«Բոլշեւիկներն» ընդդեմ Հայաստանի ապագայի

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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

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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

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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

jirayr

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:

Artsakh

  • 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.

Police

  • 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.

Economy

  • 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
Actress-Filmmaker-Activist
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)

Posted in Admin, POLITICS, SOCIETY | 2 Comments

Letter to President Obama

The north side of the White House looking at the Rose Garden

The north side of the White House looking at the Rose Garden

The members of the Armenian community of Washington, DC, who took part in the public protest action on July 31 in front of the White House, sent the following letter to President Obama.

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

July 31, 2016

We, members of the Armenian community of the greater Washington area, are profoundly concerned about the events taking place in Armenia. The takeover by a group of political activists and former freedom fighters—the “Daredevils of Sassoon”— on July 17 of a police compound in downtown Yerevan has highlighted in the strongest possible ways the problems of Armenia and its population.

The ruling criminal-oligarchic regime has brought Armenia’s economy to its knees and caused nearly half of the country’s population to migrate. Poverty is widespread; systemic corruption is unprecedented; and human rights are systematically violated. The de facto president Serge Sargsyan came to power by means of fraudulent elections and subsequent massacre of demonstrators in 2008. Citizens of Armenia have been left without real options to express their grievances and demand better governance. While arguably extreme, the actions of the Daredevils are a direct manifestation of the lack of options and a self-defense against the state of terror imposed by the ruling regime on its citizens for years.

The group is demanding the release of all political prisoners and a resignation of Sargsyan administration and has succeeded in galvanizing an unprecedented civil society movement. However, the regime continues to use threats and deception to deal with the civil movement, several leaders of which have been arrested and abused while in detention.

We, therefore, call on your administration to use all powers under its disposal to:

  • Prevent further bloodshed and widespread human rights abuse by the Sargsyan regime;
  • Impress upon the regime that further violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms will not be tolerated;
  • Take a more active role in the mediation process and ultimately ensure that peaceful negotiations with the leaders of the protest movement take place;
  • Halt all foreign funding for the Armenian police, as recommended by the Transparency International, and investigate all violations of human rights by police and security forces, as recommended by the UN Office in Armenia.

As a potential valuable ally for the United States in the region, Armenia needs a good government to overcome significant challenges to its development, largely due to systemic corruption and theft.

We hope that your administration will continue upholding the values of democracy and good governance for the benefit of people of Armenia and the US-Armenia relations.

Respectfully,

Singed           Members of Washington, DC Armenian Community (Signatures of file)

 

Cc:      The Department of State Armenia Desk.

Posted in Foreign policy, POLITICS | Leave a comment