Turkey’s Attempts to Kill Two Birds with One Stone (Liana Hovhannisyan)

29 Jul

(Armedia.am) Last week, radical changes took placein Turkey’s foreign policy in the Middle East . If by that time Turkey was conducting the so-called moderate foreign policy and did not directly interfere in the chaos in neighboring countries, last week after telephone conversation between the presidents of Turkey and the United States, Erdogan agreed to open air bases in Incirlik and Diyarbakir, which would allow the NATO partners to conduct air strikes in the direction of IS militants in Syria.

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At the same time Turkey organized two direct military actions  on two fronts – air strikes in the direction of Syria against the “Islamic State”, as well as in the direction of Northern Iraq against PKK fighters.

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Contradictions on the rise in Turkey as western “democracy” support attacks on Kurds (By Hamid Alizadeh)

29 Jul

(IndefenceofMarxism): While NATO throws its weight behind the reactionary Erdogan government, he continues his onslaught against Kurdish and left forces. Erdogan however, is acting from a position of weakness and he could provoke a mass movement against himself.

“The Kurds were born to be betrayed. Almost every would-be Middle East statelet was promised freedom after the First World War, and the Kurds even sent a delegation to Versailles to ask for a nation and safe borders.” – Robert Fisk

26-nisan

Turkish auto workers on strike in 2015

Yet again, today, the major western imperialist powers gathered to under-sign yet another betrayal of this tested people, whose fate has been traded between every major power of the region for a hundred years, as if it were just another item on their shopping list. Following the emergency meeting of NATO – a very rare event – General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg expressed “strong solidarity” with Turkey in its war on “terrorism”. The joint declaration by the NATO members stated that, “The security of the alliance is indivisible,” and condemned the recent terror attacks in Turkey, describing terrorism as “a global threat that knows no border, nationality, or religion — a challenge that the international community must fight and tackle together.”

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Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”

21 Jul

Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”

EzidischeFlüchtlingskinderEsiya


Translated by Thora Brudal from ÊzîdîPress German

Dohuk – “Up to this point,” says Hewas and shows with his right, outer edge of the hand on his left forearm. “Up to this point, to the bone. It’s enough, we are at the end,” he continues. The 26-year-old Yezidi stands in the refugee camp Esiya near the Kurdish city of Duhok, where approximately 18,000 Yezidis from Shingal have found refuge. He is surrounded by children with worn clothes, worn shoes, some of them barefoot.

Since the genocide by the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) in August last year, which continues with the imprisonment of thousands of women and children, the Yezidi people is in a state of emergency. The terrorist militia hit in the midst of the heart of the Yezidi soul – Shingal, the main settlement area of the minority in northern Iraq. Defenseless civilians were overrun, massacred and kidnapped by the henchmen of the terrorist militia. The 8,000 Peshmergas in Shingal and another 3,000 stationed in the region fled even before the civilian population suspected that a genocide awaited them. When they woke up early in the morning, the Peshmerga had since long run away, and the black flag of the terrorists was approaching from three sides. Hundreds of thousands flee, tens of thousands looking for protection in the mountains, where they are eventually besieged for days and die of hunger and thirst. Everyone here speaks in whispers of treachery – even staunch supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Kurd. PDK) which is blamed for the disaster because they could have prevented it.

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From Soviet Rule to Present Days: Struggle of Artsakh People for the Right of Peaceful Existence in Their Homeland (By Liana Hovhannisyan)

10 Jul

From Soviet Rule to Present Days: Struggle of Artsakh People for the Right of Peaceful Existence in Their Homeland

The Armenians, one of the ancient nations in the world, throughout the years of their existence were and continue   struggling for their right of peaceful existence in their historical homeland. The fact that in the 21st century Armenians managed not only to survive but have two independent republics, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (otherwise known as Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) is a vivid proof of the success of the centuries long struggle that the Armenians were forced to fight to preserve their religion, culture and language.

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Dissent Is Building at the Barricades in Yerevan (By Raffi Elliott)

2 Jul

Dissent Is Building at the Barricades in Yerevan

Hrant Khachatryan / PAN Photo / Reuters

On Saturday, after seven consecutive nights of round-the-clock protests, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and the leaders of the so-called “Electric Yerevan” movement finally agreed to meet. An hour later, it was announced that the president had agreed to freeze the controversial electricity price hike which had unleashed a wave of popular dissent, and had called for an independent audit to determine whether or not the increased costs were justified.

Despite this apparent concession, the protesters announced that they were rejecting the deal and refused to vacate Baghramyan Street — one of Yerevan’s main thoroughfares — where the presidential palace, Constitutional Court, National Assembly, and a number of foreign embassies are located. For many observers who felt that the situation had been successfully resolved, this announcement proved to be rather perplexing.

This confusion lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of the grievances behind this protest movement as well as the motivation of the authorities.

First, what appeared to many observers as a concession by the president was anything but. Despite reported discussions on energy supply and prices between Armenian and Russian officials, the Armenian government has stood firm on its intentions to raise the electricity tariffs by 22 percent, citing “objective reasons” without, of course, disclosing what these were.

The deal proposed by the president was not, as many media incorrectly reported, a freeze on electricity price hikes. Rather, he suggested that the government would subsidize the hike so as not to affect citizens.

In other words, not only is the price hike still valid, it is now going to be paid for directly out of the state budget; the same state budget that is funded by citizens’ taxes.

The fact that the president was willing to use state coffers to cover the price hike raised eyebrows for two reasons. First, the government has often cited a lack of state funds as an explanation for its inability to fulfill commitments to its citizens. The fact that cash was suddenly available for this meant that there either was an abundance of government money that citizens had been deprived of until now, or, that this money would be borrowed, adding to the country’s already difficult financial burden.

Second, the fact that the government was more willing to borrow money rather than simply cancel the price hike, to the point of disguising it as a concession to the protesters, says a lot about the pressure the state is under and only adds to the cynicism felt by the protesters.

Furthermore, announcements by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan that underprivileged families would receive 2,000 Armenian dram ($4) to help mitigate the effects, coupled with the president’s willingness to pay for the hike from the budget, showed just how out of touch the ruling elite is with the protesters on Baghramyan Street.

Anyone visiting the site of the protest would notice right away that the bulk of the protesters — most of whom are aged between 19 and 30 — are representatives of Armenia’s emerging middle class. The IT professionals, marketing professionals, students, entrepreneurs and NGO activists all receive salaries which can more than cover the price hike. Their motivations are not financial. The protest is about deciding how the country is run.

The main accusation made by activists is that corruption and graft are the main reasons for the price hike, for which citizens are now forced to foot the bill. The Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) is owned by the Russian state company Inter RAO, which was part of a larger takeover of Armenian energy and transport infrastructure by Russian state-owned firms. The Russian-owned companies operating in Armenia are not profitable businesses and allow for gross mismanagement and runaway corruption.

These claims have been further substantiated by reports that the company budget had been used to pay for lavish apartments, dinners and luxury cars for Russian and Armenian executives, despite the fact that the company teetered on bankruptcy.

According to the protesters, none of these issues have been tackled by the government. The announcement that an independent audit would be conducted (without saying by whom or when) only served to further infuriate the crowd.

For many, this also brought into question a number of other extremely controversial concessions to Russia, such as the Iran-Armenia pipeline, natural gas distribution and so on. It gave unique insight into how decisions are really made in Armenia.

To make matters worse, after waking up to images of young protesters being blown away by the powerful water cannons of a regime increasingly alienating itself from its citizens — many of whom have favorable views toward Russia — many in Armenia were incensed to learn that the Russian media was labeling their protest over energy as a Western-funded fifth column bent on recreating “Maidan” in Russia’s backyard.

The protest itself, which has grown exponentially since the water cannon incident, enjoys popular support. It has since spread to most of Armenia’s major cities, including Gyumri, Vanadzor, Martuni, Spitak, Ashtarak, as well as neighboring Georgia, and other cities with Armenian communities.

Clubs, bars, cafes and stores have been shutting off their lights every day in solidarity with the protests, while various storefronts display signs of support. Major streets are paralyzed by the ongoing protest — now attended by government employees, as well as active-duty soldiers, unravelling the myth of government invulnerability.

The protesters, meanwhile, have turned their protest site into a microcosm of the society they would like to build. Baghramyan Street now features a makeshift emergency clinic, a little “store” (known as “Paul’s” after the man who runs it) giving away free water and candies. The street at times resembles an open air summer festival with rock bands playing to jubilant crowds.

They form part of a new generation of young Armenians who are born free of the physical and emotional bonds of the Soviet Union, engaged in an attempt to reclaim the pride and identity of the Armenian nation, from the sense of inferiority and impotence of what Armenian-American poet William Saroyan once called a “small tribe of unimportant people.”

Rallying around the cry “We are the masters of our country,” they are making their demands clear. They call for transparency, accountability and responsibility from the government. Sadly, it seems that the government is not listening.

Original source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/opinion/article/dissent-is-building-at-the-barricades-in-yerevan/524735.html

Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian entrepreneur and activist based in Yerevan, Armenia. He frequently covers socio-economic issues in Armenia and the Caucasus.

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“My father was bleeding from his heart” – the 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan’s tragic story

2 Jul

“My father was bleeding from his heart” – the 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan’s tragic story

Agop Tomasyon, an Armenian from Kobane close to the Turkish border, who fled his hometown for Turkey around nine months ago when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched an attack, said the last eight Armenian families had left Syria for good and would not return.

“There were only eight families left before the ISIL attack [in October 2014]. All of these families left Kobane after the attack,” said Tomasyon.

Syrian Kurdish forces expelled ISIL fighters from Kobane on June 27 and retook full control after three days under siege, after a group of ISIL militants stormed into the border town. ISIL had also failed to capture Kobane at the start of 2015 after four months of deadly clashes.

Three Armenian families are currently living at the Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) refugee camp in the Suruç district of Sanliurfa province.

Tomasyan, who belongs to one of the three families in the Suruç refugee camp, said they had to leave their hometown after ISIL’s attack because they knew that the jihadists would kill them once they learned that they were Christians.

“We understood that it was time for us to go. We decided to come to Turkey after a discussion between the last Armenians left. Eventually we came to Suruç,” he said. From Suruç, the eight families had spread to various other places.

“One family settled in Sanliurfa, another in Hatay, and another in Aleppo. Two of the families who had passports went to Armenia. The remaining three families were placed in refugee camps in Suruç,” Tomasyan said.

He added that they had at one point decided to return to Kobane but changed their minds after his brother was killed by jihadists in front of his son’s eyes during ISIL’s latest attack.

“Before the recent ISIL assault, my brother wanted to return to Kobane to see how his house and store was. He took his 14-year-old son with him, but later he was killed by ISIL in front of his son,” Tomasyan said.

“Kobane is not our homeland anymore.”

The 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan, who is Agop Tomasyan’s nephew, said four ISIL members wearing uniforms of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) had shot his father on the morning of June 24.

“My father was bleeding from his heart when he fell on the ground. Despite this he still raised his hand and said, ‘Son, run, they are ISIL.’ I ran. If I hadn’t run, I would have been shot too,” the boy said.

The elder Tomasyon said the ancestral roots of Kobane’s Armenians could be traced back to Southern and Central Anatolia, but his ancestors were exiled during the massacre and deportation of Ottoman Armenians in 1915-16. They fled to Kobane and settled there to start a new life.

“We had said that we would never leave Kobane, no matter what,” said Tomasyan, adding that they had two churches in the town and lived in harmony with everyone around them.

During the YPG’s battles against ISIL last year over Kobane, tens of people died in street unrest launched in a number of Turkish cities on Oct. 6 and 7, 2014, amid calls from Turkish Kurds for Ankara to do more to prevent the town from falling to ISIL.

1/7/2015

Original source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/last-armenian-families-from-kobane-fleeing-syria-do-not-intend-to-return-.aspx?PageID=238&NID=84776&NewsCatID=341

Erdoğan’s “New Turkey”: End of Pragmatism? (By Oguz Alyanak and Umit Kurt)

22 Jun

Erdoğan’s “New Turkey”: End of Pragmatism?

On June 7, 2015, Turkish constituents will be visiting the ballot box to elect a new leader. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has won seven consecutive elections (three general, three local and one Presidential) in the past 13 years, is once again the main contender of this election cycle.

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This time, however, there are different dynamics shaping the political scene. For one, opposition parties wage a wiser election campaign this time. Rather than focusing on ideological divides (Turkish/Kurdish; laicite/Islam), and blaming the AKP for polarizing the nation (which has been a valid critique that surprisingly did not gain them much leverage in previous elections), they prioritize social policies pertaining to welfare and democratization. The constructive language that they adopt in their election programs and the concrete steps they lay out online, through social media, and on the ground, through political rallies, instil in the constituents greater confidence, and more importantly, relief that the AKP is no longer the sole contender for Turkey’s progressive and innovative political party slot.

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Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18 (By Rym Ghazal)

16 Apr

Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18

The harrowing images from Mount Lebanon as death stalked the streets in 1915. Courtesy Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

The harrowing images from Mount Lebanon as death stalked the streets in 1915. Courtesy Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

“My people and your people, my Syrian

Brother, are dead … What can be

Done for those who are dying? Our

Lamentations will not satisfy their

Hunger, and our tears will not quench

Their thirst; what can we do to save

Them between the iron paws of

Hunger?”

– From Dead Are My People by Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

Almost 100 years ago this month, as the First World War raged across Europe and beyond, a dark chapter unfolded in what was then known as Greater Syria.

The first culprit: the relentless locust. Following a bad harvest caused by a drought, in April 1915 dark clouds heralded the arrival of swarms of locusts, descending to feed on plants, whether green or dry.

For over three months, the tiny but insatiable creatures devoured whatever had been left behind by the Ottoman authorities, who had prioritised food and grain reserves to feed their soldiers as part of the imperial war effort.

This marked the beginning of a period that is now often just a footnote in the history books: the Great Famine of 1915-18, which left an estimated 500,000 people dead. With a lack of accurate data, estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in Mount Lebanon alone.

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Armenia’s moral duty: Recognizing the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramean Genocides (By Yeghig Tashjian)

23 Mar

Armenia’s moral duty: Recognizing the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramean Genocides

“Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each, the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians of Turkey — will all this go unpunished?” Henry Morgenthau, “The Greatest Horror in History,” Red Cross Magazine, March 1918.

Many scholars believe that more than 350,000 Pontic Greeks and between 300,000-600,000 Assyrians, Syriacs and Chaldeans were exterminated by the Turkish troops and Kurdish militias during 1915-1923. Unfortunately, most historians highlight the Armenian Genocide and the remaining nations’ suffering has been almost forgotten for many reasons. Today their grandchildren are demanding justice, Greeks, Assyrians, Arameans (Syriacs) together with Armenians are lobbying, protesting and cooperating with each other to raise their unheard just voice. On the other hand, while the Greek-Assyrian-Aramean Diaspora is supporting Armenians on international courts and parliaments, the Armenian state still has not recognized the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramaean Genocides.

Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902-3 Trebizond.

Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902-3 Trebizond.

Pontus, the Hellenic heritage of the Black Sea is no more. Entire villages and cities in Pontus were burned, lands confiscated, while thousands were forced to flee to neighboring countries. The Genocide of the Pontic Greeks occurred in two phases, the first one during 1916-1918 and the second one from May 1919 to 1923 carried by the Kemalist forces.

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The Israeli Shift to the Right That Never Happened (By Shmuel Aiello)

21 Mar

The Israeli Shift to the Right That Never Happened

When the dust cleared on Tuesdays elections in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud had seemingly pulled off a great upset- cornering 30 seats in the incoming Knesset, and first crack at forming the next Israeli government. Bibi will almost definitely be the Prime Minister for his fourth (and third consecutive) time. Israelis, analysts and journalists included, are consistently referring to this as a failure of the left, a victory by the right, and a near-coup by the Likud Party, which merely 24 hours earlier were expected to garner Knesset seats in the low 20s and fall behind the center-left Zionist Union. Internationally, the victory is being portrayed as a barometer of Israeli public opinion, with some considering this a sign that Israel doesn’t want peace with Palestinians[1], or that the electorate has shifted to the far right.[2]

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