Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Open Letter to Ambassador John Evans

Ambassador John Marshall Evans
Embassy of the United States of America
18 Baghramyan Avenue
Yerevan 375019
Republic of Armenia

November 30, 2004

Mr. Ambassador:

Like many of my fellow Armenian-Americans, I object to recent attempts by the United States to push the Republic of Armenia to dispatch troops to Iraq. It is no secret that Armenian leaders would never have considered sending troops to join the Polish contingent in Iraq if it were not for U.S. pressure.

Surely you are aware that the Armenian population overwhelmingly opposes such a deployment. A recent opinion poll conducted by the independent Vox Populi Centre found that sixty percent of the respondents opposed the proposed deployment, and only six percent supported it. That is a ten-to-one ratio against sending troops to Iraq, and every indication is that the percentage opposed to the proposed deployment has grown since the poll was taken. Despite the shaky democratic credentials of Armenia’s leaders, they have not yet ignored the wishes of their countrymen. In this respect, they have distinguished themselves as better democrats than the leaders of Donald Rumsfeld’s “New Europe.” At least so far.

Surely you are aware, too, that the presence of an Armenian contingent in Iraq would amount to nothing short of incitement of violence against 25,000 Iraqi Armenians. The Armenians of Iraq are patriots who have stood with their fellow Iraqis, Muslims and Christians, throughout decades of war and years of a cruel embargo that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, nobody was bombing churches in Iraq, but thanks to the U.S. occupation, at least a dozen churches have been bombed since August 1, causing scores of casualties. Escalating attacks against the ancient Christian communities of Iraq might count as a propaganda coup for neoconservatives in Washington, but I suspect that most Armenians are not willing to pay this price for a few more alligator tears from American diplomats.

On September 21, President Bush noted in a message to President Kocharian that he was “particularly grateful for the important counter-terrorism assistance that Armenia has rendered to the US.” He failed to mention that Armenians, together with Russians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and many other nationalities of the old Soviet Union, fought some of the very same people who seized power in Afghanistan in 1992 and formed the Taliban regime. Soviet forces also fought some of the very same foreign fighters from Egypt and Saudi Arabia who planned and carried out the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. At least 15,000 Soviet soldiers died in Afghanistan between December 24, 1979 and February 2, 1989, and at least 37,000 were wounded. I am not sure how many of these casualties were Armenians, but I have met Armenian veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, including the blind and the paraplegic.

While Armenians and hundreds of thousands of other young men in Soviet Army uniforms were fighting against the embryonic Taliban and the foreign Jihadi’s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was celebrating them as Freedom Fighters who were waging a noble battle against an Evil Empire. The Central Intelligence Agency provided them with Stinger missiles, and U.S.-supported trainers taught them how to blow up buildings, among other things. The CIA, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department spent billions of dollars over the course of ten years, to help their Freedom Fighters kill Soviet soldiers, including Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians.

All of this took place during the final years of the Cold War. But now, if we are to believe George W. Bush, America is engaged in an even more desperate war against “evil-doers.” As it turns out, these “evil-doers” are the very same people whom George W. Bush’s father called Freedom Fighters. What happened? Either (a) the embryonic Taliban and the Jihadi’s have always been evil doers--in which case Reagan and Company were wrong--or (b) they used to be Freedom Fighters, but somewhere along the line they changed into evil-doers.

If scenario (a) is the case, then representatives of the United States owe Russians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians and the other former Soviet nationalities a big debt of gratitude for confronting the scourge of terrorism back when the United States of America was supporting it. You, sir, could best express your thanks for Armenia’s early contribution to the War against Terrorism by requesting that your colleagues in the State Department stop trying to punch and kick Armenia into their “Coalition of the Willing.”

If, on the other hand, scenario (b) is the case, then we are entitled to ask just how it was that yesterday’s freedom fighters have become today’s terrorists. After all, today's terrorists are doing exactly what they were doing twenty years ago, when they were freedom fighters--namely, bombing buildings, taking hostages, and attacking the latest invaders of Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. The only notable difference is that the erstwhile freedom fighters’ primary targets these days are Americans, not Soviets. So what makes a Jihadi a terrorist instead of a freedom fighter, it seems, is that they are attacking the U.S. military, instead of attacking for the U.S. military.

In either case, there is no basis here for arguing that Armenia has any security interest in allowing itself to be dragged into the Coalition of the Willing. And there is certainly no basis for arguing that leaders in Yerevan should contribute troops to the occupation of a country that 25,000 patriotic Iraqi Armenians call their home.

Or perhaps America’s War against Terrorism has nothing to do with “terrorism,” however one wishes to define the word. Perhaps, as opponents of the war have alleged from the very beginning, Operation Iraqi Freedom is just another war for oil and empire. In any case, I want to add my voice, the voice of one more Armenian-American, to the overwhelming chorus of voices opposed to the deployment of Armenian troops in Iraq.

Markar Melkonian

Monday, November 29, 2004

California Courier On-Line


Neither Courts nor Officials Care
That We Were Defrauded in Armenia

By K. George Najarian and
Carolann S. Najarian, M.D.

We would like to relate a sad, but true account of what we have experienced within Armenia's legal system over this past year.

Let us first introduce ourselves: our humanitarian efforts in Armenia and Artsakh have spanned nearly 16 years. Our projects began after the earthquake and during the Artsakh liberation war and continue through today, with more than 50 trips to Armenia, the delivery of millions of dollars of medical supplies to both regions; the establishment of the Primary Care Center in Gyumri (1994) and the Arpen Center for Expectant Mothers in Artsakh (1995); hospital renovations; and many other efforts, including the rebuilding of Tsitsernavank, the 4th c. basilica in Kashatagh (Lachine corridor), assistance to villagers, invalids, veterans, orphans, and schools. Our work has been carried out through the Armenian Health Alliance, Inc. and its supporters as well as through our own private funds.

In response to the Armenian government's pleas to the Diaspora to invest in Armenia, George undertook a project with a young man whom he met after the earthquake and with whom he subsequently became a friend. (We even brought him to Boston to have surgical correction of his infertility for which we paid; he now has two children, thanks to us!)

In 1996, after a year of prodding George to finance a business venture, they opened a photo shop as partners - he did the work and George paid for everything. He also introduced George to various people with other business propositions. One introduction led to our purchase of two parcels of land in the Ethnographic Center at Tzorakugh with spectacular views of Ararat. Throughout this time this 'friend' presented himself to us as an honest person, thankful for the assistance we had given to him and wanting to help George in whatever way he could.

This 'friend' was George's representative, not partner, in the development of these two parcels of land. Thus, he had Power of Attorney to represent George in his absence. However, he used this Power of Attorney to fraudulently privatize in his name these lands and our two newly constructed buildings, in effect expropriating our substantial investment. When we understood what he had done, with the hope of avoiding a legal battle, we tried to negotiate with him for the return of the properties. This failed, despite offers of significant sums of money.

Without any other recourse open to us and based on the advice of legal experts in Armenia, we filed a criminal case against him, first with the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office (September, 2003) and later with the Prosecutor General of Armenia's office (March, 2004).

We had assumed the facts in the case were obvious -- "open and shut" -- given the evidence of scores of witnesses, bank documents, receipts, etc. We had not anticipated that our 'friend' would enlist the help of well-connected persons in the government who could influence the case through bribes and whatever other means available to them, including intimidating witnesses and threatening lives. In December, 2003, after a long but superficial investigation, the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case and referred us to civil court. (We suspected the prosecutor had been bribed but could not prove it.) On appeal, the case was reopened at the Prosecutor General level. This time prosecutors agreed we were the victims of fraud. They also found that the 'friend' was guilty of tax evasion. Attempts were again made to hijack the case through dismissal at this point but failed. While the Yerevan City Prosecutor who previously dismissed the case admitted during a meeting at the General Prosecutor's Office, in George's presence, that he made a mistake by dismissing the case, the current prosecutors said that the evidence was too powerful to dismiss, and sent the case to the next phase within the criminal process -- that of acquiring evidence for the trial.

Two investigators were assigned the task of preparing the evidence for trial: witnesses were repeatedly called and subjected to hours of interrogation; George returned to Armenia again to testify - this time for more than 40 hours; and, documents were requested and provided by us for a third time. Again, the investigation dragged on for months and despite mountains of evidence supporting our claims, and little on the other side supporting his claim of ownership, the two investigators doing the work dismissed the case! Their decision, a shabby, crude, and even absurd document completely ignored or marginalized important evidence supporting our claims and falsified facts --openly. We were again referred to civil court. We had information that these investigators were following orders from persons within the government who stand to benefit from expropriating these properties from us.

Prominent legal minds in Armenia, including experts within the government, have advised us that this is a criminal case of fraud punishable under Armenian law. Similar cases, with less evidence, have been fully prosecuted by the Prosecutor General's Office. The attempt to move us into civil court is an attempt to kill the case completely.
Under Armenian law, we have no civil case because there is no partnership agreement between the parties - we were not partners with this 'friend.'

It pains us to tell you we did not find an objective, fair justice system in Armenia, but instead we have seen the inside of a system wrought with deceit and corruption that crushes even their own when they try to resist. During this past year, in addition to our direct appeals, others, including a high ranking member of the Armenian government, have appealed repeatedly for a fair and objective hearing of our case to persons within the judicial system and to President Kocharian himself.

The US Embassy is fully aware of the circumstances of our case as are a number of US congressmen who have written to the Armenian ambassador in Washington expressing concern over the conduct of our case - judicial processes must be open and fair otherwise investors will be leery of undertaking investment risk in Armenia.

It is impossible to recount all that we have been through this past year. It has been an emotional roller coaster as we faced the fact that persons within this government would participate in this humiliating and base fraud against us. It appears due process of law and the protection of rights and investments are still fragile concepts for the government of Armenia. As we understand other Diasporans have encountered similar problems and have been treated in this same manner. We hope with our case being made public there will be a willingness to discuss these critical issues, and the Armenian government will take the necessary steps to clean up corruption: the judiciary should not exist to guarantee people in power wealth. It is no way to build a country!

Writing about our ordeal is a very painful step taken reluctantly after one year of struggling to get a fair hearing of our case. Although we are still in the appeal process, we understand that our property - including the place where we anticipated living out our retirement years - has been taken from us. What you are not seeing, though, are the tears we have shed over knowing that we may never be able to return to Armenia, to live and continue our work, and knowing not only has our property been expropriated, but we as people who have loved and worked for the good of Armenia and its people have been so dishonestly treated.

The pain goes very deep.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

How many times is Robert going to make mistakes that threaten the security of Diaspora Armenians? First Iraq and now this. What will be next?


YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 27. ARMINFO. The Armenians of the Ukraine condemned the actions of the President of Armenia who had congratulated Victor Yanukovich early, independent analytic agency Glavred informs with reference of press service of the Central Office of Victor Yushchenko.

According to the resource, the Armenian community in the Ukraine had expressed its surprise to President of Armenia Robert Kocharian on the occasion of early congratulations of Victor Yanukovich with the so-called victory in the presidential election. On behalf of all honest Armenians of the Ukraine, the film director, one of the founders of the Union of the Armenians of the Ukraine Roman Balayan, signed the statement, where the Armenians expressed a surprise with the actions of Robert Kocharian. The next step of the Ukrainian Armenians was the appeal to the people of the Ukraine, where they apologized for the actions of their President and declared their solidarity with the
Ukrainian who aspire to live in the county where the constitutional rights are secured. They also wish the Ukraine prosperity, peace, consent and consider it their second Motherland. They are sure that President of Armenia Robert Kocharian as a representative of one the most ancient peoples of the Earth with huge cultural heritage, will correct his mistake, Glavred informs.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Though I watched part of the Armenia Fund telethon, I didn’t pledge anything as I live here and see with my own eyes how the funds are spent.

For me it was interesting to watch, as there were many people I have not seen in years who participated in the telethon. Osheen has gotten so old.

An Armenian-American family who appeared to present their donation was touching for some I’m sure when their oldest son talked about how important the road was to little children who get sick and have to go to the hospital. What he neglected to mention, since he didn’t know was that for the poor little child that was rushed to the hospital on the road was that probably the little child’s parents don’t have money to pay a bribe to get the child treated.

When I saw Hovig Saliba from the ARF encouraging support, my blood pressure went up as all I could think about was my meeting with him 5 years ago and me asking about how we could use some of the millions of dollars that were collected for Artsakh, $500 of which I donated, that the ARF didn’t send to Artsakh since Levon had banned them from operating, to which I was told that the money had already been spent on organization expenses and from what I understood, non-Artsakh projects.

I turned off the television after the President started his con job on the viewers. What con job is this?

Well he mentioned the Anivian’s, who had privatized a milk factory in Stepanagert and who he just got off the phone with after they committed to the construction of a 7 kilometer Askeran-Stepanagert road.

The President went on like a good used car salesman to state that the Anivian’s have a successful milk factory and milk processing in Artsakh is a very lucrative business.

Of course I was not surprised that he spewed that lie since this is what he does best, but the reality is that dairy processing is only lucrative to those that have connections and/or are willing to give kickbacks to store workers, or government officials to get contracts to supply to the army, these couple things that the Anivian’s do not have or practice. As a result, they are always working in the red, putting out of their pockets thousands of dollars each month.

Of course their business would be better if they didn’t take advice from the present and past Prime Ministers, who misadvised them a number of times as to who would be good directors for their factory. Not knowing for sure how well their present director is working out (though I’ve heard some bad things about him), the ones from the past have all turned out to be crooks.

From what I gathered, much of the money pledged were large donations from wealthy individuals. The most considerable donations were made by such famous Armenian philanthropists of America as Louise-Simon Manoogian ($2 million), Gevorg Hovnanian, Hrair Hovnanian, Sargis Hakobian, who rendered $1 million each, Caroline Mugar ($500,000), Vahe Karapetian ($100,000), Gerard Cafesjian ($50,000). Eduardo Ernikian, a citizen of Argentina, donated $1.5 million. Russian philanthropist Ara Abrahamian allocated $250,000. A total of $1 million were recieved from the European countries. The sum of donations made $950,000 in Armenia, and in Nagorno Karabakh it made $160,000. If we take out the $1.12 million that supposedly was donated willingly by people from Armenia and Artsakk, the large donations from 9 persons and what was received from European countries, the donations from the richist population of the Diaspora where many Armenians who lived in Armenia and left for the most part due to economic and social suppression, donated a little over $1.5 millon, which is about twice as much as the $834k they gave last year.

What always gets me is the wealthy philanthropists who give millions knowing that most of their donation will be administered incorrectly, but don’t seem to care. It really should not bother me as I know in many cases it’s not about giving money to a good cause, but for the tax deduction, promoting their name and having the pleasure of hobnobbing with Armenian government officials. I was warned about this in 1999 by a rich friend of mine whose father use to be one of those supporters before he woke up to the reality, to which he e-mailed me the following golden rules of “leaders” and “philanthropists”.

Received July 29, 1999:

“Working with Diaspora Armenians is not easy. I have learnt some of the rules by which most of our "leaders" seem to follow:

- any project that is not yours, that does not come from your ideas, is not a good one, however good it is in reality.

- any project in which there is nothing for you, in terms of power, prestige, or even money, is not good, independently of the project's value.

These two "golden rules" create a wall that prevents the realization of new initiatives.”

Received August 5, 1999:

“This is a second set of golden rules. The first was related to "leaders" people at the head of various associations or parties. This one is related to parerars , wealthy philanthropists.

- we do not give money where it is most needed, but where it will increase our prestige and have our name most publicized. Forget that hundreds of thousands of people have been roofless for the past ten years because of earthquake or war, they will not get a penny. We will offer to build new churches, or to get the opera Arshak II played in San Francisco (Never mind that despite all the church buildings, sects keep growing).

- we do not really care about whether the money we have offered has been properly spent, as long as there is a big plate with our name on whatever project that has been built (even poorly), and our picture in the papers.

- we do not care whether the government of the country is good or bad for its citizens, as long as the president, prime minister, or other officials wine and dine us, send their limousines to the airport to greet us, have pictures taken with us (most important, to send to the papers). Who cares about one million Armenians leaving Armenia, as long as Levon invites me to a cocktail with a few selected others?

- we actually know that we are being cheated on a significant part of our donations, but we continue doing it. Why? Are we suckers? Only partly. The real reason we keep giving is that these donations are in reality the price to pay to be wined, dined, and photographed...

I hope I am not discouraging you, but I believe this is the way a lot of wealthy people in the Diaspora are. Vanity and ego can go a long way. When corruption in Armenia combines with moral corruption in the Diaspora (the two sets of golden rules), the cocktail is explosive.”

I’m happy that the money for the road has finally been collected, hope that now that we will have another major tool for economic stability, there will no longer be a need to beg to the Diaspora for money and such projects in the future will be ascertainable from properly collected and administered tax revenues.
This afternoon I went to see a dentist for a cleaning and checking of my teeth.

It has been over 9 years since I’ve visited a dentist, so I was expecting to have a bunch of cavities, thinking I would have a replay of seeing a dentist when I was 18 years old, this following not seeing a dentist for 6 years. At that time, though I had never had a cavity in my life, the Armenian-American dentist found 6 cavities and milked me for a few hundred dollars. At the same time, I was told that I need to have my impacted wisdom teeth extracted, or else I will have lots of pain and problems later. I didn’t take the advice of the dentist and until now, have had no pain, shifting of teeth or problems other than maybe wisdom, which I guess could be viewed by some as a problem.

Well, the cleaning here in Yerevan I knew was going to cost 10,000 dram ($20) and took about a half-hour to do. I want to add that this dental clinic was very clean and modern.

When the dentist finished, I asked if I had any cavities? He said yes, I had one, but it was not critical to have fixed now and since it was on a wisdom tooth, instead of filling it, he suggested I consider extracting it. He added that they will photograph it and if it is a difficult extraction, he will send me to another clinic where I will have to be sedated to have it removed. If it’s a simple extraction he can do it and it will cost me $10.

If it’s a difficult extraction and maybe even a simple extraction, I’ll just have it filled, as I’ve never had a tooth extracted and though this clinic is very clean, I don’t like the idea of any kind of unnecessary medical procedures that could later cause me problems in terms of infection, as we know that Armenia is not the place you want to get sick.

Well after I get my wisdom tooth fixed or pulled, I’ll mark my calendar for my next appointment that will probably happen in 10 years.
I’ve come to Yerevan to be present at Monte Melkonian’s birthday celebrations, which finished yesterday at a play that was preformed in his honor.

The play was about a Diaspora Armenian from Fresno, who comes to participate in the Artsakh liberation movement, but his name was not Avo or Monte, but some other name that right now I can’t remember.

He meets his wife in Artsakh, they are married at Geghart. He becomes the commander of the forces in Martuni and then is killed. Sound a little bit familiar?

On the 25th, we visited Monte’s cemetery, where I saw many familiar faces of the past, many who have gotten quite grey. Time really is flying.

Before we arrived, Monte had a visitor from Artsakh, who left a large flower arrangement. The name on the arrangement was Samuel Babayan.

From Yeraplur, we went to a school which was close by that the principal is a long time childhood friend of a friend of Monte’s who had lived in America since the 1970’s. The reason we went to this school was not to plant 4 pine trees in front of it, but because the principal is working on changing the name if the school to Monte’s name.

The children of the school preformed for us various patriotic songs and recited. These were children that have truly done their homework as to who Monte was and represented.

Monte’s friend Alec said a few words to the children after they finished their program, thanking them for everything they have done and will do in the future and then as if I was speaking, he went tell the children that Monte was a very simple person in terms of material things and that though it may be nice to be financially rich and there needs to be rich people, if too many people are rich, then many more people will be poor. Though I’m not saying it as gently as Alec put it, you get the idea.

From the school, we went some dormitories that house refugees, where we distributed gifts of clothes to families the refugees that are living in the worst conditions.

On of the refugees who was #1 on the list of some 30 families, handed me back the bag we gave her and told me that the clothes we were offering her were of no use to her as she already has lots of clothes (she is the one with the burgundy scarf). She said that if we have a blanket, she would like that instead, adding that she is educated, had a good job and had lived a good life before all the changes. Unfortunately we had no blankets to pass out.

Once we finished passing out the gifts, we gave the dormitories two large cakes for them to celebrate Monte’s birthday.

Happy birthday Monte, there are people in the world that still remember you for who you were, what you did and some are even following your examples in hopes of making this world just a little bit more bearable.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


24 November 2004

Monte Melkonian: hero, intellectual, leader, friend

November 25 marks the day that we remember Monte Melkonian. For Armenians, Monte Melkonian is remembered as Commander Avo, the national war hero, who dedicated his life fighting for the rights of Armenians: the right to live with dignity and equality: the right to grow and thrive as active members of a community: the right to live without fear of indiscriminate persecution. Armenian's, because of their homeland's location, at a strategic crossroads of commerce and empire, have had to struggle exceptionally hard to defend their rights. With courage and selfless determination, Monte gave his life to this struggle.

But the rights that Monte Melkonian fought to protect are not just the rights of the Armenian people; they are basic human rights. Monte recognized the universal scope of his work. By the age of twenty-two, he had traveled throughout North America, Europe, Asia Minor, the Orient, and South America. By the time he made the decision to take up arms, he had witnessed the human condition throughout the world. On this day, when Armenians claim Monte Melkonian as their national hero, it should be remembered that his actions were taken with an understanding of people around the world. To Armenians, Monte Melkonian is a national hero, but to all who believe in the sanctity of human rights, he is an international hero as well.

Had circumstances been different, Monte could have engaged as a diplomat or statesman. He was exceptionally articulate and was fluent in several languages. At the University of California Berkeley he was a top ranking scholar and was offered a graduate fellowship to Oxford University in England. His intellectual prowess, communication skills, and tireless determination would have propelled him into a leadership position whether in government, industry, or academia. But he chose to focus his energy on regions that required immediate military action: first in Lebanon in defense of the Armenian community during the civil war and then in Nagorno Karaback following the pogroms in Sumgait and Baku. Monte Melkonian was destined to be a leader, not because he desired power, but because he possessed the qualities needed to be a leader.

I first met Monte at the age of five, on the first day of our first year of school in the small town of Visalia, California . Visalia is near Sequoia National Park where the biggest trees on earth grow. It is at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, near Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain on the continental United States. I will always remember Monte as a reflection of the highest and the greatest. We were best friends; we attended Berkeley together. Of course all who knew Monte will probably remember him as their best friend. It was another one of his extraordinary qualities. He befriended people wherever he went. His energy was infectious and he drew out the best and strongest in others. I remember Monte as the fearless kid, swimming across the strongest current in the Kaweah River and diving from the highest cliff. His fearless spirit of investigation took us far beyond the limits of our home town. As kids, we rode our bicycles for hours into the countryside, anxious to make new discoveries about the world around us.

Today Monte Melkonian is remembered as a symbol of national pride for Armenians. For me, I will always remember him as a paragon of how best to live life: to face challenges with steadfast determination: to confront hardships without fear: to be a dedicated friend throughout time: to search for an understanding of the world: to look beyond oneself for a place where one's efforts are bound together in the common goal of creating a better world.

Joel Condon

As I'm sure most of you know, the Azeri government has introduced a Resolution to the UN to undermine the Karabagh peace process. This could be taken up to a vote as soon as today! Please go to the link below and send a webfax over to Colin Powell (Sec. of State) and John Danforth (US Ambassador to the UN), and do pass this on to as many people as you can.


Dodi Gago’s Bodyguard Strikes Again

Today I was talking to a friend that works for the Armenian Secret Service who told me he was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago.

We was traveling down the road that passes Water World with his family in the car and on that road there is a concrete center divider with one opening that an emergency vehicle can make a u-turn, but has signage restricting non-emergency vehicles from such a move.

As he was passing this opening, a big fancy jeep made a u-turn, to which he noticed and slowed down for and after the jeep made his maneuver, it bared to the right, as if he was going to pull into a filling station they were passing and as my friend passed him on the left, the jeep cut over to the left lane, clipping my friend’s car in the rear.

They stopped and both got out of their car. My friend noticed that the driver of the jeep was one of Dodi Gago’s bodyguards (he knew this from the license plate 008 ## 08).

The bodyguard tried to convince my friend that my friend was at fault, to which my friend explained to him that this was not the case and in a logical way tried to show him that it was clearly the jeep’s fault.

A bit of a verbal argument began and then out of nowhere, the bodyguard struck my friend. My friend stood his ground, but unfortunately didn’t have pistol with him (he was off duty), or else he said would have wasted the guy right there on the spot, but instead had no choice but identified himself to the bodyguard in an attempt to clam the situation.

As this was going on, from the other direction comes along my friend’s father-in-law, who sees his daughter and grandchildren sitting in the car, stops and comes to my friends side and when he starts arguing with the bodyguard, he gets struck and knocked to the ground.

The bodyguard then gets in the jeep and sped away, leaving the scene of a crime.

My friend reported what happened to the head of security services, who of course is very close to Kocharian and my friend suggests that they send out their force to gather up the bodyguards and press charges to make this an example that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

The head of security services decides that he does not want to make it a public scene and instead calls Dodi Gago, yelling at him with every word in the book and demands that something be done.

My friend was told that Dodi Gago supposedly called the bodyguard and beat him. Big deal, will anything change?

As for my friend’s cohorts, they were all up in arms and felt that something had to be done, some ready to spit on their jobs and were ready and very capable to go round up all the bodyguards and make their lives hell and though my friend is very upset about what happened, he thanked his cohorts for the offer, but felt it would be better not to do anything at this time.

His car is now at his work place, waiting for Dodi Gago to fix it.

I have no doubt that what happened with my friend in terms of Dodi Gago’s people is not the exception, but the rule.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


PanArmenian News
Nov 23 2004

23.11.2004 13:43

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ A reliable Armenian source in Washington reports that there was no personal meeting between the ex-President of Armenia and the incumbent US President in Little Rock. It should be reminded that former Armenian President's office spread information about such a meeting Saturday, November 20. Although Ter-Petrosian and Bush participated in a measure of opening a library of US ex-President B. Clinton in Little Rock (Arkansas), however, they did not hold a private meeting, our source states, adding that L. Ter-Petrosian smoked much and talked little, as usual. It is not known whether the information on a meeting with Bush was spread on the initiative of L. Ter-Petrosian himself or it was "a local action." In case the former is true, it may evidence that the ex-President has got seriously "interested" in politics again.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
23 November 2004

Tycoon Denies Role In Journalist Car Bombing

By Shakeh Avoyan and Emil Danielyan

Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessmen close to the Armenian government, denied on Tuesday any involvement in the previous night’s bombing of a car used by the editor of a leading independent newspaper. Leading media associations, meanwhile, strongly condemned the apparent attack on Nikol Pashinian of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, saying that violence against journalists is becoming the norm in Armenia.

In a joint statement, the Yerevan Press Club and the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech said the incident was made possible by the authorities’ failure to properly investigate attacks on Armenian reporters that have increased dramatically this year. “We demand a serious and objective investigation and call for resolute steps to rein in terror which is already turning into a public scourge,” the statement said.

“Journalists’ life in Armenia is now in danger,” said the more radical National Press Club. “We demand that the authorities punish the perpetrators and masterminds.”

Also expressing concern was the Armenian government’s human rights ombudsman, Larisa Alaverdian. “The trend of settling scores with journalists through violence is unacceptable and casts shadow on Armenia’s reputation as a country which is guided by democratic norms and respects one of the fundamental human rights, the freedom of speech,” she said in a statement.

Pashinian’s four-wheel drive vehicle parked just outside the “Haykakan Zhamanak” office in downtown Yerevan burst into flames late on Monday after what the newspaper staff said was a strong explosion. Its front section, including the driver’s seat, was practically destroyed.

Police launched an inquiry and concluded unusually quickly that the fire was caused by a “breakdown of the car battery’s wires,” effectively denying that Pashinian came under attack. “Haykakan Zhamanak” journalists shrugged off the conclusion. They believe that the car was hit by a Molotov cocktail or another explosive device.

The Yerevan Press Club also brushed aside the police explanation, saying that it means the authorities will not investigate Pashinian’s claims that the attack was the work of Tsarukian. Pashinian says the tycoon was infuriated by recent “Haykakan Zhamanak” reports critical of his activities.

Tsarukian was asked by reporters to comment on the allegations as he inaugurated a brandy distillery in Yerevan belonging to his Multi Group business empire in the presence of President Robert Kocharian and other senior officials. He replied that “Haykakan Zhamanak,” Armenia’s best-selling daily, is too insignificant a force to threaten his own reputation.

“In order to boost their standing people may say different unnecessary things,” he said, bursting into laughter. “Imagine if one of our athletes said, ‘I want a fight with [U.S. boxing star] Mike Tyson’.” “[In this case] I am Tyson and you are ‘Haykakan Zhamanak’,” the former arm-wrestler added in response to a follow-up question from a reporter.

Kocharian, for his part, would not comment on the issue. But his very presence by Tsarukian’s side at the opening ceremony indicated his unwavering support for one of the country’s richest and most feared men.

Incidentally, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was also attended by several prominent opposition figures that regularly accuse Kocharian of presiding over a clan-based economy that enriches a small circle of government-connected “oligarchs.” One of those oppositionists, Victor Dallakian, said, “The opposition and I personally have repeatedly stated that Kocharian leads a clan-based system and is responsible for all the crimes that take place in Armenia. As for businessman Gagik Tsarukian, I find positive his activities in this particular area.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Today we had our first snow of the year. Not too much, but enough to make it feel like winter. There is a good chance it will warm up one more time before it gets real cold.

Though I grew up in a year round warm climate (Southern California), I’ve learned to have four seasons, which I’ve come to like.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
22 November 2004

Armenian Ex-President ‘Met With Bush’

By Armen Dulian

Armenia’s reclusive former President Levon Ter-Petrosian met with President George W. Bush during a private visit to the United States late last week, his office in Yerevan said on Monday.

Officials there told RFE/RL that the meeting took place on Thursday in Little Rock, Arkansas where the two men were attending the high-profile inauguration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s $165 million presidential library. They would not be drawn on details of the conversation, referring all inquiries to aides accompanying Ter-Petrosian on the trip.

According to newspaper reports, Ter-Petrosian was invited by Clinton to attend the opening ceremony along with two other former U.S. Presidents and numerous foreign dignitaries. The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily reported on Saturday, that the Armenian ex-president, rarely seen in public since his resignation nearly seven years ago, will meet with unspecified U.S. policy-makers in Washington before returning home.

The reported conversation with Bush indicates the West’s continuing interest in Ter-Petrosian. Observers attribute it to Ter-Petrosian’s advocacy of greater Armenian concessions for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a stance which cost him the presidency in February 1998. His successor, Robert Kocharian, favors a harder line.

Ter-Petrosian received the Yerevan-based ambassadors of the major European Union countries ahead of last year’s presidential election. They were reportedly seeking to clarify whether he will contest the ballot. Ter-Petrosian, mindful of his continuing unpopularity, eventually decided not to run.

Bush’s apparent desire to meet him contrasts with the U.S. president’s failure to congratulate Kocharian on his disputed reelection and receive him in the White House. The only Bush-Kocharian meeting so far took place in April 2001, in the immediate aftermath of U.S.-sponsored peace talks on Karabakh.

Ter-Petrosian likewise received no congratulations from Clinton after his equally controversial reelection in September 1996.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
22 November 2004

Newspaper Editor’s Car Blown Up

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

A car belonging to the editor of Armenia’s best-selling daily newspaper critical of the government was destroyed late Monday in an explosion which he said was as an assassination attempt engineered by a wealthy businessman.

The Russian-made Niva parked just outside the editorial offices of Nikol Pashinian’s “Haykakan Zhamanak” (Armenian Time) daily in central Yerevan burst into flames at 8:40 p.m. after the blast heard by the newspaper staff. A team of firefighters was called in to put out the fire which gutted the car’s front section, including the driver’s seat. Police officers also rushed to the scene and launched an immediate investigation.

Speaking at an improvised news conference in his office, Pashinian said he believes he stayed alive by accident. “In the last three months I have normally finished work at between 8:30 and 9 o’clock in the evening,” he said. “Today I worked longer than usual.”

“Haykakan Zhamanak,” which is sympathetic to Armenia’s former leadership, is known for its hard-hitting coverage of President Robert Kocharian and his government. The paper’s most recent harsh attack on the ruling regime appeared on the front page of its Friday edition which poured scorn on the chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Harutiunian, for defending last spring’s government crackdown on the Armenian opposition. The paper was particularly scathing about the authorities’ failure to investigate the police beating of its two reporters that covered the violent dispersal of the April 13 opposition rally in Yerevan.

Pashinian, however, was quick to make it clear that he does not believe that the apparent bomb attack was the work of the law-enforcement or other government agencies. He instead pointed the finger at Gagik Tsarukian, a parliament deputy and millionaire businessman close to Kocharian.

“I propose to the law-enforcement bodies to investigate the theory about the blast being organized by Multi Group chairman Gagik Tsarukian,” the young editor declared.

Pashinian suggested that he first incurred Tsarukian’s ire in August after publishing a derogatory cartoon that featured the tycoon, Kocharian and the chairman of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee, Ishkhan Zakarian. The images were attached to an article that deplored Armenia’s poor performance at the Olympic games in Athens.

Tsarukian was the deputy chairman of the Olympic Committee at the time and replaced Zakarian as its head earlier on Monday.

Pashinian claimed that the businessman repeatedly sought to meet with him after the August article. He said Tsarukian was also infuriated by a recent “Haykakan Zhamanak” story that accused him of illegally cutting trees to build a villa in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor.

There was no immediate reaction to the allegations from Tsarukian. Police officers investigating the explosion declined a comment.

The incident is certain to prompt a strong condemnation from Armenia’s leading journalist associations. They have repeatedly expressed concern about violence against local journalists which has increased dramatically this year.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
22 November 2004

New Armenian Olympic Chief Ready To ‘Buy’ Foreign Athletes

By Anna Saghabalian

One of Armenia’s richest men was unanimously elected on Monday as chairman of the National Olympic Committee, promising to go so far as to sing up foreign athletes for bringing his country glory at the next Olympic games.

Gagik Tsarukian, the government-connected owner of the Multi Group conglomerate, took over the body he has sponsored for years after the resounding failure of Armenian athletes to win any medals at the last games held in Athens in August. The fiasco prompted angry calls for the resignation of his predecessor Ishkhan Zakarian.

Zakarian personally recommended Tsarukian to committee members but again made clear that he will not resign as head of a separate government agency in charge of sport affairs.

“If I notice in 2007 that we don’t have athletes that win first or second places in European and world championships I will have to think about buying Uzbek, Russian or Georgian athletes in order to raise the Armenian flag,” at the next Olympic games in Beijing in 2008, Tsarukian said in his acceptance speech.

The burly tycoon, who reportedly made his name as an arm-wrestler before building a business empire, has already sponsored athletes competing in various international tournaments. He pledged on Monday to invest more heavily in the country’s dilapidated Soviet-era sporting infrastructure and to promote various sports among young Armenians.

“I will do whatever is needed,” he told RFE/RL. “I’m taking on this difficult task and must emerge with victory.”

“Gagik Tsarukian has always stood by Armenian sport and is not a novice in the field,” Zakarian said for his part.

The official, who reportedly enjoys President Robert Kocharian’s personal support, again refused to accept the blame for one of
Armenia’s worst-ever Olympic showings. “We must analyze our Olympic failure and find its root causes,” he said. “Unfortunately, instead of doing that, everyone today makes emotional statements.”

Some national team coaches and other sport officials attending the Olympic Committee conference tried to engage in such soul-searching, complaining about poor training facilities and a lack of government funding.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Today while on Yahoo games (backgammon) using a Turkish alias I recently created, I had a conversation to make this boring game more interesting and entertaining. What ended up as a joke, turned into a very heated almost argument about America, Bush and well, you know where this is going…

T: hallo
K: hi
T: where you from?
K: usa
T: oh, good country
T: I from turkey
K: ty
T: you know turkey?
K: yes
T: you know to speak my Turkish?
K: just above iraq right
K: no…just the country
T: yes my friend
T: I teach you Turkish, yes?
K: no ty
T: what you mean no?
T: I be friend to you
K: I don’t learn other launges very well
T: you no lik me?
K: never had
T: you never lik me?
K: no…that’s not it..i just don’t know how to speak it
T: no problem, I teach you my turkey culture
K: ok
T: I give you example in this game
K: ok
T: ok
T: you at my table, we in turkey
T: yes?
T: this my house
K: ok
T: in my house, you no hit me
T: you let me win game so I feel good
T: if you hit me, I be upset
K: oh..no..this is my table … I don’t just let ppl win…that isn’t a fair game then
K: oh well..then u should not play the game if u cant take loosing
T: no my friend, in turkey it like that
T: no I can take loosing, but when I loose, I have to take revenge
K: oh..thats not right is it?
T: no I leave open place for you to hit
T: you no hit
K: y do u have to take revenge…& how do u take revenge
T: ok?
T: I give the big boot
K: if I can, I will
T: if you can you must not hit
T: but you must give me chance to hit you often
K: don’t think so..ur playing the wrong person then
K: my culture…we all play fair & even
T: no, I teach you my culture
K: I understand…but it is not right…not fair to other person…is it
T: life is not always fair
K: im glad I live here…& not there…we play fair
T: no you don’t
T: you have job?
K: y do u say that..yes we do…
K: yes I own my own business
K: u?
T: you can thank bush for that
T: he invades countries like mine
T: to take wealth to his people
K: no…I thank my own hard work…he had nothing to do with it
K: we haven’t invaded Turkey
T: yes you have
T: your international monetary fund and world bank has
T: they are America
K: the asshole terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 started this……NOT US
T: no you have no idea what you talk about
T: visit www.50years.org
K: yes I do
T: you will see that America started this whole problem over 50 years ago
K: u tell me we went hit on 9/11 by terrorists?
T: you were hit by people that you hit first many years before
T: both are wrong
T: I no like terrorists
K: we help many countries that need it…
T: but America was the first economic terrorists
T: you help others?
K: I can not control what happened 50 years ago…& neither can Bush…we live in today…not 50 years ago
T: you give money to countries so they reform their government and system which feeds into corruption
T: and makes common people suffer
K: ur government help us get into iraq…remember that
T: yes, to take oil for you
K: no….the governments do that…of those countries
T: America is less than 5% of the world population, but uses 25% of the world resources
K: Saddam was helping his ppl…by killing, starving, beating them……that is help
T: visit www.50years.org it is a site written by your people to teach you who your government really is
T: in general, Americans are very blind to reality of their world
K: really was…that was 50 years ago…dont care about it…only care about now
T: you have business and money and are too busy to think about what your government in your name is doing to other countries
T: and then when people take revenge on you for what you have done to others, you cry
T: please don’t cry
K: why then did ur government help us get into iraq...u have not answered
T: because we are in bed with your government
T: our people do not believe in the Iraq war
K: im not..i am a proud American…& voted for Bush…
T: our leaders believe in it for their own personal wealth
T: good for you
T: and when your country is invaded again and they blow up your buildings, don’t cry
T: you are parasite people that suck off the rest of the world
K: well my government protects us…does not deprive us…or kill us…it works for us…u have no clue
T: you have little resources
T: I have no clue dude?
T: I was born there
T: dude, you have no clue
K: well im glad u left
T: dude, visit www.50years.org
K: yea yea….whatever
K: & just what does that mean…u gonna come & blow us up?
T: no, I don’t deal with those issues. In the end you will blow yourself up, just wait and see.
K: how long do I have to wait
K: since you know so much
T: that one I can’t answer, it’s all about what Bush does next
T: did you visit www.50years.org yet?
K: I think were coming to Iran next & hopefully bomb the hell out of them
K: after that…N.korea…any problem with that
T: yea, yea, are you sure your not Bush himself? Invade the whole world and take the wealth home to your people.
T: dude, I could care less what country you invade next
K: doesn’t sound like it…us seem to have a deep haterid for us…
T: believe it or not, it will all catch up with you and in the end it will be the worst America has ever seen
T: you have kids?
K: & again…what does that mean
K: yes…in the military…fighting in iraq…& very proud of him
T: are you sure he is proud to be there?
T: I would be scared if I was him
K: yes…he also voted for Bush…if he wasn’t he would have voted for Kerry who would have pulled him out
T: when you finish visiting www.50years.org, look me up, okay?
K: ok
T: may God be with you my friend
K: he is…ty
T: and my your son come home safe
K: ty again
T: what state are you in?
K: Virginia
K: y
T: Are you a contractor for the government?
K: r we going to get hit too
K: no
T: don’t ask me
K: u keep saying we r
T: I don’t know who is going to hit America, but I can tell you for use it will happen at some point
T: well I too am an American
K: I know that…anyone would be a fool not too
K: u seem to hate ur country
T: but I live outside of America and have seen the effects first hand what American programs in other countries do.
K: but were doing alot to try & stop it
K: what do they do
T: for real, if you visit www.50years.org, you will read about what I have seen first hand
K: I was just about to go there
K: who posted the site
T: Americans should never leave America for more than a couple of weeks and only go as tourists and not ask people how they live
K: go where…to what countries
T: from what I understand, 50years.org was written by people who use to work for the IMP, World Bank and so on.
T: any country that the IMF is working
T: there are too many to list
K: ok..im gonna go read it now
T: okay
T: God bless you
T: bye
K: ty…u too

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Saving the World American Style

I am always so baffled at Americans and their blindness to reality in terms of their ideas on how they will save the less fortunate in the world.

In a November 20th article that ran in the Glendale News Press titled “Giving help, a box at a time”, I was saddened to see that Americans of Armenian decent feel the need to help with providing gifts to less fortunate children of the world, in the case of this story, the children of Iraq.

A 17-year-old student from Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, CA, Jenny Lee, was quoted as saying, “"We have so much here. The least you could do is buy something for just $1 or $2. Just donating will make us happy and make them happy."

So Jenny, a member of her school's student government, set out to help her school gather dozens of boxes of toys, school supplies, shoes and clothes to donate to the women and children of Iraq. The boxes were handed over to Passions & Dreams Funding, an organization accepting donations that will be sorted out and shipped to Iraq.

The founder of Passions & Dreams is an ethnic Armenian Silva Mirzoian, who I’m sure started her band-aid organization with good intentions, but the question I have to ask is if America should be the nation to administer band-aids to those who they have injured in the first place?

Getting back to Jenny’s stating that America has so much, I would think that the question of why America has so much and Iraq, China and Armenia has so little should be asked?

According to the CIA world factbook, America is a country that imports almost twice as much as it exports. It’s GDP per capita is $37k, compared to China’s $5k, Armenia's $3,500 and oil rich Iraq’s $1,500.

America labor force by occupation is: farming, forestry, and fishing 2.4%, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts 24.1%, managerial, professional, and technical 31%, sales and office 28.9%, other services 13.6%

America’s GDP composition by sector is lead by service at 72.5%. This just does not add up and you have to ask the question if America’s economy is based on service and they are importing $713.24 billion more than they export, where is all the wealth coming from to explain Jenny’s statement of America having so much?

For those that need a clue on where to start to look for answers, consider this. The American government is a constitution-based federal republic with strong democratic tradition. It is not a democracy. It has international aid programs that stipulate foreign governments to implement a democratic system (something that America itself does not have), the same democratic system that John Adams, one of Americas founding fathers stated, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Jenny if it really did effect you to watch a video of Iraqi girls playing with rocks instead of dolls and you really want to help, you can help out by learning to live with a little bit less and send the message to your leaders that it is wrong to invade countries (by military force and with aid programs that were designed to have the same effect) in the name of American interests, since such invasions deplete countries of their much needed resources for a promising future, leaving behind only rocks for little girls to play with.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Though I don’t agree with the allegations in this article, I’m am printing it to document on what steps the some people will go to cover up what I’ve personally witnessed to be true and that is the worst kind of corruption in our educational system.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
19 November 2004

Youth Wings Deepen Armenian Coalition Friction

By Nane Atshemian

Leaders of the youth league of the Republican Party (HHK) publicly castigated their counterparts from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Friday, in a further sign of mounting tensions between two key members of Armenia’s ruling coalition.

The young Republicans, who control student councils at virtually all state-run universities, rejected Dashnaktsutyun allegations of large-scale corruption in the Armenian system of higher education.

Leaders of Dashnaktsutyun’s Nikol Aghbalian student organization said on Tuesday that an opinion poll which they conducted among over 1,000 students found a widespread perception of corrupt practices affecting their studies. The State Medical University was rated as the most corrupt, with 72 percent of respondents there saying that their professors routinely take bribes to give high marks during admission and other exams.

Nikol Aghbalian said they have also found that virtually no professors and lecturers at the 11 universities have been fired for bribery in recent years.

The accusations prompted an angry rebuttal from representatives of the student councils that are mostly affiliated with the HHK and have close ties with university rectors. Speaking at a news conference, they dismissed the poll conducted by the Dashnak students as fraudulent.

Armen Ashotian, the leader of the HHK’s youth wing and an aide to the Medical University rector, claimed that the corruption allegations are politically motivated. He also charged that Dashnaktsutyun has links with private medical schools and wants to discredit his university to benefit them. “We as well as some sections of the public are well aware of that,” he said.

Robert Makarian, who heads the student council at the State Agricultural Academy, said Nikol Aghbalian leaders have never raised their grievances with the councils. “Dashnaktsutyun’s student union is absolutely unaware of how students live and what their problems are,” he said.

The accusations come amid increasingly tense relations between the Republicans led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and their junior coalition partners. Dashnaktsutyun and the third coalition party, Orinats Yerkir, have been pushing for a major change in Armenia’s electoral system that would increase the number of parliament seats contested under the proportional system.

The HHK, on the other hand, has a vested in maintaining the 56 of the 131 seats distributed in individual constituencies. Its uncompromising stance has led Dashnaktsutyun to threaten to pull out of the coalition.

The news conference by the Republican student leaders also featured verbal attacks on Education Minister Sergo Yeritsian, a senior member of Orinats Yerkir. “Our education minister is dealing with anything except student problems,” said Makarian.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I don’t know how the allegations of Iran developing a nuclear weapon is being covered in the United States, but on CNN International, it seems to be big news. The source of these very serious allegations is coming from National Council for Resistance in Iran, which the news reports having been reliable in the past with exposing Iran’s nuclear development programs. They added that there is no hiding the fact that they intend to hurt the present government, which means that they may not be all that reliable.

What concerns me the most is that U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday that the U.S. has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb. Didn’t the U.S. have intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? We know where that got them and how reliable that intelligence was.

Though the report does not straight out accuse Iran, it plants a seed of doubt in the minds of the viewer. This seems to fall in line with what we saw months before America attacked Iraq (both times). I get the feeling that America is back to manipulating the general public to gain popular support so they could carry out their invasion of Iran with little protest and most will feel that it is justified.

There was also coverage of some statement made by Russia about a mobile nuclear weapon that CNN has presented as only being a threat to the United States, because anti-ballistic defense systems the US has, can’t prevent the missiles from hitting their target. I wonder what this is about.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but when America’s economy is in a frail condition, America goes to war. Could Afghanistan and Iraq have not been enough for this last round of an economic boost? I know that Iran has been on the US wish list of countries to re-invade and control since the US backed Shah was dethroned.

I can say one thing and that is that the U.S. will do everything it has to in order to gain control of Iran and if this war does break out, Armenia is going to suffer big time. I also think that Russia and China will side with Iran, which means that this will be a much bigger war than Iraq and the losses on all sides will be very heavy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 16, ARMENPRESS: Nikol Aghbalian student organization and the Armenian Youth Forum unveiled today the findings of a survey they conducted between January and September this year among students of 11 state-run universities to disclose the students' perception of university corruption. Another goal pursued by the survey organizers was to learn one of the main reasons behind university corruption and what the students thought about fighting against it.

Some 18 percent of respondents said the corruption resulted from very low salaries of their professors, 17 percent said bribes are paid by male students who want to dodge their compulsory military service and 16 percent said corruption flourishes because corrupted professors enjoy university managers protection.

Twenty-two percent of students believe the majority of bribes is paid during entrance and post-graduate examinations. Yet another 20 percent believe that university corruption can be fought against given the support of university managers, state officials and students themselves.

Forty-three percent said they were ready to join any anti-corruption initiative, while 32 percent believe that any such initiative is doomed to failure.

Between 2000-2004 only five professors were dismissed on charges of corruption.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


November 13, 2004

Abandoned Armenia faces extinction

One in three has left the impoverished state of Armenia since it gained independence and the young are leading the rush

SVETLANA SIMONYAN wants her children to come home.

Her daughter, Narine, was the first to leave Armenia, moving to Russia with her husband in 1998. Artur, her eldest son, headed for Volgograd in 2000. His brother, Armen, followed in 2002 — the last of the Simonyan children to join a decade-long exodus that has made Armenia one of the world’s fastest disappearing nations.

“They couldn’t find work. They just couldn’t afford to live here,” said Mrs Simonyan, wholives with her disabled husband in the village of Sasunik, a former state grape farm an hour’s drive from Yerevan.

She does not blame her children. They were just three of an estimated one million people — a third of the population — who have left Armenia since it gained independence from the crumbling Soviet Union.

But she, like many Armenians, worries that the relentless outflow threatens the existence of the state that her people struggled for so long to create.

“If there are no systemic changes in Armenia, we could face a catastrophe,” says Vardan Gevorgyan, a sociologist. “We will not disappear as an ethnic or cultural group in the world, but we will cease to be an effective republic.”

Already more Armenians, four million, live outside the country than inside after successive waves of emigration going back centuries. They send back more than $1 billion a year — nearly double the Government’s entire budget.

The extent of the demographic crisis, however, depends on which statistics you believe. And that depends on your politics. This year, the results of a 2001 census recorded a population of 3.2 million. “I’d like to take those numbers at face value,” says Vartan Oksanyan, the Foreign Minister. “Emigration numbers have dwindled. The economy is doing better. There are more jobs.”

But opposition politicians and many sociologists put the real population as low as 2 million. They say that the discrepancy is due to the number of emigrants still registered as Armenian citizens because they are living illegally abroad.

The village of Sasunik is a perfect example. Hajkaz Gulanyan, head of the local government, says that its official population is 3,300, but in reality it is just 2,400. Over the past five years a quarter have left — some to Germany and the Netherlands but most to Russia, which Armenians can enter without visas.

“It may sound a little harsh, but it seems we are a nation of emigrants,” he says over coffee in his dilapidated headquarters. “Personally, I don’t think you should live just where you can find work and food to eat. You should stay in your homeland.”

The exodus is especially painful for Armenians because of their long history of suffering.

In the past century alone, between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks and up to 200,000 Armenians died in the Soviet Army in the Second World War. Tens of thousands more were killed in the war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Also, an earthquake in 1988 claimed more than 25,000 lives.

Most of today’s émigrés are young, male and educated, the ones the country needs to survive. The result is a vicious demographic cycle — fewer marriages, a lower birth rate and an ageing population which exacerbate the poverty that drives people away. Roughly 56 per cent of the population are female, compared with 51 per cent in 1979. Half the population lives on pensions and government handouts.

“Our most important resources are our human resources, and today we are losing them,” says Hranush Kharatyan, the Government’s adviser on demography. “If nothing changes, we expect a disaster in the next 40 to 50 years.”

She says that the only solution is to eradicate government corruption. “Young people must be free to develop businesses, to become government officials and to know that if there is a trial, it will be fair,” she says. Only then will emigrants start to return for good.

There are examples of successful “repatriates”, such as the Foreign Minister who left America in 1992 with a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy. “There was an inner force within me to return to Armenia, to be here in historic times. I wanted to be present at its creation,” he says. Two years later, his wife and two children joined him. “We’re here to stay,” he says.

But for the moment, that is the luxury of successful émigrés. Back in Sasunik, Mrs Simonyan has a visitor. Hamlet, her husband’s nephew, has taken a holiday from his job in Moscow to see his wife and children, who stayed behind.

He would like to come back, he says. It is tough living in Moscow, where Caucasians are often abused by police. But it is still better than Sasunik, where people scrape by on $500 a year from growing grapes. He can earn four times that in Moscow. “What can I do?” says Hamlet as he plays with his children in a house with no electricity, no gas, and running water for only an hour a day. “It’s Armenians’ destiny to live outside their homeland.”
(www.armenianow.com )The Goris teenager (who was runner up for Miss Armenia 2003) was chosen over more than 30 other beauties in the competition that is part of a tourism expo held for the past 11 years.

Since independence, Armenian girls have entered dozens of pageants, but this is the first time one has come home with the top prize.

“All this was so unexpected to me,” said excited Anush upon her return to Armenia. “I took part in the contest very unexpectedly being late for 10 days, and my victory, just like my participation was a surprise.”

For winning, Miss Tourism 2004 receives $10,000 and a cup made of China porcelain. Second place went to a girl from Singapore, third to Estonia and fourth, to Russia.
Anush says she was proud to be Armenia’s ambassador in China.

“My victory made many learn about Armenia, that it was the first to adopt Christianity and is attractive for visiting,” she says. “Besides we were representing our values. I was the face of Armenia, but even the name of our country was unknown to many, and everybody was asking me where Armenia is.”

Contestants were judged on appearance, ability to communicate (Anush speaks four languages), and other merits.

The beauty queen, a student at Brusov State Linguistics University, says pageants are just a hobby for her, and that upon her graduation she’ll pursue her major interest, journalism.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
11 November 2004

Iraqi Armenians Link Explosion Near Armenian Church in Baghdad to Armenia's Intention to Send troops to Iraq

By Anna Saghabalian

Representatives of Armenian community in Iraq believe that the suspected car bomb explosion near the Armenian Church St Grigor the Illuminator in Baghdad could be connected with Armenia's plan to send non-combat troops to Iraq.

Armenia is planning to dispatch a small unit of Armenian non-combat troops (50 military doctors, sappers and truck drivers) to Iraq. But the parliament has still to approve the decision.

Iraqi Armenian community leaders urged the Armenian government not to send any troops to Iraq, warning that the attacks against 25 thousand strong Iraqi-Armenians are almost imminent.

The director of Armenian school in Baghdad Tsovinar Ishkhanian told RFERL on Thursday that children were just leaving the school building when the explosion took place. The school has about 200 pupils.

Fortunately there were no casualties, Iskhanian said. The Armenian school in Baghdad will be closed in coming weeks, until security situation in the area improves, Iskhanian told RFE/RL.

Tsovinar Ishkhanian added that recently the Christian Churches in Iraq have become a target of frequent attack by insurgents. The Armenian community leaders believes that the attacks against the Armenian Church is linked to Armenia's intention to send troops to Iraq. She warned that if Armenian troops arrive in Iraq the attacks on Iraqi Armenians will intensify.
Fish Farm Blues…

Yesterday I got a call from by driver telling me that someone from the Hadrut government had come to the lake to take measurements and informed my guard that the city mayor of Hadrut, Vano, is taking over our lake.

I went down to the Martuni mayor to see if he could help me to make sense of this matter.

The facts that I had in hand was that almost 3 years ago, I presented a written request to the Martuni regional minister for the rental of the lake, from a directive from the Prime Minister, who told me that if I want to do fish farming, there is no need to build a lake, we already have a lake that he will give me.

My request was processed and due to the lack of a working law on the rental of water, I was eventually given a verbal directive/agreement from the regional minister to go and work the lake and as soon as the law was in place, all the necessary formal legal documents would be drawn up. He did this after talking to the regional minister of Hadrut, as to the status of the lake.

At that time, one issue came up, which was the Hadrut mayor, Vano had also wanted the lake, but after the Martuni mayor spoke with him, he withdrew any desire for the lake since the Martuni mayor is my friend.

So for the last 2+ years, I have been regularly checking in with the people at the regional ministers office to see if the conditions have been put in place so they could formalize the lake, the last time was at the beginning of October. At that time I was told that the new boundaries of the regions have been drawn up and unfortunately, the boarder between Hadrut and Martuni go right down the center of the lake. They said that it looks like we will have to sign two agreement or get the Prime Minister himself to draw up one agreement, which will be with him and not the regions. They told me they will explore the options and get back to me.

Before I was able to get back to them as I had planned by the middle of this month, I got the news of the Hadrut mayor, Vano, who had told my guard in 2 days he would be sending a new guard.

My consulting with the Martuni mayor ended with us calling the Martuni regional minister, who told me to come meet with him at 3pm. In the mean time, I had tried to call Vano, but his cell phone was unreachable.

I met with the regional minister, who first started out to tell me that it is too bad about Vano renting the lake, but I should have moved faster to get the papers drawn up and it is my fault that this has happened. I was a bit shocked to hear this and asked the regional minister as to what I should have done since his office didn’t know how to move forward and complete a job that we started over 2 years ago?

He called the regional minister of Hadrut to see what had transpired and was given an answer that they had decided to give the lake to Vano. The Martuni regional minister asked him as to how he was able to give a lake since half of it belonged to Martuni and he (the Martuni regional minister) had not given his approval? He said a few more words and hung up the phone.

He told me that Vano is a very difficult man to deal with and it looks like it would be best that I go speak with the Prime Minister about this matter, as it seems the regional minister of Hadrut’s decision is final.

I called the Prime Minister’s office to make an appointment, to be told that I would have to call back in a week to see when I could meet with him.

Due to the 2 day notice that Vano gave my guard, I once again tried to call Vano to find out if in fact everything I am being told is legal and final.

After a few tries, I was successful in contacting Vano. At first he seemed very defensive, so I assured him that if everything he did was legal, then he has nothing to worry about. He said that he had asked the regional minister of Hadrut if anyone has a request to rent the lake and he was told no. He wrote a request in May of 2004 and was now given approval and effectively is now in control of the lake.

I told him that I had a request from a couple years back with the Martuni regional ministers office, which was received prior to his request, so I can’t understand how the lake could be his? I added that I have until now spent thousands of dollars to maintain the lake with the understanding that it would be given to me when the laws were in place.

He said that the lake is not part of the Martuni region and the regional minister does not know what he is talking about. He told me the boarder is over a kilometer away from the lake and the whole lake is in Hadrut. He is sorry for the misunderstanding, but it is too late, the lake is his.

I told him that I was waiting for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss this matter, as I have done everything by the book and on directives from the government, who should have known better and this whole thing is a slap in the face to me and people like me that come here not knowing all the ins and outs and follow the directions of the people in government who should know. I added that I would call him if I learned anything new.

I went back to see the regional minister with the new information I obtained from Vano and said that for the sake of time, I should try not to meet with the Prime Minister, but meet with his aid, who I had spoken to who instructed me to call back next week.

The regional minister called the aid, told him the reason for my wanting to meet. The aid said that he didn’t understand, the law for rental of water had not yet been adopted and is expected to be adopted on the 16th or 23rd, so there is no way anyone could rent the lake.

So it seems that good old Vano and the people in the Hadrut government are playing games and have in effect created documents that are not legal in order to take my lake away from me.

I tried to call Vano all day today to ask him to wait on sending his guard to my lake, which today I found out he is planning to put Nelson, the fisherman who I use to use that stole fish from me in April 2003 who I pressed charges against, which resulted in him compensating me 12,000 dram. I also want to meet with Vano face to face, see the documents that he claims to have (get copies of them too) and then try to see if he is willing to continue his offer of not wanting the lake, being that I’m the mayor of Martuni’s friend and future Nephew-in-law.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

One of the greatest leaders of the 20th century and personification of the Palestinian cause has died.

The world will morn the loss of President Yasser Arafat a man who believed in peace and was recognized as such in 1994, when he was awarded a Nobel Peace prize.

I learned of his death while waiting my turn to visit with the Martuni regional minister. Waiting with me was the head doctor of our military hospital, who asked me if I heard about Arafat’s passing away? I said no, but I am saddened by the news. He asked me why would I be sad, he was a terrorist. I told the good doctor that is only a matter of opinion, as some of the greatest Armenians in modern history were deemed terrorists by many, but are hero’s to us. I added that if Arafat was a terrorist, he was one with humanitarian intentions.

Abu Ammar, you were a great man, who did great work for your people. Though I am not Palestinian, I have a great deal of respect for you and will remember your example for many years to come. May to soil of your motherland lay lightly on you as you rest in peace and may your example live on forever in people who desire freedom and peace.

To the Palestinian people, I send to you my condolences for the loss of your great leader.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I’ve done a little bit of restructuring at my beauty salon and other business ventures. My general manager/accountant, who was the originator for the idea of opening the salon seemed to be the source of conflicts in my life, with her overly eager and unwelcomed need to be helpful in areas where she had no business being involved in. In short, I was having to work more in the area of damage control with issues of business and personal matters than I should because of her.

I had warned her in the summer that she was under no circumstance to be involved in matters of my personal life, this after she repeated something I had told her in confidence, from which started a string of rumors. Then at the end of summer, we had a repeat performance, to which I decided that her behavior was not going to change, so it was time to reduce my liabilities and fire her.

Fortunately for her, when she violated my trust the last time, I was in Yerevan and could not fire her on the spot, which gave me time to reconsidered the option of firing her and out of kindness to make it possible for her to be a more desirable person to be hired elsewhere, I took a business like approach and in the name of good business, I eliminated her job, justifying it as a budget cut. Her last day was Friday, this after giving her a months notice of the elimination of her job, to give her a chance to find another job, which she was unable to.

I have now found an accountant who I will be talking to tomorrow, who use to work at the tax office, but quit her job to care for her daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome. I will only need her to work a few days a month, to keep our books and make sure our taxes and pension fund contributions are paid up, the rest (making payments and purchases), my driver will do.

As for the rest of the work at the salon, my friend who I am leasing the salon building from, his mother Era (who is like a second mother to me), will be working with me to manage.

Though until now and from the first day we opened the salon, we have only had a profit of about $50 a month, from the last couple days of being present at the salon, business has picked up quite a bit. Though I don’t suspect my former accountant/general manager of any wrong doing (other than maybe not doing), it seems that what people have been telling me of my employees not reporting all the work they do, could be true.

From the register they keep of the income at the salon, which is just a book that sometimes reflects each individual transaction and other times just a total income of the day, it does not seem to reflect accurately everything. I know of one transaction that took place a few days ago for 2,500 drams ($5) by my driver’s wife, which didn’t seem to make it in the books. From what I understand and from what I’ve seen over the last few months, my accountant/general manager when she was present, sat in her office playing computer games or watched television and didn’t pay much attention to who was coming and going to the salon and keeping good control of the income.

I guess in time and with more control of the comings and goings of the salon with the daily presents of Era, we will see if there is an increase in profits or not. One thing I have already done is print up a receipt book so every transaction is recorded properly.

Another thing Era and I are discussing to increase business is to hire another hairdresser (she would also act as a safety net for use if the present one quit or if we had to fire her). The woman that is interested in joining us has a beauty salon near the bazaar. One of her reasons for wanting to join us is that not only are we looking for a second person, but because she will soon have to relocate her business which is one of those temporary tin booths. It will be more profitable for her to join us and of course for us it will be beneficial, as she is the popular hairdresser of the older folks in Martuni.

Anyway, tomorrow is the first day of business with our new manager Era, who my employees don’t know about yet, so I have to be present to hand over control to her and introduce the change to those she will be managing.

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 6. ARMINFO. One should expect serious chances in Armenia's state administration system in the next 10 days - the Friday dismissal of the chief of the National Security Service Karlos Petrossyan was the first swallow, says the leader of the New Times party Aram Karapetyan.

Karapetyan says that the president started the staff changes from the wrong end. The situation at the justice, transport, ecology and education ministries is much worse. As for Petrossyan he was hardly forced to resign - he must have got tired of fruitless efforts to push through some reforms in his department. Now the question is who will replace him.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I got a couple of text message on my cell phone from Karabakh Telecom, the first on 04 Nov 2004 at 19:56:13, which read: “Hayastani Hanrapetutyunum Karabakh Teleconin tramadrvel e bjjayin kapi carayutyunneri matucman licenza. Harganqnerov, Tnorinutjun.” and then at 20:12:04 I got the second message which read: “Karabagh Telecom official got a license to operate the second GSM Network in the Republic of Armenia. Best Regards, The management.”

When you read the following story, keep in mind that Karabakh Telecom (KT) rolled into Karabagh 3 years ago and before they had a signed agreement, they were already installing a cellular phone network. A few months later, they were give the telecommunication network to operate. The Artsakh president announced KT’s presents in the country, stating that he has not allowed the same mistake to take place as they did in Armenia, with a monopoly, but in fact the “licenza” (license) that they were given by the Prime Minister, gave them what equates to a 30 year monopoly on all communication in Artsakh.

For KT to be awarded a lucrative agreement to operate the second cellular phone system in Armenia without any competition, does not surprise me and I would go so far as to say that high ranking government officials had much to profit from this deal going as it has.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 11/05/2004

Government Tight-Lipped On Choice Of New Mobile Operator

By Ruzanna Stepanian

The government declined on Friday to provide a clear explanation of its controversial decision to choose Armenia's second mobile phone operator without a transparent and competitive bidding.

Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian, normally accessible for reporters, refused to comment, referring all inquiries to the press service of his ministry. The ministry spokeswoman, Tamar Ghalechian, told RFE/RL that the hitherto unknown firm K-Telecom was granted the lucrative license because of its Lebanese owners' positive' track record in Nagorno-Karabakh. They have run the Armenian-controlled region's telephone network for the last three years.

Ghalechian confirmed that K-Telecom was the only bidder in a `tender' formally called and administered by the government at its weekly session on Thursday. He could not say why it was arranged so hastily and why the government did not hold a genuine bidding that might have resulted in more attractive bids.

The decision came less than one day after ministers approved a compromise agreement to settle their long-running disputes with ArmenTel, Armenia's dominant telecom operator. Under the terms of the deal negotiated by Justice Minister David Harutiunian, ArmenTel will abandon its legal monopoly on mobile telephony in exchange for a string of other government concessions. One of them stipulates that only one alternative wireless operator will be allowed to operate in Armenia until 2009.

The Communications Ministry spokeswoman said K-Telecom has pledged to put in place a wireless network covering Yerevan and surrounding areas by the end of 2005 and extend it to the rest of Armenia within the next two years. She said the company hopes to attract 50,000 subscribers during the first year of its operations.

As of mid-August there were only 140,000 cellular phone users in Armenia. The figure pales in comparison with similar statistics in the two other South Caucasus states. Azerbaijan boasted 870,000 such users in 2002, while Georgia had 522,300 of them as of last year.

Since there has been so much talk about deployment of troops to Iraq, I decided to surf the web in search of where various countries have deployed troops, soon loosing interest and coming across some letters to sites that support persons in the military.

On one site there was a letter which stated “…I'm particularly pleased to know that there are many people who appreciate what our fine men and women have done (and continue to do) to protect our way of life.”

It really made me wonder about what the function of a military is and why we need them?

Growing up in America and learning about liberty and justice for all in school, while saying the pledge of allegiance. I always assumed that military forces were for protecting boarders so one is not invaded by another military force. I guess that is one function and most obvious one thinks of when your 7 years old. I even get the feeling that most American who are adults think this same way today.

Then I come to Armenia and see a military in action, functioning in a way at the age of 7 I though most suits a military, which is to protect our boarders and nothing more.

So when I hear a military having the function of “protect[ing] our way of life,” and then seeing what is going on in the world outside of the United States, it really gives me a whole new outlook on how things in this world really are and that the only liberty and justice is for those with the biggest and most aggressive military force, who can protect and secure a way of life for it’s people.

You know what is really sad for me? That people know these aggressive actions are wrong, but in the name of possible economic and political security, leaders of the world are ready to prostitute themselves and their people, forgetting about morality for the sake of staying on the good side of the winning team and in hopes getting something in the end.

In Armenia’s case, our leaders feel in debt to America for providing $1.5 billion in “aid” and want to continue to benefit from that friendship by kissing Americas ass.

The reality is that Armenia’s self-profiting leaders made some very bad decisions in the early days of independence and instead of looking to Armenia’s internal power for creating an economically stable and semi-self-sufficient country by means of tapping into its intellectual and industrial potential, it somehow tricked itself and followed its emotional side and elected to side with people who lead it down the path of dependency on foreign bodies. These are people who until today, beat the patriotic drum and use peoples emotions to stay in power.

I have heard my whole life that no one helps out if they don’t have something to gain from helping and sure as can be, for the most part, those that have helped Armenia up until now have proven to have only interests in their own well being and profit, not just Americans, but Armenians too.

Today America has re-elected George W. Bush, as did somehow Armenia “re-elect” Robert Kocharian. For me, the two of them are not all that different in terms of their ability to lead or being the only available leader to choose from. Only difference I see is that Bush has more the power behind him to rape foreign bodies to suck off of so his people’s way of life is protected, where Kocharian at this time only has the power to rape his own people (including the Diaspora) to suck off of so his and his clans way of life is protected. Anyway I look at it, they both suck and the next 4 years are going to be difficult, as well as the years to follow.

On a semi unrelated note, did anyone notice the vote count in Washington D.C.? Kerry got 90%. What does that tell you? Who are the registered voters in D.C.? Could they be those people who best know who and what Bush is?


Emil Danielyan 11/05/04

President Robert Kocharian’s administration in Armenia appears to have pushed back plans to dispatch a contingent of non-combat troops to Iraq. The planned deployment has generated determined domestic opposition, with critics of the proposal cautioning that joining the US-led coalition could endanger the small ethnic Armenian community in Iraq.

Yerevan made what looked like a formal commitment to join the Iraq mission during President Robert Kocharian’s official visit to Poland in early September. The Armenian military contingent would be largely symbolic -- comprising roughly 50 military personnel, including doctors, de-mining experts and truck drivers – and would serve under Polish command. Poland, a staunch US ally, leads a multinational division stationed in south-central Iraq.

Since the initial announcement, little progress has been made toward deployment. Government officials announced in September that military personnel would be dispatched before the end of the year. But observers in Yerevan now wonder whether the government can meet this deadline.

A prerequisite for deployment is an inspection visit to Iraq by an Armenian military delegation. The visit was originally slated for late September. However, Defense Ministry spokesman, Seyran Shahsuvarian, said on November 3 that such a mission has yet to take place. Shahsuvarian declined to specify a reason for the delay, and would not speculate on when the mission would occur.

Armenia’s parliament, meanwhile, has not received a formal request from the government to authorize the troop deployment -- something that is required under the Armenian constitution. The National Assembly ratified earlier this year an inter-governmental agreement with Kuwait that regulates the movements of Armenian military personnel through the Gulf state, which serves as the main logistical base for all foreign troops deploying to Iraq.

Helping to explain the existing uncertainty is the fact that Kocharian’s deployment plans have faced strong domestic opposition. Kocharian critics maintain that the presences of an Armenian military force in Iraq could prompt Iraqi insurgents to target the country’s Armenian community, estimated at about 25,000, for reprisals. The insurgents have already captured and killed dozens of citizens of countries participating in the "coalition of the willing," or otherwise cooperating with it.

Among those opposed to the Iraq mission is Armenia’s biggest opposition group, the Justice alliance, along with at least two dozen non-governmental organizations. In late September, NGO representatives issued a joint statement, cautioning that the consequences of participation could be severe. "We risk turning a community of 25,000 people into hostages," one of its signatories and a prominent environmentalist, Karine Danielian, warned. Iraqi Armenians have themselves exhorted Yerevan not to send troops. Their spiritual leader, Archbishop Avak Asadurian, expressed their concerns in separate letters to President Robert Kocharian and the Armenian parliament leadership.

Significantly, two senior army generals have recently voiced opposition to deployment plans, marking a rare instance of public questioning of government policy by members of the Armenian army’s top brass. One of them, Deputy Army Chief-of-Staff Enrico Apriamov, implied that the US-led invasion of Iraq had been a mistake.

Concern for the security of the Armenian community was a major reason for the Kocharian government’s refusal to back the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in early 2003. Armenia welcomed the ensuing overthrow of Saddam Hussein and publicly expressed a desire to "participate in Iraq’s post-war reconstruction" shortly afterward. An Armenian liaison officer was posted at the US Central Command in Florida in late 2003 – a move widely seen as a prelude to the troop dispatch.

The commitment to deployment among Kocharian allies appears to remain strong – at least publicly. In recent televised remarks Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian said that while shares the critics’ security concerns he believes that siding with the United States on Iraq is vital for Armenia’s national interests. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, for his part, argues that the Armenian participation would be solely "humanitarian" in nature. Another Armenian leader, Parliament Speaker Artur Baghdasarian, noted on October 29 that the United States has provided more than $1.5 billion in economic assistance to Armenia since independence, hinting that Yerevan should somehow express appreciation for the American largesse.

Some pro-government media commentators say deployment should be considered by Armenians as a geopolitical necessity. They note that Armenia’s neighbors, Azerbaijan and Georgia, already have hundreds of troops on the ground in Iraq. Deployment could help Armenia complement its military alliance with Russia with closer security ties with the United States and the West in general. A cosmetic Armenian military presence in Iraq, they add, is important for ensuring US neutrality in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

Some are skeptical that a troop contribution will produce greater political and economic support from the United States. Alexander Arzumanian, Armenia’s former pro-Western foreign minister and an opponent of deployment, believes that risks far outweigh the possible geopolitical dividends. "I just don’t see anything tangible we can get now in return for putting at risk the lives of a large number of Armenians," Arzumanian told EurasiaNet.

Ultimately, it may turn out that decisions made in Poland will influence Armenia’s final decision on deployment. Polish leaders are pondering whether to scale down its 2,500-strong military force in Iraq, or even withdraw it altogether by the end of 2005. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski called for a complete troop pullout in a newspaper interview last month. Although other officials in Warsaw, notably President Aleksander Kwasniewski, were quick to disavow the statement, continued Polish military presence in Iraq is now in serious doubt.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Andranik Markarian had that in mind when he told reporters recently, "After clarifying some questions we may go ahead or not go ahead [with the deployment]. Everything will depend on the situation."

Editor’s Note: Emil Danielyan is a Yerevan-based journalist and political analyst.