Wednesday, December 31, 2008


December 31, 2008

By Kardash Onnig

Dear friends,

You’ve heard the refrain: “Why didn’t someone stop the Nazis before they unleashed their barbarism upon the world?”

That question is as ever relevant today, except that it should be posed to our own, American, political leadership.

The latest wave of violence in Israel and Gaza brought fresh evidence of the ongoing human tragedy in that part of the world. While the persistence of such events is hardly surprising - considering that the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain woefully unresolved – I, for one, am gripped with a sense of exasperation and sheer rage vis-à-vis America’s flagrant racism. This form of hatred, which is just another brand of anti-Semitism, is directed squarely at Arabs and Muslims, and now it’s being manifested, once again, in America’s response to the tragedy.

For the past 60 years, the American public has been brainwashed into demonizing and ultimately dehumanizing Arabs and Muslims. The propaganda machine has blinded not only the public per se, but also intellectuals and artists. These individuals, who are called to represent the very conscience of the nation, are given to offering some ridiculous justification - by, for instance, blaming “Bush,” the neocons, or Christian fundamentalists - when faced with the reality of our own Guernica: the killing of over one million Arabs/Muslims in the past few years.

No! Let’s stop blaming the Republicans and focus on the “liberal bigots,” as Ralph Nader accurately calls them. It seems that Jesse Jackson’s hope that president-elect Obama would end the hegemony of the Arab- and Muslim-haters and their ilk was misguided by the fact that Obama happens to be black. Obama (I voted for Nader) is no Marin Luther King. He is a Harvard lawyer, and didn’t even wait as long as Bill Clinton had to surround himself with Zionists and sympathizers of America’s racism of choice.

We are complacent, fat with one-man shows, and fat with our egos, which blind us. We were led to believe by Madison Avenue that the word “change” was going to do the trick of saving us from the hate that we have created toward the world in which we live. We were bamboozled. And the show goes on.

What we need is nothing less than a Boston Tea party to rid our hearts of the cancer of racism, just as our forefathers rid the colony of the unjust the British tyrany.

What is the artist’s role in all this? It is “to speak out, to make a clean breast,” writes R. G. Collingwood. “As spokesman for his community, the secrets he must utter are theirs. The reason why they need him is that no community altogether knows its own heart; and by failing of this knowledge a community deceives itself on the one subject concerning which ignorance means death” (The Principles of Art).

Michelle Obama was right when she announced that she was embarrassed to be a citizen of the United States. I, too, am embarrassed, not only by the American public in general but by “friends,” who trivialize the issue by claiming that my “anti-Semitism” is blinding me, just as it had Jimmy Carter, Joseph Campbell, Nietzsche, Wagner, and others.

People tell me it is suicidal for my profession to go against the Zionists. I tell them I must
Live and act according to my frofession…an artist…a spokesperson for my community,
Uttering out loud our secrets and self deceptions.

This letter is my Guernica. Wake up, America.

U.S. Envoy Sees Progress In Armenian Anti-Trafficking Drive

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 12/30/2008

By Emil Danielyan

Armenia has stepped up its fight against human trafficking in the past year and may be removed from a blacklist of countries which the United States believes are not doing enough to address the problem, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Marie Yovanovitch, said on Tuesday.

Since 2005, the U.S. State Department has kept Armenia on the embarrassing `watch list' in its annual reports on cross-border transport and illegal exploitation of human beings around the world. The most recent of those reports, released in June 2008, said the Armenian government still `does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking' despite making `significant efforts to do so.'

In an interview with RFE/RL, Yovanovitch said that the report covered trafficking-related developments in 2007 and that she believes Yerevan has done more to address U.S. concerns in 2008. `I think there is a continuum on the list, and obviously if the State Department decides that Armenia's actions have improved, which I certainly believe that hey have, perhaps Armenia will graduate to a higher level,' she said.

The Armenian government approved in late 2007 its second program of wide-ranging measures against the illegal practice and its most frequent manifestation: the recruitment and transport of women for sexual exploitation abroad. The status of an inter-agency government council coordinating those measures was recently upgraded. The council is now headed by the influential Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian.

In accordance with the state budget for 2009, the government will for the first time allocate funding for anti-trafficking activities that have until now been financed by the U.S. and other Western governments as well as international organizations. Some of that funding will go to special shelters for trafficking victims opened by two non-governmental organizations in recent years.

Yovanovitch praised these and other government efforts as `really positive' but said more needs to be done to combat what she considers a `terrible crime against humanity.' `The government of Armenia is doing some of the specific actions that they need to take, but ... as long as any individual is trafficked from Armenia, whether it's for labor or sex, clearly any government needs to do more,' she said.

In its 2008 report, the State Department stressed that Yerevan should ensure that convicted traffickers `receive and serve adequate jail sentences.' U.S. officials have complained in the past that Armenian law-enforcement bodies and courts are too lenient toward such individuals.

Yovanovitch noted with satisfaction that the Armenian authorities seem to have gotten tougher on them this year. `When you look at the law-enforcement side of things, I think there have been more convictions this year,' she said. `The sentences have been stronger, commensurate to the crime and they haven't been suspended, which I think is really positive as well.'

`But my understanding is that we are talking about three of four cases. We are not talking about hundreds of cases,' cautioned the ambassador.

According to the Armenian police, 17 persons were prosecuted on trafficking charges during the first ten months of this year, up from ten such cases registered in 2007. The police say ten of those individuals have already been convicted and given prison sentences by local courts.

None of them apparently worked in law-enforcement or other government bodies. Prosecution of state officials `complicit in trafficking' was another major State Department requirement.

Yovanovitch noted in that regard that an indicted Uzbek trafficker managed to flee Armenia in 2006 without a passport and `perhaps with the complicity of government officials.' `That case is being reopened to take a look at who was involved and whether they should be charged with crimes,' she revealed. `And that's very important as well because throughout the world, not just in Armenia, often trafficking happens because law-enforcement officials allow it to happen, because
they profit from it as well.'

The envoy suggested that despite the U.S.-backed government efforts there are few indications yet that the number of Armenians trafficked abroad for forced labor or sex has fallen in recent years. Accordingly, she expressed concern at a decrease in the number of trafficking cases registered by Armenian law-enforcement authorities
in 2008.

`We think that probably it means that there is error in data or that law-enforcement officials are not reporting individuals who were trafficked,' she said. `Perhaps because they don't identify them as people who were trafficked.'

The Armenian government approved earlier this month a `national referral mechanism' which it hopes will make it easier for the police and immigration bodies to identify trafficking victims and redirect them to NGOs dealing with their rehabilitation. One such group, the U.S.-based United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), is to organize training courses for 50 more law-enforcement officers. The UMCOR received a $90,000 U.S. government grant for that purpose on December 8.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Armenia Still On U.S. Trafficking `Watch List' Despite Government Efforts

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 12/24/2008
By Emil Danielyan

Armenia remains on an unflattering `watch list' of countries which the United States believes are a major source of human trafficking more than six years after its government acknowledged the problem and began combating it in earnest.

The Armenian authorities claim to have made considerable progress in cracking down on the practice and its most common manifestation: the transport of women for sexual exploitation abroad. Officials cite a wide range of measures such as the adoption of two government programs, establishment of special anti-trafficking bodies, and a sharp increase in criminal cases against individuals involved in transnational sex trade.

Victims of the prostitution rings can now count on some government assistance and find refuge in special shelters operated by non-governmental organizations as part of anti-trafficking assistance provided to Armenia by international donors. That assistance has also been used for training Armenian law-enforcement officials to prevent, detect and investigate trafficking cases.

Whether these and other measures have actually reduced the number of Armenian women trafficked abroad and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular is an open question, however. According to the U.S. State Department, Armenian law-enforcement bodies and courts have so far been quite lenient toward traffickers and corrupt government officials helping them.

`In the past several years the authorities have taken steps to address the problem,' said Marina Solakhian, coordinator of an anti-trafficking project launched by the United Nations Development Program in 2004. `Of course, a lot still needs to be done. But you can't eradicate the problem overnight. More time is needed for achieving and seeing results.'

The problem came to light in 2002 when the U.S. State Department included Armenia into its so-called Tier 3 group of nations which it thinks were doing little to stop human trafficking and could therefore be stripped of U.S. economic assistance. Armenia was removed from the blacklist and upgraded to the Tier 2 category the next year after what the State Department described as `significant efforts' taken by its government. However, the department downgraded the country to a Tier 2 `watch list' in 2005, citing the Armenian authorities' `failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking over the past year.'

Yerevan swiftly responded to the criticism by setting up in late 2002 an inter-agency commission tasked with coordinating a government crackdown on trafficking. In November 2007 then Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian upgraded the commission's status and approved a second program of relevant government actions. In 2003, the Armenian parliament passed a government-drafted amendment to the country's penal code criminalizing `trade in human beings.' The clause was amended in 2006 to toughen punishment for the cross-border transport of persons for sexual exploitation and forced labor. They can now be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Also, special anti-trafficking units have been formed within Armenia's police and the Office of the Prosecutor-General. The two law-enforcement agencies have reported a drastic increase in trafficking-related criminal cases opened by them in recent years. Colonel Hunan Poghosian, head of a powerful police department tasked with combating organized crime, announced on December 5 that law-enforcement authorities have prosecuted 17 persons on trafficking charges during the first ten months of this year, up from ten such cases registered in 2007. He said ten of those individuals have already been convicted and given prison sentences by local courts. The police reported only three such convictions in 2007.

Poghosian did not specify the length of those jail terms or say whether there were any government or law-enforcement officials among the convicted individuals. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe concluded in an April 2007 report that only a small number of convicted Armenian traffickers receive serious sentences. This seems a key reason why the U.S. State Department is keeping Armenia on the `watch list' for a fourth consecutive year.

`The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,' the department said in its most recent report on human trafficking around the world released in June. It said the government should ensure that convicted traffickers `receive and serve adequate jail sentences' and prosecute `officials complicit in trafficking.'

`Unfortunately, we still don't have a full enforcement of the law,' Dziunik Aghajanian, a senior Armenian Foreign Ministry official involved in the anti-trafficking drive, admitted at a recent seminar in Yerevan. While putting a greater emphasis on the enforcement of laws, the government's current anti-trafficking program contains no specific instructions for law-enforcement bodies to broaden and toughen punishments for the practice.

The State Department report also found no `tangible progress' in government efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. According to Poghosian, the number of Armenians recognized by the police as victims of human trafficking soared from 12 in 2007 to 37 in January-October 2008. The police official said 20 women have been sent this year to two rehabilitation centers in Yerevan run by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and an Armenian NGO called Hope and Belief.

The UMCOR shelter was opened in an undisclosed location in Yerevan in 2004 as part of a broader anti-trafficking project launched by the U.S.-based charity. According to Viktoria Avakova, the project coordinator, it has hosted up to 25 women each year, giving them medical, psychological and legal assistance and helping to reintegrate them into what is still a conservative society rarely sympathetic to their suffering. She said many shelter residents are ostracized by their families or are too traumatized to tell the latter about their whereabouts.

`People surrounding them often don't understand what they have gone through, the trauma suffered by them,' Avakova told RFE/RL. `And so they see no way out of this vicious circle.'

`These women were forced into sex slavery,' she said. `They didn't decide how many clients a day they could have. Very often they were not even allowed to leave their rooms. They were deprived of practically all human rights.'

As well as ensuring victims' physical and mental rehabilitation, the UMCOR organizes retraining courses for the mostly unskilled and neducated victims to make it easier for them to find new jobs in Armenia. With unemployment in the country and especially its rural areas remaining widespread, that is a difficult task.

The government's anti-trafficking program also envisages retraining courses and `socioeconomic' programs for the victims. But evidence of their implementation by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and other government agencies has so far been scant. The government for the first time set aside targeted funding for anti-trafficking activities only in its budget for next year approved by parliament last month.

`So far the state has done little to reintegrate victims into society,' the UNDP's Solakhian told RFE/RL. `It is non-governmental organizations that mainly work with victims.' `Besides, there are not many jobs, and employers often refuse to hire women or men recognized as trafficking victims,' she said.

International and local non-governmental organizations funded by Western donors also seem to have been more active than the government in raising public awareness of the problem and even training law-enforcement officers dealing with it. The UMCOR office in Armenia, for example, has a telephone hotline for Armenians planning to work abroad and needing legal counseling. `Our experts explain the dangers involved and how to avoid them,' said Avakova.

The UMCOR received on December 8 a $90,000 U.S. government grant to train 50 more law-enforcement officers to better manage trafficking cases and identify their victims. `Up to 15 police officers will be provided with a follow-up training on recent developments in the anti-trafficking area,' the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said in a statement.

Experts believe that ultimately the success of these efforts hinges not only on the Armenian government's commitment to combating human trafficking but also the elimination of its underlying socioeconomic causes. `The root causes of the problem -- poverty and unemployment -- are still there,' said Avakova. `As long as they are not addressed, people will believe in false promises of better life.'


Dec 24, 2008

Acts of violence and pressures upon the political activists accused on the March 1 criminal case have become stronger in penitentiary institutions lately. Aram Sargsian, the Chairman of the Hanrapetutiu (Republic) party, Ararat Zurabian, the Board Chairman of the Armenian National Movement party, and Levon Zurabian, the Coordinator of the Armenian National Congress, stated at the December 24 press conference.

According to L. Zurabian, defendant on the "case of the seven" Grigor Voskerchian, opposition activists Ashot Manukian and Armen Khurshudian have been beaten cruelly in their prison cells lately. According to L. Zurabian, the group of masked policemen that had taken part in those prisoners' beating the day before, in the morning of December 24 also appeared in the building of the Nubarashen penitentiary institution, from which ANC members conclude that the wave of violence in the prison will continue.

"The regime has repeatedly proved that it can do any meanness. However, now the authorities have went down and become equal to the lowest immorality scale," L. Zurabian stated. He affirmed that the authorities strengthen pressures upon the opposition, as they are afraid to lose the "case of the seven" in the court. Besides beating, according to him, in order to psychologically affect prisoners law enforcers move them to other cells, where the conditions are worse. In consideration of all this, ANC demands RA Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian's resignation, calls RA Ombudsman for publicizing a special report and the NA Zharangutiun (Heritage) faction for making a proposal to convene a special sitting.


24.12.2008 16:39 GMT+04:00

Azerbaijan is going to launch production of tanks, small arms, armors and noctovision devices next year. The defense potential of the republic will be considerably increased.

Minister of Defense Industry Yaver Jamalov informed that Azerbaijan also plans to produce aviation bombs and pilotless vehicles, ANS TV channel reports.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If the shoe fits, wear it

I am really upset about what happened in Iraq to the outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush.

It seems that a television reporter who has lost family in the Iraqi conflict and recently kidnapped and tourchered, lobbed his shoes at Bush, but missed the target.

In an interview later on, Bush commented on how it was funny and one of the stranger things he has had happen to him.

Bush was uninjured thanks to his natural instinct as a Texan who jumps back when shoeing a horse or dodges flying shoes from his wife Laura.

As for the reporter, he should be hung from the gallows for missing his target twice.

I wonder if at future news conferences they will issue slippers to the attendees?

And since Bush is a Class A moron, this is his reaction to what happened:

"Hero of Artsakh" award is not meant for real heros

It has become a tradition in Artsakh to award medals to those who have and are involved in criminal activity.

The latest recipient of the "Hero of Artsakh" and the Golden Eagle Order is the former President of Artsakh Arkady Ghoukasyan. This is a man who among his larger criminal accomplishments privatized the largest hospital in Armenia for almost nothing with the military prosecutor and the hospital director. A few years ago, President Ghoukasyan awarded his father Doctor Ghoukasyan, a man who was known for starting an operation and when the victim under his care was already cut open, he would ask how much of a bride would be paid.

Our real heroes who gave their lives to liberate our nation are turning in their graves.


Azat Artsakh Daily
12 Dec 08
Republic of Nagorno Karabakh [NKR]

On 10 December NKR President Bako Sahakyan signed a decree according to which for exclusive services to the Nagorno Karabagh Republic and in connection with the anniversary of the adoption of the NKR Constitution, the second President of NKR Arkady Ghoukasyan is awarded with the highest title of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic, the `Hero of Artsakh' and the Golden Eagle Order.

And on this subject over at


Bako Sahakyan signed a decree on awarding the highest title of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic – Hero of Artsakh – and the medal of Golden Eagle to Arkady Ghukasyan, the second president of NKR, on the anniversary of adoption of the NKR Constitution. The relations between Bako Sahakyan and Arkady Ghukasyan could be described as mysterious. One and a half year past the completion of his second term of presidency Arkady Ghukasyan was at last allowed to set up an office in Stepanakert. In addition, the rumors that Arkady Ghukasyan was going to be appointed to one position or another – foreign minister of Armenia, Armenian minister of Diaspora, foreign minister of NKR, director of Armenia Fund – did not come true. Although Ghukasyan was “tried out” for these positions, he is not in business yet. It is not clear why it was necessary to award Arkady Ghukasyab the highest title of Karabakh. There are two options – either the president wants to “rid” of Ghukasyan’s ambitions who is too young to retire or he is being prepared for appointment to another “all-Armenian” post.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Armenian Police Report Surge In Trafficking Convictions

RFE/RL Armenia Report
Friday, 5 December, 2008

By Hovannes Shoghikian

The number of individuals imprisoned in Armenia for human trafficking and officially identified as victims of the illegal practice has more than doubled this year, a senior police official said on Friday.

According to Colonel Hunan Poghosian, head of a feared police department tasked with combating organized crime, Armenian law-enforcement authorities have prosecuted 17 persons on relevant charges during the first ten months of this year, up from ten such cases registered in last year. He said ten of those individuals have already been convicted and given prison sentences by local courts. The police reported only three such convictions in 2007.

Poghosian portrayed the police statistics as further proof of the toughening of the Armenian government's fight against human trafficking. The government launched a new three-year plan of anti-trafficking actions late last year. The Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian also formed a special inter-agency body coordinating the crackdown.

The Armenian authorities began tackling the problem in 2004 under pressure from the United States which has repeatedly described Armenia has a major source of illegal transport of women for sexual exploitation abroad. But despite recent years' government efforts, Armenia remains on a special `watch list' of nations which the U.S. State Department says are not doing enough to combat trafficking.

The police data show the number of mainly female Armenians officially recognized as `victims' of human trafficking soaring from 12 in 2007 to 37 in January-October 2008. Poghosian said 20 women have been sent this year to special rehabilitation centers run by two non-governmental organizations. One woman was repatriated from the United Arab Emirates, the main destination of trafficking victims, with the help of the
Armenian Foreign Ministry, he said.

Poghosian also told reporters that the Armenian police have registered ten trafficking cases, virtually all of them involving sex trade, in the past ten months. Eight of them have already been solved, he said without elaboration.

Armenia primary-source of trafficking

2008-12-05 20:12:00

There are three types of countries for trafficking: primary-source, transit and target, Hunan Poghosyan, Colonel, the head of the Chief Anticrime Department of the Armenian Police, said at the press conference Friday.

He said Armenia is mostly a primary-source country i.e. people leave for other states to earn money through prostitution. However, H. Poghosyan said that unlike other primary-source states, girls and women in Armenia are not procured for prostitution, they, probably, leave on voluntary basis. However, they are subjected to violence in target states where they leave for to earn money through prostitution. The most favorable target states for Armenian prostitutes are Turkey and the UAE, Colonel Poghosyan said.

He also added that only one person arrived in Armenia to earn money through prostitution in 2008. Hence, Armenia was a target-state just in one case. He also added that no case of trafficking in children was registered in the country in 2008.

Friday, December 05, 2008

16:14 02/12/2008

"Armenia considers to be a trafficking born country. Girls and women are taken to Turkey and Arabic United Emirates where they are entrapped into prostitution," said Marina Solakhyan, the coordinator of Struggle against Trafficking UNDP project. According to Solakhyan, there exists another type of trafficking among us - working trafficking, which main direction is in Russia.

One of the reasons of the trafficking is that in transitional countries and in countries which lack stable economy people are looking for ways to find good jobs, she said. According to her people don't verify the information they receive from their friends, neighbors, etc.

In order to escape from such situation, M. Solakhyan said that a job found abroad should be well verified, a written contract or at least written agreement should be made, and the legislation of certain country should be studied. It is important to make copies of documents and to leave one example with relatives, as when abroad in case of trafficking people are taken off their documents just from the airport.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Liberated Territories Can Never be an Object for Mutual Concessions”
[ 28 November 2008 | 12:45 ] politics |

A Hetq Interview with Lernik Hovhannisyan, Secretary of the ARF Artsakh Youth Union

Mr. Hovhannisyan, recently, at the initiative of your organization, youth groups in Artsakh participated in “round table” discussion of the Karabakh issue. What resulted was a condemnation of those statements that “call into question the justice and victory achieved by the blood of thousands of Armenia’s sons”. What was meant by this?

The young people of Artsakh cannot remain indifferent to what is being said in the press and by certain political leaders on the issue. For us, those views, that call for the exchange of Armenian lands for other Armenian lands are unacceptable; for example Shahumyan for Aghdam. Especially when we are talking about returning the liberated territories.

These are historic Armenian lands as witnessed by the city of Tigranakert and the recent discovery of medieval Armenian stone crosses in the Aghdam region. There are other sources that confirm that the liberated territories are Armenian. For instance, there are 17th century Persian sources that speak about the presence of the Armenian Meliks. As a result, we condemn all approaches that assume any change to the territories as set forth in the Constitution of the RMK (Republic of Mountainous Karabakh).

Thankfully, the government of the RMK shares this opinion. We are certain, just as the RMK government is certain, that any attempt to settle the Artsakh conflict without the participation of the RMK is doomed to failure. In other words, Artsakh must have an equal place at the negotiations table and the RMK Foreign Ministry is actively taking steps to achieve such an objective. Proof of this is the fact that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs, during their last visit, held closed meetings at the RMK National Assembly.

Can we infer from your statement that the people of Artsakh will not accept any agreement that includes a return of various lands?

As an ARF representative let me say that our party has made its position clear on many occasions. The Artsakh Central Committee, and the Supreme Council of Armenian and the ARF Bureau, have stated that there can be no discussion of the return of any lands. This view has also been expressed by the RMK authorities.

But the Armenian side has always noted that the Artsakh conflict must be resolved via mutual concessions. If this is the case what concessions will we grant?

We have already made concessions. First, we agreed to the 1994 ceasefire. Second. The Republic of Armenia has yet to recognize the independence of Artsakh. The liberated territories can never become the object of concessions. We have nothing to return. Furthermore, a portion of the RMK, the region of Getashen, Shahumyan and parts of Martuni and Martakert, remain occupied by Azerbaijan. The issue of their return must be put on the negotiations table as well.

It seems that on an official level we are not making such claims. All the while Azerbaijan comes forth with much stronger demands and our authorities counter this by stating that the conflict must be resolved through concessions on the two sides. In the context of what you stated, doesn’t it appear that the current negotiations that have been going on for years are redundant? Negotiations are always useful but they must continue without any reference to the return of any lands. All of us are aware that if such a thing happens the threat of warfare grows.

What about the international security guarantees that are being discussed?

In any event, the final guarantor of security is our army and this was proved back in March and just recently with the attempted Azeri military incursion. We can agree to the presence of any international force on RMK lands. Yes there will be such pressures brought to bear but we must resist them and build our statehood in unison.