Intrigue No. 1: Armenia’s incumbent president Serj Sargsyan names his ‘opposition-friendly’ chief of staff
President Serzh Sarkisian appointed on Tuesday a leading member of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Karen Karapetian, as the new chief of his staff. [...]
The appointment reflects Karapetian’s increased political clout and his close ties with the president. The veteran parliamentarian joined the HHK in 2006 and soon after became its deputy chairman as then Prime Minister Sarkisian completed his takeover of Armenia’s number one “party of power.” He has since been as seen one of Sarkisian’s most trusted allies. Karapetian, 47, is also known for his conciliatory approach to the Armenian opposition. That might explain why, unlike other key pro-government figures, he has rarely been the target of verbal attacks from opposition leaders.
Karapetian made a point of sitting next to two arrested opposition parliamentarians when they were brought to the parliament floor to have their immunity from prosecution lifted by fellow lawmakers last March. The deputies, Miasnik Malkhasian and Hakob Hakobian, remain under arrest on controversial coup charges stemming from the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces.
Intrigue No. 2: Armenia’s participation in Nabucco pipeline project as part of a “comprehensive Karabakh peace pact”? – But what will be the price, I wonder?!
Economics may hold the key to breaking the stalemate in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Turkish and Azerbaijani officials reportedly are seriously mulling the possibility of Armenian participation in the long-planned Nabucco pipeline project as part of a comprehensive Karabakh peace pact. [...]
Although details of the recent discussions have been scarce, some experts believe that the three sides have probed a possible bargain under which Armenia would become part of the Nabucco pipeline plans, in return for a greater degree of flexibility concerning Yerevan’s position on Karabakh. [...]
Turkish analyst Sinan Ogan, the chair of the Ankara-based TURKSAM think tank, said that the topic of Armenia’s participation in the Nabucco project came up during US Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent, controversial visit to Baku. "There are serious plans to involve Armenia in this project. Turkey and Azerbaijan were against this idea at first, but now Armenia’s participation seems realistic," Ogan said in comments broadcast September 19 on Voice of America radio.
Scandal: Pro-Government MP Blamed For Deadly Beating I wonder - why the incident has been officially acknowledged by the police only after around 10 days; only after the detention of a scapegoat? Can’t agree more with the Ombudsman (see below).
A senior employee of Armenia’s state television and radio on Tuesday blamed a pro-government parliamentarian notorious for reportedly violent conduct for an attack on a Yerevan café that left one of his friends dead. Artur Sahakian, who runs the news service of the Armenian Public Radio and anchors a talk show on Public TV, also alleged a high-level police cover-up of the mysterious incident that occurred on September 21. […]
Armen Harutiunian, Armenia’ human rights ombudsman, appeared skeptical about such assurances [Unzipped – that the police will do everything to solve the case]. “We know very well that in such cases someone goes to the police, confesses to the crime, spends one or two years in prison, and then walks free after the dust settles,” he told RFE/RL. “This case must be very seriously and thoroughly investigated. We must put an end to lawlessness.”
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Intrigue No. 1: Armenia’s incumbent president Serj Sargsyan names his ‘opposition-friendly’ chief of staff
European election monitors “observing” yet another failed election in Armenia… from downtown restaurant in Yerevan
There is no need to describe elections in Armenia. It’s all the same. It’s failed election. It’s system which fails to provide guarantees that people’s vote counts. It’s more of a criminal story building up in thick chapters than anything to do with local governance, in this particular instance.
As to the European election monitors… no surprise here, another watered down statement which means nothing. The reason? As 168 Zham reports today, you just can’t monitor elections if during its pick hours you are “observing” them from downtown “Central” restaurant/café in Yerevan (see photo). Apparently, our European observers ‘confused’ Central district of Yerevan where a key local election took place last Sunday with the restaurant of same name.
*source of photo - 168 Zham
Monday, 29 September 2008
Commissioner Hammarberg calls for independent inquiry into 1 March events and finds unacceptable the situation re political prisoners in Armenia
Strasbourg, 29.09.2008 – “There is an urgent need to reach a satisfactory solution for prisoners and to hold accountable those responsible for the March events.” With this main message, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, published today his summary of findings on a visit to Armenia carried out last 13-15 July to weigh the progress made in investigating the violent events which ensued following the demonstrations after the Presidential election.
“The situation of persons deprived of their liberty continues to be a source of serious concern” said the Commissioner. “Questions persist as to the very nature of the criminal charges and the intent of the investigations carried out.” Commissioner Hammarberg also regretted that prosecution cases against 19 persons were based solely on police testimony.
The Commissioner was particularly concerned about the seven persons remaining in preliminary detention, including prominent opposition representatives. “It is unacceptable to continue to hold in detention or to convict – even to non-custodial sentences – anyone solely because of their political beliefs or non-violent activities.”
Furthermore, the Commissioner focused on the setting up of a national commission of inquiry. While welcoming the proactive approach of the Government in this regard, he recommended that continued efforts be made, in tandem with international expert advice, and through a broad and fully inclusive consultation process. “The establishment of a group of experts tasked with carrying out a comprehensive, independent, impartial, transparent inquiry, which would be perceived as credible by the whole population of Armenia, appears to be within reach. I hope that this opportunity will be recognised and will continue to meet with a constructive response by all the relevant actors.”
The summary of findings of Hammarberg's special mission to Armenia (13-15 July 2008) is available on the Commissioner’s website.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Armenian Jazz Celebrates 70-th Anniversary
Armenian Jazz is 70. It was in 1938 when the first official Armenian Jazz-band was found. Many things have changed since those times, but our passionate love for jazz is neverending. [...]
On September 29 in Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra concert hall the exclusive concert of legendary Jazz singer Tatevik Hovhannisyan will take place. She is so talented, that they used to call her “Ella from Yerevan”. In early 80-s Hovhannisyan appeared in the USA; she still sings her favorite jazz there.
The “queen” of Soviet jazz-vocal has proved she’s real world jazz star and made a successful career not only in America but in Europe as well. By the way, she has a new contract with “Sony Classical” music-company for the record of her 5 coming albums.
There are many jazz-clubs playing live music in Yerevan now; we have interesting international jazz festivals, different programs and even “Radio Jazz” station dedicated only to this legendary music direction. (panorama.am)
Jazz Queen: I’ll Come When You Call Me
“Jazz has been a cup of water and air for me,” described jazz “queen” Tatevik Hovhannisyan her art for herself. In 80s Tatevik Hovhannisyan went to America and since then she lives in New York. [...]
To the question of a journalist why she visits Armenia so rarely, she said that she is ready to come when she is invited. Tatevik added that she has relatives in Armenia, and that her relationship with her native country is strong.
Arthur Asatryan the producer of “Armenian jazz 70” said that three talented young Armenian jazz singers will have an opportunity to study in Berkley College with the support of “Armenian jazz 70” and the college. (panorama.am)
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Khzmalyan said that he does not understand what is going on in Armenia. "I don't even have the right to show my work to the public. I can't imagine in what times we live." (news item in full – towards the end of this post)
Not surprising considering Khzmalyan’s opposition to the current state of affairs in Armenia in terms of democracy and human rights. He was among very few Armenian cultural workers who during the state of emergency last March signed an open letter to the then Armenia’s prime minister Serj Sargsyan protesting violent dispersion by the government of peaceful demonstrations on 1 March and suggesting practical steps which they believe could defuse current political crisis in Armenia (new parliamentary elections, release of political prisoners…)
Later, in May, speaking at the opposition congress in Yerevan, Tigran Khzmalyan (who did not vote for Armenia's first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan during February presidential election) reiterated these points.
In a related note, it was emerged today that several well known professionals, among them Khzmalyan, were apparently released of their teaching duties at the Yerevan State University, formally for technical and organisational reasons only. All of the dismissed lecturers are known to be critical to the current Armenian authorities.
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 23, NOYAN TAPAN. (via Groong) The documentary "Sardarapat" of film director Tigran Khzmalian has been taken off the list of films shown in the Moscow Cinema. The film was made by an order of the RA ministry of culture.
It was ready in early May but has not been demonstrated so far. By a preliminary agreement, the documentary was to be shown in the Moscow Cinema on September 27, but four days before its screening the film director was informed that his documentary had been taken off the list of that cinema's films.
T. Khzmalian said during a talk with NT correspondent that he does not understand what is going on in Armenia. "I don't even have the right to show my work to the public. I can't imagine in what times we live."
A 68-minute version of the film was shown at the Narekatsi Center on September 16, but the "May" version is a 38-minute one and has another accentuation. As T. Khzmalian had said at the Narekatsi Center, during the film's shooting he as the scriptwriter discovered some interesting facts and video materials unknown to many. "I was sent sensational facts and video materials from various countries, and all of them occurred and were filmed in 1916-1920. I became acquainted with the documents which were not published due to the political situation in this region. I made an attempt to sum up what happened 90 years ago - now, at the beginning of the 21st century. All that happened at that time was because of feebleness of dull political figures, parties and improvident leaders," T. Khzmalian underlined.
*photo - via Aravot daily
As the Editor-in-Chief do you see yourself as being somehow part of what we are calling the face of Russia Today?
I am not the face of Russia today as a channel; we have many handsome and beautiful presenters who can claim to be the face of the channel. I feel myself a part of my country but no, the channel is not about me.
Do you then see yourself as being only one part of a large team?
Yes. We are all in the same boat, Russians and foreigners. I am proud of my team, I trust them; they are all dedicated people who are ‘into’ this channel, who know ‘what the story is about.’ There are no ‘accidental people’ here, as we call them in Russia. It doesn’t matter if they are Russians or foreigners.
My parentage is 100% Armenian, although my parents themselves were brought up in Russia. I too was born and brought up in Russia. My motherland is Russia, no matter that I have not one drop of Russian blood.
How would you present on Russia Today, say, a conflict that might arise between Armenia and Russia which might affect you on a personal level?
I have only been to Armenia once, on an official delegation accompanying President Putin.
What you see is dependent upon where you stand. A sophisticated Cambridge-educated Englishman will see Russia but won’t feel her. But if you were born and brought up in a distant provincial region, and felt with all your inner being the ‘90s in Russia, the end of the USSR, you would feel your country in a different way. When you have experienced a country’s history like that, you understand.
Can I ask you please more about your upbringing. You were born in Krasnodar and educated there. In the 10th Class you went on an exchange programme to the US; how was that visit important for you?
It was 1995 to 1996. I was fifteen, the age when your views on life are being formed. When I was in the US I came to better appreciate life in Russia. At the same time I got into American habits and beliefs, large and small. Small beliefs can be important, for thinking about other people. I will give you an example; when I am driving in Moscow and I see that people are trying to cross the road, I stop; that is not a very Russian characteristic. About beliefs, you have to start with yourself. If you want to fight corruption, then you have to stop the cheating in the classroom.
Would you say that you have a Western work ethic?
In Russia Today there are things that we do in a Russian way, and others which can be called ‘Western.’ You received your higher education at Kuban State University, and then at the Television School of Vladimir Pozner. Pozner is perhaps the most famous example of a Russian media personality who is equally at home in both Russia and the West. Do you see yourself in that same way, I mean, as someone who understands and is comfortable in both those ‘worlds’?
I am comfortable in both of them, yes; understand the West just as well as I understand Russia, no. I don’t think that one can say that one fully understands a foreign country, the West. I won’t claim that I understand any other country as well as I know Russia.
*photo - via Passport magazine
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Programme was divided into several interconnected parts: Early Christian Era; Medieval Era; Oriental Period; Diaspora; and Independent and Peaceful Future. Each part was accompanied by relevant photo slides. This worked nice, although not without technical glitches.
Funnily enough, ambassador Vahe Gabrielyan delivered his speech before Medieval Era part, as assigned by the programme. One would have hoped that Independent and Peaceful future would be a more appropriate time slot for the ambassador.
Happy Independence Day!!!
A. Bobikian, pianist and organist, and British consort/choir (conductor Crispin Lewis)
Participants on stage
Saturday, 20 September 2008
It seems to me they desperately try ‘playing cool’, to take up the initiative from other, more pro-opposition or independent youth groups currently on the horizon (making headlines from time to time, with certainly more creative actions - e.g., here, here and here). Fine. But...
Miasin’s march was poorly organised. They were walking along Opera and nearby areas shouting “Don’t smoke!” There was nothing creative in posters they held or the ways this supposedly ‘anti-smoking campaign’ is being carried on. In fact, they looked more like posters from a Soviet time anti-smoking campaigns, which no one was paying attention to. It looked more like an action to tick off before their sponsors that they do something than anything else.
Funnily enough, at least some of the most active girls marching ‘don’t smoke’ are pretty heavy smokers themselves…
Verdict: Not cool.
P.S. Apparently, they march pretty regularly. Below is Onnik Krikorian’s photo made on 5 September, a week before.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
More than 300 Turkish visitors attending football match in Yerevan visit the Armenian Genocide memorial
According to Demoyan, many of the Turkish visitors at the museum were students, sports fans, and NGO representatives. He said many of them visited the museum out of curiosity, with varying reactions to the exhibits, including sympathy, remorse, regret and denial.
The museum had earlier this month launched an exhibit chronicling the contributions of Armenians in Ottoman Sports. According to Demoyan this was the most popular exhibit frequented by the Turkish visitors, who were surprised to learn about the role of Armenians in the development of sports in the Ottoman Empire.
According to him, many of the visitors said they had not known about the contributions of Armenians to Ottoman Sports. [Unzipped - see also my earlier post - Armenian sport life in the pre-WWI Ottoman Empire]
Meanwhile, the descendant of one of the three masterminds of the Armenian Genocide, Hasan Jemal, visited the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial on Saturday where he laid flowers in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
The grandson of Jemal Pasha, Hasan Jemal is a correspondent for the Turkish daily "Milliyet." Jemal wrote about his visit to Armenia in an article entitled, "Let's Respect Each Other's Pains."
*source: Armenpress (via accc.org.uk)
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
"Կամ Ռուսաստանի հետ պիտի մոխրանանք, կամ Ռուսաստանի հետ մոխրից հառնենք" (source)
says head of the Marxist party David Hakobyan in his speech during the opposition rally (15 September 2008).
This is simply an embarrassment for the opposition Armenian National Congress, and David Shahnazaryan, prominent opposition politician, understands this, as it became clear from his remarks during the rally.
I can't help myself but wonder: should people with such a differing ideologies unite within one movement - Armenian National Congress? Is this justified? The same is true, for example, for Karabakh war hero Zhirair Sefilyan whose nationalist stance puts him in a stark contrast with most of the leaders of the opposition, and notably Armenia's first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. I understand importance of the unity against current authorities for all the known reasons. But we need clear alternatives not the ones which include 'Russia the Christ' or 'neo-ARF' sentiments.
Monday, 15 September 2008
...and few days later (9 September 2008), Turkey - Armenia qualifying stage of the European Under-21 Championship, youth teams, Istanbul, Turkey (video via reporter-arm)
The editorial was published first by The Armenian Weekly and subsequently reprinted in Asbarez on Friday, September 5, 2008.
Unzipped and Unzipped: Gay Armenia joins this call.
About the authors:
Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, is the U.S. field coordinator for the Health Action AIDS Campaign of Physicians for Human Rights.
Amy Hagopian, Ph.D. teaches at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, Wash., and chairs the International Health Advocacy Committee of the American Public Health Association.
For details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
This is the second time that the opposition rescheduled the rally. First time it was for 5th September when the rally was postponed and moved to the 12th due to Turkish president visit to Armenia. This time opposition decided to follow the authorised rally. In a statement, Ter-Petrosyan led oppposition Armenian National Congress expressed hopes that there would be no obstacles for people from the regions to attend the authorised rally as if this did not happen in past.
Moving dates is not a problem. The problem is that the opposition has to change its tactics and breathe in a fresh air to the movement. When things take too long and are of repetitive nature, things may die away... It’s not there yet but momentum is not there either. Consider this as a warning to the opposition to take up new ideas and re-launch the movement. Organised and strong opposition is essential for our country.
So far, under the pressures of opposition movement, government is trying at least to make an ‘appearance of changes’ which are mainly an imitation and insufficient for people who stood up for the movement. The only real and positive change I can see is Turkey-related policy which is effectively the policy advocated by Armenia’s first president and leader of the opposition movement Levon Ter-Petrosyan who was accused in betrayal of national interests in past by some in current administration.
Unfortunately, as the rally moved to 15th, I won’t be able to live blog from there as promised, as I won’t be in Yerevan on 15th.
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Monday, 8 September 2008
2. Local elections were held in some Yerevan districts over Sunday. The situation was particularly tense in Arabkir district where current head of local administration (member of ruling Republican party which refused to openly endorse him), a businessman (close to the authorities) and opposition representative (Heritage party) were running for the position of district chief. There was at least one instance of stabbing, beatings in Arabkir region (even Public TV’s Haylur reported it yesterday), accompanied with reports of vote buying and other irregularities. According to preliminary results, businessman ‘won’.
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Armenia – Turkey historic football match: Armenia lost, I feel disappointed, but will football diplomacy win?
I think Turkey’s win was deserved. Well, they were not in their best form, for sure, to say the least, but technically were superior without any doubts. The main problem for our national team was in their weak physical preparedness for the game, they were out of shape, or whatever (no news, eh?), and yes, they just cannot run!!!
Anyway, even though we all knew that chances to win were slim for Armenia, we were expecting better football from our team. They failed to deliver expectations of thousands of fans who started leaving the stadium 10 mins before the game ended, when it was already 0:2. Everyone in the crowd started remembering our youth team with their recent win over Turkey, and with the hopes that perhaps in time we will witness a very different type of football, a quality one, from our national team.
The good thing is that despite worries of possible nationalist outburst or ugly scenes, nothing of that sort happened. Security was pretty tight, at least in terms of numbers one could spot. Even plastic bottles were not allowed inside the stadium. Things went well, overall, except perhaps booing when the national anthem of Turkey played on. But it was kind of expected, regrettable though, and I saw quite a few people around who were against it and trying to calm people down, urging them to behave in a civilised manner. And towards the end, many Armenians were cheering winners, Turkish team, as it should be.
40 mins before the match
There was pretty small but vocal and active group of Turkish fans there. They were at the centre of curious attention of Armenian fans.
Back to the football diplomacy. The day passed. At least on surface things seem went well. Follow-up practical actions, if any, will determine whether football diplomacy worked. I sincerely hope so.
*for video - see Armenia - Turkey football match: national anthems, mutual booing.
Recommended reading (with quality photos):
Armenia: Football Diplomacy & Relations with Turkey
FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Turkey 2 — Armenia 0
Turkey's president Gul has just arrived in Yerevan. Small groups of protesters from nationalist ARF-Dashnaktsutyun party (mostly, teenagers, children, many of them bused in from the regions, and occasional adults) could be seen in downtown Yerevan along the route of presidential cortège.
In the meantime, IA Regnum reports that as of midday 6 September, only 16 000 out of 53 000 tickets for the match were sold out. According to my sources, yesterday local authorities in Yerevan started distributing number of tickets for free.
I am off to the stadium. Go Armenia!!! Excitement!!! :)))
Few expect major breakthrough from this first ever visit of Turkish president to Armenia but it may pave the way towards normalisation of relationships. Most Armenians in Republic of Armenia seem keen to see opening up a new page in relationships between two countries without any preconditions from both sides. Dashnaks seem very out of touch from the realities on the ground.
Newspaper contains speech transcripts of Dashnak leaders during their last rally few days ago which although formally called for marking Karabakh independence day, was effectively devoted to Turkey-Armenia relations and other regional problems, and possible protest actions which Dashnaks may stage re Turkey president visit.
Particularly, Dashnaks (via Yerkir newspaper) call all supporters to gather today at Zvartnots airport and surrounding areas at 5pm local time to ‘greet’ Turkey’s president upon arrival.
Dashnaks also drive around central Yerevan streets today urging people via loudspeakers to join their protest actions. Few seem enthusiastic to do so.
Surrounding cafes have not been affected.
Friday, 5 September 2008
UPDATE (6 September, 3pm local time): According to the Public Radio broadcast, Charles Aznavour won’t be able to visit Yerevan due to sudden attack of back pain, as stated in a letter sent by Aznavour to Serj Sargsyan.
Ad on Armenia-Turkey football match at around Liberty sq (Opera), Yerevan, Armenia