Armenian Currency Rebounds Strongly

The Armenian dram strengthened against the U.S. dollar by 16 percent on Thursday after weeks of depreciation that accelerated dramatically earlier this week amid turmoil in Russia’s currency market.

Armenia’s national currency traded at an average of 476 drams per dollar in the evening, up from 553 drams per dollar registered the previous night. The dram thus essentially regained its value lost since last weekend. Still, it was 13.5 percent weaker against the greenback than in the beginning of November.

The dram rallied strongly despite the apparent absence of increased monetary intervention from the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA). The CBA said in the afternoon that its latest daily hard currency offer of $4 million attracted no purchase bids from local commercial banks.

Public Transport Strike Widens In Yerevan

Dozens more minibus drivers in Yerevan refused to work Thursday on the second day of a strike action organized by their colleagues in protest against a sharp rise in the price of liquefied gas used by their vehicles.

The price went up by over 20 percent late last week following a sizable depreciation of the national currency, the dram. The fuel sold by liquefied gas stations is imported from Russia at a price set in U.S. dollars. The national distribution network, Gazprom Armenia, has not raised its retail prices so far.

The strike began in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district on Wednesday and spread to minibus routes operating from at least two other parts of the capital the following day. In the Nor Nork suburb, about 100 empty minibuses were parked along a street as their drivers rallied to demand a price cut.

PM Vows Action Against ‘Baseless’ Price Hikes

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on Thursday ordered Armenia’s anti-monopoly regulators to crack down on businesses that he said have disproportionately raised the prices of key goods to cash in on sharp exchange rate fluctuations.

“In particular, yesterday there were sizable increases in the prices of sugar, flour and a number of other basic consumer products [imported to Armenia,]” Abrahamian said at a cabinet meeting which was attended by Artak Shaboyan, the head of the State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC).

“I am calling on you to treat these abuses with utmost strictness. The government will not tolerate baseless price hikes,” he told Shaboyan. He said the PSRC should submit its findings to the government on a daily basis.

Minibus Drivers Go On Strike Over Higher Fuel Prices

Dozens of minibus drivers in Yerevan went on strike on Wednesday to protest against a more than 20 percent surge in the price of liquefied natural gas used by their privately owned vehicles.

Gas stations in and outside the Armenian capital raised the price last week, citing the depreciation of the national currency, the dram. Their managers claim privately that the wholesale gas price is set for them by the Gazprom Armenia operator in U.S. dollars, meaning that its dram equivalent had to be revised upwards.

The retail gas prices in Armenia are officially set only in drams. Gazprom Armenia has so far not attempted to raise them because of the sharp weakening of the dram.

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A Voice from the Homeland: A Message of Despair and Hope

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17:25, December 13, 2014

By Andranik Michaelian

While on my way to buy some milk and madzoon from Aparan, I greeted a neighbor with the local “vonc es?”  (how are you) to which he replied, holding a few pills in his hand, “You see these? I wish these pills were poison, then I could be done with all this. This is no country…”

He said this with all seriousness. A day earlier, when asked how I was doing, I answered that I was in the same condition as the country, to which my friend said, “I’m in worse shape than the country.” Although said with a smile, he was just as serious as the neighbor with the pills. Another neighbor, when I asked how he was doing,  replied saying, “I’m waiting…” When I asked what he was waiting for, he said, “for things to get worse, which they will…”

Attacks On Armenian Opposition Activists Continue

December 13, 2014 Armenia, Top News No Comments
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Police detained two men on Friday night just hours after yet another Armenian opposition activist was attacked and injured on the street.

The incident occurred in the central Armenian town of Hrazdan. Ashot Piliposian, the leader of the local chapter of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Lying in his hospital bed, Piliposian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that two unknown men beat him up after one of them phoned and asked him to come out “for a talk.” “I suppose that this is connected with my political activities,” he said.

Hungary: Homeless People "Paid By Crime Gangs To Steal Cars"

December 12, 2014 Armenia No Comments
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21:00, December 12, 2014

A group of organized criminals in Hungary has been paying homeless people to rent luxury cars abroad and bring them back to the country to be sold on, investigators claimed today.

County police in the administrative district of Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok, central Hungary, said a complex probe had revealed how “proxies” – often homeless – were paid to pose as well-heeled tourists making international car rentals.

They reportedly took out credit cards to hire the vehicles, before driving them back to Hungary and reporting them stolen. But in fact, gang crime bosses took the cars, changed their unique ID numbers to disguise their origin, and flogged them.

U.S. Envoy Hails Armenian Visa Scrapping

December 12, 2014 Armenia, Top News No Comments
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John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, praised the Armenian government on Friday for lifting the visa requirement for visitors from the United States, saying that the move will boost relations between the countries.

Heffern also confirmed that the “really exciting announcement” made by the government on Thursday is part of a broader U.S.-Armenian agreement that will also lead to the easing of U.S. visa requirements for Armenian citizens.

“It’s the culmination of a one-year process that we launched a year or so ago in Washington,” he told a news conference. “Our goal has always been and will be to continue to deepen our ties with Armenia in any way we can and in any way that Armenia is interested.”

Armenian Family Repatriated From Azerbaijan

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An Armenian couple and their three young children unexpectedly returned to Armenia on Friday almost five years after fleeing to Azerbaijan in dramatic circumstances.

Yeghishe Gevorgian, his wife Ruzanna, two sons and daughter were escorted by officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as they crossed the Azerbaijani-Armenian border in the morning. The repatriation was agreed with relevant authorities in the two warring nations.

Gevorgian drove his family to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave in January 2010 through a heavily militarized border checkpoint located about 50 kilometers southeast of Yerevan. The Armenian military said at the time that its soldiers manning the Yeraskh crossing, closed to traffic ever since the start of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, did not fire on Gevorgian’s old van because it carried the children then aged 3, 6 and 7.

35 Armenian Local Elections to Take Place Sunday

December 12, 2014 Armenia No Comments
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14:21, December 12, 2014

Elections for 26 community heads and nine municipal councils will be held this Sunday in 35 communities throughout Armenia’s provinces of Aragatzotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkounik, Lori, Kotayk, Shirak, Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Tavoush.

Two of the 42 registered candidates for the post of community head and five of the 59 municipal council candidates are women according to the Central Electoral Commission.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Yerevan’s Medical University Denies Free Placement to Some Students: So Where’s the 16.8 Million AMD in ‘Savings’?

December 12, 2014 Armenia No Comments
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16:10, December 12, 2014

While 54 free spots have been set aside for the fourth year students at Yerevan’s Mkhitar Heratsi Medical University, only 29 have actually been allocated.

Contracts signed with students and other government regulations stipulate that the remaining non-tuition spots must also be allocated, but the university has held back on disbursing  16.8 million AMD (US$36,600) in tuition funds

Armenia’s Ministry of Education appears unwilling, or unable, to reveal where those funds have gone.

99 fourth year students at the medical university have signed a letter addressed to Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan and the school’s rector Mikayel Narimanyan, about allocating the remaining free spots.

Bosnia: Eight Alleged Drug Smugglers Held In "Operation Oscar"

December 12, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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19:27, December 12, 2014

Officers have swooped on eight alleged organized crime gangsters as part of a large narcotics bust involving cross-border police cooperation and multiple raids.

The arrests of eight suspects on Thursday Dec. 11, aged from 35 to 64 years, marked the beginning of “Operation Oscar”, which officials said was the product of months of planning by Bosnian intelligence services in coalition with Serbian police.

 The suspects, seized during ten raids in the capital of Sarajevo as well as the smaller towns of Bihac and Zvornik, are linked to the distribution of heroin and cannabis from Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Bosnian state police (SIPA) say the alleged traffickers may have mixed drugs on Bosnian territory to transport on to Serbia and Croatia.

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Concerned About Recent Spate of Attacks Against Political Opponents

December 12, 2014 Armenia, Arts No Comments
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11:11, December 12, 2014

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan today raised concerns regarding the recent spate of assaults against citizens viewed as opponents of the government and the setting on fire of their vehicles.

In his statement, Andreasyan said that his office was closely following the case of Souren Sargsyan, an Artsakh War veteran, who was attacked and beaten by masked men on December 10.

The human rights defender said that his office was ready to launch judicial proceedings on the assault immediately after receiving a complaint from Sargsyan.

Andreasyan stressed that it was vital that the public be convinced that those behind such attacks would not go unpunished.

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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

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.

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