ANKARA: Armitage Fails to Convince Aliyev to Open Armenia Border

Zaman, Turkey
March 28 2004

Armitage Fails to Convince Aliyev to Open Armenia Border

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, said
yesterday that the Washington administration favors the opening of
the border between Turkey and Armenia; however, Azerbaijani President
Ilham Aliyev is opposed to reopening the border while certain issues
remain unresolved.

After his meetings in Baku, Armitage said that Aliyev did not seem
very receptive to Washington’s suggestion. Armitage speculated that
part of the reason for Aliyev’s demeanor might have been related to
the fact that Aliyev thinks it would be very difficult to resolve the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict if Azerbaijan were to reopen their border
with Armenia at the present time.

Armitage added that the U.S. does not have any plan to establish a
military base in Azerbaijan and that the topic was not even on the
agenda of their talks. He also conveyed the U.S.’s concerns about
resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. “Incidents in Kosovo roused
concerns that fierce fighting might resume in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Armitage emphasized that basic recommendations for a solution have to
be prepared by Yerevan and Baku.

Georgia elects deputies to national parliament

ITAR-TASS News Agency
TASS
March 28, 2004 Sunday 1:17 AM Eastern Time

Georgia elects deputies to national parliament

By Eka Mekhuzla

TBILISI

Georgia started general elections on Sunday at 08.00 local time. The
voting will be held till 20.00 at 2,841 polling stations, out of
which 265 are located in the Adzharia Autonomous Republic. Another 26
polls operate abroad, including four in Russia (three in Moscow and
one in St. Petersburg).

Voters are to elect 150 deputies according to proportional party
lists. The above seats are contested by 11 political parties and five
blocs. The elections will be pronounced valid if a third of voters go
to the polls.

The election results according to proportional party lists, held on
November 2, 2003, were made null and void by the Supreme Court on
November 25. The results of polls of 75 deputies, elected by the
majoritarian system, were not appealed and remain in force.

Ballot papers are printed not only in the Georgian, but also in
Azerbaijan and Armenian languages. The last ones were dispatched to
the areas Kvem Kartli (Eastern Georgia) and Samtskhe-Dzhavakheti
(south of the country) where the Azerbaijan and Armenian ethnic
groups predominate.

The republican Central Election Commission took this decision due to
the fact that not all Georgian citizens of these ethnic groups,
especially in the countryside, know Georgian well enough. Some 84
percent of the country’s population are Georgians, 6.5 percent –
Azerbaijanis and 5.7 percent are Armenians.

On the other side of darkness; Holocaust Literature

Los Angeles Times
March 28, 2004 Sunday
Home Edition

On the other side of darkness;
Holocaust Literature An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work Edited
by S. Lillian Kremer Routledge: 1,500 pp., $295, two volumes

by John Felstiner, John Felstiner is the author of “Paul Celan: Poet,
Survivor, Jew,” which won the Truman Capote Award for Literary
Criticism, and editor of “Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan,”
which received translation prizes from the Modern Language Assn., the
American Translators Assn. and PEN West. He teaches at Stanford
University.

Years ago in Long Island, I visited a Berlin-born poet, Ilse
Blumenthal-Weiss. As a young woman in 1921, having written to Rainer
Maria Rilke admiring his poetry, she’d evoked Rilke’s fervent
response about her good fortune, about the Jews’ God “to whom you
belong” because “every Jew is emplaced in Him, ineradicably planted
in Him, by the root of his tongue.”

Later, Blumenthal-Weiss had her own poetry to write. “Landscape With
Concentration Camp” begins: “The earth is black, the sky sheer
steel.” Although her husband was gassed at Auschwitz and her son
Peter murdered in Mauthausen, she survived Westerbork and
Theresienstadt. Her lines “For Peter” (1946) sound like this in
translation:

When they say Murder! I must learn

That this word, that this single term

Means you, means you a mere child’s blood,

You: Boyish! Jubilant! Brave moods! —

God taketh. One time hath God given.

You’re gone — and I should go on living?

When this woman in her 80s asked what brought me to see her and I
said I was studying Holocaust poetry, she drew a blank. What did that
phrase mean? The abstract topic now sounds callow, hollow, in the
face of Ilse’s loss and desolate voice.

Think too of the German-speaking Paul Celan, whose lexicon never had
the word “Holocaust” for what he’d been planted in, by the root of
his tongue. The German language “passed through frightful muting,
through the thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech,” he said,
and it “gave back no words for that which happened,” for das was
geschah. In the ballad-like “Deathfugue” (1945), he writes:

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night

we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening

we drink and we drink.

“Black milk,” Schwarze Milch, which is a way of saying there are “no
words for that which happened.”

Celan’s voice makes us approach this very welcome “Holocaust
Literature: An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work” with a measure
of caution. For besides the word’s academic pigeonholing, we’ve
become habituated to a misnomer. From the Greek for “wholly burned,”
“Holocaust” echoes biblical Hebrew olah, meaning a burnt offering
whose smoke “rises” to God. Can this designate the slaughter of a
people emplaced in Him, as Rilke put it? Does the sacred aura of
“Holocaust” fit Celan’s poem “Psalm,” with its cry, “Blessed art
thou, No One”?

What’s more, and worse, for years the word, the fact, the Holocaust
specter, has been exploited by any person or faction with a
grievance, whether trite or momentous. Legal abortion is called a
Holocaust; Jewish victims are perpetrating their own Holocaust in the
Middle East; American Jewish assimilation is a Holocaust. Scare
tacticians crave that absolute alarm.

Against analogy-mongering we need the keen, deep sense that
literature can give, of how the European catastrophe actually
impinged on human bodies, personhood, spirit. To clarify contemporary
as well as historical imagination, we need the sound and texture and
tempo of one life after another after another.

That potency, which makes the now-indispensable misnomer also a prime
slogan, has given rise to a crucial question of definition: Whose
Holocaust? Twenty-one years ago an Israeli conference took the title
“Holocaust and Genocide” to acknowledge as well the Armenian
massacres of 1915. As for the Holocaust years 1933 to 1945, the
catchphrase “6 million” Jews is always in danger of turning glib, and
is anyway deemed inadequate, misleading. Didn’t the Holocaust extend
to Slavs, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled, mentally
ill and various political victims?

Well, yes and no. All these were designated victims, but not with the
same drastic and particular ferocity. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was
actually Endlosung der Judenfrage, “Final Solution to the Jewish
Question.” His “war against the Jews,” as the historian Lucy
Davidowicz called it, was different in kind as well as magnitude: a
“unique event with universal implications,” says survivor Elie
Wiesel.

Although this unique two-volume encyclopedia, complete with an
in-depth introduction, more than 300 entries, nine appendixes,
several bibliographies and a thorough index, emphasizes the Jewish
experience, nowhere does the publisher’s brochure or the
encyclopedia’s preface use the word “Jews.”

We’re told that “from Homer’s ‘Iliad’ to the present day, writers
have striven to comprehend the spectacle of human inhumanity.” This
claim for a universal reach is borne out when “Holocaust Literature”
features many non-Jewish authors — Borges, Brecht, Camus, Delbo,
Grass, Mann, Styron — who wrote about fascism with little or no
focus on Jews. At the same time, other entries on non-Jewish authors
— Boll, Hersey, Hochhuth, Keneally, Milosz, Sartre, Schlink, Sebald,
D.M. Thomas — rightly focus on the Jewish fate. The fraught sense of
“Holocaust” will inevitably ricochet between universal and
particular, as the writer Meyer Levin knew too well in trying for
decades to reclaim from Broadway and Hollywood the Jewish identity of
Anne Frank’s diary.

What is meant by “Holocaust” literature? How wide and deep to cast
the net? As far as Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” (1919), Isaak
Babel’s “Story of My Dovecot” (1927)? To see these as foreshadowings
skews them, though at some deep stratum such visionary stories do
benchmark a continuum of terror.

At its center, “Holocaust” literature would mean writings by victims
and others on the Jewish catastrophe — first, works that somehow
emerged from Nazi-ridden Europe in as many as 20 languages, then what
has come later and from elsewhere. Beyond this core, it’s an open
question.

Slowly over half a century, we’ve come to realize that countless
victims were jolted into creating songs and poems, diaries and
journals, letters and memoirs, eventually stories, novels and plays.
Even before the war, voices of alarm had emerged, notably Mordecai
Gebirtig’s 1938 song that begins, ‘S brennt, “It’s burning, brothers,
our shtetl’s burning!” Primo Levi published “If This Is a Man” in
1947, but only its later paperback version, “Survival in Auschwitz,”
thrust this unique memoir to the center of Holocaust memory. Now we
have a plethora of writings, down to the grandchildren of survivors.

At the heart of actual Holocaust experience, though still virtually
unknown, are graffiti that have been found scratched on the walls of
the Drancy transit camp outside Paris. Jews from Europe and North
Africa who’d found refuge in France beginning in 1938 were rounded up
by the French between 1942 and 1944 and sent from Drancy to
Auschwitz. Take Marcel Chetovy, age 17, who decoratively inscribed,
in French, this biography of himself and his father Moise: “Arrived
the 1st, deported the 31st July, in very very good spirits with hopes
of returning soon.” Elsewhere on the crowded cement wall, boldly
lettered, anonymous and challenging comprehension: Merci Quand Meme a
la France, “Thanks all the same to France.”

What tried-and-true canon, what aesthetic fits this bottomless
strangeness and poignance? Which theory of metaphor explains Celan’s
“Black milk of daybreak,” or a woman telling us summer dawn in
Auschwitz “was always black to me”? These questions hold for
children’s poems and drawings in Theresienstadt, sardonic ghetto
lullabies, Jerzy Kosinski’s brutal grotesque “The Painted Bird” and
Dan Pagis’ six-line ruptured Hebrew verse, “Written in Pencil in a
Sealed Boxcar”:

here in this transport

I Eve

with Abel my son

if you see my older son

Cain son of Adam

tell him that I

In the same vein, Celan spoke of “true-stammered,” “death-rattled,”
“prayer-sharp knives / of my / silence.” “Your singing, what does it
know?” he asked himself, Dein Gesang, was weiss er?

“Holocaust Literature,” bravely and ably edited by S. Lillian Kremer,
reflects various literary, socio-historical and psychological
approaches, especially from the earliest critics in this field:
Irving Halperin, George Steiner, Lawrence Langer, Edward Alexander,
Alvin Rosenfeld and Sidra Ezrahi. By now, so many monographs and
anthologies, courses and conferences abound, it’s hard to imagine a
time when only Anne Frank’s diary and Wiesel’s “Night” were generally
accessible in this country. Kremer’s informative, wide-ranging
introduction sees in Holocaust literature a uniquely compelling body
of testimony. As time wears on brutally, carelessly, the humanist
spirit itself has come under duress and needs attesting more than
ever.

Even a seasoned reader will find these entries on more than 300
souls, a hundred of them women, mind-stretching. They wrote in many
genres and languages: Yitzhak Katznelson, Avraham Sutzkever, Kadya
Molodowsky in Yiddish; Abba Kovner, Haim Gouri, Aharon Appelfeld in
Hebrew; Nelly Sachs, Gertrud Kolmar, Jurek Becker in German; Andre
Schwarz-Bart, Piotr Rawicz in French; Tadeusz Borowski in Polish;
Jiri Weil in Czech; the recent Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz in
Hungarian; and in English, Charles Reznikoff, Philip Roth, Cynthia
Ozick, William Heyen (the nephew and son-in-law of Nazi soldiers),
Irena Klepfisz (born in the Warsaw ghetto) and Bernard Malamud (but
his story “The Last Mohican” deserved mention, with its piercing
comic ironies).

More than a third of these figures are English-speaking, which may
seem overweighted. One also balks at meeting here an author who
“neglected the German genocide of the Jews,” or someone in whose
massive work “the Jewish issue occupies a relatively minor space,” or
another whose Holocaust “material … is only briefly — and rather
chaotically — narrated.”

Such misgivings seem trivial, given the richness of this
encyclopedia. There are omissions, though — most being inevitable,
some unfortunate. Here then are a few writers worth adding, if only
to give them Yad vaShem, “a monument and a name,” and to fill in the
dense landscape “after Auschwitz.” They have a claim on us, like
Felix Nussbaum’s 1942 self-portrait, in which the painter stares out
sidelong, exposing his yellow star and an identity card with his
German “Place of Birth” effaced.

Anne Frank and Moshe Flinker are here, yes, but let us add Yitshok
Rudashevski, who at 13 in 1941 started his Yiddish diary of the Vilna
ghetto: “An old Jew has remained hanging in the narrow passage of the
second story. His feet are dangling over the heads of the people
below.” In April 1943 Yitshok meets an escapee from the killing field
outside Vilna, “pale with wild eyes. His fur coat is completely
covered with lime.” His diary ends: “The rain lashes with anger as
though it wished to flush everything out of the world.” Such a
sentence stretches to breaking our Bildungsroman tradition, the
“portrait of the artist as a young man.”

Let us add Michal Borwicz, a poet in Warsaw’s clandestine 1944
anthology, “From the Abyss,” and Gebirtig as well as Hirsh Glik,
whose 1943 “Zog nit keynmol az du geyst dem letsten veg” (Never say
this is your final road) became the partisans’ anthem; and French
resistant Andre Verdet, for his Auschwitz sequence “the days the
nights and then the dawn”; and Romanian poet Benjamin Fondane, who
fought in the French army but was gassed as a Jew; and Robert Desnos,
whose verses are incised in the underground Holocaust memorial behind
Notre Dame. And Ilse Blumenthal-Weiss.

>From postwar fiction let us add Siegfried Lenz, for his superb novel
on Nazi oppression, “The German Lesson”; Anatoli Kuznetsov, for “Babi
Yar”; Wolfgang Borchert, Leon Uris, Uri Orlev and then Johanna Reiss
and Hans Peter Richter for their children’s books.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, the Tunisian Albert Memmi are
here, but by all means let us add Edmond Jabes, an Egyptian Jewish
emigrant to Paris, whose “Book of Questions” the catastrophe
undermines on every page. By that gauge, too, weren’t “Waiting for
Godot,” “Endgame” and Samuel Beckett’s novel “The Unnamable” all
composed under the sign of the Holocaust? Let us also recall
Charlotte Salomon, in hiding on the French Riviera, who longingly
painted sentences in her German mother tongue onto her 1,200
autobiographical watercolors before Adolf Eichmann’s henchman Alois
Brunner sent her to Auschwitz.

Recalling his fellow prisoners’ “hundreds of thousands of stories,
all different and full of a tragic, disturbing necessity,” Levi asks,
“But are they not themselves stories of a new Bible?” In this
daunting light, “Holocaust Literature” bears ample witness. We must
never stop disproving Theodor Adorno’s “After Auschwitz, to write a
poem is barbaric.” Language did indeed “pass through frightful
muting,” as Celan knew well enough. For 25 years, until drowning in
the Seine, he wrote his own way “through the thousand darknesses of
deathbringing speech.” *

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: HAUNTING: Felix Nussbaum in his “Self-Portrait With
Jewish Identity Card,” probably painted in 1942, still speaks to us.
PHOTOGRAPHER: VG Bild Kunst

Attorney Neglected Immigrant’s BIA Appeal

Connecticut Law Tribune
March 22, 2004

Vol. 10; No. 10; Pg. 372

Attorney NeglectedImmigrant’s BIA Appeal
Keshishyan v. Burrier;
STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE

CASE-INFO: 8 pages. Statewide Grievance Committee [Doc. No. 02-0037]

In May 2001, Bardukh Keshishyan, the complainant, hired Attorney
Walter Burrier to represent him in the appeal of a decision by the
Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied his application for
political asylum from Armenia. Keshishyan claimed he faced
persecution and death if forced to return. Burrier accepted a $135
retainer, but didn’t file the appeal on his client’s behalf. When
Keshishyan discovered, one year later, in May 2002, that there wasn’t
a pending appeal with the BIA, he spoke with Burrier, who admitted
that he forgot about Keshishyan’s case. After reviewing the file,
Burrier told Keshishyan that the deadline for filing the appeal had
expired and refunded the retainer. In a written response to the
Statewide Grievance Committee complaint, Burrier attributed the error
to his heavy workload and to a mistake by his office employee. The
SGC found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Burrier didn’t
provide competent representation, in violation of Rule 1.1. Although
Burrier blamed his office employee, keeping track of the appeal was
his responsibility, especially in this instance, where he had only
three weeks from the first meeting with Keshishyan to file a timely
appeal. Burrier admitted that he forgot about Keshishyan’s case. It
was essential for him to act with diligence and promptness. His
failure to do so violated Rule 1.3. Burrier previously was
reprimanded three times, and the SGC ordered that he be presented to
the Superior Court for discipline.

Q&A: the oldest business in the United States

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
March 24, 2004 Wednesday

Question & answer

Q: What is the oldest business in the United States?

A: The prize goes to Zildjian, the world’s No. 1 maker of cymbals. In
1623, in Constantinople, Turkey, an Armenian alchemist named Avedis
created an alloy for making cymbals of extraordinary clarity and
power. A sultan gave him the name “Zildjian,” meaning cymbalsmith. In
1929, the company he founded moved to America, where they set up a
new foundry in Quincy, Mass. Zildjian celebrated its 380th
Anniversary last year. Craigie Zildjian is the company’s current —
and first female — CEO.

Submitted by Janoyan Ana

Turkish MP urges Armenians to develop ties

Turkish MP urges Armenians to develop ties

Arminfo
25 Mar 04

YEREVAN

The Turkish people have no bias towards the Armenians and historical
problems should be frozen. We should do our best to develop bilateral
relations, Turkish Republican People’s Party Deputy Yasar Nuri Ozturk,
has told Armenian Kentron TV.

He said that if the Russian military base is on Armenian territory to
avert a danger from the Turkish side, then this is a mistaken view as
Turkey is a peaceloving country which respects both its own and other
countries’ territorial integrity. It is wrong to build neighbourly
relations on the basis of fear and on ways of eliminating it,
especially in modern times when nothing can be achieved in a military
way.

I would like to stress that Turkey is a country which lay no claim to
other countries’ territory, the Turkish MP said, adding that the
principle of Turkey’s foreign policy is peace. By signing many
international treaties, Turkey assumed certain commitments.

Ozturk noted that Turkish Foreign Ministry officials are making
efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia and
following the last elections, the country entered the new stage of
intensive reforms. He said that Turkey’s foreign policy was based on
sincerity and top officials had visited over 60 countries after the
elections.

“I think they will visit Armenia as well and we should do our best to
make it happen,” he said.

Armenian environmentalists protest against “illegal” construction

Armenian environmentalists protest against “illegal” construction

Arminfo
27 Mar 04

YEREVAN

The mayor’s office has called on the police to ban a picket to protest
against illegal construction in Yerevan’s green areas. The picket,
however, took place on 27 March despite the presence of more than 20
policemen in uniform and in civilian clothes who avoided being filmed.

The organizer of the picket and leader of the Armenian social and
ecological party, Armen Dovlatyan, said that Yerevan would become a
desert if the illegal construction were to go on.

Representatives of NGOs, the faculty of botany of the Yerevan State
University, the institute of zoology and the institute of botany of
the Armenian botanical society, the academy of ecology and other
organizations took part in the picket.

Passage omitted: background details

Armenian opposition official says attack on him politically motivate

Armenian opposition official says attack on him politically motivated

Noyan Tapan news agency
25 Mar 04

YEREVAN

The secretary of the opposition Justice faction, Viktor Dallakyan, was
attacked on 23 March. Dallakyan said that three unidentified people
attacked him at about 2240 1840 gmt , and as a result he was
injured. The attackers took his leather coat with his deputy mandate,
keys and diary in the pocket.

“I am an active participant in opposition activities and it is
absolutely obvious that the incident had political grounds,” Dallakyan
said. He expressed his confidence that the authorities would not be
able to undermine the opposition by such attacks.

“The authorities should understand that by throwing eggs or attacking
people in the dark they cannot stop the process which has started in
Armenia: change of power is inevitable as all the people demand this.”

Dallakyan did not rule out that the authorities could take unexpected
steps and added that the opposition was ready for any
developments. Commenting on Defence Minister Serzh Sarkisyan’s
statements that the army was entitled to ensure internal order,
Dallakyan said: “I would like to tell the minister that under Point 13
Article 55 of the Constitution, the army can be used only in case of a
war or external threat.”

ANKARA: Turkish Ruling Party Bolsters Strength in Municipal Polls

Turkish Ruling Party Bolsters Strength in Municipal Polls

Amberin Zaman
Ankara
28 Mar 2004, 22:04 UTC

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party bolstered its strength
in nationwide municipal polls Sunday capturing some 40 percent of the
vote. The outcome is a ringing endorsement of the conservative party’s
drive to accelerate Turkey’s membership of the European Union and of
its aggressive economic reforms. The Justice and Development Party,
or AKP retained control of key cities, including the capital Ankara,
and the country’s largest city, Istanbul, while registering gains in
regions long dominated by left-wing groups.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had “voted once again
for stability and progress.”

The main opposition pro-secular Republican People’s Party trailed well
behind with about 20 percent of the vote.

Formed by a group of former Islamists three years ago, the AKP swept
to power in November 2002 parliamentary polls with 34 percent of the
vote, giving Turkey its first single party government in 15 years.

Analysts say poll results reflect the huge success of thousands of AKP
run municipalities.

Unlike their pro-secular rivals, AKP mayors have been largely
untainted by corruption and have catered to the needs of the urban
poor, providing free food and fuel for thousands of shanty town
dwellers. Mr. Erdogan, himself, rose to national prominence in the
1990’s as the mayor of Istanbul, who brought water to the drought
stricken city of 10 million.

Fears that the party might steer the country away from the pro-Western
and secular policies introduced by the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal
Ataturk,have proven empty so far.

In a further bid to quell such concerns, Mr. Erdogan did not field any
female candidates, who wear the Islamic style headscarf in Sunday’s
polls. And in a gesture to non-Muslim Turks, the AKP ran three ethnic
Armenians for smaller municipal districts in Istanbul.

At the national level, the AKP dominated parliament has pushed through
a raft of reforms designed to help Turkey open membership talks with
the EU, among them measures to ease bans on the Kurdish language and
stiffening penaltiesfor torture. The changes may have helped the AKP
snatch mayoral seats in five major predominantly Kurdish cities held
by the country’s largest pro-Kurdish group, the Democratic People’s
Party, or Dehap.

Opposition Rally In Gyumri Disrupted By Violence, Arrests

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Sunday 28 March 2004

Opposition Rally In Gyumri Disrupted By Violence, Arrests

By Emil Danielyan in Gyumri

An anti-government rally in Gyumri on Sunday was effectively disrupted by
violence and arrests of opposition activists in a further ominous sign of
serious unrest awaiting Armenia.

The demonstration organized by the Artarutyun alliance degenerated into
scuffles between opposition supporters and a handful of other people who
denounced President Robert Kocharian’s foes. A resulting fistfight ended
with four Artarutyun activists in police custody, forcing the organizers to
cut short the protest to try to negotiate their release.

Stepan Demirchian and other leaders of the bloc blamed the “provocation” on
the local authorities and the central government and vowed to continue their
growing attack against the ruling regime.

“Today we are witnessing the agony of this regime,” an uncharacteristically
furious Demirchian told the crowd of more than a thousand people. “The
Armenian people can not tolerate the rule of such thugs.”

The trouble began minutes after the start of the rally when a group of
women, whom many in the crowd described as “prostitutes,” raised banners
slamming the opposition and voicing support for Kocharian. They were
immediately surrounded and jostled by angry opposition supporters trying to
tear up the banners.

The scuffles unfolded to a backdrop of firecracker explosions that were
apparently set off by other government supporters hidden in the crowd. The
noise intensified during Demirchian’s speech, resembling automatic gunfire.
Also, eggs were hurled to the podium from which the organizers addressed the
protesters. One egg hit an opposition lawmaker.

The opposition leaders, struggling to calm tempers, faced a more serious
disruption when electricity powering their loud-speakers was cut off.
Although the power supply was restored 20 minutes later, tension rose
further as a brawl broke out between some opposition activists and a man who
apparently tried to approach Demirchian.

Four of them, including Artarutyun leader Albert Bazeyan’s driver, were then
overpowered and driven away by police officers dressed in plainclothes.
Police said later that the man beaten by the oppositionists was also a
policeman, raising the question of why the security official tried to
interfere with the rally.

The organizers say the local authorities informed them in advance that they
“can not guarantee the security” of the gathering because of staff
shortages. However, the presence of plainclothes police called this
explanation into question.

“It shows that the provocation was organized by the authorities and they
will be held accountable with all the strictness of the law,” charged
another prominent member of the bloc, Victor Dallakian. “It also shows that
Robert Kocharian is pinning his hopes on prostitutes and egg-throwers.”

Dallakian and Bazeyan later met with the police chiefs of Gyumri and the
broader Shirak region to demand the release of their supporters. The lengthy
talks yielded no results as of late evening, with the police chiefs
insisting that the latter be punished for assaulting a law-enforcement
official. The opposition leaders countered that the alleged victim did not
wear a uniform and was trying to disrupt a peaceful demonstration.

“Instead of taking measures to arrest those individuals who provoked all of
this, they punish the opposite side,” Bazeyan complained. “If they want to
open criminal cases, they must primarily target us, the organizers of the
rally.”

Bazeyan said the violent incident, the worst since opposition rallies in the
run-up to last year’s presidential election, will not deter the opposition
from launching its campaign of street protests outside the main government
buildings in Yerevan. Dallakian mentioned April 12 as the most likely date
for its start.

Artarutyun was given a major boost last week when another major opposition
group, the National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamian, decided to join the
onslaught. Demirchian stressed this fact in his speech.

The government, for its part, has warned that any attempts at an
“unconstitutional” overthrow of Kocharian. The Armenian leader, still
reeling from his controversial reelection in the 2003 poll, has recently
reshuffled his security apparatus in preparation for the opposition
challenge.