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Armenian Assembly of America appoints Arpi Vartanian as regional director in Armenia

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23:48, April 19, 2015

The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is pleased to announce that Arpi Vartanian will fill the newly-created Regional Director position in Yerevan, Armenia effective immediately.

 Since 1994, Vartanian has been a long-time supporter of Assembly activities. She has served the Assembly in a number of capacities, both in Yerevan and in Washington, DC. Some of those positions included Country Director, Acting Executive Director (in Washington), Armenian American Action Committee (ARAMAC) & Internship Program Director, and NGO Center Director. 

The Armenia regional office will work closely with Assembly headquarters in Washington, DC and the Assembly’s other offices in Los Angeles, California and Boston, Massachusetts to implement these changes. As previously announced, the Assembly is rebuilding its capacity as the most effective voice for Armenians in our nation’s capital.

Karabakh Party Joins European Alliance

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A political party represented in Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership on Friday became an associated member of a coalition of European parties seeking independence or greater self-rule for various regions across Europe.

The European Free Alliance (EFA) accepted the integration into its ranks of the Democratic Party of Artsakh (AZhK) at a meeting of its General Assembly held in Germany.

The move strongly criticized by Azerbaijan came less than a year after an EFA delegation paid a fact-finding visit to Karabakh. The head of delegation, Miguel Martinez, said after the trip that the EFA “looks forward to working closely with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the future.”

Puzzling Out the Iranian Conundrum? New Situation and New Perspectives for the Region

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01:12, April 17, 2015

Armen Vardanyan

Program Manager, Iranian studies, The Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs (AIISA)

Iran’s nuclear program seems to arrive at its final solution—along with six world powers (5 UN Security Council members and Germany) Tehran reached a preliminary agreement on its nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 2. While a final document hasn’t been signed yet, it is planned to come up with a comprehensive agreement till 30 June 2015, under which Iran will restrict its nuclear program, and sanctions against the Islamic Republic will be lifted instead.

The recent “thawing” between Iran and the West rises hope in world’s challenged capitals, that Tehran’s nuclear problem will be resolved at last, and in the near future it can become a safe partner for the USA and the EU in the Middle East.

PEN to Give Press Freedom Award to Jailed Journalist Khadija Ismayilova

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18:34, April 16, 2015

The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was jailed in Azerbaijan in December, will be awarded the PEN American Center’s prestigious Freedom to Write Award.

The accolade, created in 1987, is given annually to writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for their work. 39 of the writers who have been honored were imprisoned at the time, and 35 of them have since been released.

Ismayilova’s award-winning investigative work for OCCRP and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) exposed the business connections of Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and his family, and alleged corruption in his inner circle.

EU Parliament Urges Turkey To Recognize Armenian Genocide

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The European Parliament on Wednesday urged Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire and unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia, in a resolution dedicated to the approaching 100th anniversary of the mass killings.

The resolution strongly condemned by Ankara “pays tribute the memory of the one-and-a-half million innocent Armenian victims who perished in the Ottoman Empire.” It says that the European Union’s legislative body “joins the commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide in a spirit of European solidarity and justice” and calls on the EU’s executive bodies to follow suit.

The European Parliament stressed that Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is impossible without “truth and remembrance.” Accordingly, it urged Turkey “to come to terms with its past, to recognize the Armenian Genocide and thus to pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples.”

US Must Sanction Officials Behind Human Rights Abuses in Azerbaijan, says NGO Open Letter

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18:49, April 14, 2015

Azerbaijani officials linked to human rights abuses should be subject to targeted sanctions by the United States, according to an open letter signed by a group of non-governmental organizations, former diplomats and activists.

Theletter, addressed to US Secretary of State John Kerry and published by Freedom House, calls for concrete measures in place of statements of concern about from Western leaders.

It argues that stronger ties between West and the government of Azerbaijan should only be pursued if the state turns its back on authoritarian practices. It urges Secretary Kerry to impose visa bans and freeze the assets of those responsible for the country’s “deteriorating human rights situation”.

Armenia Again Rejects ‘Pro-Azeri’ PACE Report On Karabakh

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Armenian lawmakers insisted on Monday that they will not cooperate with a pro-Azerbaijani British colleague who has been tasked by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) with drafting a report on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The rapporteur, Robert Walter, was named by the PACE leadership last year to launch a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone and prepare the report titled “Escalation of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and Other Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan.”

This wording prompted furious protests from Armenian members of the Strasbourg-based assembly and the government in Yerevan. They say that it predetermines Walter’s findings and runs counter to statements made by U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a Karabakh settlement.

Journalism for Future Challenges Program: Apply Today!

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17:58, April 9, 2015

The OCCRP is partnering up with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (SSE Riga) Center for Media Studies to present the Journalism for Future Challenges program again this year. 

We are looking for early career journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, or Ukraine who can show that they are dedicated to quality journalism and looking to expand their investigative reporting skills and professional network.

This intensive training program is taught by international experts from renowned newsrooms and focuses on teaching cutting-edge, updated tools and methods for improved investigative journalism.

Journalism for Future Challenges will take place in Riga, Latvia, in three separate sessions: June 8th – 13th, August 17th – 21st , and November 23rd – 27th.

Azerbaijan: Accuser Drops Complaint Against Jailed Journalist Khadija Ismayilova

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16:29, April 9, 2015

The man who accused Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and OCCRP journalist Khadija Ismayilova of driving him to attempt suicide has withdrawn his accusation, RFE/RL reports.

Tural Mustafayev told the broadcaster that he has asked the Prosecutor General to rescind his complaint, which he claims he made in a period of “emotional stress”.

Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since last December, when she was taken into custody in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. A day before her arrest, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s chief of staff Ramiz Mehdiyev issued a 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of of treason and of having a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community” in order to “please [her] patrons abroad”.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

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

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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.

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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.