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U.S., Armenia Set To Sign New Trade Deal

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The United States and Armenia will likely sign a framework agreement on bilateral trade and investments during President Serzh Sarkisian’s visit to Washington this week, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday.

“We are very pleased that progress is being made towards the signing of the agreement,” Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, told a news conference. He said the deal will result in “more opportunities for trade and business” between the two countries.

The Armenian government formally approved the deal but gave few of its details last Thursday. Government officials said only that it envisages the creation of a U.S.-Armenian intergovernmental body that will seek to identify and eliminate obstacles to closer commercial ties. Many of them stem from Armenia’s flawed business environment.

Armenian Oppositionists Set Free

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Five leading members of a radical Armenian opposition group were released from custody on Monday almost one month after being arrested on controversial charges stemming from its efforts to topple President Serzh Sarkisian.

Zhirayr Sefilian, the top leader of the Founding Parliament movement, and his four associates were set free after signing a written pledge not to leave Yerevan for the duration of an ongoing investigation into “mass disturbances” allegedly planned by them.

Law-enforcement authorities claim that they plotted to provoke street violence in the capital during the April 24 commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Founding Parliament had scheduled the start of its campaign for regime change in Armenia for that day.

A Civilization Destroyed: Istanbul Academic Conference The Wealth of Non-Muslims in the Late Ottoman Period and the Early Republican Era

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01:08, May 2, 2015

The Hrant Dink Foundation, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul Bilgi University and Sabancı University will organize an academic conference titled “A Civilization Destroyed: The Wealth of non-Muslims in the Late Ottoman Period and the Early Republican Era” scheduled for November 20-21, 2015.

Throughout the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had integrated politically, economically, and culturally into Western capitalism. This was a fast-paced integration during which the Ottoman Empire was in a significantly passive position. This transformation had major impacts on the socio-cultural and economical fields in the Empire from commerce and industrial production to consumer culture, from institutional organizations to urbanization and the arts.  An important consequence of this transformation was the emergence of an elite segment among the non-Muslim population.  The leading figures of Ottoman modernization and Western integration were mostly members of this elite community. They became the representatives of an avant-garde lifestyle, with a distinctly high level of wealth, and new political and cultural dispositions. 

Sarkisian To Visit Washington

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President Serzh Sarkisian will fly to Washington next week to take part in a religious ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and possibly hold talks with senior U.S. officials.

An Armenian-American “steering committee” coordinating commemorations of the genocide centennial in the United States has announced Sarkisian’s participation in an ecumenical memorial service that will take place at Washington’s National Cathedral on May 7.

According to the committee, the service will be led by the two supreme heads of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II and Catholicos Aram I, and attended by members of the U.S. Congress and U.S. diplomats.

Turkey’s EU Ambitions ‘Complicated’ By Row Over Armenian Genocide

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(Reuters) – Turkey’s backlash against European countries that call Ottoman Turks’ 1915 massacre of Armenians genocide will complicate Ankara’s ambitions to join the European Union, the commissioner in charge of EU enlargement told a newspaper on Thursday.

Turkey denies that the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in what is now Turkey, at the height of World War One, constitutes genocide and relations with Armenia are still blighted by the dispute. Turkey has also rebuked EU members, including Germany and Austria, whose parliaments used the word in resolutions marking the 100th anniversary of the event this month.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Austrian newspaper Der Standard that Ankara’s “very harsh” reaction should be seen in the context of elections coming up in June.

U.S. Human Rights Group Urges Release Of Armenian Oppositionists

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Human Rights Watch (HRW), a respected New York-based watchdog, urged the Armenian authorities on Thursday to release five leading members of a radical opposition group campaigning for regime change in Armenia.

In a letter to Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian, HRW said Zhirayr Sefilian, the top leader of the Founding Parliament movement, and his four associates were arrested on April 7 because of their “peaceful political beliefs.”

“Given Founding Parliament’s nonviolent views and in the absence of a lawful and credible basis for detention, we believe that the men should be freed, pending investigation,” read the letter signed by Hugh Williamson, the HRW director for Europe and Central Asia, and his deputy Rachel Denber.

Armenian Opposition Group Stops Rallies, For Now

April 30, 2015 Armenia, Top News, Turkey No Comments
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A radical opposition group targeted by the Armenian authorities has called a halt to its campaign of anti-government rallies in Yerevan, admitting its failure so far to drum up popular support.

The Founding Parliament movement pressed ahead with the campaign last week despite the controversial arrest of its top leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and four other senior figures. They were accused earlier this month of plotting to provoke “mass disturbances” on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey that was officially marked in Yerevan on Friday.

The Founding Parliament, which scheduled the start of its campaign for the genocide centennial, has strongly denied the charges and said that it is undaunted by the arrests and will continue fighting for President Serzh Sarkisian’s ouster. Only a few hundred people turned out for its rally held in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district on Friday.

April on the Line of Contact – It’s Been a Tough Month

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17:31, April 28, 2015

The plain appears through the narrow opening of the observation post.

These posts are set apart at the same distance up and down the 180 border that separates Artsakh from Azerbaijan. Every day, thousands of soldiers are looking across the line of contact to the enemy beyond.

The commander in chief of the Artsakh Defense Army says that they are ready for anything, from whatever direction.

After the constant rains of the past month, colorful plants have grown as tall as a man. There are red poppies leading up to the observation post entrance. Enemy positions are hard to spot in all this green foliage. Our positions merge with the green as well.

Turkey: Police Seize Three Million Dollars of Heroin in Istanbul

April 29, 2015 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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22:47, April 28, 2015

Turkish police have seized 358 kilograms of heroin from a flat in Istanbul.

 Turkish media reported that the narcotics had been stashed in the floor of the apartment.

The Iranian national who rented the flat, located in Esenyurt, west Istanbul, is still at large. His name has not been officially confirmed.

The police put the huge haul of seized drugs on show to the public, laying out 42 loose bags of powdered heroin in front of piles of packages of the drug stacked against a wall.

While Turkish press outlets claim that the drugs are valued at around US$ 3.4 million in Turkey, the same quantity of heroin would fetch a much higher price if it ever reached western markets.

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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.

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.