16 The Armenian Reporter | February 28, 2009 Armenia From Armenia, in brief Parliament passes first reading of amendments to criminal code On February 26, Armenia’s parliament passed the first reading for amendments made to Articles 225 (mass disorders) and 300 (usurping state power) of the criminal code. Davit Harutiunian. Photolure. Davit Harutiunian, chair of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Issues and one of the authors of the bill, said that after the events of March 1, 2008, many international institutions, including the report by the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe Thomas Hammarberg, recommended revising certain vague articles within Armenia’s criminal code. The bill calls for voiding section 3 of Article 225, which stipulates 6–12 years of imprisonment for mass disorders resulting in killings. It proposes the addition of a section 5, which would stipulate 200,000–600,000 AMD in fines or imprisonment for up to 3 months for participants in disorders who commit no other crimes. The bill also amends section 1, on the organization and conduct of illegal public events, which stipulates responsibility for ignoring police calls to stop the event. The bill amends Article 300 and provides for 10–15 year imprisonment for attempting to usurp power through violence or threat of violence, as well as for seizure of the powers of the president, the speaker, the government, or the Constitutional Court. The bill will have to go through a second reading after which it will be presented to the president to sign it into law. March 1 Parliamentary Commission deadline prolonged Armenia’s parliament has agreed to prolong the activities of the special parliamentary commission that was set up to investigate the events of March 1, 2008. The new deadline is September 15, 2009. The reason for the extension was to allow for the final report of the fact-finding group charged with presenting its conclusions to the commission. According to Arminfo, Samvel Nikoyan, head of the special parliamentary commission, said that even if the commission had all the answers, it would be right to wait for the conclusions of the fact-finding group. He admitted that both bodies still have much work to do. OSCE Minsk Group cochairs visit the region OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs Bernard Fassier (France), Matthew Bryza (United States), and Yuri Merzlyakov (Russia) were in Baku on February 26; they met with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov and President Ilham Aliyev. They arrived in Yerevan the following day. The co-chairs will conduct meetings in Stepanakert on March 2 and will return again to Yerevan to meet with the leadership of the country, Armenpress reports. The visit of the co-chairs was agreed upon in Zurich during the January 28 meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents. During that meeting the two presidents instructed their foreign ministers to continue with the negotiations. Armenia’s foreign minister on a tour of the Middle East At the invitation of Egyptian foreign minister Ahmad Abu Al Gheydi, Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian paid an official visit to Egypt February 23. On the same day Mr. Nalbandian was received by Egyptian prime minister Ahmad Nazif. Greeting his guest, the Egyptian prime minister said that the Egyptian people and he personally have the warmest feelings toward Armeniaand the Armenian people. During his visit Mr. Nalbandian gave an extended interview to one of the higly regarded Al Ahram newspaper, published in Cairo. On February 24, Mr. Nalbandian left for Jordan, where he met with newly appointed Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. From Jordan, Mr. Nalbandian traveled to Lebanon, where he met with President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Tender for construction of new nuclear unit in Armenia announced According to Armenpress, an open tender for the construction of a new nuclear unit in the Republic of Armenia has been announced. The tender was announced by the State Procurement Agency and will be held in one round. The bidder that wins will sign a contract of state purchase of “Management services for implementation of the program of construction of new nuclear energy blocks in Armenia.” Anyone may present applications for participation in the tender. Applications must be presented to the State Procurement Agency within 60 days of the announcement. Clashes which took place in Yerevan on March 1, 2008. Photo: Photolure. Karine Kazinian appointed deputy foreign minister The former ambassador of Armenia to Germany Karine Kazinian has been appointed as a deputy foreign minister of Armenia. Ms. Kazinian worked in the USSR Embassy in Mozambique and Portugal. From 1997 to 1999, she was chargé d’affaires of the Republic of Armenia in Romania; from 1999 to 2001 she served as ambassador to Romania; from 2001 to 2009, she was ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. Ms. Kazinian has been awarded the Armenian Medal of Mkhitar Gosh and the Romanian Order for Merit Grand Cross. She is fluent in English, Russian, German, Portuguese, and Romanian. Protest in front of Georgian Embassy in Yerevan The Javakhk Patriotic Union and other nongovernmental organization staged a protest in front of the Georgian Embassy in Yerevan on February 25. Shirak Torosyan, member of parliament in Armeniaand president of the Javakhk Patriotic Union, told reporters that the objective of the protest was to convey to Georgian authorities the demands of Javakhk-Armenians. Mr. Torosyan said they were demanding the release of two Armenians currently incarcerated in Georgia; the granting of legal status to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian language in Samtskhe- Javakhketi-Tsalka; and the improvement of border control at the Armenian-Georgian border crossing. The Georgian ambassador to Armenia, Prof. Revaz Gachechiladze, met with the protesters and accepted their letter of protest. Armenian government to support educational and cultural institutions in Javakhk YEREVAN – Habitat for Humanity Armenia (HFHA) andArmenia’s Ministry of Urban Development have signed an agreement of cooperation, which will provide a framework for collaborative efforts on programs and activities aimed at improving the housing condition in the Armenia. “Over the past year, the Ministry of Urban Development has built a cooperative relationship with Habitat for Humanity Armenia. This Agreement is one of the first steps to initiate the implementation of joint projects,” said Karlen Gevorgyan, deputy minister of urban development. “There are many young families who are currently living in poor housing conditions, but are capable and willing to improve their situation with their own means; all they need is a hand up. The input of Habitat for Humanity Armenia in improving the housing conditions in our country is already visible. We hope that HFHA activities will expand in our country and are willing to support them.” Protest in front of Georgian Embassy in Yerevan. Photo: Photolure. Stepan Petrosyan, deputy diaspora minister, said that the ministry has released almost 200 million AMD from the state budget for the renovation and reconstruction of Armenian schools in Javakhk. The deputy minister said that they also plan to implement educational events in the heavily Armenian-populated region of Georgia. According to Armenpress, the ministry will support music groups, involve Armenian children in cultural programs, and send representatives of Armenian culture to Javakhk. Cultural programs will also be prepared and broadcast via Armenian TV channels in Javakhk. Amendments to law on religion referred to Venice Commission The National Assembly, which was considering amendments to the law on religion and the criminal code, decided to hold off on action, pending consultations with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission. The controversial amendments would penalize proselytizing and make it more difficult for religious organizations to receive legal status in Armenia. Restoration of Kars- Gyumri railroad studied The South Caucasian Railway Company is continuing to study the feasibility of restoring the Kars-Gyumri railroad. At a press conference on February 25, Shevket Shaydulin, the director of the South Caucasian The collaboration between HFHA and the ministry will focus on provision of affordable housing opportunities, development of policies and programs aiming at the introduction of housing institute, and housing intervention aiming at disaster response and disaster risk reduction. HFHA and the ministry forwarded a request to all the regional governments in Armenia to receive information on the need for simple, decent, and affordable housing in their regions and communities. Railway, spoke about this and other initiatives of the company. He said that almost 90 million rubles (about $3 million) will be invested in the restoration and development of the necessary infrastructure. Mr. Shaydulin said that the company will attempt to restore all of Armenia’s railroads. The construction of the Iran-Armenia railroad is considered a priority. “It is important for the Armenian and Russian economies. Construction of the Iran-Armenia railroad is being discussed at the governmental level. The program was positively assessed by Armenian and Russian governments. There is a problem with low labor discipline and low training level of the staff for construction of the railroad. I think the issue will be settled in the nearest future,” said Mr. Shaydulin. Yerevan Zoo to be renovated Kamo Movsisian, head of the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport Affairs at Yerevan told reporters that the Yerevan Zoo will be renovated this year. The city official foresees the cost to be about 175 million AMD (approximately $600,000). Tenders for construction have already been announced. The summer and winter cages for the big cats will be renovated, a sewage system put into place, and also a security system. Last year close to 58 million AMD was spent on renovations at the zoo. f Habitat for Humanity Armenia signs agreement with Urban Development Ministry “All of the 10 regions submitted the information on housing needs in their regions. This only highlights the high level of the need for simple, decent, and affordable homes throughout our country,” said Irina Vanyan, the executive director for HFHA. “It is based upon the received information that we intend to discuss the priorities of further joint projects to eliminate poverty housing in the regions of Armenia.” f connect: www.habitat.am Irina Vanyan, the executive director of HFHA, Ron Terwilliger, chair of the International Board of Directors of HFH, and Vardan Vardanyan, Minister of Urban Development, October 2008. Photo: Ezra Millstein.
The Armenian Reporter | February 28, 2009 17 Armenia The only remaining village from Armenian Goghtn It is worth visiting Karchevan at least once to see the River Araks and eat sunripened fruits by Tatul Hakobyan KARCHEVAN, Syunik Province, Armenia – Of all the villages in Armenia, Karchevan is the secondfarthest from the capital city, more than 400 kilometers. The name Karchevan is very familiar to all those who have crossed the Araks River by land, traveling to Iran or entering Christian Armenia from the Islamic Republic. The name Karchevan is stamped in their passports. The village bearing the same name, which was called Kirchavan in the past, which means a town in the gorge, is situated five kilometers north of the Araks river. Karchevan is on the border of Armenia with Iran and also with Nakhichevan, which was handed to Azerbaijan in 1921 as an autonomous republic. It is known not only for its sweet, sun-ripened fruit, but also for being the only village of the historic Armenian province of Goghtn – today called Ordubad – still remaining within Armenia. Nakhichevan today has almost no autonomy. The totalitarian clan of Vasif Talibov reigns there, with the the support of the local Aliyev dynasty, which rules in Baku. It comprises three historical Armenian regions: Goghtn, Nakhichevan, and Sharur. In 1921, when only 10 percent of the population was Armenian, Nakhichevan was given to Azerbaijan; only Armenian-populated Karchevan remained in Armenia. By 1988, the Armenian residents of the remaining Armenian villages in Goghtn, Nakhichevan, and Sharur had moved out or had been forced to leave the autonomous republic. Sun-ripened fruit typical to the region of Meghri – pomegranate, fig, persimmon, as well as peach and grapes – grow in Karchevan. Armen Avetisian has been the head of the Karchevan village since 1994. “The village has a history of more than 2,000 years,” he said. “Today it has almost 100 homes and 400 residents. The residents of Karchevan are indigenous. In the Meghri region they are famous for being hard workers and for their peculiar dialect, which is a little incomprehensible at first.” One of the few residents of Karchevan who is not from the village is Svetlana Papyan. She moved here from the city of Kajaran. She met her husband here. She is an English-language teacher by profession; this year she was appointed director of the village school. The Karchevan school, which goes from the first through the ninth grades, has a 132-year history and 47 students. The school is in the churchyard. Or perhaps the church is in the schoolyard. The streets are very steep and narrow. The village hall, the kindergarten, the house of culture, the library, and people’s homes are very close to one another. This situation has also had an effect on the character of the local Armen Avetisian. residents; it seems as if they all live together in a big house. The village does not have room to expand. If it were to expand, it would be at the cost of the orchards. Everything is very compact in the village. It is surrounded by three gorges and is very small. That is part of what gives Karchevan its special character. “Forty-seven students study at the school,” Ms. Papyan said. “We do not have a problem with specialists; all of our teachers have graduated from higher education establishments and are highly qualified specialists. Religious instruction is usually conducted in the church. Our village is very developed and the children study very hard. Our students graduate from the secondary school in the city of Agarak.” The school is named after the famous linguist Edward Aghaian, who hailed from the village. Other famous Armenians from Karchevan include chess player Rafael Vahanian and academician Artashes Matevosian. But the pride of the residents of Karchevan is, of course, Garegin Nzhdeh (Karekin Nejdeh); even though he was born in the village of Kznut in Nakhichevan, he frequently visited and stayed in Karchevan when he headed Mountainous Armenia’s struggle against Soviet occupiers. Whereas Armenia became Soviet in December 1920, Zangezur became Soviet half a year later in July 1921. The village head showed me a house that belonged to Gurgen Aghayan, member of parliament of the first Republic of Armenia. Nzhdeh stayed in that house when he visited Karchevan. The most beautiful spot in Karchevan, a small waterfall, is located a small distance from that house. Karchevan is one of the few Armenian villages, from which there has been almost no emigration. Just as in the Soviet years, now too most of the villagers work at the copper-molybdenum factory in the city of Agarak. Agarak, which has about 5,000 residents, was constructed half a century ago as a workers’ town. The city of Agarak is also located within the territory of Karchevan; only two years ago the government stated that the territory belongs to the city. In the second half of March, the copper-molybdenum factory in Agarak will stop working because of the international financial crisis. The factory, which provided 1,450 jobs, will work only partially and about 1,100 workers will be laid off. “There has been almost no immigration from Karchevan, since there is employment. Even if they leave, they go to Agarak, which is four kilometers away, in order to get an A factory in Agarak . Photos: Tatul Hakobyan for the Armenian Reporter. The road from Agarak to Meghri. The border is on the right. apartment. Most of the youngsters of the village worked in the factory. Agriculture had moved to the background. Now that the factory is not working, people will start working in agriculture,” said Mr. Avetisian. To work in agriculture, however, land is required. There are mostly cliffs on the banks of Araks. The hard-working residents of Karchevan have found the solution: they bring soil from other places, lay it on the rocks, and plant trees. The same is being done in other rocky villages in the Meghri region. Sunripened fruit typical to the region of Meghri – pomegranate, fig, persimmon, as well as peach and grapes – grow in Karchevan. The The village of Karchevan. fruits ripened in the Araks gorge are the most delicious in Armenia, as no other region receives as much sun and warmth. During the Soviet years the Meghri region was linked with Yerevan by road and railway, passing through the territory of Nakhichevan. Today it takes about 7–8 hours to reach Yerevan, whereas before it took only three because the roads running along the bank of the Araks to the capital city of Yerevan and the Ararat valley were open. “Taking our fruits to Yerevan is very hard now. After the Karabakh war, the distance to Yerevan has doubled,” said Mr. Avetisian. To say Karchevan or the Meghri region are completely cut off from the world would be wrong. The main and only road going to Iran passes through here. There are comfortable and affordable hotels and food outlets here. Dozens of Iranian tractor trailers and Yerevan-Tehran buses pass by here every day. During the years of the Karabakh war, when Armenia was blockaded by three of its neighboring countries (by doing so Turkey and Azerbaijan were trying to strangle newly independent Armenia, and Georgia had been pulled into the chaos), this road had become the only route through which Armenia kept its links with the outside world. f