Montreal: Fired broker unrepentant

Montreal Gazette, Canada
May 22 2004

Fired broker unrepentant
Insists he was trying to help his clients

Paul Delean
The Gazette

Pic: Money manager Harry Migirdic could be barred for life.
CREDIT: ALLEN McINNIS, THE GAZETTE

Disgraced investment manager Harutyun Migirdicoglu, who a lawyer for
the Investment Dealers Association of Canada said yesterday should be
barred for life for a long list of misdeeds, was a big wheel in
Montreal’s Armenian community, from which he drew many of his
clients.

“To me, he was like God. He lived in a big house, drove a Mercedes. I
was proud to see an Armenian fellow so successful in English
society,” said Richard Papazian, 43, whose late mother was one of his
clients – and he alleges in his suit, one of Migirdicoglu’s victims.

The former CIBC World Markets vice-president, more commonly known as
Harry Migirdic, was a registered investment representative in Quebec
for more than two decades. In 1986, he was made a vice-president at
Merrill Lynch, and in 1990 transferred to the downtown branch of Wood
Gundy – now CIBC.

At both firms, he was the subject of several warnings and
disciplinary measures, including a $30,000 fine at CIBC for knowingly
accepting a power-of-attorney he knew had not been signed by the
owner of an account, according to evidence presented yesterday to a
three-member disciplinary panel of the IDA.

Terminated by CIBC in April 2001, Migirdic has not worked since for
any firm belonging to the Investment Dealers’ Association.

And he won’t again, if the recommendation of lawyer Caroline
Champagne to the panel is accepted.

The panel is expected to make its decision in a couple of weeks.

Migirdic, who swung his briefcase at a Gazette photographer as he
entered the IDA offices yesterday, did not comment on Champagne’s
proposal. But he did say he meant no harm to clients. The abrupt fall
of Wall St. and stocks like Nortel triggered what happened, he said.

The infractions were committed “to cover another account,” he told
the panel. “There was no intent to harm any one client, only to help
another client who was in trouble. I couldn’t help any of my clients
at the end. Everybody suffered.”

The IDA listed 24 rule transgressions during Migirdic’s time as a
CIBC representative. At a disciplinary hearing in March, Migirdic
didn’t deny the allegations, but did not plead guilty. He said all
transactions were done with the clients’ consent, since they’d given
him the mandate to make their money grow. Only when markets went bad
did they complain about his management, he said.

The IDA, however, found him guilty on all counts.

Its preliminary report said more than 20 clients, many of them
elderly, had complained to CIBC about his conduct

In one case, Migirdic had a trading account for a holding company
guaranteeing a trading account opened in the name of his 73-year-old
uncle in Turkey. The guarantee eventually led to the extraction of
more than $691,000 from the company account, cleaning out the owners.

In another case, Migirdic made about 1,400 trades over a seven-year
period in the account of an investor who had listed his risk
tolerance as low. The portfolio shrank by more than 50 per cent
between December 1999 and June 2000, dropping to $471,519 from $1
million.

In yet another case, Migirdic had two longtime clients sign a
document “under the false pretense that it was required for account
maintenance,” the IDA said.

The signatures actually guaranteed the account of someone unrelated
whose trading losses they ended up covering to the tune of $356,824.

Farewell, Little Red Schoolhouse

Farewell, Little Red Schoolhouse
BY Aida Rogers

Lexington County Chronicle, SC
May 22 2004

Rep. Ted Pitts, right, presents Maro Rogers a proclamation from the
state legislature at her retirement party Sunday while her husband,
Hugh looks on.

Hundreds of students wished their first teacher well when Maro K.
Rogers held her final open house at the Little Red Schoolhouse in
Lexington.

Best estimates are that Rogers taught about 1,500 students in 41
years at the kindergarten.

She taught three generations in some families.

“It’s a part of what Lexington was then, and still is today,”
said Anne Wilkins Brooks who, with her sister Sarah Wilkins Weiss,
attended the school in the 1960s. Brooks enrolled her daughters Baker
and Anna there.

“It’s literally pulling your child up to the white picket fence where
Maro stands, waiting on your child. Each child gets out one at a time,
and that’s how they come out. You don’t dump your kids off and leave
them. It’s an involvement.”

Rogers opened the Little Red Schoolhouse when, as a young mother
of two, she realized there were no kindergartens nearby to educate
her children.

She and husband, former Lexington Mayor H. Hugh Rogers, built a
kindergarten in their back yard on Fox Street.

Helping teach was Rogers’ mother, “Miss Mannig” Kouyoumjian, who
played piano and banjo. Two more children were born, with all four
attending the kindergarten.

As the Rogers children got older, they helped with its annual Christmas
and spring recitals, with Hugh Rogers appearing for 40 straight years
as Santa Claus. At the 2003 Christmas recital, son Clifton took the
role. Daughter Myda Rogers Tompkins has been teaching and providing
piano accompaniment since 1991.

“I learn all the time from my pupils,” Rogers says. “I learned
something just yesterday.”

And they have learned a lot from her.

Rogers is Armenian and a native of Iraq. She came to America via a
scholarship to Columbia College.

At every Christmas recital, students sing “O Christmas Tree,” in
English and Armenian. Likewise, spring recitals of the past have
featured Arabic and Gypsy dancing, as well as music and dancing of
Japan, Hawaii, and the American South.

The Little Red Schoolhouse has always been a kindergarten — not a
day care. Students learned their alphabet and took field trips to
farms, grocery stores, the library, post office and museums. They
did finger-painting and physical exercise.

“It’s much more than playing ball and making crafts,” Anne Brooks said.

100 years of community

Visalia Times-Delta, CA
Tulare Advance Register, CA
May 22 2004

100 years of community
Armenian congregation marks anniversary of first church service in
Yettem
By Mike Hazelwood
Staff writer

Ron Holman/Staff photographer
>>From left, Sark Yahnian, Sylvia Yahnian, Araxie Menendian, Lucinne
Bennett, Rosie Baramian, Carolyn Mikaelian and Hartune Neffian are
members of the St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Yettem. The
congregation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first church
service on May 30.

Ron Holman/Staff photographer
Lucinne Benett, 86, stands in front of a map depicting Armenian
family homes in 1915 Yettem. Although an artist finished the map,
Bennett and her sister designed it from memories of growing up in the
area.

How to attend
What: Celebration of first Yettem church service 100 years ago

When: 9:45 a.m. May 30

Where: St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Yettem, 14395 Avenue 384

Cost: Services are free and open to public, but banquet to follow is
sold out

YETTEM — As much as life changes in 100 years, much can also stay
the same.

Take the tiny town of Yettem, for example. A century ago it was a
mere speck on Tulare County maps. But it was an area rich on
religious faith.

Today it’s still a speck. And it’s still a spiritual
diamond-in-the-rough.

“The church holds us together,” says Araxie Menendian, 78, a member
of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Yettem.

Next weekend church members will celebrate the 100th anniversary of
the first church services in Yettem, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it
town north of Visalia.

There was no church or clergymen, just a community of Armenian
settlers embracing a new land.

According to written records, the families met outside Tateos
Davidian’s home. Under a tree, the families of different
denominations — and non-Armenians as well — read scripture, prayed
and sang a hymn translated to “Morning of Light.”

It will all be relived May 30.

“They did what they could,” the church’s Father Vartan Kasparian
says.

The anniversary banquet — which follows a morning full of indoor and
outdoor services — is already sold out, though only a handful of
Armenians still live in the Yettem area. Things change, as the
settling families have branched out across the United States.

But things stay the same, because many Armenians still consider
Yettem a slice of home.

“When you’re in Yettem,” Kasparian says, “especially when you’re
looking up at the Sierras, it feels like you’re back in Armenia.”

He says many locals have grown and moved to bigger Armenian churches
in places like Chicago or Los Angeles.

But they still have love for the church in Yettem, an Armenian word
for “Eden.”

Yettem certainly was a paradise in comparison to the homeland 100
years ago, when the seeds of hate were being planted to become 1915’s
Armenian Genocide, which took 1.5 million lives. Armenians sought
refuge around the world.

“Those who stayed went through hell,” Kasparian says.

They sought religious and cultural freedom. And though they left
their homeland, they found solace with each other in places like
Yettem.

“Everybody knew each other’s sorrows,” says Lucinne Bennett, 86.

And it all started 100 years ago, under a tree, fueled by faith. And
it will continue with next Sunday’s services, under a tree, fueled by
faith.

Life changes, yet stays the same.

“There are generations that will come after us,” Kasparian says. “God
willing.”

Soccer: Slovakia overcome improved Armenia

Slovakia overcome improved Armenia

UEFA.com, Europe
May 22 2004

Slovakia are one victory from qualifying for the UEFA European
Under-19 Championship final after a 1-0 victory eliminated Armenia.

Final showdown
The second qualifying round Group 3 hosts will meet leaders Germany,
who defeated Portugal by a single goal today, on Sunday morning.
Germany’s superior goal difference means that Slovakia must win the
match in Trnava.

Wet conditions
Despite thunder and heavy rain in Bratislava just prior to kick-off,
today’s match was played in bright sunlight, although the surface was
wet and tricky to master. Slovakia began in dominant fashion, but
were then surprised by the skill of Armenia, showing five changes to
the team that had lost 5-0 to Germany on Wednesday.

Armenian efforts
In the 20th minute, two Armenia players with Cameroonian origins –
Carl Lombe and Balep Ndoumbouk – set up Edgar Manucharyan, but the
pacy striker hit his shot just wide. Manucharyan then fed Mkhitar
Grigoryan, but his effort was deflected away, as was a similar change
for Lombe. Manucharyan was sent through one-on-one with Slovakian
goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak, but the custodian produced a one-handed
save.

Lombe dismissed
After the break, Armenia began to tire on the heavy pitch, and the
group hosts, who beat Portugal 2-1 two days ago, took control. Adam
Nemec headed just wide and Armenian goalkeeper Edel Bete did well to
save from Michal Farkas’s long-range shot. Just before the hour Lombe
was cautioned twice in three minutes for foul tackles and was
dismissed.

Basista winner
With an extra man, Slovakia pushed further forward, and Bete tipped
Nemec’s headed over. However, Bete could do nothing to stop Peter
Basista’s strong right-footed shot on 66 minutes following Matej
Ižvolt’s run and cross from the right. After that only good
goalkeeping from Armenia’s No1 kept the lead to one goal.

‘Fine chances’
Slovakia coach Ivan Hucko admitted he was impressed by Armenia before
the break. “Yes, they made a lot of changes to the team, but we knew
they are strong and expected a difficult game,” he said. “Manucharyan
is an excellent striker and had two fine chances – which could have
made things very different.”

‘Tough games’
He added: “Fortunately we were physically stronger and managed to put
some pressure on them after the break. It is very difficult for young
players to play two tough games in three days and now we only have on
day to recover before an important match against Germany.”

Portugal meeting
Armenia meet Portugal on Sunday morning, needing victory against the
2003 finalists, who are also eliminated, to avoid finishing bottom of
the group.

Esfahan: A theocracy at the tipping point

Ottawa Citizen, Canada
May 22, 2004 Saturday Final Edition

A theocracy at the tipping point: Conservative religious beliefs
still command much loyalty in Iran. But more and more, Iranians
openly disparage the ruling clerics, drink smuggled alcohol , watch
MTV and, if they are women, wear their headscarves perched
precariously on the back of their heads. It is a nation ready for
change.

by Michael Petrou

ESFAHAN, Iran

ESFAHAN, Iran – In a trendy coffee shop in Esfahan’s Christian
Armenian quarter, four Muslim men sit at a low table near the bar,
smoking cigarettes and drinking espresso.

The coffee shop’s stereo is playing Green Day’s Time of Your Life.
Several of the young men and women in the cafe and on the sidewalk
outside have bandages on their noses, the result of recent plastic
surgery — a popular trend among young Iranians who can afford it.

Nasser Behruz, a heavyset man with thinning black hair, uses a piece
of chocolate to scoop foam from his small cup of espresso and talks
about change. Unlike most of the cafe patrons, he’s old enough to
remember the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and has watched the country
transform since.

“Look at this,” he says, waving his hand at the young men and women
sitting in the cafe with their foreheads centimetres apart. “Ten
years ago, this would not be possible … Things are getting better,
but slowly, very slowly. I don’t know what will happen in the future,
but I hope the changes continue.”

I order a malt beverage that contains no alcohol, which prompts Mr.
Behruz to talk about his favourite alcoholic drinks and the
occasional house parties he throws for his friends.

“Sometimes if I have a party and there is a lot of music and dancing
and my neighbour calls, then the police will come. But it’s not a
problem,” he says, and rubs his thumb and forefinger together to
indicate a bribe.

“I give them something and they go away.”

Mr. Behruz invites me to his apartment for a few drinks.

“The government doesn’t like Iranians talking to foreigners,” his
friend says. “If they see us talking to a tourist, we get questioned.
But it’s OK. We thought you were Iranian, and the police will, too.
Let’s go.”

On the outside wall of Mr. Behruz’s apartment building someone has
spray-painted “Down with women who don’t wear the hijab.”

“Must have been some Islamic person who did this,” he says.

We spend the evening drinking a clear and potent moonshine that has
been smuggled into the country from the Kurdish areas of Iraq in
two-litre pop bottles. In Mr. Behruz’s kitchen, we mix the alcohol
with Mecca Cola and fruit juice.

Mr. Behruz tells me he is an atheist, and we have a long, spirited
conversation about whether God exists.

After a couple of hours, Mr. Behruz puts on a video of the Iranian
singer Googoosh performing at Maple Leaf Gardens. The singer had been
banned from performing by Iran’s fundamentalist clerics after the
Islamic Revolution and was only permitted to leave the country a few
years ago. She promptly launched a triumphant world tour to capacity
audiences.

As we work our way through the bottle, Mr. Behruz becomes a little
more animated. Like every other Iranian I speak with, he says he
doesn’t want the United States to overthrow Iran’s government. (The
only person I meet in Iran who thinks this would be a good idea is a
visiting businessman from Afghanistan.)

But Mr. Behruz is desperate for regime change.

“If the Americans come here I will shoot them,” he says.

“But they must go, the mullahs. They must go. I don’t know how. Maybe
we will have another people’s revolution. I think our spirit is like
France, and French democracy is best for us.”

Late that night, Mr. Behruz and I walk across the lower level of the
exquisite Khaju Bridge spanning Esfahan’s Zayandeh River. A group of
middle-aged men has gathered beneath the bridge’s vaulted archways to
take advantage of the structure’s shower-like acoustics and sing. One
man plays a flute and another earnestly belts out a Googoosh song:
“Of all the men in the world, you’re the one for me …”

– – –

I leave Esfahan and travel northwest, across the Iranian plateau
toward the mountainous borders of Iraq and Turkey.

It is a rugged and seductive part of the country, frequented by
nomads and smugglers. Most of the people who live here are Kurds,
Turkic Azaris, and Armenian and Assyrian Christians.

Kurds in Iran have their own distinct language and culture. And,
unlike the majority of Iranians who are Shiite Muslims, Iranian Kurds
practise Sunni Islam. However, even though heavy fighting raged in
1979 between Kurdish separatists and the country’s new Islamic
regime, few Iranian Kurds today want outright independence from Iran.

Most would prefer greater autonomy, more democracy and the freedom to
practise Islam as they see fit.

Kurdish friends invite me to a wedding in a village near the city of
Mahabad.

Women wearing beautiful, brightly coloured dresses and no headscarves
dance hand-in-hand with men while energized musicians sing and play
horns and stringed instruments.

Guests hand the singer wads of cash with their names written on the
bills. The singer reads the names and sings their praises without
missing a beat. The dancers hold hands in a line and move in a
counter-clockwise circle.

The man leading the dance twirls a handkerchief above his head,
knocking blossom petals from an overhanging tree, adding to the riot
of colour.

“The Persians dance with the men and women separate,” one guest says.
“We Kurds dance together. It causes some problems with the Islamic
people, but I don’t care.

“We Kurds are Muslims, too. But Islam isn’t telling women to cover
their faces. We don’t do that.”

– – –

Christianity has existed in Iran since before the advent of Islam.

An Assyrian church in the northwestern city of Tabriz is built on the
ruins of a much older church, believed to have been founded by one of
the three Magi, or wise men, who returned to Persia after visiting
the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem.

Today, about 300,000 Iranians are Christians, mostly ethnic
Armenians.

“We don’t feel isolated here,” says Violet, a young Armenian woman in
Esfahan, where the Persian shah settled a large community of Armenian
Christians during the early 17th century.

“We have been here for 400 years and it is our home. Maybe our
motherland is elsewhere, but this is our birth land. We have deep
roots here and the attachment in our hearts is strong.”

Privately some Armenians will admit to “misunderstandings” between
their communities and Iran’s government since the Islamic Revolution.

“Obviously sharia law isn’t natural to Christians,” one man says.

“But our religious rights are respected. We celebrate all our holy
days, even national days commemorating battles between Armenians and
Persians … And we have our representatives in parliament. They
represent us and help us reclaim our rights.”

But if the older Armenian and Assyrian churches in Iran are at least
officially protected, the regime does not tolerate evangelism.
Muslims who convert are considered apostates and are subject to harsh
punishment. Most evangelical churches in the country have gone
underground.

“Me, personally, I must evangelize privately, in people’s homes,”
says Sharif, 26, an Assyrian man from Tabriz who joined a local
Protestant church as an adult.

“If the government found out, there would be a lot of problems for
me.”

Iran is also home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the
Middle East outside of Israel.

Their history here began 2,500 years ago when the Persian ruler Cyrus
the Great captured Babylon and freed the Jewish slaves. Some elected
to stay in Persia rather than return to Palestine, and subsequent
generations of Jews immigrated here to escape the persecution of
Greeks and Romans.

Today, Muslims in the Iranian city of Shiraz speak casually about the
numerous Jewish merchants in the city they do friendly business with.

“They’re Iranian, just like the rest of us,” one man says.

But the attitude of the clerics in the Iranian government is less
benign.

In 2000, a revolutionary court convicted 10 Shiraz Jews of spying for
Israel, in a trial widely regarded outside Iran as unfair. All the
convicted men were released within three years, but the incident
exposed the theocracy’s continued intolerance.

Officially, foreigners visiting a synagogue in Iran need permission,
and a guide, from the Ministry of Information and Islamic Guidance.
But I simply ask my taxi driver to take me to the “Jewish church,”
and he does.

The synagogue is located behind unmarked walls about a block away
from a Christian church. Inside, two dozen worshippers are preparing
themselves for prayer. Several men who speak with me are clearly
uneasy about my presence and continually look over my shoulder to
where my driver is parked outside.

One man seems to suggest in broken English that I come back later
when I am alone. But the entire atmosphere is uncomfortable. I leave
quickly and do not return.

– – –

It would be misleading, however, to imply that all Iranians are
opposed to the ruling clerics, or that support for the religious
fundamentalists running Iran is limited to an old guard of aging
revolutionaries.

In Shiraz, I visit several madrassas, or Islamic schools, and other
centres of Islamic study that are crowded with young scholars and new
students.

I am guided through the city by Rezvan, a 42-year-old man with a
quiet voice and thick black beard. In one of his eyes, the pupil
appears to have somehow burst and the inky blackness has leaked into
the lower half of his iris.

I assume he supports the religious clerics because of his beard, a
rarity among most Iranians, but we have barely started walking toward
the first madrassa when he says: “Iran today is like Europe of the
Renaissance.”

“We want to become secular,” he continues. “Religion and government
should not go together. Most of us feel this way. But the government
does not want what the people want.”

At the madrassa, we visit with Hussein, a young scholar of 20 who
invites us to his whitewashed room, where he sleeps and studies. The
walls are lined with religious books and decorated with a photograph
of him when he was about 12 years old.

We sit on the floor, looking out over the madrassa’s courtyard and
drink tea that Hussein boils on a gas burner in his room. Below us in
the courtyard, a young student sits cross-legged on the floor
opposite a cleric with an open copy of the Koran between them,
discussing passages from the holy book.

Hussein wants to be sure that I know Muslims respect Jesus, and asks
why Easter is important to Christians. He says he will study Islam
for 12 more years, likely much longer.

“I want to spend my life helping to advertise Islam,” he says. “It
doesn’t matter if it is in a mosque or a school. It is all part of
the same life.”

On our way to a neighbouring Islamic study centre, Rezvan warns me
not to refer to the clerics there as “mullahs.”

“They don’t like to be called mullahs, because they think it makes
them sound like Osama bin Laden,” Rezvan says. He pauses before
adding: “But there really isn’t that much difference.”

All the clerics we talk to at the centre are gracious and polite. One
insists on personally driving us across town to our next appointment,
clutching his robes around his tall frame before folding himself into
his tiny car and plunging into the city’s chaotic traffic.

Another tries to explain the role of religion in Iran’s government.

“The Koran gives guidance for all parts of our lives: culture,
family, science,” he says.

“And so it is natural for our religion to be part of government as
well. The two are connected.”

The cleric is a small man with a scraggly goatee and sideburns, and a
face smooth except for a few wrinkles around his eyes. He is 30 years
old but almost looks like a teenager.

I mention this to Rezvan after we leave the study centre and sit down
to a glass of tea and a pot of lamb stew at a bazaar teahouse. Rezvan
sticks a small piece of sugar under his lip and strains his tea
through the sugar as we talk.

“Of course, he looks young,” Rezvan scoffs. “The mullahs never do any
work.”

– – –

Iran is approaching a tipping point.

Religious conservatives still command the loyalty of some. But the
gulf between the Iranian people and their government is deep and
widespread.

Many Iranians openly disparage the ruling clerics, drink smuggled
alcohol in their homes and at parties, watch MTV on their satellite
televisions and, if they are women, wear their headscarves perched
precariously on the back of their heads.

State-censored newspapers are full of propaganda against Israel and
the United States. But a private bookstores near Tehran University
prominently displays copies of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Emily Bronte’s
Wuthering Heights and Notes from the Underground by Fyodor
Dostoyevsky.

For a while it seemed possible that President Mohammed Khatami and
parliamentary reformers might change the system from within. But the
conservative clerics cynically crippled the reform movement before
the last election by banning reformist candidates, and many Iranians
who seek democracy have now turned their backs on Mr. Khatami and his
contemporaries.

“We have had the so-called reformers for six years with nothing to
show for it,” one student says. “They think saving the system is more
important than the needs of the people. They are a dead end.”

The clerics will defend their power. And indeed, the death of Zahra
Kazemi, the Canadian photojournalist who was murdered while a
prisoner at Iran’s notorious Evin prison, and the coverup of her
killing betray both the determination and desperate depravity of
Iran’s religious dictatorship. But a confrontation with Iran’s people
is inevitable.

Before coming to Iran, I had thought the country would be divided
between young and old, between those who supported the Islamic
Revolution and those who can’t remember it. And many of the most
active dissidents are young people and students.

But one of the most impressive people I met in Iran is Farouk Kahn,
an elderly scholar who lives in a southern Iranian city. Mr. Kahn has
written more than 10 books on philosophy and poetry, all of which sit
unpublished on the shelves of his apartment.

He was once imprisoned along with his daughters because of his
secular and leftist beliefs, and there is little chance the clerics
would allow his ideas to be published today, even a decade after his
release.

During our evenings together, Mr. Kahn loved to drink brandy when it
was available, and Kurdish moonshine when brandy was not, and talk
about religion, women and poetry.

He would sing Iranian folksongs and recite long verses from the
Persian poet Hafez, a hero to many Iranians and something of a
kindred spirit to Mr. Kahn, who shares the poet’s love of wine and
sex.

Around midnight, we’d usually retire to Mr. Kahn’s living room to
drink tea and watch his illegal satellite television, which beamed
music videos, softcore pornography and programming from Iranian exile
communities into his home.

When I left Mr. Kahn’s home on my last night, he unwired a painting
from his bedroom wall and pressed it into my arms, refusing all my
attempts to give him something in return.

“I am 71 years old, 42 years older than you,” Mr. Khan said. “And all
my life I have been lucky to continue learning as if I were a young
man. If you don’t learn, if you don’t continue to learn, you are
frozen. The mullahs in Iran are frozen. They are trapped 1,400 years
ago.”

GRAPHIC: Photo: Hasan Sarbakhshian, The Associated Press; While many
Iranians appear to be growing weary of the ruling clerics, support
for the religious fundamentalists running the country is not limited
to an old guard of aging revolutionaries. In this 2002 photo,
Iranians celebrate the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution above a
portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.; Photo:
Burhan Ozbilici, The Associated Press; Young Iranian women walk in
Tehran wearing traditional-style clothing while carrying backpacks
covered with images of rock musicians.
From: Baghdasarian

The bones talk, and she listens: Koff writes a sobering account of h

The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia)
May 22, 2004 Saturday Final Edition

The bones talk, and she listens: Clea Koff writes a sobering account
of her encounters with mass murder

by: Tom Hawthorn

One murder is a crime. One hundred murders, or one thousand, or ten
thousand, or tens of thousands are also crimes, although the enormity
of the wrongdoing is so great, so unbelievable, that it becomes
possible for the perpetrators to lie and cover up, making accomplices
of many others.

Hitler, the mass murderer against whom other monsters are measured,
knew this well. Preparing plans for the extermination of the European
Jews, he notoriously dismissed concerns about future world opinion.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
he said. Indeed, when recently Canada’s House of Commons belatedly
condemned those deaths more than eight decades after the fact, the
vote was denounced by the Turkish government and its supporters as
being misinformed and unhelpful.

For survivors and grieving relatives, the horror of murder is
compounded by denying the fact.

Bearing witness is an antidote to such sickness. So, the Holocaust
memoir becomes a genre because it is necessary to count as many
survivors and name as many victims as possible, if we are to take
seriously the solemn promise of “never again.”

Yet the past decade has provided a brutal wake-up for those of us
under age 65 who have wondered how the world could ignore the
deliberate and organized slaughter of so many people.

In Rwanda, political leaders squawked orders for mass murder over the
radio. In Serbia, otherwise decent people suspended disbelief and
accepted government propaganda denying the existence of mass graves.
In Canada, we tsk-tsked over news of the latest atrocities, our sense
of moral superiority once again affirmed.

Even as a teenager, Clea Koff knew the world’s atrocities demanded a
response from her. Raised in Africa, England and the United States,
this daughter of a Tanzanian mother and an American father, both
documentary filmmakers, quips that she learned about the
lumpenproletariat at the supper table before she knew about Bert and
Ernie on television. Fascinated by the nature of death even as a
girl, she collected dead birds and studied them as a prelude to
backyard burial.

Koff found inspiration for a career as a forensic anthropologist from
two sources: a TV documentary on bodies preserved in the ash from an
eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and Clyde Snow’s book Witnesses from the
Grave: The Stories Bones Tell, which describes efforts to find the
remains of the “disappeared” victims of Argentina’s bloody military
junta of the 1970s and ’80s.

“I had known for years that my goal was to help end human rights
abuses by proving to would-be killers that bones can talk,” she
writes in The Bone Woman, a compelling personal chronicle of months
spent rooting around in mass graves.

Koff was sent to Africa in 1996 with the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a United Nations organization formed to
bring the killers to justice. (She also worked for ICTY, the tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia.) She works with the remains of murder
victims, of which there is no shortage. The violence in Rwanda was so
widespread that it quickly claimed some 800,000 victims, the vast
majority killed by hand, usually by machete. Imagine every man, woman
and child in Vancouver and Burnaby hacked to death, some left to rot
where they fell, others thrown into pits and covered with dirt.

Koff finds Rwanda a beautiful, verdant land, where the serene setting
of the church at Kibuye masks the horror inflicted and a menace still
not dissipated.

While some skeletons display wounds to the arms and hands, others
bear only the fatal blows.

“The absence of defence wounds gave my image of that massacre an
eerie calmness; did people take the blows as though taking the
sacrament?”

She finds herself smiling a lot in Rwanda, an incongruous reaction to
so horrid a killing field. “It is because I see not just death —
about which I can do nothing — but bones and teeth and hair, which I
can do something about …”

Bones offer clues as to age, sex, height, ancestry and cause of
death. Koff and her colleagues scrape away dirt until they uncover
remains, exchanging a pickaxe for a trowel for a pair of chopsticks
for the delicate task of flicking dirt from between finger joints.

A rational scientist, Koff uses a poet’s eye in describing her
discoveries, noting in one case how “the big toe phalange [is] chunky
like a baby carrot, the other phalanges more like small licorice
pieces, held in anatomical position by a sock because the flesh of
the foot has decomposed.”

Descriptions of much of her work are not for the faint of heart, so
those of you now eating breakfast may wish to skip a few paragraphs.
Koff copes daily with ammonia fumes from intestines, as well as
saponified remains, a state of decomposition in which skin remains
tender. “If you puncture it, something not dissimilar to cottage
cheese came foaming out …”

The smells of decomposition — “one being sharp and ripe, the other
thick and ‘hairy'” — permeate her clothing, scents she cannot avoid
even while eating lunch.

These horrors fuel the nightmares she duly records, yet an event she
witnesses causes her greater distress.

One fine evening, Koff dines al fresco on the shores of Lake Kivu
when her reverie is disturbed by a sickening sight: two desperate men
in the water being shot to death by uniformed Rwandan soldiers. “I
couldn’t conceive of which ‘side’ they were on, or which side we were
thought to be on, or, indeed, if there were any sides.”

Seeking explanation, she is told the dead men were insurgents from
Zaire. The information is useless, for she has no means of judging
its accuracy.

“I hated the impotence of not being able to do more than just report
the killings and I hated the fear I now felt for my own life, even
though the bullets hadn’t been directed at me or my teammates. And,
insult upon insult, I hated the fact I got to leave this place so
easily.”

The Bone Woman was written from Koff’s journal entries — a strength
in retelling the small incidents of her labours, a weakness when
recounting the petty disputes one expects among colleagues working in
such hostile and unpalatable circumstances. She dislikes the teasing
she endures from teammates after telling a Reuters reporter that she
says to the uncovered skeletons: “We’re coming. We’re coming to take
you out.”

Her complaint is so overshadowed by the enormity of these crimes
against humanity as to seem callow and naive. And yet her reaction
may be understandable, given that she’s someone who spends her 24th
birthday up to her elbows in viscera.

Koff also exhumes bodies from mass graves in the former Yugoslavia
(“where the people who committed the crimes we would be uncovering
were still at large”) at Cerska, Nova Kasaba and a rubbish pit at
Ovcara, where missing men from the hospital at Vukovar had been
dumped.

“These bodies, by their very presence, were dismantling years of the
perpetrators’ propaganda that the grave didn’t exist, that the
missing men were probably larking about in Italy, that a crime
against humanity hadn’t taken place five years earlier,” she writes.

Her work does not so much bring resolution to the crimes, by
uncovering the assailants and having them punished, as restore
humanity to those whose lives were taken. Long after the book is
closed, a reader remembers the woman in Rwanda with pink plastic
necklaces; the hospital patient who secreted his X-rays in his
clothing (for identification after death? because he believed he was
going to another hospital?); the boy in Kosovo whose grave held
marbles — child’s playthings and a reminder of our necessary outrage
at his murder.

Tom Hawthorn is a Victoria reporter who last reviewed Lloyd
Axworthy’s book, Navigating a New World.

GRAPHIC: Photo: Pierre Heuts, From the book the bone woman; Clea Koff
(right) in Kigali, Rwanda, with UN scientific expert Bill Haglund.;
Photo: THE BONE WOMAN: A Forensic Anthropologist’s Search for Truth
in Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo BY CLEA KOFF, Knopf Canada,
271 pages ($34.95)

CIS DMs to coordinate efforts on non-proliferation of WMDs

CIS def mins to coordinate efforts on non-proliferation of WMDs

ITAR-TASS News Agency
May 21, 2004 Friday

YEREVAN, May 21 — The defence ministers of CIS countries backed an
initiative by the Russian Foreign Ministry to coordinate positions
of the Commonwealth countries on non-proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov who chaired the meeting, said
that meeting participants “unanimously backed proposals on concerting
positions of our countries on such a pressing international problem”.

Summing up meeting results, Ivanov noted that much attention was
given to the operation of the CIS United Air Defence System. He said
that “the adoption of a Targeted Programme for ensuring comprehensive
counteraction by armed forces of the Commonwealth countries to forces
and means of an air attack by a potential enermy will be another
important and efficient measure to improve multilateral cooperation
in this sphere. “Its draft was approved today and will be submitted
to the Council of the CIS Heads of Government,” the minister specified.

According to Ivanov, meeting participants adopted important decisions
on joint actions on training CIS armed forces in 2005, organizing
activities of collective peacekeeping forces of the Commonwealth,
raising security of flights of military aviation, creating a United
Communications System and improving cooperation in weather forecast
work.

The meeting was attended by all CIS ministers, apart from Turkmenistan
and Azerbaijan. Armenian President Robert Kocharyan received the
defence ministers on Friday. Ivanov who chaired the meetings, informed
the president of its results. He emphasized that decisions, taken at
the meeting, “will help to consolidate security and stability over
the entire space of the Commonwealth”.

Ivanov who arrived in Yerevan on a working visit, held talks on
Thursday with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisyan. “We have made
another important and practical step towards deepening Russian-Armenian
strategic partnership, security of our countries as well as maintenance
of peace and stability in Transcaucasia,” the minister said, summing
up the results of the meeting with his colleague.

Movements of anti-aircraft systems controlled in CIS – Ivanov

Movements of anti-aircraft systems controlled in CIS – Ivanov
By Alexander Konovalov, Tigran Liloyan

ITAR-TASS News Agency
May 21, 2004 Friday

YEREVAN, May 21 — The CIS Council of Defence Ministers has not
discussed the control of movements of portable anti-aircraft systems
at its meeting in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday, Russian
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters.

He explained that CIS presidents had made decisions on this matter
at their meeting in Yalta last autumn.

“We fulfil them,” he said.

“In accordance with these decisions, national authorised bodies for
exchange of information on the movement of the systems have been set
up or are to be set up in the CIS countries, except for Turkmenistan.”

“The Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation reporting
to the Defence Ministry has been formed in Russia to be in charge of
this question,” Ivanov said.

He said large-scale military exercises of CIS states would be conducted
in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in early August.

Russia will send to the exercises military transport, combat and
naval aviation, and permanent readiness troops.

Besides, exercises called West-Antiterror will be held in Moldova
at the end of June, engaging antiterrorist structures of Russia,
Ukraine Belarus, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Here today, where tomorrow?

The Economist
May 22, 2004
U.S. Edition

Here today, where tomorrow?

Mr Putin keeps everyone guessing

ST PETERSBURG, May 2003. Historic buildings shone with freshly gilded
domes and new coats of paint. Mr Putin, having contrived to assemble
47 world leaders for a series of international summits to coincide
with the city’s 300th anniversary, was showing the world the former
imperial capital in its full glory.

It was the high summer of Mr Putin’s relations with the West. Over
three years, he had gradually sidelined Russia’s foreign-policy hawks
who pined for Soviet supremacy and mistrusted any rapprochement with
the former enemy. Thanks to his immediate declaration of solidarity
with George Bush after the September 11th attacks, America had turned
a blind eye to the uglier sides of his own regime, including his
characterisation of the war in Chechnya as part of the war on terror.

For months, the world’s most powerful men had been wooing Mr Putin to
use Russia’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council either to
support or to oppose an attack on Iraq. This presented him with a
dilemma: if he supported it, he would look like an American puppet,
but if he opposed it, America might bypass the UN, invalidating
Russia’s biggest remaining claim to being a global power. It never
came to a vote; the UN was sidelined anyway; but Mr Putin somehow
managed to stay on fairly good terms with everyone all the same.

However, since then a chill has set in. The Yukos affair, the Duma
election and the blatantly fraudulent presidential election in
Chechnya last October got foreign leaders to take fears about Russian
authoritarianism more seriously. The assassination earlier this month
of Chechnya’s president, Akhmad Kadyrov, made a mockery of Russia’s
claims that the situation there was “normalising”. The expansion of
NATO and the European Union right up to Russia’s borders revived old
disputes about visa rules, security and trade barriers. The roar of
NATO jets patrolling just outside Russian airspace is almost drowned
out by the grinding of teeth in the defence and foreign ministries.

Russia has been squeezed into a narrower space. Countries such as the
Baltics, which used to be under its thumb, are now members of the EU.
Countries such as Ukraine and Belarus, which Russia still considers
part of its backyard, are now Europe’s neighbours, and therefore its
concern. That has brought nasty surprises. When Russia last November
brokered a peace deal in Moldova that would have involved Russian
“peacekeeping” troops staying there until 2020, it expected no
resistance. But Moldova’s president, under pressure from European
leaders as well as from his own people (who had watched Edward
Shevardnadze being swept from power in Georgia only a couple of days
earlier), scrapped the deal at the last minute, infuriating the
Russian leadership.

Old assumptions have changed. The Partnership and Co-operation
Agreement that Russia first signed with the EU a decade ago had “an
integrationist goal”, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in
Global Affairs. “It meant that Russia should gradually adopt EU
standards. But under Putin, Russia doesn’t want to become just like
Europe. It won’t have human rights as a priority. It doesn’t want to
be endlessly coming to agreements on things.”

In February the European Commission admitted that its strategy of
gradually integrating Russia, the fruit of one of the St Petersburg
summits, was getting bogged down. “Russian convergence with universal
and European values will to a large extent determine the nature and
quality of our partnership,” it observed pointedly.

Yet as it looks around its new, smaller Lebensraum, Russia sees that
the place has something cosily familiar about it: it is a lot like
the old Soviet Union. It may now be called the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS), but their independence goes only so far.
The Kremlin sends advisers to help its preferred candidates with
election campaigns. It vies with the growing American presence there,
using Russia’s remaining military bases and, in Georgia, loyal
statelets as levers.

Last September Anatoly Chubais, the head of the state electricity
firm, UES, said Russia should become a “liberal empire”, extending
its reach on the economic side. Though he was then campaigning for
his opposition party, SPS, his words have resonance in the Kremlin,
says Mr Lukyanov. As big Russian firms outgrow opportunities at home
they are increasingly venturing abroad, especially to countries where
Russian is still spoken.

The government is doing much the same. A preliminary agreement on a
single economic space for the CIS pushes Russia further from Europe’s
economic embrace (though it will take ages and may never happen at
all). Russia is unlikely to replace the Middle East as the West’s
main source of oil, but when Russia eventually builds a Far East
pipeline, it will forge closer ties with Asia. UES has bought
electricity companies in Georgia and Armenia, and Gazprom owns stakes
in firms all across the CIS and in much of Europe (see map, previous
page).

Yet strengthening its hold in the CIS does not mean that Russia is
withdrawing from the West. Mr Putin may not care what foreigners
think of the way he runs his country, but he cares a great deal about
its status in the world, and thinks these two things can be kept
separate (after all, they are for China). Now that Russia’s
Security-Council veto has lost its shine, he will concentrate on his
country’s prospective chairmanship of the G8 in 2006. He is expected
to try hard to get preliminary approval for WTO membership by then.

For that, Russia will have to negotiate with many countries, above
all with the EU over the price of the gas it exports there. There are
plenty of other shared problems, from drug-trafficking to terrorism
to migration, so the West will continue to have plenty of dealings
with Russia, as well as considerable leverage.

One way of using this wisely will be to show Mr Putin that his
approach to many of his domestic problems makes them the world’s
problems too. He believes that Russia needs a strong leader to
contain threats such as economic and political refugees, a decaying
army, terrorist breeding-grounds and epidemics spiralling out of
control. But the strength that enables the country to cope with all
this is also a weakness: at the moment too much depends on the man at
the top. A sudden jolt (a sharp economic downturn, a new outburst of
terrorist attacks, or any mishap that might befall Mr Putin himself)
could tip the country over the edge again. A more democratic Russia
would be a more stable one, and less worrying for the world in
general.

It does not help that people have trouble understanding what Mr Putin
himself wants for Russia. As examples such as the Yukos affair or his
dealings with the media show, he has an uncanny ability to keep
everyone guessing. Mikhail Fradkov, his new prime minister, was about
the only candidate that not a single political pundit had thought of;
and also the only one bland enough to leave a large question mark
over why he was chosen.

But now that Mr Putin is as much in control as he ever will be, the
next few months should provide a clearer indication of where he is
heading. Telltale signs will be whether he lets his reformist
ministers get involved in issues that have so far been the province
of the siloviki, such as military spending; how he brings the Yukos
affair to a close; whether he encourages the oligarchs to invest in
ways that help develop the economy rather than merely plug holes in
state welfare spending; and how he responds to his officials’ more
retrograde ideas (he recently softened a law restricting public
gatherings after an outcry against it).

In broad terms, though, Mr Putin’s agenda for Russia is clear: he
wants it to be a global power and an economic tiger, but also a
controllable, monolithic state where suggestions are welcome but
opposition is not. “Russia was not a democracy in the 1990s and it’s
not an autocracy now,” says Nina Khrushcheva, a professor at the New
School in New York. “Russia is a process, but we always insist on
labelling it as a finished product, as this or that, and then scold
it immediately if it doesn’t fit.”

Yet the 20th century had many such countries in transition, and many
of them stayed that way for decades before the system cracked and
democracy started to seep in: think of Mexico, South Korea, Malaysia,
Chile, Singapore. Russia is not what it was 13 years ago; it is not
what, 13 years ago, everyone hoped it would be today; nor is it
better or worse; it is simply what it is. And given how fast things
change there, tomorrow it might well be something completely
different.

Alone in Turkey: Payne praises a brave novel that makes us questiono

Alone in Turkey Tom Payne praises a brave novel that makes us question our world
by Tom Payne

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
May 22, 2004, Saturday

In 2001, an extraordinary book called My Name Is Red appeared in
English. It’s impossible to recommend it without sounding eccentric –
you try urging a friend to read a Turkish novel, brimming with stories
within stories and Koranic dialectic, about murderous miniaturists
working in the court of Sultan Murat III in 1591. The novel is set
around the 1,000th anniversary of Mohammed’s journey from Mecca
to Medina, when Islamic reformers were railing against artists in
Istanbul. Its opening chapter is a monologue about a corpse, and the
story takes in points of view from other perspectives: Satan says
his piece, as does a horse, Death, a coin and the colour red.

Its translation brought its author, Orhan Pamuk, greater fame in the
West, and, for all the book’s violence, it could almost be read for
entertainment. The book showed Pamuk could do everything – jokes,
horror, plot, structure, erudition, love.

In Snow, Pamuk uses his powers to show us the critical dilemmas of
modern Turkey. How European a country is it? How can it respond to
fundamentalist Islam? And how can an artist deal with these issues?

The novel is set in Kars, in the far east of Turkey, close to Armenia –
the Turkish massacre of Armenians in 1908 remains in the characters’
minds. For the three days of the story’s main action, the town
is cut off by snow, so, when a coup takes place, the world cannot
intervene. The local paper, the Border City News, has a circulation
of 320, and prints news before it happens. The residents watch TV
constantly, even when there’s nothing on, and most are paid to spy
on one another. There is a high rate of suicide among the town’s
young women.

Ka, a poet, wants to know why. Some say it’s because the women are
beaten at home; others say they are protesting because they can’t
wear headscarves in school. “Why did your daughter decide to uncover
herself?” an Islamist asks Kars’s director of education, before
shooting him. “Does she want to become a film star?” The Islamists
don’t know what to make of the suicides, since the Koran forbids the
faithful to take their own lives.

Throughout the book, Ka stops to write poetry (mostly taken from the
dialogue around him). He asks a woman he loves, “Do you think it’s
beautiful?… What’s beautiful about it?” As a writer, Ka is at odds
with the intrigues and fear around him. He is often blissfully happy,
and we learn that one poem’s theme is “the poet’s ability to shut off
part of his mind even while the world is in turmoil. But this meant
that a poet had no more connection to the present than a ghost did.
Such was the price a poet had to pay for his art!”

And yet the artists in the story are lethally relevant. When the
coup comes, it comes on the stage of a theatre; even as members
of the audience are being killed, people mistake the events for a
fantastic illusion. For a while, Kars is run by an ageing actor who
regrets that he’s never played Ataturk. Even Ka, who is mistrusted
for being too Western, becomes integral to the action.

At one point, Ka reflects on the writers he’s known who have been
lynched by Islamists, and it’s a reminder that writing Snow has been
an act of bravery, too. It’s an unexpected sort of bravery, though,
because Pamuk has made great efforts to enter the Islamists’ heads.
The effect is like meeting the possessed anarchists in Dostoevsky –
these alternative views of the world find full expression, and make
us question our own.

If Pamuk wrote about real situations and tried to find sympathy with
true terrorists, more readers would be alarmed than already have
been. But he tailors the terrorists to his requirements – the most
seductive of them, Blue, hasn’t killed anybody and dotes on puppies.

The author’s high artistry and fierce politics take our minds further
into the age’s crisis than any commentator could, and convince us of
every character’s intensity, making Snow a vital book in both senses
of the word. Orhan Pamuk is the sort of writer for whom the Nobel
Prize was invented.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk tr by Maureen Freely

436pp, Faber & Faber, pounds 16.99

T pounds 14.99 (plus pounds 2.25 p&p) 0870 1557222