Friday, March 23, 2007

Armenia’s Yezidis Split Over Elections

Thursday 22, March 2007
Armenia liberty
By Astghik Bedevian

The approaching elections seem to be deepening divisions within Armenia’s sizable Yezidi community whose often competing leaders have pledged allegiance to three different parties running for parliament.

The country’s largest ethnic minority, which numbers an estimated 40,000 members, has been increasingly courted by some Armenian parties in recent years. Three of them are particularly active in doing that, having included prominent Yezidis on the lists of their election candidates.

A newspaper report last month said that Samvel Babayan, the former military leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, has been named an honorary member of a Yerevan-based organization that claims to represent Yezidis scattered around the world. Its chairman, Aziz Tamoyan, confirmed the report on Thursday, but insisted that the World Yezidi Union did not thereby endorse Babayan and his Dashink (Alliance) party for the May 12 parliamentary elections.

“If I make an endorsement of a particular political leader, I will spread feud within our community,” Tamoyan said. He said he knows which party most Armenian Yezidis, some of whom consider themselves non-Muslim Kurds, will vote for but will refrain from naming it.

However, the fact that Tamoyan’s son, Surik Hajoyan, is 13th on Dashink’s electoral list is hardly accidental. Also, a community newspaper edited by Tamoyan recently ran a front-page article about Babayan that cast the retired Karabakh Armenian general in a highly positive light.

Another Yezidi leader, Yerevan’s former Deputy Chief Prosecutor Tital Jndoyan, is running for the National Assembly on the ticket of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), one of the election frontrunners supporting President Robert Kocharian. “I think that most members of our Yezidi community will vote for the Prosperous Armenia Party,” Jndoyan told RFE/RL.

Two other Yezidis, one of them also a community leader, are high on the proportional representation list of another populist party led by Tigran Karapetian, the owner and top host of the ALM television station. Karapetian often invites Yezidi children and youths to sing on his live folk shows that are popular with rural residents of Armenia.

Tamoyan admitted that he and many other Yezidis hold the ALM boss in great esteem. But he said this does not mean they will necessarily vote for Karapetian’s People’s Party in large numbers.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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