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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’.

Russian Troops In Armenia Inspected

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The Russian military began on Tuesday what it described as a “sudden inspection” of its troops stationed in Armenia through exercises that are aimed at evaluating their combat readiness.

Russia’s Southern Military District (SMD) said an ad hoc commission headed by its deputy commander, Lieutenant-General Igor Turchenyuk, will inspect ground troops in Gyumri and warplanes and combat helicopters in Yerevan making up the Russian military base in the country.

A statement released by the SMD said those units will be put on high alert and told to conduct unplanned exercises at two shooting ranges in central Armenia.

Italy: Human Trafficker Who Caused Shipwreck Gets 18 Years

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12:58, July 3, 2015

A court in Italy has sentenced the human trafficker who helped cause the catastrophic 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa in which 366 migrants lost their lives.

According to Reuters, Khaled Bensalem was handed an 18-year sentence at a court in Agrigento, Sicily, for multiple manslaughter and aiding illegal immigration.

The 36-year-old Tunisian’s sentence was reportedly cut by a third from the maximum penalty since he opted for a fast-track trial that offers reduced sentences for defendants who plead guilty.

On Oct. 3, 2013, Bensalem captained a ship that, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, departed from Libya carrying 500 people, mostly Eritrean, across the Mediterranean.

When the motor broke down near the Italian coast, passengers set clothing and blankets alight to attract attention.

Deathbed Ramblings of Islamized Armenian Orphan to Granddaughter: ‘We ran from the Kurds and soldiers’

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14:35, July 3, 2015

In a weird twist of fate, it was the onset of Alzheimer’s that got Mrs. Ogyut, well past ninety, to recount fragments of her Armenian childhood; something she never mentioned to her family.

Slipping in and out of consciousness, Mrs. Ogyut repeatedly recounted one particular image from her lost childhood.

“They were in a tunnel and fleeing from the Kurds and soldiers who were firing at them. They were killing the parents,” Evrim Hikmet, the granddaughter of Mrs. Ogyut tells Hetq. “The she cries and the soldiers, hearing her cries, come and take her.”

This is the story that Mrs. Ogyut recounted before she died. She would also wake up and say that she saw her mother’s silhouette on the window.

Russia’s Eurasian Ambitions, Tools and Ways of Leverage

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15:58, July 3, 2015

By Anush Sedrakyan, Political analyst

The 21stcentury has drastically changed the epoch’s face, and new challenges came forward. Before the 21stcentury a relative equilibrium had been dominating in geopolitical field: technologically developed countries were powerful by their modern technologies, while countries providing raw material – by their resources. However, technological progress changed this balance.

Russia’s place and position in Eurasian partnership

Russia perceived sharp after-effect of geopolitical transitions very late, especially when post-Soviet countries started active negotiations with the EU, as well as with the USA.

1. Military  security zone. Russia is flatland; its security zone can’t be restricted by any natural barriers, i.e. by mountain ranges. To defend its own zones of influence Russia has only one guarantee, i.e. deploying military bases.  West-oriented Ukraine (in European part) and Georgia (in South Caucasus) have reduced Russia’s security zone.

No to Plunder, No to Maidan

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13:30, June 26, 2015

 By Markar Melkonian  

Whether or not the demonstrators understand it, they are repudiating the generation of pro-Western leaders who long ago set the stage for the privatization of the energy sector in Armenia—and of the public transport system, agriculture, and pensions, too.  

No Soviet-era poster of square-jawed mechanics marching arm-in-arm with women in overalls could better depict the struggle of the have-nots against the haves than did yesterday’s smart phone photos of demonstrators on Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan. 

Teenagers and 20-somethings lock arms in a nightlong vigil.  A young woman stands up to a phalanx of shields and cops in full battle dress.  Protesters huddling against a water cannon give the cops “the finger,” while others pull themselves under the prow of an armored van, too close for the water cannon to hit them. 

Cheap Imports Remain Main Challenge to Armenia’s Textile and Clothing Manufacturers

June 25, 2015 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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12:52, June 25, 2015

Armenian produced 544 million AMD (US$1.151 million) worth of textiles in 2014 and 7.334 billion AMD ($15.5 million) worth of clothing.

In comparison to 2013, this reflects a 2.9% drop in textiles and a 16.1% increase in clothing.

Textile production in the first four months of 2015 amounted to 134.5 million AMD ($ 284,600) and 1.980 billion ($4.189 million) AMD in clothing.

Light industry comprised some one-third of the economy in Soviet Armenia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the textiles and clothing production sectors saw declines of up to 60-70%

Light industry was also a major employer – some 115,000 people or 25-30% of the labor market.

Turkey: Journalist Investigated for Criticizing Erdogan

June 25, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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17:46, June 25, 2015

A US-based correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet may be facing libel charges after writing a book that criticizes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor is investigating Tolga Tanis, who is based in Washington, after Erdogan’s lawyer Ahmet Ozel filed a petition accusing him of undermining the reputation of the president.

It appears to fit in with a fresh wave of legal activity by the embattled Turkish president, who has attempted to sue dozens of journalists and activists for damage to his reputation.

According toHurriyet, Ozel claimed that the book contained false information that “could undermine the reputation of, and provoke the public against” his client.

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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.

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.