Thursday, 29 October 2009

Yerevan diaries: Cascade - Cafesjian Centre for the Arts

After 2 years delay, with construction works still going on as per these pictures I took a month ago, Cafesjian Centre for the Arts (Yerevan MoMA) will have its Grand Opening on 8 Nov (fireworks display 7 Nov). Cascade has always been a favourite place for Yerevantsi and tourists alike. Soon to be opened Yerevan MoMA will make the place even more definite must see not only in Armenia, but in the whole South Caucasus too.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Yerevan diaries: passport services (No Corruption)

Talking about corruption... There are good news and success stories in Armenia too, after all. I can confirm that passport services in Yerevan, one of the most corrupt institutions in past, are no longer as such. Well, at least that what I may conclude based on personal experiences of dealing with one of Yerevan passport services; also talking to people who dealt with them over the last few months. After recent government crackdown on that particular institution, there is completely different picture there nowadays. No connections needed, no money needed or asked, everything is done efficiently, in time, helpful and respectful.

Now if only this example could be widened applying to other fields of life in Armenia...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

British MP Chris Bryant calls PanArmenian.Net report a “complete and utter nonsense” re being appointed as "rapporteur on Armenia and Turkey"

When I read this news report by PanArmenian.Net, based on French journalist Jean Eckian info, I became suspicious, as could not find any other more formal sources confirming it.
May UK give up its policy of Armenian Genocide denial?
24.10.2009 18:52 GMT+04:00
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ For the first time since 1918, members of British parliament who spoke the truth about the Armenian Genocide were appointed rapporteurs on Armenia and Turkey.

MP Chris Bryant called on the House of Commons to recognize the Armenian Genocide, freelance French journalist Jean Eckian told PanARMENIAN.Net.

Mr. Bryant reminded that the previous Cabinets refrained from any assessment of the 1915 events, saying that “historians can't come to a conclusion on the issue.”

“However, Geoff Hoon, Dennis Macshane, Doug Alexander, Baroness Ramsey Baroness Scotland , Lord Treisman and Lord Malloch-Brown never consulted any prominent historian,” he said. “And the person responsible for the policy of denial is Jack Straw, currently Minister of Justice.”

According to Mr. Bryant, to show solidarity with Armenia, the parliament should urge resignation of Minister Straw, who disseminated lies for so many years.

In a parliamentary debate in 1921, Sir Neville Chamberlain said, “I cannot think without something like horror and dismay of the abominable barbarities which have been practised in Armenia, and if I condemn Turkish rule in Armenia it is not because it is Mohammedan rule over Christian people, but because it is a barbarous and brutal rule, which would disgrace whatever Government in which it originated."
As much as the prospect of British MP Chris Bryant being appointed as a “rapporteur on Armenia and Turkey” sounds like an exciting news to come out from the UK, it’s not true.

I asked Chris Bryant via Twitter to clarify the news. Below is our exchange of messages.

@ChrisBryantMP Is this true that you've been appointed as "rapporteur on #Armenia-#Turkey"? Trying to confirm the info.

@unzippedblog No - complete and utter nonsense.

@ChrisBryantMP Thanks for clarifications, will post on my blog. I was suspicious re that news item.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Unheard Voices of Armenia: Voiceless People who have to be Heard (new blog)

This is why I like blogging. It provides a free platform for people to make their voices heard. Via personal email from the author, I came across this relatively new blog by the advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people in Armenia. It's named very appropriately Unheard Voices of Armenia, with the aim to empower those voices.

Here is background information about The Situation of The Deaf in Armenia.
Currently there are 8000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing people living in the different provinces of Armenia and in the Capital Yerevan where the majority of the Deaf reside.[...]
For the 8000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing, there are only ten interpreters none of whom are certified. They are CODAs, Children of Deaf Adults, and initially they became interpreters to help their parents in the hearing world. There are no higher institutions where interpreters may specialize in Deaf culture, or understand interpreter’s code of ethics.[...]
Although only recently the first Armenian Sign Language Dictionary was published, it is not available to anyone who wishes to have one. There are no known publications or researches done about Deaf culture or Deaf studies in Armenia today.
And here the author explains the reasons why she started her blog: Voiceless People: Not by Choice
The aim and purpose of the blog, Unheard Voices of Armenia is to empower the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who have remained voiceless for so many years in Armenia.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Armenia: video shows chilling example of animal cruelty allegedly at oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan’s ‘private zoo’

Scandal of The Day

An example of animal cruelty at its most chilling exhibition

Thanks to a tweet by @GoldenTent, I came across this link to the YouTube video, which alleges that Armenian oligarch and head of ruling Bargavatch Hayastan (‘Properous Armenia’) party Gagik Tsarukyan stages this fight between his lions and a donkey. (or it was staged at his ‘private zoo’)
#Armenia oligarch & govt. political leader Gagik Tsarukyan stages fight between his lions & a donkey #animalcruelty
*The video (uploaded 9 October 2009) has now been removed from the YouTube. (minutes after tweets and re-tweets came out): “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”

However, it’s been already uploaded into other video sharing websites, particularly Dailymotion (see below).

There are also gunshots heard in the video. It’s not immediately clear whether they were shooting the lions or the donkey, or simply shooting in the air. Also, it’s not clear whether the animals were hit by gunshots or they were aimed at scaring them, or to complete the ‘show’ for spectators after the fight was over.

This is so disgusting that at first I could not force myself watching beyond the first few seconds. Then I forced myself... I felt physically sick after watching this video.

Any country, any society which has any prospect of calling itself a “civilised” should ban these sorts of outrageous displays of animal cruelty, and perpetrators should be held responsible before the law.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Turkey - Armenia: Whispering Memories and Talking Pictures

The photographic journey of Ghazaros Kerjilian to his paternal home town in Turkey and his search for the lost great uncle in 1915.

a short documentary
by Mehmet BINAY / M.Caner ALPER

Post-production by Jasmin GUSO
Pictures by Huseyin ONAN
Music by Paolo POTI
Narrated by Mehmet BINAY
(c) CAM Film Ltd. 2009

Director's blog

Official site

Facebook group:

"Whispering Memories", a 42 minute documentary film, tells the story of a rural wedding in the Taurus mountains of Turkey by exploring local traditions, culture and regional history through the eyes of young villagers and their elders.

While speaking to their elders, the young people of the village also asked questions about the times when Armenians lived in the area until 1915 as their neighbors.

"Whispering Memories" is not a story of Armenians who had to leave Turkey but of those who stayed behind and silently became Muslims: they are now called the 'Converts'.

directed by Mehmet Binay
(c) CAM Film 2008 

*Thanks to Lara and Raffi for links.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Armenia - Turkey protocols: Moving forward, not forgetting the past

If there is one big policy issue which I actually agree with and support current Armenian authorities, its their policy towards rapprochement with Turkey.

I disagree that protests in Diaspora were harmful for current Armenian president Serj Sargsyan. Internally, may be (he does not have much support and trust inside the country, anyway). But internationally - not. Quite the contrary. He does not have a reputation on international scene, and these actions - going through difficult and sensitives agreement with Turkey despite Diaspora and some internal protests - will put him on the map to the level which he could never had dreamt of.

Here current Armenian president displayed leadership qualities. (I would never thought I'd ever say this re Serj Sargsyan but here we go) There are times when head of states need to conduct unpopular policies which may not be supported from a populist point of view but important for country’s future. It’s exactly that moment now in Armenia.

Where were Diaspora organisations when 1 March 08 happened in Armenia? Where were their voices when Armenians in Armenia were left alone in face of widespread human rights abuses and election fraud? The answer is simple. They were dead silent. Now when I hear “democracy” or “human rights” or anti-Serj shout or posters during the protests in Diaspora, I simply can’t take them seriously. Well, with one important reservation. If only this whole anti-protocol hysteria would help for Diaspora groups and individuals to understand that what we need first and foremost is democratic Armenia where human rights are respected, if only they understand that this is the main direction where their efforts should be directed at, then I would happily take back my skepticism. Until then, I am afraid, it’s too little too late.

My main reservation with the document, as I mentioned earlier too, is the so called ‘historical commission’. However, from a pure language point of view, there is no prefix “historical” in the protocols, and there is absolutely no mention of the Genocide there, although, yes, it is implied. However, we should not be afraid of it: no ‘historical commission’ is able to put a question mark for the Armenian Genocide. It’s the fact for international and scientific community, regardless of the limited numbers of countries which officially recognised it. (which is a sole consequence of their geopolitical interests) What is more important is the recognition of the Genocide by Turkey. I do believe that opening up the dialogue on the issue, which will be inevitable following the ratification of the protocols (and partly happened already thanks to international pressure and efforts by few Turkish intellectuals), would contribute to it. Protocols are not about forgetting or denying the Armenian Genocide. Protocols are about moving forward without forgetting the past.

Now the ball is on the Turkish side. The general consensus in Yerevan is that Armenia will formally ratify the protocols only after Turkey first ratify them. Taking into account the circumstances, I do support such approach.

P.S. below are just few of my recent tweets on the topic.
For my full twitter feed, see

Reports: Live broadcast of #Armenia - #Turkey protocols signing ceremony from #Zurich on Armenian public TV from 8pm local time #Yerevan

#Armenia president Serj Sargsyan statement re signing of protocols with #Turkey (AM) 

All eyes on #Zurich today. What's more important, however, #Armenia & #Turkey parliaments afterwards. They have to ratify the protocols.

Group of prominent #Diaspora Armenians issued an open letter in support of #Armenia president policy re #Turkey deal

Imitational rally by ARF Dashnaktsutyun & co against #Armenia - #Turkey protocols soon to start in #Yerevan. A show which decides nothing.

The Economist: #Armenia - #Turkey : Bones to pick 

Double standards: ARF allowed to protest at government buildings, others - not. #Yerevan #Armenia

I respect Robert Frisk of The Independent, but disagree that #Armenia - #Turkey protocol means "Genocide forgotten".

The very fact that this 'opposing forces' joined by the neo-nazi homophobe Aryans made me treat them as a joke #Armenia

It sucks seeing Heritage & ARF Dashnaktsutyun signatures along with neo-nazi homophobe Aryans against #Armenia #Turkey deal

#Yerevan diaries: Dashnak's 'protest' re #Armenia - #Turkey protocols

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Kim Kardashian on her 'Armenian bottom'

Says Kim Kardashian: "[...] My body shape comes from my father's side of the family - he's from Armenia, where all the women are voluptuous. Thanks to role models like Jennifer Lopez, I'm comfortable with my curves."

*source of photo

Friday, 2 October 2009

Jean Eckian: Breaking News / President Serj Sargsyan hooted in Paris (part 2)

*photos Jean Eckian

Jean Eckian: Breaking News / President Serj Sargsyan hooted in Paris (part 1)

With one hour of delay on the calendar envisaged, the chief of RA contemplated one minute in front of the Armenian Memorial of Paris, symbolized by the statue of Komitas. A spontaneous demonstration of approximately thousand people, with the cries of " votch, votch! (not, not!) did not obstruct the president who always preserved his smile. During the hour which preceded its arrival to the memorial, of the brawls with the police force made some slightly injureds.
Jean Eckian / Paris

*photos Jean Eckian

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Talking about child sexual abuse in Armenia: NGOs cooperating for better solutions

On September 25, 2009, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of the Women's Resource Center invited different NGOs, Government representatives and concerned citizens to a round table discussion on the reality of child sexual abuse in Armenia.

The goal was to assess the situation after the scandal in one of the special schools in Yerevan, Nubarashen #11 where a group of volunteers reported incidences of neglect, violence and sexual abuse towards the children with mental disabilities. Following these scandal Mariam Sukhudyan, one of the activists interviewing the children was accused of defamation, risking up to 5 years of imprisonment while no legal procedures were taken against the institution's administration and staff.

The discussion was based on 2 important elements; 1- to assess the situation in Armenia, based on different organizations' work on children with special needs and from low socio-economic families; 2- to find the best methods to raise awareness and advocate for this issue in society and with governmental bodies.

Many NGOs responded to the invitation, bringing their own concerns regarding this issue. Among them were World Vision, Fund for Armenian Relief, Armenian Relief Society, Society without Violence, Pink Armenia and Democracy Today.

Representatives from World Vision Armenia stated that this is a problem that they have encountered since the start of their work in the country and pointed out that most of the time violence against children starts in the family and sexual abuse is one form that occurs on an alarming scale. They also stated that mothers are often aware of what is happening but find it better to hide it and the family to deny it, to not endanger their reputation or the reputation of the child, since the child will fall victim of an intolerant society and will be repeatedly hurt.

The representative from FAR (fund for Armenian Relief) working over a decade with children from broken families, was familiar with the issue of sexual abuse. She urged all the participants and workers in this field to act carefully because in her opinion, to change the system in a developing country is an extremely long and challenging process. She insisted that assistance should be provided to individuals first, and on the long run reform the system to dismantle group institutions and help more families to take care of their children, since most of these children placed come from poor families lacking the basic needs to provide for them and trusting the institution to do so.

It was also stated that for one child in every special public institution, the state allocates 5000 US dollars annually, while families receive 200-300 US. This may explain the resistance of these institutions' leadership, safeguarding their positions. All NGOs agreed that a reformative approach and shifting work towards families would be a better solution. By keeping those children as much as possible in their familiar settings and local schools and not to cut them from their community would be more efficient and insure sustainability.

Mariam Sukhudyan's case was raised during the discussions by her friends and former volunteers at the Nubarashen special school. Most of the participants agreed that Mariam brought up an important question that people were trying to deny or not openly discuss, claiming the accusations against her were unjust. All present NGOs declared that it was crucial to support her case and make sure that she does not fall victim of the system.

The discussion concluded upon the agreement of the following steps:

1- Continue raising their voices on the alarming situation in Armenia, regarding child abuse by inviting the community for more discussions (public debates, TV panel discussions with experts, etc)
2- Join the efforts of the coalition of NGOs working on children's rights in Armenia and write letters to officials urging them to address the issue with the cooperation of NGOs
3- Implement a research and national survey to better understand the needs of those children and how to reform the system for better prevention of child neglect and abuse in these institutions.

The group will meet again to discuss further and in details specific actions.

L.A., Women's Resource Center, Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan diaries: Public TV vs Radio

News on Public Radio in Armenia much better than on TV.

TV news - pretty boring, and mainly repeat of the official information.