The Abandoned American, Prisoner of Conscience Garo Yegnukian

Garo Yegnukian, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on July 20, 2016 and has since been illegally held in pretrial detention in Armenia’s old KGB prison. Garo has been a victim of political persecution since 2012 for being outspoken against the current despotic regime. He has also been active in matters of civil society (from saving city parks and landmarked structures to pursuing justice for murder victims of the oligarchic regime). Members of the regime along with their crew of thugs have, on several occasions, threatened Garo and his family, vandalized his personal property and even assaulted Garo and his family members (including underage children).

The Armenian courts have committed countless violations of Armenian law and international norms over the past 11 months. The baseless charges, which carry a sentence of up to 20 years, and groundless evidence against him (handful of tapped phone conversations) are invasions of freedom of speech since that is all Garo did, he spoke.

Garo has also been denied his right to a speedy trial. If tried separately for those phone taps, Garo’s trial would last a maximum of 1 month. There are no witnesses, no evidence, no victims; the judge would listen to the phone taps and determine innocence or guilt. The prosecution chose to join his case with 13 others and the court denied 3 different motions to separate the case and by doing so will ensure that Garo remains locked up for the duration of the trial which could take years; up to 5 or 6 years.  An unprecedented bail amount has also been denied without any sort of substantiation. The judicial system in Armenia is not independent and serves the interest of the regime. Thus Garo’s human and legal rights have been continuously violated and will continue to be violated unless there is outside intervention.

Garo Yegnukian was born in Soviet Armenia in 1959 from where his family (parents, grandmother and brother) emigrated in 1971. After an arduous journey, they arrived and eventually settled in New York City in 1973. Garo went through the NYC public school system. In 1981, he graduated from Pace University with a BA in Marketing and, in 1988, graduated from St. John’s University Law School.  He was admitted to the New York State Bar. Garo worked continuously from the day he arrived in NY at the age of 14 until his arrest in July of 2016; first at a printing press then with the family automotive business which his father had established. The family business proved to be successful and they expanded into automotive accessory manufacturing and entered the real estate business (Yegnukian Realty Corp.) which currently owns and manages property in five U.S. states.  Garo, his wife of 25 years and their 5 children, born in NY, lived comfortably in the Forest Hills Gardens neighborhood of NY. The Yegnukians had truly achieved the American Dream.

Garo always had a keen interest and maintained strong ties with his homeland. This connection heightened with the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the subsequent independence of Armenia. Garo has been a member of the Union for National Self-Determination for 29 years, the first and only democratic organization functioning within the Soviet Union. During a trip to Armenia in late 1990, Garo and his father, Hagop, discussed the possibility of making a partial move to Armenia. On board the return flight Hagop suffered a debilitating stroke, which left him wheelchair bound and in need of constant care. During the next 18 years Garo, along with his family, cared for his father until his death in July 2008.

On July 1, 2009 Garo’s family of 7 finally made that partial (he kept his home and business dealings in the U.S. and continues to pay U.S. taxes) move to Armenia. His dream and aspiration all along was to bring his notion of that very American Dream that he had achieved in the U.S. to Armenia. That endeavor led him to prison.

Garo, initially, wanted to put his vast experience to use in Armenia and using his entrepreneurial skills to create business opportunities. He soon realized this was not possible in a corrupt environment where thievery is rewarded and honesty punished. Instead Garo immersed himself into matters of civil society, human rights, democracy and benevolent activities. One such example is the establishment of the Rights and Support Foundation in 2013 which provided legal support to civil activists that were being politically persecuted and financial support to the families of those that were incarcerated for such activism and were political prisoners. Ironically, less than 3 years after establishing and funding Rights and Support, Garo too became a political prisoner.

That Armenia’s modern day Soviet style totalitarian government is punishing him is no surprise but that he is the ONLY U.S. citizen being held as a political prisoner in Armenia and the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy have remained relatively silent about his case for the past 11 months is of utmost concern. The U.S. government has done so much for political prisoners in other countries, some of them not even U.S. citizens. However, Garo Yegnukian’s case seems to have fallen through the cracks of justice.

Garo is seeking two things: justice and the chance to bring the virtues of the American Dream to a far corner of the world. Your assistance, support and guidance in this effort is invaluable. Please help in bringing awareness to Garo’s predicament.

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Arthur Sargsyan, “The Bread Bearer”, is Dead; The Ruling Power in the Republic of Armenia Bears Direct Responsibility for it; Self Proclaimed Representative Institutions in the Diaspora Hold Indirect Responsibility by Keeping Silent

Thus, “the bread bearer” (“Hats Perogh”) died on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 15:00 (Yerevan time).

The man had braved police roadblocks on July 26, 2016 to bring supplies to the insurgents (“Sasna Tsrer”) who had stormed and held the headquarters of a police barracks in the Center Yerevan from 17 to 31 July.

Artur Sargsyan decided to remain with the members of the commando until their surrender on 31 July. Imprisoned on that date and then charged in his turn with participation in the armed operation, he was released on 30 December 2016, following an intervention by his lawyers before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court, alarmed by his state of health, had found it incompatible with detention.

But the Armenian judicial authorities again handed Artur Sargsyan to custody on 9 February 2017 for two months under a false pretext. He started a hunger strike on 10 February until he was bailed out on 6 March following a mobilization of all parliamentary political parties, with the notable exception of the Republican Party (presidential majority). The delegation of parliamentarians who had visited the Prosecutor paid for the bail.

This death is the tragic culmination of actions taken by a weak and contested executive power that runs the country in disregard of the opinions, rights and freedoms of its citizens, making it every day poorer economically and weaker politically on the international stage.

The act of “Sasna Tsrer”, although going against the present-day laws, was an expression of the despair of the Armenian population, especially of veterans who fought on the Karabakh front in the 1990s. They wanted their opinions to be heard in the ongoing negotiation process. The population had had an impulse of sympathy for these men. Artur had decided to show his sympathy by an act of bravery. This act turned him into a symbol for the population.

The political and judicial authorities of the Republic of Armenia are directly responsible for the death of Artur Sargsyan. The fragile health of this veteran of the Karabakh war was putting them under an obligation to respect the principles of necessity and precaution before any detention. They have violated these obligations.

The Attorney General and the Minister of Justice must resign.

Beyond the commando members of the “Sasna Tsrer”, whose health of some is somewhat unsteady, there are also some 30 political prisoners arbitrarily detained or sentenced to abusively long prison sentences.

Will the regime continue to put in prison all the voices that rise to stop this organized suicide?

The self-proclaimed representative institutions of the diaspora are also responsible for the death of Artur by their silence. The only worthwhile struggle is to defend and protect the most valuable property of the Armenian Nation: its national home and its inhabitants. The security and future of Armenia and Artsakh will only be possible on this condition.

If these self-proclaimed representatives do not understand it, then they have to leave.

And what about the moral and humanistic bankruptcy of our high religious representatives? Neither the voice of Etchmiadzin nor the voice of Antelias were heard to save Artur Sargsyan from death.

On this day of sadness and deep emotion, we, the signatories of this communiqué, demand for the release of all political prisoners and call on the population not to sell its votes in the forthcoming elections.

Thus, the sacrifice of Artur will not be in vain. It is an appeal to the conscience.

March 17th 2017

Assembly of Armenians in Europe

Armenisch-Akademischer Verein 1860 e.V. (Germany)

Support Committee for Political Prisoners in Armenia (France)

Renaissance Arménienne (France)

Renaissance Arménienne (Belgium)

Groupe des Cent (France)

Coopération Arménie (France)

Charjoum (France)

Hayasa (France)

Azat Dzayn (France)

Nor Zartonk Europe (Turkey)

Policy Forum Armenia (United States)

Social & Cultural Centre “ARMENIA” (Greece)

Justice for Armenia (London, UK)

Armenian Renaissance (New-York/New Jersey)

Geopolitical Club (United States)

Hayduk Association (United States)

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Armed Standoff in Yerevan on July 17-31, 2016

The writing in Armenian can be translated as "A person who loves his motherland," or "Patriot."

Graffiti in Yerevan showing the leaders of the Daredevils of Sasoon, with the word “Patriot” written underneath. Robert Nikoghosyan Art.

The biggest political event of the passing 2016 in Armenia undoubtedly was the takeover by a group of gunmen of a large police compound in downtown Yerevan in July. The events that followed revealed amply the scale and the severity of economic, social, and national security-related problems facing the Armenian society. While we have covered the events and their aftermath substantially since July, it is only natural for us to end the year with a set of questions and answers about what took place during those two critical weeks for Armenia’s modern history.

Question: Who were the members of the armed group and why did they choose the particular timing and method to express their grievances?

Answer: On July 17, 2016 an armed group of activists and former freedom fighters calling themselves Sasna Tsrer, the “Daredevils of Sassoon”—echoing a medieval Armenian folk story—took over a large police compound in Yerevan. Their declared objective was to stop Armenia from an imminent economic and demographic demise and prevent a future Russia-brokered defeatist deal in Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabagh Republic).

Citing the history of fraudulent elections in Armenia, police brutality against peaceful demonstrators, widespread corruption in all three branches of the government, and existence of political prisoners, the gunmen indicated that they were left without options to channel dissatisfaction with the handling of the country’s affairs and achieve a meaningful change in the country’s governance.

Q: What were the main demands of the group?

A: The group demanded:

  1. Release of political prisoners;
  2. Resignation of Serge Sargsyan, to follow by formation of a government of national unity.

The use of force by the Daredevils was not a mechanism for overthrowing Sargsyan per se, but instead was intended to spark a nationwide protest as a way of replacing his regime.

The public protest rallies that followed were peaceful. However, on July 29, during the protest action in Sari Tagh district of Yerevan (in close proximity to the occupied police compound), plain-clothed police brigades and connected criminal thugs instigated violence, by using metal bars, wooden clubs, tear gas, and stun grenades and forcing civilians to run for safety. Dozens of protesters were wounded, including some with severe burns from the use of grenades.

Q: Were there any casualties and hostages taken during the standoff?

A: Upon the takeover of the base, the group held hostage eight police officers, including a general. During the attack, a police colonel exchanged gunfire with the Daredevils (emptying his gun on the approaching attackers) and became the only fatality on that day. While on the compound, the hostages were treated with respect and kept in conditions similar to those of the gunmen. They were even entrusted with guns during an impromptu ceremony on the compound to honor the deceased police colonel. All hostages were released unharmed in a show of good will by July 23.

As police started using sniper fire and wounded a number of gunmen, medical personnel were asked to remain on the compound to care for the wounded. They too were treated with respect and eventually allowed to leave unharmed.

One other police officer, who was wounded during the takeover, died in the hospital. A third officer was shot and died in strange circumstances while inside the car guarding the compound.

Q: Did the armed group pose any danger to civilians?

A: No, the group did not harm any civilians. On the contrary, thousands of people in Yerevan organized daily rallies in support of the Daredevils. In addition, there was an outpouring of support for the gunmen from elsewhere in Armenia and the Diaspora communities worldwide. Social networks and independent media outlets were flooded with posts and articles praising the gunmen for endangering their lives to bring change in Armenia.

Q: How did the residents of the nearby neighborhoods and elsewhere in Yerevan respond to the takeover of the police compound?

A: The first day after the takeover of the compound, the residents of the neighborhood were evacuated by the police and the entire area was surrounded by police troops, not letting civilians re-enter the territory. There were numerous incidents where the residents tried to break through the police wall to get closer to the armed group.

One civilian, Arthur Sargsyan, eventually broke the police barricade with his car—despite being shot at by police numerous times, as evident from the bullet marks on his car—to deliver food to the gunmen, who were deprived of food and water by surrounding police. He chose to remain on the compound until the Daredevils laid down their arms and despite his very poor health remained in police custody (along with the Daredevils) until his release today, December 30th.

Q: Did the sides honor their part of the agreement reached during the mediation process?

A: At least on three important occasions the Armenian regime and its representatives reneged on their previous commitments and failed to deliver as promised.

First, the regime failed to provide continuous Internet and media access promised to the Daredevils in exchange for releasing the high-level hostages.

Second, the police assured the Daredevils that it will allow them to bring one of the wounded members out to the ambulance. However, when the leader of the gunmen, Pavel Manukyan, his son Aram, and another gunman carried a wounded gunman to the ambulance, the police shot and wounded all three of them. They were taken to the hospital with severe life-threatening wounds.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Serge Sargsyan reneged on his promise (made through a negotiator) to meet the leader of the Daredevils, Jirayr Sefilian (arrested in June on charges of conspiracy against the government), if/when the group lays down arms.


Q: Has the group managed to spark a public movement as initially intended?

A: Yes, it did. The takeover of the police compound has sparked protest actions across Armenia, with an estimated 10,000-20,000 protesters marching in Yerevan on a daily basis starting on July 23. Other cities, such as Gyumri, Vanadzor, and Hrazdan, also manifested protest actions against the regime and in support of the Daredevils. The resulting civil movement was for a brief period consolidated and led by prominent opposition politicians, activists, and intellectuals, a number of whom were subjected to persecution and are presently under arrest.

Q: Now that the members of the group laid down their arms, are they expected to be treated fairly by the regime and its law enforcement apparatus?

A: Independent media and social network reports provided evidence of mistreatment of the Daredevils, who laid down their arms on July 31. Those who were wounded receive even harsher treatments in prison medical facilities that are not fit for keeping wounded individuals. They endure abuse and brutality on daily basis by police and Armenia’s successor of Soviet KGB, as also reported by the defense lawyers.

The government has also pursued the family members of the Daredevils, used indiscriminate detention, scare tactics, and outright brutality. Since the surrender of the gunmen, following their laying down of arms, the regime severely limited and in some cases banned visits by defense lawyers and family members.

Finally, the regime also moved to arrest senior members of the “New Armenia” Public Salvation Front, Andreas Ghukasyan and Garo Yegnukian, on trumped up charges of intending to aid the gunmen. They continue to be kept in prison to date along with Jirayr Sefilian on much abused and criticized “pre-trial detention”.

Q: Does their arrest imply the end of the standoff?

A: While the standoff itself is over, the movement that it sparked is unlikely to end any time soon. Given the severity of the social-economic, demographic, and national security/geopolitical problems facing Armenia at present, the movement that was created as a result of the actions of the Daredevils is expected to survive their arrests and even get stronger if the regime proceeds with the Russian-brokered deal in Artsakh. Besides, the police brutality and the ongoing crackdown on political dissent in Yerevan will without doubt expand anti-government action until a different societal equilibrium is found. The regime no longer has the monopoly on violence and it could face different types of assaults by its own population if it continues to mishandle the country’s affairs.

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The Temple is Crumbling: The Corruption of the Armenian Apostolic Church

churchDiscussion at the Toronto Colloquium

By Annie Demirjian, Senior Fellow

We were always told that the Armenian Apostolic Church is the bastion of religious, moral, cultural and national strength.  Over centuries, whether fighting the armies of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, protecting the citizens from the brutalities of the Ottomans, or protecting against cultural assimilation in western countries, the Armenian Apostolic Church stood as the temple rock of its people. Perhaps this is why the Armenian Apostolic Church is considered a National Church, a cornerstone by which many Armenians identify themselves first and foremost.

Today, the foundations of this ancient temple appear to be crumbling, as testified by two Armenian clergymen at an event organized by the Armenian Renaissance Toronto Chapter at the Westin Prince Hotel on December 1, 2016.  Some 100 community members turned up to listen to guest-speakers Reverend Armen Melkonian from Belgium and Reverend Mardiros Berberian (via Skype) from Moscow.

Both priests have been alienated and effectively excommunicated by the Church hierarchy in Etchmiadzin but continue to preach in their communities unofficially. In both instances, the respective parishes have decided to forego the authoritarian ultimatums of the Mother See in Etchmiadzin, opting rather to support their local priests.

At the discussion, both priests made it clear that this narrative is not about them personally, and that they are not critical of the Church as an institution. Rather, their expression of concern relates to its governance in light of ample evidence of an inability to accept feedback and implement reform. This represents the beginnings of a dangerous trajectory. While for centuries the primary clergy and head of the church were elected by the church’s Supreme Synod, the Catholicos today has instead chosen for the first time to appoint current ruling clerics, who are thus no longer accountable to the people they are designated to serve.

The speakers presented facts and arguments attesting to the Armenian Church’s authoritarian dogma, refusal to reform, and general growing irrelevance to the needs of its communities in the 21st century. Worse, in the specific case of our Mother See, the Holy Church of Etchmiadzin, there are troubling examples pointing to the idea that the Church has become a puppet for corrupt Armenian politicians and oligarchs. What was most worrying for both clergymen is that the Church appears to be losing its moral, spiritual, and cultural compass, which has to date been a symbol of pride for Armenians, who find deep meaning in their nation as the oldest to accept Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D., to be followed by Emperor Constantine of Rome only in 304 A.D.

Examples of corruption and dogmatism of the church hierarchy provided by Rev. Melkonian and Rev. Berberian were numerous. The Armenian communities throughout diaspora are beginning to hear of these authoritarian, opaque, corrupt, and/or undemocratic decisions taken by the Church hierarchy. However, key issues and emerging problems are still relegated to the realm of whispers, behind closed doors. The reason for this is that to date, the church is indeed considered a national institution, and above all, a holy one; problems such as these are not to be discussed in public.

It appears that decades of such behavior and governance, and a large body of evidence attesting to a complete unwillingness for reform from within, are bringing the Armenian church today to a point of no return. Communities in countries like France and Switzerland, who have experienced the dark side of this behavior, remain completely broken with hundreds if not thousands of disillusioned Armenians turning away from the Mother See.

Below are some of the specific problems cited by the speakers:

  1. shunning voices of reform, who seek to bring the church “into the 20th century”;
  2. banishing internal dissent by those who dare to speak against corruption and abuses, which includes the full “de-frocking” of several hundred priests (since the entry of this Catholicos) who have dedicated their lives to our Church;
  3. nepotism, cronyism, and undemocratic parish elections in Armenia and throughout the Diaspora (more notably in Canada, France, Switzerland, and the US);
  4. lack of transparent elections, instead handpicking followers and parish committee members and overriding local processes that are compliant with norms and rules in respective countries;
  5. demagogic priests who exhibit traits of power- and money-hungriness (as a direct outcome of poor quality selection, education, and leadership of priests); and
  6. outdated church institutions that are inflexible to the needs of the communities they are purported to serve.

The audience in Toronto was clearly uncomfortable discussing these taboo issues. After listening to the speakers, some raised concerns and asked questions. Yet few had clear or coherent recommendations or solutions to help move the Church and our communities forward. Rev. Melkonian presented four recommendations:

  1. We must return to the fundamentals of our religion: values, spirituality, and religious teaching are and must be the cornerstone of the historical Armenian Church;
  2. We must bring back the rule of law and implement proper church and parish rules and regulations to ensure heightened transparency and accountability, specifically as they relate to Church elections;
  3. We must hold the church hierarchy accountable; we must remind them that the Church exists because of the people, and not vice versa; and,
  4. We must recall collectively that no one is above the law, and that the church and priests should be held accountable to elected members.

It was not difficult at the Toronto convening to detect the frustration, disappointment and disillusionment of the Reverends Melkonian and Berberian. At the colloquium, both men were appealing to the Church and its citizenry to act before it is too late. It was indeed a “cri du coeur” of sorts, which begs the question: who, if anyone, is listening? Are our Armenian communities who have fought so hard to exist (particularly since the Genocide) ready to stand up against our centuries-old Church, the one institution we have held above all others? It would seem the first step would be to acknowledge that our beloved Church has become entangled in corruption and abuse, and that the time for action is now.

Several of the examples cited by Rev. Melkonian were ones that many of us could in all likelihood attest to on a personal level. Most Armenians today would agree that the Armenian Apostolic Church has become a relic; quite irrelevant, and lacking in religious essence and guidance. Our Churches throughout the world in all their glorious architecture sit largely empty with the exception of high holidays; their calling to spiritually ‘uplift’ our Christian communities on a consistent basis appears to have fallen flat. Our youth—the millennials and even baby-boomers—have left the church in droves and gone elsewhere for spiritual guidance and sustenance. The infiltration of cult religions (particularly in Armenia) that have gained popularity is a testament to the vacuum created by the complacency of the Armenian Church. Local priests have become relegated to acting as nothing more than shopkeepers, opening their church doors for a 3-hour service on Sundays and keeping them closed for the rest of the time. There is no accommodation for early, late or shorter services; no willingness to adapt the language or format for better access to those who would seek it.

Today, I only go to church to hear the Gregorian liturgy because of its innate beauty and uplifting qualities. There is little more most of us can learn from or glean out of services administered by well-meaning priests whose own spiritual leadership is failing them so spectacularly. What happens in the coming decades when our children opt to listen to the best sharagans from around the world on the Internet? Who will fill our churches and follow the word of Christ as we have learned it? That some priests are corrupt in the Armenian Church is not a big debate. The real challenge today is to see citizens—like you and me—come forward to expose these abuses and hold the Church accountable to the people they serve.

Let’s start the Church reform conversation and have those priests and informed citizens who have the courage to speak out lead the way. The time is now.


Annie Demirjian was an executive with the federal government in Canada and served at the United Nations for 14 years as head of the Democratic Governance and Director of Political Affairs. She is presently the Director of Glendon School of Public & International Affairs, York University.

P.S. PFA touched upon the issue of church reform first in its State of the Nation Report on “Armenia-Diaspora Relations: 20 Years since Independence” issued in January 2010. See Appendix “Armenia-Diaspora Relations: the Role of the Church” (p. 52).

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«Բոլշեւիկներն» ընդդեմ Հայաստանի ապագայի


by Davit Davtyan, Fellow

Այն ամենը, ինչ այսօր սովորական է ու նույնիսկ կենցաղային, ժամանակին համարվել է «մարգինալների» կողմից մատուցվող խելագարություն, ուտոպիա, կամ սատանայություն: Օրինակ, ըստ հավաստի աղբյուրների, տարիներ առաջ այդ «մարգինալները» Ստեփանակերտում պատանդ վերցնելով ռուսական գնդի սպաներին, ստիպեցին նրանց հեռանալ, ազատելով հայերին կապանքներից, իսկ հետո էլ անշրջելի դարձնելով պատերազմում հաղթանակը:

Մի շտապեք ծիծաղել այն «մարգինալների» վրա, ովքեր այսօր պնդում են, որ Հայաստանը կարող է դառնալ աշխարհի 10 ամենաազդեցիկ երկրներից մեկը՝ տնտեսական, ռազմական ու մշակութային առաջնորդությամբ թե տարածաշրջանում, թե գլոբալ առումով:

Ասում են հեռատես գործարարը 1800թ. տեղափոխվում էր Լոնդոն, 1900թ. տեղափոխվում էր Նյու Յորք, իսկ 2000թ. տեղափոխվում է Սինգապուր:

gdp-trendsՀիմա պրոցեսներն արագացել են հինգից տաս անգամ. եթե 70 տարի առաջ S&P 500-ի ընկերությունները վայելում էին իրենց գերակա դիրքերը միջինը 65-70 տարի, ապա հիմա միջինում 10-15 տարվա ընթացքում դուրս են մղվում նորերի կողմից ու շատերը ընդհանրապես վերանում:

Անտրամաբանակն չէ ենթադրել, որ հաջորդ գերհագեցումն ու փոփոխությունը կլինեն ոչ թե 2100թ.-ին, այլ ասենք 2050-60թ.-ին, այսինքն մի 30-40 տարի հետո:

Հիմա ի՞նչ է պետք դրա համար անել: Եւս 5-10 տարի հետեւել, թե ինչպես է Ռուսաստանը քամում արյան վերջին կաթիլները Հայաստանից ու Ադրբեջանում ռազմական գործարաններ սարքու՞մ, ինչպես են կուսակցությունները կապիկություն անում մարդկանց հերթական ընտրության քարշ տալո՞վ, ինչպես է Ծառուկյան Գագիկը տատանվում, թե վերջապես ինքը բուրժուա-դեմոկտրատ քաղաքական գործիչ է, թե բարերա՞ր, ինչպես է Կարապետյան Կարենը զայրանում, որ շենքը պայթեցնելուց փոշի են հանու՞մ, ինչպես են ինքնակոչ վերլուծաբանները բոլորին աջ ու ձախ քլնգում ու մարդկանց հնազանդության կոչ անու՞մ:

Թե՞ պետք է խելքի գալ, լսել, թե ինչ են ասում էսօրվա դրությամբ Հայաստանում մնացած միակ ադեկվատ մարդիկ /նրանք հիմա բանտում են/ ու մի հատ թափ տալով դեն շպրտել էս կապիկներին, դրանց կեղտն ու ապուշությունը ու դրանց կրեմլյան տերերին իրենց բազաներով, ԵՏՄ-ներով ու ՀԱՊԿ-ներով ու վերջապես մարդ դառնալ ու մի անգամ ազատ շունչ քաշել:

Սովետը քանդվել է: Հիշե՛ք: Սովետն էլ չկա: Իսկ նրա իրավահաջորդ Ռուսաստանն էլ դեռ 1921թ. ռուս-թուրքական պայմանագրի երկու կողմերից մեկն է:

Հ.Գ. Լենինգրադյան փողոցն էլ Լենին պապիկի անունով է: Եթե հիշում եք, Լենինը նույնպես սատկել է: Թարգե՛ք պառաված օրիորդի կովային թախիծով հետ նայել դեպի հյուսիս: Թողե՛ք գոնե առողջ մարդիկ նայեն ապագա: Իսկ Ազգալդյանի մասին էլ ավել-պակաս հաչելուց զգույշ եղեք: Հիշե՛ք հուլիսին մի քանի օր ձեր տերերը վախից ծակերն էին մտել, բունկերներից դուրս չէին գալիս, ձեզ պաշտպանող չկար, իսկ ամեն ինչ ցույց է տալիս, որ հուլիսը դեռ նախերգանքն էր…


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The Kremlin’s Grip and Armenia’s Slide toward Dictatorship


by David Grigorian, Co-founder and Senior Fellow

(re-printed from PONARS Eurasia Blog)

If there is a part of the world where Russia’s dominance is obvious, it is Armenia. The aftermath of the late July events in Armenia risk pushing the country even closer to Russia, eventually putting it on a path to authoritarianism and dictatorship. With the current pan-regional challenges confronting the United States and the West, ignoring developments in Armenia—and the Russian “plans” for Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)—would be a strategic blunder.

In the early hours of July 17, an armed group of 31 civil activists and veterans of the NK war took over a large police compound in downtown Yerevan. They called themselves the “Daredevils of Sassoon” (from a medieval Armenian epic poem). They used a truck to break open the gates and took eight police officers hostage, including a general and a colonel. One police officer died in the shootout, but all hostages were subsequently released (as an act of goodwill). The attackers made two demands: (1) release all political prisoners, including their leader Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested in June on charges of conspiracy against the government, and (2) the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan and his administration.

The actions of the “Daredevils” are widely seen as having to do with the outcome of the four-day war with Azerbaijan in April that ended with minor territorial losses for Armenia. There are expectations that a Russia-brokered peace plan will soon be imposed in NK based on the ceding of five tactically vital districts to Azerbaijan and agreeing to the presence of Russian troops as “peacekeepers.”

However, this will result in the remaining parts of NK being indefensible. The majority of Armenians see the plan as a devastating capitulation, abandoning the Armenian population of NK, and leading to increased violence in the region. Russia intends to use the measures to deepen Armenia’s dependence on Moscow while at the same time improving relations with an ever more powerful Azerbaijan.

The assault by the “Daredevils” was not an attempt to overthrow Sargsyan per se, but rather to spark a nation-wide, peaceful, protest movement calling for the replacement of his regime. In economic as well as in political terms, Sargsyan’s tenure has been a disaster. The corruption and cronyism that have flourished under his (mis)rule have brought Armenia’s economy to its knees, resulted in massive emigration, and turned Armenia more into a Russian satellite state.

After the police station takeover, there were massive street demonstrations led by prominent intellectuals and opposition politicians in support of the “Daredevils.” A panel of human rights experts called this outpouring of public support a “Robin Hood effect.” The police reportedly detained 775 people, including foreigners, many of whom were kept in compounds without access to food and medicine for extended periods of time. The brutality and use of stun grenades and tear gas against peaceful protesters and journalists on July 29 by the police were condemned by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan and media advocates.

The deeds of the “Daredevils” were in some ways a controlled experiment. As war veterans, they were well aware of the destructive nature of guns and did not intend to use them beyond the police station takeover to advance their objectives. Laying down their arms was a testament to that. Others, who will come after them to fight the oppressive regime, may not be as wise and forward-looking. A recent report by Freedom House expressed a similar sentiment.

What is at stake? The geopolitical implications of the July events in Armenia are difficult to understate. Turkey’s recent accusation that the Unites States was complicit in the coup against Recep Erdoğan will likely push Turkey further from NATO and closer to Russia. If so, Armenia might be forced to enter into an alliance with Turkey, its historic enemy, and Russia, an unreliable partner. If Armenia is absorbed into that coalition, Georgia and its pro-Western orientation will be at stake next.

The only chance to weaken an impending Russian-Turkish alliance would be for the West to assist the pro-democracy movement in Armenia to help uphold its sovereignty. If the West had Armenia as an ally in the region, Georgia would have increased support and Iran’s access to Europe through friendly territory would be secured. The Russian plan to force Armenia to relinquish territories in NK and deploy Russian “peacekeepers” in the region would have grave and irreversible consequences for Western regional interests. The Russian plan should be torpedoed. This can be done inter alia by providing both moral and tangible support to those “on the barricades” in Armenia today.

Today, many of Armenia’s opposition leaders are in prison. The immoral actions of Sargsyan’s regime should be condemned, as called for by human rights groups and the mainstream media (see: “It’s Time for Armenia’s Leader to Go,” Huffington Post, August 4, 2016). Western governments have provided relatively little institutional support to Armenia’s civil society and opposition groups over the years, but they have dished out significant support to Armenia’s corrupt government and its repressive police and security apparatus (which is close to Russia). Transparency International has called on the international community to halt all funding for the Armenian police.

Washington should register the words of a “Daredevils” leader when he said: “We will build an independent Armenia. We should not become a guberniya [administrative territory] of some other state.” The state he meant, of course, was Russia. The United States is not supporting the right side in Armenia. By doing so, it is handing the Caucasus piece by piece back to Russia, which is gaining more control in the region now than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Կեղծիքի Արմատները











by Mayis Vanoyan, Senior Fellow

Ստուկաչը ռուսերեն բառ է, որը նշանակում է մատնիչ։ Սակայն երբ ասում ենք ստուկաչ, հասկանում ենք ոչ թե լոկ մատնություն, այլև սուտ մատնություն, զրպարտություն կամ մատնություն՝ սադրանքի միջոցով։ Սա 30-ականներին տարածված պրակտիկա էր ՆԿՎԴ-ի, այնուհետև ԿԳԲ-ի հետ համագործակցողների շրջանում։ Լինելով Սիբիր աքսորվածի և այնտեղ վախճանվածի թոռ ու տասը տարի Սիբիրում բռնադատվածի զավակ՝ լուսահոգի տատիկիս ու հորս պատմածներով եմ ճանաչում այս երևույթը։

Եվ այսպես, ովքե՞ր էին ստուկաչները։ Դրանք ՀԽՍՀ այն քաղաքացիներն էին, որոնք իշխանության մարմինների պատվերով կամ ճնշման տակ կատարում էին կեղծ մատնություններ, տալիս էին գրավոր կամ բանավոր սուտ վկայություններ, ինչպես նաև զրպարտանքներ՝ պահանջով, ճնշմամբ, կամ որևէ նյութական խրախուսանքի ակնկալիքով, իսկ որոշ դեպքերում նաև ինքնակամ՝ պայմանավորված վախով կամ այդ արարքի դիմաց իշխանության բարեհաճությանն արժանանալու հույսով։ Հայտնի է, որ զրպարտությունն ու սուտ մատնությունը Հայաստանում 30-ականներին կիրառվել են ոչ միայն կուլակաթափության ու սովորական քաղաքացիների զանգվածային տարհանման կամ ոչնչացման նպատակով, այլև մտավորականության շրջանում։ Հիշենք Նաիրի Զարյանի, Ալազանի ու այլոց անհատական ու խմբակային նամակները, որոնց հիման վրա Չարենց ու Բակունց էին բանտարկում ու գնդակահարում ԿԳԲ ի բանտերում։

Ստուկաչությունը երևույթ էր՝ այսինքն ժամանակներն էին այդպիսին, երբ ցանկացած մարդ որևէ մեկին կարող էր զրպարտել՝ ներկայացնելով նրան սովետական իշխանության թշնամի։ Այն համատարած բնույթ էր կրում՝ դառնալով մարդու տեսակ, ու կազմում էր կենցաղի գերակշիռ մասը։ Սովետական իշխանությունը դաստիարակում ու խրախուսում էր նման վարքագիծը։ Նժդեհը դիպուկ կերպով նրանց տականք է անվանել։ Տականքներն ամենուր էին՝ գյուղերում և քաղաքներում, ցանկացած հիմնարկում դրանք վխտում էին։ Զրպարտությունն ու կեղծիքը դարձել էր կյանքի նորմ։

Այսօր պատմությունը կարծես կրկնվում է։Վերջին տարիներին Հայաստանում իշխող կուսակցությունը հաջողությամբ շարունակում է այդ «հին» սովետական ավանդույթները, որոնք հատկապես ցայտուն են դառնում ընտրական գործընթացների ժամանակ։  Այն, ինչ կատարվում է Հայաստանում ընտրությունների ժամանակ 1995 թվականից ի վեր, միանգամայն ժառանգվել է ստուկաչության ժամանակաշրջանից։ Այն դեմքերը, որ մենք տեսնում ենք ընտրություններին ու վերջին քվեարկության տեսանկարահանումներում, անընդհատ ինձ հիշեցնում են հորս պատմած մանրամասները՝ մեր գերդաստանին հասած զրկանքների մասին։ Ավելին՝ պատմածների կերպարները, որոնք մտապատկերով տպավորվել էին իմ մանկության ու պատանեկության տարիներին, այժմ նույն կենդանի պատկերների հետ միանգամայն համընկնում են։

Ընտրական հանձանաժողովների նախագահների դեմքերի գողական ինքնավստահությունն ու  Ազգային ժողովի պատգամավորների թևավոր խոսքեր հիշեցնող լկտի անհեթեթությունները վկայում են այն մասին, որ Հայաստանը ետ է դառնում դեպի 30-ական թվականներ։ Արդյո՞ք նույն ստուկաչի հոգեբանությունը չէ, որ թևածում է ամենուրեք։ Նրանք, ովքեր դրդված էին կրկնակի քվեարկելուն, ակնկալում էին այդ օրվա հացի փողը։ Իսկ դրդողները մի  քիչ ավելի ռազմավարական խնդիրներ էին լուծում՝ կարիերայի ու մեծ շահի համադրությամբ։ Այս երկու տիպերն էլ եղել են ստուկաչների ժամանակաշրջանում։ Հանուն շահի ու կարիերայի կատարվող կեղծիքներն ու բութ ինքնավստահությունը մեզանում այսօր ամենուրեք է։

Ստուկաչների ժառանգներն առայսօր շարունակում են գործել։ Եթե նրանք արյունակցական կապ էլ չունեն նախկին ստուկաչների հետ՝ ապա նրանք դաստիարակվել են նույն հոգեբանությամբ։ Սասնա Ծռերի գործողությունները մեզ համար այնքան անհրաժեշտ գաղտնազերծում (լյուստրացիա) կատարեցին։ (Ի դեպ, պաշտոնապես գաղտնազերծումը չեն իրականացրել նախկին սովետի երկրներից միայն մահմեդական երկրներն ու Հայաստանը)։ Ի՞նչ անուն տաս Վիտալի Բալասանյանի՞ն… Սա ստուկաչության դասական օրինակ է. շահելով Սասնա Ծռերի վստահությունը՝ հարվածի տակ դրեց նրանց՝ զրպարտություն տարածելով Ժիրայր Սեֆիլյանի մասին: Ի՞նչ անուն տաս մտավորական կոչվածներին, որոնք  գերադասում են տաքուկ հետույքը՝ արժանապատվությունից զրկվելու գնով։ Նրանք մի՞թե ստուկաչներ չեն։ Դե իհարկե, չեմ խոսում այն տիպիկ ստուկաչոստիկանների մասին, որոնք սուտ մատնություններ են անում Հիմնադիր Խորհրդարանի անդամների ՝ Գևորգ Սաֆարյանի, Կարո Եղնուկյանի և այլոց դեմ։

30-ականներին բնական էր դիտվում կալանքը, տան խուզարկություններն ու աքսորը` մատնության միջոցով։ Բայց մի առանձնահատկություն էլ կար՝ նույն ստուկաչներից շատերը հետագայում չէին հասցնում «վայելել», ստուկաչության շնորհիվ ձեռք բերած (եթե դրանք իրականում կային) պտուղները։ Մի մասի համար դա կարիերա էր՝ մյուսների համար նյութական բարիքներ ու անմնացորդ հպատակություն մեծավորներին։ Խորհրդային իրականության մեջ նրանք այլ նորահայտ ստուկաչների միջոցով ոչնչացվում էին՝ աքսորվում կամ բանտարկվում ու գնդակահարվում։ Ի վերջո, ոմանք նաև ջրի երես բերվեցին Խռուշչովյան ձնհալի ժամանակ:

Ինչքա՞ն ժամանակ կպահանջվի ետ բերել կորցրածը, բռնել զարգացման ուղին, վերջ տալ Հայաստանում տիրող խավարամտությանը, ձերբազատվել ստուկաչ երևույթից ու ազատվել սաքուլիկներից, չոռնի գագոներից, մհերներից, շմայսներից, մկներից, սաշիկներից ու սերժերից… Անհայտ է։ Կարծում եմ Ապրիլյան Պատերազմն ու Սասնա Ծռերի գործողությունը ահագին պարզություն մտցրեցին, ավետեցին նոր պլատֆորմի գոյությունն ու ներկայացրեցին զարգացման ուղու հայտ։ Գուցե սա նախախնամություն դիտվի՝ բայց այս դեպքերը նաև մոտեցրեցին հատուցմամ պահը, որը իրեն երկար սպասել չի տա: Կապրենք ու, հուսով եմ, կտեսնենք։

Posted in All listed by Author, Mayis Vanoyan, SOCIETY | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Power Should Be Returned to People


The events of July 2016 will undoubtedly have repercussions for Armenia’s political life for months, if not years, to come. There is still a healthy amount of inquiry into what took place during those important two weeks in Armenia’s modern history and we will continue shedding light on those and related developments in the coming months.

Below we present an open letter from the coordinator of the Founding Parliament, the political wing of the “Daredevils of Sassoon”, a highly decorated Artsakh war veteran and former commander Jirayr Sefilian (arrested by the Sargsyan regime in June), written from prison on the final day of the stand-off. Translated from the original for our English-speaking audience, this letter is critical for understanding the thinking behind the steps taken by the “Daredevils of Sassoon” and the (tactical) objectives they tried to accomplish.

*  *  *

Since I still have not been given an opportunity to clarify the demands of “Daredevils of Sassoon” directly with them, knowing that the authorities are not taking any rational steps to avoid bloodshed, and realizing the need for people to be informed about the content of negotiations, below I will outline the range of issues around which I think I will be able to persuade the “Daredevils of Sassoon” to lay down their arms.

To do this, I will need to meet with them directly. If the authorities fear that I will not leave the police compound and I too will take up arms, I am ready to provide any guarantees they require. In this tense situation, I have repeatedly stated that I am ready to do everything in my power to help resolve the situation in a peaceful way.

To satisfy the requirements given bellow it is necessary to form a “government of people’s trust”, which cannot come a day too soon. This government shall be mainly engaged in a smooth implementation of the following steps:


  • The main objective of the state’s activity in this critical area should be to declare Artsakh an integral part of the Republic of Armenia within pre-April 1, 2016 borders and to achieve its international legal recognition. This is the absolute minimum, which should not ever be reduced.
  • Other tactical and strategic steps needed for the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict will be presented subsequently.

Defense and Security Sector

Armed forces

  • The approach to active-duty armed forces should be significantly altered in a direction that would require fewer human resources for the defense of borders of Armenia and Artsakh.
  • The use of inexperienced young recruits for combat duty should be prohibited. These positions should be filled only on a voluntary basis by (experienced) contractual soldiers. (Single/unmarried) contractual soldiers without children too should be banned from carrying out combat duty.


  • All police commanders presently in office should be removed. In addition, the chief of police and all his deputies should be brought before the criminal court for their recent actions.
  • The new police chief must be appointed from the outside the (police) system. He and his deputies should not have any connection to the events of March 1-2, 2008 and July 29, 2016. This should send a signal to others that spilling blood of civilians will no longer be tolerated in Armenia and everybody proven guilty for taking part in those activities should be punished by law.
  • Police personnel should be substantially replaced. Instead of employing them in de facto mercenary units aimed at fighting own civilian population, personnel of those units should be given an opportunity to sign up for contractual military service (for higher salary) to defend the homeland while maintaining their ranks.

Sovereignty and border defence

  • Negotiations on transferring the control of Armenia’s boarders from Russian to Armenian border troops should start immediately. The fate of the remainder of Russian armed forces in Armenia can be negotiated in the future. Armenia’s borders should only be controlled by Armenia’s armed forces and intelligence services.
  • The Russian border guards should transfer the resources allocated to them for the control of Armenia’s borders, including the intelligence and counterintelligence networks, to the Armenian side, to the extent possible.

Political prisoners

  • All political prisoners—including Haik Kyureghyan, Shant Harutyunyan, Volodya Avetisyan, Gevorg Safaryan, and others—should be released.
  • All individuals detained during the latest events (in connection with rallies organized in support of “Daredevils of Sassoon”) should be released and free and fair trials should be started.
  • All persecution and harassment in connection with recent events should be stopped.
  • Apart from the issue of political prisoners, taking into account widespread violations in the judicial system, the states should consider initiating a broad amnesty. The conditional early release from prison of those serving life sentences should be made possible, if it corresponds to the standards required by the law.

Election reform

  • First and foremost, the lists of citizens who voted in elections should be made public. This will serve as a certificate of legitimacy, which no government in Armenia since 1996 has had. No individual or a group has the right to claim power in the country without this certificate. Claiming power without this certificate is tantamount to usurping it, which is what we have been witnessing for the past twenty years.

Restoring justice

  • All members of judicial, executive, and legislative branches, who have had any involvement in illegal use of force against civilians on March 1-2, 2008 and July 29, 2016 as well as subsequent political persecutions should be irreversibly removed from service. If their actions were obtained under threat or pressure, the details of that should be made public, clarifying those circumstances, mentioning names of individuals involved, and providing other relevant information as well as offering a public apology for the wrongdoings;
  • A committee with a mandate to examine all cases involving takeover of private property by the government “for the needs of the state” (e.g., Northern and Main Avenues, Lori and Syunik regions, etc.) should be formed. The committee should provide recommendations on measures to restore justice.

Environment and social issues

  • Embezzlement of Armenia’s natural resources and nature must be stopped. The natural resources should be used carefully and exclusively for the state interests, excluding illegal use and with the strictest control by public agencies and civil society.
  • The government and the Central Bank should initiate activities aimed at easing the debt burden of poorest highly-indebted households.
  • Achieve a reduction of electricity and gas tariffs by increasing the efficiency of resource use. In these areas, the government should immediately resume negotiations to restore Armenia’s shares in major distribution entities, taking into account its legal obligations.


  • Small businesses should be exempt from direct taxation.
  • Medium-sized business should be exempt from direct taxation up to two years.
  • Monopolies must be eliminated, except for those that are of strategic importance to be determined by the National Assembly. These monopolies should be state-owned and regulated.
  • Tax and customs administration must be carried out exclusively by the bodies under the public and civil control, strictly preserving equality, legality, and transparency in their approach.

The enforcement of these requirements is an issue of national security. These demands are an outcome of my detailed discussions with members of the “Daredevils of Sassoon”, and I am sure we share a common view on these. For years, different players within civil society too have presented similar demands, but they remained ignored and neglected.

These demands have been presented to the government in the interest of the Armenian State. The failure to follow, delay the application of these measures, or worse an imitation of their application, will eventually lead to the destruction of the state, turning it into an entity governed by ignorance and arrogance.

I call on our people and political parties to take these demands and make them their own. By doing so, they will form a legitimate process of putting these demands forth and help dismiss accusations that it is being done by the use of arms.

Jirayr Sefilian

“Vardashen” Prison

July 31, 2016

Posted in Admin, POLITICS, SOCIETY | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is Armenia Becoming a Failed State?

Stop corruptionBy Annie Demirjian, Senior Fellow

It is quite shocking to see the pictures of handcuffed peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan but for a Canadian it was doubly shocking for me to see the pictures of the Canadian actress Arsinee Khanjian handcuffed and taken away at a Yerevan public square. Twenty some years after the fall of the Soviet Union,  we hoped that gradually, the country will move more toward democratic system and respect for rule of law, moving away from outdated autocratic regime. Well, looking at these pictures that went around the world, it looks like Armenia is moving backward and not forward.

In 2009-2013, I worked in Armenia when I was heading the Democratic Governance portfolio for UNDP’s regional center. Like other post-soviet countries in the region, Armenia was struggling from many social, political and economic malaise. Agreed that the country is in a hostile neighborhood (and Syria, Chechnya conflicts are not that far away from their borders), but the home-grown problems of the country was astounding.  It was blatantly evident that the country had all sorts of corruption problems: oligarchyism imported from Russia, political cronyism, weak judicial system, poor human rights record, most specifically vis-a-vis women, elderly, children, and extremely weak and ineffective public institutions and administration at all levels—national regional and local. The list goes on….. In addition, there is a macho-machismo culture so outdated almost caricaturist, like the attitude of the country towards LGBT community.

But there were also many positive developments in the country. Armenia continued to have one of the most active, well organized civil society – from media, to NGOs, to women’s groups to community based organizations. In the absence of official, institutional checks and balances in the country, the media and the civil society organizations play the oversight role and are holding the government accountable – hence we see the daily demonstrations against the governing elite, clamoring for police, social and economic reform. But the Armenian civil societies alone cannot act as an oversight instrument and drive the reform agenda. These checks and balances have to be established and implemented from within and for that to happen the government has to have the serious political will to establish transparent and accountable governance system and institutions that can implement reform.

Last 20 years, many multilateral institutions have come to Armenia’s assistance to help establish decent, functioning and professional institutions and systems. Among them were EU, OSCE, WB, UN/UNDP and many others. Some of these international institutions paid lip service to Armenia’s public sector reform, others provided skeleton support that was meaningless, yet others tried and later gave up due to the absence of the political will to truly exert reform.  In my dealings with senior officials I worked with well meaning officials who were committed to reform. On one occasion, after several false starts I worked with the office of the president to establish an anti-corruption mechanism and process based on the UN convention against corruption.

These young officials, who wanted to push for anti-corruption reform were political appointees  but with limited institutional or public management experience. And yet, there was a disconnect between the political appointees and the old guard, the soviet era bureaucrats with management experience, but the two simply did not talk the same language and there was no system, process, communications to bridge the old and the new guard to get the reforms going.  In many ways, the Armenian experience reminded me of Libya in 2011 after the fall of Gaddafi. In Libya, I met many senior officials who were eager to establish a new Libya, a new system of governing the country. But alas, the country soon realized that there were no national or local institutions that could build the new Libya, and the country has since fallen to a failed state status.

This absence of effective institutions—credible and independent judiciary, accountable police force, competent parliament, responsible executive—is a challenge to many authoritarian regimes that are struggling to transit to a more democratic and accountable system. Armenia has an advantage. The country has a huge competent and capable human capital to drive the governance reform agenda. This is evident in the high-tech, education, CSO, media and other areas. Some world-class partnerships have been established to make the country a hub for innovation and high-tech. The small-and medium size entrepreneurship could be on the rise, if only the government/oligarchs would give them a break.  But the country’s disrespect for the rule of law, inability to reform the criminal justice system (making the police more professional) that is breaking the Armenia’s back and driving the society backwards.

To push forward for institutional reform and to install good governance principles the Armenian Government has to commit to work with the national institutions (with committed leaders and managers), CSOs, media and drive the reform agenda. International institutions can help but at the end if Armenia wants to avoid to be seen around the world as yet another authoritarian and hopelessly corrupt failed state, with thuggish police harassing the peaceful demonstrators, they need to start the internal reform process and start it fast.

The demonstrators are demanding very basic services that the government refuses to provide: affordable electricity for all! A recent research by Policy Forum Armenia stated that “certain categories of clients largely connected to the political elite have over the years not paid for their electricity bill”.  It also highlight the government’s irresponsible pricing policy that keeps electricity prices intentionally high for the average consumer while turning a blind eye to those elite users who refuse to pay their bills.

This is absolutely outrageous as it underlines the gross inequality in the country that citizens continue to endure. Indeed, when walking in the streets of Yerevan one cannot help but notice the poor conditions of housing in certain parts of the city next to colossal, in-your-face new housing structures of the rich, usually in vulgar architectural design and taste.

PrintThe Author of “Why Nations Fail: Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”—a must read for students of economics—Daron Acemoglu, in his endorsement of PFA’s report on “Corruption in Armenia” states,

“Some say that Armenia is doomed to fail economically because of its geography or location in the world. But like so many other countries around the world and throughout history, its failure is due to corruption, unscrupulous politicians and weak institutions. It’s not lack of opportunities but squandered opportunities that are at the root of Armenia’s ills, and it can make progress only by confronting this fact and holding accountable those responsible for the failures.”

This is a sign of a country going downhill – see Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Libya…..

The young generation will not wait while the old guard continues to act irresponsibly, they will vote with their feet and move on, or move out.  Or worse, Armenia will join the perpetually troubled failed states.

Posted in Annie Demirjian, POLITICS, SOCIETY | Leave a comment

Silence and Hypocrisy—Killers of Hope

Burb wire Armenia--2
An urgent call for our Diaspora to demand democracy and human rights in Armenia.

While many foreign and outside entities had appealed for a non-extreme response to the extreme actions taken by an armed group at the Yerevan police station, the Diaspora largely remained silent.

By contrast, the rulers in Armenia have engaged in wholesale mass arrests and detention of anyone they suspect as the opposition, including peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to assemble, whether to appeal for moderation or express their grievances against government policies and practices.

The Armenian Diaspora at large has not adequately spoken out against these government actions. At this point, it is difficult to fathom the motivations for such silence.

Could it be the belief that we, in the Diaspora, have no business interfering in internal affairs of a foreign country—except when it comes to the Karabagh question and Armenia-Turkey relations? Or is it the notion that it’s the Armenian government’s job to serve the needs of its people—except when it comes to the sick, the needy, the poor, the military, elderly, public schools and children?

Only the ruling elite seem to have their needs addressed while living lavish lives supported by ill-begotten funds sheltered in the names of family members and off-shore shell companies.

Recently the Catholicos of All Armenians himself thought it appropriate to condemn the violent acts of these “Daredevils”, but he has not condemned the injustices perpetrated by the ruling party against the flock– such as systemic election fraud and gross human rights violations, including unleashing the over-aggressive police and infamously brutal thug brigades.

Many community leaders in the Diaspora have acknowledged, behind closed doors, that it’s no secret to them that Armenia is severely corrupt, but they could not speak truth to power because it might have compromised the good work they were doing to instill “hope for a better future” among the people—except when that hope was for a clean government that evens the economic playing field, allows for free and fair elections, and insists on an independent judiciary and Rule of Law. Perhaps they considered those minor issues compared with poverty and hunger. Yet we all have witnessed on many occasions that the people were not protesting against poverty and hunger but demanding democracy and human rights.

So while we were patting ourselves on the back for working to instill hope, our silence and hypocrisy were killing that hope, rendering much of our time, money and efforts in Armenia futile and ineffective–posh hotels, fancy restaurants and high tech “showcase” schools notwithstanding.

Most of us thought time was the cure for Armenia’s ills and that somehow, magically, the leaders would come to their senses and live up to the promise of the new Armenia.

Yet two decades is long enough to prove that corruption only breeds corruption, leading to a failed state and cynical society that has nothing left to lose. As John F. Kennedy wisely admonished, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

If we are truly honest, it may already be too late to overcome the high stakes and perilous road ahead. Yet, if ever the Diaspora had an opportunity to show its true mettle, the hour has come.

All who recognize this crisis point, should urge our community representatives and organizations, charitable, religious and political, to publicly decry those responsible for the rampant abuses of human rights and dignity and support those that seek electoral reform and an accounting of unlawful police tactics. The former would include the public inspection of voter lists, and a meaningful investigation of violations committed during last December’s constitutional referendum and those who have to date blocked such an effort.

We should no longer consider the alternative an option—that is, trying to preserve a fabricated and false sense of law and order that cripples Armenia’s ability to meet challenges at home and at the border while inciting civil violence.

Taking a clear stand on the side of human rights and justice won’t instantly solve the deeply entrenched problems that plague the country. But it’s a first step in a new direction, that, if made courageously, wholeheartedly, unequivocally and boldly, will instill hope among the people as never before.

They’ve been waiting for us to answer their call but, as we’ve witnessed from recent events, they can’t wait forever.


Armenian Bar Association

Justice Armenia

Professor Simon Payaslian
Charles K. and Elisabeth M. Kenosian
Chair in Modern Armenian History
and Literature, Department of History,
Boston University

Anny Bakalian, Ph.D.
Associate Director of MEMEAC,
The Graduate Center, CUNY

Policy Forum Armenia

Armenian Scientists and Engineers Association (AESA), NY-NJ Section

Vahe Berberian (USA)
Painter, Author, Playwright, Humorist

Ara Dinkjian (USA)
Musician and Composer

Armenian Renaissance – New York Chapter

Armenian Renaissance – Los Angeles Chapter

Vicken Cheterian (Switzerland)
Writer and University Lecturer

Vahe Tachjian (Germany)
Chief Editor of Houshamadyan

Nora Armani
SR Socially Relevant Film Festival NY,
Founding Artistic Director

Vicken Tarpinian (France)
Singer and Composer

Garo Ghazarian, Esq.
Dean & Professor of Law
Peoples College of Law
Los Angeles, California

Maro Matosian
Women’s Support Center

Nurhan Becidyan (USA)

Berc Araz (USA)

Rafi Hovsepian
President, New York Armenian
Students’ Association
Adjunct Instructor, New York University

Mario Yazidjian (USA)

Harout Chatmajian (USA)
Actor, Director and Community Activist

Ara N. Araz (USA)

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