Monday, October 31, 2005

Remembering Dubai

The other day I had the honor of going on an excursion with some friends in their Niva and when my friend who was driving got tired, he asked me if I wouldn’t mind driving a bit?

I have not driven anything other than an automatic transmission in Armenia for the last couple of years and when I first got behind the wheel, had a jerky start. From the movement the car made, I remembered Dubai.

It was another late night of club hopping and I had sent part of our surveillance team to our hotel to get my room ready to videotape an interview with a trafficking victim I would bring in a couple of hours.

As I was walking around Premier, a disco which is on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency in Dubai looking for a girl, I spotted a man who one of our investigators had photographed a couple months before our arrival. The man's name was Ali and he was the brother of Assad, who is the head of the Armenian trafficking ring in the UAE. When I spotted Ali, he and a couple of his friends were getting up to leave.

I called Edik on his cell phone, who was in the parking lot in our rented car with a cameraman taking video of girls and their Johns leaving the building. I told him who I spotted and to be ready to videotape Ali and his friends when they come out.

I followed Ali and his friends out and instead of going out of the entrance where Edik and our cameraman was waiting, he went out the entrance on the other side of the hotel to the parking lot that the guest who stay in the hotel park.

I got on my cell phone and called Edik to drive to the other side of the hotel to pick me up so we could follow Ali, who was most probably going home.

It seemed to take forever and I watched as Ali and friends drove off in 2 cars. I was still waiting for Edik and the cameraman to show up with our car.

Ali and friends were almost out of sight when I hear coming around the corner with the engine revving on our rented car as it bounced towards me, coming to a sudden stop next to me.

I opened the driver’s door, put the transmission from 1st gear to Park and Edik jumped into the passenger’s seat. By the time we were able to get Ali and company in sight, they made their way across an intersection and we were stopped by a red light and cross traffic.

I asked Edik what took him so long to drive the car around the building? He said that he didn’t know how to drive an automatic.

Echmiadzin Ano’s brother is on trial for trafficking

The death of the notorious pimp Echmiadzin Ano last month in the UAE, has had a ripple down effect and another trafficking trial is in progress. This time it’s Ano’s brother on trial for trafficking.

This is not the first time that Ano’s brother has been in trouble with the law. When we were in Dubai, we learned Ano’s brother was in trouble with sending girls to Dubai and she arranged to have him released by sending “bail money” to legal bodies in Armenia.

This time Ano’s brother is on his own. His trial is taking place in Echmiadzin, where he is charged with trafficking of human beings under Article 132 of the Armenian Criminal Code.

There has been no coverage in the press as far as I know of his trial, but we are following things closely to see if Ano’s brother will be joining former police officer Alik Gasparyan, who earlier this month was handed down a five year six month sentence for trafficking under 132.

Is the law for punishing traffickers starting to work in Armenia? If it really is, we are going to be seeing quite a few trials take place and a large number of people behind bars.

Rebuilding Iraq with American glue

Sometimes, cartoonists can communicate it better. I guess things in Iraq are not turning out that great for this US Administration.

What a horrific endless nightmare, when will it all end?

Friday, October 28, 2005


This log is Martuni or Bust’s first ACTION ALERT that a non-political and non-confrontational that our readers are invited to get involved with. It’s one of those issues that will help our people to learn how to fish for themselves and also bring to rise our talent that will one day represent the Armenian nation in the international cultural arena.

I encourage you to read this log to the end and then get involved in anyway you can, even in ways which I may have neglected to suggest.

Mr. Nobody… talent working towards being discovered

Armenia is flooded with talent, some better than others. Sometimes the less talented have connections and money behind them to move forward, while the real talents in too many cases don’t.

A year ago, my wife made friends with a very charismatic and talented young man named Nick (see pictures of Nick in my log "Italian Comedy in Armenia").

Nick was born with music running through his soul and entire being his mother once told me. One of those gifts from God I guess. He has been playing the piano since the age of 2, his first song he played was the Armenian National Anthem, which he preformed early one morning after hearing it on the radio, waking his parents from their sleep.

Nick is the youngest and only boy child in his family. He was born to parents who were already advanced in age, Nick being born when his mother was in her late 40’s, and just before her eldest daughter gave birth to Nick’s nephew.

Nick was the apple of his father’s eye and everything his father did from the day Nick was born to the day he passed away suddenly from a stroke was for Nick.

Nick’s father, the director of a large food warehouse, during the Artsakh liberation movement was allocating supplies to be sent to Artsakh for the people there who were literally starving. He ended up having to repay the financial deficit from his life savings and by selling almost everything they had, after some unscrupulous individuals who are now very well to do no doubt thanks to what they sold instead of sending off to Artsakh, left Nick’s father high and dry.

This whole experience took its toll on Nick’s father’s health, who a few years later died almost penniless, fighting a court case he had filed against the persons who misappropriated the goods from his warehouse.

Nick attended school at the acclaimed Tchaikovsky music conservatory in Yerevan, where he graduated at the top of his class.

Last year he was admitted to the Gomidas State Music Conservatory, having the top score of all the classical vocal applicants, thus winning a full scholarship, which was the only way Nick and his mother could afford to allow him to attend.

When I first saw Nick it was on a videotape my wife (fiancé at the time) had filmed one day when she took her class by surprise showing up with a video camera.

Without having any time to practice, Nick began to play song after song that he composed the music and wrote the lyrics for in English. One of the songs he wrote and preformed as the camera was going. All I could do is watch with my mouth open, thinking that this kid who was 17 at the time and had already written and composed over 100 songs was going to go places and become one of our talents that we will all be proud of.

Nick is now in his second year at the conservatory and has decided that he is ready to be “discovered” and is going to work on recording a few of his songs, from which he will compile a demo to send around.

I’m going to be doing my part and let Nick use my laptop, my wife’s Yamaha synthesizer that has a midi connection, some program that we will pick up at the local disk store for 1,500 drams (which is probably worth $500), a pair of headphones and his incredible talent to compile his original songs. Once that is done, we will rent studio time so he can record the vocals, or maybe I’ll ask my friend Arthur Ispirian if he can help us out with the use of his studio (which I’m sure he will since he has openly offered on television his help and use of studio at no charge to talented artist who are just starting out).

From all his songs, Nick will use his creative talents and put together a demo, which we will send around and also make available on a website for all to hear.

Now here is the action alert part of this log and what you can do to help this very talented young man that we have to make sure gets "discovered."

If there is anyone out there who has connections with people in the music industry, or knows someone that does, please e-mail me so we can make sure they get a copy of the demo.

Though I have no problem with letting Nick use my laptop all he wants, I know that creative people work best when they are inspired and not when you give them their scheduled time to sit behind a computer. For this, I would like to gift this young talent the needed tools to fish and not have him wait for someone to lend him a fishing pole. A computer and peripheral needed to compose and create to his hearts content when he is truly inspired will be the greatest help we can offer him at this stage in his life. Keep in mind that any financial help you offer will go through our non-profit organization and those living in the United States can deduct your gift to the maximum amount allowed by the IRS.

And finally, as I stated at the beginning of this log, if there is anything that you think will help Nick with his quest to become the best at what God intended him to be, please tell us and we can see how to fit what you have to offer into the overall equation.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No cracking on the metro

Today I took the metro and while sitting on a bench waiting for the metro to show up, a man in his early fifties came and sat by me, joined a minute later by a younger man.

As we waited, the men were talking and looking over a register, discussing what was written in it.

At some point, a couple of boys of maybe 15 or 16 walk by us eating something that looked and sounded to be sunflower seeds.

Before the boys were out of earshot, the older man called out to the boys saying in a very genital yet mature tone, “Dear boy, cracking [sunflower-seeds] is not allowed” (dugha jan, chi gareli chukheh).

The boy turned to the man and with a respectful tone told him he was not eating sunflower seeds, but chestnuts and was not littering, but keeping the shells.

Witnessing this very civilized encounter between young and old gave me a very warm feeling and made me think that there really is hope that Armenia does have the potential to once again have a civil society.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ex Policeman Convicted of Human Trafficking
[October 24, 2005]

The Court of First Instance of Yerevan's Kentron and Nork-Marash District has sentenced former police officer Alik Gasparyan to five years and six months in prison, in accordance with Article 132 of the Armenian Criminal Code. (See also: The Promise of a Fairy Tale Life Draws Women to Dubai)

During the preliminary invrstigation, Gasparyan had stated that he was guilty on all charges. In court on October 12th, however, he contradicted his earlier statements, presenting an altogether different story. Gasparyan now claimed that it was not he who had decieved Anahit but she who had decieved him. The defendant said that after he first met the woman, she began to pursue him, and insisted on seeing him again. “I didn't have enough money to see her. Anahit brought her jewelry, and we went to the gold market where it was valued at $90. She is lying when she says that it's worth $400.” Alik handed the $90 over to Anahit, and then she gave him $30 to take her out.

“We took that $30 and went out. After she had a couple of drinks, she started crying and told me that a policeman had raped her daughter. I told her I could take care of that problem , but Anahit said she would do it herself,” Gasparyan recounted in court . Several days later, Anahit told Alik that her daughter had been tricked into going to Dubai and that she had to get her back. Alik asked his friend Lusik Khocharyan, who was temporarily staying in Dubai, to make an entry visa for Anahit. Anahit went to Dubai. A month later Alik also left for Dubai. On the fourth day of his stay, Alik “ found to his surprise that Anahit had come to Dubai not to find her daughter, but to work [as a prostiture].”

As he testified, t he defendant mentioned the names of well-known Dubai pimps in Dubai with such smoothness and ease that the judge asked him how, if he was just an innocent victim, he was so familiar with pimps who had long been wanted by the police. Gasparyan replied, “Well, Your Honor, when there are twenty people in one room and most of them are women, what do you expect? If each one of them says just one thing, that's enough. Besides, I saw a lot, understood a lot of stuff.”

Asled why he had pled guilty during the investigation, Gasparyan said, “When I was being interrogated by the prosecuters, the detective told me that I'd better make a confession—that way, they wouldn't keep me in jail, I could go home and come back when the court started hearing the case. I didn't want my family to find out anything. So I pled guilty.”

Alik Gasparyan had confessed during his face-to-face meeting with Anahit as well. Asked by the judge why he had not stated verbally or in writing that his first statements w ere false, and that the detective had provided prosectutors with incorrect information, Gasparyan said, “Am I the kind of man who writes something down on somebody or points a finger at somebody? I thought that I'd tell the truth in court and that's it.”

This was not the first time that Alik Gasparyan appeared as a defendant in court. In 1996 he was convicted of violating Article 86, paragraph 2 of the Armenian Criminal Code, “ Confiscation of material equity through stealing.”

The prosecutor requested that the defendant be sentenced to six years in prison. Anahit's lawyer Eduard Aghajanyan also asked the court to confiscate $400 from the defendant for the jewelry. Gasparyan himself requested several more days to prepare his closing statement.

Thus the stement Alik Gasparyan made in court on October 17 th came as something of a surprise. “I thought about what to say for some time, but now I don't have anything to say. I only ask the court to give me the lightest sentence possible”.

The court sentenced Alik Gasparyan to five years and six months in prison, but denied Anahit's request for $400 compensation for her jewelry.

Varduhi Zakaryan

In 5 years Kocharian creates 2 million jobs

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 10/25/2005


`When President Robert Kocharian stated in 2002 that he had created 40,000 new jobs in Armenia, to many this figure appeared strange and unreal,' `Haykakan Zhamanak' reminds. `Now, however, it turns out that this figure does not correspond to the reality not due to having been inflated, but due to having been understated, because the number of jobs created over the last few years is more than two million.'

The paper says this is by no means an exaggeration, explaining: `The years of Kocharian's power have shown to us all that going to elections, participating in the elections of the president, members of parliament, prefects or local council members is not a civil duty, but a job for which every voter is paid. `Of course, these jobs created by Kocharian also have a shortcoming. This work is not permanent, and the salary within five years makes 10,000 to 25,000 drams.'

Meanwhile, the paper thinks that the advantage of these jobs is that `our voters going to work use free transportation.' `Haykakan Zhamanak's' conclusion is as follows: `If some people have inexhaustible reserves of oil or gas, then our people have an inexhaustible reserve of votes, and it is this resource that can bring us to a new level of development.'

Monday, October 24, 2005

Just another heart attack in Armenia

Tonight my wife and I paid a visit to an old family friend from New York who while we were visiting the Saturday before last, fell off a chair and broke her hip.

A few minutes after she fell and we determined that she could not move, we called and ambulance and took her to the Erebuni hospital, where they operated on her two days later and then the following day transferred her to the Nairi Medical Center.

The Nairi Medical Center is a former government owned hospital which was privatized for literally pennies on the dollar and word at that time and even now is that Bella Kocharian, the first lady has some ownership of this privately owned medical center.

Anyway, just for the sake of our friend having a nurse by her side 24/7, they placed her in ICU. When we visit her room, we have to wear a white robe and all look like doctors and laboratory technicians.

Today when we stopped in to see her, there were quite a few familiar government people standing around in the waiting room.

I asked our friend’s nurse who was admitted into the hospital that all these government people are waiting for outside? She told me she didn’t know, but it was someone important and they had a heart attack.

At some point, our friend’s doctor came in to check on her and asked us to leave the room.

We went out in the waiting room and as we entered, I noticed a few familiar bodyguards standing around who I’ve seen when the Prime Minister moves around. I then looked over my shoulder to see the Prime Minister, Antranik Markaryan walking out of ICU into the waiting area, where he went over to talk to some other official.

Markaryan always looks the same to me. He has a big fat neck and he top button is never buttoned, resulting in his tie being hanging in the air

A few minutes passed and out from ICU walked Hovig (the mouse) Abrahamyan who walked passed us in a rush towards the rear exit of the hospital and was followed by the Prime Minister.

We waited quite a bit for our friend’s doctor to come out so we could return and talked with another visitor of our friend’s who had gone out to the waiting room when we showed up (ICU has a limit of 2 guest at a time) and asked her if she knew who was the person the Prime Minister came to visit? She said that the people in the waiting room were talking among themselves and she understood the person to be the PM’s Chief of Staff who had a heart attack.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A law of nature… Survival?

I’ve been noticing that when I make purchases in the last year, many times I have been short changed.

Today when I went to purchase bread, to total should have been 220 dram, but I was charged 230 drams. Not a big deal, but this happens almost every time with one particular lady that works in the bakery next to our house. The larger breads that are 170 drams, this particular lady always charges me 180 drams.

The other noticeable shortchanging is often done with taxis.

Last night my wife and I went to visit a friend and the 5 kilometer ride should have cost us 600 drams, but the driver gave me 4,300 drams change when I handed him 5,000 drams. I would have given him a 100 dram tip anyway, but it would have been nice if I had received the full amount and handed the driver 100 drams.

So what is all this shortchanging about? Are there people here who are dishonest, or is this what they need to do to survive?

I know that those that shortchange for the most part are people who work in stores or drive cabs and receive very low wages.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reported economic growth do not correspond with the quality of life


| 19:03:45 | 20-10-2005 | Politics |

AMD deflation is natural in the economic conditions of Armenia: you have a big inflow of capital, which means the economy is in good condition, Executive Director of International Monetary Fund Jeron Kremers said today.

Later, when "A1+" asked whether the economy might be considered to be in good condition if the main part of the inflow of capital - more than $1 mlrd [billion], is sent by relatives of Armenians, Mr. Kremers contradicted his own statement: "Of course, if the main part of inflow of capital are private transfers, it's not good, it means economy is in bad condition", - he answered.

Nevertheless, Jeron Kremers went on praising the economy of Armenia, the two-digit increase, economic policy held. And if for 5 more years attention is paid to the development of the components he mentioned, in 5 years time, according to Mr. Kremers, we will have a considerably improved social condition in our country. And which are those components? Investments in the spheres of education and road-building, tax and customs bodies, reforms in financial field, fortification of bases of economic increase, and eventually, the authorities must act so that the increase will improve the standard of life.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Promise of a Fairy Tale Life Draws Women to Dubai
[October 17, 2005]

“I went to Dubai to work as a waitress. They promised me a high salary, and I really needed the money. I have four children, and I've been divorced for four years now. When I arrived in Dubai, I understood that I had been tricked. They beat me, forced me to go out on the street and find clients. I told them that I wouldn't a prostitute and that they should send me back home. They replied that they had spent $1,500 to get me to Dubai, and I couldn't go back to Armenia until I had paid that money back,” said 36 year old Anahit.

The trial against 40-year-old ex policeman Alik Gasparyan, who had been charged with human trafficking, in violation of Article 123 of the Armenian Criminal Code, began on September 23 2005.

In January 2003, Alik Gasparyan was renting Julietta Avetisyan's apartment on Charents Street. He didn't tell Julietta his real profession or what he was doing in the apartment. Instead, he once mentioned that he owned a luxurious restaurant in Dubai and was looking for good-looking waitresses. Julietta remembered her friend Anahit, who she had worked with in a restaurant in Martuni in 2002. Anahit had been a waitress, Julietta a dishwasher.

Julietta called Anahit and told her that she had found her a good job. Anahit met Alik, and they discussed the details in Julietta's apartment. Alik told Julietta that she could go to Dubai, and work as a dishwasher in his restaurant. Julietta enthusiastically agreed.

Alik took Anahit's and Julietta's passports, then called Lusine, his partner in Dubai, and asked her to take care of their visas. On February 20 th , Alik told Anahit that her visa was ready and she could leave on the 23 rd . Julietta inquired about her visa, and Alik told her to wait, it would be ready soon. Before Anahit left for Dubai, Alik took jewelry from her worth $400, to use as collateral against the cost of her trip. He promised to return the jewelry to her family after her departure, though he never did. Anahit left for Dubai.

Some time later, Alik told Julietta that her visa was also ready and she could depart. Alik demanded $700 for the visa. Julietta gives him the money and waited for the day of departure. After some time, Alik disappeared without paying the rent or returning the key, leaving only an unpaid phone bill with calls to Dubai totaling 854,000 drams (about $1,900). Several months, later Anahit called Julietta in tears, saying that Alik and Lusine had tricked her and forced her into prostitution. She warned Julietta not to come to Dubai.

Upon her arrival in the Dubai airport, Anahit was met by Alik's friend Lusine and a woman named Luiza. Lusine took Anahit's passport at the airport, saying that she had to give it to her sponsor before she could start working. The next day Lusine told Anahit to go to a cafe and find a client. Anahit refused to engage in prostitution.

Lusine then called Alik to complain. A month later, he came to Dubai. He beat Anahit and forced her to work. Anahit worked for Alik and Lusine for nine months, and by her own account, earned $26,000, but was still not allowed to return home. “I tried every option, but to no avail. I couldn't surrender to the police, because by their laws I would have to stay in jail until I found money. I once called Tigran Petrosyan, a law enforcement official in Armenia—one of the girls gave me his number—but he didn't help me,” Anahit explained.

By the time she had been in Dubai for two months, Anahit knew the city, could get by in English, and was going out alone. In a phone call to a friend she learned that a pimp named Anush (aka Mama Rosa) was with the help of Nelli from Bangladesh bringing Anahit's older daughter M., who was 17 at the time, to Dubai and that they were in Moscow already. M. was brought to Dubai and forced to work as a prostitute for two months, during which time she was not allowed to see her mother. “I didn't know how my daughter got into their hands, but that wasn't what mattered anymore. All I was thinking about was how I to free her and send her back to Armenia,” she said.

Anahit managed to find her daughter. Together, they moved into a friend's apartment, where they are subsequently arrested by the police. Both were thrown into jail. Anahit produced some documents and was freed; her daughter spent 20 days in jail and was deported to Armenia. Anahit confronted Alik, accusing him of bringing her daughter to Dubai. He denied any involvement.

Nine months later, Anahit escaped from Alik with a friend. In July, she was arrested by the Dubai police and deported to Armenia.

Anahit hasn't seen her children yet; they are living with her ex-husband's mother in the village of Kashatagh, 300km from Yerevan. “As soon as all of this is over, I will definitely go to see them. I know that my daughter hasn't told our relatives anything. In any case, I'm happy that's it's all over.”

Defendant Alik Gasparyan will tell his side of the story in the next session of the court.

Varduhi Zakaryan

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Italian Comedy in Armenia

Tonight my wife and I went to see a couple of Italian comedy operas at the Gomidas State Music Conservatory.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s "La Serva Padrona" was hilarious. It was 20 minutes long and had the audience laughing out loud.

The drunk horn player in the opera was a classmate of my wife’s named Nick. He came out after the opera to sit with us and his face was a bit red. He told us that things went well, all but the part when one of the actors was to slap him around and they had agreed on which direction to start the slapping and I guess they got the order wrong. Poor Nick was moving his face into the slaps instead of away from them.

Domenico Cimarosa’s "II Maestro Di Cappella" was also quite entertaining, but a bit long for my liking. Anything over 30 minutes and my ADD starts to kick in.

It’s always a pleasure to attend cultural events in Armenia, especially those that support artists who live for the art they love.


Pan Armenian

19.10.2005 19:51 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Armenia ranks 88 along with Tanzania, India and Moldova in the Transparency International's corruption perceptions index for 2005 with 2.9 score, down from 3.1 out of a possible perfect 10 in 2004 that covered 146 countries. Last year Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Madagascar shared 82nd place in the rankings based on the extent of corrupt practices perceived by business leaders, academics and risk analysts. The 2005 list ranks Iceland as the least corrupt country. Armenia's neighbors Azerbaijan scored this year 2.2 1. ranking 137-143 and Georgia scored 2.3 ranking 130-136. This year's list covers 159 countries. The annual report by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog was released worldwide today. The report says more than two-thirds of the 159 nations surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scored less than 5 out of a clean score of 10, indicating serious levels of corruption in a majority of the countries surveyed. It says the 2005 Index bears witness to the double burden of poverty and corruption borne by the world's least developed countries. "Corruption is a major cause of poverty as well as a barrier to overcoming it," said Transparency International Chairman Peter Eigen. "The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations in a cycle of misery. Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty." Among the countries included in the Index, corruption is perceived as most rampant in Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar and Haiti - also among the poorest countries in the world. The 3-point mark corresponds to Transparency's benchmark for "rampant corruption."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

U.S. President Not Interested in Combating Human Trafficking

It seems that the United States President George W. Bush has once again proven that Human Rights are not an issue that concerns him.

Bravo President Bush, you have proven once again that you are not concerned about the well being of human lives, but only for the well being of yourself and your pocket.

19 September 2005

Bush Waives Saudi Trafficking Sanctions

WASHINGTON -- President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

In June, the State Department listed 14 countries as failing to adequately address trafficking problems, subjecting them all to possible sanctions if they did not crack down.

Of those 14, Bush concluded that Bolivia, Jamaica, Qatar, Sudan, Togo and the United Arab Emirates had made enough improvements to avoid any cut in U.S. aid or, in the case of countries that get no American financial assistance, the barring of their officials from cultural and educational events, said Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman....

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait _ another U.S. ally in the Middle East _ were given a complete pass on any sanctions, Jordan said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation....

The White House statement offered no explanation of why countries were regarded differently. Jordan also could not provide one.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Three nights of Armenian culture

Since Friday, my wife and I have been frequenting the happening cultural spots Yerevan has to offer.

On Friday we were invited to see the opera Aleco. A love story of a man named Aleco, who is married to a woman who is keeping a lover on the side.

In short, Aleco catches his wife a lover and kills them both.

The person playing Aleco is my wife’s vocal instructor and was called at 2 PM to stand in for the person who was suppose to play the part but got sick. In a couple of hour, he learned his part and played his part as if he had been rehearsing for months. I didn’t know about the last minute call until after the performance and only learned as I was congratulating him on a fabulous performance.

On Saturday, we made our way to the Huradzan Stadium for the annual Voski Ashoun (Golden Fall) concert.

This was the first and last time I will attend such an event as it is so anti-Armenian culture. I’ve never heard so many bad lip-sinking artists in my life moving their mouths to Armenian songs that many had an Arabic/Turkish style to.

For the most part it looked as if the attendees were from the regions and had not been to a concert in their lives. They were trying to show up each other with their talking on cell phones and doing so while standing up so we could all see they had a cell phone.

The young males in our section were going out of their way to leave and return to their seats over and over again and of course they had to do this while crossing the row my wife and her friend and I were sitting. They did this for most of the performance and made it a point to rub up against my wife and her friend in hopes that they would be noticed by them.

The worst had to be when our need to go to the restroom to relieve ourselves and being told very rudely that if we leave the section we were in, we would not be allowed back in. As a result, we had to hold it in for 2 hours.

The only artist I really knew that could kind of claim to be a singing star would be Sirosho. Like the other artists, she sat in the back of a red BMW convertible and did her lip-sinking as they drove her around the stadium. I was quite disappointed as I knew that she was a much bigger start than the rest that performed and to be a part of this cheesy show would certainly not boost her image.

And how could it not be Voski Ashoun without them raffling off some prizes? They had mixers, irons, cell phones, music centers, television, microwave ovens, DVD players, a washing machine and refrigerator. We didn’t win anything.

The fireworks show was quite impressive and though the majority of the show sucked, this part kind of made up for some of our suffering.

Tonight, we went to see the opera Anoush. What a great and lively opera and though a bit long, I have to say that it was worth going to see.

Though it seemed like all of Yerevan was in attendance, we were able to get tickets at the door and did so when we were looking for the ticket booth. I asked some women who was waiting outside where the ticket booth was and she said that she had some extra tickets that she was selling.

I asked the women how much the tickets were and she looked to her friend and asked if they were 1,500 dram (a little over $3)? Her friend said she thought so and we purchased 2 tickets which were in row 3, seats 8 and 9.

It seems that these were complimentary tickets from the director of the opera and the seats behind us were going for the less important people for the price of 4,000 dram ($9 each).

Anyway, for those of you who get a chance to see Anoush and Aleco, they are a must and get our thumbs up and a big thumbs down to Voski Ashoun.


18:46 14/10/05

The Budget of 2006 will distribute 1 billion and 904 million ARMD ($4.3 million) to the General Prosecution department of RA, 304 million more from the previous year. As the general prosecutor of RA Aghvan Hovsepyan noted that the Prosecution's building needs reconstruction. To the question what kind of measures the prosecution initiates to struggle against corruption A. Hovsepyan said, `The government doesn't provide additional measures for straggling against corruption', and added, `We have already established two departments for struggling against corruption and trafficking '.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

First Impressions of Santa Barbara

We really enjoyed Santa Barbara. It was a very welcome change of atmosphere from L.A. My wife really liked the very friendly artisans who line the sidewalk that runs along the ocean selling their handcrafts.

When we made our way to Santa Barbara pier on August 28, 2005, I snapped this picture at 1:08 PM.

This is one of those pictures that tells a recent story about America and also gives to those that have an ounce of common sense and are willing to take some sound advice.

Santa Barbara also had a few Jeffery’s (see: "First Impressions of L.A.") hanging out on benches down their main street, one of them who was doing some very strange things, including intimidating (threaten) people who walk past him. One of those people was my wife, who was in her tourist mode and video taping everything that moved, including this less then stable individual who happened to pass her path.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Frist Impressions of L.A.

As I promised you in a previous log, I am going to post a few pictures of our visit to America.

This picture (click on picture to enlarge) is the first picture we took after we got off the plane and were heading to my folks house. It was taken from across the street of 7901 W. Santa Monica Blvd at 4:49 PM on August 23, 2005.

Though America to many native Armenians is the land of wealth and prosperity, this is the side I was hoping my wife would see with her own eyes. With my luck, she got her first glimpse within a couple of hours of landing in a place so many people from abroad think is heaven on earth.

This picture tells a story people need to see to fully understand one aspect of what America is.

For those that need some explanation, here we have a gas station, which in itself is a symbol of America’s greatest power. For sale at this great establishment is not only gasoline, but beer, wine, sandwiches, film, batteries, movie star maps, cold drinks and on the roof there is a great picture of cookies, donuts and a glass of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. They also have an ATM machine with the word CASH under it. This is a one-stop dream world for those that have an ATM card with a positive balance.

Over one of the fuel pumps, there is a sign that reads “We’re helping to take alternative out of alternative fuels.” Does this mean they are doing something good or are they leaving you with one alternative that you are dependent on?

Then we have Jeffery, the homeless man sleeping in the picture on a bench with an advertisement from Hollywood Hills Homes, that reads “Find Your Dream Home With Us…” I would say that Jeffrey is in the right place and all that is left is that he have money, credit and/or a job to buy that home he obviously is lacking.

What really makes this an all American picture is that Jeffrey, who is eligible for institutional help, chooses to live outside and on his own terms. His favorite spots is this bus bench and under the Hollywood Freeway.

Unfortunately we were in traffic and I could not stop and wake Jeffrey up to offer him some money or his favorite health food and wine.

Anyway, this picture to me gives a real look at what life in America can be for the less fortunate.

BTW, if anyone is interested in giving Jeffrey a little compensation for his trouble, please contact Rose Ware at Hollywood Hills Homes and she will make sure he gets the help you send for him.

Jerig's 40th

Today was my friend Jerig’s 40th day of his death. We went to pay our respect on the day they say that ones soul leaves earth forever.

It seems that Jerig was not doing well at all since the day I saw him before leaving for America and just before his death and a day after his 28th birthday, Jerig started to bleed from his kidneys.

Initially Jerig didn’t want to go to the hospital. Knowing Jerig, he was thinking that he didn’t want to be a financial burden for his parents or for them to have to deal with the hospitals.

On September 3rd, Jerig’s condition got much worse and when he was too weak to refuse treatment, his parents rushed him off to a hospital that they had called who said they had Jerig’s type of blood which they could give him a transfusion upon his arrival.

According to one of Jerig’s uncles, they got to the hospital and they could not find the blood that they were to give to Jerig. I’m guessing from what was said, they were waiting for some money.

It took quite a bit of time before they finally could “locate” the blood Jerig needed to save his life, but of course we now know they were too late.

We sat in the yard of his parents house and drank a cup of Armenian coffee and ate pastries before leaving for the cemetery.

As we got up to leave for the cemetery, I approached Jerig’s mom, who had been in the house. When we made eye contact, she began to cry.

It was a very emotional moment for both of us and as she cried, she told me what had happened, in the last days and how Jerig was living with the hope that upon my return from America we were going to get him the needed treatment he needed and was entitled to. Unfortunately Jerig’s condition worsened at the wrong time and I was not in Armenia to squeeze the blood he needed out of the doctor himself when he needed it.

Jerig’s mom came with us in our taxi to the cemetery and on the way she told us of how Jerig felt really bad he could not be at our wedding. She said that he planned on building us a sofa for our home once he got better as a wedding gift.

He had asked his father to bring him a slab of stone as he was going to carve a stone cross that he planned on taking to his village of Spitagashen, Artsakh to place at a holly place were together we would celebrate his recovery and in the Armenian tradition, sacrifice a lamb as a sign of thanks to God and give the meat to the less fortunate.

Jerig had some big plans, but unfortunately on September 4th he bled to death in an Armenian hospital waiting for a blood transfusion.

At the meal following our visit to the cemetery, the toastmaster said that it is the 40th day and Jerig’s soul has now left earth. We must not forget Jerig, but the living have to continue on with their lives.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

We are back in Yerevan after our return from America, which led us to Martuni to get over our jet-lag and for me to catch up with my obligations there.

Due to the high price of gasoline these days, I decided that I would leave my gas-guzzler of a Mercedes in Martuni and took a taxi to Yerevan.

The ride back was very fast and uneventful. We slept most of the way since the night before we had gone to a birthday party for my wife’s cousin who turned 16 and didn’t get home until 1 a.m. Packing didn’t finish until 2:30 a.m.

Before we made our way into Yerevan, one of the passengers in the taxi was dropped off in a village West of Yerevan named Sayat Nova village. It is an former Azeri village and is now populated by refugees from Baku. It seems to be a very large village and the one thing that really stuck out was all the asbestos roofing panels that the majority of houses are using as fencing. It’s quite evident how chipped up and knocked around these panels are. Clearly this village as well as many others are polluted with asbestos fibers. What a mess.

Anyway, it’s great to be back in Yerevan and to find that the gas in our apartment has been turned on. This means no more having to bring in tanks of propane for cooking. Best is that this year we will heat with natural gas, which heats much better than electricity and I’m told will cost us less than half.

I’ll be working for the next couple of weeks on opening our anti-human trafficking coalition office. I did a bunch of the preliminary work while in Martuni by telephone and e-mail, but there is still so much more to do before it will be up and running.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On October 11, 2005, the International Crisis Group (ICG) published Europe Report N°167 titled “Nagorno-Karabakh: A Plan for Peace.”

ICG is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization, with over 110 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

ICG has a very impressive Appendix C to F in their report, which talks about who they are, what other reports they have prepared and who their high profile board of trustees and staff are.

I really was not very impressed with the recommendations of the report, though the overview of the situation was quite detailed and from the facts presented, I would have expected more logical and balanced recommendations. The overall recommendations looked very pro-Azeri to me.

There were a few things which sensationalize reality in the report, like how “…there is a real risk of new large-scale fighting.”

There has been a “real risk” of new large-scale fighting since the 1994 ceasefire agreement expired in 1999.

Reality is that we have not had any large-scale fighting for the last 6 years and I don’t believe we will anytime soon since the Azeri’s have much more to loose if large-scale fighting starts and the few dozen scud missiles we received from Russia since 1994 are launched.

I’m sure in that case, much more damage will be inflicted to the oilfields and Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, then any attack on our little capitol of Stepanagert could ever sustain. The worst that could happen to us is that the 11 story apartment building that Louise Manoogian help build will get hit and collapse like a house of cards.

I didn’t notice anywhere in the recommendations that our Northern territory of Shahumian would be reunited with Artsakh proper, which would be the fair and logical thing to do since they are expecting us to give them 5 of the territories that we liberated.

Anyway, it seems that this report is just another Azeri wet-dream that will not become much of anything, not even a starting point for dialog between the disputing parties.

I wonder who asked ICG to prepare this report in the first place?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The ticking time bomb… ASBESTOS

It was brought to my attention a while back that the roof on my house in Martuni contains asbestos and the dry summer heat and winds can kick the asbestos fibers in the air that I inhale.

I did a Google search with the words “asbestos roof cancer” and it came back with 250,000 hits, the 3rd titled IMC India - White Asbestos Kills.

It is estimated that there are 1,000 homes in the city of Martuni, half of which have roofs made of asbestos. In addition to this, this common inexpensive building material is widely used throughout the region, most notably in Armenia.

What are the health hazards of exposure to asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of several serious diseases:

- Asbestosis—a chronic lung ailment that can produce shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage;

- Lung cancer;

- Mesothelioma—a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen; and

-Other cancers, such as those of the larynx, oropharynx, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney.

Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.


So what is the solution? Well there are a few.

One is to replace the roofing materials, but of course this is easier said than done in a economically poor country where the common person is just struggling to put food in their children’s mouths.

Replacing the average asbestos roof with a locally manufactured ceramic tile roof costs around $1,500. This may sound like a small price to pay for a healthier future, but for most this luxury is out of reach.

Is this an issue that the Diaspora would be interested in helping out with? For Martuni City to become an asbestos-free zone, we would need to raise $750,000.

Of course we would not want to stop with Martuni, but would want all of Artsakh to be asbestos-free to give us a better chance at a healthy future.

In terms of possible early warning for those having been infected there is this:

Australian Researchers Announce First Blood Test for Asbestos-related Cancer - April 18, 2005

SYDNEY, (AFP) - Australian researchers announced the world's first blood test for the lung cancer mesothelioma, which could help early detection of the deadly asbestos-related disease.

Click on the link below to view the news article:Australian researchers announce first blood test for asbestos-related cancer

I’m seriously thinking that this is one of those issues that our NGO should address. I just hope that were not too late in addressing this problem.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Armenia Has Become a Transit Point in the Sex Trade
[October 3, 2005]

“My son has to go to school in September, my mother is terminally ill and she needs medication. I really needed money and nobody would help me. My sisters and brothers are married and have their own problems. And finding a job in Uzbekistan is practically impossible. “

On March 30, Armenian law enforcement officials arrested 39-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan Natella Saghatelyan in a Yerevan apartment belonging to Nshan Zakaryan. (See also: Judges Need Training). Saghatelyan had been transporting Uzbek girls from Armenia to Dubai. Three Uzbek girls, Niginabons Maghidova, Lola Abdulaeva, and Maria Khmelyova, managed to leave for Dubai; 17-year-old Karina Yeremyan is still in Yerevan. Niginabons had no trouble at the Dubai airport. Lola Abdulaeva was carrying a fake passport and was caught by immigration officials in Dubai, who held her in the airport for five days and then sent her back to Yerevan. And since Maria Khmelyova was a close friend of LolaAbdulaeva's, she returned with her, though she hadn't had any passport problems herself. The incident was investigated by the Armenian National Security Agency. When the agency discovered that the case involved human trafficking, it was transferred it the Office of the Prosecutor General. The trial against Natella Saghatelyan began in Yerevan's Malatia Sebastia District Court on July 25, 2005.

Lola had known Maria since they were girls. One day Maria came to her and suggested going to Dubai to earn money. Lola agreed, but on condition that the two never be separated. Telling her family that she was going to Russia to work, Lola went to the home of Maria's relative Dilya (Dilyara Khayserova Galileyovna). From there, the friends went to Tashkent. In Tashkent they met Dilya's friend Natasha, who told the girls that they were good-looking, and could make a lot of money in Dubai. Maria and Lola went to Khazakhstan, where they met Natella Saghatalyan. From there, Maria went with Natella to Yerevan. Lola followed sometime later, with Karina Yeremyan, who she had met through Saghatelyan. In Yerevan, they were met by Maria and Samvel Zakaryan, Nshan Zakaryan's brother. The girls were to stay in Nshan's apartment until they left for Dubai. “When we were in Nshan's apartment, Natella told us that had sent many girls to Dubai, and that they were earning a lot of money and gold there. She told Karina how to behave in the presence of a sheikh and how nice it was in Dubai,” Lola said.

Natella told Lola that she had spent $10,000 on getting Lola to Dubai, and that she would have to work to pay the money back. Maria owed her $8,000 and Karina owed $7,000. Natella then informed Lola that she and Maria would be living in different places. Lola would go to Dubai, and Maria would go to Bahrain. Natella bought a ticket for Lola and gave her a new Kirgiz passport. Since Lola was 25 years old, women must be 30 or older to enter Dubai, Natella made a fake Kirgiz passport for Lola and took Lola's real passport. Before their departure she put a fake stamp in the passport and told Lola to sign it. She told Lola and Maria to destroy the fake passports and invitations on the airplane. In Dubai they would receive the real invitations. If someone asked for their tickets, they could reply that they had thought they didn't need the tickets anymore and had thrown them away. The girls followed these instructions. In Dubai they received their real invitations, but the airport police discovered that Lola's passport was fake. During the five days that the girls were in Dubai they called Natella numerous times to request that she buy them return tickets. Natella turned down their requests for help and warned them not to say anything to the authorities about her or Nshan. Maria then called Dilya, who bought the girls return tickets through friends in Dubai.

“This made it possible for Natella to declare in court that the organizer was responsible for buying return tickets in case of failure, and that since we called Dilya for that, then she herself was not involved in the story at all,” Maria said. “But she was the one who was responsible for getting us to Dubai and she was supposed to buy our return tickets. If we hadn't called Dilya and she hadn't bought the tickets for us, we would still be rotting in the Dubai airport.”

Testifying in court on August 17 th and 18 th , Natella Saghatelyan stated that tourism, not prostitution, was the reason she escorted the girls to Dubai. “I thought they were tourists. I never even guessed why they were going there,” she said. The judge asked if she hadn't known how young women and girls make money in Dubai. She replied that she had known, but at the time she hadn't even considered that possibility. Only after Lola and Maria were arrested did she understand “that they didn't go there with a legal purpose.” Regarding the fake documents, Natella used a fake stamp in Lola's passport because Lola had been wearing long nails that day and couldn't stamp it herself. And she hadn't asked why Lola needed a fake document to enter Dubai. “It wasn't my business to know what they were going to do in Dubai or whether they left their house secretly. But I knew that they had left secretly, even though they were telling me that everything was all right. Each of us had her own role in this trip. I was just doing my job. But the fake documents worried me, since problems could arise and the girls wouldn't be able to leave for Dubai. And Dilya would only give me money if one of the girls reached Dubai.” Commenting on the fact that she had received money from Dilya on a number of occasions, she said “I received $800 from Dilya. Whatever money I got I spent it all to send the girls to Dubai.”

The judge asked Natella why she was stating that she hadn't known anything about fake documents when in fact she said during the preliminary investigation that she was guilty of violating Article 325 of the Armenian Criminal Code (preparation of fake identification). Natella replied that she wouldn't deny her previous statements but was guilty of only one thing—in the end, on the day when Lola and Maria were arrested, when she understood why they were going to Dubai, she didn't do anything to stop them. But she had a reason. “I was in a very bad financial state. I needed money to support my family.”

In court on August 25 th , the prosecution questioned defendants Nshan Zakaryan and Hovsep Ananyan, each of whom had played a role in the case. It was Nshan Zakaryan whom Natella asked to find someone he knew in the airport who could change Lola's documents. Lola passed the entry check point with her own Uzbek airport but in the Dubai airport she had to enter with the fake Kirgiz passport, in which her age was given as 31. Nshan Zakaryan had asked Hovsep Ananyan, a friend of his late brother. Ananyan gave a package to Maria and Lola after they passed the check point in the airport. He took another envelope from the girls which contained their real passports and gave it to Nshan. Nshan gave that envelope to Natella. During the interrogation both Nshan Zakaryan and Hovsep Ananyan denied that they had known anything about the contents of the envelope. “I didn't ask what was in the envelope. All I had to do was to give the envelope to the girls and that's it. I knew it was an illegal thing to do, but I couldn't say no to my friend. I am sure that Nshan didn't know that there were fake documents in the envelope, because otherwise he wouldn't have asked me to do such a dangerous thing,” Ananyan said. Zakaryan was asked why he hadn't wondered why Lola, who was staying in his apartment, hadn't taken the document herself, and why that fact hadn't aroused his suspicions. He replied that he hadn't thought that Natella would do something that could endanger him. Afterwards he added that he was being blamed for being a considerate person, and that he didn't think was guilty.” My only fault is that I didn't ask for the details, because I trusted her. But I was only a man of my word. I would never have said no to Natella in any event,” Nshan Zakaryan explained.

Judge Iskuhi Vardanyan announced the verdict on September 22 nd . Natella Saghatelyan was sentenced to five years in prison. She will serve her sentence in Armenia; it will be calculated from March 30, 2005, the day of her arrest.

Nshan Zakaryan was given three years probation. The Armenian police is to keep a keep careful track of his activity.

Hovsep Ananyan was found guilty according to Article 325 of the Armenian Criminal Code. He will pay a monetary fine of 250,000 drams.

This is the second time in the last two years the article concerning human trafficking has been applied. Incidentally, both of these cases involve foreigners who use Armenian territory to send women to Dubai and other Arabic countries. This is evidence that Armenia is becoming a transit point in the international sex trade.

Varduhi Zakaryan

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An Armenian man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him.

He asked St. Peter, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move."

"Oh," said the man. "Whose clock is that?"

"That's Gomidas Vartabed’s. The hands have never moved, indicating that he never told a lie." replied St. Peter.

"Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?"

St. Peter responded, "That's Baruyr Sevag's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling that Sevag told only two lies in his entire life."

"Where is Robert Kocharian's clock?" asked the man.

"Kocharian's clock is in God's office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."

MB's Most Wanted #001: Alexander Sargsyan

Martuni or Bust's APB/Most Wanted
Profile No. 001: Alexander Sargsyan

Born on January 10, 1956 in Stepanakert, Republic of Mountainous Kharabagh.

Graduated from A. Tamanyan Yerevan Civil Engineering College in 1987. He is a gas economic-technician. From 1974-1976 he served in the Soviet Army. From 1996-1998 he was the deputy director of Yerevan Sirius OJSC. From 1999-2003 he was the head of Avtogas Ltd. Jrvezh Automobile Gas Filling Pressure Station #7.

On May 25, 2003 he was elected to the NA from the proportional list of the Republican Party of Armenia and he is currently on the NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Affairs. He is a member of the Republican Party of Armenia Faction and has no political party affiliation.

Mr. Sargsyan is Armenia’s Defense Minster, Serzh Sarkisyan’s, brother and is married with two children.

What’s interesting about Mr. Alexander Sargsyan is that he has spent millions of dollars on purchasing real estate in Britain and California. Newspaper reports indicate that the value of real property acquired by him in Los Angeles has now surpassed 12 million USD, placing his estimated total net worth at over $30 million USD.

MB issued out this most wanted all point bulletin to ask one simple question, “Mr. Alexander Sargsyan, how did you really acquire all this money?”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


15:07:50 05-10-2005 Politics

Today during the reception in the Armenian Center for National and International Studies in connection with the 11th anniversary of the Center the RA ex Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian who has never had a strictly oppositional attitude made a speech about the present political state in the country.

The leader of the Heritage party criticized severely the authorities "which have privatized the foreign policy and the economy of the country and are not even able to make simply political calculations". "The authorities who tell tales on democracy abroad evict the people of their houses inside their own country in order to build houses for the so-called elite".

Raffi Hovannisian also reminded those present about the Mass Media field where after banning "A1+" and Noyyan Tapan of air the television has been privatized too filling it with programs testifying to the lack of taste of their makers.

"There can be no void in the nature, and if there is no democracy, usurpation comes to take its place", announced Raffi Hovannisian and noted that Armenia which has become a totalitarian country has lost its place in the international community. "Our voice is no more heard in the world", he announced and reminded that the first step to euro integration was made the very first year of independence, when he himself as the first RA Foreign Minister made the step. And today, according to him, Armenia is moving farther and farther of Europe.

As for the economy of the country, Raffi Hovhannisyan noted that both in rich America and in poor Armenia petrol costs 80cents. And in Armenia the sums taken from the people are used by several families.

Referring to the Constitutional reforms, Raffi Hovannisian noted that they were made under the CoE pressure, but it is not possible "to cover cracked up walls with Euro repairing". The only way out of the situation created, according to Raffi Hovanissian, is unity not only inside Armenia but also that between Armenia and the Diaspora.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Friend Jerig....

This is going to be a very hard log to write. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it for a couple of days now.

A couple of days before I got married, I got a call from my cabinet makers Jerig.

Jerig had gone off to Russia to work, as his talents of a woodcarver were better paid for in Russia. His brother had called for him to come work for a company that would pay him a good living wage.

I had known Jerig since 1997 as he was cousins with a musical family that my future wife and her sisters were working with that summer, giving concerts in neighboring villages. Jerig played the bass guitar in their band.

Throughout the years I would see Jerig at parties and whenever we would pass his village of Spitagashen, where we would talk about the past and what we would be doing in the future.

One thing that Jerig reminisced of and had a right to be proud of was at the age of 14, he volunteered to load up and accompany the first convoy of relief aid that made its way through the Lachin corridor once our forces liberated it. He talked of how rewarding it was to help out his fellow countrymen.

Jerig walked with a cane as he had problems with his legs, one being shorter than the other. He always dreamed of the day he would be able to afford an operation to even out his legs and not have to be dependent on medication to alleviate the pain and swelling which he always seemed to have.

Jerig moved into the house next door that I own and began to build me solid walnut furniture which he decorated with beautiful and intricate Armenian carvings.

He also built an immaculate kitchen, incorporating his fantasy that produced something which looked straight out of a European catalog.

All of our beauty salon fixtures were Jerig’s handy work.

When Jerig left for Russia, he did so with the understanding that one day he would return and continue his work in Armenia when there was a real market for his talents.

When I got the call from Jerig, I immediately invited him to my wedding. Though he could not have wanted more to be with us on that special day, he said he could not, as he had returned to Armenia practically dead.

It seems that after working for 6 month for the factory his brother set him up in, he had done so well for himself that he and his brother rented a place and set up shop for themselves making cabinets that the Russian’s could not get enough of.

The place they rented they didn’t realize was very humid and since they could not afford a separate place to live, they slept at the factory.

From the moisture, Jerig got very sick. The medicine he was taking for his legs had some negative effect on his kidneys and caused his to bleed internally.

The $3,000 that he was able to put aside to have the leg operation he had dreamed about since he was a child moving from one hospital to another was spent on having an emergency operation on his kidneys.

When it was time to have a second operation and there was very little money left, Jerig was left with no choice but to check out of the Russia hospital and fly back to Armenia, where he is registered as an invalid and is entitled to “free” medical assistance.

In a practically half-dead condition, he took the risk, ignoring the Russian doctor’s advice and flew back to Armenia and straight to the hospital.

The free medical treatment he is entitled to was far from free and when the money his parents could scrape up ran out, the doctor treating his sent him home.

On our wedding day we got a call on my cell phone from Jerig sending us well wishes. He was at home in the city of Masis and told me that he was doing better. I told Jerig that once we get to Yerevan I would contact him.

After returning to Yerevan and after sending my mother off a few days later, I called Jerig and told him that my wife and I were going to come visit him in the next couple of days.

Ten days before leaving for America, we paid a visit with Jerig.

Jerig did not look well. He was thin and yellow. He was on an i.v. (sp?) drip with water to clean out any blood that was coming from his kidneys.

I had a tape-recorder and recorded Jerig as he told me of the problems he had with the hospitals and how they had him running around for papers to get him approved for the free medical treatment he was entitled to. He said that in the end they gave him only a fraction of what he was entitled to and sent him home.

Since he could not afford what they wanted to charge him for dialysis, he had turned to herbal remedies, which he had started a couple days before.

I told him that I would do anything I could to help him and it was up to him and his family to explore all their options and entitlements and I would make sure they got them.

They told me that since he was stable, they would try out the herbal treatment for the month I would be in America and when I got back, we would pursue a remedy to his problem.

When I got back from America, the next day I gave a call to Jerig on his cell phone.

A woman answered the phone and when I asked for Jerig there was not response. I again asked, thinking that it was the connection and the woman replied that Jerig had died.

I didn’t know what to say and asked her when it had happened? She said on September 4th.

Jerig is related to Rosa Myrig and Hurant. I asked them for details which Rosa Myrig provided.

It seem that Jerig was doing well with the herbal treatment and on September 1st, they celebrated Jerig’s 28th birthday. Jerig was feeling so good that he even got up and danced.

One September 2nd, Jerig’s condition got worse. He had apparently caught a cold and was also bleeding from his kidneys.

On September 4th, Jerig didn’t wake up.

Hurant was very upset and said that he didn’t understand why Jerig went to Russia in the first place. He had a warm, dry place to live and was not doing so bad for himself building furniture and carving.

I know that Jerig wanted to work and make some real money so he could get married and start a family of his own. Armenia was only providing enough to just survive. Russia would give him that needed economic boost.

Well my friend, you became one of those statistics that we talked about so many times, never thinking that yourself would be part of. One of those the system (medical and the likes) failed.

I lost a great friend on September 4th. Jerig will be missed by those who knew him. He will be a part of me for a long time and someone I can say I will never forget. He was an honest and hard working person, who never did anything to hurt or cheat anyone. A craftsman, talent and all around good human.

Rest in Peace my friend. I know without a doubt the gates of heaven were opened for you.

Armenian embassy's building to be constructed in UAE

WAM - Emirates News Agency, United Arab Emirates
Oct 1 2005

Armenian embassy's building to be constructed in UAE

Oct 1, 2005 - 11:05 -

Abu Dhabi 1 October, 2005 (WAM)--
The foundation stone for the first Armenian embassy's building in the UAE, was laid down today by the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affaires, Vartan Oskanian, who was accompanied by Abdullah Rashid Al Nuaimi , Director of Protocol in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affaires and Arshak Poladian, Armenian ambassador to the UAE.

Oskanian lauded the wise leadership of President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as well as UAE-Armenia ties of cooperation, which he described as " continually growing".

He said the forthcoming structure would be the first Armenian building the entire Gulf region and would be considered a symbol of cooperation and fraternity between the UAE and Armenia.

The ceremony was attended by heads of Arab and foreign diplomatic missions in the country and members of the Armenian community.

Armenian FM visits Zayed's tomb

WAM - Emirates News Agency, United Arab Emirates
Oct 1 2005

Armenian FM visits Zayed's tomb

Oct 1, 2005 - 12:36 -

Abu Dhabi, 01 Oct. 05 (WAM)--
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has paid a visit to late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's tomb.

"We bow our heads in honour and respect for your leadership, which was abounded with great achievements in the best interest of your country and towards enhancement of friendship and cooperation with various countries of the world," Oskanian, who arrived here Friday night for a visit to the UAE, wrote in the register.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Married Life is GREAT!!!

The traveling part of our honeymoon is over, but certainly the honeymoon is nowhere close to being over. Married life is great!!!

Our honeymoon took us halfway around the world, though the most enjoyable part of it took place in Armenia itself, we had some very fond moments in America.

Our long distant travels took us to California, where my family and friends got to meet my wife.

While in Burbank, we had a blessing of our union by the Primate of the Western Diocese of North America, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian. It was a very intimate and memorable ceremony.

In between visits and touring the state, I initiated the formation of an anti-human trafficking coalition, which the Western Diocese under Primate Hovnan Srpzan direction is overseeing.

The majority of those invited to join the coalition have done so or say they will. This includes almost every political, social and spiritual Armenian organization that is found in the Western Diocese’s territory.

I gave one television interview to a new television program which is on ATV. It may have already aired. They will be showing a short version of our documentary. I also gave them a separate interview about the homeless in Armenia, which that segment will show the HETQ documentary about the street people of Yerevan.

I wont get into my impressions of present day America, but will say that seeing it for the first time after not seeing it for 5 years, it has changed quite a bit and not for the better. In short, I am glad I moved to Armenia when I did and am fortunate that my wife also favors Armenia over America.

When I get over my jet-lag I’ll log more about our adventures and maybe even post some pictures.