Saturday, July 28, 2007


EurasiaNet, NY - Jul 23, 2007
Elizabeth Owen

The self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has a new leader, Bako Saakian, who currently serves as the territory’s security chief. Saakian has tried to cast himself as a proponent of democratization, but his policy agenda at present contains few specifics.

Saakian captured more than 85 percent of the vote in Karabakh’s July 19 presidential vote, with de facto Deputy Foreign Minister Masis Mailian garnering just over 12 percent, according to final figures released by the territory’s Central Election Commission. The remaining ballots were split among three other candidates. Given the lack of outside recognition of the territory’s independence, the international community did not pass judgment on the legitimacy of the vote. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Despite the landslide win, Saakian has not yet issued any statements about his election. At a July 20 press conference, Mailian, his chief rival, depicted as the "pro-reform" candidate, stated that he accepted the results, and described his contest with Saakian as a sign of democratic progress for the breakaway state. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Saakian’s security background – a fact often cited to indicate his alleged "pro-Russian" orientation – may be the first trait that comes to mind when outsiders analyze what lies ahead for his de facto presidency. Supporters and opponents alike, however, stressed that characterizing Saakian as a creature of the old Soviet KGB would be a mistake.

Saakian, a Stepanakert native, began his career as a mechanic, and went on to work on the restoration of historical monuments before joining the pro-independence Artsakh Movement in 1988. Toward the end of the 1988-1994 war with Azerbaijan, he acted as deputy commander of rear defenses. After additional time in the military command, and a short stint as a ministerial advisor, he was named interior minister in 1999 and appointed head of the National Security Service in 2001.

"He’s not a Chekist. He’s not a career representative of the special services," commented outgoing de facto President Arkady Ghukassian in an interview with EurasiaNet. "[Karabakh’s] security service … and the security service of the Soviet Union are completely different things."

Mailian supporter Gegam Baghdassarian, deputy chairman of the opposition Movement 88 party, asserted that the support of security structures was less influential in securing Saakian’s victory than was the strong backing of the incumbent executive, Ghukassian. "The key role was played not by the security structures, but by the president-in-office," Baghdassarian said. Ghukassian has rejected the allegation, saying that his office maintained a neutral stance during the campaign.

Both sides dismissed allegations that Russia played an influential part in Saakian’s selection, while differing on Armenia’s role. Outgoing President Ghukassian insisted that outside forces had, at most, a minimal influence. "The last word is left to Nagorno-Karabakh," he said. Meanwhile, Baghdassarian described alleged pro-Saakian Armenian television news programs broadcast in Karabakh as "done deliberately."

In apparent contradiction to his official responsibilities, Saakian portrayed himself as "not a pro-government candidate." To burnish his outsider image, he stressed that his candidacy was supported by a "civil initiative" that included non-governmental organizations. As if to reinforce that point, Saakian’s official platform emphasized his commitment to "broadening" the role of civil society in Karabakh’s affairs – a process for which there is "no alternative," he stated at a July 17 briefing.

Details of Saakian’s policy goals, however, remain vague. At the briefing, Saakian stated that consideration will be given to examining the "shortcomings" of outgoing President Ghukassian’s 10-year term in office, but he declined to elaborate. "I don’t think there’s a need to focus our attention right now on the concrete problems," he said. Ghukassian told EurasiaNet in an interview that he plans to stay in Karabakh but does not "count on holding some sort of post."

Conflict resolution with Azerbaijan, which recently hit the $1 billion mark for military spending, also looms large. Saakian has indicated that he supports "a large format" solution to the problem of Karabakh’s status, with the self-declared state directly participating in the negotiations. At the same time, he declined to elaborate on concerns about Baku’s military buildup, stating that this was "a question to be discussed at the negotiating table. Not with journalists." [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Few doubt that Saakian will act resolutely to defend Karabakh’s political interests during the continuing peace talks.

Saakian’s rival, Masis Mailian, built his campaign around commitments to strengthen the rule of law and crack down on corruption. The resulting image was one of a candidate struggling for something – an image "very much respected" in Karabakh, commented presidential administration analyst David Babayan.

Babayan, a supporter of Saakian, maintains that the territory’s newly elected leader is also "a reformist," who will take into account the varying points of view of the two pro-government and two opposition parliamentary parties that supported his candidacy.

Some might question how Saakian’s lack of political experience will play into his ability to maintain political unity in the territory. But Saakian sees it differently. "I was a member of the Security Council, I held a certain position in our state," he told a reporter. "If I didn’t deal with politics officially, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t deal with politics."

Commented Babayan: "This is the balanced way. We want deep changes, but we want stability."

After over a decade of struggling to rebuild from the region’s war with Azerbaijan, that message appeared to resound with many voters – at least for now. "Orderly," "honest" and "predictable" were the words most frequently used by voters to describe the former security service chief, whose win at the polls came as no surprise to most residents interviewed.

His background in intelligence is often cited as proof of an intimate knowledge of Karabakh’s internal situation. "What he says he’ll do, he does," said a Stepanakert gas inspector who gave his name as Vladimir and claimed personal acquaintance with Saakian. "If he says he’ll solve a problem, he’ll solve a problem, and, as you know, Karabakh has a lot of problems."

Added one refugee from Azerbaijan living in the southern Hradout district: "He used to be a simple person like us. Maybe that will make a difference."

Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNetÆs Caucasus news editor in Tbilisi. Sophia Mizante is a freelance photojournalist also based in Tbilisi.

Posted July 23, 2007 © Eurasianet

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.


The turkish dilemma

Montreal Gazette (subscription), Canada - Jul 22, 2007
MATTHEW FISHER, CanWest News Service
Church and state are separate in Turkey. some will fight to keep it that way. others want a more intrusive islam. today's election is about that - and a lot more

Turks voting in today's parliamentary elections are focused on issues such as how to keep the vibrant economy racing ahead, preventing the rise of Kurdish power in northern Iraq from spilling over into Turkey's Kurdish areas, and whether to continue trying to win membership of the European Union.

But the most emotive issue by far is whether this country of 70 million, which forms a bridge between the Middle East and Europe, should remain secular and Western-oriented, as it has been since Kemal Ataturk founded the republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire more than 80 years ago, or draw closer to its Islamic roots.

And if Turkey decides to turn toward Islam, will the staunchly secular Turkish military launch another coup?

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Font: ****Didem Mercan plans to vote for the Republican People's Party, which was founded by Ataturk, because she fears the Islamist connections of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

She worries that, if the AKP wins a second majority in parliament, it could force women to wear headscarves. Clad in blue jeans and a summery blouse, her fingernails painted bright red, the 23-year old communications student is a walking advertisement for her belief "religion should have no place in my personal life, and I am prepared to fight for that right."

Mesut Topcu, on the other hand, said he intends to vote for the AKP because, since it won power in November 2002, the authorities have stopped hassling men in the deeply conservative Istanbul suburb of Fatih about wearing the skullcaps, baggy trousers and long beards of pious Muslims.

Topcu, an electrical engineer, was unequivocal about the value of headscarves, which remain banned in schools and government offices but are commonly worn by women in Fatih, as are black, Iranian-style full-body chadors. "I am sad for a woman who does not cover herself. She will go to hell on judgment day."

The public expression of such sharp differences in opinion is relatively new in Turkey, but the debate is actually many centuries old.

The country's population is about 98 per cent Muslim, but its history has been profoundly influenced by geography. In the northwest and northeast, Turkey is bordered by Christian Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia, while in the east and south, it sits alongside Muslim Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is also the only Muslim nation in NATO.

Istanbul, Turkey's largest city with a population of 12 million, has always felt the pull of east and west particularly keenly. Famously divided by the Bosphorus Strait into European and Asian parts, Constantinople, as it was called until 77 years ago, is home to spectacular mosques and minarets as well as the Orthodox Church's oldest patriarchate.

Although he was Muslim, Ataturk replaced sharia law with a Swiss-style legal system. Women were given the vote, veils were banned, drinking alcohol was permitted and Latin script replaced Arabic letters.

Many secularists are convinced some of those fundamental changes are now at risk if the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wins another parliamentary majority.

"They are really Islamists and we believe that they wear a mask right now, trying to pretend that they aren't," said architect Eliz Ofil, 25, sitting in a smart cafE, watching huge tankers and freighters from Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran and many other countries gingerly navigate the narrow Bosphorus artery between the Mediterranean and Black seas.

Metres away, Egeman Bargis, an AKP deputy and Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser, did not hide his contempt for such views.

"That's bullshit," he said.

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Font: ****"This is not a difference of opinion between Islamists and secularists. It is a difference of opinion between those who want more democracy or less. The opposition has tried at every chance to create tension."

Kemal Giloglu, a Republican People's Party campaign manager, said this election may be the most important ever. He warned of "creeping Islamization" if the AKP wins again. Indeed, the future of a church and a synagogue near his house is in danger because of what he describes as his opponent's lack of respect for Turkey's history of religious co-existence.

Although some of the AKP's most prominent members have Islamist ties, the party has not spoken much about religion since it emerged as a grassroots movement a few years ago. It has positioned itself on the centre-right and concentrated, with considerable success, on pursuing internationalist economic policies.

Turkey's GDP has risen more than seven per cent per year since 2003, per-capita income has more than doubled, and inflation has been reduced to single digits for the first time in decades.

But the AKP crossed a line with the military when it proposed foreign minister Abdullah Gul, a practising Muslim whose wife covers her head, as its choice for president. In what was dubbed an e-coup, the military derailed the plan last April by posting on its website a warning about a "growing threat" to Turkey's secular practices.

Erdogan's response, however, was to seek a new mandate by calling early parliamentary elections.

There are indications the military may have misjudged the public mood, or perhaps didn't care what it was. Polls suggest the AKP's share of the vote will increase to more than 40 per cent from 34, largely because of a backlash against the military's stance.

Paradoxically, though, although the prime minister's party is more popular than ever in religiously conservative rural areas, and is gaining support in urban areas because of its economic policies, the AKP may actually win fewer seats. That's because of an awkward electoral system that only allows parties with more than 10 per cent of the vote to have representation in the 550-seat parliament.

The AKP and Republican People's Party were the only two that met the 10 per cent threshold in 2001, with the AKP winning 364 seats. This time a third party, the secular Nationalist Movement, also is likely to get more than 10 per cent of the vote, and a number of independent Kurdish candidates could win seats, cutting the AKP's strength by at least several dozen seats.

This makes it unlikely Erdogan's next government will be able to get the two-thirds majority required to introduce direct elections for the presidency. But, in a game of brinkmanship, it will probably have the numbers needed to get its presidential candidate elected by parliament.

Either way, there's a strong possibility of a military veto or a coup by the generals to block Gul from the presidency.

Asked about the generals' likely reaction, the prime minister's senior adviser replied angrily:

Either we have a democracy, where the will of the people prevails, or we don't."


In January-June of 2007 Armenia’s GDP grew by 11,2%, Armenia - Jul 20, 2007

Yerevan, July 20 /Mediamax/. The growth of Armenia’s GDP in January-June of 2007 totaled 11,2%, as compared to the same period of 2006.

As the press service of the National Statistical Service of Armenia told Mediamax today, the GDP volume in January-June of 2007 totaled 944845.7mln drams.

The volume of industrial production in the republic in January-June of 2007 stood at 327954.9mln drams, having increased by 1.4%, as compared to the same period of 2006.

The average monthly salary in Armenia in January-June of 2007 increased by 20.5%, as compared to the same period of 2006, thus making 71344 drams.

The salary of budget organizations has increased by 22.1%, making 52491 drams during the accounting period, and the salary of non-budget organizations stood at 88961 drams (growth – 20.1%).

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.


Gyumri Mayor’s Indicted Son Arrested, Armenia - Jul 20, 2007

By Hovannes Shoghikian

A fugitive son of Gyumri Mayor Vartan Ghukasian was arrested on Friday nearly two months after being charged with instigating a high-profile shootout in Armenia’s second largest city.

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said Spartak Ghukasian surrendered to the police and was immediately taken to a prison in Artik, a small town near Gyumri.

Ghukasian reportedly led one of the two groups of young men who exchanged gunfire in broad daylight on May 20. The other group is thought to have been led by Rustam Sargsian, a son of a prominent local businessman and former government official. Sargsian and one of his associates remain on the run.

“Measures are being taken to track down two other individuals charged within the framework of this criminal case,” a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, Sona Truzian, told RFE/RL.

Ghukasian Jr. turned himself in the day after his controversial father was summoned to a meeting in Yerevan with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. A newspaper report on Friday said the Gyumri mayor, who has claimed to be unaware of his son’s whereabouts, was “offered” to hand over the suspect to law-enforcement authorities within 24 hours. He was reportedly received by President Robert Kocharian earlier this week.

In an earlier televised interview, Ghukasian vehemently denied Spartak’s involvement in the gunfight that left at least two people wounded. He accused the media and his rivals of discrediting his family by implicating it in other instances of violence reported in Gyumri in recent years. He also rejected mounting calls for his resignation.

The flamboyant mayor, who is a senior member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), was seriously wounded in a mysterious drive-by shooting that killed three of his bodyguards about last April.

The shootout coincided with the May 20 disappearance of a 12-year-old boy whose decomposed body was found in an abandoned Gyumri shack a week ago. Many local residents suspect that Robert Simonian may have been hit by a stray bullet or run over by one of the cars involved in the shootout.

Investigators have effectively dismissed this theory, saying that Simonian most probably died as a result of playing with a hand grenade or another explosive device.

Residents of neighboring houses did not report hearing any explosions on May 20, however. Many also wonder how the police failed to stumble on Simonian’s corpse when they scoured the entire shanty town with sniffer dogs in the days that followed his disappearance.

The prosecutors have said the precise cause of the boy’s death will be established by a more meticulous forensic examination. According to Truzian, the examination is still not complete.

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.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Former security chief wins Karabakh presidential vote

Jul 20, 2007
Anatolian Times, Turkey

A presidential election in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh was won by a former head of security for the territory, Bako Sahakian, election officials said on Friday.

Sahakian won 85 percent of the vote at Thursday's polls in the unrecognised territory, the central election commission said after all votes had been counted.

His nearest rival, deputy foreign minister Masis Maylian, came a distant second with 12 percent of the vote.

The results were preliminary, with final confirmation expected late Friday.

Slightly more than 77 percent of the ethnic Armenian-controlled region's 92,000 registered voters took part, the elections commission said.

Backed by their ethnic brethren in Armenia, separatists seized Karabakh and seven surrounding regions from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s.

The war was one of the bloodiest of the many conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, claiming 30,000 lives and forcing nearly one million people on both sides to flee their homes.

Armenia and Azerbaijan remain officially at war over Karabakh and the dispute is a major source of instability in the strategic South Caucasus region wedged between Iran, Russia and Turkey.


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.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Karabakh Armenians Elect New Leader

Jul 19, 2007, Armenia

By Karine Kalantarian in Stepanakert

Polls closed across Nagorno-Karabakh late Thursday in a presidential election which is widely expected to formalize the handover of power from the unrecognized republic’s outgoing President Arkady Ghukasian to his preferred successor backed by some of his political opponents.

According to the local Central Election Commission (CEC), almost two-thirds of Karabakh’s 90,000 eligible voters cast their ballots as of 5 p.m. local time. The CEC is due to release the preliminary vote results within 24 hours by Friday evening.

“Once again the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have confirmed their support for democratic values,” Bako Sahakian, the presumed election frontrunner backed by Ghukasian and the main local political parties, told reporters at a polling station in Stepanakert. “For us, elections are a way of forming civil society.”

However, Sahakian’s main challenger, Masis Mayilian, already alleged vote irregularities after casting his ballot in another Stepanakert precinct in the morning. His campaign headquarters lodged more than a dozen written complaints detailing alleged irregularities to the CEC by the time voting drew to close at 8 p.m.

Both Ghukasian and Sahakian were quick to reject the allegations as “black PR,” saying that the elections are free and fair. “I regret that black PR, dirty political techniques have been brought to Karabakh from Armenia,” said Ghukasian. “I am convinced that the vast majority of those complaints do not correspond to reality.”

But as Sergey Nasibian, the CEC chairman, said later in the day, some of the alleged irregularities, including an attempt at multiple voting in one polling station, were found to have taken place. Nasibian said the CEC will closely look into the other claims made by the Mayilian camp.

The vote was monitored by about one hundred monitors from Armenia, Russia, the United States and Europe, including a member of the European Parliament. The Italian parliamentarian, Giulietto Chiesa, told RFE/RL that he did not witness violations in any of the polling stations he visited.

Ghukasian and the presidential candidates were unanimous in dismissing international criticism of the election. “The elections are held not for the international community but the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.

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.


Armenian Author Publishes Book on Turkish Expansion in Georgia

July 19, 2007, Georgia

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)

A new book on Georgian and Turkish economic relations, written by an assistant professor at Yerevan State Institute of Economics, was published in Moscow.

Ashot Egiazaryan’s “Georgia: Structural Problems of the Economy and Turkish Economic Expansion (1994–2007)” claims that the current Tbilisi administration looks at Turkey as an alternative to Russia for trade and investment.

This warm reception gives Turkey an opportunity to widen its influence in Georgia and the South Caucasus, writes the Armenian author.

Egiazaryan argues that the Caucasus and Central Asia are a priority for Turkey’s foreign economic policy, reports the news agency Regnum, with a strong focus on developing transit links across the continent.

Turkey reoriented its transit tactics in the early 90s, pushing for new railways and increasing port infrastructure.

Istanbul is paying particular attention to the Kars–Akhalkalaki railway, which is set to connect the South Caucasian rail networks (notably bypassing Armenia), allowing for unimpeded rail transit from Asia to Europe.

According to Egiazaryan, this railway will actually reduce Georgia’s importance as a transcontinental transit state

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.


Karabakh Election Closely Fought

Jul 18, 2007
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, UK

Observers say that official Karabakh Armenian candidate not assured of victory.

By Ashot Beglarian in Stepanakert (CRS No. 401, 18-July-07)

There are two favourites amongst the five candidates competing in the the July 19 election for the leadership of Nagorny Karabakh, making this ballot the first genunine contest since the end of the war over a decade ago

Both men come from within the governing elite but one is the official candidate while the other is positioning himself as a potential reformer.

Bako Sahakian, head of Karabakh’s national security service, has the support of the main political parties in the local parliament as well as most of the government and the elite in Armenia. Masis Mailian serves as the unrecognised republic’s deputy foreign minister, but is gathering more support from circles outside government.

The poll was triggered by the end of the second term of current Karabakh leader Arkady Ghukasian. Although Karabakh has passed a new constitution which might have enabled him to serve a third term, he took the decision to step down after two periods in office.

Around 90,000 people are registered to vote in the poll. If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the vote on July, a second round will be held between the two main candidates in two weeks’ time.

“The defining feature of this campaign is its fierceness,” said Karabakh Armenian political commentator David Karabekian. “If in a previous campaign one of the candidates won because in the worst case 86 per cent of the vote, this battle has a completely different character.”

Sahakian, 47, was not a public politician before the election campaign began. During the 1991-4 war, he was one of the leading officers on the Armenian side. He has been campaigning on a programme to raise living standards in the territory.

He is promising support for war veterans, pensioners, schoolchildren and families with multiple children and has pledged that there will be a fivefold increase in mortgage credits available from the government in 2008.

Karabekian said that in the campaign Sahakian had managed to demonstrate he was his own man and not just a puppet of the elites, “Several times he has distanced himself from steps recommended to him and initiated by these people.”

On the overarching issue for Nagorny Karabakh - its future status and their stance on negotiations with the Azerbaijani government - the two men express similar views. Both say that they want to see Karabakh recognised as an independent state and represented in peace negotiations with Baku. Currently, the Karabakh Armenians do not have a place at the table and are represented by the government in Yerevan.

Both are also against making concessions on the occupied territories outside Karabakh until the sovereignty of the republic is determined.

“Negotiations between the Nagorny Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan about defining current borders can be held only after the unconditional recognition of the sovereignty and state independence of Nagorny Karabakh,” said Mailian.

Mailian, 39, has worked in Karabakh’s foreign ministry since it was created in the middle of the war in 1993 and took part in a series of negotiations with Baku in the Nineties.

Mailian has focussed his campaign on the need for Karabakh to be more transparent and democratic and said the elections are a test of its credentials.

“Everyone has to be equal before the law,” he said. “Only if all the laws we have adopted actually work will be able to guarantee development, a good life and a bright future and receive international recognition.”

Mailian said that the authorities were cut off from the people of Karabakh, a situation he said was “unacceptable”.

“In recent days I have had many meetings with voters and all with one voice have said that no one listens to them and their statements are not received in the offices of the powerful.”

In a lively campaign, both main candidates have had the chance to present their views on television, although there have been no public debates. Both have toured Nagorny Karabakh and had public meetings with voters.

There have been no violent incidents but members of Mailian’s campaign team have complained that the government has been unfairly agitating on behalf of Sahakian on Karabakh television.

Karabekian believes that, although he is not the official candidate, Mailian has a genuine chance of success.

“Some analysts say that there isn’t a real contest between the candidates and that the authorities of Armenia and Nagorny

Karabakh have basically agreed who will be president and Masis Mailian is needed just as a sparring partner,” he said referring to Bako Sahakian.

“That is primitive logic. If the elections are just a backdrop for the transfer of power from one representative of the elite to another, an echo of the coming change of power in Armenia, then the question has to be asked: why have the authorities played, to use chess terminology, such big pieces and why are the different officials and bureaucrats agitating on behalf of their own candidate, acting so nervously?”

Gegham Baghdasarian, independent member of parliament and editor of the independent newspaper Demo, agrees that not everything has been decided in advance.

“Even before the electoral campaign began some people and some forces maintained and are still stating that the elections were pre-determined and it’s already clear who will be the next president of the country,” Baghdasarian said on public television.

“A person must really despise his own people and hold a low opinion of it, about its mental and moral level, to say something like that. It’s you, us, who will decide this. So don’t believe these fairy tales and go to the elections, not as though you are doomed but with the will to be masters of your own fate, in the frame of mind that who gets elected really depends on you.”

Ashot Beglarian is a freelance journalist and IWPR contributor in Nagorny Karabakh. Editor's note: The terminology used in this article was chosen by IWPR, not the author.

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.


Khachik Ter-Ghukassian : If Turkey succeeds Armenia will be isolated from the world

Jul 17, 2007
European Armenian Federation, Belgium

Developments in the Near East can change the balance of forces in the region and influence on Armenia’s relations with Turkey and Iran. The main player in the region is the U.S., which is interested in stability in the Near East and Caucasus. This power’s wish to push Russia from the South Caucasus, specifically from Armenia, is also an important factor. Professor of international relations and politics of the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, Dr Khachik Ter-Ghukassian comments to PanARMENIAN.Net on the ongoing events in the region and their possible impact on Armenia.

The international community attaches big importance to the events taking place in the Neat East. How do you assess the current situation?

The Near East is of great interest for Washington. It specifically refers to the Caucasus. The U.S. is perfectly aware that war with Iran will redouble instability in the region while Washington needs “an arc of stability” from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. First of all, it concerns oil. The U.S. stands for cooperation but the situation is tensed, if not explosive. Although, Washington has intentions to improve relations with Iran.

However, certain difficulties may cause internal developments in the Caucasus. It’s quite possible that the map of the Near East may change. Anyway, there are some preconditions for it. The U.S. plans a “mild” division of Iraq with further formation of independent Kurdistan. At the same time I should stress that U.S. presence in Iraq doesn’t alleviate tension. Unfortunately, the Arab world lacks either political or intellectual force capable to change the situation.

Normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations becomes more urgent for the United States. Can Washington have its will?

At the moment Turkey’s foreign policy is targeted at Northern Iraq and improvement of relations with Georgia and Azerbaijan, what includes development of communications and military-strategic partnership. If Turkey’s succeeds in realizing its plans Armenia will be isolated from the world. Curiously enough, such state of things is not convenient for the U.S. which insists on opening of the Armenian-Turkish border. However, normalization of relations without preconditions is a dangerous tendency. Turkey doesn’t open the border proceeding from political reasons: the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Armenian Genocide and absence of fixed border with Armenia. The only legal basis for demarcation of borders is the Sevr Treaty. No agreement signed after Sevr, namely the Kars and Moscow treaties, do not have juridical effect, since the signatory powers stopped their existence as elements of international law. The Sevr Treaty was signed August 10, 1920. Borders with independent Armenia had to be marked by a neutral mediator, namely the United States, according to it.

At that we should not forget that Turkey has always been the biggest danger for the Armenian people. This opinion should be shared by the whole nation, both in Armenia and Diaspora. On the other hand, opening of borders can tell on Armenia’s economy. Georgia, where the local industry was destroyed because of the abundant flow of cheap Turkish goods, can serve as an example. Certainly, Armenian economy can’t compete with the Turkish, but we will have an outlet to the world, at least. Although, we are not ready to make a reality of the scenario we will be offered.

Iran and Armenia enjoy lasting and friendly ties. How would you comment on them?

If the United States collides with Turkey over Northern Iraq and simultaneously improves relations with Iran, it will be the best scenario for Armenia. Actually, under circumstances Russia’s presence as a security guarantor for Armenia will lose urgency. We should strengthen relations with Iran.

Iran is a minority in the Islamic world, since it practices Shi’ism. This state is the potential regional power. Will Washington have a political force to hold a dialogue with Iran as equals? This is the core of the problem. How the balance will be maintained between the Sunnis (al Qaeda) and Shiites? How the Lebanese problem will be resolved. These are questions that need exact answers. Under any circumstances, the Armenia-Iran relations should be apart any shocks in the region.

220 members of the House of Representatives have supported the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Do you think it will be put on vote?

The U.S. government will use the H.Res.106 as the main took of pressure on Turkey. Struggle between Democrats and Republicans as well as the presidential elections in the United States may speed up or, on the contrary, protract the decision. If Washington is really interested in normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations it will press on Turkey with this Resolution. As to the opinion, that passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution is necessary for the Armenian community of the U.S., I am convinced that opposing Armenia and Diaspora in the Genocide issue is dangerous and immoral.

Argentina is among the states that recognized the Armenian Genocide. How efficient are the activities of the Armenian community of Argentina?

Argentina is the second, after France, state where the Armenian Genocide is recognized on the legislative level. The history of the Genocide is a compulsory subject in schools of Buenos Aires. The Hay Dat Argentinean Office has organized a special textbook. It also holds seminars for school teachers.

I would like to note that Venezuela, which is far enough from the major states of South America, has also recognized the Armenian Genocide. In the 1980-ies Armenians of Argentina and other South American states started integration into in the society. We have become a part of the countries, which gave us shelter. We should proceed on this way basing on the example of the Armenian community of France.

I should also mention that the first sitting of the South American Parliament will take place July 21. Three states – Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay – have agreed on forming the structure with the capital in Montevideo. Our work will become more coordinated.


source: PanARMENIAN

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.


Armenians living in Ukraine don’t get in touch with their compatriots in Armenia

Jul 18, 2007
ForUm, Ukraine

Armenian youth living in Ukraine don’t get in touch with their compatriots in Armenia, A1+ service reported.

“The reason is obvious. We know nothing about each other,” said David Mkrtchyan, the head of the Armenian Youth Community in Ukraine.

"The community is comprised of 3000 members. Last year we organized “Miss Armenia” beauty contest with the participation of Armenians from ten Ukrainian regions. We also held a backgammon competition," says David Mkrtchyan.

Mkrtchyan confessed that “they are unaware of Armenia’s political and social life.”

The Armenian Youth Community has recently participated in the Pan-Armenian International Youth Conference and established relations with the local youth.

"We have many friends in Armenia and voice hope that our collaboration will bridge the youth of the two countries under question," concluded David Mkrtchyan.

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.



Jul 18, 2007
DeFacto Agency, Armenia

Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabagh Republic are Karabagh people’s sovereign decision, RA MFA Acting Spokesman Vladimir Karapetian told Novosti-Armenia Agency.

"To hold Presidential elections in the Nagorno-Karabagh is Karabagh people’s sovereign decision, and it is natural that we support steps targeted at NKR’s further democratization", he said commenting Turkish MFA statement concerning non recognition of Presidential elections in NKR.

Karapetian noted Karabagh people had the right to decide their fate by choosing democratic way of development. In his words, they will choose their President themselves, the way they held Parliamentary elections in 2005 and a referendum, on the results of which NKR Constitution was adopted in December, 2006.

The Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabagh will be held current July 19. 5 nominees will run for the post – ex Director of the NKR National Security Bako Sahakian, Deputy FM Masis Mailian, a deputy of NKR National Assembly Armen Abgarian, a lecturer of the Artsakh State University, professor Vania Avanesian and Karabagh Communist Party leader Hrant Melkoumian.

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.


Rwanda: Rwandans Need to Know About Other Atrocities

New Times (Kigali)

13 July 2007
Posted to the web 13 July 2007

Josh Kron

Today was the 12-year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

To be fair, the massacres are not enormous pop culture anywhere but in Bosnia, where the atrocities occurred. Many in Rwanda may have known or do not know that on July 11 and 12, 8000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered in the largest single massacre since World War II and the first legally-determined act of Genocide.

But because of Rwanda's history, the schism between its attention to itself, and its attention to others like it, is all the more noticeable. Rwanda should care about what happened in Bosnia that day-or, for that matter, the last decade of the 20th century in the Balkans-and what happened in Cambodia, and in Armenia; what happened in Nazi Europe or present-day Namibia.

Genocide has been all around us. For the better half of our existence, up to this very day in the Sudan, people have been killing people out of simple dislike.

People need to know this, and more importantly, the youth of Rwanda need to learn in schools about other atrocities similar to those that took place here. Just like we expect the entire world to know the truth of the 1994 Genocide, we will only be able to understand and correct ourselves once we understand what happened with others.

Unfortunately, today's Rwandans may largely be absent of explicit awareness of these cousin histories. Although the memorial centre at Gisozi has in-depth coverage of other genocides throughout history, there is little attention-and more importantly, a sense of empathy-paid to them.

Of course, such attention brings up a few questions. On one hand, it is essential for Rwandans of all ages to know that the phenomenon and act of Genocide has happened elsewhere. There's not something inherently wrong with Rwandans; people all over the world, from the beginning to the end of history, have done horrible things. Remembering other genocides, I believe, allows people to relieve themselves of undue inferiority complexes.

On the other hand, there is-as there should be-strong resistance to any sort of undermining or belittlement of the 1994 Genocide. Acknowledging other genocides might, but shouldn't, make the events in Rwanda less meaningful; especially given that the progress the country has made since then has been fuelled by the memory of the killings.

What Rwanda will ultimately have to deal with is, how much the 1994 Genocide contributes to Rwanda's national consciousness in the long-term future?

The country is hoping its memorials make UNESCO's World Heritage list. The question that we really need to ask ourselves is, do we want things like this to become part of our heritage? And what, exactly, does 'heritage' imply? Most of them have never found answers.

Rwanda does not want to find itself in a situation where, fifty years from now, it defends its policies and positions on continued Genocide-ideology eradication, however real the threat may be. Secondly, I doubt that any country wants its history and psyche built from mass killings or the reaction to mass killings. This country continues to grow and will not always be 13-years old. But at some point, I assume, Rwanda just wants to be Rwanda.

How does Rwanda today prepare itself for Rwanda tomorrow? A question is a cheap way to end an argument, but it's not one for me to answer. The people's hearts and minds will ultimately decide, but in the interim, the Ministry of Education must come to terms with the terms

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.


Turkey opposes Armenian poll in Nagorno Karabakh

17 July 2007
The New Anatolian / Ankara
Nagorno Karabakh does not need lessons from Turkey while it occupies Nothern Cyprus and carries out elections there.
Turkey announced its strong opposition to the proposed elections by Armenia in occupied Nagorno Karabakh.

A foreign ministry statement said: We learned that so-called “Presidential Election” in the Armenian occupied Nagorno Karabagh region of Azerbaijan, is to be held on July 19, 2007, subsequent to the “Constitutional Referendum” held in the same region in a similar vein on December 10, 2006, in contravention to international law and disregarding the will of the international community.

It said Turkey views the electiobn as part of the efforts to unilaterally legitimize the unlawful situation in Nagorno Karabagh, and says this is an explicit violation of the principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolutions and the OSCE principles.

It said the Nagorno Karabagh conflict constitutes the most important impediment for establishing peace, stability and cooperation in the South Caucasus and it prevents the creation of an environment conducive to good neighbourliness and cooperation among the countries in the region. "At a time when the negotiations are pursued within the OSCE Minsk Process to reach a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and the Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute, organizing a “Presidential Election” in the occupied Nagorno Karabagh region obviously constitutes an initiative that challenges the efforts geared towards a peaceful resolution."

The statement said "with these considerations, Turkey denounces this renewed effort of Armenia to violate Azerbaijan’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity; and will not recognize the outcome of such illegitimate “Presidential Elections” that would have no binding effect whatsoever under international law."

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.


Richard Hoagland not to be appointed as US Ambassador to Armenia?


Richard Hoagland, US Ambassador Designate to Armenia, is about to be reassigned to another country, according to several confidential but highly reliable sources. This decision was made after his candidacy was twice blocked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both times Sen. Robert Menendez from New Jersey placed hold on Hoagland’s nomination, The California Courier reports.

“The US administration must have realized that Richard Hoagland’s nomination as Ambassador to Armenia is despairing. After languishing for a whole year at an empty desk in the State Department, Ambassador Hoagland deserves to have an assignment at a diplomatic post in a country other than Armenia. His superiors’ mismanagement of this issue should no longer keep his career in limbo. Only time will tell if the Bush administration has properly understood from this episode the deeply-felt sentiments of the Armenian-American community. In view of the embarrassment suffered by the State Department on this occasion, it is hoped that, henceforth, the administration would think long and hard before showing any more disrespect towards the Armenian-American community on the core issue of the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” The California Courier writes.

On September 7, 2006 thanks to Senator Robert Menendez’s efforts Hoagland’s candidacy was blocked in the Senate. On December 1 the New Jersey legislator joined with Majority Leader Harry Reid in calling on the Administration to offer a new candidacy for this post. The negative attitude towards Richard Hoagland’s nomination is connected with his outright denial of the Armenian Genocide in response to questions posed during and after his June 2006 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Former US Ambassador to Yerevan John Evans was forced into early retirement last year, after he used the words “Armenian Genocide” to describe the mass murder of Armenians in Turkey.

! Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to «PanARMENIAN.Net».

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.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Long history of the doctors of doom

July 7, 2007
The Sydney Morning Herald
"Systematic participation of doctors in state terrorism began with the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915. Medical personnel were directly involved in the killings, often participating in torture. Behaeddin Shakir and Mehmet Nazim established extermination squads staffed by criminals."
There is nothing new about physicians taking part in acts of barbarism, writes Robert Kaplan.

DOCTORS have frequently been accomplices in politically motivated repression, brutality and genocide, conducting inhumane experiments on victims, participating in torture and directing programs to exterminate the enemy. For no reason other than they had the power to do it at the time, they have beaten, tortured and killed victims.

Political medical murderers reverse the process of patients seeking help from a doctor, instead misusing their skills on vulnerable groups in the name of nationalism or ideology.

Systematic participation of doctors in state terrorism began with the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915. Medical personnel were directly involved in the killings, often participating in torture. Behaeddin Shakir and Mehmet Nazim established extermination squads staffed by criminals.

Nazim, in one of the most misguided appointments in the history of medicine, was professor of legal (ethical) medicine at Istanbul Medical School.

Mehmed Resid was involved in the "deportation" of 120,000 Armenians. Resid's brutality included nailing red-hot horseshoes on the victim's chest, and crucifying them on makeshift crosses.

The Armenian genocide provided the template for the Nazi holocaust, leading to the most notorious example of medical complicity in state abuse: Nazi doctors who participated in euthanasia and genocide, of whom the most well known is Josef Mengele.

Japanese medical abuses were as bad as those of the German doctors. The Imperial Army's Unit 731 conducted unspeakably cruel experiments on the people of Manchuria, infecting villages with anthrax, plague and cholera, performing live vivisection - cutting out the heart or brain from living victims, or burning them alive with jolts of electricity.

Involvement of doctors in state repression and abuse has, if anything, escalated since 1945. Medical dictators running repressive regimes include: the former cruel ruler of Haiti Papa Doc Duvalier, the Malawi dictator Hastings Banda, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

The psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic, who led the Bosnian genocide (1992-95) in which more than 200,000 people died, used training in group therapy to formulate terror tactics and had his troops shell the hospital where he worked.

There has been a rise in doctors leading terrorist groups, including George Habash, a paediatrician and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Osama bin Laden's personal physician, Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the world's most wanted terrorists.

Why do doctors kill patients, or use their skills to participate in horrendous experiments, torture or genocidal murder in the service of the state or a political cause?

The British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond described the three facets of the medical role as sapiential, authoritarian and charismatic. All doctors have these three factors to a varying degree in their personality; when any factor is overarching, then problems occur.

Medicine attracts a certain kind of personality, one lured by the power of life over death. Many clinicidal doctors have extremely narcissistic personalities, a grandiose view of their capability and an inability to accept they could be criticised or need help from other doctors. Such doctors develop a God-complex, getting a thrill out of ending suffering and by determining when a person dies. Two such doctors would be Harold Shipman in Britain and Michael Swango in the US, who between them killed 313 patients.

This narcissism explains the most puzzling aspect of clinicide, doctors who cannot stop what they are doing. Such individuals, while not necessarily psychopathic, go to extraordinary lengths to get what they want.

Professor Robert Kaplan is a forensic psychiatrist in Wollongong and Sydney, and honorary clinical associate professor at the Graduate School of Medicine, Wollongong. His book Clinicide: the Story of Medical Murder is in press.

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.



Jul 3, 2007
A1plus, Armenia

The Armenian Council of America wrote a letter to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing a deep concern on the possible close down of the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty by the Armenian authorities.

“On behalf of the Armenian-American Community, we would like to convey to you our deepest concern regarding the possible passage of the law on broadcasting currently being discussed in the Armenian parliament. More troubling is the fact that the newly formed government has selected this law in particular as its first order of business for this special session, disregarding all other and much more pressing issues facing the republic of Armenia today. This leads us to believe that the sole intent of the Armenian authorities is to effectively shut down Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the only, truly independent news outlet currently broadcasting in Armenia”, says the letter.

“After the closure of A1 Plus and Noyan Tapan, the Armenian authorities exercised total control on the rest of the broadcast media, except for Radio Liberty which, de facto, became the only alternative source of information. If the authorities succeed in passing this law, it will have a devastating effect on the political climate of the country and will deprive the population of Armenia of the only remaining media outlet that has consistently delivered fair, unbiased and balanced news and opinions. We believe that the United States along with the other western governments and organizations such as the OSCE, bear their share of responsibility for what is transpiring today by giving their seal of approval to the highly flawed parliamentary elections that led to a monolithic parliament where the opposition is represented by less then 12 %. By doing so, western governments not only failed in their commitment toward a democratic Armenia, but also emboldened the authorities to take such a drastic action. It is in the best interest of the United States and all other countries that there be an unfettered flow of information throughout the world, especially in a country like Armenia, where, according to Freedom House’s latest report, the media is considered “not free’’ and the closure of Radio Liberty will further hinder the country’s democratic progress.

On behalf of the Armenian-American community, we urge you to take every step possible to avert this looming debacle and call on the Armenian government to reconsider its position and refrain from passing this law”, wrote the authors of the letter.

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.


Armenian ‘Coup Plotters’ Go On Trial

Jul 2, 2007, Armenia
By Ruzanna Stepanian

Two prominent veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and one of their former comrades-in-arms went on a high-profile trial on Monday, accused of plotting to overthrow Armenia’s government.

Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian appeared before a court in Yerevan seven months after being arrested on what they and their supporters call trumped-up and politically motivated charges. Sefilian is a Lebanese citizen of Armenian descent who leads a naitonalist pressure group opposed to Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan, while Malkhasian is a leader of a small opposition party.

The two men were arrested by officers of the National Security Service (NSS) in December just days after presiding over the founding conference of a new organization opposed to the return of any of the occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh. Regime change in Yerevan is another declared aim of their Union of Armenian Alliance (HKH).

The case against Sefilian and Malkhasian is essentially based on statements made by them during the HKH gathering held behind the closed doors. They appeared to justify violent actions as a legitimate method of struggle against the administration of President Robert Kocharian. Publicly calling for a “violent overthrow of the government” is a crime in Armenia.

The third defendant, Vahan Aroyan, was arrested later in December after NSS investigators claimed to have found a massive arms cache in his village in southern Armenia. The former soldier has since been kept under arrest despite reportedly refusing to implicate Sefilian in the alleged illegal arms possession.

The courtroom, packed with supporters of the three men, burst into rapturous applause and chants of “Freedom! Freedom!” as Sefilian, Malkhasian and Aroyan took their seats in the dock surrounded by armed guards. Aroyan wore wartime military uniform.

Several dozen protesters also gathered outside the court of first instance of Yerevan’s Kentron and Nor-Marash. Organizers of the protest claimed that the authorities want to imprison the three nationalist activists due to a presidential election due early next year. “They want to prevent consolidation of Armenian volunteers during the pre-election period, which could in turn consolidate the opposition and seriously threaten the authorities,” said Armen Aghayan, another HKH leader.

The first hearing at districts adjourned until July 6 shortly after its start, with the defense lawyers demanding the replacement of the presiding judge, Mnatsakan Martirosian. They said Martirosian can not be impartial because he has repeatedly and unjustly refused to release the suspects on bail.

Just as the trial of the alleged coup plotters got underway, another Kentron court judge allowed the NSS to keep Aleksandr Arzumanian, a well-known opposition politician charged with being illegally financed from abroad, under pre-trial arrest for two more months.

Following a short hearing held behind the closed doors, the court ruled that Arzumanian should remain in detention on the grounds that he will obstruct justice if set free now. It also cited continuing “investigative actvities” conducted by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) as part of the politically charged criminal case. It also ignored a written statement by 19 Armenian parliamentarians who guaranteed that Arzumanian would not flee the country.

Arzumanian’s lawyer, Hovik Arsenian, rejected the verdict as “unfounded” and pledged to appeal it. He stood by his claims that the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB lacks any evidence to jail his client and is artificially dragging out his release.

There have been no known cases of Armenian courts rejecting arrest petitions filed by the ex-KGB.

Arzumanian was arrested on May 7 on charges of illegally receiving a large amount of money from Levon Markos, a fugitive Russian businessman of Armenian descent. His arrest came two days after NSS officers searched his Yerevan apartment and confiscated $55,400 worth of cash kept there. Arzumanian, who had served as foreign minister from 1996-1998, denies the accusations as politically motivated.

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.


RFE/RL in the Balance: Parliament approves controversial media amendments

By Marianna Grigoryan and Suren Musayelyan
ArmeniaNow reporters

The National Assembly today approved in first reading amendments that may seriously restrict the work of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Armenia. A pro forma second reading will follow, but is not likely to change today’s decision.

An amendment proposed in the 2000 law “On Television and Radio” bans the Public Television and Radio Company (PTRC), which has so far retransmitted the U.S. Congress-funded radio station’s programs with the consent of its board, to provide its frequencies for airing programs of other broadcasters.

In substantiating the need for the amendment, its authors have said that the status and objectives of the PTRC, a state establishment with a mission to serve exclusively public interests, are “incompatible with the right to give consent to other broadcasting organizations’ carrying out activities on the frequencies allocated to it.” It is also argued that the use of PTRC frequencies by other broadcasters violates the principle of competition and that “it is practically impossible to set clear criteria for the Board’s giving or withholding consent regarding the use of the PTRC’s frequencies”, and which may result in “arbitrary decision making”.

By another amendment that cites “equal competition” concerns the parliament is set to introduce changes in the country’s law “On state duties” according to which for every broadcast foreign mass media’s national services will have to pay 70 times the size of the basic duty (i.e. 70,000 drams, or approx. $205 per program – in RFE/RL’s case the duty would amount to about $300,000 per year.)

RFE/RL is, in fact, the only broadcaster to which the amendments apply. The legislative changes may result in a serious curtailment of the RFE/RL Armenian Service’s broadcasts in Armenia and even eventually lead to its closure.

The Prague-headquartered radio station’s Armenian service primarily relies on the Armenian Public Radio’s frequencies to air its daily news programs across the country (morning, afternoon and evening news programs).

“An attempt is being made to challenge freedom, free speech, Radio Liberty. The American Radio Liberty is broadcasting in countries where there are problems with democracy, including in Armenia, and its closure will cause political problems,” Victor Dallakyan, an MP not affiliated with any party, charged in parliament.

Despite assurances by pro-establishment forces that the amendments are not aimed against the Prague-headquartered radio station or at restricting press freedom in Armenia, it has been condemned by the parliamentary minority, including Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage party and the Orinats Yerkir party.

“Radio Liberty was closed also in Uzbekistan after well-known events. There has been pressure from the presidential palace on that occasion, because during the New Year time Robert Kocharyan expressed his dissatisfaction with the work of Radio Liberty,” Heritage faction member Stepan Safaryan said.

The opposition in parliament was joined by media and rights groups as well as opposition parties outside parliament, which also criticized the move.

“It cannot last for long. We have only Liberty, and they want to muzzle it too,” says a statement released by “Asparez” club of journalists NGO today. “This initiative is aimed against the broadcast of Radio Liberty and is another episode in the consistent state policy of pressuring media freedom and freedom of expression.”

Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosyan, however, has downplayed the opposition concerns.

“These statements are no more than a provocation,” the top legislator from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) said. “The bill under discussion is in no way connected with Radio Liberty. Liberty is not a broadcasting company, as it has no corresponding license, and therefore this document is not connected with it.”

Another senior member of the party shares the opinion of the speaker.

“It is naive to think that the radio is so powerful that it can form public opinion. The role of radio is gradually declining,” RPA member Armen Ashotyan said during Thursday’s meeting in parliament. “The government has no goal of closing Radio Liberty. If it had, it would have done so in the Board of the Public Radio and Television Company, without so much transparency.”

Joining the outcry by opposition politicians and civil rights and media freedom groups in Armenia, an OSCE media freedom representative called on Armenian lawmakers on Thursday not to adopt the amendments, saying they were incompatible with OSCE commitments to media freedoms.

Miklos Haraszti said that as RFE/RL is currently the only foreign media outlet using the PTRC frequency, the adoption of the amendments “would amount to a ban on their programs in Armenia.”

In neighboring Azerbaijan, the national independent TV and radio channel, ANS, was barred from airing foreign broadcasts from the beginning of this year after authorities said it lacked the proper licenses.

ANS, previously an RFE/RL affiliate on FM, had also aired programs of the BBC and Voice of America.

RFE/RL, which had for decades served as one of the few sources of uncensored information for the peoples of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, was enabled to legally operate inside the former Communist bloc and reach retransmission agreements with local broadcasters after the downfall of communist regimes.

RFE/RL’s Armenian service was able to openly operate in Armenia and lease state radio frequencies until being controversially forced off the air in late 1994 by then President Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Robert Kocharyan resumed the retransmission of RFE/RL programs by state radio shortly after he was elected president in 1998.

But in recent years, he has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with RFE/RL’s coverage of political events in Armenia.

According to a recent Gallup survey, RFE/RL is one of the most popular media outlets in Armenia. But its critical coverage of political events, in particular elections, is seen as a threat to the current administration and in particular to Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, a likely successor of Kocharyan as president in next year’s elections.

Suren Surenyants, a senior member of the radical opposition Hanrapetutyun party, says that while before the last presidential election in 2003 they employed the National Television and Radio Commission to force A1 Plus out of the air, now the institution of parliament and parliamentarianism is being discredited.

“For me it is not only a political, but also a moral issue. When I and my numerous friends were for two months in the jail of the National Security Service, besides being a media outlet, Radio Liberty was for me and my friends the only hope for freedom and salvation and the only link with the outside world,” Surenyants told ArmeniaNow.

“It is wrong when they say there is no censorship today, because the fear that was instilled in us it is the same terrible censorship that keeps all media aloof from what is really happening,” A1 Plus TV Company director Mesrop Movsesyan told Aravot daily. “I think it is not the end yet, and it will have a more serious continuation in the direction of pressuring the press and free speech, because mass media will play a very important role during the presidential elections. We and the authorities understand this.”

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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Monday, July 09, 2007

Trial in Editor’s Killing Opens, Testing Rule of Law in Turkey

Jul 2, 2007
New York Times, United States
Published: July 3, 2007
ISTANBUL, July 2 — Eighteen young men charged in the assassination of the newspaper editor Hrant Dink went on trial here on Monday in what has been described as a test of the rule of law in Turkey.

Mr. Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, was shot dead in front of his office on Jan. 19. A day later, a Turkish teenager, Ogun Samast, was arrested and charged with the murder. The government has brought charges against 17 other people.

Mr. Dink, the editor of Agos, a bilingual newspaper, challenged the official Turkish version of the 1915 Armenian genocide, which holds that hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished because of hunger and suffering in World War I.

But he was working to mend relations between Turkey and Armenia and had even taken issue with Armenians who insisted that Turkey’s entry into Europe hinge on its acknowledgment of genocide.

The trial’s verdict will have broad implications for free speech. Ultranationalist Turks have used an article of the country’s criminal code that forbids “insulting Turkishness” to push the government to bring charges against Turkish writers, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Mr. Dink received a suspended sentence under the statute. His supporters argue that a limp prosecution of his killing will embolden nationalists.

At the trial, closed to the public because some of the defendants were minors, Mr. Samast exercised his legal right to silence, said Fethiye Cetin, a lawyer for Mr. Dink’s family, according to the state-run Anatolian News Agency.

Four defendants, Erhan Tuncel, Yasin Hayal, Ersin Yolcu and Ahmet Iskender, testified, and two others asked for lawyers before speaking, Ms. Cetin said.

Mr. Samast previously confessed to the killing, according to Turkish authorities, saying he had been angered by Mr. Dink’s columns on Armenian history and had come to Istanbul from the Black Sea town of Trabzon to kill him.

A crowd of Mr. Dink’s supporters stood a short distance from the mustard-colored courthouse, which was used as a military court for years but is now a criminal court as part of a legal reform in preparation for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

His lawyers’ main concern is that the trial will not get to the heart of the hate crime they say was highly organized by a network of ultranationalist Turks in collaboration with Turkish authorities. Shortly after the killing, a video surfaced showing the main suspect posing with Turkish police officers. Security officials were fired over the incident.

“The gang does not consist of these suspects only,” Ms. Cetin said of the 18 defendants, according to the news agency. “It is far more planned and organized. There is almost an intentional misconduct of the gendarmerie and police in this incident.”

Lawyers for the defendants say the attention to the case will make a fair trial impossible.

Liberal Turks are skeptical that the trial will result in justice for Mr. Dink. The country’s establishment, which encourages nationalism, was deeply suspicious of him.

“The judgment will not be free,” said Aydin Ozipek, an economics student at Fatih University in Istanbul. “There is a ruling class of people who want everybody to be the same — no Kurds, no Armenians, no head scarves.”

In a petition to the court to allow him to take part in the trial, Mr. Dink’s brother, Hosrof Dink, described their childhood in an orphanage and a lifetime of discrimination.

“We thought we were born as human beings,” he wrote in the petition, circulated by a group of his brother’s supporters. “In time, against our will, we were given many identities; we were labeled.”

The trial, he said, “will be between the people who believe in the rule of law and the people who say: ‘We are the law. We are the state.’ ” His request to take part was granted.

The court worked well into the evening, then adjourned until Oct. 1. Charges continue against all 18 defendants, but only eight were kept in custody, Turkish television reported.

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting.

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.


HRW Urges Armenia Not To Pass Media Bill

June 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the Armenian parliament not to pass a bill that would impose severe restrictions on foreign broadcasters in the country, particularly RFE/RL.

The U.S.-based human rights group said in a statement that the bill would "clearly restrict access to a crucial independent news source" and deal a blow to "RFE/RL and to freedom of the media in general."

RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said in a statement that passage of the bill would "set a dangerous precedent for public media in all of the countries of the former Soviet Union."

Gedmin expressed the hope that "Armenia's parliamentarians will reconsider their support for this flawed bill."

The proposal would block access to certain frequencies and heavily fine the domestic retransmission of foreign-made broadcast programs.

It would also impose a tax of 70,000 Armenian drams, or more than $200, per program per day for every time a private station rebroadcast a foreign-produced program.

The bill has drawn sharp criticism from the OSCE, media rights groups, and Armenian opposition leaders.

The parliament in Yerevan on June 29 passed the bill but must confirm that vote in a second reading expected on July 2.

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.


Profiles of Gordon's five new talents

Jun 29, 2007, United Kingdom

Ara Darzi

The surgeon drafted into the Brown government to help boost the NHS is one of Britain's leading experts in keyhole surgery.

But Sir Ara Darzi has already crossed swords with ministers, recommending in vain two years ago that two hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton should remain open.

Sir Ara, 47, has pioneered techniques for making operations less invasive, including surgery for cancer patients.

Already a government adviser on the NHS, Sir Ara, who was born in Armenia, has taught minimal access surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons and set national guidelines for education and training in this area.

He pledged to stay on the "front line" and said that it was a "privilege and honour" to be able to work in Gordon Brown's administration.

Sir Ara said yesterday that he would work from Monday to Thursday as a health minister - although he is paid for just three days.

He will work for free as an NHS surgeon on Fridays. The professor is the current holder of the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial College London, where he is head of surgery, oncology, reproductive biology and anaesthetics.

He is also honorary consultant surgeon at St Mary's Hospital and The Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Sir Ara's team has developed the use of surgical robots and image-guided surgery, and he has called for more research in this area. In 2001, his team won a Queen's Anniversary Prize in recognition of their achievements in pioneering techniques and in addressing training requirements.

Sir Ara said of his appointment: "My career has been dedicated to improving the health of patients.

“It is a great honour and privilege to be asked by the Prime Minister to continue that work for patients across the country. “

By Brendan Carlin


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U.S.: Azerbaijan and Armenia should have more contacts


“The United States appraises the exchange of visit by Azerbaijani and Armenian intellectuals. We regard that there should be more contact between these two countries,” the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Henick said.

“We regard that such visits, relations between the journalists would reduce the tension over the conflict. That is a good step, such visits would help to reach a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” the Embassy officer said.

The diplomat saying that mutual visits of Azerbaijani and Armenian intellectuals were not held on the initiative of OSCE Minsk Group stated that such steps should be approved in any case.

“Since the Presidents and Foreign Ministers negotiate why not representatives of other strata of the society maintain contact?” he concluded, APA reports.

Yesterday the Azeri delegation led by Polad Bul-Bul-ogly, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia, crossed the mine-free sector of the contact line between the Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijani armed forced, on Mardakert-Terter (Mir Bashir) road. The delegation was accompanied to Stepanakert by representatives of the Karabakhi side. A delegation of Armenian intelligentsia led by Armen Smbatian, RA Ambassador to Russia also arrived in the NKR capital. Afterwards, the delegations made for Yerevan to meet Armenian President Robert Kocharian.

The visit was organized by initiative of both Ambassadors.

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Azerbaijani president receives Azeri and Armenian intellectuals

Jun 28, 2007
Azeri Press Agency, Azerbaijan

A group of Azerbaijani and Armenian intellectuals on the initiative of Azerbaijani and Armenian ambassadors to Russia visited Khankendi, Shusha and Armenia and met with President Robert Kocharian through OSCE, APA reports quoting to AzerTAC State Information Agency.

The intellectuals yesterday arrived in Baku and President Ilham Aliyev received them.

The group includes Armenian extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Russia, professor Armen Smbatyan, rector of Yerevan State Conservatoire, professor Sergey Sarajyan, president of Armenian National Academy of Sciences, academician Radik Martirosyan, Armenian national artist, head of Russian Drama Theater, professor Alexander Grigoryan, chief of therapy department of Armenian Hospital Ludmila Grigoryan, Azerbaijani extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu, rector of Baku Music Academy Farhad Badalbayli, rector of Baku Slavic University, correspondent member of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences Kamal Abdulla, chief of Azerbaijan Theater Figures Union Azerpasha Nematov and businessman Ilham Fataliyev. President Ilham Aliyev expressed his position on Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh conflict and underlined that this conflict can only be solved on the principles of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and inviolability of borders with granting higher authority to Nagorno Karabakh. /APA/

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Dwindling?: Data suggests unhealthy future for Armenian nation

Jun 29, 2007, Armenia
By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

According to United Nations demographic data, by 2025 Armenia’s population will decrease by 25 percent, due to current social patterns.

Since independence, the country’s birthrate and number of marriages has dropped by nearly half. The need to increase the birthrate was included in some political parties’ platforms in the recent parliamentary campaign.

The trend is seen as a national security threat, considering that Azerbaijan anticipates 31 and Turkey 43 percent increase in population by 2025. (The difference for Armenia’s neighbors, researchers say, is due to current trends as well as religious and cultural factors.)

Insecurity and social hardship make many Armenians, especially men, leave and try their luck somewhere else.

“The dynamics of Armenia’s main demographic index gives rise to serious concerns. Besides the fact that the population keeps decreasing, the demographic structure changes as well- the number of young people is dropping, and that of the elderly is growing. Social burden gets heavier, which bodes ill for the country,” says the Head of the Armenian Social-Demographic Initiative Ruben Yeganyan stating that demographic indices are highly important for understanding the country’s further economic possibilities and defense capability issues.

If before 1990s about 80,000 infants were annually born in Armenia, today that number has dropped to 37,000. Concurrently the death-rate has grown, from 22,000 in 1990 to 27,000 in 2005.

According to Karine Kuyumjyan, head of the Census and Demography department at the National Statistical Service, during the post-Soviet years marriage number showed drastic decrease.

In 1990s when the population was 3.5 million 28,000 marriages per year were registered, whereas today the figure is only 16,500-17,000 marriages out of 3.2 million population (by the 2001 census data)

According to sociologist Aharon Adibekyan, head of the Armenian Center for Independent Sociology “Sociometer”, it’s not as if people in Armenia don’t want to get married and have children, but are hindered by social condition.

“Who cares for Armenia’s demographic situation? They will start thinking when it will be impossible to recover it, when there won’t be any boys left to take to the army,” says Adibekyan.

For now the birthrate is higher than death-rate by 10,000, but demographer Yeganyan predicts from demographic viewpoint that in 5-10 years the number of deaths will exceed that of births.

According to Yeganyan, Armenia lacks a demographic policy and both direct and indirect factors influence deterioration of the situation.

One of such factors is migration. In the last 15 years, as the National Statistical Service data show, 900,000 people have migrated out of the country, 65 percent of which are men of reproductive age and work capacity, this resulting in a disproportion of sexes.

If in the past the 2-3 children families were a model, now the new tendency model is one child, or at best, two children families, which, as ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan believes, is mostly a result of unfavorable social conditions rather than a change of tradition.

“The ideas about a traditional family have not undergone essential changes, as in European countries. Today, too, the majority of our youth wants to get married and form a family, and by a family they understand one with children. But they don’t know whether they can support those children- there is no trust in the future,” Kharatyan says.

Psychologist Svetlana Arutchyan assures that the effect of moral-psychological atmosphere in the decrease of birth-rate is extremely important; however it (the effect) can be reduced if, for example, the state takes some steps to improve our economic situation.

“People feel defenseless here and naturally avoid having children in a country where they are not sure their child would have a secure childhood. Everything starts at maternity hospitals: if you don’t pay the doctor properly, you can’t be sure your child would be born healthy, without traumas,” says Arutchyan.

In 2005 the state took a step to stimulate the birthrate by passing a law on medical assistance to pregnant women at all medical institutions to become free of charge.

Nonetheless that law, as many others, remained on paper, and in reality having a baby has become a very expensive undertaking. At Yerevan maternity hospitals delivering a child costs in average from $300-400, with additional costs for the commonly-practiced “C-section”.

Housing has also become a problem. In the Soviet times the state provided young families with apartments by the principle of putting them on a waiting list. Today, young couples instead face the capitalism reality of mortgage – which few can afford.

“If a family has two sons, one of them is married and lives with his parents, then the other will avoid marrying, as it is very hard for three families to live together. This results in decreased number of marriages and a higher number of divorces,” says Adibekyan.

Research held in 2005 on Armenia’s demographic and health issues says that 70 percent of 6,500 surveyed women of reproductive age answered they were not planning to have more children.

“The state has to take serious measures before traditions shift so that when the country develops, social issues are solved, they won’t have children not because of housing or financial problems, but for lack of time or desire. And that is very hard to fight with,” says Arutchyan.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Trial begins in murder of Armenian journalist in Turkey

July 2, 2007
The Associated PressPublished

ISTANBUL, Turkey: More than six months after the killing of an ethnic Armenian journalist, 18 suspects went on trial Monday in a case widely seen as a test of whether the country's judiciary will be able to investigate allegations of official negligence in the slaying.

Hrant Dink was gunned down on Jan. 19 and his killing led to international condemnation and debate within Turkey about free speech. Dink was hated by hardline nationalists for describing the mass killings of Armenians early in the last century as genocide.

The trial was taking place behind closed doors because the alleged teenage gunman, Ogun Samast, is a minor.

But lawyers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to report details of the case, said two of the key suspects, Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, claimed they worked for the security forces. The alleged gunman had remained silent during the trial.

Critics accused authorities of failing to act on reports of a plot to kill Dink, and it is unclear whether allegations that could potentially be embarrassing for top officials will be explored in the trial.

Hayal, accused of providing gun and money to Samast, wrote some 20 letters to court officials and police explaining his links to security forces, according to his lawyer, Fuat Turgut.

"The police manipulated us, now they should protect us," Turgut quoted Hayal as saying in his letters.

Tuncel, who is suspected of masterminding the killing, reportedly told the court that he was paid by police for gathering intelligence, according to a lawyer who attended Monday's hearing.

Turkey had vowed a thorough investigation, and the governor and police chief of the Black Sea city of Trabzon, the hometown of Samast, were removed from office because of negligence. Some security officials who posed for photographs with the gunman as he held a Turkish flag were also dismissed.

There has been no evidence that directly implicates any police or government officials in the slaying of Dink outside his office.

Amnesty International, whose request to be an official observer in the case was turned down by the court, called on the Turkish government to investigate officials accused of negligence.

"If people within the state didn't perform their duties correctly, then they too have to be brought to justice," said Andrew Gardner, the organization's researcher in Turkey.

Many Turks are convinced that a so-called "deep state" — a network of state agents or ex-officials, possibly with links to organized crime — periodically targets reformists and other perceived enemies in the name of nationalism.

"This trial will be a test of whether this quagmire will be dried up or not," lawyer Kezban Hatemi, representing Dink's family, told reporters before the hearing Monday. "The indictment lacks evidence and there is a need to find out real culprits."

Dink sought to encourage reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. But he was prosecuted under Article 301 of Turkey's penal code, which bans insults to Turkish identity, for his comments on the mass killings of Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century.

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Swiss authorities arrest two Turks for denying Armenian ‘genocide’

Today's Zaman with AP Ankara

Two Turks were arrested over the weekend on suspicion of breaking Swiss anti-racism laws for allegedly denying that the killing of Anatolian Armenians in the early 20th century was "genocide," police said.

The two were arrested on Saturday at a conference in the Zurich suburb of Winterthur, where posters were hung up and leaflets distributed rejecting that the killing was genocide. One of the Turks organized the event and the other was shouting slogans before a crowd.
Switzerland's anti-racism legislation, which previously applied to Holocaust denial, was used earlier this year to prosecute a Turkish politician for denying at a gathering in 2005 that the Turks committed "genocide" in the World War I-era killings.

Last week, a Swiss cantonal court upheld the conviction against Doğu Perinçek, the leader of the neo-nationalist Turkish Workers' Party (İP). The case of Perinçek has caused diplomatic tension between Switzerland and Turkey. Ankara has called the case against Perinçek "inappropriate, baseless and debatable in every circumstance."

Perinçek was invited to Saturday's conference, but was prevented from entering Switzerland because he had not applied for a visa, said Dominique Boillat, spokesman for the Federal Office for Migration. Police in the canton (state) of Zurich identified the two arrested individuals as a 57-year-old resident of Germany and a 51-year-old Swiss resident.

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.