Thursday, July 29, 2004

I was watching CNN this morning when news of Saudi Arabia wanting to create a Muslim troop force to go to Iraq to replace a comparable part of the coalition forces was reported.   The terms for this would be that the Muslim troops have to be invited by the [US appointed] Iraqi government and be under U.N. command.  Will this put an end to the problems there?  No, it will just further destabilize the region and create more division among Muslim countries.  Maybe this is what the US wants, as this is a classic technique used in US Military Low Intensity Conflict (LIC).  From the pictures, it looked like it was the US proposing this idea to a Saudi king and not Saudi Arabia’s idea.

As part of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry’s plan to prevent US personnel in uniform from being held hostage because of America’s dependency of oil, Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards says they are also going to raise minimum wage and finish welfare reform so no American working fulltime will live in poverty (which he implies there are many of today).  Edwards added that they will strengthen homeland security and use the military to keep America safe.

Now if I understand all this correctly, this means that to make good on their promise to oil dependent America, they will have to send more US personnel to bring home the oil and also get the World Trade Organization (WTO) to further enslave third-world countries so $1,000 VCR’s no longer cost $70, but $35, thus increasing the level of poverty in the under-privileged parts of the world and making everything more affordable so Americans no longer live in poverty. 

It looks like Kerry and Edwards are saying what they need to in order to get into office, but have no idea what awaits them. Just like every elected president over the last couple decades have been making promises to the Armenians of genocide recognition, but once in office, they realize that Turkey is too important of an ally to fulfill their campaign promises.  If Kerry/Edwards keep their campaign promises (which I doubt they will), the world outside of America is going to become an even more unstable and unbearable place to live, as to feed the needs of the American people comes with a very high price for country that America’s economy is fed by.

In short, it looks to me that irregardless of who is elected, taking into account what Kerry is proposing and what Bush is doing, things outside of America will not get better, but only worse and if this happens, then acts of terrorism towards America could in fact only get worse and at some point people will have to come to terms with their past and present, so our children and grandchildren will have a chance to see a brighter future than we are seeing today.  America, it’s time of a lifestyle change and if your going to wait for an elected official to implement that needed change, your going to be waiting a long time. 

I hope this will be my last log about this subject, as my writing about this will certainly not influence those in power to consider my ideas and God knows I really do have better things to do, like maybe build a bomb-shelter or plant a nice garden with roses and green grass.  I could also take down my satellite antenna and use it this winter as a sled, that is if global warming does not prevent us from getting snow this year.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy life and am a believer of such sayings as “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, or the Armenian saying of “a jackass never gets stuck in the same mud twice”.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

For those of you who have been following the logs and comments of Cilicia and these logs, you will notice a difference of opinions going between Raffi and I.

Though it was for the most part a private matter that we were discussing via e-mail, Raffi decided to bring it out in the comments so others could get involved and clearly did so in a mean spirited manor.

In short, this whole thing started with my reposting of the HETQ article about the April 13th human rights violation by the Kocharian government, which was well documented on Cilicia. At that time, Raffi sent out in mass to everyone he knows said information, with the instructions that it should be disseminated to everyone the receiver knows.

I sent a copy of Raffi’s letter to everyone in my address book, which included Edik, who as you know, is the top person at HETQ and who turned it into an on-line article.

Following that article being printed, Raffi made threats of taking Edik to court, to which I pointed out what I have stated in the third paragraph of this log, being that Edik only followed Raffi’s instructions.

Following all this, my good friend Hagop Bedrossian joined the Cilicia log, to which I posted a congratulatory comment, which Raffi deleted, along with a bunch of other comments to other loggers and banned me from comments.  None of the initial comments were snide or off topic so I was a bit confused as to why he did this?

I wrote to Raffi to try to figure out what it was that caused me to be banned?  In short it became clear after a few messages that I was banned  because I had sided with Edik and the only way I would once again have commenting privileges from my computer in Artsakh is if I would admit that Edik was wrong with what he had done.  This also would show to Raffi my loyalty to him.

I wrote back to Raffi that considering he was making threats to take Edik to court and so on, it was better that I let them iron out any problems they may have without any opinion or siding as to who was right or wrong, beyond what I had stated in the past.

Raffi didn’t like my answer and in the last message that I responded to, up until the last line that Raffi had written what he was saying was actually making sense, until he made mention of my problem with “pedophilia”, referring to my relationship with my fiancй who has been of legal age for 3 years, but is quite a bit younger than me.  To this I told him that he really needed help and this kind of help was something I could not offer him.

At that point, all this was going on out of the public eye, so as far as I was concerned, no harm was done by his comments. 

This all recently changed with his comments on my logs and on comments of Shooshig’s logs, which once again questions the legalities of my relationship with my fiancй.  He also made a mean spirited comment about the lands of Jerusalem being sold off, knowing that my uncle is the one responsible to make sure that no such thing happens.

Though I was actually looking forward to reciprocate the gesture that Hagop Bedrossian has shown me for the last few years, commenting on my logs, continue to be an active participant in comments of the Cilicia logs, thanks to this misunderstanding and Raffi’s lack of maturity, I will not be able to do this.  And since I can’t comment, I see no reason to continue to read the Cilicia logs.

Anyway readers, this is an example of what can happen among Armenians in the homeland when there is a matter of different opinions and instead of trying to resolve the differences in a civil way, some people choose to attack the other and bring up irrelevant issues that are not even true, hurt feelings, cloud issues and create conflicts in the process.  BTW, those actions in the eye of the law can be viewed as slander and defamation, which when one is made to defend themselves against such things, can also cause mental anguish (something I really don’t care to have).   And when this is done by the USAID outreach person to the Diaspora (which I happen to be one of those people who are part of the Diaspora that if I understand Raffi’s job correctly, he is suppose to be reaching out to in a positive way), the effects to everyone involved is amplified.

I do understand that living in Armenia is not that easy these days and after April 13th, especially for those that witnessed first hand what happened, it is very hard to come to terms with reality and what ones expectations are, since the two right now do not seem to correspond.  For that reason, I have been extra forgiving to Raffi, though his actions are really pushing my limits and though we have a long way to reach my breaking point, I felt that a little bit of transparency could put an end to this problem once and for all.  And yes Raffi, when all is said and done, I do still love you and wish the best for you as I know you do for me.

Does America really have an alternative to Bush?  I ask this, as it seems that people are so fed up with Bush that John Kerry is the person America is looking for to start to heal and re-establish relations with those countries that have hard feels towards America due to the Iraqi war.

One thing that keeps getting broadcasted on CNN is Kerry stating that no US personal in uniform will not be held hostage because of America’s dependency on oil. 

I’m not sure how Kerry will accomplish this, as he himself states in that statement, that Americans are dependent on oil.  This is also well documented with America, a country that has less than 5% of the worlds population, consuming 25% of the worlds energy resources. 

If Kerry is elected, will he implement a program to get Americans to reduce their consumption of the world’s resources?  This really would be the only way, though being an American, I know that once you have tasted what we taste in the West as to what it feels like to live in excess, getting it out of our system is almost impossible.  I guess if he could do this, he would reduce tension among the countries that America bleeds of their resources to feed their parasitic, dependent population.  It may even take a huge bite out of terrorist acts aimed towards America.

Talking about what can be done to reduce terrorism in the world, that question has been asked on CNN to its viewers over the last few weeks.  For the most part, people have been saying that we need to increase the resources of law enforcement so they can better battle terrorists.  I’m still waiting for someone to say that we have to understand the reasons for terrorist acts, which I understand to be a reaction to an attack of some kind, that powerful groups or nations make (like bleeding resources from a country to feed your resource dependent population), which depending on how you look at it, is in itself a terrorist act. 

The best and most recent example of what I am stating above would have to be the Iraqi war and America leading an invasion and takeover.  The reaction has now been what America is calling acts of terrorism, with the taking of hostages of persons who work with the invaders and making demands for withdrawals or else the hostages will be killed.  Now one could say that this is an act of terrorism, or one could say that this is an act of self-defense and a different way of fighting a war against the invaders of their country.

In short, things in the world are messed up and until we as humans wake up to reality and in our own personal ways set things right as to what we as individuals do to others and understand that by being dependent on resources that nature intended for others to take for ourselves by manipulation or force is wrong.  Until we do this, this world is not going to get any better, young people in uniform will continue to go to war for oil, there will continue to be massive famine, common people will be deprived of a promising future and acts of terror will strike all over the world against those groups or nations responsible.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I was visiting a friend last night and during our conversation he made mention of a diamond processing plant in Armenia that employees Indian labor.  I asked him if this was a matter of specialists and he said no, common labor is also Indian, stating that they make $100 a month and send $50 a month home to their families.  These are jobs that local labor could easily do.

From that friend’s house, I went to visit some other friends who talked about the new American Embassy construction and how the majority of the common labor are Turks from Turkey, which are making $1,000 a month (though I have hear elsewhere that they were making about $400 a month).  He added that there are about 40 Armenian specialists who make a little less than $200 a month.  He said they work from 8am to 7pm, get a half-hour lunch and three 5-minute smoking breaks over that 11 hour time period.

In both conversations, the question came up of what the Armenian government was thinking when allowing foreign labor to be imported, when unemployment is so high among the natives?  Who is issuing work visas.  Plain and simple, we should have laws in place that encourage investors to hire locals.

As for the American Embassy and employing Turks, you would think that the Armenian government would have more sense to stipulate at very least that they will allow a foreign labor force to be imported from anyplace other than Turkey or Azerbaijan. 

Mention was made that in the future when Armenia gets better, we will see an influx of Indian and Chinese labor forces here to do jobs that natives could do.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
26 July 2004

Coffee Importer Decries Armenian Customs ‘Bribery’ 

By Ruzanna Stepanian 

One of Armenia's leading coffee importers claimed on Monday to have been illegally penalized by the government's customs department for its refusal to pay kickbacks to enjoy more favorable treatment that would allow it to evade taxes.  

Top executives from the Royal Armenia company said senior customs officials had offered to grossly undervalue the price of their imported coffee beans, something which would have considerably reduced the amount of import and other taxes levied from them. They alleged that the deputy chief of the State Customs Committee, Gagik Khachatrian, personally sought bribes from them last year.  

`I prefer making payments to the state budget to enriching them,' the Royal Armenia chairman, Gagik Hakobian, told a news conference. `That's what the problem is all about.'  

`We are up against a banal problem: thieving government officials,' charged Gevorg Movsisian, his chief lawyer.  

In a separate written statement, the company said that the Armenian customs, which have the legal authority to determine the market value of imported commodities, now estimate every kilogram of its raw coffee at an equivalent of $1.8. The statement said that its real purchasing price is only $1.2 and that the same sort of the product imported by other firms is judged to cost less than $1. According to Hakobian, Royal Armenia's taxable imports would have been set at merely 50 U.S. cents per kilogram had it agreed to share the resulting extra profits with senior customs officials.  

The allegations were angrily denied by Suren Fahradian, head of the customs department's tariff setting division who was also personally implicated in the alleged bribery attempt. `Are you from the prosecutor's office?' he said when asked by RFE/RL for comment by phone. `If there is something wrong, relevant bodies will investigate the matter. If that is defamation, then those who make it will be punished.' 

It emerged that Royal Armenia won this year a lengthy court battle with the Customs Committee, with local courts ruling that the government agency is illegally and unfairly discriminating against the company. But Hakobian said the practice is continuing because court bailiffs are declining to force the customs to comply with the ruling that was upheld recently by Armenia's highest court.  

The row is an extremely rare example of an Armenian business openly alleging high-level government corruption affecting its operations. Local businesspeople often complain, in private, about harassment by tax authorities, but few of them make their cases public for fear of government retributions. Corruption among Armenian officials in charge of collecting taxes and import duties is believed to be widespread.  

The latest allegations could deal a further blow to the reputation of Armen Avetisian, the controversial Customs Committee chief whose conspicuous personal wealth has long raised eyebrows in the impoverished country. Avetisian is widely seen as a protГ©gГ© of powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

Monday, July 26, 2004


YEREVAN, JULY 24. ARMINFO. A number of Armenian ecological NGOs are collecting signatures to apply to court with facts of illegal construction over Yerevan's green areas.

The leader of Social-Ecological Party of Armenia Armen Dovlatyan says that the claim will be filed as soon as 5,000-10,000 signatures are collected. A number of political forces among them Justice bloc, Communist Party, Ramkavar Azatakan, Liberal Progressive Party, National Democratic Bloc have agreed to join the action. Dovlatyan says that in court the facts will be qualified as high treason.

He says that the NGOs are also going to apply to foreign embassies in Armenia particularly he embassies of Canada and Switzerland so that they prevent the construction projects carried out by their respective citizens at the detriment of Yerevan's green zones. Particularly, the Armenian office of Frank Mueller is planning to carry out some construction in the Dalma orchards while some Canadian has launched a construction project in the area of the Victory Park.

Also building in Dalma are businessman Ruben Hayrapetyan, football player Khoren Hovhannissyan, Armenian-Italian company Renco-Armenia. Building in the Victory Park are Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Coordination Hovik Abrahamyan, Center community prefect Gagik Beglaryan and many other officials.

Dovlatyan says that if necessary the NGOs are ready to ask European structures particularly the European Parliament's Ecological Commission to hold a monitoring in Armenia. "We have repeatedly offered cooperation to the government but have received no response," says Dovlatyan.

YEREVAN, JULY 24. ARMINFO. A number of Armenian environmental organizations demand that the current and former mayors of Yerevan, former chief architect, as well as Government officials, who contributed to mass destruction of green zones in Yerevan, be held responsible.

At his press conference, the representative of the Social Ecological Party of Armenia Armen Dovlatyan stated that environmental organizations demand that the RA Government and Yerevan Municipality put an end to all illegal and "Legal" allotments of lands for construction in Yerevan's green zones.

They also demand the restoration of the greenery destroyed as a result of construction. According to Dovlatyan, the forests in Nork are deliberately being destroyed for the purpose of further construction there. He said that some of the forests are no longer under the jurisdiction of the "ArmForest" CJSC, as construction is not allowed in territories under the jurisdiction of the "ArmForest" CJSC.

Dovlatyan stated that over 1,500 of 2,000 hectares of Yerevan's green zones have been destroyed. He stressed that over 1,000 hectares were destroyed in 1995-2003. "If the destruction of Yerevan's green zones continues, the capital will turn from semi-desert into a desert, which will affect the population's health," he said.

Saturday, July 24, 2004


Oneworld Multimedia's Photo CD, Poverty, Transition & Democracy, has nowbeen updated to vs 1.01 and is available for download from the Oneworld Multimedia web site:

Please scroll to the bottom of the page and save each of the nine files listed. After saving to your computer, the complete project may be freely copied and redistributed on CD for educational and not-for-proft purposes without restriction.

The project was partially supported in its final stages by the AGBU LondonTrust.


Oneworld Multimedia



Officials begin to worry about the systematic elimination of green areas in the Armenian capital.

By Susanna Petrosian in Yerevan

The construction of an outdoor café in a leafy spot in central Yerevan was halted last week, in a sign that city officials are beginning to take on the unchecked building spree that has altered the face of the Armenian capital.

The move has been widely welcomed. "It is a precedent," said Ruben Torosian, a prominent former member of parliament. "The fact that finally someone was stopped from building in the green zone is a positive sign."

Gohar Oganezova, vice-president of Armenia's Botanical Association, told IWPR that "this case can be seen as the first small result of our fight over many years against construction taking place on Yerevan's green spaces,"

Before the city authorities had time to issue their ruling, it took workers less than a day to chop down several old trees as they began clearing space for the café.

Samvel Danielian, who is head of the architectural and town planning department at the mayor's office, promised that the area would be restored to its former state.

But it is much too late to save large parts of the capital, which have lost their green spaces forever to a café boom of doubtful legality. Brash-looking cafes now sprawl across the entire city, depriving local people of parks and open spaces they used for decades.

"When they cut down all those trees, the café-owners hardly gave a thought about the future of our children," said pensioner Arsen Darbinian.

"All the parks in Yerevan have been built over with cafes, and there's nowhere for children to play or for us to relax," said housewife Lilit Akopian.

Since 1990, the city has lost 40 per cent of its green areas due to new construction, according to research carried out by three organisations, the
Yerevan Public Ecological Centre, the Centre for Regional Development and Transparency International.

Thirty-eight environmental groups have banded together to protest about the loss of green space.

"If illegal construction of various buildings does not stop, Yerevan will soon become a desert," warned Armen Dovlatian, leader of the Armenia's Socio-Ecological Party, one of the protesting organisations.

Srbui Harutiunian, another prominent environmentalist, said land was being degraded, landslips were increasing and Yerevan citizens were suffering from new allergic illnesses as a result of the changes.

But Marzpet Kamalian, deputy head of the state expert commission at the environment ministry, rejected the charges, saying that the city was not at risk at all. "The problem of desertification cannot affect Yerevan," he told IWPR, asserting that only a rural landscape can turn into a desert.

At the centre of the debate are Yerevan's Ring Boulevard and the Opera Garden. Twelve cafes have already been built around the famous Yerevan opera house and three more are under construction. More than 100 cafes have been built on the Ring Boulevard, some of them made of stone, although that is explicitly forbidden by city laws.

Grachia Muradian, who heads the city department for control over town planning and land use, told IWPR that everything was under control and that the mayor's office had stopped the construction of ten cafes in green spaces this year. Muradian said planning regulations had always been violated in Yerevan but his office was closely monitoring the situation.

Samvel Danielian, from the same office, told IWPR that the café-owners were used to getting round regulations by acquiring very small plots of land and then building outwards, but new city regulations were making it harder and harder to break the law.

Environmentalists are not impressed and say the city authorities have been turning a blind eye to blatant infringements of the law.

Detailed reports by the Association of Investigative Journalists in Yerevan have recorded that the mayor's office has been closely involved in giving the green light to building projects.

"The mechanism which the mayor's office uses is the following: first a plot of land of 20 cubic metres, which does not need to be sold at auction, is allocated and then this plot is enlarged with the help of subsequent directives and decisions," said Edik Bagdasarian, who heads the investigative association.

"We can't say that the law has been broken," Grigor Melkumian, chief advisor to the mayor, said in response to this allegation. "All decisions by the mayor's office have received state registration. If the decisions were illegal, they wouldn't have got state registration."

But a former mayor, Robert Nazarian, has admitted that, "ninety nine per cent of buildings in the opera park are illegal and we did not approve those projects".

Narek Sarkisian, until recently chief architect for the city, also conceded that pressure was put on him to approve construction projects. "I tried to do everything that was within my power, but very high-up are involved and they believe they are above the law," said Sarkisian.

If officials at this level are not ultimately responsible, who is? Edik Bagdasarian points the figure of blame higher up, saying that his organisation has established that in the Ring Boulevard, the owners of cafes include four ministers, two generals, a deputy director of the national security service and three heads of department in the mayor's office.

The men involved have either denied their involvement or refused to comment.

Yervand Zakharian, who has been mayor of Yerevan for just a year, has pledged to crack down on the illegal cafes. Many people are very supportive, but others are waiting to see what happens.

"We've been so much deceived that we have to follow very closely what happens in the green zones," said Oganezova.

Susanna Petrosian is a journalist with Noyan Tapan news agency.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I went to a baptism the other day that was for the children of my fiancé’s sister’s newborn daughter, as well as some of her cousins’ children that came in from Moscow for this special occasion.

It was a very nice and intimate ceremony of which a particular relative of theirs became very emotional, especially when my fiancé’s sister’s daughter was bathed in holly water. Her reaction to this was as if a miracle was performed.

The reason I noticed this was that we know this relative as being very “fake” in her feelings and she is the one in the family that always causes problems for everyone with her manipulative way of interacting with all of us.

On the way home, I pointed out my observation and my fiancé’s sister (who this relative is a sister-in-law to), said that she is a bit strange, but probably felt that evil spirits were washed out of the baby and for that reason reacted in this way.

From there, the conversation of baptisms, their relevancy and how could a 43-day-old baby have evil spirits in her?

The sister said that her daughter was born a Christian, after I asked the question if the baby gave her consent to be baptized into our faith? She went on to say that the baby was NOT born a Turk, to which I said that there is a difference between nationality and religious faith. Turks are a nationality, where Muslims, Christians, Jews and the likes and are religious faith.

I asked if they think that people should not be baptized into any religious faith until a level of understanding is ascertained, noting that our Church in Artsakh in the past has required that those that do wish to be baptized, must first understand what Christianity is.

The conversation left everyone thinking for a few minutes before we arrived to the reception hall, where we ate madakh (which if you follow our faith, we were to give to the poor), stuffed our faces, drank, danced and had a great time!!!

So what do you think? Is it right to force our religious beliefs on our children? Do we force our children to join the same political party that we belong to?

I know that my children will be baptized into the Christian faith when they are 40+ days old, but I really have to wonder if this is right or not?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

There you go. Edik Baghdasarian went on TV tonight and said that the residents of Yerevan should call for the Mayor's resignation and miraculously, an hour later this story reports that the green area was saved. I assume the two are connected. Now, time to get rid of all the other illegal cafes.
Yerevan, JULY 15. ARMINFO.
A green zone in front of building 28, Isahakyan street in Yerevan was saved after intervention of the Presidential Supervisory Service.
Journalists signals to various instances did not produce any results before.It was not until the journalists applied to Presidential Spokesman Ashot Kocharian that the President was informed of the fact. The construction in the land-plot has been suspended, and planting of trees and bushes has even begun. Talking to ARMINFO, Edmon Zakharyan, Press Secretary of the Yerevan Mayor, "credited" the salvation of the green zone in the center of Yerevan to his boss Yervand Zakharyan. He stressed that this is a testimony to the Mayor's determination to battle illegal construction and destruction of green zones.
We would remind you that a 5-meter-deep pit was to be dug in the plot ofland with an area of 500sq. meters for the construction of an entertainment club. According to yet unconfirmed information, the construction was sponsored by RA Minister of Territorial Administration and Coordination of Infrastructures Hovik Abramyan. This is the first example of a favorable outcome of a conflict over green areas between the public and high-ranking officials.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Hey everyone, let’s all be happy that another MONOPOLY has been established in Armenia!!! This time it’s at the airport and if the price of a pack of chewing-gum is any indication of what advertising at the airport is going to cost, companies interested will need a hand full of grease to get their name hung up on a wall there.

Dear director

We are pleased to inform you that the realization of advertising services at the airport Zvartnots is the monopoly of Orange Trading Ltd. If you want your company to be advertised [you will have to] contact us. We look forward to your cooperation with us.

Best regards,
Managing Director
Caren Marcarian


I guess someone does not realize that monopolies in Armenia are illegal. I would think that maybe the use of wording to say that something to the extent that one can now advertise at the airport with the help of Orange Trading would have been more appropriate.
It looks like we had a very recent visit from a reader in Azerbaijan who found our site by doing the following search. Any guesses who this new reader could be?
Ever wonder what life is like if your life was a Brazilian soap opera?

Tonight, I went to Rosa Myrig’s house for dinner and the subject of who I am getting married to and when came up.

Rosa Myrig asked me if were doing our marriage like a Brazilian soap opera? I asked her what does that mean? She said it means that you first get “married” and then you have you wedding later.

It seems that my being away from Martuni for long periods of time, has sparked gossip of me being off in Yerevan to live with my pregnant fiancée, just like they do in the Brazilian soap operas that are shown on television here in Martuni.

One thing you should also keep in mind is that Rosa Myrig does not watch soaps, so for her to come out and ask the question, you have to wonder how much people here have been talking?

I assured Rosa Myrig that we plan on having our wedding and get married at the same time. She smiled and seemed relieved, though the smirk on Hurnat’s face (he watches soaps everyday), looked as though he would have not objected in the least if we adopted the idea of getting married the Brazilian way.

Just to make my logs more interesting and to share with you my newest literary interest, I’m going to share with you some bible verses that relate to my log. Today is from Romans 13:13 (I like the number too), which reads: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” And 1 Timothy 5:13, which reads: “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

If you ever find yourself at the corner of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, do me a favor and purchase a hotdog from Shawn Yekikian. He is the 300 pound, 6 feet-plus guy with longish hair, beard and thick-lensed glasses, who you will find sitting next to his hotdog cart there.

While your there eating your Shofar dog in a Vienna bun with your choice of condiments from containers laid neatly in a row, except for the mayonnaise, which he keeps refrigerated, tell him that I said hi. And if he asks who I am, just tell him a guy living half way around the world, dreaming of finding what he has found:

"This isn't the most important job in the world," Yekikian says, a little self-consciously. "It's not like being a policeman or a fireman. But I like it." He makes enough to get by, he adds. What more does he need?

It may not be the most important job in Shawn’s opinion, but since it’s what he wants to be doing and it makes him happy, it is the most important job in the world. What a lucky guy, doing what he wants to do.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

How long has it been since I’ve logged about life here in Martuni? I guess a long time.

One reason I’ve had nothing to write about is that for the most part, I have not been in Martuni all that much in the last couple of months but have been in Armenia working on various projects. My Artsakh visits have been a matter of driving in, staying at the most 4 days and driving back to Armenia.

I got back to Martuni a couple of days ago and things here seem to be the same.

The weather is starting to heat up here and yesterday I turned on my air-conditioner, which before doing so, I cleaned the filter. Boy was it dirty!!!

While I was in Armenia, I worked on my book when time permitted. Though I’ve done quite a bit of work, it’s still not quite as close to completion as I would like it to be. Writing about ones life and thing things one encounters here is quite fatiguing, since much of what I see defy the laws of logic. After revisiting the past, it really makes me wonder how up until now I have kept my sanity? I have to admit that most of the things I have written about, have left my memory, which I guess is good. I guess writing is a form of self-induced therapy and helps to clear ones mind of bad stuff.

While I’ve been away, construction has not stopped on my projects in Martuni. I’m in the process of building my industrial complex, which will fulfil part of my obligation to the 25 year lease agreement I have with the Artsakh government.

Though I had plans on starting this year anyway, I was warned that the army had it’s eye on my land to build a housing complex and if I had not started by November, I would have violated the terms of my agreement and they could have taken the land back. Now I have 3 years to finish the main building, though I plan on having it done by next year.

The main building when completed will not only be a factory, but will also be able to double for a banquet hall that can seat 500 people, which I plan on having my wedding reception in.

We will also have a man-made lake, which I need the water for lubricating our stone cutting equipment. I’m hoping the lake will be ready this year so I can fill it and plant grass and trees around it so come next year, the place will look picture perfect. I’m also thinking that until we start to use it for stone lubrication, I will stock it with fish as to keep the insect problem to a minimum (my other factory has frogs that do a good job of this). I guess I need to read up on what the best way to build a man-made lake is? I’m thinking that one just cuts a ditch and fills it with water, letting the dirt flow to the bottom and seep back into the ground. I’m thinking that a couple of attached pools I could use to recover the granite dust and the extra surface water, which should be clean, can flow back into the lake.
What happens when you take a casino and place it next to an army base? I’m not sure yet, but I guess we will soon find out.

Talking with some soldiers who are serving in the army, there seems to already be a gambling problem on our bases, which have some of our young boys calling home to have money sent to cover their losses. Now with a casino within spitting distance of one of our larger bases, recruits and their parents are going to facing some new challenges.

So why the new casino? Well, the time is nearing that casinos in Stepanagert have to close and I guess this is one of the casino owner’s alternative location “away from the city”. If you consider this base, it is practically the size of a small city and on weekends, will certainly be a welcome alternative to many soldiers that would usually make their way to Stepanagert for some much needed R&R.

There are many locals that are not happy with this new development, including the Foreign Minister, who I met with today on an unrelated matter. All he could do is shake his head and agree that we will soon be facing some problems that we really don’t need.

If you ask me, gambling should be banned from Artsakh and Armenia all together, as economically deprived persons for the most part don’t gamble for the sake of gaming, but do so in hopes of pulling themselves out of poverty. In addition to this, gambling is contrary to Armenian-Christian values, not that this should determine if we do or don’t allow gambling here.

When I photographed the casino with the army base in the background, the man overseeing the construction asked me what I was photographing as he frantically approached me. I didn’t answer his question and instead asked when the casino would be opening? He told me in the next couple of days.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
6 July 2004

Prominent Writer Returns State Award To Protest 'Repression'
By Karine Kalantarian

One of Armenia's most renowned writers returned on Tuesday a prestigious state award given to her by President Robert Kocharian in 1998, in protest against his government's controversial crackdown on the opposition.

Poetess Silva Kaputikian sent back her Medal of Mesrop Mashtots to the presidential administration through two representatives. Kaputikian, 85, confirmed that the decision resulted from the brutal dispersal of an opposition demonstration in Yerevan on the night from April 12-13.

"It was a very difficult decision for me to take," she said. "I keep wondering why the situation in our independent republic should be such that I have to return the medal carrying the name of Mesrop Mashtots."

Scores of people were injured and arrested on that night when baton-wielding riot police used water cannons and stun grenades to break up the protest on the city's Marshal Baghramian avenue leading to the Kocharian's residence. The use of force was part of a broader crackdown launched by the authorities in response to the opposition campaign for Kocharian's resignation.

It has involved arrests and imprisonments of opposition activists across the country and has been denounced by local and international human rights groups. Kaputikian likewise referred to the drastic measures as "repressions." However, the authorities defend them, accusing the opposition of resorting to "unconstitutional" methods of political struggle.

Speaking last May, Kocharian deplored the writer's gesture of protest, saying that his reaction would have been "tougher" if she had not been so famous and respected in Armenia. Some prominent pro-Kocharian intellectuals have also criticized her.

But Kaputikian defended her decision. "I will take comfort from the fact that it is not with a medal that I will feel attached to Mesrop Mashtots," she said, referring to the 5th century cleric who invented the Armenian alphabet. "On the contrary, I believe that I stayed faithful to Mesrop Mashtots with this step."