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Access to Radikal article blocked by Internet watchdog

October 2, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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Turkey’s Internet Service Providers Union has directly blocked access to an article by Radikal coordinator and columnist Ezgi Başaran, after she wrote a piece criticizing the rector of Istanbul Technical University (İT), the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Access to Başaran’s column, which listed several actions taken by İT Rector Mehmet Karaca against students and lecturers who attended protests, was cut for 24 hours one day after it published.
The column was published on the Radikal website on Sept. 30 and access to it was blocked on Oct. 1, without Radikal or Başaran being informed in advance. The ban was applied using controversial new measures to tighten control of the Internet, which were passed by Parliament last month.
A statement released on the İT website said the university had taken legal action against the column, which it criticized for “destroying the reputation of the 241 year old university.”
Karaca applied to court for the removal of the column, after which the court took urgent action and sent its decision to ban access to the column to the Internet Service Providers Union. Access to the column was banned permanently upon the court’s decision on Oct. 1. Daily Radikal’s lawyers have taken action and objected to the court’s decision.
In her column, Başaran criticized Karaca for ordering the removal of trees that were planted on campus in memory of the protesters who died during the Gezi Park protests, as well as increasing the number of security guards on campus and failing to allocate an adequate budget for the opening of the social sciences faculty.
A new law adopted on Sept. 10 introduces two new measures increasing the powers of the TİB, a regulatory body whose head is appointed by the government. In July, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the prime minister, stated that the directorate should be run by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), and the current TİB head is a former MİT operative.
The first measure of the new law allows the TİB to order the closure of sites within four hours for reasons of “national security, to protect public order, or to prevent a crime from being committed.”

Turkey moves to use force in Syria and Iraq

October 1, 2014 Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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Turkey is moving to reverse its non-intervention stance and approve the use of force in Syria and Iraq to fight radical Islamic State militants who have advanced against cities along the Syrian-Turkish border, USA Today reported.
A proposed resolution that would authorize the army to fight the extremists is all but certain to win formal approval from the parliament Thursday. It would allow the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the militants to use Turkish air bases, a significant help to the coalition, given Turkey’s proximity to the fighting.
“We are a determined government,” Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, was quoted as saying Tuesday in the Hurriyet Daily News. “We perfectly know what’s going on inside and outside Turkey.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has been on the fence about intervening,” said James Phillips, an analyst at Heritage Foundation. “It looks like he is jumping off the fence.”
The United States has said forming a broad coalition is critical to defeating the Islamic State. Tuesday, British aircraft participated for the first time in the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. It launched two airstrikes in support of Kurdish forces fighting militants in northwestern Iraq.

Turkish intellectuals condemn anti-Armenian statements in textbooks

October 1, 2014 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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A group of Turkish academics, journalists, artists and intellectuals have released a statement condemning in the harshest terms what they define as expressions that include “open hatred and hostility” towards Armenians in Turkish schoolbooks, Today’s Zaman reports.
The statements were recently exposed by the newspapers Agos and Taraf. The two newspapers recently published reports on hateful remarks targeting Armenians in the textbooks used in history classes.A letter accompanying the text of the condemnation, written by historian Taner Akçam, notes that including such expressions as lesson material to teach children is a disgrace.The signees said textbooks in schools should seek to encourage feelings of peace, solidarity and living together over inciting hatred towards different religious and cultural groups, Akçam said. He further wrote: “Standing with integrity in the face of history is the prerequisite for establishing the future on the foundations of friendship and peace. I do hope that this signature campaign will be taken as a scream from all of us for the publication of textbooks that we would like to see.”The statement said: “The revolutions history and history textbooks should be collected immediately, with an apology issued to everyone and particularly to Armenian students. This is where the path to Turkish-Armenian peace lies, at this time when we are approaching 2015.” Revolutions history classes teach students the reforms carried out by the first government of Turkey after the end of the Ottoman Empire.  
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Genocide conference in Romania held despite Turkish protests

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By Harut Sassounianwww.TheCaliforniaCourier.comI just returned home from two hectic weeks of travel. First, I participated in the Armenia-Diaspora Conference in Yerevan, where I co-chaired a panel on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, and spoke in two other panels proposing the formation of a democratically elected Diaspora-wide structure to represent the seven million Armenians residing outside of Armenia and Artsakh.I then flew to Bucharest, Romania, to join scholars, activists, journalists and clergy from a dozen countries in the first-ever international Armenian Genocide conference.The always vigilant Turkish Ambassador to Romania went to great lengths to undermine not only the Armenian Genocide conference, organized by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Romania, but also the inauguration of a Khachkar or Cross Stone dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.Turkish Ambassador’s efforts failed miserably as the Khachkar was inaugurated as scheduled on Sept. 26, and both the Vice Mayor of Pitesht and Governor of Arjesh attended the ceremony along with other Romanian dignitaries and Genocide conference participants. In fact, when the Ambassador objected to the inauguration of the Khachkar, the Mayor of Pitesht sharply rebuked him by telling him that he has no right to interfere in the internal decisions of a Romanian city!The Turkish Ambassador next tried to block the international Armenian Genocide conference. Turkey has a major influence over Romania due to a large amount of trade between the two countries. The Ambassador must have been particularly upset by the fact that the Romanian government was funding the Genocide conference. Fortunately, the Ambassador could not disrupt the conference which was held as planned. It was attended by specialists from Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Romania, Syria, and the United States.The only surprise was the location where the conference participants were staying. As I walked into the Tempo Hotel lobby, I noticed that there were several Turkish newspapers, including Zaman (in Romanian!), on a rack next to the front door. Upon further inspection, I discovered a brochure that described the hotel as being owned by Muslim Turkish Cleric Fethullah Gulen! Even though the hotel was conveniently located just one block from the Armenian Church headquarters in Bucharest, where the conference was being held, some of the Armenian participants felt uncomfortable staying in a Turkish hotel. We wondered how the Turkish hotel owners felt, after discovering that they housed scores of Armenian genocide specialists from around the world!Curious as to what was being discussed at the conference, the Turkish Embassy had sent two of its employees to take notes which the Turkish Ambassador must have dutifully forwarded to Ankara. Fortunately, there were no unpleasant incidents. The two Turkish diplomats kept a low profile and did not attempt to disrupt the conference. Likewise, none of the Armenian participants attempted to interfere in the work of the Turkish Embassy officials.In addition to the lecture I delivered at the conference on the subject of “Genocide Recognition or Quest for Justice,” I had the pleasant task of introducing two of my books on the Armenian Genocide in Romanian translation, which were just published by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Romania. The first book is a collection of one hundred of my columns published in recent years in The California Courier and other newspapers. The 400-page book is titled, “One hundred columns on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.” My second book, “The Armenian Genocide, Documents and Declarations, the World Speaks Out, 1915-2015,” was also published by the Armenian Diocese in Romanian translation.Both the Diocese and the Armenian community leaders have an active publication program, having translated into Romanian many important books on the Armenian Genocide, despite the dwindling of the Armenian community due to waves of exodus to Western Europe and North America.There are two prominent Varujans in the local Armenian community. The first is Senator Varujan Vosganian, President of the Armenian Union of Romania, and Vice President of the Writers Union of Romania. He is a former Minister of Economy and Trade and author of a widely read autobiographical novel on the Armenian Genocide. The second is Varujan Pambuccian, Parliament member and President of National Minorities represented in the Romanian Parliament.Many of the scholars were in Romania for the first time. They pledged to support the local community’s efforts, particularly on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. 

Armenia Counts On Greek Support For Closer Ties With EU

September 30, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Top News, Turkey No Comments
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Armenia hopes that Greece will help it deepen relations with the European Union, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Tuesday after talks with his visiting Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, on Tuesday.

“We reaffirmed our desire to further deepen cooperation between our countries on multilateral planes, including within the framework of the Armenia-EU partnership,” he said in a statement to the press. “I voiced Armenia’s determination to develop our relations with the EU in all possible directions and expressed hope that friendly Greece will support Armenia on this issue.”

Armenia Ranks 78th in 2014 World Press Freedom Index

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17:35, September 30, 2014

Armenia ranks 78thin the 2014 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders that covers 180 countries.

The country dropped four points from last year.

In terms of Eastern Europe and Central Asia the Index writes:

The region’s four best-placed countries in this year’s index are the same as last year. Although their positions in the index are fairly dispersed, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan all enjoy a significant degree of pluralism and relatively little state censorship. But the considerable social polarization is reflected in the media and the climate for journalists, who are often harassed by pressure groups. Given that the political orientation of individual media usually coincides with that of their owners, it would seem that respect for the editorial independence of media employees is still limited.

Egypt condemns Erdogan’s ‘lies and exaggerations’ about El-Sisi

September 30, 2014 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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Egypt’s foreign ministry has condemned another round of attacks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the country’s democratic transition following last year’s political upheaval.
It has called the accusations a “series of lies and exaggerations,” according to Ahram Online.In a statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page early Monday, Egypt said that Erdogan is not in a position that allows him to “give lessons to others” about democracy and respect of human rights.”Followers of Turkey’s internal politics throughout the last 12 years will conclude that Erdogan – who claims to be defending democracy and the Arab Spring revolutions – has a record that is quite far from real democracy,” the statement said.In his speech at a World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan indirectly attacked Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi – the second time in a week that the Turkish president has taken aim at Egypt’s leader.”Unfortunately, we see that in one country where the will of the people manifested itself, those who were elected with 52 percent of the vote are toppled by one of the ministers of the cabinet,” Erdogan said.El-Sisi, who was defence minister at the time of Morsi’s ouster, agreed with other political and religious figures to remove the Islamist president from office amid mass protests against his turbulent one-year rule.”That coup is accepted and legitimised by the rest of the world, including countries which are governed with democracy,” claimed the Turkish president. 
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Yerevan Sets No Deadline On Armenia-Turkey Accords

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Senior Armenian officials declined to clarify on Monday when President Serzh Sarkisian could act on his renewed threats to effectively invalidate Armenia’s 2009 normalization agreements with Turkey.

Sarkisian again denounced Ankara for linking their ratification by the Turkish parliament to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York last week. He said his administration is now “seriously considering recalling the Armenian-Turkish protocols from the parliament.”

Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian was unwilling to speculate about possible dates for such a recall. “If that already happened, the president of the republic may have announced it,” Nalbandian told reporters. “But he said what he said. We have nothing to add to that yet.”

Host Turkey edges France in thriller at Women’s Basketball World Cup

September 28, 2014 Diaspora, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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Turkey started the 2014 FIBA World Championships for Women by defeating France 50-48 in a thrilling Group B game on Sept. 28 at Ankara Arena in front of a cheerful crowd of supporters, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. A less than a minute to go in the game, point guard Işıl Alben scored the winning 3-pointer to put Turkey up 50 – 48 at the end of a hard-fought last quarter. France could not use their chances in the remaining seconds of the game, giving Turkey their first victory.Turkey had started the game strong at defense but hesitant in offense. Scoring woes continued in the second quarter, during which the nicknamed “fairies” only managed to score 3 points as France increase the lead to 10 points after the first half, 27-17.But, boosted by its supporters, the Turkish team succeeded at the fairy tale comeback built with contributions from Alben and Lara Sanders. The American naturalized Turkish led the team with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Alben added 12 points.For France, one of the favorites of the tournament, Sandrine Gruda was once again in the spotlight with a “double-double” of 11 points and 13 rebounds.Elsewhere, tournament favorites U.S. cruised past Chine 87-56 in Group D while European Champions Spains dominated Japan 74-50.

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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

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.