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Total number of Syrian refugees exceeds four million for first time

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00:14, July 13, 2015

The number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria to neighbouring countries has now passed four million, confirming that crisis as the world’s single largest refugee crisis for almost a quarter of a century under UNHCR’s mandate.

New arrivals in Turkey and updated data from the Turkish authorities on refugees already in that country have taken the total number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries to more than 4,013,000 people.

Furthermore, at least an additional 7.6 million people are displaced inside Syria – many of them in difficult circumstances and in locations that are difficult to reach.

Spain: Mass Arrests In Strike Against Georgian Burglary Gang

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22:59, July 7, 2015

Spanish anti-organized crime prosecutors have arrested more than 30 people allegedly connected to a Georgian burglary gang in a major operation that involved hundreds of specialist police officers, including experts from German federal police.

At least 23 homes were searched and  € 100,000 (US$ 110,000) in cash was seized, alongside significant quantities of jewellery. A number of those arrested have also been accused of money laundering, tax fraud and drug trafficking.

Spanish police say some of those arrested on July 3 were also detained in 2010 as part of Operation Java, a similarly large, multi-national operation against a Georgian organized crime and burglary network, but had subsequently been released by a Spanish court. Austrian crime-fighting magazine “Die Kriminalisten” also claimed that Operation Java had been kept secret while it was running out of fear that the Georgian crime networks had contacts to “high-ranking” officials across Europe.

Italy: Human Trafficker Who Caused Shipwreck Gets 18 Years

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12:58, July 3, 2015

A court in Italy has sentenced the human trafficker who helped cause the catastrophic 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa in which 366 migrants lost their lives.

According to Reuters, Khaled Bensalem was handed an 18-year sentence at a court in Agrigento, Sicily, for multiple manslaughter and aiding illegal immigration.

The 36-year-old Tunisian’s sentence was reportedly cut by a third from the maximum penalty since he opted for a fast-track trial that offers reduced sentences for defendants who plead guilty.

On Oct. 3, 2013, Bensalem captained a ship that, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, departed from Libya carrying 500 people, mostly Eritrean, across the Mediterranean.

When the motor broke down near the Italian coast, passengers set clothing and blankets alight to attract attention.

U.S. Report Highlights ‘Systemic Corruption’ In Armenia

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The U.S. State Department has described “systemic corruption” as one of the most frequent and serious forms of human rights violation in Armenia, saying that the authorities in Yerevan are not doing enough to tackle it.

“Allegations of persistent corruption at all levels of government undermined the rule of law, although the government took limited steps to punish corruption by low- and mid-level officials,” the State Department said on Thursday in its latest annual report on human rights practices around the world.

“There were numerous reports of systemic government corruption, including in such activities as urban maintenance, construction, public administration, the judiciary, state procurement and auctions, health care, taxation, law enforcement bodies, and military personnel,” reads the report. “There were reports of embezzlement of state funds, involvement of government officials in questionable business activities, and tax privileges for government-linked companies.”

Macedonia to Pass Law Allowing Migrants Three Days’ Free Passage

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22:59, June 17, 2015

The Macedonian government has adopted a bill that would allow migrants coming illegally into the country three days to pass through.

The new law, which was adopted on Tuesday and is expected to pass through Parliament on Thursday, is intended to deter migrants from using dangerous routes. 

The move comes as the government encountered heavy criticism over the plights faced by asylum seekers, migrants and refugees who were hurt or killed while hiding from authorities.

Reports suggest an increase in people travelling from conflict-stricken countries in the Middle East and North Africa using Macedonia as a transit point on their way towards the European Union.

Serbia: 29 Police Officers Arrested in Bribery Case at Hungary Border

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22:22, June 15, 2015

Serbian authorities havearrested29 police officers, nine customs officials and one other person whom they accuse of letting people illegally cross the border into neighboring Hungary, a member of the European Union (EU), in exchange for bribes.

The unnamed suspects were arrested Sunday as part of a police operation by Serbian and Hungarian authorities. They were all reportedly employed in jobs linked to securing the Backi Breg border crossing between the two countries.

Apart from letting people cross the border illegally, the police officers were also accused of smuggling taxable goods into the EU duty-free.

They have been charged with accepting and giving bribes and abuse of office over the course of the last 15 months. The officers had allegedly abused the visa-free travel status Serbia enjoys with the EU.

Lavish ‘Donations’ To Armenian Officials Not Investigated

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Senior Armenian state officials tasked with combatting corruption have faced no investigations into millions of dollars in financial aid which they and their wives claim to have received from undisclosed sources in recent years.

The officials running the “oversight services” of President Serzh Sarkisian, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and the Armenian parliament have reported such lavish financial contributions in their annual asset declarations filed with the state Commission on the Ethics of High-Ranking Officials.

So far none of them has been accused by the commission of using their position to enrich themselves and their relatives. Nor are law-enforcement authorities known to have investigated the origin of the “donations” which Armenia’s leading anti-graft watchdog believes carry serious “corruption risks.”

How to Stay Connected Without the Internet

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18:07, May 18, 2015

Often, we read about how internet access is restricted in some country or other, especially during times of civil unrest.

When the Green Movement took off in Iran after the 2009 presidential election, and the government launched similar restrictions, Armine Saidi and David Esteves thought of ways to bypass such restrictions and make communication independent of the internet and cellular links.

Years later, the WiCastr company (now operating in Armenia as well), is offering equipment that contains large amounts of information – documents, videos, games, etc. Such material is accessible in a fifty meter radius by using equipment linked to its network that is capable of connecting to the WiFi; for example, smart phones. 

South Africa Ambassador Presents Credentials to President Sargsyan

May 19, 2015 Africa, Armenia No Comments
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14:52, May 19, 2015

Christian Baston, South Africa’s newly appointed ambassador to Armenia, today presented his diplomatic credentials to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

Sargsyan told Ambassador Baston that Armenia valued friendly and mutually conducive relations with Africa and expressed the hope that the ambassador would do his utmost to develop ties between the two countries.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.