Thursday, June 29, 2006

Candlelight Vigil in Yerevan

Onnik over at Oneworld Multimedia has posted news of a candlelight vigil to protest the recall of our beloved U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans.

According to Onnik, the protest was timed to coincide with Senate hearings on Evans’ replacement as well as to raise concerns with recent remarks made by a senior U.S. official on democratization in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Click here to read the full story.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Something worth watching...

Monte "Avo" Melkonian talk about the Artsakh liberation movement - part 4

Monte "Avo" Melkonian talk about the Artsakh liberation movement - part 3

Strike without warning...

An Armenian born and living in Turkey was quoted by BBC in a recent story to say: "If you plunge a man into boiling water, he will burn," he said, "but if you increase the heat gently, he could get used to it."

If you want real change, one must strike without warning.

Monte "Avo" Melkonian talk about the Artsakh liberation movement - part 2

Monte "Avo" Melkonian talk about the Artsakh liberation movement - part 1

I’ve been getting quite few request from people who want to see more videos about Monte “Avo” Melkonian. With this new video service, there is no reason why I should not share with you some of the videos I have of Monte, thus we will start with the following video interview which Monte tells about the past and present condition of Artsakh (as of 1993) and the liberation movement at hand. It’s one of my favorite videos, as it’s easy to watch and understand. Enjoy.


26.06.2006 15:16 GMT+04:00

Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II stated in Istanbul that the Armenian Genocide by Turks is not subject to discussion. "For our people it is an event, which has taken place and should be recognized. Scholars have studied the genocide issue for 90 years," the Catholicos said. AP supposes that this statement will make the completion of the visit to Turkey more complicated and tense. Besides, Garegin II stated that protest actions organized in Istanbul did not have an impact on him, "They did not break my spirit, However, if these actions continue, it will prove that we have much to do for the two societies to co-exist," reports RFE/RL.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dubai: Center of the Sex Trade
[June 19, 2006]

The man in national dress pictured here works for the Criminal Investigation Department of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On February 3, 2005, under his supervision, pimps of various nationalities were selling women right in front of the Inter City hotel in Dubai. Among the women were underage girls, including Armenians. (See also: Desert Nights).

The Police Department and the Migration Service are involved in the sex trade in Dubai. This is a hugely profitable business for the country. Indeed, it is the presence of these women that attracts so many businessmen from around the world, and Arab sheikhs and their sons, to Dubai. Policemen supervise the business in order to avoid troublesome situations, so as not to damage the country's prestige. The outside world shuts its eyes to hundreds of outrageous facts. The US State Department's 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report lists the United Arab Emirates and Armenia side-by-side. It may seem surprising to see a country where one can freely buy women in the streets listed on the same tier as Armenia, but the United States doesn't want to apply sanctions to the UAE, its partner.

A source in the Dubai Police Department told us that following the publication of the Trafficking in Persons Report, the police carried out a number of round-ups in various hotels, nightclubs, and discothèques, including the notorious Cyclone nightclub. Some 4,000 women who had violated UAE visa regulations were arrested. About 80 percent were from Russia and other former Soviet republics, including Armenia.

Hetq Online has reported extensively on one of the sex trade networks in the UAE, publishing photographs of various people engaged in the business as well. (The Armenian network in the Dubai sex trade, Dubai is Hell on Earth), The only reaction from the UAE government was to ban the Hetq Online Website in the country ( Banned in the Emirates). The international organization Reporters Without Borders appealed in vain to the UAE government to lift the more than yearlong ban. (Reporters Without Borders calls for end to blocking of news website).

The fight against human trafficking is perfunctory

The following story demonstrates how thoroughly the UAE Police and Migration Service are interlinked with the sex trade. It is also graphic evidence of just how perfunctory the activity of various international organizations fighting against trafficking is. These organizations have become bureaucratic structures concerned only with getting grants, and organizing conferences, seminars and round-tables. One classic example was a discussion organized recently in Yerevan, at which representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regaled those present with stories of the Ministry's hard work in the campaign against trafficking in persons. The real story is very different.

Mike Trinidad is from Singapore and went to Dubai on a business trip. In e-mails to Hetq, he wrote: “Until recently I was unaware Dubai had such a bad name in this type of industry. 8 weeks ago on a previous trip through Dubai I met a lady called Lidia at the York International Hotel. I could see even at the beginning she was in some type of mental anguish. I made a point of looking for her again 2 weeks ago to find out what the full story was. She had been sent here for another job from Moldova then when arriving in Dubai her passport was taken from her and she was told she is now a prostitute. During her nearly 2 months here she had been paid nothing, they said they had extended her visa but had not.”

Troubled by her painful situation Mike suggested that Lidia escape and turn herself into the police. 24-year-old Lidia agreed . “She came to me with only the clothes on her back and I took her to see an Officer Khalid in the anti-human trafficking department at CID headquarters. Mr Khalid appeared sincerely concerned and said nothing to worry about and that on Saturday the 3rd he would get her passport back,” Mike continued.

On the morning of June 3 rd , Lidia received a phone call and was told that a girl would bring her passport to a restaurant near the hotel. Mike suspected that it might be a trap, but Lidia insisted that it couldn't be. And Mike had to accompany Lidia. “ The girl known to Lidia called again saying she was running late and to confirm Lidia was there. Shortly thereafter two men entered the restaurant and said they were taking the girl, I naturally told them rather impolitely 'no'! After some time which included threatening Lidia they identified themselves as police officers. I called Officer Khalid and told him of the situation and he told me not to let Lidia go with them. After another period of time of threats and intimidation a uniformed officer arrived. I again called Officer Khalid who spoke with the uniformed officer. At the completion of this call Officer Khalid said he knows these officers, everything will be OK, he would see her at 1pm and she would be out at 3pm. So at this point Lidia was taken by uniformed and non-uniformed UAE police,” his e-mail read.

At 3 p.m., Mike began calling and leaving messages for Khalid, but in vain. “At 8am Sunday morning I was messaged by Officer Khalid for some information at which point I wanted to know what was going on at which point I was told everything is ok and she is fine and that I would see her that day. I sent the required information which was telephone numbers etc from Lidia's phone then again another day goes by with no further information and no chance to see her. Today is Monday and repeated calls and messages have gone unanswered. We were told by Officer Khalid there would be no time spent in prison, she would get her passport and be allowed to leave as she is the victim,” Mike wrote.

Mike also informed Lidia's parents of the situation.

“Normally prisoners are allowed a phone call or visitations, or is the UAE different? At this point it appears a victim cannot go to the UAE police for assistance?” Mike said. On June 6 th he went to the jail to visit Lidia.

“I go back today at 9:30am and they ask me what I want. I tell them I was told to come back today to visit Lidia. After some time they bring Lidia to the door, she is not allowed to speak and they say is this she to which I reply yes. Then they close the door and say I cannot visit her because today is for female visitors only! Then I am taken to see the captain and he then tells me she will be allowed no visitors as she is a prostitute and the investigation is ongoing! When asked when she will be deported I got no answer,” - Mike wrote us on Monday – “At this point Lidia does not know what is going on and her parents have been told nothing by the UAE authorities. So bottom line if a trafficked woman goes to even the UAE police anti trafficking unit she will be the criminal and she will receive no compassion or assistance at all. To add insult to this her boss or handler is still free to roam the city.”

Meanwhile, Mike sent letters to various organizations and embassies, including the local UN office. None of them replied. “The Anti Human Trafficking Department inside the UAE police is either a farce or powerless. As you can see from the story we went there for help and were offered assurances. This is especially the case with countries that have no consular support in Dubai. At this point the Anti Human Trafficking Department still offered assurances but did nothing. There must be 100's of other trafficked people here I have seen with my own eyes alone who most likely want to go home,” Mike wrote.

Lidia's parents were unable to help their daughter from Moldova. They tried to find the woman who took their daughter to Dubai, and appealed to the law enforcement agencies to put a stop to the woman's activity.

The names and telephone numbers of Lidia's bosses are known. Mike informed police about them. But nothing has happened to them. They continue to live in Dubai and exploit hundreds girls like Lidia. The name and the telephone number of the person in Moldova who keeps Lidia's passport are also known. Our appeals to law enforcement agencies in Moldova have thus far gone unanswered. Mike has Lidia's cell phone and he keeps getting threatening phone calls from Moldova.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Thanks to Mike's efforts, Lidia was saved. He bought her a ticket and she went back to Moldova. But there are thousands of stories like this in the United Arab Emirates, and not many of them have such a happy ending.

“I think this will be a subject I will be involved with for many years. We have isolated incidents in Australia with human trafficking and they are severely punished, just this week a Chinese woman got ten years jail, but it is rare. I had heard of the former soviet union trafficking and organized crimes,” Mike wrote, wondering at the fact that he received only a handful of responses to all his letters to different organizations and individuals seeking help for Lidia. “It's most surprisingly, that the Australian government made no comment at all and every UN person I contacted didn't want nothing to do with it. The UN has a site dedicated to this but isn't interested and when I went to the UN office in Bahrain they didn't even know they had a mandate on human trafficking,” Mike concluded.

Edik Baghdasaryan

Desert Nights - Part 5b & 6

Etisalat, $314m Armentel bid

Since were on the subject of Dubai and their trafficking of our girls to serve in their illegal sex market, here is a story about them now wanting to purchase our Armentel, which they no doubt will use proceeds from the exploitation of countless women and children trafficked to their country. In my eyes that's blood money. On the other hand, maybe they should buy so then we can take it back from them when we sue the UAE and all those that were involved with trafficking of our girls.

AME Info, United Arab Emirates
June 24 2006

Greek telecom company OTE has short-listed four bidders, including one consortium led by Etisalat, for its 90% stake in Armenian firm Armentel, which is worth $313.8m, reported Reuters. Etisalat's consortium also includes investment company Istithmar and Emergent Telecom Ventures. Two large Russian mobile operators are also in the bidding for the Armenian firm which has 321,000 subscribers.

Desert Nights - Part 5a

24 June 06

With regard to the shooting in one of the streets in Yerevan and the woman killed by a stray bullet Ararat Zurabyan, All-Armenian Movement leader, said first the head of fish decays. According to him, in a tiny country like Armenia the head of the police knows everyone's habits. However, "the situation does not allow him to change anything." This situation is, according to the AAM, the consequence of the atmosphere in the political, economic and all the other spheres. "One cannot feel safe even at daytime because one may encounter an incident despite everything," says Ararat Zurabyan.

Giving his condolences to the family of the killed woman, Ararat Zurabyan notes that in a normal country and society there would be resignations, visits to the family of the victim, words of comfort, lending a hand. It is not so here. There are not even condolences.

Ararat Zurabyan says gangs have emerged in Armenia, who have no restrictions. "Considering the passivity of the relevant agencies, the Police, etc., an uncontrollable situation has occurred. I would not like to draw parallels, but people say, this country needs Vano, and the situation is unbearable," reports Ararat Zurabyan and reminds about the time, when Vano Siradeghyan was the minister of internal affairs. "There was shooting, cars were stolen, it was terrible, the police were afraid to go out to the street, nobody was insured. Siradeghyan managed to establish order in a very short period of time," reminds Ararat Zurabyan. According to Ararat Zurabyan, a member of the same party as Vano Siradeghyan, quick establishment of public order did not involve 100 percent compliance with the laws, but, "I can state for sure that the laws are not observed by 100 percent in any country. But we managed to establish law and order. There were no criminal strongmen in Yerevan, they were in prison on outside Armenia. Children wanted to be policemen, not a strongman or bodyguard," says the leader of the All-Armenian Movement. "The government would no way have relations with a criminal. Nobody can say that the minister of internal affairs Vano Siradeghyan dined with criminal strongmen," states Ararat Zurabyan and reports the current situation. "We have witnessed and read in the press for a number of times, that Serge Sargsyan, or someone else dined together, greeted or saw away," says Ararat Zurabyan. And for a general comparison of the AAM and the present government, he proposes to compare the past and the present parliaments.

Desert Nights - Part 4

Desert Nights - Part 3


Buy Azeri oil and we could see this sooner rather than never.

Desert Nights - Part 2b

Desert Nights - Part 2a

Sunday, June 25, 2006

No Military Way Can Help Conquer Karabakh

24.06.2006 15:16 GMT+04:00

"I did not expect to see what I saw in Nagorno Karabakh," Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations Victor Nadein-Rayevsky stated in an interview with a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. In his words, the situation in the NKR is humane and normal. "Internal consolidation of the society is felt. No military way can help conquer Nagorno Karabakh," he underscored.

Victor Nadein-Rayevsky remarked that at present the NKR successfully develops tourism. "And the architectural monuments are marvelous. I was especially impressed by Shushi and Gandzasar temple complex. Stepanakert is a very clean town. In Karabakh I saw what is absent in Moscow and Russia - unity of people," the Russian scholar said.

Victor Nadein-Rayevsky had participated NKR: Past, Present Future international conference in Stepanakert.


Yerevan, June 20. ArmInfo. Yerevan authorities intend to evict the residents of Firdusi street occupying a territory of 5 ha.

RFE/RL reports, an area of 282 sq/m of the street was transferred to Hotel Yerevan, anther 50,000 sq/m to the English company City Center Development.

To note, yesterday, "guided with the state needs and the mediation of Yerevan mayor," the Armenian Government resolved to transfer the area to the above companies for further development. The local residents are offered $120 per sq/m of premises. However, the residents demand more compensation to leave their homes. The municipality plans completing the construction of the area by 2010. The Government's decision must be ratified by the President. To note, earlier the authorities evicted the residents of the street where currently the Northern Avenue is built and from Byuzand street against their will.

Earlier, the Constitutional Court recognized the rights of these residents infringed.


How many people do you know who have purchased or are looking at purchasing housing in the new buildings on North Avenue? I know of a couple from the Diaspora.

I wonder by knowing how that land was stolen (this recognized by the Constitutional Court) from the common Armenian citizen, if living in such a house is really the right thing?

If you have purchased or are planing on purchasing a place in the new buildings knowing all this, please don't bother inviting me over. The idea of what this whole thing is doing to our people makes me sick. We can visit in some cafe, which is just a little bit better, but not much.

Azeri oil to be used to wage war on the Armenian people of Artsakh

It seems that the president of Azerbaijan has taken a stance on a peace settlement with Artsakh which basically is Azerbaijan wants full control of all territories.

According to Onnik over at Oneworld multimedia "Many analysts believe Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is not interested in a compromise settlement with Armenia now that it can build up its armed forces thanks to the start of a massive influx of petrol dollars."

If you ask me, this is a green light for us to start our defense of Artsakh by boycotting the oil companies that are buying Azeri oil and exposing the Azeri war monger Ilham Aliyev for who he is.

It should be everyone’s job to make sure that Azeri oil is not seeing Armenian or Armenian supporters money and the oil companies are looking for oil elsewhere.

First thing we need is a list of the oil companies that purchase from Azerbaijan so we can publish a list of who not to buy from. If someone can post these on the comments with a link to the source, that would be great.

Then we need to contact all Armenian organizations with a press release and call to action for their members to spread the word.

Is Armenia getting better or worse?

Over the last 10 years, I’ve gone from tourist to native in my way of thinking about Armenia’s condition.

I remember back in 1995 while spending time with close friends (including my Kavor Alec) and observing all the good things in Armenia. My observations we’re genuine and looking back at them now and what I was seeing, I really didn’t see anything wrong with Armenia at that time. It was the greatest place on Earth.

My native relatives who I visited often (one I was staying with at the tiem), did a good job of not talking about how bad things were in front of their guest (me) and the people I was hanging out with in the day for the most part were from America, Lebanon, France and the UK. The native crowd I would see occasionally via a friend from Lebanon were actors and when we got together, it was for a birthday party or live theater performance. Those were the good old days!!!

At that time we had limited access to electricity and water. There was no natural gas, but these were things that I thought everyone knew were temporary issue that would over time be resolved and were.

With all this in mind, how could I have any bad opinion of Armenia, when in a sense I was sheltered from reality? And of course in those days it would have been rude to tell your guest from America that things were bad. When you have a guest in your home, do you tell them all your problems?

I remember my friend Jeff K. and I talking and me mentioning what potential Armenia has and what a great place it is. He told me it was great that I see so much good here, but I’m a tourist in my way of seeing things and I have seen very little in terms of what life is really like in Armenia. He hoped that my view of things will last a long time for my sake, but knows that it will one day come to an end and I will start to see things for what they really are.

What I didn’t know and was somewhat sheltered from was what Jeff and my other friends saw first hand and happened when I was not present. The Artist friends and other natives were having problems surviving under the conditions Armenia was facing. Jeff and the others were helping them out any way they could and when you see things in those terms, ones finds it hard to see all the good I was seeing that was in fact not there.

When I was seeing tons of potential in Armenia, I was seeing it without having all the facts in hand. I was putting together a plan for a better future in my mind based on conditions that didn’t exist, being that I was being sheltered from reality.

Today I still believe that Armenia had lots of potential (and probably always will). I also believe that in order to tap into that potential there needs to be some major changes made to the system we have in place. Unlike my original way of thinking back in the early 1990’s of us having to stand by our President and supporting the decisions he makes since he was elected by the people to lead them, I believe that we have to support the laws that are in place (and rarely work). Those who break the laws should no longer be supported by anyone (especially the Diaspora). By supporting those who commit criminal acts, we become accessories to their crimes. In short, we have to stop supporting the Kocharian regime and turn our attention to those individuals and organizations that work towards straightening the Armenian judicial system so that no one is above the law.

The recent assassination of Karine Sargsian, the 37-year-old mother of three by some unknown criminal gang less than 20 meters from the Malatia-Sebastia Prosecutor’s office on Friday afternoon should tell us what Armenia has turned into. You really have to ask yourself if things in Armenia are getting better and what is needed to get things in place so that potential I see Armenia having can be tapped into.

What do you think about an open letter to Kocharian about justice for Karine Sargsian? I can tell you that this is a woman proabably was just getting by to keep food on the table for her three children. Those who killed her and orphaned those kids need to be found and put on trial. If there are any persons out there that want to help get people to write, please e-mail me at:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Yerkrapah Leader Assassinated in Yerevan (From Oneworld Multimedia)

Onnik over at Oneworld Multimedia writes:

Via di cavoli e di re, RFE/RL reports that a senior member of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh War Veterans was assassinated in broad daylight yesterday. An innocent bystander was also killed.

Witnesses told RFE/RL that Sedrak Zatikian, head of the Yerkrapah chapter in the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district, was riddled with bullets fired from an expensive vehicle that chased his Mercedes SUV in Malatia-Sebastia early in the afternoon. They said the assailants shot indiscriminately for several minutes and escaped unscathed, leaving a trail of cartridge-cases that stretched for more than 100 meters. Zatikian apparently died at the wheel moments before crashing into a heavy truck.

One of the stray bullets hit and killed a pedestrian who was later identified by police as Karine Sargsian. The 37-year-old mother of three lived in a nearby apartment building.

Some local residents said they heard gunshots not only on Thursday afternoon. “They’ve been shooting for the last three days,” said one woman.


The dead man was primarily known as a son of Vahan Zatikian, a prominent member of Yerkrapah who ran the Malatia-Sebastia district from 1996 until his sudden death in 1999. The late Zatikian also had extensive business interests in the area that were inherited by his two sons.

Sedrak and his younger earned nationwide notoriety in 2003 after being implicated in a massive gunfight with close relatives of Hakob Hakobian, another prominent Yerkrapah figure and Malatia-Sebastia businessman. The brothers hid from police for several months before making peace with Hakobian’s clan avoiding prosecution.


Malatia-Sebastia is the de facto fiefdom of Samvel Aleksanian, a parliament deputy and one of Armenia’s richest men. Aleksanian was accused two years ago of waging a bloody vendetta against the extended family of Ruben Gevorgian, another Yerkrapah figure who held sway in Yerevan’s Davitashen district.

Seems like an appropiate time to once again link to Vahan Ishkhanyan’s excellent article on how the mafia has divided up Yerevan with the tacit approval of the Armenian government. Not pleasant reading, and not least because there’s been more shooting in my area of late, including one gang killing.

RFE/RL’s full news item is here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives So We Could Live

June 12th marked the 13th anniversary of the day my father-in-law, Saribek Martirosian and Monte Melkonian were killed in battle. In addition to them, a 17 year-old solider named Verj, who was from the village of Bertashen died about 500 meter from where Monte was killed as he and his unit were coming to aid Monte and company, who were under attack. Verj's unit encountered the Azeris who were retreating for Aghdam after killing Monte.

At the government square in Martuni many people gathered. Our kavor (God Father) Alec Yenikomshian, who was one of Monte's close friends spoke about how Monte didn't die 13 years ago, but lives in all of us.
This is the day we remember Saribek, Monte, Verj and all those who were martyred in the defense of our country.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bush Administration in Bed with Human Traffickers

The 2006 TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report is out and it looks like the UAE is off Tier 3. This is a clear indication that the Bush administartion is in bed with the UAE as they belong on Tier 3 and if there was a Tier 4, that would be more where they belong.

I guess the U.S. needs to kiss the UAE's asses as they need them as a "green zone" in a region that the U.S. is trying to invade.

I find it only too funny that Iran is on the Tier 3 list. What proof does the U.S, have that they are worse than the UAE, Oman or Bahrain (all countries that would be on my Tier 4 list).

Armenian Prosecutor `Alarmed' By Human Trafficking

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/07/2006
By Karine Kalantarian and Anna Saghabalian

A senior prosecutor dealing with human trafficking admitted on Wednesday that transport of Armenian women for sexual exploitation abroad has reached `alarming' proportions but denied that Armenian law-enforcement authorities are too lenient towards traffickers.

Armen Boshnaghian, a member of an anti-trafficking task force at the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office, said prostitution rings operating in the country are making `large-scale criminal revenues.'

`I would say that the phenomenon is an alarming reality in Armenia,' he told RFE/RL. `Some steps have been taken to counter it. They are only the first steps. They are just the beginning of a very long and difficult road.'

In an annual global report on the problem released on Monday, the U.S. State Department said Armenia remains a `major source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation.' The department placed Armenia on its human trafficking `watch list' for a second consecutive year, saying that Yerevan's stated crackdown on the practice has made little progress.

The U.S. report also said that despite a reported increase in the number of trafficking-related criminal cases opened by Armenian prosecutors only a handful of individuals were imprisoned on relevant charges last year. `While the government increased implementation of its anti-trafficking law, it failed to impose significant penalties for convicted traffickers,' it said.

Boshnaghian disagreed, insisting that in fact 15 persons convicted of involvement in trafficking were handed jail sentences in 2005. He did acknowledge that Armenian courts are not tough enough on traffickers, but said Armenia's `lenient' Criminal Code is primarily to blame for that.

The prosecutor also dismissed U.S. claims that the Armenian authorities are reluctant to punish law-enforcement officials allegedly cooperating with prostitution networks that recruit and send young women abroad, mainly to the United Arab Emirates. He argued that an Armenian police officer was fired and prosecuted on related charges last year.

The State Department report noted that another member of the Armenian anti-trafficking unit, Aristakes Yeremian, was implicated by an investigative journalist in extorting bribes from Armenian pimps and prostitutes in Dubai. The Prosecutor-General's Office said earlier this year that it has investigated the allegations and found them baseless.

John Miller, a senior State Department official in charge of tracking the problem around the world, insisted on Wednesday that there is a public perception in Armenia that corruption among law-enforcement officials seriously hampers the fight against human trafficking. `The lack of public trust [in law-enforcement bodies] is a serious obstacle to progress in this area,' Miller told Armenian journalists in a video conference from Washington.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Fight Against Trafficking in Persons in Armenia

Embassy of The United States
Yerevan, Armenia
The Fight Against Trafficking in Persons in Armenia

On June 5, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the Department of
State's fifth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This annual report is intended to raise global awareness of human trafficking, underscore the growing efforts of the international community to combat this problem, and encourage nations around the world to take effective actions against this abuse. The report puts it bluntly: Trafficking in persons is modern day slavery, and it is a crime that affects virtually every country, including the United States.

To my regret, Armenia still has a significant trafficking in persons problem. This year, Armenia was once again placed on the TIP Report's Tier 2 Watch List. Countries that do not comply with the minimum standards to combat trafficking, but that are making significant efforts to meet those standards, are classified as Tier 2. Armenia was placed on the Watch List for a second consecutive year because of its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts over the past year, particularly in the areas of enforcement, trafficking-related corruption and victim protection. While the government improved overall implementation of its anti-trafficking law, it
did not impose adequate penalties for convicted traffickers. It did not vigorously enough investigate and prosecute ongoing and widespread allegations of public officials' complicity in trafficking, and victim protection efforts remained in an early, formative stage.

In order to improve its efforts and to avoid dropping to Tier 3, a step that can lead to the withholding of U.S. non-humanitarian and non-trade related assistance, Armenia needs to more aggressively prosecute traffickers and mete out more significant penalties to convicted traffickers. The government ought to vigorously investigate and prosecute all allegations of public officials? complicity in trafficking, and should improve its victim protection efforts to help victims of this serious crime.

The United States, the Republic of Armenia and all countries around the world must work together to combat and eventually eliminate trafficking in persons. In addition to the $400 million in international anti-trafficking assistance that it has contributed to date, the U.S. government continues to fight trafficking in persons in the United States and throughout the world. As President George W. Bush recently noted, "Our nation is determined to fight and end this modern form of slavery." For millions of enslaved people around the world, this new abolitionist movement has come none too soon.

Ara Manoogian
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Interview on UPN (KCOP-TV) On the Armenian Genocide

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

FOX-TV (KTTV, Channel 11) and UPN (KCOP-TV, Channel 13) in Los Angeles, in their evening news hours on April 23, interviewed this writer on the eve of the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. During both interviews, live footage was aired via satellite of the procession of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the Genocide Memorial Monument in Yerevan.

The transcript of the 6-minute long in-studio interview with FOX-TV was published in an earlier column. Here is the transcript of the more than 5-minute long in-studio interview with KCOP-TV:

Anchor 1: Joining us now in studio to help us put some perspective on the anniversary is Harut Sassounian of the United Armenian Fund.

Anchor 2: Let's start off by just getting all of our viewers up to speed on exactly what happened with the Armenian Genocide. Can you quickly tell us what happened, where, and when this all occurred?

Sassounian: Armenians lived in their historic homeland for thousands of years. They were later on occupied by what turned out to be the Ottoman Empire. On the eve of World War I, while the world was busy with its own fate, the Turkish government decided to eliminate the Armenians, as a result of which 1.5 million Armenians were deported and killed from what was historic Armenia.

Anchor 1: We have already mentioned that Turkey does not call it genocide. How do they define these events at this time, and what would it mean politically if they do?

Sassounian: They -- the whole world, including the Turkish leaders -- recognize the facts, but they just don't want to admit it. For political and psychological reasons, they [the Turks] think that it would be like a scar on their history, if they recognize it. But I think they would be better off if they recognize it because they're trying to join the European Union, and they would be classified in the rank of civilized European countries. Just like Germany recognized the Holocaust, Turkey should recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Anchor 2: We had some live pictures earlier from Yerevan. Can you tell us what's going on there right now, because it is the next day -- its actual day.

Sassounian: It's already April 24th. Its the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan, Armenia - they are 12 hours ahead of us -- and hundreds of thousands of people, despite the rain, are proceeding in a solemn procession to the Eternal Flame, the Monument of the Armenian Genocide, putting flowers there and paying their respects. And this year especially, they're paying tribute to U.S. Ambassador John Evans, who's being recalled because he said a word that hes not supposed to say, according to the State Department -- the Armenian Genocide. So they're recalling him. So there's a yellow ribbon campaign - I'm wearing one myself -- as a tribute to his good sense of recognizing the truth and the facts of history.

Anchor 1: That's right, you mentioned that the U.S. Ambassador John Evans did in fact call it a genocide. He has received some flack obviously from the State Department. President Bush calls it a tragedy, does NOT call it a genocide. What would it mean if he actually called it, recognized it, as a genocide, and what peacemaking or peacekeeping effects would it actually have between Turkey and the U.S.?

Sassounian: Of course, President Bush, when he was a candidate, he did call it a genocide. But when he won and became President, he started calling it tragedy and massacre. He even said 1.5 million Armenians were killed. So he used all the words to describe what happened factually, except the word [genocide]. It would not have a major legal effect -- just like President Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1981 saying genocide -- but it has more a moral and psychological effect in acknowledging the fact, that it's something that the victims and their descendants would feel much better if people did not lie about what took place. As they say, truth is the last victim of genocide.

Anchor 2: Now, in Turkey, how are they recognizing what's going on tomorrow?

Sassounian: Well, there's a leftover, a small Armenian community in Turkey, and they're under all sorts of repressive situations - circumstances -- so they do not dare to talk about it. They do not commemorate it, they do not have any special ceremonies, except maybe they go to church and say their prayers. But more and more, recently, Turkish scholars themselves are coming out and writing books and articles, saying it is genocide. So there's a slight movement under pressure from the European Union.

Anchor 2: Now tomorrow, there are many things going on around town [L.A.], right?

Sassounian: Right. At 10 a.m., there's a huge march in Hollywood, Little Armenia. Between 50,000 and 80,000 Armenians will gather. I'm the keynote speaker there. And in the afternoon there's a protest in front of the Turkish Consulate, on Wilshire.

Anchor 2: Thank you so much, best wishes for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


For Immediate Release
May 30, 2006

Yerevan-Today at noon, as Raffi Hovannisian and his colleagues were at work, the Heritage Party’s main office was surrounded and entered by a group of 10 uniformed bailiffs from the Service for Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA) of the Ministry of Justice.

In an unprecedented and incredible reversal of their execution yesterday of the Court’s April 14 injunction against the defendant theater’s restriction of access to Hovannisian’s premises and property, and without further court order, the ministry officials, led by Vahram Yenokian and joined by Yerevan’s commando-clad “chief evicter” Tigran Tadevosian, forcibly vacated the premises, evicting Hovannisian and his staff from the headquarters which has been theirs for 12 years and which they had succeeded in reentering just yesterday, nearly three months after its initial closure. All office doors, external and internal, were then sealed.

As part of the official report prepared by Yenokian and his underlings, Raffi Hovannisian recorded that “the instant operation by the SMEJA bailiffs, who are supposed to be servants of the law, is illegal, a travesty of civil rights and justice, and a sad reflection of the subservience of the judiciary to the whims, caprices, and personal interests of the executive branch of power, in particular the incumbent presidency. I am being compelled to leave under the threat of force and against my will.”

Upon the formal closing of his office within 24 hours of its hopeful reopening, Hovannisian condemned the petty, parochial fear that drives such acts of lawless retribution across the Republic, and vowed to continue his quest, together with his fellow citizens, to achieve a nation of laws, rights, and dignity.

Founded in 2002, Heritage has regional divisions throughout the land. Its central headquarters are located at 7 Vazgen Sargsian Street, Yerevan 0010, Armenia, with telephone contact at (374-10) 580.877, fax at (374-10) 543.897, and email at