Armenia: Women Do Time in “Model Prison”

Armenia: Women Do Time in “Model Prison”

Almost half the inmates of the country’s only women’s prison are serving
sentences for murder.

By Karine Ter-Saakian in Abovian (CRS No. 222, 11-Mar-04)

Just outside Yerevan, there is a small zoo whose inmates include a llama, a
peacock and a couple of pythons. What’s unusual about it is that it’s part
of a woman’s prison, the only one in Armenia.

The authorities claim the Abovian camp is a model prison and that its 70
inmates have some of the best conditions in the former Soviet Union. Human
rights activists agree that things are a lot better than they used to be,
but say much more needs to be done for conditions to meet international

An IWPR contributor who visited the prison camp last week found it a strange
place, with a large aquarium as well as a zoo, and an area where pigs and
rabbits are raised for food.

But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the prison is that nearly half
the women are in for murder rather than the more usual lesser crimes.

Part of the explanation may be that women are very rarely imprisoned in
Armenia, and the country’s new criminal code stipulates that they should not
serve more than 15 years. But those convicted of grave crimes such as murder
are not eligible for early release under amnesty.

Voski is a 78-year-old woman serving a sentence for murder. “I was born in
Azerbaijan and became a refugee. My husband used to abuse me so I went and
killed him,” she told IWPR. Another inmate recently killed her

In the prison it’s widely believed that you can tell who is serving a murder
sentences because they are the most beautiful.

“Women are more cruel,” said deputy prison governor Rostom Mnatsakanian, a
man. “There is one woman here who killed her husband and cut him into 90
pieces, into tiny bits. And when they asked her why, she said she was fed up
with him.”

The prisoners are held in large rooms lined with beds rather than small
cells. The atmosphere gloomy and with so many people around, privacy is
almost non-existent.

Prisoners told IWPR that life has improved at Abovian since the camp was
transferred from the jurisdiction of the interior ministry to the justice

Prison officials say that inmates have the right to work and earn a small
wage, and that they also have computer classes and use of the internet,
access to a psychologist and a health clinic, and regular visits by Armenian

“We have here what many people outside don’t even have – hot water, enough
food, and the right to see our children,” said Arevik, a pleasant young
woman who is another of those serving time for murder. Her sister is doing
time in the prison, and she also has her young daughter who was born here.

“We understand that nothing can replace freedom, but we are still trying to
provide them with a human existence,” said Mnatsakanian. “Thank God, there
is much more order in the [prison] camps in Armenia than in other
Commonwealth of Independent States countries.”

A few days after IWPR’s visit, the prison marked International Women’s Day –
March 8 – with a gift of pearls for all the women from Armenian church
leader Catholicos Garegin II and a concert, and children were allowed to
visit their mothers for a couple of days.

However, Avetik Ishkhanian, head of Armenia’s Helsinki Committee, said that
the Armenian prisons including this one did not yet measure up to
international standards.

“It’s true, it’s become somewhat better now, but the inmates are still
deprived of newspapers, books and any contact with the outside world. They
can only use the telephone for 20 minutes a month,” he said.

Mikael Danielian, who heads another human rights group, the Helsinki
Association, agreed that overall, conditions have improved at Abovian, but
he noted,”There is no decent room here for meetings. And when they complain
about this to the management, they say there is no money. It’s interesting,
there’s money for an aquarium and greenhouses, but not for normal rooms.”

Danielian continued, “The furniture is old, the cells don’t get any air,
there are 10 to 15 people in one room, and in the [nearby] children’s
[detention] camp, all 68 inmates sleep in one room.

“They [the women] have hot water, but bath day is only once a week, so
standards of sanitation are terrible. And why do they have computers if they
can’t use them?”

Each cell also has an informer who listens to everything the others say –
they won’t say who she is or point her out, but simply call her “mother”.

Everyone agrees, though, that life at Abovian is much better than in the men
‘s prison at Kosh, where tuberculosis is rife and general living conditions
are much worse.

“We always hope that those who have served their sentence won’t come back
here, but it doesn’t always work that way,” said deputy governor
Mnatasakanian. “Around a quarter of the prisoners come back. Maybe they’ve
got used to it here.”

Karine Ter-Saakian is a journalist with the Respublika Armenii newspaper in

Disappearing Horses of Karabakh

Disappearing Horses of Karabakh
Dilbaz (top) and Karabakh horse at the Baku hippodrome.

Azerbaijanis breeders are struggling to keep alive a centuries-old horse
rearing tradition.

By Kamil Piriev and Samira Husseinova in Lenberan (CRS No. 222, 11-Mar-04)

The green pastures of this village 360 kilometres west of Baku used to be
home to cattle and sheep. Now a group of stables and barns dominates the
landscape and herds of Karabakh horses graze across it, guarded by a
herdsman and a dog.

The village of Lenberan has been transformed by the arrival here of the
staff of what used to be the stud farm of Aghdam, the Azerbaijani city now
occupied by the Armenians and located on the other side of the Nagorny
Karabakh ceasefire line.

The famous Karabakh horses have suffered from the conflict, too. There are
now just 130 of them, compared with some 400 twenty years ago.

Azerbaijan’s first stud farm was built near Aghdam in 1949 to rear the
valuable Karabakh breed of horse. The farm was hard hit by the 1991-94
conflict. The remaining horses were evacuated to Baku before Armenian troops
captured Aghdam in 1993.

It was only four years later that a proper new farm was built for the horses
at Lenberan. However both the location and the farm leave much to be
desired. The lowland climate is not ideal for the horses, and the farm is
rather cramped.

“Karabakh horses were bred in the mountains for centuries,” farm manager
Maarif Husseinov told IWPR. “That is why, apart from their beauty, these
horses are valued for their endurance and ability to travel narrow mountain
paths. Lenberan is not good for them. The climate is too humid and the grass
is different here.”

The beautiful golden-brown Karabakh horse, believed to be of very ancient
pedigree, is of medium height with a small head and strong muscles. Over
many centuries the Muslim khans of the Karabakh highlands took great pride
in breeding them.

Traditionally the breed has been prized for its hardiness and its loyalty to
its owners. Because of its size and temperament it has always been popular
with woman riders. Its fame persisted into modern times and in 1956, Queen
Elizabeth of Britain received a Karabakh stallion named Zaman as a gift from
the Soviet government, along with an Akhal Tekke horse from Turkmenistan.

There are some 65,000 horses in Azerbaijan, but only about 1,000 of them are
thoroughbred. As well as the relocated Aghdam stud farm, there are two farms
at Agstafa and one at Sheki which breed the grey Dilbaz, another famous
Azerbaijani breed.

But all the stud farms have fallen on hard times, because although they are
officially run by the state, in reality they were left to fend for
themselves years ago. Selling just a few horses a year, they can barely
afford to buy food for the horses and pay their employees.

This worries the experts. “Unless conditions improve, the Karabakh and
Dilbaz may lose their pedigree status and become diluted in a few years,”
warned Handam Rajabli, deputy director of the pedigree breeding department
at the agriculture ministry.

“Professional horse breeding in Azerbaijan suffers most from the lack of
customer interest in our local breeds,” complained Rajabli. “Many private
customers these days prefer the English thoroughbred and the Turkmen Akkal
Tekke to the Karabakh and Dilbaz.”

Azerbaijan’s racing and breeding industries continue to suffer from a
presidential ban on betting on horses that followed a big casino scandal in
Baku five years ago. As a result racing lost popularity and racecourses and
stud farms lost revenues. To maintain the Baku racecourse complex, the
management has had to lease part of the premises to private businesses.

Another major problem is the continuing export ban on Azerbaijani horses
because of their failure to meet international identification standards. As
an exportable commodity, horses need to come with all the necessary
vaccinations properly documented, which is not the case with Azerbaijan’s

This year, the agriculture ministry came up with a plan to improve breeding
conditions for thoroughbred Azerbaijani horses and asked the government to
foot the bill. The plan calls for around 400,000 dollars to be allocated to
the horse breeding industry and the ban on horserace betting to be lifted.
The government is still considering its response.

But some enthusiasts think there is no time to be lost. Yashar Guluzade, an
entrepreneur, has been breeding the Karabakh for seven years. On the 50
hectares of land he owns outside Baku, he keeps 28 Karabakh horses and two

Yashar owes his love of horses to his father Alihussein, but never dreamed
of owning his own stable. Then in 1997 he saw Senat, a young Karabakh stud
horse, at the Baku racecourse and was so impressed by its beauty that he
decided to buy it. After that he became so fascinated with local breeds that
he travelled from village to village in search of pedigree animals.

Guluzade, 39, is worried that the Karabakh and Dilbaz horses may be on the
road to extinction. “I’m an amateur, but even I can see how the thoroughbred
population has been dwindling year by year,” he said. “Unless the government
and real experts take action, the purity of these breeds will not last much

Experts at the ministry, while conceding that action must be taken, are more
optimistic about the future. “I find it alarming that the government does
not provide enough cash to stud farms and line breeders,” said Rajabli. “But
to talk about thoroughbred Karabakh and Dilbaz being close to extinction
would be premature. These breeds have survived for centuries; they cannot
just vanish into thin air.”

Kamil Piriev reports for Radio France Internationale and Samira Husseinova
is a freelance journalist; both are based in Baku.

To see photographs of two horses look at the web version of this story on
our Caucasus website,

“We were friends with Tigran Petrossian” Vasilevich

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 10 2004


– Boris Vasilevich, I want to greet you in the name of the staff of
the newspaper “Azat Artsakh” and the people of Artsakh. We are glad
to see you in Karabakh. What did you know about Karabakh before
coming here?
– Thank you for your warm returns and words. I am happy that I could
visit your highlands, breathe its clean air, meet with the people
living on this land. I think I will have time to get a closer
acquaintance with all this and evaluate what I have seen. I have
heard about Karabakh, I knew about the military actions in the
1990’s. You know war is tragedy. Let there only be peace in this

– In your opinion, to what extent has sport been transformed into
business today?
– I would say this is a process that started long ago. Sport is more
and more acquiring a commercial character. I cannot say for sure but
I think this also refers to chess. This tournament, however, has
nothing to do with it, it is free from being commercialized. And we
all are content with this. I should say that the tournaments for the
championship of the world are more of commercial nature. These have
always been connected with huge sums even before. In any way, I am
not the specialist to give an exact answer to the question.

– Are there differences in sport of your times and today?
– Again we will come to the problem of commercialization. Take
tennis, for example. Thirty years ago money had no role in this
sport, whereas today huge sums are circulated there. The same is with
any new sport. But this is not the case with the Olympic games.
Fortunately the prizes for world records have been increased. For
example, track and field athletics. Today, if I am not mistaken, the
winner of the 100-m sprint receives 53 thousand dollars. Although
this also may be considered little.

– What do you think, are there unfair games in chess?
– From my personal experience I cannot mention any. It is difficult
to say what happens with others. This should be known for sure. Many
people think there are unfair games. But I do not know why and how.

– Who was Tigran Petrossian for you? Were you just rivals or were you
in friendly relationships?
– Unfortunately the extracts we watched in the hall were very short.
Still in 1963 it became known that Tigran Petrossian bears a gigantic
chess power in himself. At that time it was not so easy for
Botvinnik. Although Botvinnik was not the chess-player number 1 in
the world. He was a king for a long time but he did not reign. Today
I recall the years 1966-69. I have lots of memories connected with
Tigran Petrossian. Despite the competition for the title of champion
we were good friends. The talent of Tigran Petrossian was unique.
With his sharp mind he saw a lot on the chessboard. He was very
strong in defence and felt the attack of his rival very quickly. It
happened that during the games with him the moment for him was a
matter of life and death. Whereas in such moments I was flying in the
clouds… I should say I was young then and had a devil-may-care
attitude. My main problem was to take a good sleep before the game.
It turns out Tigran Petrossian lived a difficult life. You know it
was not easy to be the champion of the world, the hero if his nation
during such a difficult period. At the same time Tigran Petrossian
was the editor-in-chief of the leading chess magazine published then.
That is to say, in this aspect too he was an important person in the
world of chess. Nevertheless, Petrossian was a very modest person. He
had a phenomenal unique talent, a fantastic sense of humour which the
other world champions did not have.

– Your returns to the people of Artsakh.
– Let them fight only on the chessboard. And nowhere else. This is
the most important.

Int’l chess tournament opened in Stepanakert

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 10 2004


FIDE has announced 2004 the year of the ninth champion of the world
Tigran Petrossian. On this occasion the NKR authorities and the RA
Academy of Chess organized the international chess tournament devoted
to the 75th anniversary of Tigran Petrossian. The tournament was
opened on March 8 in Stepanakert. The participants met with the NKR
president Arkady Ghukassian, prime minister Anoushavan Danielian,
members of government, members of the National Assembly and others.
The participants of the tournament are headed by the tenth champion
of the world Boris Spassky. In the name of the NKR authorities the
NKR minister of education, culture and sport greeted the participants
and wished them success. The minister characterized the tournament of
this level as an unprecedented event in the sport life of Artsakh.
“This is the case when we prove that Artsakh tries to achieve new
successes in sport, whereas the problem that the country is not
recognized hinders the development of sport. However, the tournament
filled us with the hope that Artsakh is able to achieve heights and
organize new and other similar tournaments.” The participants of the
ceremony watched the film about Tigran Petrossian. Then the message
of the chairman of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was read. The tenth
champion of the world greeted the guests and thanked the organizers
of the tournament characterizing it as a truly big event in the world
of chess. “This championship woke joyful memories in my mind
connected with the events of 1966, 1969 in the world of chess. Today
the spirit of Tigran Petrossian is felt in this hall…” Once the rival
of Tigran Petrossian, today speaks with great enthusiasm about him,
telling about their games for the chess crown. The grand masters
participating in the tournament represent seven countries.


Unprecedented storm in NK

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 10 2004


Recently the heavy storm in the territory of the republic damaged
settlements in the southern and central part of the country, as well
as in Stepanakert and especially in Shoushi. The roofs of houses were
damaged, old trees were broken. Electric power supply and telephone
were disrupted. According to the NKR meteorological service, the
speed of the wind was in average 30-35 m/s and during strong gusts it
reached 40-45 m/s.


Grandmaster expects Karabakh tournament to become “tradition”

Mediamax news agency, Yerevan, in English
11 Mar 04

Grandmaster expects Karabakh tournament to become “tradition”


Ex-world chess champion Boris Spasskiy has refrained from commenting
on the negative reaction by Azerbaijan to the holding of an
international chess tournament in Nagornyy Karabakh.

Boris Spasskiy said in an interview with Mediamax: “I still do not
have any clarity concerning this issue.” “Theoretically, I think that
sports must be beyond politics but still this is not so in real
life,” the grandmaster said.

Boris Spasskiy expressed confidence that the international chess
tournament held in Stepanakert Xankandi will become a tradition,
noting that “the president of the Nagornyy Karabakh Republic has also
said this”.

Passage omitted: Spasskiy expected to attend the Karabakh tournament
and Azerbaijan

Written questions to NL Parliament about murder on Armenian officer

Inquiry in Dutch Parliament

Armenian Cultural Association Abovian
Contact: Inge Drost
Weesperstraat 91
2574 VS The Hague
The Netherlands
Phone: +310704490209 or +31624272574
Email: [email protected]

Written questions to Parliament about murder on Armenian officer

The Hague ­ March 8, 2004 – MP Mrs. Huizinga-Heringa (ChristenUnie) has
submitted written questions to the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning
the Armenian officer, who was gruesomely murdered by an Azeri officer during
a NATO-training in Budapest. In these written questions she asks minister
Bot whether this murder is related to the anti-Armenia mood — that
according to some reports — seems to be growing in Azerbaijan. She also
asks whether similar incidents occur more frequently.

Finally she asks the minister whether he is prepared to follow developments
within the framework of de Dutch Presidency of the European Union and within
the NATO and if necessary take action. The Dutch Presidency of EU will be in
the second half of 2004.

The ‘hinge’ generation

Jerusalem Post
March 12 2004

The ‘hinge’ generation

After Such Knowledge: Where Memory of the Holocaust Ends and History
by Eva Hoffman
Public Affairs
247 pp. $25

The generation of Holocaust survivors is quickly vanishing. Death
diminishes their numbers daily. Age has robbed some of their memories
and others of their vitality. All too soon, the last eyewitnesses
will be no longer, and the Holocaust will be an event of history and
no longer one of living experience.


Eva Hoffman is aware of her unique status as part of “the hinge
generation, in which received, transferred knowledge of events is
transmuted into history, or into myth.”

Hoffman’s impressive meditation on her life as the daughter of
survivors reveals how one sensitive and skilled writer has grappled
with the burden of memory. But this is not a work of scholarship. She
has read some of the professional literature and she touches on
psychology, sociology, literature, and cinema, but the insights she
offers are not academic. Her wisdom was acquired through personal
struggle, dialogue, and self-reflection. “Only now,” she writes, “am
I contemplating what had been inchoate, obscure knowledge…”

Hoffman’s parents were forced to hide in the Ukraine, spirited away
by ordinary peasants – and lucky enough to avoid the brutal life of
the camps. Accompanied by her sister, Hoffman travels on a mission to
reunite with her parents’ saviors – a pilgrimage of gratitude that
her parents themselves never undertook.

HOFFMAN HAS taken the requisite journey and, like Abraham as
interpreted by Hassidic lore, the journey outward was also a journey

Late in the book she has an epiphany – “the Holocaust cannot be the
norm that defines the world.” There must be something outside of it.
But the more she grapples with the Holocaust, the more her insights
defy her understanding. It is the norm that defines her world.

Her insights are intense, wise, and brilliantly expressed. Writing of
her father’s silence, Hoffman notes “the fragmentariness of speech
under the pressure of pain.” She writes of the “chaos of emotions
from their words rather than any coherent narration,” “sounds of
nightmares,” “idioms of sighs and illness, tears and acute aches.” Of
her contact with the Germans (not with the perpetrator generation,
but with their children and grandchildren) she writes: “We were
looking at the same horror from a similar point of view – if from
opposite ends of the telescope.”

She has much in common with those Germans who are wrestling with
their past. In them, she finds kindred souls; the encounter is
cathartic and instructive.

“Tragic struggle may entail moral agony, but it leaves the sense of
identity and dignity intact.”

Hoffman’s comments, however interesting, are unconvincing. The major
distinction is not between tragedy and trauma, but between tragedy
and atrocity. In tragedy what is learned roughly or even remotely
balances the price paid for such knowledge. Atrocity offers no such
possibility of balance, and thus no inner space in which to bury the
event. At most, it leaves those left behind searching amidst the
ashes to find some meaning to an event of such magnitude that it
defies our understanding. That is why we cannot find closure for the
Holocaust, as Hoffman’s work so amply demonstrates.

However impressed I was with Hoffman and her writing, I came away
from this book with an uneasy feeling. Her knowledge base is not
equal to her talent. There are a few factual mistakes that challenge
the credibility of a book I was so ready to find convincing. Hitler’s
statement “Who remembers the Armenians?” was made on the eve of World
War II regarding the Poles, not the Jews.

This statement for instance, is one of fact, not interpretation.

Hoffman can also be a bit too sure of herself.

“The uniqueness debate,” she writes, “was not very useful except in
the competitive politics of trauma, and somehow the very notion of
comparison when it comes to events of such horror and scale begins to
seem indecent.”

And yet the uniqueness debate – how the Holocaust was similar to and
differed from other genocides, and how the fate of the Jews was
distinct from and comparable with the fate of other victims of the
Nazis- did yield significant new research on all the Nazis’ victims,
resulting in the creation of museums that include the totality of
Nazi victims without diminishing the centrality of the Jewish
experience. Whether in Jerusalem or Washington, London or Montreal,
all persecuted minorities are presented as victims – something that
could not have happened before this debate emerged.

Hoffman’s words not only convey passion and power; they bestow
authority. She has taught us well how to grapple with such knowledge
– but perhaps not well enough.

The writer is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute. His latest book
is A Promise to Remember: The Holocaust in the Words and Voices of
Its Survivors.

Cyprus: Melkonian sale still on the table

CYPRUS: Melkonian sale still on the table

The Cyprus Weekly
Nicosia (March 12, 2004)

DESPITE assurances given at the close of last year, the sale of the
Melkonian Armenian school in Nicosia is still on the table, school
committee member Vahak Atamyan said in a written statement this week.

“How ironic, then, that the school is threatened with closure, just as
Cyprus itself is on the threshold of full European Union membership;
the country may be entering Europe, but will it take the Melkonian
school with it?” Atamyan wondered.

The Melkonian Institute, dating back to 1926, is funded by the
US-based Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) along with another
20 or so Armenian schools world-wide. The AGBU has been considering a
general overhaul of its finances for some time, involving the possible
sale of the Melkonian, which is situated in a prime real estate
location and could fetch many millions of pounds.

“The more cynical view the matter as purely financial. Melkonian
occupies a prime site close to the centre of Nicosia and realisation
of capital rather than realisation of academic skills and potential is
held by some to be the current motivating principle,” Atamyan surmised

White House Personnel Announcement Press release
March 11 2004

Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate
seven individuals to serve in his administration:

The President intends to nominate Romolo A. Bernardi, of New York, to
be Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Bernardi
currently serves as Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and
Development for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Previously, he served as Mayor of the city of Syracuse, New York. Mr.
Bernardi earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of the
Americas and his master’s degree from Syracuse University.

The President intends to nominate Thomas Hill Moore, of Florida, to
be a Member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, for the
remainder of a seven-year term expiring October 2, 2009. Mr. Moore
has served as a member of the Commission since 1995. Earlier in his
career, he served as Legislative Counsel to Senator John Breaux.
Previously, Mr. Moore served as an executive vice president at the
National Medical Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree from
Jacksonville University and his Juris Doctors from the University of

The President intends to nominate Edwin D. Williamson, of South
Carolina, to be Director of the Office of Government Ethics for a
five-year term. Mr. Williamson currently serves as a partner with the
law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. He previously served as Legal
Advisor to the State Department. He earned his bachelor’s degree from
the University of the South and his Juris Doctors from New York
University School of Law.

The President intends to nominate Lewis W. Lucke, of Texas, to be
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of
America to the Kingdom of Swaziland. Mr. Lucke currently serves as
Mission Director and Reconstruction Coordinator for the United States
Agency for International Development, under the supervision of the
Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq. He previously
served as the Vice President for Global Communications for the CARANA
Corporation. Earlier in his career, Mr. Lucke served as Mission
Director for the United States Agency for International Development
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Amman, Jordan. He earned his bachelor’s
degree from the University of North Carolina and his master’s degree
from the American Graduate School of International Management.

The President intends to nominate Earle I. Mack, of New York, to be
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of
America to the Republic of Finland. Mr. Mack has worked for The Mack
Company in Fort Lee, New Jersey for forty years and currently serves
as the company’s senior partner. He earned his bachelor’s degree from
Drexel University.

The President intends to nominate Jackson McDonald, of Florida, to be
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of
America to the Republic of Guinea. A career member of the Senior
Foreign Service, Mr. McDonald currently serves as the United States
Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia. Previously, he served as
Deputy Chief of Mission in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Mr. McDonald
earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

The President intends to nominate John M. Ordway, of California, to
be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States
of American to the Republic of Kazakhstan. A career member of the
Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Ordway currently serves as United States
Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia. Prior to this position, he
served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in
Moscow, Russia. Mr. Ordway earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford
University and his Juris Doctors from the Hastings College of Law.