Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
29 December 2003

Closed TV Loses Final Chance To Resume Work

By Atom Markarian and Emil Danielyan

A1+, Armenia's leading independent television forced off the air in
2002, lost Monday its apparently last chance of resuming broadcasts in the near future as authorities rejected its application for a new license for the fourth consecutive time this year.

A regulatory body appointed by President Robert Kocharian ruled instead in favor of a newly created TV company reportedly linked to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a member of the governing three-party coalition.

The predictable decision by the National Commission on Television and
Radio (HRAH) was the result of a tender for Armenia's last available broadcasting frequency. All other frequencies have been distributed by the HRAH on a supposedly competitive basis since April 2002.

With a broadcasting license valid for seven years, the move means that
A1+ will be unable to bid for a frequency in the next five years. The commission chairman, Grigor Amalian, said an extraordinary tender may take place during that period only if the HRAH decides to pull the plug on one of the operating private TV channels. But as things stand now, that seems very unlikely.

Amalian said that although A1+'s latest bid was stronger than the previous ones, the commission granted the license to the new Yerkir-Media channel because the latter's proposals better met the requirements of the Armenian law on television and radio. "A1+ took one step forward but two steps back," he claimed.

A1+ was the only major Armenian TV channel that regularly aired reports critical of Kocharian and his administration, a fact which local and international media rights groups say was instrumental in its controversial closure. The de facto ban has repeatedly been condemned by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as a serious blow to freedom of expression in Armenia. Their repeated calls for the authorities in Yerevan to reopen the once popular channel have gone unheeded, however.

Kocharian made it clear over the weekend that he will not lobby the
HRAH to give the tender to A1+. "I don't understand why there should be any lobbying for a single TV channel," he told reporters.

Kocharian also disputed the widely held belief that A1+ broadcasts were essential for media pluralism in Armenia. "The opposition is more visible on our TV channels than the government," he said.

The winner of the Monday tender is reportedly owned by individuals affiliated with the pro-Kocharian Dashnaktsutyun. One of them is Rubina Ghazarian, the wife of a senior member of the governing nationalist party, Vazrik Petrosian. Also among the Yerkir-Media owners, according to some newspaper reports, is Horizon TV, Dashnaktsutyun's California-based broadcasting network.

The new broadcaster will be headquartered in the former editorial offices of Dashnaktsutyun's Yerevan-based official newspaper. Incidentally, it is called "Yerkir" (Country).

However, Ghazarian, who will act as Yerkir-Media's executive director, denied any link between Dashnaktsutyun and the TV station. Leaders of the party represented in the Armenian government have issued similar denials over the past two weeks.

The Armenian law on broadcasting bans political parties from owning or controlling TV and radio stations. Amalian argued that Yerkir-Media technically meets the requirement as it has no "official connection" with Dashnaktsutyun.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Still no sign of snow. I guess until I start washing my car instead of my driver, there will be no rain or snow here.

I went to Rosa Myrig's house for dinner tonight and as I was leaving she gave me food to eat tomorrow morning and also some new sox as a gift for New Years.

I will be for the most part tomorrow at the Mayor's house for a New Years, but after midnight, will be visiting with all my friends to celebrate New Years.

So far 2003 has been for the most part a very good year for me and I really feel like Hagop Bedrossian said, 2004 will be even better and more rewarding.

Happy 2004 everyone!!! (just in case I don't log before we bring in the New Year)

Monday, December 29, 2003

It looks like the weather is ripe for snow and if things work out as everyone expects, I think we are going to have ourselves a white New Years.

I’ve been waiting for money to be transferred from America to my personal account and also to the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation account, which was sent last Monday (our Tuesday). I called the bank on Thursday and then Friday to be told that the money had not yet arrived.

Being that I am paying my workers a week early so they would have money for New Years, today was the day I promised to pay them, figuring that the money would have been in my hands on Friday at the latest.

My call to the bank this morning again got me the same answer I got on Friday.

I asked the worker at the bank to please call Stepanagert to see where the money is and if it was misplaced (this has happened before).

I called back after lunch to learn that the bank had been very busy and they had not yet called Stepanagert. I asked for the number to call myself. My call which I put in a half hour before the bank was to close got me an answer to call back later. I asked how much later and told the woman on the line that New Years was coming and I had to pay my workers today and I needed an answer before the bank closed. She told me to call back in 15 minutes, which I did. This time the answer was that they had already transferred the funds to Martuni and the money should be there.

I called the Martuni branch back and told them what I was told from the main branch and the poor woman on the phone said again that she had no record that I received anything to my accounts. I told her I am coming down in 15 minutes and we would figure something out.

I called my driver (I have not mentioned that I hired a driver last week since I am really tired of driving these roads) who came right over and drove me to the bank to find the front door locked.

I knocked on the door and the guard on duty told me they were closed (it was only 3:55 and the bank closes at 4:00) to which I told him that the assistant manager is waiting for me to which he let me in.

A search in the computer system showed no transfer. A called to the main branch on my cell phone told us to look for the transfer, which was made on the 25th. We looked at the log of the 25th and there was no sign of any transactions to the two accounts or to any account of the amounts we were expecting. A second call to the bank on my cell phone and 7 minutes later got Stepanagert to send a telegram on their internal system with the transfer information so the money could be added to the accounts.

I only had enough time to withdraw the money I need for paying my employees and the rest will have to wait and be a gift to the 11 families for Armenian Christmas, as tomorrow I have a full day of work.

Though this was a bank error we have never seen before, as all the other times it was the money arrived to Stepanagert and supposedly didn’t have the proper account number or name. This one was clearly a new error and I’m thinking that it is possible that was done intentionally, as there were other transfers from Stepanagert that day and if it was to only one account, I would say it was an error, but to both account that in the end comes to me sounds a little fishy.

And you ask why I think this is possible? Well because the department that handles the transfers is run by the big-wig I wrote about whose father is the Rector of Artsakh State University and the big-wig was given a house in the Projects that were suppose to be given to needy families that didn’t have a house.

Am I upset about this? Not really. If I got the money on Thursday, I would have paid everyone and left for Yerevan on Friday to be there to celebrate New Years and fallen smack dab in the middle of a snowstorm, which would not have been fun at all for me. On top of that, one one person I really wanted to spend New Years with that I was going to surprise by showing up there, came to Martuni to surprise me and if I had gone, we would have been separated on New Years, which would have been sad for both of us. So as I told the bank manager in Martuni, the “error” was in fact a blessing. Thanks big-wig, you really made my New Years a happy one.
I was reading Groong and the story of “KOCHARIAN WILL SPEAK OF HIS SUCCESSOR ON PRESIDENTIAL POST CLOSER TO NEXT ELECTION”, hit me like a ton of bricks.

To think that in our “democracy”, the president will hand pick his successor.

The article reads:


- December 27, 2003 14:47

Closer to the next election I will speak in more detail about my successor on the presidential post, Armenian President Robert Kocharian said in an interview with "Golos Armenii" newspaper.
Answering the question on preparing a worthy successor, ad exemplum of Boris Yeltsin, R. Kocharian noted that Russian statehood traditions differ from the Armenian ones. The issue of a successor in the Armenian performance should sound differently, he said.

Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to


Then I came across the story of “Armenian leader vows to foil “specific” attempts to destabilize situation”, which appeared in Golos Armenii, Yerevan, in Russian 27 Dec 03 p 3.

The source material for the PanARMENIAN.Net story reads as follows:

“Marina Ananyan, philologist Mr President, are you going to prepare a worthy successor to the post of president, just the same way, as Yeltsin did?

Kocharyan People always compare me with Yeltsin in their questions. But Russia is different from us. I shall tell you the details closer to the next elections.”

To come up with a story from the above that leaves the impression that Kocharian is going to announce his successor before the elections I think is a little bit irresponsible on the part of PanARMENIAN.Net.

I will also say that it would have been wise of Kocharian to give some other answer to the question that didn’t leave the reader guessing what he would tell closer to the election. Maybe he should have said that Armenia is a democratic country and it is not up to him to choose a successor, but for the people to elect who they feel would best manage their country.

The story and the answer as they read in English (maybe something was lost in the translations) really does give one an uneasy feeling and for this, you have to wonder what Kocharian’s and PanARMENIAN.Net’s motives are.

Notice that in the PanARMENIAN.Net story, there are no quotation marks where Kocharian is said to make this bold statement.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Yesterday I went to the Mayor’s office to pay my property taxes and while there, I ran into a man who is in charge of the heavy equipment depot. His name is Arthur and I like him for his well thought out opinions.

Arthur, Vova the Mayor’s accountant, Onnik, the Mayor’s engineer and I talked about a recent gathering at the high school that Arthur was present at and the Mayor’s daughter told me about a couple of days ago.

They gave 4 questions which the students, parents and staff gave their opinion on, one of which had to do with manors and properness. Thought the answers were not all that important, the Mayor’s daughter told me that my answers were exactly the same as Arthur’s.

As we were talking about properness and manors, Arthur gave an example of how manors and acceptable practices differ from those in the West. Vova added that he knew that we know that our practices we know are not what they do in the West, but we still do it them maybe out of habit.

Arthur went on to tell about how he was present at a gathering at the Amaras monastery, where they had 50 guests from the West and for washing before the meal they shared, a bar of soap and 2 hand towels were available for everyone. He said he knew that this didn’t make the guests comfortable and that he thought that they expected for there to be 50 bars of soap and towels.

Arthur went on to tell that they passed a village where a villager offered to one of the guest a baked good that to some would look to be unsanitary since in a village there is dust and dirt everywhere. The guest tried to refuse it, but the villager insisted and the guest took the baked good, but in the end didn’t eat it and just took it with them. In return, the guest gave the villager a wrapped candy bar. Two interesting things that Arthur said was that first the guest felt that he had a debt to the villager and gave a candy bar to even the score, though when you are a guest in some ones house, I guess here you are not expected to give anything in return for something offered (I’ll have to ask others if this is true or not). The second thing he said is that people from the West are only interested in taking clean and wrapped edible goods from anyone.

I told Arthur that I personally don’t see anything wrong with the soap and towel issue especially since it was summer and if the guests chose to, could air-dry their hands and when you visit someone’s house, they have soap, though in restaurants in the West, they use liquid soap or on airplanes they do have small bars of soap.

As for the eating and other traditions that are not Western, I said that as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do like the Romans”. I’ve never turned down anyone’s hospitality and have eaten my share of Oxen yogurt that has been sitting in the hot summer sun while my guest from the West cringe in fear of eating such offerings.

And what triggered me to write all this? Well it would be the recent logs from Madlene and Raffi about Khash.

Khash for me really does not do much as far as a food (nor does the idea of having to wake up so early). What does it for me is the male bonding that comes with Khash. It’s all about guys getting up early in the morning before the sun comes up and drinking toasts to a good morning and talking and being men. It’s all about getting your wife to stay up all night to keep the fire in the woodstove going to cook Khash. It’s about indoctrinating our young boys into manhood. It’s a way us guys show our togetherness. It’s a Tim Alan Tool-Time moment (for those that remember that television show. Is it still around?). It’s part of our present day culture and for me it’s doing like the Romans.

Though I was not brought up with the traditions of sharing soap, towels, eating warm Oxen yogurt and boiled cows feet, I really don’t see anything wrong with this part of our culture and certainly don’t see why our people should feel the need to change what they have been doing so long for people with a different culture.

I feel the need for some male bonding. Better get me some cows feet next time I’m in Stepanagert. Let’s see if my retired cop neighbors are interested?

And just for the record. To date, I have not gotten sick from eating any of the offerings made to me, even things that have been sitting out that should be crawling with harmful bacteria.
Another scorcher today. It’s as if were having a California winter here in Artsakh. And to think just to the West of us is Yerevan, the place where the news reported that people had to abandon their cars and walk home due to snow.

I got my haircut yesterday and it seems that this will be the last haircut I will have at my regular barbershop. It has nothing to do with the service, nor the quality or price. It’s more an end to a tradition I guess. It brings back memories of the barbershop next to my business in Burbank that also ended the same way.

In short, Martuni is developing and the barber who was renting a space in the middle of town in the hote,l has been evicted and has to move by January 3rd, as the hotel has been privatized and for the next year will be renovated. Yes folks, it looks like Martuni is going to have a modern hotel soon, which is good to all you tourist that are passing by.

Hagop Bedrosian and I were going to privatize the hotel, but by the time we found out that it was available, it was too late as the privatization process had started already.

So who purchased the hotel? Well it certainly was no Hilton or Marriott. It is Garen Yesayan, a big wig at the tax office in Stepanagert, who is the son of the President of Parliament, Oleg Yesayan. I guess this proves that corruption does pay, but at least he is putting some of what he has taken from the people back into the country, so for that we are all grateful

And since we are on the subject of corruption, here is a request that came to me from a couple of neighbors.

It seems that two of my neighbors who were police officers, retired from the force in August and to date, they still have not received their retirement bonus, nor their first pension check.

They asked me to write to the Prime Minster on their behalf, as they feel that he listens to me, but not to them. If their issues are not resolved by the first week of January, I’ll send him a letter.

And why should the Prime Minster be approached about this matter? Well it seems that when they retired, their retirement was based on their years in service, which the years during the war are multiplied by 3, meaning every war year they worked, are each counted as 3 years.

In August, a total of 8 officers retired and in September, the Prime Minster issued a decreed that the war years rule no longer applies and backdated the decreed to reflect a date prior to when the officers retired. Backdating seems to be a common practice here by our corrupt government officials.

From what my neighbors tell me, the Prime Minister told the Minster of Internal Affairs to reinstate the officers so they can work the years needed for retirement, but the MIA told the PM that he could not do this since their jobs had been filled.

With the holiday season just a couple of days away, my two neighbors who have not had an income for the last few month and are due close to $1,000 each, will have to tighten their belts and figure out a way to obtain gifts for their small children, who are accustomed to getting gifts from Winter Grandpa (Santa Claus).

Just another class of people the Prime Minster is pissing off, which means that as soon as I go up to bat for them, I’ll have a whole new group of allies to support my efforts. Thank you so much Mr. Prime Minster, may your New Year celebration be as happy as mine!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2003

I’ve been wrong before when it comes to issues of weather and reading the Cilicia logs about a snow storm in Yerevan made me wonder if Artsakh was a neighboring country to Armenia? The weather yesterday while the snow storm was going on in Yerevan was cold, but nothing that lead to a snow storm and right now it’s sunny and 55 degrees outside.

I just called to the hotel in the center of Martuni to see if my barber was working today so I can walked down and get a haircut. The answer came back positive, which means that as soon as I finish this log, I’m going to head down to get my hair cut, as after lunch, the barber my not come back to work, or if he does, he will sure to be intoxicated. Not to say I have not had my hair cut when he was intoxicated and not to say that he does not cut hair better when he more relaxed (which he does), but to have someone drunk while shaving your neck with a single-edge razor I think is an unnecessary risk.

Friday, December 26, 2003

My condolence to our neighbors to the South in the city of Bam, Iran, who suffered a devastating loss of an unknown number of lives in an earthquake that stuck a few hours ago.
This morning I woke from a dream that I was cross-country skiing on a new pair of Olin skis that I got for Christmas. What a great sensation it was to be back in nature among the well to do people of the world that have enough extra to participate in activities accessible to the privileged few who do not have to think about where they will find their next meal. It really was a good feeling.

I’ve been reflecting on my life for the last few years and how in some ways I have taken a huge cut in the conveyances I had in the West.

For instance, this morning when I woke, my room was really cold. The woodstove only kept my room warm until probably 4 am and then the electric heater that I turned on before going to sleep had some electrical problem, so it never turned on when the temperature dropped. Of course in the US, I had natural gas to heat my house and in the months that were cold, I always kept my house at a very comfortable 75 degrees.

Here we should have already had natural gas and if we did, I would basically have what I had in the states as far as heating. Unfortunately due to corruption, the money that was intended for gasification of Martuni was misappropriated and only about 30% of Martuni has natural gas. You don’t know how much this pisses me off. I wish really bad things to happen to those responsible for this every time I have to haul wood up to my room and every time when I light the stove and smoke gets in my room.

In fact most of the things I had in the US that I liked and don’t have here, don’t exist for the most part because of corruption. For that reason I feel good that I’m here and am actively involved in addressing corruption in our government.

I guess the reason I don’t regret giving up all the comforts of the US is that I know in time we will succeed in eradicating the corruption that effect or basic needs and then not only I, but those that live among me here in Armenia and Artsakh will enjoy the comforts I once had in the US.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
24 December 2003

Armenia Toughens Foreign Adoption Rules

By Atom Markarian

The Armenian government announced on Wednesday a major toughening of its procedures for the adoption of Armenian children by foreign nationals, citing an "alarming" increase in such cases in recent years.

Senior officials dealing with the issue also admitted that the existing rules, adopted in February 2000, leave the process open to government abuse and corruption.

"There are some loopholes, ambiguities and problems here that need to be addressed urgently," said Social Security Minister Aghvan Vartanian, the main author of the changes. He said they are aimed at placing more Armenian orphans in local families.

According to official figures, 76 children were adopted by foreigners -- most of them U.S. citizens -- in the first eleven months of this year, up from 43 such cases registered in 2001. By contrast the number of domestic adoptions has fallen from 135 to 128 during the same period.

Vartanian said that under the new rules foreign couples will be allowed to adopt an Armenian child only after the state exhausts all possibilities of finding the latter local parents. Any child will be available for foreign adoption at least three months after being included into the Social Security Ministry's adoption database, he added.

Other senior officials involved in the process, however, claimed this summer that Armenian orphans are already allowed to be taken abroad only after failing to attract local adoptive parents.

It also remained unclear whether foreigners will be required to deal with the government directly, and not through international or domestic agents that have carried out all the paperwork and even selected children for their clients until now. Some senior Social Security Ministry officials announced recently that foreigners will have to be present at every stage of the adoption process that may take between three months and a year.

Its integrity was thrust into doubt last June by an RFE/RL report exposing apparent kickbacks paid by foreign adoptive parents and their local "facilitators" to relevant Armenian officials. The report was based on an online investigation conducted by a U.S. citizen of Armenian descent. Some American adoptive parents confided to him that they spent thousands of dollars on bribes through the facilitators.

The report led Vartanian to demand an official inquiry from the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office. The latter appeared to investigate the matter throughout the summer, but decided against launching criminal proceedings for lack of evidence.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Why is it that every time a disaster hits the US, I’m the last to know and it’s always my neighbor across the street to tell me about it.

She called out to me on September 11th that the Pentagon was bombed and now on the way to Stepanagert, told me about the earthquake that struck someplace in California.

As soon as we drove out of Aghdam and I had a cell signal, I called my folks and got their answering machine (it was 3am in California) and getting the answering machine meant that they had power and were probably not effected by the 6.5 quake that toppled buildings.

A few minutes later my cell phone rang and on the line was Mama Manoogian. She was fine and told me that it hit Central California.

She and my father Papa Manoogian talked with me until I arrived into Stepanagert about a bunch of things including one of our readers who sent a donation to be divided among 11 needy families ($50 each) for a one time gift to help them pay for a New Years celebration, one that they would otherwise probably not have seen.

She said that she was wiring off the money tomorrow, which means that by Thursday or Friday it should arrive here and I will then pass it on to them.

Today I met with the Mayor of Stepanagert about the Projects.

I’m really not going to get into details right now since I still have some investigating to do, but according to his list, apartment #9 was received by someone other than Aghasi and when I mentioned this, one of his assistants made a call to I’m not sure who, who then gave another name of the person who received #9 who had privatized it and sold it to someone. The whole thing was very fishy, especially since Aghasi clearly told me that he received this apartment as a large family as a replacement for a building that the government tore down where he use to live in years ago.

I should have more information in a couple of days, at which time I will write a report on what I find and submit it to Azat Artsakh.

I also met with the city architect about the projects and building in general. It was a very interesting and enlightening meeting, which every other sentence was a contradiction to the prior sentence.

All I will say right now about both meetings at this point is that the whole situation is very complicated and it’s going to take lots of thinking and digesting on my part to paint a picture that one can easily comprehend.

I’m really not looking forward to having to do so much thinking this close to New Years.

BTW, the last couple of days has been sunny and quite pleasant.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Armenia can export power worth $100 mln/yr, looks for consumer

YEREVAN, Dec 19 (Prime-Tass) -- Armenia is capable of annually exporting power worth U.S. USD 100 million, but cannot find consumers for that amount of power, Armenia's Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan told reporters Friday.

The capacity of Armenia's power plants amounts to 3,500 MWt, while only 1,110 MWt are currently used due to low domestic demand, he said.

Therefore, it does not make sense to start building a second nuclear power plant in the country, he added.

The International Power Corporation, an Armenia-based subsidiary of Russia's power grid monopoly UES, has already started power exports from Armenia to Georgia, he said.

The company plans to start exporting power to neighboring states, including Turkey.

Currently, Armenia has one nuclear power plant, which is located 40 kilometers from the country's capital, Yerevan, and accounts for 40% of Armenia's total power output.

It was launched in 1979, but after the devastating earthquake in 1989 it was shut down.

In 1996, with the help of Russian specialists, the second power block of the nuclear plant was re-launched.

The combined capacity of its two power units is 815 MWt, but only one unit is currently in operation. End


To think, Armenia is a country that produces a surplus of electricity that it can’t find markets for.

I can think of a market for it’s electricity. How about using it for public transportation instead of importing fuel from the outside?

I guess that makes too much sense and would provide less of a profit to the Minister of Defense Serge Sarkissyan, who has the monopoly on such imported fuel.

This is just another example of the incompetence and mismanagement of the Robert Kocharian government, who has been systematically ripping up our electrical transportation system that was in place prior to his becoming “President”.

To add insult to injury, they exchange the majority of our power plants to Russia in exchange for debts they themselves have most probably caused us thanks to all the money they and their friends misappropriate from our government funds, thus leave us with no money to repay our debts. The only think that comes to mind is better unspoken right now.

On top of this, from what I remember, the power stations that the Russians were given were given to repay a debt of much less than $100 million. I wonder who in our government has a share in the power plant now? It wont be hard to find. In fact we already know and when the time comes will reveal those individuals when they are facing criminal charges in a court of law they don’t control.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Today I investigated a lead from witnesses that saw the woman in John Hughes's Armenia Now story about Hayk being reunited with his family after being in an orphanage for 3 years.

From my album of anyone and everyone that could be involved with adoptions and child trafficking, the picture of a woman named Siranush was positively identified by the witnesses.

Edik Baghsdasaryan gave Siranush a call at the Europa Hotel, where it seems Siranush works. He was straightforward with her and told her who he was and why he was calling. Siranush denied everything and told him to never call her again. She was clearly upset.

I called Siranush this morning posing as an Armenian-American from Boston named Eric Bedrossian and was in need of translation work. She agreed to meet with me and due to my work today, I had to reschedule our meeting a couple of time, finally making my way down to the hotel where my surveillance team had already arrived to document the meeting and intervene if I had any problems.

As you can see in the pictures, Siranush is a very pleasant person. She speaks English quite well.

The first few minutes was small talk and then I told her that I think my mother Sylva Natalie Manoogian knows her from a library event (just a guess on my part since my mom seems to know anyone I don't know) and she admitted to meeting my mother here on her last trip and was very pleased to meet me.

I then gave her my real name and asked if she had heard of me and my work in investigating the child adoption problems in Armenia? She admitted to knowing of me and reading Emil’s story.

I then told her that I didn’t believe that she was a big fish in the larger picture (though in fact she is one of the biggest local fish that has been doing this kind of work the longest) and that if she would work with me and provide me with information about who she was working with, I would do my best to keep her name out of things.

As I expected, she acted puzzled and told me that she was just a translator and that she did not facilitate adoptions.

I showed her the February 1999 issue of AIM and the story about adoption in Armenia where it was reported: "...she [Anahid, a French-Armenian woman] was also contacted by a woman named Siranush who proposed to find a baby and take care of all the paperwork in one month only--for a fee of $8000. Siranush explained that she did not receive any portion of that sum, and if Anahid wished, she could pay her something for her "humanitarian" serices. Siranush's contacts included the former director of the Nork Orphanage, Yelena Gasparian."

I then went on to ask her about her visit to Laura’s house on August 17th, 2003 at midnight? She didn’t deny anything and said that she will not comment, but the look on her face told me that it was her.

I told her that I know that she had been helping a man named Nicholas McCoy and a woman named Virginia Mason from an organization called Family Support America, one of the largest family support organizations in America and had visited and seen Hayk two and a half years ago and at that time the child was quite healthy and active (practically jumping out of the arms of his nurse) based on a photograph I had that was taken at the time. She admitted that she had been with McCoy when he visited all the the orphanages in Armenia, but was just a translator.

She also admitted to meeting Gagik and Hasmik, the facilitators from the June 25th story, in connection with her work with Family Support America at someone’s apartment.

I again asked her if she would like to help me with information for my investigation and she said she would be willing to help as a translator, but she felt she had no information that I would find useful.

I told her that if she had a change of heart, to do it soon, as my findings I have to turn over to the appropriate legal bodies, as if nothing more, her visit on August 17th to give false information about the health of Hayk so he could be adopted as a sick child and could be viewed as child trafficking. I really don't think she will be contacting me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Today I had an opportunity to visit with Laura Yeritsyan, the woman in the article posted below.

What a beautiful and energetic 3 year old Hayk is. Long blond hair and stunning blue eyes.

I spoke with Laura about her experience and the details. This is just another example of the Armenian system and the abuses that still go on. Though this case had a happy ending, I suspect that there are many cases that healthy children that were deemed disabled and/or handicapped have been adopted internationally as a result of an intentional misdiagnosis. Remember that the Prime Minister has said that Armenian orphans who are disabled or are mentally ill may be adopted by non-Armenians. Hayk was one of those children that fell in that category when in fact he is not disabled or mentally ill, but was intentionally labeled such so someone could adopt this very healthy child and most probably take them out of the country.

I guess one of the saving graces for Hayk was that his mother Laura had decided prior to finding Hayk was she had planned one day to look for him and was going to do so when her 1 year old was in pre-school and she had the time to find him, bring him home if she did find him and care for her challenged child. So in her mind when she was approached to sign off her rights to Hayk, she followed that lead and found him.

When I visited with the director of the orphanage that Hayk was at a couple of months ago, I asked her about the harelip children that the British government was curing and if they planned on placing the children back with their families and the woman made mention of one child being returned (I presume this must have been Hayk), but said something along the line of parents that could give up their child are not interested in having their child back. I guess from what Laura told me today and her actions, disprove the generalization the director of the orphanage made.

I’m going to have to make a visit again to the orphanage to follow up on this story and also what efforts have been made to reunite the harelip children to their families?

I’m very happy for Laura, Vartan, Hayk and this sisters and brother who are all back together. This really was a fairytale ending to what could have been an otherwise tragic story of child trafficking that would have probably never been detected. This also tells me that there is justification to check all international adoptions of “disabled” children to see if in fact the children are what they were diagnosed as being?
Azat Artsakh--16 December, 2003 Tuesday—ECHO

Answer to Open Letter to NKR President, Re: When a Citizen’s Rights are Ignored

In answer to the article entitled “When a citizen’s rights are ignored”, published in your newspaper on 25 November 2003, we are declaring that the evidence cited in the letter does not coincide with the truth and that the dissatisfaction of the letter-writer is unfounded.

In the authorized priority registry of citizens who need improved residential conditions, are included 451 families, of which number:

Families of martyred freedom fighters - 147
Disabled veterans of Artsakh war - 113
Families of HM War martyrs - 7
Disabled veterans of HM War - 12
Participants in HM War - 12
Participants in Afghan War - 8
Participants in Chernobyl - 2
Single mothers - 35
Disabled workers - 7
Mothers with twin children - 30
Mothers with multiple children - 39
Sickly citizens - 39

And in the general registry until now are numbered 1112 families. We consider it essential to note that in the City Hall, living quarters are allocated to families in the order of priority indicated in the registry, without any “prior promises.”

The family of the letter-writer, Larisa Hayrapetyan, was registered in 1980, in the authorized registery of families with twin children. Of the family unit, 10 people, who are registered in the Freedom Fighters 9a/20 2-room apartment, 5 are living, of which the daughter-in-law, is not registered. Larisa Hayrapetyan and her husband are living in the village of Krasni, and the other two daughters and the grandchild are living with their grandmother, in a 1.5 story, 3-room, 40 sq.m., private house, at 33 B. Sevak, where only the grandmother is registered as living.

L. Hayrapetyan and her daughters have applied numerous times re: securing living quarters, orally and in writing; they have always received’’ exhaustive answers and clarifications that in City Hall living quarters are distributed according to the registry, in the order of priority indicated.

With regard to the justification in the letter regarding the submission of documents to City Hall about registering or changing the order of priority of the husband, Ignat Tovmasyan, as a disabled veteran of the Artsakh war, it has been explained to them many times that no such request has been received in City hall, and that in the case of such desire, City Hall is ready to change their rank to the registry of veterans disabled in the Artsakh War.

With regard to distribution of apartments in the recently vacated 7 Mashtots 50-unit building, we mention that said distribution has been done without any procedural violation, to families of martyrs and disabled veterans of the Artsakh war; and 5 apartments were allocated to the NKR Defense Army; moreover, together with this, without ignoring the right of the L. Hayrapetyan family’s rights, per the lawful boundaries. Finally, we state that no unit in the 7 Mashtots building has been given to any family included in the registry.

We declare that there are other families like the L. Hayrapetyan family on the authorized priority registry of families authorized for improved living conditions, and even families who are living in rented quarters or semi-basement or basement flats and were accepted into the registry in earlier times (than the Hayrapetyans). We suggest that L. Hayrapetyan not lose hope, simply frustrated by useless efforts, not to resort to any fruitless means, not to believe in promises and “having long-term evidence of a series of authorizations, to desire securing living quarters in a lawful manner.”

H. Avanesyan


Well it seems that the letter written to the President was not answered by the President, but by the Mayor of Stepanagert.

As you can see in his answer, he claims that only houses were given to “families of martyrs and disabled veterans of the Artsakh war”, yet we know from our visit that in fact the President’s cook Aghasi or maybe it was Aghasi’s wife, the mother of multiple children received apartment #9 in the Projects.

There is also the issue of the apartment directly below Aghasi’s, which the assitant director of Artsakh Bank received, this the largest unit in the building. This person who received it has 2 children and a present income of 180,000 dram a month with an increase to 300,000 dram a month following the new year. In addition to this, though maybe not relevant, his father is the former Minister of Education and the present rector of Artsakh State University. Now if this guy was really in need of an apartment is a question I have to ask the Mayor.

I guess this whole thing will soon come to a head since I am now back in Artsakh after a very long drive back from Yerevan last night and plan on dropping in to see the Mayor this up coming week.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Two Rooms, One Family: Six members become seven with surprise return of first son

By John Hughes
ArmeniaNow reporter

In a Yerevan hospital, 26-year old Laura Yeritsyan faced a decision motherhood could not prepare her for. Her child, and, significantly, the family's first boy, would die within 10 days, doctors told her.

She had just given birth to Hayk, her fourh child. Tatevik, Anahit and Gayane, were age 9, 8 and 2 and healthy. Laura and her husband Vartan wanted a son, but when their wish was granted, the child they got was born with severe problems. Specifically, the baby was born with a cleft lip and a hole in his palate.

A micro-surgeon told the parents that the baby had no chance of living.

Even if a surgery could be arranged, the baby would require numerous costly follow up procedures and at-home treatment. Neither Laura nor Vartan had a job. So Laura signed a paper giving up guardianship of Hayk, and left him with the hospital to await the inevitable.

"I had three other children," the mother, now 29, says, not as an excuse but as a pitiful explanation. "I thought if I brought him home and something happened it would be worse for the other children."

Laura left the hospital, and never heard any more about her son.

Hayk was born February 7, 2000. The story moves ahead to this August.

Near midnight at the Yeritsyan's hovel of a home, a woman knocked on the door and said she had some legal papers she'd like Laura to sign concerning the adoption of a boy believed to be Laura's son.

The child, now 3, was in an orphanage in Gyumri, the late-night visitor told Laura. THE BOY WAS MENTALLY ILL AND COULD NEITHER STAND NOR SIT, THE WOMAN SAID.

Laura did not agree to sign the papers. Instead she called relatives in Gyumri and asked them to go to the orphanage and check out the woman's story. (She now suspects that the woman was trying to make money by trying to help someone adopt Hayk.)

Relatives indeed found Hayk, BUT NOT AS THE WOMAN HAD DESCRIBED. THE BOY WAS NOT ONLY HEALTHY, BUT ENERGETIC. A program - Operation Happy Smile - sponsored by World Vision, British Airways and the British Council had paid for a surgery to repair Hayk's lip and for a prosthetic that covers the hole in his palate.

All Laura had known of her son was that he had blond hair and blue eyes.

"I wanted to go and get him on that very day," Laura says. She was told though that she'd have to wait until proper documents could be prepared. But within a few days of learning that Hayk was alive, Laura went to the orphanage and "adopted back" her first son (in the interim, she'd given birth to Hovaness, now 1 year old).

"I changed his clothes immediately in the car," she says. "As soon as we started driving back, he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep."

The fairytale could end there. But this is no happy ending story.

In a path of destruction that will one day be Yerevan's glitzy North Avenue, the Yeritsyans live in two rooms, each about eight feet by 12 feet. Two adults, two girls about to be teenagers, a pre-schooler and two babies, in a space equivalent to two minivans. What passes for a kitchen is an entryway where Laura prepares meals for her husband and children over a propane tank; she has no oven. The toilet is a separate room reached by first going outside, and the water freezes in winter.

Vartan, 31, is working now as a driver, so things, Laura says, are better than before when he was back and forth to Russia looking for work. Driving pays well by some standards; Vartan makes about $100 a month. Still . . .

Hayk gets free speech therapy and psychological counseling through a World Vision-sponsored center in Yerevan. Laura cries when she says that Hayk still has no idea that she is his mother. To him, she is just someone who might be visiting the orphanage.

Taking Hayk back is a decision that, in many ways, might not be to the Yeritsyan's advantage. But it is a decision made with much greater clarity and infinitely less soul searching than the decision to give him up.

"Life demands that you must force yourself to do things for your children," Laura says. "I grew up in a time when things were good and my family had a comfortable apartment. I want the same for my children.

"I started believing in miracles after we got Hayk back. So I believe that one day things will be okay."

World Vision is an international agency offering several means of humanitarian work in Armenia. To learn more about them, visit To make a gift to the Yeritsyan family or others with need through ArmeniaNow's HyeSanta project, please access our web site at:
The weather in Yerevan is getting colder by the day. It snowed yesterday and today but for the most part has melted away.

I’ve been keeping busy these days meeting with people and doing the things I do best.

I met the other day with some people who work with one of the larger organizations that collect money from the Diaspora to do projects here in Armenia.

We were talking about Artsakh and our condition and the subject of the church came up and my discontent with Barkev Srpazan, who I felt would serve our Church and the people of Artsakh best if he would step down since he has done things that are not exactly Christian and in the eyes of the youth and probably even the older part of the population (though they don’t say it outright maybe thinking it’s Amot), that Barkev Srpazan sets a double standard and why should we follow what he says when he does not follow what he preaches?

I mentioned that when the Church in Martuni is finished and he opens it, then it will be the last Church he opens in Artsakh before we embarrass he and run him out of Artsakh.

The people from the organization said that if we did that, it would be bad as Barkev Srpazan is the guy that gets the Diaspora to give money to the Church and if we run him out, we will turn off the Diaspora, who respect him.

I didn’t say anything since they made that comment as I was leaving, but all that ran through my head was that this is so Armenian. All they could think about is the money and who cares about our spiritual feeling. Is the Church not all about Belief, Hope and Love? Were did the importance of Money come into play? For me I would rather have a spiritually healthy people then a people who don’t believe in their religion and have lots of money.

Well I guess I’m going to be returning to Artsakh on Sunday and then on Monday I will have try to have my meeting with the mayor of Stepanagert about the projects.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I just finished a meeting with one of my journalist friends Edik, the one that wrote the story a few months ago called “No one can stop the General”, the story about my buddy General Levon. He told me that a week after his story was run, General Levon was transferred from his post and is now out of Artsakh, though I still see him from time to time in Artsakh. Anyway, a positive move, but not one that has stopped the removal of pipes from Artsakh.
Yesterday I drove to Yerevan to take Jeff Ryan of Nungi ceramics studio as he is going to the US for the holidays to be with his family.

The drive in was not all that bad and other than maybe 20 kilometers of ice on the road, the whole trip took us under 5 hours.

It’s quite cold here, but does not seem as cold as it was in Artsakh, which for me is kind of strange as a rule, Artsakh is usually warmer. Go figure.

You can tell that the holiday season is nearing. Compared to last year, the holiday decorations are more this year and the streets appear to be cleaner.

I guess I’m going to be here a few days at least and will make time to meet up with friends while here. I’ve already talked to Arsineh and we are going to meet up some time next week. I also got together with Der Hova today for lunch. We had Mexican food at Cactus. It was very tasty!!!

I was at my cousin’s house today and walked in when on the television they announced that Sadam was captured. If this is true, you can be sure that all hell is now really going to break loose in Iraq with intensified liberation bombings.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Former Azerbaijan president dies

Friday, 12 December, 2003, 20:26 GMT

Aliyev collapsed on television earlier this year

Azerbaijan's former President Heydar Aliyev has died in a US hospital. Aliyev died aged 80 at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was being treated for heart and kidney problems. He stepped down as president of Azerbaijan in October, and was succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev, following elections. Heydar Aliyev was a former Soviet Communist leader who reinvented himself in the 1990s as a post-independence political strongman. Aliyev had been at the Cleveland Clinic since 6 August, where he was being treated for congestive heart failure and kidney problems. A hospital spokesman said Aliyev died at 1000 (1500 GMT) on Friday. He had collapsed earlier this year during a speech that was broadcast live on television.

Obituary: Heydar Aliyev

It was Aliyev's ill health that prompted him to stand down from the presidency, having been elected to the post in 1993, following the country's independence. His record on human rights and media freedom was often criticised in the West, but he was also credited with bringing stability to the oil-rich country, and helping to attract foreign investment. A spokesman for the Azerbaijan embassy in Washington said the former president's body would be flown to Azerbaijan in the next couple of days.
Tonight I got a call from the Thomasyan family telling me that Azat Artsakh has been contacted by the Mayor’s of Stepanagert’s office denying everything in the story they ran on November 25, 2003.

The journalist who wrote the story and interviewed me, but didn’t mention my name in the story has now mentioned me to the Mayor as a witness to the statements he made, which means that if he is going to hold his ground, he is calling me a lair.

I guess I was expecting him to come forward and make such claims, but if he thinks he is going to get away with it, then he’s only fooling himself, since the documentation we have collected speaks for itself and if need be we will take it to court.

I guess we will be meeting with him next week some time to discuss everything and you can be sure that you all will be the first to know what happened.

The temperature in Martuni dropped to 0c(32f). It’s very cold now and there is not a cloud in the sky. The stars and moon are quite beautiful to watch.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Don’t they make a cute couple? I’m really happy to see that Vartan has not clawed out my dog's eyes.
Today the sun was out and for the most part the snow is gone and now instead of just regular old mud, we have super mud/slush, which tonight will freeze and then soften once the sun comes out again.

I really didn’t do much today other than some stuff around the house and a little bit of food shopping.

I have something which I’m not sure what it is, but I’m coughing allot. It’s nothing like the flu, but my eyes are feeling a bit heavy, so maybe it is the start of a flu. I think if I stay in bed tomorrow and do nothing except keep warm and rest, it just may go away (I hope).

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our condition here and have concluded other than corruption being from what I can see at an all time high, a major factor to our problem is 80% of our population is stagnate and by doing nothing is adding to our problems big time. On top of this we have a Diaspora which I would guess 95%+ stagnate.

I thinking that the way we are going to get beyond these problems is to get the stagnate members of our population active, as those that don’t become part of the solution, are part of the problem. The question is how do we do this? Any ideas?
I’m giving up drinking all together since alcohol is a depressant and so is winter and the news I read and report and I can see that it is starting to effect me.

Here is some depressing news I want to document for the record. It's a story called “IF YOU ARE ILL AND POOR, IT IS BETTER TO DIE RIGHT AWAY”. It’s quite long and talks about the healthcare industry in Armenia and how out of reach it is from many people.

In short it talks about how people are going blind because of their lack of money to get a free medical treatment for cataract, which is brought on from glaucoma, which is believed in some cases to be trigged by social unsettledness of people and lack of confidence in tomorrow. I’m not sure how true the later is, but the fact is that people don’t have money to have the cataract removed before it causes permanent damage, leaving them in the dark.

From the article reads: “As if mocking at the people, recently the Ministry of Health of the RA issued a new decree (25.09.2003) and circulated it among all medical institutions. In short, it says that if a person has an attack of disease on the street and is taken to hospital, doctors do not have a right to provide first aid until the patient pays 10.000 AMD to the institution. In the commentaries to the decree, the Ministry explained it as a measure to introduce realistic prices and thus to ease a burden of the treasury. Even physicians, who have lived on at the expense of patients for a long time, were shocked by this cynical regulation. Nobody is secured from the heart attack or car accident, is anybody? It would be a shame if you die because you don't have 10.000 AMD in your pocket. The question on how pensioners with pensions of 6.000 Drams or teachers with their symbolic salaries can carry 10.000 AMD in their pockets, does not bother public servants.”

I don’t even know how to react to the Minister of Health of the RA’s decree. I can only wish he gets hit by a car and his bribe money and identification is ejected from his pockets so he ends up in the hospital in critical condition and can’t fulfill his own requirements for treatment. That would be justice in my book.

Though I could go on about this for pages, I just want to say one more thing that is relevant to this story.

A couple of years ago, the President of Artsakh, along with the RA Military Prosecutor and the head of the largest government hospital in Armenia started to privatize the government hospital. I heard about it because I know people who work there (doctors and administrators) and could only think that knowing them and their greed, this would really challenge the people needing medical treatment. Earlier this year the privatization of the hospital was stopped, so I’m not sure where it stands but will say that if it is to succeed, we will be facing even worse problems because as we know those people as well as a few others are not thinking of the well being of our people, but of their own “rich” (in a materialistic sense, since they could never be rich in a spiritual way) lifestyle. Very sad and until we can bring these issues under control, a bit depressing.

We got snow last night and now we have sun.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Due to the bad weather today, my visit to Stepanagert was delayed and by the time I got there at 4 PM, my cold call to see the city architect about the projects didn’t happen.

I did find time to follow up on a lead about the former residence of Aghasi’s, the president’s cook who received apartment #9 in the projects by not having a home and being a large family.

I found his old apartment, which was not just one apartment, but 2 apartments in a very nice building that was turned into one large apartment. I knew the building well as it was built by the Jupiter Corporation (Samuel Babayan’s Corp.) 5 years ago and before it was confiscated by the government and sold or giving to people in need of houses, those apartments were some of the most expensive apartments at that time, going for $4 to $6 thousand dollars each.

By working as a PI in the states once upon a time, I was remembering my younger days of having to track down people and talking to helpful neighbors to get information. Just like in America, the people here were willing to give information and boy what a shock it was to me to learn that Aghasi had sold apartments #15 and #21 for a whopping $20,000+ to the son of a member of Parliament a couple of months ago, meaning 3 months after receiving apartment #9 in the projects.

When I spoke to Aghasi on my first visit to the projects, he misrepresented the facts and told me he didn’t have a residence when he was given apartment #9, when in fact he did.

So it seems clear that here is a case of someone that clearly was not in need of an apartment, but due to his connection, he not only got an apartment, but he also sold his old apartments for $20,000+ which means he probably made money on the deal and maybe even paid a bribe with some of the proceeds.

I think the President needs to be called on this one and I can see the next article in Azat Artsakh titled “President Violates Citizens Rights”. That sure will make him popular with the natives and the Diaspora.

Oh and while talking about Azat Artsakh and articles, the open letter run on November 25th by law, the President has to answer it in 15 days, which would have been today, which he has not done as of 8 PM. Once again the rights of a citizen are violated and this time it is clearly a violation by the President himself. Shame on you Mr. President!!! Your 3rd strike looks to be just around the corner.

Well I guess I was wrong about the snow not coming until after the new years. This afternoon it got quite cold and as I was leaving Stepanagert it stated to snow.

It was not all that fun a drive and by the time I got back to Martuni, 2 hours had passed (it usually takes no more than an hour) as visibility was really poor.

I got home and being that there was snow on the ground, it was easier to drive my car down my street and into the garage.

Since there was water in the radiator of the truck and it could freeze tonight, I drained the water so the engine won’t get damaged.

And now for some breaking news… A couple of minutes ago I could hear Vartan the cat meowing and looked for him all over the house to no avail. I then opened the front door and there was my dog sitting at the door and Vartan, who walked in like it was no big deal. I guess my dog and cat are now friends. I’ll have to get a picture of them together later and post it.
Last night the rain didn’t let up as quick as I would have liked it to as this morning the street was a muddy mess and my dump-truck that I brought home from the factory yesterday can’t be safely moved until the sun comes out and dries the street a bit. Oh what a pain, but what can I do about it now other than wait.

It looks like things in the region could change in the near future. It’s unclear what U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits to
Baku and Tbilisi last week were all about? All I know is that the U.S. is working to place people in power that they can work with. Some are saying that the U.S. is interested in stationing troops in Azerbaijan and Georgia. I’m not sure, but knowing the U.S. foreign policy, in the end it has to be all about economics and what the U.S. can do to prosper from what is found in this region…OIL!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Last year around this time we had a horrible snow storm which knocked down power poles causing a 5 day blackout to the Martuni region.

Today there is no sign of snow and it looks like this will be a light winter with little snow, which is fine by me.

Right now we are facing a wood shortage, with laws being enforced to prevent the cutting of trees that are crucial to heat houses that have not been gasified.

I was reading an article the other day that stated in Armenia they will allow the cutting of something like 75,000 cubic meters of wood, but the demand for heating wood is around 750,000 cubic meters.

It looks like we are now facing the effects of not planting 10 years ago when we could have so today not only would we have trees to collect well water, but trees to produce more oxygen and wood to burn.

I guess what would have also helped is if they gasified the entire country with the pipes that a few people have sent off to Armenia and Iran for their own personal gain.

When ever I think about those people who we trusted to do the right thing and didn’t, all I can think about is how I wish for them some incurable illness that will cause them a slow painful death. I know that must sound inhuman, but trust me when I tell you they do deserve to suffer more than we have and are.

With the good weather we are having, construction at the stone factory is moving forward with some walls and gates being put up. We took a truck load this after noon of building stones and tomorrow all the sand that is left in front of my house will be loaded up on my truck and taken down to the factory, which will also clear my street so when we start to lay down gravel, those materials wont be lost.

Darn, I spoke too soon. It just started to rain. Well at least it’s 7.8c outside which means no snow yet. I hope it will pass in the next couple of hours or else I wont be able to drive my truck down my street.
Reading the news on Groong is not always such a good thing to do when you first wake up.

This morning when I read the headline “NKR President: Karabakh ready for peace talks without preconditions”, the though of the president to be negotiating a peace plan for us was quite frightening. To think that the guy can’t make sound choices on how to run our country right and now sit down and try to make choices of how to settle our problem with our enemy kind of scares me since he clearly has shown in the past that he is interested in only his and his friends interests.

Then comes to mind Azerbaijan and from what I understand from Aliev, it’s kind of the same situation there. Can he make the right choices for his poverty stricken country? If he and his father had made the right choices in the past, would his country be poverty stricken today? I guess they have more excuses to be poverty stricken then we do (loosing control of much land), but nonetheless, from what we have been reading in the press, our president and their president seem to have the same respect from the people.

I’m not sure what will be accomplished from the talks, but I guess in the world of international politics, it’s a mandatory process, but knowing both sides and the history of the region for the last thousand years, probably nothing will come of them.

I guess the only thing that I can find comfort from is that in the end it will be what the people want and if we agree with the settlement offers that they come up with, then more power to them. If not, then it could be the LTP story all over again, which would not be all that bad.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Today I have to say was a very productive day.

From morning to noon, I took care of work around my house.

My Godson Laverent came by and being that it is the 3rd day after the day he was baptized and had not washed the areas of his body that were blessed with holy oil, I filled a pan with warm water and rinsed off those areas, taking the water and watering the new walnut tree in my front yard.

Laverent then took a nice long hot shower and we headed to Stepanagert, where we met up with Jeff Ryan for lunch, followed by a couple of errands and then off to Shushi where Laverent bathed his Godson Garekin and watered an apple tree with the water.

We returned to Stepanagert where I paid my second visit to the “projects” to take some daytime pictures. Today the place really was looking like the projects with laundry hanging off of occupied balconies, something I had been told was not suppose to happen, but as you can see with your own eyes has. I think it would have been a great idea and something new here to have a laundry room on the ground floor and maybe this is something that can actually be done in the future to avoid having this building to look as it does now and will look much worse when it is full.

I also have been getting quite a bit of cooperation with my investigation of the “projects” not only from the natives, but also from the Diaspora. Let’s hope that we can finish this story with a happy ending.

Well I better get some sleep as I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Today I went to visit the mayor of Martuni to discuss our street, which once upon a time I had fixed when I first purchased my house by covering the clay (mud) with gravel so when it would rain, one could actually drive their car on it without it sliding all over the place and getting stuck.

The road was again repaired 3 years ago by the mayor’s office, at which time I also repaired ½ a kilometer of roads that connected to the road the mayor’s office fixed, just to see how much it really cost to make similar repairs and by doing so, deprived the contractor of the road of $4,000 that he was over charging.

Last year, they redid our water system and ripped up our road and then never recovered it with gravel as they were suppose to before the USAID contractor CRS left Karabagh, leaving us with a muddy mess of a road that when it rains you are bound to slip and fall in (if on foot), which my neighbor the commander of one of our bases wife and son have done.

So my visit to the mayor today was to discuss what we are going to do to repair our road and me making the offer to once again help out, but this time I would like some participation from the mayor’s office, which he committed 30 to 40 thousand dram. This means that I will supply the earthmoving equipment and he will provide the fuel. I will also trying to get my neighbor’s to participate with manpower.

As we were talking, the assistant Martuni prosecutor came by to the mayor’s house to invite him to a small birthday lunch for the head of the tax office, inviting me along also.

We went to a restaurant, where the birthday boy and 4 others sat (including me) and shared a meal.

During the end of our meal I shared with them the story of the last time I had sat in the room we were sitting in which took place January 30 or 31, 2001, when I was invited to a meal with the former Regional Minister after I had met with the Prime Minister to have the Regional Minister, Chief of Police and Prosecutor removed from their posts, which a month began to happen.

The head of the tax office asked me what the Regional Minister had done to me to make me want to remove him? I said he had not done anything directly to me, but what he was doing to the greater population and the fact that it was the wish of the people for 4 years to remove him and they were not successful justified the need for me to try.

One of the other guests told him that I do what I do here for the people and the head of the tax office didn’t want to believe that and said that someone from the outside told me to do this and for that reason I did that. I didn’t argue with him and said that he could believe what he wanted to, but my reasons were as the other guest had said.

He then went on to ask if the Regional Minister was all that bad and was the Regional Minister we have today any better?

I said that in fact when I had gone to see the Prime Minister, there had been another person I wanted to remove, which happened to be the present day Regional Minister who at the time was the head of the bank and I had documented his taking of bribes, but had not figured that the Prime Minister would not take me up on my offer to work together and place me in the post of Regional Minister, where at that time I would have very quickly removed the head of the bank.

The head of the tax office said that now he understands why I don’t like the present day government. I don’t like them because they didn’t make me Regional Minister. I disagreed and read off a list of reasons why they were not governing this country properly (you have read many of those reasons in my logs over the years) and noted that Kocharian and Serg Sarkissyan were at the head of our mismanaged government.

He went on to say that if I don’t like them that much, I could have never been able to work with them and they would not have let me work. I disagreed with him and said that I would have made them work if they liked it or not and they would have.

He continued to disagree until I told him that the biggest problem today is that Robert Kocharian and the people around him are all prostitutes (a title the locals give quite often to our officials and people who kiss up to them). I guess I said it loud enough that he quickly went to the door to shut it all the way so no one else in the restaurant could hear me. He then said that he bet that I had never said anything like that outside of the room we were sitting in. I said I had and would say it to their faces if given the chance because we all know it’s true. I added that the recent Armenian Fund telethon was part of the proof that very few in the Diaspora trusted them and even the money they raised here if not forced out of the people, they would have raised practically nothing. I then educated them that the president of the Armenian Fund is Robert Kocharian, something it’s seem very few here know. I added that since he knows Kocharian and his friends, he can feel free to share everything I have said with him, as I had said before, I would have no problem to document that the title of prostitute I give to Kocharian and his friends is fully justified.

Though he still tried to counter what I was saying, the look on his face had changed and it seemed that I planted a seed of doubt in his head. As I was walking out, one of his friends told me that even if he did agree with me, he could never say it as his job would then be on the line, just like the prosecutor who replace the one I had removed, who a couple of years back continued a toast I started to remind the people in power that they need to think a little bit more about our people, which he added that all they think about is the soft chair they sit in, this in front of some high ranking officials from Armenia as well. A month later, they tried to remove him for a month before they gave up and then recently found their chance (maybe for some other reason) and transferred him out of Martuni.

Anyway, in my book, today was a good day to practice my communication skills with the people who are part of our problem and plant seeds of change in them. If the seeds take is another issue.

Today in Martuni we paid our respects and remembered the victims of the 1988 Armenia earthquake.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

One of the richest men in Artsakh has to be Ura

Who is Ura and what makes him so rich? Well look at Ura and his wife. They are 52 years old and have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.

In Artsakh, one of the best way to measure wealth is by the amount of grandchildren you have and so far Ura and his wife have 12 of them with more to come.

Yesterday I went to Shushi to become the Godfather to Lavrent, who in turn became Godfather to Ura’s youngest grandson Garekin.

After the baptism, we went to Ura’s house where we had a celebration of Garekin and Lavrent’s baptism and also celebrated Garekin’s 1st birthday and his sister Sousan’s 2nd birthday.

I have to tell you that the music was horrible (played live by Ura and his friends who had not played the clarinet, according or drum since the start of the Artsakh movement), the food was not the greatest, the vodka was difficult to drink, the lighting in the room was dim, it was a little bit cold and the seating was uncomfortable. What made this celebration so wonderful was that though things were not what they could have been, everyone was having a great time being together and sharing this joyous moment.

The room was filled with tables and though there was no place to move much, people found a way to dance as Ura and his friends pounded out the music and Ura’s wife sang.

When we were sitting and eating, I didn’t know that all the little very cute kids running around were his and when he told me his age and how many grandchildren he had, my natural reaction was to let out a belly-laugh in amazement and sympathy to how difficult it must be in these conditions to have such a large family. Ura said that his family is very tight and they help out each other to make sure no one goes hungry.

His children and grandchildren are all very healthy and intelligent. And looking at the picture you can see very good-looking.

All I know is that after being with Ura and his family for this celebration, I further understand that wealth is not measured with material goods, but with how healthy and large ones family is.
As the rail system is still being ripped up by the Kocharian government, the life threatening public transportation system is on the verge of collapse. This is just another effect of a mismanaged corrupt government.

No. 208,
December 04, 2003


Unregulated and dangerous public transport system is costing lives in

By Rita Karapetian in Yerevan

Last month a busy intersection in the centre of the Armenian capital Yerevan was the scene of a major traffic accident that left six dead and 12 seriously injured. Two children and two elderly women were among the dead.

It later turned out that one of the drivers, who died in hospital, was carrying neither a driving license nor a certificate of roadworthiness for his vehicle.

In the last few years accidents like this have become more and more common as the Armenian capital, with a population of one million people, has grown to rely on one means of transport, the shuttle taxi or "marshrutka", a minibus running along a set route.

Most of the vehicles are old or in disrepair, and this leads to numerous crashes. Levon Virabian, deputy chief of Yerevan's traffic police, said the number of traffic accidents has doubled this year.

Areg Barsegian, who heads the transport department in the Yerevan mayor's office, said that minibuses currently carry three-quarters of all passengers. He said there are now more than 2,500 minibuses in Yerevan. One in three are operating illegally.

Some drivers manage to get unroadworthy vehicles into service by presenting another minibus for inspection, then putting its license plates on another one. These unsafe vehicles are the ones endangering people's lives.

Traffic policemen allegedly help keep the vehicles on the road by accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to the poor state they are in. "We are aware of the problem, and we know urgent action is needed," said Ararat Maitesian, Armenia's senior deputy chief of police.

Since last month's tragic accident, the authorities in Yerevan have taken a few measures such as banning the widespread practice of allowing extra passengers to stand in ordinary buses as well as marshrutkas when there are no seats left.

"The drivers will get around the ban by telling passengers to sit on each other's lap in a crowded marshrutka," said Naira, a Yerevan resident. "If everyone is sitting down, police inspectors won't notice there are too many people inside."

After a recent inspection of marshrutka minibuses, several hundred vehicles were impounded and many drivers fined.

But this only made things worse for regular passengers, who now have to wait in long lines to catch a minibus during the rush hour.

The mayor of Yerevan, Yervand Zakarian, also issued a decree banning the shuttle taxis from running after midnight. As the city authorities made no move provide alternative means of transport, the measure angered passengers even more.

"In 1993, when the energy crisis was at its height, there was no electricity or fuel in Yerevan and we had to walk everywhere," said Robert, aged 50. "But at least then we knew nothing could be done about it. Why do we have to walk now?"

Opposition politicians blame the government for the growing transport problems.

"The authorities have never regulated the public transport sector in Armenia, leaving it to its own devices," said opposition deputy Manuk Gasparian. He said that the state has allowed the public transport system to be bought up by businessmen who have bought up second-hand minibuses and designed their own routes. And, claims Gasparian, officials earn kickbacks from this arrangement.

"There are many opportunities for illegal business in Armenia's public transport system," agreed Viktor Dallakian, a member of the parliamentary commission on legal matters. "If the government intends to fight corruption, it should target public transport. That won't be easy because many high-placed officials and some lawmakers have invested in the private transport services."

Another leading opposition figure, former mayor of Yerevan Albert Bazeyan, who heads the Republican Party agreed, "Public transport in the city is operated by people protected by the authorities. The business generates enormous profits, but no tax is paid."

IWPR asked Yerevan transport official Barsegian to comment on these allegations that corruption plays a part in the problem, but he refused to comment.

Yerevan has always been plagued by transport problems, but recently the situation has got a lot worse. The city had high hope for its underground rail system, launched in the early Eighties, but lack of funds meant that construction was discontinued after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the few metro stations that operate are unable to cope with growing numbers of passengers.

"The current state of affairs in Yerevan's public transport system is a direct result of lack of state funding," said economic expert Harutiun Khachatrian. He said that services that operate large vehicles cannot survive without government subsidies, so the minibuses filled the gap in the market. But now there are so many filling up the streets that people are once again discussing bringing buses and trolleybuses back.

"All these bans, introduced overnight, severely limited the carrying capacity of the minibuses without offering anything in return," he said.

To replace at least half of the minibuses, the city would need 500 regular buses working two shifts a day.

At the moment the city only has ten second-hand Renault buses donated by the mayor of Lyons in France. Twenty-two more buses arrived two months ago, but the Yerevan mayor's office has not yet decided where to use them.

Andranik Manukian, Armenia's transport and communications minister conceded to IWPR that Yerevan's public transport system was "wide open to criticism."

"Unfortunately the big buses have gone out of use and now most of the transport is being done by minibuses which, in my view, are a very uncomfortable and demeaning way for our citizens to travel," he said.

Manukian said that the government is working on an emergency legislation package to regulate urban public transport, and a new law on traffic inspectors.

However, finance and economics minister Vartan Khachatrian said no funds had yet been set aside for public transport in next year's budget.

Rita Karapetian is a reporter for the Noyan Tapan news agency.

Friday, December 05, 2003

This is going to be a very quick log.

I just woke up a little while ago to the sound of my doorbell ringing and was woke from a very strange dream.

I was dreaming that in Martuni we were having a huge feast and what we were eating was birds. Not just turkeys and chickens, but there were also a couple of wild birds of pray, one being a large Hawk and one an Eagle.

These birds were all alive and it was my job to heard them up (they for some reason were unable to fly). What was strange about this dream that I seemed to be the only one that could get near to the Hawk and Eagle, who I felt really sorry for, but I was thinking that as much as I am not into killing endangered birds of the wild, I have to not upset the cultural norm here.

So I got hold of the Eagle, which could have clawed and bit me but didn’t. I took it over to the Mayor who had an ax in his hand and was working on chopping heads off of these birds (in real life, he does not at all like this job and it’s always left up to his mother or me to do this dirty work). His father was helping him with the slaughters and after me handing the Eagle to him (which he didn’t seem to had a problem handling it), they were trying to chop it’s beak off before the head.

I could not figure why they were chopping of the beak first instead of putting the poor bird out of it’s misery and could not watch them chipping that this beautiful birds beak.

I’m not sure what happened next, but the doorbell rang and not to say I didn’t want to see what was going to happen next, but I was glad to be woken from such a memorable dream.

Anyway, I wonder what this dream meant? Any ideas?

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Azat Artsakh -- Stepanakert -- Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR)

This letter, brought to the attention of our readers, has given us occasion for reflections. Generally, the publishable character of open letters has one purpose, to turn the given issue into the subject of attention. In essence, such letters must contain the most important questions, having a more public/social resonance. Unfortunately, lately we have come across open letters, sent to the government leadership and containing personal requests/concerns. According to our research, this is not the result of unfamiliarity with the status of the citizen, but simply the undertaking of useless efforts.

On the occasion of this actual letter, we have conducted some investigation and discovered that before the correspondent’s writing to the president of the republic about the issue concerning her, she had appealed to the appropriate tribunal (regarding which, on one occasion she has appealed to the president’s staff). Moreover, the correspondent, whose concern is the question of living quarters, was forced to write to the great American-Armenian benefactor, Alex Manoogian’s daughter, Louise Simone-Manoogian, the motive for which was the promised, but not allocated, apartment in the Mashtots 7 building.

The correspondent, Larisa Hayrapetyan, evidently having had for years a series of authorizations, wanted to secure an apartment through lawful means. However, receiving promises each time, nothing was done. Would it not have been possible, on the bases indicated in the letter, to allocate an apartment to L. Hayrapetyan? In any case, it seems, it would have been possible to resolve her request in such a way that the correspondent would not have had to appeal to the NKR president. We do not think that this is the right way; however, at the same time, we must also understand L. Hayrapetyan, because she, having run out of every hope, appealed to the president of the Republic out of frustration and in pursuit of justice. It is another question when a citizens submits a capricious request to the leader of the country, and at the same time another question when a personal issue becomes the theme of public examination. In our opinion, L. Hayrapetyan’s concern is outside the bounds of personal self-interest. Why are those structures which allow jurisdictional issues to reach the presidential level called disgraceful links? It is possible to explain this condition in a different manner, of course, not in favor of the beneficiary. But our aim is not to find an actual guilty person. This is more of an issue for public perception. It is not possible to drag out the citizen’s personal concern so much that she is forced to appeal to the highest leadership hopelessly.

Similar examples, unfortunately, are not few; and thus we print said letter to illustrate the concern we have expressed above, hoping that appropriate structures will, at least this time, have practical consequences.


Since my request addressed to You 6 months ago has remained unanswered by you, I am forced to appeal to You publicly with the expectation of a reply.

The issue is that since 1974, I have been on the roster of citizens who have a need for improved living conditions. In 1980, in connection with my giving birth to twins and subsequently, as the mother of 6 children, I was moved ahead to the list of individuals with the right of relocating to larger living quarters. My 8-member family was living in the “laborer” building at 9a/20 Freedom Fighter, in a 1-room apartment without basic communal commodities, limited sanitary and inappropriate technical utilities. In 1994, my husband was wounded in battle and the same year he presented to City Hall the necessary documents to pursue being added to the roster of citizens in need of improved living quarters for 2nd level disabled persons. However, the documents were returned to us from City Hall, with verbal justification for our family’s being included on the waiting list and it not being necessary to re-register. At present my family consists of 10 persons, and due to the impossibility of them all living in one room, it has been necessary for the members of my family to establish residence in different places. My husband and I moved to the village, to his sister’s house; 2 daughters and one child live with their grandmother; and the other daughter and 3 sons (including the twins) and my daughter-in-law (who will soon give birth) live in the 1-room apartment mentioned above.

What is clear to me is that expanded living quarters are being given to citizens on the roster out of the order indicated as to time and vacancy. However, by violating the rules, of the 50 units recently vacated, my family did not receive one, disregarding the fact that I have twins and am of the mother of many children; my husband is a disabled veteran of the Artsakh war; my son is serving on the front line; my daughter-in-law is the daughter of a martyred freedom fighter; and most importantly, I have been on the list for about 30 years, and for several years have been at the top of the list. With all this, the right of my family to receive an apartment according to the rules has been violated. Since You are the one in NKR with the authority to mete out justice, I am appealing to you with the following question: How can you allow in your country such a blatant injustice? Is it because your entourage is providing you with murky misinformation? And how do you explain that people who are not entitled have received apartments in the contested building? And finally, could I, perhaps, at least this time, expect Your reply and the explanation for my violated rights and lawful benefits?


As we saw, the correspondent’s dissatisfaction is justifiable. Until today, she has not received the apartment to which she is entitled, and moreover, she has not even been deemed worthy of any reply. In the end the signers of all the letters are our citizens, who in addition to their civic duties also have their rights. And the conclusion is one – the rights of citizens must be honored.

Press Release
For Immediate Use - Catholicosate of Cilicia
Media Relations Office
Tel: (+961- 4) 410001, 410003
Fax: (+961- 4) 419724
E- mail:

PO Box 70 317

Armenian version:

The Passing of Archbishop Mesrob Ashdjian

Antelias, Lebanon His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, members of the Brotherhood of Cilicia, announce with deepest sadness the passing of Archbishop Mesrob Ashdjian, on Tuesday, December 2, 2003, in New York City. His Eminence was 62 years old.

Archbishop Ashdjian faithfully served the Armenian Church for half a century with extraordinary dedication. He served as the Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy for twenty years, from 1978 to 1998. Since 1998 he has continued his service to the Armenian Church and nation, marked especially by the remarkable work he accomplished in Armenia.

The Wake Service will take place Friday evening, December 5, 8 p.m., at St. Illuminator's Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City. The service of Final Unction will take place during the Divine Liturgy service at St. Illuminator's Cathedral on Saturday, December 6, at 10 a.m. The service will be officiated by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Armenian Prelate of Eastern Prelacy of North America.

The final journey of Archbishop Mesrob will be to Antelias, Lebanon, where he will be buried on Monday, December 8, 2003, in the Mausoleum of the Holy See of Cilicia.


I don’t know if I should be shocked by this news since I know when I was investigating him and his ties with Vahram Barseghyan (the current Controller for President Kocharian), back in 1999, he became quite ill with heart problems (I don’t think they were caused by me since this heart doctor who is an old family friend was visiting him around the same time I deposed him) and stepped down from his executive secretary for the 1700th anniversary of Christianity position. He never seemed to be the same after that.

May he finally rest in peace and know that I never thought that he knowingly or intentionally helped corrupt people in Armenia become more corrupt, wealthier and more powerful.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Last night while in Stepangert, I stopped in to visit with the new residences of the 11 story $1 million housing complex deemed by Hagop Bedrosian as the “projects”.

I wrote about the projects back in June as to my concerns of the hefty price tag of which $650,000 was donated by Louise Simone-Manoogian and the remaining $350,000 was allocated from a government fund.

My visit yesterday took place at 8 pm and thank goodness I had a flashlight in my car or else I could not have entered the dark building which the elevators were turned off as well as all the lights in the stairwells and halls. In fact the single light fixture in each hall was disassembled and even if functional could not sufficiently light the area it was intended to cover.

The only way I can describe this building is as a DISASTER and the biggest rip-off we have seen since the Goris-Stepanagert hwy.

I visited 5 homes and though all the occupants were grateful to Louise Simone-Manoogian for her generosity, they were not happy with the poor quality workmanship that was invested in the projects.

Besides cracking walls, shrinking floorboards that were allowing cold air to enter the houses and no natural gas for heating, my greatest concern was who received a house in this building.

As you may remember, I had visited with the Mayor of Stepanagert back on April 23rd of this year about reports I had of people paying bribes to get on the list of those that would receive a house in the tune of $3,000 (one who was ready to pay $2,000 and was being asked for $3,000, but didn't have the other $1,000 and was looking to me for an alternative).

At my meeting with the mayor, he assured me that everything was on the up and up and for one family who I personally knew, they were sure to get a house since they were first on one of the 10 lists the mayor had. To say the least, they didn’t get a house.

So who got a house? Well 5 of the houses went to the army to give to officers and we were told the remaining 45 houses we were divided to families of martyred persons and injured veterans, thus the family I mentioned above didn’t get a house since they were not on those 2 lists.

The first 4 houses we visited were persons who fell under the martyred and veterans list and as we were leaving the dark building with lots of pictures of water damage from bathrooms, cracked walls, missing tiles and so on, we noticed a hall light on the 3rd floor.

We approached apartment #9 to find the residence of a family that had 5 children ages 15 to 24. Aghasi, the father was a veteran of the Karabagh war. He got the house as being an enlarged family (the same list the family I mentioned above was on in 1st place, meaning the should have received a house before Aghasi).

It seems that this man who received a 3 bedroom 111 square meter flat (the largest size in the building) was not from the martyred or injured veterans list, but just a simple large family.

What made Aghasi different from the family that was at the top of the list was that Aghasi is the president of Karabagh’s cook. Yes, Aghasi works directly for the president and feeds him the food that keeps our president alive (we wont hold that against him).

Though Aghasi answered most of my questions, I could tell that he was a bit uncomfortable telling me who his neighbors are, one from what I understood was the son of a former big-wig and the downstairs neighbor being a high-ranking worker from Artsakh Bank that I personally know, who has not moved in yet since he is remodeling.

I sure would not want to be in this building at night if they had to evacuate it. As you can see in the upper right corner of the picture what that sign reads in Armenian is “Emergency Exit” and is suppose to be lit by the light fixture to it’s right that is missing the bulb, socket and cover.

And why is there no natural gas in the building? Well the government is saying that a building of that height is not allowed to have natural gas because it is dangerous. Someone in the building has a relative who works in Armenia at the earthquake safety department and said that there is no such rule. To heat the building this year people will have to use electricity or if everyone each pays 20,000 dram a month (about $38), they will turn on the central heating system (electricity will be cheaper, but many times more expensive than natural gas).

The reason for the elevators and hall lights not working is that the residence have to pay for the electricity for them and the government is saying that they have to pay 25 dram a kilowatt which is the industrial rate they charge to profit making ventures. This is not a profit making venture, so why should they charge that? The residence still don’t know when they will have elevator service and common area lighting.

I’m now working on getting a copy of the blueprints so I can do a cost review of this project, which my high estimate just from looking at what I saw and understanding building materials and labor costs could not have cost more than $400,000 (the real number is probably more like $250,000, based on someone who worked for the construction company), meaning that someone misappropriated at least $600,000.

Fear not, we will find the missing money and those that are responsible will not only fix the building to make it inhabitable, but be punished, you can be sure of that.