Shoulder to shoulder Armenians and Tibetans band together in solidarity

Mar 22, 2004, 05:59

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Armenians and Tibetans, two peoples who “share the same fate,” banded together last Friday in a gesture of solidarity.

“The noble Tibetan people are also victims of injustice and a cultural genocide to this day, while the rest of the world looks on,” said Azad Chichmanian, a member of the Ad Hoc Armenian Committee in Support of Tibet-China Negotiations. Like Armenia, Tibet is a “small but proud nation, working hard to gain recognition for crimes against humanity,” he added.

Chichmanian said that a group of Armenians “saw an opportunity to contribute in a positive way and help.” The Ad Hoc Committee joined forces with Armenian student associations from Concordia, McGill and Université de Montréal to host an information night at UdeM.

“It means so much to the Tibetan community,” said Thubten Samdup, national president of the Canada-Tibet Committee. “It has been played up on the Tibetan radio, in the newspapers. We feel like we’re not alone.”

Addressing the small crowd, Samdup said pressuring the Prime Minister’s office to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a key issue. He will be visiting the nation’s capital on April 24, which happens to coincide with the day Armenians will be commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

The Canada-Tibet Committee is not asking the federal government to take a firm position on the matter, but simply to broker dialogue between the leaders, Samdup said.

“We’re not going to beg for a photo-op with the Dalai Lama, we want something tangible,” he explained. Human rights are the cornerstone of Canadian policy, he said, and our nation is in a unique position to take this leadership role.

For Samdup, it is a matter of preserving Tibet’s identity. “I definitely don’t want to sit back and be a witness to my culture and people being wiped out.”

Following the Canada Tibet Connittee president’s address, the Ad Hoc group encouraged audience members to sign letters for their MPs, asking them to support Canada-Tibet negotiations. “The message is, we don’t want this repeated. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder [with Tibetans],” Viken Attarian, a member of the Armenian group, said.

As of yet, 137 of 298 members of parliament have signed on and expressed support for the initiative. Samdup contends that if a majority of representatives are sympathetic to their cause, Prime Minister Paul Martin will have to consider taking action. “If China’s going to listen to anyone, it might be Canada.”

Russia to buy blocking stake in Armenian bank

YEREVAN, March 22 (Itar-Tass) РRussia’s foreign trade bank Vneshtorgbank (VTB) will buy a blocking stake in Armenia’s savings bank Armsberbank.

The parties are expected to sign a correspondent agreement in Yerevan on Wednesday, March 24, chairman of the Armsberbank Board Mikhail Bagdasarov told Itar-Tass on Monday.

The deal between the two banks will become the most advantageous for Armenia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said. ‚ÄúThis is a mechanism that unites the Russian and Armenian banks that are supported by solid financial sources,‚ÄĚ Bagdasarov said.

The deal is necessary for the development of bilateral economic relations with Russia, he said. Armenian businessmen will have an opportunity to enter the Russian market, while Russian businessmen ‚Äď Armenian.

Russia‚Äôs largest companies that work in Armenia will take out loans from Armsberbank, a future VTB affiliate. ‚ÄúAs a shareholder VTB intends to increase Armsberbank‚Äôs charter capital four or five-fold and expand its service sector,‚ÄĚ he said.

Armsberbank will retain thirty percent of the shares and have the right to have a say in important deals. Bagdasarov expressed confidence that this formula will allow Armenia to attract large investments from Russia through VTB.

Bay Area ANC Welcomes Khandjian and Morgenthau

PRESS RELEASE
Armenian National Committee
San Francisco – Bay Area
51 Commonwealth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel: (415) 387-3433
Fax: (415) 751-0617
[email protected]

Contact: Roxanne Makasdjian (415) 641-0525

March 19, 2004

Bay Area ANC Welcomes Khandjian and Morgenthau

Actress Arsinée Khandjian and Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV discuss Hai Tad
Prof. Stephan Astourian and Prof. Armen Der Kiureghian Honored

San Francisco, March 6, 2004 — Actress Arsin√©e Khandjian was the special
guest at the annual Bay Area Armenian National Committee’s `Hai Tad
Evening,’ along with pediatrician Henry `Ben’ Morgenthau IV, great-grandson
of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey in 1915. The evening also highlighted the
Bay Area ANC’s accomplishments of the past year, and honored two Bay Area
professors, Stephan Astourian and Armen Der Kiureghian as `local heroes.’

Famed Canadian-Armenian actress Arsin√©e Khandjian spoke about the artist’s
role in Hai Tad, the Armenian Cause. Khandjian, who has acted extensively
in feature films, on stage and television, and has received many awards,
including the Genie award (the Canadian Academy Award), used her experience
in the feature film `ARARAT,’ to speak about her role and the film’s role in
Hai Tad. She said that historically, artwork which runs counter to the
accepted political ideology is often labeled as `propaganda.’ In
discussions with her husband, film director Atom Egoyan, about how to
approach the subject of the Armenian Genocide on film, Khandjian said they
were faced with the question of `how to remember’ the story of the Genocide.
She said that for some people, merely the step of making the film was a
political act. `They felt that not only had we decided to remember the
Genocide, but we were also suggesting how to remember it,’ said Khandjian.

Khandjian said `ARARAT’ was first and foremost a work of art, but she quoted
from Egoyan words to illustrate all the issues he wanted to address in the
film. `…the screenplay had to tell the story of what happened, why it
happened, why it’s denied, why it continues to happen, and what happens when
you continue to deny.’ Khandjian said that the filmmaker did not feel the
need to prove the Genocide happened. `The only concern was to find a way to
give voice to a true history, to retrieve it from oblivion and make the
viewers ask themselves why they have never heard of it. These were the
obligations felt by the filmmaker.’

Khandjian recognized that the film `ARARAT’ has become a political
instrument, supported or rejected because of its subject matter. She said
she regarded these reactions as inevitable, but that they do `…suggest that
as artists, we, nonetheless, have to be prepared to enter into political
discourse and sometimes directly so.’

As an example, Khandjian discussed the political maneuverings surrounding
the possibility of `ARARAT’s screening in Turkey. She described how the
Turkish Minister of Culture had announced that the film would be screened in
Turkey, but that shortly after, `Turkey’s Nationalist Action Party had said
that any individual choosing to attend screenings of the film would suffer
the consequences of the decision to shame Turkey by paying dearly with his
or her life.’ This latter development (which resulted in the cancellation of
the film’s release in Turkey), was not reported in the press, while the
former announcement by the Minister of Culture had been widely reported
through the Associated Press. Khandjian saw this as yet another boost for
the deception by the Turkish government, which deserved to be exposed to the
International community.

After many attempts to capture the attention of various Armenian
organizations and individuals, Khandjian said it was only the Toronto ANC’s
Aris Babikian who took the issue on. `He was the one person who listened
carefully to what I was proposing as an opportunity and as an approach to
turn the situation around in our interest. I am thankful and humbled by his
generosity to commit the time and effort to this cause.’ Khandjian said
that after Babikian contacted every Toronto newspaper editor, journalists
began taking an interest.

Khandjian quoted Canada’s top newspaper, The Globe and Mail, which wrote
under the headline `Blocking ARARAT,’ `The movie provides a test of the
country’s political maturity at a time when Turkey is pressing to join the
European Union. Turkey is failing the test.’ Soon after, the ANCA
Washington headquarters and Western Region offices took it upon themselves
to alert the American press, said Khandjian, after which both the New York
Times and Los Angeles Times reported on the blocking of the film in Turkey.

Stressing that the purpose in making `ARARAT’ for Khandjian and Egoyan was
to explore `the very essence of what we have to carry on as an identity in
our lives,’ Khandjian recognized `the power of art to reach the heart and
the mind of humanity. If we played a role in Hai Tad, it was only because
we first and foremost believed in the need to tell our story as we know it.’
Khandjian called on Armenian institutions and artists to recognize and
validate each other’s contributions and strengthen communication between them.

Henry Morgenthau IV also addressed the crowd at `Hai Tad’ evening, saying
that his family was always around Armenians while he was growing up in
Boston. `At my Bar Mitzvah there were Armenians, and at April 24th, there
were Morgenthaus,’ said Morgenthau IV, who has earned a BS degree from Yale,
a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, his
medical credentials from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York,
and is presently practicing pediatrics for the sickest children in San
Francisco hospitals. He has also produced films, campaigned for
congressional candidates and has worked in organizations promoting health
care reform and low-income housing.

Morgenthau IV spoke about the history of the Morgenthau family, which
achieved great political and financial success, after many booms and busts
in the business world. He described his great-grandfather as outwardly very
jovial and cheerful, but very disciplined in his private life. `Financial
success should not be a goal in itself,’ was one of Morgenthau’s maxims, he
said, which drove his great-grandfather’s purpose to do good in the world.
He spoke of the elder Morgenthau’s permanent legacy of adhering to
principles, which gave him the courage to stand up for the Armenians.

Speaking about his trip to Armenia with his father in April, 1999 at the
invitation of the Armenian National Institute, Morgenthau said, `It was the
spontaneous outpouring of affection from the Armenian people which still
stays with me from that trip. My father writes that he felt almost as
though he were the ambassador during that trip.’

`These experiences have instilled in me a desire to continue Ambassador
Morgenthau’s legacy‚Ķ’ said Morgenthau IV. He said that if his
great-grandfather were alive today, he knows he would continue to fight for
official recognition of the Armenian Genocide, but that he would also `be
quick to recognize the vulnerability’ of Armenia at present, and would see
new opportunities for Armenia.

In his introduction to Morgenthau IV, Bay Area ANC member Mark Markarian
said that Morgenthau’s grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Jr. was U.S. Secretary
of the Treasury during WWI, during which time he worked on behalf of the
Jews facing the Holocaust. Morgenthau Jr. initiated a U.S. Treasury program
which funded Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s trip to Budapest, where he
saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Ironically, those
rescued Jews included Bay Area Congressman Tom Lantos, one of the most
vociferous opponents of Armenian Genocide recognition in Congress.

Honored as `local heroes’ at the event were Professor Stephan Astourian, the
Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley, and
U.C. Berkeley Engineering Professor Armen Der Kiureghian. Introducing Prof.
Astourian, ANC member and U.C. Berkeley Armenian Students Association
co-president Hasmig Tatiossian introduced her professor as someone who had
helped instill in her a keen interest in Armenian history and politics.
Astourian arrived at U.C. Berkeley as a visiting professor six years ago
and was able to swiftly raise the status of Armenian Studies at the
university to a full-fledged program, integrating it into the broader
university and linking it with other departments on campus. His courses are
praised for their rigor and content, and Astourian has volunteered his time
to provide community lectures and testify before the government bodies on
issues of history and Armenian Genocide education. Tatiossian praised
Astourian on behalf of the ANC as someone whose presence, scholarship, and
service in the academic arena is making strong, enduring contributions to
the Armenian Cause.

Introducing Professor Armen Der Kiureghian, ANC member and American
University of Armenia staff member Gohar Momjian, described Der Kiureghian’s
many contributions to the Bay Area community and to Armenia. Der Kiureghian
was the initiator and founding member of the American University of Armenia,
and using his expertise in civil engineering and seismic safety, he helped
Armenia greatly after its devastating 1988 earthquake, and established AUA’s
Engineering Research Center, acquiring funding for the research work of more
than 100 scientists in Armenia. Der Kuireghian was instrumental in
establishing the Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley, and has
spearheaded efforts to prevent Armenian Genocide denial on campus. For
these major contributions and the many more ways Professor Der Kiureghian
has been involved in the preservation and vibrancy of the Armenian community
here and abroad, the Bay Area ANC presented him with its `local hero’ award.

Speaking on behalf of the Bay Area ANC, Roxanne Makasdjian outlined the
committee’s key initiatives of the past year. Describing the various
actions taken to achieve recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Makasdjian
said, `With the atmosphere of terrorism which surrounds us today, our
message becomes clearer than ever before: that when the U.S. covers up for
the faults of its friends, it is seen by the rest of the world as
hypocritical, selfish, and fraudulent – and its message of human rights,
democracy, and justice for all is looked upon as a sham, which sews hatred
and resentment among those it says it seeks to save.’ Makasdjian listed the
various Bay Area genocide resolutions the ANC helped pass, the Armenian
Genocide film screening it organized, the publicity it helped generate
around the book `Burning Tigris’ and film `ARARAT,’ relationships with local
press surrounding their coverage of the Genocide, and the progress of the
Bay Area ANC’s Genocide Education Project. Makasdjian presented the
Project’s newly published lesson plans, `Human Rights and Genocide: A Case
Study of the First Genocide of the 20th Century,’ and discussed the success
of new educational website, `TeachGenocide.org’

Makasdjian also updated those present on ANC’s local political advocacy
efforts, including its Mayoral Candidates Forum, and the committee’s
outreach to university students. She also spoke of the newest problem to
arise on the federal level – the Bush administration’s proposal to increase
military aid to Azerbaijan, giving it approximately three-times the amount
offered to Armenia. Makasdjian urged the audience to support the ANC’s
efforts to persuade Congress against making such unbalanced appropriations
which dangerously effect Armenia’s national security.

Of special note at `Hai Tad Evening’ was the attendance of former California
Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian. Makasdjian noted that this Spring,
Arabian will be awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, as
someone from an immigrant community who has achieved so much. Also
recognized for their generosity were the many Bay Area Armenian-American
community members who have contributed financially to the committee’s
ongoing activities.

###

Full Speech by Arsin√©e Khandjian at Bay Area ANC `Hai Tad Evening’:

PICTURE CAPTION:
Left to right: Bay Area ANC Representative Roxanne Makasdjian, Actress
Arsinée Khandjian, Professor Stephan Astourian, Dr. Henry Morgenthau IV, and
Professor Armen Der Kiureghian

http://www.ancsf.org/press_releases/2004/3192004.htm
http://www.ancsf.org/press_releases/2004/khandjian_speech.htm
www.ancsf.org
www.TeachGenocide.org

Former Cranston RI Pastor Faces Embezzlement Charges

Turn to 10.com, RI
March 22 2004

Former Cranston Pastor Faces Embezzlement Charges

CRANSTON, R.I. — A Cranston man faces charges he embezzled money
from his church, News Channel 10 reported.

Megerdich Megerdichian served as pastor of the Holy Cross Armenian
Apostolic Church, in Troy, N.Y., for 16 years. The congregation
removed him in 1998.

Prosecutors said he allegedly stole money and kept it in a secret
bank account.

Megerdichian has pleaded guilty to evading taxes, authorities said.

Shoulder to shoulder Armenians, Tibetans band together in solidarity

Phayul, Tibet
March 22 2004

Shoulder to shoulder Armenians and Tibetans band together in
solidarity

WTN[Monday, March 22, 2004 10:37]
By Anna Sarkissian

Armenians and Tibetans, two peoples who “share the same fate,” banded
together last Friday in a gesture of solidarity.

“The noble Tibetan people are also victims of injustice and a
cultural genocide to this day, while the rest of the world looks on,”
said Azad Chichmanian, a member of the Ad Hoc Armenian Committee in
Support of Tibet-China Negotiations. Like Armenia, Tibet is a “small
but proud nation, working hard to gain recognition for crimes against
humanity,” he added.

Chichmanian said that a group of Armenians “saw an opportunity to
contribute in a positive way and help.” The Ad Hoc Committee joined
forces with Armenian student associations from Concordia, McGill and
Université de Montréal to host an information night at UdeM.

“It means so much to the Tibetan community,” said Thubten Samdup,
national president of the Canada-Tibet Committee. “It has been played
up on the Tibetan radio, in the newspapers. We feel like we’re not
alone.”

Addressing the small crowd, Samdup said pressuring the Prime
Minister’s office to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a key
issue. He will be visiting the nation’s capital on April 24, which
happens to coincide with the day Armenians will be commemorating the
Armenian Genocide.

The Canada-Tibet Committee is not asking the federal government to
take a firm position on the matter, but simply to broker dialogue
between the leaders, Samdup said.

“We’re not going to beg for a photo-op with the Dalai Lama, we want
something tangible,” he explained. Human rights are the cornerstone
of Canadian policy, he said, and our nation is in a unique position
to take this leadership role.

For Samdup, it is a matter of preserving Tibet’s identity. “I
definitely don’t want to sit back and be a witness to my culture and
people being wiped out.”

Following the Canada Tibet Connittee president’s address, the Ad Hoc
group encouraged audience members to sign letters for their MPs,
asking them to support Canada-Tibet negotiations. “The message is, we
don’t want this repeated. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder [with
Tibetans],” Viken Attarian, a member of the Armenian group, said.

As of yet, 137 of 298 members of parliament have signed on and
expressed support for the initiative. Samdup contends that if a
majority of representatives are sympathetic to their cause, Prime
Minister Paul Martin will have to consider taking action. “If China’s
going to listen to anyone, it might be Canada.”

Scepticism And Optimism: Greet Turkmenistan Decree

Maranatha Christian Journal
March 22 2004

Scepticism And Optimism
Greet Turkmenistan Decree

( F18News) — Despite a surprise 11 March decree from Turkmenistan
President Saparmurat Niyazov lifting the requirement that a religious
community must have 500 adult citizen members before it can register,
officials have insisted that unregistered religious activity remains
illegal.

Religious believers of the many illegal faiths – including all
Protestant, Armenian Apostolic, Shia Muslim, Jewish, Hare Krishna,
Baha’i and Jehovah’s Witness communities – have been taken by
surprise by an March 11 decree from Turkmenistan’s authoritarian
president Saparmurat Niyazov allowing religious communities to gain
official registration regardless of how many members they have or
what faith they belong to.

Some have told Forum 18 News Service they are optimistic that
conditions will improve, though others – especially from groups that
have regularly suffered fines, beatings and threats – are sceptical.
Under the country’s harsh religion law, communities have previously
needed five hundred adult citizen members (a requirement almost
impossible for religious minorities to achieve), while since last
November unregistered religious activity has been a crime. The new
decree makes no mention of decriminalising unregistered religious
activity.

Bibi Agina, an official of the department that registers social
organisations at the Adalat (Justice) Ministry, told Forum 18 that
the decree does not mean that unregistered religious communities can
start to meet freely in private homes. “As before, religious
communities can only function after they get registration,” she told
Forum 18 from Ashgabad on 12 March. “The decree simply gives
religious communities like the Baptists and others the possibility to
work legally.”

Officials at the government’s Gengeshi (Council) for Religious
Affairs were, as usual, reluctant to talk, putting down the phone
when Forum 18 telephoned. Eventually Forum 18 managed to speak to
Mukhamed (who refused to give his last name), an aide to the deputy
chairman Murad Karriyev, who said the same as Agina that the decree
does not entitle unregistered religious communities to begin to
function. “They still need registration,” he insisted to Forum 18.

Radik Zakirov, a Protestant from Ashgabad, said his community is not
preparing to register under the new decree. But he believed it might
mark a change of policy. “The authorities have tried up till now to
use repressive measures and have understood this is unsuccessful,” he
told Forum 18 on March 12. “They seem now to be trying to bring
religious communities under state control – perhaps a cleverer
policy.”

One immediate welcome for the decree came from Armenia’s Ambassador
to Turkmenistan, Aram Grigorian, who has been seeking the return to
the local Armenian community of their church in the Caspian port city
of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), which was confiscated during
the Soviet period. “This is a very progressive decree,” he told Forum
18 from Ashgabad on March 12. “We will try to make use of it.”

The government has not allowed any Armenian Apostolic churches to
reopen or open in Turkmenistan and, if they wish to attend services,
Armenian Apostolic believers are forced to go to the only legal
Christian denomination, the Russian Orthodox Church, although the
Armenian Church is of the Oriental family of Christian Churches, not
the Orthodox.

Vasili Kalin, chairman of the ruling council of the Jehovah’s
Witnesses in Russia, who maintains close ties with fellow believers
in Turkmenistan, was cautiously optimistic over what he regarded as
perhaps the start of a process of improvement. “We welcome the
guarantees of freedom of religion and registration in the decree,” he
told Forum 18 from St Petersburg on 12 March, “but experience teaches
us to look at what happens in practice.” Anatoly Melnik, a Jehovah’s
Witness leader from Kazakhstan with contacts in Turkmenistan, was
more pessimistic over whether the decree will improve life for their
communities, believing the decree might be simply a “propaganda
measure”.

Kalin said their communities in Turkmenistan are ready to register,
but pointed out that several Jehovah’s Witnesses remain in prison for
their faith. “It would be a good gesture that Turkmenistan is ready
to abide by its international human rights commitments if these
innocent people would be freed. We hope to see that soon.” He said
the new decree might be a signal that Turkmenistan is changing “just
as in the Soviet Union when the situation changed”. He pointed out
that moving from illegality in the Soviet Union to a position where
Jehovah’s Witnesses could register their communities took time.

One Protestant, whose church has had numerous problems from the
authorities and has to meet in secret to try to evade state control,
was sceptical about whether the decree would make a lot of
difference. “We know about the decree,” the Protestant – who
preferred not to be identified – told Forum 18. “But are we
optimistic? Not so much.”

A Christian representative outside Turkmenistan with close links in
the country told Forum 18 that “if the decree becomes a reality, it
will be good”. The representative noted that without registration the
church has faced a number of problems, including the impossibility of
acquiring property for services.

Most sceptical were leaders of unregistered Protestant churches.
Viktor Makrousov of the Pentecostal church (who had not yet seen the
decree) and Vladimir Tolmachev of Greater Grace both separately
believed the situation is unlikely to improve on the ground. “Our
main problem has not been the 500 signatures required for
registration – we could achieve that,” Tolmachev told Forum 18 from
Ashgabad on March 12. “The problem is that people signing the
registration application would get problems – they would be sacked
from their work, especially those who are ethnic Turkmens. It is a
problem of people’s safety.”

Niyazov’s decree, reported on state television on 11 March and
published in Russian on the pro-government website turkmenistan.ru,
claims that the country “carries out fully” its commitments under the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of
All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or
Belief “while securing the harmony of the religious confessions
functioning in Turkmenistan”. In reality, the government has
flagrantly violated these international commitments amid the heaviest
controls on religious life of all the former Soviet republics.

The decree sets out three provisions:

“1. To secure the registration on the territory of Turkmenistan of
religious organisations and groups in accordance with
generally-accepted international norms and procedures.

“2. To register on the territory of Turkmenistan according to
established procedure religious groups of citizens independently of
their number, faith and religion.

“3. The Adalat Ministry of Turkmenistan is to put into effect the
current decree from the day of its publication.”

The decree was published at the same time as a decree ordering the
lifting of exit controls on Turkmenistan’s citizens. Both this and
the denial of religious freedom have been heavily criticised by
foreign governments and human rights activists. Religious believers
within the country are generally too frightened to speak out openly
against the restrictions on their religious activity.

Armenia-Iran pipeline may be extended to Ukraine, EU

Interfax
March 22 2004

Armenia-Iran pipeline may be extended to Ukraine, EU

Yerevan. (Interfax) – The Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, for which a
construction agreement should be signed in the near future, may be
extended through Georgia to Ukraine and on to the European Union,
Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan told Interfax.

He said that the possibility has not been ruled out of laying a
pipeline from Iran through Armenia and Georgia an onwards along the
Black Sea bed to Ukraine. “After the Blue Stream project, the
construction of long marine pipelines is no longer a fantasy,” the
minister said

He said that the supply of gas from Iran to the Ukrainian and
European markets is in line with these countries’ plans to find
access to alternative natural gas supplies.

Iran, Turkmenistan and, above all, the European Union, wants this.
Europe hopes to build a pipeline to its territory through Armenia,
with Iranian and Turkmenistani gas. But this will involve serious and
long negotiations, involving other countries that now receive Russian
gas,” Movsisyan said.

In 2000 the institute VNIPITransgaz developed a feasibility study for
the Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Ukraine-Europe gas pipeline, with an
underwater section of 550 km from the Georgian port of Supsa to the
Crimean city of Feodosia. The Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Ministry
estimated the cost of the project at $5 billion, with gas supply
volume of 60 billion cubic meters per annum, including 10 bcm for
Ukraine.

Armenian Finance and Economics Minister Vardan Khachatryan said
earlier that construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline might
begin by the end of 2003 and be completed within one to two years.

Armenia and Iran signed an intergovernmental agreement in 1995
establishing the route of the pipeline, which stretches 114 km,
including 41 km in Armenia and 100 km in Iran. The agreement also
sets the price for gas to be transported through the pipeline at $84
per 1,000. The cost of the project is estimated at $120 million.

The Iran-Armenia gas pipeline has been on the drawing board since
1992. In addition to the two main participants in the project, other
interested parties include Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, countries
in the European Union, and China. The European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development has said that it is ready to finance
the project.

Armenian GDP up 7.3% in Jan-Feb

Interfax
March 22 2004

Armenian GDP up 7.3% in Jan-Feb

Yerevan. (Interfax) – Armenian GDP increased 7.3% to 134.043 million
dram in January-February 2004, a source in the National Statistics
Service told Interfax.

Industrial production fell 5.5% year-on-year in the same period.

Armenia’s foreign trade deficit in the first two months amounted to
$79.8 million. Exports amounted to $84.8 million, with imports of
$164.6 million. Foreign trade turnover amounted to $249.4 million.

GDP in Armenia in 2003 increased 13.9% to 1.618 trillion dram, with
industrial production up 14.9% to 425.3 billion dram.

The official exchange rate on March 19 was 562.67 dram to the dollar.

ANKARA: No Islamic World Exists Today

Zaman, Turkey
March 22 2004

No Islamic World Exists Today

by Nuriye Akman

After five years of living in the U.S. and suffering from poor
health, Fethullah Gulen broke his silence by granting an interview to
Nuriye Akman. Gulen commented on developments in Turkey and around
the world, and answered all the allegations about him. Along with
those subjects, he also explained the meaning of years of
homesickness. Gulen conveyed the traces of his yearning for his
homeland, and remarked, “These last five years have perhaps become
the most painful years of my life.”

As a member of Sabah newspaper, I interviewed Fethullah Gulen 10
years ago in Izmir. This was a turning point. This marked the first
time he was sharing his views with an ‘outsider’ journalist; he was
clarifying about who he was and what he wants to do. 10 years later,
this time in America, I had the chance to interview him as a member
of Zaman. I say ‘I had the chance’ because as all my colleagues, I
was wondering about how he lives in the U.S.; how this lengthy
separation reflected on his feelings and thoughts and when he will
return to Turkey. I had the desire to be the first journalist
reflecting his disclosures. I feel that I am lucky since I had the
chance to witness this expatriation process.

I would like to start with the subject that his followers and
opponents are most curious about: Where and how is he living?

In a small town, he lives in a house owned by his niece located in a
small wood of pine, chestnut, juniper and oak trees. This is place
similar to what Yahya Kemal describes in his poems; a place that
tranquilizes the soul under cool cypresses, away from crazy crowds.
It is where time runs not out but in slowly, cheered every now and
then by visits of Turks who live in America. Flocks of birds in a
hurry leave the sounds of their wings on the rooftop during the day.
The moon and stars in all their grandeur shine in a sky free of light
pollution. There are plenty of squirrels and deer.

But, if you think that Fethullah Gulen takes long walks in the wood
and watches with pleasure how a bubbling brook flows into a small
pond, you are wrong. He leaves his room only for praying and meal
times. Let alone the wood, he had not even taken five steps into the
garden in five years.

All right, but why? From diabetes to heart disease, from high blood
pressure to cholesterol problems, many physical discomforts of course
have a share in it, but, I consider the real answer to be hidden in
his soul. You will find a few hints of this during our interview.

I witnessed how much the health problems, which an ordinary person
would barely stand, wore him out. His condition was fluctuating. Even
though his eyes could not mask his pain, he deemed it impolite to
complain about his pain and he tried to answer my endless questions
in detail. When his doctor felt he [Gulen] could not continue because
of increasing blood pressure, fever, headache and the inability to
utter even a single word, he was demanded a break and sent him to
take a rest. I was angry at myself for pushing him to talk with me
before he had fully recovered from his heart surgery he had a short
while ago; however my professional excitement was dominating and I
was saying, “All right, that will be all for the day, but let’s
continue tomorrow,” and he was replying, “if I do not die.”

Despite the fact he implied that I was pushing the limits, my ego was
unwilling to hear this.

For this reason, I should say that one should not be taken in by the
vigorous posture and rugged clothing in his photos.

I was not before him on an interview appointment anyways. I would
like to thank him for not letting me down even though he felt that it
was not the time to express his thoughts. I happened to attend a pep
talk he was giving his guests on a day when he was feeling good. I
listened to him in a pep talk for the first time. It was a
multilayered talk blended with Sufism, history, geography, politics
and literature. It was addressed both to the hearts and minds, in
which audience could broaden their circle of awareness to the extent
of their intellectual accumulations. I think he was able to talk so
fluently because he was able to curb his bewilderment on the inside
that was caused by his being wronged.

When I requested to see his room, I was not rejected. A twin size bed
was covered with a bedspread stitched with simple colorful fabric
pieces. A treadmill was in the corner. All the things in the room
were nothing but the presents with symbolic values. Soil saved in
jars or some in plastic bags from different regions of Turkey was for
pacifying the yearning for his homeland.

It’s been five years since you came to America, has it not?

On March 22 (today), it will be five years.

How was Fethullah Gulen Hodjaefendi five years ago and how he is
today?

Such a long time has passed and naturally it has had an influence on
me. As of my character, I cannot say that I changed a great deal.
However, I have seen different things, heard different things.
Sometimes, I had been lowered into gayyas, [a well in hell]. I kept
quiet.

These five years perhaps were the most painful years of my life. I
had been subjected to a similar unjust scrutiny as well for nearly
six years. In the end, the verdict was annulment of the charge. It
could be said that, since May 27 some repeatedly pushed the button,
whether or not I know the reasons, and some took action. I am 66
years old; almost since I was 20 my life has been like this. This was
the most painful of all. Because, in a way I am oversensitive. I am
so sensitive to the extent of hysteria. I feel I am being disloyal if
I do not return to a place where I had a cup of coffee. In the same
way I feel I am being disloyal to a road previously taken if I do not
take it again. There is soil in my room from 50 different areas of
Turkey. They are being preserved, as if it is the soil of Kabah. I
look at them and find consolation in them. But, on the other hand, I
endure like pressing a piece of red hot coal into my chest and
squeeze my teeth not to provoke some.

What did this period bring to you and take from you? How did it
affect your health and psychology?

There are two sides to every story. I came here for treatment mostly.
There is Mr. Sadi in the Mayo Clinic, he is a Crimean. He went back
and forth to Turkey. They came with a delegation of the executive
board. They wanted to run a check up on me. The other side of the
issue is that there was pressure. Gossip was going on and on. On one
side, there were pleasant things, like taking tolerance to higher
places in Turkey, of the people respecting their positions and even
more so, of it becoming a culture. On the other hand, some were
disturbed a great deal for some reason. My heart was in fairly poor
condition. My diabetes was increasing. Even my cholesterol could not
be controlled. I came to the Mayo Clinic. My intention was to stay
there a few days and then return. A few days turned out to be a few
months. Based on these incidents, they said returning would be
harmful for my health. I tried to be under treatment on one side. I
had osteoporosis. I often went to hospitals for my heart condition. I
went to the hospitals 20 times. I did not go any place except
hospitals. I got sicker here, partly from sadness, partly from
distress. These were the places where the newspaper failed to reach
and I failed to listen to radio. I felt as if I was a little more
comfortable here. I was released from the happenings around me.
However, the yearning for Turkey was burning me inside.

No Islamic World but Individual Islam

Islamic section sat aside for years saying, ‘Islam does not accord
with terror”. However, the incidents of September 11 occurred. In the
aftermath, bombings took place in many countries, including Turkey.
It was discovered that the perpetrators came from among us. Before
everything else, it is it not necessary for us to rebel?

You are so right. Today, Islam is misunderstood at best. Muslims
should say, “In real Islam, terror does not exist.” Because, in
Islam, killing a human is equal to qufr [not believing Allah]. You
cannot kill a human being. You cannot touch the innocent, even in
war. No one can give fatwa (a legal pronouncement in Islam, issued by
a religious law specialist, on a specific issue) on this subject. No
one can be a suicide bomber. No one can rush into crowds with bombs
tied to his body. Regardless of the religion of these crowds, it is
not religiously permissible. Even in the event of war – in which
balances are not kept much- , this is not permitted. It is told, “Do
not touch children, people who worship at churches.” It is not only
once that it is said, but over and over again. What Our Master [The
Prophet Muhammed] said, Ebu Bekir said, and what Ebu Bekir said, Omer
said, and what he said, in later times, Salahaddin Eyubi, Alparslan,
Kilicarslan also said. Fatih [Mehmet The Conqueror] said the same.
Thus Constantinople, where a disorderly hullabaloo was experienced,
had become Istanbul. That means neither Greek did anything to
Armenian, nor Armenian did anything to Greek. Muslims too did not do
anything to them. After the conquest of Istanbul, there was a huge
Fatih poster in the Patriarchate. It had been made at that time.
Fatih summoned the Patriarch then and gave him the key. They
[Patriarchate] remember him in respect. Now, as in everything else,
there is lack of understanding Islam, which has always respected
different ideas.

I should say this regretfully that in the Islamic World, some hodjas
and immature Muslims have no other weapons to use. Islam is a just
religion, it should be lived justly. It is definitely not right
either to use a futile pretext on the way to Islam. As the target is
required to be just, all the means to reach that target should be
just as well. Within this perspective, one cannot go to heaven by
killing another. A Muslim cannot say, “I will kill a man and then go
to heaven.” Acceptance of the will of Allah cannot be earned by
killing men. Of the most important goals of a Muslim, one is to earn
acceptance of God’s will and the other is to make the Almighty name
of Allah known to universe.

Is this how their logic works; war used to fought on the fronts. But
now, everywhere is a battle ground. Thus, do they accept this as a
war as well? Do they think that a gate for them will be opened to go
to heaven from this angle?

Rules of Islam are obvious. Individuals cannot declare war. Neither a
group nor an organization cannot declare a war. War is declared by
the state. You cannot declare a war without a president or an army
saying that it is war. Otherwise, it becomes a relative war. One
forms a war front by gathering, forgive my language, a few plunderers
around him. One other takes the others. Think about Turkey. There are
strong minded people. A front could be formed even because of their
differences. Some could say, “I declare war against such and such.” A
person tolerant to Christianity could be told, “He helps
Christianity, and weakens Islam. A war against him should be declared
and he must be killed,” then a war is declared. This is not so easy.
If the state does not declare a war, one cannot wage war. Whoever
does it, even if the scientists I like much, it is not true war,
because it is against the spirit of Islam. The rules of peace and war
in Islam are determined.

If it is against the spirit of Islam, then why is the Islamic World
like so?

In my opinion, there is no such world as the Islamic world. There are
places where Muslims live. They are many in some places and few in
others. That is Islamic culture. There are Muslims who restructured
Islam in accordance with their thoughts. I do not refer to
radicalism, extremist Muslims. Requirement is that one should justly
believe, and apply justification to these beliefs; Islam should be
owned. It cannot be said that in Islamic geography no such societies
with this concept and philosophy exist. If we say otherwise, then we
slander Islam. If we say Islam does not exist, then we slander
humans. I do not lightly consider the contribution of Muslims to the
balance of the world. I do not see that logic with administrators.
The Islamic World is pretty ignorant, despite an enlightenment in
measures that is coming into existence nowadays. We can observe this
in Hajj. You can see this in their conferences and panels. You can
see this in their parliaments through television. There is a serious
inequality in the subject matter. They cannot solve the problems of
the world. Perhaps, it could be achieved in the future.

You mean then, that the term “Islamic World” should not be used?

No such world exists. There is individual Islam. There are some
Muslims in different places around the world. Piece by piece, broken.
I personally do not see the prosperous existence of Muslims. If
Muslims, who will be in contact with the others and constitute a
union, solve common problems, interpret the universe, read it really
well, consider the universe carefully with the Koran, read the future
very well, generate projects for the future, determine its place for
the future, do not exist, I do not call it Islamic World. Since there
is no such Islamic World, every one does something according to
him/her self. It could even be said that there are Muslims with their
own truth on behalf of Islam. It cannot be said that an Islamic
concept reached consensus by itself; rather great Islamic scholars
reach a consensus on a subject, bound by a strong Koran
interpretation, and it is tested many times. It could be said that an
Islamic culture is dominant.

Perhaps, it has been always like that. And it will continue to be as
such until the end of the world.

It has been so after the 5th A.H. It started with the Abbasid Era or
with the appearance of the Seljuks. It started more so after the
Conquest of Istanbul. This is a period that is the will of Allah for
us. In the following periods, doors to new interpretations were
closed. Horizons of thought were narrowed. Wideness in the soul of
Islam was narrowed. More unscrupulous people are started to be seen
in Islamic world. People who are touchy. People who cannot accept
others. People who cannot open themselves to everyone. This
narrowness was experienced in dervish lodges. It is so sad that it
was even experienced in madrasas [schools of theology]. And of
course, all of these require revision and renovation by great people
in their fields.

You think maybe their abolishment was for better.

Abolishment was the punishment of Allah for them.

Fethullah Gulen struggles with serious health conditions. While he
was answering Nuriye Akman’s questions, he got sick from time to
time, and all his pain was reflected in his face. There were pauses
where he felt that he could not continue with the interview. He
mentioned that he satiates the yearning for his homeland by viewing
the soil brought from 50 different regions in Turkey; he does not
consider it is time to go back to Turkey just yet. When he is asked
about the reason, he says: “My treatment continues. I do not want to
stir anything up with my return.”

How France Defines Terrorism

How France Defines Terrorism
MensNewsDaily
March 21, 2004

by Bruce Walker

Dominique de Villepin, Foreign Minister of Vichy French, after
President Bush reminded the world that Iraq was much happier without
Saddam Hussein, sniped that there was more terrorism in Iraq now than
before the war of liberation.

The problem, of course, is how Villepin and the government of Vichy
France defines “terrorism.”

Nations, according to the Vichy mentality, cannot break laws or commit
terrorism. This thinking allowed Vichy France to collaborate without
remorse in the Holocaust. Hitler had a regime that was scrupulously
legalistic in many ways.

As one example, in the first election after the Enabling Act, the
National Socialist German Workers Party did not win a majority of
seats in the Reichstag.

Nazis did terrible deeds which violated established international law
or German criminal law but the truly ghastly crimes of Nazism were
committed in violation of moral law, not specific prohibitions of
national or international law.

Indeed, perhaps the most grim fact to concede in prosecutions made for
the Holocaust was that no similar prosecutions were made for the
identical crime of the Armenian Holocaust twenty-five years earlier.

France, pointedly, was the greatest land power in Europe after the
Great War.

It had the military power to punish Turkey for the systematic
extermination of 1.5 million Armenian Christians in the First
Holocaust. The legalistic statism of Vichy thinking refused to condemn
the torture, murder and outraging of the Armenians.

When Arnold Wegner, who from Christian conscience recorded in
photographs the First Holocaust, begged Hitler not to do to Jews what
Turks had done to Armenians, Hitler’s famous response was “Who, today,
thinks of the Armenians?” The official predecessors of Villepin did
not think of the Armenians in 1919.

There were no Nuremberg Trials for the First Holocaust.

If we consider democidal campaigns of monsters who lead governments,
then what sort of terrorism has occurred by these heads of political
parties, governments or ideologies? Evil governments unmolested by
external champions of goodness have been the primary terrorists of the
Twentieth Century.

Communism in peacetime – not in war or in civil war – murdered almost
100 million people who lived within its noxious realm in the last
century. That exceeds all the victims of wars and of other holocausts
and democides combined.

About 20 million people were murdered by odious regimes like Hitler
and Hussein.

This compares with 29 million people murdered in wars, excluding civil
wars.

Almost 6 million people, the equivalent of the Holocaust’s Jewish
victims, died in civil wars which, by definition, is a war to
determine who is the government of a region.

When murder by a government against its subjects is considered
“terrorism” then does Iraq have more terrorism or less terrorism after
Operation Iraqi Freedom? There is much less terrorism, if we reject
the Vichy French notionthat families gassed at Auschwitz are not
victims of terrorism while German soldiers strafed by P-47
Thunderbolts in the campaign to liberate France were victims of
terrorism.

Saddam Hussein killed in so many different ways that it is difficult
to fully grasp the extent of his murders. Some mass graves contain
tens of thousands of dead men, women and children. Some of these Babi
Yar sites – referring to one of the most infamous field exterminations
of innocent Jews by Nazis in the Soviet Union – were known to us
beforehand and some were not.

The gassing of Kurds, the wholesale destruction of Shia, and the
decimation of the Baathist Party itself produce mind-boggling
numbers. Based upon whatwe know now but did not know before Operation
Iraqi Freedom, a very conservative estimate would be that the
terrorism of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist butchers murdered at
least five hundred people each day.

That excludes factors that might well be considered simple murder. The
aggressive war against Iran claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi
lives asdid the invasion of Kuwait. The misuse of the “Oil for Food”
program appears likelyto have claimed another hundred thousand or so
Iraqi children. But let us forget this dead and consider only those
who are victims of the Baathist Holocaust.

More people were murdered each day by the Baathist Party in Bagdad
than on the worst day of killing since Operation Iraqi Freedom began,
and that includes the combat deaths of Baathist Party supporters and
of innocent Iraqis. The terrorism of monstrous governments like the
Baathist Party, the Communist Party and the Nazi Party are modern
terrorism.

Organized democide, whether at Tikrit, Trezibond or Treblinka, dwarfs
what pikers like bin Ladin can accomplish. Perhaps Vichy Foreign
Minister Villepin cannot see this because he comes from the nation
whose revolutionary government gave humanity “The Terror” and which
inspired Lenin, Hitler and Mao to match the French bloodbath of
terrorist government. This worst sort of terrorism is precisely what
collaborators like Villepin never see – and never wish to see.

Bruce Walker

Bruce Walker writes regular, orginal, weekly columns for Enter Stage
Right and Conservative Truth. His articles have also appeared in a
variety of print and electronic periodicals, including Christian
Science Monitor, Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law and Order, Legal Secretary
Today, and The Docket. Bruce also wrote a regular column for several
years entitled “Law and You” for The Single Parent, the national
journal of Parents Without Partners. His professional career includes
five years as Executive Director of the Oklahoma District Attorneys
Association, three years as Administrator of the Oklahoma Child
Support Enforcement Program, and six years as Managing Attorney of the
Tulsa Child Support Office.