Friday, 25 July 2008

Armenia-Iran: 'If you come to Yerevan for a month, you will stay in Yerevan forever'

Everything is known in comparison, as they say. While for many Armenians the state of democracy and freedom in their country deemed to be unsatisfactory, to say the least, and worth fighting for, for Iranians Armenia is considered as a “beacon of freedom” where they can enjoy and try things they can’t do back home. Today BBC publishes report on that special relations developed over the past years between isolated for different reasons Armenia and Iran.

Below are selected extracts from the report (headings mine). Full report is available here

Noy Brandy's wine-tasting sessions are popular with Iranian tourists.

"Ten metres underground, they think Allah is out of range." "They don't want to taste the wine, they want to drink it." (tour guide Anna from Armenia)

Cafe culture/Nightclubs
"In summer I think that 90% of tourists are Iranian. Armenia is so close by and has attractive things - cafes and nightclubs, and beautiful Lake Sevan." (student and businessman from Iran)

Twenty-year-old Mehdez [student from Iran] explains that Armenia is popular with thousands of young people who cannot get a place in Iran's over-subscribed higher education system. "I chose to study in Yerevan because it's an easier situation. Here we have more freedom," she says. "But of course anything that we do here, we can do in Iran - just not in public."

Liberalised economy and ‘benefits of isolation’
Part of that freedom includes an increasingly liberalised economy, and that makes Armenia attractive to foreign investment. The Armenian capital is hardly an international economic powerhouse, but there are signs that Iranian investors sense an opportunity. (BBC)

Like many of his compatriots, Muhammad [businessman from Iran] benefits from Armenia's geographical isolation. Practically every item he sells - from pots and pans to air-fresheners - has been imported from Iran.

US disapproval
That has not stopped the United States from expressing concern about Armenia's ties with its neighbour. Those ties include the new Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, frequent bilateral talks and state visits, not to mention a sizable Armenian minority in northern Iran. In this year's Country Reports on Terrorism, the US state department said warming relations between the two countries made Armenia "reluctant to criticise publicly objectionable Iranian conduct". The little country courts the Americans, Europeans and Russians. It is a difficult balancing act to follow. But Armenia's unique relationship with the regional power - Iran - is one it cannot afford to abandon. Moreover, the two countries are united by a shared sense of isolation from the rest of the world. (BBC)

‘Yerevan forever’
"I like Armenian people, and it's difficult for me to want to leave my friends. When you come to Yerevan for a month, you will stay in Yerevan forever!" (student and businessman from Iran)


Anonymous said...

Hi Mik!!! Hope you are well doing!!!
Good you’ve posted Rob’s article. I guess these times it will be published another one about Armenia and it is really good. Robin and Reyhan (another BBC correspondent) where here in Yerevan for a couple of days and do too much stuff. It was pleasure to help them with some contacts and finding some people, cause they really wanted to write all interesting about Armenia and this was their own initiative. They also filmed all this stories.
But my question is about if you've seen on BBC a stuff about communism village in Armenia?

artmika said...

Hi Blansh! Thanks, things are fine with me :) True, an excellent article, a rare one which shows different sides of Armenia not frequently touched upon by Western media. Look forward to their new reports.

No, unfortunately I have not seen anything on BBC about "communism village" in Armenia. May be I missed it, or may be they have not aired it yet... Now I am curious, what was that about?

Ani said...

Just saw the movie "Persepolis." It was brilliant, necessary, and much much more than politics. Armenian, Iranian, American, British, if you haven't seen it--oh, you must! :)

artmika said...

I know, I saw parts of it, seems brilliant. Unfortunately, I missed the film when it was released due to busy time schedule back then, but I am going to get it on DVD (due for release in August).

parisan said...

I came to Armenia for a week, and I stayed. That was more than nine years ago.