Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Desert Nights
March 30, 2005

Prosecutors are hard at work, but human trafficking is booming

Notorious pimp Amalia Mnatsakanyan has been released after serving only one month of a two-year sentence. “Mother Pimp Nano”, as she is known to law enforcement officials, had been wanted by Interpol. Arrested in the United Arab Emirates, she was transferred to Armenian custody in March 2004. In August, Judge Pargev Ohanyan the Kentron and Nork-Marash Districts of Yerevan sentenced Nano to two years in prison term. By September, she was free.

Someone should ask Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan if it was worth launching an Interpol investigation, and dragging in the foreign ministries and law enforcement agencies of Armenia and the UAE if she was such a harmless criminal that a month in jail was all she deserved.

And they should ask Justice Minister David Harutiunyan how it happened that Mnatsakanyan, who had been jailed twice before, was released so long before the end of her prison term.

If these questions had been raised at the last prosecution committee meeting, maybe it would have come out why trafficking occupies such a special place in the legal system. Maybe Aghvan Hovsepyan would have explained how the agency he runs was so easy on Nano, who has already sold hundreds of girls and is still recruiting more, to send them to the UAE and Turkey.

According to our sources, another notorious pimp, Marietta Musaelyan, is soon to be released from prison as well, before the end of her two-year sentence. Her victims, who are without their passports, are working as prostitutes in Dubai today.

We don't think it would be hard for the prosecutor general to find out who is standing behind these pimps.

At the prosecutor general's March 16 th committee meeting, they reported on what they've done so far to combat trafficking in women. At first glance, the numbers are impressive; there have been dozens of investigations, arrests, and trials. But, surprisingly, after such a titanic amount of work, human traffic is growing like never before, and more women are being sold in Arabic countries all the time.

"There [in Dubai] a pimp is protected by the police and by the ‘authorities' [criminal gangs]. They have their own laws, and there are some problems,” said Andranik Mirzoyan, head of the investigative department of the Prosecutor's General Office. “Even, dare I say it, the local government is in some way interested, because to run a given club, or a given restaurant, they need that type of personnel [prostitutes], so that people will come." Under Mirzoyan's leadership, a team of investigators had gone to Dubai, but it was difficult, he informed the committee, to locate the pimps and prostitutes and bring them in. He added that investigators had tried to persuade the women to return with them to Armenia, where they would be arrested.

We are aware that prosecutors met in Dubai with several Armenian pimps, among them those wanted by Interpol. It is strange that the officials tried to “persuade” the pimps to come back to Armenia, rather than informing the local police.

But, as we were told by one of these pimps and the Armenian prostitutes who work for them, nobody said anything at these meetings about the pimps' returning to Armenia.

Perhaps the prosecutor's office needs to find out, for example, what kind of deal its representative, Aristakes Eremyan, struck with Ano, or Anahit, from Echmiadzin.

At the committee meeting, the prosecutor general voiced his support for harsher sentences, and criticized judges for being too lenient. No one asked him, however, why he hadn't challenged any of the lenient rulings.

Looking into the court cases dealing with pimping and trafficking, you see that they are resolved after the first hearing. Other types of cases, however, are heard up to three times. How does it happen, then, that neither side in the trafficking cases ever appeals the judge's decision? Neither the prosecution nor the defense is ever dissatisfied—this is one area where an agreement is always reached immediately.

Edik Baghdasaryan

30 March 2005

Sarkisian Says ‘Painful’ Concessions Needed For Karabakh Peace

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said on Wednesday that a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict requires "painful" concessions from both sides and again warned Azerbaijan against resorting to military action.

"The problem’s resolution will indeed be painful for both the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples because mutual compromise means giving up some of what you have. Nobody gives up anything voluntarily and without pain," Sarkisian told parliamentary hearings in on Karabakh.

He specified that Armenian concessions could include another referendum of independence in Karabakh and a return of occupied Azerbaijani lands. "We could make concessions on the condition that Azerbaijani side gives clear guarantees of not restarting the war which would be certified by authoritative international organizations and states," he said.

The remarks appeared to be an indirect confirmation of the Armenian side’s readiness to embrace a peace formula that would contain at least some elements of a gradual resolution of the conflict. The parties allegedly discussed last year a deal calling for an Armenian troop withdrawal and a future referendum in Karabakh.

Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic until recently demanded a single "package" peace accord that would settle all sticking points at once.

Sarkisian at the same time did not rule out the possibility of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war, saying that Azerbaijan still hopes to win back Karabakh by force. "If hostilities resume, we will win," he declared.

But the powerful minister who led the Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-93 was quick to warn that Armenia would face "destruction" in the event of domestic turmoil. "Our victory would depend on the extent to which the Armenian people, Armenia’s political force will stand by the army," he said.

Speaking at the hearings on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian claimed that Azerbaijani troops have been digging in closer to Armenian positions around Karabakh and may thus be preparing for war.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Turks seek a fresh look at past
By Nicholas Birch

Washington Times, DC
March 26 2005


-- A hidden Armenian minority, after living in the shadows for decades, is coming forward to tell stories of a 1915 massacre in books and newspapers, and prompting Turkey to re-examine its past.

A group of senior politicians from Turkey's governing and main opposition parties last week called for the events of 90 years ago to be "researched under United Nations arbitration."

"If there is a need to settle accounts with history, we are ready," they said.

Next month, Armenians all over the world will mark the 90th anniversary of the massacres -- an event that successive governments in Turkey have denied took place.

Fethiye Cetin was a student when she discovered her grandmother Seher's secret.

Seher, a pillar of a typical Turkish family, had been born an Armenian named Heranush, and was 9 years old when the massacres started in 1915.

She cowered in the churchyard as men from her village were slain and thrown into the river.

Forced with other women and children onto the road to Syria, she was abducted and handed over to a police corporal. He raised her as his own child.

Such tales are common in Turkey's eastern provinces. Locals called people like the grandmother "those the sword left behind."

What makes her story unusual is that the granddaughter made it into a book.

"She had hidden the things she told me for over 60 years," said Miss Cetin, a lawyer who works from a small office in Istanbul. "I felt they needed to be given a voice."

But she also wanted to help move the debate away from barren disputes over terminology and statistics: 300,000 killed? 800,000 killed? 1 million killed? Genocide? Ethnic cleansing? An unfortunate side effect of civil war?

Such arguments, she said, "hide the lives and deaths of individuals and do nothing to encourage people to listen."

Turks certainly have been listening to her. Published in November, "My Grandmother" is already into its fifth edition.

Miss Cetin has lost count of the number of phone calls and letters she has received, of support, or from people with similar stories to tell.

"When books like this come out, even people with very different family histories begin to realize they aren't the only ones to question what they have been taught," she said.

Miss Cetin first published a summary of her grandmother's history in an Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper in 2000. The article was ignored. "I could not have published my book back then," she said.

In January, an Istanbul gallery hit the headlines with an exhibition of 500 postcards showing Turkish Armenians between 1900 and 1914.

"The history taught in schools is told as if only Turks had ever lived in Anatolia, no one else," curator Osman Koker told reporters. "That is deeply unhealthy."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I’m not sure who the source of these rumors are, but if there were 13 Armenian casualties, everyone here would be talking about it.

Reality is that there were three soldiers who were killed, one of who I knew of named Saribek from the village of Sos, in the Martuni region.

Rest assured, there is no mobilization of troops at this time and the statement from the NKR Defense Ministry is accurate.

Armenian Defense Ministry denies rumors of mobilization

A1+ web site
23 Mar 05

Society fears that mobilization started in the republic after the recent developments on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Even young men under 30, who have already served in the army, are afraid to go out.

The press secretary of the Armenian defense minister, Seyran Shakhsuvaryan, denied rumors that are going around the city about the mobilization. He also denied that dozens had been killed in Karabakh or on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

According to the information we possess, the last skirmish on the border resulted in 13 Armenian casualties. Seyran Shakhsuvaryan denied this and said that three soldiers had been killed in the Nagornyy Karabakh Republic [NKR]. This has already been reported by the NKR Defense Ministry.
United States opens its largest diplomatic mission in the world in Armenia

The NewsAhead Agency for future world news | Tuesday, 22 March 2005
30 Mar 2005**.

YEREVAN. 30 Mar 2005** (Estimated date)
The new United States embassy plans to open the largest US diplomatic in the world in Armenia, a demonstration of Washington's growing strategic interest in the largely Christian country and in the Caucusus in general.

The Caucasus Region is important to world energy markets as a transit area for oil and natural gas exports from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

US officials explain that the reason for building such as large embassy is the number of US projects in Armenia, but most see the ambitious building as matching Washington's big goals in the region. These include securing oil supplies from the Caspian and augmenting the US military toehold on the Western shore to project US influence across the entire region.

The United States has provided more some US $1.5 billion in economic assistance to Armenia since independence. Yerevan dispatched 46 Armenian non-combat servicemen to the US led coalition in Iraq on Jan 18. The symbolic presence, despite overwhelming domestic opposition, has been interpreted as Armenia's thanks for US largesse. Others explain the troop deployment as a geopolitical necessity - a means of keeping US neutral in Armenia's long-running dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a former part of Soviet Azerbaijan that is now controlled by ethnic Armenians.

The new US embassy compound, built of native stone, overlooks scenic Lake Yerevan and has a sweeping view of Mount Ararat, neighboring Turkey's tallest peak and the rumored resting place of Noah's Ark. Sophisticated security measures have been installed to protect the complex from potential physical, biological and technological assaults. The embassy will also have its own energy and water supply.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Armenian parliament ratifies Geneva child labour convention

22 Mar 05

Yerevan, 22 March:
The Armenian National Assembly today ratified the Geneva Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

Submitting the document, Armenian Minister of Labour and Social Security Agvan Vardanyan said that the convention is aimed at banning child trade, child prostitution, compulsory child labour and the use of children in armed conflicts.

The convention also provides for rehabilitation actions for children suffering from the aforesaid crimes.
“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wed, 23 Mar 2005 00:52:16 -0800

84 years ago…

One of the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide - Talaat Pasha - was shot dead in Berlin 84 years ago on March 15, 1921 by Soghomon Tehlirian.

The telegrams signed by Talaat proved the responsibility of the Turks for the Genocide, which until today is denied by successive Turkish governments. Talaat Pasha in his absence was sentenced to death as a military criminal by the Military Tribunal in Constantinople in 1919.

As part of the ARF Dashnaktsoutiun's "Operation Nemesis" Armenian volunteers tracked and gunned-down many of the escaped criminals in Europe and Central Asia and served them justice, since the courts had failed to do so. Among the assassinated were Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha, Gemal-Pasha, Gemal Azmi and Beahaddin Shakir.

In 1920 Tehlirian followed the runaway Talaat from Paris to Germany and shot him down in Berlin-Sharlotenburg in Gardenberstrasse.

Tehlirian, who had readily accepted his responsibility for the assassination, was acquitted by the German court.

He later lived in the USA, married and had a daughter and a son. He died in 1960, in the age of 64.

In 1943 the Nazis returned Talaat's remains to Turkey, where he was buried with great honours in a grand ceremony.

In a rally marking the 84-th anniversary of the day Talaat Pasha was assassinated, a rally was held in Yerevan last week. The organisers of the meeting – the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsoutiun - called the international community to unite and recognize the Armenian Genocide, not admitting Turkey to “the EU with bloody hands.” A young representative of the organisation handed the European Commission Secretary a letter addressed to the EU Chairman. After the completion of the rally the demonstrators made their way to the monument of Soghomon Tehlirian in Yerevan, where they laid 90 flowers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Today was a day of running around for me here in Martuni.

The snow has stopped coming down and so far my apricot tree looks like it’s going to keep it’s peddles, but it also looks like we could get more snow.

Anyway, I did a bunch of running around and my last stop before lunch was the barbershop, where I got my ears lowered.

While having my hair cut, the barber and I were talking about the work we did in Dubai. He said that the whole thing was deplorable and all he can see right now is that this country is rotting from the inside out.

While talking, the radio was on a tuned into a station from Yerevan. A commercial in Russian came on and the barber pointed out that this is part of the problem too. The commercial was for a strip club called Omega. The barber said that this was something new and it probably makes people indifferent to such thing.

Lunch was at the Mayor’s house, where I mentioned the radio commercial for Omega and my future brother-in-law who is 17 and the Mayor’s wife said that there have been similar commercials on television for the last 3 years.

In our struggle to reduce indifference towards the problems we face, we need to study radio, television and other forms of advertisements to see what they are advertising and how it effects our people to see where changes need to be implemented so it does not add to our problems.

It would be a good idea to also take a good look at the educational and cultural structure to see what they are promoting, as well as what the Church is doing.

All these things should be added on our to-do list.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I have not been following issues all that close these last few months and missed the recent issue of US Ambassador to Armenian John M. Evans talking about the Armenian genocide during his visits to the Armenian communities in the US and Turkey making a big stink about it, going so far as him having to apologize on the US Embassy web site.

Though a little bit late, I took the time to drop Ambassador Evans a message of appreciation and encourage all of our readers to do the same.

Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 02:28:25 -0800 (PST)
From: "Ara Manoogian"
Subject: A message to Ambassador Evans...

Dear Ambassador Evans,

Though I’m writing you a little bit late, I just want to write you to tell you that I appreciate your personal feeling on recognizing the great tragedy of 1915 as genocide. It took great courage to make such public statements and for that I really do appreciate you being our American Ambassador in Armenia.

With that said, I want to also thank the US Embassy for the financial support you gave to our investigation on human trafficking to the Untied Arab Emirates via Edik Baghdasaryan of HETQ. It came as a welcome surprise to get such funding since the US has huge investments in the UAE, but then again, knowing now who you are and your stance on issues, a very understandable decision.

Keep up the good work and may you always be on the side of truth and justice.

Sincerely yours,

Ara Manoogian
NKR Representative
Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc.
The Diaspora speaks about trafficking

There has been a discussion going on in about the trafficking issue which those that are interested may want to check out.

On I asked the following question: “What can the Diaspora do to prevent trafficking and to be part of the overall solution? I know this is a loaded question, but it has to be asked.”

Thought there were quite a few answer in the forum, in my opinion, the most valuable and realistic came in the form of an e-mail, which reads as follows:

Hi Ara,

I appreciate your courage and energy. Best of luck to you in your efforts. As for possible answers to the question posed, I am not replying publicly because I no longer wish to peddle wisdom publicly, even if anonymously. My take on the sad issue of human-trafficking is that it reflects a breakdown of traditional, conservative, family-oriented Armenian ethos. Like virginity, such a thing is one-way and irreversible in the sense that the lost innocence (on the part of the society that tolerated or encouraged it) can never be regained. Considering the aloofness of the government and the widespread corruption apparently permeating all levels of the society, there are only band-aid solutions. Even an overnight economic miracle would be insufficient. Even in affluent societies there is an underclass. The differences between the ways the underclass in different societies deal with the trials and tribulations of life are largely determined not by economic factors but their culture and character. The diasporan involvement would make little difference until it becomes more political, in-your-face, and bold, including a mass movement into the republic (in other words, I doubt that money alone would make much difference). That, of course is currently a pipe-dream not least because it would be dead-set against the interests of the current owners of power.

The way I see it, the problem you are exposing is just another facet of our slow and steady intellectual decline. The reason behind it share their origins with the reasons for our lack of original thinkers or brilliant artists, as well as why the republic is not beaming a dozen TV channels in eastern and western dialects and great children's programming to the diaspora, or taking the issue of language or orthography seriously. They are clueless about forming a great nation, and so is the diaspora. The diapora has an excuse, the republic not so much.

Sorry about blabbering so much. After all that fluff, all I can say is that in the absence of real solutions, the best you can hope for (despite what I said above) is what you already accomplished: hit rich diasporans for money to support projects of this sort as well as programs for rehabilitating the victims.

I have no hopes pinned on the establishment inside or outside of the republic. If and when I accumulate enough wealth, I would try to do something myself. Until then I just try to earn my daily bread, support my family and watch our decay in painful frustration.

Good luck,

I wrote back:

Dear [name omitted],

First I would like to thank you for taking the time to write me.

What you wrote I can only describe as the hammer hitting the nail with full force on the head. I could not have said it any better.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my cousin from Iraq about trafficking and he was telling me that there is no way in the world he would ever do such a thing and would live in rags and eat whatever he could get his hands on.

I told him that the reality is that he had a father and mother who taught him well our Armenian values. Unfortunately, like you pointed out (at least this is how I read into your message), today’s people in Armenia and especially those that fall into this trap, don’t have the family structure in place to instill such values.

I have been preaching for over 10 years to the people here that Western television is poison and the culture that it is instilling into our people today will one day destroy us. I really don’t think I’m wrong and from the flavor of your message I believe you would agree with this.

Anyway, I’m not going say any more than I have, since I think what you said in your message covers it.

We have a big battle ahead of us and since I don’t plan on us loosing, I need to figure out how to efficiently use the resources I have at my disposal so we see tangible results. I also hope that I’m not going to be doing this on my own, though I’m ready to if need be, though that would be really sad if it turns out that way.

Well thanks again for writing and confirming many of the things I have been feeling. As frustrating as the whole situation is for you, it give me hope to know that I’m not alone in my way of thinking.


March is a crazy month

The saying here in Armenia and Artsakh of March being a crazy month for as long as I’ve lived here has never been disproved.

After some very nice weather yesterday, I wake up this morning to see that Martuni has been blanketed with snow.

I called Yerevan and find out that they got over a half meter of snow yesterday in a matter of a couple of hours.

Well it looks like there will be no apricots this year in my yard. My apricot tree was fooled once again by the warm weather and just yesterday blossomed. Now it’s covered in snow and will drop all it’s peddles when the snow melts.

One thing this snow will be good for is the wheat harvest, which thanks to very few mice and now this snow, should have a high yield.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

It’s great to be back in Martuni after such a long time of being away. It feels like I’ve been gone for a year and have really missed this place.

Thing here in Martuni have not changed much. It just like I left it, only difference is that winter is over and other than some strong winds, the weather is great.

Though I’m pooped out over investigating trafficking to the UAE, I’m not quite ready to put away my magnifying glass, as there is still so much work to be done. Though the whole thing still bothers me a great deal and I can’t forget about it for even a minute, I’m very happy that this whole experience has not made me indifferent and acceptant, justifying that it happens in other countries too. This is what is giving me the drive to keep on moving forward and I hope will make Armenia different from our neighbors.

On March 15th, while in Yerevan and sitting on a mini-van with a visitor from America, heading towards Independence Square, I got a call on my cell phone from a friend who told me that the AYF was observing the 84th anniversary of the execution of Talaat Pasha. He said that they were marching to Soghomon Tehlirian’s statue. He said that since I didn’t know about this event, they must not have been able to find me.

I asked my friend where they were now and if the march was over or not, to which he said he didn’t know, but had just heard about it on the radio.

Not a minute passed, we noticed a crowd of people marching, with the Armenian and ARF flag leading the marchers.

We got off the van and joined the marchers, who were passing out fliers to on lookers. I was encouraging others to join us. We walked for a few kilometers, arriving at Tehlirian’s statue.

After a few speeches and a bunch of patriotic songs being sung, we were invited to a close by AYF center, where we were fed cakes, fruit and drinks.

As we sat and watched the AYFers doing their thing, which included singing more songs (they sure love to sing), I was approached by one of their leaders, who asked where we were from?

After introductions and talking about what we were doing in Armenia, the leader who was talking with us had to leave and no one else really seemed interested in doing anything other than sing, so we decided to also leave.

Well it’s good to see that there are people who remember Soghomon, but it’s a real shame, but understandable, that they didn’t remember the organizers of Tallat’s execution.

One other thing I noticed was that the AYF center didn’t have a picture of Shahan Natalie. I guess I’ll have to print up a large copy and gift it to them.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Times London Weekend Supplement

March 12, 2005

Road to revolution

PhD? I'd rather be a terrorist

by Philip Marsden

From Berkeley graduate to Armenian freedom fighter is a small step when history is on your side

I was too late. He was already dead. It was the summer of 1993 and I had come to the Armenian front line to interview Monte Melkonian. But a week or so earlier he had been caught in a skirmish near Agdam and died instantly from a shrapnel wound. At his headquarters, his men were in shock. In the canteen I sat down next to his aide. "Not there," he said reverently, "that was Monte's place."

During the previous four years Melkonian had become a legendary commander in the Armenians' post-Soviet war with the Azeris. What interested me about him was that, unlike the 4,000 fighters he commanded, he had not lived for 70 years under Soviet rule. He was from California, a third-generation Armenian, brought up in the most liberal state in the Union.

In recent years our idea of political radicalism has been overshadowed by the chilling logic of the suicide bomber. Even with the changes in the Middle East, it is unlikely that the divisions and destitution that breed such extremism will disappear overnight. Disenfranchised in Iraq's Sunni triangle or imprisoned in the hellish slums of Gaza, those who strap explosives to their bodies or drive a four-wheel bomb into a crowd have, by definition, nothing on this earth left to lose but their lives.

But there have always been other radicals, those who do have a choice, who are fewer in number but of much greater influence - those who throw away privilege or a good education for the life of political outlaw. Che Guevara swapped medical training for peasant-based revolution and died for it. The maverick Marxist Carlos the Jackal was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family but became an effective KGB-trained killer. George Habash passed out top of his class in paediatric medicine, but went underground to set up the guerrilla group PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). And how different the world would look if Osama bin Laden, with a degree in civil engineering, had accepted a steady job in the family's property empire.

Monte Melkonian, too, had had professional options. In the late 1970s he graduated from Berkeley. He was a brilliant pupil who spoke several languages. His thesis on Urartian rock-tombs attracted the attention of Oxford University's archaeology department and earned him a place there to do his PhD. Instead he jumped on a plane for the Middle East. There began a 15-year odyssey that ended, cheek-down, on a dusty road in Armenian-occupied Azerbaijan.

Melkonian's career also reveals the profound shift in radical ideology - from revolutionary Marxism to nationalism, from the invocation of class struggle to the invocation of history or God. Like post-modernists everywhere, freedom fighters have rediscovered the power of tradition.

In My Brother's Road, Melkonian's elder sibling charts Monte's bloody passage through this period. He began as an agitator, organising strikes in Iran to help to topple the Shah. He then travelled north to Iranian Kurdistan and witnessed the disciplined Kurdish peshmerga rebels. But it was in the large Armenian quarter of Beirut that his involvement began to shift away from internationalism: in the free-for-all of the Lebanese civil war he first took up arms to defend his fellow Armenians.

I first heard about Melkonian in Beirut in the winter of 1991. The stories of his years there in the late 1970s seemed redolent of that era, a time of flared hipsters, radical chic, Patti Hearst and the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Gradually, Melkonian was being pulled towards a more particular cause, the one that haunts all Armenians. In 1915 decades of persecution had ended with the entire Armenian population of eastern Turkey being deported or murdered. More than a million died. Many of Melkonian's family were refugees from this time. It was a wound that did not heal with the passing years. In fact, faced by Turkish denial that it happened at all, resentment grew more intense.

During the 1980s, living the life of a tramp guerrilla, Melkonian wrote many articles and monographs. In these you can sense his ideology coming into conflict with a growing nationalism. With ever greater difficulty, he squeezed the Armenian question into the context of left-wing orthodoxy, believing for instance that Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union would be a terrible error.

Meanwhile, amid the anarchy of warring Lebanon, Melkonian's actions grew increasingly militant. He learnt to use aliases, false passports and a spectacular range of weapons. He crossed the path of Abu Nidal and Black September. He attended the joint training camps of the Bekaa Valley where the region's dispossessed - Kurds, Palestinians and Armenians - wriggled under barbed wire and dreamt of killing Turks and Israelis. In time Melkonian became involved with the vicious Armenian terrorist group ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia). He set off a bomb in Milan. In Athens he leant into the car of a Turkish diplomat and shot him and, by mistake, his 14-year-old daughter (this was to become his greatest regret). He trained the Armenians who occupied the Turkish Embassy in Paris.

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was collapsing and the Armenians and Azeris of the south Caucasus were unpacking decades of mutual animosity. War was breaking out over the mountainous region of Karabakh and Melkonian travelled to Soviet Armenia for the first time. There he was confronted with the reality of failed socialism. In the mountains, Armenian villagers took up hunting rifles to defend their homes and attack their Azeri neighbours. By the end of 1991, the hunting rifles were being replaced with heavier weapons as a full-scale war erupted, the first in a pattern of post-Soviet wars in the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Melkonian found his guerrilla training invaluable. In lecturing his fighters on the wider context of the fighting he turned not to ideology but to history. "Lose Karabakh," he said, "and you will be turning the last page of Armenian history." He feared that, squeezed between Turkey and Turkic Azerbaijan, Armenians would be driven from their last pieces of territory and the work of 1915 would be completed.

His drawing on the grievances of the past was finding echoes throughout the old Soviet bloc and in the Middle East. In the north Caucasus in the 1990s, the Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev was stirring his people with talk of the "300-year war with the Russians", a war that began when Peter the Great landed in Dagestan in the 18th century. Milosevic had already woken the Serbs by invoking the Battle of Kosovo Polje 600 years earlier.

More recently, bin Laden has talked of the Crusades as having never ended while in Israel the old Zionism of kibbutzes and secularism has been eclipsed by the militant Jewish settlers of the West Bank. They, too, have a loss to correct, referring to the lands of Israel and Judah in the Time of the Kings, a full 3,000 years ago.

My Brother's Road; An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia by Markar Melkonian (IB Tauris, Ј18.95)

On Feb. 23 Femida NGO invited Ashot Mkrtchian, head of the Anti-Drug Department, and Sayat Shirinian, head of Department for Public Relations of the RA Police, to meet the media within the frameworks of European Commission’s "Role of Mass Media in Building a Jural State" program. Mr. Mkrtchian gave a brief overview of the anti-drug campaign in the republic and noted that the drugs are the most serious problem that the world faces today. In comparison with the European states, situation in Armenia "is better and is still amenable to control". Being situated on the crossroad of drug trafficking countries, Armenia will face serious problems if turned into a transit country.

Concerning woman trafficking, Mr. Mkrtchian stated that this phenomenon has a 10-year history in Armenia and noted that a number of NGOs and mass medias exaggerate figures". "There are souteneurs who organize this work, but they are not many", he said. According to the police figures, 22 prostitutes left Armenia in 2000 to work abroad, 19 in 2001, 26 in 2002, 21 in 2003, 32 in 2004. Two of them were engaged in human trafficking. There were 13 Armenian prostitutes in Arabian Emirates; 9 more ponces in UAE are wanted.

By Marietta Makarian

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Here is the Armenian government trying to do a little dammage control.

Armenian leader, prosecutor discuss fight against human trafficking

Regnum, Moscow
15 Mar 05

Armenian President Robert Kocharyan has held a working meeting with Armenian Prosecutor-General Agvan Ovsepyan.

The meeting discussed issues concerning measures to fight human trafficking, the Armenian presidential press service told Regnum news agency. The Armenian prosecutor-general reported that as a result of a joint operation carried out by the police and the prosecutor's office, members of groups involved in recruiting and sending prostitutes abroad were exposed and brought to book.

The Armenian prosecutor-general also reported that a fall in the number of premeditated murders was registered this year. He said that 23 such murders were registered in the same period of the last year, while this year their number is only nine. Ovsepyan also told the Armenian president about discovered false excise stamps, which testifies that they are printed abroad and then imported into Armenia.
Desert Nights
[March 16, 2005]

Dubai's Charm is in its Women

There have been women from Armenia in the United Arab Emirates ever since the early 1990's, when flights started between Yerevan and Dubai. At first, they would buy cheap goods to sell in Armenia. Then they saw that there was a more lucrative business in Dubai, and they started selling themselves for sex. The more business-minded among them made various contacts and started "exporting" girls from Armenia.

In Armenia, people who traffic in women are referred to as "Mama Rosas". In criminal reports, they are pimps. In Dubai , they're called bosses. They have between five and twenty, sometimes even thirty women, working under their supervision.

In the past, women could go to Dubai directly from Armenia . Two years ago, however, a new law came into force in the Emirates wherein any woman under 31 years of age was not allowed to enter the country unless accompanied by her husband or parents.

For the past two years, dealers in the sex trade have been transporting women under 31 to Dubai through Russia , mainly through Moscow and Krasnodar . There, they are given false passports, which state their age as over 31. Sometimes their names are changed as well.

In the UAE there is an unwritten, yet very simple law for the media, both local journalists and foreign correspondents—never write anything negative about the country, especially about Dubai . Articles on crime are very rare in the English language newspapers, though that doesn't mean that the crime rate is particularly low. Murders are almost never mentioned. Once in a while something slips through in the Arabic papers. For example, in 2004, the mutilated corpses of Uzbek women were found in the desert. The same year, an Armenian girl was murdered in the desert as well. "We wouldn't come out for a few days, said L., from Yerevan “The police were making the rounds with pictures of the girl, trying to find out something about her. But none of the Armenians said anything and we never found out what happened in the end. They put her picture up at Cyclone and other discotheques."

Passengers who arrive in Dubai have to have their pupils photographed, to make sure they're not on the Migration Department's blacklist. If they are, the police are called in right away. But one Armenian prostitute told us that it was possible to tamper with Migration Department' files. "You can remove data on a person's pupil and other details from the central computer in Abu Dhabi . You pay money and it is removed. One of our girls, Diana from Dilijan, was deported once and her pupil was photographed, but she came back two months later. Her boss, Anush, spent a lot of money to get that information out of the computer," L. explained.

Nelli, one of Armenia's most notorious pimps, who as we mentioned in a recent article has passed on her business to her son and daughter-in-law, is now in Yerevan . Every Armenian pimp in Dubai has a man by her side, as a lover and guarantor of security. For Nelli, that man was Hamlet Vardanyan. He was deported from the Emirates, at which point he got a new passport in Yerevan and changed his last name to Mikaelyan. Now, using that name, Hamlet comes and goes to the UAE. Our sources tell us that Nelly is now recruiting a new group of girls in Armenia . "She brings her girls through Krasnodar . That is where her contacts are,” said N., who used to be one of Nelli's girls. “She pays $1,500 to customs for each girl with a fake passport. She brought me through there as well. When the customs official looked at me, he said 'So you're supposed to be 31 years old, eh?' I was 20 at the time. Hamlet was the one who brought me." N. paid back the $6,000 dollars she owed Nelly two years ago, and has been working on her own at Dubai's St. George Hotel ever since.

The Inter City Hotel

The disco in the Inter City hotel closes at 3 a.m. You can find a lot of Armenian women there, from as early as 8 p.m. We even met an Armenian woman dressed in Arabian clothes there; she was playing billiards and talking to men in Arabic. Women don't cost much at Inter City . No matter how dressed up they are, or how much make-up they put on, their faces still look ravaged.

It was here, at 3 a.m. , that we met two bosses selling their women outside the hotel. One was from Uzbekistan , the other from Armenia . Here is a picture of those women. The Uzbek pimp, Amina, was selling 19-year-old Aleka, and the Armenian pimp was offering sixteen-year-old Jasmine. She couldn't speak a word of English, so her boss was bargaining for her, reminding potential customers that the girl was sixteen, and new to sex, that she didn't know too much about it.

At 3:10, as my colleague Ara tried to arrange a deal for one of his girls, a drunken Arab started to fight over her with him. Ara apologized to the man a number of times, but he kept shouting. At that moment, a man in uniform came up, and showing his badge, said that he was with the police. "What's the problem?" he asked Ara. Ara said that there was no problem. The presence of the policeman disturbed neither the Armenian and Uzbek pimps as they made their bargains, nor the dozens of girls looking for customers.

The Tehariyet, or Criminal Investigation Department, has agents everywhere. They know where each and every one of these women lives and works, but they don't interfere, because the sex business is an integral part of the country's economy. If it is removed from the system, it is possible that everything in the country will collapse. "Dubai 's charm is in these women," said a Dutchman around 60 years old, who was here on business at Movenpick Hotel.

Once they've paid for their women, customers sometimes think they can treat them any way they like. "They beat you sometimes, of course. Or they make you do things that you don't want to," said twenty-year-old B., one of the most beautiful Armenian prostitutes in Dubai .

B. came here from a village in the Ararat Valley , where she was a refugee from the Azerbaijani city of Kirovabad . She has a son, who she left with her parents when she "went to make money".

"My husband and I are separated, “she explained. “I couldn't find a job. Wherever I went, they asked me to sleep with them before they would offer me a job. We Armenians are like that - if you're divorced, then that's it, they can think anything about you.”
The St. George Hotel
Armenian prostitutes' have been servicing customers of the St. George Hotel for five years now. Our sources informed us that the owner is a Tajik named Ilias. Ilias is the brother of Sheikh Mustafa, who owns Metro, the largest cab company in Dubai , with 3000 cars. The St. George has restaurants, nightclubs, and bars, including an Azerbaijani place called Baku by Night.

We walked into the hotel at 4 a.m. A security guard approached us. We said hello, and asked if there was somewhere we could spend time with some girls. He seemed surprised for a moment, then motioned towards the bar, saying, "Over there, but it's late, they've all gone." We went into the bar, where we saw two Armenian women sitting next to an elderly Arab, caressing his hands. One of the women was speaking comfortably in English, the other would say something once in a while. We were drinking coffee when women started coming in and out of the bar. The security officials had told them that there were two customers there.

We had visited the St. George Hotel before, on our second trip to Dubai. On June 23, 2004, we were in the discotheque there at midnight and heard the DJ greeting the prostitutes as guests from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Armenian and Azerbaijani girls are friendly towards each other here. Far from their homelands, these women from two hostile nations were united in the desert nights by prostitution first of all, and by the history and the Russian language they share.

When the Arabic music gets going, the dance floor fills up with drunken men and women. Every dance turns into a belly dance. Armenian, Tajik, Azeri, and Uzbek women sing along in Arabic. They know all the songs by heart, because all their nights are filled with Arabic music.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Desert Nights
[March 16, 2005]

The City of Temptation

Nights are always mysterious, Arabian nights even more so. The dark engulfs the limitless desert all at once. The yellow tinges of the horizon fade away and vanish, opening the way to the Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Sunlight is unnoticeably replaced by the light of streetlamps. In Dubai, the day has just started...

The sky is full of stars, shining brightly. Down below, there are lights shining with nearly as stellar a glow.

The most characteristic thing about Dubai at night is its cafés, where Arabs enjoy a narghile or a cup of coffee. The coffee here is indescribably delicious. Locals say that the bitterness of the coffee is the real taste of the times.

The seven Arab Emirates united in 1971 and, on a piece of land stretching over eighty thousand square kilometers on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates - the miracle of the East - was established.

This is an old country, however. In the years before Christ, ships would set sail here for different parts of the world. On the shores of the Emirates, in Ras Al Khaima, the ruins of the palace of Queen Savskaya, who captured the heart of King Solomon, are preserved to this day.

Oil, discovered in the 1970s, brought riches to the country.

Each of the Emirs is the absolute ruler of his Emirate. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the President of the UAE. Each Emirate has its own history, traditions, and characteristics. The Emirate of Dubai, however, stands out from the rest because it combines the features of all of the Emirates, becoming a unique melting-pot of sorts.

Dubai is the second largest of the Emirates, and is considered the “gateway to tourism” in the Middle East. It was declared a free economic zone in 1985. Strict Muslim traditions are absent in Dubai. For this reason, Dubai's policies are frowned upon by some other Arab countries. Many locals resent the freedom with which women on the streets express themselves. However, they do not outwardly reveal this displeasure. For centuries, Dubai had been called the City of Merchants. Dubai has always welcomed traders and travelers with open arms. This hospitality has been preserved to this day.

The Al-Maktoum dynasty has ruled over Dubai since 1330.

The city is divided by the 10-km Khor Dubai Strait. Taking a ride on a small boat, you can see both shores, with wooden boats moored to them laden with goods from India, China, and Africa, and merchants with their tents set up right on the shore, just as it was seven centuries ago.

Dubai's streets are clean and safe. You can find anything you want here. Dubai is one of the world's most dynamically developing commercial centers and hosts major international conferences, exhibitions, and festivals. It is considered one of the safest cities in the world, and has been honored with the title "Safest Travel Destination Worldwide" on more than one occasion. The Dubai Shopping Festival is held in the Emirates every year, and has been given the name "Summer Surprises". The latest goods are on offer during the festival, and various events are organized.

Dubai is also a city of contrasts. Every kind of gambling is forbidden. The strictest punishments have been laid out for crimes related to drugs and sex. But this does nothing to stop a booming sex trade.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Desert Nights
[March 16, 2005]

Nearly $9 million was transferred from Dubai to Armenia in 2004

These are the amounts of bank wire transfers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Armenia over the last four years.

2001 $ 654,200
2002 $ 3,933,000
2003 $ 5,769,500
2004 $ 8,792,800

This information, provided to us by the Armenian Central Bank's public relations department, reveals a significant increase in money transfers from 2001 to 2004.

Why has there been such an increase, and who is sending the money?

We know that many Armenian businesses import different products from the UAE. But this involves sending money to the UAE from Armenia. According to Armenia's Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, in the last 14 years (1991-2004), Armenian businesses invested $4,356,000 into the UAE. This is a small sum compared to the amount of money that is sent the other way. In the last four years alone, $19,149,000 was transferred to Armenia from the UAE.

The increase of money transfers from the UAE reflects the growth in the sex trade in recent years. It is probably safe to say that this money is sent to Armenia by Armenian pimps and prostitutes. The prostitutes themselves told us that they use banks to send money to their relatives at home. But this is only a fraction of the money sent; the rest is transferred by Armenian pimps, who send part of the money to their relatives, and the rest to unknown recipients. It's hard for a journalist to prove this. But there are government agencies that could easily find out who regularly receives this money. If, of course, they want to find out.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Desert Nights
[March 16, 2005]

Nobody knows the number of Armenian prostitutes in Arab countries

Dubai's Armenian pimps are notorious for their criminal past. Most of them have been arrested at least once in Armenia for pimping and have spent at least one year in jail.

No one can say how many Armenian prostitutes there are in Arab countries. According to our own one-month investigation, at least 2,000 Armenian women are involved in the sex trade in the UAE, Bahrain, and Oman.

Eliz, an Armenian pimp, was in Dubai in March 2004, but today she and her women, who include underage Armenian prostitutes, are in neighboring Bahrain.

G., a prostitute from Yerevan who has been in Dubai for four years, told us, "Now there are more, probably two thousand of them. You can't imagine what's going on now. Several days ago I went to the Indian restaurant in the Marco Polo hotel, and I saw at least twenty Armenians [prostitutes]. You should have seen what they were like; they're probably all village girls.”

K. from Yerevan told us she felt free and happy in Dubai. "I have everything, I have no problem in my life," she said.

Armenian prostitutes can always be found the nightclub at the Sheraton or the bar at the Broadway Hotel. There already there by noon, greeted like old friends. They can sit for hours in the bar without ordering anything.

It's not so easy to get into the Cyclone. Security guards check for passports and visas, and don't let women in if they catch them with fake documents. They do a face check, too, to keep women out if they're too old or too ugly.

“Ano has a Xerox machine and she uses it to fake documents. They change the photos on the visas. Sometimes the visa has a Russian or Uzbek name, and the photo is of a totally different person. The photo on S.'s visa is hers, but the family name is of a girl from Uzbekistan.”

Anush, or Ano, is a notorious pimp in Dubai, a middleman between pimps in the UAE and certain officials from the Armenian law enforcement agencies. It was Anush who met these officials when they were visiting the Emirates.

Armenian prostitutes in Dubai can be divided into three groups: prostitutes who work under the supervision of pimps, prostitutes who work independently because they have paid their debts to the pimps, and prostitutes who have become the mistresses of local men who do not want them to have any other clients.

Twenty-three-year-old D. from Gyumri has a three-year resident visa. Her sister N. now has a boyfriend she lives with, Jamal, an Arab from Qatar. She no longer works; Jamal doesn't let her. The two sisters work in Jamal's office, N. as a manager and D. as an assistant to the accountant. Since they have resident visas, they can freely go back and forth to Armenia. D. is still working as a prostitute.

There are many cases of Armenian women who have married locals, becoming one of their many wives. These women wear Arabic clothes, change their religion, and adapt to the culture of their “masters”.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Desert Nights: An Interview with Ara Manoogian

Armenian News Network / Groong
March 15, 2005

by Onnik Krikorian

Ara Manoogian is an American-Armenian living and working in the self-declared Republic of Nagorno Karabagh. He is the grandson of Shahan Natalie, a famous Armenian writer and activist, and works for the foundation established in his grandfather’s name.

Through this foundation he has conducted a number of high-profile investigations into corruption and human rights related issues in both Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

His most recent was conducted in collaboration with Edik Baghdasarian, Editor-in-Chief of Hetq Online, who investigated the trafficking of women and children from Armenia to the United Arab Emirates.

ONNIK KRIKORIAN: You’ve recently returned from your third and final trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where you were involved in an investigation into the problem of trafficking from Armenia. When did this investigation start?

ARA MANOOGIAN: Edik Baghdasarian and I started this investigation at the beginning of 2004 although we had discussed this problem on many occasions prior to that. From reading many reports from international organizations in Armenia, we knew that there was a problem and so, at the beginning of 2004, we decided to examine the situation on the ground to determine whether those reports were accurate.

On our first trip to Dubai in February or March 2004, we very quickly discovered where the Armenian girls were although we spoke with only one girl at first. When we noticed the sad look on her face, we considered that she was a possible victim. She reminded me very much of girls from Nagorno Karabagh and as it turned out, she was a refugee from Azerbaijan.

She was twenty or twenty-one years old and was divorced from her childhood seetheart who left for Russia because of the harsh economic condition in the country leaving her alone to bring up her daughter. Because she had been unable to find employment that would pay her a decent living wage, and as she was a very beautiful girl, she said there were only a few options available to her.

She could either work in a store in Armenia for 30,000 drams (about $60) a month and be expected to sleep with her boss or she could go "elsewhere" to work. In a sense then, she was in Dubai voluntarily and we discovered that she partially knew what she was getting herself into. However, she did admit that she wasn’t expecting Dubai and other Arab countries to be so rough and dangerous, especially for girls.

OK: Do you consider that she was a victim in the sense that as a single mother unable to support her family in Armenia she had no choice but to find this type of work abroad?

AM: Yes, that’s what she felt. Incidentally, on our third trip we tried to find her again but her phone had been disconnected.

OK: Were most of the girls at least partially deceived into working abroad as prostitutes?

AM: I would say that a large number of girls from Armenia are tricked into coming by being offered an opportunity to find employment outside Armenia. Speaking to these girls, most seemed very naive and uneducated. Many came from broken homes.

However, we also visited a hotel in Dubai called the St. George that accommodated a couple of hundred Armenian girls, most of whom appeared to have come to Dubai voluntarily. Even there, however, we found a few girls that had been tricked into coming by friends already working in Dubai.

Because we knew that we had to get inside this ring to collect information, we also managed to discover which girls were truly the victims of trafficking and which were not. As a result, those that had been tricked wanted to expose those responsible for their situation.

OK: That sounds a little risky. I would imagine that those responsible for trafficking are not people you want to mess with. All you needed was one girl to tell her trafficker what you were doing...

AM: We think that there was one girl like that and on my last week I was followed everywhere so yes, that risk did exist. However, the girls we trusted were quite reliable for the most part and nothing serious happened.

OK: How old were the girls?

AM: We heard that there were fourteen year olds in Dubai but the youngest I personally saw was sixteen. The oldest was about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old.

OK: How did these girls manage to enter a country such as the United Arab Emirates which has very strict rules of entry, especially for young women and girls traveling alone?

AM: From what we were told and from what we saw in the form of documents, the girls were first taken to Russia where false passports are prepared. Usually, the first names of the girls are kept the same, and sometimes even their surnames, but their date of birth is changed to make them over thirty. However, because they still appear to be, and actually are, younger it appears that the authorities in the UAE are therefore involved. These girls are not even questioned about their passports when they enter the country.

OK: What you’re saying is that nobody bothers to question these young girls traveling on passports indicating that they are, in some cases, twice as old as they actually are when entering the UAE?

AM: Actually, the passports they’re traveling on are the old red [Soviet] passports which, I think, are not recognized anywhere else in the world apart from in the UAE.

OK: Presumably, the same is true when the girls leave Russia?

AM: From what these girls told us, they actually have two passports. They leave Russia on their Armenian passport but then, when they board their flight, they hide it in one of their shoes and enter the UAE on their Russian passport.

OK: When they arrive in Dubai, do they still retain their passports?

AM: No. The trafficker takes all of their documents when they arrive and gives them a Xerox of their fake passport and visa which is sufficient for them to travel around and stay in hotels.

OK: What happens then? After working for the traffickers, can they eventually buy back their passports?

AM: Yes, they can buy back their freedom. The way this works is that the trafficker decides their "debt" which varies between $6-12,000. I’m not sure how the debt is determined but anyway, the girls work and give all their income to the trafficker who sends a minimum of $100 a month to their families in Armenia who presumably think that they are working in Russia, Greece, Spain or some other country. After the "debt" is "settled," their documents are then returned and the girls are given the option to continue to work in the UAE under the protection of the trafficker who takes a percentage of the money they earn.

OK: How many Armenian girls are working as prostitutes in the UAE?

AM: We can’t put a concrete figure on this but initial figures from various organizations estimate that there are approximately five hundred. However, I personally saw over two hundred girls in only four or five locations but others are known to be working in other places. Edik went to other locations that I didn’t, for example, and reported that there were also a large number of girls from Armenia there. Therefore, based on what we saw and from speaking to the girls themselves, I’d say that there are as many as two thousand Armenian girls working in the UAE. I would say that this is a realistic and believable figure.

OK: Is there enough evidence to take legal action against anyone involved in the trafficking of women and children from Armenia to the UAE?

AM: Yes, and we will be pursuing the matter once our film is ready. We would expect some arrests to be made later and maybe even prior to the completion of the film. Many of the articles we have already published are accompanied by pictures of people involved in trafficking and one woman wanted by Interpol is currently in jail in Armenia. However, she is only serving a light sentence.

OK: I remember this case from one of your articles. You suggest that this particular woman returned to Armenia knowing full well she would be imprisoned for a short period of time in order to clear her name off Interpol’s list.

AM: Yes, and if the law worked, she would be facing additional charges.

OK: Is this the problem, then? Is the law not functioning correctly or are sentences for trafficking simply too light?

AM: The law contains provisions to hand down heavy sentences to traffickers but the legal system is not functioning correctly. I was present at the trial of five traffickers in Armenia last August and as far as I am concerned, Judge Ohanian and the prosecutor failed to do their jobs properly. These individuals should have received sentences of at least ten years but when Gulnara Shahinian, an expert on trafficking, presented the judge with details of Armenia’s international obligations
to prosecute those guilty of trafficking, he instead insisted on prosecuting them with old Soviet laws that carried lighter sentences of only two years.

OK: Why do you think that was?

AM: The evidence we collected on three trips suggests that there are officials in Armenia and the UAE that are directly involved in trafficking. There is not a single doubt in my mind that they are directly involved.

OK: If that’s the case, and after talking about possible risks in Dubai, isn’t it potentially dangerous to expose those responsible for trafficking in Armenia?

AM: We’re in the homeland.

OK: That gives you protection?

AM: Yes. In fact, it gives me a great deal of protection because my family has conducted this kind of work for many, many years and my grandfather as well as the foundation established in his name is very well respected by the Minister of Defense and the military. As a result, I’m not concerned at all and anyway, I’m a true believer in fate. When someone’s time comes, that’s their time. I’m not a person who lives in fear and it is for that reason that I do what I do. It has to be done.

OK: Now that Hetq Online has examined the problem of trafficking from Armenia to the UAE, what do you think the Armenian Government’s response should be?

AM: The Armenian Government’s response should be to denounce this as not being culturally cohesive and as being wrong. However, the Government has known about this problem for a number of years and I’m still unable to comprehend why it has not yet issued any additional statement on the matter.

Regardless, the Armenian Government, as well as the Church and the Diaspora, needs to take a strong position on this problem. What we have discovered, and what we have published up until now, is irrefutable. The evidence is there and it’s unreasonable for people to go into denial.

OK: However, do you think that it’s considered culturally taboo to talk about such issues?

AM: Absolutely, and what I’ve noticed from my own internet blog where quite a few of the articles have been republished is that few readers want to publicly comment on the findings of our investigation. Of course, I’ve received some private emails which have been very positive and there have also been some financial commitments from readers for future investigative work but only on the provision that these donations are made anonymously. Otherwise, it would appear that many Armenians in
the Diaspora, and even here in Armenia, are in shock.

OK: It’s also interesting to point out that one of those responsible for funding this investigation is a prominent Diasporan who also prefers to remain anonymous. It’s good that they supported this project, of course, but very interesting to note that they don’t want their name to be known. Ironically, however, you would have thought that it is precisely these people that should be acknowledged and appreciated.

AM: There were also some donations from a number of other individuals that wanted to remain anonymous. However, a number of others who said that they understood the importance of this work declined. Presumably this was because they were afraid of the possible fallout.

OK: There’s also a sizeable Armenian Community in the UAE. Were they willing and able to assist in your investigation, albeit anonymously?

AM: No. You have to understand that unless you are born in the UAE, almost everyone is on a residency visa and because the Government is directly involved with trafficking, the Armenians living and working there chose not to be involved in any shape, form or fashion even though I’m sure that many would have liked to have been. Because we understood that situation we pretty much left the Armenian community alone.

OK: What about the Diaspora in the United States and Europe. They don’t face any risk so what do you think they should do?

AM: I’ve received emails from Armenians in the Diaspora who say that they found this investigation very "interesting." Unfortunately, the problem of trafficking is not "interesting." It’s very sad and shouldn’t be looked upon as just another human interest story. It is instead an issue that affects all of us regardless of whether these girls went to the UAE voluntarily or not. The reason why this phenomenon exists today is economic and therefore, it is resolvable. However, it will take commitment but until then, Armenia is in a situation that I would describe as being out of control.

OK: Do you think that the Diaspora should speak out about such issues?

AM: Absolutely. The Diaspora, or at least those who have a sense of belonging, has a responsibility to do so. Unfortunately, the Armenian Government does not understand the concept of civil service or the fact that they are civil servants. This has to change and Armenians in the Diaspora can assert a certain amount of pressure on the Government to do so. However, so far they’re not.

Instead, there’s a certain mentality that’s probably very damaging for this nation. It’s the idea of something being "amot (shameful)." I’ve heard this over and over again and the notion that it’s shameful to talk about problems such as trafficking. It’s much easier to ignore the problem but, in my opinion, there’s nothing shameful in talking about such problems if the situation can be changed as a result. The Armenian Diaspora can play a role in that and perhaps I’m evidence of that.

OK: However, you’re just one person out of six million.

AM: Yes, I’m one of six million but my voice has been heard time and time again and I’ve achieved results. If properly coordinated, I believe that other individuals and organizations can also have a positive impact in determining the future of our nation. In my opinion, it’s time for the Diaspora to wake up. When people remain silent, they can only contribute to perpetuating such problems.

OK: Of course, some people, especially in the Diaspora, might instead criticize you for concentrating only on the negative aspects of life in Armenia. How would you respond to those that accuse you of dirtying the country’s image abroad?

AM: I would say that unless we address the problems that threaten the future of this nation, there can be no moving forward. However, I’d also add that I think of myself as an optimist and believe that Armenia has a promising future if these problems are resolved.

Edik Baghdasarian and Ara Manoogian’s investigation into the trafficking of women and children from Armenia can be read online at Ara Manoogian’s blog from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, Martuni or Bust, can be read online at

Onnik Krikorian is a freelance journalist and photojournalist from the United Kingdom now living and working in the Republic of Armenia.

Redistribution of Groong articles, such as this one, to any other media, including but not limited to other mailing lists and Usenet bulletin boards, is strictly prohibited without prior written consent from Groong's Administrator.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Desert Nights
[March 9, 2005]

Recruiters are free to work in Yerevan

21-year-old A. went to Dubai with her sister N. Her sister, known as Klara to the locals, is still there.

We met A. in Yerevan. Her mother told us how one day she met a man called Vagho, who lived in the Yerrord Mas neighborhood in Yerevan. “When I told him that my girls weren't working, he told me he could help them find a job in Greece, picking oranges,” she said. He introduced her to Sirush, a woman who lived in Bangladesh (a neighborhood in Yerevan). “Her name is Sirush, but she is also known as Gayane,” A's mother explained.

“My sister and I went to Moscow on February 14, 2004” A. went on with the story. “A guy named Ara met us there. He was nervous, always looking around. In one room there were eleven girls from different places. There was one girl who had gangrene in her leg, and was also kind of retarded. They sent her back. There was a guy there, too, called Sevo.”

In Moscow, the girls' passports were exchanged for Russian ones. In her new passport, twenty-one-year-old A. became thirty-one.

“At that point, they split us up. At the Dubai airport, we went different places. Marietta took me. When I found out what they brought me for, I told them that I was a virgin, and wouldn't do that kind of thing. They didn't believe me. They brought a doctor, who verified that I was indeed a virgin. I was crying the whole time, and telling them I'd commit suicide, that I'd throw myself from the third floor. We were living on the third floor. Marietta said she had already spent $5,000 on me, and she needed it back before she could let me go. I realized that I had been sold.

“They kept beating my sister, and any of the girls who disobeyed them. Ali, a tall Arab with long hair, would do the beating. Afterwards, Marietta paid him,” A. told us.

A. was given to a sheikh named Mohammed. As A. tells it, she ran away from the sheikh's house. But according to Armenian prostitutes we spoke to in Dubai, Marietta sold A. to the sheikh for $20,000, since she was a virgin. Later, Marietta gave A. $5,000 and she came back to Yerevan.

Another one of the girls in Moscow was from Yerevan. She was from an extremely poor family who lived in a shack on the outskirts of town. Again, the mother was told she was going to Greece to pick oranges, and the girl was recruited by Sirush from Bangladesh.

When the girl was still in Moscow, her brother somehow found out that his sister was going to Dubai and that Sirush was responsible.

“I went to Sirush and told her that if I didn't get my daughter back within 24 hours, I would go to the police, “ the girl's mother said. “She panicked and told me that she'd bring her back in two days. And my girl came home after a few days. Otherwise she would have gone and perished. She was two months pregnant at the time.”

We decided to look for Sirush, to find out if she was still recruiting girls. We had a student from the journalism department at Yerevan State University call Sirush, saying she had gotten her number from a friend, who with Sirush's help, was currently working in Dubai.

The student went to meet Sirush and Nelli in Bangladesh. She told them she was in dire need of money, and said that her family was in debt. We secretly recorded the entire conversation. First, Sirush talked about how much work she did.

“I've sent more than a hundred people to the Emirates. They were from 16 to 27. I don't take anyone older. I remember Suzy from Kirovakan, Kiso, Lilo, Flori, Hasilko, Armine, Anna from Yerevan.

“I've been doing this for a long time now. The people I like, I sent them one place. The people I don't, they're going somewhere else. I try to send them separately, so it won't be too obvious at the airport. First I send them to Moscow, where I have five or six people who take turns meeting them. They have connections at the airport, they're sort of a mafia there.”

Sirush then told the student the rules. “I'll talk about you with Nano, my cousin from Kirovakan. If she says OK, then you can fly tomorrow. She's staying in Dubai, in Bardubai, a rich neighborhood. She rents three houses and supervises 20-25 people. She is rich, has a car, everything. It'll cost me $3,000 - $4,000 to get you to Dubai. You'll be met in Moscow and they'll get you a new passport. After that you'll go to Dubai. There, how much you earn, what happens to you, is up to you. Maybe you'll be standing there, lost and confused. Nano's no cheap Mama Rose, who's going to put you there and [expletive].”

Nelli interrupted to say that the girls had very good living conditions in Dubai. “Go, you'll see the life. Live your life. Whatever you eat and drink, whatever you wear is free. And you'll have money too,” she said enthusiastically.

“What are going to do here? If you go there, you won't want to come back. We are close with the girls' parents, their mothers come to see us, and we go their houses. There's no way we could trick anybody, kidnap anybody from the street. You don't need anything [to go to Dubai]. All you need is your passport and some food and cigarettes. You go and they'll give you clothes, drinks. I sent my own daughter!”

At the end of the conversation, they decided on a day for the student to fly to Moscow.

In Moscow the Armenian pimps have their own people working for them. They are an important link in the Armenian sex trade. When we were in Dubai in June 2004, the prostitutes we knew told us that in the police had arrested the men who were sending girls to Dubai in Moscow, and that the next party of Armenian girls wouldn't be able to come to the UAE. We called the police in Yerevan the same day, and were told that the arrest had indeed taken place.

As a result of a joint action between Armenian and Russian law enforcement agencies in Moscow, a group of Armenians had been arrested trying to send Armenian women to the Emirates. But soon after they were brought to Armenia, the men were released. When we asked an officer of the law why, he said, “They probably paid a lot of money.”

These are the men who get the fake passports and transport Armenian women to Dubai. Dozens of Armenian prostitutes told us their names. But these men are still free today.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian
Desert Nights
March 9, 2005

The Armenian network in the Dubai sex trade
The man in this picture is known as Asad. He is the boss of the Armenian pimps in Dubai.
It was 3 a.m., February 8, 2004, and another night had ended at the Premiere, a disco on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We were waiting in the lobby for a chance to secretly film Asad and his friends. But they never appeared. The sex-trade bosses had gone to a cafe to talk about something, but we never learned what. At 4 a.m., a security guard asked us to leave the hotel.
We had seen Asad a few times inside the disco, but we couldn't do any filming, because the security guards at the entrance checked everyone for special devices. After several days, we succeeded in planting a small video camera in the bag of one of the Armenian women, but Asad didn't come to disco that night.
Asad is well known in Dubai among Armenian pimps and Armenian prostitutes alike. At the Hyatt Regency disco, several Armenian women came up to Asad and exchanged a few words with him. If he didn't ask them to sit down, they would quickly leave. Usually, if Asad invites a girl to sit down, it means he either wants to spend the night with her himself, or introduce her to his guests.
Asad is from Syria. He probably had Armenian neighbors or friends there, because he speaks some Western Armenian. He solves problems for the Armenian women, and guarantees their safety. Only with his help can Armenian pimps bring women to Dubai in the first place. He is the link between them the UAE immigration department and police. If the Armenians have any problems, Asad is the first one to find out. He's the one the pimps call if a girl has a visa problem or gets picked up by the police.
Asad's brother Ali also works in the sex trade, “importing” women from Russia. Through Asad, some of the Russians come to be supervised by Armenian pimps. For instance, in February, Ano (Anahit) from Echmiadzin took charge of a 16-year-old girl from Siberia named Olga. According to one of Ano's Armenian girls, she paid Asad $6,000 for Olga, underage girls being more expensive.
We met Olga in a second floor apartment Ano rents for the girls (she herself lives on the third floor). The girl had multiple cuts on her arms, as if she had tried to slit her wrists, but she wouldn't talk about it. We couldn't find out how she had arrived in Dubai, either, but it's most likely she was brought here by Ali.

Doctor Tigran

We wrote about Doctor Tigran Melikyan, who takes care of the Armenian prostitutes, in a recent article. A Syrian-Armenian, Tigran went to medical school in Yerevan, and then worked at Yerevan 's Hospital No. 8 until 1999. It is possible that Tigran knew Asad back in Syria.
Although all the Armenian pimps and prostitutes in Dubai know Tigran, he has no connections, social or otherwise, with the Armenian Diaspora there. Tigran is probably the only person who can say how many Armenian prostitutes are in Dubai. He works all day long, and still doesn't have enough time to take care of all the girls.
One Armenian prostitute said that Tigran requires the girls to get an injection every month. “He says that it's against AIDS,” Diana from Hrazdan explained. She really believes that she is being inoculated against AIDS. When we told her that there was no such drug, she was amazed. “Then what are they giving us?”
On the day they get the injection, the girls don't go to work, since the doctor strictly prohibits sex.

Ali, or the punishment gang

The Armenian pimps have a special method of punishing girls who misbehave. “There is one Arab whose services are used by all the Armenian bosses. His name is Ali, and his nickname is Papa Tulip. The girls call him Ali the Tail. “He has long hair, and wears it in a pony tail,” explained Anush from Yerevan , who has been here two years. She works for Nelli, also known in Armenia as Sverdlov Street Nelli. “The boss calls Ali, he comes and takes girls to the Sahara Desert [this is probably is a nickname for a local desert], where several people rape her and beat her. Then they bring her back. When our Shushan ran away, they caught her and took her to the desert. She was in horrible shape when she came back. It took her several days to come to her senses,” said Ani, a girl who belongs to another pimp, Bad Nelli. All the Armenian prostitutes are scared of Ali.
“Once another girl was taken to the desert,” said Armine from Masis. “Afterwards, she swore that she would get revenge. The next day she went to the police, and told them that she had been raped and beaten. The police arrested Ahmed, Ali, and Omar and they went to in jail for two months.”
After they repay their debts to the pimps, some of the Armenian women start to work independently. Anush, who is 24, now works for herself and lives with a girl from Russia. She has regular clients and feels safe. One of her clients got her a working visa from Yerevan, and now she has no more problems crossing the border. Nelli, her former boss, now lives in Yerevan, though her son David and his wife Gayane are in Dubai. All the members of this family are notorious pimps. Gayane was arrested in Armenia and charged with pimping in the 1990's.


Amin is Asad's African manager. During the day he collects money from the Armenian pimps. He also has several groups of Armenian prostitutes under his direct supervision. Twice, we followed Amin near the Armenian pimp Anush's house, hoping to photograph him, but didn't succeed. Both times, he entered Anush's apartment at exactly the same time, 3 p.m. , and then left after half an hour. Each time he drove a different car.
In early February, we were told by Armenian prostitutes, three officials from Armenia 's Prosecutor General's Office were in Dubai . They had also been there the last time we visited. On their first visit, the officials had spent time at the Cyclone. But that's another story.

The Armenian Network in the Dubai Sex Trade

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Here is a letter that I am sending around and for those of you who did not make my mailing list, consider this your copy. Also as he letter states, forward it to everyone you know.

Dear Friends,

I am writing you about a very sad subject which should concern all of us. The subject is the trafficking and exploitation of Armenian women and children to the Untied Arab Emirates.

First let me start by introducing myself.

My name is Ara Manoogian. I am an Armenian-American, from Pasadena, California, who relocated to the Armenian enclave of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) 7 years ago and presently lives in the city of Martuni.

I have been working as a human-rights activist since 1999, under the umbrella of the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc., dealing with social and economic issues that effect our people.

Though my family history is an interesting subject in itself, I won’t get into it other than to say that what I do today is not something new to our family. My ancestors from my father’s and mother’s side have been activists in Armenian issues for over a thousand years, starting with the Bagratuni royal family (886 to 1045), who I am a descendent of and in more recent history, my grandfather Shahan Natalie, who was the mastermind behind the executions of the Turkish and Azerbaijani officials who were guilty of carrying out the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Now that you have an idea of who I am, let me tell you a little about what I have been involved in investigating for the last year and the reason I am writing you.

It was brought to my attention last year that the phenomenon of trafficking underage girls from Armenia to the United Arab Emirate was not just speculation, but a fact.

At that time, we had information that there were at least 30 girls from the age of 13 to 16-years-old and close to 500 girls and women over the age of 18 found there.

For the planning stage, a couple members of our investigative team and I, paid a 4-day visit to Dubai to learn the lay of the land and to follow leads we had to see if in fact what we were told was accurate.

At the end of our first visit, we were convinced that phenomenon existed and after a couple more extended visits, found that our initial estimate of 500 women and children was not accurate, but the figure is closer to 2,000 as of January 2005.

For the most part, the victims are tricked into going, being approached by head-hunters, looking for laborers to go aboard working on farms or offices.

A good number of the victims are divorced women, who due to unfavorable economic conditions in Armenia, their husbands had abandoned their family all together, leaving the mothers to fend for themselves and their children.

Our investigation has yielded a wealth of information, which documents that not only is this an Armenian issue, but it is an international issue, effecting women and children from all over the world, who today are found in the UAE.

We believe that we will get results from our findings. We know that what we have done up until now is just the stating point and there is much work to be done to help the victims return to Armenia and find the help they need to sustain their families with legitimate economic opportunities.

Due to the covert nature and danger of this investigation, we were unable to appeal to the Armenian community for support and for the most part finance came from my family and a couple of close friends, but now that we have secured the information we need to expose this problem, the time has come to turn to everyone to get involved.

I invite you to visit and and read the stories we have so far posted on this subject. Once you have done this, think about what you will do to get involved and help the Armenian women and children who are right now living in a hell far from home and don’t know what to do or who to turn to for help.

This is a chance for you to literally save their lives. I say this as of the three visits we were there, one Armenian girl was murdered. That is 3 Armenian girls that we know of in the last 12 months. The last was Gayanne.

If you are interested in getting involved, please write back to me at:

I also ask that you forward this letter on to everyone you know, Armenian and non-Armenian, as if we are to win this battle that is in front of us, we are going to need all the help we can get.

Sincerily yours,

Ara Manoogian
NKR Representative
Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Dear Friends,

I am inviting you to join our efforts in helping the Armenian women and children victims of trafficking.

Though our efforts in exposing this phenomenon are expected to have a major impact on putting an end to this problem, we know from our findings that there is a need for more work to be done in the area of bringing our women and children back to Armenia and offering them a life worth living.

For this reason, we have decided that the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation will continue to coordinate efforts to take this work forward, but in order to do this, we need your help.

Though we will need a great deal of financial support, we also need professional help to maximize the impact of or efforts and for that reason we turn to you and/or your organization.

Please decide if there is something that you can contribute to a solution and if there is, join us by visiting


Ara Manoogian
NKR Representative
Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Desert Nights
[March 2, 2005]

They tricked me

We first met Suzy at the Cyclone nightclub, pretending to be two Americans. The next day, we invited her by phone to the Move-n-pick Hotel. We negotiated a price, and then told her that we were Armenians, looking for our 18-year old relative. Suzy started telling us where we could find Armenian women. Sometimes she even took us to the places herself. Of course, we always paid for her time, so that her boss (that's what prostitute call their pimps) wouldn't complain. Suzy is one of two women we've kept in touch with for a year now. We got her a new cellular number in Dubai, which she could use to call us. For months on end, we received information from Suzy and her colleague in Dubai.

To take a girl to a hotel, you usually have to pay. The price depends on the number of stars the hotel boasts. At the five-star Move-n-pick, we paid 100 dirhams (30 dollars). At the Rafee Hotel, we were once asked for 200 dirhams. There are some hotels that don't let you bring girls in, though among the nearly one thousand hotels in Dubai, those are few and far between. Suzy mainly frequents two discos—Cyclone and the Hyatt Regency. "When we're with a customer, the boss, or one of his trusted girls, calls all the time, until you say 'They've given me the money,' " she explained.

Suzy is from a small city in Armenia. She got married when she was 16. "We loved each other. He left me with two children two years ago, went to Moscow to work and didn't want to come back or help us any more, either. I went to live with my parents," she said.

Suzy's father is a mid-level employee at a government agency in Yerevan. "I wasn't financially that desperate, that wasn't why I came here. I just didn't want to be a burden on my parents - I wanted to live with my children in my own house there,” Suzy said.

“A close friend of mine said that she worked in Greece collecting fruit and made good money. She suggested going there together. She said that she'd been there a year already. I decided to go, and the two of us told my parents that we were going together. They consented. She then said that since I had visa problems, she would go there and have her acquaintances solve my visa issue, and then meet me there. She introduced me to a woman, who I then left for Moscow with, ostensibly to go to Greece from there.

“A man named Anushavan met us in Moscow. I stayed there for ten days. It was my first time in Moscow. I was alone in that room. Then they told me that the work was in Dubai - that was where I had to go. My friend called too, and said that she would meet me at the airport."

Suzy told us all this back in July 2004. They had a fake Russian passport issued for her in Moscow, which gave the 27-year old's age as 31. Her first and last names were kept the same, but her patronymic was changed to Andreyevna in the passport. "My friend really did meet me at the airport and then told me what work it was that I had to do. She told me not to worry, that everything would be fine. I didn't know what to do," said Suzy, who had little formal education and knew no foreign languages. When we met her in July, could speak no English except to mention her price. At that time, she had been in Dubai for only three months.

You could tell from the faces of some of the prostitutes that they were having a hard time doing their work. Suzy was one of them - she would always stand in a corner at the disco, thoughtful and sad. When we mentioned this the first time we met her, she blushed and said, "You have to be a certain kind of person to be able to... I can't, it embarrasses me." When we asked how much money she had made so far, she said, "Very little, they don't let me keep count. I've been working three months, but there have been days when I haven't had a single customer. I'm not allowed to keep track. Do you know what the boss would do if he saw me keeping count?" In July, Suzy's boss was a local, as the girls say. "He comes every day and checks on us. He comes between midnight and 1 a.m."

Suzy and the other Armenian girls live in an apartment building across from the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We did manage to see Suzy's boss once—he was a 35-year old African Arab called Amen—but we never managed to photograph him, not in 2004, during our first visit, nor while we were in Dubai this past winter. We did, however, see him at the disco in the Hyatt Regency a number of times in February 2005.

"All the bosses are very strict,” Suzy said. “They don't let you do anything without their consent. Even when I want to call my kids, I have to ask him for permission to call them. He stays with me and listens to what I'm saying. He is very strict.”

As a rule, Armenians prostitutes working in the disco try not to talk to each other. "One Armenian girl is not allowed to say hi to another," Suzy told us. "When we come to work, they take us to a hairdresser's to have our hair done. The bosses tell them to do our hair the way they want it."

There are ten other women working with Suzy, aged 16 to 28. "One of our girls couldn't bear it any longer, she turned herself in to the police. They sent her back to Armenia. But I'm too scared to go to the police. I can't bear the thought of being sent to Armenia like that, when everyone would know what I had been up to all this time... I would rather die. My father would kill me!" Suzy said, in despair. Nevertheless, she told her mother everything on the phone a few months ago. Her mother, she said, had no idea what to do.

"She's scared too. Sometimes I do feel like going to the police and turning myself in. I can't bear it anymore, and think that I should let whatever happens happen. There's something wrong with one of my kidneys--I go to a doctor, and give him some of the money I make. The doctor's Armenian - his name is Tigran. He takes care of all the girls and gives them injections or cleans them, if there are any problems."

And there always are problems. Sometimes, the customers do not want to use condoms; if the girls resist, they are beaten. According to Suzy, there have been a number of pregnancies. Most of Suzy's customers are Iranian. "Our bosses don't let us go with local people because it's too dangerous. For example, take what happened to one Armenian girl recently. They took her - she didn't know they were locals - to Sharjah. There were ten or fifteen men, and that one girl, just imagine. She was from Yerevan and had cleared her balance, which meant she no longer owed the boss any money. She had taken her passport and was working on her own. They tricked her, took her away, and she ended up being with fifteen men!

"The girls don't share their earnings with each other - they give everything to the boss right away. Some customers take two girls at once. If you don't want to work, they force you to - they call Ali, he takes you away, beats you, some people rape you and then bring you back. All the Armenians know Ali and are terrified of him.

"I have both physical problems - fatigue, for one - and psychological, but it's mostly psychological. I miss my kids. I miss them a lot. They always say 'Come home soon.' It's very hard, and it's a very bad job. You're forced to do it - it becomes second nature after a while. Some of the girls can't work, but they are forced to do it for only 20 or 30 dirhams. It becomes second nature - you get so used to it, that you don't feel a thing. You do things, but it means nothing to you," says Suzy, downcast.

Suzy is one of the few Armenian girls that we have met in Dubai who can unquestionably be considered a victim.

In order to prevent disease, all the Armenian prostitutes visit Dr. Tigran Melikyan, who gives them injections. He works in a clinic in Sharjah and treats everything from gynecological diseases to vertebral problems. In order to meet Dr. Melikyan, one of us had to pretend to be ill.

Tigran Melikyan knows all the Armenian bosses. He is an important part of the Armenian prostitution network, a network with a clear place in the Dubai sex trade.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian