Trouble in Turkestan

Jerusalem Post, Israel
April 4 2004

Trouble in Turkestan

Among the many surprises caused by the Soviet Union’s dissolution was
the emergence of the newly independent Central Asian republics, whose
most important metropolis – Tashkent – last week came under Islamist
terrorism’s attack.

Rich in minerals, under-populated, and culturally tolerant, the vast
region historically known as Turkestan tempted entrepreneurs and
confounded diplomats, as chances grew it would become a bone of
contention between modernists and fundamentalists. Spanning a
landmass roughly the size of Brazil, the six formerly Soviet Asian
republics thus emerged as the post-Cold War era’s Wild East and Big

>From a Western viewpoint, Central Asia’s development since 1992,
though far from perfect, seemed on the whole positive.

With the exceptions of Azerbaijan’s war with Armenia and Tajikistan’s
with itself, the area’s leaders have generally avoided civil strife
and international conflict. Recalling the merits and drawbacks of
Russian domination, Central Asian leaders eagerly cemented healthy
ties with America, and actively backed its war on terrorism.

Economically, local leaders derived inspiration from the historic
east-west Silk Road that linchpins their region, and got down to the
business of hinging Central Asia’s abundant natural resources – which
include everything from oil, gas, and zinc to diamonds, tin, and gold
– with the global economy. While all this does not compensate for a
frequent lack of pro-market reforms, it still is a promising
harbinger to a future of prosperity and self-sufficiency.

Culturally, Western observes initially suspected that the region that
was historically influenced by both Turkey and Iran would now be
strained by their conflicting views on secularism, Islam, and Western
civilization in general. At stake were basic questions, like what
script – Arabic or Latin – would be chosen to replace the Cyrillic,
and how much influence Muslim clerics would be allowed in local
education systems.

While Turkish foreign policy remained obsessed with joining Europe,
and as such disappointed some with its reluctance to offer Central
Asia not just inspiration but also leadership, Iran has so far failed
to seriously break path in the lands to its east. Eventually, the
early Nineties’ anxieties have proven exaggerated, as Central Asia’s
leaders took a clear stand in favor of sanity, keeping fundamentalism
at bay and welcoming things Western much the way post-Ottoman Turkey

Politically, however, it quickly became clear that Central Asia’s
leaders were no democrats. Though the intensity of human-rights
violations varied from country to country and from time to time, the
region’s leaders have generally not offered, and often actively
obstructed, freedoms of press, speech, and association. One after the
other, Central Asian leaders – most of whom remain products of the
Soviet era – have stifled political debate, arrested would-be
opponents, and nurtured personality cults.

It was into this mixed landscape of progress and reaction that
international terrorism barged last week, with a series of bombings
that have killed more than 40 people in Tashkent and Bukhara, and
wounded dozens more.

For the terrorists, the aim here is obvious. Uzbekistan, under the
leadership of communist-era boss Islam Karimov, has allowed the
establishment of American military bases on its soil, thus offering
the US a vital springboard into nearby Afghanistan. As they have done
in Spain last month, it seems that America’s enemies are out to
attack its allies in the war on terrorism.

Fortunately, the Uzbek leadership has responded with the kind of
resolve that Spain has avoided, making it plain that it will meet the
terrorists in the battlefield rather than seek ways to understand and
appease them.

Unfortunately, the free world cannot afford the luxury of ignoring an
already vulnerable Uzbekistan’s exacerbation of its own condition, by
keeping its 21 million citizens under an unnecessarily short leash.
It is one thing to fight an Islamism whose declared goal is the
restoration of medieval theocracy. It is an entirely different thing
to delay the arrival of political modernity.

We have seen countries that think tyranny will protect them from
fundamentalist Islam find their own squashing of freedom to be an
incubator for radicalism, both against themselves and the West.
Meeting their current leaders as larger-than-life, motionless statues
rather than actual-size people who deliver opportunity and
self-fulfillment is a recipe for failure. In fact, that was the kind
of leadership that Khomeini defeated handily in Iran.

BAKU: Islamic Party calls for pull-out of troops from Iraq, Afghan.

Azeri Islamic Party calls for pull-out of troops from Iraq, Afghanistan

Ekho, Baku
1 Apr 04

Terrorist attacks may be made against Azerbaijan, if its troops are
not withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamic Party of
Azerbaijan has said. The Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan,
another member of the left-of-centre Union of Azerbaijanist Forces,
said that allowing the USA to deploy its troops in Azerbaijan may
result in a regional conflict. The union called for a balanced policy,
“which must not negatively affect relations with Russia and Iran”.
The following is the text of R. Orucev’s report by Azerbaijani
newspaper Ekho on 1 April headlined ” Islamists warn about possible
terrorist attacks against Azerbaijan and suggest immediate withdrawal
of our peacekeepers from Iraq and Afghanistan”; subheadings inserted

Yesterday’s session of the left-of-centre Union of Azerbaijanist
Forces [UAF] has proven productive. The gathering brought together
leaders of the Unity Party, Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan
[SDPA] and the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan [IPA].

US troops in Azerbaijan

The USA intends to station soon its mobile troops in Azerbaijan, and
this runs counter to the state interests and security concerns of
Azerbaijan, the leaders of the three parties said yesterday [31
March]. The American objective is not protecting the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, but rather “the true US goal is to
complete the blockade of Iran”. They believe that the USA plans to
launch an attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran. “This may
result in a conflict in our region, and Russia may take part in it,”
the [co-]chairman of the SDPA, Elsan Manafov, said.

Azerbaijani Defence Minister Safar Abiyev’s visit to the USA was not
successful, since he mainly met third and fourth-level officials [as
published] in the Congress, Pentagon and State Department, the UAF
said. However, the visit in itself shows that the USA has some plans
about deploying its mobile subunits in Azerbaijan. That Russia’s State
Duma discusses this issue is further confirmation of this, as “Moscow
certainly has quite accurate reports in this regard”.

Regional developments and balanced policy

The recent municipal elections in Turkey showed that Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s [Justice and Development] Party enjoys large
support among the public. The Turkish voters voted for the ruling
party and the UAF believes that this will not affect Turkey’s policy
towards regional states.

However, taking into consideration the European Union’s pressure on
Turkey and US Deputy State Secretary Richard Armitage’s remarks in
Baku (that the Turkey-Armenia border has to be opened), the UAF
reckons that the resolution of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict will
drag on, and sooner or later Turkey may take a decision which goes
against Azerbaijan’s interests. Therefore, the Azerbaijani government
should conduct a clearly balanced foreign policy, which must not
negatively affect relations with Russia and Iran.

The union had predicted the outcome of the parliamentary election in
Georgia, but [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili’s National
Movement did to some extent falsify the election results to achieve a
landslide victory. The UAF believes that Georgia’s Labour Party and
Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze’s Revival union did pass the 7-per-cent
threshold. Some international observers too have reported that.

Azerbaijani president’s reshuffle welcomed

The union welcomed the reshuffle carried out by the Azerbaijani
president, which replaced the heads of five districts. “If the
president is forming a new team capable of carrying out social and
economic reforms in the districts, then we welcome those steps,” the
UAF leaders said.

The union also supported the initiative of several MPs from the ruling
[New Azerbaijan] Party to begin drafting a law on amnesties. On the
other hand, the union deems it unnecessary to tie this event with
[late President] Heydar Aliyev’s birthday or with the name of any
other statesman.

Threat of terrorist attacks

Certain forces who resent the country’s participation in the
anti-Iraqi coalition stand behind the terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan,
said the secretary general of the IPA, Rovsan Ahmadli. “The
Azerbaijani leadership should hurry to pull out its troops from Iraq
and Afghanistan. Otherwise, it cannot be ruled out that there may be
terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan,” Ahmadli said.

A ton of memories

Waverley Leader (Australia)
March 30, 2004 Tuesday

A ton of memories

By Matthew Burgess

A SURVIVOR of the Armenian Holocaust, Mary Sheohmelian has a history
filled with sadness and loss.

But, there was a chance for celebration last week when the survivor
turned 100.

Ms Sheohmelian’s youngest daughter, Zevart, spoke on behalf of her
mother because of the centenarian’s limited English.

The eldest of three children, Ms Sheohmelian was born in 1904 in
Antev, Turkey, where she lived until her family was forced to flee in

Roaming the country throughout the Holocaust, Ms Sheohmelian’s
mother, father and siblings fell victim to hunger and disease and

By chance, Ms Sheohmelian was discovered by her uncle in Aleppo,

She was married at the age of 22 to Hagop Sheohmelian an arranged
marriage to her uncle’s brother-in-law and later gave birth to seven

In 1966, the family migrated to Australia to give the children a
better life and settled in Balaclava.

Ms Sheohmelian raised her children and grandchildren at home and
spent Sundays at the Armenian Apostolic Church in North Fitzroy. When
her husband died in 1974, Ms Sheohmelian began living with her
youngest daughter.

Since then, she has lived in Chadstone, Caulfield, Wheelers Hill,
Rowville and now resides at Glen Waverley Nursing Home.

Four generations of family and a belly dancer helped Ms Sheohmelian
celebrate her birthday at the nursing home last Monday.

Ms Sheohmelian’s daughter said her mother’s survival was a miracle.

Ms Sheohmelian has 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and
speaks Armenian, Turkish and Arabic.

U.S. and Armenia strengthen military ties

Associated Press Worldstream
March 31, 2004 Wednesday 3:10 PM Eastern Time

U.S. and Armenia strengthen military ties

YEREVAN, Armenia

The United States and Armenia strengthened military cooperation on
Wednesday, and a U.S. officer involved in planning for a major
realignment of American forces abroad said servicemen from the former
Soviet republic will soon be in Iraq.

The Armenian parliament ratified an agreement setting rules for the
presence of NATO forces on its soil under the Western alliance’s
Partnership for Peace program, which involves nonmembers in NATO
exercises and other activities.

Meanwhile, the an office on military cooperation has opened at the
U.S. Embassy in Armenia to handle military aid and training as well
as humanitarian aid to the small country in the Caucasus – a
strategically important region bordered by Russia, NATO-member Turkey
and U.S. foe Iran.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler said Armenian peacekeepers
have done a good job in Kosovo and that the United States is proud to
have the country’s support in the fight against terrorism. Kohler
said Armenian servicemen will soon take part in what he called the
restoration of Iraq, adding that the countries are discussing the
deployment of Armenian sappers there.

Kohler, the European Command’s point man on planning for force
reconfiguration, gave assurances that the United States does not plan
to base forces in neighboring Azerbaijan – Armenia’s foe after a
six-year war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that ended with an
uneasy cease-fire in 1994.

The U.S. Defense Department said last December the United States was
considering cutting and reconfiguring U.S. forces in Europe as part
of a broader effort to restructure the military for 21st century
threats, and there has been speculation the shift could bring more
U/S, military activity to former Soviet satellites and republics.

U.S. Deputy secretary of state praises Azerbaijan cooperation

Associated Press Worldstream
March 27, 2004 Saturday 10:22 AM Eastern Time

U.S. Deputy secretary of state praises Azerbaijan cooperation

by AIDA SULTANOVA; Associated Press Writer

BAKU, Azerbaijan

A top U.S. official thanked Azerbaijan on Saturday for its support in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and reiterated that the United States has no
plans to establish military bases in the Caucasus Mountain nation.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said cooperation in Iraq
and Afghanistan, where Azerbaijan has sent peacekeepers, was proof of
a good military relationship between the United States and the mostly
Muslim former Soviet republic.

Armitage, who met with President Ilham Aliev, said in comments before
leaving the country that they had not discussed military bases
because the United States has “no desire” to establish bases in

The visit came amid continued planning for a global realignment of
U.S. forces that could result in more U.S. military activity in
former republics and satellites of the Soviet Union.

Armitage, who also met with opposition leaders, reiterated U.S.
concerns about what they say is a crackdown on dissent and
independent media. But he did not play up the problems, saying that
Aliev agrees there must be independent media.

He said that “the human rights situation is certainly not as good as
it could or should be. But it’s not a permanent situation and we have
no doubt that it will change, change for the better.”

Armitage, who arrived in Azerbaijan late Friday from neighboring
Armenia, said that a settlement of the persistent conflict between
the two countries over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave cannot be imposed
from above by outside forces.

“It has to be a lasting and durable solution, and it has to be
something the two sides agree on,” he said. He said an international
mediating group that includes Russia and the United States “has some
new ideas” on the issue, but did not reveal them.

In the early 1990s, Armenian-backed forces drove Azerbaijan’s army
out of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave within
Azerbaijan, in a war that killed 30,000 people and left about 1
million homeless.

A cease-fire was signed in 1994, but no agreement has been reached on
the territory’s final status and the uneasy truce is broken by
sporadic bursts of gunfire and marred by mutual recriminations.

BAKU: Azeri officer needs more experienced Hungarian lawyer

Azeri officer needs more experienced Hungarian lawyer

Zerkalo, Baku
23 Mar 04

The issue of defending the senior lieutenant of the Azerbaijani armed
forces, Ramil Safarov, who is being charged with killing an Armenian
officer, is still on the agenda. Lawyer Elcin Usubov visited him in
Budapest last week. Our correspondent met Usubov yesterday and asked
him to talk about the results of his visit to the Hungarian capital.

To recap, the Safarovs have authorized Usubov to defend their son’s
interests and carry out all the necessary procedures.

According to Usubov, before his visit to Budapest, he was fully
unaware of the functions of Ramil Safarov’s lawyer. Under Hungarian
law, only local lawyers can defend people charged with committing a
crime on Hungarian territory. Usubov said that although he spent four
days in Budapest and worked together with Ramil Safarov’s Hungarian
lawyer, Peter Zalay, he still has many questions about his
functions. Meanwhile, he said that nobody in Hungary questioned his
status as Safarov’s lawyer.

[Passage omitted: Usubov spent a lot of time on solving technical

But the main thing Usubov managed to do was a meeting with
Safarov. According to the lawyer, his client feels better, is actively
cooperating with the investigation, is in high spirits and has a calm
attitude to all the actions against him. Usubov said that Safarov
testified twice at the beginning of the investigation and his
psycho-neurological state was examined. Different checkups are
currently under way.

Usubov failed to meet the investigator dealing with the Safarov case
in Budapest. He was on leave. However, the Azerbaijani lawyer said
that the main investigative measures had been completed. But we cannot
speak about a specific date for the full completion of the

Talking about the Hungarian lawyer, Usubov said that Peter Zalay’s
services can satisfy Azerbaijan at the current stage. But our lawyer
thinks that the Azerbaijani government should take steps to strengthen
the Azerbaijani serviceman’s defence by involving more experienced
lawyers in this work.

National Youth Center Calls on NKR Prez t0 Release Samvel Babayan


YEREVAN, March 22 (Noyan Tapan). The “National Youth Center” public
organization sent an open letter to President of NKR Arkadi Ghukasian,
in which it calls on to set free Samvel Babayan, a lieutenant-general
sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. Condemning the attempt upon the
life of the President of NKR, which took place on March 22 2000, the
organization expresses anxiety in connection which such attitude to
Samvel Babayan, a national hero, who has a great contribution to the
formation of the army and has rendered exceptional services to the
motherland. As Norayr Norikian, the Chairman of the “National Youth
Center,” announced during the March 22 meeting at the “Azdak” club of
the “Constitutional Right” Union, the organization is independent, it
doesn’t carry out the state order and considers the problem
exceptionally from moral point of view. He menioned that the warlike
hysteria of Azerbaijan, the destructive position occupied by it in the
issue of the settlement of the Karabakh conflict show the intention of
this country to solve the Karabakh problem by means of war. According
to Norikian, keeping of the national hero in arrest is unacceptable in
such conditions. Norayr Norikian said that after receiving the answer
from Arkadi Ghukasian the “National Youth Center” will as well send an
open letter to RA President Robert Kocharian. The members of the
organization will as well apply to MPs. Starting from today the
members of the organization have begun collection of signatures in
favor of releasing Samvel Babayan.

Moscow Needs No Records

A1 Plus | 21:09:15 | 22-03-2004 | Social |


Today, Bruce Khlebnikov-Hatsagortsyan, 14, beat a record by pulling bus with
his long hair for three meters.{BR}

The show was staged by our compatriot Levon Manukyan who is a member of
Russian State Duma.

When Bruce was six years old, he pulled a car with his teeth, the boy’s
mother Nelli Khlebnukova says. “I realized that was God’s gift. God is
always with him, but every time I anxious about him. This is the 26th time
his success has been put in Guinness World Records”, she says.

Nelli Khlebnikova said Bruce is not going to beat records in Moscow where he
is merely being said “thank you” and nobody care of his problems.

Case on Incident in “Triumph” Cafe Brought From Prosecutor’s Office


March 22, 2004
Noyan Tapan

The examination on the case of the March 12 incident in the “Triumph”
cafe was brought from the Prosecutor’s Office of Yerevan to the
Prosecutor General’s Office of RA, the preliminary examination on the
case continues. On March 22, Gurgen Ambarian, the press secretary of
the RA Prosecutor General, said this to Noyan Tapan. A criminal case
on three articles of the RA Criminal Code, 112, 235 and 285:
“premediated infliction of serious physical injuries”, “illegal
keeping of arms”, “hooliganism,” was instituted on the fact.

Melkonian students threatened with expulsion

Melkonian students threatened with expulsion

Phileleftheros daily – Friday, March 18, 2004

By Christina Kyriakidou

NICOSIA – Melkonian students are facing the risk of being expelled,
according to Masis der Parthogh, the vice president of the school’s
Alumni Association.

In statements he made to this newspaper, Mr. der Parthogh argued that
officials of the Armenian General Benevolent Union based in New York,
have sent warning messages that they would expel any school children
who take part in any activities or demonstrations opposed to the
Melkonian’s closure.

The same students, however, seem fearless of any repercussions as
yesterday and the day before they stayed away from classes.
Furthermore, they are getting ready to take part in a large
demonstration on Wednesday organized by the Alumni and the Parents
Association. As said by the vice president of the Alumni, whose
daughter is also a student at the school, the children have lost their
will to attend classes, as they know that in fifteen months’ time,
their school will be shut down. He added, however, that the Armenian
community of Cyprus will not give up so easily and is resorting to use
every legal means possible to overturn the decision made by the AGBU a
few days ago.

Meanwhile, according to our information, the Alumni Association
recently sent a letter to the Presidential Palace, protesting the fact
that the agency that is handling the public relations for AGBU, has
strong ties to a leading political state official.

As reported earlier, the Union’s decision is to terminate the
Melkonian’s operations in June 2005, with the excuse that “the
educational institute no longer corresponds to the challenges within
the parameters of the present day mission of the Armenian people.”

Also, one of the rumoured scenarios is for the Boarding House to close
in June 2005 and the Melkonian to continue as a day school for
Armenian Cypriots. This will result in the student body dropping from
206 today to only 60 (as the remainder come from foreign countries and
until now reside in the boarding house). Based on the projections of
the community, the drastic reduction of the number of students will
lead to a final closure of the school and sale of the 125,000 sq.m. of
land that comprises this property.

(Translated from Greek)