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Turkey’s presidential election on OSCE radar

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Irregularities and controversies that forced authorities to cancel some of the March 30 local election results in Turkey have moved Europe’s security body to announce that a mission will observe the country’s upcoming first direct presidential election,reportsHurriyet Daily News.
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) undertook a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) to Turkey between May 7 and 9 upon an official invitation from the Turkish authorities to observe the presidential election which will be held in two rounds in August.
“The majority of OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors expressed a certain level of confidence in the electoral process and referenced the country’s long-standing tradition of democratic practices,” said a report, drafted after this mission and dated June 3, in its “Conclusions and Recommendations” section.
“However, they also raised particular concern with the new legal framework and its possible gaps and shortcomings and noted a recent weakening of general public confidence in the authorities, particularly following the recent local elections,” added the report.
“Some previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed and most OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors stated that they would welcome an OSCE/ODIHR observation activity for the upcoming election, with some having emphasized the necessity of the OSCE/ODIHR’s longer-term presence. A number of aspects could merit attention by an OSCE/ODIHR election observation activity, including the new legal framework; campaign finance provisions; the conduct of the electoral campaign; and the work of the media,” it said.

Cassilas and Messi in new Lay’s ad (video)

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Chorrord Ishkhanutyun: Post of Armenian ambassador to Russia apple of discord

Case of Nearly 1 Ton of Narcotics Found at Border to be Sent to Court

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14:09, June 3, 2014
The case of 927.6 kilos of heroin discovered by Armenian customs officers will be sent to court in one month’s time. Public defender Artak Garoyan, who is Turkish citizen Osman Oğurlu’s attorney, in conversation with Hetq, said the defense is now working on changing the charge against Oğurlu.

Recall, on January 17 of this year, officers at the customs house in Meghri, upon inspecting a truck passing through Armenia on its way to Georgia, discovered 927 kg of heroin in a special compartment. The National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia launched a criminal case based on Article 215, Part 2 of the RA Criminal Code (smuggling of narcotics and psychotropic substances). The driver of the truck, Georgian citizen Avtandil Martiashvili, was arrested. Arrested in Yerevan on January 18 was Turkish citizen Osman Oğurlu, who is accused of organizing the transport of the aforementioned quantity of drugs to Turkey through the transit territories of Armenia and Georgia. He is charged with the articles on contraband and the illegal turnover of narcotic drugs or psychotropic materials with the purpose of manufacture or sale.

ANCA presses US administration about Turkey’s role in Kessab attack

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The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) continued to press the Obama Administration for straight answers about Turkey’s role in a March 21st cross-border attack by extremists that depopulated the historically Armenian town of Kessab, Syria, Asbarez reports.
In an exchange of letters with the Department of State, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian has stressed that Armenian Americans remain “very troubled by the Administration’s continued reluctance to provide a simple answer to a straightforward question: ‘Is it the considered judgment of the U.S. government that the Republic of Turkey aided, abetted, facilitated, or otherwise played a role in the March 21st attack on Kessab?’”
The ANCA’s May 15th letter, addressed to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, noted that: “As Americans, citizens of a nation bound to Turkey by our NATO treaty obligations, we deserve to know if this US ally has conspired with extremists – officially designated by our government as terrorists – in a cross-border attack against a peaceful population. If our government’s investigation has found that Turkey played no role in this attack, the Administration should make this view known, challenging widespread media accounts of Ankara’s complicity. If, however, our government’s investigation has confirmed a Turkish role, the Administration should forcefully and publicly confront Turkey for conspiring with an al Qaeda-linked group to drive thousands of civilians from their homes. In either case, we ask the Administration to cooperate with all relevant Congressional investigations.” Congressman Brad Sherman has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Members of Congress have been briefed by Administration officials concerning the attack on Kessab.
 

Turkish pop star vanishes after conviction

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Turkish pop star Deniz Seki has vanished without a trace days after her drug conviction was approved by a high court.Turkey’s Court of Appeals had approved Seki’s conviction for drug trafficking last week and sent the file to the prosecution for the execution of the 75-month prison sentence, which was meted out earlier by the Istanbul 13th Court of Serious Crimes. Seki is required to serve at least two and a half years in prison.Police raided four addresses to arrest the pop star, including her residence in Istanbul’s affluent neighborhood of Tarabya, on June 1, but failed to find the singer.“We want justice,” Seki had said in a message on Twitter the previous day, while adding: “No hopes, but prayers.”Bülent Seyhan, the producer of Seki’s albums, said on June 3 that they had recently completed a new album. “Her phone is off. If she says that she’ll be in prison and doesn’t want to release an album now, I won’t release it,” Seyhan said.Hürriyet columnist Ayşe Arman, on the other hand, wrote that she spoke to Seki’s mother. “According to what she told me, Deniz [Seki] hasn’t run away. Her brother-in-law has died. She’s mourning for him, who had done a lot for her,” Arman wrote.

Armenian expert warns of risks of Russian-Turkish alliance

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An Armenian Turkologist said Monday that he sees imminent risks in the continuing Russian-Turkish economic cooperation.
At a news conference in Yeerevan, Artak Shakaryan said he thinks that both Ankara and Moscow understand well that despite the deepening partnership, they are rivals in region, with Russia continuing to face increasing pressures by the West, thus allowing Turkey to further strengthen its positions in the country.
“We must be careful lest their cooperation should develop into anti-Armenian efforts, for instance, in the approaches towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement,” the expert said.
According to him, it is important for both Armenian and Russian officials to consider and reveal the existing public discord to avoid future possible risks.
As for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Shakaryan said he expects Russia to continue maintaining the “neither peace nor war” situation in the region to avoid giving the piece of land to Russia or Turkey and to try to gain maximum dividends.
“Neither the US nor Russia, and nor even the EU are interested in resolving the problem now. And the same goes for Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The status quo is in the interests of all at the moment. It is in our interests not because the situation over Karabakh is very good but because there is stability without any regress,” he added.

Turkey’s Erdogan Hails Russian Efforts to Improve Situation of Crimean Tatars

June 2, 2014 Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday praised Russia’s actions to improve the living conditions and legitimate rights of Tatars residing on the Crimean Peninsula, RIA Novosti reported, citing Kremlin sources.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister are said to have discussed the situation of Crimean Tatars and the crisis in Ukraine in a phone call.
“The Prime Minister of Turkey gave a positive assessment of the decisions made by the Russian president to improve the situation of Crimean Tatars and to ensure their fully-fledged participation in the political and social life in Crimea,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
In late April, Putin signed a decree on the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars who suffered during Stalin-era repressions. 

Police misconduct intolerable, threat to rule of law: CoE human rights commissioner

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Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has expressed his indignation after Turkish police’s brutal handling of the demonstrations marking the anniversary of Gezi protests May 31, condemning the “excessive use of violence,” the Hurriyet Daily News reports. Many protesters were left bloodied and bruised after a sweeping police crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, causing renewed outrage over officers’ virtually unrestricted impunity in dealing with even the hint of dissent.“I condemn the excessive use of force by the Turkish police against demonstrators and journalists. Yesterday’s events add to the list of cases in which the handling of demonstrations in Turkey has raised serious human rights concerns,” said Muiznieks in a public statement, calling for the immediate implementation of the recommendations made by the Council of Europe regarding freedom of assembly and press freedoms.“Misconduct of law enforcement officials poses a direct threat to the rule of law and cannot be tolerated,” Muiznieks said.Prime Minister Recep Erdogan had vowed that police would do the necessary “from A to Z” during the demonstrations marking the Gezi anniversary a few hours before the crackdown.Istanbul Police Department Chief Selami Altınok hailed the police brutality late May 31, saying it had been a “nice day without much trouble.”

SOCAR Turkey signs $3.29bn financing deal for Star Refinery

May 30, 2014 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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Azeri state oil company SOCAR has signed a $3.29 billion financing deal with 23 banks and export credit agencies for the construction of a refinery on Turkey’s Aegean coast, SOCAR’s Turkish subsidiary Petkim said on May 30.SOCAR is building the $5.5 billion Star refinery to supply feedstock to petrochemicals maker Petkim, which will help cut Turkey’s dependence on imported refined oil products.The Star plant in Aliağa on the Aegean coast is expected to have an annual capacity of 10 million tonnes, 1.6 million tons of which would be naphtha which could feed the Petkim plant. It will also produce diesel, jet fuel and LPG.Around $2.7 billion of the financing has a maturity of 18 years and the remaining $600 million has a maturity of 15 years, Petkim said in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange.SOCAR said it would use $2 billion of its own equity for the project but has tapped the markets for funding for the rest.It signed a $3.46 billion engineering procurement and construction contract in May last year with a consortium comprising Tecnicas Reunidas, Saipem, GS Engineering & Construction and Itochu Corp.Earlier this week, Petkim said it signed an agreement to buy up to 1.6 million tonnes of naphtha feedstock from the Star refinery. The company said it estimates the purchase agreement will cut its raw material costs by $30 per ton.Turkey has a surplus of gasoline but is heavily dependent on imports of diesel, which are expected to rise towards 20 million tons annually from around 12 million last year.Turkey’s only refiner Tüpraş has four plants across the country with a combined oil processing capacity of 28 million tons.SOCAR Turkey now is the sole owner of Star refinery after Turkish energy firm Turcas Petrol said it sold its 18.5 percent stake for $59.39 million.
 

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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.

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Commentary

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.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.