Saturday, 24 April 2010

London's Armenian community marks 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

There was much smaller crowd compared to previous years, and I can't say I was particularly impressed by the organisational aspects of the march.

I thought it was cute to see these matching tops (I presume, father and son).

For the first time, I spotted Karabakh's flag in London.

The office of Turkish Airlines was on a route of the march (it's been the case as much as I can remember). Over these past several years, only once, couple of years ago, I noticed few Turkish protesters there holding various posters. I can't recall any incidents, but sensitivities were always high when passing by this office. Today, I noticed that the office is shut down and apparently no longer functioning on that address. Have no idea about details.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Armenia - Turkey protocols: ‘happy ending’... for now

I will be very brief this time. Almost like a Hollywood movie, with a ‘happy ending’, of course. For now. Look, my take is that this decision makes everyone ‘happy’. All sides. Even International Crisis Group.

Wait for a sequel to come.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Likbez for Armenia police chief: "Forced suicide" = Murder

Armenia police chief might think that re-defining last week's suspicious death in a police custody of Armenian citizen Khalafyan will help him & co escape responsibility for what increasingly looks as an attempt at cover up of police violence and abuse. Time to remind Mr Alik Sargsyan the definition of "forced suicide".

Wikipedia: "Forced suicide is a method of execution"

Even if for a second we believe this 'updated' version, still a murder, Mr Sargsyan. Still, a murder.

In fact, as @tzitzernak tweeted: "Not sure which is worse - if it was murder or forced suicide.Both are pathological, but latter seems somehow sicker."

My previous posts on the topic:

Armenian police: shoot to kill?

Interview with mother of Khalafyan (video). It was not "suicide", it was a murder, insist relatives

*thanks to @tzitzernak for Wikipedia link.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

UK airport closures forced Atom Egoyan to cancel personal appearance at Tate Modern, but he will be speaking via webcam

As part of the Arshile Gorky exhibition (my brief review with pictures to be posted soon), independent Canadian Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan was due to London tomorrow to talk about “a number of his installations and short films that relate to Arshile Gorky's life and artistic legacy in relation to the Armenian massacres, which are widely regarded as a genocide.” (quote via Tate Modern).

However, due to volcano related UK airport closures, he won’t be able to fly to London, but instead, as Tate Modern now reports, “will be speaking at this event via online broadcast”.

I phoned Tate Modern, and confirmed this info. The event will go ahead with Egoyan’s webcam appearance. However, what I think is not fair, ticket prices - £10 (£8 concessions) - will stay the same, as Tate’s representative told me.

Interview with mother of Khalafyan (video). It was not "suicide", it was a murder, insist relatives

No, it was not "suicide", as Armenia police chief Alik Sargsyan tries (unsuccessfully!) to convince the public. It was a murder, insist relatives.

For background of this story - Armenian police: shoot to kill?

When Diasporan Armenian 'meets' Yerevan traffic police (video)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Armenian police: shoot to kill?

...And here is the latest from our “purest” police where only “real men” work. (copyright - Armenia police chief Alik Sargsyan)

“The purest”? Remind me, when was the last time we heard of “the purest”? Oh, it was in another country, and some decades back, and ended up with the World War.

And this is against the backdrop of the very latest reports of alleged murder in Armenian police department of an Armenian citizen who was unfortunate enough to be taken to the police department for interrogation. You think people are safe in police departments? Think again. Only couple of days ago, head of police Alik Sargsyan were attempting at what increasingly looks like a cover up by presenting this case (below) as a ”suicide” and rejecting any possibility of police killing the citizen.

Now let’s read the latest links mentioning the ‘very pure’ Armenian police.

A murder in police
The citizen killed at the Police department of Charentsavan is Vahan Khalafyan, an inhabitant of Charentsavan, born in 1986. The information received to date comes to testify that the incident at the police station yesterday constitutes murder. The 24-year old detained young man was stabbed to death and murdered under unknown circumstances. Yet the Police try to cover up the incident and, no less than at the level of RA Police Chief Alik Sargsyan. As expected, the police are trying to present the case as suicide.

Prosecutors Probe Another Death In Armenian Police Custody
The Armenian police chief, Alik Sargsian, stood by this version of events at a news conference held on Wednesday. He dismissed claims, made by the dead man’s relative and backed by some Armenian newspapers, that Khalafian was tortured to death. [...]

Artur Sakunts, a prominent human rights campaigner investigating the affair, openly accused the Charentsavan police of brutally ill-treating Khalafian during the interrogation. He claimed that the three other local residents suspected of theft were also beaten up in police custody.

Ill-treatment of criminal suspects has long been regarded as the most frequent form of human rights violations in Armenia. Local and international human rights groups continue to accused the police and other law-enforcement bodies of extracting confessions by force and intimidation.

“Witnesses continued to report that police beat citizens during arrest and interrogation while in detention,” the U.S. State Department said in its annual report on human rights practices in Armenia released last month. It said “most cases of police mistreatment continued to go unreported because of fear of retribution.” Armenian courts usually dismiss torture claims made by suspects, added the report.

The Charentsavan incident is bound to prompt parallels with the May 2007 death in police custody of Levon Gulian, a 31-year-old resident of Yerevan. Gulian was questioned at the police Directorate General of Criminal Investigations as a presumed witness of a deadly shooting that took place outside a restaurant belonging to him.

The police claimed that Gulian fell to his death while attempting to escape from a second-floor interrogation room of the police building in downtown Yerevan. Gulian’s relatives, backed by human rights groups, vehemently disputed the claim, saying that he was apparently tortured before being thrown out of the window.

An Armenian Journalist Notes
Meanwhile Armenian blogger artakevn quotes his Vartan nephew’s and his colleague’s version on how it happened.

They Also Beat Him Up
The autopsy of 24 year-old Vahan Khalafyan, who had been taken to Charentsavan’s police department and later hospitalized with fatal wounds, was performed yesterday.
Two stab wounds and lacerations were found in the area of Vahan Khalafyan’s abdomen along with traces of violence on his legs. However, the examination of his clothing revealed no tears made by knife. This means that the young man’s abdomen was bared when he was stabbed.

When I first saw this poster (via Haykakan Zhamanak, via Nazarian), I thought it must be a photoshop. But as per above reports, it’s an actual poster put on display in Yerevan to mark Police Day, and on the same street where 1 March 08 bloodshed happened. I can imagine how staisfied Alik Sargsyan must have felt when looking at this poster. Now I understand what Armenia police chief meant by referring to “real men” that serve in police forces. Is this a new mission for our “real men”: shoot to kill “internal enemies”, or anyone perceived as such? A very different word comes to my mind instantly, and it does not include “police”.

*pictures - via Haykakan Zhamanak daily

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Dutch festival in Trafalgar sq, London. Armenian festival to come?

There was a Dutch festival in Trafalgar sq, London, yesterday. One of the main aims of it was to promote tourism to Holland. It was also staged to mark 5 years of Holland House in London, as well as to celebrate Holland’s national day (Queen's Day). There were orange colours everywhere. Nice atmosphere. People having fun. I had no idea who was playing on the stage, but the music was cool. I later learned that these were Dutch bands Go Back to the Zoo, Postman, Zuco 103, DI-RECT.

I have always wanted to see something similar - Armenian festival - in Trafalgar sq too, similar to Russian, Irish, Dutch etc. This would have been one of the best ways in London to promote culture and tourism to Armenia. I know there are people who currently work behind the scene on developing the idea and staging the festival. I wish them good luck.

Below are few pics I took during the Dutch festival.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Marking Police Day in Armenia the way only Unzipped can do

It’s been one day, since I wrote this post (link above, picture - via A1+). Thousands of you have already read it. You know what. I wish the Armenian media was right. I wish I am wrong and there is in fact a ‘Gay Day’ celebration world-wide to coincide with the Police Day in Armenia. Imagine the fun.

You know what’s the main problem of Armenian police? Their image... They are not cool. So, to mark Police Day in Armenia, here are my two presents to you, lovely Armenian police-men and -women out there. First, there should be music. No need for guesses. Of course, it’s Lady Gaga the Coolest.

And here is a real treat. A few months ago, Armenian Comedy posted truly the breaking news that Police Pride Parade Blows Downtown Yerevan. I once X-posted this on Unzipped: Gay Armenia. Today it’s time for Unzipped.

I am sure Mr. Alik Sargsyan and Chorrord Ishkhanutyun would appreciate this. It’s like dream coming true. Enjoy your day, guys ;)

Police Pride Parade Blows Downtown Yerevan
Armenian Comedy

By Sergey
'We are police and proud of it!'
'We are police and proud of it!'
Mashtots avenue in downtown Yerevan was covered with marching traffic police officers late Friday celebrating their liberties and chanting slogans “give police a chance,” “pull over, now” among others.
Armenian police have been under severe social denial for the past few decades, but as more liberal moods begin to awake in newly independent Armenia, more police officers disband the veil of shyness and publicly exhibit their identity to the nation.
“I’m proud to be who I am and I don’t care what people think. Public opinion does not decide my personal choices,” says one of the marchers, captain Abgar Popikyan walking in vanguard of the parade. “At first I was humbled to reveal my identity to family and friends, but it’s just not right to deny it. Yes, world, I’m a policeman and you have to accept me the way I am!,” claims Popikyan.
Hundreds of traffic and patrol officers wearing shiny police uniform were approaching puzzled drivers and giving out roses and candies. Traffic was paralyzed on Mashtots and Tumanyan intersection for a few hours as officers, singing “We shall overcome” approached their ultimate destination near Northern Avenue where they united around a podium to declare police emancipation.
Chief of Traffic Police Pipinyan made the long-expected announcement at the culmination of the event: “My dear colleagues, my heart shivers as I see you gathered here… several generations of our officers have cherished the dream of this day, when we can proudly raise our head in Yerevan and say I am an Armenian traffic police officer and I am proud of what I am!” Pipinyan remained unashamed of dripping tears and continued: “I believe our kind has suffered the most from unhealthy criticism of cruel society.. I mean.. This is a day of big joy when we can say.. we are free! Fee at last.. free at last.”
Conservatives denounce police pride parade as non-Armenian
Conservatives denounce police pride parade as non-Armenian
The parade was gloomed the next day as some conservative forces stepped in to denounce the emotional movement. One of chief Dashnaks Giro Manoyan slammed the parade in a press conference: “It is not natural for a man to be a police officer. Especially for Armenian men. I am surprised that the mayor’s office sanctioned the march.”
It later was clarified by the mayor that police actually are entitled to freedom of expression under current legislation. Mayor Sevoyan told our reporter Sergey Sargsyan in a private interview: “It’s not my decision and the resentful conservatives should not blame me. We are now a part of the European council and the Europeans insist that we should allow for police officers to express their identity among others.”
Incidentally, head of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Armenia (GLAA) Ashot Pavlikyan called the parade “disgusting” and “shameful” for a country like Armenia. “We are a proud nation and as much as we like European values, we should not go beyond limits… I mean, Police Pride Parade.. this is just disgraceful and unnatural. Why don’t they just indulge in being police at home away from innocent eyes. There are kids watching them in the streets, for Chrissake…” said indignant activist.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Tupolev TY-154: ancient Soviet plane that crashes and should be banned

From my tweet today: #Iran plane crash en route to #Armenia 2009 & #Poland plane crash in #Russia: Tupolev TY-154. Ban this plane! (see my 2009 tweet below)

My tweet of 2009 re Iran plane crash en route to Armenia:
Why on earth #Iran still uses that ancient Russian plane TY-154! They should be banned. #armenia #yerevan.
[from AFP 2009 report: "The Tupolev Tu-154 plane is a Soviet-designed, medium-range three-engine aircraft. It was a best-seller for the Russian aircraft industry between 1972 and 1994."]

Back in 2009, after raising that question (above) re TY-154, I then posted an answer, via BBC:
BBC confirmes that poor air safety record in #Iran is due to sanctions imposed by US. #armenia #yerevan
I may understand the reasons in Iran, but why on earth Poland still uses these planes is beyond me.

[from BBC report: "The president was flying in a Tupolev 154, a plane that was designed in the 1960s and capable of carrying more than 100 passengers. Our correspondent says there had been calls for Polish leaders to upgrade their planes."]

Armenia’s ‘under the belt’ president

Oh, that lovely ‘jokes’ or ‘sramtutyunner’ [‘wittiness’] by Armenia’s ex(2nd)-president Kocharyan. Didn’t you miss them? I did. You know, a ‘guilty pleasure’ type of way. Since the day he became president, it has always been on a ‘under the belt‘ level for Kocharyan. No surprises here. That he specifically fell down this time to a ‘hemorrhoids’ level, is yet another of his ‘achievements’, I suppose.

A perfect picture A1+ has chosen to accompany Kocharyan’s statement. Priceless.

Kocharyan claims he “doesn’t care” what his critiques, and especially Armenia’s ex(1st)-president Ter-Petrosyan, say of him. Of course, he does. Otherwise, he would not have issued such a statement responding to Ter-Petrosyan’s not exactly the most impressive speech.

Some say they deserve each other. I disagree. When it comes to ‘under the belt’ attacks, Kocharyan is a clear winner. No one in Armenia can get even close.

Recent continuous speculations of Kocharyan’s return to Armenian political life are being manipulated by all sides (authorities, opposition, and Kocharyan himself). Even discussing such a theoretical possibility puts Armenia’s future into the ‘under the belt’ situation. An individual may go down that way. It’s his/her choice. But a country... ‘Been there, done that’. Last time it ended up with 1 March 08 bloodshed.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Kyrgyzstan: #freekg? I do not think so... Not sure, at least

Following current developments in Kyrgyzstan on Twitter, I noticed the hashtag #freekg...

We've seen the eventual transformation of a 'Tulip Revolution' in Kyrgyzstan, 'Rose Revolution' in Georgia...'Democrats' turned into autocrats.

#freekg? I do not think so... Will abstain from using #freekg on Twitter, as not sure that current opposition there won't be the same after they come to the power.

I know, I know, similar thoughts could be applied to Armenia too. Anyway...

Sad that reality check ruins people's hopes like that...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Armenia: ‘A+’ for signatures, ‘Fail’ for practice

Below is a timeline of truly historic and groundbreaking international agreements which Armenia became part of over the course of past two years.

- 31 March 2010 Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, representing the national governments of its all 47 Member States, including Armenia, adopted historic Recommendations on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

- 30 September 2009 Armenia aligns with the EU human rights / gay rights statement.

- 15 May 2009 Armenia joins EU statement condemning homophobia.

- 19 December 2008 Armenia signed a groundbreaking UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Armenian authorities signed the UN statement, they aligned with the EU statements, they agreed with the adoption of the Council of Europe recommendations. Yes, this sounds great. Any government could be proud of such a record. I sincerely want to commend them for that.

However, great as this may sound, it’s all on paper. The reality is far from idillic. Here is merely part of that sad and shameful reality: the latest report by EurasiaNet


A sad and shameful reality for a country that seeks one day to become part of the EU. A damning one for Armenia's international reputation.

If you do not act upon your signatures, if you do not act upon the recommendations and human rights obligations you yourself are making, then your signatures do not worth a penny.

Until such a mentality has changed, our dream of a better future within the European family of nations, where I believe Armenia belongs, will remain a dream.

*See also:

All 47 Council of Europe countries, including Armenia, unanimously agreed on historic human rights recommendations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people


Armenia: gays live with threats of violence, abuse (EurasiaNet report)