Saturday, 27 November 2010

Spotted: Armenian cookery book at Lebanese restaurant in London

Was having an early dinner with a friend of mine at a pleasant Lebanese restaurant in central London. And look what we've spotted there. An Armenian, well, mainly Middle Eastern, cookery book by Arto Der Haroutunian. It's only after, digging further into his name, I realised that he is one of the brothers who founded the Armenian restaurant in Manchester (UK).

Pay attention how they indicated "drinks" in Armenian translit: "Khumichk" :)

I can't judge about the quality of recipes but wish there were more illustrations inside.

Space-themed Christmas, Carnaby street, London

Saturday, 20 November 2010

We are the champions. Vladimir Arzumanyan makes Armenia winner of Junior Eurovision 2010

Amid all the depressive news coming these days from Armenia, I SO WANTED some positive news. So I decided to try my luck with the Eurovision, the Junior one. Children are our hope, with their sense of freedom, creativity and individuality, well, unless Armenian police is of different opinion, that is. Not that it matters.

Below is how the events unfolded, as per chronology of my Twitter notes.

I started morning with the reminder, most of all to myself. I did not follow the national selection process nor the build-up to the Junior Eurovision. But when I watched the video of Armenia entry’s song and performance this morning, things became clear to me: a star was born.
Today is Junior #Eurovision. 12 yrs old Vladimir Arzumanyan to represent #Armenia. He has all qualities for pop star !!
Then I decided to ditch my initial plans for a night out and have a more quiet evening at home watching the Junior Eurovision. Boy, I so did not regret it:
Junior #Eurovision live
Could not hide my excitement as I genuinely believed that this year’s Armenian entry is a spot on:
#Armenia is No. 10 at Junior #Eurovision. GO Vladimir Arzumanyan!
And one more general observation:
Sooo difficult to criticise children at Junior #Eurovision... You can't go with the adult Eurovision bitchiness :)
Then it was No. 10. And my first impression immediately after the Vladimir’s performance:
Impressive #Armenia performance at Junior #Eurovision. He is so cute, voice was not very strong but he feels the stage perfectly, he is a star
And before the voting results being announced:
Have to say, regardless of voting results, this was #Armenia strongest entry to Junior #Eurovision since Arevik.
Conclusion to the night was a fireworks. This is how I reacted when it became clear that Armenia won the Junior Eurovision:
OMG!!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! #Armenia - winner of Junior #Eurovison!!! Well deserved. Well done, Vladimir!!!
And the last bit, albeit too optimistic :
If only we have someone to match Vladimir for the main #Eurovision contest, #Armenia would be a double winner. How wonderful it would be !!!
Below is an extract from Vladimir’s first press conference after winning the contest:

[...] But what does he want as a present for his victory? Well, putting into his words - "I want a brother, my mother promised me that if I'd win!"

Now, after winning the biggest music contest for young singers, he still doesn't think of himself as a star. "Stars are only in the sky, I'm only human," Vladimir told the press. [...]

Cute! Cute! Cute!

*picture - Reuters

Friday, 19 November 2010

Degradation and stupidity. Police in Armenia hunts down perceived emo teenagers, confiscates ‘weapons of mass destraction’, oh, sorry, souvenirs

Over the last few weeks, reports from Yerevan indicated that police started targetting young people who look different from what they consider a ‘normal look’ and intimidating them, to put it mildly. Yesterday they went further and briefly detained 6-7 people, mainly girls, who they perceived to be part of “emo movement”. There are reports of police violence during detention. (Read also (RU) here and here)
ArmInfo: The press service of the police has told ArmInfo that the girls were detained by a group of police guards, who noticed that one of them was holding a "sharp piercing object." Later the policemen found one more object [this implying that the girls were frisked - edit.]. Presently, the police are identifying the detainees. The "sharp piercing object" was in fact a souvenir - a skull with two sword-like blunt-ended sticks. Such a souvenir can be found in many local shops but for the police it looked like a dangerous weapon. Following this logic, if you happen to buy a knife in a shop you may well spend night in a police department.
This all began a month or two ago when quite a few Armenian media outlets started systematically publishing sensationalist articles and reports linking virtually all teenage or youth suicides in Armenia to emo. Needless to say that in most, if not all, cases, they had no evidence whatsoever to support their claims, except for wild speculations. “Слышал звон, да не знает, где он.” This was accompanied by highly publicised ‘angry students’ letter to authorities demanding the clean up of one particular downtown tunnel from traces of ‘emo graffiti’. The tone of that letter and media reports, followed by various interviews/press conferences mixing emo with the religious sects - you got the picture - created an image of emo teenager as a ‘threat to national security’. Familiar wording, isn’t it?

And how easy. Nobody cares why those young people commit suicides. Finally, they found an easy solution. A new ‘enemy of nation’. To ‘neutralise’.
ArmInfo: ArmInfo has already reported that the Armenian Police started serious operative measures aimed at identification and actual neutralization of teen-fans of the global informal movement and subculture EMO. A reliable source told ArmInfo that the Police leadership charged all the departments for minors to start operative measures and draft the list of all the EMO fans in the country. [...]
Однако, не смотря на то, что некоторые, в том числе и полицейские чины Армении, считают культуру <эмo> деструктивной до такой степени, что готовы идти на антиконституционные <профилактическиe> мероприятия против детей 12-17 летнего возраста, на самом деле это не так. "Эмо" само по себе не несет ничего плохого, а наоборот старается донести до людей идею, что помимо материальных ценностей в жизни человека должны быть и ценности духовные. Видимо это последнее обстоятельство и беспокоит власть предержащих, так как в корне противоречит насаждаемой в стране культуре погони за длинным рублем.
Конечно, как и в любом неформальном молодежном движении - хиппи 60-х или панки 80-х прошлого столетия, эмо - не без изъянов и крайностей разного характера, присущих детям трудного переходного возраста, но заниматься этим должны психологи и заниматься крайне тонко, чтоб не калечить психику детей. А проблема эта отдана на откуп тем, кто по долгу службы привык иметь дело с потенциальными уголовными элементами. Что из этого получится догадаться не сложно. Благодаря подобной <дальновидной> госполитике, мы завтра можем стать свидетелями случаев побоев, массовых избиений и насилий в отношений <эмо> со стороны <нормальных>, по версии государства, подростков.
In reality, this is a pretty organised attack towards youth, or anyone for that matter, who look and behave differently, different from what is perceived to be ‘normal’, ‘acceptable’ look or behaviour.

I am trying to find words to describe police actions. Whatever comes to my mind is an understatement. On one hand, I am outraged. On  the other hand, reading and hearing of ‘brave’ Armenian policemen ‘neutralising’ teenagers make me burst into laughing. That’s how ridiculous they look like. But as ArmInfo rightly pointed out, such actions could lead to much more tragic consequences by inciting hatred towards anyone who looks different...

I wanted to say that Stalinist methods are well and alive in Armenia, but it’s not just this. This is a perfect example of total degradation and stupidity of Armenian police and those who are in charge of it. Plus, their “вседозволенность”.

Not only what they do is unlawful, but they are pushing teenagers further deep underground, and risk created a contra-reaction that would be very difficult to deal with.


Glad to see that many Armenian bloggers expressed their outrage with the police actions and solidarity with perceived or real emo followers. “I am emo” - statements you could read in a number of blogs (example).

With such actions, Armenian policemen made a total mockery of their profession. That Armenia police chief Alik Sargsyan is stupid is not news. That he & co totally lost their mind is a worrisome development. R.I.P., Armenian police.

*photo - Nazik Armenakyan / 
Emo in Yerevan: Eccentric and emotional teenagers challenge society (ArmeniaNow)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Real life horror: human rights experts uncovered systematic abuse in Armenia’s psychiatric hospitals

Since Soviet times, mental health institutions (or psychiatric hospitals) have always been associated for me with the word “repressive” where the notion of human rights is non-existent and clinical indications can be easily manipulated for non-medical purposes. One may have hoped that since the end of Soviet system things would change for better. One would be wrong.

As the report cited by the Open Society Foundations - Armenia blog indicates, human rights experts uncovered systematic abuse flourishing in Armenia’s psychiatric hospitals. “Their reports read like horror stories, detailing the lives of people left to the mercy of fate.”

This unacceptable and shameful state of affairs must end. Now.

Sanctioned Abuse in Armenia’s Hospitals

November 11, 2010 | by Anahit Papikyan

No one likes to be sick or go to the hospital, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Most people in Armenia are not familiar with the concept of “patient’s rights.” What they do know, however, is that when it comes to health care, everyone has the right to be treated in a safe environment, free of abuse, harassment, and neglect. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always extend to people living with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems.

Armenia ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1993 and adopted a mental health law that is in line with international norms. Nearly two decades later, however, we see that what the government agreed to is far different from what is actually happening in psychiatric hospitals throughout Armenia.

The Open Society Foundations–Armenia supported a group of human rights experts to visit and monitor conditions inside psychiatric hospitals. Their reports read like horror stories, detailing the lives of people left to the mercy of fate:

“A male nurse beat a patient who tried to run away. Even in the presence of the monitoring group he continued to abuse the patient.”

“One of the patients was tied up for two days. The hospital staff informed us that they gave food and water to the patient, but the monitors didn’t witness it.”

“Many patients are subjected to physical abuse, they are forced to clean the rooms and wash toilets, take care of other patients… do the work that the clinic staff should do.”

“In the yard of a hospital, under heavy rain, a barefoot patient washed the car of a hospital employee.”

Listening to these reports, we have to ask: Are medical professionals causing more trauma for their patients rather than providing actual treatment? Do hospital employees see people with mental health issues as problems and not as patients?

The government of Armenia should take measures to close these abusive institutions. People with mental health disabilities should receive care within their communities, not be locked away as though they are criminals. Community-based housing is an affordable alternative to large, abusive institutions. And people are able to live in freedom near their families.

Our government leaders in Armenia need to get serious about their commitments and fulfill the promises they have made.

Turkey and Van at the World Travel Market in London

There was a prominent display of Van and promotion of tourism to the region as part of the Turkey pavilion at the World Travel Market in London.

British run travel agency was promoting travel to eastern Turkey, as well as Armenia and Georgia. In their brochure, along others, they write about Armenian cultural heritage in the region, monasteries, Aghtamar and Lake Van, Mt Ararat etc.

I also picked up an official “Tourism Guide of Van” produced by the governorship of Van, in association with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Turkey. They repeated the word “heritage” quite a few times in their brochure, with the indication of various cultural influences, pictures of churches and khachkars ('cross-stone') but in contrast with the previous brochure, they failed to mention a single word about Armenian heritage there.

Read also: Charming Karabakh at the World Travel Market in London

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Charming Karabakh at the World Travel Market in London

Despite reports that Azerbaijan would protest and try preventing Karabakh’s representation at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, Karabakh did have its small separate pavilion right next to Armenia at this prestigious annual world forum. Moreover, I have to tell you, despite its very modest size, Karabakh’s representation was cosy, very warm, nicely designed and much more interesting than Armenia or Azerbaijan for that matter. The only thing I did not like in their design were those little crosses inside the letters, although they were not too pushy and I noticed them only while looking at pictures.

Karabakh’s corner at the WTM was a kind of place where you’d like to get in for a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of wine or so, have a friendly chat. It really felt very warm, welcoming and comfortable. Charming - that was my first reaction as I saw it.

Armenian pavilion was unremarkable, with a tiring design (looks better in photo than in reality). There were ethnic and church related pictures all around, but ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to show what modern Armenia looks like. People (members of the delegation) were friendly, helpful and cheerful. That’s a plus.

Weirdly enough, looking at the main information stands at the WTM that show companies/countries represented there, you could hardly, if at all, find any indication of Armenia or Karabakh representation.

Azerbaijan’s pavilion was unremarkable as well, and kind of tasteless. Putting on the top of it this weird map of Azerbaijan with the empty space to indicate Armenia, and with the inscription “territory occupied by Armenia” was inappropriate and totally out of place.

The coolest design among South Caucasus countries was that of Georgia. You could feel modernity there, and you could actually see it from afar.

In tomorrow’s post - Turkey and Van at the World Travel Market in London. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Protest action in front of Iranian embassy in Yerevan to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from being stoned to death in Iran

Few Armenian activists gathered today in front of the Iranian embassy in Armenian capital to protest what seemed to be an imminent stoning to death of Iranian woman Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for “infidelity” after her husband’s death (!) Despicable is an understatement here.

This action was to coincide with similar actions worldwide.

However, the embassy employees and security did not allow protesters to stage their action with posters and stones, some - symbolically red-coloured. Nevertheless, Armenian activists, albeit for a short while, managed to put posters and stones in front of the building.

The main question that bothered the embassy employees and security was:”Which political party do you represent?”

The ambassador himself declared that there are many imprisoned women in Iran, as well as in Europe, ‘why do you care for this particular woman?’. He apparently did not understand what “human rights violation” means.

*video and pictures - by Mamikon Hovsepyan

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Multi-talented Armenian artist Karen Grigoryan to “Silence Against Noise” with his first London exhibit

I first heard of Karen Grigoryan last year when he staged an exhibit in Yerevan to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Artist, songwriter, producer, film director and TV host. If you think this is more than enough for one person, think again. Add to this his degrees... in political science and European studies.

Karen Grigoryan will present 40 works (20 photos & 20 graphic works) from his different collections, including "NO AIDS", "Silence" devoted to the Armenian Genocide, "Portfolio" and "Interval". This is his first exhibition in London.

Btw, while in London, Karen will be meeting British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood to interview for an Armenian IQ magazine.

Another interesting detail. The exhibition will be live streaming via artist’s blog at

Below are details of the exhibit for your diary.

Date: 10 November 2010, 7pm.
Menier Gallery
51 Southwark Street
London SE1 1RU
Nearest tube: London Bridge
Located in Bankside, minutes from Borough Market and the Tate Modern.
Read also: Riot, nudity... a very Armenian day in London gallery by artist Karen Grigoryan