in Ukraine, and worried about losing control of its former imperial backyard in the South Caucasus, Putin decided to greenlight the return of Azerbaijani rule over Nagorno-Karabakh and abandon Russia’s traditional role as a protector of Armenia.

Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno Karabakh have become nothing more than doormen for the ethnic cleansing operation.

 “The Russian peacekeeping operation is a sham,” a veteran Armenian political leader told me. “Without the agreement of Putin, neither Azerbaijan nor Turkey could have pursued this war.”

Meanwhile, the conflict is hardly over. An emboldened Azerbaijan, handed a virtual blank check by Turkey and Russia, demands, and prepares to seize, a land bridge across Armenian territory that will connect it to the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan and through that to Turkey. Azerbaijan dictator Aliyev now talks of recovering “western Azerbaijan,” referring to claims on Armenia itself, a claim manifested in attacks along the border, including in recent days.

The immediate origins of this war lie in the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, a moment I witnessed first-hand as the Moscow bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor. A mass movement of Armenians rose up to demand independence and the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to their territory. The region had been placed in the 1920s by Joseph Stalin under the authority of the ethnically Turkish Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, an act that Armenians had long seen as unjust.

As Soviet authority waned, both Armenia and Azerbaijan claimed independence, leading to a fierce war that ended in a 1994 ceasefire. The war left a legacy of mutual acts of ethnic violence and deepened hatred. The fighting left the Armenians in control of a vast swath of Azerbaijani territory, including establishing a land corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. They avoided the sovereignty issue by establishing an independent Nagorno-Karabakh.

The plan was to trade most of the captured Azerbaijani land for a permanent peace, but compromise proved elusive. Conflicting claims of sovereignty could not be resolved, despite the efforts of a group formed by Russia, the United States, and France. Intransigence on both sides grew as time went by. Eventually, the Azerbaijanis regained military strength, using oil and gas revenues to buy advanced arms from Turkey, Israel, and Russia (which supplied both sides), along with Turkish training and officers, to try to resolve the conflict by armed means.

In a weeks-long offensive in 2020, coming when the world was distracted by Covid-19 and the United States was under the isolationist rule of Donald Trump, the Azerbaijanis restored control of all of their occupied territory and much of Nagorno-Karabakh itself. The Russians only intervened at the end to negotiate a ceasefire that ceded much to Azerbaijan and implanted Russian troops on the ground as “peacekeepers.”

Armenian officials believe relations with Moscow had already started to fray after a civic movement brought the reformist government of Pashinyan to power in 2018, removing more pro-Russian leadership. “It started when Russia didn’t like a more open, democratic Armenia,” the senior foreign ministry official said.

“The Russians are much more comfortable working with Azerbaijan than with the current Armenian government,” says Tigran Grigoryan, the head of the Regional Center for Democracy and Security, an Armenian-based think tank. “Aliyev and Putin speak the same language. That is not true for Putin and Pashinyan.”

Still, the Armenian government has been very careful not to upset its traditional allies in Russia, joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) organized by Moscow along with Belarus and a handful of other former Soviet republics. The reality is that the Russians retain huge leverage in this small nation—a Russian army unit remains based in northwestern Armenia near the Turkish border and patrols that border. Armenia remains dependent on Russia for most of its energy needs, including the operation of a dangerously aging nuclear power plant. Furthermore, millions of Armenians work in Russia, with their remittances key to the economy back home.

“We never wanted to provoke Russia,” the senior official said. “Why should we? We always wanted more room to maneuver.”

Russia has traditionally opposed the expansion of Turkish influence in the region, but amid the Ukraine war, the situation has completely changed, and Russia is clearly far weaker than before. “The Russians needed a new status quo in the South Caucasus,” explained Grigoryan. “They could tolerate the Turks, but their main concern is the West.”

Armenian analysts compare this to the bargain that the Bolshevik leaders struck in 1921 with the Turks to oust a British-led intervention into the South Caucasus. That deal included the decision to give Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.

In broader historical terms, this is the delayed resumption of “a protracted process of imperial disintegration,” says Ukrainian historian Igor Torbakov, a prolific writer on the collapse of the Ottoman and Russian empires. That created “imperial shatter zones” from the Middle East and the Balkans to the Caucasus, leading to forced “unmixing of peoples.” The Bolshevik deal with Kemalist Turkey restored the empire and created a relative peace for seventy years but “the Soviet implosion opened up the nationalist Pandora’s box for the second time in the 20th century,” Torbakov says.

For the Armenian government, the clearest signal of Moscow’s abandonment came a year ago when Azerbaijani attacks along the border with Armenia itself—beyond the Karabakh region—failed to trigger a Russian response. This was a violation of commitments that should have been the result of Armenia’s participation in CSTO.

Pashinyan began to speak out more openly about Russia’s failure to live up to its expected role. Both the European Union and the United States stepped up efforts to mediate the conflict, leading to two rounds of talks convened by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May and July of this year which seemed to be leading toward some agreement. But Putin stepped in and called his own meeting in Moscow, a move meant “to remind people who is the master of the house,” the senior Armenian official recounted.

Moscow has been openly carrying out a verbal war with the Pashinyan government—responding angrily to even small gestures of independence such as the dispatch of a humanitarian aid mission to Ukraine led by the prime minister’s wife and the holding of a small-scale joint military exercise with the U.S. 101st Airborne carried out just days before the Azerbaijani attack. Former Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev warned Yerevan against “flirting with NATO.”

https://nationalinterest.org/feature/tragedy-and-opportunity-nagorno-karabakh-206870

Armenia grateful for rapid deployment of UNESCO emergency mission to assess the educational needs of refugee children

 21:01, 9 November 2023

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 9, ARMENPRESS. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan gave a speech at the 42nd session of the UNESCO General Conference.

The speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia is presented below:

''Madame President of the General Conference,

Madame Chair of the Executive Board,

Madame Director-General,

Excellences,

Distinguished Delegates,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate H.E. Ms. Simona-Mirela Miculescu on her election as President of the 42nd session of the General Conference, and wish every success in her responsible mission. I also want to express my sincere appreciation to H.E. Mr. Irazabal Mourao for his excellent work during his tenure as President of the 41st session of the General Conference.

Madam President,

The persistent challenges that the world faces today, ranging from armed conflicts to the impacts of climate change, underscore the imperative to redouble our joint efforts in all the fields of competence of UNESCO.

Therefore, we support UNESCO’s future strategic orientations and programmatic priorities, in particular in the field of right to education for all, cultural rights, freedom of _expression_, and the fight against racism, discrimination, intolerance and hate speech.

As a member of the Executive Board, Armenia will further contribute to the successful implementation of programs in favour of the Global Priorities Africa and Gender Equality, as well as priority groups – Youth and Small Island Developing States.

As a co-chair of the Group of Friends of Small Island Developing States, we will continue to support the implementation of Operational Strategy to address the systemic vulnerabilities of this group of states.

Armenia stands firmly behind UNESCO's endeavors to protect cultural heritage, especially in the regions affected by conflicts and natural disasters and condemns any attacks on cultural symbols due to their diverse origins or identities.

In this regard, Armenia reiterates its commitment to further contribute to the restoration of Iraqi documentary heritage in the framework of UNESCO's flagship initiative “Revive the spirit of Mosul”.

2024 marks the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention and this landmark occasion creates an important momentum for renewing the commitment of the international community for protection of cultural property during armed conflicts. Armenia stands ready to contribute to observation of this important anniversary.

Madam President,

Amid our shared struggle to maintain the fragile peace in various corners of the world, while promoting the values of living together, it is with deep concern that I draw your attention to the dire situation in our region.

The 10 month-long blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, humanitarian crisis, absence of food, medicine, gas and electricity supplies and, as a culmination, the large-scale military offensive and indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population and infrastructure resulted in forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing of the entire indigenous Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving behind their homes, shrines and the millennia-old cultural and religious heritage.

Armenia is currently facing a massive influx of more than 100 000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, among them 30 thousand children, who fled their ancestral homeland in just a few days, under the fear of persecution and atrocity crimes. The Government of Armenia, in cooperation with the international organizations and partner states, has undertaken a number of measures to address the life-saving, protection and early recovery needs of the refugees. In this regard, I wish to extend Armenia's gratitude to the UNESCO and its Director-General for the rapid deployment of the UNESCO emergency mission to Armenia for the assessment of educational needs of refugee children.

With regard to the cultural and religious heritage left in Nagorno-Karabakh, its protection from vandalism and looting is crucial. Since the fall of 2020 the Republic of Armenia has consistently alerted the international community on Azerbaijan’s state-led policy of destruction, desecration and appropriation of the vast religious and cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

The legally binding order on the Provisional Measures issued by the International Court of Justice on 7 December 2021, compels Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artefacts”.

Deployment of UNESCO's independent fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh with the view of independent monitoring and mapping of the Armenian cultural heritage is a key prerequisite to prevent destruction or distortion of the Armenian cultural property, as was the case with the complete annihilation of the Armenian cultural heritage in Nakhijevan between 1997-2006.

In conclusion, I would like to stress Armenia’s unwavering support to the Organization in its efforts to foster a culture of peace and tolerance anchored on upholding and promoting human rights.

Thank you.''




Domestic violence and “intruding” into the private lives of Armenian families

What do the residents of Yerevan do when a man beats or screams at a woman or a child on the street? They simply cross the street and continue on their way, because it’s not their job, and they don’t want to invade someone else’s private life.

Last week, my friends and I were walking through the streets of Yerevan. On Friday evenings, the city is filled with groups of people, always on the move and always with something to say. The area around Swan Lake in central Yerevan was crowded as usual. From the noise of the buzzing city, a woman’s scream suddenly stood out: “I said no, leave me alone,” followed by the threatening, thundering voice of a man. His voice was so terrifying that it created panic among the people walking on the street and sitting in the garden. One group of people changed their path, while others walked away with evasive glances in the direction of the screaming voices.

“What’s going on?” I asked, startled by the threatening voice, and I rushed forward. “Wait, aghchi (girl), it’s dangerous,” my friend said, managing to grab my clothes before I could move closer to the commotion.

As the noise grew louder, a small woman emerged from the bushes, holding the hand of a child who clung to her. A burly man was walking towards them with his hand raised in a menacing and intimidating manner.

My friend and I approached them with uncertain steps. She held onto my shirt to prevent me from going too far. A little ahead of us stood a man with an uncertain look, seemingly hesitant about whether to intervene or not. His legs swayed from side to side but never forward.

Suddenly, the man grabbed the woman’s wrist. She managed to break free from the man’s grip and ran towards a row of taxis while clutching the child’s hand. The little girl looked terrified. The woman, presumably her mother, was practically dragging the child behind her. The little one would turn around every few seconds, looking in the man’s direction with big, tearful eyes—he was following them. 

This time, I was the one pulling my friend’s clothes. We positioned ourselves between the abuser and the woman, attempting to act as a barrier. Approaching the woman, we offered to order a taxi since she had no money. While we were negotiating with a taxi driver, the man appeared beside us.

My hands began to shake as I witnessed him forcefully seat himself next to her in the back seat of the car. The woman started crying loudly, her lips trembling as she repeatedly begged, “Get out, get out.”

The driver sat with his hand on the car keys, unsure of what to do. The man shouted imperatively, “Drive, I’m her husband!”

At one point, I lost all hope and didn’t know what to do. It was my friend’s voice that snapped me back to reality. “Hopar (uncle – a term for addressing older men in Armenia), please don’t drive.” Hopar hesitated, torn between the pleas of three women and the demands of the one man.

I instructed my friend to open the front door of the car to prevent him from driving while I asked the abuser to get out of the car. Asking, of course, was not a way to change a person’s decision who probably solves all of his issues with the help of his fists.

I decided to take an extreme step. “Get out now, or I’m going to call the police,” I yelled, feeling ridiculous even as I confronted him.

I recalled a domestic violence incident I encountered a year ago. A man had been abusing his wife for years, and the police had only imposed a one-year probationary period. I also remembered the many cases when women turned to the police to report their husbands’ abuse, and instead, the police persuaded them to withdraw their complaints and return home to keep the family together, not leaving the children without a father.

I was jolted from my thoughts by the man’s menacing gaze in my direction. I swear, I was anticipating a huge chapalakh (slap) on my face. I stood my ground, fully resolved not to retreat. To my surprise, the expected slap never came. “Call the police or whoever you want, I don’t care. This is my child,” he shouted, turning his attention back to the terrified child and woman.

The driver represented the collective image of our society, the prevailing public mentality that one should not intrude into the family’s personal life, the pervasive idea that a wife and child are the husband’s property, and he can do with them as he pleases.

Ara (a slang form of address in Armenian), let it go. It’s none of your business. It’s his wife and child,” the driver intervened. The driver represented the collective image of our society, the prevailing public mentality that one should not intrude into the family’s personal life, the pervasive idea that a wife and child are the husband’s property, and he can do with them as he pleases.

The proprietary attitude of the abuser and the driver’s supportive words pushed me over the edge. I started yelling in a confident tone, reciting curses I had heard in various movies. 

Suddenly, the man got out of the car, looking bewildered. “I will call my father,” he declared and walked away with unsteady steps. I couldn’t believe that we had managed to rescue the woman and the child from the abuser. I had mentally prepared for the worst-case scenarios.

After the man left, two young men sitting on a nearby bench who had quietly observed the entire incident approached us. Their eyes were fixed on the woman. “Who was he, and what does he have to do with you?” they inquired. “He’s my ex-husband,” the woman replied, trembling. There is no “ex” in Armenia; if you were once his wife, you forever belong to that man. That’s why the man told the driver, “She is my wife.”

“What did you do to provoke him like that?” one of the boys asked, reminding me of the policemen who try to find the guilt of the victim in all cases of violence. It is common to hear questions like: “What were you wearing when you were raped?” “What did you do or say when you were beaten?”

“Guys, what business is it of yours who this man is or what he wants from this woman? Go sit on the bench and continue observing the world from your vantage point,” I said in a rude tone.

Kooyrik jan (sister and a slang form of address), we wanted to help,” one of them said. 

“Seems like you’re too late, guys,” I replied in the same grumpy tone.

We sent the two young men on their way and exchanged contact information with the woman and her child for further assistance. We continued our walk, constantly looking around, fearing that perhaps that man was stalking us.

A protest against domestic violence in Yerevan (Photo: Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

People in Armenia prefer to turn a blind eye; it’s easier to live that way. It’s simple to cross the street, change your route and pretend not to witness violence. It’s straightforward to pretend not to hear a man beating a woman with a hot iron next door. It’s easy not to hear or see a man murder his ex-wife’s mother with an ax in the hallway. It’s convenient for a police officer to send a woman with broken bones back home to their abuser, because that man has influential connections with high-ranking officials in the local police department. It is convenient to label their actions as “protecting the holy family’s completeness.”

It’s simple to talk in numbers, saying that the highest rate of violence against women in recent years was recorded in 2022 or that at least 10-15 cases of femicide are recorded in Armenia every year. It’s easy to pass laws without considering the practical effectiveness of their implementation. It’s straightforward to label people who speak out against domestic violence, hold protests and declare the presence of pedophilia, femicide and rape in Armenia as “Soros’s bastards.”

It’s simple to pretend that you don’t hear, don’t see, don’t know…but is it easy to carry that guilt throughout your life? I carry a heavy burden that will stay with me forever. I was 17 years old, having just moved to Yerevan to study at university. One night, I heard a noise from the window – a woman was shouting, “Help me, he’s killing me.” I was too afraid to step outside, to move a single step or to call the police. I don’t know what happened to that woman; I don’t know the outcome. That woman’s screams cover me at nighttime. That cry will always be with me, serving as a guiding light, always urging me to stand up against any form of violence.

Yelena Sargsyan is a storyteller and journalist who primarily focuses on women's rights and LGBTQ+ issues in Armenia. She has contributed her work to various news outlets. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Yerevan State University and a master's in Near and Middle Eastern studies from the Institute of Oriental Studies, NAS RA.


Armenia would have bought more defensive armaments if not for logistical issues, says FM

 12:30, 3 November 2023

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 3, ARMENPRESS. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan has rejected the opposition’s accusations of failure to acquire armaments for the military.

Opposition MP Kristine Vardanyan from the Hayastan faction, during a parliamentary committee hearing on the 2024 state budget, accused the incumbent administration of inability to acquire weaponry for the armed forces.

In response, FM Mirzoyan said that the Pashinyan Administration has been able to buy armaments from incomparably more countries than the previous authorities. At the same time, Mirzoyan said that the current government would have acquired a lot more weaponry if not for the logistical problems.

“We are able to acquire weapons from incomparably more countries than your political party could have ever dreamt of,” Mirzoyan told the lawmaker. “But there are also logistical issues, we would have been able to acquire a lot more.” Mirzoyan stressed that Armenia is acquiring defensive weapons and it has no hostile intentions.

“Buying defensive armaments is the sovereign right of any country. We would have brought a lot more if not for the logistical issues. It’s no secret that such logistical issues exist,” Mirzoyan said.

Construction of Gyumri Dry Port and Industrial Estate could start in 2024

 15:40,

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 31, ARMENPRESS. The Dry Port and Industrial Estate project in Gyumri could get approved this year and enter the construction phase in 2024, the Minister of Economy of Armenia Vahan Kerobyan has said.

He said that MTBS, a Dutch company, is currently carrying out a feasibility study of the project and the preliminary report shows sufficient demand to build the industrial estate.

The final report is expected by yearend. Then, the Public Investments Committee must hold another hearing to determine whether or not to continue the project.

Kerobyan said he finds it likely for the committee to greenlight the project.

The Dry Port and Industrial Estate project will likely be carried out by a public-private partnership model.

“We must try to involve a leading operator that will be able to perform a high-level management both in the industrial park and the logistics section,” Kerobyan added during a press briefing when asked by Armenpress on the project. 

“I think that in 2024 we will definitely pass the phases of preparing and implementing the tender. I think we can also hope that some construction works will commence in 2024,” he said.

Kerobyan said he has presented the project in various countries such as the UK, China, UAE and in different business forums. There is interest for the project from both the Gulf states and Southeast Asia.

Armenia on verge of signing peace deal with Azerbaijan, PM says

POLITICO
Oct 26 2023
BY GABRIEL GAVIN

Armenia could agree terms on a comprehensive peace agreement with neighboring Azerbaijan, ending a bitter regional rivalry after three decades of hostilities, the South Caucasus country’s prime minister said Thursday.

Speaking at a conference in Georgia, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that his government could sign “an agreement on peace and the establishment of relationships” with its neighbor “in the coming months.”

At the same time, he unveiled a “Crossroads of Peace” project designed to reopen road and railway links that have been blocked for decades amid the simmering conflict with Azerbaijan and its close ally, Turkey.

The announcement comes just weeks after Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive to take control of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been fought over by the two sides since the fall of the USSR. An estimated 100,000 ethnic Armenians living in the mountainous territory were forced to flee their homes as their unrecognized breakaway state collapsed after 30 years of de facto autonomy.

On Tuesday, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said the decisive military action means there are now “real chances for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia within a short period of time.”

At the same time, Azerbaijan’s foreign policy chief told POLITICO that his country had no plans to use force to seize territory across the internationally recognized border, despite claims a new conflict over transport routes could be imminent.

Previous efforts to mediate between the two former Soviet republics by the U.S., the EU and Russia have failed to prevent violence in the past, with discussion on issues like transport connectivity and border demarcation ending in deadlock.

“For long years, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has been the major stumbling block for the regional integration and the utilization of all the potential of the South Caucasus,” said Vasif Huseynov, head of department at Azerbaijan’s AIR Center think tank. “It has immensely increased the costs of the regional projects, both connectivity and energy pipelines. This is one of the reasons why it is in the interest of Baku to put an end to this conflict.”

However expectations are more muted in Yerevan, according to Tigran Grigoryan, head of Armenia’s Regional Center for Democracy and Security.

“There is too much importance put on the peace treaty,” he said. “It’s obvious for me the treaty isn’t the end of any process and even if something is signed, Azerbaijan will continue pursuing a maximalist approach and will keep pressuring Armenia to get everything it wants out of that process.”

Last month, Pashinyan told POLITICO that Russian peacekeepers had failed in Nagorno-Karabakh, and that it was time to resolve issues with his country’s neighbors directly, rather than depending on Moscow for support. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, he reiterated the need to “diversify our relationships in the security sphere” and hinted that he no longer sees a purpose for Russia’s military bases on Armenian soil.