Saturday, April 30, 2005

The weather today as great!!! The sun was out shining and being that it was so nice, I decided to make my rounds on foot and visit friends.

I made my way to the other side of Martuni, finding Vartan the truck diver who has one leg. He was working on this truck which had a leak in the radiator.

Vartan was a gunner during the war on a light tank known as a BMP II. In his last battle which he lost his leg, Vartan’s BMP, came under attack by over 10 Azeri tanks and BMP’s. By the time the battle was over, most of the Azeri arsenal had been hit and disabled by Vartan, but not before Vartan got hit. I didn’t hear this story from Vartan, who I’ve never heard talking about the war, but from someone who was there and saw Vartan’s last battle.

To me, Vartan is an amazing person. For as long as I’ve known Vartan, he has been driving this same 16 ton dump truck, working almost every weather-permitting day of the year to bring building materials, grain, firewood and does not complain about the very low pension he gets for his disability since he has created a job for himself that earns enough to live off of, though he is always struggling to find tires that are not too worn out from the army to use on his truck (the bad roads here eat tires).

After my visit with Vartan, I went to visit a friend who is having knee problems. The problem has something to do with calcium buildup between the joints.

As I was visiting, the television was turned on the local Artsakh channel which had a program documenting the war.

My friend didn’t seem to be bothered by the reminder of the war, to which my friend had lost many immediate family members, but did mind that those “heroes” being talked about, who are talked about every week. The point was that those heroes of yesteryears are people who are promoting their names today to lessen the impact of the bad economic and political things they doing now.

We remembered some of the mistakes of the past, like the many towns and villages that were not destroyed by the war, but were destroyed later by the greed of a few, some being those heroes we see on television every week.

I saw someone on television I know quite well who made General after the war and immediately remembered a story someone told me a few days ago (as we walked to the cemetery to lay Arpi to rest) about the capture during the war in 1993 of an installation that helps to prevent crop damaging hail. It was brought to Martuni from Aghdam and had everything you needed, including the instruction books. This General, who was a commander at the time, ordered to have the trailer the hail preventing system was installed in to be gutted and turned into a bath for the troops in Kevorkavan. To the protest of the guy that told me the story, arguing that this kind of thing will be very hard to come by later (to this day no such system is found in Artsakh) and is worth millions, the trailer was turned into a portable bath and shortly there after back into a trailer to transport goods. I could write a book in itself about this General, with all the things him and his friends have done and are doing today for their own personal gains at the expense of our future.

The point is that in this world, there are too many people who are only interested obtaining a lifestyle of excessive wealth and the price we are paying for this is widespread poverty and hardship for the majority of the world.

After visiting with my friend with the knee problem, I headed home.

On the way, I ran into a woman who asked if I was Ara Manoogian? I said yes to which she started to thank me for helping her and her children over the years and me being their hope. I asked her who she was since I didn’t recognize her face. After she told me, I knew her name as one of the people who our reader JD helps out. She blessed me and the person who sends them money (JD) for all we have done for her and her children during their greatest time of need has made their lives more bearable. She said a whole bunch nice things about her wish for us to live long happy lives to which I wished the same to her and her family.

Yes it was a typical day in Martuni. As always, I am witness to the good and bad of life in these parts of the world.

Friday, April 29, 2005

For those of you following the trafficking issues we have been investigating, here is a document that has been recently made available from IOM that does a fantastic job of further documenting the trafficking of women and children under the age of 14 to the UAE, Turkey and Greece. This report not only documents victims from Armenia, but also Azerbaijan and Georgia.

I want to warn you, this is a very difficult read, but it is most important for those that view the victims as “prostitutes," something I'm offended by, since they are all clearly NOT prostitues, but trafficking victims.

Just so you wonder who I think the word “prostitute” should be used to describe, that would be for the persons who trafficked the victims in the first place; those in governments who allow trafficking and are profiting from it; and for those that turn a blind eye to this phenomenon to protect economic interests. These are the real prostitutes and the ones who should and will be shamed and punished for what they do.

Click here to view the IOM report.
Martuni has been seeing an unusually high number of deaths in the last couple of days.

Arpi, the 85 year old grand-aunt of my future mother-in-law passed away a couple of days ago. Her funeral was yesterday. She was a decorated war veteran and never married. She was a kind of ornery old women who for the most part kept to herself and didn’t bother anyone. Since she didn’t have any children, she was looked after by her nephew and grand-nephew (the mayor), who made sure she was comfortable in her last few years of her life. The mayor made sure she had a proper funeral. She was laid to rest next to her sister and brother-in-law.

On the day of Arpi’s funeral, my former neighbor Garen’s mother-in-law died. She was in her 70’s.

And since things happen in threes when it come to people dying, Geno the welder/plumber died of a brain tumor. He was only 60 years old and was a person that was very well respected not only because he was good at what he did, but he never overcharged or did anything unnecessary for his customers. He will be really missed.

Dr. Hayrapetyan is very sick and could die anytime. He is 70 or 71 and is the next door neighbor to Arpi.

Yes, death is the last page of ones life and for these people who have lived a somewhat long life, the book of their lives been completed and can now be added to our collection of memories.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

To see for your own eyes Turks in a panic over genocide recognition, CLICK HERE.
Important Rally

Below are the specifics about the rally that is taking place this Friday at 11:00 in front of the US Federal Building.

This Rally offers a unique opportunity to voice our concerns to the US government about the positions it has taken on key Armenian issues. Besides not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the current Administration and State Department have taken a very anti Armenian position on the Kharabagh conflict. While it may not appear to be the case, we are currently in an emergency situation. If we do not voice our concerns things may turn for the worst in the very foreseeable future.

As Armenian Americans we have a right and a responsibility to be heard.

Details of the protest:
What: Rally for Truth & Justice --- Protest For the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide
When: Friday, April 29th 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Where: US Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Organized by: United Human Rights Council (

There are several buses that will take people to and from the protest, located at the following central locations. If you would like to take the bus, you need to be there at the LATEST by *****9:30 AM***** (Two of the locations are earlier, as noted below):

- Burbank: In front of Public library (corner of Olive and Glenoaks).
- Burbank/Glendale: In front of Jons market (corner of Western & Glenoaks).
- Glendale: St. Mary's Church: 500 S. Central.
- Pasadena: Armenian Center, 740 E. Washington. **9:00 AM**
- La Crescenta: Armenian Center, 2633 Honolulu.
- Hollywood: St. Garabed Church, 1614 Alexandria.
- Encino: Holy Martyrs Church/Ferahian, 5300 White Oak.
- Montebello: Mesrobian School: 8110 Paramount. **8:30 AM**
- North Hollywood: Armenian Center: Colfax & Moorpark.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Wednesday 27, April 2005

Journalist Inquiry Implicates Armenian Officials In Dubai Trafficking

By Emil Danielyan

The Armenian authorities have done little to combat illegal trafficking of hundreds and possibly thousands of Armenian women abroad for sexual exploitation despite their persistent claims to the contrary, according to the findings of a nearly year-long journalistic investigation.

Edik Baghdasarian, a prominent investigative reporter, and Ara Manoogian, an Armenian-American activist, have suggested that senior law-enforcement officials in Yerevan are maintaining close ties with Armenian prostitution rings in the United Arab Emirates for personal gain. They allege in particular that some of those officials regularly visit Dubai to collect bribes from the local Armenian pimps and women trafficked by them.

“We have compelling evidence we collected there that suggests individuals within the Armenian government and in high-ranking positions are directly involved with this ring,” says Manoogian.

The two men have repeatedly visited the Gulf Arab nation over the past year, interviewing scores of Armenian prostitutes and secretly videotaping glitzy night clubs where they usually find clients. Their detailed accounts of the Dubai sex business were presented in a series of reports that appeared recently in the online publication of Baghdasarian’s Association of Investigative Journalists. Baghdasarian has promised to make more scandalous revelations in a separate documentary which is expected to be aired by an Armenian TV channel next month.

The reports suggest that there could be as many as 2,000 Armenian prostitutes working in the UAE and other Gulf states at present. Virtually all of them are said to have traveled there with fake Russian passports provided by their traffickers in Moscow. UAE law forbids foreign single women below the age of 31 from entering the country. The documents overstating the women’s age thus allow prostitution ringleaders to easily flout this restriction.

Baghdasarian and Manoogian claim that the UAE authorities are well aware of that but turn a blind eye because they too have a share in the business involving tends of thousands of women from across the former Soviet Union. “This is a well-organized business with a rigid chain of command,” says Baghdasarian.

Most of the trafficked women come from poor families and were lured into prostitution with a promise of quick money. “I couldn't find a job [in Armenia],” one of them, a divorced woman from a village in southern Armenia, is quoted as saying in a Hetq article. “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 prostitutes reportedly have to give the Armenian pimps in Dubai a large part of their income. According to the authors of the inquiry, many of them are forced to have sex 10 or even more clients a day in order to secure the minimum daily sum required by their “employers.” They say that the Armenian pimps are in turn subordinated to a Syrian-born Arab known as Assad. He is said to have strong connections with officials at the UAE’s police and immigration departments.

Scores of Armenian women are also thought to have been trafficked to other parts of the Middle East, notably Turkey. The phenomenon dating back to the mid-1990s came under public spotlight in 2002 when the U.S. State Department placed Armenia in the so-called "Tier3" group of states which Washington believes are doing little to tackle illegal cross-border transport of human beings.

The embarrassing criticism led the Armenian authorities to take what the State Department later described as "significant efforts" to reduce the scale of human trafficking. They set up a special inter-ministerial commission tasked with tackling the problem. It also began to be publicly discussed by government officials and non-governmental organizations.

Armenia was removed from the U.S. blacklist and upgraded to the "Tier 2" category in 2003. "The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," the State Department said in a report last year.

Baghdasarian disagrees. “The prosecutors say they are combating the problem, but I don’t see any action,” he says.

Armenia’s Office Prosecutor-General rarely launch criminal investigations into suspected instances of human trafficking. Only two such cases were reported last year. Although Armenia’s new Criminal Code enacted in 2003 raised the maximum jail term for trafficking from two to eight years, court rulings against individuals convicted of related charges have remained lenient.

One such person, Amalia “Nano” Mnatsakanian, was arrested in the UAE on an Interpol warrant and extradited to Armenia in March 2004. She was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a Yerevan court last August only to be released less than two months later. Another reputed pimp, Marietta Musaelian, is expected to released soon, well before completing her two-year sentence.

Baghdasarian says most of their “colleagues” remain at large and have little to worry about. As recently as last February he sent a young female journalist posing as a prospective prostitute to two women known to be involved in a Dubai prostitution ring. Their conversation in a Yerevan apartment was secretly recorded.

"I've sent more than a hundred people to the Emirates,” one of the women called Sirush told the undercover journalist. “They were from 16 to 27. I don't take anyone older.”

“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,” she added.

“If you go there, you won't want to come back,” said the other pimp, Nelli.

Andranik Mirzoyan, head of the investigations department at the Prosecutor-General’s Office, claimed on March 16 that most traffickers remain unpunished because they enjoy government protection in the UAE. "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," he complained after a meeting of senior prosecutors that discussed the problem.

Mirzoyan also told reporters that a team of Armenian investigators traveled to Dubai in February to try to “persuade” Armenian prostitutes to return home. But Baghdasarian insists that the officials' actions were less than altruistic.

“We have recordings of girls in Dubai saying that they gave thousands of dollars to a particular employee of the prosecutor’s office. We know their names, where and when they met.” he says, adding that such visits from Yerevan have been regular.

Citing unnamed Dubai prostitutes, Baghdasarian wrote last month that one of those officials, Aristakes Yeremian, cut a deal with at least one Armenian pimp. The Prosecutor-General’s Office has still not reacted to the allegation.

But Yeremian, who is a senior investigator at the law-enforcement agency, rejected the charges on Wednesday. “Such a thing is impossible,” he told RFE/RL. Yeremian admitted meeting several Armenian pimps in Dubai “for questioning” but denied extorting any money from them through blackmail and arrest threats.

Visiting Yerevan last July, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev announced the arrest a “criminal group” of Armenians in Moscow who allegedly transported young women from Armenia to the UAE via Russia. The suspects were immediately extradited to the Armenian authorities to face prosecution, he said.

“They were flown to Yerevan and set free a month later,” says Baghdasarian. “I asked one law-enforcement official why they were released. He said they probably paid a lot of money.”

That there is lots of money involved is obvious from figures provided to Hetq by the Armenian Central Bank. They show that the total amount of cash remittances wired to Armenia from the UAE totaled almost $8.8 million last year, up from just $1.6 million registered in 2001. With Armenian imports from the UAE by far exceeding exports in 2004, a large part of that money may well have been generated by the prostitution networks.

Manoogian, who runs a charity and small businesses in Nagorno-Karabakh, believes that many of the trafficking victims can be repatriated and reintegrated into Armenian society. He is currently lobbying international and Diaspora organizations to finance a special rehabilitation center for them. “Right now we are in the process of putting together a rehabilitation program,” he says.

But Baghdasarian is skeptical about the effort: “Ninety percent of those women knew what awaits them in Dubai and are earning much more than they could do here.”

Ara’s Note: I was shocked to see such a statement from Edik in the last paragraph of this story, since other than listening to recorded testimonials and visiting with a very small number of Armenian girls (most of who I was also present), there was no way he could claim that 90% knew that they were going to Dubai and what awaits them. When I called him on the phone to ask him how he could make such a claim, he said he did say that he made the statement that he believed that 90% knew why they were going, but said that they DIDN’T know what awaits them. Even this statement I don’t agree with, as I was the one that spoke with the majority of them and they convinced me of the contrary.
Well what I wrote about a couple of logs ago about Kocharian wanting Turkey to admit to the 1915 genocide and not expect material compensation is seen by Turkey as a dishonest answer by the Armenian leader to the Turkish PM’s offer.

From this article, it also seems that Turkey is not really serious about resolving the issues we have and is just wanting to once again further delay the inevitable and make it look to the international community like they are doing something to reestablish friendly relations with Armenia.

Journal of Turkish Weekly
April 27 2005

’Armenian Reply is Full of Tricks’

The Armenian Head of State Robert Kocharyan has responded to a letter from the Turkish Prime Minister calling for a joint committee to study the issue of the so-called genocide.

Ankara says it is wary of the wording of the offer, which leaves many issues not addressed.

The letter said that Armenia was ready to establish relations with Ankara without any conditions, however Armenian leader implies many conditions and tricks.

‘Let us firstly set up relations’, Kocharyan's letter read. `We can later take into account various matters in an inter-governmental committee.’ However, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the letter of the Armenian Head of State was full of tricks of terminology and that Ankara was cautious over establishing relations without having settling the issue of the alleged genocide.

Armenian Government tries to establish diplomatic relations before any commission. But Turkey says Armenian forces must be withdrawn from Karabakh and Armenia must publicly recognize Turkey's national borders for diplomatic relations. Armenian forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories and Yerevan rejected all calls from Turkey, US and the EU to end occupation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Today I was listening to recordings of the April 20 to 21st genocide conference. I have to tell you that I was quite impressed with some of the non-Armenian speakers, especially the Turkish ones.

One thing I was not impressed with was the lack of discussion in the area of genocide prevention. I would think that this should have been a priority, but with a bunch of scholars who study genocide, what would they really know about prevention?

When I asked about human nature and how we have to recognize what human beings are so we can live accordingly to prevent genocide, it seems that only Professor Richard Hovanessian took the question seriously.

After I asked my question there was a comment from Armenian Revolution Federation (ARF) Bureau Political and Armenian National Committee Director Giro Manoyan, who said: “I hope he doesn’t defend my human rights…with friends like that…”

I listened to Giro’s speech. He talked about how the ARF was not at the 80th anniversary of the Armenian genocide because his party was banned. At that time, according to Giro, the ARF was accused of not defending our people in times of crisis.

I thought that Giro’s human rights comment was kind of rude and unnecessary. Taking into consideration the accusation 10 years ago of his party not defending our people in their times of crisis, I could not stop thinking of the ARF’s investigation of human trafficking to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) three years before our investigation team ever stepped foot on the sands of the UAE.

At that time the ARF was bound and determined to put an end to the shameful Armenian involvement in the sex trade in Dubai, but when they found out who was involved and the economic hardships they could possibly face for trying to put an end to this culturally non-cohesive trade, they suddenly stopped their investigation and turned a blind eye to this problem. When they put an end to their two year investigation, there were about 500 Armenian women and children in Dubai. Since then that number has grown to 2,000.

When I found out that it was the ARF’s Bureau Political and Armenian National Committee Director Giro Manoyan publicly questioning my abilities of defending his human rights, I could only look at what the ARF has really done in the past and think that Giro is the last guy who has the right to make the comment he made, considering the ARF has done relatively much less.
Genocide recognition is just around the corner - Turkey is in a panic

I was in Stepanagert on the 24th, visiting with a friend who was born in Turkey and understands the language. He turned on Turkish television to show how hard the Turks are working to convince their people that the Armenian genocide is a fabrication.

From what I saw at the genocide conference a few days ago and especially from the Turkish guest, it’s going to be just a matter of time before the Turkish government caves in and admits that what happened 90 years ago was in fact genocide and they are the succeeding state, thus have to answer for parts of this crime.

According to the people from Turkey that we heard talk at the conference, it would be in our best interest to convince the common Turk that the genocide did happen, as once the masses accept it, the Turkish government will have a more difficult time to deny it. They left the impression that many Turks know that the gencide did happen but are taught to forget.

Some believe out of fear, Turkey does not recognize the genocide as it would have to pay out hefty compensation and possibly give back land if it does.

I guess this is a legitimate fear, as from what I can tell just from our family and what it owned before 1915, we are due a large amount of compensation, which includes an entire city block in central Istanbul. I’m sure there are thousands of others who are due back even more, thus a very big problem for Turkey.

While talking about compensation, in a Agence France Presse article of April 23, 2005, titled “Armenia seeks moral, not material compensation over 'genocide': president,” Kocharian was quoted as saying "We're not talking about (material) compensation, it is a moral issue, the issue of the material consequences is not discussed at state level,"

Now I’m not too sure how to read into this other than maybe the Armenian government is thinking about signing into a deal with the Turkish government to forgive them for material compensation for admitting to the genocide (though I’m not sure they have the right to do this), or in fact the state is not at this time talking about material consequences and once the genocide is recognized they will, meaning that what the president said is accurate, but also what I would call an unnecessary statement since it really does not say anything.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The genocide conference is over and in terms of it being good for Armenian genocide recognition, it was great. For it being a good well rounded conference on genocide recognition and prevention, it was not.

I spoke again and touched on the following subject, which I wrote about on the way back to Artsakh, while riding on a bus and passing through the Lachin corridor. Though I was not allowed to say all that I’ve written due to time restraints, I did get out half of my question, which the discussants on the panel did not answer and it was only later kind of answered by Professor Richard Hovanessian who directed me to where I could find answers.

The following is an unedited and very rough version of what I wrote, which needs some additional information that I will collect when I have some spare time:

Genocide -- Crime against humanity or act of human nature?

The word genocide which was invented by Raphael Lemkin, was adopted by the United Nations on December 9, 1948 as a punishable crime against humanity.

The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:

1) the mental element, meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such", and

2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called "genocide."

Article III described five punishable forms of the crime of genocide: genocide; conspiracy, incitement, attempt and complicity

For more information on what constitutes genocide, see:

When the word was invented by Lemkin, it was done so to describe the crimes committed by the Adolph Hitler’s German government towards the Jewish minorities in Eastern Europe.

One has to ask the question of prior to 1948, what was Genocide called and how were those that committed such acts were punished?

From the beginning of written history, aggressions that would today be called genocide have been taking place.

These crimes for the most part have gone unpunished and accepted as an event that took place and life has moved on. Very rarely have victims of such aggression been compensated for their loss of material wealth, or the deaths of their relatives.

Of course this all changed with the invention of the word Genocide, where the Jewish people have gain recognition of the Jewish Holocaust, for which the German government has and will continue to pay compensation for the losses Jews and other ethnic minorities sustained.

While examining genocide and it’s cause and effect, one has to ask what would drive a government and it’s people to commit such atrocities towards weaker minorities found in the country they govern and is this act an animal instinct which lies dormant in all humans and all that is needed is something to trigger it?

While seeking an answer to this question, one also has to examine what a human being is and what makes them so humane, to have such a word to describe them as such.

The reality is that humans in general are for the most part not humane and in too many cases are in fact very inhumane. This is proven by looking no further than with the division of rich and poor, with the majority of humans living in poverty.

The reality is that if humans were in fact humane, they would be more interested in making sure that their fellow humans were at very least secure with minimal life sustaining nutrition and shelter for a healthy existence.

This fact and other common acts of greed and the pursuit of wealth, going so far as the willingness to go to war over material wealth should sufficiently illustrate that humans are in fact not humane and are vicious creatures with parasitical tendencies.

So if humans are not humane and are in fact parasites, why should we expect anything less than them be at risk of committing genocide?

When one thinks of genocide, one thinks of people being killed and their property being misappropriated.

Genocide according to the UN definition is not just about spilling blood and misappropriating of victims material wealth.

The term “white genocide” is used to refer to a genocide that does not spill blood on the surface and when the genocide is taking place, but in most cases can be even more damaging.

Such white genocides have also been going on undoubitly since the beginning of time, which effect have been recently documented in the recently independent republic of Armenia, where the once strong educational, religious ad social structure has been systematically disassembled by Western influences and financial institutions, under the name of promoting democracy and the fair rule of law.

The United States government has for the last 200+ years been influencing and financing foreign countries in an effort to promote democracy, a democracy that the founding fathers of the United States Republic did not adopt as their method of governing, as they knew a country that adopts democracy is doomed to fail.

Knowing this and the US’s promoting democracy in foreign countries knowing it’s effect and their foreign policy, which includes US Army’s 100-20 – Low Intensity Conflict, which is intended to destroy and destabilize venerable and struggling nations to collapse or at very least become dependent on the West for their survival and could also be a contributing factor that leads governments to commit genocide.

So going back to the original question of this paper, is genocide a crime against humanity, or in fact a natural and instinctual acts that “humans” are capable and willing to do?

One other thing that needs to be considered is what triggers Genocides? Could it be nothing more than the basic law of nature, survival of the fittest and nature cleaning the weak and allowing the strong to flourish?

This clearly was one of Hitler’s beliefs, which was the Arian race was superior in his mind and being it the strong, it should only be allowed to survive.

There could also be an economic issue and a non-humane way of thinking when it comes to fulfilling ones economic needs, or it could be the victims of genocide were an economic risk for the aggressors. What better way to motivate someone than to point blame for ones economic woes as being the victims and the need to eliminate the treat?

The reality is that out of 200+ nations, only eight of them are considered economically independent and that one of these eight, namely the United States, represents less than 5% of the worlds population, consumes over 25% of the worlds energy resources, controls over 50% of the world economy and is one of biggest culprits of White Genocide today.

Taking everything written above, it seems that genocide as defined by the UN is a natural and predictable occurrence that is unique and natural for humans to commit and can not be entirely eliminated, but if properly studied can be partly avoided.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Yesterday while coming out of a meeting, I stopped into the Hotel Armenia to use their restroom and noticed a table in the lobby that had a bunch of name-badges. I noticed among them a name I had not read since I was last in the states.

After the restroom, I returned to the table and asked if I could leave a note with the badge and noticed that the badges was for a conference tied into the events here in Armenian for the 90th year or remembering the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

I asked how I can get invited and after being given the okay, I canceled my plans to return to Martuni that was suppose to happen today.

This morning I packed up my bag with our books on trafficking and headed to hotel Armenia and joined the conference after the opening was over (for security reasons, I could not attend, and fully understand).

As I was going in I did see Serg Sarkissian coming out with Oleg Yesayan, the president of the NKR parliament, who were later joined by the NKR president.

After Serg left, I walked up to Oleg to give him a copy of our book on trafficking and told him that they should think about what NKR is going to do, since there are girls from NKR there. Oleg told he would, as the president shook his head as if he too agreed (though I'm not sure if he really knew what Oleg and I were talking about).

The conference went quite well and it was well attened and very well organized.

I passed out quite a few of our books to people who didn't know, but do have to know about the "white genocide" that is going on today.

At the end of all the sessions, they had a questions and answers to which I asked the question of what is genocide, since everything that was talked about was genocide that spills blood and you can see the killing, pointing out that there is genocide going on all over the world that does not directly involve blood, a genocide that is even going on in Armenia.

When all was said and done and after talking to a couple of natives about my question a comment, one who didn't think what I said about Armenia today was accurate, but after a few questions to him and he answering and understanding what genocide includes, I headed home, skipping the concert at the opera for the attendees.

Tomorrow is the second and last day of the conference. Let's see what they will cover on the last day.
19 April 2005

Exporters Worried About Armenian Currency Surge

By Shakeh Avoyan

Some of Armenia’s leading exporters expressed concern on Tuesday about the mysterious appreciation of the national currency, the dram, against the U.S. dollar and the euro which again accelerated last week.

Top business executives affiliated with the Yerevan Chamber of Commerce warned that a further rise in the dram’s value would hit hard their companies and stifle the country’s modest exports. Some of them said they have already incurred losses as a result of the more than year-long trend.

The dram’s exchange rate rose from 450 to 430 per dollar in the course of last week, making it nearly 10 percent stronger against the greenback than at the beginning of this year. The dram has gained almost 30 percent in value set against the dollar since the start of its appreciation early last year. It has strengthened against the European Union’s single currency at about the same rate.

“If this trend continues I think that we will suffer big losses,” said Sergo Karapetian, the chief executive of an export-oriented food processing company in the southern town of Artashat. “We are therefore trying to boost our sales in the local market.”

“The Central Bank chairman tells us that we must be happy that our national currency is gaining in value. Of course we are happy, but not with such big fluctuations,” Karapetian told RFE/RL.

A senior executive of a coffee processing and packaging firm called Royal Armenia was also unhappy. “We too export things and suffer losses,” he said.

Armenia’s government and Central Bank attribute the unprecedented phenomenon to the worldwide weakening of the dollar and a surge in dollar remittances from Armenians working abroad. President Robert Kocharian defended this explanation at a meeting with university students last week, indicating that the authorities will not intervene to weaken the dram.

“All complaints should be addressed to the U.S. government,” Kocharian said. “Tackling that phenomenon would be senseless because the U.S. economic might is so great.”

However, economists critical of Kocharian and his administration dismiss such arguments, insisting that the dram’s strengthening was engineered by the Armenian authorities to benefit government-connected large-scale importers of fuel and other basic commodities. The argue that the multimillion-dollar remittances to Armenia are traditionally weak in winter months and point to the fact that the dollar has rallied in the international currency markets this year.

Analysts also blame the strong dram on last year’s considerable slowdown in the growth of Armenian exports which is seen as indispensable for continued economic growth in the impoverished country. Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian admitted that the exchange rate changes have affected at least some of the exporters.

Also expressing “big reservations” about the official theory was Armen Darpinian, Armenia’s former prime minister largely loyal to Kocharian. In a newspaper interview earlier this month, Darpinian laid the blame on the Armenian Central Bank, describing it as a “structure serving private interests.”

Another fact cited by critics is that the prices of key imported goods have hardly fallen over the past year. Abraham Manukian, a parliament deputy and businessman involved in import-export operations, could not explain this phenomenon. “The dollar keeps falling but goods are not becoming cheaper, which is very surprising,” he said.

“Prices have actually gone up,” said Tsolvard Gevorgian, chairwoman of the Armenain Union of Traders. “This is a very weird phenomenon.”

Friday, April 15, 2005

I got a message from one of our readers the other day asking if I was still around and okay? Well folks, I'm still around and kicking, just really have had nothing to write about or at least anything I could write about for public reading.

I've been in Yerevan for a couple of weeks working on our film and having meetings about our next step in resolving some of the trafficking issues Armenia is facing. Good news is that we are moving forward and this is really all I can say about this subject.

As for life in Yerevan, it's not Martuni and for me is not all that fun. I'm not going to say that I hate this place, but I like the simple life where there are not so many lights and cars.

One thing that is going on here is that the Dram (Armenian money) is worth more these days when it comes to exchange rates. The dollar is not at 442 drams to one dollar and the Euro is now worth what the dollar use to be worth 560 drams to one Euro. Only thing that is not making any sense is that eggs are still 50 to 70 drams each and the price of everything seems to be what it was when the dram was 560 dram to one dollar. If the dram is really worth more now, eggs should be 30 or 40 drams each and food should cost 20% less. All I know is that we are eating more and more macaroni and less and less meat as a result of the stronger dram.

Anyway, sorry to have been so out of touch. I'll try to write more in the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dear Friend!

Please Visit and light a candle for 1 500 000 victims of
Armenian Genocide

And please resend this message to all your friends! Help us to break the silence!

Thank you!