Sunday, May 30, 2004

Just a quick note to remind us that 11 years ago today, Monte Melkonian lost his life in battle defending the Armenian people of Artsakh. Along with him that day, my future children's grandfather also lost his life in battle along with Monte. Though loosing ones life in a war is bad, it's even worse when you ask yourself why and for who. Let's all work together to make sure that people don't ask that question.
AGBU London lecture Series



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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the above presentation or AGBU (London)
please contact Ara Sarafian at (020) 7602 7990 or email
It looks like someone at Aravot reads my blogs or at very least, someone passed on the montage I made with Onnik's pictures of the April 5th attack on journalists made the front page.

As the weather warms up, the youth of Armenia and Artsakh find fellowship in their neighborhoods.

It seems since independence, the economical deprived youth spend their days sitting outside their houses and the "dogs of summer", who are the jobless male youths, sit around a talk among themselves and watch girls, who at times they also approach.

The place where my fiance lives, seems to have more than its share of "dogs" and though we are use to them looking from the street to our bedroom window, today I we had a couple of dogs make their way to the roof of the neighboring building to catch a birds-eye view of our bedroom with us resting. Were not sure how long this has been going on, but even if it just started today, it really didn't make us happy at all. Kind of a creepy feeling to say the least.

It seems that in this country, everything goes and the feeling of anarchy is stronger than ever, with people just doing whatever they feel like doing, even things that don't correspond with written law. It's as if were living back in a jungle with animals everywhere.

In the last couple of years, it seems that the number of "dogs of summer" has increased and a few conversations with such youths have provided an inside look at who they are and why they "girl watch"

It seems that many of them have a desire to get married, but due to a lack of jobs or viable economic opportunities, they don't get married, but still have a need to satisfy their urges and any level of education, cultural or family values is not going to change things for most of them in their way of thinking that girls are for the taking, that is if you don't get your eyes scratched out or charges pressed, but even in those cases, you can buy your way out of such trouble.

One of the effects of the "dogs of summer" I have written in the past and that is forced relationships with at times unwilling girls, who after such relationships are culturally unfit to be wed and in some cases enter into prostitution after being labeled as such, even if they were not.

So what did I do about the "peeping dogs of summer" on the roof? Well what could I do other than what any good Armenian can do and stick my head out the window and give them my look of disapproval, which got them to back away from the edge of the roof and eventually back to the street where they belong. Next time, I'll photograph them and then talk to their mothers to see how they feel about their dogs?

Anyway, I really better get going, as I'm in an internet cafe and my fiance is at another computer across the room, with a couple of the "dogs of summer" trying to start a conversation with her with hopes of who knows what.
Haglund Murder: Police, embassy not giving up information in killing of US citizen
By Julia Hakobyan and John Hughes, ArmeniaNow reporters

28 May 2004

After a week of investigation, police are not saying if a motive
has been uncovered in the killing of United States citizen Joshua
Haglund. Police are, however, calling the crime "premeditated murder".

Haglund, 33, was found with stab wounds in the backyard of his
Yerevan apartment in the evening of May 17. He died of the wounds
while awaiting emergency medical aid. He is believed to be the first
American to be murdered in Armenia.

The U.S. Embassy has not released any information about Haglund,
who was in Yerevan to teach at the Brusov Linguistic University as
part of a U.S. State Department language fellow program.

He was a native of Minnesota, and was scheduled to return there
next month.

Police are investigating Haglund's personal life, but investigators
and the embassy are being tight lipped about the crime. Meanwhile
rumors swirl, including speculation of a "contract killing", put
out by someone jealous of Haglund's attention toward a certain
girl. Others speculate that it was a "hate crime", carried out by
a person or persons who objected to aspects of Haglund's personal
life. One rumor even has Haglund as a CIA operative and that the
murder took place on the eve of a departure to Iraq.

In any case, ArmeniaNow has learned that the fatal wounds were
consistent with those often inflicted in so-called "crimes of
passion". Typically, that means that the attack is more brutal,
suggesting that the perpetrator has been enraged by some conflict
between the two parties.

A theory that Haglund knew his attacker(s) is supported by evidence
from his apartment, where police found three glasses and a recently
opened bottle of wine. Blood stains were also found in the apartment,
suggesting that the confrontation either started or was entirely
centered in Haglund's home.

Marietta Yeranosyan, who lives in front of the apartment Haglund was
renting, says that the day before the murder there was party at his
home. And when she heard the noises on the day of murder she thought
another party was in progress.

Residents of the building also say that Haglund (who was not fluent
in Armenian) socialized mostly with English-speaking acquaintances.

"We heard several men's loud voices but it was not clear if it was
a quarrel or just talk, as they were speaking English," Yeranosyan
said. "Then his door opened as if people left."

Yeranosyan says her husband was coming home around that time and saw
two men quickly running in different directions.

Yeranosyan believes that Haglund might have been pursuing his
attacker(s) when he collapsed in the yard, around 10:30 p.m.

Elmira Harutyunyan, a neighbor, says Haglund was alive when she and
others found him.

"He was trying to say something, but no one understood it, because he
was speaking English. Then it seemed he showed 'three' with fingers
and died," she says.

Though known in the expatriate community, Haglund's American
acquaintances are not commenting publicly on the murder, saying
that they are under obligation to restrict comments to the police

It is believed that in the hours before his murder, Haglund visited
the Wheel Club, a restaurant and bar popular among expats on the
opposite end of the street where Haglund's apartment was located.

Haglund's social life in Armenia included association with members of
Armenia's gay community. One theory being advanced is that he became
a victim of a "hate crime" based on that association.

Last Sunday, about 100 mourners attended a memorial service for
Haglund at the American University of Armenia.

"I was fascinated with his sensibility and sense of humor. We share
everything, good and bad," said Amelia Weir, a friend who spoke to
the assembly. "Something that struck me - he was fully present in
this life. He wanted us to be dedicated to what we do."

Haglund had finished the semester's lectures at Brusov on the morning
of his murder. His students (though reluctant to give their full names)
characterize him as a kind and respected professor.

"We all were shocked when we learned what happened," says Silva,
a third-year student of the University. "We completed his course
'Speaking Skills'. We said goodbye to each other and a few days later
learned he was killed."

"He was a very qualified professor," says Arevik, another student. "His
lessons were interesting, he was polite with everyone and never
offended any of us."

His hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune
( reported that Haglund had lived for extended
periods in Japan, India and Puerto Rico.

His mother, Maxine Haglund-Blommer, told the newspaper that her son
had been offered a job in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and that
he would relocate there after visiting Minnesota.

She said Haglund told her he would take the job in UAE, after which
he would move back to the States to live near his family.

Friday, May 28, 2004

HETQ Online

Internet club -- 200 drams

[May 24, 2004]

You can see signs like that on every street corner in Yerevan . In spite of the increasing accessibility of computer technology, Internet cafes are getting more and more popular. Even people who have personal computers at home prefer to go online at a café—the Internet access is cheaper.

Opening an Internet café is not much harder than opening a regular café. You need to get a permit from the mayor to hang a sign, rent or buy premises, acquire computers (mostly Pentium 1, 2 or 3; sometimes Pentium 4), get access from an internet provider, register with the district tax agency, hire one or two pretty girls, no computer skills necessary, and open your doors to the public.

The Internet club “movement” started in 1999, with just a few cafes. The Internet still was a rare amusement, accessible to only a few, with an hourly charge of up to 1,800 drams (about $3.20). Since 2001, it's been much more accessible, at between 200 and 600 drams an hour. Club employees say the rates depend on many things, from the quality of the computers and the connection to the club's name, reputation, and location. Many Internet cafés are in students' neighborhoods, where there's no point in charging a high price.

Patrons are mainly college students, school children, and intellectuals. The oldest cafés have real clubs, with card-carrying members. A café can have as many as one hundred clients a day, who check their e-mail, chat and use ICQ, or surf the net. Children tend to arrive in groups, mostly to play computer games, and bigger clubs have a special game room. In general, the clubs provide unimpeded access in a private environment – computers are at a distance from each other, separated by partitions.

But this makes it easy to access and distribute pornographic material. Article 263 of the Criminal Code of Armenia stipulates that “the creation of computer programs, movies, video films, materials, pictures or other objects of a pornographic character, and for displaying child pornography using computers” is punishable by a fine or imprisonment. But it's not clear how this law is enforced.

Many clubs simply disregard it. “Why should we say, ‘Don't visit those sites'? We'll lose clients,” the manager of one club told me.

Others, mainly older clubs with good reputations, have certain restrictions, for example, they bar access to some sites, such as video pornography. The manager of one such club said, “We cannot control everything. There are sites that we don't know about, or that are impossible to block.” And when they find out that a client is visiting one of these sites, “We don't do anything. Do we have the right to say anything? They paid for it; they're adults, and they know what they're doing.”

They're adults, but what about children? Is there a way to protect them from these sites? Unfortunately not. One club positioned computers so that the screens were visible, but that keeps people from being able to use the Internet freely.

The fact is, providing free access to porn sites is profitable. Many users go to the Internet clubs just to visit them. Most clubs are open 24-hours a day. As one employee said, “It is hard to stop people—mainly boys—who come late at night to visit the sites.”

Ani Duzdabanyan
This afternoon, I arrived to Armenia and after resting up a bit, headed to Victory Park with my fiance to attend a program commemorating Independence Day of the first Republic of Armenia, which was organized by the ARF.

There were many, many people in attendance, and where they were having the actual program, there was a shortage of seating.

We found an empty table that had no chairs and after some guests that were from the Diaspora showed up, a woman opened up a storage area to take out a table and chairs for them, with me following her close behind to get a couple of chairs for us.

The program started with some guy talking about Artsakh and how it is independent and how we need to remember those that lost their lives and so on.

Then some older guy gets on stage and starts to talk about what this day means and talks what seemed forever about the first republic and all those fine ARF people who did such a great job and sacrificed so much, bla bla bla.

I told my fiance not to believe everything he was saying and what happened back then was not all that clean and sacrificial. I guess I was talking a bit too loud when I made that comment, as the young AYF boys at the table next to us started to give me dirty looks and just as the lecture finished and the young patriots were able to get up and adjust my attitude, the worst rain I have seen in a long time started.

At first people seemed to want to hold out in hopes that the rain would let up and my fiance and I with the push of a button, erected our umbrellas, as we watched the crowd finally figure out that if they were going to just sit with their mouths open looking up, they would drown. A panic started and everyone abandoned their tables and drinks to find cover. No shortage of seating, problem solved.

We sat for a couple of songs, which I have to tell you, I really love those ARF patriotic songs. Then when it looked like things were not going to let up and stated to come down even harder, we joined the herd of what I'm guessing were non-ARF people and those that may be ARF members, but not so loyal that they would risk their health and headed to our car singing ARF songs.

I guess God does not like it when old people get up and try to revise history to the young impressionable people and in a very creative way, put an end to the propaganda party and also covered my back in the process from the vengeful youth who seem to believe everything they hear.

Anyway, Happy Independence Day of the first Armenian Republic everyone. Though it was short lived, I hope it was a good example of how one does not run a country.
HETQ Online

Interview with Giulnara Shahinyan, vice-chairman of the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

[May 24, 2004]

Why was this commission created, and what does Armenia gain from it?

In September 2003, the Ministerial Council of the Council of Europe decided to set up a committee to draft the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The representative of Belgium was elected chairman; A German colleague and I were elected vice-chairs. The draft is now ready. It was very interesting to follow the discussions and see the approaches of different countries. Surprisingly, the states that speak about human rights the most – the USA , France , Germany – made the strictest migration policy recommendations. Many states bargain with the victims. For example, according to US law, victims are provided with tools for their defense only if they cooperate with law enforcement agencies. This condition was deleted from the draft Convention. We also tried to make trafficking in all its manifestations a criminal offense.

As far as Armenia is concerned, I must stress that this phenomenon is very widespread here. And action against trafficking in Armenia is long overdue. I tried during the discussions to make our problems known, to draw the attention of the international community to Armenia . I tried to include solutions for the problems facing Armenia in the Convention.

How and when did you start dealing with these issues?

I have been dealing with women's and children's problems for years. In 1985 when I was working for the city of Yerevan , we got a letter from a Finnish organization about the terrible conditions that children in the Kharberd orphanage were being kept in. When I saw these half-starved children in ragged clothes, it took me six months to get over it. The orphanage was like a zoo; the children weren't treated like human beings. That had an effect on me, and I started dealing with children's issues. Gradually I widened the scope of my work, and began gathering information and dealing with trafficking.

We conducted anonymous surveys in various regions in Armenia . People told us about their relatives or neighbors who had fallen victim to trafficking. We found out that in Armenia , labor trafficking is the most widespread; then comes sexual exploitation. Especially in Yerevan and Vanadzor, many people are subjected to labor trafficking. Out of 200 respondents, 141 fell victim to labor trafficking, and the rest to sexual exploitation. I went to the United Arab Emirates to do research in Dubai for five days. You can find Armenian women in almost every nightclub there. There are teen-age girls among them, too. Many of them are forced into prostitution and don't get paid.

The fact is, no serious, comprehensive study has been conducted in this field; there is no exact data. So far we haven't understood that trafficking has other manifestations besides prostitution. Labor trafficking, the adoption of children, and trade in human organs have not been studied at all. At one point I started to concern myself with these issues, but I wasn't psychologically prepared to continue.

You must have heard stories that had struck you?

When you listen to one life story, you get the impression that there can't be any fate harsher than that. But the next story turns out to be even worse. I was especially struck by the story of one girl from Sevan. I was shocked. The 15-year-old girl lost her parents and was living with her grandmother. Her drug addict uncle began exploiting her. He forbade her to come home unless she made money. Then the girl was taken to an orphanage, but she ran away. She met a woman who offered to send her to Germany to work as a fashion model. As a result, she found herself in Dubai , where she was sold to a sheikh. The sheikh gave her some money, and she managed to come back to Armenia and buy a small house in Sevan. But later, the uncle sold her house. It is terrible; she thinks that she's to blame for whatever happened to her. She tried to commit suicide. But even after the ordeal she went through, she is still optimistic; she continues to love people, to trust them.

I remember another story that moved me. A woman who fought in the Karabakh war was tricked into going to Dubai . A young man was hired to pretend he had fallen in love with her and wanted to marry her. In order to make money for the wedding, he proposed they go to Greece to work, but they wound up in Dubai . He took the woman's passport and disappeared. She was sold three times. She had encountered the brutality of enemy soldiers during the war, but she never imagined an Armenian would do such things to her. I go through their life stories with these people. After hearing these stories, you even start to look cynically at the made-up image of the Armenian man. I can't forget these women's eyes.

Have there been any instances when you didn't talk or write about what you had heard?

Yes, there have. As an Armenian, I don't want certain stories to be spread all over the world, that Armenian men or women are capable of such cruelty towards other Armenians. After all, all of these studies are conducted at the initiative of international organizations, and must be presented to the international community. Sometimes I think, perhaps these stories might be misused or used against us in the future.

Is there anything that distinguishes Armenia on the issue of trafficking?

I wouldn't say that we have distinctive features vis-à-vis this problem. Criminal groups have no national affiliation; their actions are the same. But our legislation is very weak; the criminals go almost unpunished. Article 132 of the Criminal Code of Armenia says nothing about supporting the victims of trafficking. Moreover, even society doesn't psychologically support the victims. People perceive a victim as a prostitute. In my opinion, international organizations bear their share of the guilt for this. They introduced this concept, and always emphasize prostitution.

Our government commissions pursue the ostrich policy. They put their heads down and don't want to see anything, to see what is going on. And generally speaking, this problem has become an apple of discord. The Ministry of Social Security wants to create a commission itself, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, itself. We shouldn't fight over the commissions. But it turns out that we live in a cynical and indifferent society, where people only fight for position. It is unpleasant to realize that we start taking measures only when there is a fear of losing out on humanitarian assistance.

Isn't the fact that so many NGO's have gotten involved in trafficking a manifestation of this?

I have always thought that the international organizations corrupt our country. They come with ready projects and, taking advantage of the fact that we don't have any money, implement these projects. For example, last year the office of the UNHCR organized training courses for residents of old people's homes. But are they under the immediate threat of becoming victims of trafficking? Many NGOs deal with trafficking. But nothing has been coordinated or organized. Some Armenian organizations publish data that doesn't correspond to reality, in order to get money. Everything is just for appearances. We don't call ourselves to account for our actions. We don't understand that by writing only about things that discredit us, we put ourselves on the level of slaves. We have self-proclaimed experts who have never seen a single victim, but write about their research. A lot of money is spent organizing seminars and conferences, but nothing is being done. Everybody thinks that big amounts of money will come from the United States and, appropriately or inappropriately, they draft projects. To use an American expression, trafficking is a „sexy idea”.

Arpine Harutiunyan

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

On the Armenian Diaspora log site, there is a discussion going on in regards to the Armenian Church and it’s lack of fulfilling our people with the spiritual needs we have.

As I wrote one of my comments, I remembered my involvement with the YMCA and in influence it had on me in regards to learning and understanding Christian values.

Though this is not a new idea, I was thinking that for the youth here in Artsakh and Armenia, it would not be a bad idea to somehow implement a YMCA type of program and in particular their Leathers and Rag program, which I am a member of the latter.

In short what these programs promote and teach are Christian values and give the member a series of goals to complete, which in the end, teach the member to be a contributing member of society.

The following is the Ragger’s creed, which considering I have not worn my silver rag for over 18 years or participated in a Rag ceremony, I still remember.

I will be true, for there are those that trust me.
I will be pure, for there are those that care.
I will be strong, for there is much to suffer.
I will be brave, for there is much to bear.
I will be friend to all, the foe, the friendless.
I will be giving, and forget the gift.
I will be humble, for I know my weaknesses.
I will look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

If we could somehow teach our people this much and somehow infect our neighbors with this way of thinking, our world would be a much better place to live in.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

AGBU 5/22
Page 1

The AGBU-built cold food storage facility in Gumri

Armenian Government Sells $5 Million Food Storage Facility for $150,000

By Hagop Avedikian and Tatul Hagopian

) - On the front entrance of Gumri's cold food storage facility is written, "Built through donations of 35,000 Americans, American-Armenians and the Government of Armenia."

The earthquake of 1988 had demolished the cold storage facility of Gumri and the government of Armenia at the time had asked the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) to build a new one. By 1992, the AGBU had built one of the best such facilities of the region.
But, the 10,000-ton capacity storage building did not work for long, mainly because of the energy crisis affecting the country. Between 1988 and 2000, the cold storage facility was one of the government properties that were "de-nationalized," or privatized and sold, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Commerce and Economy.

Minister Garen Jeshmaridian, in his written answer to Azg stated, "I am informing that Gumri's cold storage facility was in the list of de-nationalization program of 1998-2000, but procedures were not initiated. At the same time I am informing that by the decision of the court dated April 18, 2002, the cold storage facility has been declared non-solvent [in Armenia that means not able to pay taxes] and on March 13, 2003, the whole facility was sold by auction to the Gechor company."

The Gechor Company belongs to Parliament member Martin Soukiassian. He paid $150,000 for the facility built through donations by 35,000 people and which is worth $5 million. The facility was built by Intercool, a Danish company, under contract to AGBU.

In 1989, when former AGBU President Louise Manoogian Simone announced in Cyprus the start of work on the cold storage building. Achuk Juknavorian was giving the members there details about the construction, causing high emotions and unprecedented enthusiasm not only among the members there, but also among the Diaspora Armenians. During those hard times, al that mattered to Armenians was helping the people of Gumri. That is why, on a short notice the AGBU was able to raise $5 million. But nobody could have imagined that because of the energy crisis, the storage building would not function. Secondly, because of the blockade, there was not much food to store.

But now, or more precisely in 2003, when the energy crisis was behind us, and when the mood seems favorable to open the border with Turkey, the cold storage facility's importance is looming once again.

There are many other unusual steps in this sale. First of all, why was the storage building listed in the de-nationalization program? Did the government of Armenia inform AGBU leaders of its intention? Since the AGBU had donated the cold storage facility to the government, the government had the moral obligation to inform the AGBU of sale, and the AGBU had the moral obligation to explain it to the 35,000 donors who had funded the construction.

Secondly, what does the phrase "procedures were not initiated" mean? Who was the government waiting for? Did the government anticipate that the facility was going to be auctioned because of tax delinquency, once it became de-nationalized?

Thirdly, who is to blame when taxpayer and the tax collector are the same entity, the government? Why did the ministry not paid the taxes owed to the government by the cold storage facility?

Could it possibly be that the ministry failed to pay the building's taxes so that they could sell it quickly through an auction?

The auction itself remains suspect, as there were no public announcements about it in the newspapers.

We do not know if the government informed AGBU its in intention of selling the facility. The AGBU representative in Armenia refused comment, saying only that the issue is a problem between the AGBU and the government of Armenia. The representative forgets that the building was constructed through the donations of 35,000 people, some from Chicago and Los Angeles, who are calling the offices of Azg, asking about the fate of their donation.

There is a moral issue here. With the help of the government, 35,000 people have donated to the Gechor Company and enriched its new owner. This is an immoral act of the government, which is still seeking the financial help of the Diaspora Armenians. At the same time, with this attitude, the government is putting under suspicion one of the largest and oldest Armenian organizations in front of its donors. And this is not the only case. Many donations during the Soviet Armenia and afterwards to the Armenian government, such as the factory donated by Union of Aintab was mysteriously given away to a Member of Parliament or a gang leader.

After all this, we are still surprised that the diaspora is helping Armenia less and less each year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I really should be sleeping now, but there is this great lightning and thunder storm going on right now. Or power is out and I’m working on battery power. I love this kind of weather.

I know I’ve been out of touch with all of you for the most part, but this taking a break from logging was the alternative to burning out.

Just a really quick update on the situation here in Martuni.

The weather has been very unpredictable. Hot one day and cold the next.

My puppies are almost 40 days old and all the girls have found a home, leaving the 4 boys, which one is going to go to Lavrent, my truck driver, one to Jerig, my cabinet maker and 2 to me.

The plan now is that once all the puppies that I’m not keeping are gone, I let my 2 puppies suck their mother dry and then at that point, I give her away to a guy named Nelson, who has a gas station and needs a grown dog. And yes, he knows that she eats chickens.

Once she is gone, the puppies will only eat beef. I will also get a couple of chickens to keep in my yard, so the puppies learn that chickens are not something you eat. I’m also going to see about liberating Vartan the cat so he can rejoin us and teach the puppies that cats are not something you kill, but something that will scratch your eyes out of you piss them off.

Wow, this is kind of scary, the storm just got worse and the power came back on. I wonder how long this will last before it goes out again?

Anyway, I guess this would be a good time to go to sleep, since now I’m feeling hungry and really don’t feel like getting out of bed to make something to eat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


A1 Plus | 13:56:37 | 18-05-2004 | Social |

At 10:00 PM yesterday a corpse was found near "Zigzag" shop in Sayat-Nova Street. Under the preliminary information by Police, the killed man is a USA citizen, Joshua Heglantz.

There were violence signs on the corpse. Policemen informed the dead man was brutally beaten then was stabbed into resulting in death.


US embassy employee reportedly killed in Armenian capital

Mediamax news agency
18 May 04

Yerevan, 18 May: The US embassy in Yerevan is not commenting on reports of the murder of a US citizen in the Armenian capital in the evening of 17 May.

"No comment," the US embassy press service told a Mediamax correspondent today.

Several Armenian media, in particular Aravot and Aykakan Zhamanak newspapers, reported today that the US embassy employee had been killed in Yerevan in the evening of 17 May.

According to the newspapers, the corpse was discovered with stab wounds in the backyard of a building in central Yerevan.


Why would the US embassy not comment? I guess in time we will find out who Jashua is and what he was doing in Armenia.

Nonetheless, it’s very sad when someone is brutally beaten and stabbed to death, especially in Armenia.
Just when I thought we had international adoptions under control, this new program is planning on being started in Armenia.

World Links International Adoption Agency’s, “Karing4Kids”summer program, which is intended to bring 10 Armenian orphans ages 7 to 12 to America for a 4 week summer vacation with the idea that perspective adopting families can see if adopting an older child is right for them. Their literature reads as follows:

What are you doing this summer?
How would you like to make the difference in the life of an underprivileged orphan from Eastern Europe?

This summer World Links will launch its 9th Karing 4 Kids Host Program for Orphans. Children 6 years of age and older will travel to the United States to spend time with a host family for an enriching four week experience. This program gives the children an opportunity they may never again have: to be a part of a family. They will learn everyday social skills, receive an introduction to American culture, and possibly their biggest dream: find a permanent, loving family in America. In 1999, 25 children from Russia participated in the first pilot program. Every year since, World Links has built upon the successes of previous years and invited more and more children to participate in each program. Last summer, 77 children from Russia spent their summer holiday in the United States and 40 children were here for our Winter Miracles program. This year, we hope to bring a total of 80 children from Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Host programs are a great opportunity for families and children to bond with one another. The chance to get to know your prospective child adds to a your family’s comfort-level in making a lifelong commitment. You can make sure that adoption is the right choice for you. We invite you to participate in our Summer 2004 Karing 4 Kids Host Program for Orphans. Help us continue to find loving homes for these older children. We are now accepting applications for families wishing to host and volunteers.


Not that this is a bad program, but I really have a problem with placing an orphan in a home to be test-driven and if the family finds that things are not going to work out, back he or she goes with head full of American culture that the orphan will never find in Armenia.

Or here is one that is even worse, what if the child and family become attached and decide that adoption is right for them, but then the family is found not fit to adopt by the Armenian adoption committee?

Plain and simple, there are now a comprehensive and working laws in place in Armenia that those that are willing to invest their time to adopt an Armenian child can. It’s also a process that is in the best interest of the child, so as to not further traumatize the child with false hopes of being adopted and only after the adopting family is fully approved to adopt, is the child selected.

In my opinion, this program is a bad idea that should not be allowed to happen for any reason. I wonder if the adoption committee knows and approves of this program?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I’m in Yerevan in an internet café and around me are these young American youths in white shirt and ties. They are missionaries from Chruch of Jesus Chrust of the Latter-Day Saints and according to the guy sitting next to me are a group of 40 young people. He asked me if I’ve heard of the Mormon’s? They are the same Chruch. Hmmm, I wonder what they are up to?

I guess in a poverty stricken country, It’s not hard to convert people and though this is not something new to Armenians, this is very dangerous.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I guess the person that wrote this one thought today was April 1st. I award this one JOKE OF THE DAY

A1plus News from Armenia
| 15:13:26 | 04-05-2004 | Social |


On March 30, 2004, Armenian General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan signed a decree on establishing a Department for Struggle against Corruption. The Department will have a head and 4 prosecutors.

”Tax and customs systems will be checked to disclose corruption crimes. There is a political will to prevent corruption”, Hovsepyan says.

According to him, corruption crimes will be precluded in both economic and legal spheres. The newly-set up Department will cooperate with the Control Chamber of President.

Mihran Minasyan, Head of Department for Struggle against Corruption, has phrased the purposes of activity: it turns the department will yet clarify corruption cases. “The aim of the Department is to synthesize which of crimes corruption is and to fight against it. It will increase efficiency of averting corruption”. There are now corruption cases under jurisdiction that are examined.

By Aghvan Hovsepyan’s word, the journalists will be given to the information, which won’t run counter to the interests of preliminary investigation.
HETQ Online
April 26, 2004

Officials seize the center of Yerevan

In 1988, the square next to the Opera House was renamed Freedom Square . Freedom, because that's where the Armenian National Movement was initiated, which three years later declared the independence of Armenia . The place was a public park, with benches under the leafy trees surrounding the square. Elderly people would relax here and take their grandchildren for walks, kids would roller-skate, and sweethearts would kiss.

Today Freedom Square is a place where the Armenian opposition stages demonstrations calling for President Kocharyan's resignation, surrounded by twelve privately owned indoor and outdoor cafés.

In warm weather, there are crowds of paying customers, and you can't tell where one café ends and the next begins. Music from different loudspeakers fights for domination. Patrons are mainly young people with money to spare, among them many Diaspora Armenians who have come to contemplate the homeland. Different political parties have their own cafés—Melody belongs to the Dashnaktsutiun, Magnolia to Orinats Yerkir, and so on.

“If so many cafés are being built, it means that there is a demand for them,” asserts Yerevan 's chief architect, Narek Sargisyan, who has worked under the last three mayors, and has to approve every land allocation.

But this area was always popular, even without the cafés. “I don't bring my grandson here anymore, because there are cafes everywhere, and no benches,” says Sargis Torosyan, a 72-year-old pensioner. “The kid asks for something, but I can't buy it – everything is so expensive here. We used to spend every evening here, but now we have no place to go.”

The chief architect admits, “Yes, perhaps we didn't consider this stratum,” and reasons, “But the cafés are always full.”

“Our association conducted an unofficial survey of the businessmen who build cafés and restaurants in the green areas,” says Srbuhi Harutiunyan, the chairman of the Social-Ecological Association. “We have found out that 40% of these establishments are unprofitable, the owners of another 40% don't worry about profit at all, and the remaining 20% secure a profit by avoiding taxes. This is further evidence that these ecologically unsound allocations have a negative impact not only on the environment, not only on people's daily lives, but also on the development of the market economy.”

Besides the twelve cafés and discotheques already operating near the Opera House, there are three new establishments under construction, thanks to mayoral decisions. According to the designs approved by the city's architecture department, these cafés must be built out of light materials, in order to be easily dismantled and relocated if necessary. But most of them have winter halls with solid stone walls, as well as spacious outdoor cafés. Five major structures now tower over the Opera Square . Dozens of trees have been cut down and lawns destroyed during the construction work.

“What happened to the Himalayan cedars that are so rare in our city? Or the grapevines and persimmon trees that used to grow where the Astral Disco is now?” asks Gohar Oganezova, a Doctor of Biology. “Most of the firs have dried up over time as their roots come up against the concrete base of the café. A plane tree whose branches got entangled in the fence has withered. Two years ago it was a wonderful, viable tree. The fir trees along the path next to the Atlantic Café are drying up, too. Last season they were almost leafless, their roots are so damaged.”

The land allocations for these cafés were conducted in gross violation of ecological and city planning standards. Before construction work begins, the cafes must submit their designs for approval by ecologists. But according to data from the Ministry of Ecology, of the twelve cafés in the Opera Square , only the Astral did so in 2002.

According to Decision # 555A of the Yerevan Mayor's Office, if the size of a plot to be allocated does not exceed 20 square meters, it does not have to be put up for public auction. This has given officials from the Mayor's Office free rein to dismantle the park the way they have. They can sign away a 20-square-meter plot, and then expand it later as much as they wish. But if allocations in the city center were done through auction, huge amounts of money would flow into the state budget. To cite one example, according to reliable information, a café in the Opera Park owned by a senior official was recently sold for $250,000. The owner had spent some $15,000 to build the café, after acquiring the land from the Mayor's office for a trifling sum. Thus, between $200,000 and $250,000 could have gone into state coffers, rather than into one official's pocket. Losses to the state budget from land allocations near the Opera alone, where some fifteen companies have built cafes, may be more than $1 million. It doesn't make sense that these deals aren't done through public auction, until you start to look at who is actually doing the deals.

Here are three examples.

In the beginning of 2002, Mayor Robert Nazaryan granted a 20-square-meter site to Magnolia, Ltd. In November 2002 he added another 20- square-meter plot. Today, according to the head of Yerevan 's Department of Architecture and City Planning, S. Katolikyan, Magnolia occupies 2,615 square meters, making it the largest of the Opera cafes. The entrepreneur who was able to persuade Mayor Robert Nazaryan to hand over so much land is a member of parliament representing the Orinats Yerkir Party, Grigor “Bellagio Grish” Margaryan.

Around the same time, Only Merriment, Ltd. requested permission from Mayor Robert Nazaryan to build a computer games arcade in a site adjacent to Freedom Square (on the Tumanyan Street side). According to Mayoral Decision #24 of January 11, 2002 , the company acquired the 20-square-meter site for 10 years, with boundaries drawn up the city's architecture department. A month later, on February 22, 2002 , according to Mayoral Decision # 273, Only Merriment received an additional 312 square meters adjacent to the arcade, to build an outdoor café (italics is mine), this time for 25 years. And then a month later, Nazaryan amended these decisions as follows: “In the first paragraph of the decision the words ‘to organize an outdoor café', replace by the words ‘to build a computer games center and a café'”. The formula is clear. This amendment gave the owners permission to build this behemoth, whose structure was never approved by the city's architecture department, and whose owner, Only Merriment, was subsequently re-registered as Atlantic Garden, Ltd.

According to the documents, the company was supposed to occupy 312+20, i.e. 332 square meters. But it's hard to say for sure how much of the park Atlantic Garden now occupies, since in the course of construction, the place expanded in all directions. The explanation for why Mayor Nazaryan was so generous is simple: The owner, Anush Ghazaryan (better known to the public as Kamvolny Anush or Pretty Anush) enjoys the protection of Minister for National Security Karlos Petrosyan.

A third site was given to Member of Parliament Levon Khachatryan, also by Mayor Robert Nazaryan. Once again, everything was officially registered. Khachatryan first got a 20-square-meter plot, which was later expanded. His café blocks part of the Opera House from Sayat-Nova Street . Two months ago we asked Yerevan 's chief architect, Narek Sargisyan, if there was any establishment in the vicinity of the Opera House that had been built in accordance with the design approved by the city's architecture department. His answer was, “No.”

The government has received grants to design an anti-corruption program, and the president has appointed an advisor to coordinate the fight. The land around the Opera House is the most obvious battlefield. But will they implement the national anti-corruption program here? Can they fight the owners of these cafés? Of course not.

“Unfortunately, the people with power in this city are above the law,” says Gohar Oganezova. “But they don't realize that they lose, too. We lose our city's environment, literally and figuratively. The only thing left to tell them is, take another look at the map. Then they'll see that there are still a few pieces of viable park land left, and those who haven't torn off a chunk yet still have a chance.”

In November 2003, two month before he was dismissed, Robert Nazaryan told the press that 99% of the cafés near the Opera House were illegal structures. “We did not approve these designs,” he said. But those were just words—none of the structures came down. Indeed, new ones have gone up. And the current mayor, Yervand Zakharyan, won't touch them, either, because of who the owners are.

When we asked Narek Sargisyan why he couldn't rein these people in, he said, “I try to do everything in my power, but there are too many senior officials in our government. They build these structures, and consider themselves to be above the law.”

The city's chief architect is clearly powerless against these people, and he doesn't name any names. But everybody knows which minister or state official owns which café in Yerevan 's green areas. The owners themselves proudly patronize their own cafés, although they prefer to officially register these establishments in the names of their mothers-in-law or other relatives.

The Association of Investigative Journalists has repeatedly tried and failed to view the mayoral decisions regarding land allocations from 1997 to 2003. Mayor Zakharyan has arbitrarily refused to provide us with this supposedly public information. We appealed to President Robert Kocharyan to intervene, also in vain. We have now taken the matter to court, in the hope that Mayor Zakharyan will be oblige to fulfill his duty to the public.

Edik Baghdasaryan
Special to TOL

Saturday, May 01, 2004


19 April 2004

Diaspora Armenians in Armenia condemn the government’s actions

Over the past few days, Diaspora Armenians who live and work in Armenia have been actively discussing the situation here at Madlene Minassian, Director for Public Relations and Events, Cafesjian Museum Foundation, Lena Majarian from International Executive Service Corps/Armenia (IESC/Armenia), Alex Sardar, Deputy Program Director, USAID/Armenia Legislative Strengthening Program, and Raffi Kojian, Outreach Coordinator , USAID/Armenia have expressed their views on the website. After reading their opinions, we contacted them to discuss the current political situation in Armenia and the recent violence against peaceful demonstrators. None of them, however, agreed to talk, saying that they would if they weren't embassy staff or if they knew their supervisors' opinions. So we have decided to present some excerpts from their writings as published on the web site ( Armenian life - online log), since it is an open forum and not a chat-room for members only.