Asbarez: Manoogian School Titans Women’s Volleyball Has Another Historic Run

The AGBU MDS Titans 2022-23 Varsity Girls Volleyball team during a match. Danielle B. Robinson is seen shooting the ball

The AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School’s Titans 2022-23 Varsity Girls Volleyball team earned significant accolades through its accomplishments during the sports season this past fall, kicking off historic and award winning seasons for several of the school’s varsity teams.

The Titan Varsity Girls played all season, every point, every play with only eight players. One of those players was senior and co-captain Danielle B. Robinson who plays the Middle Hitter position.

AGBU Titan Danielle B. Robinson

Danielle B. Robinson has attended AGBU since the 2nd grade and became interested in volleyball in 9th grade. Volleyball became of great interest to Danielle the more she played. She took her athletics to the next level when she started playing Club Volleyball for Supernova Allstars Volleyball Club in late 2021.

Between playing for her school team and her club team, Danielle was able to elevate her level of play pretty quickly. There’s no question that her love of the game was her motivation, as between school and club play there were nearly nine months a year of practices, games, and travel tournaments.

The team started the season a little slow, losing their first few matches. However, they quickly acclimated to each other and became a sensational team of young ladies, lead by Head Coach Mike Ter Minassian and Assistant Coach Rodney Hairapetian. The AGBU MDS Titan Varsity Girls volleyball team went on to win 16 straight games with a league record of 9-0 leading into the CIF Southern Section Division 9 championship game versus Excelsior Charter.

Danielle B. Robinson during a home game Danielle B. Robinson shoots the ball during a match Danielle B. Robinson shoots the ball over the net during a home game

This was an incredibly exciting time for them as they packed the AGBU Nazarian Center Gym to capacity to play for the CIF Southern Section Division 9 Championship. There was an undeniable electricity running through the sports program as the girls were being recognized for already qualifying for the CIF State Championships. They ultimately lost the Championship game to the tough Exclesior Charter team.

The 2022-23 Titans Varsity Girls Volleyball team have achieved the most success as girls volleyball team at AGBU in over 20 years, and possibly ever. They finished the season with an overall record of 19-6 and a league record of 9-1. They qualified for the CIF State Championships for the first time in school history and were named CIF Division 9 runner-ups.

A social media post congratulating the AGBU MDS Titans 2022-23 Varsity Girls Volleyball team for their accomplishments through9out the season

Danielle was named Independence League MVP, Team MVP, Team Best offense, de Toledo Tournament MVP, and All CIF Southern Section First Team. Danielle was accepted to eight universities including Cal Lutheran, Point Loma Nazarene, University of Texas – San Antonio, as well as several California State universities. Danielle will be furthering her volleyball career in college with aspirations of playing at the Division II level. It was certainly a sports year to remember at AGBU MDS.

At least 5 members of the press covering Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict targeted by Pegasus spyware: report

May 25 2023

Stockholm, May 25, 2023—In response to a report released Thursday by a group of rights organizations alleging that Pegasus spyware was used to surveil at least five Armenian members of the press who covered the country’s military conflict with Azerbaijan, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Today’s report is yet another deeply disturbing reminder of the immense danger posed by Pegasus and other spyware used to target journalists,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities should allow transparent inquiries into the targeting of Armenian journalists with Pegasus, and NSO Group must offer a convincing response to the report’s findings and stop providing its technologies to states or other actors who target journalists.”

The report, “Hacking in a war zone: Pegasus spyware in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict,” identified at least 12 people whose devices were infected by Pegasus, spyware produced by the Israeli company NSO Group. Many of the infections clustered around the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and its subsequent escalations.

The report was published Thursday, May 25, by the rights groups Access Now, Amnesty International, and Citizen Lab, the Armenian digital emergencies group CyberHUB-AM, as well as independent mobile security researcher Ruben Muradyan.

The targets included Armenian human rights activists, academics, and state officials, two media representatives who requested to be kept anonymous, and three named journalists:

  • Karlen Aslanyan, a reporter with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Radio Azatutyun
  • Astghik Bedevyan, a reporter with Radio Azatutyun
  • Samvel Farmanyan, co-founder of the now-defunct independent broadcaster ArmNews TV

The report says its authors found “substantial evidence” suggesting that Azerbaijan authorities purchased access to Pegasus, and that the targets would have been of intense interest to Azerbaijan. The targets were also critical of Armenia’s government, which is believed to have previously used another spyware product.

NSO Group previously told CPJ that it licenses Pegasus to fight crime and terrorism, stating that it investigates “all credible claims of misuse and take[s] appropriate action,” including shutting down a customer’s access to the software.

CPJ has documented the grave threat posed to journalists by spyware, and joined with other rights groups to issue recommendations to policymakers and companies to combat the use of spyware against the media, including by imposing bans on technology and vendors implicated in human rights abuses.

Azerbaijani journalists Sevinj Vagifgizi and Khadija Ismayilova were previously confirmed to have had their devices infected with Pegasus, while dozens of other prominent Azerbaijani journalists featured on a leaked list of potential Pegasus targets analyzed by the collaborative investigation Pegasus Project in 2021.

CPJ emailed NSO Group, the National Security Service and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Armenia, and the State Security Service and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.

Film: UTA to duet with Playtime on ‘Monsieur Aznavour’ starring Tahar Rahim (exclusive)

Screen Daily

UTA Independent Film Group has boarded Playtime’s buzzy upcomimg biopic Monsieur Aznavour. starring Tahar Rahim, to lead on US sales.

The film about the legendary French singer Charles Aznavour also stars Bastien Bouillon and Marie-Julie Baup. 

Mehdi Idir and French rap artist Grand Corps Malade direct following the duo’s hit films Step by Step and School Life. T

The producers are prolific French producers Eric and Nicolas Altmayer of Mandarin & Compagnie and Jean-Rachid’s Kallouche Cinema.

The €26m production starts principal photography on May 30 in the Paris region before heading to backlots in Sofia in September and a three-month shoot across the globe with an expected delivery in spring 2024.

“Everyone knows Charles Aznavour. His tunes have crossed generations,” said Mandarin’s Eric Altmayer. ”The film is filled with adrenaline and it’s a real priority for us.”

Monsieur Aznavour follows the famed Armenian-born French singing sensation who sang in 10 languages from his humble beginnings to his rise to fame and from Paris to New York.

Playtime will handle sales for the title outside of the US. “With Tahar Rahim’s track record as an actor and his capacity to transform himself like he did in The Serpent or The Prophet, we feel that this is the type of role that could bring him all the way to the Oscars,” said Playtime’s Nicolas Brigaud-Robert. 

Playtime is in Cannes with Competition titles Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses and Catherine Corsini’s Homecoming as well as Erwan Le Duc’s Critics’ Week feature No Love Lost.

In Cannes, UTA Independent Film Group is also co-repping US sales with CAA Media Finance on two titles: Todd Haynes’ Competition selection May December (Rocket Science has international) and  Elizabeth Banks/John C Reilly AI thriller Dreamquil on which Hanway has interrnational. 

Armenpress: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy to attend Hiroshima G7 summit, new sanctions against Russia expected – Reuters




YEREVAN, MAY 19, ARMENPRESS. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will attend the Group of Seven (G7) Hiroshima summit this weekend, Reuters reported citing a Ukrainian security official.

Zelenskiy will attend the gathering on Sunday, the third and final day, two officials who declined to be identified told Reuters.

"Very important things will be decided there and it is therefore the presence of our president that is absolutely essential in order to defend our interests," Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, told state television.

New sanctions targeting Russia are expected to be announced by G7 leaders, according to Reuters.

Earlier on Friday the G7 leaders laid wreaths in Hiroshima, a city that, along with Nagasaki, was destroyed by a U.S. nuclear attack 78 years ago that ended WWII.

Besides announcing new Russia sanctions, the G7 leaders are also expected to debate strategy on more than year-long conflict that shows no signs of easing.

Britain will announce a ban on Russian diamonds and imports of metals from Russia including copper, aluminium and nickel in support for Ukraine, it said in a statement.

Britain will also target an additional 86 people and companies from Putin's military industrial complex, in addition to those involved in the energy, metals and shipping industries, it said.

Europe will also restrict sales of Russian diamonds.

The United States is set to add 70 entities to its export blacklist, and to expand its sanctions authority to 300 entities as well as new sectors of the Russian economy, a senior U.S. administration official said.

AW: Meet the author of Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party

Vanda Ayrapetyan, author of Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party

Vanda Ayrapetyan is not just an all-around fabulous human, but also a corporate banker who writes children’s books in her spare time. A force to be reckoned with, Ayrapetyan is filled with enthusiasm and zest for life. Her adorable children’s book Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party, which was published in 2020, offers life lessons and highlights a popular Armenian tradition with vivid illustrations.

Talar Keoseyan (T.K.): Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born? What are your fondest childhood memories?

Vanda Ayrapetyan (V.A.): I was born in Vanadzor, Armenia. I’m very proud of that fact. I always go back and visit when I go to Armenia. I was only a year old when we emigrated to America. We settled in Hollywood and then the San Fernando Valley. I say I did my adulting on the east coast. I went to school at George Washington University and then went to New York. My parents were questioned by people since it wasn’t that common at that time. When I was on the east coast, I met so many people and learned about new cultures. I asked for a transfer back to Los Angeles, because I missed my family and the accessibility to Armenian culture. In DC and NY, you have to seek out Armenian culture. I missed having a piece of Armenia in a big city. I grew up in Hollywood in a building where everyone was Armenian, and we would play outside. My grandfather made us a table, and we would have picnics. We would go and bring things from our homes like tomatoes, cheese, bread, and this was our picnic. We connected personally. We were outside and had to use our imagination. During Christmas, we would have a visit from Santa Claus. It was our neighbor’s friend, and he would come on Christmas morning and would give us gifts that our parents had given him. They were such fond memories. My sister Ani and I loved those traditions. We also loved how our mom would take us on public transportation, and we would have field trips that always ended at the bookstore. She wanted us to have a love of books. She felt the magic of books and wanted us to experience that as well.

T.K.: What was your inspiration behind Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party?

V.A.: I’ve been in finance for the last 10 years. I always joke that if you get creative in finance, you would end up in jail. I’ve always had a creative streak in me, having grown up with the arts. I had a knack and a passion for storytelling. Children’s books have a lot of soul. I wanted to do storytelling but with children’s books, because it’s less inhibited. You can go wild with your imagination. I’ve always had dreams. In my twenties, I had a series of dreams, and I would see a very active child that had a passion for art. The name Audrina even came to me in a dream. The dream was the inspiration for the main character, and I wanted to infuse her love of art into the story. I was once talking with a friend about dreams that we have as youngsters and how we sometimes lose sight of them due to societal impositions. I used our tradition of atamhatik as an example; it’s as conditional as it gets. I thought I’m going to use the tradition of atamhatik with a whimsical angle and use the personification of the heart, who was this witty, sassy outspoken character. I wanted a cultural angle with my Armenian identity, but this topic could be impactful on a soul level to everyone.

Handmade Audrina character set by artist Tsovinar from Armenia

T.K.: How has the book been received by children? 

V.A.: It’s interesting when I do the readings, the children always gravitate to a character. For instance, Coco the dog is very relatable to children. Kids jump in and give their experiences with pets. The book contains primarily adult characters, but Audrina is the main character, as well as her heart and her sidekick Coco. It symbolizes innocence. Most adults come to an atamhatik with wanting the baby to choose something they want. I added Coco because he says that he just wants Audrina happy. The children love the heart and how the heart guides Audrina. The children love the characters and artwork, but adults get the message of the book. It took me four attempts to find an illustrator. I had to do character designs, and everything was from a color perspective. For example, Audrina’s purple dress represents transformation. She has a hummingbird on her dress. Every time I’ve had a major decision to make, a hummingbird has been present. The mother is wearing an Armenian pomegranate. The blocks spell HYE. The Armenian Genocide memorial flower is on an easel to pay homage to our history and ancestors, as well as represent a bridge for our younger generation not to forget their roots. There is a lot of symbolism. The grandparents are my parents, aged. Coco is Nanor Balabanian’s dog. I had the image of the dog drawn out and was going to name him Zeus. It wasn’t clicking. My friend sent me an Instagram story of Nanor and Coco. I sent Nanor a message and showed her the drawing. I asked if I could use the name, and she said yes.

Vanda Ayrapetyan at a book reading of Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party

T.K.: Are there any other books you’re thinking of writing?

V.A.: I have played the piano since childhood. I was at Ms. Vardui Baghdasaryan’s 25th anniversary concert. She was my teacher for many years. I realized that my parents gave me the gift of music. Music allows you to see the beauty in the world even amid destruction. The first story I had was with Audrina seeing music, and she would paint the piano keys in different colors. I’ve learned so much about human psychology in my travels. I want to remember the connections I’ve had. I’m also hoping to work on a collection of all the deeply impactful people that I’ve met. For me, it’s the power of the universe, God, that has me connecting to people. I like conversing with people, and it’s so limited nowadays. But if you’re open to it, God is sending you guidance. I have more stories to write about, not limited to Audrina.

T.K.: What advice would you give to someone wanting to publish?

V.A.: I’m very happy to mentor people through it. But be honest with yourself. What is your purpose or intent? If it’s for monetary reasons, forget it. I’ve done self publishing to have my personal and artistic expressions honored. I have a full time and demanding job as a corporate banker, but I would write at 3 a.m. or on the weekends. I wanted to create something that would leave a legacy. Creating something is so magical. It’s going to take a lot of time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It took me about a year of research. Reach out to people for guidance. Utilize other people’s research. Community is so important. Pay it forward. Be willing to help. It’s an exciting journey.

T.K.: Is there anything else you would like to share?

V.A.: Anyone can create. It’s a matter of expressing yourself. I never thought I would be in corporate banking. I wanted to be an international journalist or diplomat and do conflict resolution. But I’ve learned that you don’t get to have one label that defines you. You can be whatever you want. You have the magic to create whatever you want. I’ve met the most incredible people in my corporate career. You could do a balance. It took two years to complete my book. I took the time and enjoyed the journey. Don’t let one career define you. Show your layers.

Alen Margaryan (1999-2020)

I also want to add that the book is dedicated to one of our fallen soldiers, Alen Margaryan. Alen was only 21 years old when he died. He had a deep curious nature and had traveled to more than 21 countries. At the age of 19, he was teaching film at the TUMO Center and had volunteered with underprivileged children in Armenia’s villages. He was accepted to Boston University to major in sociology and education with the hopes of returning to Armenia. He was immortalized as a “Hero of Artsakh.”  

Ayrapetyan lives in Los Angeles and continues her job in corporate banking, while organizing local book readings for Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party.

Proceeds from the book have previously been donated to the Children of Armenia Fund for the construction of a new library in the village of Debet in Lori, Armenia. With matched employer funds, the donation reached $10,000.

Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party is available on Amazon and at Abril Books.

Talar Keoseyan is a mother, educator and writer. Talar’s book called Mom and Dad, Why Do I Need to Know My Armenian Heritage? is available on Amazon. Tigran’s Song is available at Abril Bookstore. She has been an educator for 25 years and resides in Los Angeles, CA. She can be reached at

Antony Blinken Dials Azerbaijan President To Discuss Reopening Of Lachin Corridor

May 1 2023
US News


| Written By

Vidit Baya

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a telephonic conversation with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev deliberated upon the significance of restoring the Lachin Corridor for commercial and private vehicles, US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. "Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev today to underscore the importance of Azerbaijan-Armenia peace discussions and pledged continued US support. Secretary Blinken shared his belief that peace was possible," the statement read. 

The statement added, "he also expressed the United States’ deep concern that Azerbaijan’s establishment of a checkpoint on the Lachin Corridor undermines efforts to establish confidence in the peace process, and emphasized the importance of reopening the Lachin Corridor to commercial and private vehicles as soon as possible."

The press office of the President of Azerbaijan in a statement said, "President Ilham Aliyev noted [that] Azerbaijan supports the peace agenda and that Azerbaijan had been the initiator of starting peace treaty talks and normalisation of relations with Armenia."

The statement further read, "With respect to setting up the ‘Lachin’ checkpoint on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, President Ilham Aliyev said that the checkpoint had been set up in accordance with Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights and all international rules. The Azerbaijani President underlined that the aim was to ensure control rather than restrict movement as [the] passage is already allowed through the checkpoint."

Following a meeting with her Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan last Friday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna declared that Azerbaijan's installation of a checkpoint in the Lachin Corridor violates the existing agreements between Yerevan and Baku. On April 28, Armenia's Foreign Minister Mirzoyan said that since the Lachin Corridor issue had already been resolved by the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, Yerevan had no plans to discuss it with Baku.

On September 27, 2020, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh got worse. A joint statement on the complete cessation of hostilities was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on November 9, 2020. At that point, the parties halted at their positions, Baku took control of a number of neighbourhoods, and Russian troops were stationed along the contact line and in the Lachin Corridor.

Turkish intel agency MIT uses journalism to mask undercover agents, assets and informants

May 1 2023

Turkish intelligence agency MIT has been using journalism as a cover to infiltrate and collect intelligence in other countries, dispatching its agents and assets as reporters to engage in spying, several sources familiar with the modus operandi of MIT told Nordic Monitor.

“Mostly it was reporters who worked for state news agency Anadolu and Turkish Radio and Television [Türkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu, TRT] who were tapped as assets by MIT,” said one source who had served in a senior position in Turkish military intelligence. The source, who spoke anonymously for fear of repercussions from the Turkish government, said these reporters regularly filed reports and coordinated their work with their handlers.

Yahya Bostan, the news coordinator for Anadolu, is one of those who work for Turkish intelligence. He had previously worked as news coordinator for TRT News for four years between 2017 and 2021. Before moving to the state-funded media, he was employed by the Sabah newspaper, owned by the Turkish president’s family. Bostan often writes articles praising MIT in his weekly column for the Islamist Yeni Şafak daily.

Bostan was red flagged during a 2011-2014 terrorism probe into Iran’s Quds Force network in Turkey and listed as a suspect by prosecutors. He was put under surveillance and his phones were tapped by prosecutors who secured court warrants to determine Bostan’s clandestine connections. The investigation revealed he was regularly in contact with several high-profile Quds Force operatives. Prosecutors also discovered he was coordinating his activities with Nuh Yılmaz, a senior MIT official known for his anti-Israel and pro-mullah regime views who had worked for an Iranian-funded Turkish publication in the 1990s. The Quds Force probe was killed by the government of then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2014 after it exposed a number of senior officials’ links to Quds Force cells.


Judge’s warrant authorizing the wiretapping of Yahya Bostan’s phone in the IRGC Quds Force probe: 

“Assets in the opposition media are quite valuable in helping the intelligence agency run its influence campaign to shape the national debate around certain issues effectively,” said another source who asked that his name to be withheld for security reasons. The perceived opposition journalists run fewer risks for triggering red flags during clandestine work, the source underlined.

Documentary evidence and leaks in recent years revealed by Nordic Monitor have confirmed what the sources described, presenting a distinguishable pattern of this modus operandi.

Using journalism as a cover in overseas operations to gather intelligence is perhaps more valuable for the agency than using it for domestic operations in Turkey, where it has more resources and assets in friendly territory. Journalists’ access to foreign government institutions and officials as well as people and entities in the nongovernmental corporate and nonprofit sectors provides a valuable avenue for gathering intelligence for MIT.


Secret document filed by Turkish prosecutor Adem Özcan asking the the court to authorize a wiretap for Quds Force suspect Yahya Bostan: 

In many cases, press credentials were used to mask clandestine operations that would otherwise run the risk of exposure and trigger closer scrutiny by host countries’ intelligence services. In some cases journalists who want to register in host countries or with international organizations are required to provide credentials from Turkish embassy press sections, which come in handy for managing and coordinating MIT’s operations.

In one recent case, a MIT agent was caught in Ukraine in 2019 when he was posing as a journalist to monitor the extradition proceedings of Nuri Gökhan Bozkır, an ex-military officer and arms smuggler who provided arms to jihadists in Syria on behalf of the Erdogan government. During a hearing at an Ankara court on February 12, 2023 , Bozkır related how an intelligence officer showed up to a hearing in Kiev in 2019. When court officials questioned the agent’s credentials, he claimed to be a Turkish journalist but was later found to be an intelligence officer and was escorted from the courtroom.

In some cases, MIT also positions its agents as press attachés at Turkish embassies, with the foreign ministry providing them with diplomatic credentials. Swiss prosecutors exposed one such situation in 2018 when they issued an arrest warrant for Hacı Mehmet Gani, who worked as press attaché at the Turkish embassy in Bern. Gani and Hakan Kamil Yerge, second secretary at the embassy, were accused of orchestrating a plot to kidnap a businessman who was a critic of the Turkish president. The supposed diplomats fled Switzerland before the arrest warrants were served.

On the home front, MIT has aggressively been pursuing a public information campaign to impact the domestic agenda and create a narrative that would best serve the Islamist government of President Erdogan as well as its militant, neo-nationalist allies. During the two decades of Erdogan’s rule, MIT has taken this operation using journalism as a cover to a new level by overhauling what used to be a low-key press section and turning it into part of a psychological and influence operation (PSYOP) department, recruiting many reporters, photographers and social media influencers.

There is no single program at the agency that coordinates all the agents, assets and informants in media outlets. Instead, multiple departments at MIT have their own group of journalists to handle. Due to compartmentalization and separation on a strictly need-to-know basis at the agency, handlers of journalists for one department may not know which journalists work for another department. The entire picture of who’s who and who works for which department that uses undercover agents in the media is only for the eyes of the MIT chief, Hakan Fidan, an Erdogan confidant.

Only a fraction of MIT agents and assets have been exposed in recent years, and their identities were revealed thanks to court documents, leaks and whistleblowers. It represents only the tip of the iceberg and does not truly reveal the extent and depth of MIT operations in the journalism field.

Perhaps the most notorious case is that of Hayri Birler, who had worked for the Hürriyet. Milliyet and Turkish Daily News (later renamed the Hürriyet Daily News) dailies in Ankara in the 1980s and 1990s. He had been a MIT agent and worked undercover as a journalist for years before he was ordered to leave the media and serve as regional director for the agency in Turkey’s Diyarbakır province. He is now retired.

Nuh Yılmaz is another MIT agent who had worked in the US and Turkey as a journalist before he was appointed head of the agency’s press department in 2013. Yılmaz, a protégé of Fidan, was later promoted to the counterespionage department and plays an instrumental role in influence operations on behalf of the agency.

Yılmaz runs a number of agents, assets and informants in traditional Turkish media outlets as well as online news websites, some of which are obscure and serve to muddy the waters by floating conspiracy theories. The leaked emails of President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak revealed in 2016 that MIT was feeding information to his agents planted in the Sabah daily, owned by Erdogan’s family. Emails from 2012 showed that Abdurrahman Şimşek, Ferhat Ünlü and Nazif Karaman were in the loop and receiving information from the agency.

At the direction of the agency, this trio wrote a book in December 2018 on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated by Saudi government operatives at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. The information surrounding the murder was provided by MIT, which had bugged the consulate before sending Khashoggi and his Turkish fiancée there as part of the Erdogan government’s move to gain leverage over Saudi Arabia.

Ünlü wrote several books promoting MIT and how the agency has successfully completed espionage operations under Fidan. For several years now, Şimşek has been working with a team of MIT agents in hunting down investigative journalists who fled Turkey to escape wrongful imprisonment by the Erdogan regime. The secret photos, home addresses and daily routines of journalists in the US and Europe, apparently obtained as part of long-running surveillance programs, were published in the Sabah daily by Şimşek and his colleagues in the spy agency.

Another exposure of a MIT agent was made in 2011, when prosecutors investigated a series of terrorist attacks in Istanbul. The police detained dozens of people who were connected to the attacks. One of the detainees was a Turkish photojournalist named Mustafa Özer, who had long been working for Agence France-Presse (AFP). During police questioning Özer revealed his MIT identity and detailed the clandestine infiltration and intelligence-gathering operations he and MIT agents were involved in. He even revealed how MIT directed him to set up a fake news website to make the operations appear to be legitimate journalistic activity.

Hande Fırat, the Hürriyet daily’s Ankara bureau chief and anchor of a debate program on CNN Türk, is a MIT operative whose frequent visits to MIT headquarters were exposed in court records and reported on by Nordic Monitor. Her role in a 2016 coup attempt with a staged interview of Erdogan on FaceTime was revealed to be part of a false flag operation planned by the intelligence agency.

Fatih Altaylı, a TV host and editor-in-chief of the HaberTürk daily, has been revealed to be on MIT’s payroll for a long time. The revelation was made by Mehmet Eymür, a retired MIT official who served in senior positions in the agency’s special bureau and counterterrorism and operations departments for many years. According to him, Altaylı was recruited for his links to leftist groups and was regularly invited to MIT headquarters for debriefings and to receive new instructions.

“Altaylı was the number one agent of the MIT Istanbul Regional Directorate when I worked for the agency. He approached the agency [for recruitment] by revealing that he had special relations with some terrorist organizations,” Eymür said. The journalist was using the code name Siyah (Black), according to the intelligence agency’s records.

Tuncay Özkan, a former journalist who is now a lawmaker from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is another MIT agent who had for a long time used journalism as a cover. Thanks to his special ties to the agency, Özkan had quickly gone from being a reporter involved in clandestine operations in the 2000s, even running afoul of the criminal justice system, to being the owner of a TV network. Özkan is believed to be one of the Trojan horses in the opposition bloc who maintains close ties with his handler, Şenkal Atasagun, a former head of the intel agency and currently chief advisor to far-right leader Devlet Bahçeli.

A book he wrote titled “Mit’in Gizli Tarihi” (The Secret History of MIT), which was published in 2010, was a special project contracted by MIT to promote the agency.

Mehmet Faraç, who had worked for the leftist, nationalist Cumhuriyet daily until 2010, is reportedly another journalist who works for the intel agency. His links to the agency were revealed during the Ergenekon trials between 2009 and 2012 and were confirmed in November 2021 by Akın Atalay, the former chairman of the board at Cumhuriyet. He currently works for the far-right Yeniçağ news outlet.

The revelations made by two senior MIT officials, Erhan Pekçetin and Aydın Günel, who were captured by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah on August 4, 2017, also provided insight into journalists who work for the agency. Pekçetin was head of the department responsible for ethnic and separatist groups operating outside of Turkey’s borders, while Günel used to manage the human resources department at MIT, responsible for developing human intelligence in the field and bringing in new recruits and informants.

The two said MIT expanded its operations in media outlets after Fidan became the country’s top spy and transferred Yılmaz to the agency, which irritated career intelligence officials. Yılmaz had no intelligence background and had been red flagged for having worked for a radical, Iranian-funded publication in the 1990s as well as for his ties to the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH), a jihadist charity organization with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


Nevertheless, with support from Fidan and the government, Yılmaz was put in charge of running assets in Turkish media outlets. MIT officials also confirmed Fırat’s frequent visits to intelligence headquarters for briefings and debriefings.

According to MIT officials who had been exposed, Çetiner Çetin, a journalist working for Habertürk, and Cem Küçük, who works for the Türkiye newspaper and often appears as a commentator on Turkish TV, are also connected to the intelligence agency.

Unfortunately, there is no oversight of the intelligence agency by the Turkish parliament, and a committee established to oversee of the agency was rendered ineffective and has rarely convened in recent years. The opposition has also failed to raise the use of journalism as a cover for agents on various platforms, largely remaining silent about the revelations in recent years.

Turkish intelligence enjoys broad immunity under amended Turkish law thanks to the Erdogan government and acts with impunity even if it’s breaking existing laws. Erdogan protected Fidan in 2012 when prosecutors discovered that criminals who were terrorizing the streets of Istanbul were on the MIT payroll. In 2014, when MIT agents were busted near the Turkish-Syrian border while illegally trafficking arms for jihadist groups in Syria, Erdogan intervened again to kill the investigation.

US hosts Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks

May 2 2023 with AFP

The United States hosted negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday (1 May), seeking to quell recent tension over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The two sides have gone to war twice, in 1990 and 2020, leaving tens of thousands dead, and clashes regularly erupt over the territory, an Armenian-majority region inside Azerbaijan.

Tensions have spiked again this week after Azerbaijan announced it had set up a checkpoint on the Lachin Corridor, the only land link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking an angry response from Yerevan.

Armenia views the move as a violation of the cease-fire negotiated between the two sides.

On Sunday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a dinner with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.

The US diplomat then kicked off the expected four days of talks between the two sides Monday at a State Department facility outside Washington.

“The US is pleased to be hosting Foreign Minister Mirzoyan of Armenia and Foreign Minister Bayramov of Azerbaijan to facilitate negotiations this week, as they work together to pursue a peaceful future for the South Caucasus region,” said State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.

“The secretary believes that direct dialogue is key to resolving issues and reaching a lasting peace,” Patel added.

Blinken also spoke Sunday with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, expressing concerns about the checkpoint, which he said “undermines efforts to establish confidence in the peace process,” according to a State Department statement on their call.

“We have not parsed our words about the need for the free flow of traffic and people and commerce through the Lachin corridor,” said Patel.

Speaking on grounds of anonymity Monday, a US official said the talks aim more at “an agreement on normalization of relations” rather than a peace treaty.

“Our goal is to make sure the ministers can sit down and talk to each other,” the official said.

The United States expects the two sides to have a forthright and frank discussion, the official said, adding “all the issues are being discussed.”

Moscow brokered a ceasefire between Yerevan and Baku after the latest bout of fighting in 2020, and posted peacekeepers along the Lachin corridor.

With Russia bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkey, the United States and European Union have sought to steer a thaw in ties.

France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna visited the two countries last week aiming to cool down tensions over the border checkpoint.

She visited Baku and then Yerevan, urging Azerbaijan to restore “unhindered movement” through the Lachin corridor.

In Yerevan she said in a news conference that Armenia’s territorial integrity must be respected.

“The purpose of the visit is to reaffirm France’s support for the Armenian government and people,” Colonna said.

But Azerbaijan reiterated that it had set up a checkpoint on “Azerbaijan’s territory.”

Colonna said it was important for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations to secure a resolution to their decades-long standoff.

“We encourage you to resolutely take this path,” Colonna said, adding this was “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

Blinken has already taken part in two trilateral meetings with the two Caucasus rivals, in November last year and then again in February, on the margins of the international security conference in Munich, Germany.

On Saturday Blinken spoke with Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, emphasizing the importance of peace discussions and pledging continued US support.

Armenia and Russia discuss NPP construction

May 3 2023

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev have held talks in Yerevan on the possible construction of a new NPP in Armenia. Pashinyan emphasised the importance of cooperation between the Armenian government and Rosatom, which are successfully implementing a number of joint projects.

The currently operating Armenian NPP at Metsamor was built in the 1970s with two Soviet-supplied VVER-440-V230 units, but was closed following a devastating earthquake in 1988. However, unit 2 was recommissioned with Russian help in 1995 following severe energy shortages. In March 2014, the Armenian government decided to extend the plant’s service life to 2026. Most of the overhaul (until 2019) was funded by an interstate loan from Russia. Construction of a new nuclear plant has long been part of Armenia’s overall plan, although finance has proved to be an obstacle.

Likhachev confirmed Rosatom’s continued support for co-operation. Further extension of the operating life of ANPP was viewed as a priority. Rosatom said Pashinyan and Likhachev “agreed on specific steps for the near future, which will allow the re-extension work to be launched by the end of this year”.

Construction of new nuclear power units in Armenia was also discussed and Likhachev said Rosatom is ready to offer Russian-designed NPPs with VVER reactors. At the end of the meeting, the parties “agreed to continue work on joint projects in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy and in related high-tech areas”.

Podcast: Is the End in Sight in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict?

May 5 2023
  • Alexander
  • Anna
  • Thomas
    de Waal
Podcast host Alex Gabuev is joined by Tom de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, and Anna Ohanyan, a nonresident senior scholar at Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia program, to discuss developments in and around the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

As the long-running conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh appears to be inching toward a resolution, is the new political reality accepted in Armenia? What does Azeri President Ilham Aliyev hope to achieve? How will the failure of Russian peacekeepers to intervene in recent developments affect the relationship between Moscow and Yerevan? Is the rivalry between competing Western and Russian resolution tracks an asset or a hindrance? And how will an eventual resolution impact on the political systems of Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Listen to the Podcast at the link: