Thursday, June 30, 2005



US embassy public affairs officer, Kimberly Hargan officially opened today the second "American Corner" in Armenia's second largest town of Gyumri at the local branch of the Armenian Scientific-Technological Center.

American Corners are small, American-style libraries created to help increase mutual understanding between Armenia and the United States by making a wealth of information about America available in different formats.

This American Corner features a diverse collection of English language books, reference materials about the United States, computers with Internet and access to online databases, cd-roms, videos, and much more.

The Embassy provided a grant to refurbish a room for the American Corner, installed three computers, and supplied the library with over 300 books, journals and current periodicals. American Corner librarians, trained and supported by the U.S. Embassy, are always on hand to assist visitors. The Embassy is committed to growing the American Corner's collection and keeping it up to date.

The American Corner in Gyumri is open to the general public, free of charge. In addition to a being full multi-media reference resource, the American Corner will also host regular programming, including lectures and workshops, video series, and other activities focused on telling the story of the United States. In the coming years the Embassy plans to create a network of American Corners throughout Armenia.


I hear that they will be hosting a program that is titled “Your life is crap, dream about moving to America before it’s too late,” which at that time they will be taking applications for the green-card lottery.

I’m thinking we should start a program call “American ghetto.” This we could put in the other corner of the libraries (or at least have a permanent link to the “American Corner” website, right next to the United States sponsored Project Harmony pornography links, to take us to our virtual corner). We would present the reality of life in America telling stories of not just life there, but life around the world thanks to America. We should also have information on tips of how to survive as a refugee in a hostel host country.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Last Saturday, my fiancé and I met up with a friend of mine who is visiting from Switzerland at the Vernisash.

After walking around, we sat down at the Vernisash outdoor café for a cup of natural juice and reminisced about the past, today’s condition and what waits us in the future.

My friend has “non-native” written all over him and I would even go so far as saying that he could pass for a non-Armenian, thus the beggars were frequenting our table and my friend feeling sorry for their condition was handing them out money. Not the small change, but what you could use for a meal or a bottle of booze.

I’m guessing that there is a begging ring at the Vernisash, as we had so many of them walking up to him. Following the one legged man and him giving him a handful of money, I asked him what he was going to give when the headless man comes by?

Being that my friend comes from one of those well known Diaspora families that always gets shaken down by the government to give to big projects, he is well know among the Diaspora, thus many Diaspora tourist were coming up to him to say hello.

One Diaspora-Armenian tourist after saying hello, told of a problem her family was having at the OVIR.

According to this women, her son or nephew (I really didn’t quite get the detail on this and my friend didn’t really know) was getting married to a native girl and they were having problems getting her exit documents, which are required by the United States INS.

Initially she told him that they would not even take their request for the exit document, but later her daughter told me that they went and they did take the request, but told them that it would take 2 months to complete.

She was asking my friend if he had any connections at the OVIR to speed up the process. My friend introduced me to her and said that I live here and maybe I could be of help to them.

I explained to her that there is a good reason for the delay of up to 2 months for the exit papers. This is a process to see if the bride to be has any outstanding debts, warrants and the likes. It’s a standard process in every country.

She asked me if I knew someone there that they could maybe pay a rush fee, as they wanted the newlyweds to travel back to the US together at the beginning of July.

I said no, the only fee one could pay for such a service is a bribe.

She said yes, they are ready to do this if need be.

Fortunately for this fat slob of a women and her sister, I didn’t smack her over the head with my plastic chair (which for some reason, ran through my head), but told her in a not so nice tone of voice, that paying a bribe is not good and causes harm to those of us that live here and we would not want to see the Diaspora who always talks about law and order to feed into the problem of corruption we now have thanks to just such things.

The groom commented that this was not the problem, but it was the traffic police that was the problem with bribes.

No I said, it starts from the top and goes all the way to the bottom of the chain.

Well she didn’t like that answer and quickly finished the conversation, excusing herself.

I’ll find out from my friend in the next couple of weeks of the newlyweds made their way back to the states in July, or if they are waiting until the end of August to celebrate her arrival to the US.

If they did get back in July, I’ll be publishing my findings, including their names, addresses and blood types in the papers here and in the Diaspora, in an article about the effects of bribery and who feeds into it.
Yesterday my fiancé and I went to visit my fiancé’s aunt and uncle at their farm, as the apricots trees they have were ready to be picked.

This year is a very good year for apricots, apples and pears.

After picking and eating our fill, the sun came down and we all went to bed.

In the morning, her uncle was telling me about their chicken Marfa.

It seems Marfa is a very intelligent hen, who three days ago decided that she no longer was going to walk and since that day, was unable to eat.

What makes Marfa so special? First I want to say that none of the other chickens have names.

It seems that Marfa is very attached to my fiancé’s uncle and when he calls her, she comes running and jumps into his hands.

So what brought on this sudden condition?

Well, it seems that Marfa was listening to the radio with my fiancé’s uncle and being such an intelligent hen, didn’t like what she was hearing about the world we live in.

I’m not sure if this was a protest on her part (a sit in), or if it was spell of depression? I guess it could have been a combination of both.

This morning before leaving, I visited Marfa, who was sitting in the garage alone on the woodpile and had a talk with her to see what had happened.

After about a minute of talking with her, she stood to her feet. A little weak at first, she shook off whatever it was that was keeping her down and made her way out to the yard.

My fiancé’s uncle was quite happy and thanked me for talking Marfa out of her state.

Though Marfa’s feathers were a bit ruffled, I think she is going to fully recover.

My fiancé’s uncle said that she is a special chicken and he is going to take good care of her. She will be allowed to lay eggs for as long as she can and even when she if finished laying eggs, he will allow her to live out her life and die a natural death and have a proper stewing.

I have big plans for Marfa. I really think that in time she may just turn into something big. Who knows, maybe in a few years, she will get into politics? I know she will have very little competition in terms of being less educated that what we have now. Only problem is that all the corruption may be too much for her to deal with since so far we have seen how she deals with bad news.

Marfa for Armenian President in 2008!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Three days of creating English subtitles for our documentary “Desert Nights.” Yup, sleep deprived, but I’m finally done!!! Boy did it work well and there are things that you can barely understand because we changed the voices that thanks to the subtitles, makes the documentary very powerful. I had to use the original audio to understand what was being said so I could create the text.

Tomorrow, I am taking a copy of the documentary to a fellow Diaspora Armenian to proof.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


STEPANAKERT, JUNE 23, NOYAN TAPAN. "The health condition of NKR MP candidate Pavel Manukian who was cruelly beaten in the cabinet of NKR Defence Minister Seyran Ohanian remains stable," the June 23 press release of ARF Artsakh Central Committee read. According to doctors, Manukian got a "close skull-cerebral trauma." On June 22, the victim's wife, Marine Manukian, applied to NKR Prosecutor General's Office with a demand to immediately institute a criminal case. In addition to the names of already known generals, in her application Marine Manukian also mentioned the names of A.Haroutiunian, V.Balayan, M.Hakobian.

Pavel Manukian in his interview to the Yerkir Media Yerevan TV company on the phone declared that Defence Minister Seyran Ohanian, Deputy Defence Minister Samvel Karapetian and other generals being in the Minister's cabinet were among those who beat him. In the evening of June 22 the ARF Artsakh Central Committee sent a letter to NKR President Arkadi Ghukasian demanding that the leadership of NKR Defence Ministry be dismissed. "Realizing the important problem of preservation of home political stability in the country, the ARF Artsakh Central Committee condemns the created situation and expects fair solution," the letter, in particular, read. It was mentioned that such action carried out by the commander of Defence Army permits to suppose that an atmosphere of fear and horror will be created in the country. On June 23, on the initiative of the ARF Artsakh Central Committee and Movement-88 party a number of NKR political parties made a statement condemning the act of violence. "The only and most correct way is taking of immediate measures by the President of the republic, guarantor of preservation of legality, for the purpose of maintaining calmness inside the country, preventing possible political excess, as
well as not endangering the international image of our non-recognized republic," the parties's statement, in particular, read.


I'm not sure if I fully believe this story. There are a couple of generals I know who are mentioned that I don't really think would raise a hand on anyone, though I could be wrong.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Last night I didn’t sleep until late, figuring that this morning I could sleep in since my first meeting of the day is not until 1 p.m.

Well that plan went out the window thanks to Armenia TV, which this morning had about 4 minutes coverage of our press conference. It aired all the way to Artsakh.

So at 8:50, while I was having this great dream about sunbathing on some beach, my cell phone goes off. It was Harout of ABBA, asking if I was watching Armenia TV?

Then not a minute later, another call, followed by a few more.

It seems that we got more coverage than we were expecting. Most of the stations are covering this issue.

And to think, we were told that no one would air even one second of this in fear of the government and especially the Prosecutor’s office, as I said before, the most powerful government body is Armenia. This should be an indication that people are sick of this kind of stuff and even the people running the pro-government stations were not going to ignore their loyalty to their people.

Anyway, to say the least, I’m very pleased so far with how things are going.

One of the interviews I gave, the question was asked as to if I was concerned with my personal safety, since we have only released 10% of what we have, with the balance (including the most incriminating for the Armenian authorities) to be released in the future? I answered no, as that information has been distributed all over the world for safe keeping, so if something happens to us, will not stop the inevitable. Our intention is not necessarily to release that information, but give a chance to those that caused this mess to straighten it out so broadcasting that information will not be necessary.

All I know is that the payoff to this work is just around the corner and in the next couple of weeks, things are going to move very fast and the whole country is going to be talking about this issue, which will leave not room for any stonewalling.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The film was shown tonight on Yergir Media TV, followed by a live discussion.

As I mentioned before and as it was stated during the live broadcast, the MFA and Prosecutor’s office were busy and could not make the show.

Present were Edik and the UN’s project coordinator of the Smuggling and Trafficking Issues department, Rafayel Gyulnazaryan. The person conducting the interview when asking a question stated that Rafayel use to work for the Prosecutor’s office in their trafficking department [with those persons who are involved directly in the trafficking ring].

Anyway, I thought it was a very good interview, though it really would have been nice if government bodies were present to answer the allegations that were made instead of stonewalling this issue as they usually do.

In the next few days I’m going to try to set up some interviews with the popular stations that are viewed in the regions, as the people there are the ones who most often fall victim to trafficking and need to know what is really going on in our world so they can protect themselves.
I just got home from the premier and press conference for the documentary “Desert Nights”, which is the first of a series that documents the phenomenon of trafficking of women and children (not just Armenian) to the UAE.

The event was well attended by the press, NGOs that deal with trafficking, but sadly, no one from the government as far as I could see attended (as always).

After the film, Edik spoke and did a great job of answering the audience’s questions, including that of what various government and social organizations are not doing to address this problem.

Edik and I gave quite a few interviews. One of my interviews was given to Teletime, which from what I remember is aired in the US, so for those of you who are out in that part of the world, watch for it.

Tonight at 9 p.m. Yergir Media will be airing the documentary and then a live discussion will follow it which was suppose to be Edik, someone from the UN, MFA and Prosecutors office. Sadly, the MFA and Prosecutors office has declined the invitation, most probably because they don’t have answers for the question that will be asked of them.

The documentary clearly states that the Prosecutor’s office has gone to the UAE to look into this matter over a period of time and have taken bribes from the traffickers, doing almost nothing to combat this problem.

Someone stated that the Prosecutor’s office is the most powerful government body and there is no one higher then them, thus in this case, the fox is really guarding the henhouse.

It will be interesting the reaction from the general public and also what fallout we may get from the authorities? I’m not expecting really anything negative or any criticism from anyone other than maybe the Prosecutor’s office.

Monday, June 20, 2005

One June 22nd, 2005 at 2 p.m., we will be having a press conference where we will present our documentary “Desert Nights”.

We are expecting representation from government and all the NGOs that deal with trafficking issues.

That evening our documentary will be aired the television station Yergir Media at 9 p.m.

For those interested in attending the press conference, please e-mail me and I’ll send you an invitation.
Today was Lucine Hagopyan’s trial.

The trial started at 1:45 and went on for 4 hours.

During the trial, three witnesses gave testimony, as well as an unexpected witness, who was without a doubt victimized by Lucine.

For the most part, Lucine denied everything that the witnesses claimed and presented herself as having done her victims a favor, but never brought them over to participate in the sex business.

Lucine and her attorney accused one of the witnesses as being the girls pimp and not her. This was clearly a lie and I would hope that witness pursues slander charges against her.

In the end, the prosecutor read a statement that Lucine herself had giving when she was first questioned by the prosecutor’s office which for the most part contradicted most everything she had stated under oath. Lucine admitted hat this was her initial statement which was in her handwriting and signed by her.

From everything presented, Lucine has to be charged under 132, which is the anti-trafficking law.

The court adjourned and will reconvene on July 8th at 14:00, at which time I expect that Lucine will be charged with trafficking and sentenced to 8 years.

The one thing I didn’t understand was that Lucine was not in custody and came to court with her mother Hasmik, who was also mentioned by one of the witnesses as being the one that recruited her and took her to the airport to send to Lucine.

If you ask me, the mother Hasmik needs to be arrested and charged with trafficking also. I mentioned this to the prosecutor, with Lucine’s defense attorney asking what I suggested? The prosecutor basically brushed the defense attorney off, saying that I was asking him an unrelated question.

We left the courthouse and walked in the same direction as Lucine and her mother Hasmik, who made their way down Prospect.

I asked a legal expert why Lucine was free and should she not be in custody? They answered that yes she should be in custody, but probably gave a nice big bribe to the authorities and for that reason she is walking the streets free.
The government has forgotten about them
[June 20, 2005]

Armenian men take advantage of a mentally disabled girl

“One day my sister Arus came with a girl, her name was Anna. Arus said ‘She'll be your wife.' I slept with Anna that day. She was my first girl. I haven't been with a woman since,” 24-year-old Arsen Gevorgyan told us, the second time we met.

Arsen was twenty at the time. Some time later, his sister Arus and Anna left for Dubai with the help of a recruiter named Gayane from Bangladesh . Gayane sold them to a pimp called Nano (aka Horse Nano), and they have been working as prostitutes ever since. Three years ago Arus was working as Nano's slave; she barely managed to send $50-100 dollars to her brother and sister in Yerevan . A year ago she ran away, unable to put up with the pimp's cruelty any longer, and is now living with a local Arab. She wants to come back to Armenia , but does not have a passport. When Armenian prosecutor Aristakes Eremyan was in Dubai she told him her story. He knows that Nano has Arus's passport. But he hasn't done anything about it.

Gayane is an experienced recruiter. She finds socially vulnerable families, who don't have money for food, and invites the girls to “enjoy the beautiful life of Dubai .”

Arus has been responsible for her brother and sister since her parents died, he father fifteen years ago, her mother more recently. After her mother died, neighbors say, their house became the site of a constant party. “Guys and girls would come and get drunk, disturb everyone,” said an old woman who lived nearby.

“I went to Dubai for my brother and sister. They don't understand that yet; they don't know what kind of work I do,” Arus said on the phone from Dubai . “But I'm tired, how long do I have to take care of them? I wish there was a place I could put them, so I wouldn't have to worry about them any more.”

Arus is 25 year old, her brother Arsen is 24, and their younger sister Gohar is 20. They all went to Nork's Boarding School #2.

“All three are ill; they have a certain degree of mental disability, which is getting worse as they get older. Their mother was sick, too,” said Samvel Ghazaryan, head of the special school. “They were living in Charbakh. When Arusyak finished 8th grade, her mother took the other two children out of school and said that her daughter would take care of them. After that, we never heard from them again.”

Two years ago, after their mother died, the three children sold their house in Charbakh and bought an apartment in Aeratzia. This past March, Arsen and Gohar became homeless. Arsen spent fifteen days in the local cemetery; Gohar stayed wherever she could.

They had been forced out of their apartment by Arus's boyfriend, Karen, Arsen told us. “Arusik would send $100 every month from Dubai. At first, Karen gave us $ 50, then only 10,000 dram (about $20),” he explained.

Eventually, Arsen and Gohar ran into a nurse from the school they had gone to, Anush. She took them back to her trailer. They are living there with Anush's family today. “We tried to find a job for Arsen but he couldn't do it,” Anush said. “ If he does any physical work, he gets tired and weak. He probably has some other illnesses too.”

“My lungs hurt, I can't breathe,” Arsen added. “I had a lung disease when I was a kid.”

Anush met with Karen to find out why he had forced kicked the brother and sister out. “Karen told me that he had bought the apartment from Arusik for $15,000 and had sent her the money in Dubai,” she said.

When we went to Arsen's apartment, there were workers there renovating it. We spoke to Marine Sarsgyan, the treasurer of the Shiraz condominium.“The apartment hasn't been sold,” she said. “The owner is Arusyak. If it had been sold, we would have been notified, since we need to draw up their papers for it. Their apartment has not been sold. They owe us 36,000 dram for our services. According to the passport registry, there are two people registered in that apartment. One is the owner, Arusyak Gevorgyan, and the other is her brother, Arsen.”

Gohar does not have a passport; Arsen's shows him as a resident of Aeratzia 5/21. He insists he never signed any papers connected with the sale of the apartment.

“We don't really talk with them much, “ said a neighbor, Jenik. “But I feel sorry for them, nobody cares for them. The other sister was OK, she used to take care of them.”

The shopkeeper in the building where Arsen and Gohar lived said, “Despite the way they act, they're still human beings. I try to help them, I give them food. They owe me, they took some food and cigarettes from me till Arus sends them some money.”

When we met Karen, he told us he hadn't bought the apartment. “Arusik sent some money and asked me to fix the place up. So I'm fixing it up. She told me that Arsen and Gohar should rent a place. My interest is that I am making some money in the middle.”

Arsen and Gohar receive no government assistance, even though they have the legal right to both disability and family assistance pensions. Twenty-year-old Gohar has no documents, and Arsen is not capable of dealing with bureaucratic issues. When there is no money in the house, Gohar goes out on the streets and earns money as a prostitute.

“The first time Gohar was with a boy she was 18 year old,” Arsen said, hanging his head. “ She said that it was with a potato seller in the toilet at the Malatia market. She got 12,000 dram for it.”

Arsen says his sister earns 1,000-5,000 dram a day, so that they have enough to eat. Once, she got pregnant. “She went to the hospital, and had an abortion,” Arsen said.

“Do you tell your sister to stop going with these men?” we asked him.

“She says, ‘If I don't go what will we do?' I came home twice and saw my sister sitting with guys and drinking. I stabbed her with a knife, once in the leg, and once in the head. I told her not to do it, and I went to work on the farms. Once I came back and saw she was with some guys. I hade a fight with them, they beat me up. After that I beat Gohar up and threw her out of the house.”

If social workers in Shengavit took an interest in these disabled young people, then perhaps Gohar and Arus wouldn't be working as prostitutes today.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Aghavni Eghyazaryan

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Today we went to Yeraplur, following a service at Dzoravar Church to remember Monte Melkonian.

Monte was laid to rest at Yeraplur 12 years ago after loosing his life in battle in town of Merzulu, Azerbaijan on June 12, 1993.

In attendance were friends of Monte’s as well as people who didn’t know him personally, but appreciate what Monte did for our nation and believe in what he stood for.

The weather for such a visit could not have been better and after some word of remembrance, we drank a toast to Monte, followed by some nice fresh bread, salami and big juicy black olives.
Following our visit to Yeraplur, my fiancé, Nora, a worker from the Monte Melkonian Fund and I went to the Vernisash to look for a necklace and earrings for my fiancé to wear with her wedding dress.

We have been searching for a couple of months for an appropriate necklace. To say the least, it has been a real challenge and until today we had no real results.

After walking around in the scorching sun while eating ice-cream, we singled out one place which had what we were looking for.

This necklace is a replica of an 18th century traditional Armenian necklace which we fell in love with.

The man selling the necklace, Norig, had a easy sell and in fact, didn’t push us at all, saying that before our purchase, we should take a good look around to see if we could find anything better.

Anyway, for those interested in obtaining such a necklace, Norair Sahagyan can be contacted at: 554-134 and 577-704.
The Gomidas shooga is up and running. This is one of Hagop Bedrossian’s favorite shopping spots.

Almost everything you could want is in season and the prices are not all that bad.

We went to the shooga to get stuff for salad and ended up picking up a couple of kilos of green-beans. The price of green-beans a month ago was 2,000 dram a kilo. Now they are 300 dram a kilo and in a couple of weeks they should be about 150 dram.

It looks like after waiting a couple of years, we will once again have apricots. This is a fruit that I have missed and though we didn’t pick any up today, we will be visiting my fiancés aunt, who lives in a village on the outskirts of Yerevan to pick them off the tree, which we are told is weighed down with fruit, just waiting for us.


| 21:23:03 | 17-06-2005 | Social |

"Armenia is a source country from where women and girls are trafficked mainly to the Arabian Emirates and Turkey with the aim of sexual exploitation", said US State secretary chief advisor, head of the Human Trafficking Combat and Monitoring office, Ambassador John Miller during today's interactive TV-press conference organized by the US Embassy to Armenia.

According to Mr. Miller, the basis of the office report were the calculations of the UN according to which in the Arabian Emirates and Turkey there are about 1000 Armenian prostitutes. The majority of them are victims of trafficking.

By the way, According to the calculations of the Armenian Investigating Journalists Association President Edik Baghdasaryan, in the Arabian Emirates and Turkey there are not 1000 but about 5000 Armenian prostitutes [I think this number of closer to 7,000]. Mr. Miller was greatly surprised by the facts and demanded proof on what was said.

According to the report of the US State secretary chief advisor, the problem of trafficking is so serious in Armenia that is has been included in the special control list, "The RA Government did not represent sufficient proof that the efforts directed to the combat against trafficking have been enhanced. The Government has
not carries out investigation of the Prosecution which was accused of supporting the traffickers. The Prosecution bodies have supported those organizing trafficking, and the border-guards, taking bribes, have secured the free transportation abroad."

Stating that the RA Government does not fully correspond to the criteria combating trafficking, Mr. Miller mentioned that in our country the punishments for this kind of deeds are too mild. Besides accusations, John Miller was not able to represent names of victims of trafficking or clear-cut cases, but he tried to explain the difference between those who take up prostitution on their own initiative and the victims of trafficking.

Try as he did, we did not manage to find out the proportion of the trafficking victims in the number of one thousand prostitutes. In the end we asked Mr. Miller how much money was spent by the office to prepare the report without any facts and full of accusations. "Hundreds of thousands. 8 people worked on the report", answered Mr. Miller.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


The process of punishment had started in Armenia of human traffickers.

A few days following the May 25th story titled “Dubai is Hell on Earth”, one of the most notorious pimp Lucine Hagopyan, aka Aisha, who came to Armenia and paid the prosecutors office her “debt” was arrested (a few days after she paid her debt). Her trial will start on Monday the 20th at 10:30 a.m. at the court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash.

We have information that Hagopyan was told not to worry, it is going to be a procedural case and she will get off with a light sentence. Lucine was told that they are doing this because of pressure from the news media (probably referring to the hetq stroy).

At the recent OSCE roundtable gathering (and all related events), I passed out copies of “Dubai is Hell on Earth” and announced to the attendees (including people connected to the prosecutors office) of the latest developments and urged people to attend the “procedural” trial in order to put pressure on the judge and prosecutor to do the right thing and hand down a stiff sentence, which Hagopyan should have coming.

Anyone in Yerevan that wants to attend the trial should show up to the courthouse, which is above the police station (3rd or 4th floor) near Surp Sarkis Church.

I will keep you up to date on what happens at the trial.
Though I am not apposed to progress, I really don’t like to see the common resident being taken advantage of by criminal elements such as the Minister of Justice, or developers who is said to includ first lady Bela Kocharian, who forcefully purchase thing for pennies on the dollar.

Criminals like these need to be punished. Only problem is that they seem to control written law and manipulate it to their benefit.

Armenian history has shown that when written law no longer functions, the laws of nature kick in.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/16/2005


By Nane Atshemian

Angry residents of houses in central Yerevan that are to be demolished in a redevelopment project gathered in Yerevan's Buzand Street on the morning of 16 June to watch bailiffs evict the Galstian’s from their home.

Bailiff Service Eviction Division head Tigran Tadevosian and his colleagues were emptying the 45-square-meter house of Gohar Galstian and her husband in 11 Buzand Street as the owners stood by in dismay watching.

"If a court ruling is not obeyed voluntarily, it must be enforced," says Tadevosian, adding that they are acting on court orders to enforce the decision on the eviction of the Galstian family.

Gohar Galstian says they have lived in the house for decades and do not want to leave it with small compensation. She says they live in constant distress and adds: "It's no use trying to resist them. We have watched over the last few years tens of families evicted before our own eyes. Those who resisted got beaten and the court decisions were still enforced." It is known that the developer of the area is Glendale Hills Company.

The house of Gohar's neighbor is next on the list. The Papian’s live in a two-storied house with a living space of 200 square meters. Hayk Papian says their seven-member family has been offered a compensation of $12,600 - $2,000 per person minus taxes, while the owner says the real market price of the house, in which several generations of his family lived, may be as much as $400,000.

"Now I feel as if we've been left alone. Verdicts of all court instances are against residents," says Hayk Papian, adding that it remains for them to take the matter to the European Court.

Residents in the street say that the court verdicts are so similar that they suspect automatic copying rather than a case-by-case approach, and this makes them believe there are political reasons behind the courts' findings.

Nune Petrosyan, of 41 Koghbatsi street, came along with many other residents of nearby streets who may face eviction soon. Her family lives in a privatized house along with two other families. Compensation for nine persons is $18,000 plus $1,500 for each person as an incentive. With taxes deducted, the family will be left with $28,000.

But incentive money is given only if residents do not participate in public protests and agree to leave their houses voluntarily.

62-year-old Avetik Yeranosian of 15 Buzand Street has a 12-member family. Originally from Mush, now in Turkey, he says that the last time his family was treated in such a way was by the Turks. "They are wolves, man-eaters. I have worked to build this house for 44 years. Now they consume it."

Some houses in Koghbatsi Street are privatized, others are not. Documents for some houses are lost in the cadastre. But residents say it does not matter as they all will end up being evicted.

One of the residents, Sedrak Baghdasarian, says two weeks ago they took the matter to Justice Minister David Harutiunian. Harutiunian's answer, according to Sedrak, was: "Apply to the European Court. But make sure you draw up the complaint intelligently, because I will be your opponent."

Friday, June 17, 2005

I got this from Arsineh and wanted to pass it on to all of you.


Hi everyone,

You will all probably get more emails on this if you haven't already, but as most of you may know, Turkey has been pushing hard on genocide denial and we need to respond. ANCA has taken the lead and has set up some great responses on their website which takes a few minutes to webfax Bush, Time Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, and NBC Dateline for recent carelessness in submitting to Turkey's genocide denial campaign.

ALSO, a new genocide resolution has been introduced and they have a webfax for you to send to your Congressman asking for support.

It's as user-friendly as it gets:


Thursday, June 16, 2005

A reader sent me this e-mail a couple of weeks ago to share with all of you. What do you think of it?

The Oath of Armenian Unity

We vow always to work toward the betterment of the Armenian nation--the nation of people known as the Armenians--worldwide, and at home in the Armenian homeland.

We vow to work toward bridging cultural, political and ideological differences among Armenians--in the Armenian homeland and throughout the Diaspora.

We vow to help our Armenian sisters and brothers rise in the world and move towards our common goal. We will not engage in fraternal in-fighting.

We vow always to reach toward our fellow Armenian sisters and brothers in sincere love. Love is the foundation of our unity. In the end, if we have nothing else in common, we all love our children. Let us also love the children of one another with the same passion--thus we will love our nation.

We vow to create, cultivate and live by the ideal of Armenian unity. This means, that while we will inevitably disagree on many subjects--even fundamental subjects--we will continue to work with one another, trusting in each other's good will toward the future of our people.

We vow to pass on to youth the importance of working together and living our culture.

We vow to make ourselves meek before the needs of the nation.

We vow to make ourselves meek before the needs of our families.

We affirm that what is good for the nation is good for our families.

We vow never to put the interests of a foreign power before the interests of the Armenian nation.

We vow not to allow despair to take us over. We will not be disheartened by failings of the past or current difficulties. We will each work to become the change we desire to be. We will each become the concept that is unity.

We will resist with all our might, employing violence against fellow Armenians. We must work toward peaceful conflict resolutions at all levels of society.

After I make all of these vows, I will attempt to change my thinking. To think less and less in terms of "I" and to think more and more in terms of "we."


Symbolic Logo Explanation:

This insignia is an ancient cave drawing found in the Vardenis region of Armenia. The drawing is dated at approximately 2000 B.C. It is drawn in conjunction with representations of various celestial constellations surrounding it. The circle with the cross has many meanings. Most practically, the circle and cross signify a three dimensional sphere--the earth. The human figures on the four sections of the sphere represent human beings living throughout the world. The ancient Armenians (the indigenous tribal inhabitants of the region that are the direct ancestors of the 3000 year old Armenian nation) knew 4000 years ago that the earth is a sphere.

The circle and cross have further significance, as the four arms of the cross reaching outward signify eternity and immortality. In essence, the symbol is a sort of Armenian spiritual infinity sign. The symbol is also understood to represent unity--as in the unified Tribes of Nairi which came together and became the progenitor of the Armenian nation.

Today we look at this ancient symbol and attempt to understand the profound knowledge of our venerable ancestors, on whose shoulders we stand. This understanding of knowledge is a dialogue, in which we communicate with our past by drawing out contemporary meanings. The human figures on the four sections of the circle not only represent humans living throughout the world, but also our current situation with Armenians living throughout the world. These human Armenian figures stand on the very symbol of unity; thus, unity is the foundation of our nation. Although the figures represent communities throughout the world, the physical figures themselves are close enough to one another to reach out and join hands. As such, we must learn from the profound wisdom of our ancestors, and reach out to one another. This "primitive" wisdom surpasses our "modern" abilities in many ways. It unifies spiritual, temporal, political, geographical, astronomic, scientific etc. ideas in a single depiction. With a simple insignia our ancestors have been able to communicate throughout the millennia complex ideas that we today must fill pages of text to understand.

Let us show respect and understanding to our ancestors as well as our own future descendants and come together in the spiritual and physical unity represented in this symbol.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005



| 17:18:27 | 15-06-2005 | Official |

As part of its efforts to help combat human trafficking in Armenia, the OSCE Office in Yerevan organized a meeting today with Armenian officials and NGO representatives to discuss the establishment of a so-called National Referral Mechanism in the country.

National Referral Mechanisms (NRMs) are co-operative frameworks through which state institutions - in partnership with civil society - fulfill their obligations to protect the human rights of trafficked persons.

"The successful prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims requires strong action and co-ordination on the national level by both state institutions and NGOs," said Blanka Hancilova, the OSCE Office's Democratization Officer.

"An NRM in Armenia would have the benefit of bringing together all relevant actors in the country in a national network, which would institutionalize efforts to assist trafficking victims. This would in turn contribute to making prevention of trafficking more effective in Armenia," she said.

The participants at the event, who represented the Armenian Inter-Agency Commission on Anti-Trafficking Issues and members of the NGO community [The Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc.], stressed that the establishment of an NRM was a critical step in creating a comprehensive policy to fight human trafficking in Armenia.

The meeting, which was organized with support from the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the US State Department, forms part of a broader effort by the OSCE Office to strengthen identification mechanisms, promote information exchange, and increase awareness of the importance of
victim assistance and protection.

"The OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings has identified the importance of the protection of victims' rights for a successful fight against trafficking. This meeting has brought us one step forward in translating these commitments into practice in Armenia," said Astrid Ganterer, Advisor on Anti-Trafficking issues at the ODIHR.

YEREVAN, JUNE 15, ARMENPRESS: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia signed on June 14 a Memorandum of Understanding that marked the new phase in cooperation between UNDP project on "Anti-Trafficking Program: Capacity Building Support and Victims Assistance" and the Government of Armenia.

Representatives of UN family in Armenia, diplomatic corps, government, and major partners were present at the event.

A press release by UNDP Armenia Office said the enhanced cooperation is aimed at preventing and effectively responding to trafficking in human beings and illegal migration, as well as at boosting the effectiveness of counter-trafficking activities. The Parties to the Agreement agreed to jointly work in the area of institutional and legislative development, as well as capacity building of the law
enforcement bodies of Armenia. UNDP and the Office of Prosecutor General have a rich history of cooperation in the past few years in a number of areas. The Memorandum signed yesterday represents a timely response to the challenges of trafficking in Armenia, especially through prevention of trafficking in human beings and illegal migration, and prosecution of traffickers.

The Memorandum signed is in line with the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons from the Republic of Armenia. Mr. Alexander Avanessov, UNDP Armenia Resident Representative a.i., noted in his speech: "Trafficking is an evil that destroys the very fabric of life of Armenian families, and jointly with the Government, we are confident that that the results of our enhanced cooperation will be seen in the near future. We will focus our efforts not only on prevention of trafficking, but also to direct assistance to those suffered from this evil."

The aim of UNDP two-year project on "Anti-Trafficking Program: Capacity Building Support and Victims Assistance" is to facilitate the development of a national framework to tackle the problem of human trafficking at the policy and institutional levels as well as provide direct assistance to victims of trafficking. The project has three components; a) strengthening national capacity for policy elaboration; b) raising public awareness, and c) assistance to victims.
Armenia, UN sign memorandum to combat human trafficking

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
14 Jun 05

[Presenter] The Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office will soon present the government with a draft law on additions and changes to the Armenian Criminal Code. The main goal of these changes is to improve the struggle against human trafficking. Human trafficking is a new type of crime for Armenia, and the United Nations and the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office have launched a joint struggle against it.

Armenia's Prosecutor-General Agvan Ovsepyan and the UN deputy permanent coordinator in Armenia, Aleksandr Avanesov, have signed a memorandum on mutual understanding in which the parties agreed to set up a new department at the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office within the framework of this memorandum in order to combat this type of crime.

[Avanesov speaking in Russian with Armenian voice-over] We believe that this memorandum is an integral part of the UN programme. There is such a problem in all the post-Soviet countries and similar programmes are also being implemented in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Our donor countries have also welcomed the implementation of this programme.

[Armenia's Prosecutor-General Ovsepyan] We have taken considerable measures to solve crimes in 2004-2005 and have made progress. A general mechanism of investigating criminal cases has been established.
The Day the Music Died

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

The reason I call it the day the music died was because Saribek was not only the head of recon in the Martuni region, but he was a well accomplished singer in Artsakh and Azerbaijan.

We went to Merzulu in the morning, to pay our respects to Monte, where we laid flowers at the stone cross that marks the place Monte was killed.

After a gathering at Monte’s statue in the government square in Martuni, we made our way to the cemetery where Saribek was laid to rest 12 years ago.

After our visit, we went to my mother-in-laws house, where we had a meal and remembered Saribek, Monte, Verj and all those who were martyred in the defense of our country.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


We are urgently asking for your assistance. The Armenian government has plans to build an interstate highway through the Shikahogh Nature Preserve near the Iranian border. This preserve is one of only three untouched forests in Armenia and is home to many rare and endangered species of plants and animals whose habitat would be irreparably damaged by the proposed road. It is considered to be a primordial, ice-age forest, with some trees as much as 500 years old.

As we write bulldozers are waiting at the border of the preserve. They should have started their work two weeks ago but because of the efforts of an environmental coalition, of which ATP is a member, and a public outcry by Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora, Shikahogh has won a few weeks’ reprieve.

This forest is a national treasure and is the heritage of the Armenian people. We must do everything we can to save Shikahogh--the People’s Forest--for future generations. We need to make sure that this road is not built through the preserve but takes an alternate route and that the Armenian government does not change the designation of this forest from PRESERVE to NATIONAL PARK, which would allow more roads and commercial activity.

Please take action today, by joining Carolyn Mugar in sending a letter to the Armenian government.

Armenia unhappy about US State Department's report on trafficking - official

Noyan Tapan news agency
14 Jun 05

Yerevan, 14 June:
The US State Department's fifth annual Trafficking in Persons Report will help Armenia implement its future programmes in this sphere. Serious tasks have been set, but Armenia is unhappy about some points of the report and will raise its objections soon, Armenia's Prosecutor-General Agvan Ovsepyan told a press conference on 14 June.

The report said in particular that Armenia had serious problems with human trafficking. It said that Armenia had been placed on a watch list this year because of its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking over the past year.

Many sectors of the government do not officially recognize the problem and the government failed to disseminate or implement any elements of its national action plan, the report said.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I’m really exhausted. I’ve been on my feet all day and am ready to take a nice long nap.

This morning I went to Yerevan State University to look into where they were holding a conference with Turkish Member of Parliament Turhan Cheumez. According to an article in Azg, they will be discussing various issues including the genocide.

I first went to the International Law department and asked. I was given a blank face and told they didn’t know, but apparently there would be some gathering at 2pm.

I then went to the International Relations department to ask and was told that there was no such program, but the look on the head of the department had a somewhat worried look on his face and asked me as I was leaving what my name was?

I made a couple of calls and found out that the lecture/discussion would be at 2pm on the 4th floor of the International Law building.

I walked into the building 5 minutes before the program started and found my way to the 4th floor, mixing in with the students, passing the guy from the International Relations department as I entered the conference hall.

The event seemed to not have been publicized and in all, there were only 110 people in attendance, this included quite a few Turkish journalist.

It seems that Turhan Cheumez, who is a member of the Justice and Development party had come to start the process of creating friendly relations with the Armenian people.

He really didn’t say much and for the most part, didn’t answer any of the questions asked him.

For instance, someone asked him if he could please tell if his visit was official and by invitation of the Armenian government, or the university, or a personal visit? He answered that we can consider it anything we want.

When asked about the genocide, he answered that the Turks recognize that something happened and many Armenians perished, but that is history and we must look to the future.

When the event organizers asked why the Armenian media was not properly informed to this event, I don’t think we even got an answer then.

Though really nothing was said at this event, I find it interesting what the event organizers thought they would accomplish? I also want to know why I was straight out lied to when I asked about the event?

It seems that Turhan Cheumez’s next stop was to visit with members of Parliament. I wonder how they will receive him?
Last week I was asked by a friend if I was willing to be a monitor of the elections scheduled for June 5th?

I met with the campaign team for Samvel Hovsepian, who was said by my friend as being the honest candidate for taghabed (community leader) for the Malatia-Sebastia community and they wanted to make sure he had a fair and transparent election. With such an election, he would win.

Unfortunately, we discovered that in order for me to officially monitor, I was to be registered 15 days before the election.

Well it seems that the elections were as everyone suspected fixed and the former taghabed was “re-elected” with 80% of the votes. Hovsepian immediately filed charges with the courts that the elections were fixed.

A few days following Hovsepian filing charges, the following story was published:



By Ruzanna Stepanian

A defeated local election candidate was brought to a police precinct in the small hours of Thursday for what police was later reluctant to explain.

Samvel Hovsepian, who ran for prefect in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia community in last Sunday’s vote, has been kept in a room where, according to him, he was given food and cigarettes, but no explanation as to why he was there.

RFE/RL’s last telephone conversation with Hovsepian revealed that by the end of the working day he was still locked.

Allegations have been made that Hovsepian may have been taken to police for suspected involvement in Tuesday’s incident in which a hand-grenade was hurled at the house of one of the closest associates of the winning candidate.

But talking to RFE/RL in the afternoon, Hovsepian strongly denied any involvement in the incident, adding that he himself would like to see those behind the attack found and held responsible.

“It is all tales. Everyone knows that I wouldn’t do it personally. If I needed to do that I could have got someone else do that,” he told RFE/RL. “Everyone knows that I am a good shot and do not miss. So let them not tell these stories. Half of the republic knows me. What is this matter about? I am a war veteran. Could I possibly have done such a stupid thing?”

Nune Gevorkian, the wife of Rafik Avakian, also known as “Cherni Raf”, on whose house the grenade was thrown, said in an RFE/RL talk that they had no enemies, as her husband, though involved in incumbent prefect Aghvan Grigorian’s reelection campaign, was not a politician.

But she did not rule out that the attack might have been linked with the latest elections in their community.

“It happened soon after the election day,” she explained.

Sergey Markosian, head of Aghvan Grigorian’s campaign headquarters, told RFE/RL that he could not say for sure whether the explosion near Avakian’s house was connected with the elections or not. But he also ruled out that any of Aghvan Grigorian’s supporters might have been behind the attack.

Almost all forces enjoying prestige in the community supported Aghvan Grigorian in last Sunday’s vote, including MP Hakob Hakobian, who described the elections held in Malatia-Sebastia as “undoubtedly free and fair.”

Police still does not reveal on what grounds Hovsepian is being kept in the police precinct.

Meanwhile, lawyer Vardan Zurnachian says that if Hovsepian was held by police as a witness then he should have been released until the end of the working day. But if he is a suspect, according to the lawyer, charges should have been brought against him or else he should have been let go.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

This is a reminder of an upcoming informational event and fundraiser, to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the death of Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian.

The event will take place this Sunday, June 12, from 3-4:30 pm at:

Beshguturian Hall
1901 N. Allen Avenue
Altadena, California 91001
(*Directions to the hall appear at the bottom of this message.)

Author Markar Melkonian will be present to sign copies of MY BROTHER'S ROAD, a biography/memoir about Commander Avo. Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Monte Melkonian Fund, Inc., a charitable organization dedicated to assisting the neediest of the needy in Armenia.

ALL STREAMS FLOW TO THE SEA, a short film about Monte, will be screened.

A speaker will provide an update on Monte Melkonian Fund projects in Armenia.

VHS copies of ALL STREAMS FLOW TO THE SEA will be available as thank-you gifts for donations to the Monte Melkonian Fund, Inc. Other premiums will also be available at the end of the event, as well as information about Monte Melkonian Fund projects in Armenia.

*Directions: Take the Hill Avenue exit from 134; proceed on Hill to Allen Ave. and turn left. Beshgeturian Hall is at Allen Ave. and New York Drive. Parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to the hall. (Thomas Guide p. 536 C-7)

Sponsored by the Monte Melkonian Fund, Inc.
Open and Free to the Public

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

One of the cats are out of the bag, as Edik revealed the name of one of the people in the Armenian government that is directly involved in the trafficking network in this story.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/06/02005


By Ruzanna Stepanian

The U.S. Department of State has urged Armenia to show more consistency and commitment in its fight against human trafficking.

In its annual report published last week the U.S. Department of State has put Armenia on a `watch list' of states deemed to be of concern for trafficking.

The countries on the `watch list' that also includes Azerbaijan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Slovakia are not subject to sanctions unlike 14 countries ` mainly from Asia and Africa ` that could face sanctions as the worst offenders for failing to combat human trafficking.

In particular, the U.S. Department of State report reads: `Armenia is more a source than a transit country for trafficking. Women and girls from Armenia are mainly trafficked as sex slaves to the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.'

According to the U.N. data, more than a 1,000 women, most of whom are victims of trafficking, are exploited as prostitutes in the UAE and Turkey.'

The report says that although the Armenian government makes efforts to combat this phenomenon, it still does not achieve the results that may meet even the minimum requirements.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she hopes the report will result in increased efforts to stop the trafficking of people.

`We trust that this year's report will raise international awareness of the crime of trafficking, and spur governments across the globe to take determined actions against it,' she said. `All states must work together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute and convict traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims into society.'

Armenia appeared on the `watch list' because it failed to present proof last year of its commitment to combat human trafficking appropriately.

Despite the increasing number of trafficking-related cases examined by courts, punishments remain inappropriately mild and the size of fines low.

In particular, the report indicates that article 132 of the Criminal Code prohibits human trafficking and sets four to eight years in prison for this crime.

But the Armenian Government mainly applies article 262 that sets a milder punishment.

The State Department particularly points out that only one out of 16 cases examined by Armenian courts in 2004 resulted in the application of article 132, while article 262 was applied in the rest.

The usual jail terms in sentences passed in trafficking cases in Armenia are 6 months to 2 years, there are cases that are dismissed or in which the criminal gets away by paying a fine.

These punishments, says the report, are incommensurate with the gravity of the crime.

The report says that Prosecutor Office members criminally assisted people involved in trafficking and frontier guards accepted bribes to facilitate their movement.

The government failed to investigate and institute criminal cases against those officials involved in trafficking, says the report.

Investigative Journalists NGO head Edik Baghdasarian said in an RFE/RL interview that he possesses information reported by victims of trafficking themselves that some workers of the Prosecutor Office accepted bribes from pimps in Dubai.

In particular, Baghdasarian claims that Prosecutor's office worker Arestakes Yeremian is involved in this business.

But Yeremian denied the accusations in a RFE/RL talk.

Chairman of the Intergovernmental Anti-Trafficking Commission Valery Mkrtumian admits that Armenia's appearance on the `watch list' is retrogression for the country.

Regarding the involvement of officials in this business, he said: `There are different sources. We can form a certain opinion based on information provided by NGOs or other organizations. But we do not know any name of an official involved or assisting in this crime.'

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It appears that the May 25, 2005 article titled “Dubai is Hell on Earth” has caused the prosecutor’s office to take action and put on trial Aisha, one of the most vicious Armenian pimps.

Edik had withheld the article about her when published the trafficking articles since he understood that Aisha was to return to settle her debts with the prosecutor’s. The idea was to publicize her return and force the authorities to take action against her. So far it has worked.

The trial will start on June 20th to which once again the Armenian justice system will be put through the test. The big question remains if she will be charged article 132, for trafficking and can win her a long stay in jail, or will the prosecutor’s office apply article 262, which is used for pimping and will allow her to only serve a couple months before she is eligible to get out and return to what she has been doing (which we have seen happen over the last few years)?

I guess if Armenia is serious about preventing trafficking and wants to get off of the States Department’s tier 2 watch list, (which is one level above the worst countries) they are going to have to get act together and this time make an example of Aisha.
Tonight my fiancé and I decided to go out for dinner and went to the Eastern Cuisine on Gomidas.

After a nice meal and being overcharged for the Fatush salad, which the price on the menu was 500 drams, but they charged us 700 dram (not a big deal and since I was not in the mood I didn’t say anything), we went for a walk.

Right next door to Eastern Cuisine is a restaurant called something like Golden Star. Outside of their entrance was a woman who had a child under the age of 5 in her arms and she was begging to the customers for bread for her and her 3 orphaned children.

One of the customers came out and gave to her some bread as we were walking by her. After we passed her two older children who were watching her mother beg, I heard some commotion and turned to see some larger man wearing a black shirt strike the woman and pushed her towards the street.

I turned back to see what he was going to do next and I guess since he noticed us watching and didn’t further physically touch her, but they did exchange a few words before he went back inside the restaurant and she continued to beg.

So here is a sample of the real condition of Armenia today and what one can expect to see outside a fancy restaurant.

Monday, June 06, 2005

It seems following the recent release of the State Departments annual report on trafficking, the news is filled with stories. There are so many of them to choose from, that I decided to repost a random pick, since for the most part they are all saying the same thing. HUMAN TRAFFICKING TO THE UAE DOES EXIST.

Arab Nations Warned on Human Trafficking

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 5, 4:32 PM ET

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Soaring economies lure millions of workers to the Gulf region, but authorities are struggling to deal with an unwanted byproduct: human traffickers who bring in prostitutes and unscrupulous companies that refuse to pay their imported employees.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — among the top U.S. allies in the Middle East — were among 14 countries warned by the U.S. State Department on Friday that they face sanctions if they do not adequately address human trafficking.
Emirates Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan said Sunday he was confident the State Department's "audit" condemning the country as a haven for smuggled prostitutes and child camel riders would be reversed soon.

"These reports are usually a good occasion to look at the issues from another perspective, as if you're having an auditor look at what you've done," Al Nahyan said. "We're confident that all the steps we're taking are leading to a positive outcome."

The U.S. report also slammed the four countries for exploiting the low-wage foreign laborers who underpin the construction booms underway in the Gulf. It said governments allowed companies to exploit low-paid foreign workers while withholding passports and sometimes pay.

The State Department described the labor abuses as "involuntary servitude, a severe form of trafficking."

Gulf countries, especially the Emirates, also lure thousands of foreign women who are eventually deported as prostitutes, the State Department said. A large number, it said, are forced into sexual servitude by criminals from their own countries.

Officials and analysts said the problems are genuine and most are being addressed through police training, new laws, women's shelters and other means.

"The American government is trying to manipulate these issues to impose its agenda," said Mohammed al-Roken, former chairman of the Emirates' Jurists Association.

Experts in the Emirates suggested the problems here and in Qatar, especially with prostitution and unpaid laborers, result from societies undergoing rapid economic growth and hurtling change.

Dubai's airport has become one of the world's busiest international hubs, with free entry visas handed out to passengers for shopping or tourism. Sorting out prostitutes or illegally trafficked travelers is extremely difficult, officials said.

In the Emirates, al-Roken said he knew of only two cases among hundreds where prostitutes were willing to testify against traffickers who brought them here against their will.

"It's very difficult to tell if they were forced or they came here to work and finance their families back home," al-Roken said.

At the embassy of Belarus in Abu Dhabi, Igor Bondarev said two women had sought protection in recent years, saying they had been forced into prostitution. Further investigation showed the women had decided themselves to work as prostitutes.

"They were not real victims of human trafficking," Bondarev said.

For Gulf countries that cherish close relations with the United States, the black marks from Washington are a worrying sign that the Bush administration is meddling in sensitive local affairs, said Abdul Khaleq Abdulla, head of the Gulf Research Center, a Dubai-based think-tank.

"These issues should be taken care of," Abdulla said. "But when the United States comes up with a statement like this, it's extremely worrying."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Today on Monument(this is the area where Vicory Park is), traffic descending into the city center was closed as Armenia set out a one kilometer long table to celebrate The US Department of State's 2005 trafficking of humans report being published. Armenia's results are as follows:

ARMENIA (TIER 2 – WATCH LIST) [from TIER 2, which is a step backwards]

Armenia is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation largely to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Turkey. Some evidence indicates that Armenian victims were trafficked to other European countries as well. According to UN estimates, up to 1,000 Armenian women work as prostitutes in the U.A.E. and Turkey, most of whom are victims of trafficking.

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. Armenia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List this year because of its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking over the past year. Specifically, the government failed to disseminate or implement any elements of its January 2004 National Action Plan. The government should take proactive steps to officially distribute, publicly support, and implement this plan as soon as possible. Notably, trafficking-related prosecutions and convictions increased; however, reluctance to apply the new anti-trafficking statute produced insufficient penalties. The government adopted an anti-corruption program and created a task force in 2004; however, it failed to take any measures beyond issuing a rhetorical pledge to address trafficking-related complicity.


Article 132 of the criminal code prohibits trafficking in persons and provides for a maximum penalty of four to eight years’ imprisonment. However, the government overwhelmingly applied Article 262 of the criminal code — a lighter pimping charge. Out of 16 convictions in 2004, the government applied the 2003 anti-trafficking statute (Article 132) only once; the remaining 15 convictions under Article 262 produced much weaker penalties. While the government increased the overall number of trafficking-related convictions, the cases produced outcomes ranging from six-month to two-year sentences, suspended sentences, corrective labor and fines. These penalties are not commensurate with Armenian penalties for other grave crimes, such as rape. Indications of official collusion and complicity among government officials hampered the government’s efforts to adequately tackle Armenia’s trafficking problem. Members of the Procuracy allegedly assisted traffickers and border guards accepted bribes facilitating traffickers’ movements across the border. The government failed to investigate or prosecute government officials complicit in trafficking.


Armenia’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained anemic over the last year. While Armenia’s law provides trafficking victims with protection, the government largely failed to provide this assistance during the reporting period. NGOs and international organizations continued to provide the majority of victim protection and widely reported good cooperation with the government. The government did not issue any formalized or standard operating procedures for police to follow when encountering possible victims of trafficking. In the absence of a formalized referral mechanism, police informally referred victims to local NGOs. Police also referred potential victims of sexual exploitation for medical screening and treatment as necessary. The rights of victims were generally respected. The police often failed, however, to treat victims’ identities with confidentiality. Victim assistance programs reported sheltering 15 victims in 2004.


Cooperation between the government and NGOs continued to help raise awareness about trafficking in Armenia. The government sustained its program of providing housing to vulnerable children released from Armenian orphanages. The Department of Migration and Refugees initiated anti-trafficking discussions on several local talk shows. Lack of official recognition of the problem within many sectors of the government, however, contributed to the overall lack of progress. In a recent interview, the Minister of Justice declared that "trafficking does not exist as a phenomenon in Armenia." Informally, the government made a preliminary effort to engage bilaterally with Georgia, but did not develop any pro-active programs to assist Armenian victims in transit or destination countries.