Friday, 30 May 2008

OSCE/ODIHR publishes final assessment on Armenia's presidential election

WARSAW, 30 May 2008 - The pre-election and voting period of Armenia's presidential election was conducted in a manner that mostly met OSCE commitments, but problems arose, notably after the vote, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a final report on the February election, released today.

"While the 2008 presidential election mostly met OSCE commitments and international standards in the pre-election period and during voting hours, serious challenges to some commitments did emerge, especially after election day," the report says.

"This displayed an insufficient regard for standards essential to democratic elections and devalued the overall election process. In particular, the vote count demonstrated deficiencies of accountability and transparency, and complaints and appeals procedures were not fully effective."

The ODIHR monitored the February presidential election with 44 long-term and 250 short-term observers from over 40 OSCE participating States. The report assesses the electoral process for compliance with OSCE commitments, other international standards and national legislation.

"There is a sound legal basis for holding democratic elections in Armenia - the deficiencies noted in our report resulted primarily from a lack of determination to apply existing laws and rules effectively and impartially," said Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the ODIHR.

"Improving Armenia's electoral framework does not require so much further technical or legal changes, but rather a genuine commitment by the authorities at all levels, as well as all other political stakeholders, to a democratic electoral process free of undue State interference and in line with OSCE standards."

The report makes concrete recommendations on how to improve Armenia's election framework. These include measures to address the lack of public confidence in the electoral process, to ensure that all citizens are able to cast their votes free of coercion or intimidation, and to establish a clear separation between State structures and the ruling party.

*source: OSCE/ODHIR press release; /emphasis mine/

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pro-opposition youth activist attacked in Yerevan

Arsen Kharatyan, well known activist of pro-opposition Sksela and Hima youth movements, has been attacked today in Yerevan. He is son of Hranush Kharatyan, former head of the Department of National Minorities and Religious Affairs in the Armenian government, who was resigned after government’s violent 1st March crackdown on opposition following disputed presidential elections in Armenia.

According to Arsen Kharatyan, he was waiting near Vernisazh in central Yerevan to meet someone who during telephone calls presented himself as journalist from the “Life” magazine and asked for an interview.

Attackers approached him from behind and started beating him up. Arsen suffered head traumas. He was taken to the hospital, and his condition is reportedly satisfactory now. He already gave evidence to the police.

It is not yet clear whether this attack is connected with Arsen’s political activities, although as in any similar case suspicions will be there unless proved otherwise. However, in an interview with Radio Liberty Arsen Kharatyan directly linked this attack with his political and public activism. Hima youth movement released a statement considering this attack an attempt by the authorities to "create an atmosphere of fear in Armenia and halt the progress of popular movement".

*photo - via RFE/RL

Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan: Amnesty International Human Rights Report 2008

Amnesty International published today its annual Human Rights Report 2008. This report covers the period January-December 2007. Below are summary points related to South Caucasus countries. Full report is available here. It's interesting to note that despite problems with human rights were observed in all South Caucasus countries, the extent and nature of highlighted human rights issues varied. I bet Armenia part of the report would be much harsher next year after taking into account massive human rights violations during the post-presidential election period in 2008.

Freedoms of assembly and expression were restricted. One person died in custody in disputed circumstances. Physical assaults on Jehovah’s Witnesses were reportedly not investigated. The authorities failed to introduce a genuinely civilian alternative to military service and conscientious objectors continued to be imprisoned. More...

There were not enough shelters for women escaping domestic violence, and some measures to protect women from violence were delayed. Police reportedly used excessive force to disperse anti-government demonstrations in November, and throughout the year there were reports of police beating suspects when arresting them. Unfair trials of political opponents of the government were reported. More...

Freedoms of expression and assembly continued to be widely restricted. Independent and opposition journalists faced imprisonment on libel charges, harassment by law enforcement officials and, in some cases, physical assault. Two widely read opposition newspapers were shut down; five journalists were pardoned and released at the end of the year. Three teenagers were imprisoned for 10 years without investigation into allegations that they had confessed under torture. Human rights activists were intimidated. An ethnic Azeri activist was extradited to Iran despite risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Internally displaced people were prevented from fully exercising their social and economic rights. More...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Armenia - Turkey: A little bit of football history was made in Armenian town Abovyan

Armenia Turkey football under 19_ArmeniaNow

*photo - by Photolur, via ArmeniaNow

A little bit of football history was made in Armenian town Abovyan on 22 May 2008: for the first time Armenia hosted its neighbouring country Turkey in the opening match of a European football tournament - UEFA European Under-19 Championship.

The Under-19 national team of Armenia suffered a 2-1 defeat from their Turkish coevals on Thursday in the opening match of a UEFA European Under-19 Championship Elite Round Group 7 tournament hosted in Armenia, May 22-27.

In a tightly contested fixture played in Abovyan, some 20 kilometers from capital Yerevan, Armenia, for the first time entertaining a neighboring nation with which it has a closed border and no diplomatic relations, conceded the first goal from Turkey’s Sercan Yildirim in the tenth minute and did not equalize until just before half time thanks to a Tigran Voskanyan effort. The Turkish team, however, got their noses in front with an Erhan Senturk strike just past the hour to keep the winning score until the end of the match.

The Thursday encounter opened a series of three Armenia v Turkey games at different levels. The two countries’ main teams are drawn in the same World Cup 2010 qualifying group and are due to start their campaigns with a game in Yerevan in early September. Before that, the two countries’ U-21 teams will play in a Euro-2009 qualifier also in Yerevan on August 20.

Police presence was significant, which is understandable as it was no ordinary game, and the atmosphere was more tense than usual. A1+ reports that perhaps the only 'incident' was at the beginning of the match when Turkish national anthem was deafened under the whistles of Armenian football fans. However, the tension was relieved after two teams were photographed together following Armenia's FA initiative (photo below - via FFA).


Unfortunately, Armenia lost this game to Turkey 1:2. But the very fact of this game, and that it went without any serious incidents, violence and red cards (only one yellow card) deserves special mention. Unzipped reader H. T. passed me his opinion of this event: "I think it’s just a good example of two countries who have their political differences coming together and there were no acts of violence or red cards during the match. There were instances of players helping each other out." Can't agree with him more!

YEREVAN (Armenpress) - Armenian Soccer Coach Armen Gyubudagyants told at a press conference after the game that despite the defeat, he is moved by the devotion displayed by his team. It was quite an active game, he explained. But the Turkish team was much stronger than the Armenian.

"Five core team members were absent in our team, their presence might have brought other results," Gyubadagyants explained.

According to the head coach of the Turkish team Ahmet Cheyhan, the Armenian team was very quick and well prepared. Before the match-up, he was unfamiliar with the Armenian team and Armenian soccer in general, Cheyhan said. "Today we saw that you have quite good soccer players who in the future will become high-quality players," he said.

This tournament proved to be a very good introduction to another upcoming truly historic football event between our countries: Armenia vs Turkey - 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match on 6 September 2008 hosted by Armenian capital Yerevan.

2010 FIFA World Cup Europe draw - Group 5:

Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia

There were suggestions from the head of FA that Armenia's main stadium - Hrazdan stadium (hosts around 60 000 football fans), which is currently undergoing major renovation, would be ready by September. However, it is still doubtful, and the match may take place in Republican stadium, which was renovated in 2000 and can serve around 15 000 football fans only.

As I noted in one of my previous posts, here is hope that Armenian and Turkish fans will behave, and we won't witness any ugly scenes in Yerevan, 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... I will be blogging about it from Yerevan...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Armenia: Leading Human Rights Defender Assaulted (update)


There are some not so surprising developments regarding yesterday's assault towards prominent Armenian human rights activist Mikael Danielyan. Attacker is turning into a "victim", perfectly in line with the expressed concerns that "state connected Tigran Urikhanyan will happily walk away, while the human rights activist, who is known for his criticism of the Authorities, will be left crying for justice". And it seems that police is taking Urikhanyan's take of the story (surprise-surprise!).


Human Rights Watch issued a statement today demanding from Armenian authorities a proper investigation of the circumstances of the attack on Mikael Danielyan.

"The circumstances of the attack on Mikael Danielian suggest that his prominence as a human rights defender was a motive. Given this, the Armenian authorities must consider it as part of a thorough and objective investigation into the attack."

Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch

For full updated info and text of statements by Human Rights Watch and others - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*source of photo - Zhamanak

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Picture of the Day

I like this picture taken last night after the results of Eurovision first semi-final has been announced. Armenia is through to the final. For details - see Eurovision: In final, but...

*source of picture -

Hate crime in Yerevan: Armenia's prominent human rights activist Mikael Danielyan was shot at and physically and verbally assaulted

A1+ reports that prominent Armenian human rights activist, head of Armenia's Helsinki Association Mikael Danielyan was shot at and physically and verbally assaulted in downtown Yerevan today. This assault was carried out by former leader of "Armenian Progressive Party" Tigran Urikhanian. He allegedly called Mikael Danielyan "CIA agent who defends the interests of gays" (in Armenian this verbal assault sounds even more disgusting "հերիք ա, կյանքներս կերար, ՑՌՈՒ-շնիկի մեկը, արվամոլներին ես պաշտպանո՞ւմ"). IA Regnum also carries this story (in Russian). Luckily, Mikael Danielyan did not get seriously injured.

Whether Armenian judiciary will conduct proper investigation of this apparent hate crime, physical and verbal assaults towards prominent human rights activist, and whether those who conducted this crime will get punished, remains to be seen. This should be a test case, including for Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman. I will definitely keep an eye on this story.

For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*photo - via A1+

Russian opposition gathering was interrupted by 'penis helicopter'

Just what we 'need' in Armenia - the level of 'political dialogue' in Russia. Bizarre!

*X-posted via Towleroad


This is pretty surreal. A meeting in Moscow of the Other Russia opposition coalition on Saturday was interrupted by a propellor-operated phallus as chess champion Garry Kasparov was speaking.

According to, "Kasparov is a leader of the Other Russia movement, a loose coalition of activists opposing Vladamir Putin and the current Russian government. Over 700 people showed up for the event in central Moscow, but Kasparov's speech was interrupted when a large phallus-shaped helicopter started buzzing around the room. The Moscow Times attributed the prank to 'a couple of pro-Kremlin Young Russia activists.'"

According to a translator on the site metafilter, this was Kasparov's reaction:

"Kasparov: 'I think we have to be thankful for the opposition's demonstration of the level of discourse we need to anticipate. Also, apparently most of their arguments are located beneath the belt.' Someone in the audience: 'Finally the political power shows its face!' Kasparov: 'Well, if that's its face...' Everyone laughs.

You can see the uncensored pic here (NSFW).

And make sure not to miss the clip...

Monday, 19 May 2008

Demands for radical reforms in Armenia’s Public TV to meet country’s European commitments

Opposition Heritage party issued a statement today (ArmInfo), where as part of urgent steps to fulfil Armenia’s European obligations, reforms in Public TV and bringing back to air independent/pro-opposition A1+ and Noyan Tapan TV stations are stated as essential to prove government’s democratic commitments.

Interestingly, it’s more than a week that special commission set up by the incumbent president Serj Sargsyan to meet PACE demands compiled its recommendations (not made fully public yet) and passed it to the president office. However, time is passing and we have not heard anything back from Serj’s office, and essentially we have not seen any real steps as yet to prove that government is serious in meeting its European obligations.

Yerevan Press Club echoes opposition Heritage party by demanding urgent and cardinal reforms in Armenia’s Public TV. In a statement, issued today, leading local media watchdog spoke of “a particularly dangerous precedent for the free expression” which was “the application of preemptive censorship in Armenia during the period of March 1-20, 2008, while it is prohibited by the RA legislation and was not introduced by the President’s Decree on state of emergency or by any other official document.” Yerevan Press Club demands ending “the persecution of media for dissidence on any pretext. The political struggle cannot be turned into a campaign against democratic values; this increases the existing tension and endangers the future of the country.”

“After the adoption of PACE Resolution 1609, the critical remarks of a number of other international and local organizations about presidential elections and the post-election situation in Armenia, quite a lot of time has elapsed, yet there is an impression that the authorities of the country did not make appropriate practical conclusions. To rectify the situation Yerevan Press Club proposes the following priority measures that must be implemented during the upcoming one or two months:

1. During the parliamentary elections of 2007, the presidential elections of 2008 and also in the post-electoral period the National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR), having a status of independent regulator and commissioned to “control the activities of TV and radio companies” (RA Law “On Television and Radio”, Article 37, Part 1) failed to comply with one of its main functions and failed to prevent violations of the RA legislation by most of the broadcasters. This problem was reflected in the ruling of the RA Constitutional Court of March 8, 2008 and in an extraordinary public report of the RA Human Rights Defender, published on April 25, 2008. In particular, the Constitutional Court stated that in the course of presidential elections of 2008 “the National Commission on Television and Radio displayed formalistic approach to the compliance with the legal requirements. As a result, the media coverage displayed not only partiality, but also, in some cases, violations of legal and ethical norms”. The preliminary conclusion of the International Election Observation Mission at the presidential election of Armenia, dated February 20, 2008, notes: “The National Commission on Television and Radio did not adequately fulfill its mandate to monitor compliance of the media with legal provisions.” The PACE Resolution 1609 of April 17, 2008 stresses directly: “The independence from any political interest of both the National Television and Radio Commission and the Public Television and Radio Council must be guaranteed. In addition, the composition of these bodies should be revised in order to ensure that they are truly representative of Armenian society. The recommendations made by the Venice Commission and Council of Europe experts in this respect must finally be taken into account.” In 2006 the report on the state of media freedom in Armenia by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media recommended that the composition of these bodies “should represent the political and social diversity of the country, and should include NGOs and professional associations”.

Proceeding from what has been said, we insist on the need to implement within shortest time possible the legislative amendments to ensure the participation of various political forces, civil society in the formation of NCTR, and we urge the incumbent members of the National Commission to voluntarily resign. Through the formation of the new composition of NCTR - in a procedure, stipulated by profound legislative amendments - there will be an opportunity to fulfill the requirements of Article 83.2 of the RA Constitution, as well as the recommendations of the PACE Resolution 1609 of April 17, 2008.

2. During the past year the incompliance of the activities of the Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia with its status and mission became even more obvious. Ahead and during presidential elections of 2008 the news and current affairs programs of the public broadcaster provided one-sided information and did not comply with the requirements of the RA Law “On Television and Radio” about ensuring political plurality. Moreover, by its activities, the Public Television did not only fail to contribute to national accord, but also, on the contrary, incited mutual hatred. In the same way it continued to work during the post-election period. The abovementioned report of the RA Human Rights Defender notes: “A most vivid example of such unacceptable coverage (during the state of emergency - YPC) was demonstrated by the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, which not only neglected this provision of the Decree, but also once again made a grave infringement of the requirement of Article 28 of the RA Law “On Television and Radio”: ‘The prevalence of a political stance in the programs broadcast (...) on public television (...) is prohibited’.”

The whole responsibility for violating the legislation, the standards of public broadcasting, the professional norms lies on the Council of Public TV and Radio Company. We believe that in the Council, as a result of appropriate legislative changes, an equal representation of professionals is to be made - upon the nomination from both political forces at power and the opposition. This would serve to fulfill the recommendation of PACE Resolution 1609 of April 17, 2008: “(...) Apart from reforming the legislation, the authorities must take steps to ensure freedom and pluralism of the public television and radio on a day-to-day basis.” The first step towards the reformation of the public broadcasting of Armenia, in our opinion, can be also the voluntary resignation of the Council of the Public TV and Radio Company - in full composition.”

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Unzipped: Gay Armenia - LIST 2008

To mark International Day Against Homophobia (17 May) -exactly one year ago I started my Unzipped: Gay Armenia blog - I launch Unzipped: Gay Armenia LIST 2008, which will be published annually. This LIST recognises individuals, organisations, media, blogs, events and other contributors(tions) to gay rights and equality in Armenia and Diaspora. It also 'names' main homophobic occurrences over the past year, to evolve eventually into Armenian version of Homophobia Hall of Shame. Time period covered by the LIST incorporates one year prior to 17 May (including 16 May). 

This year the LIST was compiled by myself only. For the following years, I will do my best to take into account also readers' and broader Armenian LGBT community views. This LIST by no means claimed to be complete. However, it recognises, to my best knowledge, key developments relating to Armenian LGBT community in Armenia and Diaspora over the past year. New categories will be added in future depending on availability of entries (like Exhibition of the Year, Book of the Year and so on).

For details, see Unzipped: Gay Armenia - LIST 2008

Friday, 16 May 2008

History in making: California legalises same-sex marriage

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives:

"I welcome the California Supreme Court’s historic decision. I have long fought against discrimination and believe that the State Constitution provides for equal treatment for all of California’s citizens and families, which today’s decision recognizes.

I commend the plaintiffs from San Francisco for their courage and commitment. I encourage California citizens to respect the Court’s decision, and I continue to strongly oppose any ballot measure that would write discrimination into the State Constitution.

Today is a significant milestone for which all Californians can take pride."

This decision is important for me for several reasons:

- Importance for gay rights movement and equality in the US and worldwide;

- Influence of this decision on California’s large Armenian Diaspora where homophobic mentality is still prevalent;

- Influence of this decision, via world headlines, US and Diaspora influences on Republic of Armenia.

Here is hoping that California’s Supreme Court landmark ruling will help to prevent tragedies similar to the one we recently witnessed within the Armenian community there, when gay Armenian in LA committed suicide after being forced into marriage.

For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*source of photo - Petrelis Files: Gay community celebrates California's landmark decision on Castro Street, San Franciso, last night

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Journalist Arat Dink was awarded the prestigious Guardian Journalism Award

Bianet reports that "journalist Arat Dink and imprisoned Burmese monk U Gambira are among the winners of Index on Censorship's 2008 Freedom of Expression Awards, which pay tribute to people around the world who have made outstanding contributions to free expression."

Journalist Arat Dink was honoured by Index on Censorship at a ceremony in London last night:

Dink was awarded the prestigious Guardian Journalism Award, which recognises determined and brave journalism that often represents a different point of view in the media.

Index on Censorship Chief Executive Henderson Mullin commented: ‘The bravery of Arat Dink, and the rest of the staff of Agos, in the face of Draconian laws restricting their freedom of expression, provides inspiration for journalists throughout the world. In honouring Arat, we also commemorate the work of his late father, Hrant Dink.’

Bianet adds that "as the editor of the Armenian paper "Agos", Dink has suffered immensely for the "crime" of speaking out in Turkey about the Armenian genocide. His father Hrant, who was editor of the paper before him, was gunned down for giving an interview about the genocide. Arat himself was given a one-year suspended sentence for daring to reprint his late father's words."

*source of picture

Armenian government ‘affords’ $ 1 100 000 for celebrations is “amazed” with the news that “in this difficult situation the government spends more than one million dollars” to set up the celebrations for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Sardarapat:

“The Armenian government provided 339 million drams (about 1.1 million dollars) from the reserve fund for preparations and organization of the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of Sardarapat. 14.5 million drams will be allocated to the ministry of communication and transport for work on the square in front of the memorial to the battle, 230 million drams to the ministry of defence for reconstruction and repair, and 94 million drams to the ministry of culture to hold celebrations. […]

Perhaps the government has decided to simulate the battle at Sardarapat in every detail.”

I am with Lragir on this.

Without for a moment diminishing the significance of the Battle of Sardarapat for the future of Armenian nation and statehood, I am sure we can celebrate this anniversary in a much-much modest (in terms of allocated financial resources) and appropriate way. Spending millions of drams on a one-day (or so) celebration… I doubt that this is exactly what Armenian citizens expect from their government under the current challenging circumstances...

Truly amazing! (not surprising though...)

*photo - via Wikipedia

US government forcefully sedate immigrants with dangerous psychotropic drugs for no medical reasons - for deportation!

A shocking report by Washington Post. Actually, no, it’s not shocking, nothing can shock any more in terms of horrifying human rights record of the US government. Government which issues “Human Rights” annual reports on countries world-wide, including Armenia…

“The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs [Unzipped - they call it “pre-flight cocktail”] against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.”

“Internal government records show that most sedated deportees […] received a cocktail of three drugs that included Haldol, also known as haloperidol, a medication normally used to treat schizophrenia and other acute psychotic states. Of the 53 deportees without a mental illness who were drugged in 2007, The Post's analysis found, 50 were injected with Haldol, sometimes in large amounts.

They were also given Ativan, used to control anxiety, and all but three were given Cogentin, a medication that is supposed to lessen Haldol's side effects of muscle spasms and rigidity. Two of the 53 deportees received Ativan alone. One person's medications were not specified.

Haldol gained notoriety in the Soviet Union, where it was often given to political dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals. "In the history of oppression, using haloperidol is kind of like detaining people in Abu Ghraib," the infamous prison in Iraq, said Nigel Rodley, who teaches international human rights law at the University of Essex in Britain and is a former United Nations special investigator on torture./emphasis mine/

But that’s not the whole story. The cynicism of the US government has apparently no limits:

“After injecting the sedatives, the nurse travels with the deportee and immigration guards to their destination, usually giving more doses along the way. To recruit medical escorts, the government has sought to glamorize this work. "Do you ever dream of escaping to exotic, exciting locations?" said an item in an agency newsletter. "Want to get away from the office but are strapped for cash? Make your dreams come true by signing up as a Medical Escort for DIHS!”

Deplorable, disgusting, disappointing!!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Queen's state visit to Turkey: "a seal of approval"?

BBC reports that "The Queen and Prince Philip are travelling to Turkey for a four-day state visit, their first to the country since 1971. During the trip, they will lay a wreath at the tomb of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey. They will also be guests at a state banquet hosted by President Abdullah Gul and his wife Hayrunnisa. [...] Later in the trip, they will visit the western city of Bursa and will tour a school in Istanbul which has links with UK students. The royal visit highlights the importance of Britain's relationship with Turkey. Britain is a strong supporter of Turkey's attempts to join the EU. The country became an official candidate in 1999 and entered formal accession negotiations in 2005. "

One of the questions addressed at The Armenian Genocide Day Conference, held in the House of Commons, the UK Houses of Parliament, 24th April 2008, was the following:

  • Will the planned state visit by HM the Queen to Turkey in May be a seal of approval on the Turkish government's distortion of the truth of the genocide, and the continuing cultural genocide in Turkey?

Below is an excerpt from the paper “The Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish and 'Other' Genocides: The Politics of Genocide Recognition and Denialism” - by Desmond Fernandes, author of The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides: From Censorship and Denial to Recognition? (Apec Press, Stockholm, 2007) - presented at the Conference:

If we ask ourselves the question:

Will the planned state visit by HM the Queen to Turkey in May be a seal of approval on the Turkish government's distortion of the truth of the genocide, and the continuing cultural genocide in Turkey?

It very much will, in my opinion, depend upon the nature of the visit, and the statements and endorsements that will accompany that visit (relating to what is said or unsaid concerning the Turkish state's ongoing and past genocidal record, and its and the UK government's continuing Armenian/Assyrian/Greek/Kurdish genocide denialist position). The Queen and those in her entourage and the UK government should also reflect upon the Turkish Human Rights Association's observations on Armenian Genocide Recognition day in 2006, which remain relevant today:

"Turkey has made hardly any progress in the field of co-existence, democracy, human rights and putting an end to militarism since the time of the Union and Progress Committee. Annihilation and denial had been, and continues today, to be the only means to solve the problem ... Today’s ongoing military build up of some 250,000 troops in the [Kurdish] southeast of Turkey is the proof of a mindset wh[ich] is unable to develop any solution to the Kurdish question other than armed suppression."

*photo - via BBC

Sunday, 11 May 2008

It’s “coming of age” for Armenian blogging

Onnik Krikorian, Caucasus editor at Global Voices Online, posted analysis on evolution of Armenian blogging which reached the point of “coming of age” following the recent political stand-off and media blackout in Armenia. Highly recommend it!

Only few months ago, practically no one in Armenia was aware of blogs or blogging, including media representatives. Now blogs/blogging/bloggers became the It topic with various reports in Armenian online and printed media, as well as radio, dedicated to them.

Future media professionals in Yerevan also turn their attention to blogging by writing their final thesis on blogging phenomenon.

Full post is availabe here: Armenia: Blogging Comes of Age

My blogs Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia also mentioned there:

“One blogger from Armenia now living and working in the United Kingdom had already set a precedent for blogs covering issues that were not reported elsewhere with his Unzipped: Gay Armenia site. The blogger applied the same level of professionalism, albeit in support of the former president, on his other blog, Unzipped.”

Trials and hearings continue in Armenia ahead of special commission report on meeting Armenia’s European obligations

Trials and hearings of detained opposition figures continue in Armenia. It is not clear yet how Armenian authorities are going to respond to PACE demands on release of all political prisoners. Special commission set up by incumbent president Serj Sargsyan prepared its recommendations (which should be based on PACE resolution), details of which will probably be known by Monday. Initial semi-official reports suggest that there will be lots of questioning as to whether commission’s recommendations will provide a real way for reforms and meeting of Armenia’s obligations before the Council of Europe, or it would rather be an imitation of reforms. However I will reserve my judgement till I read the official text.

Below is a schedule of trials and hearings of detained opposition activists for Monday 12 May 2008:

10:30 Gurgen Yeghiazaryan Court of Appeals, Yerevan (closed)
11:00 Tigran Baghdasaryan Court of Appeals, Yerevan (closed)

12:00 Petros Makeyan, Shota Saghatelyan, Ashot Zakaryan Gyumri

12:30 Khachik Gasparyan Kentron/Nork Marash Court Yerevan

Trials are open to the public unless otherwise noted. Be sure to bring a passport.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Armenian Students in the US and their perspective on the Armenian Genocide through Art and Performance at the University of California, Berkeley

Guest writer: DSC01358

Andre` Ivan Arzoo, UC Berkeley – 3rd Year Political Science Major, Armenian Student Association Member

April 24th of this year marks the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a tragedy that has consumed so much of our identity and efforts but yet remains a burning flame in the hearts of millions. Armenians throughout the world are working away this week organizing Genocide related gatherings, cultural events, lectures, and memorial commemorations. The Armenians of California’s Bay Area, one of the oldest Armenian communities in the United States, have covered this week with the colors of our beloved Yeraguyn Drosh.


Genocide Awareness Month – the label of April began with a candle light vigil held by the Armenian Student Association of UC Berkeley on April 20th. The vigil took place on the Berkeley campus in commemoration of the Armenian and all other Genocides; known and unknown, recognized and unrecognized. The vigil began with an opening poem in Armenian by Ara Rostami, continued with a duet by Ani Antanesyan and Romina Keshishyan singing ‘Sareri Hovin,’ concluding with a moment of silence by candlelight and students taking turns in tying green ribbons onto a pomegranate art piece.


The ASA students labored away all month to hand craft an enormous Pomegranate Memorial – pictures in the group’s photo section - symbolizing Armenian culture and endurance. The Pomegranate Memorial is on display all week at the UC Berkeley campus on Memorial Glade in front of the campus main library. The memorial has been attracting the curiosity of students of all ethnicities and spreading awareness about the Armenian Genocide. On display around the memorial are around a dozen posters with information and photos about the Armenian Genocide.


UC Berkeley Students Colin Elbasani and Andre Arzoo, along with community members Zaven Kanehian and Norik Khachikian, were invited guests on the Berkeley City Radio program "Music of the World with Kutay" on KPFA 94.1 FM to discuss the Armenian Genocide, Music, and Culture. The program also consisted of discussions about the Armenian Diaspora and the different communities in which it consists of, a quick Historic breakdown of the Armenian Nation and Republic, and various types of Armenian Music played throughout the show.

As a stance against the attempt to annihilate the Armenian people, identity, and culture, an Armenian Art Piece has been put on display in the UC Berkeley ‘Free Speech Movement Café - Moffit Library’ – an expression toward the survival and progression of Armenian culture, art, and life despite attempts to hinder this path and silence a nation in 1915. The painting was inspired by an old Armenian folk song Titter, Butterfly, and was painted by an Armenian artist, Andre Arzoo, who is a third year Political Science major at UC, Berkeley. This piece comes from the artist’s deep love affair with his ancestry, representing an Armenian’s discontent between the life of a man and that of a butterfly.



On April 22nd the UC Berkeley ASA held the 5th Annual ‘United Hands Across Cal.’ UHAC is a “demonstration in the heart of the UC Berkeley campus where more than a hundred students and community members join to stand against [Genocide] and human rights abuses.” The demonstration consisted of Berkeley students linking hands across Sproul Hall in unity. The event began with a Duduk performance by Khatchadour Khatchadourian and a poem by Ara Rostami. The performance was followed by a similar duet as the one performed at the candlelight vigil, poetry, and speeches held by representatives of several other student groups condemning Genocide. Later that night, the ASA held a Genocide Awareness Poetry Slam session in collaboration with CalSlam, a Berkeley student poetry group. The week of April 24th came to a close with a community procession in San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Church where community leaders spoke and discussed the contemporary political issues in America regarding the Armenian Genocide and its recognition.



Armenia: job announcement with indicated salary info

For the first time in ages, I saw today a job announcement in Armenia with indicated salary information. (well, there may be others too, but it’s something very rare) I always wondered why people would not indicate this one of the most crucial factors in deciding which job to take in their announcements and leave it to speculations, as something 'unspoken', 'guessed'... Is this some kind of false morality thing ("we do not care about money, we care about job"). Or perhaps it's US influence too: it is very common in US to withheld salary info from the announcements.

Only in rare cases when salary is negotiable and pretty high it may be OK to put some sort of vague indications of it. Otherwise, I think it should be a norm. For example, in the UK and Europe salary information is normally an important part of any job ads.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Tigran Khzmalyan: "The Meeting of the Mice / Mkneri Zhoghove"

Ելույթ ունեցավ նաեւ ռեժիսոր Տիգրան Խզմալյանը, որը հայտնեց, թե չի քվեարկել Լեւոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի օգտին, բայց դատապարտեց այն բռնատիրությունը, որում այսօր ապրում է Հայաստանը. «Մարտի 1-ին ծնվեց այն երիտասարդ Հայաստանը, որը չի վախենում ու չի հանդուրժելու բռնապետությունը»: Տիգրան Խզմալյանը որպես ճգնաժամի լուծում առաջարկեց անհապաղ ցրել «մկների ազգային ժողովը», ընտրել նոր խորհրդարան:

Film director Tigran Khzmalyan (who did not vote for Levon Ter-Petrosyan during February presidential election) on urgent necessity to dissolve the "National Meeting of the Mice"* (aka Armenian parliament) and call for a new parliamentary election as a way out of current pollitical crisis in Armenia, extract of his speech at the Opposition congress in Yerevan. (quote and photo - via Aravot daily)

*The Meeting of the Mice / Mkneri Zhoghove
(famous Armenian animation based on Khnko Aper’s fable of the same name)

A group of mice meet and decide to hang a bell around the neck of the cat, which would alert them to its arrivals and departures. But it is one thing to make a decision, and quite another to implement it. None of the mice are able to do the deed. (source)

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Opposition congress: 'Ready for a dialogue'

Effectively, leader of opposition movement, Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan expressed his readiness for a dialogue based on PACE recommendations: “While not accepting the legitimacy of a regime that seized power with such crude methods, we are ready to take into account the fact of its being a real political factor and to start political dialogue with it,” he said. “But we regard that dialogue not as a means for bringing one of the parties down on its knees but as an opportunity to implement real reforms in the country and to create a normal field for political activity.”

I do not think that Ter-Petrosyan should have directly stated that he accepts PACE call to opposition to recognise the Constitutional Court’s decision which approved the election results (“This should not be interpreted as the obligation to agree with the merits of the court’s decision.”). Fraud in elections was the main reason which sparked the protests, and ‘acceptance’ of its results for practical reasons to move forward cannot be considered as a precondition (and never presented as such by PACE) but rather a part of a final outcome of negotiations (with a package of measures aimed at democratisation of Armenian society). However, freedom to prisoners who were detained for political motives is essential to create a basis for a negotiated solution out of current political crisis in Armenia. This should not be a subject of formal negotiation process per se, but rather a necessary precondition, I would say the only precondition to put before the government.

How serious is Armenian government in terms of making necessary reforms and changes in accordance with the PACE recommendations, and engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, will be known on 10 May when a committee created by a decree of Serj Sargsyan will present its action plan.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Nestle plays on Azeri nerves

This news made my day!

Not into cereal, but drinking Nestle now... for the occasion :)

BBC reports

Nestle in Azerbaijan CD blunder

The Swiss-based multinational food company, Nestle, has apologised to Azerbaijan after a free gift attached to a breakfast cereal backfired.

The CD-ROM featured information about countries around the world but the data on Azerbaijan caused outrage there.

It said that Azerbaijan had started a war against neighbouring Armenia and that the hotly disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to Armenia.

Nestle has withdrawn the cereal and promised to seize the offending CDs. [...]

Nestle inadvertently stumbled into a minefield.

The Azeri government vowed to take action, and there has been widespread talk of a public boycott.

Nestle has now issued a formal apology but some Azeris are still not happy.

They accuse Nestle of playing Armenia's hand, and are demanding more than just an apology to chew on.

*photo via BBC

World Press Freedom Day on 3 May

There can be no genuine democracy without freedom of expression.

Abraham Lincoln was right when he said that you cannot fool all the people all the time, but a lot of politicians seem to think that it is good enough to fool the people for as much time as it takes to get elected.

There have been several recent elections in Council of Europe member states which have fallen short of Council of Europe democratic standards. Freedom of the media, or rather the lack of it, is the main problem. How can people make an informed choice – and elect a government of the people, by the people and for the people - without independent and objective information?

Some governments may believe that they are protecting the public interest when they try to silence media which they consider to be irresponsible or giving too much space to a political force which they consider to be unfit to govern, but such arbitrary actions are undemocratic. They are also contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which makes it clear that the right to freedom of expression includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference from public authorities and regardless of frontiers. It is true that this freedom can be restricted under the Convention, but only if it is prescribed by law. There is no room and there should be no tolerance for disproportionate and arbitrary interpretations aimed at silencing the voices of dissent and criticism.

(Statement by Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, Strasbourg, 2 May 2008, /emphasis mine/)


Global Press Freedom Ranking*

Rank 2008

(out of 195 countries)











Not Free


Cote d'Ivoire


Not Free




Not Free




Not Free




Not Free




Not Free

*Freedom House 2008


« Bettina Rheims’ 100 pictures for press freedom »

Bettina Rheims_Ginger_Shanghai_RSF

© Bettina Rheims, courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris Ginger, Shanghaï November 2002 (Reporters Without Borders)