CE Body Criticizes Proposed Parliamentary Election ‘Runoff’ In Armenia

An advisory body of the Council of Europe (CE) has issued its preliminary opinion on the proposed Armenian constitutional amendments, criticizing the provision of a so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections aimed at forming a “stable majority”.

In their conclusion experts of the Venice Commission welcome the work conducted by the Armenian Constitutional Reform Commission, but also made certain proposals on how to improve the draft constitutional changes.

Yezidi Families Flee From ISIS To Armenia

Three ethnic Yezidi families have taken refuge in Armenia after leaving their homes in Iraqi Kurdistan close to the area controlled by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

Members of Armenia’s Yezidi community welcomed the families in Armenia on Thursday.

Boris Murazi, the head of the association of Sinjar Yezidis, organized a campaign in one of the parks of Yerevan on Friday to try to raise funds as well as collect food and clothes for the families consisting of a total of 19 people, including seven children, so as to help them cope with the difficulties of life in a foreign country during their first days of stay.

Armenian Opposition Urged To Actively Participate In Local Elections

While more powers are expected to be given to local government bodies in Armenia under proposed constitutional amendments, the country’s main opposition parties still remain skeptical about their chances of winning races in communities where government-linked families usually hold sway.

The changes to the Constitution unveiled by a committee of experts earlier this month suggest that under the new parliamentary form of government that Armenia is likely to switch to representatives of local government bodies, along with members of parliament, will also be involved in the electoral college that will elect the country’s largely ceremonial president.

Opposition parties have mostly avoided fielding candidates in local races, considering it to be a waste of time and resources given the alleged use of various vote-buying techniques, pressure and administrative resources by the authorities.

Top Armenian Taxpayers Pay Less In First Half of 2015

Despite assurances from the Armenian government about continuing economic growth in the country the top local taxpayers paid some 15 percent less in taxes in the first half of this year than they did during the same period in 2014. 

Whereas in January-June last year the largest 1,000 taxpayers paid a total of $801.6 million in taxes, the same figure reported for the corresponding period of 2015 is $678.7 million.

Analysts question the ability of the government to ensure the expansion of the economy this year in conditions of decreasing taxes paid by leading businesses.

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Yerevan Municipality Renovates Unsafe Apartment House Balconies

July 29, 2015 Armenia No Comments
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[unable to retrieve full-text content]The Yerevan Municipality states that it has completed 60% of the work to renovate 343 unsafe
balconies throughout the Armenian capital this year.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Croatia: Court Overturns Prison Sentence of Ex Prime Minister

July 29, 2015 Armenia No Comments
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12:29, July 29, 2015

Croatia’s constitutional court hasoverturnedthe verdicts for which former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was given an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for abuse of office, war profiteering and bribery.

The court announced Monday that Sanader had been judged on the wrong law, violating his right to a fair trial.

Although it said it could not rule on whether or not the former premier had committed the crimes for which he was originally convicted, the court said there had been several procedural problems in the course of his trial.The court ordered the case to be heard afresh at Zagreb County Court.

Resurrection: Building of Soviet Yerevan

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16:05, July 29, 2015

By Vrej Haroutounian

Previous Article

Here, Green and round, Armenia extends to three seas. Here, to two. Here, to one, and here-not even to one. So swiftly does Armenia diminish from the first map to the last, always remaining a generally round state, that if you riffle quickly through the atlas, it’s a movie: it captures the fall of a huge round stone from the altitude of millennia. The stone disappears into the deep, diminishing to a point. But if you riffle the pages from the end of the beginning, it’s as if a small pebble has fallen into the water; and historical circles are spreading across the water, ever wider and wider.

Armenian Activists Slam ‘Unlawful’ Police Behavior

July 29, 2015 Armenia, Top News No Comments
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Civic activists in Armenia campaigning against electricity price hikes have accused the police of “unlawfully” hindering their plans to conduct a sit-in in a central Yerevan square.

Since Monday hundreds of police officers have been deployed in the Armenian capital’s main Republic Square to prevent any attempt by Rise Armenia activists to move towards the central spot of the venue where the main government offices are located.

Among the demands of the movement is that the authorities reverse their decision to raise electricity prices, which is due to come into effect on August 1.

They also want the government to clearly indicate the source of paying for the temporary subsidy on the rate hikes that President Serzh Sarkisian agreed to put in place following large-scale street protests last month.

Kazakhstan: Corruption Trial of Former Prime Minister Begins

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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22:17, July 28, 2015

A former prime minister of Kazakhstan, Serik Akhmetov, attended court in the central city of Karaganda on Monday as his trial began for embezzlement and financial malfeasance, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Akhmetov was appointed prime minister by autocratic Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayeav in 2012, but quit his post in 2014. He was arrested in November 2014 and placed under house arrest, after an investigation by the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption.

Several other senior ex-officials, including one-time mayor of Karaganda, Meyram Smagulov, and former governor of Karaganda region, Baurzhan Abdishev, are also facing trial in connection with the case. Akhmetov has reportedly questioned the objectivity of the prosecutors’ investigation into him. 

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Russia: $126 Million Stolen From New Cosmodrome, Says Prosecutor

July 28, 2015 Armenia No Comments
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22:24, July 28, 2015

Nearly 7.5 billion roubles (US$ 126 million) have been embezzled from the project to build a landmark new space base for Russia, according to the country’s prosecutor general Yury Chaika.

Chaika’s comments, reported by Russian news agency Rosbalt and byGazeta.ru, refer to the Vostochny Cosmodrome – a multi-billion dollar development in the far-eastern region of Amur, due for completion later this year. Putin has recently claimed he will renew Russia’s image as a “powerful space force”, calling the cosmodrome “one of modern Russia’s biggest and most ambitious projects”.

The disclosure of such large-scale embezzlement is therefore likely to come as an embarrassment. It comes after the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Russia’s security service, the FSB, opened an investigation in Aprilinto allegations that the much smaller sum of 300 million roubles (US$ 5 million) had been siphoned off bycontractor fraud at the project.

Azerbaijan: Meydan TV Boss Condemns Family Harassment as Brother-in-Law Arrested

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Azerbaijan No Comments
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22:26, July 28, 2015

Authorities in Azerbaijani have detained the brother-in-law of activist-turned-journalist Emin Milli. It is the latest in a spate of arrests of the relatives of journalists and activists.

Milli, who is director of OCCRP partner Meydan TV, said his wife’s brother, Nazim Aghabayov, was detained on Thursday July 23 on suspicion of selling drugs. Condemning the arrest, Milli commented: “It is [the] widespread practice of [President Ilham] Aliyev’s terror regime by now. They are punishing the relatives.”

On July 20, a nephew of opposition journalist Ganimat Zahidov was detained in Baku on suspicion of drug possession. If convicted, Rufat Zahidov faces up to 12 years in prison. Police also arrested Zahidov’s cousin Rovshan, who was ordered to spend 25 days in administrative detention, and nephew Tural, who received a detention order for 30 days.

Armenian Prime Minister Hosts Swiss-Armenian Businessman Sirmakes

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Business No Comments
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16:14, July 28, 2015

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan today hosted Swiss-Armenian businessman Vardan Sirmakes, chairman and co-owner of luxury watch brand Franck Muller.

Abrahamyan praised Sirmakes for his $150 million backing of the “Hin Yerevan” (Old Yerevan) construction project for downtown Yerevan.

The Armenian prime minister also congratulated the Istanbul-born Sirmakes for his investments in Artsakh.

Photo (from left): Sirmakes, Abrahamyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Armenian Prime Minister Declares "War on Corruption", Then Visits Son’s Business Partner

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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17:23, July 28, 2015

Today, in Yerevan, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan presided over the first ever meeting of a newly created anti-corruption council, declaring war against the scourge that plagues Armenia.

Immediately after the council meeting, Abrahamyan met with Vartan Sirmakes, chairman and co-owner of luxury watch brand Franck Muller.

According to a government communiqué, the prime minister praised the Swiss-Armenian businessman for his investments in Armenia designed to spur economic development and job creation.

Another government press release one might say if not for the fact that Hovik Abrahamyan’s son Argam is a business partner of Sirmakes’.

Argam Abrahamyan (newly elected mayor of Artashat) owns 12% in the Franck Muller Yerevan Watch Distribution company. Another 13% is owned by local businessman and former politician Gagik Tsarukyan.

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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

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.

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.