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Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Council of Europe Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg Human Rights Report on Armenia

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction
II. National system for human rights protection

1. Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman)
2. Civil society
3. National Assembly Committee on Human Rights and Public Affairs

III. Administration of justice

1. Status of judges and their independence
2. Auxiliaries of Justice
3. The right to a fair trial
a) Access to justice and transparency of legal process
b) Execution of judgments
4. Reform of the Prosecutor’s Office

IV. Law enforcement

1. Reform of law enforcement and public monitoring
2. Police arrest and detention
3. Police ill-treatment and torture

V. Penitentiary system

1. General observations: “SIZOs”, colonies and prisons
2. Premises, conditions of detention
3. Medical treatment
4. Ill-treatment and torture
5. Women and juvenile in detention

VI. Social issues and vulnerable groups

1. General Observations
2. Victims of 1988 earthquake
3. Asylum seekers, refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and missing persons
a) Asylum seekers and refugees
b) Refugees and IDPs resulting from the Nagorno-Karabakh conlict
c) Missing persons
4. Problems related to expropriation
5. Persons with disabilities
6. Elderly people
7. Women’s rights and domestic violence
8. Children’s rights
9. Trafficking in human beings

VII. Fundamental freedoms

1. Freedom of expression
a) Right to information and pluralism of opinions
b) Defamation and attacks against journalists
2. Freedom of assembly

VIII. Discrimination

1. Ethnic minorities
2. Freedom of religion
3. LGBT

IX. Military and civilian service

X. Recommendations

National system for human rights protection
Administration of justice
Law enforcement
Penitentiary system
Social issues and vulnerable groups
Fundamental freedoms
Military and civilian service

Full report is available here

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner calls for specific legal provisions in Armenia to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation

As I wrote back in October 2007, for the first time, gay rights were on the agenda of European Human Rights chief's visit to Armenia.[...]

During my meeting in Yerevan with head of LGBT related NGO We For Civil Equality (WFCE), I was told that Hammerberg was very attentive to the situation with gay rights, homophobia and Armenian LGBT community, in general. He promised to include these points in his upcoming Human Rights report on Armenia

I am glad that Thomas Hammarberg kept his promise and in a report released today there are special reflections on LGBT rights in Armenia under the “Discrimination” and “Recommendations” chapters.

For details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

28 'convicts' and 1 'police chief' demand freedom for political prisoners in Armenia

Action of the day - by Hima (Now) youth movement. They aim to become the Armenian equivalent of youth movements Otpor - in former Yugoslavia; Kmara - in Georgia; Pora - in Ukraine, which were instrumental in bringing changes in their respective countries. They are pretty new as Hima movement, although as far as I understand developed from and affiliated with Sksela but with more distinctly political aims. So far they organised small but creative and vocal protest actions. Whether they will develop into 'Pora' or 'Kmara' remain to be seen.




(based on A1+ and Lragir) 28 young people were wearing prisoners' outfit with a letter on each which made up the phrase Freedom to Political Prisoners. There was also 1 'police chief' among protesters. They started at the Office of Prosecutor General, walked to the Statue of Miasnikyan where they held a minute of silence in memory of the victims of March 1, then past the embassies of France and Italy to the government building, the parliament and the president office. Afterwards, the participants of the action went to the Northern Avenue for "popular walks". The only place police did not allow them to enter was the Liberty sq.

"Forward Armenia, forward to God"?

On 1st May there will be a “pan-Armenian” pilgrimage (estimated 500 people) from the Echmiadzin ('Armenian Vatican') to Karabakh under the slogan "Forward Armenia, forward to God." According to IA Regnum, this group of pilgrims will reach Shushi (Karabakh), where a rally will take place "One nation, one state, one faith."

Sorry for my cynicism to everyone with strong religious feelings, but there are slogans which are really hard to digest, like "Forward Armenia, forward to God". This reminds me a combination of the infamous pre-election slogan with a religious motto. If “forward to God” is a “forward Armenia”, then we are on very backward path, indeed.

"Stop killing" - environmental rally in Yerevan

There will be environmental rally in Yerevan, 30 April, 4pm, in front of the Armenian parliament.

 

"Stop killing" - this will be the main message of the rally. Along with general environmental concerns, "Armenia-Russia uranium deal" and "Save Teghut" will be the key target themes of the rally.

Silence is a sign of agreement_Bnamard

"Silence is a sign of agreement"

Stop killing environment_Bnamard

"Stop killing environment"

Stop killing us_Bnamard

"Stop killing us"

Cult of radiation_Bnamard

"Cult of radiation"

*banners via Bnamard environmental blog

 

For background of the key issues to be targeted during the rally, see below relevant RFE/RL report.

 

Armenia-Russia uranium deal

22 April 2008, RFE/RL reports:

The Armenian and Russian governments set up on Tuesday a joint venture that will explore and possibly develop Armenia’s untapped uranium reserves concentrated in the southeastern Syunik region.
“The new joint venture will explore and ascertain our uranium reserves,” Armenian Environment Minister Aram Harutiunian said after signing a relevant agreement in Yerevan with Russia’s state-owned Atomredmetzoloto company, which mines and processes uranium.
In accordance that agreement, the Russian firm will have a 50 percent stake in the venture and invest about $3 million in exploratory work to be conducted in Syunik during the first year of operations. The mountainous region bordering Iran was explored by Soviet geologists in the 1950-1907s and is estimated to contain 30,000 metric tons of uranium ore. [...]
 

Save Teghut

5 October 2007, RFE/RL reports:

Minister for Trade and Economic Development Nerses Yeritsian [Unzipped: currently - Minister of Economy] voiced support on Friday for a multimillion-dollar mining project that, if implemented, will lead to the destruction of a rich forest in northern Armenia and is strongly opposed by environmentalists.
The Armenian Copper Program (ACP), the country’s second largest mining company, plans to invest $270 million in turning the Teghut forest rich in copper and molybdenum ores into a big mine in the next five years. The Liechtenstein-registered company is already making preparations for the start of open-pit operations in the 357-hectare area covered by some 128,000 trees. [...]
Yeritsian echoed ACP executives’ arguments that the planned development of the deposit will result in 1,400 new jobs. The private company has also pledged to build new schools and make other investments in the local infrastructure.
Environment protection groups insist that all of this would be trumped by the heavy ecological cost of the project. They say it would accelerate Armenia’s deforestation which began in the early 1990s and is increasingly threatening the national ecosystem.
Armenia’s mining and metallurgy sectors, dominated by foreign investors, have expanded rapidly in recent years on the back of soaring international prices for copper and molybdenum. Non-ferrous metals are currently the country’s number one export.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Government U-turn: choice of Tbilisi forced Armenian government to allow Ter-Petrosyan opposition movement to hold a congress in Yerevan

For quite some time now, any party, organisation or movement which is associated with the opposition is unable to hold indoor meetings, conferences etc due to apparent government ‘directive’ to the venues. Smart tactic by the opposition movement to arrange a venue for the congress in Tbilisi, after exhausting any possibilities in Armenian capital.

Only after news on Tbilisi venue became known, government made a U-turn and decided to offer its conference hall for the congress of Ter-Petrosyan opposition movement which will be held on 2 May. It is expected that Armenia’s first president and leader of the opposition movement Levon Ter-Petrosyan will make his first public speech there after the state of emergency.

Imagine how devastating for the government’s reputation would have been the situation when Armenian opposition is holding a congress in Georgian capital Tbilisi. Luckily, this time government realised the ridiculousness of its position and made this U-turn. They should stop their childish ‘venue blocking’ tactics, in general. It only makes the situation worse... for them.

Lragir.am provides additional details:

On May 2 the second congress of the political forces and NGOs supporting Levon Ter-Petrosyan will be held at the conference hall of the government, said Manushak Petrosyan, member of the election office of Levon Ter-Petrosyan, on April 28. She said the number of forces which have come together around Levon Ter-Petrosyan is not decreasing, and compared with the first congress which was held in December the number of participants has increased, Manushak Petrosyan says.

“Some more parties and NGOs are willing to join the popular movement,” Manushak Petrosyan said. About 20 parties, over 20 NGOs will participate in the congress.

Manushak Petrosyan says during the congress the past way and the past events will be assessed, as well as the plans of the popular movement will be discussed. Manushak Petrosyan says today the entire public is opposed to this government, and Levon Ter-Petrosyan and the forces which support him will lead this public as long as people will go after them. “We’ll struggle all the way through,” says Manushak Petrosyan.

She also said no hall was provided for the congress of forces supporting Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and the government gave up as soon as the Popular Movement reached agreement to hold the congress in Tbilisi, Manushak Petrosyan said, and provided the conference hall of the government. Manushak Petrosyan said in Tbilisi the participants of the congress would be fewer, who were going to leave for Tbilisi in the morning, hold the congress and return to Yerevan on the same day.

In answer to the question of reporters whether any representatives of the government were invited to participate in the congress Manushak Petrosyan said there is no need to invite for the sake of inviting. Besides, Manushak Petrosyan said the government has a possibility to listen to the speeches that will be made during the congress.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Armenian Genocide Commemorative March in London

27 April 2008, London, UK

Armenian Genocide Commemorative March - from St Yeghiche Church to The Cenotaph via the Turkish Embassy and Parliament Square.

There were many young people among marchers. People were carrying flowers reminiscent to the way we do it in Yerevan. Overall, the march was better organised than it was last year.

Pouring rain at the beginning was annoying, but it did not affect people’s mood, although it perhaps affected the number of people participating in the march, as well as onlookers in the streets. However, on the whole, march looked impressive and very appropriate for the occasion.

As to the organisational aspects, I do not think Sunday is a particularly good choice for actions aimed also at attracting public attention to the cause. In addition, most of the time along the route which was designated to us we were marching via mainly deserted streets, except when we reached Parliament sq. I understand, it is not just in the hands of organisers, and Metropolitan police perhaps did its main bit for own convenience by allocating us not busy and not traffic heavy (including pedestrian) route. However, during previous years it was possible to get permission for more appropriate route starting at Marble Arch. I think organisers should try getting it back.

We also stopped in front of the Turkish embassy in London for about 15-20 mins or so for a picket action (you can see it in the video too, towards the end). I doubt that there was anyone inside the embassy on a Sunday afternoon, but I am sure they will get the message via CCTVs and other recording devices.














For more photos - see my Picasa Web Album

Friday, 25 April 2008

Armenia Ombudsman's Ad-hoc Report on Election and Post-election Situation in Armenia

Short Summary of RA Ombudsman's Ad-hoc Report on Election and Post-election situation in Armenia

25 April 2008


The 2008 presidential elections and post-electoral developments have immensely influenced on the entire system of protection of human rights. The main objective of this Ad-hoc Report /hereinafter report/ is a comprehensive analysis of pre and post-electoral developments.

The first part of the report illustrates dynamics of transformation of socio-psychological environment and main causes of its formation whereas receiving objective information on electoral processes was impossible.

The second part of the report is devoted to the election’s day environment and analysis of legislative grounds leading to its formation. The third part reveals peculiarities of post-electoral developments. Part four presents activities of the Human Rights Defender in regard with reinstituting of human rights during the post-electoral period.

In the course of examining presidential election developments, the report, indeed, specifies many objective problems leading to the formation of pre and post electoral situation in the country, particularly rising resentment in a considerable part of the society. In fact, many of these problems were described in the Defender’s Annual Report of 2006, the conclusions of which, regrettably, remained out of attention of authorities.

The cornerstone of the report is qualitative modification of resentment of a considerable part of society through biased form. Particularly, the noticeable social and economic polarization, mistrust towards public and law enforcement bodies, overcentralization of power, ineffective mechanism of checks and balances between three branches of power, insufficient guarantees of human rights, formation of a tightly closed system of privileged group drove a significant part of society to seek critical and dramatic changes to solve these issues. Eventually, a demand of extremist activities was formed in a considerable part of society. In this situation a number of political forces have provided an adequate offer, which intensified intolerance and polarization in the society.

The report refers to the aforementioned issues from the perspective of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of information. The objective of the report is firstly to emphasize restriction of freedom of speech for one part of the society /the opposition/, existence of unrestricted opportunities for the other part /the government/ including unlawful use of different power tools resulting itself in restriction of human rights, and secondly that it may offer “ill services” to the users themselves on the rebound.

Spiritual and material values in the society should be balanced and coexist in harmony. From this point of view one does not consider the opposition strategy being mostly focused on social concerns of a considerable part of population, deplorable human rights records, shortcomings in public administration, etc., instead of prioritizing economic development-related issues, such as construction of tunnels, highways, elite buildings. A number of state representatives were more enthusiastic in terms of material values while the opposition rearranged the strategy within political and intellectual values (civil freedoms, dignity, justice, equal rights).

Division of society into privileged “insiders” and the rest formed tightly closed system in the country, where democratic principles of governance were of artificial nature. These hampered the course of political struggle under the rule of law. Meanwhile, the opposition adopted the same extremist policy aimed at polarizing the society into “us” and “them”- “beguiled”. The extremist policy of one part of government and a part of opposition generated March 1-2 events inflicting the society to suffer. Thus, the society shall enjoy the right to demand political elite (government and opposition) to ensure absolute respect for human rights and tolerance shall prevail in the society.

The change of ruling political forces through elections, the exchange of roles between ruling and opposition forces is a key indicator of democratic development and an effective safeguard of socio-political stability. If the opposition forces are deprived of possibilities to replace the incumbent authorities through free and fair elections, and the authorities are democratic insofar as it secures their “normal” reproduction, then extremism in the political struggle cannot be avoided.

Constitutionalism is a limitation of the power, which precludes situations in the political struggle, when the winner assumes all political, economic, and social control, while the defeated side loses any possibility of survival. This is the type of situation that pushes sides
into a “life-or-death” struggle, laying the ground for the emergence of authoritarian and totalitarian political regimes.

The newly-elected President and the new system of government inherited a heavy burden from their predecessors. It would have been preferable to avoid it, but it could not be done, and now, everyone must now come together to overcome this situation.

The following issues have to be resolved in order to address this situation:

1. To ensure that the authorities function in a framework of public accountability, and to secure a strong opposition: this is the only case in which the authorities will no longer be able to subordinate society to their will. As a result, the opposition will not have to go to the streets, because they will be able to voice their concerns through legal and political means.

2. To reform the electoral legislation: in particular, it is necessary to revise the Electoral Code provisions on the formation of electoral commissions, the recount procedures, etc.

3. To safeguard the freedom of expression and to put in place conditions for pluralism and impartiality in the electronic media. Without pluralism, society cannot be free, and the authorities will not exercise self-restraint. To this end, it will be essential to reform the legislation on television and the radio. It is also necessary to ensure equal participation of the representatives of the power and the opposition in the formation of television and radio regulatory and supervisory bodies.

4. To rule out laws groundlessly restricting human rights and freedoms (such as the recent amendments to the Republic of Armenia Law on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies, and Demonstrations).

5. To safeguard the constitutional principle of equality of rights and to eliminate existing economic monopolies, which will help to overcome the oligarchic system of governance. This is the only way to enable people to realize their creative potential. As a result, society will no longer demand political extremism, and political forces will no longer generate such supply. Extremist ideas are born out of an extremely polarized society. If society is not polarized, no extremist idea can activate the broad masses.

6. To fight against causes, rather than consequences. To this end, it is vital to create an independent commission to inquire into the March 1 events.

7. At this point, it would be most dangerous and useless to imitate reforms.

*/emphasis mine/

Armenian 'elections'



*via smbatgogyan

Political prisoners in Armenia


*source: mkdotam

"There can only be one"


The cover of the new Time magazine.

'Un-hate a Turk Today'

24 April 1969


Always unconventional, Armenian American artist Onnig Kardash, staged a protest/performance on April 24, 1969 in front of the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. The action seemed to underscore the need for love in the face of hate.

April 24 is the traditional day to commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide, Kardash’s protest shocked many Armenian Americans who were angry and confused at the radical protest on such a solemn day.

Art critic Neery Melkonian noted:

“..[it} rejected the [Armenian American] culture’s collective identity as a victim.”

*source - Hrag Vartanian

23 April 2008


Even before today, thousands of young Armenians affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D) assembled in Yerevan’s Liberty Square before embarking on a now traditional candlelight procession to the memorial overlooking the capital. Of course, this being the most nationalist of commemorative events, the Turkish flag was doused in petrol and set alight first. Interestingly, but not convincingly at all, Armenian Public Radio reports that the organizers deny such an act is ever planned:

“We do not plan to burn the Turkish flag and do not spread hatred, it was the initiative of the participants”.

* source: The Caucasian Knot

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Quote of The Day

It was also interesting for me to note a few opposition supporters also marched with the Dashnaks the night before. I know a few of them from years of photographing opposition rallies and when one (actually one of Aram Sargsyan's guys who usually is part of the people who keeps things in order) came up to me to say hi on the AYF march up to the memorial I jokingly asked "Are you a Dashnak today?" His response was "I'm Armenian."

Onnik Krikorian, author of The Caucasian Knot blog, commenting on Unzipped, 24 April 2008




Photos: Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008

Liberty sq on Remembrance Day of the Armenian Genocide

I received this letter around 2pm Yerevan time from a reader of this blog B.T.

"Here is a bit of info on what is now happening at Freedom Square [Liberty sq]:

On Remembrance Day of Armenia’s genocide, as usual I was out on my daily constitutional, and as usual I walked through Armenia’s Freedom Square. The evening before, I had joined the younger generation when they gathered in their thousands at the square with their bottled candles and I saw how they left the square on a march to the Genocide memorial. So I was not surprised to see that the square was full of busses, I assumed waiting for those youngsters who had spent the night at the memorial.

I should have realized that I was wrong when I saw the squads of police officers surrounding the opera, batons in hand. No the busses had not brought mourners to the square they had brought the police officers and their anti-democracy riot gear. And rather than as usual being parked along the roads surrounding the square, the busses were parked right on the middle of Freedom Square, no doubt to hinder the masses that were due to gather at 3.00 pm to remember those who had lost their lives in the genocide of 1915. Our post State-of-Emergency authorities were seemingly concerned that yet another anti-government rally might develop – and I would say they had every cause to be concerned."

The information he provided is confirmed also by A1+:

՚Ազատությանՙ հրապարակն այսօր առավոտից շրջապատված է ոստիկանության աշխատակիցներով, որոնք խմբերով կանգնած են մայթերին ու հսկում են անցուդարձը: ՚Ազատությանՙ հրապարակի անմիջապես մեջտեղում տեղակայվել են ոստիկանության ավտոբուսներ ու մեքենաներ:

Նշենք, որ այսօր ընդդիմության ներկայացուցիչներն ՚Ազատությանՙ հրապարակից ժամը 15.00- ին պետք է շարժվեն դեպի 1915թ. ցեղասպանության զոհերի հիշատակը հավերժացնող հուշահամալիր՝ ծաղկեպսակներ դնելու:

Հետաքրքրվեցինք ոստիկաններից, թե ինչո՞ւ են այսօր հավաքվել ՚Ազատությանՙ հրապարակում եւ ինչո՞ւ են այսքան շատ՝ որեւէ իրադարձությո՞ւն է սպասվում: Ոստիկաններից մեկը հումորով նկատեց, թե` ՚ոչ մի բան էլ չի նախատեսվում, այնպես որ հանգիստ կարող եք շրջել տարածքումՙ: Մեկ այլ ոստիկան էլ, մեզ խորհուրդ տվեց. ՚Ժամը 15:00-ի սահմաններում չերեւաք այստեղ, այդպես լավ կլինիՙ:

Ի դեպ, մեր ունեցած տեղեկություններվ, այսօր ոստիկանության հիվանդանոցում աշխատակիցները զգուշացվել են լինել ավելի զգոն եւ կազմակերպված, ծանրաբեռնված ռեժիմով աշխատելու պատրաստ:






*source of photos - A1+

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

“Rock Against Murderer” anti-Genocide action of ‘marginal culture’ in Yerevan

UPDATE! - 23 April 2008
To be honest, I am disappointed. Advertised as "Rock Against Murderer" anti-Genocide action of 'marginal culture' (“Fans of marginal culture, Rock, libertarians, motorbikers”), it was in fact one-person's (journalist Gayane Arustamyan who wrote that article) political campaign against the current regime in relation to March 1 events. Not that I am against individual's initiative to protest and show civil initiative, quite the contrary, but I am against deceptions of public and using "alternative culture" and "genocide" as cover.

UPDATE 2! - 24 April 2008
I think my reaction and disappointment was based mainly on high anticipations re existence of “marginal culture” in Armenia. When I read the announcement that it will be a gathering of “marginal culture” representatives, I was thrilled to discover that “marginal culture” actually exists in Armenia (I hardly believed in its existence before). Therefore, when it turns out to be a different type of event under the “marginal”, “rock” and “genocide” disguise, I got disappointed. Other than that, surely I can only commend the initiative of individuals to peacefully protest under whatever slogans they prefer, regardless whether I agree with it or not. And police actions in this case were deplorable, of course (tearring off her poster etc. - see comments section below).


“Fans of marginal culture, Rock, libertarians, motorbikers” will gather tomorrow at Matenadaran, in central Yerevan, to protest all Genocides world-wide: “Rock Against Murderer”. Gathering at Matenadaran 2-4pm, then marching via Mashtots av. - Amiryan st - Republic sq to the UN HQ in Yerevan.

I was thrilled to read about this in Aravot daily today.

«ROCK AGAINST MURDERER»՝ ԿԱՐԳԱԽՈՍԻ ՆԵՐՔՈ

Ապրիլի 23-ին, ժամը 14-16-ը Մատենադարանի մոտ կկայանա մարգինալ արվեստագետների, ROCK սուբկուլտուրայի համակիրների, ազատատենչ քաղաքացիների եւ մոտոսիրահարների հավաք՝ «Rock against murderer» կարգախոսի ներքո: Ակցիան նվիրված է ցեղասպանության զոհերի հիշատակին: Եթե ժամանակին մթնոլորտ չնետվեր «Ո՞վ է հիմա հիշում հայերի ցեղասպանությունը» հայտնի արտահայտությունը, եւ ճանաչվեր ու դատապարտվեր 20-րդ դարի առաջին Ցեղասպանությունը, հնարավոր կլիներ կանխել աշխարհի տարբեր ծագերում եւ տարբեր ժամանակներում տեղի ունեցած ցեղասպանությունները: Ելնելով այդ տրամաբանությունից, Հայոց մեծ եղեռնի զոհերի ոգեկոչման օրվա նախօրյակին ռոք երաժշտության երկրպագուները հանդես են գալու հայերի, Պոնտոսի հույների, Տիբեթի ժողովրդի, Հոլոքոստում ողջակիզված հրեաների, Իրաքի քրդերի, Կոսովոյի սերբերի, Դարֆուրի բնիկների եւ ընդհանրապես ազգային պատկանելության կամ կոնկրետ հայացքների համար դաժան սպանության ենթարկված մարդկանց խմբերի դեմ իրականացված ու մինչեւ օրս իրականացվող հումանիտար հանցագործությունը եւ դրանց հեղինակներին դատապարտող ակցիայով: Հավաքը կավարտվի երթով՝ Մաշտոցի պողոտա- Ամիրյան փողոց- Հանրապետության հրապարակ երթուղով մինչեւ ՄԱԿ-ի գրասենյակի հրապարակ: Հաշվի առնելով Երեւանի եւ նրա բնակիչների նկատմամբ Երեւանի քաղաքապետի նվիրումը, հատուկ հրավիրում եմ Երվանդ Զախարյանին եւ խնդրում եմ ապահովել ազնիվ նպատակներ հետապնդող այդ միջոցառման համար անհրաժեշտ պայմաններ: Ելնելով ԱԱԾ եւ Ոստիկանությանը դիմելու նրա բացառիկ իրավունքներից, խնդրում եմ միջնորդել, որ իրավապահ այդ մարմինները բարեխղճորեն վերլուծեն նախապես հավաքած հավաստի տվյալները եւ կանխավ վնասազերծեն միջոցառումը անկարգությունների վերածելու մտադրություն ունեցող նրանց արդեն ծանոթ սադրիչներին, որ հանկարծ ցեղասպանություն դատապարտող միջոցառումը չվերածվի մարդասպանության: ԳԱՅԱՆԵ ԱՌՈՒՍՏԱՄՅԱՆ ROCK երաժշտության երկրպագու, լրագրող

A1+ covers story of gay Armenian in LA who committed suicide after being forced into marriage

http://www.a1plus.am/amu/?page=issue&iid=59803

ԻՆՔՆԱՍՊԱՆ Է ԵՂԵԼ ԱՄՈՒՍՆԱՆԱԼՈՒ ՊԱՏՃԱՌՈՎ
[11:17] 22 Ապրիլի, 2008

Ամերիկայի Լոս Անջելոս քաղաքի հայկական համայնքում մեծ աղմուկ է բարձրացել 22-ամյա համասեռամոլ տղայի ինքնասպանության պատմությունը: Երեկ արդեն հայկական ֆորումներում եւ ինտերնետային բոլոր միջոցներով բազմաթիվ քաղաքացիներ իրենց բողոքն էին արտահայտում եւ խնդրում տարածել հաղորդագրությունը:

Պատճառն այն է, որ տղան ինքնասպանություն է գործել ընտանիքի կողմից ճնշման արդյունքում աղջկա հետ ամուսնանալուց հետո: Տղայի ընկերներից մեկը պատմում է, որ տղայի ծնողները ամաչում էին նրա համար, ճնշում էին գործադրում` ապրելու հայկական համայնքում ընդունված ավանդույթի համաձայն: ՚Նա վերջին օրերին խիստ սթրեսի մեջ էր եւ հոգեկան ճնշված վիճակումՙ,-պատմում է ընկերը:

Սփյուռքահայության շրջանում աղմուկը բարձրացել է եւ քննարկման մասնակիցները ասում են, որ սա հաճախ հանդիպող դեպքերից մեկն է, եւ մեր հասարակությունում դեռ շարունակվում է հոմոֆոբիան օրինաչափ լինել:

*For details of this story, see here

Monday, 21 April 2008

New government? I do not think so

Just very brief reflection of the newly formed government (finalised today). If there is one word to sum up my opinion, it would be disappointment (not that my expectations were high, but still...). Where is that highly PR-ed new government? I can’t see it. Essentially, it is the old new government, where there are same old faces, who merely changed their positions from here to there.

Another very apparent feature of this government is that it can hardly be called Serj’s government: looking at the members and influences, this is as much (if not more) Kocharyan’s government as Serj’s. It is obvious that there will be two competing forces in this government. At the moment, pro-Kocharyan block seems more powerful and influential. But Serj won’t be satisfied with the current state of affairs for long. There will be fierce internal battle ahead.

Opposition "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" newspaper must stop using homophobic references in its attacks on Armenia PM Tigran Sargsyan


Around and immediately after his appointment, I read here and there occasional comments attacking newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan with homophobic references for his presumed or perceived homosexuality. I do not care whether our newly appointed PM is gay or not. What I do care is no one has the right to attack others for their sexual orientation, perceived or real. Totally unacceptable tactic, from whatever side it comes. And very, very cheap, aimed at the lowest possible instincts among ‘ordinary’ citizens taking into account widespread homophobia in our society. Ironically, homophobic references and bigotry are becoming a favoured mean for some within the both sides of Armenia’s current political stand-off to make an attention grabbing headlines. This can only be a sign of lack of proper arguments and sensationalism preferred by some, be that individual, blogger, established politician or newspaper.

I was wondering where this ‘gay storyline’ came from. Publications by the opposition “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper (CHI) made things clearer (reader of my blogs pointed me out to this). I suppose that its role played also non-macho (cliché) image of PM Tigran Sargsyan.

So what’s the buzz all about?

For details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Unless CHI stops these cheap tactics and campaign, it risks losing any credibility and joining a growing list of potentially boycotted enterprises, with a very clear “yellow” colour sticking on it. I hope that ordinary to higher level opposition representatives who have influence on this newspaper will pass this message to the CHI. Nothing could be more damaging to the opposition movement than having bigotry associated with it.

*photo - via RFE/RL

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Another ‘sign’?..

Writing about the first authorised rally after the state of emergency, I speculated that this could possibly be considered “a first - albeit small but indicative - sign of upcoming changes”. I think the rally was pretty successful in what it aimed to achieve. Turn out was reasonable for the occasion: according to various estimates, from few thousands to 7-10 thousands (ArmInfo and Lragir). There were even songs and dances reminiscent to February post-election rallies in Liberty sq. Rally was led by women – wives of political prisoners. One of the most emotionally touching speeches came from Melissa Brown, wife of detained former Foreign Minister and prominent opposition figure Alexander Arzumanyan, who described daily life ‘routines’ of wives of political prisoners (in Armenian):

Մարտի 1-ի դեպքերից հետո կալանավորված Ալեքսանդր Արզումանյանի կինը` Մելիսա Բրաունն այսօր Մանկական այգում տեղի ունեցած հանրահավաքի ընթացքում մանրամասնեց այն կնոջ օրը, որի ամուսինն այսօր կալանավորված է իր քաղաքական հայացքների համար, այսինքն` քաղբանտարկյալ է:

՚Մենք բոլորս բարեկամներ ենք: Քաղբանտարկյալի կինը ամեն օր արթնանում է, պաստառ է պատրաստում կամ նամակ գրում, հետո երեխային տանում է դպրոց կամ մանկապարտեզ եւ վազում աշխատանքի, քանի որ տունն ինքն է պահում: Աշխատանքի վայրում էլ մի փոքր միտինգ է անցկացնում, այնտեղից էլ վազում է Հյուսիսային պողոտա եւ սպասում իր ամուսնու հետ հանդիպման: Հանդիպման օրն էլ գնում է բանտ` 7 ժամ սպասում է, որ իր ամուսնու հետ 1 ժամ զրուցիՙ,- իր խոսքը հայերենով սկսեց եւ ավարտեց տիկին Բրաունը: Հավաքված կանայք շարունակեցին նրա խոսքը. ՚Պայքար, պայքար մինչեւ վերջՙ:

Interestingly, according to reports from Yerevan, Public TV's main information programme Haylur - for the first time in ages - showed proper footage from the rally (not their usual "handful of people" before and after the rally), without biased reporting.

I am not ready yet to say that this is perhaps another sign of upcoming changes, but interesting nevertheless.

*photos via IA Regnum

Armenian sport life in the pre-WWI Ottoman Empire

Fascinating online exhibition launched by The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.

"Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire before total uprooting as a consequence of premeditated and state–orchestrated genocide plan of the elimination of the Armenian nation on the territory of the Ottoman Turkey circa 1915 was among well modernized elements of the empire which although the segregationist and discriminative nature of the ottomans played significant role in the social, economical and cultural life of the empire.

The European influence and the acknowledgment with the traditions and principles of the European education triggered unprecedented activity in the sport life and sportive activity.

Enough to say that dozens of Armenian sport clubs and boy scout organizations appeared among the Armenian communities from Istanbul to Van, from Trabzon to Adana.

The first time in the history of Turkish Olympic games two Armenian sportsmen represented the Ottoman Turkey in the fifth international Olympic games in Stockholm in 1912 (those were Vahan Phapazyan and Mkrtich Mkryan). Many Armenian teams and individuals permanently scored victories and records in the multinational and intercommoned competitions and championships.

*Mkrtich Mkryan, participant of the Fifth Olympic games in Stockholm, Robert College campus, “Marmnamarz”, July 5, 1912

*Vahram Papazyan, Fifth Olympic games in Stockholm, “Marmnamarz”, 1912

It’s interesting enough that from 1911 to 1914 four “Armenian Olympic games” were organized with the participation of all Armenian sport clubs. Winners of the competitions were awarded with silver medals.

*Silver medal which was granted to the winners of the Second Armenian Olympic games in 1912

*Vagharshak Varjapetyan, winner of the Armenian Olympic games and international competitions in Constantinople, bicyclist, “Marmnamarz”, 1911

The idea of creation of separate Armenian football league was not realized because of the WWI and subsequent start of genocide policy against the Ottoman Armenians, during which many Armenian sportsman became victims of the first genocide of the 20th century."

*The football team and athletic club “Atlas” of Nikomedia, “Marmnamarz”, 1913

*The Armenian Youth “Tsitsernak” football team, Istanbul, 1910s

For more photos - visit the online exhibition

AGBU launches Photo Archive on Flickr

In a welcome move, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) launches Photo Archive on Flickr.

*Courtyard of the Aleppo Ottoman barracks, converted into a reception center for genocide survivors returning from their places of deportation. Aleppo, probably late 1918. (source)

"Included among the treasures is the never before seen AGBU YPGNY Ellen Gerard Collection (pictured below) which was purchased by the AGBU Young Professional of Greater New York in 2000 and has been under lock and key until today."

*A page from the Gerard Album depicting the nurse (right) who amassed the collection and a blind boy (left) who, according to Gerard’s politically-incorrect caption, “regained enough sight to become useful.” (source)

AGBU's Flickr page

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Armenian Genocide Commemorative Events in London

There are number of events planned in London to commemorate 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. (For details of other events, see here)


Thursday 24 April 2008

Armenian Solidarity with the Victims of All Genocides (ASVAG) and Nor Serount Cultural Association, supported by The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East; The European NGO: "Working Group Recognition - Against Genocide, for International Understanding"; The Seyfo Centre; The Aegis Trust and The Genocide Prevention All-Party Parliamentary Group

invite you to an

24th April ( Genocide Day) Conference

Sponsored and chaired by Andrew George M.P.
in The Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons, London
on Thursday, 24th April (Armenian Genocide Day) at 11 a.m. till 1.00 p.m.

The following questions will be addressed:

  • Is Reconciliation possible after Genocide?
  • Is denial of truth any basis for Reconciliation?
  • Taking the Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Kurdish examples: Does the UK government hinder the process of reconciliation by its one-sided pro-Turkish government stance?
  • 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?

Presentations:
“The Psychological Effects of Genocide Denial” - By Ruth Barnett
“The Comparative Aftermath of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide” - By Gregory Topalian
“The Assyrian/Armenian Perspective” - By Sabri Atman, The Seyfo Centre, Amsterdam
“Perspectives on Genocide” - By Kasim Agpak
“The Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish and 'Other' Genocides: The Politics of Genocide Recognition and Denialism” - By Desmond Fernandes
“A bird's-eye-view on the phenomena of Genocide and the Armenian Experience of it” - Professor Khatchatur I. Pilikian.


Thursday 24 April 2008 at 7.00pm
Silent Vigil

Turkish embassy, 43 Belgrave Square, London SWIX 8PA

Organised by the Armenian National Committee (ACN) of the UK


Sunday 27 April 2008
Annual Commemorative March
Starting at 13:00 following the Requiem Service
at St. Yeghiche Church

Cranley Gardens, South Kensington,
London SW7

Organised by CRAG - Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

Commemorative March - from St Yeghiche Church to The Cenotaph via the Turkish Embassy and Parliament Square

Prayers will be said at the Cenotaph and a Petition on behalf of the British Armenian Community will be handed at 10 Downing Street for the attention of Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Friday, 18 April 2008

Gay Armenian in LA committed suicide after being forced into marriage

I am very angered and very saddened. News on suicide committed by young gay Armenian guy in LA (Los Angeles, US) after being forced into marriage proves once more that Armenian society - whether in Armenia or Diaspora - with its ‘traditional values’, intolerance and homophobia is responsible for his death.

Thanks to his friend, we learned about this story. How many similar cases pass hidden?!

I ask Armenian bloggers, media representatives, anyone who has links with local (both in Armenia and Diaspora) and international media to disseminate this story as widely as possible. Time to speak up. Enough is enough! We should prevent similar tragedies from happening in future.

I tried to summarise what is known so far about this guy based on PINK Armenia press release and comments in Yesoudo: LGBT discussion group.

A few days ago a young gay Armenian in LA committed suicide... He was 22 years old. The stress of being gay was too hard for him to handle. He was forced to get married with an Armenian girl to cover up his sexuality... He came out to his family and they forced him to marry a girl to keep up appearances... and sadly 3 months into the marriage . . . he couldn’t take it anymore... he was under a lot of stress from his family and the general stress that the Armenian community brings to the table about homosexuality...

Here is what his friend has to say:

[He was] an amazing friend of mine… we loved him dearly... he was young, smart and handsome... god I’m going to miss him...
REST IN PEACE MY GOOD FRIEND WE WILL MISS YOU.

What is wrong with Armenians how can we keep letting this happen! This isn’t right, this isn’t fair! The sad part is no one mentions that he did it because he was gay! He even wrote it in his suicide note and no one mentions it! How many Armenians are we going to lose like this!


For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Thursday, 17 April 2008

First authorised rally in Yerevan after the state of emergency – Saturday 19 April

This is the first authorised by the Yerevan municipality rally organised by “Women For Peace” pro-opposition NGO. It will take place on 19 April, 3pm, near the statue of Myasnikyan. I am pleasantly surprised with this development. With all internal and international pressures, is this a first - albeit small but indicative - sign of upcoming changes? I wholeheartedly want to believe so.

ՀԱՐԳԵԼԻ ՀԱՅՐԵՆԱԿԻՑՆԵՐ

«Կանայք հանուն խաղաղության» հասարակական կազմակերպությունը ս.թ. ապրիլի 19-ին, շաբաթ օրը, ժամը 15-ին հրավիրում է հանրահավաք Երեւանի Մանկական զբոսայգում (Մյասնիկյանի արձանի հարեւանությամբ):

Երկար ընդմիջումից եւ հանրահավաքների բազմաթիվ հայտեր մերժելուց հետո սա քաղաքապետարանի կողմից արտոնված առաջին հանրահավաքն է, որտեղ կնքնարկվեն մեր երկրին ու ժողովրդին վերաբերող կարեւոր հարցեր: Կոչ ենք անում ակտիվորեն մասնակցել այդ հանրահավաքին:

ՀԱՄԱԺՈՂՈՎՐԴԱԿԱՆ ՇԱՐԺՄԱՆ ԿԵՆՏՐՈՆ


*I received this statement as a comment (via HaikN) to another not relevant post, and decided to publish it separately due to its importance.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Karabakh elects Ombudsman

I think this is one of the most important news of the day which did not get enough attention in Armenian media.

Developing democracy and creating necessary institutions within the state structures to protect human rights is very positive step forward, indeed. KarabakhOpen describes newly elected Ombudsman Yuri Hairapetyan as “an experienced lawyer who has been the chair of the Committee of State and Legal Affairs [in the Karabakh parliament] for two terms.”

By electing Ombudsman – human rights defender, Karabakh made yet another important step in terms of institutional changes towards establishing democracy. It is for utmost importance for Karabakh citizens. This will also provide additional strength for Karabakh’s case for independence internationally.

Recent examples from Armenia prove that despite being nominated by the head of state - and my initial lack of trust (with remaining reservations) – Armenian Ombudsman, apart from opposition Heritage party MPs, remained the only state figure to be able to provide at least some kind of basic human rights interventions during the state of emergency.

KarabakhOpen reports:

Today’s meeting of the parliament of Karabakh will probably be remembered as the parliament which elected the human rights defender. Through secret ballot the only candidate was elected – the chair of the NKR National Assembly Committee for State and Legal Affairs Yuri Hairapetyan. Speaker Ashot Ghulyan said this candidature was agreed to by all the factions.

In his speech Yuri Hairapetyan thanked his colleagues for confidence and informed that he has over 30 years of experience as a lawyer.

The law on the human rights defender was passed several years ago, and in May 2005 the office of the human rights defender should have been set up. However, the issue was put off, either for the lack of a suitable candidate or for other reasons, until the provision on the human rights defender was set down in the Constitution in December 2006. Afterwards a presidential election was held, and only now the parliament decided to elect an ombudsman.

*photo - via KarabakhOpen

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

"My grandfather is a political prisoner"

15 April 2008, Yerevan, Armenia


In front of French embassy; picket action organised by wives of political prisoners.

*photo - via A1+

Armenian presidential election - the biggest scandal in the Council of Europe

Russian Kommersant daily reports:

Yesterday the PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) spring session opened in Strasbourg. First the delegates discussed the recent Russian presidential election, unanimously acknowledging it unfair and unjust, and even tried to find measures to be taken against Russia. Nonetheless one shouldn’t rule out the possibility of taking measures against Armenia before it comes to Russia: Yesterday the presidential election in that country caused a big scandal in the PACE.

Row over Armenia

The biggest yesterday’s scandal concerned discussing the situation in Armenia. During the morning session, Britain’s John Prescott, ex-Deputy Prime Minister in Tony Blair’s government, delivered his report on the recent presidential election in Armenia, which was even less critical than that on Russia’s election. Mr Prescott stated that it complied with the standards of the Council of Europe. The lack of criticism about Armenia though roused the indignation of several delegates.

Hungary’s Zsolt Németh reminded that the Armenian election resulted in civil unrest, with 9 people killed. “The Council of Europe legitimizes the anti-democratic policy of the Armenian government! If we are unable to influence or change anything, let’s give up the practice of sending observers there! We need a thorough evaluation of the monitor missions,” claimed the excited Mr Németh.

Sweden’s Marietta Purbe-Lundin, member of the PACE mission to Armenia, described emotionally that in her presence vote fraud took place. “Hundreds of ballots for Levon Ter-Petrosyan were rendered to be for Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. The members of the electoral commission were aware of what they were doing and that I saw it, but they were far from embarrassed. There were Mr Sargsyan’s observers at the polling station, who so much threatened everyone there – my interpreter begged me not to make any remarks to them. I was so frustrated that couldn’t get a wink of sleep that night,” the parliamentarian complained.

Azerbaijan’s Samad Seidov was even more critical of Armenia, “Mr Prescott says that the Armenian election complies with the standards of the Council of Europe. What does he mean? Have murders become the standards of the Council of Europe? Here 9 people killed were mentioned, but no one recollected those died in jail, or thousands of political prisoners, including the members of the Armenian Parliament. Why is the world so closely watching the situation in Tibet, paying no attention to the arbitrariness in Armenia?”

Nevertheless, John Prescott and several other observers stated that the critics of Armenia’s election were too emotional and biased, whereas there were no shocking facts of electoral fraud registered.

All in all, the dispute is sure to continue. It was decided in the morning that ad hoc debates on Armenia be held Thursday, which means that the majority of the delegates rather disagree with the positive conclusions of Mr Prescott. More to the point, Russia’s representatives told Kommersant that the question of overhauling and confirming the credentials of the Armenian delegation might be raised during one of the forthcoming PACE sessions.

Support Armenia’s Eurovision 2008 entry

I was reading over the last couple of days blog entries (here and here) with heated debates on whether we should boycott Armenia’s entry in Eurovision 2008 because of political reasons, i.e. Sirusho & co support for recently inaugurated president Serj Sargsyan and his predecessor Robert Kocharyan.

The question forwarded: Should we boycott Sirusho in Eurovision 2008?

My answer is No, No, and No. Boycott individual singers, hit their pockets by not buying concert tickets, CDs, DVDs etc. That would be the most effective approach.

Just 3 brief points about this whole Eurovision saga.

1. Remember that in Eurovision Sirusho does not represent Armenian government or merely Public TV (anyone who reads this blog knows my critical opinion towards them). However, above anything else, Sirusho represents Armenia. I can’t boycott Armenian chess players just because chess federation is lead by Serj Sargsyan. I can’t boycott Armenian footballers just because of persona of FA president.

2. Say, Armenia’s national football team is playing with France. Which team I would support, despite knowing that objectively France has stronger team than Armenia? Of course, Armenia. That’s how it is. I can’t be “objective” when it comes to sport and competitions in which my country takes part. Regardless however critical I may be towards current state of affairs in Armenia, I love my country, and will always support it during international competitions.

3. Consider Eurovision as something fun, light entertainment, organise parties, and try to have good time. If you stop taking it too seriously, you may actually end up having good time watching it, mocking performers, having laugh, betting for the most entertaining part of it – voting. Yes, even during the most difficult times it is important to distract yourself for a while from a reality and have a bit of laugh, regardless of political affiliations.

I am not Sirusho’s fan, but apparently she is doing quite well among Eurovision fans and in betting agencies. And her song is very Eurovision-like. I would however advise Sirusho to work on her moves: voice is fine, but performance-wise she needs more work to do.

To conclude this post, I call everyone to support Armenia’s entry in Eurovision 2008. In any case, that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Fighting for free speech in Turkey

Excellent piece from BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford in Turkey.

"Our society has traumas that we are avoiding.
Really, we should see a therapist!"


Ragip Zarakolu, Turkish publisher

[...] Ironically, the book Mr Zarakolu is currently being prosecuted for is among his least controversial. It tells how a Turkish official protected the author's Armenian grandmother in 1915 - a Turkish Oskar Schindler.

[...] Ragip Zarakolu relentlessly publishing books that delve into the darkest chapters of the past. And, despite the nationalist backlash, he is sure he is making a difference.

His books are read mainly by students and academics, but they have helped fuel a cautious discussion on topics that were once utterly off-limits.

[...] "My wife went to prison for publishing the first book here on the Armenian genocide. Now I plan to print that book again and to include the notes from her trial," Ragip Zarakolu confided.

"Fifteen years later we'll see what happens!" he said.

Full report is available here

*photo - by AP, via BBC

1 March events official death toll rises to 10. So how many were killed in Yerevan?

It was announced today that civilian Samvel Harutyunyan, 29-year old, died of head injuries in the hospital. Interestingly, only 3 days after he died, on the day of his funeral, we learned about it. What kind of cover up is it? I wonder how many others died that we do not know yet about? Officially, at least one more civilian remains in a serious condition in one of Yerevan hospitals.

In the meantime, according to Azeri news agency APA, referring to John Prescott’s Council of Europe report on Yerevan events, “28 people had been killed in the confrontations during Armenian presidential elections, not 8 as it had been reported before. 8 of them died in the squares, 20 later in hospitals. John Prescott also said that military equipment, grenades had been used against the demonstrators.”

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Petition calling Armenian Parliament to repeal the changes of the 'law on rallies'

I mentioned earlier that I kind of lost my faith in petitions. I think they could be potentially effective if there is similar to the UK system when government responds to all petitions submitted. However, I support civil intiatives aimed at democracy and human rights in Armenia.

Below is a call to sign a petition in relation to recent amendements approved by Armenian parliament to restrict the freedom of rallies:

On April 15-16 Members of Parliament of Republic of Armenia together with international experts will be discussing the changes of the law "On conducting meetings, assemblies, rallies and demonstrations" introduced on March 17 of 2008.

If you are a citizen of Armenia who considers these changes as severe limitations imposed on the freedom of assemblies that need to be immediately repealed, you are welcome to sign the petition calling Armenian parliament to do so at http://www.gopetition.com/online/18434.html.

Wives of political prisoners organise picket actions in Yerevan

Wives of political prisoners will organise picket actions on the following dates in places bellow:

CoE Office - 14.04.2008, 1-2pm
French Embassy - 15.04.2008, 1-2pm
German Embassy - 16.04.2008, 1-2pm
CoE Office - 17.04.2008, 11am-2pm
US Embassy - 17.04.2008, 3-4pm




*map

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Russian girls support Vladimir Putin with pants

We all know that Armenian authorities like mimicking Russian...

Below is the latest trend from Russia.

Patriotic Putin panties_Telegraph

The patriotic ‘Putin Panties’

Vova I am with you_pants_Newsrufashion_Newsru

By Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph)

Russian girls wanting to appear both patriotic and seductive have been handed the ultimate weapon - underwear paying tribute to Vladimir Putin by a Kremlin-linked fashion designer.

Antonia Shapovalova, 20, a commissar in the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi, says her underwear will help tackle Russia's shrinking population by encouraging girls to have more babies.
The ribboned red-and-white knickers are emblazoned with the words "Vova, I'm with you" - a term of affection for Putin.
Experts say the main cause of the population crisis is the number of Russians drinking themselves to death and question whether donning a pair of "Putin Panties" will alleviate the problem.

Miss Shapovalova has also created T-shirts, with the biggest seller proclaiming "Government Health Warning: Reproduction is good for your health".

But although president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin supporter, has bought a T-shirt - he has not gone so far as to purchase the pants.

*photos - via Telegraph and Newsru.com (via Shapovalova.ru)

Friday, 11 April 2008

US Helsinki Commission to hold hearing on Armenia

I suppose, this initiative should be viewed as part of continuing efforts by EU and US to bring sides of Armenia's stand-off into the dialogue (just look at the names of those who would "testify"). Wednesday meeting of EU's Semneby and US's Bryza with the wives of political prisoners in Armenia some consider as a sign of their soon to be expected release.

Press Release
(Washington, D.C.) Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “Armenia after the Election,” on Thursday, April 17 at 2:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Since the February 19 presidential election, Armenia has experienced its most serious political crisis in over a decade. The March 1 confrontation between the authorities and supporters of the opposition resulted in at least eight fatalities and the imposition of a state of emergency, causing serious damage to Armenia’s reputation. Although Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian has been elected President, some opposition leaders refuse to recognize the outcome and government opposition relations remain tense. The state of emergency has been lifted but restrictions on freedom of assembly continue in effect.

The hearing will focus on the ramifications of these developments for Armenia and the United States, especially the ongoing Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia's qualifications for assistance from the Millennium Challenge Account.

Testifying before the Commission will be:

Mr. Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Mr. Vigen Sargsian, Assistant to the President of the Republic of Armenia

Mr. Arman Grigorian, Spokesman for former President Levon Ter-Petrossian


The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
*source

Yerevan 1 March events: death toll rises to 9...

Today 19-year old soldier Tigran Abgaryan died of "gunshot wounds" in one of Yerevan hospitals. A1+ reminds that previously MoD denied reports on casualties within army.

՚ՄԱՐՏԻ 1-Իՙ 9-ՐԴ ԶՈՀԸ

Մի քանի ժամ առաջ` ժամը 18.30-ի սահմաններում ՚Միքայելյանՙ հիվանդանոցում մահացել է 19-ամյա զինծառայող Տիգրան Աբգարյանը, որը վիրավորվել էր մարտի 1-ի լույս 2-ի գիշերը: Բժիշկները չեն կարողացել փրկել երիտաասարդի կյանքը, որը, ունեցել է պարոնոցային 6-րդ, 7-րդ ողների հրազենային-բեկորային կոտրվածքներ, իսկ վիրահատության ժամանակ պարզվել է, որ վնասվել է նաեւ ողնուղեղը

Այսպիսով` մարտի 1-ի զոհերի թիվը պաշտոնապես դարձավ 9-ը: Ի դեպ, մարտի 4-ին ԶՈՒ գլխավոր շտաբի պետ, գեներալ-գնդապետ Սեյրան Օհանյանը հայտարարել էր, որ զինված ուժերից զոհեր եւ վիրավորներ չկան:

Breaking news: victim of police car run over has been identified, case is under formal investigation now. The power of Internet!

Less than two weeks ago, I posted here a video evidence that clearly shows "how allegedly police car run one protester over on Paronyan street in central Yerevan".

I can now inform that victim has been identified (alive!), this fact is confirmed and now under the investigation of the Procecutor General office. Car belongs to police; driver has already been questioned. All these, despite initial denial by the Prosecutor General office which denied the very fact of run over ever occured during the 1 March events. As spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General 'admits', they became 'aware' of this case only after the video evidence was posted in Internet.

A1+ reports (in Armenian):

Մարտի 1-ի հայտնի դեպքերի ժամանակ, ժամը 21-ի սահմաններում Երեւանի Պարոնյան փողոցում, ՚888ՙ սուպերմարկետի դիմաց ոստիկանական ավտոմեքենան վրաերթի էր ենթարկել մի քաղաքացու: Մեր ունեցած տեղեկություններով, վրաերթի ենթարկված քաղաքացին բարեբախտաբար ողջ է, եւ նրան արդեն հարցաքննել են: Հայտնաբերվել եւ հարցաքննվել է նաեւ վրաերթ իրականացրած ավտոմեքենայի վարորդը:

Նկատենք, որ քաղաքացուն վրաերթ ենթարկածը փշալար տեղափոխող ոստիկանության հատուկ գնդին էր պատկանում, եւ որը հետռագայում հրդեհվել է:

Տուժողի հայտնաբերմանը վերաբերող հարցերին ի պատասխան` գլխավոր դատախազի մամուլի քարտուղար Սոնա Տռուզյանը հրաժարվեց որեւէ տեղեկություն տրամադրել, նշելով, որ քննություն ընթանում է, եւ երբ դեպքի բոլոր հանգամանքները պարզ կլինեն, այն ժամանակ իրենք կտրամադրեն ամբողջական տեղեկատվություն:

Հիշեցնենք, որ վրաերթի ցանկացած դեպք դատախազությունը մեկ ամիս հերքում էր: Անգամ գլխավոր դատախազն էր հերքում, թե վրաերթ է տեղի ունեցել: Սոնա Տռուզյանը բացատրեց, որ իրենք առաջնորդվել են հիվանդանոցներից ստացված տեղեկություններով, մարտի 1-ին եւ 2-ին վրաերթի ենթարկված քաղաքացի հիվանդանոց տեղափոխվածների մեջ չի եղել, զոհվածների մարմինների վրա էլ վրաերթի հետքեր չեն եղել: Իսկ դատախազությունը Պարոնյանի վրա տեղի ունեցած վրաերթի մասին տեղեկացվել է միայն ապրիլի 3-ին՝ մամուլից, եւ միայն այդ օրն են ինտերնետում տեսել տեղադրված կադրերը: Ի դեպ, Սոնա Տռուզյանը նույնիսկ զարմացած էր, թե ինչու այդ կադրերն այդքան ուշ են տեղադրվել, եւ նորից հորդորում էր, որ եթե կան դեպքերի հանգամանքներ պարզաբանող կադրեր կամ վկայություններ, թող ներկայացվեն նախաքննական մարմնին:

Մեր դիտարկմանը, թե մասնավորապես ակադեմիկոս Ռաֆայել Ղազարյանի կինը՝ Գրիզելդա Ղազարյանը եւ դուստրը՝ Գայանեն, դաժան ծեծի են ենթարկվել ոստիկանության կողմից. երկուսն էլ ստացել են մարմնական վնասվածքներ, ընդհուպ մինչեւ՝ կարեր Գրիզելդա Ղազարյանի գլխին,Սոնա Տռուզյանը տեղեկացրեց, որ այդ ուղղությամբ քննություն է տարվում:

Իսկ այն հանգամանքը, որ Ռոբերտ Քոչարյանը հայտարարեց, թե որեւէ իրավապահ պատասխանատվության չի ենթարկվի, այդ դեպքում ինչ իմաստ ունի քննությունը, Սոնա Տռուզյանն ասաց. ՚Նախագահի խոսքերը ես չեմ մեկնաբանումՙ:

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Armenian police in action: beatings under music. Protests continue

Echannel and A1+ report that police beat few protesters who among others ‘infiltrated’ the open-air audience of the balloon-concert-show extravaganza to celebrate Serj Sargsyan inauguration as Armenian president and tried to ‘ruin’ it by chanting pro-opposition slogans.

They (authorities) knew perfectly well if they organise such pompous outdoor show in the heart of Yerevan, opposition supporters would obviously (and rightly so) try to hijack it. I think it’s entirely justified way for the opposition to use these means as no other ‘legitimate’ way is available for now. But they (authorities) nevertheless went for it, i.e they went for a provocation. Luckily, there was no blood this time, ‘only’ beatings, not sure if anyone got detained. Effectively, the opposition succeeded in spreading its message throughout the day (here, here and here) and night (see videos below, via E-channel and A1+).






You just can’t stick to the power relying on a physical force. Well, you may for a while, but only for a while. No lasting solution could be based on force and violence. There is no alternative to democracy in Armenia. Sooner the Armenian government understands that, the better it would be for them, and importantly, for our country. In the meantime, protests continue.

*photo - via A1+

Inauguration: Remembrance and celebrations

9 April 2008, Yerevan, Armenia



*photos via IA Regnum and ArmeniaNow

"We wish you US 2008 elections mostly in line with Armenia 2008 standards"

9 April 2008, Yerevan, Armenia


Near US embassy in Yerevan. One of 8 simultaneous picket actions in Armenia's capital.


*photo via I.S.

Monday, 7 April 2008

A Meeting Between Serj Sargsyan and Levon Ter-Petrosyan Is Inevitable (Hetq Online)

Very sensible article by Edik Baghdasaryan of Hetq Online. Recommend it. Edik Baghdasaryan discusses challenges faced by Serj Sargsyan and the only possible way out of this situation. I mainly share his views.
***

What will happen after Serzh Sargsyan takes the oath of the presidency on April 9th? Everyone is waiting with bated breath. In reality, the country’s future doesn’t interest the four political parties who signed the coalition government agreement. They are only interested to see what ministerial posts they can get their hands on. [...]

In these conditions, Serzh Sargsyan will not be able to govern the country. However adamantly the authorities maintain that all is normal, they will not be able to achieve this reality. Nothing can ever be normal here. The entire state structure is in a state of paralysis and limbo. The first stage commences on April 9th when President Kocharyan will no longer be able to issue commands.

On April 4th President Robert Kocharyan stated that, “The calling of special Parliamentary elections as a method to achieve dialogue is the most absurd idea ever proposed.” In reality, special elections are quite effective and probably the only legal means available to extricate the nation from the present situation. Kocharyan was absolutely against any negotiations with Levon Ter-Petrosyan. No one can state for sure whether Sargsyan agreed with Kocharyan on this stance or not. Contrary to Kocharyan, Sargsyan’s nature is to avoid conflict. The present President has always desired the presence of conflict. He feels comfortable operating in emergency situations, where he is able to make snap decisions on his own. He feels uncomfortable conferring with others, in hearing alternate opinions and discussing issues. In fact, Sargsyan shied away from entering into a debate with Kocharyan after the elections, preferring to leave Sargsyan to make decisions on his own till the very end of his term on April 9th. Those who know Sargsyan assert that he cannot last long in this state of affairs, as he prefers tranquility. The structures he has governed have always been in such periods of relative normalcy. He has always been able to smooth things over, to convince people to do the same. If the domestic political situation remains tense Sargsyan will be forced to voluntarily hand in his resignation. Physiologically, he won’t be able to withstand the pressure. [...]

Serzh Sargsyan is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he realizes that the country, especially the middle-class, expect him to push-through a series of core changes. On the other hand, however, Sargsyan understands that he won’t be able to make good on his promises since on one in the circle around him will support such changes. This circle is like a spider web where everyone is connected to one another by a series of threads. Sargsyan is not in a position to sever those threads. In official circles, the person mentioned as the most likely candidate to become the next Prime Minister is an individual who enjoys no confidence in the society. Of course, the choice of individual to become the next Prime Minister could go a long way to mollify domestic political tensions. The names of the one or two such candidates residing out side of Armenia whose selection might have achieved such a result were quickly ruled out. And there is little doubt that these potential candidates for the post were ruled out by individuals in Sargsyan’s camp.

The only alternative left for the next president to extricate the nation from the current situation would be for him to issue a halt to the political witch-hunts immediately after taking the oath office. The presidential directive should be entitled accordingly - the directive to halt politically motivated witch-hunts. Those responsible for the events of March 1st must be held accountable for their actions. What transpired at the Opera that morning must be thoroughly investigated? Who organized the operation? What exactly took place that resulted in the death of seven civilians and one policeman? Our society hasn’t been presented with the truth. No one, not even the rank and file policemen, know the circumstances in which one of their own was killed.

After releasing the members of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s campaign headquarters from prison, the President must meet with Ter-Petrosyan and discuss the possibility of holding special Parliamentary elections. The most logical scenario would be to hold such elections a year from now. This would present all sides the opportunity to prepare.

Serzh Sargsyan would thus be allowed ample time to implement the core changes he’s promised and if he wins over the confidence of the people the party he leads will once again win a majority of seats in the National Assembly. In this scenario he would have to emerge as the guarantor of truly free elections. For his part, Levon Ter-Petrosyan would be able to set-up the necessary structures and create a united front to ensure an election result allowing him to be a player in the Parliament’s decision-making process. Ter-Petrosyan would also be in a position to prepare for the next round of presidential elections.

Many might view this scenario as a bit overly romantic. Perhaps, I just don’t know. But all of us, without exception, understand that Armenia is neither the private property of either Serzh Sargsyan or Levon Ter-Petrosyan. If both these politicians truly care about Armenia they will do all in their power to halt the current process daily weakening the nation.

*picture - by Hetq Online