Monday, August 27, 2012
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Life in Armenia Blogs resurrected!
Monday, December 01, 2008
The Best of All Worlds
Arsineh Khachikian wrote
Anoush and Daniel, I have to say I agree and disagree on some level, but I'm glad you guys raised the issue. I think at times, we (including me) start to talk about Western influence as a quickly spreading disease that is threatening Armenia's society. I agree that Armenia can not be a copy of Western democracies, but this should not be a complete rejection of practices that take place in the West.
When I said things were better this time around, I specified kindness and willingness to follow up and assist. This is a sign of professionalism that fuels efficiency. The case of Armenia is a little different because the system that was in place before no longer exists and cannot exist anymore. The Soviet days are over and turning back to them is no smarter than following in the steps of democracy. I'm not fond of consumerism, but I do believe in a form of democracy. There are many cases where diasporans have come from the US and implemented practices they learned in the US to create companies and NGOs that work very well in Armenia and employ hundreds of people, and primarily serve Armenia and Armenians, rather than globalization. In fact, our closed borders may be a blessing for that reason.
I agree that quality of life cannot be found in consumerism. Quality of life is in compassion, love, respect. These are three characteristics I feel have been squashed in Armenia over the last 20 years. Every day, I meet more and more people holding doors open for each other, saying hello with a smile, and laughing with each other, and not just people of their same background. I believe that this is a result of people having work, managing their lives, and restoring their dignity. But there is a fine line between managing one's life and being squeezed in a capitalistic society that spins out of control...
Here's my vision. We need to take the best of each society and apply it to Armenia. If there is one good description of Armenians in this world, it is that we are resourceful, often with the narrowest means. We have experts in all fields all around the world, and we are accomplishing great strides in our homeland against all odds.
The bottom line is this. The world is going in a direction that affects us whether we like it or not. The world is interconnected, and it's better for Armenia to build a strong economy that can work with the West, but also stand on its own. It's a delicate game we are playing here, but this is a vision I believe Armenians can achieve.
Thank you for your feedback guys, would love more discussion on this.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
SAMANTHA POWER IS BACK!!!!
My next blog was interestingly enough going to be about my prediction on when the Genocide issue achieves recognition in the United States under an Obama administration. Given the inevitable appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, my hope was diminishing. I started to imagine a different scenario, one that would delay proper Genocide recognition into a second term, and eventually call for recognition without proper reparations (a risky precedent... admit genocide without risk?).
But Obama has displayed good judgement once again. After the Clintonites he appeased with high positions, he's remembering those who gave him a moral standing in this politicized Washington.
Dr. Power, I salute you.
(See her message to the Armenian community earlier in the campaign).
Pulitzer Prize winning author (Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide) and Harvard Professor Dr. Samantha Power speaks at this year's Annual Armenian National Committee of America, Eastern Region Banquet where she received the ANCA Freedom Award for championing human rights as they pertain to the Armenian Cause. PHOTO BY ARSINEH KHACHIKIAN
© 2008 Arsineh Khachikian
OBAMA ADVISER WHO CALLED CLINTON A 'MONSTER' BACK
November 29, 2008
Posted: 01:41 PM ET
From CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Power resigned from Obama's campaign earlier this year.
(CNN) — Samantha Power, the Obama foreign policy adviser who stepped down from her post earlier this year after labeling Sen. Hillary Clinton a "monster," is now working for the president-elect's transition team.
According to the Associated Press, Power is part of a team of foreign policy experts tapped by President-elect Obama to help ease the transition at the State Department — the agency Clinton is expected to head up.
Power is also formally listed as part of the State Department agency review team on the president-elect's official Web site.
Power stepped down from the Obama campaign in March after she called Clinton — then Obama's rival for the Democratic nomination — a "monster" and someone who "is stooping to anything." The comments came in an interview with a Scottish newspaper.
"You just look at her and think, 'Ergh,' " Power also told The Scotsman then. "The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive."
Power quickly issued an apology for the comments, but resigned her post days later.
"I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton," Power said in her resignation statement.
The Obama transition team did not comment on Power's new role.
Power is currently a professor at Harvard University and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. In 2004, Time Magazine labeled her one of America's top 100 scientists and thinkers.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
1) The Armenian Genocide Resolution passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, resulting in worldwide coverage of the issue, including my favorite, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
2) Riots broke out after the Armenian Presidential elections, sparking a State of Emergency and resulting in many horrific deaths, thus putting the citizens of Armenia in a state of fear, frustration, rage, and lack of hope. (I didn't say they were good or bad, I just said it was a transformation.
3) Serzh Sargsyan became president of Armenia and started with a bang, inviting Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the Turkey-Armenia fútbol match in Armenia. He accepted the invitation and was received peacefully. In addition, hundreds of Turks also attended, while paying a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum. The game was followed with diplomatic talks of Turkish-Armenian Relations, and continue.
4) Senator Barack Obama became the first African American President-Elect of the United States. He takes with him the promise to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide.
5) My favorite, I published my first book and travelled to 13 cities to present and share the story and experience. That's just my own personal transformation. :)
That's my top 5 major events of the last 14 months, stated to set the stage of my return to blogging. But if you've read my blogs before (www.cilicia.com), you know full well I'm full of opinions, and not to fall short of my reputation, here's my first:
OH HOW OUR STANDARDS HAVE LOWERED
I'm just as happy as the next bleeding-heart liberal that Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States. I'm a firm believer that he will make the difference in proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide, despite the line up of advisors he's chosen. Yikes, these are not good friends. None-the-less, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and waiting until he has the opportunity to speak on the issue before attacking him.
That said, I know he's not president yet, but he has already given a few press conferences. One of the things I loved most about Obama during his campaign was his articulate and poised speech. The last two days have shown another side of him that is not inspiring such strong confidence, and while I expected the media to prey on him for the first signs of a nervous and almost speechless Obama, they go on to clarify the points he was making for him. Again, proud of Obama, but when will the media do their job and properly question our leaders? If that were Bush (and I can't believe I'm defending him right now), the media would have chewed him up and spit him up by now.
Anyway, I'll be in DC for the inauguration, so you know I'll be out celebrating with everyone else. I just hope that this is not a sign of a cowardly media sucking up to their precious new president. The fantasy is now over, let's treat him like we would any other president.
CHANGE IS ON THE WAY... IN ARMENIA
For the first time in years, I left Armenia for a solid few months of time in order to tour to promote my new book, My Nation: The Trails & Trials of an Armenian Repatriate. This gave me a chance to step away from Armenia, gain perspective and return with a fresh pair of eyes to see how much has changed. Boy has it. Customer care, entrepreneurs, major business endeavors, and serious marketing strategies have risen. My new high speed internet at a very low cost is not just the result of a competitive market, but also made possible by tele-marketing campaigns. Look, I hate tele-marketers, but how perfect was it that the day I was planning on researching internet package plans with Beeline, they happened to call offering home delivery service. Just days later, I had a technician trained to also setup internet on a Macintosh, knocking on my door with DSL in hand. All my questions answered, customer care hotline's provided, which I used almost immediately, and before I knew it, I was ready to go.
Business aside, people seem nicer, more flexible, happier this time around. It's possible I'm just refreshed and now weeding out the positives around me, as opposed to before. But it's nice to come back to. For a while it seemed that the dynamic environment that attracted so many of us to move here was gone... replaced with tension and anger after the country took steps backward during the elections. It seems a positive energy is pushing us forward yet again.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for more. I leave you with a pic of the week from my last stop on the 3 month tour: Dubai... not on my list of favorite cities... frankly, high on my list of cities I hate.
Streets of Dubai.
© 2008 Arsineh Khachikian
Monday, September 08, 2008
Soccer - So We Lost...
What do you guys think of Gul's visit to Armenia?
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Great Study Opportunity in the US for Armenian Citizens
Global Undergraduate Exchange Program - provides opportunities for current first, second, and third year undergraduate students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to spend one academic year of non-degree study in a US university or community college. Participants are selected through an open, merit-based competition. Details of recruitment will become available on our web site in the next month or two. Interested persons should check on http://www.irex.am/eng/programs/ugrad/index.html regularly.
Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program - The program provides opportunities for graduate students and professionals from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan for one-year non-degree, one-year degree or two-year degree study in the United States. Anticipated fields of study for the Muskie Program are: business administration, economics, education, environmental management, international affairs, journalism and mass communication, law, library and information science, public administration, public health, and public policy. Interested persons should check on http://www.irex.am/eng/programs/muskie/index.html regularly.
Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program - This program provides secondary-school teachers from Eurasia, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Western Hemisphere with unique opportunities to develop expertise in their subject areas, enhance their teaching skills, and increase their knowledge about the United States. The schoolteachers travel to the United States to participate in a six-week professional development program at a US university. Interested persons should check on http://www.irex.am/eng/programs/tea/index.html regularly.
Note that the abovementioned are all programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State and are fully financed. Competition for each program is completely open, merit based.
Friday, August 22, 2008
During this time I've gone through a lot of ups and downs and am currently at an all time high of how much I love being here (though I am bummed by the upcoming departure of two of the "oldest" repats). Yesterday I took a walk to hraparak and saw a mesmerizing water fountain show where they synchronize water movements with super loud music. I will have to take a picture and post one of these days.
Also - did you all hear about Armenia's under 21 soccer team beating Turkey 2-1? I was at my apartment downtown and could hear the throng of fans screaming "Hayastan" for more than an hour!
It's a good time to be here!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
If any readers out there want to join one of the 4 blogs on this site, let me know. Things have been a bit too quiet lately, and fresh voices and ideas might invigorate things.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Repatriation Making News
Long in diaspora, Armenians return home
By Maria Danilova
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — What would prompt a young family to abandon a comfortable life and move to a poor country where running water is still a luxury for many, politics are messy and the threat of war looms large?
For Aline Masrlian, 41, her husband, Gevork Sarian, and their two children, it was their motherland calling.
"It is something special when you live in your own land," said Masrlian, who moved here after her family had lived for generations in Syria.
Lured by the economic opportunities in a fast changing country and the lure of home, some people from Armenia's vast diaspora are moving to the land that their ancestors had long kept alive as little more than an idea. Longtime residents, meanwhile, are no longer fleeing the country in large numbers.
While 3.2 million people live in this landlocked Caucasus mountain nation — the smallest of the ex-Soviet republics — an estimated 5.7 million Armenians reside abroad. The largest disappears are in Russia (2 million), the United States (1.4 million), Georgia (460,000) and France (450,000), according to government data.
Most of the diaspora, like Masrlian's family, are descendants of those who fled the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I — a tragedy Armenia wants to be recognized as genocide but modern Turkey insists was an inherent part of the war's violence.
Much later, others ran away from the economic collapse that Armenia suffered following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, when electricity was available only several hours a day, people had to chop down trees for heat, and bread and butter were strictly rationed.
The devastating conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, in which over 30,000 people have died, compounded the exodus. An estimated 500,000 people left the country in 1992-94, many heading to Russia.
However, over the past four years Armenia has registered an overall population inflow of 33,200, the first positive trend since gaining independence in 1991 with the Soviet collapse, said Vahan Bakhshetian, a migration expert with the Territorial Management Ministry. While it's difficult to tell how many Armenians are returning permanently, Bakhshetian said the trend offers hope.
"We are now seeing many of those who had left return," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian.
Among the returnees are many from the Russian diaspora. Some are lured back by economic improvements here, while others are escaping growing xenophobia in Russia.
Garik Hayrapetyan of the United Nations Population Fund said Armenians also are no longer leaving in large numbers, but he cautioned that the emerging repatriation will not be sustained without economic and political progress.
For many, the country's biggest asset is its rich cultural heritage. Two millennia ago, Armenia was a vast kingdom stretching between the Black and Caspian seas. Eventually it was divided and absorbed by bigger states, including the Ottoman empire and czarist Russia, and later the Soviet Union.
Armenians like to brag that Noah's Ark came to rest in their country, on the biblical Mount Ararat — though the snowcapped mountain is now part of Turkey, overlooking Yerevan. The country is said to be the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion.
Still, in many ways Armenia remains an unlikely place to attract returnees. Despite economic progress in recent years, over a quarter of the population lives in poverty and the average monthly wage is a meager $275.
Outside aid is crucial. Diaspora Armenians send millions of dollars for investment and aid projects, and much of the population survives on individual money transfers from relatives abroad. The International Monetary Fund estimates that remittances make up 10 percent of the country's economy.
Those sending money are moved by the same love of country that draws Armenians back. James Tufenkian, an Armenian-American, has invested some $30 million in reviving the traditional carpet industry — largely destroyed in the Soviet era — building hotels and running charity efforts. Today, he provides jobs to over 1,000 people here.
Tufenkian, 47, said he decided to help after his first visit at the height of Armenia's economic decline in the early 1990s.
"I felt like I had a chance to do something to improve people's lives, that it was my homeland calling," Tufenkian said in a telephone interview from New York.
Today, Yerevan is slowly transforming itself from a run-down city into a vibrant, modern capital. The downtown boasts Western boutiques, expensive restaurants and young people in trendy outfits.
Yet the rest of the city, perched on steep hills, is a bleak mix of Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks and dilapidated two- and three-story houses with laundry hanging on balconies. The air is heavily polluted, mostly from the exhaust of the battered Soviet-era cars that clog the city. Some districts in Yerevan continue to have shortages of running water, which were common in the 1990s.
While Armenia is considered one of the freer countries among post-Soviet republics, its fragile hold on democracy became apparent earlier this year. Eight people were killed in clashes between government forces and opposition activists protesting election results. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also keeps tensions high.
But ask Gevork Sarian about life in Armenia, and the emigre who returned from Syria with his wife and children talks more about finding a homeland than about the wider political climate.
The bearded, smiling Sarian attended university in Yerevan in the early 1980s and said he always wanted to return. The family moved back in 1998, and he started several successful businesses, including a lingerie store run by his wife.
Now 46, Sarian said he had felt separated from his Syrian neighbors. "Even if they look at you in a good way, you are still a stranger — this is the feeling of Armenian diaspora everywhere," he said.
His 15-year-old son Ardag added that in Armenia "you feel that it is your country."
Repatriation wasn't as easy for Aline Masrlian, the wife in the family. She recalled a middle-class life in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, with running water available 24 hours a day and the markets full of fruits and vegetables. In Yerevan, when the family first arrived, water was on just two hours a day, sometimes the only bread she could find was stale, and she missed the job she had loved, as a construction engineer.
But 10 years later, sitting in a new, spacious apartment decorated with family photos, Aline said she has no regrets. "I decided that this is my country."
More recent returnee Zorair Atabekian, 36, hopes for a similar future. He came back in 2005 after five years in Canada, homesick and hoping to go into business. Though he still earns far less selling jewelry in Yerevan than he did running an apartment design firm in Montreal, he said he knew his decision would eventually prove right.
"Today this country offers a lot of possibilities," he said. "That is why many diaspora are returning here to start up businesses."
Friday, May 16, 2008
Come here often?
a) Election turmoil. Since I remember the immediate fear and reactionary caution people take in the US when hearing of any conflict taking place around the world, I can only assume that parents of these volunteers and tourists are taking precautions. My reaction: unnecessary. My mother is the most cautious, but there's no other way to say it than this... Armenia is safe as it was before. There is nothing to fear unless you plan on giving up your US passport, taking on only Armenian citizenship, becoming a journalist and protesting publicly and daily against the government. Even then, you're not likely to see a reaction unless you rally thousands of people to join you.
b) Been there, done that. There was a boom in diasporan travels to Armenia. It seems everyone has made their journey and are content with just that. That's good and all, but there is a lot more to do than what most people achieved in their 2 week visits, including extreme tourism such as hiking, biking, camping, and even hand gliding, skydiving (i think they do that here), etc. I just heard about a few Polish guys planning on visiting a second time specifically do complete the full Karabagh Janapar (www.janapar.org). It might not be for everybody, but there certainly is much to do that you might not have achieved the first time around.
c) Booming Prices. Can't argue with you there, many of us repats struggle the most with this since our local salaries barely reached the cost of 1 flight a year plus rent, etc. Food prices are through the roof and even eating at home and being cost efficient isn't helping us make ends meet. For this I have no answer, this depends on each individual. Sorry.
d) The Novelty is Over. What was it in the first place that we lost anyway? I've been fighting with this for so long. Back in the days when things were so much more tasking, difficult and uncomfortable, most people seemed to enjoy their visits more. Somehow the experience of just "being in Armenia" sent chills down one's spine. Now I see more and more people who spent months out of the year in Armenia, just packing their bags early and putting their houses back on the market for sale. Sorry, I'll remind you, I share the cold harsh truth here, don't look to me for complete optimism and sugar-coating. It's true. Lots of loyal repats and visitors are turning away. The rest of us feel it and are pained by the reality. So it's not a utopia, we finally figured it out. But as I stated in a previous blog, most of the vibe here is based on our mentality about it... It's still a great place to live, if for nothing else, the amazing people you meet every year from all walks of life... that and the AMAZING nature.
So, friends... to conclude, come here often? Come here MORE often. :) And yes, book progress is coming along.
Monday, April 28, 2008
April 23, 2008 in Yerevan
As we marched through the streets, more than 10,000 people chanted "Jananchoom!" (recognition), all the buildings along the path were covered in candlelight as the residents approached their balconies to join in with solidarity. Aside from the fear of hair bursting up into flames with all the torches dispersed around, there was a feeling of unity that hasn't existed since the election riots. Perhaps it was something we needed to feel complete again.
This year, I marched with a group from Dubai and Lebanon, what originally would have been in the hundreds, but dwindled down to 20 or so after the effects of election riot fears kicked in. Here are some photos.
Monday, April 14, 2008
A New Armenia
I sat with some fellow repats yesterday on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, sitting outdoors on Abovyan drinking tea, something I once considered paradise. We contemplated what it was that changed our experience for the worse and I realized what changed for me. I've been coming to Armenia since 1994, and have lived here for the last 2 years. In the best moments, I remember feeling such an overwhelming feeling of hope and potential that was once limitless. It seems now that the limits are surfacing and they exist dominantly within our own mentality... collectively. The cynicism is outrageous and growing rapidly, affecting everything around us. Even within myself, I feel a hopelessness challenging my primary objective in moving to Armenia, or even my desire to pursue those objectives.
What's the answer? Well, it's not to buck up and leave, that's for sure. The US, while cheaper on some levels, is certainly not the ideal location at this time with it's suffering economy... I wont go down the list. There is no other destination more attractive, which is a sad state of the world to realize at a time like this. So I stay. What on earth do I do to change what's around me, though? My answer... be nice. Smile. Remove hatred from my day. Stop looking at people as though I'm ready to strangle their children (I admit everything), learn to make them laugh instead. Overwhelm people with generosity (element of surprise is powerful). I was in a shoe store yesterday and all the women who worked there were either looking at themselves in the mirror fixing their hair, or frowning on my presence. My friends and I tried to act silly just to crack a smile... unsuccessful (can't win 'em all). But usually just being a freaky spaz to get a laugh is enough to lighten the mood. I suggest we all do the same, because we don't have another Armenia right now. This is it... and we need it to meet our own standards in every way.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
a new beginning
Congrats to all Armenians (in Armenia and the Diaspora) for the beginning of a smooth era!
Thursday, April 03, 2008
what does human rights have to do with the olympics?
Made in China: Genocide ad Nauseum
As China continues its policy of violence against peaceful Tibetan demonstrators, I recoil at the fact that the World Olympics are only a few months away from their official launch, taking place this year, in Beijing, China. With recent major newspaper headlines, calling the Spiritual Leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, “helpless” in stopping the Chinese from attacking the protesters, as a US citizen, I wonder about the perversely selective foreign policy of the United States concerning the subject of genocide. As usual, conflicting reports about the numbers of casualties have appeared, citing a difference of 86 deaths, depending on who’s reporting. On March 20th 2008, the Chinese finally admitted to shooting protesters and their numbers show that 13 people have been killed. The Tibetan figures show that 99 people have been killed (including those in Lhasa), most of whom are monks, demanding the return of their land from the Chinese. These figures exclude the scores of arrests.
At first blush, the current situation in Tibet does not qualify as genocide, because technically a few protesters have been killed in voicing their opinions. There is no apparent systematic approach to annihilating the Tibetans as a whole. But that’s why human beings have the gift of reason. Reason allows us to look at things in context and when we do, we see a long-standing history of genocide being committed by the Chinese against the Tibetans. Why China was even selected as a contender for hosting the Olympics is beyond any honest reason. Imagine Turkey winning a human rights award (not for violations but for progress in the name of...). This is tantamount to China representing the best our world has to offer. I am saddened to think that in this day and age, when everything and everyone seems to be for sale, China might actually be the best our world has to offer.
China continues its white (and red) genocide against Tibet. The Tibetan government in exile is forced to conduct its business from Dharamsala, India. I wonder if they too, like the Armenians look over the guarded border and exclaim, “my what beautiful mountains we have!” The BBC reported that Condoleeza Rice has urged China to show restraint and enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if she was laughing while saying it or if she was busy patting Chinese President, Hu Jintao, on the back. I should like to see the foreign policy of the United States reverberate the message of our own Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal,” and by that all men should be afforded the same right of protection when being savaged by a ruthless neighbour intent on their annihilation, not just select Bosnian Muslims because they are the cause du jour.
Our job at the Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute (AGMI) in Yerevan, Armenia is not to cast blame nor demand retribution; there are other organisations that cover those areas. Our job is to show the course of events. To document what happened in such a clear way, that the mere sight of this atrocity shocks the observer into intelligent action, ensuring this barbarism is never repeated. We are, at best the “groundskeepers” for our ancestors and act as a time capsule for those to come. There is no heroism in being the first genocide of the twentieth century. Much like there is no pomp behind being the first nation-state to accept Christianity as a national religion. Many say it, few practice the teachings diligently. That is why we acknowledge not only our own genocide but also the others that came before and those that have sadly, come after. We are the repository of facts.
These events in Tibet are as relevant today as our own genocide was while it was happening. Darfur, Sudan, still ongoing. What precept of goodwill and peace will the Chinese be functioning under during the Olympics? Perhaps they will change their ways. I hope they do. In the meantime, two more Tibetans were killed.