Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Six Armenians in Istanbul’s Municipal Councils

"Five Turkish-Armenian men and one woman have been voted into municipal councils in four district municipal councils in Istanbul", reports Bianet citing Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper.

Overall, Bianet mentions of 12 Turkish Armenians who entered the municipal election race in Istanbul. Interestingly, among them, there was one mayoral candidate too. But he lost receiving only 0.8% (68 votes).

*photo - via Bianet

At the Origins of Commemoration: The 90th Anniversary of Declaring April 24 as a Day of Mourning and Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

2009 marks the 90th anniversary of April 24 as a day of commemoration. Here is the history of this important event:

A special committee was formed in Constantinople, in March 1919, by a group of Ottoman Armenian intellectuals who survived the Armenian Genocide. The main goal of this committee was the organization of commemoration ceremonies dedicated to the 4th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The committee, known as “The April 11th Board of Ceremonial Mourning” consisted of 13 members including Yevphime Avetisian, Zaruhi Galamkarian, Mari Stambulian, Perchuhi Parsamian, Miss Arpiar, Tigran Zaven, Merujan Parsamyan, Hakob Siruni, Gevorg Mesrop, Tagvor Suqiasian, Dr. Barsegh Tinanian, Shahan Perperian and Hovhannes Poghosian. Due to the efforts of these people the memory of the victims of Armenian Genocide was commemorated among the Armenians of Constantinople for the first time in 1919. Armenian writer, publicist and public figure Hakob Siruni wrote in his memoirs: “The mourning ceremony became a tradition. Since then, the 24th of April was adopted as a symbol of mourning.”

According to the committee, commemoration ceremonies were intended to be held from April 11th through the 18th, but due to the Armenian Patriarch’s illness at the time, the date was delayed by one day. Bishop Mesrop Naroian held a liturgy for the victims of the Armenian Genocide from April 15th to the 25th in St. Trinity church of Bera district of Constantinople. The Armenian patriarch of Constantinople, Zaven Eghiaian, gave a sermon. On this proclaimed “day of mourning,” all Armenian national colleges and shops in Constantinople were closed. Representatives of Saint Trinity Greek Church, RA P. Takhtadgian and others presented public statements during the ceremony.

During the afternoon, those attending the ceremony gathered Armenians moved on to the St. Trinity Armenian Evangelical Church located in the Cheshme district of the city. After the liturgy, the ceremonial mourning took place, marked with speeches, declamations and sacred music. Shahan Perperian gave the opening remarks on behalf of the Board of Ceremonial Mourning followed by representatives of the Armenian parties, including Vahan Zeituntsian and Professor H. Hakobian, Dr. Khandjian from the Doctor’s Union, Gevorg Mesrop from the Teacher’s Union along with many others. The speeches were intermingled with declamations and sacred music. A volume entitled “Memorial for April 11th” was published in Constantinople (published by - O. Arzumanian, 1919) edited by Theodik. It was published specifically for the Day of Mourning. This volume included the biographies, photos and unprinted pages of the Armenian martyrs of Constantinople and other provinces.

This initial commemoration for the victims of the Armenian Genocide in Constantinople was not the only one of its kind. On April 24, 1919, again in the St. Trinity Church in Bera, another liturgy was held for the same cause. It was officiated by the Armenian Patriarch, this time commemorating the American missionaries martyred during World War I. Representatives of the US Embassy to Turkey: Mr. Heike and Mr. Faull, a journalist from the “Times”, colonel Bennett and others brought their participation during the ceremony.

The next day, on April 25th, a similar ceremony dedicated to the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide took place in the Armenian Catholic Church at the Vatican under the approval of Pope. The entire Armenian community in Italy was present along with several Cardinals and Bishops (as representatives of the Pope), members of the Italian Government, Minister of Education M.Ludzatti, Speaker of Parliament Lombardo, Deputy Foreign Minster, French ambassador to Italy and other officials.

Since the first commemoration of the Armenian Genocide victims in Istanbul, April 24 officially was adopted as “Day of Mourning and Commemoration”.

*The Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute (press release)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Armenia: Time to think of 'pink pound'

... as Thousands of Iranians celebrate Novruz in Armenia due to "liberties"

Armenia: Stars of the past, or ‘lost stars’

I suppose you had to live in Armenia in 80s-90s to really appreciate this particular issue of Special Report programme produced by Banadzev. For me, watching this programme brought back so many great memories: Zara Tonikyan, Elvina Makaryan, Nona Zotova, Erik an Iza from Rubicon… These were very different kind of stars, at very different levels, but they were all part of my life, and I felt very nostalgic watching this programme, and learning some (albeit brief and incomplete) updates of their present life, and few unknown details of their past.

For example, I was always wondering what happened to Zara Tonikyan who was among my favourite Armenian singers back then. Unfortunately, not much is known of her, it’s still pretty much of a mystery. But I learned from the programme that she is in Belgium now performing in an unnamed club. I wish I could know which club is this so that will visit it during my upcoming trip to Brussels.

I knew that Eric (of Eric & Iza) - from popular music/entertainment interactive programme Rubicon on Public TV - is engaged and currently involved in an entertainment magazine publishing business in Yerevan. But I had no idea what happened to Iza. Now I know that Iza got married and lives in Thailand, and she sounded OK. There were brief updates and archive/current footage from some other Armenian ‘lost stars’ too, as the programme put it. (Btw, it was interesting to see a footage of very early Inga and Anush Arshakyan (in part 1), who will represent Armenia in Eurovision 2009)

Thanks to Banadzev production company for this pleasurable experience. Hope they will be consistent in keeping us updated on our past/present, and will continue providing a good quality programming touching alternative subject matters which are not touched by the mainstream.




Friday, 27 March 2009

Ultimate Fighting Championship in Yerevan

Here is what we needed the most :)

Referring to "ARMFIGHTING" professional federation, Novosti-Armenia reports that «fighting without rules» international contest will be held in Yerevan on 13 April.

Armenian teenagers are the 'winners' of the latest European survey on alcohol, smoking and drug use

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) is being conducted each 4 years from 1995. For the first time, Armenia participated in this survey in 2007, which was the latest round of it. The ESPAD has just published its results.

They are pretty encouraging for Armenia, which reportedly has the lowest prevalence of alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use among teenagers of 35 European countries participating in the survey. However...

As much as I am pleasantly surprised, say, with the low smoking rates, this apparently does not get transformed into the life style changes. One recent data suggest that "with more than 70% of the population smoking, Armenia ranks sixth in the number of smokers in the world and number one in Europe." Truly, a gigantic transformation to the worse. The question is what makes no smoking teenagers become heavy smoking adults?

Below are key ESPAD results for Armenia (plus Figure, above):

Overall, alcohol and drug use in Armenia is very limited in comparison with other ESPAD countries. The key variables are all well below average, making Armenia the lowest-prevalence country in this study. Although about two-thirds (66%) of the students had been drinking alcohol during the past 12 months, less than one-tenth of them (8%) reported that they had been drunk in that period. The consumption volumes on the latest drinking day are very moderate (1.6 cl alc. 100%). Smoking is also rare, with low 30-days prevalence (7%), and the lifetime prevalence of cannabis use is low (3%). Moreover, very few (2%) of the Armenian students had used any drug other than cannabis, and non-prescription use of tranquillisers or sedatives is almost non-existent, as is use of pills in combination with alcohol.

For full comparative results of all participating countries, visit the ESPAD website.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Blogging 'revolution' in UK schools

Pupils to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools shake-up
The Guardian

Children will no longer have to study the Victorians or the second world war under proposals to overhaul the primary school curriculum, the Guardian has learned.

However, the draft plans will require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia and give teachers far more freedom to decide what youngsters should be concentrating on in classes.

The proposed curriculum, which would mark the biggest change to primary schooling in a decade, strips away hundreds of specifications about the scientific, geographical and historical knowledge pupils must accumulate before they are 11 to allow schools greater flexibility in what they teach. [...]

The proposals would require:

• Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell. [...]

What happened to ArmeniaNow?

Since its establishment, ArmeniaNow became one of my favourite online outlets. I could always rely on ArmeniaNow for sharp reporting and commentary on political, economic and social issues, also reports and news on things not covered by general media. I liked their investigative journalism too. And I always waited for Fridays to read new editions of ArmeniaNow.

However, over the past months I can’t recognise it. Well, occasionally I still find that fresh, different and sharp reporting, but it became more of an exception than a rule. Mostly, it is now filled with news and reports which you can read elsewhere. It takes moments to scroll down the edition, mostly glancing at the reports instead of properly reading them. Basically, I stopped ‘waiting for Fridays’, and frequently forget that the new edition of ArmeniaNow is on.

Bring my ArmeniaNow back!! I missed it...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Heritage will not participate in Yerevan municipal election

Heritage will not participate in Yerevan municipal election. According to A1+, this decision would be formally announced soon. Today at 6pm is a deadline to submit party lists to the electoral commission.

I am not surprised with the decision and could see this coming. Failing to agree re the united list of candidates with the ANC, this is the right decision to make. I am saddened that we won’t see Heritage party’s representatives directly contesting the election as part of the opposition alliance. However, this will diminish the damage to the reputation of Heritage party being heavily criticised from the pro-opposition side and 'supported' by pro-government forces (nothing could be more damaging to the reputation of opposition party than the latter, and the authorities know this perfectly). This will also do less harm to the opposition chances compared with Heritage’s separate participation, as the authorities won’t be able to use them (without their consent, of course) to ‘picture’ free and fair election.

Heritage have representatives in local electoral commissions, and will be important in monitoring the fairness of the process, as this issue should be above all sorts of personal and inter-party quarrels. Having relatively free and fair election in Yerevan would set an important precedent for future elections to come. Armenia needs such precedent.

*photo - via A1+ blog

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

US formally endorses UN gay rights statement

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is formally endorsing a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

[Unzipped: endorsed by Armenia too]

The move was the administration's latest step in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration would endorse the declaration.

AFP: Washington will join 66 countries, including all the members of European Union, in backing the measure put forth by France in December, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"The United States supports the UN's statements on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity, Wood told reporters.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," Wood told reporters.

"As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora," he added.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Ter-Petrosyan – Yerevan mayor? Clever move by Armenian opposition, and good news for democracy in Armenia

Armenia’s first president and opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan will head the list of opposition Armenian National Congress candidates in Yerevan municipal election (= Yerevan mayor election). No. 2 in the list is Stepan Demirchyan. (I do not know if Ter-Petrosyan would step down after winning the election, to make Demirchyan a mayor, but this is not important right now) They will now continue formal consultations with the parliamentary opposition Heritage party for joint participation in election. I do hope that cool heads in the opposition (parliamentary + extra-parliamentary) will prevail to contest the election united.

“This is almost like presidential election, it’s a political election, and winning Yerevan municipal election will amount to regime change and restoration of constitutional order in Armenia” – this would be the main message by opposition directed at electorate. Not quite the regime change, but they have a point.

No one should underestimate the importance of capital Yerevan, where almost half of Armenian population lives. Having elected by free and fair election, Yerevan mayor would become a significant political figure in Armenia to rival president.

This decision puts the spotlight towards Yerevan mayoral election to the highest possible level and importance. This would encourage Yerevan residents to take it seriously and participate in election.

If won by the opposition, this would give us hope that future parliamentary and presidential elections would be freer and fairer, at least in Yerevan, and hopefully in the country as a whole.

I cannot imagine ruling party candidate Gagik Beglaryan (nicknamed Chorni (Black) Gago) winning this election vs Ter-Petrosyan, unless election is falsified. Not only Armenians’, but also the attention of international community would be on Yerevan, and hopefully with Ter-Petrosyan contesting the election, it would be harder, much harder to falsify it again.

This would be THE test for the authorities, and the most practical chance for them to assure Armenian citizens that they want to heal the wounds of 1 March and move forward (along with the release of political prisoners, of course). This would give a chance for real dialogue between opposition and the authorities to take place in Armenia. This could be a good news for democracy in Armenia.

Friday, 13 March 2009

IWPR: Armenia Gays Face Long Walk to Freedom

Society remains as relentlessly homophobic here as elsewhere in the Caucasus, but activists say there some grounds for hope.

IWPR (Institute for War & Peace Reporting)

By Vahan Ishkhanian in Yerevan

MUST READ!! Excellent reporting by Vahan Ishkhanyan

Also - re-posted on Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Armenia: Past Scandals

Always scandalous Armenian photojournalist Gagik Shamshyan, Aravot daily editor in sex scandal, and more...

Armenia: Nip/Tuck

Armenia: Satanists

Puzzle of The Day

RFE/RL: EU officials were left scratching their heads on March 11 when Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka unexpectedly cancelled a key meeting with the bloc's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in favor of a snap trip to Armenia. [...]

The Belarusian leader's decision to stand up Ferrero-Waldner is all the more puzzling as the EU is less than a week away from a summit at which it is expected to invite a group of six ex-Soviet neighbors -- including Belarus -- to join its Eastern Partnership program.

The Eastern Partnership plan is meant to offer funds, free trade, and visa-free travel to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus.

The inclusion of Belarus in the partnership initiative is considered critical in Brussels, where it is viewed as a vital element in the bloc's drive to steer its neighbors away from Russia and closer to the EU. [...]

Diplomats in Brussels say that the need to include Belarus is being seen as relatively uncontroversial by a majority of member states. All agree that Minsk's isolation has not produced results. And without Belarus, the Eastern Partnership would lose much of its regional clout.

However, there have been signs in recent weeks that Minsk may be having second thoughts. [...]

Presidential website in Armenia says:

"By the invitation of the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko is arriving today to Armenia on a working visit. In the framework of the visit Serzh Sargsyan and Alexander Lukashenko will discuss issues pertaining to the deepening of the bilateral interstate relations, further expansion of trade and economic relations, cooperation in the framework of international organizations and structures, as well as the means to address challenges triggered by the global and financial crisis in their national economies.The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko will also meet with the representatives of the business circles of Armenia."

*photo -

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Photos of allegedly corrupt university lecturers 'greeted' Yerevan residents this morning

UPDATE (!): OK, apparently, it's pro-government Miasin youth group behind this. Call me biased, but I do not trust them. Although I like the idea behind this action, I cannot trust the organisers, as they are not independent in their actions. You may no longer pay attention to my initially put "Student rebellion?" sub-heading.

Student rebellion? reports that this morning photos of allegedly corrupt university officials, lecturers etc. appeared at Yerevan bus stops, metro stations, universities, other busy spots. There is brief ‘bio’ of those pictured provided there. Captions of photos read “Bribe-taker”.

Police and university officials are now busy with the ‘cleaning up’.

«Կաշառակերների» նկարները փակցված են Երևանի փողոցներում

Այսօր առավոտյան Երևանի կանգառներում, բուհերի պատերին և այլ մարդաշատ վայրերում փակցված էին տասնյակից ավելի հայրենի մանկավարժների լուսանկարները «Կաշառակերներ» վերնագրով։

Բացի մանկավարժների դեմքերից, պաստառները կարճ ծանոթացնում էին «մատաղ սերնդի դաստիարակների» անցած ուղու հետ։

Ամենուր «կաշառակերների» մոտ մարդկանց բազմություն է կուտակվում։ Ոստիկանությունը, իր հերթին, հասկանալով, թե ինչ է կատարվում, շրջափակել է «Երիտասարդական» մետրոյի մոտակա կանգառը և ստորգետնյա անցումը և ակտիվորեն պայքարում է «կաշառակերության» դեմ՝ պոկելով պաստառները։

Իսկ Երևանի մանկավարժական համալսարանի ղեկավարությունը արդեն վաղ առավոտյան հասցրել է հանձնարարել լվանալ պատերը ուսանողների՝ մեծ հետաքրքրությունը վայելող դասախոսների նկարներից։ Բուհի պատերն այժմ «անվտանգ են»։ «Կաշառակերներից» միայն թաց տեղ է մնացել։

*photo and video - via

World Day Against Cyber Censorship - 12 March

It was launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2008 as the "first Online Free Expression Day" to protest the "growing tendency to crack down on bloggers and to close websites."

More info

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Maxim Anmeghichean of ILGA-Europe questions Hillary Clinton on gay rights

Maxim Anmeghichean is Moldovan of Armenian origin. He is a Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe (Europe’s main gay rights group).

On 6 March 2009, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, participated in a meeting with young Europeans hosted by the European Parliament. Max was one of the participants.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pretty excited by the fact that Max was wearing a T-shirt saying “I love Hillary”, so she said she simply had to take a question from him. And Max used this chance perfectly by posing a question on how the US foreign policy in the field of sexual rights and LGBT issues is going to change under a new administration.

Whatever one may think of Hillary Clinton, wearing a T-shirt saying “I love Hillary” was a very smart move by Maxim Anmeghichean, to be noticed and heard. Well done, Max, you are an inspiration for many.

Financial Times Brussels Blog called Max’s Q&A with Hillary Clinton “the best moment” of the meeting.

For details and video - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*photo - via Towleroad

Monday, 9 March 2009

"Armenian Women in Turkey Are Doubly Discriminated Against", Women Protests in Turkey

For all these - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia (based on Bianet coverage - here and here)

*source of photo - Bianet

“For Turkey, the number should have been a bombshell”…

Turkish author and columnist Murat Bardakci, who publicly denies that Armenian Genocide took place, published a book in Turkey documenting population records of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish sources) which are effectively “death records” for Ottoman Armenians.

Nearly a Million Genocide Victims, Covered in a Cloak of Amnesia (The New York Times)

A devastating document is met with silence in Turkey (International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times)

Published: March 8, 2009

ISTANBUL — For Turkey, the number should have been a bombshell.

According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916.

In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number — and its Ottoman source — has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it.

“Nothing,” said Murat Bardakci, the Turkish author and columnist who compiled the book.

The silence can mean only one thing, he said: “My numbers are too high for ordinary people. Maybe people aren’t ready to talk about it yet.”

For generations, most Turks knew nothing of the details of the Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1918, when more than a million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Turk government purged the population. Turkey locked the ugliest parts of its past out of sight, Soviet-style, keeping any mention of the events out of schoolbooks and official narratives in an aggressive campaign of forgetting.

But in the past 10 years, as civil society has flourished here, some parts of Turkish society are now openly questioning the state’s version of events. […]

With his book, “The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha,” Mr. Bardakci (pronounced bard-AK-chuh) has become, rather unwillingly, part of this ferment. The book is a collection of documents and records that once belonged to Mehmed Talat, known as Talat Pasha, the primary architect of the Armenian deportations.

The documents, given to Mr. Bardakci by Mr. Talat’s widow, Hayriye, before she died in 1983, include lists of population figures. Before 1915, 1,256,000 Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire, according to the documents. The number plunged to 284,157 two years later, Mr. Bardakci said. […]

Hilmar Kaiser, a historian and expert on the Armenian genocide, said the records published in the book were conclusive proof from the Ottoman authority itself that it had pursued a calculated policy to eliminate the Armenians. "You have suddenly on one page confirmation of the numbers," he said. "It was like someone hit you over the head with a club."

Kaiser said the before-and-after figures amounted to "a death record."

"There is no other way of viewing this document," he said. "You can't just hide a million people."

[…] But some of the keenest observers of Turkish society said the silence was a sign of just how taboo the topic still is. "The importance of the book is obvious from the fact that no paper except Milliyet has written a single line about it," wrote Murat Belge, a Turkish academic, in a January column in the liberal daily newspaper Taraf.

Still, it is a measure of Turkey's democratic maturity that the book was published here at all. Bardakci said he had held the documents for so long - 27 years - because he was waiting for Turkey to reach the point when their publication would not cause a frenzy. […]

"I could never have published this book 10 years ago," Bardakci said. "I would have been called a traitor."

He added, "The mentality has changed."

*/emphasis mine/

Sunday, 8 March 2009

International Women’s Day in Armenia: small women’s march, riot police van, 'private burial' of “Red Apple”, business as usual

For details:

Onnik Krikorian's original reporting - Burying the Red Apple

My reflections: Unzipped: Gay Armenia

*photos - by Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2009 (+ The Caucasian Knot - Oneworld Multimedia Facebook Group)

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia

Description (via Amazon): The photographs, drawings and texts published here are part of a collection of 3.600 tattoos collected over thirty three years in St Petersburg's notorious Kresty prison by attendant Danzig Baldayev. He acknowledges the tattoos as his entrance into a secret world, where he became something as an ethnographer, setting down the ways of a closed society. The tattoos are artful, distasteful, sexually explicit and sometimes simply strange, reflecting as they do the lives and mores of convicts. There are skulls with swastikas, naked women, a smiling Al Capone, assorted demons, medieval knights in armor, daggers and blood, benign images of Christ, mosques and minarets, sweet-faced mothers and babies, tanks and a horned Lenin. Once the criminal language and tattoos were the code of a restricted world, then the world of the criminal became open and their language was diffused into society, but the tattoos remain the secret part.

My pictures from the London gallery exhibition Russian Criminal Tattoos (plus TO's review) - Unzipped Gay Armenia.

*source of pictures - Amazon

Picture of the Day

*source of the picture - Queerty

Leave a message... for God

Who needs churches if you have 'God's Hotline' :)

This is my favourite part: ...the voicemail message says: "This is the voice of God, I am not able to speak to you at the moment, but please leave a message."

BBC reports: An art exhibition opening in the Netherlands will allow people to call a telephone number designated for God - but they will have to leave a message.

Dubbed God's Hotline, it aims to focus attention on changes to the ways Dutch people perceive religion.

Dutch artist Johan van der Dong chose a mobile phone number to show that God was available anywhere and anytime, Radio Netherlands reported.

Critics say the project mocks those with religious beliefs.

Forming part of an art installation in the town of Groningen, the voicemail message says: "This is the voice of God, I am not able to speak to you at the moment, but please leave a message."

Secret messages

Although the hotline is officially launched on Saturday, the phone number has been active for the past week, with 1,000 messages left on the answerphone.

But the messages are to remain confidential and will not form part of the art project.

Van der Dong told Radio Netherlands: "I'm not a pastor, I'm an artist and I won't listen to the messages.

"It's a secret between the Lord and the people who are calling."

Exhibition spokeswoman Susanna Groot said there was no intention to offend anyone.

"In earlier times you would go to a church to say a prayer and now [this is an] opportunity to just make a phone call and say your prayer in a modern way."

Instead, the aim is to provoke debate about the priorities of modern life.

The phone line will remain open for the next six months.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Armenia PM Tigran Sargsyan: Quotes of The Day

Excellent quotes. But... What we need now is to see these quotes transformed into reality.

RFE/RL: Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian bemoaned Armenia’s culture of political intolerance on Thursday, warning that failure to “radically change this atmosphere” could lead to fresh politically motivated assassinations in the country. [...]

“It is the government and the authorities that are primarily responsible for the formation of an atmosphere of solidarity and cooperation for the simple reason that we have serious state levers to form that atmosphere,” he told ministers. “We must be tolerant. We must not burn bridges of cooperation,” added the prime minister.

Sarkisian did not specify just how the Armenian authorities should go about ending their year-long standoff with the country’s main opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. He recalled that he himself was a “representative of the radical opposition” during Ter-Petrosian’s presidency.

“I consider myself guilty of many things and I ask our political opponents to forgive our mistakes, my personal mistakes,” he said without elaboration. [...]

Six years missing from newly appointed Yerevan mayor Gagik Beglaryan bio

Formal bio of newly appointed and soon to be ‘elected’ (on 31 May) Yerevan mayor Gagik Beglaryan (nicknamed Chorni (Black) Gago) does not contain info for around 6 years:

In 1985-1986 served in the Army.
In 1993 was elected member of the parliament.

So what was he doing in 1987-1992???

His brief bio on the ruling Republican party website says that “Since 1987 worked in different branches of economy.” (???)

Women's Month in Armenia - 2009

It is soon Women's Day in Armenia and this year women are asking for more than flowers and chocolate, they are asking for equal rights, equal opportunities and a life without violence.

The Women's Resource Center in cooperation with other NGOs is launching the activites for the Month dedicated to women's issues in Armenia.

For details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Turkey: Statistics of The Day

A survey conducted by a Turkish parliamentary research commission has discovered that 6% of high school children carry a gun to class.

Among those asked, 15% said they carry a weapon of some sort, including knives or razor blades. Many of them said they carried weapons to make them feel safe.

The survey questioned 26,000 children across the country. The commission was set up after a spate of violent attacks in Turkish schools hit the headlines.

*source: BBC

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Armenian Dram Memorial

Armenian women burying the "Red Apple" on 8 March

Celebrating International Women's Day in Armenia

Start Time: 07 March 2009 at 3pm
End Time: 07 April 2009 at 5pm
Starting point: Women's Resource Center, 34 Zarubyan Street, Yerevan, Armenia

The Women's Resource Center of Armenia with the cooperation of Utopiana, WOW and other NGOs, intends to mark the 8th of March, by performing a funeral rite and burying the “Red Apple” (to verify women’s virginity for marriage) one of the cultural traditions still popular in most of Armenia which the Center considers demeaning for women and a violation of their human rights and dignity.

Here is what Lara Aharonian of the Women's Resource Center has to say to clarify misconceptions associated with this initiative:

"By burying the red apple, we are not telling anyone to not be a virgin, because we believe that everyone has the right to choose their personal life and sexuality, as a basic human right.

On the contrary we want to express that every woman has the right to choose for herself and not be forced in the name of tradition. [...]"

For more details - Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Monday, 2 March 2009

A1+ film devoted to 10 victims of 1 March 08

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Armenia: Opposition leader outlaws “revolution”

Thousands rally in Yerevan to mark the anniversary of 1 March 08

Reuters: At least 10 000 anti-government protesters in Armenia on Sunday demanded early elections. (photo - Nazik Armenakian / Reuters) Other estimates - 10 000 to 20 000, or more.

One year ago, these days… Brutal force crushed hopes of many in Armenia who wanted changes in their country. It was a movement comprised of people of varying political/social views/backgrounds who were sick of the current state of affairs in Armenia.

Regardless of my critical opinion of some in the movement, I did support it, as I believed this was the only right choice for me considering the circumstances and alternatives. One year on, I have no regrets for my choice. I could not have done otherwise. There were simply no other channels for people to exercise their rights and hopes for democracy and human rights to arrive in Armenia.

For me, the matter of ultimate responsibility for 1 March tragedy is apparent. I do not need court cases or commissions for that. It’s Armenian authorities who bear the ultimate responsibility for all good and bad happenings in the country. It’s them who issued the orders…

Today, remembering events of 1 March 08, I’d like to express my sincere condolences to families and friends of those killed.

Despite unprecedented tragic consequences, restrictions of civil liberties, political prisoners, the movement had resulted in some important positive developments. It was an awakening for the society in hibernation for more than a decade. Number of genuine, albeit small, civil groups and initiatives were developed, particularly among youth, aimed at democratisation of our society.

For me, one of the main positive outcomes of the movement was the fact that Armenian government, authorities, started paying more attention to public opinion. To the various degree, of course, but they can no longer completely ignore it. Like they used to do pre-movement…

Still, one of the ultimate aims of the movement – free elections, key feature of democracy, seems something of a dream than a reality any time soon. Initial signs of the upcoming Yerevan mayoral (municipality) elections do not look particularly promising.

It is not surprising, therefore, that key slogans of thousands protesters who defied the ban by the authorities to mark the 1st anniversary of 1 March 08 in Yerevan were: "Free Political Prisoners", "For Early Elections", “Punish 1 March Perpetrators”, and… “No To Tax Terror”.

Previously announced opposition hiatus was partly ‘justified’ by the Karabakh conflict. The point was that Karabakh deal is imminent, and 'we do not want damaging our country’s interests and make it even more vulnerable to external pressures'. The ‘hope’ was that the authorities would sign up to the unfavourable settlement plan which would stir popular anger and... All ‘hopes’ now on socioeconomic/financial crisis, as was evident from the opposition leader, Armenia’s first president Ter-Petrosyan speech, which was remarkable by a change in rhetoric, a kind of U-turn.

There is nothing wrong with the opposition using current problems to their advantage. It may not seem ethical, but it is within the rules of game. Any opposition party would do so, whether in Armenia or abroad.

However, there is a feeling among some opposition supporters (past or present) that its leaders are lacking a clear vision on ways forward.

One more remark. While (from the opposition side) there was no ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ divide in relation to those killed, police chief of Armenia was speaking the other day of “we also had 2 dead”, as if you could divide those who were killed on 1 March into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’.