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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Happy New Year!!!

New Year came early for me :) Well, apart from being my favourite holiday for as long as I could remember myself, this time it is particularly special for me. I am going to celebrate it back in Yerevan! I’ve been out of Armenia for couple of years now. Miss enormously. Besides, during last years I used to spend my New Year holiday in other countries, and, to be honest, quite missed the whole Armenian / former Soviet style of celebrations. I know, it can be ‘pain in the ass’, but painfully wonderful nevertheless. Very colourful, in fact.

Celebrating New Year at home, with family, then friends, and yes, TV programmes, special New Year films, special New Year food… it’s a package deal :)

Btw, if you want to visit London, do not do it for Christmas and New Year holiday. It’s the most boring time (ever!) in London. It may be hard to believe, but trust me (as someone who knows how to party and have fun London style), it’s very true. Any other time, this is one of the most exciting cities you could ever find.

Past year was very turbulent for me. To be honest, I do not miss it at all and look forward to its formal farewell. But, hey, I started my blogs this past year; in fact, only several months ago (in April/May); it seems like years though... In 2007, my life was full with unfinished matters, some of which from previous years. It was very stressful at times, frustrating and disheartening… But I made it - THE closure. It feels so good now. It feels liberating. I wish you all effective closure and very happy and exciting New Year ahead!

P.S.
I will resume my blogging most probably at some point during the week of 7th January. But you never know, depending on circumstances, may well continue blogging. Otherwise, will certainly reflect my Yerevan experiences in upcoming posts in New Year.

Many thanks for reading my blogs, many thanks for your comments and messages. Keep in touch!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Goodbye to Freedom?


Bomb explosion (photo above by Regnum) at the office of opposition newspaper Chorrord Ishkhanutyun ('The Fourth Estate') and continuing saga of attempts to shut down the rare dissenting voice of the small regional TV company Gala once more put the question of press freedom in Armenia in the spotlight. In fact, these attemtps are so continuous and regular that the issue never left the spotlight.

It seems to me very relevant to post today about the recent - its first ever - survey of Media Freedom across Europe by the Association of European Journalists (published in November). The survey covered 20 European countries: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Entitled Goodbye to Freedom?, this survey "challenges the myth that western European societies are ‘much more free’ than those in eastern Europe. Across the continent, it says, media freedom is under attack from new political and economic pressures." However, as stated in the survey, "Violence and intimidation directed against journalists is unfortunately common in the two states of the former Soviet Union covered, Russia and Armenia." Previous arson attack against Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper is among 13 specific cases of violence and threats against media in Armenia indicated in the survey.

Below are some extracts from Armenia related pages. The full report is available here.

“Thirteen specific cases [of violence and threats of various kinds directed at journalists] were recorded between 2006 and 2007, including the following:-

In September 2007 Hovhannes Galajyan, the Editor-in-chief of Iravunk newspaper, suffered significant injuries and was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants who broke into the newspaper’s offices and beat him using metal bars. Mr Galajyan had already been violently assaulted one year earlier, in front of his own house. He stated after the first attack that he believed it was related to coverage in his newspaper which impugned the reputation of the then Defence Minister (and now Prime Minister), Serge Sarkissyan.

Threatening e-mails were sent to Edik Baghdasaryan, the Editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Hetq, demanding the suppression of articles containing allegations concerning the country’s leading oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, who is also a member of parliament.

The editorial offices of The Fourth Estate newspaper were set on fire by unknown arsonists.

The power supply to the printing presses of the regional Syuniats Yerkir newspaper was cut following publication of criticisms of a power supply company.

The car of Souren Baghdasaryan, Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Football+ was twice set on fire.

David Jalavyan, a sports writer on the Haykakan zhamanak newspaper, was injured in a knife attack.

None of these cases of violence towards reporters has been clarified or led to convictions in court. The judicial authorities have shown reluctance in many cases to conduct active investigations, and in the few cases in which individuals have been found guilty of obstructing the work of journalists, only fines or other mild punishments have been meted out. “

"Armenia’s TV channels, all of them in reality controlled from the office of the President, provide the society with systematically biased information, which exclude all expressions of dissent. The written press is also hampered in what it can write by its heavy dependence on major business or political sponsors who exercise tight control over many newspapers by controlling the flow of funds from advertising."

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

‘Undecided’ will decide the fate of presidential elections in Armenia

According to the telephone poll commissioned by Aravot newspaper and conducted by APR group during 28 November – 1 December 2007 among 663 Yerevan residents, if elections were to be conducted in “coming Sunday” (2 December), the votes may have the following distribution:

Serj Sargsyan – 19.2%
Levon Ter-Petrosyan – 9.2%
Vazgen Manukyan – 4.4%
Artur Baghdasaryan – 2.1%
Vahan Hovhannisyan – 2%
Artashes Geghamyan – 1.4%

Undecided – 31.5%
Against everyone – 18.7%

Based on my subjective understanding of the situation, these numbers (especially re Serj Sargsyan and Levon Ter-Petrosyan) seem close to reality, as for today. The way ‘undecided’ will vote, would determine the outcomes of the elections. They, in turn, may be influenced by the choice of other respected politicians not participating (unfortunately!) in the election per se (Raffi Hovhannisyan), and redistribution of votes for the second round of elections, which is inevitable.

So, here we are, opportunities for presidential hopefuls to battle for our votes – no bribes, your programmes, please!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Arthur Abraham retains IBF middleweight champion title






BASEL, Switzerland (AP) - Undefeated Arthur Abraham stopped Wayne Elcock in the fifth round to retain his IBF middleweight title Saturday night.

The Armenia-born German knocked down Elcock in the second round and then again in the fifth. The referee stopped the fight after Abraham landed a flurry of punches to the Englishman's head.

Abraham, 25-0 with 20 knockouts, has been eyeing a unification bout against either Jermain Taylor or Kelly Pavlik next year in the United States.

The 27-year-old Abraham's only scare came in the third round, when an accidental head-butt opened up a cut above his right eye. But Elcock (18-3), was unable to take advantage.

"I'm happy that I won tonight," Abraham said. "It wasn't an easy fight."


unrelated/related - see also Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*photos by AFP/Getty Images, AP and Reuters (via Yahoo Sport)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

No more ‘King’, please!

Ter-Petrosyan 3rd rally

Along with revisiting past and answering to allegations made by Robert Kocharyan & Serj Sargsyan & co against him, I think the main aim of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s speech was to reach out to leaders of business world to drop their support of current regime and unite behind him. Likewise, his main intention during previous rally was to gain support of leaders of political parties.

I still look forward to reading his programme to understand clearly how he intend to solve main problems facing Armenia – lack of democracy, Karabakh and corruption.

And one more thing… I wish I would see less, or no… I wish I would not see at all posters of ‘Levon the King’ (like the one below) during his rallies. This is very reminiscent of the cult of personality we do not want to get close to. ‘King’ has no place in future democratic Armenia, as I would like to see my country. I hope people from Levon’s team will not encourage this sort of messages in future.

*photo by Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2007

Armenia among top favourites to win Junior Eurovision 2007

UPDATE: Belarus won with 137 points, just one point ahead of Armenia! Armenia was in the lead most of the time. Well done, Arevik! It's 2nd place, but you were the favourite of internet forums and many Eurovision fans.

Below are live reactions from two popular Eurovision internet sites on Arevik performance:

Armenia: Arevik - Erazanq (Oikotimes):

The first favourite of the evening now on stage. The song receives great applause. The navy style works very good for Armenia. The cameras though move a bit slowly not helping the song performance. More than five seconds were spend to the Greek delegation in the green room. The performance is very good and well organized. The choreography can be simply described as amazing while the stadium is full of Armenian flags.

Armenia: Arevik - Erazanq (Esctoday):

Well, it's hard to understand why the girls of Arevik are wearing these military-like marine outfits. The vocals are very good and the performance is energetic. One of the favourites tonight according to the web polls.



Thriller for Armenia; Shock for Greece! (via Oikotimes):

ARMENIA SHOCKED
Armenian entrants and national broadcaster must be in shock for loosing with 1 point from Belarus. But if you think that Armenia got twice 8th place in senior and a 2nd place in its debut to JESC then you can see that Armenia is working hard and in the right way. Armenia will soon host either of the two shows.

GREECE IN DEEP SHOCK
Greek viewers are still in shock. 12 points Greece got from the organizers like all other countries in the beginning of the voting. Greece got only 2 points later on. From where? From Cyprus. This will be a headline in the news as of tomorrow morning. Cyprus didn't give 12 points to Greece but just 2 points. How did this happened? One explanation might be the low viewing rates. Who cares in Cyprus about JESC? (The answer is no one). The second answer is that the immigrants in Cyprus are more dedicated to their homelands and they got the opportunity to get in touch with them through JESC. Third answer is the obvious: Made In Greece were really bad.[...]

***
Good luck, Arevik!!!

For the first time, Armenia will be represented at Junior Eurovision Song Contest with Arevik band performing "Erazanq" ("Dream").



In fact, Armenia's Arevik is among top favourites to win Junior Eurovision 2007. They will perform third after Georgia and Belgium.

via Oikotimes.com:

THE FAVOURITES
Netherlands, Armenia and Serbia are the big favourites with Romania and Malta to be the outsiders. Oikotimes.com poll in collaboration with partners gathered more than 12.200 votes and predict Serbian victory for JESC tonight. If Serbia wins tonight it will be the first time a country wins both senior and junior edition within the same year. If Netherlands win it will be the first time JESC host country wins in homeland. Cyprus, Belarus and Ukraine are also possible to do extremely well according to the reports from Belgian and Dutch sites. The betting odds predict victory for Armenia or Russia tonight.

***
Here is the link where you can watch the show live: http://www.junioreurovision.tv/addons/mediaplayer/live/juniortv/live.html

Friday, 7 December 2007

British Government denies Armenian Genocide

A shameful response from the Prime Minister office

As a signee of a petition to British PM to recognise the Armenian Genocide of 1915 (petition was signed by 1 136 British residents), I just received a response from the 10 Downing Street:

"You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to "Recognise the Armenian Genocide of 1915."

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and you can view it here: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page13999.asp

Prime Minister's Office

Petition information - http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/armeniangenocide/"

Here is British Government's response in full. It is Denial without boarders... and without shame. A pure disgrace!

"The British Government acknowledges and regrets the terrible events that afflicted the Ottoman Armenian population at the beginning of the last century, when over a million ethnic Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire were killed. Many were massacred; some were victims of civil strife, starvation and disease, which ravaged the whole population of Eastern Anatolia during the First World War.

The massacres were an appalling tragedy, which the British Government of the day condemned. We fully endorse that view. However, neither this Government nor previous British Governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorised as genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, a convention which is, in any event, not retrospective in application.

The British Government believes that the focus should be on ensuring a progressive approach; to improve the chances for reconciliation between Armenian and Turkish people and to achieve a peaceful and secure future for everyone living in the region. To this end we encourage the Governments of Armenia and Turkey to improve co-operation, economic development and understanding between their countries.

In preparing for EU accession, Turkey must demonstrate its commitment to good neighbourly relations and must have undertaken to resolve outstanding border disputes. The advancement of accession negotiations will be guided by progress made in these, and other areas."

7 December 1988, Armenia, earthquake...

My heart is with all those who lost loved ones...

I was around Republic sq in Yerevan. Do not remember why I was there (instead of being at school), I think I was wandering around bookstores. So did not feel the quake, but soon it became clear that something very bad happened, the atmosphere around was becoming increasingly terrifying... There was lack of information, lots of speculations; especially we had fears of safety of Armenian Nuclear Plant and chemical factories (Nairit and others); we were glued to the radio to get as much news as possible... People started driving in their thousands towards Spitak and Leninakan (Gyumri). It created some obstacles for aid workers but you could not stop the flow. Everyone wanted to go and reach his/her relatives and help others to save lives. I also remember lots of volunteers for blood donations, people were queuing to give their blood to save life of others.

I remember perhaps unprecedented level of international aid that former Soviet Union asked and received from around the world. It helped a lot - not only for assistance per se or its material value but also providing with significant emotional support. Even songs by international stars, like the one produced by Aznavour - Pour toi Aménie - For you, My Arménia, were of invaluable assistance. We were devastated, but suddenly felt that we were not alone. The tragedy 'opened up' Soviet boarders and we were like members of international community.

I wish we remember about the earthquake zone and act on it not only during the anniversaries, but rather all over the year, so that we no longer have earthquake zone. It is impossible to get rid of people's memories, they are immortal, but we have to get rid of 'earthquake zone'.




*video via laztechs

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Arrested leaflets

"Tax inspectors have confiscated thousands of newly printed leaflets announcing former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s upcoming rally in Yerevan, it emerged on Thursday. According to Aleksandr Arzumanian, a close Ter-Petrosian associate, an activist of the opposition Aylentrank movement was detained by officials from the State Tax Service (STS) while receiving 4,000 leaflets from a printing house in the capital on Wednesday. He said the activist, Artak Arakelian, was taken into custody on the grounds that he had no documents certifying the origin of the fliers. After keeping him in custody for six hours they fined him 15,000 drams ($50),” Arzumanian told RFE/RL. The STS officials also inspected the Van Arian printing company’s books and briefly detained one of its employees, he said." (Radio Liberty)

Similar crackdown on leaflets with far more serious consequences happened ahead of Ter-Petrosyan second (16 November) rally too:

"Narek Galstian, the 20-year-old leader of the youth wing of a Diaspora-linked pro-Ter-Petrosian party, was hospitalized with serious injuries after being assaulted by unknown individuals in the northern outskirts of Yerevan. The attack two place two days after Galstian and another young activist of the Social Democrat Hnchakian Party (SDHK) were detained by police while posting anti-government leaflets in the city center."

Fear & Oppression in Armenia — Never!

I want to join my voice in solidarity against the atmosphere of fear (posted by Onnik Krikorian) which Armenian authorities are trying to impose ahead of upcoming presidential elections. Today - it's leaflets, tomorrow - it could be something more serious. Actually, 'tomorrow' is partially happening 'today', in a form of tax war with pro-opposition supporters or anyone who could even remotely pose a threat to the authorities or express discontent. This is not Armenia we want to see after 19 February (day of elections).

Here is a photo of ex-President and presidential hopeful Levon Ter-Petrosyan and info on his Saturday rally which apparently seemed so frightening and threatening to authorities that got arrested.


Date: Saturday, December 8, 2007
Time: 3:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: Azatutyun Square
City/Town: Yerevan

At least Onnik can expect (potentially) some sort of protection from British officials as British citizen, although it did not shy away thugs in the past. Independent or pro-opposition media representatives from Armenia - who are citizens of Armenia - cannot expect even such theoretical possibility of protection or support. I am not even mentioning here about media solidarity (regardless of political views and affiliations) which is basically non-existent in Armenia, and is one of the main reasons why Armenian journalists are so vulnerable to attacks.

*photo by Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2007

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

‘Exit Poll’ is good news for presidential elections in Armenia

It is not frequently that we hear good news related to upcoming presidential election campaign in Armenia. However, this news I would certainly consider Good News.

For the first time, exit poll will be conducted during presidential elections in Armenia. This offer was made by current US envoy in Armenia during his meeting today with Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Serj Sargsyan. Armenian Prime Minister accepted the offer, adding that even if US did not offer it, they would have sought assistance of specialised agencies to conduct exit poll. This is certainly positive development. If the results of exit poll, which are usually announced immediately after polling stations closed, would be similar to official results published by Central Electorate Commission, this would add to legitimacy of conducted elections.

Of course, having exit poll by no means an indicator of fair and free elections (recent example - Russia), because exit poll is mainly aimed at the latest stage of election process – vote count, to ensure that count of votes at local polling stations and in Central Commission are not falsified. This is very important, as we know that one of the most common voting irregularities during Armenian elections used to happen during the vote count. However, it does not reflect pre-election campaign and voting process per se, although indirectly exit poll may reflect the effect of mass ballot stuffing (if it happens) on the final results. What is also important is to ensure that pre-election period gives equal chances for all candidates to access media, and specifically TV (and specifically Public TV!); also to ensure that people are free to make their votes during voting process itself. Only then the elections could be considered free and fair.

In any case, having exit poll is a positive development, and I welcome Armenian government’s positive attitude towards it.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

It's Christmas (shopping) time!

Oxfam Christmas message to London shoppers: Say 'No' to Rubbish Presents!


*I took this photo yesterday on Regents st in central London

Thursday, 29 November 2007

New Statesman: Putin's copycats

Interesting article in New Statesman today by Thomas de Waal. Very relevant to us (and the South Caucasus region) for this election period, recommend it. Below are some extracts. Full article is here

Whether in pro-western or pro-Moscow states, repression and corruption are flourishing among Russia's neighbours

A post-Soviet president makes a highly publicised visit to a patriotic youth camp where he denounces the international community for being "amoral" in its stance towards his fight with separatists. Later he moves to clamp down on the opposition and has its main television station pulled off the air. He blames most of his troubles on a London-based oligarch. The president behaves in this slightly paranoid and aggressive manner even though his party dominates parliament and he has marginalised his critics.

This is not Vladimir Putin, but the Georgian president for almost four years who was until recently a darling of the west - Mikhail Saakashvili.
[...]

Sixteen years after the end of perestroika, this is a depressing picture. In 1991 western opinion was much too utopian about these newly independent states. The favoured image used to be one of "transition" and even the smallest Anglo-Saxon news story used to refer to countries from Armenia to Tajikistan as being "in transition to democracy and a market economy".
[...]

Nursultan Nazarbayev, once regarded as a reformist ally of Mikhail Gorbachev, has slowly transformed himself into president-for-life in Kazakhstan, with his family installed in key positions. In Azerbaijan, the communist-era boss Heydar Aliyev became leader and then handed over the presidency to his son.

The first priority was to retain power. When the Armenian opposition tried to dispute the outcome of the 1996 election, the then defence minister, Vazgen Sarkisian, famously put them in their place, saying: "Even if they win 100 per cent of the votes, neither the army nor the National Security Service, nor the ministry of the interior, would recognise these leaders." [current Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Serj Sargsyan was the Minister of National Security back then - Unzipped] In the South Caucasus and central Asia, no presidential candidate from the ruling elite has lost an election since 1991. Increasingly, parliaments are stuffed with loyal servants or friendly businessmen.
[...]

Geography matters here. In the central Asian republics, where the EU exerts no pull and international condemnation means little, governments can get away with abominations such as the 2005 massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Uzbek town of Andijan. In the western and southern states, "the idea of Europe" means something. In the South Caucasian states of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the governments worry about their status in the Council of Europe and Nato, and behave better, but sharing power is not an option.
[...]

The Georgian crisis has at least opened some eyes in Europe. The issue of how to deal with its eastern neighbourhood is surely becoming the EU's biggest foreign policy challenge. How do you exert positive influence in countries where a progressive minority still has an "idea of Europe" when you are unable to offer the one prospect with the power to transform - the hope of eventual EU membership?

Where Georgia leads, others may follow. Weak states with self-serving elites are prone to in stability. We can be certain of two things: that Putin's copycats will not give up power easily; and that if events do force them to come tumbling down, the collapse will bring an awful lot of rubble and chaos with it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Deja vu, or those magical 2-3 years: Vazgen Manukyan vs Levon Ter-Petrosyan

Vazgen Manukyan (28 November 2007): "All these [his programme, including adoption of new Consitution which should be one of the main tasks of the future President of Armenia] will require 2-3 years; afterwards there will be new elections [to ensure government formed by the will of people]."

Levon Ter-Petrosyan (16 November 2007): "Exactly 3 years after assuming the office of the President of the Republic of Armenia, I will be prepared to forever retire from politics, giving you the opportunity to elect the country’s new President through a fully free and legitimate election. Further, I will not interfere in that election - it will be conducted by the Speaker of the National Assembly. I need 3 years to clean these Augean Stables, and put the state back on track. By “putting the state back on track,” I mean a comprehensive program of action, which I will present to you in future speeches and public statements."

*photos via A1+ and Hetq

'Clinical case' of Artashes Geghamyan

I posted my comment/opinion of Artashes Geghamyan yesterday in Onnik Krikorian's Armenia Election Monitor 2008 blog:

[...] As to Artashes Geghamyan, he is the most unstable and dependent political populist among current players. He is not even a player. He is just a PR tool for those who guide him. I can’t remember any occasion that Geghamyan displayed principal position in a critical time. It was always anything but... One should follow him since it may give an indirect indication of state of affairs within the authorities. Other than that, when he speaks, what I hear is blah, blah, blah...

Today Lragir added this hilarious 'clinical' description of that so called presidential candidate:

"I have been criticizing the acting government over the past 9 years. But I am not suffering amnesia to forget what Levon Ter-Petrosyan had done,” he [Artashes Geghamyan] said and devoted the first pre-election meeting of his party to denigrating Levon Ter-Petrosyan.

He failed to say which definite episodes of the policy of the acting government he criticized because apparently he is not suffering amnesia but has “caught” sclerosis. It is common knowledge that a person who suffers sclerosis remembers what took place a long time ago but forgets where he has left his glasses or why he has come to the kitchen.

On top of all, the Public Television of Armenia devoted 15 of the precious 30 minutes of the news program to cover this clinical case. [...]"

And in a further developments, Radio Liberty reports that "at least three leaders of local chapters have resigned their membership in Artashes Geghamyan’s National Accord Party (AMK) after the latter’s blistering attack on the former president during a party meeting on Tuesday."

"Gurgen Grigoryan, who headed the party’s structure in the Yerevan district of Erebuni, confirmed to RFE/RL the reports that appeared in the Armenian press about frictions within the party following Geghamyan’s critical remarks about Levon Ter-Petrosyan. He further claimed that 3,500 members of the party in Erebuni were ready to follow suit and join the opposition movement spearheaded by Ter-Petrosyan."

"Enough is enough. I’m not a bird to swallow the bait. People now realize that you [AMK] are really useless. And I don’t want to bear the stamp of a betrayer,” Grigoryan told RFE/RL.

"Grigoryan charged that Geghamyan is in fact “working for the authorities to split the opposition” and said he no longer wanted to participate in the “dirty games”.

“All actions by Geghamyan reveal him as an ‘oppositionist’ closely connected with the authorities. He’s been doing everything to loosen the opposition,” Grigoryan continued. “I have made sure that he wants to improve his own well-being rather than change the system.” Grigoryan also claims that Geghamyan effectively refused to back another opposition leader Stepan Demirchyan, who faced a runoff with Robert Kocharyan in the 2003 presidential election, and warned them not to participate in the opposition rallies then."

Monday, 26 November 2007

Levon Ter-Petrosyan: presidential campaign website launched

After several attempts of creating supporters' websites for presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan, it seems that this one will be an official campaign site (any of the following addresses work):

http://www.levonpresident.am/
http://www.levonforpresident.com/
http://www.levonforpresident.org/

News on its launch came via Aramazd. All previous attempts failed to deliver proper content. This one seems like a decent website. It contains biography, current news and archive material, including photos and speeches by Ter-Petrosyan dating back to 1988-1990. Site is predominantly in Armenian. According to Aramazd, English version will be available soon. There is also interactive content there - blog, comments, but these are in their early stages. I assume site will develop further to become fully functional, with more contents added.

I managed to look at the site only at a glance. The only annoying part I found so far is that on-site music auto-plays any time when you go to the main page, and you have to find and manually stop it. I always find it annoying when website developers put the music on by default (however nice the music may be), instead of giving visitors an option to switch it on if they wish to do so.

Interesting to note, that Ter-Petrosyan programme section is still "under construction" and divided into 5 headings: Karabakh issue; combating corruption; economic reforms; foreign relations; and army reform. I assume these will be the main issues which Levon will address during his upcoming speeches.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Armenia vs Turkey - 2010 FIFA World Cup draw

Fantastic draw! That will be THE matches! I will do whatever possible or impossible to be present there. Hope that Armenian and Turkish fans will behave, and we won't witness any ugly scenes, but rather will celebrate the occasion to get to know each other better and use sporting spirit for reconciliation (not destruction!), and a pint of beer? It's funny that football draws frequently bring us with 'sensitive' outcomes. It's more than a fate...

2010 FIFA World Cup Europe draw - Group 5:
Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia

Friday, 23 November 2007

Serj Tankian doing Beatles in London Astoria

I could not make it but here are impressions of tablaqueen who was lucky to be there:

"[...] They put all the lights and fog on when he came on so you couldn't really see - everyone hollered when a figure in a top hat appeared... only then we noticed that the whole band was wearing them - which looked pretty cool, but they lost them later - and then finally Serj appeared himself. Wearing a cream top hat and cream coat, white shirt and black trousers.

He actually did look quite like a ringleader and the way he behaved onstage was a bit ring-leaderish too. He had the odd mental moment but mostly he was fairly calm, just making pronouncements in sort of typical Serj fashion every so often. Anyway. He didn't play that long really, but then he hasn't got loads of solo material yet, and i gather he refuses to play any System stuff.

He did a fantastic cover of Holiday in Cambodia, which was a bit lost on the young ones in the crowd, but us old farts were dancing around to it ;), and then he said -Hey, we're in London so i have to do a Beatles song!' er, did no one ever tell Serj the Beatles were from Liverpool? i was a bit doubtful about the Beatles song but he actually did it really well - partly Beatles ish and partly mental metal style, finishing off with that howler monkey noise that death metal singers do.

So that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, i don't know the name of the song - unless there is a song called Girl? it was one i recognise but don't know that well.

i noticed on the quieter songs mostly no one waves lighters about anymore - now it's thousands of camera phones instead... i'm quite pleased about that as the lighter waving always makes me think of Bryan Adams. One or two did have them - if i'd been near them i would have blown the darn things out. One doesn't wish to be reminded of Bryan Adams at a Serj concert after all.

i did wish i had had the presence of mind to bring an Armenian flag along to wave about at him - i don't have one, but i could perhaps have made one - some others in the bottom crowd did have one and were flapping it about - i was quite jealous! [...]"

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Lame excuse - "tiredness" to justify poor rank in Euro 2008 qualifying

That was unpleasant downfall of Armenian national football
team after the defeat at home 0:1 to Kazakhstan. Previously, Armenia beat Kazakhstan 2:1. This made our team finish Euro 2008 qualifying next to last (Azerbaijan finished last).

When asked by journalists, coach Vardan Minasyan 'explained' losing the game by "tiredness" of our players. A typical lame excuse to justify defeat. Our team schedule was not more stressful than that of most of the teams within the Euro 2008 qualifying.

After Ian Porterfield died, we do not have proper chief coach for our national team, and there is steady decline in quality and performance. It's not that they are particularly bad, no, but the impression is that there is no progress anymore, and there is a downward trend instead. Anticipations and excitements were high back then. We need new Ian Porterfield, and less politics in Armenian football.

*photo by Photolur (via A1+)

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Scandal of The Day: personal data on 25 mln people got missing in the UK

"Two computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing. The Child Benefit data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25 million people. " [discs containing such sensitive data got sent out (and lost!) from a governmental agency to the National Audit Office via internal post system, without even recorded or special delivery - unbelievable!] More...

This is just incredible. And it is happening in the UK, with supposedly strict and at times too many data protection and privacy regulations. This is one of the very rare instances that I have to agree with the Conservatives: "a catastrophic failure" from the side of government. Government official's response? - in a typical British way: "I apologise..." - "I am sorry..." You may do whatever you want in the UK, you then just need to say that magical word "Sorry". I was joking the other day with a friend that here you may kill a person and then say "Oh, I am so sorry..." Come on, with all those resources and facilities... And they want to introduce ID cards with even more centralised personal info! Bigger "Scandal of The Day"-s ahead... (if it can get any bigger)

No Music Day

http://www.nomusicday.com/

A road sign attached to the "Scotland welcomes you" sign (source). No Music Day will be observed by BBC Radio Scotland on 21 November.

The idea belongs to former KLF frontman Bill Drummond who is "challenging people to consider how people view and use music in their lives."

"I decided to have one day without listening to music to give myself some space," - says Bill Drummond.

Jeff Zycinski, head of BBC Radio Scotland: "Bill's idea was to show how important music was to people by taking it away. The day will also prompt the question - What kind of music do we want?"

BBC reports that Drummond is "no stranger to attention-grabbing stunts. In 1994, he burned £1m of his band's earnings on the island of Jura."

Friday, 16 November 2007

Levon Ter-Petrosyan: "Sorry!"

“Seeing the latest steps by Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, I am increasingly convinced that I need to repent and ask for absolution,” he told about 20,000 people who gathered in the city’s Liberty Square. “Therefore, I belatedly but sincerely apologize to you for bringing Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian to Armenia and foisting them upon you.”

“If I made mistakes in my staffing policy - and I really did - this is the biggest one. In fact, this is not a mistake but a disaster which I inflicted on our people. So help me rid you of that disaster,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd.

[…] “I do realize that my lengthy explanations will not dispel many people’s doubts. So I am left to solicit the forgiveness of the people for the suffering inflicted on them for the sake of Artsakh’s [Karabakh] salvation,” declared Ter-Petrosyan.

Full report by Radio Liberty - here

*video via A1+

video

I am reading now Levon's speech in full (original Armenian version). My full reflections - in coming days. My initial impression is that the speech, as Radio Liberty rightly put it and I wrote in this blog a number of times (here, here, and here), "contained a long-awaited critical analysis of his track record in government". People may agree or disagree with what he said. But importantly, for the first time, he faced up his past in public and, overall, delivered expectations of the rally. His speech contained other important statements too which may be crucial in shaping up further developments in pre-election Armenia. Once more Levon proved that he is the one who is setting the 'theme' for the election campaign.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Concert, concert till the end!

Election period is the best for Armenian pop music loving crowd, more specifically youth, and it is officially started. We've seen it during parliamentary elections. We've already seen an introduction for presidential elections on 26 October.

This Saturday, just a day after ex-President Ter-Petrosyan 2nd rally, there will be an open-air free concert in Opera square (Freedom sq) with invited pop stars from Russia, including Dima Belan. Formally, concert is organised "for students". However, it is sponsored by Yerevan mayor and Republican party.

"You go do your rallies, we will do concerts. Now see who will have more numbers." There should be no doubts that Freedom sq will be packed during Saturday concert. There should be no doubts which side will get more numbers. But at the end... the big winners will be pop music loving youth. They will certainly enjoy this 3-months marathon.

Everyone to the rally, oh, sorry... concert!

*photo of Dima Belan - via Wikipedia

Monday, 12 November 2007

Hate of The Day

Teimur Radjabov: The enemy is the enemy – we all hate Armenians

The head of the Azerbaijani national chess team that won the bronze medal at the European Team Championship, behind Russia and Armenia, Teimour Radjabov, 20 yrs old, on his team's feelings before the match against Armenia (ended in draw):

"I will not deny that we were very nervous. Regardless of where we meet, the enemy is the enemy. We all have feelings of hate towards them. But you must try to suppress those feelings and not let them interfere. Chess must be played with a sober head."

I wonder what could have happened should they not "suppress" their (hate) feelings - second Safarov?

Last year Teimour Radjabov was appointed as the UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassador for Azerbaijan. If he is the one to inspire young people, one should worry about their future.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

November 16: time to come clean?

Friends report from Yerevan that there are leaflets all over the capital inviting people for a (second) mass rally by ex-President and presidential hopeful Levon Ter-Petrosyan on 16 November. The main expectation of people who plan to go to the rally is that Levon at last will answer to the criticism over his period of presidency. They hope to hear his reflection over such issues as corruption, 1996 presidential elections (which many consider was a green light to all subsequent election frauds), Karabakh and so on. People expect and hope. Will Ter-Petrosyan deliver? We have to wait and see.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Turkish singer and composer on trial for YouTube clip praising Hrant Dink murder

Bianet reports that singer Ismail Türüt and composer Arif Sirin [also known as “Bard” Sirin], as well as two other people are on trial in Turkey charged with creating a clip on YouTube "praising a criminal" and "inciting hatred and hostility". Up to 7.5 years imprisonment are demanded.

The clip which was shown on YouTube was a collage of images referring to the murder of Hrant Dink, accompanied by Sirin's song, with an intent of praising the murder suspects of the journalist.

According to “Agos” newspaper, the prosecution is demanding up to 7.5 years imprisonment for Sirin, Türüt and the two other defendants.

The Istanbul Police Department found out that the clip was put onto YouTube by Hakan Öztekin, who used the nickname “MICHeCK” and Zeynel Abidin Mutlu who used the nickname “dafmaniac” and used an internet provider in Austria.

Öztekin claims that there was no criminal intent in the preparation of the clip, while Mutlu said that it was supposed to be an advertisement.

Clear connection to Hrant Dink murder

However, prosecutor Nurten Altinok came to the conclusion that the clip contained praise of Hrant Dink’s murder and those responsible for it, as well as incitement to violence. The indictment found direct references in the song to the murder of Dink. According to the indictment, the line “Stop ringing (church) bells, stop being pro-Armenian” refer to the mourners at Dink’s funeral who carried placards reading “We are all Armenian”; the lines “If a person sells the homeland, business ends immediately, The sun of the Turk and Islam does not set at the Black Sea” incited hatred and hostility towards people who were not Turkish or not Muslims.

Robert Fisk: Holocaust denial in the White House

The Turks say the Armenians died in a 'civil war', and Bush goes along with their lies

The Independent

10 November 2007

How are the mighty fallen! President George Bush, the crusader king who would draw the sword against the forces of Darkness and Evil, he who said there was only "them or us", who would carry on, he claimed, an eternal conflict against "world terror" on our behalf; he turns out, well, to be a wimp. A clutch of Turkish generals and a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign on behalf of Turkish Holocaust deniers have transformed the lion into a lamb. No, not even a lamb – for this animal is, by its nature, a symbol of innocence – but into a household mouse, a little diminutive creature which, seen from afar, can even be confused with a rat. Am I going too far? I think not. More...

P.S. Another exceptional piece by Robert Fisk, exceptional in a way that very few in Western media dare to do - to write what they think, regardless political correctness, for the sake of truth, not for the sake of 'Western interests' and 'balances'. This is what makes Robert Fisk special, and not only him, but also the bravest voice in British media - The Independent.

More dramatic updates from Tbilisi

via TOL Georgia, a video footage from shut down by authorities independent Imedi TV containing even more dramatic footage of violence against people. This TV station will remain closed for at least 3 more months due to significant damages caused to their equipment. So here we are, Saakashvili indeed 'listened' to people by calling a snap presidential elections in January. He attacked peaceful protesters, closed down independent media, declared state emergency, initiated criminal proceedings against opposition leaders ('Russian secret agents'), and no, it is not what you think, it is all in the name of democracy, to ensure free and fair elections. There is no way that Georgia will have future with this guy.



According to TOL Georgia, Georgia’s Ambassador to Swiss Confederation and Head of the Mission of Georgia in the International Organizations in Geneva, resigned from his post as a protest to authorities who used force against peaceful demonstrators.

Resistance Georgia is a new blog set up by a human rights lawyer, former President of Georgian Young Lawyers Association Anna Dolidze, who is currently based in New York. She is the author of online petition against State violence in Georgia I published earlier in my blogs (here and here). Anna dedicates her blog to "non-violent resistance to Saakashvili's dictatorial regime in Georgia."

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Oskanyan's middle finger and the foreign policy of Armenia


OK, I know, poor Oskanyan... but I burst into laughing reading this from Lragir:

Every year the heads of the foreign diplomatic representations of Armenia gather in Armenia for a conference and usually they also visit Karabakh. This year the participants of the conference visited Gandzasar Monastery in Karabakh and were hosted by Pastor Hovanes. During the dinner Reverend Hovanes made a toast. He drank to the soldiers who are at the front line defending the border and compared them to diplomats. He said a soldier cannot retreat, neither can the diplomats, they cannot retreat. We have learned from our source from the foreign ministry of Armenia that during the dinner a bumblebee stung the middle finger of the foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan. Meanwhile, sticking this finger up is a gesture the meaning of which is known to everyone. It inspired the guests of the event to wish the Armenian foreign policy to be like the meaning of this gesture. They say the guests of the event advised our foreign minister to put his finger in yogurt to relieve the pain. Our source says Vardan Oskanyan followed the advice on all the way to Yerevan.

*picture via Wikipedia

Stop abuses by the government of Georgia

Georgians - in information blockade

Petition:

We, undersigned, call on the international community:

1) to interfere urgently in the crisis in Georgia to prevent further casualties and deterioration of situation;

2) to condemn massive violation of human rights by the law enforcement agencies of Georgia;

3) to pressure the Georgian government to stop persecution of opposition members and dissenters;

4) to influence President Mikhail Saakashvili and his government to cancel emergency rule and remove ban from the media;

5) to compel the Georgian government to release all political prisoners.

Please sign this petition following the link bellow and distribute it as wide as possible:

http://www.gopetition.com/online/15126.html

For details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

People under attack: the real face of Georgian 'democracy'

Brutal force, tear gas and water cannons to break up opposition rally

This is the end of Saakashvili's fairy tale. This seem to be the end of Saakashvili's regime.

Georgians will not forgive him for this attack.

*update(1)

I think Saakashvili seriously suffers from spy-mania. Actually, it’s a very convenient pathological condition, successfully used back in Soviet times and elsewhere to shut dissident voices. As expected, he blamed everything on Russia, and Russian “special agents”. An extremely convenient trick for anyone who perhaps feels that grounds under his power are shattering. He used it before too, and apparently from now on any discontent with his policy and regime will be considered a treason. Good old days are back. And good to ensure continuous Western support too.

My Georgian friend from Tbilisi blamed opposition too. He condemned government’s excessive use of force but suggested that opposition was to blame too. They provoked police and were not really up for a dialogue with the ruling regime, and “both sides acted ugly.” I am sure that opposition is not any better (just names of people who are behind the opposition are enough to put me off; also ridiculous mass prayers during their rallies – oh dear…). But I know one thing, when those in ruling power use excessive force against civilians, there is something wrong with their power. Therefore, I blame government. I can’t imagine that Saakashvili will survive. In any case, as long as he is in power, there will be no calm in Georgia and no prospect for democracy.

*update(2)

...Georgian authorities effectively closed down pro-opposition TV station... and in further dramatic developments, a state of emergency was declared in Tbilisi. It was announced at government briefing. My friend says that government pointed out "attempt of coup" as a reason behind the limiting freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. What a symbolic day to do so - 7 November! First- force, then- spy-mania, now- shut down of 'enemy' TV station and emergency situation.





***
P.S.
"It became clear today that there is no democracy in Georgia",- says Georgia's Ombudsman - chief Human Rights Defender, who was among those under tear gas attack and witnessed beatings of people and journalists. He compared Georgia with Lukashenko's Belarus. He promised to do whatever possible to restore democracy and human rights in the country. "There is very long way to go."
***
for photos from the event - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

GALA TV: reports on cameraman being beaten by Tax officials

Breaking news

Three representatives of regional Tax Service were involved in scuffle with the GALA TV cameraman Grigor Shaghoyan this morning, reports Panorama.am. In fact, as agency reports, they have beaten cameraman.

This is a continuation of recent attempts to ‘shut up’ the voice of tiny local TV station in Gyumri (second largest city in Armenia, after capital Yerevan) which dared airing reports on opposition rallies and former president Ter-Petrosyan’s comeback speech.

Apparently, Tax Service representatives came to the GALA TV to present the results of their audit, and cameraman Shaghoyan tried to capture it. This was objected by Tax officials and resulted in scuffle.

The incident was captured on video and shown to a group of reporters from Yerevan who were in Gyumri following Yerevan Press Club initiative. They will be back tonight. Details will be known later, follow the reports by Panorama, A1+ and other agencies.

Shaghoyan feels OK, and no serious injuries were reported.

Prosecutor office is investigating this case under the “Infringement to the professional work of journalists” article of Armenian Penal Code.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Woman killed by bear at Military Police HQ in Yerevan



By Arpi Harutyunyan
ArmeniaNow 2 November 2007

According to unofficial reports, a woman has been killed by a bear that had been kept on the grounds of the Republic of Armenia Military Police department in Yerevan. Little is known of the circumstances, except that the bear belonged to the head of the Military Police, Vladimir Gasparyan.

The family refuses to give the alleged victim’s surname; they only say that a woman named Jasmine, 59 [according to A1+ and YerkirMedia - 70 yrs old], who was a cleaning lady at the department, was killed on Thursday. The sources say the bear escaped its cage while attendants entered to feed it. It is said that the woman was taken to hospital where she died of wounds. The family says it was called to identify the body and saw that she had suffered an attack.

It is unclear why the headquarters was keeping a bear. It is believed that the compound is also home to a tiger. Armenian brown bears are on the endangered species list. It is believed that the bear was destroyed.

The family refuses to give further information. The Military Police refused to answer ArmeniaNow’s question concerning the alleged event.
***

This case did not grab much public attention so far but it should.

Private zoo-s are not uncommon in Armenia for some time now. Reporter_am notes that for rich Armenians having a lion or tiger, or at least a bear, is a sort of symbol of power and masculinity. But why on earth Military Police chief keeps his bear (and tiger?) within the premises of its Yerevan HQ, which is not a private enterprise but a state office? How legal is it? Isn't being a head of Military Police not enough a symbol of macho masculinity? Who will be responsible for the death of that innocent woman?

*Photo by yerkirmedia.org

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Picture of the Day

David Nalbandian - the first man to do the Madrid-Paris double since Marat Safin in 2004

*via BBC - Nalbandian posed with some Paris models after his victory

David Nalbandian capped a stunning late-season surge by thrashing world number two Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-0 to win the Paris Masters. The Argentine [of Armenian origin] inflicted Nadal's first ever defeat in the French capital to lift his second Masters trophy in a row following his Madrid win. Nalbandian beat Nadal and world number one Roger Federer at both tournaments.

The 25-year will be rewarded with a return to the top 10 when the new rankings are released on Monday.

Congrats, David! Look forward to more "Pictures of the Day" with you :)

Armenian Genocide memorial unveiled in Wales amid Turkish protests

A memorial to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide was unveiled in Cardiff yesterday (3 November 2007). It was the first time that such a memorial was placed in the UK. It carries an inscription in English, Welsh and Armenian, which reads, ‘In memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide’. The unveiling was carried out by the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Vahe Gabrielyan, the Armenian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Lord Elis-Thomas said: “The fact that the funds for this fine memorial have been raised entirely by the Armenians who live in Wales and that it will occupy a special place here in the Temple of Peace, reflects the vibrant Welsh interest in the history of Armenia.”




*source of pictures: http://www.accc.org.uk

According to icWales, "more than 200 messages protesting against the monument’s erection have been sent by members of the Turkish community in Wales, elsewhere in Britain and from Turkey itself over the decision to erect the pillar of pink stone and Welsh slate." BBC reports that "over a hundred and fifty people [members of the Turkish community] protested before the unveiling." (picture below - via BBC)

In March 2000, the National Assembly of Wales formally acknowledged the Armenian Genocide . It also called on the UK Government to block Turkey’s admission to the EU until it acknowledged the crime. The only other formal acknowledgement of the Genocide in the UK came from the City Of Edinburgh Council which passed the bill on recognition of the Armenian Genocide in November 2005. Currently Armenian organisations are actively lobbying British MPs to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the UK. However, I do not expect any such move any time soon from the UK or England, taking into account political ties between Britain and Turkey. As their American 'brothers' would say - "It's not a right time".

A petition to the British Prime Minister to recognise the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is nearing its 16th November deadline. Soon after, all undersigned (currently 1 088 signatures, myself including) will receive a formal response from the PM office. I will post it in my blog as soon as get it.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Picture of the Day


No, it's not what you think. Apparently, this sign in Boston (USA) refers to boats :)

*via Queerty (via The Times)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Two newspaper editors to be prosecuted for disturbing the peace

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of two opposition newspaper editors - Nikol Pashinian of Haykakan Jamanak and Shoger Matevossian of Chorrord Ishkhanutiun - along with some 10 supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian during an opposition march in Yerevan on 23 October.

After being freed the next day, the two journalists learned at a press conference given by the police that they are to be prosecuted under articles 258 and 316 of the criminal code for “disturbing the peace” and “violence against an official.” The charges carry a maximum sentence of a month in prison and a fine equivalent to 50 times the minimum monthly wage.

“We call on the Armenian authorities to drop the charges against Pashinian and Matevossian and to show more tolerance towards opposition journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said.

According to the Yerevan Press Club, the police confiscated the camera of photographer David Jalalian of the newspaper Haik when he went to the police station where the opposition members were being held. The camera was finally returned but some of his photos had been deleted by the police.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Ter-Petrosyan's comeback

It’s official now. Levon Ter-Petrosyan will run for presidency in upcoming Armenian elections. [selected blog reports, video and photos - here, here, here and here] I wrote about my thoughts of him before. Now it’s time for updates.

Number-wise, the rally could be considered a success. Even if it’s 10 000, it is still good, taking into account apathy of population and all sorts of efforts by current administration against the rally and Levon & co. Based on various sources and friends’ impressions who attended the rally, atmosphere-wise it was also a successful day for Levon. There was optimism and good energy around during that rally.

His tone was calmer and speech - more solid than the one on 21st September, when he first declared his presidential intentions. He looked very arrogant on the 21st.

In fact, if I were to meet Levon, I would say to him: “Do not be arrogant. It does not suit you.” You were first elected as people’s president. You were ‘one of us’ – well, at least that’s how the majority perceived you. However, in few years you became arrogant, kind of self-isolated and intolerant to dissent voice. I quite like the fact that you were holding meetings with various political parties, even those that you shut down during your term of presidency. However, I’d like to get assurances that the practice of political dialogue will continue if you were to be elected as President.

You keep criticising current administration for their inability to solve Karabakh problem. Fair enough. However, your plan was not any better. You rightly repeated that under any solution Karabakh cannot be a part of Azerbaijan again. But you supported a plan that did not give any clear indication as to what will happen to Karabakh status. Karabakh is one of the key issues and you have to spell out more clearly your vision.

When you criticise current regime of being corrupt, you are becoming a very easy target to counter-claims. Unless you come clean for the past, it won’t be easy for you to re-gain electorate’s trust and move forward to present and future. There were lots of speculations before the rally that you may acknowledge your mistakes and say “Sorry” to people who trusted you and then felt betrayed by you. Your vague ‘apology’ during infamous forced resignation speech in 1998 is not enough. May be yesterday was not a right time to do so, but you have to do it in coming months... People won’t forget your mistakes, but they will appreciate your frankness.

To be honest, while I am glad that it seems we are to witness an exciting presidential campaign, there is something inside me that makes me feel worry. Call it intuition or whatever, I have those weird feelings that something bad may happen. Too much is at stake to those who are in power now if they to lose it via democratic elections. On the other hand, Levon came out to win, and any other outcome will not be ‘acceptable’ to his supporters. I hope nothing bad will happen, I really do. I hope we won’t witness violence and blood. I feel unease... I want to get rid of these feelings, but I do not know yet how...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Condoleezza Rice Confronted by "Blood-Stained" Anti-war Activist

Thanks to guys from Towleroad for this excellent post

Anti-war protestor Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz of the Code Pink organization was detained on Wednesday after confronting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a congressional hearing.



As Rice approached the podium, Farooz placed blood-colored hands in her face and shouted "war criminal" before being escorted form the chamber along with several other activists.

Reuters reports: "Capitol Police said later five people were arrested, including Ali-Fairooz, who was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer. She was also charged with defacing government property for smearing the red paint from her hands on the hallway wall outside the hearing room. The other four protesters faced disorderly conduct charges."

Halloween, of course, is next week, but in the Bush administration it's scary all year.

* X-posted from Towleroad

... And now read Onnik Krikorian's post Condoleezza Rice: Drop Armenian Genocide Bill

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The power and value of Armenian capital

"International experts assess the Armenian capital, the combined Armenian capital of the world to be equal to $100 billion. When I told about this to a group of Armenian businessmen in Moscow, they smiled, these Armenian businessmen in Moscow smiled after hearing this figure, and said this much money they had themselves. (Laughter). I told about this to [...] a prominent businessman in the United States and the United Kingdom, and he said it's not true, it should be at least $300 billion.

Let it be not $300, not $200, let it be $100, OK? If we could attract at least 1% of these resources every year to Armenia, then within a short period of time there will remain no social problems in Armenia."

Armenian PM Serj Sargsyan, speaking to LA Times editorial board

P.S. He needs money, he needs investments. Fair enough.  If we could attract at least 1% of these resources every year to Armenia, conditional to democracy and human rights, then within a short period of time...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Telegraph: The Armenian Genocide (more than a book review)

Helen Brown of British Telegraph newspaper reviews A Shameful Act: the Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility by Turkish-born sociologist and historian Taner Akçam. Here are two passages from her review The Armenian genocide:

"Akçam – who obtained political asylum in Germany in the 1970s after receiving a 10-year prison sentence for involvement in a student journal, and now teaches in America – has sought out documents from around the world. He has hunted down the memoirs of foreign missionaries and ambassadors and the telegrams sent by the perpetrators to make a solid case for the genocide having been planned and orchestrated by the Turkish Nationalist party."

"We in the West must face our own responsibility. We read how, after 1920, the British abandoned their demand for the war criminals to be punished, and many of those responsible found their way straight back into the "new" Turkish government."

***
Related and worth reading
Salon - Genocide: An inconvenient truth
Time magazine - The U.S. and Turkey: Honesty Is the Best Policy

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Naked saviour

Apparently, seeing naked Belgian fan on the field was too much of a distraction for Armenian football players, who were leading the game but completely lost it afterwards (3:0). Smart move, Belgium! ;)

Armenian Genocide resolution "unlikely"

It seems that Bush + Turkey & co 'succeded' again. A number of House members panicky withdrew their support as co-sponsors of the resolution. To get majority seems unlikely now, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be forced to shelve or postpone it. I felt kind of disgust when read the news (below, via iararat). They used us or got used and then threw away... as usual. Pure 'moral dimension' in politics.

No other source of information confirmed this yet, but it seems likely to be true...

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reports: "According to Congressional and Bush administration sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now unlikely to bring a resolution which would label the deaths of Armenians in a conflict more than 90 years ago as "genocide".

Pelosi, as recently as Sunday on "This Week", has repeatedly said she would call the controversial but nonbinding resolution for a vote despite the opposition of the Bush administration and warnings that it could damage U.S. relations with Turkey.

President Bush called Speaker Pelosi on Monday night and asked her to pull the bill. But Congressional sources say that Pelosi is telling House members that she will not bring the bill to the floor without majority support.

At least seven House members have withdrawn as co-sponsors of the bill and several more are expected to follow. Key Pelosi ally Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., is also lobbying against a vote.

Key House members continue to canvass members but don't expect a vote this year."
***
Nancy Pelosi: earlier statements (AP)

"I've been in Congress for 20 years, and for 20 years people have been saying the same thing" about the timing being bad, she said. Turkey was seen as having a strategic location in the Cold War as well as the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the current Iraq war.

"Why do it now? Because there's never a good time and all of us in the Democratic leadership have supported" it, she said.

"It is a statement made by 23 other countries. We would be the 24th country to make this statement. Genocide still exists, and we saw it in Rwanda; we see it now in Darfur," she told ABC's "This Week" in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“Some of the things that are harmful to our troops relate to values -- Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture. All of those [are] issues about who we are as a country,” Pelosi said. “And I think that our troops are well-served when we declare who we are as a country and increase the respect that people have for us as a nation.”

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Larry Gagosian - 2nd most powerful man in art world in 2007

Larry Gagosian topped the annual list compiled by Art Review magazine in 2004. Back then Art Review called him "the world's greatest art businessman." Since then Gagosian remained on the 2nd place in annual power rankings. He is the world famous art dealer of Armenian origin. He has galleries in NY, LA and London.

2007 Art Review Power 100
(with last year's ranking in brackets)

01. François Pinault (1) - French billionnaire; owns Christie's auction house

02. Larry Gagosian (2) - art dealer, US

03. Sir Nicholas Serota (3) - director of Tate galleries, UK



*picture via BBC

Monday, 15 October 2007

Hate for free ;)

Beware, all you Facebook fans! No, it’s not my new motto, it’s Hatebook.

“Hatebook is an anti-social utility that connects you with the people YOU HATE.”

Now you can “upload blackmail material or publish lies, get the latest gossip from your enemies and friends, post photos and videos on your hate profile, get hate points for disturbing people who live, study or work around you”. And all these – for free! As they say, “Everybody loves to HATE”. Do not say I did not warn you ;) x


*via TechCrunch: “A well-executed Facebook parody site called Hatebook has stepped in to provide (temporary) misanthropes with a place to air grievances about everything they hate. Hatebook looks and functions much like Facebook, except with an evil twist for everything. The color scheme is hellish red, profiles include a section called “Why I’m Better Than You!”, and members can create “Hate Albums” that consist of photos and descriptions of things they hate.”

“But don’t play around with Hatebook too much if you are concerned about privacy, because all messages (”junkmail”) are viewable by all other users, and there are no privacy controls.”

However, “With the development of the Facebook platform, we are even seeing these efforts made within Facebook itself , with the Enemybook app. Why hate outside of Facebook, when you can hate within it?” – asks Mark Hendrickson of TechCrunch.

*image via TechCrunch

Saturday, 13 October 2007

SOAD’s “Screamers” at front-line of Armenian Genocide recognition campaign

Carla Garapedian, the granddaughter of [genocide] survivors and a Los Angeles native, is scheduled to travel to Washington next week to screen her new documentary about the genocide, "Screamers," for members of Congress. Earlier this year she was summoned for a private screening of the film, which features Armenian Los Angeles rockers System of a Down, with David and Victoria Beckham in Beverly Hills.

via LA Times

***
Genocide: Why It Matters

CBS News reported Wednesday on a documentary called Screamers which follows the Grammy-award winning band System of a Down in its campaign to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide.

Serj Tankian, lead singer of System of a Down told CBS about how his grandfather's father and uncles were taken away to labor camps and never seen again. "We're all lucky to be here," he said of the band. "We all know the truth of what it means to feel genocide on your skin. ... It makes it easier for us to empathize with other injustice around the world."

A video from CBS's Early Show with Serj Tankian, broadcast on October 10, 2007, is available here

via The Raw Story

***
According to the European Armenian Federation , the film “Screamers”, co-produced by BBC, is to be screened also in European Parliament. This event will be a tribute to Hrant Drink, Armenian journalist in Turkey, who in January 2007 was assassinated in Istanbul because he advocated for his country’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

The European Armenian Federation announced that 29 countries will be represented in the Second Convention of European Armenians to be held in European Parliament, Brussels, 15-16 October 2007.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Hrant Dink's son sentenced for father's speech

Forget global politics, here is Turkey's real 'response' to Armenian Genocide recognition. This individual example perfectly shows that, although century-long, Armenian Genocide issue is very current and in a sense never ended in Turkey, taking different forms.

Apparently, I was overly 'optimistic' in my last post in support to Agos newspaper, speculating that Turkish court will not press charges. Why? Yes, yes, Turkey's 'European aspirations'... I wonder what EU's reaction will be? Or is this also "not right time"? It never is, isn't it?

"It's a judicial scandal", says Ozlem Dalkiran, who followed the trial for the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, a European human rights group.

BBC's Sarah Rainsford has more...

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Reporters Without Borders today voiced “outrage” at a one-year [suspended] prison sentence against the son of murdered journalist Hrant Dink, Arat Dink, editor-in-chief of the weekly Agos, and his editor Serkis Seropyan, using the same law under which his father had been prosecuted.

A court in the Sisli district of Istanbul found Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan guilty of “insulting Turkish identity” for publishing an interview in Agos which Hrant Dink gave to Reuters in 2006 in which he termed as genocide the massacres of Armenians from 1915-17, remarks for which Hrant Dink was prosecuted at the time. [and later murdered]
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Bianet:
At one of the hearings, Arat Dink repeated his father's words, saying: "If someone keeps asking me, '[...] tell me, was it a genocide, how would you describe it?', then I cannot deny myself. I cannot deny my history and identity. I said the same thing before and it made the front pages in Turkish newspapers, but no trial was opened. Because at that time there was no operation going on to show me my place..."
Seropyan had said: "I appear as the newspaper owner. If we needed to collect signatures against 301, I would do the same thing again today."