Humanitarian leaders to gather in Armenia for Aurora Prize ceremony

On Saturday, April 23, 100 LIVES and the Aurora Prize will host the Aurora Dialogues – a series of insightful discussions between leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and media experts on some of today’s most pressing global challenges.
Through a series of keynote speeches, panel discussions and Q&A sessions, the Aurora Dialogues will encourage conversations that explore the importance of learning from the past, acting in the present, and fostering a better future. Discussion topics will include the state of humanitarian issues, the global refugee crisis, the role of women in the humanitarian community and the role of media in bringing humanitarian crises to the world’s attention, among others.
The Aurora Dialogues will allow the distinguished humanitarian guests who will be in Armenia for the events marking the presentation of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity to exchange knowledge and views on the best ways to address these challenges. In keeping with the spirit of the Aurora Prize, the Aurora Dialogues will shine a light on the people who are working hard to address today’s atrocities in a real and substantial manner.
Discussions will be made available via live stream in English, French, Russian and Armenian.
100 LIVES Co-Founder and Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member Vartan Gregorian will open the Aurora Dialogues, welcoming guests and outlining the importance of the discussions.
The four primary Aurora Dialogues panel discussions will focus on:
  • The Global State of Humanitarian Issues: The session will open with the findings of a specially commissioned survey, The Humanitarian Index. Conducted in six markets, the Humanitarian Index will reveal public attitudes towards humanitarian issues, priorities and accountability. The panel will then discuss topics informed by the research, including global perceptions on the refugee crisis, the responsibility to protect, support needs in the short- and medium-term, and long-term strategies for combatting humanitarian issues. Panel participants will analyze where global humanitarian “hot spots” are, and discuss what can be done to bring effective assistance to these areas.
  • Saving the World’s Refugees, Syria and Beyond: Gareth Evans, President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group and Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member, will give a keynote speech on his pioneering work with the Responsibility to Protect commitment and his contributions to conflict prevention and resolution. The distinguished panel will then discuss the root causes of forced migration, assess what can be learnt from history, and discuss the ways in which the humanitarian community can work in collaboration with institutions to address these issues.
  • The Role of Women in the International Humanitarian Community: Led by Former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg, the panel will bring together a group of exceptional women with diverse expertise in the international humanitarian community. The session will assess women’s contribution to humanitarian discourse and the roles they can play in acting as agents for social change.
  • Shining a Light on the Crisis (The Role of Media in the International Community): Led by former ABC anchor Ted Koppel, the panel will discuss the important role of media in covering humanitarian crises, reporting ‘back home’, and bringing events to a wider audience. Participants will exchange views on the role played by media in raising awareness of humanitarian issues, shaping public opinion, highlighting the need for urgent response, and driving efforts to confront bad actors. Discussion will also look into the evolving media landscape, and the role of social media and the 24-hour news-cycle in the media’s ability to raise awareness of humanitarian crises.
The Yerevan 2016 Aurora Dialogues will be hosted at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (the Matenadaran). Home to one of the world’s richest depositories of medieval manuscripts and books spanning subjects from history and philosophy to medicine
The Matenadaran has been specifically chosen as the home of the inaugural Aurora Dialogues in honor of the past, present and future of intellectual discourse and debate – a location that encourages us to reflect on the foundations of humanitarian thought, and look to the future together.
Participants at the Aurora Dialogues include:
  • Marguerite Barankitse, Founder, Maison Shalom; Aurora Prize Finalist
  • Joyce Barnathan, President, International Center for Journalists
  • Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Human Rights Lawyer and Iran’s first female judge; Nobel Laureate; Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member
  • Enrique Eguren, President, Protection International
  • Gareth Evans, President Emeritus, International Crisis Group; Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member
  • Dr. Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist and women’s right advocate; Nobel Laureate; Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member
  • Syeda Ghulam Fatima, General Secretary, Bonded Labour Liberation Front; Aurora Prize Finalist
  • David Ignatius, Author; Columnist, The Washington Post
  • Hina Jilani, Former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member
  • Ted Koppel, Former ABC anchor
  • Dr. Josephine Kulea, Founder and Executive Director, Samburu Girls Foundation
  • Steve Kurkjian, Author; former Washington Bureau Chief and Founder of Investigative Column Spotlight, The Boston Globe
  • Dr. Edward Luck, Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs; Director, Specialization in International Conflict Resolution, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Dr. Steven Luckert, Senior Program Curator, Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus, Open Society Foundation
  • David Tolbert, President, International Center for Transitional Justice
  • Dr. James Smith, CEO and Founder, Aegis Trust
  • Nancy Soderberg, Former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Gillian Sorensen, Board Member, International Rescue Committee; Senior Advisor, United Nations Foundation

Approaches of the some EEU partners destructive: Armenian President

President Serzh Sargsyan received today the Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Board Tigran Sarkissian.

The President expressed concern with the destructive approaches of the some of the EEU partners and underscored that Armenia’s approaches have not changed and that our country will continue to undertake constructive steps emanating from our economic interests and aimed at the development of the Union.

The interlocutors discussed also issues related to the priorities of the EEU development, exchanged views on the economic relations with third countries and integration unions.

Lasting solution to the Karabakh conflict a priority: James Warlick

“The lasting solution to the Karabakh conflict is a priority for us,” US Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick said in an interview with the

“The attempts to violate the ceasefire are a cause of great concern for us, the clashes reported in January last year were unprecedented since the conclusion of the ceasefire agreement. The most worrisome are the losses suffered by the peaceful population, we condemn the use of heavy weapons,” Warlick said.

Ambassador Warlick spoke about the Royce-Sherman letter circulated in the US Congress. The letter co-signed by a number of Congressmen outlines a program of maintaining peace in Karabakh. Among the proposals is the installation of equipment at the frontline that would control the direction of firing, as well as the deployment of OSCE observers at the line of contact for better oversight of the ceasefire.

Mr. Warlick noted that “although the letter has not been finally confirmed, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs support this process targeted at the maintenance of peace.

“Our purpose is to work with the parties to reach a common ground,” Ambassador Warlick noted.

Female suicide bombers kill 22 at Nigerian mosque

Two female suicide bombers have attacked a mosque in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing 22 worshippers, emergency officials say, the BBC reports.

The first bomber struck inside the mosque, while the second blew herself up outside as survivors tried to flee, eye witnesses told the BBC.

Seventeen other people were wounded in the attack, an official told AFP.

Militant Islamists Boko Haram have often targeted the city in their seven-year insurgency.

Russia, Iran in talks on laying power line via Armenia

Russia’s energy ministry is in discussion with Iran on laying an electricity power line between the two countries via Azerbaijan and Armenia, Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted by RIA news agency as saying on Monday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hamid Chitchian, in Tehran, Novak said Iran and Russia can have constant exchange of electricity.

“We are seeking to lay an electricity power line between the two countries via Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia,” he said, adding that multilateral negotiations are underway to that end.

The Iranian Minister Chitchian told reporters that a joint meeting of officials from these countries is planned to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia, within the next few weeks to discuss and make a final decision on linking the power grids.

Back in December 2015, Iran, Russia, Armenia and Georgia reached a memorandum of understanding to synchronize their power grids by 2019, paving the way for electricity exchange between Tehran and Moscow as part of their expansive plans to boost cooperation in the post-sanctions era.

Atom Egoyan tells a tale of two genocides

By Curt Schleier

The director Atom Egoyan was in a good mood. And why not? He was comfortably ensconced in a posh Los Angeles hotel the morning after his latest film, “Remember,” received an enthusiastic reception at a Museum of Tolerance screening.

But his buzz was soon tempered as we discussed the film and I told him: “I can’t write that. And no, I can’t write that, either.”

The difficulty is that “Remember” is more than a thriller about an older survivor hunting the Nazi who killed his family. It is a film that also offers a “Sixth Sense,” “I see dead people” surprise, and some of what Egoyan told me gave away the whole movie.

But, he claimed, he can’t help himself. “I get so excited about the conversations people have watching the movie,” he said. “You have the tough job of trying to present it in a way that reveals nothing.”

Actually, no. Describing the film is not at all difficult. What is hard, though, is figuring out how it got made in the first place.

Zev Gutman (Christopher Plummer) lives in a nursing home. He suffers from dementia, and his wife passed away just a week ago. After the last shiva, his friend Max (Martin Landau) reminds him of a promise Zev made sometime in the past. When his wife died, Zev pledged he’d go out in search of, and kill, the sadistic Auschwitz guard who’d murdered their families. The guard had escaped and was living under the assumed identity of John Kurlander.

Max, confined to a wheel chair and on oxygen, can’t go himself. But, although weak of body, he’s strong of mind. And he’s written step-by-step instructions for Zev to follow when his memory fails. He’s also included a wad of cash for Zev’s use as he searches North America for the correct John Kurlander of several possibilities on Max’s list. There are adventures along the way: He’s almost caught at a Canadian border crossing; he runs into an anti-Semitic state trooper, and he murders someone.

The film is tautly written, and performances are excellent.

Still, you don’t have to be a Hollywood insider to figure out why “Remember” was not a likely candidate for the silver screen. Most obviously, it features old people. Not that old-people movies don’t occasionally break through — witness “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” — but typically those films are uplifting. This is a Holocaust movie.

There’s another, perhaps more subtle, factor at play. Egoyan, 55, was nominated for two Academy Awards — best adapted screenplay and best director — for one of his early films, “The Sweet Hereafter.” Many of his subsequent films did well, too, including “Chloe,” his 2009 erotic thriller.

But since then, well, not so much. His last two films, “The Captive” and “Devil’s Knot,” barely raised critical or financial blips. So logic — or at least my logic — would dictate that you look for a property with a greater chance of financial success.

Not Egoyan: “You have to go with the projects that are unique. I’ve always been drawn to projects that have some element of risk. Here in my hotel room in Los Angeles, I look out the window and I see billboards for films based on tried-and-true formulas. When you are seized by a project that is original, telling a story that hasn’t been told before, that is entertaining and provocative and will lead to a discussion, of course you will take that.”

But there are a couple of additional elements that led to Egoyan’s decision. One was timing: If he didn’t tell this story now, it might never be told. The Nazis and their hunters are dying, and the memory of their atrocities is fading.

Egoyan pointed to the trial of Reinhold Hanning, the SS sergeant on trial in Germany for complicity in the death of 170,000 people at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He is 94, and all the witnesses are in their 90s as well. So this may be the last significant Nazi trial.

Timing also became a factor in the casting. Maximilian Schell (one of the stars of “Judgment at Nuremberg”) was hired to play a role, but he died before filming began. A veteran German actor took ill and was unable to take part.

But perhaps the most important reason for Egoyan tackling this project is his affinity for the material. He was born in Egypt of Armenian parents. He was named Atom in honor of the first nuclear power plant in that country. His sister’s birth name was Molecule.

“That was later changed to Eve, so we became Atom and Eve, so we stood out like a sore thumb,” he said.

In 1962, the rise of Arab nationalism in Egypt, where the Armenian community was targeted, forced his parents to leave. They ended up in Victoria, British Columbia, where, like many first-generation immigrants, Egoyan felt out of place.

“We were the only Armenian family there. I was always aware of being an outsider. I wanted nothing more than to assimilate. There was nothing that gave me a sense of pride [in being Armenian]. I wanted to avoid and escape from that.

“That changed when I went to university and met other Armenian students and became active in the movement to figure out what we are going to do with this history. I became consumed by that.”

Egoyan’s paternal grandparents were survivors of the genocide, a genocide that has never been acknowledged by the Ottoman Empire or Turkey. “That’s why this story [‘Remember’] had such a strong appeal to me,” Egoyan explained. “It was about the denial of justice. It is what Max feels. He’s at the end of his life, and he feels this sense of rage, this sense of injustice.”

He notes that, growing up, “I probably knew more about the Holocaust than the Armenian genocide.” But the knowledge of it “was buried inside me, because the sense of trauma was transmitted to me in some way. And that’s why I was drawn to this film.”

Karabakh status quo in no one’s interest, Nalbandian & Mogherini say

 

 

 

The European Union unequivocally supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group toward the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict on the basis of the Madrid Principles proposed by the Co-Chairs, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said at a joint press conference with visiting High Representative of the ‪‎European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica‪ Mogherini. Summing up the results of the High Representative to Armenia, Minister Nalbandian said Yerevan and Brussels share the opinion that the maintenance of the status quo is in no one’s interest.

“The non-constructive steps targeted at aggravating the situation, the attempts to distort the negotiation process, the refusal to create a mechanism of investigation of border incidents and the belligerent rhetoric contribute to the maintenance of the status quo,” Edward Nalbandian stated.

Federica‪ Mogherini noted, in turn, that the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict is a priority for the EU, and added that it should be solved exceptionally in a peaceful way in line with the norms of international law. The High Representative reiterated the European Union’s support for the Minsk Group efforts and commended the recent steps targeted at easing of tensions. “It’s necessary to refrain from bellicose rhetoric and growth of violence, which are not conducive to the peaceful settlement process,” she said.

Speaking about the relations with the European Union, Minister Nalbandian said the establishment of strong partnership benefits not only the two patties, but also the region as a whole. “Armenia is ready to reinforce and expand the comprehensive cooperation in all spheres of reciprocal interest,” Edward Nalbandian said.

Impressed by her first visit to Armenia, Federica‪ Mogherini said the EU wants to be a good partner. “This cooperation is a testament to the fact that the EU is a primary trade partner for Armenia even at times of hardship; it is the first investor in Armenia and the first grant provider. But it’s not only about money,” Mogherini said.

At a meeting in Yerevan the Armenian Foreign Minister and the EU High Representtaive discussed the situation in the Middle East, and namely Syria, the mobilization of the efforts of the international community in their joint fight against terrorism.

“Armenia has provided refuge to about 20 thousand Syrian refugees, thus being the third in Europe with the number of migrants hosted,” the Minister said and added that “Armenia appreciates the possible EU assistance in that direction.”

The implementation of the agreement on Iran’ nuclear program was also on the agenda of the talks, Edward Nalbandian said. To conclude with, the Armenian Foreign Minister stressed that “the Armenia-EU relations are on a high level and the perspectives are promising.”

Harvard to host symposium on “Armenian and Jewish Armed Resistance to Genocide”

Massis Post – Four outstanding scholars and researchers will speak at “From Musa Dagh to the Warsaw Ghetto: Armenian and Jewish Armed Resistance to Genocide,” on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. at Harvard University, Science Center Auditorium D, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA.

The featured speakers are Eric Bogosian, actor, playwright, and author of Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide; Dr. Deborah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History and Director, Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University; Dr. Dikran Kaligian, Managing Editor, Armenian Review, and author of Armenian Organization and Ideology Under Ottoman Rule, 1908-1914; and Dr. James R. Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. Marc A. Mamigonian, Director of Academic Affairs at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), will serve as moderator.

This special symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University, the Mashtots Chair in Armenian Studies at Harvard University, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served during an intermission.

Professor Salo Baron famously bemoaned what he called the “lachrymose” approach to Jewish history—a focus on powerlessness, homelessness, victimhood, and catastrophe. As the study of the Holocaust has developed we know that the image of the Jews of Europe as sheep to the slaughter is at best inaccurate. There were many instances of organized resistance (ghetto fighters and forest partisans), and of retaliation (the killing of SS prisoners) at the end of World War II. The same situation obtains for the study of the Armenian Genocide of 1915: as well as exploring the events and commemorating the martyrs, we now know much more than before about self-defense (at Van, for instance) and retribution (Operation Nemesis).

The Armenian Genocide was a precursor to the Holocaust: the Nazis admired both the Ottoman “final solution” of the Armenian Question and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s subsequent corporate nationalist régime, which completed that process and retroactively cleansed the historical record. In the interwar years and during the Holocaust, Jews knew of the Armenians’ fate and compared it to their own, even drawing inspiration during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, Franz Werfel’s novel about a desperate act of Armenian self-defense a generation before.

Although there are many affinities between Armenians and Jews there are also historical and present geo-political factors that divide them. The conference is intended not only to shed light on the modern historical affinities, but to bring students, faculty, and community members into a positive dialogue about the future. The resistance of under-armed and outnumbered civilians to the overwhelming force of totalitarian states with genocidal ideologies also raises important questions about the relation of the individual to the system; the nature of the rule of law, and of international relations; strategies for overcoming conformity, passivity, and fear; and the parameters of human moral responsibility. All of these are as immediate now as they were in the two fateful conflicts of the past century.