Arsen Kharatyan Beaten

Arsen Kharatyan, one of the leaders of the Sksela and Hima youth movements was beaten today.


His sister, Lusine, says that someone phoned Arsen to arrange an interview. However, when Arsen Kharatyan reached the location for the interview there was no one. Nevertheless, he decided to wait and someone hit him from behind before proceeding to beat him.


Although his condition is considered satisfactory, Arsen Kharatyan is still hospitalized in the Grigor Lusavorich medical centre. 


Happy Republic Day!

May 28th is the Republic Day. The first Armenian Republic was created in 1918. It was short lived, lasted only two years – but it was ours, and it was the first attempt to regain statehood after several hundred years without it. Today we live in the third Republic – and this day is also the day of this 3rd – new, but already 17 year’s old republic. Let’s be careful, so we don’t blow it as we did with the First Republic. This day is not just a holiday – it is an important reminder, of what can happen to a Republic, and of how it can be created and destroyed. Happy Republic day to all of us – Armenians!
PS: I am leaving for a training for several days, so this blog won’t be updated till next Monday. See you all then.


Armenian NGOs, GONGOs and the plans to establish a Public Chamber

Discussions around the possibility of creating a Public Chamber in Armenia, like the one established in the Russian Federation, have been going on for more then a year now. For the Armenian case, it is assumed, that such a body would bring together mostly NGOs, but also businessmen, known public figures, etc. However, considering the huge number of registered NGOs in Armenia, there is no doubt, that such a Public Chamber would basically mean a chamber of NGOs. Supporters of this idea are arguing, that the NGOs would thus gain an effective platform of bringing the issues of public importance to the authorities. Critics on the other hand, are pointing to the fact, that of more the 3000 registered NGOs in Armenia (I’ve also encountered figures between 2500 to 4000), there are only several dozen, who do anything at all. Most of these NGOs are in fact Grant hunters, and do not represent anything or anyone. There are also a larger number of GONGOs – Government NGOs, or NGOs created by government officials, their relatives and friends and serve the distinct purposes of supporting their protectors or laundering government money intended for the civil society.

As a representative of Civil Society, I was contacted at the end of March with the suggestion to take part in a meeting, where the possibility of uniting Armenian NGOs around the need to stabilize the country and find solutions to the political crises would be discussed. Although I was warned, that the initiative is led by a couple of prominent GONGOs, I decided, that the challenges faced by the country at that point called for consolidation, not division, and took part in the meeting. Being a balanced and moderate person by nature, I voiced my concerns at the meeting, with the state of media, freedom of speech, and especially with the news coverage of Public TV of the developments in the country, which at that point had just come out of the state of emergency. While I was sure, that everything I said was reasonable and had no political content, I was surprised to find out, that on the large forum organized afterwards, I wasn’t invited anymore. Moreover, my concerns, sent to the organizers of the discussions via email, never found a response or any reflection in the announcement or document, adopted at the forum of NGOs who supported the initiative.

Yesterday, as one of the prominent bloggers of LiveJournal, Akunamatata_Ser was contacted by a Government representative and was asked to facilitate discussions in the blogs about the possibility and usefulness of the Public Chamber, echoed by Pigh, Mark Grigorian, Ahousekeeper and others, I remembered the developments above, and couldn’t refrain from commenting on Mark Grigorian’s blog. Yes, indeed, the first attempts of creating this “Public Chamber” have so far been quite disappointing, and there is a clear danger of establishing yet another money laundering machine, which will also have a distinct agenda of supporting all and everything our super-democratic authorities undertake.

Armenia Diaspora Politics

Armenian authorities plan to deport Karabakh war hero

In a note sent out on May 23rd, the committee for support of Jirayr Sefilyan and Vardan Malkhasyan informed the public, that the Armenian police have officially applied to court with a request to sanction deportation of the commander of Karabakh commander, Lebnese Armenian Jirar Sefilyan, who was arrested on December 9, 2006 and again on August 6, 2007, on charges of possessing an illegal firearm, and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment, along with his supporter Vardan Malkhasyan and Vahan Aroyan. However, the real reason why Sefilyan has become the target of the authorities, is his hardline position on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh resolution and the sorrounding security zone around it, which many refer to as the liberated territories.

Next month, on June 9th, Sefilyan is due to be released from the Vardashen prison, but apparently, Armenian authorities are devising plans to send him away as soon as the Karabakh war veteran is set free. The fact, that during the 2008 Presidential campaign Jirayr Sefilyan openly supported opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian, further strengthened the determination of Armenian authorities to get rid of the freedom fighter, the war hero decorated with “1st Order Military Cross” and a range of other military signs of honor. In a detailed article on the issue, Hetq also informes, that Jirayr Sefilyan has applied on several occasions for Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh citizenship, and has so far been refused. The last application to the president of Karabakh Bako Sahakyan was made on May 22, after the Armenian authorities refused to accept yet another application from Sefilyan.

All in all, seems like everything is set and ready to deport the war hero. Needless to say, that this incident is highly demoralising for the Armenain army, it is also a blow to Diaspora Armenians – of which Jirayr Sefilyan is a representative.


Eurovision Song Contest 2008 Final Results

The much talked about Eurovision song contest is finally over, Armenian Eurovision Fan blog has posted the final results. Armenia won the 4th position, which is a notable improvement from the previous two contests we took part in, with both Andre in 2006, and Hayko in 2007 getting the 8th position.

1. Russia – 272
2. Ukraine – 230
3. Greece – 218
4. Armenia – 199
5. Norway – 182
6. Serbia – 160
7. Turkey – 138
8. Azerbaijan – 132
9. Israel – 124
10. Bosnia & Herzegovina – 110
11. Georgia – 83
12. Latvia – 83
13. Portugal – 69
14. Iceland – 64
15. Denmark – 60
16. Spain – 55
17. Albania – 55
18. Sweden – 47
19. France – 47
20. Romania – 45
21. Croatia – 44
22. Finland – 35
23. Germany – 14
24. Poland – 14
25. United Kingdom – 14

Sirusho performed slightly better then she did at the semi-finals, still sounding rather poorly though. Speaking of looks – she looked hot all right – with no idiot hairdresser messing her up as in the previous performance. Now Europe knows we really have hot girls here, which is a welcome change after sending guys two years in a row. The overall results are quite satisfactory too – for a small country to occupy the 4th place among 25 European states, it is certainly an achievement. The whole Eurovision fuss is of course rather funny – it is basically a display of political affiliations of various European states and moods of people about their neighbor countries, and of who has bigger diaspora and more migrant-workers in other European states. So all this fuss about good or bad performance is basically pointless – Russia’s Dima Bilan of course is an excellent singer and had a nice show, but few can really persuade me, that he was much better then the Israel song or the Norway. (For one thing, Israel guy definitely had the best voice and singing technique of all) Seems like, as more post-Soviet countries are joining Eurovision, Russia will start winning year after year – as its politics, that drives the vote, not the song itself. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Soviet-Vision!!!


Blog Roundup: The sad tale of robberies, bribe and blasphemy

Armenian bloggers reported terrible stories of robberies, bribe and blasphemy last week. Among some of the noteworthy posts were Nazarian’s post about shutting down the “Parisian cafe” on Abovyan street, Alefalef‘s discovery, that Beeline is double charging for March and April – thus, technically, robbing its customers, and Athanatoi‘s report, about continuous Georgian attempts to convert Armenian churches in Georgia into “old Georgian’ churches, and the recent case with Surb Norashen Church in Tbilisi – wherby Georgians were planting old Georgian tombstones in the yard of the Church and erasing Armenian inscriptions, changing them for Georgian ones – all of this with photographic evidence.
The full text in Armenian is here, and the 5 minute podcast, also featuring an interview with LiveJournal blogger Akunamatata_ser is here.


Human rights activist Mika Danielyan attacked by former leader of ultra-right party

Upon hearing the news, that there’s been an attack on the head of Armenia’s Helsinki Association Mikael Danielyan, my first reaction was, that it must be related to his interview to A1plus yesterday, where the breave human right’s activist was criticizing the activities of the Armenian law enforcement bodies in addressing the demands of the PACE Resolution 1609, related to the release of “political prisoners”, and noting, that the Armenian authorities are following the example of Azerbaijan, which did not release its political prisoners even after a PACE Resolution.
There was another attack on Mika Danialyan back in 2004, which was never properly investigated, and the human rights defender claimed, that the offenders back then were connected to Armenian special services. Today, as reported by A1plus, at around 3:00, when walking along the pavement with a friend, Mikayel Danilyan had stopped to salute a friend, when a BMW had started signalling from behind. Then, in response to Danielian’s inquiry, as to what the signalling meant, a fellow had come off the car, calling the human rights activist a “CIA agent” and “defender of gay rights”. According to A1plus, “Afterwards, he took out a gun and shot at Danielian’s chest. Fortunately, the wound wasn’t serious as according to the preliminary investigation the criminal had shot from a gas pistol.”
A friend of mine who visited Mika Danielyan at the Police Department noted, that Danielyan was feeling all right, and was giving evidence to the police. He also noted, that Tigran Urikhanyan, former leader of the ultra-right “Progressive Party”, was also in the police department – and apparently he was the offender.
What I am most concerned in this story, is that nobody seems to take it serious. I am sure, that the police will try to hush up the matter, and state connected Tigran Urikhanyan will happily walk away, while the human rights activist, who is known for his criticism of the Authorities, will be left crying for justice. All the likes of Urikhanyan will see it as a “sign of heroism” to attack human rights activists, call them spies, verbally abuse them. Yet another signal will be sent out, that people striving for human rights are second class citizens, especially if they’re criticizing the state machine. The society will see once again, that when even the rights of human rights defenders are not protected – what could they expect for themselves? Yet in another example, we will see human rights and democracy harassed in this country. Is there a solution? I guess not…


Sirusho made it to the Eurovision 2008 Final

The good news is we made it to the final, and Sirusho will be singing 5th. The bad news is – our girl was definitely in a bad shape during the first semi-final. We all know Sirusho is beautiful – so can someone please explain who on earth decided to do THAT to her hair?
Coming to the dance – she started up with two guys holding her feet, so Sirusho would lean forward – that apparently requires a lot of phisical effort – which could easily take the breath out of anyone, let alone a tender girl like her. No wonder the vocals of the song that followed afterwards were so disappointing. Moreover, with rather demanding vocals in a song, one should be careful not to move so much, so as not to run out of breath. After all the kicking-jumping that Sirusho did on the stage (which was kinda hot – I admit), it is no surprise she had difficulty catching the high notes, and was shouting all the way through the song. And I’m not alone in being disappointed with her vocals.
Anyways – there’s still time to correct the mistakes – I’m sure that changes to the dance, so that Sirusho moves less and sings more, will do the trick. And please, please – someone, FIRE the darn hairdresser!
On another note – I really like Israel, Moldova and Norway songs.


Statement of Yerevan Press Club on Freedom of Speech and Press

Political situation, formed in Armenia as a result of the past presidential elections, makes the need for specific, decisive steps in democratic reform domain all the more urgent. A most important condition for the effectiveness of these reforms is the change of the information climate in the country, the guarantee of free expression and diverse media.


Armenia will survive the global food crisis

While the global food crisis has already caused serious riots and protests around the world with sometimes tragic casualties, Armenia seems to be safe so far, and in the perspective we will be able to feed ourselves throughout the period of global starvation which is predicted to last till 2015.
At this point Armenia is able to produce 100% of 780 thousand tons of potatoes consumed here annually, according to the data from the Armenian Statistical Service. We are also able to provide all 970 thousand tons of vegetables consumed in Armenia, and 97% of 355 thousand tons of fruits consumed here. Speaking of favorite dishes – dolma, barbeque and basturma – Armenians consume 53 thousand tons of meat, while producing only 80% of it. 99% of 26 thousand tons of eggs we eat are produced here, along with 98% of dairy products – at the rate of 680 thousand tons of milk, yogurt, sour cream and the like going through.
Now the bad news is – Armenia imports 60% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and 96%! percent of sugar – although I like my coffee without sugar anyway. We also import 75% of vegetable oils, although, like in the case of sugar, we shouldn’t have a problem producing it here. On another note, the price rises have began to bite in Armenia already, and while we might be able to produce all the food we need, it remains to be seen, if we will also be able to afford it in the near future or no?