Saturday, April 30, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Armenia was a call to action. Time is not our side. That much was made clear.
Monday, April 25, 2005
April 25 (4am - 5:15am)
There were some police here and there, and once in a while some drunk guys would walk in, press their faces deep into the tower of "mekhak" flowers, kiss them, then walk off.
Euronews, Turkish news, Russian news and CNN showed lots of footage from the awesome torch walk that took place on the eve of April 24, as well as our President's visit to the Memorial the next day. Oh yes, and the interviews on CNN with the Armenian and Turkish Ambassadors of the USA.
I won't say how tall I am :-), but...
All around the area close to Memorial Park looks like China Town...
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Saturday, April 23, 2005
ARF commemorates Genocide
This has been an awesome few days. A great conference with many important people from around the world, another great speech from our FM Vardan Oskanian, Genocide related film festivals, beautiful posters plastered all over the city, of course Poland’s Genocide recognition, Germany’s apology (and the beginning of a long process for them to convince Turkey to admit the past), etc.
It was good to see this victory, though the fact that the case had to be turned into a huge circus and litmus test for whether the Diaspora could get justice in the Armenian court system is a shame... it is still not the way that ordinary Diasporans will feel comfortable investing in Armenia.
This having been said, the case is yet another one in which Diasporans put too much faith in an untrustworthy local and got burned. True, the legal system let them down afterwards, but the initial problem was in trusting someone who had he been of any other nationality, they probably would not have trusted so completely... so there are two lessons to be learned here at least... (and no, I am NOT implying there are no trustworthy locals around - I am saying quite clearly though that some Diasporans do not excersize as much suspicion as they ought to with some locals, presumably because they are Armenian... that lesson should have been learned by the error of others a decade ago...)
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Ultimate Crime, Ultimate Challenge
Among the most reassuring speakers to see there were the Israeli, and of course Turkish speakers. Three of each (as well as a brave Turkish-Armenian, Hrant Dink). All of these people spoke with regret that their governments did not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, even Yossi Sarid, who himself is a member of Israel's Knesset (Parliament) and the Education Minister. The 3 Turkish speakers spoke openly and clearly about the genocide, not to mention bravely. The fourth Turk who was supposed to participate, Ragip Zarakolu could not make it, because a he was put on trial for similiar activities. Quite a way to highlight the sacrifices and chances these men were taking and have taken. Yet when one of them asked the audience for help and bit more patience, I am sad to report a number of them audibly expressed dissatisfaction with such a request.
Overall the speakers didn't have enough time to go into great depth, but with talks of up to half an hour, nearly all of the presentations were interesting to hear, and on worthwhile topics. Some of the heavy hitters names include: Yehuda Bauer, Donald Miller, Israel Charny, Yair Auron, Vahakn Dadrian, Taner Akcam, Murat Belge, Richard Hovanissian and a number of others, as well as important panel discussants. Just too many to list meaningfully. The talks were divided under 5 major themes.
Anyway, it was great to see such a gathering, and hear one after another affirmation that the day of universal acceptance is getting much closer. I just hope one genocide survivor is alive to see it.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
these popped up all over town on Monday (without my url of course!). on the back is the English version...
Monday, April 18, 2005
Friday, April 15, 2005
The other day I dropped by a new shop across the street from St. Gregory church, next to SIL outdoor plaza on Tigran Mets. The store is named after a food production company from Artsakh called "Shishmanian". They produce pastas, tomato sauce, and a variety of very attractively packaged bottles of oils, mixed with Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme or Basil.
I actually see a considerable improvement in design and packaging of local products lately.
Artfood is a new product line, producing tomato pastes and jams. Very simple and cute packaging. Of course, Noyan juices are also delicious and packaged quite nicely in metallic-silver coloured packaging.
I've also noticed that there aren’t that many TV commercials in Russian anymore. Most of the foreign commercials have had their audio replaced with Armenian. Unfortunately, a few of the local commercials have really shameful messages lacking even a hint of ethics. And sadly, not many locals see anything wrong with most of them. A taxi commercial that shows a guy out on a date with a girl, later picks up his child he’s had with his wife (who he’s still married to), comes home to the wife, and the wife says, "That's not our child", and the child says, "Dad, that's not my mom". What does this have to do with taxi service? The animated Jermuk water commercial which involves a deer being shot, then drinks Jermuk water and revives, has been edited down because of complaints to get rid of the shooting part. Which one is worse guys? The taxi one or the animated Jermuk one?
With regards to programming, our state TV channel H1 has improved quite a bit over the past few months. They show 2-4 films a week overdubbed in Armenian. They also have a court show called "Im Iravunq@" (launched by World Bank, and a great way to teach citizens about their rights), and a talk show for women (though a little boring, however worth having to keep our "gneegz" happy.)
The endless protests of environmental groups and average citizens, to save the trees of Yerevan, have sort of paid off. The city has been planting trees and bushes like mad these past few weeks. God knows who will water them, but it's good to see that the city has (sort of) responded to the complaints. Nonetheless, mature trees are constantly being cut down to make room for the dozens of new buildings that are being built. There's barely any oxygen left in Yerevan. The air is just becoming more and more unhealthy. Just recently they did a dust test to see how dust levels are in a few cities in Armenia, and Yerevan failed, just like the rest of the other cities.
I've been hearing rumours that apartment prices might go down, or at least not go up much this year. So if anyone is looking into buying one, if these rumours are true, this should be a good year.
letter from a friend
Leaving Armenia (if only but for a limited time) was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I already miss each and everyone of you, like it has been years since we have seen each other last. Please know how lucky you are to be in Armenia and to be together. Please know I wish I could be there too.
I miss Armenia already. I miss the sights, the sounds, the smells, and most importantly I miss the warmth and kindness of our people. I miss the genuineness, and I miss the comfort of being somewhere that belongs to you. I miss my country.
I am coming upon a new mission now, while I am back in the states for this time period. I truly feel like it is my duty now to disperse as much positive information I can about our country. Do my part is setting straight stereotypes, and encouraging others to explore their heritage and their roots. It's actually going quite well:) Everyone in these parts has nicknamed me the "freedom fighter":) Some people really get it, others look at me with blank eyes, but I keep talking, and sharing, and I will keep doing so, as much as I possibly can.
Seeing my family and friends has been nice. I had sushi with my dad today:) Went to go see my baby cousin who is now a precious 8 weeks old, and discussed the historic roots of Armenia with my relatives My friends have already arranged a "surprise" trip to vegas for me. Although it is not so "surprise" since one of my friends slipped and told me about it:-) Other than that, just getting reaquainted with life in LA. Although my heart is still in Armenia, I know that professionally I have to stay here for a year or two, but you can bet that I understand the value of Armenia, and will be back home very soon. I can't wait to see you again soon.
With Lots of Love,
Saturday, April 02, 2005
airport visits climb as tourist season opens once more
i was at the airport till 2 am... picking up a friend who will join the other klan of american medical students doing a rotation in armenia. scattered among a few hospitals... (one was unlucky enough to get proctology)... they are amused, interested and amazed by their experiences.
last night at the airport i saw something that made me skip a beat. the zvartnoc airport has colored its windows so that the locals coming to meet their tourist friends and or family at the airport will not see the friends and or family collect their luggage (and perhaps be accosted by customs officials). this window paint however has been chipped in some places... with peeping holes more like scratches in the paint... where you can make out images on the other side.
what i saw that made me think was groups of people shoving their eyes to the peepholes... bending over and squatting just to get a glimpse of their relative in these small paint cracks... a long lost family member... a father who waited seven years to get a green card in order to return to Armenia to see his family, a mother who spent the last few years away from her family working for an elderly diasporan Armenian in los angeles, a son who has been away from Armenia for 15 years and finally has returned to see the country that he left so long ago and meet once again the people he knew as mairig and hairig... and although the list can go on for pages and pages... i just kept thinking... es inch ban e karode (what an emotion, to miss)... look what it is doing to my people... as i crawled over a man who had monopolized a penny sized peephole who had seen his tourist and was screaming "vay manvel jan, yes ko tsavet danem, es inch lav ban es arel vor ekel es"... hoping to get my eyeball focused on the small scratches next to it to see my own tourist... I thought we Armenians were blessed and cursed... blessed to love our community, our family and our people to be able to feel the deep love that karod stems from... and cursed to be so dispersed as to feel karod on our flesh, in our bones and as part of our recent genetic history.
march is always a time of karod for me... longing for my family... who are on the other side of the world.
hopefully i will use one of the peepholes soon looking for my father who will be here to join the millions of Armenians commemorating, remembering and continuing the quest for justice in relation to the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Friday, April 01, 2005
By S. Rob Sobhani The recent arrest of 18 people planning to smuggleSoviet-made grenade launchers, shoulder-fired missiles and other Russianmilitary weapons into the United States is a disturbingnational-security problem connecting unresolved conflicts in the formerSoviet Union to our homeland security.
According to various news reports, the participants in thisdangerous scheme included both Georgians and Armenians, citizens of twoformer Soviet republics with continuous ethnic and territorialconflicts. Georgia is embroiled in a conflict to protect its territorialintegrity from Russian-backed separatists in Abkhazia and Ossetia.Armenia, on the other hand, is engaged in a 15-year conflict withneighboring Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh.
While continued ethnic conflict in the territory of Georgiashould be of concern to Washington, the more important and worrisomeconnection is the involvement of Armenians and that country's continuedoccupation of Azerbaijan. Left unchecked, the conflict between Armeniaand Azerbaijan presents an immediate danger to America's energy andhomeland security.
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin decided to play the ethnic cardto consolidate power by pitting one group against the other and imposingartificial boundaries within the Soviet empire. The lingering warbetween Azerbaijan and Armenia over the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh isa tragic result of this ethnic gerrymandering. In 1988, theArmeniansofNagorno-Karabagh declared their "independence" andunification with Armenia. With substantial support from Russia, Armeniastarted a full-fledged military campaign in 1991. The ensuing war led tothe occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory by Armenia andforced about a million Azerbaijanis into the status of refugee orinternally displaced person.
Despite a Russian-brokered cease-fire in 1994, Moscow hastransferred $1 billion in illegal arms to its historic ally, Armenia,between 1994 and 1997. And although the government of Armenia iscooperating with U.S. law-enforcement agencies, it now appears that someArmenians are turning their country into a "warehouse of evil" and aretrying to sell these Soviet missiles and other armaments to Al Qaedaterrorists for use against the United States. The FBI has expressedserious concern over shoulder-fired missiles that pose a major securitythreat to American airlines.
Ironically, Congress has singled out Armenia for specialfavor and Azerbaijan for special disfavor. Between 1992 and 2003,Armenia received $1.336 billion in assistance from the U.S. government.Azerbaijan, however, received only $335 million during this same period.Despite its unjust treatment by the U.S. Congress, Azerbaijan hasremained a steadfast ally of the United States. When tragedy struckAmerica on Sept. 11, 2001, Azerbaijan offered immediate andunconditional support.Today, its troops are working side-by-side withU.S. forces in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Furthermore, Azerbaijan has stood beside the United Stateson a major foreign-policy priority of Washington -- the uninterruptedexploration, development and transportation of Caspian Sea oil tointernational markets. The anchor of this policy has been theBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline running from Baku, the capital ofAzerbaijan, to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. On May25, this historic pipeline will become operational. Crude oil from theCaspian Sea -- home to 10 percent of the world's remaining crude-oilreserves -- will be on its way to the East Coast of the United States.
Clearly, the resolution of this conflict must be of utmostimportance to President Bush, because it does indeed affect our nationalsecurity. According to the State Department's 2005 fact sheet, theUnited States does not recognize Nagorno-Karabagh as an independentcountry. Washington supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. With this in mind, the Bush administration should take amore robust approach to a swift resolution of the Nagorno-Karabaghconflict in a fair and balanced manner. The presidents of bothAzerbaijan and Armenia have expressed strong support for a peacefulresolution of their conflict and Washington should seize on thisgoodwill.
A summit at the White House hosted by President Bush couldserve as a catalyst to end this festering regional conflict with itsdirect threat to American security. There is international consensus onthe broad outlines of a solution. Armenians must withdraw from alloccupied territories. Azerbaijan should regain full sovereignty overNagorno-Karabagh.
The rights of Armenians to live in peace within theterritory of Nagorno-Karabagh must be secured and guaranteed, as mustthe right of Azerbaijanis to return to their ancient homeland if they sodesire. The introduction of NATO peacekeepers into the conflict zonewould be a first step towards a permanent solution, thus keeping theregion from manipulation by criminal elements whose goal is to harmAmerica.
When Afghanistan became a "warehouse of evil" for criminalslike Osama bin Laden, Americans paid a heavy price on September 11. Wecannot afford another region of the world to fall prey to criminalelements. The United States must act now before it is too late.
Rob Sobhani is president of Caspian Energy Consultingand a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.