Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Desert Nights - 2

[February 23, 2005]

Armenians in the Dubai sex trade

Ask any taxi-driver in Dubai where to find girls, and you'll get the same answer—Cyclone. That's where Marietta Musayelyan, a notorious madam from Etchmiadzin, sends her girls at night. Cyclone, the most popular nightclub in Dubai , was owned by Indians a year ago, but today, according to a local who preferred to remain anonymous, it belongs to two high-ranking officials from Dubai's Immigration Service and Police Department. It's hard to verify allegations like that in Dubai. In fact, it's hard to get any information at all from government agencies in the United Arab Emirates, especially for foreign journalists.

When the club closes at 3 a.m., hundreds of men and women pour into the street, and the choosing and bargaining begin. The air is thick with the delights of the sex trade and the English words “How much? How much?” Clients mostly want to know the price of an hour, or a night. Girls advertise their skills—different kinds of sex, twosomes, threesomes. A black woman points to her bottom and says to my colleague, Ara, “Look, it's great for sex.” A Chinese woman takes my hand and says she can give me a massage that will make me feel good. The johns are all different ages, from every walk of life. Sometimes expensive cars drive up, and selections are made from inside them. It's like an oriental bazaar, but the only things for sale are women's bodies, with men and women drunkenly haggling over the price.

O. G. was one of Marietta's girls, known at Cyclone by the name Baby. When Ara asked her in English the price for one night Baby giggled and said it was 1,000 drahms ($300), and one hour was 500 drahms. That was the sum total of her English.
O. G. turned 18 in December 2003. She was in Yerevan then, seven months pregnant. A month later, via Moscow, she was in Dubai . She had been sold to Marietta in Yerevan and delivered to Moscow by Sirushik and Nelli, who were paid $500.

“They kept seven of us in a third-floor apartment in a tall building in Moscow,” 19-year-old Suzy from Yerevan said. “We were met at the airport by a tall guy named Armen. When he took us to that apartment, another guy came. They called him Sevo. He was from Gavar. They took our passports, and six days later, they took us to Dubai with false Russian passports. Our dates of birth had been changed. Marietta came to the airport with a man. Later we found out his name – Armen Ghazaryan. They took us to an apartment, took away our passports, and we started working.”

“The doctor gave O.G. an injection and she had a miscarriage,” explained A. from Yerevan, a friend of O.G.'s. “When I asked her about it, she started to cry. She couldn't remember anything. When the baby came out she fainted. She said she didn't remember anything. O.G. went kind of crazy. She wasn't like that before.”

We first found out about O.G. three years ago, when we were working on an article about students at the Vardashen Special Educational Complex in Yerevan , an institution for troubled children. O.G. and her sister had ended up there because their parents had divorced and then each remarried, leaving the girls in the care of their grandparents, pensioners who could not provide for them. Some time later, O.G. fell into a recruiter's net.

These days, O.G. sends $100 a month to her 17-year-old sister, who finds shelter in Yerevan wherever she can. Her sister got pregnant young, too, and has a baby now.
“We stayed at that apartment for two months,” another one of Marietta 's girls said. “Then we moved to another place. Marietta said that the police had found out our address and we had to move. We were living near the Sheraton Hotel when Marietta left us and disappeared, with our passports, jewelry, and clothes.” The girl spent two months in jail after Marietta disappeared.

When she picks her girls, Marietta makes sure that they aren't from ordinary families; they don't have parents who will protect them. Her girls are orphans, or from very poor, socially insecure families. One girl, Eva Tovmasyan, is from the orphanage in Gavar. She stays with different Armenian girls in Dubai; she has no documents, and will end up in a police station before long.

Marietta Musayelyan herself was arrested by the Dubai police in 2000, and expelled from the UAE. She served a short sentence in Armenia, and then went back to business, first at home, and then in Dubai.

Last September, Marietta and her friend Armen took passports, jewelry, clothes, and money from the seven girls who were working for them at the time and left Dubai for Oman . From there they went to Russia , then to Armenia, where they are currently under arrest. After Marietta disappeared, three of her girls were taken to jail. O.G. was one of them. Six months pregnant, she miscarried in jail. Two of Marietta's girls are still in prison; the others are working in Dubai.

Marietta has been wanted by Interpol since 2003. It would be naïve to think that the United Arab Emirates Police or the local Interpol office didn't know that Marietta Musayelyan was in Dubai. Today we know the whereabouts of six Armenian women who are being sought by Interpol—we managed to find them in three visits to Dubai within one year. It would only take Dubai law enforcement a few days to find them and send them back to Armenia. They just don't want to.

Then why did Marietta Musayelyan and her boyfriend-bodyguard Armen Ghazaryan come back? A year ago Marietta 's son was arrested for bringing drugs to the UAE from Iran. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, which he is now serving. It is possible that Marietta is trying to somehow transfer her son to Armenia to serve his sentence here. Or perhaps that she's trying to get her name off Interpol. All she'll have to do is spend a couple of months in jail, just like last time. Armenian prosecutors only seek mild sentences for human trafficking.

Although the Criminal Code of Armenia has been amended to include an article (132) on trafficking, no one seems to be eager to implement it in Armenia yet. Even the most notorious madam, Nano, nicknamed “The Mother Pimp”, was never charged with trafficking. In 2004 Nano was sentenced to two years in prison (See also:“Mother pimp” gets two years in prison), which means that she'll be out soon, and back selling Armenian women in various Arab countries. The same fate awaits Marietta, whose case is to be heard soon.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Though Dubai is nothing more than a playground for the Gulf countries and it’s wealth comes from human and drug trafficking (probably weapons also, but we didn’t see any such activity), it has some great restaurants.

I wanted to share with you a couple of pictures from the restaurants, one of which was not all that great, but I wanted to post this picture so you can see that McDonald’s is very much alive in the UAE and has adapted to the local culture with their McArabia that comes in chicken or beef (kofta) but is NOT available in pork.

They also have KFC, Southern Fried Chicken (same as the one we have in central Yerevan), Pizza Hut, Starbucks, sushi. You name it, they got it.

And the markets are so downtown Glendale, California. They are stocked to the brim with American made products. Want Skippy’s peanut butter or Cheese-it’s? No problem.

The whole place was very familiar to me.

The favorite we had came from a Chinese restaurant that was close by one of the hotels we stayed in and had a great selection of seafood that was very fresh and very cheap (about $4 each).

My favorite was the sizzling octopus on an iron plate and Edik’s was the sizzling shrimp on an iron plate.

And in the tradition of the UAE, the place was loaded with Chinese prostitutes and their pimp who throughout the meal tried to solicit our business.
I posted the following article last year when we were in the early stages of our investigation of trafficking of Armenian women and children. Though it’s a long article, it’s worth the read to understand a year ago the opinions of various government officials and victims on this subject.

One opinion that stuck out at the time came from Minister of Justice of Armenia, Mr. David Harutunyan. I’ve bolded the paragraph with his statements so you can read for yourself what he had to say at the time, which was not in line with reality. In fact now that I think of it, the trial of 5 pimps last summer, that handed them very light sentences, you have to wonder if the Justice Minister is in fact capable of providing justice or not and for that reason elected to downplay the phenomenon of trafficking?

I would also like to note that when we started our investigation, we were under the impression that there were about 500 women and children engaged in prostitution in the UAE. When we returned from our last trip, that number we estimate is presently at about 2,000. I myself saw and photographed at least 200 of them and only was able to visit 6 of the many places they frequent (one of those places has 4 separate areas where the girls are found). Edik visited 3 or 4 places that I didn’t and reported that a good number of the prostitutes present were Armenian. We also have a list of hotels and clubs that the women we spoke with gave, which due to time, we were unable to visit. In short, the 2,000 person figure that we kept hearing I believe is a very real number and would defiantly justify calling this problem a phenomenon.

Trafficking In Armenia and the Struggle against It
AZG Daily #027

Trafficking as an evil is spread all over the world. Armenia is not an exception. What shape does it take, does it really exist and what are the steps to be taken to tackle it? Below you will find interviews with government officials and victims of trafficking.

Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Markaryan: “The phenomenon of trafficking does exist. In fact, it exists in every country and corresponds to the level of social welfare of the given country. It is two years that the Women’s Council within the office of the Prime Minister has been established. It is aimed at research and development of projects concerning trafficking issues. Although the scale of the problem is not large in our country, it really exists and is becoming obvious. We shouldn’t ignore it and say that there is no need to take steps to address trafficking. I would like to point out that the government’s Strategic Program of National Development for 2003-2015 includes studies on gender and trafficking issues. So great attention is paid to the phenomenon and it is certainly under control”.

In one of the regions in Armenia I had a chance to talk to a woman (for obvious reasons, I do not mention the place and the name) and tried to find out why she became a pimp and later a victim of trafficking. Ms. S. told me that her family of six had been deprived. Her husband left for Russia and she had no news from him. Her close friend urged her to make a living by prostitution and at first she received customers at home. One day she was invited to a party in Yerevan where she met people who promised her to help find a job abroad. 20 days later, leaving her children with her elderly mother and sister, she took a bus to Turkey. There she was met, taken to a hotel and the next day she was introduced to the employer as a waitress. Before she started work, they asked her to sign several documents. As she didn't know any foreign languages, she signed a contract agreeing to work for her employer for two years on the conditions set by the latter. She had 10 to14 clients a day. She was often beaten and humiliated. Once she tried to run away. She cut up a sheet, tied the pieces together and tried to climb out of the window but fell down from the seventh floor, breaking her arm and getting other injuries. Her employers helped her to recover but she was forced to sign another contract for five more years. Under this contract she was obliged to supply the employer with girls from Armenia. She had to send them to Turkey by bus. Otherwise she would have to pay 50.000 USD per year and, besides, she had to leave her two teenage daughters as hostages. Ms. S. thus became a pimp. Later she got the punishment she deserved. Now she swears that she will never do it again and is very unhappy because she was responsible for jeopardizing and ruining the future of her own daughters.

On October 14, 2002 the Prime Minister of Armenia passed resolution #591-A establishing an Inter-Departmental Committee aimed at tackling of trafficking in Armenia. The Committee included representatives of all the ministries and departments concerned with trafficking issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is responsible for coordinating the Committee’s activities. Valeri Mkrtumyan, Head of International Organizations Department in the MFA, says, “As a phenomenon, trafficking exists not just in Armenia and this region, but in all countries in transition. Trafficking is an evil and we have been fighting against it and will apply all possible means to continue fighting against it. Unfortunately, there has been no research that would help us deal with the problem, and I can hardly quote any data or any exact figures. One of our goals is to estimate the scope of trafficking in Armenia. In this respect, we only have progress in one direction. At least we know to which countries Armenian women are trafficked. They are Turkey, United Arabian Emirates and, to some extent, Greece and Holland… Presently the Committee is cooperating with all concerned agencies in those countries and in Armenia in creating a joint working group that will visit the countries where, according to our data, the trafficking phenomenon exists. The group will be conducting studies and will introduce the results to the Government.

My interview with the next victim of trafficking was a little more encouraging. K. learnt from her neighbor there was a big demand for nurses to look after elderly people in Turkey. She signed up in a queue, received a mall sum of money in Armenia, left three children and a disabled husband in the care of her relatives, got an air ticket from her future employers and left for Turkey with a group of seventeen women. On arriving in Turkey they were taken to a hotel. The next day the “employer” took away their passports. Then the women were forced to serve a client every 30 minutes. It may seem strange enough but most of the group agreed at once. They demanded that K either work for them during 3 years or pay a large sum of money. Only three months later, by pure chance, the police checked the hotel and found the women. They stamped their passports and exiled them from the country. K., who has a PhD degree in philology, is now in a state of depression, does not want to live and has made two attempts by poison herself. The second time, the doctors saved her life with great difficulty. The whole story came to light in the hospital when she was asked to explain the situation.

On the opinion of the Minister of Justice of Armenia, Mr. David Harutunyan, “the trafficking as a phenomenon does not exist. Perhaps there are separate cases but as a phenomenon, I think it does not exist. The criminal cases under prosecution are not sufficient ground to maintain that trafficking exists and has become a social phenomenon. There are some cases of trafficking. The perpetrators must be punished but it is too early to speak about it as a phenomenon. The US State Department has included Armenia in the list of countries where trafficking exists, based on publications in mass media. I think that trafficking as a phenomenon does not exist in Armenia.”

During one year Mrs. K sent five girls to Dubai to a hotel that belonged to a local friend of hers. All the girls agreed to go there and work as prostitutes. But the boyfriend of one of the girls learned about this and informed the police. When they were boarding their next flight, the police detained them but a day later they were released. Mrs K was arrested and sentenced to one year in jail. Mrs. K says “My friend in Dubai helped me with money and, as compensation, bought me a villa and a car. Now many mothers who have young daughters ask me to help them and send their daughters too. But now I do not take risk and I am afraid”.

On the opinion of the Chairmen of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs, Mr. Mher Shahgeldyan, “unfortunately, trafficking in Armenia exists and there are facts indicating this. There are also data indicating that underage homeless children are involved and are used in these activities. I have no facts about the trade in human organs. Now we pay serious attention to the problem of adopted children, we check the families that adopt the children and keep track of them while they grow up. We cannot declare today that such things do not exist, that women do not go abroad for prostitution, sometimes as a result of fraud. The problem seems to be rather serious where the Arabic Emirates and Turkey are concerned.”

Mr. G is currently under investigation for recruiting girls from several regions for prostitution. The girls ended up as victims of trafficking. I interviewed two girls who were sent back from the Arabic Emirates on their own wish. Their fates were almost identical. They were deceived and taken abroad. As they say, their so-called “boss” and a man who was with him were met by certain people both in the Yerevan and Dubai airports. They shook hands and the girls had the impression that both sides knew each other very well. The “boss” introduced the girls to those people, then collected the girls’ passports and handed them over to those people. Without any difficulties or queues, the girls passed customs and passport check-ups and boarded the plane. One girl says that “there was a very young girl of about 16-17 who boarded the plane without problems at the check-ups. Later we learned that her passport was false. Upon arriving to Dubai airport, she was met by Mrs.G and then turned over to three men, two Arabs and an Armenian, and they left. Since then we have not seen this pretty young girl. The room where we served clients was thoroughly guarded. After eight months I realized that I had lost my feminine identity. I behaved like robot and automatically did what I was supposed to do. Then I felt that I was getting weaker and asked to see a doctor. They refused. Three days later I could not leave my bed. I asked the chambermaid who brought me food to hand my short message to any Armenian she could find. I did not know any foreign languages and could only explain to her with gestures that I was dying and put the message into her pocket. A few hours later several men and doctors came in. They examined me and, shaking their heads, talked to each other in Arabic, then left some medicines and went away. A little later the Armenian boss and the Arab entered my room. They saw the medicines and got very angry. They took the medicines and left the room. A few minutes later they brought one of my old clients. All I can remember is that I began shouting and breaking everything around me. The guards broke into the room, tied my hands and started beating me. I don’t remember how long I was unconscious but when I could open my eyes I saw the maid who had brought the doctors. A few hours later my employer arrived and spoke to me in Armenian. I was astonished because I thought he was an Arab. I demanded that they send me back to Armenia but he answered that he was not going to fall to my tricks. Only with the help of some kind people were my friend and I able to come back to Armenia. Now I am handicapped and do not want to live. I beg you to do something to stop this and prevent other girls from sharing my fate”.

Mr. Rafael Gulnazaryan, Senior Assistant to the Prosecutor General of Armenia, says, “Trafficking certainly exists in Armenia. The situation here is by far better that in the neighboring countries. If only the corresponding agencies had known earlier about trafficking! Now everybody knows about it. During the past six months, public organizations have become more informed; by now at least one third of them is aware of the issue. All the possible measures are taken to reveal the cases. The Fourth Police Department, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, National Security, Border Guard and all the law-enforcement agencies in general are concerned with this issue and cooperate with each other in this field. First of all, this work is done by experts from the Fourth Police Department who are specially trained in this field. The level of trafficking in Armenia is the lowest in all CIS countries. People from different countries run prostitution businesses that occupy entire streets. According to police data, trafficking exists in Armenia and has become evident in 1996. Earlier, in 1994-1995, there had been only separate cases. Public interest in this phenomenon arose only recently. Now public awareness has risen and there is an opinion that the issue was not dealt with before and that law enforcement agencies only just started to address this problem. This is not true and we have always been concerned with this issue even before it started to be called ‘trafficking’ in 1998, and, undoubtedly, law-enforcement bodies did deal with it. At present there are numerous cases under investigation, under prosecution, cases of trafficking prevention and solved cases, sentenced perpetrators. In few words, these cases always existed and are at various stages of solving. Besides, the number of cases does not necessarily correspond to the number of victims. Whatever the punishment, it is important that the crime be punished and the punishment be inevitable.

The behavior of the next interviewee astonished me. It was a woman who had worked as a prostitute for seven years, starting from the age of sixteen. She started to receive clients in her own home, then moved to Dubai. Twice a year she visited Armenia and gave her friends addresses where they could apply for the job of prostitute. According to her, “very few people have the ability to learn this ancient profession. While I am in demand and well-paid, and have my own clients, I’ll be able to create good prospects for myself, I’ll get rich and then I’ll marry an old man and will enjoy myself and do whatever I want. Do you mind my talking like this? I’m not ashamed of anything or anyone. This is a job and I learnt to do it well. I am very skilled in my profession. If you wish, you can come with me and see for yourself who visits me while I am in Yerevan. Many people are ready to break into my house and beg me to stay a little longer in Yerevan. But abroad they pay better. The people here are not so advanced and do not demand much. Well, this is enough, I’m wasting my time. My pals have been waiting for me the car for half an hour”. I felt demoralized and very uncomfortable and came back to Yerevan. On the way home I had an argument with my husband who was angry with me that I had tried so hard to find Anahit, that terrible woman, and allowed her to belittle me in front of him by saying that if I were a little younger she would have taken me with her.

Two years ago the Chairman of the Parliamentary Permanent Commission on State Law, Mr. Viktor Dallakyan, after getting acquainted with the problem, proposed a law that became the basis for introducing a provision on trafficking and its regulation. I interviewed Mr. Dallakyan and this is what he said: “This phenomenon exists in Armenia. Research shows that its scope is not large. This is a result of the difficult socio-economic situation in the country, poverty and unemployment. In order to solve this problem we thus needn’t worry so much about the results but need to exterminate the causes of trafficking. There problem has other aspects - moral and legal, plus scarcely any public awareness or media coverage. We also need to improve our laws. In particular, in the law we have a provision concerning this problem and setting a punishment for trafficking but we need to enforce a separate stricter law concerning crimes of this kind. I received proposals to this effect from corresponding organizations in the USA. There is a separate law concerning the problem of trafficking in the legislation of the USA. At present we are working on the draft of such a law and we are studying the experience and legislation of other countries. I think that enacting a separate law could provide proper grounds for addressing the issue.

I am thankful to the Education and Culture Office of the State Department of the USA for their support of my work on the article and my studies that included interviews with the victims of trafficking.

By Marieta Makaryan

CAIA is proud to announce a book event for "My Brother's Road" the long-awaited biography of Armenian national hero Monte "Avo" Melkonian 2:00 pm Sunday February 27, at: Monte Melkonian Hall, Hayashen 105a Mill Hill Road - Acton London W3 8JF. The author, Markar Melkonian, will read from the book and sign copies. Refreshments available.
I guess I really don’t get this one. What is the point of calling the ARF for “dialogue” with Turkey? It sounds to me to be another probing by Turkey and it’s supporters to weaken the leading and most politically active Armenian organization. If I was the ARF, I would decline the offer and send my list of desires for normalization of relations. If they can’t comprehend the list (which a normal person should be able to, but until now, Turkey had made it a point not to), then the communicative problem is theirs.

Tue, 22 Feb 2005

* Soyak calls Dashnaktsoutiun to Turkey for dialogue
* Describes the party and its leaders as very serious and sensible with a negative image in Turkey.

Turkish businessman Kaan Soyak, called on the ARF Dashnaktsoutiun on Monday to engage in "dialogue" with Turkey.

"I seriously invite them to Turkey for a dialogue. If Dashnaktsoutiun agrees to engage in a dialogue with Turkey, I promise you that I will do my best to organize it," Kaan Soyak, one of the two co-chairmen of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council (TABC), told a news conference in Yerevan.

Soyak failed to elaborate about the subject of his proposed talks, saying only that they could yield "serious results." He also said he thinks Dashnaktsoutiun is not as fiercely anti-Turkish as many Turks believe.

"In Turkey, the Dashnaktsoutiun party has a negative image," Soyak said. "But if you ask for my opinion, I would describe the party and its leaders as very serious and sensible."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a log about life in Martuni and have not done so since I really have not been in Martuni for almost a month.

First I would like to say that I’m really, really, really, REALLY GLAD TO BE HOME!!!!!

If you didn’t figure it out from the story I posted about trafficking to Dubai, I’ve been involved in a HETQ investigation on trafficking of Armenian women and children to the UAE.

The investigation has been going on for over a year now and this last trip to the UAE was suppose to be for only a week, but due to so many new leads to follow and then being detected by the mafia that runs this trafficking ring, my extended stay after sending off the rest of the team, turned into an even longer stay so I could participate in a game of hide and seek with a mafia that has a lot to loose and I’m guessing wanted to “talk” to me to see what we knew about them.

In short, I really am a very luck person and will leave the rest of this story for a book that I’m now writing on this subject.

As for the overall investigation, I will not be reporting much on it, as it is a very sensitive and controversial subject that I’ve elected to let Edik spoon feed the reading public so that it is reported in a way that we see a maximum yield and those that need to be punished and those that need to be liberated from the hell they are living will get what they have coming.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who helped this investigation with information and monetary support. Without you all, it would have taken much longer and been much more dangerous and time consuming for us.

And to be transparent, I would also like to acknowledge those persons and organizations who recognized the importance of this work and pledged to help, but in the end for various reasons withdrew their offers. I will in the future give you all an opportunity to redeem yourselves on an upcoming project, which will need much greater support and have an even bigger positive impact on Armenian society.

Anyway, it really does feel good to be home.
I just got of the phone with Hagop Bedrossian, who called me from Los Angeles with some great news I want to share with you.

It seems that Hagop and Yelena (his fiancé and now wife) got married yesterday in a little Armenian Church in Hollywood.

The intimate ceremony was attended by 30 of his family members and close friends.

Of course I being the one who introduced Hagop to Yelena here in Martuni a couple of years ago, was the first person on Hagop’s list of people to call to inform of their union.

Hagop and Yelena, I am very happy for you and wish for you to grow old on the same pillow and have many, many children and a very happy life. Congratulations on your union!!!

Monday, February 21, 2005

By Emil Danielyan

The Armenian authorities have been under domestic pressure in recent weeks to end what many see as the virtual impunity enjoyed by the country's tiny class of millionaire businessmen with close government ties. The Armenian version of post-Soviet "oligarchs" are widely hated -- and feared -- for their utter disregard of laws and conspicuous wealth that contrasts with the country's widespread poverty.

The ruling regime has heavily relied on the oligarchs to manipulate elections and bully its political opponents, making it doubtful that any serious action will be taken to rein them in.

Still, the authorities had to do something after a late-night gunfight in a Yerevan suburb on February 4 between two criminal groups left at least one person dead and several others seriously wounded. It was the most massive shootout reported in the Armenian capital in a decade, involving, according to newspaper reports, hundreds of gunmen. Some of them were said to be personal bodyguards of several of the oligarchs who hold seats in parliament.

The incident reportedly stemmed from a dispute over control of a local minibus service, a highly lucrative business activity that is the exclusive domain of senior government officials, their cronies, and loyal businessmen. It seems to have raised President Robert Kocharian's eyebrows, with police making dozens of arrests and confiscating large quantities of weapons. Yet the key question of whose business interests were behind the mafia-style clash remains unanswered.

Local newspapers were quick to draw grim conclusions. "Much of the political power in Armenia is concentrated in the hands of criminal business . . . and illegal armed groups belonging to it," the pro-opposition daily Aravot wrote on February 9. Golos Armenii, a paper that staunchly backed Kocharian during the last presidential election two years ago, was even more outspoken: "The semi-presidential form of governance in Armenia is coming to an end and will be replaced by absolute oligarchy, the rule of a few individuals . . . The executive and legislative branches are, in essence, already intertwined with the oligarchs and controlled by the latter."

Armenian tycoons are typically individuals with a high school-level education who made fast money during the turbulent 1990s and now have extensive business interests dependent on government support. For example, one of them, Samvel Aleksanian, enjoys a de facto monopoly on imports of sugar and flour to Armenia, while Russian citizen Mikhail Baghdasarov has the exclusive grip on fuel supplies. Both men are believed to operate under the "tutelage" of Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian, Kocharian's most trusted lieutenant.

The oligarchs like to flaunt their wealth, living in ridiculously big villas and roaming the streets in motorcades made up of several SUVs with almost identical license plates. Many Armenians would agree that traffic lights are essentially non-existent for them.

In fact, just one week before the infamous shootout, one such behemoth, the hugely expensive civilian version of the U.S. army's Humvee vehicles, crashed into three other cars on a busy street intersection near downtown Yerevan at a high speed, killing two people, and injuring several others. The police have reported no arrests so far and are reluctant to name the Hummer's real owner. There are only 11 such cars in Armenia.

What makes the oligarchs particularly important for the regime is the fact that they usually hold sway in a particular area of the country through their businesses and local quasi-criminal elements. They are able to bribe and intimidate local voters and resort to other election falsification techniques. Ballot box stuffing was commonplace during the 2003 presidential election, which Western observers described as undemocratic. But the criticism did not prevent many tycoons from themselves getting "elected" during the equally disputed parliamentary polls held a few months later.

Another common feature of the Armenian super-rich is the burly and mostly unarmed "bodyguards" that accompany them at every turn. The men's most visible characteristic, a shaven head or a short haircut, has brought a new political meaning to the word "skinhead" in Armenia.

The authorities needed their services last spring when the Armenian opposition tried unsuccessfully to force Kocharian to resign with a campaign of street protests. Scores of riot police stood by and watched as two dozen well-built thugs smashed photojournalists' cameras after trying to disrupt an opposition rally in Yerevan on April 5, 2004. Opinion differed only on which powerful individual employed them.

Two of the assailants subsequently received a slap on the wrist when a Yerevan court fined them after a parody of a trial. One of the defendants was also a key participant in the February 4 gunfight, according to media reports. This man is now reportedly under arrest pending trial. His possible imprisonment would touch only the tip of the iceberg, however, as none of the big fish is likely to end up behind bars.

"Everybody is scared," Golos Armenii noted alarmingly. "The oligarchy controls everything and as the [next] elections approach it will increasingly tighten its stranglehold on political forces in order to avoid surprise developments."

(Golos Armenii, February 12; Haykakan Zhamanak, February 12; Aravot, February 9).

Friday, February 18, 2005


Feb 16 2005

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 16, ARMENPRESS: Prosecutors of Armenia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to create a joint task force to draft an intergovernmental legal assistant pact. The agreement was reached when a delegation of the Armenian prosecutor's office was visiting the UAE earlier this month.

Armenian prosecutor's office told Armenpress that members of the delegation had a series of meetings with their UAE counterparts to focus on how to track down and call to account persons engaged in trafficking in human beings, illegal migration and pimping.

According to the Armenian prosecutor's office, 7 of 9 criminal cases launched against people engaged in pimping involved 22 Armenian pimps working in the UAE. According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) findings, Armenia is a country of origin for women and children who are trafficked primarily into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Desert Nights

Hetq has been investigating the problem of trafficking in Armenian women for more than a year now, trying to find out how these women get into the United Arab Emirates, what forces them to take this path and engage in prostitution, who runs this business in Armenia and the UAE and why they are not punished, and what steps law enforcement agencies in Armenia and the United Arab Emirates have taken to stop human trafficking. Our investigative team will provide some answers to these questions in a series of articles and in a video film entitled Desert Nights. The first article appears below.

A Pakistani cab driver answered our questions. Cab drivers are a great source of information. They know a lot. They know where the women stand. They even know their nationality. They can tell you where to find Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Armenian women or girls less than 18 years old.

They can recommend the best nightclubs. Cab drivers in Dubai —mainly Pakistanis and Indians—can tell you about the sheikh and his family, their palaces and businesses.

We were in a residential district in Dubai where we had been told the cheapest Armenian prostitutes could be found. There were Chinese, Russian, Uzbek, and Armenian women waiting for clients in the doorways of the buildings. Men were making their choices, haggling, and when an agreement was reached, going upstairs into apartment-brothels. Of course, the authorities and the police in Dubai know that there are hundreds of these apartments here.

The clientele of these inexpensive prostitutes are Pakistanis, Iranians, Indians, and Arabs from neighboring countries who work in Dubai . They spend only five, ten, or fifteen minutes in the rooms, and pay $10, $15, or $20 maximum. A prostitute can have dozens of clients each day.

Most of the women working here are unkempt, semi-literate, crude.

We got out of the cab and, pretending to be tourists, struck up a conversation with three of them.

“Are you Armenian?” we asked.
“What are you doing here?”
“What should we be doing? We're wandering around like stray dogs.”
We asked them to go upstairs to talk. They didn't know it, but we were filming everything for our documentary. We will not show their faces or print their pictures since many of them are married and have children. Most of their families are unaware that they are working as prostitutes in Dubai.

Only one of the six women in the apartment was from Yerevan . The others were from small towns and villages in Armenia.

We introduced ourselves as Armenians from the United States visiting Dubai . We said two of us were originally from Armenia , and the third was Armenian-American by birth.

The street women cannot abandon their places on the street for long. Their “boss”, as one of them put it, drives by in a cab five or six times a day to see whether they are in their spots or not. A woman named Anush supervises the six Armenian women in this apartment.

“How many clients do you have a day?” we asked.
“Who knows?” Anush said.
“Isn't it dangerous?”
“No, we know the men who come here.”
“Are there many women from Armenia in Dubai?”
“All of Armenia is here,” Nara from Jermuk replied.

After a while we showed them a picture of a 17-year-old girl, saying that she was a friend of ours and we were looking for her.

Nara told us, “The deal is, no one can force you. If you want to, you do this work. If you don't, you go to the police station and tell them. I've been in Dubai for six years now. If you think we came here because of financial problems, you're wrong.”

“Then why did you come?” we asked.

“I had to come, so I came. Now I have everything – money, gold, apartments in Dubai and Yerevan. No one can say anything to me.”

Then the women told us how we could find our friend from the picture, which discotheques and nightclubs we should look for her in.

Four of the women said they had come to Dubai voluntarily. The other two had been tricked into coming. These two didn't say a word throughout our entire conversation. And as we spoke, prostitutes and their clients were coming and going in other rooms of the apartment. Our presence didn't disturb them at all.

As we were saying goodbye, the to silent women told us how they had been deceived into coming to Dubai . “I was told that I was going to Bulgaria to work in a flower shop,” one of them, who was from Masis, told us. “Then they brought me here from Moscow . I'm married and I have two children. I've been here for a year now and my husband thinks I'm in Bulgaria . I send money home. Sometimes I talk to my kids on the phone. What can I do? I don't know what's going to happen in the end.”

Outside, they told us to get into a cab quickly, or the police might arrest them.

We drove off for a meeting with Marietta , the most famous madam in Dubai today.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Dubai, July 2004

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Note: The following is based on Armenia having 3.75 million people. Since Armenia probably has about half that amount, the figures given should be twice as much. It should also be noted that the figures are for "extremely poor" and that 80%+ of the population in Western terms are poor.


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 11. ARMINFO. Only 7.3% of Armenian citizens are extremely poor says the head of the social assistance department of Armenia's Labour and Social Security Ministry Astgik Minasyan.

These are people scoring 41.01 and more points of eligibility for poverty allowance. The families with such an index will get 6,000 AMD + 4,000 per child in Mar 2005, while families living in highlands and borderline regions will get 4,500 AMD. Large families - 6 children or more - will get 22,000-24,000 AMD.

The families scoring 38.01-41 points will get 6,000 AMD + 3,500 AMD per child and 4,000 AMD for highland and borderline region residents. 34 or less point scorers will get 6,000 AMD plus 3,000 AMD and 3,500 AMD respectively. This year the beneficiary families with a new born child will get 70,000 AMD instead of 35,000 AMD. The additional 35,000 AMD can be received at office or regional social services.

Last year 135,000 families got poverty benefits. Some 20 bln AMD has budgeted to this end this year against 16 bln AMD last year.
Karabakh leader names new deputy police chief

Arminfo, Yerevan
11 Feb 05

Stepanakert , 11 February: The president of the Nagornyy Karabakh Republic [NKR], Arkadiy Gukasyan, has signed a decree appointing Col Sergey Grigoryan to the post of deputy chief of the NKR Police, the press service of the NKR president has told Arminfo news agency.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

California Courier Online, February 10, 2005

TARC Moderator's Book Reveals Initiative's Anti-Armenian Intent

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

David Phillips, the moderator of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation commission, is about to publish a book that discloses the true motives of those who initiated and supported TARC.

Based on an advanced copy of Phillips's book, "Unsilencing the Past: Track Two Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation," analyst Emil Danielyan wrote two lengthy reports last week for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Here are some of the highlights of Phillips's interesting revelations, as reported by Danielyan:

-- Phillips confirms that the US government was the driving force behind TARC. The idea was suggested to him by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, the number three figure in the State Department under the Clinton and Bush administrations. TARC held its first meeting in Vienna in early 2001.

-- Phillips acknowledges that the State Department provided "some of TARC's direct costs." All of the sources of TARC's funds and their uses have not been made public.

-- Phillips accuses Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian of reneging on his pledge to support TARC. Apparently, he would have preferred that Oskanian continue backing TARC, even after it became clear that TARC was a clever ploy to undermine the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

-- Phillips bitterly complains: "Instead of standing by its commitments, the Kocharian government ran for cover." This made Phillips so furious that he slammed the Kocharian regime in an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal by calling it "corrupt and inept," and accusing Pres. Kocharian of "running a mafia state."

-- Phillips attributes Oskanian's change of mind on TARC to criticism from Armenian "nationalist circles." Once TARC's anti-Armenian intent became clear, just about everyone in Armenia and the Diaspora opposed this sinister initiative. Shortly after TARC's creation, one of its Turkish members, Ozdem Sanberk, even gave an interview acknowledging that the purpose of this initiative was to block the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

-- Gunduz Aktan, a Turkish member of TARC, who repeatedly and aggressively denies the Armenian Genocide, put his foot in his mouth by suggesting that an independent panel of experts review the facts of the Genocide. TARC engaged the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) for that purpose. Aktan boasted that he would "destroy" the ICTJ experts with his legal arguments during his testimony. Phillips says that Aktan appeared "nervous" after making his presentation. Aktan had good reason to be nervous. The ICTJ qualified the events of 1915 as genocide.

-- Trying to give importance to his own efforts, Phillips claims that
Turkey came within an inch of opening its border with Armenia in the summer of 2003. Showing his political naiveté, Phillips says in his book: "I had hoped that Ankara would quietly open its border sometime during the dead of summer, when everyone was on holiday and not paying attention."

-- Phillips writes that when Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul came to Washington in July 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reminded him at every meeting that "the issue of genocide recognition was not going away. He was told that real progress was the best way of deflecting pressure." Not surprisingly, the US officials' real intent for pressuring Turkey into opening its border with Armenia was not the improvement of Armenia's economy, but the removal of the nettlesome Armenian Genocide issue from the agenda of the Congress.

-- As further evidence of the sinister intent of the Bush Administration, Phillips writes that Vice President Cheney personally intervened by lobbying against a congressional resolution that barely mentioned the Armenian Genocide. "Cheney worked the phones and was assured by [House Speaker] Dennis Hastert that [the resolution] would be kept from the House floor," Phillips says.

-- In an interesting revelation, Phillips reports that Pres. Kocharian was highly infuriated when the Armenian Genocide resolution was blocked by Pres. Clinton and Speaker Hastert. A month later, when Pres. Kocharian received Stephen Sestanovich, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, the Armenian President was "in a foul mood and railed against Clinton's betrayal," Phillips says. This is yet another indication that Armenian officials, not just the Diaspora, care deeply about the Genocide issue.

-- Phillips reveals that he helped arrange the controversial February 2001 interview between Pres. Kocharian and prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand that "helped mollify [Turkish] concerns about Armenia's intentions." Apparently, Phillips promised Pres. Kocharian that should he make conciliatory statements during the interview, the Turks would then open the border with Armenia. Pres. Kocharian kept his end of the bargain. Phillips did not or could not, since the border remained closed!

-- Phillips wrongly blames "Armenian nationalists" for both of his failures - inability to have Turkey lift its blockade of Armenia and collapse of the reconciliation efforts. Phillips refuses to acknowledge that his profound ignorance of Armenian-Turkish issues played a much greater role in his failures than anything said or done by so-called Armenian nationalists. More on Phillips's escapades, once we get hold of his book!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Here is some great news to share with you and another example of what a very small number of people can do to make needed change by bringing to light a problem that needs to be addressed. The lesson learned here is if you bring something to the public eye, as Edik and Onnik did, those who are in the job of dealing with such issues can no long igonore it as they have been. Bravo Edik, Onnik and all the people who worked to bring to public attention this issue.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
10 February 2005

Government To Open First Shelter For Armenia’s Homeless

By Atom Markarian and Emil Danielyan

The government announced on Thursday plans to open and finance Armenia’s first-ever shelter for a growing number of homeless people that were virtually non-existent in the past.

“We will try to find a building for such an institution and hire personnel that will provide social, psychological and other assistance to this kind of people,” Labor and Social Affairs Minister Aghvan Vartanian told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“We will be able to place them there, to give them some assistance,” he said. “To put it more simply, we will wash, dress and treat them.”

Vartanian said the shelters will house not only individuals that have nowhere to live but also victims of domestic violence. He did not elaborate on time frames and financial details of the scheme, saying only that it stems from a draft law on social support which the government will submit to parliament this month.

Homelessness is a relatively new but increasingly visible phenomenon in Armenia and Yerevan in particular. Seeing people scavenging for food or sleeping on the street in the city center was hardly possible just a few years. The Armenian government, including Vartanian’s ministry, as well as international relief organizations present in Armenia have not dealt with the problem until now.

So far it has been largely highlighted by occasional media reports. The most recent and in-depth of them came from Edik Baghdasarian, a prominent investigative journalist who edits the online publication. Baghdasarian and Hetq photojournalist Onnik Krikorian spent several weeks interviewing the homeless and even helping some of them bathe and receive medical treatment.

Baghdasarian also found that at least 30 homeless people have died on the streets of Yerevan this winter, the coldest in years.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

New additions at Gurgen Margaryan's web site

Added the English translation of the transcription of Ramil Safarov's first interrogation. Later he rejected the evidence given by himself claming there was a miscommunication between him and the interpreter. However, the transcript provides an inside look into the mind of the Azerbaijani killer and proves that for the Armenians of Karabakh there could be no "happy everafter" with neighbors like those. Safarov's revelations clearly show the traces of hate that is injected by official propaganda into Azerbaijanis on daily basis.

Also available an account by a Hungarian eye-witness, Gurgen Margaryan's roommate:

If you find it appropriate, please forward these information to your non-Armenian friends, especially from media (any media).

Help break the silence!
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
8 February 2005

January Inflation Adds Strain To Family Budgets

By Heghine Buniatian

Key consumer prices in Armenia jumped by 5.4 percent last month, by far exceeding an inflation rate forecast by the government and the Central Bank for the entire year, officials said on Tuesday.

Gurgen Martirosian, a senior official at the National Statistical Service, told RFE/RL that the January inflation was pushed up by an 8.4 percent surge in prices of basic food products that account for the biggest share of household expenditures in the country.

The price increase calls into question the Armenian authorities’ pledge to keep the inflation rate within a 2.5 percent limit in 2005. They hope that it will be offset by seasonal deflation which traditionally happens in Armenia in the summer and early autumn.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, the chairman of Armenia’s Central Bank, Tigran Sarkisian, said the inflation averaged 7 percent last year and remains under control. Martirosian clarified that the food prices were 11 percent up from the 2003 levels, with bread and other wheat products alone costing 20 percent more.

Many Armenians, however, feel that the cost of life has been growing more rapidly than is shown by official statistics. “Many things are now twice as expensive,” said one woman as she shopped in a grocery store. “I remember, for example, buying a chicken for 700 drams ($1.5). Now you have to pay 1,500 drams. Meat cost 900 drams last year but is worth 1,500 drams this year. People’s salaries haven’t grown that much, have they?”

“We could make our ends meet with 100 dollars a year ago, but it’s not enough anymore,” agreed another Yerevan resident. “Everything is now more expensive: potatoes, onions, milk and other products.”

The price hikes have come amid a dramatic appreciation of the national currency, the dram, against the U.S. dollar and the euro since the beginning of 2004. A large part of foods sold in the Armenian market are imported from abroad and should have presumably been made cheaper.

Commenting on this paradox in a newspaper interview last week, the executive director of the Armenian Bank Association, Vladimir Badalian, indicated that lucrative food imports have effectively been monopolized by a small group of wealthy local businessmen.
RFE / RL Press Review
8 February 2005

The only revolution which is taking place in Armenia is a criminal one, “Iravunk” writes in a separate editorial, referring to increased instances of high-profile gunfights in Yerevan. “What happens now is nothing but a process which took place in the entire CIS territory in the early 1990s. Namely, a savage and criminalized re-distribution of property.” The paper claims that the Armenian authorities are no longer able to hold loyal criminal “clans” in check. In fact, it adds, they have become hostages of that “criminal conglomerate.”

“Hayots Ashkhar” reports on rumors that individuals close to some high-level officials were involved in Friday’s gang shootout in Yerevan. Whispers mention the names of tycoon Gagik Tsarukian, the prefect of Yerevan’s Kentron district, Gagik Beglarian, General Seyran Saroyan and “some old and new deputies.” “In reality, the number of participants and wounded persons is higher and it remains to be seen whether this case will be solved or our law-enforcement officials will simply cover it up.”

“Haykakan Zhamanak” comments that Rafael Shahmuradian, the owner of the Armenia-Lada car dealership who was assassinated in Russia, was among few wealthy businessmen in Armenia who operated without a government “tutelage” and “did not even hide his discontent with the current authorities.” “Nonetheless, he did not meddle in politics at all and was trying to stay solely in the business field.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
7 February 2005

Armenians Denied Free Healthcare As Corruption Remains Norm

By Nane Atshemian

Public healthcare, which is only partly subsidized by the state, remains effectively off limits to the majority of Armenia’s population hamstrung by poverty and especially rampant corruption among medical personnel.

Government research, backed up by anecdotal evidence, indicates that most Armenians suffering from various illnesses continue to turn to doctors as a last resort, when hospitalization becomes their only chance of survival.

The thriving practice of informal payments at virtually every government-funded hospital or policlinic means they remain reluctant to seek even those medical services that are officially free of charge. According to the most recent household survey conducted by the National Statistical Service in 2003, only one in three people with health problems visit a medical facility.

Government officials admit that the Soviet-era policlinics, which are responsible for prophylactic treatment of virtually all diseases, still operate at a fraction of their capacity. Random polling on the streets of Yerevan helps to understand why.

“I try not to use their services,” said one middle-aged woman. “Why? Because of the money. I don’t want to spend any extra money.”

“I can state for sure that nothing is free of charge there,” said an elderly man. “Even if you are a pensioner, a disabled person or a war veteran, they still extort payments from you. They don’t do anything without money.”

However, there are a number of policlinic services, mostly medical check-ups and consultations, which are subsidized by the stated and are therefore supposed to be free charge. The list of those services is even longer for socially vulnerable groups of the population. Patients are either unaware of that or, more likely, forced to make informal payments to doctors and other medical personnel.

The de facto bribes range from 1,000 to 50,000 drams ($100) or even higher. They go up sharply after hospitalization.

Ruzanna Yuzbashian, who heads the prophylactic department at the Armenian Ministry of Health Care, does not deny that the illegal practice is widespread. “I don’t know how much they pay,” she told RFE/RL. “Medical institutions are limited liability companies and they agree the amount of their fees with their founders. But I can assure you that specialized policlinic consultations are much cheaper than
hospital services.”

So far there have been no reported cases of doctors or other medical staff prosecuted on corruption charges. Some Western donor agencies implementing social projects in Armenia have suggested that the authorities tackle the problem by setting up a special telephone hotline for victims of healthcare bribery. The Health Ministry does not seem to like the idea, though.

Yuzbashian added that policlinic budgets will grow considerably this year in line with a 32 percent surge in government spending on healthcare which is projected to reach 32.3 billion drams ($68 million). She said that individuals above the age of 65 will be exempted from all policlinic payments as a result.

It remains to be seen whether elderly Armenians will enjoy the exemption in practice. With medical sector corruption continuing unabated, omens are not quite encouraging.

Children under the age of 7 as well as pregnant women, for example, have long been entitled to 100 percent free healthcare, including operations. “Services relating to pregnancy, delivery, post-birth care are totally covered by the state budget regardless of the age and social status of patients,” said Karine Saribekian, head of the Health Ministry’s maternity care center.

Yet Armenia’s maternity hospitals are among the most corrupt in the country. Having a child in Yerevan typically costs parents at least $200, a big sum by Armenian standards. As one young woman who gave birth recently put it, “The sum depends on whether you are treated by a [medical] professor or an ordinary doctor.”
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
7 February 2005

Prominent Armenian Businessman Slain In Russia

By Karine Kalantarian

The owner of Armenia’s largest car dealership has been shot dead in Russia less than nine months after surviving an apparent assassination attempt in Yerevan, law-enforcement sources told RFE/RL on Monday.

Rafael Shahmuradian of the Armenia-Lada company was said to have been murdered at the weekend in the central Russian city of Tolyati, which is home to Russia’s biggest car factory built in Soviet times. Armenia-Lada specializes in sales of cars manufactured there.

No other circumstances of the incident were immediately known.

Shahmuradian was already a target of apparent assassination last May when his car came under fire in broad daylight in Yerevan. He was lightly wounded and hospitalized.

Shahmuradian blamed the shooting on Armenia’s Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian who also owns a company selling Russian cars. Manukian strongly denied the charges.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
7 February 2005

Three Men Arrested After Deadly Shootout In Yerevan

By Karine Kalantarian

Armenian prosecutors announced on Monday the arrest of three unidentified men suspected of taking part in a late-night gunfight in Yerevan that left one person dead and two others seriously wounded.

The spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Gurgen Ambarian, refused to identify the suspects and comment on rumors that the shootout stemmed from a dispute between two influential business clans.

The deadly incident occurred late on Friday in the city’s southern outskirts mainly occupied by Soviet-era idle factories. Television pictures from the scene showed a bullet-holed car and spent cartridges strewn on the ground. More than a dozen cars were reportedly parked in the deserted area when the gunfire erupted.

Police said three young men were rushed to a nearby hospital as a result. One of them, aged 30, died shortly afterward, while the two others were reported to remain in a critical condition on Monday.

A spokesman for the national Police Service, Zarzand Gabrielian, told RFE/RL that two participants of the shootout turned themselves in at the weekend. He said one of the men surrendered a Kalashnikov rifle and a pistol. It was not clear if they were among the detainees mentioned by the prosecutors’ spokesman.

Gabrielian revealed that investigators searched the apartment of the murdered man and found an arsenal of firearms and ammunition, including eight Kalashnikovs. He added that the law-enforcement authorities have already “ascertained the circle of participants of the crime” and conducted “explanatory work with their relatives.” But he declined to give further details of the case.

Yerevan, meanwhile, was rife with speculation that the high-profile shooting was the result of a bitter business dispute between wealthy government-connected individuals. The name of Gagik Tsarukian, one of Armenia’s richest men, was the most frequently mentioned one. However, an aide to Tsarukian strongly denied that the tycoon close to President Robert Kocharian or his relatives had any involvement.

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 7. ARMINFO. The law-enforcement bodies of Armenia have identified the persons of the suspects in bloody quarrel in Yerevan last Friday. The press service of the Armenian Police informs ARMINFO that measures for search and detention of these persons are taken. They are not named within the interests of the investigation.

As it was reported earlier, Friday, approximately at 20:45 the Medical Center Erebuni informed that three young men had been taken there wounded by firearms. An operative group arrived in the place and determined that Armen Khachatryan (1970), Tigran Nazaryan (1975) and Mher Ter-Haroutiunyan (1974, who died in hospital) were wounded the same day during a fire, which took place at 20:30 in the crossroad of
Artsakh and Arin-Berd streets. A submachine gun AK-74 was found in the salon of the BMW, which had brought them to hospital. Shells of 7.62 and 5.45 calibers were found in the place of the event. A joint operative and investigation group has been formed from the employees of the Police and the Prosecutor's Office. The circumstances are ascertained. Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office is engaged in the investigation.

Witnesses say that representatives of two groupings participated in the quarrel. Many cars, including a Mercedes-124 with state number plate 07 OS 019 and two VAZ automobiles with number plates 77 ll 015 and 55 SU 011, were noticed in the place of the slaughter. According to unconfirmed information, the first one bears relation to one of the Armenian MPs.
A1 Plus | 13:52:51 | 07-02-2005 | Social |


Rafael Shahmouradyan, the President of «Armenia-Lada», was killed in Tolyati, Russia. It might be useful to remind that on May 24 last year Shahmouradyan's life was made an attempt on. He was shot from a car of «NIVA» mark.

Rafael Shahmouradyan, whose survival was like a miracle, said after coming to his senses that he had serious doubts that the organizer of the attempt was Andranik Manoukyan, RA Minister of Transportation and stockholder of «Armenia-Lada». On June 2 last year Andranik Manoukyan had said in an interview to the newspaper "Aravot", "The accusation has no connection to the reality".

Monday, February 07, 2005

3401 Olivar-Asselin
Montréal, Québec
H4J 1L5
Tél. (514) 334-1299 Fax (514) 334-6853

06 February 2005


Shant Karabajak 514-334-1299
Roupen Kouyoumdjian 514-336-7095
Aris Babikian 416-497-8972

"CBC Radio Provides Platform to Armenian Genocide Deniers": Canadian Armenian Leaders

Montréal, Feb. 6 - The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)demonstrated a lack of judgment when it failed to invite representatives of the Canadian-Armenian community to its Feb. 6 Sunday Edition radio program where following the discussion of a book on the Armenian Genocide, only the Turkish Embassy was allowed to present its side.

The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) president, Dr. Girair Basmadjian, said: "It's regrettable that deniers of the Armenian Genocide (the Turkish Government) have been provided with a platform while the representatives of the Canadian-Armenian community have not been offered the opportunity to respond to the Turkish Government's propaganda."

In a 25-minute segment, host Michael Enright interviewed Prof. Taner Akçam, the author of "From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide". Following the interview, Mr. Enright read a lengthy statement sent by the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. No such statement was read from the Armenian Embassy of Ottawa.

Prof. Akçam is one of many Turkish historians to recognize publicly the mass killings and deportation, in 1915, of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. His book represents a scholarly attempt to document the Armenian Genocide from the perpetrator's, rather than the victim's perspective. In the interview, Prof. Akçam stated that he has been refused posts in Turkish universities because of his recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

"We commend the CBC and thank Mr. Michael Enright for their decision to shed light on the Forgotten Genocide of the 20th century, and Prof. Akçam's scholarly research. At the same time we were surprised and disappointed to hear Mr. Enright read the Turkish Embassy's statement which was, as usual, full of historical fabrications and misinformation, the usual official stance of successive Turkish governments. To us, it is a sheer error of judgment to confront an honest academician with a baseless political onslaught, without even giving a chance for the author to respond." said Dr. Basmadjian.

The Canadian-Armenian community leader said that it was unfortunate that the CBC provided an opportunity for such a statement from the Turkish Embassy while not inviting Canadian-Armenians the same opportunity. "Moreover, the statement was an outright insult to the author, Dr. Akçam, who did not lack courage to express the historical truth. The Canadians of Armenian origin representing survivors of the said Genocide are commemorating the 90th anniversary this year, are insulted by such statements on a respectable broadcasting corporation such as the CBC." added Dr. Basmadjian.

It was omitted by the programmer the fact that the Armenian Genocide was recognized as such by the Senate and House of Commons of Canada on 2002 and 2004 respectively, and by provincial legislatures of Ontario and Quebec dating back to 1980.

Genocide denial out of ignorance or a false sense of "balanced journalism" or "political correctness" is irresponsible and only serves to promote revisionist policies. "Do we provide Holocaust deniers with such courtesies or platforms?" asked Dr. Basmadjian.

The ANCC believes the denial of the Armenian Genocide is an encouragement for its repetition, as it eventually happened in Ukraine, Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda. In light of these events, it is appropriate that the CBC apologize to the Armenian listeners and promise to present the same opportunity to the Armenian Embassy in the future.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


YEREVAN, February 4 (Noyan Tapan). At the February 4 regular session, the Organazing Committee "In Defence of NKR" approved the draft joint statement to the NA groups and factions. The draft statement considers full independence of Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan to be legal.

According to the Organizing Committee, a decision was made to prepare a sound reply to the resolution passed by PACE. It was also decided to start activities aimed at convening a forum on the Nagorno Karabakh problem solution.

Friday, February 04, 2005
Friday 4, February 2005

U.S. Official Charged With Taking Visa Bribes In Armenia

By Nane Atshemian

A former official at the U.S. embassy in Yerevan has been arrested in the United States, accused of accepting hefty kickbacks in return for issuing entry visas to Armenian citizens.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans said on Friday that Piotr Zdzislaw Parlej, 45, has pleaded guilty to 13 counts of bribery and visa fraud after being expelled from the mission last month.

Officials in Washington said separately that Parlej was detained on Wednesday and was due to appear before a magistrate in the district of Columbia on Thursday. If convicted of the charges, Parlej faces up to between 5 and 15 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the counts.

“It is true that one of our employees has confessed to several charges of visa fraud,” Evans told reporters in Yerevan. “He has been indicted yesterday in Washington DC on 13 counts.”

“I would like to emphasize that he was not a full American diplomat. He was a consular associate … I have sent him back to the United States where he now faces trial,” he added.

In a joint statement, two senior officials from the U.S. Departments of Justice and State said the accusations cover the period “from in or before April 2004, through on or about January 13, 2005.” “The indictment alleges six specific instances in which Parlej took cash bribes of up to $10,000 each, in exchange for issuing visas irrespective of whether the applicants were qualified to receive them,” the statement said.

“A United States consular official who violates those rules for personal financial gain undermines the integrity of our visa application and review process, and erodes public trust in our consular officials around the world,” the chief Columbia district attorney, Kenneth Wainstein, was quoted as saying.

In a separate press release, the U.S. embassy in Yerevan revealed that Armenian law-enforcement authorities were also involved in the uncovering of the alleged bribe-taking. “We wish to thank the Armenian authorities for their cooperation in this investigation and in particular would like to commend the National Security Service of Armenia for their invaluable assistance,” it said.

It was not clear what specific forms that assistance took and whether Parlej was caught red-handed. The Washington attorney’s statement said, without elaborating, that he was helped by “various co-conspirators.

The Armenian security service has made no statements in connection with the affair. Its press service did not answer phone calls on Friday.

Thousands of Armenians seek entry into the U.S. every year. Many of them travel there in search of employment, swelling the ranks of one of the largest Armenian communities abroad. According to the U.S. consulate in Yerevan, nearly 12,000 Armenian nationals applied for a visa in 2003. Only 5,000 of them were granted one.
A1 Plus | 13:15:14 | 03-02-2005 | Politics |


Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in the apartment of his
friend in Tbilisi. In the words of the Georgian Minister of Home Affairs the
Prime Minister and his friend, deputy governor of the Kremo region Kartli Raul
Yusupov died from gassing.

However the specialists of Tbilgas refuted the version submitted by the Minister
of Home Affairs and stated that there were no signs of gas escape in the flat.
“To all appearances, accumulation of carbon monoxide took place”, Tbilgas
Director stated. According to him, a heater of Iranian production was placed
two days ago and the flat “has not been aired since that time”.

To note, Zhvania was found at the laid table while his friend was in the

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Published: 3/2/2005, 08:44 (UAE)

Armenian lawmaker detained after manager complains of shoplifting

By Bassam Za'za', Staff Reporter

Dubai: An Armenian parliamentarian who was detained in Dubai on suspicion of shoplifting has been released, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Hagop Hagopyan, his son and a third suspect were held for questioning during the third week of January. The incident took place after a store manager complained to police that two leather jackets worth Dh60,000 [$17,000] had gone missing after the trio visited the store.

"Hagop Hagopyan and his son were released a few days ago. They were only detained for a few days. They flew back to Armenia on Tuesday. The third suspect is still being detained," Arshag Poladyan, the Armenian Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News. Hagopyan was on a personal visit to Dubai, Poladyan said.

Sources at Dubai Justice Department confirmed that only one suspect - the third one - had been referred to the public prosecution department last week. He faces charges of stealing.

"The Armenian politician and his son came into the shop along with a third person," the store manager said.

"The politician seemed to be a decent and upright person. They spoke Russian and, luckily, I could understand a few words of what they said. The politician was looking for a suit but unfortunately we didn't have his size. The third person chose a jacket worth Dh6,000, but he used some unappreciated terms. I told him those were our prices and we were having a 40 per cent discount sale.

"The third person, also Armenian, gave me a gold credit card to pay for his jacket. He then left the store with the politician's son. He said he would be back to sign the receipt.

"Then I escorted the politician to another part of the store to find him a suit in his size. Meanwhile, the third person returned to sign the receipt, he took the jacket in a bag and then left the shop. On his way out, my colleague asked me if he had paid. I said 'yes'," the store manager said.

The politician found a suit, which he bought and paid for in cash, the manager said.

"Afterwards, we realised that two leather jackets worth Dh60,000 were missing. The three Armenians were the only customers who had entered the store. Our alarm system had not been functioning. I headed to the security room and watched the tape.

"I realised the third suspect's bag looked like it was bulging and carrying more than one suit. So I became suspicious and filed a police complaint," he said.

That evening, police identified the suspects and held them for questioning. The plaintiff confirmed in his police statement that "he only suspected the third person". The next day, police returned the two jackets to the store manager.

"Hagopyan came to Dubai using an ordinary passport. After being detained, he identified himself as an Armenian parliamentarian. He was kept for a short period of time after he and his son were held on suspicion of shoplifting. However, the third suspect is still being held for questioning," Poladyan said.

"I realised the third suspect's bag looked like it was bulging and carrying more than one suit. So I became suspicious ..."

Store manager who filed police complaint

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Eurasia Daily Monitor
Tuesday, February 1, 2005 -- Volume 2, Issue 22


For the last several days, Azerbaijani politicians and the general public have been celebrating a diplomatic victory. After several hours of intense and heated debate on January 25, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on the Karabakh conflict. The resolution, initially prepared by the British parliamentarian Terry David and later concluded by his colleague David Atkinson, was approved by a vote of 123 in favor and seven against (Turan News Agency, January 26).

The resolution contains a description of the Karabakh conflict as well as recommendations for the warring sides. While the authors of the document urge Azerbaijani authorities to enter a dialogue with the Armenian community of Karabakh, something that Yerevan has desired for a long time, two specific phrases have generated severe criticism from the Armenian side. The document states, "Considerable parts of Azerbaijan's territory are still occupied by the Armenian forces and separatist forces are still in control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region." It also pointed out that the military activities between 1988 and 1994 led to large-scale ethnic expulsions and the creation of mono-ethnic areas that "resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing." The Armenian delegation immediately objected to the words "occupied" and "separatist forces" and proposed an amendment urging the European lawmakers to substitute the words "separatist forces" with "supporters of democracy." The motion failed.

Both Azerbaijani and Armenian politicians rushed to label the adoption of the resolution as a diplomatic victory for Azerbaijan. Vahan Hovannisian, deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament and a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, described the resolution as the direct consequence of the failure of the Armenian side to prevent Azerbaijan's efforts to induce international organizations to exert pressure on Armenia over the Karabakh conflict (RFE/RL Newsline, January 31). Regnum Agency quoted another Armenian politician, Aram Sarkisian, head of the Democratic Party of Armenia and member of the parliamentary "Justice" faction, as saying, "It will be difficult to move away from this terminology ['separatist forces']" (Regnum, January 29). Sarkisian added, "Major players -- the U.S., Europe, and Russia, recognize Nagorno-Karabakh only as part of Azerbaijan."

Gultakin Hajiyeva, a member of the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, told an interviewer, "Both sides have seriously prepared for the debates in advance" (Space TV, January 31). Hajiyeva also stressed that major Armenian Diaspora organizations in Europe have lobbied hard to persuade European lawmakers to veto the bill. Indeed, on December 23, 2004, the Brussels-based European Armenian Federation issued a press release ringing the alarm bells over the draft resolution. The release declared, "The Atkinson report is the report for Azerbaijan" and "called upon the European citizens and organizations to intervene with their representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe."

Atkinson himself refuted all accusation that the report is biased, reportedly telling the BBC's Russian service, "The Council of Europe, just like other international organizations cannot admit the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, the principle of the "rights of nations for self-determination" cannot be applied in the case of Karabakh" (Turan, January 27).

Speaking at the PACE session, Atkinson also drew attention to the plight of internally displaced persons, who are still denied the right to return to their homes. "I was the [PACE] assembly's first rapporteur on the refugee situation, when my report described the temporary shelters in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, [including] dilapidated railway cars outside [the Armenian capital of] Yerevan, and appalling tent cities outside [the Azerbaijani capital of] Baku, housing hundreds of thousands of displaced families," Atkinson said. "Since then, a time-bomb generation of young refugees has grown up, as in Palestine, with nothing much to lose" (RFE/RL, January 25).

The PACE resolution comes as part of a series of diplomatic offensives that the Azerbaijani side has launched lately. Prior to this decision, the UN Security Council agreed to start discussion of an Azerbaijan-sponsored bill on the illegal settlement of the occupied territories by Armenian families. The Security Council decided to postpone its debate after the OSCE agreed to send a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone. Furthermore, local media have reported Iranian President Mohammad Khatami re-affirming his country's commitment to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, while U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones told the Moscow Times, "It is in Russia's interest for these areas -- whether it is Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Nagorno-Karabakh -- to be stable, for corruption to end there, for criminal secessionists who rule there to be removed" (January 14).

While the Azerbaijani side celebrates its victory and the Armenian side continues to oppose the document, some independent analysts are wondering what would be the consequences of the PACE resolution. While noting its importance for the negotiating stance of Azerbaijan, the analysts come to the conclusion that the resolution will face the same fate as that of past UN General Assembly resolutions on the conflict, namely existing on paper only. Elkhan Mehtiyev, director of the Baku-based Center for Conflict Resolution, summed it up neatly: "No resolution returns lands," meaning that adopting a resolution would not automatically return the occupied territories to Baku (Yeni Musavat, January 31).

--Fariz Ismailzade

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
1 February 2005

Armenian Government ‘Endorsed TARC Before Repudiating It’

By Emil Danielyan

Armenia’s government endorsed and was directly involved in the creation of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) despite its subsequent statements to the contrary, according to a renowned American scholar who chaired the U.S.-sponsored panel.

In a book that was due to be officially unveiled at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday, David Phillips accuses Yerevan of reneging on its pledge to publicly support the initiative in the face of fierce criticism from nationalist circles at home and in the Armenian Diaspora. He also reveals that the Turkish government nearly scuttled in late 2001 a crucial international study that affirmed the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

The 170-page book, titled “Unsilencing the Past,” provides a detailed account of TARC’s three-year and largely confidential activities that caused a lot of controversy on the Armenian side. Phillips strongly defends the initiative, disclosing information hitherto unknown to the Armenian and Turkish publics.

“I had met with [Foreign Minister Vartan] Oskanian on several occasions to brief him,” he writes. “At every turn, he endorsed the initiative. [President] Robert Kocharian also directly communicated his support for TARC.”

“Instead of publicly endorsing the initiative, which Oskanian had committed to do, the Armenian government got nervous about being associated with TARC,” he adds.

The Armenian government’s first reaction to news of TARC’s creation, announced on July 10, 2001, was rather positive. "Armenia has always had a positive attitude towards public contacts and dialogue between the two peoples, which allow for the exchange of opinions and discussions on the existing problems," the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said at the time.

But Yerevan began to change tack amid a mounting uproar from nationalist parties represented in Kocharian’s cabinet, notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Oskanian assured a group of angry historians on July 24, 2001 that "the government of Armenia has absolutely nothing to do with this dialogue" -- a position which the Kocharian administration maintains to this day.

But Dashnaktsutyun leaders remained unconvinced, demanding further explanations at a meeting with Oskanian the next day. They went on to initiate a statement by the pro-presidential factions in the Armenian parliament that denounced TARC as an “artificial” initiative aimed at preventing worldwide recognition of the Armenian genocide. Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the Diaspora, believes that genocide recognition must be a precondition for any Turkish-Armenian dialogue.

“Instead of standing by its commitments, the Kocharian government ran for cover,” Phillips notes with bitterness.

That the United States was the driving force behind the effort is confirmed by the book. Phillips says the idea was suggested to him in 2000 by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, the number three figure in the U.S. State Department under the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Phillips already wore many hats at the time, holding senior positions at the Council on Foreign Relations, the American University in Washington and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. In addition, he advised the State Department on issues of democracy and regional stability.

More importantly, Phillips had decade-long experience in fostering dialogue between Turks and Kurds and promoting similar contacts between the estranged Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus. Those contacts were practical manifestations of the American concept of Track Two diplomacy. It holds that various sections of civil societies can facilitate the resolution of long-running ethnic disputes through meetings and open discussions of their root causes.

According to Phillips, the U.S.-funded Track Two efforts in Turkey and Cyprus were a success and Grossman thought they could also be applied to the Turkish-Armenian conflict, “one of the world’s most intractable problems.” He insists that the State Department covered only “some of TARC’s direct costs” and “never interfered in my work.”

That work was effectively catalyzed by Armenian threats to veto the choice of Istanbul as the venue for the December 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in protest against Turkey’s refusal to normalize relations with Armenia. Phillips contends that the threats were used by the authorities in Yerevan to provoke stronger U.S. pressure on Ankara. He says they asked Van Krikorian, the then chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America who would later become a key member of TARC, to “undertake discussions with the State Department,” circumventing Armenia’s ambassador to Washington.

A few months later, senior State Department officials approached the Armenian and Turkish governments with a formal offer of dialogue and eventually received positive replies from both sides, it is claimed in the book. Phillips recounts that the process ground to a halt in October 2000 when President Clinton controversially blocked a resolution in the U.S. Congress recognizing the Armenian genocide. But it resumed in early 2001 with the first meeting in Vienna of what would later be called

“Having tacitly endorsed the truth and reconciliation process, the Turkish and Armenian governments had a keen interest in the outcome. Both sent ‘unofficial’ representatives to keep an eye on the discussions,” writes Phillips.

The Armenian side was represented by Krikorian, former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian and David Hovannisian, a Foreign Ministry official who Phillips says was handpicked by Oskanian. The Turks sent two retired top diplomats with close government connections: Ozdem Sanberk and Gunduz Aktan. The latter is notorious for his hard line on the Armenian question.

The group grew bigger by the time it held its next meeting in Geneva on July 9, 2001 to announce TARC’s formation. The Armenians were joined by Andranik Migranian, a prominent Moscow-based pundit, and the Turks by former Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen, retired army general Sadi Erguvenc, political scientist Ustun Erguder and Vamik Volkan, a Virginia-based professor of psychiatry.

Phillips claims that Oskanian distanced himself from the initiative as soon as Hovannisian informed him about TARC’s establishment from Geneva. “He instructed David to say that he had left the foreign ministry and was participating in his private capacity. At the same time, he told David that he was expected in his office at the ministry on Monday morning. David was visibly shaken when he returned to the meeting.”

In its first statement, TARC pledged to promote “mutual understanding and good will between Turks and Armenians” and strive for improved relations between their states. “The commission will not determine the validity of either position [on the genocide issue],” Turkmen told reporters in Geneva. “Instead, it will explore ways to bridge the gap.”

Armenian critics of TARC argued that it has no popular mandate to deal with the issue and accused the Armenian members of the commission of participating in a Turkish and U.S. conspiracy to derail international recognition of the genocide. But Phillips makes it clear that the Armenian commissioners insisted all along on the need for Turkey to come to terms with its past and were “incensed” with Aktan’s aggressive denials of the genocide which he says nearly disrupted the reconciliation effort even before it was formally launched.

“Do you know how we feel when you try to embarrass us by introducing resolutions in parliaments around the world? Our feelings are hurt,” Aktan is quoted in the book as telling his Armenian counterparts at the Vienna meeting in 2001.

“How do you think we feel?” Arzoumanian is said to have replied. “We are the ones who were genocided.”

“The Armenians saw TARC as a vehicle for approaching Turkish elites and initiating a dialogue about the genocide. Even if the Turks are sympathetic to the suffering of Armenians, they were not prepared to have TARC acknowledge the genocide,” Phillips explains.

That, he continues, is rooted in the “selective memory” of the modern Turkish state founded by Mustafa Kemal in the aftermath of the Armenian genocide. “Turks refuse to acknowledge the genocide because acknowledgement contradicts their noble self-image … In addition, the government of Turkey fears that the campaign is laying the legal
groundwork for reparations or territorial claims.”

In an April 2002 interview with RFE/RL, Migranian, described by the TARC chairman as the most hard-line of the Armenian participants, likewise argued that the Turks will not face the darkest period of their Ottoman past without knowing what the consequences of that would be. “As long as these issues remain unresolved the Turkish side will never recognize the genocide,” Migranian said.

The Americans hoped that the prominent Turks and Armenians will first reach agreement on less sensitive issues. But as Phillips reveals, it became obvious that TARC can not make progress without addressing the genocide issue. And the way out of the deadlock, he says, was suggested by none other than Aktan.

Meeting in New York in November 2003, TARC agreed to ask the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), a New York-based human rights organization, to conduct a study on the applicability of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Phillips says the decision was meant to be confidential. “But within minutes of adjourning, Andranik Migranian was on the phone with Radio Free Europe,” he says, adding that the former Russian presidential adviser thus “deeply upset the Turks.”

In fact, RFE/RL, learned about the ICTJ study from the New York meeting’s concluding statement signed by Phillips, not from Migranian. The latter spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service only the next day.

Shortly afterward, Sanberk and Aktan, bypassing their colleagues, wrote to the ICTJ, telling it to “refrain from studying the subject matter.” The Armenian members responded with an angry statement saying that “TARC is not going to proceed.”

“I insinuated that Ankara was responsible for scuttling the initiative. Just mentioning the Genocide Convention stirred anxiety in the Turkish Foreign Ministry,” Phillips writes. He then appealed to U.S. officials to help salvage the endeavor and behind-the-scene talks between Krikorian and Turkmen followed. “Unless TARC found a way to address the genocide, Van was convinced it should be disbanded,” he says.

The commission members decided to go ahead with the ICTJ study when they converged on the Turkish resort town of Bodrum in July 2002. The agreement remained strictly confidential this time around. Few people knew that Krikorian and Aktan appeared before an ICTJ panel in September 2002 to present the Armenian and Turkish interpretations of what happened in 1915. Aktan, in Phillips’s words, promised to “destroy” ICTJ researchers with his legal arguments but appeared “nervous” after
making his case.

He had reason to be edgy. On February 4, 2003, the ICTJ submitted to TARC a detailed analysis which concluded that the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians includes “all the elements of the crime of genocide as defined by the [UN] Convention.” The study at the same time found that the Armenians can not use the Convention to make “legal financial or territorial claims arising out of the Events.”

“In a private conversation with Van, Oskanian ‘offered congratulations’ and said it was a great accomplishment,” Phillips says. “However, he refused to publicly embrace the ICTJ analysis.” Armenian political groups and public figures also barely reacted to it.

Phillips’s discontent with the Armenian government’s repudiation of his work found an outlet in his article on Armenia that appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” last April. It slammed Kocharian’s regime as “corrupt and inept” and welcomed opposition attempts to topple the Armenian president. In his book, Phillips bluntly accuses Kocharian of “stealing” the 2003 presidential election from opposition leader Stepan

TARC, meanwhile, held several more meetings before announcing the end of its mission in Moscow on April 14, 2004 and submitting a list of policy recommendations to the Turkish and Armenian governments. The first and foremost of them was an unconditional opening of the Turkish-Armenian border. However, Ankara seems unlikely to drop its preconditions for lifting Armenia’s economic blockade in the foreseeable future.

So was the whole thing worth the trouble? Phillips believes it was, pointing to “permanent civil society contacts” established parallel to TARC’s activities as part of what the U.S. government calls the Track Two Program on Turkey and the Caucasus.

“TARC broke the ice and helped catalyze a wide array of civil society Track Two activities,” he concludes. “It was also a lightning rod for criticism, thereby enabling other civil society initiatives to proceed ‘under the radar.’ Though people-to-people contacts cannot solve core political problems, they can help prepare the ground for negotiations.”