Thursday, April 24, 2003

Forgive me for this long log, but since Raffi has not yet provided me with some place to park my log logs, this is the only place I can put them for now.

Today I went to Stepanagert since the parts for my car arrived and I was also invited to attend a civil wedding.

While I was in Stepanagert, I also called the mayor there to meet with him in regards to a somewhat serious social matter.

There is a building in Stepanagert that during Soviet times was being built to be a very large hotel. That hotel is now being completed by a wealthy Diaspora-Armenian and gifted to families who are in need of housing and have been on waiting lists for years.

Though the project is being somewhat coordinated by the President�s office, the list of eligible recipients is found at the mayor�s office.

One family in particular qualifies to be on multiple lists, but is only found on one list and had originally been placed on the general list back in 1974.

For years they have been visiting the various mayor�s and government officials to find out when their turn will be and their most recent visit to the mayor and one of his staff members to see if they had a chance to be awarded a house in the above mentioned project, got them an answer from both the mayor and staff member that the Diaspora-Armenian who is financing the project would be deciding who will be receiving the housing.

The family learned that I know the Diaspora-Armenian who is financing the project and according to the mayor and staff would be deciding who will get the housing and asked if I could forward a copy of a letter they wrote to the President so the donor would at very least be able to check to see if they were even on the list that would be presented to the donor.

On April 16th I wrote to the donor the following letter:

Hi (name omitted),

Someone asked me if I could pass the attached letter on to you.

In short, it�s a letter that they sent to the president of Artsakh in regards to receiving a residence and were not sure if they made the list of eligible families to receive a house in your new building. They were told that you personally would be determining who would receive houses in said building.

One thing they have told me is that technically they should have been on the list of family with injured soldier, officer serving in the army, family with many children, family with twin boys, and the general list. They were told by the mayor�s office that they could only be on one of the lists, but a phone call from the president�s office to the mayor�s office revealed that in fact they could be on multiple lists.

I have taken the time to do a very rough translation of their letter so you can understand their request.



Esteemed Mr. President,

This request comes from a mother of a large Artsakh family who has lost all hope and request to you personally for help.

My family consists of 10 persons who live in (address omitted) a residence that consists of 1 room without any conveyances.

We have been waiting since 1974 our allocation of a larger residence. And as a mother of twin boys, we have been waiting since 1980.

My husband is a injured veteran from the Artsakh war and is categorized as a 2 level disabled.

From the latest list of waiting people we are the first on that list to receive a residence as a family with twin boys.

After my husband was injured in the Artsakh war, he was placed on the list of persons eligible to receive a residence. We later learned that after the building which was intended for injured veterans was divided, we learned that the mayor�s office had removed my husband�s name from the list of eligible individuals. It has been made clear to us that we are not on the list of persons who were injured in the war that are
eligible for a residence.

Esteemed Arkardee Arshaveeree, I have 6 children who are grown up. Of my twin boys, on of them serves as a officer in the Artsakh army and is based on the Mardakert front line and one month ago was married. My daughter is a single mother of a 4 year old boy. Effectively in our one room house lives 3 families.

With this question for receiving a residence, we have made request to the mayor�s office and have never received a concrete answer.

I am raising 3 soldiers for the Artsakh army. My husband has fought for the liberation of Artsakh. During the war we have never left our homeland. But during this recent times of our greatest potential, our family has been left out of the governments attention.

You are our last hope and we ask that you personal follow this issue to resolve our residence issue.

With great respect,

Larisa Hayrapetyan

27 March 2003

The donor wrote back to me on April 17th:

Dear Ara,

I am sorry I cannot be of assistance. I am only the donor for the renovation. I have no role in selecting the occupants.

Best wishes,
(name omitted)

Well for those of you who know me, learning that the mayor and his staff were using the donor�s name and giving our already very disappointed population the runaround, did not make me happy at all.

I called Mrs. Hayrapetyan to tell her what I had learned and asked her if she was absolutely sure the mayor and his staff gave the donor�s name in regards to who would be selecting the occupants and she said yes, and it was not only said to her, but also to her daughter.

So today I called the mayor�s office and though Friday�s are the days that he meets with the citizens, being that today I identified myself as Ara Manoogian from America, got me a very warm invitation to meet with him at 5 PM. I didn�t tell him why I wanted to meet with him, but would guess that he was thinking America+Manoogian, could only mean some wealthy donor with pockets full of cash.

Well at 5 PM with Mrs. Hayrarpetyan and her daughter, we made our way to the mayor�s office. I was the first to walk in and greeted by a very warm smile, which very quickly vanished when Mrs. Hayrarpetyan and her daughter entered the room.

We sat down and I introduced myself and explained to the mayor that my organization deals with social and economic issues. He asked me if that was in Martuni? I knew he had obviously seen me on television when we had the opening of the salon, as I had never mentioned Martuni. I told him no, we deal with issues anyplace in Artsakh and this is why I wanted to meet with him.

I explained to him that Mrs. Hayrapetyan had requested from our organization to help her resolve a very old housing issue and while doing so, we learned that someone in his office gave the name of the donor as being the person who would determine who would receive housing.

The mayor said that this was ridiculous and how could the donor know who was really in need? I agreed with him and told him that I found it ridiculous, but said that with my personal experiences with government officials, including the president and prime minister, it seems to be a very believable accusation.

The mayor by this point appeared to be very uncomfortable and at some point started to accuse Mrs. Hayrapetyan and her daughter of trying to blackmail him. I didn�t get his logic of how he could even think the conversation we were having could even imply any form of blackmail. It was clear that he was feeling very threatened.

Then there was mention of why they were not on multiple lists, since they obviously qualified for them and according to the President�s office, they have the right to be on multiple lists. The mayor got upset about this and implied that no one could have said this to Mrs. Hayrapetyan. The mayor then went on to say that it was ridiculous that anyone should be on multiple lists and he had recently argued this with the President�s office. This indicated to me that Mrs. Hayrapetyan had in fact been given such a suggestion by the President�s office and was not making such things up as the mayor was trying to make me believe.

He showed me the list of eligible people for housing and said that Mrs. Hayrapetyan was the first of those with twin boys.

He went on to tell me that he was present when the donor and the President met about what kind of people would be eligible for housing and that was families of martyred soldiers, injured soldiers and large families.

I asked if Mrs. Hayrapetyan is only on the list of twin boys, then what are her chances of getting a house? The mayor said that everyone on the twin boys category are also considered large families, so they should be covered under this project.

I turned to Mrs. Hayrapetyan and told her that if what the mayor says is true, then you should be receiving a house from this project. If you don�t, then you can make a big stink about it and I will help you then.

I then turned to the mayor and said that we still have one issue that concerns me very much. Your office using the donor�s name to not give the people a concrete answer. The mayor said that there is no way that anyone in his office has done such a thing. I said that I find it hard to believe, since I know Mrs. Hayrapetyan and her family quite well and they have no reason to have to lie to me about such things and like I said before, government officials at a much higher level then are found in his office have done similar things to me personally. I suggested that he talk to his staff about not continuing such a practice, as it is dishonest and damaging to out people.

I then went on to give him my sermon about the surplus of opportunist in his city and though I know he had only been working as mayor for less than 2 years, in my opinion, it is people in such positions of power who are responsible for this very damaging condition our people are suffering from today.

He told me that I should believe him that he came into this position to uphold the law and a man of his age would not do what those that were in his job before did, which according to his words was �work for themselves�, meaning shake the people down for a much as they could get and use their position to benefit financially.

I told him that if he is really as honest as he claims to be, then he has a very difficult job ahead of him.

The meeting ended with us exchanging cell phone numbers and my asking him to please keep me informed of how they determine the selection process, as he said that still had not been determined and he could not tell me who was going to determine it.

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