Talks on Iran-Armenia gas pipeline reaching final stage

Talks on Iran-Armenia gas pipeline reaching final stage, says minister

Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran
31 Mar 04

The energy minister of Armenia Armen Movsisyan has said: Negotiations
are nearing the end on the construction of an Iran-Armenia gas
pipeline.

Movsisyan, referring to the two countries’ agreement on the
significant technical specifications of this project, added: It is
predicted that an agreement on the construction of this gas pipeline
would be completed during early days of the next Christian month April
, when Iran’s oil minister Bizhan Namdar-Zanganeh visits Armenia.

On the basis of this agreement, the gas pipeline carrying Iran’s gas
to Armenia will be completed in 20 months.

US General Thanks Armenia for Peacekeeping Effort

US GENERAL THANKS ARMENIA FOR PEACEKEEPING EFFORT

A1+ web site
31 Mar 04

“Armenian people should be proud of their peacekeeping platoon,”
Director of Plans and Policy, Headquarters US European Command,
Maj-Gen Jeffrey B. Kohler has said at Zvartnots airport.

Mr Kohler refused to comment on the brutal murder of the Armenian
officer in Hungary. “I leave it for the Hungarian leaders,” he said.

Kohler said he arrived in Armenia to thank the Armenian authorities
for the military unit sent to Kosovo and for the one to be sent to
Iraq.

“The USA is proud to have Armenia as a partner in the struggle against
terrorism and the reconstruction of Iraq,” Kohler said.

The US AF (Air Force) representative also said that one of the aims of
his visit is to look at new forms of cooperation. “We need time to
properly study the potential of the Armenian armed forces. For the
time being Armenia has voiced willingness to send trucks and sappers
to Iraq.”

Officials’ Failure to Account For Reshuffle

ARMENIAN WEB SITE CRITICAL OF OFFICIALS’ FAILURE TO ACCOUNT FOR RESHUFFLE

Golos Armenii web site, Yerevan
29 Mar 04

Personnel changes in the Armenian police (the chief of Yerevan’s
police directorate, Col Aram Zakharyan, has been promoted to chief of
the department for state protection of the Armenian police; his
replacement as Yerevan police chief is Col Nerses Nazaryan, former
chief of the capital’s Erebuni-Nubarashen police department. The chief
of Yerevan’s traffic police has also been replaced. This post has
been taken over by Markar Oganyan, who until now was in charge of the
State Traffic Police of Yerevan and the republic). Such changes in the
law-enforcement agency and the Armenian Prosecutor-General’s Office
gave rise to numerous semi-truthful rumours (as published), which
happens whenever those who take decisions do not bother to explain
them.

The opposition press rushed to explain the reshuffle and also the
dismissal of some prosecutors in the capital’s communities and their
replacement by others by the upcoming actions of radicals to change
power. Alas, neither the president, nor the justice minister nor the
new prosecutor-general have so far commented on the dismissal of
prosecutors.

Under the presidential decrees, Akop Babayan has become the prosecutor
of the Erebuni community (replaced Mikael Badiryan), Dzhon Farkhoyan
has become the prosecutor of the Shengavit community (instead of
Aleksandr Garibyan), Gevork Tovmasyan has become the prosecutor of the
Avan and Nor-Nork communities (replaced Armen Sardaryan), Gagik
Khachikyan has become the prosecutor of the Achapnyak and Davidashen
communities (instead of Ovannes Stepanyan).

(Passage omitted: known appointments)

Armenian Odyssey – Discovering The Soul Of Armenia

ESCAPE FROM AMERICA MAGAZINE MARCH 2004

March 18, 2004

Armenian Odyssey
Discovering The Soul Of Armenia ~ by Dorothy Aksamit

“Oh”, said the young woman standing beside us at the baggage
queue at the airport in Yerevan, “they’ve changed already”. Blowing
kisses to the two little girls peeking from behind bouquets of roses,
she told us she lived in Kosovo with her husband who is with the UNDP
peacekeeping mission. “I come home every three months, but children
change so quickly.” I agreed it must be difficult and then she said,
“But of course you know our history. It is important that my children
stay in Armenia and speak Armenian.” The young mother assumed we were
visiting our family.

Armenia sees few “pure” tourists: those not affected by the
Diaspora of the 1915 genocide. Most tourists are visiting their
homeland, or travelers on a pilgrimage to the early churches. We were
neither. You might say we came on the wings of words. Carroll, my
husband, and I knew something of the 1915 genocide of the Armenians
orchestrated by the Turks. We had been introduced to Armenia by the
Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan in “My Name is Aram”. Our
interest was further heightened by Bitov’s lyrical “A Captive of the
Caucasus” and the bittersweet memoir of Peter Balakian’s “Black Dog of
Fate”. We were anxious to see the Low Caucasus Mountain Range, the
early churches in this land that in 310 A.D. was the first to accept
Christianity as a state religion and the imposing Matenadaran housing
illuminated books dating to the fifth century.

Our taxi salaamed around potholes as we entered Yerevan, the
capital of The Republic of Armenia. The city, scattered on either side
of a deep ravine, appeared forlorn. Store windows were empty or
sparsely stocked. Huge cranes, their wrecking ball missing, stood idle
beside staring holes of windowless buildings. Incongruously, the only
construction seemed to be the multiple pools of an aquatic park.
Impressions began to change as we passed between startlingly huge
complexes, one a hillside cognac distillery and the other a former
winery, now a museum. Near the center of town broad leafy avenues named
for poets and writers and several impressive statues lifted our spirits.

Gagik Siravyan, our driver/guide, (we had made arrangements with
Levon Travel on the Internet), perhaps seeing Yerevan through our eyes,
said, “We have a beautiful mountain, but you can’t see through the
clouds today.” and he added, “It’s in another country.” And so, even
before reaching our hotel, Armenia had bared its soul. The palpable
longing for home, land and language would become the spoken and unspoken
theme of our journey.

When we reached Republic Square, the scene changed as quickly as a
mouse click, dropping us into another time, another place. Ornate
buildings of rose or yellow tufa ringed the square of joyful people.
Filled with merry-makers, a coach and four trotted around the square.
The cafe crowd, mostly businessmen and Red Cross personnel, sipped beer
and lattes under umbrellas in front of the Hotel Armenia. A band played
beside the gushing fountain, the centerpiece of Republic Square,
formerly Lenin Square during the Soviet occupation. The square pulsated
with the exuberance of youth. Young women in short black dresses with
frilly white aprons teetered above platform heels, their partners, young
men in black jackets with white lace and rose corsages, everyone
celebrating the last day of school and graduation. Our black and white
entry into Yeravan had, by midnight, turned into Technicolor reflected
in the eyes of the young as the grand finale fireworks lit up the sky.
The major sites that we wanted to see lay in the four cardinal
directions and so each day as we cleared the bruised city we quickly
entered a gentle green land of shepherds whose sheep grazed under cobalt
skies. An ancient church at the end of each road drew us slowly and
inextricably into a pilgrimage..

We stopped the first day at the slender Arch of the poet
Yeghishe Charents. Gagik roughly translated the inscription: “You may
look the world over and never find such a mountain as Ararat.” Often
hidden in clouds, I photographed Mount Ararat framed perfectly in the
arch, but alas, only I could find the snow-capped mountain in the
clouds. How frustrating for Armenians, with Ararat heartbreakingly
close but lying in forbidden territory. Armenians must negotiate a trip
to eastern Turkey through Georgia to visit Mount Ararat where Noah is
thought to have moored his Ark. Armenians call their country Hayastan
and trace their descent from Haik, Noah’s great-great-great-grandson.
Afterwards we visited what looked like a small Roman temple, The Temple
of Garni, dedicated to the sun god Mithra, built with funds and slaves
sent by Nero. But I remember Garni as the place where grandmothers sold
roejik. These delicious sweets hang like curtains of brown candles but
are strings of dried fruit, rolled thin and wrapped around walnuts. We
quickly became addicted and stopped everytime we spotted them.
Each morning Gagik scoured roadside markets for picnic
supplies: lavash, parchment thin bread, to wrap around soft cheese,
olives, green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.

As we approached Geghard, the 10-13 century monastery, a
scene straight out of my Sunday school coloring book sprang to life. A
family group, leading a sacrificial lamb was met by a group of pied
pipers who piped them into the church. The lamb would later be butchered
and a grand picnic held on the banks of the river. Geghard was also the
church where a group of teenagers sang beside the chapel where stones
are pressed into the wall and if the stone sticks your wish will come
true. Gagik said, “They are singing for the freedom of their friends in
Karabakh.” (An Armenian enclave surrounded by Azerbaijan).

Geghard is an architectural wonder. Carved in solid rock,
it is a collection of several churches chiseled from the mountainside as
a sanctuary for the early Christians. Memorable as Geghard is, it’s
Gagik’s song that I remember. He stood in the center of the original
church surrounded by columns and walls carved from one stone and sang
quietly – perhaps to himself, perhaps to his God, but the curved stone
vault increased the volume until, by the time it floated skyward through
the round opening, it was a heavenly chorus.

On a Sunday visit to Cathedral Echmiadzin we discovered that Gagik
was an artist and the son of an artist. In fact his father had helped
restore the frescos in this beautiful Cathedral famous as the site where
Christ descended from Heaven and pointed to the spot on which the
Cathedral should be built. The elaborate service of the Armenian
Apostolic Church was in progress when we arrived. Under vibrant blue and
gold frescos and sparkling crystal chandlers, the gold mitered, black
robed Catholicos moved slowly through the standing crowd dispensing
blessings and accepting offerings. There was incense, a chorus and at
the altar where Christ descended, a motionless prostrate man, obliging
the faithful to lean over him in order to kiss the stone.

Our favorite trip was to Hamberd, a fortress and church high upon
the slopes of Mount Argats. On the slopes, higher even than the fortress
we found the distinctive rectangular steles of the pagans. These stones
(khatchkars) were later inscribed with intricate filigreed crosses and
thousands of them are found all over Armenia.

As we approached the fortress we saw a school bus and a
rollicking party in progress. It was an end-of-school picnic and the
English teacher suggested that while we looked at the fortress and
church she would make coffee.

The teachers second question after, “Where are you from?”
was, “Have you heard of the Genocide?” One of the women offered to sing
for us and we heard for the first time the poignantly beautiful song,
“Your house is in front of my house, but I don’t see you anymore.” The
teenagers then turned up the boom box and the dancing began. We spent a
couple of hours eating grilled chicken, drinking vodka and dancing. An
added attraction was the daring feat of a local youth who scaled the
fortress wall sans ropes or shoes. It was for us a moment in an
Armenian paradise.

The last day we stayed too long at the imposing Matenadaran,
the library that holds thousands of books dating to the fifth century
documenting the history of Armenia. But to those in this shrunken
landlocked country that once spread to three seas, The Matenadaran is
more than a library; it is the depository of cultural history and is
spoken of in reverential tones. It is like scaling a mountain to get to
this lofty mausoleum-like building. On the first terrace is a statue of
Mesrop Mashtots who, as every school child in this land of 98% literacy
knows, created the Armenian alphabet in 405 A.D. On the second terrace
are granite statues of writers and finally inside a wide staircase
leading to the exhibition room. Here are the intricately illuminated
manuscripts bound in leather, ivory and filigreed silver and parchment
books of botany, math, science, geography and astrology. Gagik proudly
pointed to the framed pictures and quotes of William Saroyan who in the
early twentieth century introduced the Armenian people to the world in
his plays and novels. He also shyly told us it was his father who showed
Saroyan around when he visited Armenia.

When we finally reached the Genocide Museum, the door had just
been locked but Gagik explained that we had come from San Francisco to
see the museum. Without hesitation we were ushered into the underground
gallery where grainy photographs depicted the suffering of the Armenians
who were “relocated” from ancestral lands by the Turks. Although in
1915 the word “genocide” was not known, over 1,500,000 Armenians
perished in the world’s first genocide. The Treaty of Sevres, the last
treaty of World War I, granted lands lost in the genocide to Armenia and
demanded punishment of the perpetrators. But by 1923, western powers
caught the scent of Ottoman oil and signed the Lausanne Treaty.
Reparation, restitution, retribution and Armenian dreams slipped into
fields of black gold The remaining sliver of Armenia was incorporated
into the Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991.

After visiting the Genocide Monument, 12 leaning stones
surrounding the eternal flame and the slender sky-piercing shaft
representing the hope of the Armenian people, we sat on the ledge of the
courtyard waiting for a last glimpse of Mount Ararat. This is a true
“court” yard formed by a semicircle of 12 basalt slabs inscribed with
statements by politicians, writers and scientists. Each visitor is a
witness who can make his own judgement regarding the Genocide.

Even though the sky had turned fittingly somber, we hoped for a
last glimpse of Mt. Ararat. It didn’t seem strange to sit silently with
Gagik who actually spoke little English and who in retrospect I thought
of as a spirit guide. Gazing over the rooftops of Yerevan, I thought of
my childhood during the depression on the high plains of the Texas
Panhandle, and my mother’s frequent admonition: “Dorothy, please finish
your dinner. Just think of the poor starving Armenians.” If I had had
any inkling of the starving Armenians, I wouldn’t have been able to
choke down a bite. And I thought of what Peter Balakian had written
about his Armenian grandmother in “Black Dog of Fate”: “She was
history knocking on the door of my heart.”

I gave up on Ararat. I knew the mountain was there but this was
to be a “wasn’t” day. Peter’s grandmother had begun all her stories,
not with “Once upon a time,” but with “A long time ago there was and
there wasn’t.” A few drops of rain fell. And then, like an answer to a
prayer, Ararat “was”. The mystical mountain, ephemeral, hauntingly
near and illusively far, billowy clouds becoming mountains and snow
covered mountains tops becoming clouds. A tantalizing glimpse and it
was gone. But I knew that on whichever side of a man-made border Mount
Ararat lies, there lies the soul of Armenia.

www.escapeartist.com

U.S. School of Democracy

The Moscow Times
Thursday, Apr. 1, 2004. Page 9

U.S. School of Democracy

By Boris Kagarlitsky

A recently published report on civil liberties in 2003 by the New York-based
Freedom House organization has recognized 89 countries as “free,” 55 as
“partially free” and 48 as “not free.” The appraisal was based on a system
of half-point gradations, where 1.0 is the best score and 7.0 the worst.
Pretty much like at school, then

It’s no surprise that the worst marks went to North Korea, Cuba, Iraq,
Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan. Russia fell into the
category of partially free countries along with Ukraine, Moldova,
Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Indonesia, Argentina, Ethiopia, Nigeria,
Turkey, Venezuela and Columbia are in the same group.

Things become more interesting when we look at the actual figures awarded.
Russia received 5.0, a very poor score. Of all of the European former Soviet
republics, only Belarus fared worse with 6 points. Even Turkey earned a
higher rating, 3.5. According to the Freedom House experts, Tajikistan (5.5)
is freer than Belarus.

But Georgia and Ukraine were rated at 4.0, Moldova 3.5 and the Baltic
republics came out near the top of the class with 1.5 each. Other results of
interest were Mongolia (3.0), Bulgaria (1.5), the Czech Republic (1.5),
Greece (1.5), Japan (1.5), France (1.0) and Germany (1.0). The United
States, of course, scored 1.0.

A real blow for Argentina. Evidently the experts didn’t think they could
classify as truly free a country where the people can kick the parliament
and the president out onto the street.

And a blow for Russia, too. You can’t call Russia a democratic state, but at
least we don’t deny a third of our citizens their rights, like Latvia.
Russian national politics holds a contradictory position, between liberal
declarations of equality and the daily discrimination practiced against the
Muslim minority. But then the Latvian government doesn’t even make these
declarations; it has nothing more important to do than destroy the schools
of national minorities.

The pressure that the authorities in Ukraine put on the opposition is no
less serious than in Russia; the only difference is that in Moscow the
authorities are better at implementing the policy than those in Kiev.

One guarantee for democracy in former Soviet countries is, apparently, an
absence of effective centralized power. Is it really true that
Shevardnadze’s Georgia was freer than Putin’s Russia?

The scores are based on 2003 data, but the “Rose Revolution” overthrew
Shevardnadze in November. Even if the new situation compelled Freedom House
to sharply increase the country’s rating, it’s still somewhat confusing.

Has the increase in freedom since Georgia’s change in leadership been so
marked? The 90 percent of votes that Mikheil Saakashvili received is
evidently considered more democratic than Putin’s official total of 71
percent.

I must confess that I am delighted for Mongolia. But all the same, a few
unpleasant thoughts still linger at the back of my mind. Why, for example,
do the Baltic republics appear in the same category of countries as others
that have a well-established history of economic development? Is it a high
mark for Latvia and Estonia, or a low mark for Greece and Japan? And what
did the Czech Republic do wrong? After all, their political institutions are
identical to those in Western Europe.

When one of my friends saw the results, he reminded me that the teacher’s
marks take account not only of progress, but also of the behavior and
enthusiasm of the students. For example, while Tajikistan has allowed the
building of a U.S. military base, Lukashenko’s Belarus has not. Neither
country has a democracy to be proud of, but now everyone should be aware:
authoritarianism with U.S. bases is not the same as authoritarianism without
them.

If we are all students, then we are learning from the ideologies of Freedom
House, our teacher. But their approach is clear as day. It all comes down to
the principle that U.S. leadership in international affairs is essential to
the cause of human rights and freedom.

With a perfect 1.0 score, the United States is a straight-A student. There
may be irregularities in Florida’s vote count, an extravagant system of
voter registration and an 18th-century electoral system, but none of these
factors matter.

This noble desire of U.S. conservatives to teach the world democracy is most
laudable. Just don’t be surprised when the results are less than successful.

After all, we students are just doing as our teacher tells us.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.

New Dawn for Armenian Cinema?

© Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7713 7130 Fax: +44 (0)20 7713 7140

New Dawn for Armenian Cinema?

Privatisation of state film studio could herald revival of a once-thriving
industry.

By Naira Melkumian in Yerevan (CRS No. 224, 27-Mar-04)

Armenia’s crumbling movie industry looks set to be revived after years of
neglect as wealthy businessmen vie for the right to buy the state film
studio.

Two ethnic Armenian millionaire businessmen – Ara Abramian and Jerald
Kafesdzhan, based in Russia and America respectively – are bidding for the
Armenfilm studio and the right to continue the country’s long tradition of
filmmaking.

Abramian, who chairs the Union of Armenians in Russia, is believed to have
the upper hand at the moment, having offered a seven million US dollar
package – one million for the studio, with a further six million investment
in digital technology.

The privatisation of the studio has prompted a new debate on the state of
the Armenian film and television industry.

Rudolf Vatinian, chairman of the State Theatre and Cinema Institute’s cinema
department and a member of the Armenian Film-makers Union, told IWPR that
Abramian’s bid was especially interesting.

“I think that establishing new links with Russia and the introduction of
digital technology – especially in television production – will revive
viewers’ interest in Armenian cinema,” he said.

The 80-year-old industry has been in steady decline for a number of years,
having reached its peak in the Seventies and early Eighties, when around ten
films a year were produced alongside countless documentaries and made-for TV
productions.

In recent years, however, the output has dwindled dramatically. A social
crisis in the early Nineties, which followed the collapse of the Soviet
Union, led to state assistance drying up almost completely. When funds
stopped arriving from Moscow, Armenia’s fledgling government was unable to
spare any money.

“This lack of finance led to a breakdown in the industry – specialists left
and the technology became badly outdated,” said Vatinian. “This is a shame,
as cinema is the ideal democratic language to represent the Armenian people
abroad.”

For 2004, 600,000 dollars has been earmarked for the state cinema budget – a
tenth of the amount given to the television industry. As a result, the
quality of films produced is low.

Susanna Arutiunian, president of the Armenian Cinema Specialists and
Journalists Association, said, “The state cannot provide for the national
film industry – it does not even have a cinema department, and only one
person is available to dealing with everything.”

Moreover, there is no legal framework to regulate the industry in Armenia –
deliberations on a cinema law have been ongoing for several years.

The low funding has led to a marked deterioration in the technical equipment
used. According to Arutiunian, the Armenfilm studio only has one serviceable
film camera – and there is a long queue to use it.

Filmmaker and director of the Yerevan studio Tigran Khzmalian said, “When
you try to produce a film under such conditions, where you lack the money
for a decent sound recording, the result will be nothing of quality.”

Granush Akopian, chairman of the parliamentary commission for science,
education and culture, admitted, “Armenian film production is in a miserable
state, as it has received very little investment in the last ten to fifteen
years.”

At the moment, only three cinemas operate in the country – all of them in
the capital, Yerevan – and have no difficulty attracting customers.

Tamara Movsisian, spokesperson for one of them, the Moskva cinema, told IWPR
that new and classic movies are in great demand. “In forty years we have
acquired a loyal audience, which takes a real interest in Armenian cinema,”
she said.

Analysts say that the revitalisation of the film industry is especially
important to prevent the next generation from rejecting Armenian history and
culture in favour of formulaic Hollywood films.

“We have rich history, and yet I don’t know of any historical films being
made in Armenia. Instead, the younger generation is growing up watching
foreign films,” said moviegoer Stepan Avakian from Yerevan.

In spite of the continuing economic problems, the sale of the state studio
could herald the beginning of a cinematic revival, and there are talented
young people on hand to take advantage of that.

“Once upon a time, our national cinema had a place in international
filmmaking. Our main objective today is to regain that position,” filmmaker
Mikael Dovlatian, one of the most exciting young directors in the country,
told IWPR.

Naira Melkumian is a freelance journalist based in Yerevan.

Fighting illiteracy and ‘aliteracy’

The Daily Star, Lebanon
March 31 2004

Fighting illiteracy and ‘aliteracy’
Author aims to make standard Arabic fun for children

By Linda Dahdah

In the late 1980s, Margo Malatjalian, a Jordanian-Armenian author,
came across a report issued by UNESCO showing surprisingly high rates
of illiteracy.

When she read the information, Malatjalian, who lived in Jordan, had
already established cultural centers for children in cooperation with
the Amman municipality and had her own publishing company, Child
World Promotions.

As she had always been active in this field through education
programs, teaching theater and drama, as well as working on Jordanian
childrens’ TV programs, she decided to take some immediate action.

With the help of David Doake, a professor in reading and literacy
development, she embarked on a study that found reading was not part
of tradition in the Arab world.

“There is lots of story telling but reading is not part of our
growth,” said Malatjalian.

Strong willed, Malatjalian decided to go to the root of the problem
by making literacy development her main concern. She started
traveling around the region, praising the importance of early reading
and defending literacy through workshops which targeted children,
teachers and parents.

She comes to Lebanon regularly to lead a series of workshops in
private schools across the country. The main topics? Creating and
using supplementary material from the standard Arabic language
curriculum from kindergarten to the third or fourth grade.

The whole point is “to support the Arabic language by making it more
interesting through the use of new poetry, new and more attractive
stories and literature … by using arts and integrating drama in
education, songs and music,” Malatjalian said.

Rita Nakhle, a third grade Arabic teacher at International College in
Ain Aar, said that Malatjalian’s books were interesting because they
used standard Arabic that was easy to understand. “Plus it is real
poetry, accompanied by nice pictures,” she said.

According to Malatjalian, Arabic becomes difficult when people don’t
read Arabic books regularly.

“There are prerequisites for reading that are hardly met when
cultures are not only faced with illiteracy but also a huge scourge
that lies in the aliteracy of educated people. (aliteracy applies to
people who are able to read but are not interested in reading.)

Nowadays one of the most popular books might be Chef Ramzi’s, and I
don’t think this has anything to do with literature,” Malatjalian
said.

If books are ever bought, what usually sells are detective stories,
cooking, fiction and sex, the author said.

Besides, naturally, children imitate their parents, so when there is
no reading environment inside the house, children will not read.
Moreover, according to Malatjalian, it has been shown that children
who come from a reading household do much better at school.

A whole reading environment should therefore be created – a prime
responsibility of the parents, she said. When the state is not
helping at all, the public should react.

“During my discussions with parents, they said that there’s no help
as there is no public library in Lebanon or perhaps there’s one, but
they don’t even know where it is and how to get there. What prevents
them from organizing reading sessions? We cannot count on the state’s
help so it’s up to each mother and father or others to play his or
her part and act,” said Malatjalian.

Despite a public perception that there is an absence of public
libraries, several were opened in Lebanon over the past few years.

Malatjalian started writing books only in the late 1980s. She took
the initiative after teachers asked her what kinds of books to buy
and read. Encouraged by her own experience with children, Malatjalian
took up her pen to remedy what she believes to be a complete lack of
good Arabic childrens’ literature.

In fact, the author believes that Arabic books are rarely good and
not well adapted. Indeed, most of the time books are translated and
thus promote a foreign culture. When children need to identify with
the hero of the story, this can easily generate cultural conflicts.

Without a doubt Malatjalian’s stories are set up in an environment
that is much closer to the local culture than in any “Martine at the
Beach” or “The Story of Ferdinand.”

Malatjalian’s aim is clear.

It is to create literature, not just books.

“A literature that reflects social, mental and cultural needs.
Besides I want standard Arabic to become a functional language that
people use and that would help them communicate fully in their daily
needs,” she said.

Another obstacle to Arabic reading lies in the differences between
written and colloquial Arabic.

“Colloquial hinders written, standard Arabic, and everybody thinks it
is difficult. It wouldn’t be so if heard right from birth (when
parents read babies stories in standard Arabic),” Malatjalian said.

Focusing on writing what she calls “meaningful” stories, the author
deals with mainstream social issues, such as commitment to the
nation, cooperation, conflict resolution, responsibility and, last
but not least, tolerance. Several books that have not been released
yet also tackle critical issues such as child abuse.

“Several years ago, we tried to talk with parents and religious
figures, but no one admitted to even hearing about it. It is changing
a little. Now at least we are managing to get listened to,”
Malatjalian said.

In this case, her books would serve parents as well as teachers.

“Literature is safe,” she said. “Without it, well-trained teachers
might introduce sensitive issues badly. With such books, they will be
able to take poems as a base to their programs and their discussions.
The subject will even be tackled in a funny way and bit-by-bit they
will be able to tackle even bigger issues,” she added.

In her approach, Malatjalian also points her finger at a major social
issue in our culture: The place of the child in society.

According to her, children are over-protected and this affects their
growth in a very negative way. At the same time, they are not given
enough freedom and opportunity to express themselves.

“They are not even given time to think, as if adults did not have
confidence in them. They are simply not given the chance for venture
and adventure,” said Malatjalian.

Believing in the capabilities of children, Malatjalian attempts to
correct this situation by giving children their own roles in her
books. As such, her stories always aim at empowering them.

Using childrens’ literature and developing their “socio-emotional”
skills will help them learn how to express their feelings of fear,
anger, sadness, happiness and jealousy. “Their natural feelings will
come out,” said Malatjalian. This is also aimed at helping teachers
and parents let children express themselves through art.

Above all else, Malatjalian hopes to change rigid educational trends
by helping to create a healthier environment in which children can
grow.

Nonetheless, one can easily see that even in Europe things started
changing only a few years ago. As Malatjalian said, there is a new
trend in children’s literature: “When writers used to write for the
child inside of them, now the child himself is the one who is
telling the story.”

Returning to the problem of illiteracy and aliteracy, Malatjalian
reminds us that, “we cannot endlessly play the ostrich. When Beirut
is supposed to be the cultural capital of the Arab world with only
one public library, there is definitely something to do. As no Arab
organization will ever take notice of the subject, it is the duty of
the public to act,” she said.

As children are the adults of tomorrow, let’s hope that Malatjalian’s
work will be fruitful and widely received.

Armenians find new way to commemerate WW1 slaughter

The Montreal Gazette
March 29 2004

Armenians find new way to commemerate WW1 slaughter

A life-affirming quality is at the heart of this year’s commemoration
in Montreal of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire
during World War I.

For the first time in Canada, says Deacon Hagop Arslanian, the accent
will be on helping others in need through a blood drive, and
collections of food and toys.

“These events are all new in concept for the Armenian community in
Canada,”Arslanian, assistant to the spiritual leader of the Armenian
Holy Apostolic Church in Outremont, said Monday.

“We said to ourselves, `we lost our forefathers, now we give blood to
the others, we assist the others.

“It’s a way of being with our forefathers.”

These acts of giving are also planned in an ecumenical spirit,
underlining the humanitarian and spiritual nature of this year’s 89th
commemoration.

Successive Turkish governments have refused to accept the term
“genocide” for the fate of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World
War I.

At that time, fearing Armenian nationalist activity, the
disintegrating Ottoman Empire organized mass deportations of
Armenians from its eastern regions.

Men, women and children were sent into the desert to starve, herded
into barns and churches that were set afire, tortured to death or
drowned.

The Gazette is following this story. Please read Tuesday’s paper for
more details.

Parliament ratifies agreement on legal status of NATO armed forces

RosBusiness Consulting, Russia
March 31 2004

Armenian parliament ratifies agreement on legal status of NATO armed
forces

RBC, 31.03.2004, Yerevan 13:43:05.The Armenian parliament has
ratified the agreement on legal status of the armed forces of NATO
and of the members of the Partnership for Peace Program. This
legislation is aimed at defining the legal status of the armed forces
acting under the Partnership for Peace Program, Armenian Deputy
Defense Minister Artur Agabekian reported. Increasing cooperation
with NATO urged Armenian lawmakers to ratify the agreement. This
agreement is “an important political component of bilateral
cooperation,” Agabekian stressed.