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Georgian Parliament Debates State Language Bill

July 10, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Georgia No Comments
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10:00, July 10, 2015

Yesterday, the Georgian parliament’s standing committee on cultural and education affairs began debating a language bill that would have Georgian enshrined as the state language by law.

The Armenian Community of Georgia website adds that the bill would delineate Georgian as the only working language in all the country’s administrative units and individuals and legal entities violating the new law would be subject to a fine.

The website notes that this is the fourth attempt by the Georgian parliament to pass a state language bill.

It also notes that the Georgian parliament has yet to begin the ratification process of the European Charter regarding regional and minority languages as mandated by the Council of Europe. 

Karabakh Leader Visits London, Irks Baku


Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, has addressed a leading British think-tank and met with members of Britain’s parliament during a visit to London that has sparked protests from Azerbaijan.

A statement by Sahakian’s office said he spoke about the Karabakh conflict and the “state-building process” in the Armenian-populated territory at the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday. He also spoke of the Karabakh Armenians’ “special attitude towards the United Kingdom” stemming from its status as an “influential state” and a “cradle of democracy.”

The statement did not name the British parliamentarians present at the meeting. It only cited Sahakian as praising “friends of Artsakh (Karabakh) in the British Parliament.”

Online Surveillance Firm ‘Hacking Team’ Gets Hacked

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22:03, July 8, 2015

Online hackers have released more than 400 GB of internal data, including staff emails and company documents, stolen from Hacking Team, a company in northern Italy that sells online spying software to governments and security services around the world.

It was named as a corporate “enemy of the internet” in 2013 by press-freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, after developing software that it says can circumvent certain encryption schemes.

The software is designed to remotely record every keystroke made on a target device, vacuuming up passwords and, in certain instances, capturing messages before they are encrypted.

On its website, Hacking Team boasts that it offers “total control over your targets. Log everything you need. Always. Anywhere they are.”

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.

‘No depiction of catastrophe will ever make up for a 100 years of denial’

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23:21, July 7, 2015

Last week, renowned Canadian film director Atom Egoyan was in Turkey for the first time. Although he had received many invitations from film festivals before, he had preferred not to come. He had legitimate reasons, fears and concerns. ‘Ararat’, the film he shot 13 years ago, had faced intense reaction and repression in Turkey; and could not be screened.

There was a special reason for Egoyan’s visit: He had been asked to be best man at Sera Dink and Eric Nazarian’s wedding. His concerns accompanied his curiosity as he set out towards Turkey. He returned as a host to the country his ancestors had been exiled from. He was surprised, happy and full of emotion. History was being written: “History is not always made by large public statements, but by the conversation between individuals.” We spoke to Egoyan, and discussed the Diaspora and Turkey, and also ‘Ararat’.

Ukraine: President Targets Illegal Amber Mining Industry

July 6, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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23:01, July 6, 2015

Ninety percent of the amber being mined in Ukraine today is being extracted illegally with the connivance of police and prosecutors, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenkocharged on July 2.

Poroshenko gave local officials a two-week ultimatum to eliminate the illegal amber mining rackets: Or, he said, he will personally drive to the three west Ukrainian regions where they occur to end the criminal mining.

This comes after activists from the protest groupAutoMaidan had travelled to Olevsk,a small town in north western Ukraine close to the Belarussian border, on June 19 to protest the illegal mining. They published photos highlighting the environmental devastation it causes.

Armenian Agricultural Exports Surge In 2015


Exports of Armenian agricultural products soared by more than 55 percent in physical terms in the first half of this year, reflecting a bumper harvest of apricots and other fruits, according to official statistics released on Monday.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that Armenia exported just over 40,000 metric tons of fruits and vegetables, up from 25,700 tons in the same period last year.

Apricots accounted for more than one-third of this figure. Their first-half sales abroad were up more than tenfold year on year, the official figures show.

Armenian apricot production collapsed from almost 90,000 tons in 2013 to just 8,000 tons in 2014, owing to a devastating spring blizzard. Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian predicted last month it will surpass the 2013 level this year thanks to very favorable weather conditions.

Police End ‘Electric Yerevan’ Protests, For Now


Riot police forcibly unblocked on Monday a central Yerevan avenue that has been the scene of a nonstop demonstration for the past two weeks against a controversial rise in electricity prices in Armenia.

Only between 100 and 200 protesters remained camped out on Marshal Bagramian Avenue when the police began dismantling their barricade. They went on to carefully disperse the small crowd.

Youth activists leading the protests and dozens of their supporters were detained in the process. A police spokesman subsequently put the number of detainees at 46.

“I think everyone will be set free within three hours,” General Hunan Poghosian, a deputy chief of the national police, told several opposition parliamentarians who arrived at the scene immediately after the start of the operation overseen by him.

Police Crackdown ‘Investigated’


An Armenian law-enforcement agency launched on Friday a criminal investigation into excessive police use of force against protesters and journalists which was reported during last week’s dispersal of a demonstration in Yerevan.

The police detained more than 230 people early on June 23 as they broke up a protest on the city’s central Marshal Bagramian Avenue against a controversial electricity price hike. All of them were set free several hours later.

More than two dozen protesters were injured in the crackdown. Sixteen of them reportedly filed lawsuits with the European Court of Human Rights in the following days.

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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

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.


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.