Tag Archives: Armenia

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

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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Lebanese-Armenian Protesters Trap Turkish Ambassador in Beirut Theater (by Joey Ayoub)

19 Mar

Lebanese-Armenian Protesters Trap Turkish Ambassador in Beirut Theater

Lebanese-Armenian Protesters outside the movie theater. As the Daily Star reported, they were shouting slogans such as “Truth will triumph” and “We remember”. Image from AztagDaily

Lebanese-Armenian Protesters outside the movie theater. As the Daily Star reported, they were shouting slogans such as “Truth will triumph” and “We remember”. Image from AztagDaily

Around 60 members of Lebanon’s Armenian Tashnag Party trapped the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon inside a movie theater on Wednesday, protesting the Turkish Government’s official stance on the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire. Ambassador Suleiman Inan Oz Yildiz was attending the premiere of “Son Mektup,” a Turkish movie set during the Battle of Gallipoli (1915-1916). The incident was also reported on the Official Centennial’s Commemoration’s Website.

The time chosen to promote a movie set during the same year as the Armenian Genocide isn’t being interpreted as a coincidence. Indeed, in a statement released online on Lebanese Armenian Daily “Aztag”, the Turkish government was accused of trying to distract the world’s attention from the Armenian Genocide Centennial, which will be commemorated worldwide on April 24th of this year.

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The (Turkish) Human Rights Association & the Center for Truth Justice Memory to becomeIntervening party in the Perincek Case

25 Jan

THE (Turkish) HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION AND THE CENTER FOR TRUTH JUSTICE MEMORY TO BECOME INTERVENING PARTY IN THE  PERİNÇEK CASE

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On January 28, 2015, the lawsuit Doğu Perinçek v. Switzerland will begin retrial in the Grand Chamber, which acts in the capacity of court of appeals for the European Court of Human Rights.
It is now common knowledge that in 2005, Doğu Perinçek traveled to Switzerland, which has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide and passed a law criminalizing its denial, in order to issue declarations in Bern and Lausanne where he impugned the Armenian Genocide as a fabrication. In 2007, Perinçek was found guilty of deliberately violating national law and convicted by the court of Lausanne. Upon Perinçek’s appeal, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in his favor in 2008 and found that the court of Lausanne had violated the freedom of expression principle enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights, article 10.
The Human Rights Association sent a letter to the Swiss Federal Office of Justice in 2014, demonstrating in detail how the denial of the Armenian Genocide incites hostility toward Armenians and imploring Switzerland to appeal the ECHR decision. Switzerland’s subsequent appeal and request for retrial were accepted in June 2014.

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Being Yezidi (By Onnik James Krikorian)

3 Sep

Being Yezidi

Caught between competing ideological interests, members of the Armenia’s largest ethnic minority struggle to define their identity. Considered by many to be ethnic Kurds, some allege arguments about the origins of the Yezidis are politically motivated.

YEREVAN, Armenia — When Aziz Tamoyan sits behind his desk in the cramped and dilapidated room that serves as his office in the Armenian capital, he says that he does so as president of the country’s largest ethnic minority, the Yezidis.

Pointing at the handmade posters stuck on the wall to one side of his cluttered desk, Tamoyan reads aloud the slogan that also serves as the motto for his newspaper. “My nationality is Yezidi, my language is Yezideren, and my religion is Sharfadin,” he proclaims, opening a copy of Yezdikhana to reveal the results of the last census conducted in Armenia three years ago.

Armavir, Armenia © Onnik James Krikorian

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Armenian genocide: Turkey has lost the battle of truth (By Cengiz Aktar)

24 Apr

“In actuality, how Turks and Armenians, as the owners of this common history, can together, through dialogue and empathy, reach a just memory of the tragic events of 1915, which occurred during the great human sufferings of World War I, is already being examined thoroughly and in all its dimensions. In this context, our proposal to establish a Joint Historical Commission, also reflected in the Turkish-Armenian Protocols, remains on the agenda.”

The quotation is from the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s press release regarding the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s recent resolution on the Armenian genocide. In the wake of its centenary, this is the uttermost point reached by the Turkish state in the perception of the annihilation of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian citizens: A “just memory” and a “joint historical commission”. The just memory is a euphemism to recall revenge killings of Muslims in some areas by Armenian avengers once their people were decimated by the state and their neighbours. And the commission is a sort of face-saver to equate the pains.

The ruins of an Armenian church in the eastern village of Hozat in Tunceli province, Turkey [AFP]

The ruins of an Armenian church in the eastern village of Hozat in Tunceli province, Turkey [AFP]

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The definition of justice for the Armenians in Turkey (By Garen Kazanc)

19 Apr

The definition of justice for the Armenians in Turkey 

Many Armenians around the world think in unison when it comes to their demands and goals in regard to the Armenian Genocide. It is often understood that recognition and reparations of the genocide have been the motto of many Armenian organizations throughout the world who have sought justice. This has provided the international community a suitable understanding of what justice means in regards to the Armenian Genocide and what it may entail. 

However, as we will soon discover, justice for one community may not been the same for another. The diaspora has become an ever-changing entity with a mixture of different opinions and ideas regarding this issue. 

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