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The Time for Courage and Vision for Middle East Peace is Now

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12:44, May 25, 2015

By Jeffrey Feltman

The search for peace in the Middle East is, once again, at a crossroads.

Negotiations on the two-State solution have stalled. The region, meanwhile, is threatened by violent confrontation and extremism, potentially throwing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into greater turmoil. This difficult landscape for negotiation makes it even more important to continue international efforts to help bring about a settlement, especially as we know the enormous human costs of missed opportunities and past failed peace initiatives.

Diaspora Activist Barred From Armenia

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A French-Armenian activist highly critical of President Serzh Sarkisian’s government was barred from entering Armenia and deported back to France on Friday more than 12 hours after arriving at Yerevan airport.

Schanth Vosgueritchian, a leader of a Diaspora group called Armenian Renaissance, was held at the Zvartnots international airport before being put on a return flight to Paris. He said afterwards that officers of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) declared him a persona no grata but gave no further explanations.

Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian quoted the NSS director, Gorik Hakobian, as telling her that Vosgueritchian “took actions in France that created problems for the Republic of Armenia.” “That is the reason why he was denied entry into Armenia,” she told reporters.

Sarkisian Lauds Germany Over Armenian Genocide Recognition

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President Serzh Sarkisian thanked Germany’s leaders for recognizing the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey when he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Riga late on Thursday.

In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said the two discussed Armenia’s relations with the EU and Germany in particular as well as international efforts to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It said they also touched upon recent officials ceremonies around the world, including in Berlin, that marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire.

“President Serzh Sarkisian expressed gratitude to Germany’s authorities for their position on the condemnation of the Armenian genocide,” added the statement.

Armenia’s Jewelry Sector: Despite Problems, Potential for Growth Exists

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11:34, May 21, 2015

The World Jewellry Confederation (CIBJO) has decided to hold its 2016 conference in Yerevan. 

Hosted by the Armenian government and the Armenian Jewellers Association, the conference will welcome some 1,000 participants from around the world and will present a unique opportunity for Armenia to market its locally manufactured goods, potential and ideas to an international audience.

Despite existing problems (operating in the shadow economy, imbalance between quality and prices, inadequacies in the legal sector, etc.) the jewelry trade can become an economic locomotive for Armenia.

The country has gold mines and top quality jewelers. Jewelry exports, in terms if customs valuation, are at the top of the list when it comes to exports from Armenia.

How the Genocide Shaped My History

May 18, 2015 Armenia, Music, Turkey No Comments
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17:44, May 18, 2015

By Yeva Sargsyan

I was around three years old, quite a conscious age to remember how I arrived to this question:

-Mother, let’s imagine there is a wonderful fairy tale, a very good one famous all over the world. But it is Turkish; the Turks have written it and tell to their children. Will it be translated into Armenian?

I don’t really remember what my mother answered and how I reacted in this heavily delicate political situation. But I remember what triggered the interest of my inquiry: to understand how deep the hatred between people can go and to understand whether it can stop at the threshold of a children’s innocent world. Surely this is my retrospective interpretation of the mute and intuitive judgements of the three year old me. But I remember well these questions hovering silently in my brain over thirty years ago. Actually, I have been carrying these questions inside ever since that moment.

Syrian-Armenian Singer Lena Shamamian: “The identity of my voice is Anatolian”

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09:50, May 18, 2015

“I want to return to those lands and sing in Armenian…”

Lena Shamamian, a Syrian-Armenian singer renowned throughout the Arab world is a little known commodity to music lovers in Armenia. She describes herself as probably the best known Armenian female singer in the Middle East.

Recently, Shamamian gave a sold-out concert at the 3,700 capacity Harbiye Hall in Istanbul’s Congress Center. The audience was mostly comprised of Syrians who had fled the war back home and longed to hear echoes of a more peaceful time.

While she greeted the audience in Arabic and Turkish, Lena sang in English. There were a few Armenian songs in her repertoire as well, and at the end of the concert Shamamian said a few words in Armenian to thank those who attended.

Syria’s Armenian Community ‘Facing Extinction’

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With no end in sight to the bloody civil war in Syria, the exodus of thousands of ethnics Armenians remaining there may be only a matter of time, Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian acknowledged on Wednesday.

Signaling a major policy shift in Yerevan, Hakobian said the Armenian government should now start discussing ways of helping to evacuate Syrian Armenians willing to leave the country and the war-ravaged city of Aleppo in particular.

“Unfortunately, a lot has been lost. What we are hearing now are the last desperate cries,” Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview on the plight of the once thriving Syrian Armenian community.

Israeli Speaker Calls For Armenian Genocide Recognition

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The speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Tuesday described the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide and urged the Jewish state to officially recognize it.

“It is no secret that Israel has taken too ambivalent a stance on the Armenian genocide,” “The Jerusalem Post” quoted Yuli Edelstein as saying during a special Knesset debate on the issue.

“There are many reasons, diplomatic and otherwise, for the Israeli stance being too hesitant and restrained, which downplayed the magnitude of the historical event. We Jews, who are still suffering from the impact of the Holocaust, cannot minimize the tragedy,” Edelstein said.

Israel “cannot afford to remain silent” and should thoroughly examine its official position,” he added, according to “The Times of Israel.”

Azeri, Turkish Troops Hold More Drills

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The Turkish and Azerbaijani armies began on Tuesday fresh joint military exercises in Azerbaijan highlighting their growing cooperation.

A statement by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry cited by local news agencies said the five-day exercises are taking place in Baku and the Nakhichevan exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It said they will be watched later this week by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and General Umit Dundar, the commander of the Turkish Third Army deployed near Turkey’s borders with Armenia and Georgia.

The statement added that the drills are aimed at boosting “friendship, cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two allied countries. It said nothing about the number of troops and military hardware involved in them.

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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

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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.