Sunday, June 27, 2004
25 June 2004

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

By John Hughes
ArmeniaNow Editor

It's good to see that the Government of Armenia is taking seriously the mandates of the Council of Europe to clean up its muddied and bloodied record on protection of human rights.

As a condition of membership in the Council, leaders of the country were told by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that the practice of jailing political dissidents would have to stop.

And so it has.

The case of Lavrenti Kirakosyan is a sparkling example of how the boys on Baghramian Avenue have turned a page, to comply with Council demands.

Problem is, they turned the page backward.

It would appear that what has happened with Kirakosyan is no different than what was happening in Armenia 30 years ago, when Communist leaders fabricated charges to justifying jailing (or worse) those who spoke ill of The Party.

A few details for clarification . . .

Lavrenti Kirakosyan is a leader of the National Democratic Party, one that opposes the administration of President Robert Kocharyan.

During an anti-government demonstration outside the Opera House in April, Kirakosyan was arrested and charged with disobeying a police officer. He received a sentence of 10 days in jail.

Two hours before he was to be released, police were sent to search his home, on a claim that he illegally possessed firearms (belonging to alleged associates). A search turned up no such weapons. So police searched again. This time, police found 59 grams of marijuana, for which Kirakosyan has been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Kirakosyan is known in his village as a community leader who doesn't even
smoke cigarettes, much less anything stronger.

It is true that this is not his first arrest (though the first on drug charges). During other times of political tension in 1996, he was jailed on charges that appeared as transparently invented as the ones by which he is now being held.

Some things about the cops' discovery:

1. The dope was found on top of a water heater, where other objects in the same place were covered with dust, yet the bag holding the pot was not dusty.

2. Drug sniffing dogs participated in the search and found nothing.

3. Police say they photographed the search, including the discovery of the evidence. But they say the film was damaged, so they have no photographs.

4. Two men from Kirakosyan's village were called in to witness the search. Both say nothing was found until a second search turned up the contraband. But both also say police coerced them into signing statements to the contrary.

I don't know Lavrenti Kirakosyan. Nor do I share his view that Kocharyan ought to be kicked out of office.

I do, though, know that decent people in this country are routinely abused by the power structure Kocharyan represents. And I suspect many of those citizens would agree that the schemers in power are making a joke of the Council of Europe - a body that, for whatever mandates it might impose, seems terribly inept at enforcing compliance.

The upshot of the matter is this: Far from the eye of PACE, in Strasbourg, the heavys in Yerevan can make it appear as though they're behaving properly. "Look," they can say, "we didn't jail a political dissident, we jailed a drug dealer."

Lavrenti Kirakosyan faces 18 months in prison on, at best, questionable charges. And the message clearly enforced is that if authorities want to put somebody away, they'll find a way to do it. Just like in the old days.

While we're on the topic . . .

Edgar Arakelyan is serving an 18-month sentence stemming from his
participation in a political rally that turned violent.

To break up a crowd of demonstrators, police used water canons, percussion grenades, tear gas and riot batons.

Arakelyan had a plastic water container, and when police struck with their weapons, he struck back with his, an empty Jermuk bottle.

Nearly three years ago a bodyguard for President Robert Kocharyan beat a man to death in a cafe. Aghamal "Kuku" Harutyunyan was found guilty of negligent manslaughter. He never saw the inside of a jail.

The sentence for throwing a plastic bottle during a police-dominated melee? Eighteen months.

The sentence for beating a man to death in a cafe? Zero months.

The difference? That's the question the Council of Europe should consider if it is serious about enforcing human rights in Armenia.
June 25 2004


TBILISI, JUNE 25, ARMENPRESS: Georgian police have arrested two ethnic Armenians, Ashot Hovhanesian and Marina Mnatsakanian, on charges of running a criminal group involved in trafficking of women. The Armenians are accused of trying to transport 15 young women from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates UAE). The women had been promised jobs in Georgia, but when they arrived in the Georgian capital they were told they would get their passports only in Dubai, the girls however refused to travel to the UAE and were locked in a Tbilisi apartment.

According to Georgian laws, the criminals could face up to 20 year
imprisonment. "We have to carry out a detailed investigation, as the group seems to be well-organized and most likely that was not its first attempt to transport women for prostitution," a prosecutor Boris Mchkheidze was quoted by RFE/RL as saying.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

I’m sorry to hear that Raffi on has decided to suspend his logs, but fear not, the mention of him maybe finding new people tolog is an indication that he will be back quite soon, so check in to “Life in Armenia” from time to time. I'll be sure to announce to you all when that time comes.

As for the excuse that HETQ played a big role because Raffi didn’t want his logs reposted and for that being his main reason for him to no longer log, I find that to be a really bad excuse. Raffi clearly stated in a bulk e-mail I got right after April 3th, that had all the logs and then some, to distribute it to everyone the receiver knows. One of the people I sent it off to was Edik, the guy that Raffi blames at HETQ, who did as Raffi asked.

On top of this, Raffi should be very happy that HETQ reposted his logs about Arpil 13th, as I’m positive that word got all the way back to Robert Kocharian and he understood that downplaying or covering up April 13th would be a bad idea and that future such violations could be seen by roaming, credible Diasporian eyes.

Anyway for whatever reason Raffi chose to stop logging, I’m sorry to see him go, but know that he will return soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

A1 Plus | 14:34:20 | 17-06-2004 | Social |


The protest action held for defense of the political prisoners near theGeneral Office of Prosecutor has today ended in the unique awards. Eleonora Manandyan, Chair of "New Armenia" social organization introduced 3 statues of monkeys - the prizes set for attitude towards the political prisoners.

The statue of the monkey closing its eyes with own hands, "I see
nothing", was given to Armenian Ombudsman Larissa Alaverdyan.

The monkey with closed ears, "I hear nothing" was awarded to Pargev Ohanyan, Judge of the First Instance Court of Kentron-Norq Marash Communes, for the trial of Edgar Araqelyan.

"I say nothing", the monkey closing its mouth, was given to Public TV Company of Armenia. Other representatives of Mass Media as well, "H2", "Armenia", "Arm News", "Yerevan" TV Companies could win the latter prize. But Public TV Company was preferred.

"The pickets proved that one can achieve his purposes just by
overcoming the sense of fear. We will keep fighting and will carry it through", Manandyan says.

Opposition representatives were present for the award. Albert Bazeyan thinks a Grand Prix was to be handed to Robert Kocharyan.

All the prizes will be sent to the "winners" after the protest action.
This one should be titled “Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian once again elects a band-aid solution to a problem he and his cabinet perpetuates”

After you are done reading this article in full, read my comments that follow.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/16/2004

Armenian Proposals For Extra U.S. To Be Ready 'Next Month'

By Gevorg Stamboltsian

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Wednesday the Armenian government will finalize by the end of next month its proposals for the use of additional U.S. government assistance which it will likely receive under Washington's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.

Markarian spoke after chairing the first meeting of an ad hoc commission of senior government officials which is tasked with assessing the country's urgent needs, discussing possible ways of meeting them with the promised extra U.S. aid and submitting a relevant plan to the American side.

Under the terms of the MCA, Armenia and 15 other developing nations selected by the U.S. government last spring must themselves specify how much money they need and how they would use it. Top executives from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) which runs the scheme visited Yerevan late last month for the first discussions on the subject with Armenian officials.

They made it clear that the aid allocation to Armenia is not a forgone conclusion and will depend on the quality of the proposals. According to senior U.S. diplomats, it will also be contingent on the improvement of Yerevan's "poor" human rights record.

Speaking to journalists, Markarian said that the government would like to primarily spend the MCA funds on the reconstruction of the battered infrastructure of the country's impoverished rural regions that have hardly benefited from recent years' economic growth. He said that would mean rebuilding schools, countryside roads and irrigation networks. "All of these programs must be in line with our [12-year] poverty reduction strategy," he said.

Asked how much the Armenian side expects to get from the MCC, he said: "It is too early to talk about sums [of money]. But according to our preliminary estimates, [the government will ask for] between $500 million and $600 million in the next five years."

Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian came up last week with an even more ambitious aid target: $700 million, of which $100 million should be made available as early as this year. But he was more cautious and vague in his comments on Wednesday. "Even [the MCC] don't know what will happen," he said.

Khachatrian reiterated that the government commission in charge of the MCA is open to proposals from Armenian non-governmental organizations. He complained that it has received only two aid projects so far.

Armenia has already received over $1.5 billion in regular U.S. assistance since independence. It will get at least $78.4 million worth of further assistance in the course of this year.


Now that you got this far, go one step further and visit and read the documents they have so you can understand that Prime Minister Markarian and his ad hoc commission of senior government officials, missed the point of MCC is suppose to be helping.

“What types of activities will the MCC fund?

The MCC's mission is to achieve economic growth and reduce poverty. Examples of areas that are directly tied to a country's productivity and economic growth include agricultural development, education, enterprise and private sector development, governance, health, and trade capacity building. However, these categories are meant to be illustrative, not exclusive. Because country ownership is a hallmark of the MCA, decisions on specific MCA investments will be made on a country-by-country basis and will fit within each country's overall growth and poverty reduction strategy.”

So here is a program that could in fact help to kick-start real economic growth, but instead the PM and his ad hoc commission think that it would be best that we concentrate over $500 million on “rebuilding schools, countryside roads and irrigation networks,” instead of helping with enterprise and private sector development, as rebuilding of schools, roads and irrigation systems are a sure way that the PM and the people who are by his side can skim off so they can get richer and more powerful.

If you ask me, until Armenia gets control of corruption, it really should pass on applying for any more "loans" that will further bog down development. In addition to this, check out who the board of directors are. MCC sounds to me like a bad idea and just another IMF or World Bank type of Amreican run operation to further harness control of developing nations. What will MCC and the US government expect from us in the future for “helping us out” and making us more dependent?

BTW, MCC can not force Armenia to enter into it's program. It has only approved Armenia for this aid and only if Armenia is interested in it can it apply. On the other hand, a begger never passes up a hand-out and knowing the PM and those in power, they will take anything they can now, since in the future, they will not be the ones paying the price that comes with MCC and other aid that they build their personal economic growth with.

I hope that someone from the MFA reads this post and passes it on to the PM and his ad hoc commission, as if they do move forward with their plan to ask for $500+ million for what they say they will, you can be sure someone will embarrass the hell out of them for this very big mistake ;)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


WASHINGTON, JUNE 15. ARMINFO. Armenia is primarily a source and transit country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation mainly to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Turkey, as well as Russia, Greece, and other European countries. Trafficking to Russia, Turkey and the U.A.E. for the purposes of labor exploitation was an increasingly significant problem, says the annual trafficking report of US State Department.

There were a few cases of trafficking in women from Uzbekistan to
Armenia for sexual exploitation. Advocates expressed concerns about internal trafficking and trafficking of orphans, but no confirmed cases were uncovered. The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Cooperation between police and NGOs increased the number of investigations, and provided police a greater under-standing of international and domestic sources of trafficking. The government should improve legal instruments to create more effective tools for law enforcement and should improve the transparency of its anti-corruption programs. Article 132 of the criminal code, adopted in August 2003, prohibited trafficking in persons for mercenary purposes with a maximum penalty for aggravating circumstances of four to eight years of imprisonment. These penalties were not commensurate with other grave crimes, such as rape.

Previous reports highlighted trafficking to the U.A.E., and during the reporting period, police investigated suspected trafficking operations to Dubai involving an estimated 90 women. Police initiated two criminal investigations under Article 132 on trafficking in persons and 17 under Article 262 (operating a brothel), nine of which referred to pimping abroad or trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation. Corruption was a problem, and two police officers and two airport officials received administrative penalties for abuse of power related to a trafficking operation to the U.A.E. The government cooperated with Georgia and the U.A.E. in investigating and apprehending traffickers, including cooperating in the return of a suspected trafficker from the U.A.E. to stand trial in Armenia. Law enforcement improved its record of victim identification and referrals to a service-providing NGO. In one operation, police identified eight foreign prostitutes, suspected they were victims and referred them to an NGO for assistance. Armenian NGOs provided most victim assistance, but cooperated well with police. In order to alleviate vulnerabilities of an at-risk group, the government adopted a program to provide apartments to children who graduated from orphanages, and provided assistance to poor families with needy children. Prevention activities increased during the reporting period, especially through the use of mass media. The National Police were featured in several training films and TV shows on trafficking, and the Ministry of Education approved anti-trafficking educational lectures for secondary and university students. In January of 2004, the government approved an anti-trafficking national action plan for 2004-2006. The government contributed the equivalent of $11,000 of its own funds to support the work of the National Anti-Trafficking Commission, and foreign donors provided the remaining funds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Azeri Student Responds With Effusive Apologies

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

In contrast to the obscene and threatening e-mail Rauf Zeynalov (an Azeri university student) had sent on April 30th to Garen Vrtanesyan, the web master of an Armenian web-site, he sent in response to our last week's column an e-mail full of regrets and apologies. In his e-mail addressed to the "readers of The California Courier," Zeynalov repeatedly expressed his regrets for offending Armenians. In fact, in his letter, the word "apology" appears 12 times and the word "sorry" 4
times. Here is his lengthy and rambling letter:

"I am writing in order to ask for apology for a recent incident happened with an e-mail I send (sic) to Ms. Karen [Mr. Garen] Vrtanesyan. First of all, I would like to ask for sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected and hurt from my letter. I understand that a lot of people are hurt because of my words, and I am ready to apologize to everyone, and I hope one day I will have your forgiveness. With this letter, I ask for apology of all readers of The California Courier, and for apology of everyone that has been harmed from my words.

"Second, I would like to explain the situation and why this incident
happened. At the time of writing the letter to Vrtanesyan, I lost myself due to my emotions and I forgot that the language I was using should never be used. As everyone knows the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has resulted in death of lots of innocent people from both sides. And during these conflicts, as a resident of Karabakh, we lost our relatives, house, and assets and became a refugee in Baku, Azerbaijan. We have been settled in a hostel in the capital of Azerbaijan, with four family members. All of these problems made me very emotional and when I read an article in about an Azerbaijani soldier, I became victim of my emotions when I was writing to Vrtanesyan. All of these reasons that I have mentioned above made me quite emotional and made me forget what kind of language I was using in my letter to Vrtanesyan.

"But after analyzing the case deeply, I understood that whatever the reasons are, I should not use that type of language with anyone. So I would like to ask my sincere apologies. I am not such type of person who is using that kind of language and I would like to say that the language type which was used by me was only and only result of my emotions for that time. In order to prove myself and to show that I am not that kind of person, and I am really sorry for being victim of my emotions, I would like to apologize to Vrtanesyan and to all readers of The California Courier. The incident that happened with Vrtanesyan was due to losing myself in my emotions for very short time. I regretted writing that letter immediately after I send (sic) it, but it was too late, because a lot of people were hurt from my action. I want to ask sorry (sic) to everyone, and I hope that everyone accepts my apologies.

"I am really aware of my action, I am really aware of the damage my actions caused, and I would like to ask once more apologies of everyone, for using slang type of language in my letter to Vrtanesyan. I am extremely sorry for my action and I would like to say that I am also ready to ask for apologies to every individual.

"I understand that my letter has affected many people. Therefore, I am open to ask sorry (sic) to every person and every community that has been affected from my letter, which, I emphasize, was written in a moment when I was victim of my emotions.

"Again I want to ask my deep apology to everyone for the incident, and I can assure everyone, that not only this kind but also any kind of incident will never happen again. I hope you will accept my apologies very sincerely and will take them into consideration."

It is not very often that we get a letter of apology from a Turk or an Azeri for sending an offensive or threatening e-mail message. While we commend Zeynalov for apologizing and recognizing his mistake, we are dismayed that he uses the Karabagh conflict as an excuse for his inexcusable action. We cannot overlook the fact that his apology may be an attempt to have his suspension from the American University in Bulgaria reversed and is trying to save his full scholarship from Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute. His contention that he "regretted writing the offensive e-mail immediately after sending it" does not hold water. He sent an apology six weeks later, only after realizing that it was in his best interest to do so. Finally, a psychoanalyst should evaluate and treat Zeynalov to ensure that he is totally rid of his demons, before he is readmitted to the University, and before Armenians can forgive his hate crime.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Journalist Attackers Fined By Court
By Karine Kalantarian 11/06/2004 12:39

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep
June 11 2004

A court in Yerevan convicted Thursday two men of involvement in last
April's unprecedented attack on journalists covering an opposition
rally but stopped short of imprisoning them, fining each of them
100,000 drams ($182) instead.

Ashot Avetisian and Hrair Harutiunian admitted assaulting journalists and smashing their cameras and were found guilty of "deliberately damaging property" belonging to other persons. The light punishment was demanded by city prosecutors who cited "many mitigating circumstances" such as the defendants' confession of their guilt. The trial was dismissed as a farce by some of the journalists subjected to violence during the April 5 demonstration held in the Armenian capital by the opposition National Unity Party (AMK). "For me it's obvious that they were simply carrying out orders on that day," one of those reporters, Anna Israelian of the "Aravot" daily, told RFE/RL. "I still don't have an answer to the question of how strictly those carrying out orders must be punished.

"The pre-trial investigation and the court did not wish to establish the complete picture of what happened on that day. They just buried the case."

The AMK demonstration was nearly disrupted by about two dozen men who hurled eggs at the party's leader Artashes Geghamian and set off firecrackers. Journalists at the scene filmed the attempted disruption only to have their video and still cameras smashed by the well-built thugs. According to eyewitnesses, among them an RFE/RL correspondent, scores of police officers led by General Hovannes Varian stood nearby and looked on as the ugly scene unfolded. Their conspicuous refusal to intervene prompted speculation that the violence was engineered by the Armenian authorities.

Of all journalists questioned in connection with the case only Israelian has testified that the two defendants were among the attackers. The two other journalists, including a cameraman for state television, said they do not remember the men's faces.

Avetisian and Harutiunian, for their part, refused to be cross-examined in the court, asking their lawyer to read out their written pre-trial testimony. They both denied being hired by anyone to stir up trouble and claimed to have found themselves at the site of the Geghamian rally "by chance."

The announcement of the court verdict followed a brief but extremely tense trial. The small courtroom was packed with about 30 burly men who appeared to be the defendants' friends or acquaintances. Several of them blocked entrance to the courtroom before the start of the hearings, preventing journalists from entering it and ignoring their protests. They did not relent even after being approached by the court chairman, Zhora Vartanian.

"Step aside and let them go in," Vartanian told them. "Listen to me, I am the chairman of this court."

The journalists were allowed to make their way into the courtroom only 15 minutes later. But two of them, officially listed as "victims" in the case, walked out shortly afterward in protest against the psychological pressure exerted by the attackers' friends. Police guards showed up only half-way through the trial.
My montage of Onnik's pictures from the April 5th journalist attack made it's way on to the front of Aravot newspaper!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

AGBU London lecture Series



Centre for Armenian Information and Advice
105a Mill Hill Road, Acton
London W3 8JF
Nearest tube: Acton Town

29 June 2004. 7:30 pm. Admission Free.

AGBU London is pleased to host a presentation on poverty in the
republic of Armenia. The speaker, Onnik Krikorian is a British photojournalist living in Armenia for the past five years. He identifies some of the crippling poverty and its probably long term consequences in Armenia today. The purpose of Krikorian's presentation is to share information, to cultivate a better understanding of everyday realities in Armenia, and to foster informed discussions when considering the future of Armenia and Armenians. The AGBU, the largest Armenian philanthropic organisation in the world, has a vested interest in promoting such understanding of Armenia.

The Armenian Government recently declared a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) to reduce poverty in Armenia to 20% by 2015. This is a major undertaking that merits serious attention and forms the backdrop to our guest speaker. Krikorian will share his insights through his experience working with international organizations and NGOs operating in the Republic, as well as his every-day interaction with ordinary people in Armenia. His talk will be illustrated with probing photographs and commentaries. He will also address other related issues such as corruption and the democraticization process in the Republic of Armenia today.

Finally, Krikorian will present a multimedia CD of his photographs and articles. This CD project was partly supported by AGBU London and aimed at NGOs working in Armenia. Copies will be available at the event.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: While in Armenia Krikorian has written and
photographed for the United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF), Mйdecins Sans Frontiиres (France), Transitions Online, New Internationalist, Fox News, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, The Los Angeles Times, as well as Armenian Forum (Gomidas Institute), The Armenian Weekly, and others. He is currently working for the Association of Investigative Journalists of Armenia / HETQ Online.

For more information about the above presentation or AGBU (London)
please contact Ara Sarafian at (020) 7602 7990 or email

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Azeri Student at American Univ.
In Bulgaria Threatens Armenians

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Just when Armenians were recovering from the shocking murder of an Armenian
officer who was hacked to death by an Azeri classmate in a NATO Partnership
for Peace program (how ironic?) in Budapest, Hungary on February 19, an
Azeri in Bulgaria makes vicious and racist threats against Armenians.
Rauf Zeynalov, an Azeri student at the American University in Bulgaria
(AUBG), sent on April 30th a very vicious and obscene hate mail to Karen
Vrtanesyan, the web master of, in response to an
article condemning the murder by Ramil Safarov of an Armenian officer in
Hungary. In order to spare our readers' sensibilities, I have deleted the
crude four-letter words used by Zeynalov in the following e-mail:
"Bitch, I have seen ur (sic) some inventions (sic) in the
forum for Ramil Safarov. I wanna (sic) say that Ramil ┘ [expletive deleted]
that bitch armenian (sic) guy in Hungary and belive (sic) me that we, all
azeris (sic) will ┘ [expletive deleted] ur (sic) and all armenians (sic)
mom. Actually, it was ur (sic) mom who was shouting last night in the bed
of one of azeris (sic). And me (sic) ┘ [expletive deleted] ur (sic) sister
:::::::::)))))))) (sic). She was really cool :) (sic). With the wish of ┘
[expletive deleted] all armenians (sic). By the way we are not gays, so for
sure we will ┘ [expletive deleted] girls and women coming to u (sic), u
(sic) will be ┘ [expletive deleted] in other ways :) ┘ [expletive deleted]
u (sic) !!!"
Vrtanesyan informed the officials of the American University in Bulgaria on
May 17 about the hate mail sent by one of their students, Rauf Zeynalov,
using the university's e-mail system. Vrtanesyan sent to the University a
copy of Zeynalov's obscene and threatening e-mail.
David C. Durst, the Interim Chief Academic Officer at the American
University in Bulgaria, immediately responded to Vrtanesyan by saying: "I
have received your letter. This is a serious allegation and I have opened
an investigation of the case."
Four days later, on May 21, Durst sent the following e-mail to Vrtanesyan:
"I write to inform you of the action the AUBG Administration has taken in
response to the serious threats and offensive language the AUBG student
Rauf Zeynalov used in violation of AUBG's written rules governing the use
of e-mail on campus. Rauf Zeynalov will not be attending the university
during the fall semester, and before he will be allowed to return to AUBG
he will be required to convince the University Administration to its
satisfaction that he understands the severity of his misguided action and
that he will maintain respect for and work cooperatively with others of
different backgrounds and opinions upon return to the University."
Karen Vrtanesyan should be commended for bringing the offensive e-mail of
this Azeri hate monger to the immediate attention of the American
University in Bulgaria. David Durst and the officials of AUBG should also
be commended for their prompt action.
Readers should write to David Durst ( suggesting that the
Azeri student should be expelled from the University rather than being
suspended just for one semester. Letters should also be sent to the Soros
Foundation's Open Society Institute in Bulgaria ( urging them
to rescind the scholarship they had awarded to Rauf Zeynalov for the full
cost of his educational expenses towards a Bachelor Degree at the American
University in Bulgaria.
From: "Harry Bronozian"
To: "president", "information", "diaspora", "Haik Gugarats", "information"
CC: "Okesh"
Subject: AGBU Cold Storage Facility in Armenia.
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 10:03:13 -0700

For the attention of:

Mr. Robert Kocharian, President of Armenia,
Mr. Vartan Oskanian, Foreign Minister of Armenia and
Dr. Arman Kirakossian, Armenian Ambassador to the U.S.

An Open Letter.

Your Excellencies,

Please find attached the editorial of Prof. Osheen Keshishian published in the June 2, 2004 issue of the Armenian Observer weekly newspaper of Los Angeles, regarding the shameful sale of the AGBU cold storage facility in Gumri. What is your position regarding this issue?

If you do not accept your wrongdoings and unlawful acts towards the Armenian people, why should the Turkish government accept theirs? Is this how you are rebuilding Armenia?

In order to be respected by the Armenian people in Armenia and the Diaspora, you must respect them and be respectable.

Please review this editorial and respond publicly and openly. It is our right to know.


Harout Bronozian
3000 Honolulu Av., Unit 4
Glendale, California 91214
Tel. (818) 248-3529; (800) 219-8405
Fax. (818) 248-6343

cc: To all the Armenian News Media and Organizations.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I know I posted something on this subject before, but since this was written by uncle Osheen, I felt that by knowing him my whole life, I should repost it just to make sure you hear what he has to say on this subject.

The Armenian Observer, 2 June 2004

As We See It

By Prof. Osheen Keshishian

Recently I told a friend: "Did you know that the Armenian government
Sold the AGBU-sponsored and donated cold storage facility for $150,000?"

The answer was: "What else is new? Isn't that routine?"

For some people the sale of the Gumri (Armenia) cold food storage facility did not come as a surprise because for months rumors were circulating in Armenia and the Diaspora about the transfer of ownership. But the real surprise was the price tag: $150,000! A storage facility which cost $5 million to build...

It's not hard to figure out -- the facility was sold for 3% of it's value... What a sham! And all this, as they say, in broad daylight. I would have bid had I known it was on the auction block. Did anyone else get a chance to bid?

The 10,000-ton cold storage facility was built by Intercool, a renowned Danish company, for $5 million. The Armenian General Benevolent Union
(AGBU) raised the money and built the facility following the devastating 1988 earthquake with the hope that food will be stored in the summer so that during the harsh winter season in this northern region of Armenia, people will have something to eat. What a great idea it was and the community quickly raised the funds. Unfortunately, the facility did not function for a while because of the energy crisis.

Hagop Avedikian, editor of the Yerevan-based Azg daily and Tatul Hagopian, a writer, in a signed article revealed some interesting details.

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Garen Jeshmaridian (the last name literally means "truth-teller") in a letter to the writers states: "I am informing you that Gumri's cold storage facility was on the list of the denationalization program of 1998-2000 but procedures were not initiated. At the same time I am informing you that by decision of the court, dated April 18, 2002, the cold storage facility has been declared non-solvent and on March 12, 2003, the entire facility was sold at auction to the Gechor company."

Non-solvency in Armenia means the enterprise did not pay taxes. Since it was a gift to the government of Armenia, and belonged to the government, then who collects taxes and from whom? Or, who pays taxes to whom? Probably, you collect taxes from... yourself? Does this make sense?

Technically, the AGBU cannot make an issue out of this because it was given as a gift and the receiver can do whatever he wants with it. Right? But as I understand, and I may be slightly wrong, if a facility is sold in Armenia by the government, the donor of the facility should have first option to bid on the entity. Just like the 51% stockholder in an enterprise in Armenia is given the opportunity to buy the rest of the stocks.

The law is there, and I am not sure if anyone has enforced it. On the contrary, several Diasporan Armenians have lost their shirts (maybe not their entire shirts, only their sleeves...)

This is a serious matter, and if it is not clarified, relations could spiral downward and I think we should not be satisfied with the worn-out statement that "Armenia is a new country. Give it a chance." No band-aid solutions, please.

There are laws enacted in Armenia. But, unfortunately, they are not enforced. The government has only selectively enforced the laws, presenting an opportunity to people to abuse their authority and position, whether related to human rights or economic graft. US senior State Department official, Ambassador Carlos Pascual only recently said that the Armenian Government's human rights record remains poor.

The AGBU was planning to invest money in Armenia in the near future. The organization should think twice (or three times) before taking new steps.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

7 June 2004

PACE Official Accused Of Taking Armenian 'Bribe'

By Hrach Melkumian

A senior official from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) monitoring the fulfillment of Armenia's membership commitments was accused by the Armenian opposition on Monday of being effectively bribed by the authorities during a visit to Yerevan last week.

Poland's Jerzy Jaskiernia, one of the two Armenia rapporteurs of the PACE's Monitoring Committee, arrived for a high-profile presentation of the Armenian version of his book dedicated to the 45-nation assembly. Its translation and publication was funded by the leadership of the Armenian parliament, with speaker Artur Baghdasarian personally attending the presentation.

The book had previously appeared only in the Polish and English languages. Speaking to journalists at the event, both Baghdasarian and Jaskiernia denied any political motives behind the publication. The latter argued in particular that the book's subject is irrelevant to Armenian politics.

However, opposition leaders claim that Baghdasarian's gesture was aimed at influencing the content of a crucial report which Jaskiernia and the other rapporteur, Rene Andre of France, will submit to the PACE ahead of its summer session later this month. The two men are to inform the Strasbourg lawmakers whether the Armenian authorities have implemented the recommendations of their recent resolution on the political crisis in Armenia.

"I regard it as a bribe. I think that there are corrupt people in the Council of Europe and any other international structure," Aram Sarkisian of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance charged.

"That person was given a present in the expectation of drawing up a corresponding document. They could have done it in the autumn, after the drafting of the document," Sarkisian added.

The PACE resolution denounced the Armenian government's heavy-handed response to the opposition campaign for President Robert Kocharian's resignation, saying that it is "contrary to the letter and the spirit" of its earlier recommendations to Yerevan. It warned that the authorities must release all opposition detainees, scrap "unjustified restrictions" on anti-Kocharian demonstrations, investigate their "human rights abuses" or face the possibility of sanctions next September.

The opposition insists that the authorities have failed to comply with the resolution by continuing to arrest and imprison its activists and supporters. Armenian officials, for their part, have disagreed with the PACE criticism and say they are determined to prove the opposite. Jaskiernia and Andre are due in Yerevan on Friday on a fact-finding mission which will likely determine the content of their report.

The Polish lawmaker personally presented the draft resolution during a debate in Strasbourg on April 28. The initial version of the document contained language discouraging the Armenian opposition from challenging President Robert Kocharian's disputed 2003 reelection with street protests. But that was dropped after strong objections voiced by some PACE members.

Nonetheless, Jaskiernia and the Monitoring Committee pushed through the assembly a passage saying that serious irregularities "did not decisively change the outcome of the elections nor invalidate their final results." They also blocked opposition attempts to secure a PACE endorsement of a "referendum of confidence" in Kocharian.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

7 June 2004

Kocharian Aide Wants Another Karabakh-Born Leader For Armenia

By Hrach Melkumian and Emil Danielyan

Garnik Isagulian, President Robert Kocharian's recently appointed national security adviser, said on Saturday that Armenia's next president should also be originally from Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that it is a "vital territory" for all Armenians.

"Without Karabakh Armenia can not breathe, no matter how many borders you reopen," Isagulian told a roundtable discussion in Yerevan.

The adviser did not specify whom he would like to see succeed Kocharian and when. Still, the remarks could be interpreted by some local commentators as another indication that Kocharian's preferred successor is Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the second most powerful government official in Armenia and also a native of Karabakh.

The two men led the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic during its successful war with Azerbaijan before moving to higher positions in Yerevan, with Sarkisian appointed defense minister in 1993 and Kocharian prime minister in 1997. Some leaders of the Armenian opposition frequently attack them as the heads of the "Karabakh clan" allegedly governing the country.

Armenia's next presidential elections are to take place in 2008, and its existing constitution bars Kocharian from contesting them for a third term in office. Neither the president nor his top lieutenant, who have been busy dealing with an opposition campaign of street protests for the past two months, have shed light on their long-term political plans so far.

Isagulian joined the presidential administration in early April to take up a position that has been vacant for the past decade. A retired officer of the Soviet-era KGB secret police, he entered the political arena in the early 1990s, getting elected to Armenia's first post-Communist parliament and joining the then opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). He was expelled from the party about two years after it was controversially banned in 1994 by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and emerged from a political oblivion three years ago to set up his own nationalist group called the National Security Party.

Isagulian has since been an outspoken supporter of Kocharian and detractor of his political opponents. He on Saturday strongly defended the recent government crackdown on the opposition, alleging that the latter has attempted to stage a coup and labeled Kocharian as a "murderer."

Ironically, Isagulian had himself faced "terrorism" and coup charges in July 1995 along with 31 members of Dashnaktsutyun, including Vahan Hovannisian, who is currently the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament. But unlike them, Isagulian went into hiding and escaped arrest and trial. He remained on the run until Ter-Petrosian's resignation in February 1998.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Remember me writing about the need for a YMCA type of program to teach values here in Artsakh and Armenia? Well write about it on this log and thou shall receive.

I went to a birthday party today and one of the people attending started to talk about the YMCA. I joined the conversation and learned from him that on Monday, the newest country to join the Young Men’s Christian Association is Artsakh. Yes, YMCA-Artsakh is soon to be a reality and I’m invited to attend their next founders meeting and I just may get involved.

Did you know that the first Armenian YMCA was in Adana and founded even before there was an official YMCA in America? I think he said 1840.

Anyway, I took a break from the birthday party (I’m heading back as soon as I finish logging) so I could meet with some workers that will be coming in the morning to work on the kitchen at Mama and Papa Manoogian’s house. They have to replace a window and move a door so some kitchen cabinets I’m having made can be installed.

The plan is now that I will finish the remod on my parents house, move in there and then have the construction and remod finished on my house so when I get married next year, we can move into a new house, this includes the swimming pool, which I wish was ready now.

Friday, June 04, 2004


In the last few months, there has been quite a few attempts to force President Kocharian to resign by a group call “The Opposition”.

Kocharian in return has violated this groups constitutional rights and deemed them “the barking dogs you encounter on a caravan,” and recently compared their rallies to “Brazilian soap operas.”

So who is the opposition and are they in fact barking dogs and their rallies like Brazilian soaps?

Well the way it seems to be playing out, Kocharian could not have asked for a better “opposition” so he could manipulate things to extend his stay in power.

To date, “The Opposition” has had too many rallies, made lots of promises that they have not fulfilled and for the most part, people are tired of hearing the same things said over and over again. On top of this, their platform is clear as day, get rid of Kocharian so they can rise to power. For this, a good part of the population feel that there really is no alternative to Kocharian at this time and for that reason, the rallies are not attracting the crowds they should.

In terms of staying in power for Kocharian, the opposition is a good thing. A distraction from the reality of the problems Armenia is facing and in a way, a delay mechanism for Kocharian to prevent what will one day happen to him once people really wake up to the reality of what he has done and the mess he is creating for the country.

What is the future of the opposition? I’m guessing nothing other than continue to badmouth Kocharian and cry foul. Yes, I will give them credit for pushing the issue of a clearly illegally run election that allowed Kocharian to stay in power, but even that will most probably be forgotten over time since they have waited too long to act, following that unfortunate event.

And what is the future of Armenia? It’s very hard to tell. At some point I hope the majority of the people who are sitting back and waiting to see what the “opposition” will accomplish, will organize (if they are not already doing so) and at that point, Kocharian can try all he wants to suppress these people, but in the end he and all his April Fools Day committees will become null and void and only at that point will we really see that things are changing in Armenia, hopefully for the better.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Another April Fools Day joke (in June)?

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
2 June 2004

Kocharian Creates Anti-Corruption Council

By Emil Danielyan

President Robert Kocharian set up on Wednesday a special commission that will oversee the implementation of a government program aimed at tackling rampant corruption in Armenia.

The body, called the Council On Fighting Against Corruption, will be headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and comprise other high-ranking officials, including Justice Minister David Harutiunian, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian. Kocharian's office said it will coordinate the implementation of actions stemming from the government's anti-corruption strategy unveiled last November.

The program was drawn up by a team of government experts after almost
two years of work funded by the World Bank. It contains a long list of mostly legislative measures which the Armenian authorities are to take in the next three years. The authorities say those will complicate endemic bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices.

But their critics dismiss the document as a public relations stunt
meant to mislead Western donors. The latter have for years been pressing Yerevan to take serious action against graft, saying that it is one of the main obstacles to Armenia's economic development.

Kocharian's special anti-corruption adviser, Bagrat Yesayan, admitted
last year that corruption in Armenia "has reached a point where it threatens our national security." The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a governing party of which Yesayan is a member, had for months been pushing for the creation of an executive government body with sweeping powers to deal with the problem. The idea was opposed by Dashnaktsutyun's two coalition partners and apparently Kocharian, however.