Sunday, October 31, 2004

I just sent off this message. Let's see if I get an answer?

Date:Sun, 31 Oct 2004 08:47:32 -0800 (PST)
From:"Ara Manoogian"
Subject: A message for Vartan Oskanian...

Dear Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Armenia,

I am writing to share my concern about the possible deployment of "humanitarian" workers from Armenia to Iraq.

I am an Armenian-American living in Artsakh, who has relatives living in Iraq. I oppose the deployment of any Armenian troops, even those that will be used in non-combat duties, no matter how "humanitarian."

Iraqis, including Armenian-Iraqis, do not welcome the Armenian troops. The presence of these troops will further compromise the security of the 25,000 Armenians in Iraq. Indeed, the deployment of Armenian troops in Iraq may well result in abductions, mass expulsions, and further bloodshed.

Muslim religious leaders, including leaders sympathetic to the Iraqi resistance, have strongly condemned the attacks against Iraqi Christians. Nevertheless, under the conditions of occupation, even a tiny minority of fanatics can inflict great damage. As I write to you, my television is on. CNN is reporting on a Japanese hostage that they have just found beheaded, after the Japanese government refused to comply with the hostage takers demand to pull out their troops.

The resistance to occupation is growing, and anger at the occupiers is rising. "Coalition Partners" are desperate to get OUT of Iraq. Under these circumstances, why would the Republic of Armenia wish to hurl itself INTO the occupation?

One more question for you, sir: What would the Armenian government do if my cousin were taken hostage and you were asked to pull out our troops? If my cousin is killed because of a bad decision by the Armenian Government, who will be answering to me and my family for this blunder? Be assured that if the deployment takes place, and if Armenians are attacked in Iraq as a result of it, we will not permit you to deflect the blame away from yourself.

I ask that you do the right thing. Please take a public position opposing this deployment to Iraq.


Ara Manoogian
Artsakh, Martuni

I just got this e-mail from Markar Melkonian (Monte Melkonian’s brother) who is justifiably concerned about the possible deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq. Please read it, act accordingly and forward it on to everyone you know.

Dear friends,

Sixteen years ago, when an earthquake ravaged Armenia we rallied to her side. Today, thousands of Armenians might well become victims of yet another disastrous upheaval. But this time it is neither tectonic plates nor Turkish troops that pose the threat. This time, the threat is coming from a handful of short-sighted politicians and ministers in Yerevan.

The President of the Republic of Armenia and members of his administration have proposed to deploy fifty to sixty members of an Armenian contingent to Iraq. Although they claim that the contingent will provide only “humanitarian assistance,” it is to fall under the command of the Polish force, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition that is occupying Iraq.

There are around 25,000 Iraqi Armenians. Some of us have received many reports of threats and reprisals against the Armenian community in that country, and we have read their petitions and the petitions of their church officials, imploring leaders in Yerevan to abandon the deployment plan.

The vast majority of our compatriots in Armenia share their concern. Recently, the independent polling group, Vox Populi, conducted a telephone survey in Yerevan, which showed that 60 percent of the respondents opposed the deployment of Armenian troops in Iraq--and only 6 percent approved.

Armenia’s National Assembly must approve the deployment before it can take place. So far, no date has been set for the vote, but it might take place some time after the November 2 presidential election in the U.S. Despite overwhelming popular opposition to the deployment, it is not a foregone conclusion that the National Assembly would vote it down.

It is urgent, in the run-up to the U.S. election, that we Armenians in the West join hands with our compatriots in Iraq and join voices with the people of Armenia, in opposing this deployment. Please take a moment to voice your concern to:

The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, Washington DC:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia:
Attn: Mr. Vardan Oskanian

Explain that you oppose the proposed deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq. Remind them that such a deployment will adversely affect Armenia’s relations with its neighbors, especially Russia and Iran, and that it will isolate Armenia from its long-standing friends in the Arab countries. Remind them, too, that the deployment could precipitate bloodshed and a mass exodus of Armenians and other Christians from their country, Iraq.

We are in a position now to make a difference.

With sincere appreciation,

Markar Melkonian

P.S.: Please forward this message to friends, church groups, cultural associations, and student associations.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Turkification… The pay off

I ran into the sister of the woman who used a fraudulent birth certificate she obtained from the Martuni register to gain asylum in Germany.

She said that today was her sister's hearing to determine their status, of which they were awarded permanent residency status.

She said that it will be another 2 months before her sister gets her new passport, at which time she will get a ticket to return to Martuni for a visit.

According to the sister, the next step will be an invitation of family members to Germany, where they hope to permanently join their Turkified sister.
Since last year's Presidential Elections, Armenia ain't what it used to be...

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
29 October 2004

Two Men Shot Dead In Downtown Yerevan

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Two men were shot and killed by unknown assailants in broad daylight in downtown Yerevan on Friday. Circumstances of the extraordinary crime were not immediately known.

The bodies of the men looking to be in their 30s lay stretched on a blood-stained sidewalk near a busy street intersection in the city center late in the afternoon to the horror of passers-by unaccustomed to such scenes. The area was cordoned off by the police.

Investigators at the scene refused to comment on the mysterious killings. The national Police Service said in a statement later in the day that one of the dead men is an ethnic Armenian from Georgia.

The statement said the investigators “have managed to establish the identity of the person who committed the crime” but will refrain from making it public for the time being “for operational considerations.”

The shootings may have been witnessed by staff of a nearby café that were said to have first alerted the police.
As we can see from the story below, there are jackasses in every part of our government, though it seems that the defense ministry has more than it should. If you ask me, there is no need for “peacekeepers” from Armenia in Iraq, not just because there is an Armenian community there, but because we will also be aiding the West with their act of cultural genocide of the Iraqi people in the name of “war on terror”. I say that if we do end up sending a force to Iraq, one of the conditions is that Serg Sarkisyan, Robert Kocharian, Mikael Arutyunyan and their families must go there also and live among the people and if their children or wife’s are taken hostage, we don’t back down when the native Iraqi’s demand to withdraw our troops and then broadcast the beheading of their family members on Armenian television as a lesson to them and those that think the way they do. God help us all.

Defence chief says sending peacekeepers to Iraq Armenia's task

Aykakan Zhamanak, Yerevan
28 Oct 04

Text of unattributed report by Armenian newspaper Aykakan Zhamanak on 28 October headlined "Actually, we have become independent"

Does the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Deputy Defence Minister Mikael Arutyunyan, not think that the dispatch of Armenian peacekeepers to Iraq might endanger the security of the Armenian community in Iraq?

In response to this question of our correspondent yesterday, the deputy minister said: "Do you think that there are no Georgian or Azerbaijani communities in Iraq? Of course, there are. But both Azerbaijan and Georgia think of increasing their presence in Iraq. The point is not that we fulfil someone's desire by sending troops to Iraq, we solve our own tasks. Otherwise, let's surround our country with a fortress and say that we cannot step out of this boundary."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

If you remember, a couple of months ago, I posted logged about the new U.S. embassy and the unfair and insulting labor practices that was and is going on there. Well here is a great piece from The Armenian Weekly's posting on Groong this week that is written by someone who was at the construction site and witnessed first hand what has been going on. A little bit long, but worth the read.

Feature: An Account of Travels and Teachings in Armenia
By Azad Merian

[The following is an account by Azad Merian from Ocala, FL who traveled to Armenia in July 2004 as a construction instructor to teach Armenians in Yerevan all phases of western construction methods. Merian is a retired general contractor originally from Detroit, MI who today builds custom-made bolt action rifles and stocks for those rifles.]

In March 2004, the Armenian Assembly of America, in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Academy for Education Development (AED), announced openings for construction instructors to teach Armenians in Yerevan all phases of western construction methods.

These positions required applicants to be state-licensed contractors who also spoke Armenian. Ed Derbabian, an acquaintance in Detroit, MI, who was aware of my qualifications called and encouraged me to apply for one of these positions. With his moral support and confidence, I submitted my resume.

On July 1, I received a call from USAID in Washington notifying me that this 73-year old man had been selected as the instructor for carpentry, suspended drop ceilings, metal framing, and drywall trades. I excitedly accepted the position, and the arrangements were rapidly made for me to arrive in Yerevan on July 10, with my classes beginning on July 12. As a previous visitor to Armenia and Karabagh, I had an idea as far as what to expect of the classrooms. True to form, this building was in total disrepair and without toilet facilities.

The first morning of class, I stood before my students with patriotism to perform my duties, to the best of my ability, as an instructor from America. I introduced myself and could see and read the expression on the students faces--"He's just another Armenian-American here with a broom to revolutionize Armenia." I stood before them, knees trembling, hot flashes, and fear, awaiting help from above.

At that moment my Masonic background as an orator put me at ease. I said to them, 'I am unlike any man you have ever met, just give me an hour to prove this point. Don't look upon me as the enemy. You are all the ages of my sons and grandsons, and will be treated in the same manner. You will learn many trades to benefit you in the future.' From that moment on we were an army of one and acted accordingly.

My students were so eager to learn; they would arrive 30 minutes early every morning, conduct studies during smoke breaks, have lunch late, and remain two hours past the last bell. During three weeks of classroom studies, they built a wood frame construction home using western technology.

They installed suspended drop ceilings, erected metal frames, and installed sheetrock. They amazed themselves as well as the USAID directors in Yerevan. They were paid 36 cents per day for transportation and were provided with a free lunch.

They were so destitute and poverty stricken that each night they would wash and dry the only clothing they owned so that they would look fresh in the morning. They came from the hidden back streets, clustered with dilapidated apartments, places where the average tourist never ventures.

During my session, one of my students had the misfortune of losing his mother. He could not afford a proper funeral for his mother, so in lieu of flowers I made a donation so that he could bury his mother.

Reluctantly, he accepted the money. All of our students attended the funeral, again wearing the same clothing that they washed and dried every night.

The service was performed at the entrance of the high-rise apartment building, because they could not afford a church funeral.

On week four and five, we were sent to intern at the new US Embassy that is under construction. It is the largest US Embassy in the world to serve a country the size of Armenia. It is a bastion of defense, impenetrable against any attack. The embassy is being built by J.A. Jones Construction from North Carolina. The first employees were Turks; they received $7 per hour.

They were found incompetent and replaced by Armenians who received 50 cents per hour to work 10-hour shifts, six days a week. Punch your calculator with these numbers to see the profits that J.A. Jones Construction made. The student interns were paid 70 cents per hour by USAID and AED. Gone are the days that $5 supported a family for one month in Armenia.

The OSHA conditions at the embassy were horrifying. Seven port-a-johns were set up approximately 400 yards apart to serve 700 Armenians. They had not been pumped out and serviced in a month. There was only one sink provided to wash your hands.

The work site was scattered with debris, had poor lighting, there was a shortage of tools and material, and the temperature inside was 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Water was passed out to the workers twice a day, and the free lunch was not worthy to eat.

All of the windows were sealed with two-and-a-half inch bullet-proof glass, and covered with tape which kept sunlight and ventilation out.

If the 700 Armenian workers were prisoners of war, the Geneva Convention and International Law would have intervened, rectified this inhumanity to man, chastised America, and put the contractor on notice. These workmen were all enduring hunger, 15-20 pounds under weight, and in need of clothing and medical attention. They prayed each day for America and the Diaspora to be their patron saint.

With one week remaining, I invited and insisted that my students and their family members be present at my hotel for a farewell banquet in their honor. These people never ate a meal away from home, their children had never tasted a Coca Cola, and they had never been seated and served a meal by a waiter.

One could see the pleasure that the 50 people were experiencing from the expressions on their faces. For seven hours we dined, danced, made merry, and they never showed how forlorn they were.

Each student rose, with tears flowing, and gave a farewell address to me. In turn, I saluted my students and their families with sincerity, fondness, and humility.

After the banquet I gave the 11 students each a plastic shopping bag filled with my 14 changes of new clothing, my personal hand tools, books, cigarettes, and my remaining cash. I divided it 11 ways and returned to America with $10 in my pocket.

The next morning at the embassy the students gave me a special welcome and thanked me for the dinner and the gifts. They all knew in five days Azad would return to America. Each remaining day was like being on death row with the execution scheduled on Friday at 4:00 pm.

That last week our brigade bonded with everlasting brotherhood. They were admired by all the Armenian workers and foremen because of their talents.

Friday morning, our last day together, the students and I had a meeting regarding future employment with J.A. Jones Construction Company. They knew I had a meeting at 3:00 pm with Superintendent Tipton to discuss this matter.

At 3:00 pm sharp in Mr. Tipton's trailer office, he told me that he was pleased with my students and asked how many were seeking employment. I replied, "in all due respect, only two. The others wish to determine a pay scale with you." His eyes squinted, his cheeks rose upward, and he snarled, "How dare your lazy Armenians want to discuss a pay rate." Instantly the "Delray Detroit" instinct lurched me across his desk, my left hand went for his throat with an oncoming right fist to his white teeth.

Instantly thoughts were flashing through my head, and I stopped short realizing that this man wants me to act like this; he is goading me to explode like a car bomb to substantiate his views of my Armenian people.

I told myself, don't strike him; I will embarrass my beloved America, USAID, and myself. It was a finger on his Adam's apple that made him turn pale. With rhetoric, I assaulted him and his company for their incompetence, and the indifference they displayed toward Armenians.

He confessed to not being aware of the low wages and miserable conditions the workmen were enduring. I told Mr. Tipton that his company was far too behind schedule to quit using these Armenian workers.

I returned to my students, we hugged, and gave a sobbing farewell to one another. We began as an army of one, and finished as a brigade of brothers that will succeed in the future.

I accomplished the mission that USAID and the Armenian Assembly sent me to perform in Armenia.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Turkification… The way out

Immigration is a common occurrence these days throughout the world. People looking for a better life, willing to do whatever they have to leaving their economically deprived country of origin in hopes of security in the West.

One of the ways Armenians from Artsakh migrate to the West is via political asylum. And who better to qualify than a child from a mixed marriage, the father being Armenian and the mother Turkish, who can not live in Azerbaijan or Armenia/Artsakh in fear of religious prosecution.

The question comes as to if the birth certificate that the asylum seeker has is in fact accurate, reflecting accurately if the mother is in fact Turkish or not? I for one know of a woman who paid the licensing office official for a birth certificate to change her mother’s name to an Azeri Turkish name so she could gain asylum in Germany. Though I know personally of one case, knowing the Armenian mother, I have heard of many other such cases.

The woman working at the licensing office in Martuni has been said to be selling birth certificates for years now. The going rate is $150, a small price to pay for economic stability which not only gives you a chance to a better life, but also housing and a monthly allowance for you to survive off of from the government that grants you asylum.

And who is the woman at the licensing office? She is the wife of someone who lost his life in the war. A woman who had to have a degree in law to get the job and paid $700 for a degree that she did not attend one day at the university to earn. She will sell you any kind of license you want. Need a birth certificate for a child that you didn’t give birth to, but purchased from someone to refelct you as the birth mother? No problem.

Turkification in Artsakh for asylum seekers is common and if you ask me, is again us doing what the Turks could only dream of doing to us, emptying out our country of families.

Rustavi-2 TV, Tbilisi
23 Oct 04

(Presenter) Let's now return to the incident at the Achara Music Hall (in Tbilisi). As we have already reported, everything was ready in this concert hall for the arrival of (Georgian President) Mikheil Saakashvili and (Armenian President) Robert Kocharyan when the security service discovered a sniper rifle and a Kalashnikov sub-machine-gun.

In the end, the two presidents did not attend the concert. (Passage omitted)
Last week there was a story on about Joshua Haglund’s family who visited Armenia looking for answers to Josh’s murder.

For those that don’t remember, Joshua Haglund was stabbed to death May 17 near his Yerevan apartment.

Joshua Haglund arrived in Armenia in September, 2003 as part of a United States State Department program. He was a teacher at Brusov State Linguistics University and was scheduled to leave Armenia later in the week in which he was killed.

He was gay, and many here have speculated that Joshua Haglund’s death was a “hate crime” in a society of low-tolerance for “alternative lifestyles”.

The picture which appeared with the story made me remember of an unusual scene in Armenia that I witnessed.

I had gone to the park between the Opera and the Music Conservatory to observe from a distance the May 14th demonstration at the manuscript library and see what was going on around it in terms of police intervention.

As I was sitting in the park watching the red hat forces gather and their commanders sitting at the café in the park waiting for something to happen, I noticed a couple who were walking hand in hand.

The couple was not the usual couple you see in Armenia. It is not unusual to see men arm in arm, but this couple were not arm in arm, but holding hands, one dragging the other along, both were giggling.

For someone who grew up in California and having been to West Hollywood quite a few times, this couple resembled those I’ve seen there.

They walked into the park at around 5:22pm (I took a picture of the demonstrating crowd that just passed before they entered the park, which recorded the time). They sat at the bench next to the bench I was sitting at and they were looking at me.

Though I was busy looking in the direction of the demonstration, I did notice that the red hat forces had taken notice of the couple, who while sitting were still holding hands.

After about 5 minutes, the couple got up, again holding hands, with the larger of the two of them leading on the other almost in a dragging fashion. They walked off disappeared.

When the recent ArmeniaNow story appeared, the picture of Josh Haglund’s brother on the left (wearing a mustard color shirt), looked very much like the larger man I saw in the park who was leading by the hand what I would say could have been a native.

Could I have seen Josh 3 days before he was killed? If it was, he sure did make a scene in the park with lots of red hat police around.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

For those interested in knowing my internet surfing habits, I wanted to share with you them.

My surf starts with checking e-mail account. While they open (sometimes very slowly due to my slow connection), I open and read news stories from the Armenian world between mails.

Depending on what I read and receive, I open and post stories that are of interest to me and reflect what effect my world and enhance what I write about.

To wind down, I visit, which is a great site that I recommend to everyone to visit at least once a week to view the picture of the week and stories that reflect the positive side of life.

When I log out of my e-mail, I read top news stories of interest from Yahoo. Sometimes if the story really interests me a great deal, I visit the message board linked to the story to see what other people think and even post a comment myself.

Usually once a week, I do an internet search with the name of someone from my past to see if I can locate their e-mail address, I send them off a message to see how they are doing. Sometimes I get an answer back, sometimes the message comes back undelivered and sometimes there is just no answer.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Our court date went as scheduled. Though I’ve been in court a few times in my life in America, the Armenian/Artsakh court experience is unique. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that they don’t swear in the witnesses, having them swear an oath to tell the truth.

Anyway, after hearing both sides and within a matter of a half hour, it was decided that I would not be charged with a fine and will only pay what I had offered them in the first place and what I found was fair.

In short, the head of the pension fund stated that my accountant had asked him if it was possible to defer pension payments until we had an income. He said that he thought we were not work yet and had no one working for us at the time when she asked. When I was given the opportunity to ask him questions, I asked how he concluded that we had no one working for us? I asked him if we had no one working for us, were we expected to pay something to the pension fund? He said no we would not be. I then asked that does it then make sense to him that my accountant would come and ask him if we could defer payment? Before he could answer, I asked him that by her asking for his permission to defer payment was that not a clear indication that we did have people working for us? He didn't know how to answer the question.

When the judge asked if I had anything else to add, I told him that I have a recording of Ura that states that the pension fund did in fact know we had people working for us and that they agreed to allow us to defer payment. The judge said that it would not be necessary and rendered his decision, which the head of the Martuni pension fund said he was happy with.

So the pension fund case was settled in my favor and though it was a little bit of a disruption in my life, it gave me insight in how the legal system works.

One thing I am wondering is that now that it settled in my favor, will the main office in Stepanagert ask why I was forgiven of the penalty? And when they find out, will Henrik be relieved of his duty as the head of the fund in Stepanakert said he would be for doing what he did?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I went to Ura’s funeral today. There were so many people there.

I learned that Ura was 52 years old. He went to his mother’s house on the weekend, where for whatever reason, he started to sweat, laid down to rest and when his mother came to check on him, he was dead.

It turns out that Ura is related to my fiancé on her father’s side. He was a second cousin.

Ura’s wife is the one in the family that is related to some very corrupt people in high places, one being Mavrik Ghukasyan, the prosecutor general, who attended the funeral.

Anyway, Ura has been laid to rest and as someone told me today, he will have to now answer to a higher power, who will determine where he will go next.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Last week it was reported to me that on weekends, a group of fisherman from Stepanagert were coming to my lake and on Saturday nights, casting nets, and then collecting them on Sunday mornings before my guard would wake.

I was not sure if this was fully accurate information, nor did I know if my guard could also be involved, as casting nets that yield 100 kilos of fish would be time consuming and it would be very difficult, but not impossible that the guard was not involved (since this has happened in the past, though this guard does not seem like the type).

On Saturday night, my driver, Vahe and I, dressed in black with night-vision scopes, paid a visit to the lake to see if there were any overnight campers?

We arrived at 11pm to the lake, coming in on the back road with our headlights turned off. We walked in the dark for a kilometer, which felt like 5 kilometers, as when you can only see as far ahead of you and the IR laser illuminator will project (it was overcast and we had no starlight to help illuminate further), things are slow going so it take much longer to cover the distance.

We came across a couple of parked cars, which we spotted 30 meters ahead of us. My driver who is former Babayan special forces person, went on alone to see if there was anyone in the car and to get the license plate numbers.

We returned to our jeep and decided that we would come back at 5am, before the sun started to rise so we could get into place and observe the lake to see if any nets were being removed?

At 4am, I got a wake-up call from my driver, who came by at 4:30. We headed to the lake, once again parking the jeep and walking in. I had decided that instead of hiding in the surrounding green space, we would take up a position in the gate house, which is located high above the lake and has a clear view of everything.

We had to pass the cars in order to get to the gate house and had a couple of choices in how to do this. One was to walk along the side of a steep embankment, which would not be impossible for some trained special forces guy like my driver, but for me, could very easily end in my falling and being injured. The other option was to walk quietly passed the cars which had the sleeping fisherman inside.

We chose the safer, but in a big way, more difficult route of walking past the fisherman’s cars and did so separately. My driver went first, since he has more experience than I do in such operations (crossing over into Azerbaijan many times) and passed without being noticed, giving me the signal to proceed. I crossed, but being that I’m not trained, I was detected by one of the fishermen, who by the time he got out of the car, I got off the road before he could fix where the sound was coming from.

We took up our position in the gate house and waited. I was not all that cold but even if it was, the layers of clothes I was wearing made for a very cozy wait.

Sunrise was beautiful and it’s really interesting to watch how even before the sun peeks out, comes a very faint rose color, which really lights up everything and it would have been impossible to cross the bridge and have the cover of darkness to hide under.

Once the sun came up, the fishermen got to work. A couple of them made their way down to the shore and started a fire. One started down and then got into the squatting passion to relieve himself and did this for the longest time. He then made his way down to join his friends.

We watched them for an hour and after it was clear that they were not going to take a net out of the water, we stripped off our black outer layer and made our way down to them.

They were fishing with poles and were actually catching fish. I didn’t do any talking so they would not suspect me to be anything other than a local. My driver proceeded to ask about fishing and if they allow people to cast nets?

After some very good answers in favor of my guard being very strict in enforcing the rules and even taking on army personnel who come to blow up land mines we were convinced that these guys were not casing nets. They talked about hearing a car at night on the back road that probably got stuck and the passengers passed their cars shortly there after. They asked when we came, which my driver said at sunrise. We excused ourselves, made our way back to where we left the bag with our clothes and walked off to our jeep and drove back to Martuni, where I went straight to bed and slept until 6pm.

Now I can’t say that net fishing has not recently happened by a group from Stepanagert, but will say that we will be more careful on the weekends was to who is coming and going, just in case.
Once again, I may have killed someone. I’m not sure how old Ura was (his oldest son is 23), but on the eve of trial, he had a heart attack and died.

Last year, my account came to an agreement without my prior approval to delay the payment of our pension fund contributions for our employees at the stone factory, until we had an income, since all I was doing I was paying out of my pocket and had not yet seen any kind of income.

When I learned of this deal a few months later, I asked my accountant if it was legal to do this and added that I really didn't have a problem paying out $54 more a month if it was not.

My accountant assured me that everything was on the up and up, being that she had the approval from Henrik, the head of the pension fund in Martuni and his assistant Ura.

The stone factory because of technical problems in one of our main cutting machines, didn't see a profit until recently and in that time never was there mention of the pension fund debt, of which I didn't even think about since that is the job of my accountant to deal with.

This summer, I got a call from Henrik at the pension fund, telling me that we were being audited by the main office in Stepanagert and in an hour someone would be coming to inspect our books. I called my accountant to inform her that she would have visitors from the pension fund and to allow them to inspect the books.

I later got a call from my accountant telling she had good new and bad news. The good news is that since she had paid all the employees other taxes (income and so on), and that our books did reflect that we did owe the pension fund. They understood that we did not intentionally conceal what we had to pay, so no criminal charge would be filed against me. The bad news was we have been fined for not paying into the pension fund for our employees at the stone factory in the amount 50% of the amount owed.

I asked my accountant how this happened and she reminded me if the deal she had struck with Henrik and Ura, but said that when they struck that deal, they neglected to tell her that she was not to pay any taxes now and when we had our profit, to report everything at that time and pay all the taxes. Of course if that was what the deal was suppose to be, I would have never agreed to it. When the pension fund and the tax office compared figures, they didn't balance and for that reason we were audited.

My accountant asked me what we should do? I told her that due to the deal that Henrik and Ura agreed to, advising us that it was legitimate, now my name has a black mark on it for not paying into the pension fund and though the few hundred dollars I would have to pay as a fine was not a big deal to me, my good reputation was on the line for playing within the rules of the law (which is something I'm known for demanding from everyone) was not something I would jeopardize. For this reason, she should inform the pension fund that we are disputing their finding and if they can’t reverse their decision, they should take us to court were I will attempt to defend my reputation.

My accountant and I met with the people at the pension fund on July 5th, who said that it was out of their hands and if we had anything complaining to do, we need to see the head of the pension fund in Stepanagert.

My accountant and I took a trip to Stepanagert and visited with the head of the pension fund (I can’t remember his name right now), who I explained what had happened. He told me that if in fact what I said is true, he would have to fire those that misadvised us, as what they allegedly did was criminal, but said that he does not believe they would admit to anything. I told him he should not be so sure, as they had already told me they had done just what I was telling him a few days earlier.

A few weeks ago, I ran into the Martuni judge while visiting the mayor, who informed me that I was being sued by the pension fund and I needed to come by the court to pick up and sign for the papers. With the judge, we drove to the court house, were I received the papers and set a trial date for the 18th (today).

To prepare for the trial, I consulted with my soon to be mother-in-law, who is the Deputy Minister of Justice in Artsakh, as to my defense and to make sure what I planned to do was legal?

My plan was to present my case, and to have my accountant recall what had happened in terms of the original deal with Henrik and Ura. I would then question Ura and one other person from the pension fund who my accountant and I met with on July 5th, concentrating on his statement to us agreeing that he had said it was okay not to pay now, but adding that he had never thought to have to tell my accountant that she needed to conceal everything in terms of paying taxes until we were ready to pay. Of course I felt that there was a good chance that Ura would deny he had ever said this, to which according to Artsakh law and in criminal cases (which what Ura and Henrik did was criminal), I could present into evidence a recording I made on July 5th of the meeting that reflects in Ura’s own words that he said what I've stated above.

One other thing that should be noted is that the other person from the pension fund who was present at that meeting said in an attempt to comfort me is that what I did was not that bad because we paid income tax, adding that if we had concealed the income tax and been caught, then I would have been facing criminal charges. Ura in the recording and what I’ve stated above suggests that he was expecting me to conceal everything, which like the other man present at the meeting stated is criminal.

This morning I woke up and readied for trial. I put my secret weapon in my pocket (the recording) and headed to court. On the way I told my driver what the case was about and the strategy I will use. My driver asked if I was talking about Ura, the guy whose wife is the head of the Martuni region finance office? I said yes. He told me that during the night, Ura had a heart attack and died.

I was a little taken back by this and on the one hand I thought that if it was going to happen, it’s better that it happened before the trial, as if I had to use the recording to prove that he had misled the court and presented false testimony under oath, he could have had his heart attack in court and then everyone in Martuni would have been talking about how I killed Ura.

The court date has been postponed until the 21st. I now have to once again consult with my future mother-in-law about if we can use this recording as Ura’s testimony since he is no longer alive to be present? The Martuni judge told me today when I asked if it was possible that I can’t because I have to have a basis and reason to present it. I told him the man that could present evidence of my innocence is dead and all we have left is a recording of him. Let’s see what the mother-in-law who happens to be the top legal expert in Artsakh will have to say about this?

And you may be asking yourself why the first line in my log I state “Once again…”? Well it seems that those people who do bad things to me and have one gram of respect for me, always have heart problems that could have resulted due to me defending what is right. In the states, I had a business dispute and in the course of defending my rights and winning a large settlement, one of the witnesses we were deposing I caught in a lie (in depositions by law, my attorney does the questioning, but I'm allowed to him post-it notes with questions to ask) and when she could not answer the question without incriminating herself and saw where they questioning was leading, she started to have heart palpitation and had to rushed to an emergency room, later being hospitalized for a 6 days. During that same case, one of my attorneys committed an act of malpractice, to which I sued him in pro per (meaning I didn't use an attorney and represented myself), and while doing so, he had a heart attack and decided to settle the case out of court soon there after in my favor and I heard later on at the young age of 50, gave up practicing law. In the case of the late Mesrop Srpazan, while investigating Kocharian’s controller and preparing an article with our findings, Edik Baghdarasyan of HETQ contacted Mesrop Srpazan’s office in NY to arrange for an interview when Srpazan returned to Armenia, to which Srpazan knew he was to give an interview based on the recording I had made in 1999 and probably just a matter of bad timing, he had a heart attack and died.

Tomorrow they will be laying Ura’s rest and though he put my reputation on the line, as a person he was not a bad guy. For that reason, since I knew him, I will attend and pay my respects to his wife and children at his funeral.

Also see: and

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sell off 14,000 hectares of state reserve lands to pay for local infrastructure facilities, health and education? Next time they need money, what will they sell off? Though the article does not say, are these green zones with trees and vegetation that produce oxygen?


Oct 14 2004

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 14, ARMENPRESS: State subsidies to the province of Armavir rose from 29 million Armenians drams in 1998 to 142 million drams in 2004, which, according to the province's governor, Albert Heroyan, is an apt illustration of real economic growth. Another indication of the robust economic growth, according to the governor, is a significant increase in teachers' wages which have risen to 30,000 drams (approximately $60).

Heroyan said the sale of some 14,000 hectares of formerly state reserve lands in the province will bring some $23 million to the provincial budget.. He said more than 1,000 hectares of that land was already auctioned and the raised proceeds, according to the law, will go for improvement of local infrastructure facilities, health and education sectors.

The governor also said many families that had chosen to leave the provinces are now coming back. "We are planning to build three blocks of apartments for them," he said.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Dominion
Canada's Grassroots National Newspaper

30 September 2004

Extinguishing the Post-Cold-War Dream
World Bank-mandated energy privatization taxes Armenia's poor.

Late last month, an independent Armenia became a teenager. Food, Fireworks and a festive atmosphere commemorated the 13th anniversary of its independence, declared on September 21, 1991. As the first Soviet republic to proclaim sovereignty during the collapse of the USSR, Armenians have reason to rejoice - after decades of cultural and political oppression they may finally flout their language, heritage and national identity without fear of reprisal.

Many in this tiny republic, however, have little else to celebrate. While civil liberties were subject to Soviet-style constraints, the Armenia of the 1980s enjoyed a strong economy, a healthy and highly educated public, and one of the most egalitarian distributions of wealth in the USSR. Once the newly independent government began to adopt market reforms and neoliberal values, gross domestic product plummeted, prices for basic needs such as food and water increased dramatically, while public goods like health care and education began to crumble.

Over a decade later, GDP has finally returned to pre-reform levels. Who has benefited from renewed economic growth, however, is not so clear. Spending on education and health remains low. Real wages are less than one-eighth of what they were in 1990, and economic inequality in Armenia has become extreme. In Yerevan, Armenia's capital, the number of BMWs seen rolling along city streets has mushroomed; so have the ranks of panhandlers roaming those very same urban boulevards.

Poverty has indeed become widespread in Armenia. Affecting roughly fifty percent of the population, it has quickly become an epidemic that shows little sign of subsiding.

Living on less than two dollars a day, the poor are particularly vulnerable to increases in the price of basic commodities. Privatization within the energy sector, however, has preyed upon this very weakness. Imposed by the World Bank through loan conditions, reforms designed to make electric utilities more attractive to foreign takeover left people paying more than twice as much for electricity then they were in the mid-1990s.

Furthermore, inability to pay these inflated rates now results in disconnection. This strict marketplace logic is expressed by Andrei Rappaport, a senior official for Unified Energy System of Russia, the new owner of several Armenian generating facilities: "If you want energy pay for it, and if there is not any money to pay, then goodbye."

Not unsurprisingly, these new conditions led to a serious decline in household energy consumption. The poor in particular were forced to cut electricity use considerably, by twenty percent on average. According to a World Bank report, the typical household barely has enough electricity to power a refrigerator and a handful of light bulbs.

Despite the decline in consumption, increased energy costs now account for approximately thirty percent of all household expenditures, with electricity making up the bulk of these payments. A related concern is the move towards greater wood consumption. While this reduces the reliance on costly electric power, it has also contributed to higher levels of indoor air pollution and accelerated deforestation.

Energy - widely recognized as a fundamental need for human development – has become increasingly inaccessible in Armenia. At the insistence of the World Bank, control over this precious commodity has been handed over to foreign interests, where social priorities are sacrificed in the name of corporate profit and capitalist ethos.

The picture is similar in much of the former Soviet Union: increases in cultural and, to a lesser degree, political freedoms have been overshadowed by a sharp decline in the freedom to meet basic human needs. This failure is directly related to the "shock therapy" imposition of market capitalism on countries with centralized economies - a prescription borne more of ideological zeal than sound economic principles.

Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, explains:

"From this cold-war perspective, those who showed any sympathy to transitional forms that had evolved out of the communist past and still bored traces of that evolution must themselves be guilty of 'communist sympathies'. Only a blitzkrieg approach during the 'window of opportunity' provided by the 'fog of transition' would get the changes made before the population had a chance to organize to protect its previous vested interests. "

Poverty and inequality remain Armenia's greatest challenges, and some question whether the political will exists to tackle these vital problems. This is true for the Armenian government, but perhaps more importantly, for the World Bank and related organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the United States Agency for International Development. The coercive pressure these institutions place upon governments to engage in fire sale privatisation tactics could be redirected to produce publicly owned utilities that are transparent, efficient, and designed to serve the public good.

Unfortunately, these institutions appear more concerned with ideological imperialism and creating profit opportunities for Western corporations than they are with promoting sustainable economics, accountable governance, and poverty reduction - all of which are necessary for human development to truly prosper.

Rob Maguire is a Canadian activist and graduate student living in Yerevan, Armenia. He can be found online at


Friday, October 15, 2004

Today was my future grandmother-in-laws birthday (the mayor’s mom). She asked that we do nothing special and told me that there was no need to give her a gift, though if I had not given her something, I would have felt bad, since she always give me something for my birthday. I got her this really nice antique looking fruit bowl, with 24k gold trim from a store here in Martuni. I was really impressed that such things were available here and for only $16.

We had a sit down dinner, which was very simple. Though we wanted to barbeque some pork, she told us there as no need, and the beef stew her daughter-in-law made was all that she wanted. We also had fresh bread with village butter and honey.

The weather here I’m not going to say has changed and winter is here, but we had snow in the nearby villages and tonight my reinstalled my wood stove. My house when I got home was 13.4c (which is a little bit too cold for me) and now that I got the stove lit is rising and already neared 17. Though natural gas would be great to have right now, there is something different and more appealing to the heat from wood.

I got a call from Vahe (the president of the Monte Melkonian Fund, USA), who was calling me on a cell phone from Lachin to let me know he should be arriving in Martuni around noon. I guess Karabagh Telecom has the cell service working in Lachin and just learned a few minutes ago, it is also working on Jardar (the largest village in the Martuni region). Very convenient.

With fuel prices on the rise, I’m looking into possibly building an electric car to use inside the Martuni region. I’m thinking to convert a Zap, automobile, which is the smallest car they made in the Soviet Union, and is very convenient, as most everything on it is non-powered, meaning I wont need an electric vacuum-pump to power the brakes, or hydraulic pump for steering and so on. It also has a heater which works off of gasoline and though this is suppose to be an electric car, it will use gasoline to heat it when need be, which will save the battery to give it greater range. Anyway, let’s see if I build it or not. Planning is fun to do, but doing something here is sometimes more a challenge than it would be in America where everything is available at your fingertips. My biggest plus in making an electric car is not that it will cost me only 20% to fuel it as it cost a gas car, but due to bad fuel, bad engine oil, as inferior replacement parts, an electric car should be easier to maintain and more reliable, which should save me money, time and nerves. The only drawback is that the range will be limited, which for me is not a big deal since I don’t intend to drive it to Yerevan, though having one there too would be great, which I guess if the first one works out as I want, a second one to build would be worth it, though taxis are so cheep that who really needs a car in Yerevan?

I’m now on a new diet. Over the summer, when I usually loose weight from running around, I gained weight. I know exactly how I did it and that was by not wasting food that my fiancé would leave uneaten in her plate when we would eat out. She would order more than she could eat and since I was brought up to never leave anything on your plate, as there are hungry people out there who do have, I would force myself to eat what she refused to eat. Six kilos later, my pants are not fitting like they should, so now I’ve gone to eat as I usually do in the summer which is one meal a day and I stop before I am full. I also ignore the stomach when it tells me I am hungry. I’m also taking high potency multiple vitamins that my brother brought for me when he came to visit, which will assure I’m getting the minimal vitamins.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Jerusalem's disgrace

Oct 12 2004

The police interrogation of Armenian Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, who allegedly slapped yeshiva student Zvi Rosenthal after Rosenthal spat at Manougian and at a crucifix during the Exaltation of the Holy Cross procession in the Old City this week, reveals a little bit of the increasingly wild Jewish-nationalist-religious atmosphere in Jerusalem.

It is the bad luck of the Armenians, a peaceful and modest community in the city, that its churches and other institutions, including their ancient cemetery, is on the way to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. As a result, the priests of the community suffer from the unrestrained behavior of yeshiva students who pass through the Armenian Quarter, sometimes deliberately, to do harm and cause strife.

This is not the first time the Armenians have fallen victim to such bullying. The police does not make an effort to prevent the disgraceful phenomenon of spitting at priests - Armenians and others - and at the crosses they carry.

The Interior Ministry has done nothing in response to appeals by the heads of the church regarding their plight. Thus the state is neglecting its duty to protect the legitimate representatives of a peace-loving community.

That negligence, just like the bullying, is a disgrace to the state of the Jewish people, which was persecuted through the generations because of its religion and customs.

Moreover, it is a disgrace for Jerusalem. Ever since the city was "reunited," the city burghers and ministers in charge of it have claimed the capital of Israel would protect the dignity and stature of the three monotheistic religions and that their rights would be honored, including the right to freedom of movement.

And now, while the police and Shin Bet focus on preparations for the threat of impassioned assaults on Muslims on the Temple Mount, it turns out that for some time the Christians in Jerusalem have been suffering from various and sundry provocations by wild young people. The provocations - from spitting near or at crosses to throwing trash on the doorsteps of Christian edifices on Mt. Zion - have become an ugly routine in recent years, fitting right in with the increasingly extremist political atmosphere.

Jerusalem is a city holy to the three monotheistic religions. The state of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality are responsible for all the institutions and personages representing those three religions. The churches, monasteries, schools and gardens in within the municipal jurisdiction not only have the right to protection or police escorts during their holidays, but also the sense of belonging and full freedom of activity.

It is intolerable that Christian citizens of Jerusalem suffer from the shameful spitting at or near a crucifix. Similar behavior toward Jews anywhere in the world would immediately prompt vehement responses.

The mayor, the government and the security services must therefore make clear to the heads of all the religious communities that the protection of their safety is the top-ranking priority for them. At the same time, they must take firm action against those enflamed youths looking for opportunities to sabotage the complex fabric of life in Jerusalem.
I was just reading on Groong that the Prime Minister of Artsakh is in the US, touring to raise funds and prepare of the annual telethon.

Yes folks, once again, the Artsakh government is out begging for money for the construction of the North-South highway and my conversation with Era the other day about the military pension she gets for her husband loosing his life in the war and it being short by 2,500 dram is now making sense to me.

If you remember last year at the end of November, I commented on the report that 55,000 people from Karabagh had made donations and stated “More like 54,998 Karabakhis were forced to partake in the fund raising, having their unwilling donation automatically deducted from their already meager salary that undoubtedly will end up in the pockets of some corrupt officials. From the results of the telethon, the 99% of Diaspora Armenians that didn’t partake understood this. What a joke.”

So if my hunch is right, Era, who from my log you can see is already discontent with her treatment from our government, my have been piled in the group of natives that the government will claim willing gave to the telethon, in hopes that the naïve Diaspora will be conned to willingly give too since the people here “believe in this cause”.

Since I spoke of my missing about talking of the weather here, it is noteworthy to report that in the last 24 hours, the temperature dropped 9 degrees and it is now raining. I love it when it rains and I’m inside all cozy in my bed with the electric heating bad turned up.

I would also like to report that I have a mouse that is living in my ceiling, which is worse than the old woman who lived above me when I had an apartment in Glendale. The old woman was an insomniac and so is this mouse, who seems to run around all night like the old woman. On top of this, this mouse is crying out right now, as if it is giving. Tomorrow, I’ll leave for it some nice tasty wheat, which should put an end to all this noise it is making.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

October 12, 2004

Armenian anticorruption commission highlights 10 main areas of activity

Yerevan, 11 October: The anticorruption monitoring commission under the Armenian president at today's sitting determined 10 directions of activity.

Bagrat Yesayan, Armenian presidential aide on issues of combating corruption and chairman of the commission, told the sitting that a separate working group will function for each direction, where it is expected to involve representatives of the country's public organizations. The directions for commission's activities, as Yesayan said, are:

1. Control over the activities of state organizations specializing in the sphere of finance - the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank

2. Control over the financial activities of physical and legal entities

3. Control over the activities of the legal system

4. Control over the activities of the judicial system

5. Control over the public health system

6. Control over the public health system [as published]

7. Education sphere

8. Control over the sphere of environment

9. Transport and communications

10. Control over the sphere of economic competition

Yesayan also said that in connection with numerous cases of violation of laws of the Armenian Republic in the media and mass media outlets, a special working group of the commission, headed by the chairman of the Association of journalists-investigators, Eduard Bagdasaryan, will monitor the fulfilment of the abovesaid laws.

Bagdasaryan immediately proposed setting up a special website to publish declarations about the properties owned by the country's officials.

Apart from this, Bagdasaryan familiarized members of the commission with a decision by the Yerevan mayor to allocate free of charge 6,000 square metres of [office space] worth 240,000 dollars for a certain public organization supporting the combating of terrorism, which is a gross violation of the country's legislation. Asked by Bagdasaryan on how this should be combated, Bagrat Yesayan said that this decision should be handed over to the relevant bodies, and if they failed to do anything, these facts should be made public and that he should inform the president of this "not as a journalist, but as a member of the anticorruption monitoring commission". The commission is not entitled to carry out its own investigation, Yesayan said.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Gosh I really miss the old days of logging about the weather. Life for me was so much simpler then and so uneventful.

Not that I’m sorry that things in the homeland have gone from bad to worse, but when there are people who can’t swallow the pill called reality, without having an allergic reaction, it makes life for me a bit worse than what it really is. Maybe it’s my problem of having an allergic reaction to expecting people to be more in tune and accepting of reality without becoming defensive.

Anyway, with that said, the following is not another happy story of some great wedding, or birthday party, no my friends, this is another one of those depressing stories of injustice, that have become common in Armenia and Artsakh.

Tonight I went to visit a friend of mine who wanted my advice on starting a shoe and clothing store in Martuni. I have written about this friend, who was the person that Vahram Parseghyan, President Kocharian’s current controller had solicited funds from the Diaspora back in 1999 for an immediate surgery that he allegedly needed, but in fact didn’t. To kick-start your memory if you have not placed this story, it is the story that involved the late Mesrop Srpazan.

Anyway, after advising my friend not to take the risk to start such a store, because of today’s economic reality, the fact that when Martuni was economically well off, no such a store existed. He agreed, as what I told him only reaffirmed his own fears and echoed what others had told him.

My friend excused himself, to go to the store to get something, leaving his mother and I to talk.

I asked her how she was and she said she was not well at all.

To remind those that are new to the logs, this woman during the war had lost her oldest son, then her husband, followed by her youngest son 40 days later at a New Years celebration, when he was hit by bullet that fell to earth after shot in the air to bring in the New Year. And this happened while sleeping in the arms of my friend, who didn’t know that he had been hit.

My friend’s mother, Era, told me that she is very thankful for the sponsor she had (the same reader that sponsors Rosa Myrig (in all he sponsors 10 people)). Era said that it pays for much needed medicine, which keeps her alive. She said without that help, she knows she would be dead.

Era said that she wanted to write a letter to the President, as there are many issues that need to be resolved. She said her only fear is that she has heard that letters from citizens never make it to the President’s desk and are promptly given an answer of they have received the letter and are looking into the matter. She said she already wrote a letter to the President a few years ago, which still has not been answered.

She went on to tell me some of the things that she needs resolved.

She said for one thing, she lost her husband and 2 sons in the war, but she only gets a pension for loosing her husband. She said for her loss of him, she was getting 16,500 dram a month, which was raised to something like 21,000 dram a month in August and then last month, was reduced to something like 19,500. She said that when she got less than what she was expecting, she didn’t know which debts not to pay. She said that they not only cut her pension, but cut everyones. She went on to say that at least they should give her compensation for loosing her eldest son, as he was killed in battle. Though her younger who was 12 years old when he was killed on New Years by an Armenian bullet and was not officially registered as a solider, during the war, on his horse, use to take food and water to the front line. He was also used as a messenger to take word from headquarters to the front line. In short, he was no less a solider and in many ways did more than those on the front.

Then she went on to the condition of her house. She said that as a family that lost family to the war, they are entitled to having their house renovated. She said that over the years they have come out to her house a thousand times to survey, but until now, of the $3,000 which is suppose to be allocated for the work needed, only $1,000 was given, which was not enough to build an indoor bathroom. She had to sell parts off of an old truck that belonged to her husband to cover the shortfall. BTW, she sleeps in the kitchen, as her bedroom and in fact all the bedrooms on the second floor have mold damage in the walls, making them uninhabitable.

She said that she also has a debt that her son defaulted on at the bank from a few years back, which went to court and the court relieved him of the interest, leaving a balance of about $2,000, which he has $4 a month withheld from his paycheck each month. The loan was to renovate part of their house so he could get married, which he did and then later divorced as he was suffering from stress and his bride could not longer live with him.

Her son works as a clerk in the government finance office in Martuni and was making $36 a month, which was or is going to be increased to $50 month. He smokes and that money is enough to cover his habit. He too take medicine to deal with depression and stress, which I didn’t even ask where that money comes from.

He recently planted a small orchard of pomegranate trees, which he said in a few years will provide him with an income.

She went on to say that they are entitled to 3 hectors of land, and when they went to inquire what land is available, they were told there is none and if she can show them where there is, they will give it to her. She said that yesterday near Martuni, 2 people were injured while walking in the unplanted fields, one lost his leg, the other may loose his sight. She said that now they want me to send my son off to look for land that no one is planting? Those fields that are not planted have land mines. He is all I have left and is going no where near those fields. She went on to say that there is not 3 hectors of land for her, but the President, regional ministers and so on each have over 100 hectors of land to plant (the former regional minister has 350 hecotors and the present has at least 155 hectors).

She finished by saying that her son wants to get married and start a family, but she does not have money to give him a wedding. She said that all she wants is a grandchild and said that when she visits with her relatives who have grandchildren, she walks home and cries, as she does not have one, nor does she have hope of having one in the future. She said, what is the point of this big house my husband built. Who will she leave it to? Life is all about family and having children so they can give you grandchildren to carry on the family name. She said that this is really all she wants, even if that child is for some reason sick, she would be okay with it, just so long as it is hers to love.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Tonight I went to Rosa Myrig and Hurant’s house for dinner. I just love them dearly. They are such nice and down to earth people.

Rosa Myrig gave me my birthday gift of a pair of socks, an undershirt and a Russian made hazelnut chocolate bar (YUM).

Tonight during dinner, we talked about pensions and the cost of living these days. Rosa Myrig said that if it was not for their sponsor (one of our readers), they would be in very bad shape. They not only have their basic living expenses, but they also help out their grandchildren, one of whom is a university student. Rosa Myrig said that if they didn’t have a sponsor, she would still have found a way to pay her grandson’s tuition, even if that meant they had to live in poverty.

We then began to wonder how everyone else is surviving, after I said that it was impossible for someone to survive off of $50 a month for food in Yerevan. Rosa Myrig said no one could survive off of $50, even in Martuni. Things have gotten very expensive here too.

As we were talking, the television began to broadcast the Chaney/Edwards debate, translated in Armenian. We only watched a few minutes of it and I could not watch any more. I remembered the second Bush/Kerry debate (which I didn’t bother viewing, but did read the transcript yesterday), which Bush said:

“I believe Palestinians ought to have a state, but I know they need leadership that's committed to a democracy and freedom, leadership that would be willing to reject terrorism.”


“And the reason I'm worried is because there's a vicious enemy that has an ideology of hate.

And the way to defeat them long-term, by the way, is to spread freedom.

Liberty can change habits. And that's what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. “

I too am worried. I’m worried because America is trying to preach what liberty, democracy, leadership and freedom is.

What Bush said for me translates into America is going to entice the rest of the world with ideas and a way of life that they don’t have (this is a part of US military Low Intensity Conflict), and those persons that have been enticed, are encouraged to demand from their governments that life which is not only contrary to their culture, but which can not be provided due to a lack of resources. On top of this, they provide big dollars to those leaders that play along with what America wants to do and in the end, as it has happened in Armenia, we begin to loose our culture, destroy of infrastructure and in the end, cause irreversible damage to our people. We have done this and we can thank ourselves for being so naïve and blind, playing right into it.

In short, America’s job is to play with peoples emotions, manipulate them and disrupt any balance they may have had, or were heading towards, giving America a chance to also capture any material wealth (in Armenia’s case, brain power) that those countries may have to benefit their parasite citizens.

Yea, Iraq had its problem and maybe Sadam suppressed his ethnic minorities who were demanding more than he could give them, but remember, it was America that financed Sadam to fight against Iran, and it was America that gave Sadam the green light to invade Kuwait. From the people I know who were living in Iraq, they didn’t have a problem with Sadam and were living a very stable life.

The Iraq war was not about human rights. That was America playing on the emotions of the Western world to justify invading Iraq. It was all about oil and nothing more.

Remember, Americans have a habit to feed, which is their need of 25% of the energy of the world for their less than 5% of the world population. They consume 5 times more than nature intended them to have. They upset the balance of the world in so many ways so they can continue to survive. Americans are brainwashed to believe they are entitled to the “American Dream”, but guess what, their not. They are entitled to 5 times less than what they have and nothing more.

I strongly believe this is the reason why America has so many enemies and I can tell you those kinds of enemies you can’t stop by spreading ideas of “American Freedom”, because “American Freedom” is really not freedom at all (we all know this), it’s really a Trojan Horse with a very damaging surprise inside. And those people that Bush refers to as having an “ideology of hate,” in many cases are people who have a very good ideology of FREEDOM, that America HATES and is doing everything to prevent from maturing.

Americans, ask yourself if you could survive on 5 times less than what you have today (your entitlement)? If you answer no, then the next time your country is attacked by nationals from a country that you leach off of, please don’t complain, since you had it coming.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


English Version:
Armenian Version:

6 October 2004

"Mother pimp" gets two years in prison

On August 13, 2003 the Prosecutor's Office of Armenia instituted proceedings against Armenuhi Simonyan, based on charges brought by Marietta Ghazakhetyan. As we previously reported, in 2001 Armenuhi Simonyan lured Marietta Ghazakhetyan to the United Arab Emirates with the promise of a well-paid job, and then forced her into prostitution. (See: Trafficking in Armenian women).

When she returned to Armenia in 2002, Simonyan registered a pro forma marriage with one of her relatives and changed her last name to Sahratyan.

According to the charges against her, "Between 1999 and 2003, Armenuhi Simonyan-Sahratyan, a resident of Vanadzor in the Lori Marz, recruited women in various parts of Armenia with the sponsorship of procurer Amalia Mnatsakanyan (nicknamed Nano) and sent them to the United Arab Emirates for sexual exploitation." Charges were filed against Amalia Mnatsakanyan and a search for her was instituted in September 2002. In 2003, these two criminal cases were merged into one, since the women who had been recruited were forced into prostitution by Mnatsakanyan.

The Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan heard the case between June 2 and August 25, 2004.

Out of forty witnesses involved in the case, eleven took part in the proceedings. According to prosecutor Ara Amirzadyan, "More than half of the witnesses were questioned and all the evidence in the case was examined."

The preliminary investigation lasted for almost two years and concluded that Amalia Mnatsakanyan had been abetted in the crime by Artak Simonyan (Armenuhi Simonyan's brother), the brothers Ashot and Hrant Najarian, and Arusyak Gevorgyan. The main defendant in the case was Amalia Mnatsakanyan - Nano, who had a previous conviction.

On August 16, 2000, 40-year-old Amalia Mnatsakanyan had been given a suspended sentence for procuring. The investigation revealed that during her two years on probation and subsequently, she continued to engage in procuring. It was also revealed that during this period Nano "forged and used official documents and induced and abetted other persons in illegally crossing the state border of the Republic of Armenia."

On March 10, 2004 Amalia Mnatsakanyan, arrested thanks to cooperation between law enforcement agencies in Armenia and the United Arab Emirates, was transferred to Armenia .

One of Nano's victims and a witness in the case, Marine Vardanyan, stated in her testimony. "They tortured me and others like me in unspeakable ways. They forced us to perform all kinds of perversion. And Nano was behind all of this; she was the boss. She spared no one; she forced us to service clients even when we were sick, in order to get her money. People like her should be annihilated."

Another witness, Marietta Ghazakhetsyan, is convinced that the criminals will go unpunished. "These women have no right to be called human. They hold nothing sacred. They treated us like products; they sold us to Muslims and made thousands of dollars. And now are we supposed believe that they'll be held responsible? They'll pay a bribe, like always, and go free."

From 2000 to 2003, Amalia Mnatsakanyan recruited more than forty women and sent them to the Emirates. According to the charges, she made $221,000 over that period of time.

Her 26-year-old co-defendant, Artak Simonyan, aided in sending the women recruited for sexual exploitation to the United Arab Emirates in 2000-2002, to Amalia Mnatsakanyan and to his sister, Armenuhi Simonyan-Sahratyan. Last year Artak Simonyan signed a document that confirms his participation in forcing women into prostitution: "I am paying $200, an insignificant portion of our debt to Narine Karapetyan, to compensate for material losses she suffered as a result of the sexual exploitation we subjected her to in the United Arab Emirates in 2001."

Defendants Ashot and Hrant Najaryan are also charged with aiding in procuring. They too helped the main defendant, Nano, in transferring Armenian women to the Emirates. According to the charges, another defendant, Arusyak Gevorgyan, "in 1998-1999 aided and abetted her friend, Anna Alexanyan, who was engaged in procuring in the United Arab Emirates, in recruiting women in the territory of the Republic of Armenia and in sending them to the UAE for sexual exploitation. After that, from the end of 1999 to August 2000, she herself was engaged in procuring in the UAE. And in 2001-2002 she aided another friend, Amalia Mnatsakanyan, who was also engaged in procuring in the UAE, in recruiting and sending women to the Emirates for prostitution."

Armine Abrahamyan testified in court, "In December 2000 I lost my passport at the Etchmiadzin bazaar. Later I was informed by the police that someone had left for the United Arab Emirates using my passport." It turned out that the defendants obtained lost passports and used them to send their victims to the Emirates.

Witness Lusine Petrosyan said that she had gone to the Emirates voluntarily: "I myself looked for and found Nano (Amalia Mnatsakanyan). I knew I was going to engage in prostitution. I worked there for two years. And I gave Nano about $9,000 of the money I earned. But I am not dissatisfied."

Witness Marine Vardanyan could not restrain her anger in the courtroom: "They took me to the Emirates, took away my passport, and forced me to do all kinds of things. I stayed there for twenty-one days and didn't earn a penny. Whatever money I made I had to give to Nano. But I couldn't stand it. I ended up in the police station and was sent back. I came to Armenia in a horrible condition. And now I am a third degree invalid."

Arayik Voskanyan, a police officer from the Vanadzor police department, testified as well. He acknowledged that at the request of senior lieutenant Gagik Gevorgyan and Artak Simonyan he had accompanied three women to the Gyumri airport. "But I didn't know anything. I only found out during the interrogations that these girls were sent to Dubai for prostitution," he said.

Amalia Mnatsakanyan, Arusyak Gevorgyan, Artak Simonyan, and Ashot Najaryan refused to testify in court. But they pleaded guilty. Arusyak's only regret was that her name became known but she earned an insignificant amount of money.

Artak Simonyan said, "I don't consider that it was abetting on my part. These girls went there voluntarily." Ashot Najaryan accepted his guilt in part: "I will not testify. Perhaps there were instances when I was guilty. Let the court decide the degree of my guilt. I accept my guilt in part."

Since the interrogations were conducted from 1998 to 2003, the judges had to apply the old Criminal Code in sentencing. But there were no articles on trafficking in human beings (in this case for sexual exploitation) in the old Criminal Code.

It was mainly Article 262 of the Criminal Code, which deals with procuring, that was applied to the defendants. "Even if there had been an article on human trafficking in the old Criminal Code we could not have applied it. In this case there was no human trafficking. All the women were prostitutes and knew where they were going and why," said prosecutor Ara Amirzadyan.

But Gulnara Shahinyan, vice-chairman of the Commission of the Council of Europe dealing with trafficking in human beings, insists the victims in this case are victims of trafficking. "Sexual exploitation is one of the manifestations of trafficking in humans. The fact that our law enforcement officers don't understand this phenomenon properly and are not serious about these issues is another question," she said.

On August 25, 2004 the trial was adjourned and the verdicts announced. Amalia Mnatsakanyan was sentenced to two years in prison, Ashot Najaryan to one year, and Artak Simonyan to ten months. Defendants Arusyak Gevorgyan, and Hrant Najaryan were given suspended sentences. Gevorgyan received two years on probation, and Najaryan one.

With this verdict, the "mother pimp" was sentenced to just two years in prison, which means that in a couple of months she will be set free and will continue her previous work, just like she did the last time.

Arpine Harutiunyan

Friday, October 08, 2004


YEREVAN, OCTOBER 6, ARMENPRESS: Few people know that apart from the so-called Minsk group, mandated by the OSCE to mediate peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabagh conflict, there is another format, including representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabagh, USA and Russia who have been meeting regularly behind the closed doors for the last four years to seek a conflict resolution option that would be acceptable to all.

Little information is made public about how discussions, organized within the frameworks of so-called Dortmund Forum, go on. The final conclusion of the Forum is supposed to be presented to the conflicting sides and peace brokers to help them strike the peace deal.

Samvel Babayan, a political analysts from Nagorno Karabagh, who participated in the latest meeting, said to RFE/Rl that discussions held in Moscow are the sole venue where Nagorno Karabagh representatives face Azeris.

"Azeris are very sensitive about any contact with Nagorno Karabagh and because of that the discussions are held behind the closed doors, however I believe that they will be more open," he said.

He said the latest meeting was the 7 consecutive but it has not yet outlined any progress. The Azerbaijani side was led by a former foreign minister Tofik Zulfugarov, who insist that all Azeri lands occupied by Armenian troops must be returned, which is not acceptable to Karabagh.

"These territories are of vital importance for Nagorno Karabagh, making today some 60 percent of its territory, and only 6-7 percent of Azerbaijan," Babayan said, adding that there are other aspects of the issue. "There are some regions that cannot be given back, such as Kelbajar, where all Karabagh rivers originate from. During the Soviet times these rivers were contaminated by the order of Heydar Aliyev, resulting in drastic increase in the number of cancer cases, though before the 1970-s Karabagh boasted of its residents' record live expectancy in the USSR, and we have all grounds to say that then Soviet Azerbaijan carried out hydro-terrorism against the population of Karabagh," he said.

Babayan said the US and Russian moderates do not offer concrete proposals, acting as mediators in an effort to help the sides to find the golden mean, which they have failed so far. According to him, the Karabagh participants of the discussions may refuse to further participate because of Azeris stiff position.
Oh boy, I am so birthday partied out!!!

Yesterday, I was going to go to the Mayor’s house to celebrate his birthday, but since his assistance father passed away, he decided that it would be better if we celebrated his birthday today.

So last night I went to the birthday part of my driver’s wife. It was a simple family gathering, with her grandparents from her mother’s side, her father, mother, brother, husband and me. Very simple, with enough food and drink, but again, nothing really fancy.

Tonight I had a birthday dinner with the Mayor and again it was very small, with only his family, mother and father, mother-in-law, a nephew (my future brother-in-law) and me. Again, very simple with not too much stuff on the table. We had one bottle of wine, which was sent to me by one of our readers, who I was going to save it to drink with my fiancé, since it was sent as a gift for my engagement, but since my fiancé does not drink at all, I decided that this too was a special occasion. BTW, the Mayor and his wife thought that it was one of the best wines they has ever drank and the only problem with it was that there was only one bottle.

Going back to my birthday, which was last weekend, my party was just me and my fiancé, which we didn’t have anyone over and just shared a meal of Chinese stir fried rice that I made. Again, very simple and no extra people, not that we could not afford to have a big party, but I was not in the mood.

In the tradition of years ago, and I am talking of after the fall of the Soviet Union, birthday parties for the most part have been very big deals, which I’ve logged about in the past, being very fancy with stacks and stacks of plates loaded up with so much food and so many people in attendance, that in the states, one goes into debt.

Things are starting to change and one of the topics of discussion I had with my future grandmother-in-law was how expensive it has become in Yerevan to live. She said that it’s not just Yerevan, but even in Martuni, things have gotten so expensive that as much as she tries to cut corners to save something, she is just not able to. The rate of inflation and her pension are not balanced.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
8 October 2004

Poll Shows Armenians Cynical About Democracy, Independence

By Anna Saghabalian

Less than one in five Armenians believe that their country stands on the path to democratization and is truly independent almost 13 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to an opinion poll released on Friday.

The nationwide survey by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), an independent think-tank, suggests that as many as 70 percent of the Armenian citizens feel that major decisions taken by their government are dictated by foreign powers, notably Russia.

ACNIS pollsters said only 18 percent of some 1,500 people interviewed across Armenia think that it is on course to become a democracy. Almost two thirds of them do not expect that to happen in the next 25 years.

The survey also confirmed widespread public disenchantment with the independence, with early half of the respondents saying that they were better off in Soviet times and another 27 percent seeing no socioeconomic change in their lives. "The overwhelming majority of the public has felt no positive impact on their living standards over the past 13 years," said Stepan Safarian, a senior ACNIS analyst.

Consequently, economic hardship and "the formation of [government-linked] clans" were identified by most respondents as the most negative phenomena that have characterized Armenia's post-Soviet history. They also singled out the "falsification" of the presidential elections held since independence as well as the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament as the most significant factors that have hampered the country's progress.

When asked about Armenia's biggest post-independence achievements, 29 percent mentioned the creation of the national army while 18 percent pointed to the victory in the war for Nagorno-Karabakh. About a tenth of those polled singled out the country's closer ties with its worldwide Diaspora.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Before you read this story, I want to state that for the last 2 months, I’ve been documenting what it costs to live in Yerevan and once upon a time the statistic that the government published on how much it cost for an individual to eat a normal diet each month was around $50. I am sorry to report that in 2004, the price of food in Yerevan has gone up and though I can not yet publish my findings, since 2 months is not enough time to measure the cost of food, I can say that my fiancé and I have been eating a somewhat normal diet, but nothing too fancy and have been sending twice as much on food as what the government claims we can survive off of. I really have to wonder how people are surviving in Yerevan, especially when you consider that one needs not only food, but electricity, gas and water. Does poverty and homeless exist in Armenia? From my findings of costs and the story below, I’m afraid that it is more the rule these day, than the exception.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
6 October 2004

Rising Income Gap Leaves Armenia's Homeless Out In Cold

By Emil Danielyan

Vartan is remarkably health-conscious for a man who has been homeless for almost 15 years. Every morning he jogs in a park and eats two raw eggs afterward. That, he says, is U.S. action movie icon Arnold Schwarzenegger's recipe for fitness and good health.

"I haven't taken any medicines for 15 years. No drugs at all," says this 41-year-old former university graduate.

This seems more of a rebuke to Armenia's government than bravado. Vartan's sole contact with the government is periodical encounters with police officers who he says don't like to see him and his friends live rough on the street.

"I sold my apartment, divorced my wife and now live on the street," he says. "They must somehow take care of me. Instead, they come and beat me up. We are not their slaves, are we?"

Long-term homelessness seems to have dimmed the sense of time of Vartan's Ukrainian-born girlfriend, Tatyana. She is not sure how old she is. She must be at least 46, Tatyana says smilingly.

The couple had accommodation only last winter when they rented a room with proceeds from the collection of empty bottles and scrap metal. Their usual "workplace" is the area around a small agricultural market in Yerevan's northern Arabkir district. Traders there give them fruit, vegetables and even meat.

Homeless people like Vartan and Tatyana form the most underprivileged class of Armenians still reeling from the collapse of the Soviet command economy. Their number may not be large given the scale of poverty in the country. But its seems to have increased in recent years amid an accelerated economic growth that has done more to increase income disparities than to reduce poverty.

According to Eleonora Manandian, chairwoman of the New Armenia youth organization engaged in social work, prolonged misery is eroding Armenians' traditionally strong family bonds that have cushioned post-Soviet hardship and curbed poverty-driven phenomena like homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction.

"You may not see many homeless people on the streets, but the number of marginalized people keeps growing because social bonds are increasingly weakening," she says. "That is, those people stop feeling themselves citizens, full-fledged members of the society. And there will come a moment when they find themselves outside that society."

The social polarization is particularly eye-catching in Yerevan whose glitzy center filled with restaurants and luxury cars increasingly contrasts with rundown suburbs. Real estate prices in the downtown have skyrocketed since 2001, fueling a housing construction boom -- another indication of increased wealth.

Yet enormous contrasts can be found even here. Alla, a 47-year-old lone woman, has lived in a dry fountain pool of a public park flanked by apartment blocks for the past four years. She broke a hip joint last winter and can hardly walk.

"How do you think I manage to get by?" she asks. "It's neighbors that support me. They bring me water and food. They are nice to me."

Alla, who lost most of her relatives in the 1988 catastrophic earthquake in northern Armenian, says not a single government official has ever visited or offered here any assistance. In fact, neither Armenia's Ministry of Social Affairs nor any other government agency has programs to help the homeless. An RFE/RL inquiry found that there are even no officials dealing with such people.

According to government statistics, the proportion of the population living below the official poverty line declined from almost 50 percent to 43 percent last year due to an almost 14 percent surge in Armenia's Gross Domestic Product. The government says the robust growth continued into the first half of this year.

However, little suggests that it has improved the lot of 13 percent of Armenians that are officially considered to be living in "extreme poverty." It is still not clear how they might benefit from the Armenian government's poverty reduction program launched a year ago with the blessing of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The program envisages to bring the poverty rate to 19 percent by 2015 through job creation and increased public spending.

The government plans to spend $6 million in 2006 to provide families lacking adequate housing with new homes. Sources in the Western donor community say the modest scheme was recently narrowed to only Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan.

This is bad news for thousands of people huddling in former factory hostels that lack basic amenities such as running water and toilet. Many of them fit into the Western definition of homelessness.

This is particularly true for dozens of poor families squatting in a ramshackle building in the southern outskirts of Yerevan. Once dotted with big factories, the area is now an industrial graveyard. The three-story building which housed a factory school began to be inhabited last year.

Armenuhi Boyajian, a single mother, moved there with her four children this summer. The oldest of them, a 15-year-old boy, dropped out of school three years ago and is now the family's main bread-winner because of his mother's poor health. His three sisters are also not attending school at the moment because of their failure to submit health certificates from a local policlinic. Lying in her bed and grimacing with pain, Boyajian explains that she has no money to pay for the documents.

"They want 3,000 drams ($6) for that. When I tell them that I'm a single mother they say that it mattered only in Communist times," she says.

Susanna Boyakhchian, another squatter, is slowly repairing the building's former toilet and is preparing to move there with her disabled son and his wife. They used to live in their own apartment. It was confiscated in the late 1990s when he was imprisoned for a minor crime which his mother says he never committed. The family currently rents a room in a kindergarten near a market where this hefty middle-aged woman sells second-hand clothing to scrape a living.

Boyakhchian seethes with anger when asked what she thinks her government can do for them: "I don't expect anything from this state because this state has ruined my life. I have been left on the street because of this state."

(Photo by Onnik Krikorian, The former factory school occupied by squatters.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I came to Yerevan for the weekend to celebrate my birthday with my fiancé and I was going to return today to Artsakh, but the car I was suppose to return with, broke down, so I ended up staying an extra day.

Tonight since I was stranded, I ended up visiting with an old friend (Vahe, the president of he Monte Melkonian Fund, Inc., USA) who just flew in from Califronia a couple of days ago, called me on the phone a half-hour before I was expecting to depart for Artsakh, who I then called back as soon as I got word of our delay.

I was planning on meeting up with him in the evening when he finished with an evening engagement, but instead, he told me to join him at the Marriott Hotel (the former Hotel Armenia), to a 10th year celebration of Raffi Hovannisian’s Armenian Center for National and International Studies.

I asked Vahe if there was an issue of invitations, tickets or anything of that nature, suggesting that we meet after the event at the lobby bar, to which he said he was not sure, but in the event of complications, we will meet at the bar.

My fiancé and I got all dressed up and in Armenian tradition and of course after warning Vahe, we showed up to the gathering an hour late and registered at the door, giving our names, of which this really nice girl who I didn’t know, seemed to know me and said that she had been waiting for us and added our names to the list and placed us at Vahe’s table.

We went into the lounge area to find Vahe, who was talking with someone named Ashot, who I had met in 1999, right after the Parliament tragedy, while he was hanging out with Mesrop Srpazan (I only figured out where I had seen him when the event ended and we left together, so you can only imagine what a strain that was to me for the night, trying to figure out who he was).

As we were talking in the lounge and even before we had arrived, I mentioned to my fiancé in the cab on the way to the hotel that I bet Stephan Demirchyan will show up and sure enough, as we were talking, in walks in Stephan, who was alone and looking around the room with a blank, confused look on his face.

I spotted Emil Danielyan of RFE/RL, who I greeted with the traditional Armenian kiss. As we talked, I asked him about the new homosexual scandal in parliment, to which he said that he hopes that no one got a picture of us kissing. I noticed the security camera, pointing to it, to which we both started to laugh. I shared my thoughts of the stories that covered that event and the shooting which followed, to which he said that Hagop Hagopian mentioned to one of their staff that they shot at his house and by the time he got his pants on, they were gone, but he fired a couple of shots in the air anyway. This means that no one broke into his house.

Before we went in to sit down, Emil and I were laughing at just about everything and sharing our finding with each other about the various people in the lounge and what we know they do in their spare time (gamble, fool around, own this or that and so on).

It was a very interesting gathering with some very interesting faces and prominent key figures of Armenian society and all I could think of was the Ricky Nelson song “Garden Party”. The only thing that was missing was Kirk Krikorian in Dillon shoes.

We made our way to our table (#28) to join some other prominent figures (one who if I’m not mistaken I’ve seen before and know him as Aram Abrahamian’s (the President of the Armenian Businessman’s of Russia) right-hand man) and some other interesting people who you could tell are important and connected in circles I usually avoid.

Raffi made his way to every table, greeting each guest and shaking their hands. He blessed my fiancé with a kiss on her forehead after Vahe introduced her as Saibek’s daughter, who Raffi my have met during the war, or maybe learned of after his death, but from the praise he was giving, it seemed that he knew him. My fiancé immediately relayed to me that it shows in Raffi’s eyes that he is a good, honest man. My fiancé is rarely wrong from her first impressions and I guess got a good look at his eyes.

When the people sitting at our table learned we were from Karabagh, during one of the toast, one of them said a toast as someone from Karabagh would say, pointing out to the rest of the people at our table that this is how they would say it in Karabagh, to which one of them responded that yes and in a couple of years they will be saying it like that here too. We laughed, but it was clear from the guy that made the comment that he was not happy with shift in power in Armenia today.

The keynote speaker was Finland's foreign affairs minister Erki Tuommio, to which he talked about globalization and security. I won’t give my opinion on his speech, but will just say it was long and I was not all that impressed, since it touched on the standard stuff and from what I was hearing, had the same solutions of how to fight terrorism, which I don’t see as being the solution.

I saw many people who I have not seen in ages, a few who know my parents, one who I’ve never met before, but said she was a classmate of my father’s in Iraq. Her husband was the founder of some Armenian school back in the 1960’s (I didn’t get his name, but know that he must be important, since Raffi made mention of him when he was recognizing prominent people in attendance and when he stood up when his name was announce, the clapping that he got, was up there on the clap meter). We took a picture together and he said something about his father, who worked with my grandfather Shahan on some operation in the early ARF days. He asked my fiancé how many children we plan on having, to which my fiancé said as many as God wants us to have, to which he wished us many children. He told me I was very lucky to have such a beautiful fiancé.

The evening ended and as we left, we were each given a 755 page book, which is titled “ACCOUNTING FOR THE DECADE”. It’s in Armenian, Russian and English and will make for some very interesting reading.

Anyway, a very nice unexpected evening, to which I congratulate Raffi and all those involved with the Armenian Center for National and International Studies on their 10th anniversary. I’m really glad I was allowed to be a part of their celebration.

BTW, on Saturday, I went to Square One for a late dinner with my fiancé and a friend. While we were there, we saw Salpi G., Raffi K., Edith K., Madlene and Arthur, Apo B., of course Sam (one of he owners) and a bunch of other familiar faces.

One suggestion I make to Sam was that the signage on the backroom he should think about changing. The men’s restroom has a mustache, which while I was using, I though a woman tried to enter into. On the woman’s restroom there are red lips, which I guess is okay, since I don’t think parliamentarians frequent Square One yet. Sam said that he will leave the signs as is for now, as a 5% margin of error is acceptable in his opinion.

Anyway, I highly recommend Square One to everyone, especially for those that are looking for a friendly and clean restaurant with good service.