National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

Vartkes L.


Ph.D., dies at 80

See story on page 8 m

This International

Women’s Day, let’s

celebrate Zabel


See story on page C4 m

Dram is

stable after

sharp fall

See story on page 1 m

Eastern U.S. Edition

Number 104

March 7, 2009

the armenian


Senator Amy Klobuchar. Photo:


community meets with

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Visit us at the new

See story on page 2 m

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009

Number 104

March 7, 2009

the armenian


AMAA gears up for Orphan and Child Care

luncheon and fashion show

The Armenian Missionary Association

of America’s Orphan and Child

Care Luncheon and Fashion Show

will take place on March 21 at the

Beverly Hills Hotel.

This year’s luncheon theme is

“Children Helping Children through

Hope and Joy.” Given the harsh


Armenia prepares to privatize social security

Starting in January 2010, workers

in Armenia will see part of their

pay go into private pension plans.

The government of Armenia adopted

this decision in November,

at a time when other countries are




moving away from private pension

funds. Maria Titizian looks at the

risks and benefits of the government


See story on page 15 m

First anniversary of March 1 commemorated

Art in the market

The installation forShadows by

Jackie Hayes, which continues

through March 21, invites visitors

to “walk with the ancestors”

into the multicultural space of the

Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis,

juxtaposing the wisdom


A year after the events of March

1, 2008, which cost 10 lives, about

20,000 people gathered near the

Matenadaran in central Yerevan

to hear opposition leader Levon

Ter-Petrossian speak. He struck a

conciliatory tone. Meanwhile, President

Serge Sargsian lit 10 candles

at a church. The Catholicos of All

Armenians conducted a requiem

service at Holy Etchmiadzin. Tatul

Hakobyan reports.

See story on page 16 m

COAF, Cascade Credit provide loans to villagers

The principle is to teach people

how to fish, rather than simply

passing out fish. That is the basis

of the Children of Armenia Fund’s

project of facilitating loans to the

population of Armenia’s rural

communities. Last year, Cascade

Credit, working together with

COAF, provided loans to businesses

in six communities in the Armavir

province: Argina, Dalarik,

Lernagog, Karakert, Miasnikian,

and Shenik. Armen Hakobyan reports

on the outcomes.

See story on page 5 m

UCLA to host major conference on Armenian studies

The Society for Armenian Studies

will mark its 35th anniversary with

a major conference titled, “Armenian

Studies at a Threshold.” The

conference will cover everything

from medieval literature, arts, history,

and culture to sexual allegories

in Armenian literature, from

Armenians in early modern east

central Europe to research on the


of Armenian folklore with the life

and work experiences of the vendors

and staff, many of whom are

recent immigrants. Lou Ann Matossian


See story on page 9 m

contemporary Armenian diaspora.

Over 40 papers are to be delivered

consecutively. In addition, a 12-

member panel will discuss the state

of Armenian studies in the United

States. An architectural exhibit will

be held in conjunction with the


See story on page 7 m

economic conditions of our world

today, the children of Armenia truly

do need the help of our children

here. The AMAA has in place a program

that helps support children in

dire financial need in Armenia.

See story on page 13m

Armenian Genocide resolution

to be introduced shortly

U.S. affirmation of

Genocide will take

time, backers say

by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – Speaking at an

Armenian community event in

Fresno, Calif., on March 1, Rep.

Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) said the

introduction of a resolution affirming

the U.S. record on the Armenian

Genocide was imminent,

the Fresno Bee reported the same

day. One of the resolution’s main

co-sponsors, Mr. Schiff said he

also expected “an onslaught” by

the Turkish government opposing

the measure. American-Armenian

advocacy groups, meanwhile, have

stepped up grassroots efforts to

reach out to members of Congress

and urge them to co-sponsor the

resolution before it is introduced.

Members of Congress warned Armenian-Americans,

however, not to

take the success of the resolution or

presidential affirmation for granted.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.)

told the Armenian Reporter that he

was “not particularly hopeful” that

President Barack Obama’s message

to the Armenian-American community

on April 24 this year “will

contain the word genocide.” Mr.

Sherman was one of the lead sponsors

of the Genocide resolution in

the previous Congress.

Mr. Sherman added that when it

comes to affirmation of the Genocide,

he expected “no success in the

next 60 days,” pointing to Turkey’s

Prices of imports

rose quickly

Fitch sees “stable


IMF pledges $540 mln

in emergency loans

by Armen Hakobyan

YEREVAN – After propping up

the value of the dram for several

months by selling foreign currency

reserves, the Central Bank of Armenia

on Tuesday, March 3, allowed

the dram to float. The price of a

U.S. dollar went from 305 drams to

400 at once. After that initial panic,

in which many people lined up to

buy dollars, the rate stabilized on

Friday to 359 drams to buy a dollar

and 355 to sell.

Prices of many goods rose

sharply. Some shops closed briefly

to adjust their prices. Panicked

buyers on Tuesday emptied the

shelves of grocery stores. Drivers

complained about the new

price of petrol, which was up

by 60 drams a liter, or 20 percent.

A mobile phone that sold

for 155,000 drams in the morning

President Barack Obama with Vice President Joseph Biden in Washington, March

3. Both men are strong supporters of U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

AP Photo: Gerald Herbert.

importance to the Obama administration’s

Middle East priorities.

Mr. Sherman spoke to the Reporter

after addressing an Armenian Assembly

of America advocacy conference

in Washington.

Another congressional supporter

of affirmation, Rep. Jim McGovern

(D.-Mass.), struck a similar note.

On the subject of the Obama

administration’s approach to the Armenian

Genocide, “a lot still remains

unclear,” he told about 100 community

activists at the conference.

Mr. McGovern made the comment

after speaking with Secretary

of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

prior to her departure on a tour of

Europe and Turkey this week. He

added that while he did not know

whether the administration would

“soft-pedal” on pre-election pledges,

he “shared the apprehension” that

it might do so.

During last year’s presidential

campaign, both Mr. Obama and

Mrs. Clinton pledged to affirm the

Armenian Genocide as president.

“We believe that Barack Obama

Dram is stable after sharp fall

was on offer for 200,000 drams a

few hours later.

The head of Armenia’s Central

Bank, Arthur Javadian, announced

on Tuesday that the bank

was returning to its previous policy

of allowing the dram to float without

heavy intervention. He expected

the dollar exchange rate to fluctuate

between 360 and 380 in 2009.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian

said he expected the price of goods

to drop in the next few days.

According to official sources, Armenia

sold $500 million of its foreign

currency reserves in the past

two months. Experts say the Central

Bank sold $730 million since

October, about a third of the country’s


remains a man of his word, and that

this April our president, with the

energetic support of our friends in

Congress, will finally override Turkey’s

veto on U.S. recognition of

the Armenian Genocide,” a source

in Armenian advocacy circles said.

Emphasizing Turkey’s importance

to the United States, President

Obama called Turkey’s president

and prime minister on February 16

to discuss U.S. priorities for the Middle

East. (The State Department’s

senior Middle East envoy George

Mitchell visited Ankara last week.)

While the White House readout of

the conversation made no mention

of Armenian concerns, Turkish officials

claimed that Turkey’s opposition

to U.S. affirmation of the Armenian

Genocide was one of the main

issues raised by Turkish leaders.

In a February 27 briefing, prior to

Mrs. Clinton’s visit to Ankara this

week, outgoing Assistant Secretary

of State for Eurasia Dan Fried

emphasized the “very rich agenda”

Continued on page m

On Wednesday, March 4, a dollar cost 378 drams, down from 400 on Tuesday and

up from 305 on Monday. Photo: Photolure.

The World Bank and the International

Monetary Fund had urged the

government to stop propping up the

dram, and they welcomed the dram’s

devaluation. IMF Managing Director

Dominique Strauss-Kahn immediately

pledged to disburse $540 million

in emergency loans to Armenia.

The currency has lost value over

recent months because of a significant

fall in Armenia’s export revenues

and a decrease in remittances

from Armenians working abroad.

In 2007, Armenians abroad had

sent close to $1 billion home.

The lower value of the dram will

tend to benefit exporters, whose

foreign-currency revenues will go

Continued on page 14 m

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


by Emil Sanamyan

Sudan’s leader wanted

over Darfur crimes

In a landmark ruling against a sitting

head of state, the Hague-based

International Criminal Court issued

an arrest warrant for Sudanese

president Omar al-Bashir,

news agencies reported.

The March 4 warrant charged

Mr. Bashir, who has been ruling

Sudan for 20 years, with crimes

against humanity, murder, and

forcible displacement in Darfur.

The court said that its investigators

did not find enough grounds

to charge Mr. Bashir with genocide,


In response, Sudan ejected foreign-aid

groups and said it would

Washington briefing

President al-

Bashir visits

Turkey's Recep

Tayyip Erdogan

in Jan. 2008 AP


defy the ruling. The warrant was

also opposed by the African Union

and the Arab League, as well as China

and Russia.

The White House reacted cautiously

to the ICC ruling, with

a spokesperson for President

Barack Obama saying that in

general the United States believed

that all those who committed

atrocities in Darfur should be

held accountable and that there

should be an immediate end to


United Nations officials estimate

that several hundred thousand

have died and some 2.7 million

have been displaced during a sixyear

campaign against rebel groups

in Sudan’s Darfur province.

The warrant is a first against a

ruling head of state by the court.

Set up in 2002, the court can only

prosecute crimes committed since

its establishment and has, in addition

to Darfur, investigated allegations

of crimes against humanity

in the Central African Republic,

Democratic Republic of Congo, and

Uganda. Last January it launched

its first-ever trial against a Congolese

militia leader.

While the International Criminal

Court has no power to enforce

its warrants, wanted individuals

could be detained in 108

states that have signed on to the

court’s Rome statute and have

ratified it. While most European

and Latin American countries

and many African countries are

members of the court, China, Russia

and the United States are not.

In the former Soviet space, only

Georgia and Tajikistan have joined

the court so far.

The ruling was welcomed by the

Armenian National Committee of

America. The ANCA has for years

campaigned with groups like the

Save Darfur Coalition for tougher

U.S. action to stop the violence that

the Bush administration described

as genocide.

In recent weeks, as part of the

campaign to win official U.S. affirmation

of the Armenian Genocide,

the ANCA has been highlighting

the ties between Mr. Bashir and

the Turkish government, in what

it has dubbed an “axis of genocide.”

Last year, Turkey decided not to

accede to the court amid worries

that some of its military commanders

could be prosecuted over their

tactics against Kurdish rebels, Zaman

reported at the time.

Turkish officials resume

Washington lobbying…

As in years past, Turkish officials

intensified efforts to lobby the U.S.

Congress ahead of the anticipated

introduction of a congressional

resolution on the Armenian Genocide

and a presidential statement

on April 24.

Speaking at an Armenian community

event in Fresno, Calif., on

March 1, Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.)

said that the introduction of the

resolution was imminent, the Fresno

Bee reported the same day. One of

the resolution’s main co-sponsors,

Mr. Schiff said he also expected “an

onslaught” by the Turkish government

opposing the measure.

According to a Dear Colleague letter

made available to the Armenian

Reporter, a delegation led by the

Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs

Committee chair Murat Mercan

was hosted on the Capitol Hill on

March 5. The letter was distributed

by co-chairs of the Turkey Caucasus

Rep. Robert Wexler (D.-Fla.) and

Ed Whitfield (R.-Ky.) and vice cochairs

Steve Cohen (D.-Tenn.) and

Virginia Foxx (R.-N.C.).

Separately, Rep. Eddie Bernice

Johnson (D.-Tex.) distributed a

letter opposing congressional condemnation

of the Armenian Genocide

and pointing to reports of highlevel

meetings between Armenian

and Turkish officials. For his part,

Rep. Bill Shuster (R.-Penn.) circulated

a newspaper story that played

up Turkey’s importance for the anticipated

U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Turkish officials were also due to

raise their opposition with Secretary

of State Hillary Clinton, who

was due to visit Ankara on March 7.

Community members meet Sen. Amy Klobuchar

by Paul Chaderjian

…while Azerbaijanis

focus on California

A group of Azerbaijani officials was

back in the state with the largest

Armenian-American population.

Member of the Milli Majlis Asim

Mollazade, accompanied by Azerbaijan’s

consul general in Los Angeles

Elin Suleymanov, visited with

members of California State Assembly,

including Sam Blakeslee,

Bob Blumenfield, Julia Brownley,

Felipe Fuentes, Fiona Ma,

and Lori Saldaña.

The visit, a second such tour in

six months, was intended to play

up Azerbaijan’s importance, including

its efforts to turn “black gold”

(oil) into “human gold,” Azerbaijani

media reports said.

Ms. Brownley and Ms. Saldaña

were among California officials

who in September 2007 went to

Azerbaijan, where they heard about

the misdeeds of the “destructive”

Armenian diaspora.

According to a February 24 Trend

news report, Mr. Fuentes sent a letter

to President Ilham Aliyev, expressing

“condolences” to Azerbaijan

over its losses in the Karabakh

war. Mr. Suleymanov called the letter

a “very important event since

Armenians provide false information

about the [Karabakh] conflict.”

Mr. Mollazade and other Azerbaijani

officials were reportedly ordered

to the United States as part

of the Azerbaijani State Committee

for Work with Diaspora “action

plan.” According to APA, the plan

also involved pickets, presentations,

and exhibits held in Washington,

New York, California, and

elsewhere to highlight Azerbaijani

grievances against Armenians. f

Genocide resolution

to be introduced

n Continued from page

Senator Amy

Klobuchar chats

with John and

Maida Domenie

and other

members of

the Armenian-



Photos: Vanessa


Nadya Carson, Ida Gononian, Anahid Ghazarian, Charles Kracht, Senator Amy

Klobuchar, and Anna Marie Norehad at the March 1 event.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.– Foreign

policy, the Republic of Armenia,

displaced Iraqi-Armenians, the

genocide in Darfur, the U.S. economy,

energy, and technology were

some of the topics discussed by U.S.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.)

and members of the Armenian-

American community last Sunday.

The meeting was hosted by Gerard

and Cleo Cafesjian and organized

by the U.S.–Armenia Public Affairs

Committee (USAPAC).

“Senator Klobuchar has developed

a strong interest in U.S.-Armenia

relations,” said John Waters,

vice president of the Cafesjian

Family Foundation and USAPAC

representative. “Senator Klobuchar

has co-sponsored SR 106, the Armenian

Genocide Resolution, and

SR 65, condemning the assassination

of Hrant Dink. And she was

very instrumental in successfully

unlocking additional assistance for

Iraqi-Armenian refugees.”

Sen. Klobuchar – an attorney and

a former county prosecutor – two

years ago became the first woman

elected to represent Minnesotans

in the Senate. Because of her strong

support of American-Armenians interests,

community members were

excited to have a chance to meet

with the senator and her husband,

George Washington University Law

School professor John Bessler.

“I was very pleased to meet her.

She spoke forcefully and spoke

forthright,” said John Domenie of

Naples, Fla. Mr. Domenie, a former

Washington bank manager, and his

wife Maida, co-founders of the Armenian

American Cultural Society

of South West Florida more than

a decade ago, were among the dozens

of community members that

gathered to meet the senator.

“I think she was very well-informed

on a very wide range of

issues,” said Mr. Domenie. “She

covered economy and housing

and politics. She covered so many

things, and it’s obvious that she’s

a very enthusiastic supporter of

President Obama and his policies.”

“I understand she’s been a good

advocate for Armenian cause,” said

Mrs. Domenie. “She made a very

good impression as a senator. She

was persuasive, and she didn’t hesitate

on explaining her positions.”

After a brief introduction, Sen.

Klobuchar talked extensively to

those gathered about a range of topics

from healthcare reform to energy

technologies. The senator said

she is optimistic that “the economy

country can be turned around.”

Speaking about U.S. ties with the

Republic of Armenia, Sen. Klobuchar

noted that Armenia has fared

better in its economic and democratic

practices than other nations

in the region, and that the United

States can have an even more active

role in helping Armenia in its

ongoing transition.

“I wished her well for what she’s

been doing for the Armenian people,”

said Mark Nahabedian of

Marco Island, Fla. Mr. Nahabedian

told the Armenian Reporter that he’s

been with many “politicians” over

the years and that when they are

speaking, he often feels as if they

are thinking of someone or something

else. “But not Amy,” he said.

“She gave everyone at the meet-andgreet

her undivided attention. She

was a well-informed and sincerely

interested in Armenian-American




shared by the United States and Turkey.

Mr. Fried said that in addition

to Middle East priorities, Mrs. Clinton’s

talks would include a discussion

of the efforts to “advance peace

between Azerbaijan and Armenia’s

settlement over Nagorno-Karabakh.”

In a comment about the latter

subject, Mr. Sherman described

Karabakh as an “Armenian territory,”

where any settlement should

“make sure that people of Artsakh

are self-governing and safe.” While

Mr. Sherman reiterated his support

for U.S. recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh

Republic, he also acknowledged

there was significant

opposition to such a move.

Both Mr. Sherman and Mr. Mc-

Govern spoke at the Armenian Assembly’s

2009 National Advocacy

Conference that focused on efforts

to win U.S. government affirmation

of the Armenian Genocide as

well as recent academic research on

the subject of the genocide.

Mr. Sherman is a senior member

of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He has been a longtime and

prominent supporter of Armenian-

American concerns. Mr. McGovern is

a member of the House Rules Committee

and also a strong advocate of

Armenian Genocide affirmation.

Other scheduled conference

speakers included Sen. John Ensign

(R.-Nev.), Reps. Thaddeus

McCotter (R.-Mich.), Gus Bilirakis

(R.-Fla.), Reps. Zack Space

(D.-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.);

Major General Tod Bunting of the

Kansas National Guard; Armenian

Genocide scholar Hilmar Kaiser; as

well as Armenia’s Diaspora Minister

Hranush Hakobyan and Director

of the Armenian Genocide Museum-

Institute Hayk Demoyan. f

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


Photographer Alexandra Avakian seeks to

“humanize the other side”

She has worked in

some of the world’s

most violent places

Alexandra Avakian has been a National

Geographic photographer

since 1995. Armenia, Gaza, Iran, Lebanon’s

Hezbollah, and Muslims in the

United States have been among her

assignments. From 1988 to 1996 she

worked for Life, Time, and the New

York Times Magazine, covering conflicts

in Africa, the Middle East, and

the former Soviet Union, including

the 1988 earthquake in Armenia and

the war in Karabakh.

Ms. Avakian recently released

a book, Windows of the Soul: My

Journeys in the Muslim World,

published by Focal Point / National

Geographic. She completed it while

she successfully battled breast cancer.

The book includes a chapter on the

former USSR, including a number of

photos from Karabakh.

She spoke about her work with

Washington Editor Emil Sanamyan

on February 13.

Professional roots

Armenian Reporter: What

brought you to photography?

Alexandra Avakian: By the

time I graduated from college, I

was already very advanced, soon

became a professional, and got my

first paid job at Newsweek. And one

of the most important reasons is

my dad.

Ms. Avakian produces the November

1969 issue of Life magazine (“I

just bought it on E-bay”) featuring

the work of her father, the late Aram

Avakian, a filmmaker best known

for his 1969 film End of the Road.

The article includes a picture of Ms.

Avakian’s mother, actress Dorothy

Tristan, and of Alexandra herself.

And the family’s artistic prominence

by no means ends there. Aram’s

brother George Avakian is a jazz

music producer who was honored with

a Grammy award on February 7.

Avakian: My dad taught me how

to tell stories through pictures from

the time I was very, very young. He

sat me down on his lap as he was

editing a movie, and he would say,

“Here is where you cut the story and

this is why.” And he would let me

make the cut.

I would draw him a story on a

blank strip of film that he would

run through a Moviola, so that I

could see the product. Photography

was a way of expressing myself

since the time I was very young.

By the time I finished college in

1983, I already had a portfolio of my

work in Manhattan. And that was

another thing, since I was born in

New York City, I didn’t really have

to go far to begin working for top


AR: And how did you end up going

that far away from home?

Avakian: Already in college I

was very fascinated by revolution

and fights for freedom and how far

people would go to be free. And it

did not have anything to do with


I covered the Berlin Wall fall [in

1989] and ended up living in Moscow

[from 1990 to 1992] during the

fall of the Soviet Union, and I was

fascinated with all these republics

spinning away and what they were


The other important thing that

influenced my work deeply is my

Armenian heritage. Like many Armenians,

my family fled many terrible

things, survived many horrors,

and that led me to engage in world

events and cover people’s suffering.

Alexandra Avakian in Palestine.

Learning what my family went

through was the ultimate lesson in

empathy for others. And working

in regions my family had lived in

was a way of reaching my ancestors

and relatives who have passed and

can no longer speak to me and tell

me what it was like to live through

these things. I felt the need to understand

what human beings do to

one another and why, and what it is

like to be in the shoes of a refugee

woman trying to escape with her


The strange and awful

times in Armenia

AR: You went to Armenia following

the earthquake in December


Avakian: I did. We were on a

family vacation in Egypt. And when

I heard [the news] I felt I could never

forgive myself if I did not get on

the plane and go.

So, I went to the Soviet Embassy

and there was an ethnic Armenian

diplomat there. And I nagged him,

“Please, I am an Armenian, I have

got to go.” And he said, “You need

an invitation [to go into USSR] but

just go.”

When asked if the diplomat in question

was the current foreign minister

of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian,

who worked for the Soviet Embassy in

Egypt at the time, Ms. Avakian says:

“You are probably right, but that was a

long time ago.”

“It is interesting how many people

who became well-known Armenians I

met over the years while at work,” she

adds later. “I met Robert Kocharian

while he was organizing a protest in

the Stepanakert street in 1989. And

Arkady Ghukasian and I worked

side by side on the front line when he

was a war reporter in 1992.”

So he gave me a visa and I went,

and I landed in Moscow, and I

could never have imagined myself

in that place. I was wearing very

light clothing and it was snowing. I

could not get a hotel room because

I did not have an invitation.

But I had already been working

for Time and Life magazines a lot

and by the time I arrived in Moscow,

I had an assignment to cover

the earthquake. I went to their

[Moscow] bureau, not realizing at

the time that my life would center

on that bureau and the former

USSR for the next four years.

It took me a while to get permission

to get out to Armenia. In the

meantime, I photographed children

evacuated from Armenia to

Moscow and camped out at government

buildings there.

Eventually, I went to Armenia for

a month and lived with Armenian

doctors from MSF [Doctors without

Borders] in a broken-down school

in Leninakan, now Gyumri.

It was a strange and awful time.

When I first arrived our plane had

to land in Georgia because of the

weather – I think a plane had just

crashed trying to land in Armenia

and we drove in.

The first place we stopped was

Spitak, and there were these

trenches for the coffins. It was extremely

difficult. To see people suffer

is difficult enough and that was

in a country where I have roots.

I saw very moving and very surprising

things. Like in a war, [in a

major calamity] you see the seemingly

weak become strong and

strong become weak; I saw a lot

of that. There were villages where

people were looking after one another

and villages where aid trucks

were attacked.

After covering the earthquake

area, Time magazine had me stay

on to cover some of the skirmishes

on the border with Azerbaijan [in

early 1989]. It was in the Kapan

area [in southern Armenia]. There

were these villagers mostly with

hunting rifles and some with Kalashnikovs

patrolling the area. I

stayed at the home of one of their

grandmothers, who was a very classic

Armenian lady.

And then, being based in Moscow,

I kept coming back to Armenia.

But I also went to the Baltic

states, Central Asia, and to Georgia

and covered the wars there. (In fact,

my grandmother was an Armenian

from Tbilisi, whereas my grandfather

was from an Armenian village

in northwestern Iran.)

AR: When did you cover the

Karabakh war?

Alexandra Avakian in Somalia in 1993. Photo: Alfred Yagobzadeh.

Avakian: I got out there five or

six times during the war and afterward

as well.

The first time I really covered

Karabakh was for the New York

Times with Bill Keller in August

1989. We arrived in Baku – it was

still possible for me to do this in

the Soviet period – and we went

by train to Aghdam and then to

Shushi and Stepanakert.

There was not an out-and-out war

yet. Armenians and Azeris were

fighting village to village. [The Soviet

envoy] Arkady Volsky was still

in [charge of Karabakh] and Soviet

troops were very much there.

The next time I went in March

1992. Things got really intense by

then. My Armenian colleagues in

Yerevan discouraged me from going,

but I again really felt like I had

to go. In the end they gave me a

In Spitak there were

these trenches for

the coffins.... To

see people suffer is

difficult enough and

that was in a country

where I have roots.

bulletproof vest and a map. We

took a small plane in that landed

like this [makes a corkscrew motion].

AR: What did you see?

Avakian: It was bad. People

were losing their minds because

they were living underground [in

bomb shelters] for so long. 158 or

159 Grad missiles landed on Stepanakert

in one day. It was nuts.

It was also fascinating because I

got permission to work at the front

line in the trenches between Askeran

and Aghdam. And it was as wild

and out of control as wars get.

I went to one of the exchanges,

where prisoners, civilians, as well

as bodies were traded. And as we

were driving away a shell flew right

over the hood of the Armenian

commander’s car we were in. They

tried to kill us. And it was not the

guys with whom the trade was

done because their commander

was actually a friend of the Armenian

commander’s. And you could

tell the shell came from another


I could no longer cross the line to

the Azeri side – it was impossible

at that time. And in fact it was not

possible for a while before and after.

As a journalist you want to reach

the other side but it was just not

possible [because of my ethnicity].

Windows of the Soul is not about

Armenia – that I will get to, perhaps

when I do a book on the fall of

Communism or something – but I

decided to include Karabakh.

The last time I went to Karabakh

was in 2003 when I did a story on

Armenia for National Geographic.

I guess I have been to Armenia 15

times all together.

AR: And how did Armenia strike

you that time?

Avakian: The previous time I

went was in 1994, shortly after the

cease-fire, so there was a big difference.

But there were three things

that were challenging for Armenia.

In Gyumri, there were still

people living in a bad situation

in makeshift housing. There were

so many Armenian men going to

work in Russia, leaving women and

children alone. And something that

former Soviet republics have difficulty

focusing on with all the other

problems – the environmental issues,

like industrial waste.

But it was a much happier time

and I really felt the country was really

healing at that time.

Importance of mutual


AR: You worked in Iran – covering

Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral

in 1988 and again later – and you

worked with Hezbollah in Lebanon

and in Gaza. Was it especially challenging

for a woman?

Avakian: I had to wear extremely

strict hijab (modest dress with

head covering) in 1988. Now it is

much looser, you can show more

hair, but then it was really strict.

It was never my role to challenge

those mores at all. For me wearing

a scarf was like having a passport.

And when I wear it, I am treated

with respect and people know that

I respect their culture. And I am

happy about that.

There is a chapter in the book

about Muslim-Americans. I spent

almost two years with them after

the September 11 attacks.

In one of the assignments, I photographed

the Muslim population

of Graterford prison in Pennsylvania

– some 800 inmates, mostly

African-Americans – they are mainstream

Sunni Muslims and just a

few Nation of Islam guys.

It was a maximum-security facility,

a lot of [people] sentenced to

life in prison. But when I went in,

even though it is America, I went

in full Islamic dress to show respect

to the Muslim elders at the prison.

Continued on page m

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


Defending Artsakh’s interests in the United States

by Vardan Barseghian

Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh

– After I served nearly a decade as

NKR permanent representative (ambassador)

to the United States (August

1999–January 2009), President

Bako Sahakian recently asked me

to return to Artsakh to continue my

carrier at the NKR Ministry of Foreign

Affairs, where I have since been

appointed deputy minister.

Taking the opportunity of this

medium, I want to, first of all, express

gratitude to everyone who

have contributed to the work of the

Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh

Republic in the United States (Artsakh’s

Embassy) and extended their

friendship to me and my family

throughout these years. I look forward

to a continued engagement

with all our well-wishers and to

seeing you in Artsakh frequently.

This commentary will recap some

of the accomplishments and offer

a look to the future of Artsakh’s

diplomatic mission in the United

States now led by my able successor

Robert Avetisian.

Throughout my posting in Washington,

the focus of our work has

been on defending and advancing

Artsakh’s political and economic

interests in the United States, on

expansion of ties between our two

countries, and on promotion of our

shared objectives of regional peace,

democracy, and prosperity.

We engaged with the State Department,

Congress, policy and

academic circles, media, and the

Armenian-American community

to build support for Artsakh’s aspirations

to live in freedom and

secure from aggression, to facilitate

humanitarian and investment

projects that have helped rebuild

Artsakh’s war-torn infrastructure

and also spurred economic development.

We worked closely with our allies

on Capitol Hill and the Washingtonbased

Armenian-American organizations

to ensure continuation and

expansion of U.S. direct economic

assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is fulfilling to see that in the fiscal

2009 budget, Congress allocated

up to $8,000,000 for aid programs

in Nagorno-Karabakh. I thank the

U.S. government and the American

people for this critical assistance.

On political front, we continually

educated members of Congress

about Artsakh’s ongoing struggle

for freedom. As a result, over 100

members of the House of Representatives

signed letters urging

the U.S. president to take note of

Artsakh’s progress and to promote

formal U.S. recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh

Republic. In cooperation

with Armenian-American

organizations and our congressional

friends, we organized several

Capitol Hill events dedicated to

Artsakh, bringing together members

of Congress, prominent human

rights advocates and lawyers,

and hundreds of activists.

The office arranged and facilitated

dozens of visits by senior NKR

officials to the United States. These

included bilateral visits and those

in the framework of annual Armenia

Fund telethons that have generated

over $150 million for major

infrastructure projects in Artsakh

and Armenia.

A sustained and

deepened engagement

with all branches of

the U.S. government is


Seeking to raise international

awareness about our struggle for

freedom, we launched a first-ever

Vartan Barsegian.

comprehensive English-language

website about Artsakh at www. Thanks to this website

we met many well-wishers worldwide.

Some of these new friends

ended up sponsoring projects in

Artsakh; many also volunteered

their skills and time.

Mindful of the importance of the

modern media in our outreach efforts,

we launched ArtsakhOnline,

a YouTube channel. One of our first

installments, a short documentary

film “Struggle for Freedom,” produced

in cooperation with Los Angeles

filmmaker Peter Musurlian,

has been watched over 10,000


Since 1999, we have published

a monthly newsletter distributed

in print in Washington, the United

States, and around the world.

The newsletter was also available

online. Last year, the newsletter

transitioned to a more frequent

electronic-only format distributed

by email.

Our office monitored major

media outlets, reacting when necessary

to misrepresentations of

Artsakh, while also promoting objective

coverage. My letters to the

editor appeared repeatedly in the

Washington Post, Washington Times,

Wall Street Journal, and Christian

Science Monitor. In Washington our

work has been covered by the Washington

Diplomat, Diplomatic Traffic,

Voice of America, and Eurasia Net.

I had opportunities to speak at

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government,

the University of Texas,

the Zoryan Institute in Toronto,

and elsewhere. Under my leadership,

the office facilitated expert research,

conferences, visits to, and

publications about Artsakh.

We worked closely with the

Detroit-based Armenian Children’s

Relief Fund and other supporters

to sponsor medical treatment for

dozens of Artsakh children, as well

as wounded veterans; we also connected

benefactors to humanitarian

projects in Artsakh.

More recently, in cooperation

with the Armenian General Benevolent

Union (AGBU) and the

Americans for Artsakh (AFA) we

launched a series of profess training

seminars for NKR officials. The

first session successfully concluded

last summer; the second session,

focused on effective communication

and conflict resolution, is currently

underway in Stepanakert.

Hundreds of friends, Armenians

and non-Armenians alike, have

stood by the office throughout

these years, providing financial

support, volunteering their expertise

and time, and helping to advance

our common objectives.

On behalf of my government, I

thank again the Armenian Assembly

of America, the Cafesjian Family

Foundation, the AGBU, and the

Armenian Missionary Association

of America and their leadership

for extending critical financial

and technical support throughout

these years. Special thanks to

Armen Kanayan of Stratomedia

for his tireless volunteer efforts to

develop and maintain our website;

I also want to single out Joanne

Ablett and Emil Sanamyan for

their support.

This is the short list of our efforts

so far. What is next for Artsakh advocacy

in America?

As with any institution, greater

financial security of our office remains

a priority to be able not only

to maintain but also to expand our

operations. It is also time for Artsakh’s

diplomatic representation to

have its own roof in Washington.

Our political agenda should remain

in focus. The United States

remains a global leader and one of

the lead mediators in the Nagorno-

Karabakh peace process, and that

means a sustained and deepened

engagement with all branches of

the U.S. government is needed. In

Congress, that means reaching out

both to our friends and opponents,

as we have done in the past.

Speaking with one voice on Artsakh

is critical to success. Through

collaboration with the Armenian

Embassy and Washington-based

Armenian-American organizations,

we have established this common

agenda on Artsakh: (1) expansion

of U.S.-NKR relations; (2) continuation

of U.S. direct aid to Artsakh

while transitioning from humanitarian

to development projects; and

(3) safeguarding regional peace.

Artsakh and the United States

share universal values of freedom,

democracy, and peace. We both

fought fierce wars (although some

200 years apart) to free ourselves

from foreign tyranny, to be the

masters of our own destiny, and to

enjoy the promise of liberty, equality,

and justice for all.

Sharing many of the modern

challenges, we are also partners in

advancing common goals of peace

and economic development. This

is a great foundation to take the

U.S.-NKR relations to the next level,

ensuring unhindered communication

and collaboration.

Expansion of U.S. economic aid

to Artsakh while transitioning

from humanitarian to development

projects is critical to ensuring

that all parts of the South Caucasus

region receive equal opportunities

to rebuild war-damaged infrastructure,

providing aid to refugees and

internally displaced persons, and

ensuring steady economic development.

Drinking water, healthcare,

and mine clearance remain on the

top of our priorities and Artsakh

will continue to be an effective and

responsible partner in advancing

all aid programs.

At the same time, considering

the genocidal rhetoric and increasing

capabilities of our opponents,

the possibility of renewed aggression

against the Armenian nation

is unfortunately all too real.

We are confident in our ability

to defend ourselves, but our overriding

diplomatic priority is to

preempt a new war, saving lives

on both sides of the current divide

while building on a promise of a

peaceful future for all.

Artsakh’s noble struggle is continuing

on political, diplomatic, economic,

informational, and cultural

fronts. Unity in purpose and action

remains the key to our sustained

success in Washington and elsewhere

around the world. f

Photographer Alexandra Avakian seeks to “humanize the other side”

n Continued from page

I was coming to ask them if I could

photograph their Friday prayers.

And they were very welcoming to

me. Moreover, they protected me

in this very dangerous facility, because

when you are deep inside a

prison like that there are no armed

guards around.

World’s least

frequented places

AR: What was the most dangerous

place that you have been to?

Avakian: There are different levels

of danger.

Living in Gaza, anything could

happen any time. I was shot at by

an Israeli sniper and beaten bloody

by Hamas just doing my job. It was

at the time of riots against Yasser

Arafat’s Palestinian authority.

[In the latter case] I had to go

the Hamas sheikh in the area that

I lived in to complain, because I

could not be beaten like that and

continue living in that place. And

the next day they ordered from the

minarets that journalists are not to

be attacked.

Somalia definitely was most dangerous

in terms of going from place

A to place B. You could not do it

without bodyguards. They could

kill you for a can of coke, your sunglasses,

or nothing. I was there for

five months and people were dying

from starvation all around and

clans were fighting each other.

In the book there is a story about

a 12-year-old boy trying to kill me.

For nothing. His gun was practically

as big as he was. And I yelled

at him, “I could be your mother.”

And other gunmen around actually

took his gun away from him. It was

a gamble, but it turned out OK.

AR: And how was southern Sudan?

How did you even get in there?

Avakian: I was in Nairobi, Kenya,

and wanted to cover Sudan, where

the famine was getting worse. With

a few journalist friends we rented

a little plane, with Time magazine

and Reuters splitting the costs.

We went and spent some time

in Ayod, this tragic village with the

Irish aid group Concern. The people

were starving to death there

in large numbers. And the axle on

the plane breaks as it hits a hole in

the earthen landing strip on takeoff

and we wait for another plane.

And then we fly to this other village,

Yuai, to photograph the rebel chief

and his guerilla fighters.

The writers, including the Time

correspondent, did their interviews

and they said “we are done”

straight after they finished their interview

with the commander. And

the United Nations [people] said,

“we are done too,” because they

could not operate anymore with

the front line getting so close.

All the aid agencies left and I

stayed along with two other journalists

because I did not have my story

yet. (In addition to starving civilians

I needed to cover the rebels.)

I finally got out of there after being

stranded with no way out after

my work was done, when an aid

plane dropped some bags of food

and I jumped aboard. But all the

people of that village were massacred

a couple of weeks later if they

were too weak to run. I can never

forget them.

From violence to


Now, for many years I no longer

cover open conflicts. By the time

National Geographic first hired me

in 1995 I felt I was really done. I had

seen too many funerals and I felt

lucky to be in one piece.

But before that, [covering conflicts]

was my job and my calling.

Starting with the Haitian uprising

against Jean-Claude Duvalier in

1986 and through 1995, I was covering


But I am still interested in revolutions

and revolutionary societies

are fascinating. And I love culture.

I am always interested in covering

the other side.

What I think I have

learned is that all over

the world people want

to feed their families,

they want freedom of

speech and security,

they want respect.

Iran, for example, is fascinating

for all those reasons. It is a very old

culture, by now also an old revolution

and also a long-time enemy of

the United States.

It is very interesting to go to the

other side and capture the humanity

of people. How they get up in the

morning and have breakfast. How

they dress. How they worship, whatever

their religion. All these things

humanize the other side and this is

especially important in a post 9/11

world of deep misunderstandings.

Because then I feel like there is a

chance for dialogue.

AR: The recently elected President

Barack Obama has been

talking about the need for dialogue

with the Muslim world. Having

spent so much time in that world,

what advice can you offer?

Avakian: I am not an advocate.

I always try to cover both sides. I

think that is my duty as a reporter.

What I think I have learned is

that all over the world people want

to feed their families, they want

freedom of speech and security,

they want respect. This is what all

people share.

Now, looking back at the many

conflict areas I covered it seems

economics are at the root of many

conflicts. People need to have an

opportunity to make a living, to

protect their families, and to build

a decent life.


Alexandra Avakian is a senior member of

the prestigious Contact Press Images, N.Y.

photo agency:


For Avakian’s National Geographic blog,

book, gallery, bio and more visit:


The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


COAF, Cascade Credit equip villagers to help

by Armen Hakobyan

ARMAVIR, Armenia – The principle

is to teach people how to fish,

rather than simply passing out

fish. That is the basis of the Children

of Armenia Fund’s project of

facilitating loans to the population

of Armenia’s rural communities.

Last year, Cascade Credit, working

with COAF, provided loans to businesses

in six communities in the

Armavir province: Argina, Dalarik,

Lernagog, Karakert, Miasnikian,

and Shenik.

As a journalist for the past 15

years, I have had the opportunity

to become acquainted with various

projects implemented in Armenian

communities throughout

the country and their results. In all

those communities where people

received only fish, over time they

got used to begging for help. When

the charitable assistance vanished,

there was virtually no qualitative

improvement in their living conditions.

The situation is completely different

where fishing rods are provided

and people are taught how

to fish. The new fishers treat the

aid and its results with particular

care, maintain their pride, and just

as importantly, learn how to use

their hands and heads and earn

their daily bread by the sweat of

their brows instead of constantly

depending on outside help.

Perhaps the experience of these

observations was the motive for my

accepting to go with COAF employees

to those villages within their

program to get acquainted with

the results of the project that was

begun a year ago. I wanted to see

those villagers who had received

loans and perhaps learn of their

successes. I was happily surprised.

Tractor driver Hakob Yengibarian

is 38 years old and has an 18

year old son, Hmayak, who will

soon be drafted into military service.

Hakob also has another son,

Nerses, and a daughter, Ani. As is

the way in the villages, Hakob and

his wife Anna share the worries

of the household with the entire

family – all their children.

The burden is not small. “We

cultivate land. We have a fivehectare

plot and cultivate it all by

ourselves,” said Hakob and added,

“It is OK, we are not complaining,

it is very good. Compared

to last year it is very good now. I

have bought a bull calf and have

increased the animal population.

Now we have seven bull calves,

four dairy cows, and pigs. I have

been able to develop through this

loan. I learned about this loan

through our villagers and took a

one-year loan. What have I done?

Hakob Yengibarian with his tractor. Photos: Armen Hakobyan for the

Armenian Reporter.

Hakob Yengibarian

I will tell you: I bought two types

of seeds: barley and alfalfa; four

bull calves, two tires for the tractor;

and paid for the agricultural

works. This was a great support

as I already had the land, but I

did not have the money to work it,

but when I took the loan things

began to move forward. I must

repay the loan in three years, but

I have already managed to return

400 thousand drams of the one

million. I think I should be able to

return it all very easily. Thanks to

God, and success to all those who

are implementing this project.”

We get to know Hakob’s and

Anna’s farm and the bull calves

and before saying goodbye, pose

for a group photograph with the

family and the pleasant employees

of COAF who have already become

members of the family of

this formerly socially vulnerable

and now successful farmer. f

Successful formula:

a good idea + clever


While the car maneuvered the Yerevan-Armavir

highway, I chatted

with Ovsanna Yeghoyan, head

of COAF projects. “The main aim

of the cooperation between our

organization and Cascade Credit

is to increase the accessibility of

loans in rural communities. Eight

months before the spring of 2008,

when, together with Cascade

Credit, we announced this cooperation,

we had already developed

this joint loan initiative, which is

truly unprecedented in Armenia

for rural communities. Loans are

provided on favorable terms, 11 to

14 percent over 1 to 7 years. The

loan project is advantageous for

rural residents as it offers an opportunity

to receive a loan by putting

their property and machinery

as collateral. The interest rate for

women is 11.5 percent,” Mr. Yeghoyan

said. She also noted that the

person who receives the loan can

develop a flexible timetable with

Cascade Credit for repayment of

the loan, taking into consideration

the specificity of the agricultural


Ms. Yeghoyan noted that COAF

began its work in the village of

Karakert. Having succeeded in

restoring and renovating infrastructure

(including water pipelines,

schools, and mobile health

clinics), COAF began in 2006 to

extend the geographic coverage of

its activities. Using the principle

of clustering, for three years now

the foundation has been implementing

the Model Village Cluster


Cascade Capital (which is owned

by the Cafesjian Family Foundation,

with which this newspaper is

affiliated) invested $1 million in the

loan project.

Initially about 100 villagers

showed interest in borrowing.

Soon after the number of applicants

reached 340. Understandably,

loans could not be allocated to everyone

and those applicants who

presented the more convincing

projects and could ensure repayment

of the loan, were accepted.

Luisa Saroyan

Luisa Saroyan. is a resident of Shenik.

This 50-year-old woman from

Gyumri, who has resided in Shenik

for 25 years, manages to keep her

smile and strength, even though

her troubles are also not few. The

fact that for the past several years

her husband has been ill is a great

sorrow for both her unemployed

husband and the members of her

family. She has a large family: two

sons, two daughters-in-law, and

at present two grandchildren. The

farm is also large: two and a half

hectares of land, dozens of bull

calves, about 100 lambs, sheep,

pigs, and more.

“We learned about the loan last

year. People treated us politely,

cordially, and kindly,” said Mrs.

Saroyan only after setting the table

with sweets and fruits for us.

“They gave us 4 million drams. We

had livestock and bought some

more. We have already repaid half

a million of it and soon we will repay

another half million. In other

words, we do not have problems

with repayment. We sold the bull

Khachatur Avetisian

Ofelia Avoyan

Ofelia Avoyan from the neighboring

village of Karakert has also

taken out a loan from this project.

She has taken out a 3,000,000

dram loan to be repaid in four

years. Mrs. Avoyan, a former employee

at the Community Hall,

has taken out the loan in order

to open a shop in the village next

to her house. She has opened a

small but, by village standards,

medium-sized shop, starting

from scratch. “I have been operating

the shop for four months now.

My income is sufficient and this

is where my family income comes

from. Of course, there were risks

in opening a shop, but this is the

only shop in this part of the village.

After a while I saw that it

was profitable. I work within the

law. We manage to keep our heads

above water and repay the loan

with this shop,” she told us. f

Socially vulnerable

villager + correct loan

+ work = successful


The Shenik village of Armavir

marz entered the 21st century with

its 1,000 residents without piped

drinking water; it did not have piped

drinking water during the Soviet

Luisa Saroyan with her farm animals.

calves and bought sheep. We still

have 30 bull calves, 2 cows, three

sows, two of which will soon give

birth. The repayment terms are

advantageous, especially since

they surprised us on the occasion

of Mothers Day on April 7 – my

loan has the lowest interest rate

Khachatur Avetisian’s lavash bakery. Photo: COAF.

Fifty-five-year-old Khachatur Avetisian,

a resident of the village of

Miasnikian, has taken out a loan

equivalent to about $10,000. He

has used it for multiple purposes:

furnishing his shop and increasing

the product range and opening a

lavash bakery. “We are very grateful

for this loan. I have met many

people who have taken out loans,

but the loans provided by Cascade

Credit are the most advantageous

because of their interest rates.

Their attitude is also very kind. I

do not use a single penny of that

loan for other purposes. I have two

children, each of them has two

sons, my mother is still alive, thank

God. We all work together, all of

us. In the beginning we wanted to

use the loan to establish vineyards.

However, when I received the money

the seasons had already passed.

We will try to implement that project

this year. But one thing is clear

to me: the loan is not a burden to

us. For a hard-working man those

Ofelia Avoyan in her brand new store.

years either. Today, as in the past,

their drinking water is “imported”;

it is brought and delivered to the villagers

by tanker. Currently 40 liters

of water sells for 200 drams. For domestic

use, the villagers use the water

from wells in their gardens.

The representatives of COAF tell

me that of the 107 loans, only two

faced difficulty. This means that for

105 cases the project has succeeded

in its mission.


at 11 percent. We have used our

land and bull calves as collateral.

I will say this: if you take out a

loan and use it correctly and not

for buying sweets or furniture, if

you work hard and with enthusiasm,

you will profit. In our case,

our whole family works.” f

terms are not a burden,” said Mr.

Avetisian with a contented smile,

while showing us the newly constructed

and fully operating bakery

with pride.


6 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009




A special date and

cause for celebration

aeuna to salute Rev. Bernard

Guekguezian for 55 years of service

by Armen


We call it our “Thursday Night

Date.” After 33 years of marriage,

it’s still an evening of romance

and heavy breathing when just

the two of us wine and dine, discuss

anything and everything,

and celebrate our joint venture as

husband and wife. No matter how

busy our calendars might be and

regardless of what the week has

piled onto our plates, we’re home

by six, spruced up by seven, and

on our way out the door to a favorite

restaurant. For those next

two or three hours – it’s strictly

all about us. We share appetizers

and entrees, thoughts and reflections,

hopes and dreams, and

then finish off the evening with

dessert. No calorie counting, no

interruptions – just time for the

two of us to be together. The wait

staff knows to seat us in a quiet,

private corner; our friends and

family know not to intrude, and

our Thursday night ritual has become

even more filling than the

food that is served at our table.

In recent weeks, the conversation

has focused on a new chapter

of life that is about to begin. My

husband Dan is turning 60. By the

time this goes to print, it will be a

done deal. To thwart off the depression,

I have kept a close vigil

by his side, constantly whispering

in his ear, “Don’t worry honey, 60

is the new 40.” I think the harshest

reality is just coming to terms

with the amazing passage of time.

It seems that only minutes ago

we were newlyweds. He was fresh

out of law school and introducing

me to his family. Before long, we

were birthing babies and raising

a family. Now, in the blink of an

eye, life has fast-forwarded while

the mailman delivers those ridiculous

mailings from aarp (which

by the way, go directly into the

garbage can). Where has the time

gone? How can my 26-year-old

boyfriend and fiancé be on the

cusp of 60?

I’d tell you to ask him, but his

buddies kidnapped him earlier today

and flew him to the coast for a

couple of rounds of golf. He called

home at dinnertime and you

should have heard the commotion

– the noise level was obnoxiously

loud and they were laughing and

howling like immature schoolboys

– which was actually kind of cute.

I probably sounded more like a

Armenian Reporter columnist Armen D.

Bacon is senior director for communications

and public relations for the Fresno

County Office. Ms. Bacon lives in Fresno,

California, and is a wife, mother, professional

woman, and writer. Since 2004,

her thoughts and reflections about life

have been published in the “Valley Voices”

section of The Fresno Bee as well as

the Armenian Reporter. She also writes,

produces, and hosts a radio series titled

“Live, Laugh, Love” on Fresno’s K-jewel

99.3 radio. She can be reached at

mother than a wife with my reaction.

I told him to have fun, please

drive carefully, buckle up for safety

and return home in one piece.

After all – we have some serious

celebrating to do this weekend

and I’d hate for him to miss his

own party.

While he perhaps is dreading

this passage, I must admit that

I love birthdays, especially when

they belong to those around me.

Let’s face it - it’s the one time during

the year when we have cause to

pause. This weekend, as my hubby

accustoms himself to the big 6-0,

we will sip champagne, fine dine

– this time with an entourage of

close friends, indulge ourselves

with a decadent cake, chocolate of

course, and the grandkids will arrive

just in time to climb onto his

lap, sneak a finger full of frosting,

and help him extinguish the blazing

number of candles that adorn

his birthday cake. I promise you,

he’ll be in seventh heaven from

that moment on. After everyone

leaves, we’ll turn down the lights,

get into our sweats and take a

candid look back on our lives. In

the midst of all the reminiscing,

we will marvel at the strength

and stamina of our longstanding

love affair.

There will be one confession.

I will apologize for not having

bought him a gift on this momentous

occasion. I admit he deserves

the moon. I’ll explain how I contemplated

devoting this entire column

to him – maybe transforming

it to a gushy, romantic love letter

for the world to see, you know, as

a personal declaration of my love

for him, but I know it would have

embarrassed him to Hye heaven.

Armenian men tend to be very private

when it comes to matters of

the heart. I’ll share with him that

another thought had also crossed

my mind - I was going to reformat

this column and create a list of the

60 reasons why I adore him. Kind

of corny, I know. And the editors

would most certainly have balked.

[Maybe not. –Ed.] And knowing

me, I would have run the list up

past 60, undoubtedly exceeding

my designated number of column

inches. So that option was out of

the question.

Time is running short. While

I search for resolve, I think I’ll

just sit here and do some stream

of consciousness writing, allow

my fingers to free associate on

the keyboard and fill the screen

with a collection of special moments

and memories that we

have shared through the years.

I’ll print them out, using a favorite

font. Seeing this on paper

will confirm my hunch that I’m

the luckiest woman on the face

of the planet. In a quiet moment

between now and the cake cutting

ceremony, I’ll show it to him.

And apologize one last time for

the fact that there is no tangible


But gift or no gift, it’s time to

celebrate – his life, our love and

everything in-between. As the saying

goes, let them eat cake. So if I

may excuse myself – I’ve got to run

out, order that cake and purchase

some candles. Lots of them. After

all, Dan, my heartthrob, the man of

the hour, is turning 60!

Let us know what’s on your mind.

Write to us at

FRESNO, Calif. – A hemispheric

convocation will salute a Central

California cleric for 55 years of pastoral

ministry in the Old and New


The Armenian Evangelical Union

of North America will pay tribute

to Reverend Bernard Asadoor

Guekguezian for a half-century

and half-decade of Gospel service

around the globe.

The milestone celebration will

take place at a gala banquet on Saturday,

March 21, beginning at 6 p.m.

The banquet venue is the Fellowship

Hall of Fresno’s First Armenian Presbyterian

Church, 430 South First

Street at Huntington Boulevard.

Banquet sponsorships, which

include multiple dinner tickets,

are also available. Ticket ordering

and other celebration information

is available by calling Edward and

Roseann Saliba at 1-559-323-5502.

The youngest of nine children,

Reverend Guekguezian was born

near Antioch, Turkey, in the summer

of 1927. After attending local schools,

he immigrated to the Middle East in

1939 for further studies at Armenian

Evangelical educational institutions

in Beirut, Lebanon and the Aleppo

College of Syria.

He completed a combined course

of study at the American University

of Beirut and the Near East School

NEW YORK – Three noted

professors from Yale, Emory, and

Columbia Universities will address

various themes from Peter

Balakian’s bestselling memoir

Black Dog of Fate, and Mr. Balakian

himself will present a reading from

the new tenth anniversary edition

of the book at a Columbia Armenian

Center event on Friday evening,

March 27, in New York City.

Jay Winter from Yale and Walter

Kalaidjian of Emory are the two

main speakers, and Hamid Dabashi

of Columbia will be serving

as emcee.

Black Dog of Fate has been in

continuous print since its publication,

having gone through 24 printings.

It received great publicity in

American media, including reviews

in many major newspapers like the

New York Times, and discussions

on television programs like Charlie

Rose. University courses in various

parts of the United States use

this work, sometimes as a required

text. It has helped spread public

knowledge and discussion of the

Armenian Genocide in this country

and abroad in a way that more formal

academic monographs cannot.

Written with the style and insight

of a poet, it remains personal and

accessible while dealing with issues

of violence, genocide, and nationalism

that continue to haunt the

world to this day. Mr. Balakian’s

work no doubt has been one of a

of Theology in 1952, earning a bachelor

of arts degree and a diploma in


Rev. Guekguezian served as a licensed

pastor at the Armenian Evangelical

Church of Alexandria, Egypt,

for two years and then came to the

United States for additional ministerial

training. He studied at Fuller

Theological Seminary in Pasadena

and New York Theological Seminary,

where he earned a master of arts degree

in Christian education.

The Congregational Conference

of Massachusetts ordained Guekguezian

as a minister in 1959. That

same year he was called to serve

as pastor of America’s oldest Armenian

congregation – the Armenian

Congregational Church of the Martyrs

in Worcester, Massachusetts.

During his seven-year tenure in

that pulpit, he engaged in doctoral

studies in modern European history

at Clark University.

In 1966, Reverend Guekguezian

accepted a call to the Armenian

Presbyterian Church of Paramus,

New Jersey, where he served for a

dozen inspiring years. On December

10, 1978, he was installed as the

tenth pastor of Fresno’s First Armenian

Presbyterian Church, the

oldest Armenian religious institution

in California and the boyhood

congregation of authors William

number of factors leading to a

greater awareness and understanding

of the events of the Armenian

Genocide in the West in the last decade

or so. Important public figures

like Samantha Power have relied

on Mr. Balakian’s work as a source

for their own writing.

Black Dog of Fate has just come

out in an enlarged edition, twelve

years after its original publication,

which includes two new chapters

about Aleppo and Der Zor. So this

is an appropriate time to step back

and examine this important contemporary

work and its continuing

influence. The participants in the

program at Columbia are well prepared

for this task.

Mr. Winter is the Charles J. Stille

Professor of History at Yale University.

A specialist on World War I and

its impact on the twentieth century,

Mr. Winter is the author or co-author

of a dozen books, and the editor

of many more, including America

and the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

Mr. Kalaidjian is professor of

English at Emory University. He is

the author of four books on 20thcentury

American literature, and is

the editor of the Cambridge Companion

to American Modernism. His research

and teaching focus on transnational

modern and contemporary

literature and culture specializing in

poetics, critical theory, and psychoanalysis.

He has examined poetry on

the Armenian Genocide, including

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208-17 Northern Blvd. Bayside, NY 11361

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Serving the Armenian Community Since 1969

Saroyan and A.I. Bezzerides.

Reverend Guekguezian’s ministry

at the Fresno church was marked

by outreach to native Californians

as well as to Armenian émigrés

from the Near East and Republic of

Armenia. At the conclusion of his

record 22 years in the pulpit, the

Fresno congregation named him

pastor emeritus.

In addition to his pastoral duties,

Rev. Guekguezian has served

multiple terms as moderator of

the aeuna, vice-president of the

Armenian Evangelical World Council,

vice-president of the Armenian

Theological Students’ Aid, Inc.,

and member of the Presbytery of

San Joaquin Committee on New

Church Development.

He is married to the former Knar

Kazanjian of Aleppo, and they

have two sons, Reverend Ara Richard

Guekguezian of Fresno and

Asbed Bernard Guekguezian of

West Newton, Massachusetts, as

well as five grandchildren.

Headquartered in Glendale, California,

the aeuna is an ecclesiastical

confederation of Armenian

Protestant churches, missions, and

fellowships in the United States and

Canada. Reverend Joseph Matossian

is minister to the union and

Reverend Avedis Boynerian is the


Scholars to analyze Black Dog of Fate

Mr. Balakian’s works, in The Edge of

Modernism: American Poetry and the

Traumatic Past.

Mr. Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian

Professor of Iranian Studies and

Comparative Literature at Columbia

University in New York. Professor

Dabashi has written 18 books, and

edited four. His writings are on

subjects including Iranian studies,

medieval and modern Islam, comparative

literature, world cinema,

and the philosophy of art (transaesthetics).

A committed teacher for

nearly three decades, Mr. Dabashi

is also a public speaker around the

globe, a current affairs essayist, and

a staunch antiwar activist.

Mr. Balakian is the Donald M.

and Constance H. Rebar Professor

of the Humanities at Colgate University,

and author of several books

of poetry and literary criticism, as

well as New York Times bestseller,

The Burning Tigris, which won the

2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize. Soon

his co-translation of Archbishop

Krikoris Balakian’s seminal memoir,

Armenian Golgotha, will be published

by Alfred A. Knopf.

The evening program will begin

at 6 p.m. with a reception with

meze at Columbia University’s International

Affairs Building Room

1501 (Kellogg Center), at 420 W. 118

St. Admission is free.


Edward D. Jamie, Jr.-NY&NJ Licensed Funeral Director

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 7


ucla to host major conference on Armenian studies

LOS ANGELES – The Society

for Armenian Studies will mark its

35th anniversary with a major conference

titled, “Armenian Studies

at a Threshold.” The enigmatic title

may reflect the broad nature of the

conference, which will cover everything

from medieval literature, arts,

history, and culture to sexual allegories

in Armenian literature, from

Armenians in early modern east

central Europe to research on the

contemporary Armenian diaspora.

All these themes and much more

will be covered between Thursday,

March 26 and Saturday, March 28

at the UCLA campus.

Over 40 papers are to be delivered

consecutively. In addition, a 12-

member panel will discuss the state

of Armenian studies in the United

States. An architectural exhibit will

be held in conjunction with the


The conference will bring together

most – though not all – of the

major scholars who study things

Armenian, and many of the newer

generation of scholars.

The proceedings will end with a

banquet on Saturday night. Past

practice suggests that Professor

Richard G. Hovannisian will give

banquet attendees, many of whom

will have missed the conference,

a summary of all the papers presented.


Armenian diaspora

A panel chaired by Khachig Tölölyan,

the leading scholar of diasporas,

will focus on the contemporary

Armenian diaspora. The discussant

is the prominent anthropologist

Aram Yengoyan.

Sossie Kasbarian (Geneva) will

seek to “reinvigorate” the concept

of diaspora with a focus on the Armenian

case. Susan Pattie (London)

will ask of 21st-century Armenians,

“Is Anyone Paying Attention?”

Anny Bakalian, who did a

survey of Armenian-Americans in

the New York metro area in the

late 1980s and wrote a book based

on the results, will now focus on

“Assimilation and Identity among

Armenian Americans in the 21st

Century.” Additional papers will

focus on France and Canada (Aida

Boudjikanian, Montreal) and Argentina

(Nelida Boulghourdjian,

Buenos Aires,).

Sexual perversion

A panel, “Between Perversion and

Representation: Sexual Allegories

in Armenian Literature,” will be

chaired by Rubina Peroomian,

who will also serve as discussant.

The panelists – Tamar Boyadjian,

Talar Chahinian, Myrna

Douzjian, and Lilit Keshishyan

– all women affiliated with ucla,

will look at works by Grigor Tgha,

Vorpuni, Nigoghos Sarafian, Shahan

Shanur, Gurgen Khanjian, and

a woman, Violet Grigorian.

Church politics and


In what promises to be a well-attended

panel, Ara Sanjian (University

of Michigan, Dearborn) will speak

on “The British Foreign Office, the

Church of England, and the Crisis

in the Armenian Church at Antelias,

1956–1963.” Marlen Eordegian

(Vanderbilt University) will discuss

the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem

in a paper titled, “Straddling

Religion and Politics.” Paul Werth

(Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas), will

discuss the Church in czarist Russia.

Abraham Terian (St. Nersess

Seminary) will occupy the chair.

Adana 1909 and the


George Shirinian of the Zoryan Institute

will chair a panel titled, “New

Perspectives on the Armenian Genocide.”

It will feature Taner Akçam

(Clark Univ.), who will speak about

Ottoman documents and genocidal

intent, Janet Klein (Univ. of Akron),

who will focus on Kurds, her area of

expertise, Lerna Ekmekcioğlu

(nyu), who will discuss sexual violence

as a “marker” during and after

the Genocide, and Vahram Shemmassian

(csu-Northridge), who

will discuss the rescue of captive

Genocide survivors in 1919–21.

Professor Hovannisian will chair

a panel on the Adana massacres

of 100 years ago. The three panelists

are to include Dr. Peroomian,

Ohannes Kılıçdağı (Istanbul),

and Bedross Der Matossian

(Cambridge, Mass.)

The state of the art

The panel on the state of Armenian

studies will be chaired by Marc

Mamigonian (naasr). Panelists

are to be Prof. Akçam, Jirair Libaridian

and Kevork Bardakjian

(Ann Arbor), Prof. Hovannisian

and S. Peter Cowe (ucla), Richard

Hrair Dekmejian (usc), Barlow

Der Mugrdechian (csu-Fresno),

Roberta Ervine (St. Nersess

Seminary), Christina Maranci

(Tufts Univ.), Simon Payaslian

(Boston Univ.), Prof. Sanjian, and

Prof. Shemmassian.

Other panels will cover:

Medieval literature and

the arts (featuring Theo van Lint

and Robert Thomson, both of Oxford

Univ., Sona Haroutyunian of

Venice, and Andrea Scala of Milan

– who is dedicating a whole paper to

the name of the Latin language in

Classical Armenian)

Medieval history and culture

(Anne Elizabeth Redgate of

Newcastle Univ., chair, Sergio La

Porta, Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem,

Sara Nur Yıldız, Bilgi Univ., and

Tom Sinclair, Univ. of Cyprus)

Armenian history as connected

history (Houri Berberian,

CSU-Long Beach, chair, Sebouh

Aslanian, Univ. of Michigan, Ann

Arbor – on world history’s challenge

to Armenian studies – Prof. Cowe,

Rachel Goshgarian, Zohrab Center,

New York, and Elyse Semerdjian,

Whitman College – on the

Armenians of Ottoman Aleppo)

Economy, Society, and

Culture of Early Modern East Central

Europe, 14th–19th centuries

(George Bournoutian, Iona College,

chair, Andreas Helmedach

and Bálint Kovács, Leipzig, and

Judit Pál, Romania. Bálint Kovács

and Judit Pál will discuss Armenians

in Transylvania)

Wilmington students study Armenian Genocide

Contemporary Armenia

(Hovann Simonian, usc, chair;

Khatchik Der Ghougassian,

Buenos Aires, on “Market Fundamentalism,

Economic Hardship,

and Social Protest in Armenia”;

Konrad Siekierski, Poland, “Nation

and Faith, Past and Present:

The Contemporary Discourse of

the Armenian Apostolic Church

in Armenia”; Tamara Tonoyan,

National Institute of Health, Yerevan,

“hiv/aids in Armenia: Migration

as a Socio-Economic and

Cultural Component of Women’s

Risk Settings”; Anahid Keshishian-Aramouni,

ucla, “Inknagir

Magazine: Frivolous Iconoclasm

or Marker of Artistic Liberty?”;

Gregory Areshian, ucla, Pavel

Avetisyan, and Armine Hayrapetyan,

Yerevan, “Archaeology

in Post-Soviet Armenia: New Discoveries,

Problems, and Perspectives”

Armenians, World

War II, and Repatriation (Barbara

Merguerian, chair; Levon

Thomassian, csu-Northridge,

Sevan Yousefian, ucla, and

Joanne Laycock, University of

Manchester, on various aspects of

repatriation; Vartan Matiossian

on combating racial views during

the first half of the 20th century;

Gregory Aftandilian on World

War II as an enhancer of Armenian-American

second generation

identity; and Astrig Atamian,

inalco, on Armenian communists

in France.


For the full schedule, visit

by Tom Vartabedian

WILMINGTON – Efforts to

introduce an Armenian Genocide

curriculum throughout high

schools north of Boston are gaining


The latest schools to take part are

Wilmington and Tewksbury, where

students have immersed themselves

in the education process and,

in return, acquired the knowledge

and understanding of countries

like Armenia that endured massacres

and hardship throughout their


At Wilmington, juniors and seniors

under the tutelage of Maura

Tucker and Lisa Lucia are utilizing

the text, “Facing History and

Ourselves.” The semester was

launched by a guest appearance

from 101-year-old survivor Ojen

Mazmanian, who rendered a personal

account of her escape from

Ottoman Turkish mass murder.

Tewksbury is just as motivated

by the Armenian story. Included

in its curriculum will be an entire

school day (6 hours) dedicated to

genocide education.

Planting the seed are members

of the Armenian Genocide Curriculum

Committee of Merrimack

Valley, headed by Dro Kanayan,

who laid the groundwork at the


Thirteen other high schools

in the area have been contacted

by letter. Programs have already

been initiated in North Andover

and Haverhill, with return engagements


“Students who participate in

this interdisciplinary course will

achieve academic, personal, and

social growth,” said Wilmington instructor

Lisa Lucia. “Using the Holocaust

and [Armenian] Genocide

as case studies, students will examine

the origins of these atrocities,

the role ordinary students played,

and what we can do today to prevent

these crimes from happening


According to Maura Tucker, another

Wilmington High instructor,

“Students will have the opportunity

to reflect not only upon the universality

of racism and social injustice

but also upon the importance of

global awareness.

“They will use inquiry, analysis,

and interpretation in order to confront

moral questions imbedded in

history and literature,” she pointed


Appearing before the students

were committee members Tom

Vartabedian and Albert S.

Movsesian, who covered everything

from the Genocide to history,

geography, the Armenian

community in America, literature,

and contributions to world civilization.

The students were also given a

lesson on how to interview a survivor.

One project that will be activated

is an appeal to the U.S. Postal

Service to commemorate the Genocide

with a stamp reflecting “man’s

inhumanity toward man.”

“We will make an appeal to the

Postmaster General and even President

Obama if necessary,” said Ms.

Lucia. “The Armenians deserve to

be recognized with a stamp and we

shall empower our youth to step

forward in this mission.”

Among the questions raised by

the students were whether and

how Armenian villagers were able

to arm themselves, what instigated

the Genocide, and whether any of

those who fled their native soil ever


“As Armenians, do you put your

heritage before your citizenship?”

another asked.

Posters promoting the genocide

program were found on the walls of

the school, while a small library of

related textbooks were seen in the


Students at


(Mass.) High

School receive

a lesson on

the Armenian

Genocide from

Tom Vartabedian

and Albert

S. Movsesian,

members of

the Armenian



Committee of

Merrimack Valley.

Other high

schools north

of Boston have

also shown an

interest in the


and adopted


The session ended with students

from different ethnic backgrounds

writing a message of goodwill on

the blackboard in their native


“The response we’ve gotten

from the outside community has

been extremely positive,” said Mr.

Kanayan, a grandson of famed Armenian

freedom fighter General

Dro. “We’ll continue to push forward

until all the schools have been


The newly formed curriculum

committee has the support and

endorsement of area churches and

organizations, including Armenian

legislators and noted educators.

8 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


Vartkes L. Broussalian, Ph.D., dies at 80

White House

economist and

public policy advisor

served four U.S.



L. Broussalian, Ph.D., of Granada

Hills, Calif., died peacefully on February

22, two days before his 81st


Dr. Broussalian was a brilliant

economist trained at the London

School of Economics and ucla; his

career spanned more than half a

century. His dissertation provided

additional support for the groundbreaking

hypothesis that individuals

systematically underestimate

the rate of inflation, resulting in

the redistribution of wealth from

creditors to debtors. Later he contributed

to the development of a

new field in economics, called Public

Choice, extending economic theory

to the analysis of government

decision-making. In his subsequent

career in government, he specialized

in the application of economic

theory and econometric techniques

to establish the consequences of alternative

economic policies.

He held senior-level positions

in various branches of the United

States government, starting at the

Center for Naval Analyses, moving

to the National Bureau of Standards,

and then to the White House

Office of Management and Budget,

where he served for 20 years. He

provided analysis and guidance

on national policy ranging from

consumer safety to gas rationing

(during the 1970s gas crisis) to water

supply issues. He served in the

Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and

Reagan administrations.

He had a second career in academia

and as a foreign-government

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Adults and Adolescents

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24 Windsor Road

Great Neck, NY 11021


advisor. He taught and conducted

research at several major universities

including Duke, ucla, csu

Northridge, and the American University

of Armenia. He consulted

for the newly formed democratic

governments of Armenia and Moldova

in the early 1990s, providing

guidance on public policy and organization.

Throughout his career, his colleagues

respected his intellectual

aptitude and appreciated his warm,

endearing manner. His refined

civility was evident and opened

many doors of cooperation and

understanding; these qualities

made him an effective member of

any team. Known as a “careful and

deep thinker,” he was regarded as a

source of informed and stimulating

dialogue by his peers. His impact

on others was subtle, but sure.

Dr. Broussalian also dedicated

both his time and energy to Armenian

causes and community. He was

one of the original founders of the


A vibrant 50-year old Armenian

woman looking for work

as either a babysitter or

caregiver for elderly.

Excellent Armenian cook.

Speaks Armenian & Russian.

Live in or live out in New York

or New Jersey.

Please call Elsa,

(347) 782-4811.

Vartkes L. Broussalian, Ph.D. (1928-


Armenian Assembly of America as

well as a longtime supporter of the

National Association for Armenian

Studies and Research, Friends of

ucla Armenian Language and Culture

Studies, arpa Institute, and the

American University of Armenia.

In recent years, he spent time

writing opinion papers and articles

on current topics in economics, visiting

the public library and reading

books encompassing a wide variety

of topics. He also enjoyed his

lifelong passion listening to his favorite

operas, attending opera performances,

and becoming a master

builder of model war ships.

Dr. Broussalian, a U.S. citizen

of Armenian descent, was born in

1928 in the town of Ramleh in what

was then Palestine. His parents, Levon

and Zepure, had survived the

Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Ottoman

Turkey and had fled to Palestine

to start a new life. In 1956, he

met and married Marie Therese

Hassoun, who, after completing

her master’s degree at Columbia

University, had recently returned

home to Beirut to do research at

the American University of Beirut,

where Vartkes was teaching at the

time. Very soon after marrying,

they moved to the United States

for graduate studies and to build

a new life. The couple was married

for 52 years.

More than his dedication to his

professional career, Dr. Broussalian

was devoted to his immediate and

large extended family. He is survived

by his wife Marie Therese,

sons James (Beth) of San Diego

and Levon (Shannon) of Sherman

Oaks, and daughter Cynthia

Tusan (Robert) of Laguna Niguel.

As the adoring “Medz Baba” (grandfather),

he will be deeply missed by

his four grandchildren: Melanie

and Michael Broussalian, and

Christopher and Aline Tusan.

He died before the birth of his

fifth grandchild. Dr. Broussalian is

survived by his mother, Zepure,

who will be 104 in April, brother

Dr. Sarkis Broussalian (Cathy),

and sister Alice Minassian. His

extended family includes many loving

nieces and nephews and their


He will be remembered as a highly

intelligent, kindhearted gentleman

with boundless determination

to learn more about the world

around him. Even in his illness, he

continued to study new ideas, learn

recent technology, and understand

the causes and effects of his battle

with cancer. In his last weeks he declared,

“I think I will start reading

for enjoyment now.”

Dr. Broussalian’s family expressed

its gratitude to the leading

team of sarcoma specialists

who treated him at ucla’s Jonsson

Comprehensive Cancer Center.

At his request, a luncheon celebrating

his life will be held April

18 at the ucla Faculty Center, 480

Charles Young Drive, Los Angeles,

at 11:00 am. Inquiries and rsvps

may be made to

Memorial donations can

be made to Junior Achievement

Worldwide f/b/o Junior Achievement

of Armenia (1102 N. Brand

Blvd., #61, Glendale California

91202) or to ucla Foundation-Davidian

Fund c/o Friends of ucla

Armenian Language and Culture

Studies (PO Box 1372, Glendale, CA

91209) or the National Association

for Armenian Studies and

Research (

Gregory Ketabjian to offer a

psychosocial analysis of the

Adana massacres of 1909


Ararat-Eskijian Museum and the

National Association for Armenian

Studies and Research will present

a lecture by Dr. Gregory Ketabjian,

“The Adana Massacres: A Psychological

Analysis,” with comments by R.

Hrair Dekmejian, professor of

political science and director, usc

Institute of Armenian Studies, on

Sunday, March 15, at 4:00 p.m., at

the museum, 15105 Mission Hills

Rd, Mission Hills, Calif.

Drawing on Hagop Terzian’s

personal account of the Adana

massacres, The Catastrophe of Cilicia

(published 1912), Dr. Ketabjian

will explore the use of social and

psychological methods by which

the instigators of the 1909 Adana

massacres influenced average

people to commit torture, murder,

and genocidal acts. He will also

draw on more recent psychological

experiments and on comparisons

with the testimonies of participants

in the Mai Lai massacre during

the Vietnam War and more recent

abuses in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and

Guantánamo Bay.

Having watched his pharmacy

go up in smoke and having lost his

newborn son during the Adana

massacres, Hagop Terzian moved

to Constantinople and opened a

new pharmacy called Adana. A psychosocial

explanation of human

behavior may be seen as a means

to demonstrate the reasons for the

events that culminated in the Armenian

Genocide in 1915, as well as an

explanation for the Turkish government’s

ongoing policy of denial. A

better knowledge among the public

about these processes may help to

prevent future genocides from being

initiated, the museum and naasr

suggested in a news release.



Let us know what’s on your mind.

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The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 9


Art in the market

Installation invites

visitors to “walk

with the ancestors”

by Lou Ann Matossian

MINNEAPOLIS – While helping

her daughter research a school

project on the Armenian Genocide,

artist Jackie Hayes was inspired

to create a work of her own. “I

am always thinking about how to

frame the Genocide with my children,”

says Ms. Hayes, who is of Armenian

descent, as she shares two

historic images. “There are only a

few of these photos in existence,

and since my childhood, they have

been an important part of what

holds the truth of the Genocide

and are therefore laden with a special

significance for me.

“I carry these kinds of images

and sensations with me as I walk

through my day to day,” she adds.

“I am pretty sure this particular

sensation – walking with my Armenian

past – is experienced uniquely

for Armenians, though I know the

general notion of walking among

ancestors is shared with other cultures.”

Ms. Hayes’ installation forShadows,

which continues through

March 21, invites visitors to “walk

with the ancestors” into the multicultural

space of the Midtown

Global Market, juxtaposing the

wisdom of Armenian folklore with

the life and work experiences of the

vendors and staff, many of whom

are recent immigrants.

A black shroud covers the entrance

to the cavelike space, which

is bathed in an eerie green light. An

arc of skull-like face masks near the

floor, overlaid with a jumpy alternating

projection of grainy blackand-white

photos, creates an otherworldly,

but not entirely somber,

first impression.

Wondering how others struggle

with their own complicated cultural

identities, Ms. Hayes occupied

a corner of the Marketplace

during the months of January and

February, building her installation

while conversing with Marketplace

workers. Their wisdom and

knowledge, revealed in snippets of

conversation projected on a wall,

suggest commonalities with an

Armenian proverb, rewritten in a

spiral typography rotating slowly


“As I developed this piece and

began to think about walking with

ancestors, I made the decision to

create a work that would speak to

where I come from emotionally/

spiritually in respect to my ancestors,”

the artist explains. “Just as

important, I created an avenue to

speak to the place of possibility

– of transformation – where we can

look forward rather than back as

we walk through our lives as Armenians.

I have used the metaphor of

the earth, the horizon, and the sky

as a way into representing those

who came before us, those with

whom we walk, and places we aim

to reach outside/above that which

we are given.”

Most recently a member of the

faculty in Goddard College’s MFA

Interdisciplinary Arts program,

Ms. Hayes has been an artist and

arts activist for over 20 years in

Northern California, San Francisco,

New York, and now Minneapolis.

Trained as a theater director

and theorist, she has directed

many pieces in collaboration with

playwrights and performance artists.

As the founder of the Minneapolis’

Center for Performing Arts,

Ms. Hayes spent 12 years managing

In forShadows by Jackie Hayes, historic photographs of the Armenian Genocide

by eyewitness Armin Wegner are projected over skull-like face masks, illuminated

in an eerie green. Melanie Heinrich

dozens of artists and hundreds of

students from different disciplines,

as well as created performance festivals

in San Francisco and New

York City.

“Re-membering and re-constructing

Armenian identity has

been a consistent theme in my

work over the past decade as I sort

through how to honor and how to

transform the leftovers of genocide

into an empowering experience,”

she says.

Guests will have a chance to experience

Ms. Hayes’ work as they

walk through the exhibit installed

in the northeast corner of the Market.

forShadows will be open from 11

a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday through

Saturday, and 5 p.m. through 8 p.m.

Thursday through Saturday evenings.

“I have given myself the flexibility

to keep this installation evolving

over the course of the month

so that I can shift, adjust, and add

to the piece over time,” says Hayes.

“My hope is that it functions as a

vehicle for contemplation and reflection

and in some way, through

the lens of my own Armenian identity,

bring us closer together.”


or 1-612-872-4041

The wisdom of an Armenian proverb, above, is juxtaposed with snippets of

conversation in Jackie Hayes’ installation forShadows. Melanie Heinrich

10 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 11


L-R: Anoush Gulian, Tanya Habibian, Alina Zoraian, Rita Khorozian, Taline

Royland, Derek Khorozian, Tatya Altunyan, Natalie Diratsaoglu.

agau Alumni Association

offers scholarships

by June Kashishian


next annual agau Alumni Association

Scholarship Awards Luncheon

is scheduled for Sunday, June 28.

The 46th annual agau Alumni

Association Scholarship Awards

Luncheon was held on June 22,

2008, at the Landmark II in East

Rutherford, N.J. Over 150 people

were present to honor eight deserving

Armenian-American high

school graduates. Honored along

with the recipients was the Irene

Shenloogian Khorozian, who

was named agau Woman of the

Year for her tireless efforts over the

last 20 years. The honoree has been

president of the organization honoring

her since 2000.

The scholarship committee members

chose the recipients out of dozens

of students who applied for the

award. The committee is steered by

June Shenloogian Kashishian,

Henry Hagopian, and Floraine

Halejian. Over $11,000 was distributed

to the graduates to attend

the college of their choice. The recipients

were Tatya Altunyan,

University of Delaware; Natalie

Diratsaoglu, The College of New

Jersey; Anoush Gulian, Rutgers

University; Tanya Habibian, The

College of New Jersey; Derek

Khorozian, St. Thomas Aquinas

College; Rita Khorozian, William

Paterson University; Taline Royland,

Monmouth College; Alina

Zoraian, Quinnipiac University.

After the awards were distributed,

former recipient Raffi Khorozian,

attorney at law and Paramus Borough

civil prosecutor, spoke about

his sister-in-law, Irene Khorozian,

and how the agau helped him with

a bond toward his college tuition

some 20 years ago when he was a

student. He also spoke about how

Irene Khorozian has been philanthropic

all of her adult life and

about her volunteer work in her

community of Oradell, New Jersey.

To date the agau Alumni has

awarded over $150,000 to deserving

high school graduates. Another

award was made to scholarship recipient

Rita Khorozian, who wrote

a spectacular essay on “What my

Armenian Heritage means to me.”

It was read by June Kashishian,

and all those in attendance were

impressed with the sentiments of

the composition.

Mrs. Kashishian, the emcee,

spoke to the guests about the last

60 years of the agau Alumni. She

asked for the support of past recipients

and their extended families,

in order to continue the group’s


The Executive Board of the agau

Alumni Association is made up of

Irene Khorozian, president; Rose

Kirian, vice president; Diane

Burggraf and Alice Shenloogian,

recording secretaries; Mary

Varteresian, corresponding secretary;

Grace Hagopian, treasurer;

Shakeh McMahon, publicity/typing.

To apply for a scholarship for

2009, contact Irene Khorozian.



Visit us at the new

You share the same


Discover what happens

when you share

the same experience.

Let’s come together, and if only

for one day, unite in the fight

against cancer. For more

information about Relay For Life

or to join an event near you, visit

or call 1.800.ACS.2345.

Paint the Town Purple in

celebration of Relay For Life on

May 1, May Day For Relay.


12 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


Social workers from Armenia to be trained in Boston area

CAMBRIDGE – The Cambridge-

Yerevan Sister City Association, Inc.

(cysca), has received a grant for

the training of 10 social workers

from the regions of Armenia. The

grant is sponsored and funded by

the usaid under its Community

Connections program. The professionals

from Armenia will arrive in

the Boston area June 3, 2009, for an

intensive three-week training program

developed by cysca aimed

at the professional development

of social-worker skills, especially in

practical applications of their work.

The participants will be professional

social workers selected competitively

from government agencies,

ngos, and academic institutions

in Armenia. Social work in

Armenia is relatively new, having

emerged as a public need since independence

in 1991. Yet, while there

is adequate theoretical training in

Armenia, there is a lack of practical

knowledge and experience in social

services. The objectives of this project

include exposure to public/private

partnerships; development of

needs assessment capabilities, accountability,

feedback, monitoring

and evaluation techniques; funding

mechanisms; case management

and others. The overarching goal

is to equip the participants with

knowledge of how social services

are conducted in the United States

and to give them ideas and methodologies

they may adapt in Armenia.

Another important part of the

training program is for cysca to assist

the participants in developing

action plans they can implement in


The training program organized

by cysca will be its 18th Community

Connections project for Armenian

professionals since 1997.

Previous programs have focused

on a wide variety of themes such

as business, public health, environment,

education, tourism and

tourism education, business, historic

preservation, public health,

employment, aviation management,

museum management and

theater management. Knowledge

and ideas acquired by the participants

have been shared in Armenia

with a wider audience through

follow-on programs organized by

Community Connections alumni

assisted by cysca, examples of

which are: an Armenia Export Catalog,

guidebooks Armenia Investment

Guide, How to Finance Your Business,

How to Start and Run Your Business

in Armenia, business skills training

program, export marketing

seminar, environmental dictionary,

environmental education seminar,

booklet of Environmental Games for

Children, transportation management

CD, statistical survey of businesses

in Armenia, business seminars/conferences,

museum management

conference, and others.

“We are honored that the usaid

has again chosen cysca to host a

Community Connections training

project for Armenia”, commented

Jack Medzorian of cysca. “We

know that our programs are successful

when we visit Armenia and

observe first hand that the knowledge

and ideas that our alumni take

home are implemented in their

own native country. At the same

time, we also learn from them, so it

is truly a two way street”.

In addition to conducting a training

program for the social workers,

cysca will recruit host families to

furnish home stays to expose the

participants to everyday home life

in the usa. Anyone interested in

volunteering to host should contact

cysca staff at the e-mail addresses

below. Also, cysca will include

in its program an “Experience

America” sightseeing component

to acquaint the participants with

the culture, history, and values of

American society.

The Community Connections

program is sponsored by the U. S.

Agency for International Development

(usaid) and administered

by its programming agent World

Learning, Inc. It is designed to

promote public diplomacy through

the exchange of cultural ideas and

values among participants, U. S.

families and local community host

organizations. It seeks to establish

and strengthen links between U. S.

communities, Armenia and other

former Soviet republics.

The program is directed by Jack

Medzorian, cysca Vice President,

assisted by Alisa Stepanian, project

manager, and Taya Battelle,

project administrator.


Visit us at the new

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 13


amaa gears up for Orphan and Child Care

luncheon and fashion show on March 21


amaa Orphan and Child Care Luncheon

and Fashion Show is almost

here. It is going to be absolutely

spectacular, with fashions from

Nordstrom, modeled by 55 of our

gorgeous young models, an amazing

silent auction featuring priceless

items – from handpainted

works of art to magnificent jewelry

to stays at five-star resorts to tickets

to incredible events – and all at

a fabulous venue – the Beverly Hills

Hotel. This is truly a luncheon not

to be missed.

This year’s luncheon theme “Children

Helping Children through

Hope and Joy” is also so very appropriate.

Given the harsh economic

conditions of our world today, the

children of Armenia truly do need

the help of our children here. And

what better conduit than the Armenian

Missionary Association

of America – a 91-year-old organization

that has in place a program

that helps support children in dire

financial need in Armenia. Let us remember

that some of the children of

Armenia are lacking the basic necessities

of life. They fear that they will

be forgotten in the turmoil of our

world. While the economic strain is

affecting people here in the United

States, it is far from the despair that

is currently affecting thousands of

people in Armenia. The most innocent

victims, the children, can only

pray for help.

Our children here are asking you

to sponsor their brothers and sisters

in Armenia. For a donation of

$250, a sponsor can change the life

of a child forever. What amounts

to less than 70 cents a day is all

it takes to provide a child with basic

food staples such as sugar, rice,

flour, and macaroni. They will receive

hygiene supplies and educational

supplies. The children will

also become a part of the amaa’s

spiritual and wellness programs

such as Sunday school, vacation

Bible school, summer camps, and

medical and dental care.

At this year’s luncheon you can

sponsor such a child and become a

part of their life. For further sponsorship

information, please contact

Maro Yacoubian at 1-818-434-9091,

who is spearheading this year’s

sponsorship drive.

In 2008, the funds raised by

the amaa Orphan and Child

Care Committee facilitated 2,687

scholarships, support of 20 kindergartens

in Armenia and Karabakh,

summer and day camps for

more than 6,000 children and

teenagers, as well as many art and

sports programs. In 2009, the

amaa intends to reinforce and, if

possible, duplicate its efforts and

assistance in Armenia and Karabakh.

Of course, this can only be

accomplished by your support

and attendance.

On March 21, the Beverly Hills

Hotel is the place to be – among

family and friends – to be part of

an event that can change the lives

of so many children in a land that

is far away by distance, but so

very close in our hearts. Let us be

thankful for what God has blessed

each one of us with and share our



Arsine Phillips 1-213-509-4337.

Let us know what’s on your mind.

Write to us at

Calendar of Events

New York


MENIA, Sunday, at Weill

Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall

in New York City, featuring

cellist David Bakamjian and

violinist Cecee Pantikian. .

Sponsored by the Eastern

Prelacy and Prelacy Ladies




BANQUET at Saint Sarkis

Church, Douglaston, Queens.

Sunday, at 1:30 pm. The Pastor

and Board of Trustees invite

parishioners and friends

to join the Saint Sarkis family

in an afternoon Banquet

Celebration of this momentous

and joyful event in the

Church history. For information,

kindly contact the

Church office at 718-224-2275



prestigious Yale Club of NYC.

MC - Dr. Herand Markarian;

Key Note Speaker, Rep. Anna

G. Eshoo, 14th Dist. of Ca.

Cocktails 7:00 PM Dinner

8:30 PM. Donation: $250. For

Details Call: Mrs. MaryAnne

Bonjuklian (201)934-8930 or



RUM SERIES - Remembering

the Forgotten: The Untold

Story of Clergymen Lost to

the Genocide. The second

forum features Yeretzgeen

Joanna Baghsarian’s remarkable

story of how a group of

her students took a proactive

role in remembering these

forgotten martyrs. There is

no charge for the evening,

but RSVP is requested by

email to

or by telephone at


MAY 1 - 32nd Annual Gala Dinner-Dance.

St. Illuminator’s

Armenian Day School, Friday,

7:30 p.m. at the Armenian Center

69-23 47th Ave. Woodside,

NY. For information call 718-


MAY 15 - 1st Annual Cocktail

Reception at the Pratt House,

NYC. Hosted by the Armenian

Medical Fund. $125. For information

call Nancy Zoraian,




by the “Friends” at Russo’s

on the Bay, featuring Addis

Harmandian and his Band.

Cocktails 7:30 pm. Dinner

9:00 pm. Donation: $ 150.

For Reservations please call,

school office: (718) 225 4826,

Negdar Arukian: (718) 423






Flushing, NY. Celebration to

be held at Harbor Links Golf

Course, Port Washington, NY.

Featuring Varoujan Vartanian

and Antranig Armenian

Dance Ensemble. Details to

follow or call NYAH, (718)


New Jersey


DAY hosted by St. Mary Armenian

Church Women’s guild,

200 W. Mt. Pleasant Ave., Livingston,

NJ. Divine Liturgy

10 a.m. Followed by Lenten

Lunch and program. Donation:

$18/children: $9. For reservations

call church office at (973)




Cultural Festival organized

by Hamazkayin Eastern USA

Regional Executive, Featuring

Alla Levonian from Armenia

and Babin Boghosian

& Ensemble from Los Angeles,

With the participation of

Antranig Dance Ensemble of

AGBU, Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble

of St. Thomas Armenian

Church, Yeraz Dance Ensemble

of St. Sarkis Church,

NJ Hamazkayin Nayiri Dance

Group & Arekag Children’s

Choir & Dhol Group. SUN-

DAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2009.

4pm. Felician College Lodi,

New Jersey. Donation: $75,

$50, $35, $25. For more information

or tickets please contact:

Hamazkayin @ 201-945-

8992 or Paradon2009@gmail.




The AGAU Alumni scholarship

applications are available for

NJHS 2009 Graduates. For

application please call President

Irene Khorozian (201)

262-4625. All scholarship winners

must attend the June 28,

2009 scholarship luncheon at

the Landmark II in East Rutherford,







PUSHMAN. Featuring 8 important

master works from

a private collection. Abby M.

Taylor fine Art, 43 Greenwich,

CT. For more info. call (203)

622-0906 or visit








VALLEY. 3PM, North Andover

High School, Route 125, North

Andover, MA. Concert by Arlina

Ensemble of Armenia.

Complimentary admission.

Reception to follow.




Armenians worldwide on


CRUISE XIII 2010. Sailing on

Saturday, January 16-23, 2010.

To San Juan, PR, St. Thomas

and Grand Caicos Islands on

the Costa Atlantica. Prices

start at $679.00 per person.

Contact TravelGroup International


102 or 108. Westcoast: Mary

Papazian 818-407-140; Eastcoast:

Antranik Boudakian


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14 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


From Armenia, in brief

OSCE Minsk Group cochairs

in the region

Yuri Merzlyakov (Russia), Bernard

Fassier (France), and Matthew

Bryza (U.S.), the OSCE Minsk

Group co-chairs, were in the region

meeting with leaders in Armenia,

Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan

this week.

While in Armenia the co-chairs,

along with the personal representative

of OSCE Chairman-in-Office,

Andrzej Kasprzyk, met with President

Serge Sargsian and Foreign

Minister Edward Nalbandian.

During their meeting, the co-chairs

spoke about the present round of

discussions on the Karabakh negotiation

process. According to

Arminfo, President Sargsian said

that statements that contradict the

logic of the negotiation process do

not contribute to process toward

settlement of the conflict.

Mr. Nalbandian welcomed the

February 19 statement by the cochairs,

criticizing Azerbaijan for

threatening renewed war. He said it

corresponds in full to the Moscow

Declaration and the 2008 Helsinki

statement of the OSCE Foreign

Ministers’ Council.

The co-chairs, who had been in

Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh

earlier, also briefed the Armenian

president about the results of the

consultations that took place in

Baku and Stepanakert.

The details of the meeting of the

co-chairs with President Bako Sahakian

of Nagorno Karabakh were

not disclosed except to say that the

sides discussed a wide range of issues.

President Sahakian’s press service

stated that the president once

again confirmed Karabakh’s position

concerning its mandatory participation

in the negotiation process.

On March 4, the OSCE Minsk

Group co-chairs issued the results

of their visit to the region. According

to Arminfo the co-chairs

condemned the dissemination of

documents in the United Nations

by Azerbaijan, which they see as

potentially harming the negotiating


OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs with President Serge Sargsian. Photos: Photolure.

They said that the presidents

of Armenia and Azerbaijan had

agreed to a meeting in the coming

two months. “We are glad that

both presidents have backed this

idea,” said Mr. Merzlyakov. “We

did not expect great achievements

from this visit. We tried to use this

possibility to continue the process

started by President of Azerbaijan

and Armenia at the end of January

in Zurich.”

As preparations begin

for local elections,

president appoints new


As Yerevan prepares for city council

elections on May 31, political parties

are also preparing their party

lists (see Armenian Reporter, February

28, 2009). The Republican Party

of Armenia (RPA) the leading force

in the National Assembly, had announced

that the head of the Kentron

community Gagik Beglarian

would be heading their party

list. Second on the list is head of

Avan community Taron Margarian,

son of the late Prime Minister

Andranik Margarian. The party

drew up the final list during the

February 28 session of the executive

body of the RPA.

In a surprise move, President

Serge Sargsian issued a decree

on March 4 dismissing Yerevan

Mayor Yervand Zakharian from

his office and appointing him as

consultant to the president. Later

that same day, the presiden signed

another decree appointing the Mr.

Beglarian mayor of Yerevan.

According the law on self-governance

for the city of Yerevan, the

party that secures 50 percent of the

votes will place their number one

person on their list as mayor of the

capital city.

Parties have until May 1 to present

their final list of candidates.

Ali Babacan.

Possible visit of Ali

Babacan to Yerevan for

BSEC meeting in April

Foreign ministers of all memberstates

of the Black Sea Economic

Cooperation (BSEC) organization

have been invited to Yerevan to participate

in the Council of Foreign

Ministers in April, Armenpress reports.

At a gathering of BSEC foreign

ministers in Tirana in 2008, the chair

of the organization passed to Armenia

for a six-month term.

The Turkish Sabah daily said that

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan

will pay a two-day visit to

Yerevan on April 16 to participate

in the session.

Culture ministers of

BSEC member states in


Within the framework of Armenia’s

chairmanship of the Black Sea

Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization,

Armenia’s Ministry of

Culture organized a round table on

Cooperation in the Protection and

Reconstruction of Historic-Cultural

Monuments in the Black Sea

region, Mediamax reports.

Hasmik Poghosyan.

The round table was attended by

representatives from the culture

ministries of Bulgaria, Turkey, Armenia,

Greece, Romania, Russia,

Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Hasmik Poghosyan, Armenia’s

culture minister, stressed the importance

of cultural dialogue in

contributing to peace in the region.

The meeting of the culture ministers

also decided to establish a periodical,

which will be entitled Cultural

News of the Black Sea Region.

Sheykha Lubna

Al-Kasimi at

the Nor Hachin




Armenian soldiers

cross contact line,

taken into custody

According to a statement issued

by the Defense Ministry, three

military personnel from the NKR

Defense Army crossed the contact

line into territory controlled by


The three service members,

Hrant Markosyan, Alik Tevosyan,

and Artyush Sargsian

crossed the line of contact in the

direction of Agdam in unknown


In the meantime, cases of intense

cease-fire violation at the

contact line have been continuing

for several weeks. On the night of

March 2 and the rest of the day,

ceasefire violations by the Azerbaijani

army were noted in several

sections. The NKR Defense Ministry

reported that their position

were attacked by fire from microcaliber

arms and sniper rifles in

populated areas of Nuzger, Horadiz,

Karakhanbeyli, Ashagi Seidakhmedli,

Kuropatkino, Jraberd,

Karmiravan, Levonarkh, Seysulan,

and Talish. There were no victims,

Arminfo reported.

UAE foreign trade

minister in Armenia

Sheykha Lubna Al-Kasimi, the

United Arab Emirates foreign trade

minister, was in Armenia for a

working visit at the invitation of

Minister of the Economy Nerses


During her visit to the country,

Ms. Al-Kasimi met with the president

of Armenia, speaker of the

National Assembly, and the prime


She will also visit the Nor Hachin

diamond manufacturing enterprise

to look at the jewelry industry and

opportunities for investment and

export, Armenpress reported.

The minister also visited the resort

town of Tsaghgadsor to see

the production and reprocessing

of agricultural products, and possibilities

for investments and exports.


Armenian dram is

stable after sharp fall

n Continued from page

further. The dram was as its lowest

value in summer 2003, when it took

580 drams to buy a dollar. As the

dollar weakened under President

George W. Bush, remittances increased,

and foreign investments

grew, the relative value of the dram

came close to doubling, reaching

300 drams to a dollar in 2008.

Armenia’s decision to seek a

precautionary IMF program and allow

a freer float for the currency

is a welcome signal of the authorities’

cautious approach to managing

current difficulties,” Andrew

Colquhoun, a director at the Fitch

credit rating firm, said in a statement.

“However, the reserves loss

to end-January indicates the scale

of the shock, and suggests there

is little room for policy missteps

which could undermine macroeconomic

stability and increase downwards

pressure on the ratings.”

Citing the rescue package promised

by the IMF, Fitch on Thursday

gave Armenia a currency-issuer

default rating of BB. That indicates

“stable outlooks” for the country’s

monetary system.

Speaking to the Bloomberg news

agency, Michael Ganske, of Commerzbank

welcomed the decision

to float the dram. “It gives them

the flexibility to adjust to new economic

scenarios,” he said, adding,

“In the current global environment

it’s very, very hard to maintain an

overvalued currency.”

Critics of the government faulted

it for taking action late and

suddenly, rather than allowing the

exchange rate to change gradually

over the past few months. But the

prime minister said such an approach

would have only caused

more uncertainty and speculative

currency trading.

According to IMF projections, the

Armenian economy will contract

by 1.5 percent in 2008 after 14 consecutive

years of robust growth,

RFE/RL reported. The latest official

statistics show the gross domestic

product falling by 0.7 percent in

January 2009.


The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 15


Armenia prepares to privatize social security

World Bank, IMF

advise against

proposed pension


Move is considered


by Maria Titizian

YEREVAN – Starting in January

2010, workers in Armenia will see

part of their pay go into private

pension plans, under a decision

adopted on November 13, 2008, by

the Armenian government. Mandatory

retirement contributions

now go into a public pension pillar

similar to the U.S. Social Security

system. Workers born before 1970

can opt to remain in the existing

pillar, but younger workers will not

have the choice. (See sidebar.)

The change is understood to be a

way for the government to finance

the country’s capital markets.

“The focus of any pension system

should be the well-being of senior

citizens,” said the Armenian-American

economist Ara Khanjian.

“The purpose of a pension system

shouldn’t be to promote and generate

the financial markets of the


The stated intention of the government’s

pension reform is to increase

pension benefits and to link

benefits to the amount a worker

has contributed over the years. Under

the current system, benefits

are based on the number of years a

person was employed, but not the

wages earned during those years.

Armenia now has a pay-as-yougo

system. The mandatory contributions

workers make today fund

the benefits of current retirees.

The “system is based on the solidarity

principle between generations,”

Prof. Khanjian explained. With

pay-as-you-go, retirement funds

are protected from financial-market

risks. The government is able

to link benefits to the cost of living,

protecting retirees from inflation.

It is able to provide benefits

for as long as the retiree lives and

also pay survivors’ and disability

benefits. And the plan has significantly

lower administrative costs

than private accounts.

The Armenian government’s decision

comes at a time when other

countries – like Argentina, Italy,

and Chile – are moving away from

private pension funds.


organizations weigh in

The International Monetary Fund

and the World Bank, in the Joint

Staff Advisory Note on the Second

Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper

for the Republic of Armenia, argue

that Armenia should not privatize

its pension system.

The note suggests that Armenia

is not ready to adopt a mandatory

private pension system. Such a

system requires a domestic bond

market, which is not yet developed

in Armenia. It also requires the

administrative capacity to record,

manage, regulate, and supervise

the private pension accounts, a capacity

Armenia does not have.

In addition, the world financial

markets are in crisis.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs

Arsen Hambartsumian told

the Armenian Reporter that he disagreed

with the position that having

a developed financial market is

a prerequisite for privatizing pensions.

“The opposite also holds true

Armenian pensioners. Photo: Photolure.

Pension pillars

Pillar is a technical term used by

pension experts all over the world.

The Armenian government’s proposed

reform entails four pillars

– pillars 0, 1, 2, and 3.

Pillar 0: The benefit allocated to

poor retirees. This is similar to

a welfare program designed for

the poor. If someone is at the age

of retirement and has very little

or no income to survive, the government

will provide that person

with some level of income.

Pillar 1: Represents the current

pension system that exists in Armenia.

According to the government’s

new pension plan, employees

younger than 40 in 2010

will not be allowed to remain

in or join this pillar. Employees

older than 40 have the option to

remain in this pillar. This implies

– that the initiation of any pension

reform will benefit the development

of capital in the financial

markets,” he said.

Prof. Khanjian confirmed, “The

financial markets, such as stock

and bond markets in Armenia, are

not developed because there aren’t

enough funds available to be invested

in these financial markets.

But when the mandatory private

pension accounts are created, in a

few years there will be hundreds

of millions and eventually billions

of dollars in these pension funds,

ready to be invested in these financial

markets, which will contribute

to their development.”

The decision comes

at a time when other

countries are moving

away from private

pension funds.

But that is not the purpose of a

pension program, Prof. Khanjian

said. The priority of the pension

system should be the well-being of

retirees, which the privatized system

cannot guarantee.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian

and Minister of the Economy

Nerses Yeritsian have long been

proponents of implementing a

mandatory private pension fund

system in Armenia. The change

was considered but not adopted

when Mr. Sarkisian was chairperson

of the Central Bank of Armenia

(1998–2008) and Mr. Yeritsian was

with the bank.

Mr. Yeritsian was not available

to discuss the subject with the Armenian

Reporter. Written questions

that in about 25 years, no active

employee will remain in this pillar

because in 25 years the current

youngest member of this

pillar will become 65 years of age

and will retire. Therefore, this is

a temporary pillar.

Pillar 2: Represents the mandatory

private individual pension

accounts. Every employee

younger than 40 in 2010 will be

part of this pillar. This implies

that in 25 years every employee

will be part of this pillar. For this

reason, this is the main pillar of

the government’s proposal.

Pillar 3: Represents voluntary

contributions to private individual

pension accounts.

There is no controversy about

pillars 0 and 3. The controversy

has to do with pillars 1 and 2. f

submitted three weeks ago at the

suggestion of the ministry’s press

secretary had not been answered at

press time.

Theory vs. practice

In boom times, proponents of private

pension funds pointed to impressive

returns individuals could

get if their retirement savings were

invested rather than being used to

pay the pensions of current retirees.

At a time like this, with global

financial markets in a tailspin, the

argument has lost its force.

Across the globe, people who relied

exclusively on private pension

accounts are losing large sums of

money and being forced to postpone

their retirement – if they can

find continued employment.

Most industrialized countries,

including the United States and

Canada, do not have mandatory

private individual pension accounts.

Many Latin American countries

and some former Soviet republics

do have private mandatory pension

accounts invested in stock and

bond markets all over the world.

“With pension funds in Latin

America showing drastic losses as

a result of the global financial crisis,

Argentina has moved to nationalize

its private pension funds, while in

Chile, Colombia and Mexico there

are urgent calls for reforms,” Marcela

Valente wrote in an article

that appeared in the Global Information

Network on November 28, 2008.

“Many of the private sector pension

plans, created mainly in the 1990s . .

. followed the model adopted in 1981

by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet

(1973–1990) in Chile. In 1993,

Argentina adapted the model, without

eliminating the parallel public

system, which allowed workers to

choose either one. But on Nov. 20,

the Argentine parliament eliminated

the private pension funds, which

were in a state of collapse.”

Armenian society is not sophisticated

or market savvy enough to be

able to manage private pension accounts,

said Ara Nranyan, a member

of the Standing Committee on

Economic Affairs of Armenia’s National

Assembly. He recalled that

in the aftermath of the collapse of

the Soviet Union and its currency,

most people lost their life savings.

People are suspicious of the banking

system and are just starting to

open personal bank accounts and

learning to use ATM cards.

To force Armenian workers to

choose among private firms offering

competing pension plans is

irresponsible. Mr. Nranyan, who

holds a Ph.D. in economics and is

part of the ARF bloc in parliament,

told the Armenian Reporter that a

lack of money in the markets and

the strong desire on the part of the

government to generate the financial

markets has led to this new

plan. “Today, there’s about $500

million in pension remittances,

with a potential to increase annually,

which makes it very lucrative

for those in favor of this reform,”

he said. But, “during a financial crisis,

mandatory pension funds endanger

pensions and the security

of retirees,” he added.

There are many unknown variables

and questions about the new

system. Which companies will be

allowed to manage and sell pension

funds? How many pension funds

will be allowed to exist? Who should

choose the pension fund – the employee

or the employer? What kind

of assets should pension funds be

allowed to have? Should they have

bonds, domestic stocks, or international

stocks? How can the government

guarantee that a private pension

fund won’t become insolvent?

What will it do if it does? How will

women be treated when they leave

the job market to have children?

What kind of safeguards can be put

into place to fight potential corruption

in the new system?

In the name of the poor

Under the government’s plan, a

welfare system will back up the pension

system for the benefit of retirees

whose pensions underperform.

“What the state is indirectly saying

is that it doesn’t place value on

a person’s lifetime of work,” said

Smbad Sayian, head of the Pensions

Department at the Ministry

of Labor and Social Affairs. “The

government is saying, I will provide

you with a minimum benefit,

enough that you won’t starve, but

for the rest you are on your own.”

In 1981, Chile adopted a private

pension fund system which garnered

international attention. At

the time it was considered to be a

“great pioneering success.” Today,

almost a quarter century later,

Chilean workers at the cusp of

retirement are facing many crippling

challenges. According to

Armen Kouyoumdjian, an Armenian-Chilean

specialist, their

system encourages evasion by

employees and fraud by employers.

“For a system that was meant

to be universal and compulsory

for salaried workers, and has a

26-year track record, the fact that

only 51.7 percent of the 7.91 million

accounts at pension funds

called AFPs were up-to-date as of

September 30, 2008, says a lot,”

said Mr. Kouyoumdjian.

Just as in Armenia, workers in

The backup welfare plan does not

impress Prof. Khanjian. “An employee

who works [and contributes

to social security for] 30–40 years

should be entitled to receive pension

benefits. He or she shouldn’t

depend on a government handout,”

he said.

Funding budget deficits

Mr. Sayian is concerned about how

the funds will be invested. “Most of

these funds will be directed toward

government bonds and then these

bonds will be used by the government

to cover its current operating

deficit. This is where the greatest

danger lies,” he said, referring to

the possibility of default sometime

in the future.

Mr. Sayian is also concerned with

corruption, which increases the

risk to the most vulnerable people

in society. He notes that an employee

may choose to have her pension

invested with one financial

institution, whereas the employee

has cut a deal with another institution.

Realistically, the employer

may be able to coerce the employee

to go along. The Chilean experience

(see sidebar) suggests that some

employers may even pocket the remittances.

Reform is needed

Does the current pension system

in Armenia require reform? Everyone

across the board agrees that it

does. One issue is linking benefits

to lifetime earnings and contributions

to the pension system. Prof.

Khanjian notes that pension systems

in countries like the United

States use complicated formulas to

link pension taxes and retirement

benefits. “In Armenia we need a

much simpler formula or method.

In my opinion it should be much

simpler to generate such a pension

system, than to generate a pension

system which is based on individual

mandatory pension accounts,”

he said.

“It is safe to say that in countries

with mandatory individual

pension accounts all the workers

who are near their retirement age

are currently in a very precarious

situation because their mandatory

pension accounts have lost a significant

part of their value,” Prof.

Khanjian added. “This implies that

these workers are either going to

continue to work [if work is available,]

instead of retiring, or if they

decide to retire, they will live in


That’s a choice Armenian workers

might be faced with in the next

several decades if the government

decides to go ahead with this reform.


The Chilean experience

Chile didn’t know the workings of

the market well enough to differentiate

between available AFPs. “AFPs

employed thousands of people to

aggressively lure people from one

fund to another every few months,

with cash incentives or other gifts.

It was the gift rather than the

management quality or performance

that attracted the customers.

Now they have a much longer

compulsory waiting period and the

salespeople have been dismissed

(not before they rioted in violent

protest in the streets of Santiago),”

said Mr. Kouyoumdjian.

According to Marcela Valente’s

November 28 article in the Global

Information Network, “between

Oct. 31, 2007, and Oct. 31, 2008,

Chile’s private pension fund assets

shrank from 94.3 to 69.1 billion



16 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009


Armenia marks first anniversary of March 1 events


strikes a conciliatory


Thousands of

candles and

thousands of flowers

in Miasnikian


by Tatul Hakobyan


YEREVAN – A year after security

forces clashed with demonstrators

in the streets of Yerevan, and

10 Armenian men were killed, Armenia

solemnly remembered the

events of March 1, 2008.

About 20,000 people gathered

near the Matenadaran in central

Yerevan to hear Levon Ter-

Petrossian speak. Striking a conciliatory

tone, he suggested that he

would be open to entering a coalition

with the governing parties.

Following the rally, the protesters

marched along Mashtots Avenue

to Miasnikian Square, in the vicinity

of which the deaths had occurred

last year. They approached

the statue of Miasnikian, placed

flowers, bowed, and departed.

A day earlier, on February 28, in

the same square, Tigran Karapetian,

leader of the People’s Party,

and his supporters paid tribute

to the memory of the 10 victims.

Within a few moments, thousands

of candles were lit on the podium

of Miasnikian’s statue and thousands

of flowers were laid.

“I find each victim, the shedding

of each drop of Armenian blood,

wherever it may occur, but particularly

in Armenia, unacceptable.

We first of all criticize the authorities,

as they should have prevented

and not allowed the atmosphere to

reach that level,” Mr. Karapetian


Meanwhile, President Serge

Sargsian on March 1 lit 10 candles

at the St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan

in memory of the 10 victims.

On the same day Karekin II, Catholicos

of All Armenians, conducted

a requiem service at Holy Etchmiadzin

for the souls of the victims.

Representatives of Armenia’s different

political forces could be seen

among those present. Robert Kocharian,

during whose presidency

the tragic events had occurred, did

not make any public appearances.

“The only luminous spot

in this nightmare is the

unbreakable will of the


Former president Levon Ter-Petrossian on March 1, 2009, at an opposition rally.

Photos: Photolure.

On the eve of March 1, 2009, thousands of candles were lit at Miasnikian Square

to honor the memory of those killed a year earlier.

Last autumn Mr. Ter-Petrossian had

announced that he was suspending

his protest rallies, in which participation

had been dwindling. He had

explained that unwanted developments

were awaiting Armenia in

the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement

process and because of that he did

not want to cause additional problems

for the authorities.

During the rally on March 1, 2009,

Mr. Ter-Petrossian did not refer to

the Karabakh settlement at all and

instead mostly concentrated on domestic

economic issues. “We have

to commemorate the tragic events

of March 1 in an oppressed atmosphere,

as prisons continue to be

full of dozens of our friends who

have been criminally prosecuted

based on false accusations. The administration

has done nothing toward

uncovering the true perpetrators

of the tragedy: the murderers,

the snipers, and the looters,” said

Armenia’s first president.

“The only bright spot in this nightmare

and the only circumstance

saving Armenia’s disgraced reputation

is the unbreakable will of the

nation and the establishment of a

strong opposition, headed by the

Pan-National Movement and the

Armenian National Congress,” he

proclaimed. “Despite the brutal

massacre of March 1 and the total

and daily violence that followed, it

is obvious that the authorities did

not manage to intimidate or bring

our nation to its knees and force it

to stop participating in the struggle

aimed at restoring its civil rights,”

he said to his supporters.

Mr. Ter-Petrossian strongly condemned

the economic policy of

the government, saying that the

authorities are “taking steps inadequate

to the crisis.” He criticized

the sale of foreign-currency reserves

to artificially maintain the

exchange rate of the dram. He was

also critical of the government’s actions

to enforce tax laws by forcing

all retailers, including those in flea

markets, to use cash registers. Mr.

Ter-Petrossian also said the government

tolerates monopolies in the

import of goods, allows large-scale

entrepreneurs to avoid taxes, fails

to enforce customs laws evenly,

and refuses to fight corruption. He

also faulted the government for

not cutting expenses even though

revenues are falling.

Mr. Ter-Petrossian said the government

should have prepared the

nation for the economic crisis.

The economic crisis

Mr. Ter-Petrossian said the current

crisis will be deeper and harder

to overcome than what Armenia

had to face at the beginning of

the 1990s. Back then the domestic

crisis took place during a healthy

international economy, when international

financial organizations

President Serge Sargsian lights ten candles on March 1, 2009, at the St. Sarkis

Church in Yerevan. Photo: Press Office of the President of Armenia.

Thousands of people march peacefully along Mashtots Avenue on the anniversary

of the deadly clashes of March 1, 2009.

and wealthy states were able to extend

a helping hand to those states

in need.

“In the coming few months, thousands

of manufacturing enterprises

will end their activity. Parallel to the

decrease in exports, the volume of

imports will also abruptly decrease.

Budget revenues will inevitably decrease.

The unemployment rate will

increase enormously. Wages will

be frozen or fall. Delays in paying

wages will become frequent. The

true income of the population will

decrease. Students will be unable

to pay their educational fees. Creditors

will be unable to repay their

debts. Thousands of shops and enterprises

in the service sector will

close down. The strata of small and

medium entrepreneurs, in essence,

will no longer exist,” he said.

An olive branch?

“I do not rule out the possibility that

in the near future the administration

might find itself in such a hopeless

situation that it will be forced

to resign. I also do not rule out the

possibility that they will suggest

that we reach a national accord or,

to be more precise, establish a government

of national salvation. If

they do make such a proposal, then

the decision to accept or not accept

it will be of course be taken not by

the Congress but by the nation,” Mr.

Ter-Petrossian said.

Unlike his speeches in previous

rallies, this time Mr. Ter-Petrossian

was more civil and moderate in his

characterizations of the governing

authorities. He avoided inflammatory

term kleptocracy and said

the concepts of “attack, rebel, and

revolution” have and will continue

to be completely absent from the

vocabulary of the Pan-National

Movement or the Armenian National


“The old ideologies of revolt or

revolution must finally be elimi-

Continued on page 17 m

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 17


A year after the tragedy, a mother still seeks justice

The mother of

Tigran Khachatrian,

23, speaks out

by Tatul Hakobyan

YEREVAN – Every March 1 Alla

Hovhannisian will visit her son’s

grave to commemorate the anniversary

of his murder. Her son, Tigran

Khachatrian, only lived 23

years. He was killed near Miasnikian

Square in Yerevan, as a result of

a police officer firing an outdated

tear gas gun.

“On March 1, 2008, we woke up

full of joy as it was the first day

of spring,” she said, using the old

Soviet way of reckoning the seasons.

“Tigran congratulated me on

the first day of spring as he knew I

don’t like winter and I love spring.

Together we went to the market

and then he went to work. At two

o’clock he came home and said that

people had been dispersed and

beaten in Freedom Square. His father

and I told him not to go there.

We told him that it was dangerous.

His last words to her were, ‘Even

if there is danger, I must go,’ ” recalled

Tigran’s mother.

From now on March 1 has another

meaning for the Khachatrian

family. The hardest thing for them

was explaining to nine-year-old

Evelina why her dear brother would

never return.

“Evelina felt the death of her

brother very profoundly. Tigran

was 15 years older than her and

loved her as his own child. Evelina

resembles Tigran a lot. Tigran took

her to school every morning on his

shoulders. He loved her very much.

Evelina has not forgotten Tigran. A

few days ago she found a painting

in one of her notebooks. She said,

‘Mom look, Tigran painted this,’ ”

recounted Mrs. Hovhannissian,

suppressing her tears.

Three of the victims of the tragic

events of March 1, Tigran Khachatrian,

Gor Kloyan, and Armen

Farmanian, were killed by outdated

Cheryomukha-7, which is a

tear gas weapon used by the police.

It is not meant to be shot at people

at close range, but rather against

a hard surface to release the tear

Armenia marks first anniversary of

March 1 events

Tigran Khachatrian remembered. Photo: Armen Hakobyan for the Armenian


gas. To date no one has been held

responsible for Tigran’s death.

“I blame the administration in the

death of my son, since my son was

killed by a special means [tear gas

weapons] and that special means

was in the hands of a police officer.

They shot my son in the head, behind

his left ear. I think that instead

of wanting to uncover what truly

took place on March 1, they want to

cover up the case. The parliamentary

commission studying March

1 has not yet visited our house or

the houses of the rest of the people

who were killed. Maybe we have important

information to give them,”

Mrs. Hovhannisian said.

During the past year the mother

who lost her son has participated

in all of the opposition rallies.

“I believe that at least during the

rallies I can hear the truth about

the March 1 events, as I cannot find

the answers to the questions bothering

me on any of the TV stations,”

she said.

The Khachatrian family did not

support former President Levon

Ter-Petrossian in the past. Mrs.

Hovhannisian said that during the

presidential elections, the members

of their family voted for presidential

candidate Artur Baghdasarian.

According to her, her son

participated in Mr. Baghdasarian’s

rally the week before the elections;

he was one of his supporters.

“Tigran was very excited about

Artur Baghdasarian. A day before

the elections he asked, ‘Mom, is it

true that Baghdasarian is a fake oppositionist?’

It was obvious that Tigran

had opposition views toward

the administration. He was in a

dilemma. Maybe he voted for Ter-

Petrossian,” recounted his mother.

“I always thought that Tigran did

not participate in the opposition

rallies, but when we took his mobile

phone from the Special Investigations

Service, we saw that he had

taken pictures of the March 1 rally

and had also participated in another

rally, and there are pictures of

that rally in his telephone,” said Ms.


Tigran was the eldest of the

three Khachatrian children. He was

studying at the Agriculture Academy

and at the same time working

with his father and younger brother,

Aram. He had opened a taxi

service. “He was very hard working

and honest. We had taken a loan to

open the taxi service. After Tigran’s

death we closed the service. After

Tigran’s death my husband did not

leave the house for six months. My

younger son also did not leave the

house and so there was no one to

take care of the business,” continued

Mrs. Hovhannisian.

She recalled that last year on

March 1 she tried very hard to persuade

her son not to go to Miasnikian

Square, but in the evening Tigran

went to the rally. A few hours

later she called on her son’s phone,

but no one answered.

“At 11 p.m. his father went downtown

to look for Tigran. At 3 a.m.,

after searching for him in all the

hospitals, he found Tigran in the

Victims of March 1, 2008

Tigran Abgarian, born 1989

Soldier of Armenian Internal


Wounded on Leo Street, transferred

to Yerevan Mikaelian

Hospital where he died on April

11, 2008, without regaining consciousness.

Died of gunshot wound to the


Grigor Gevorgian, born 1980

Wounded at the intersection of

Paronian and Leo Streets.

Died of a gunshot wound to the


Grigor’s father was martyred during

the Karabakh war.

Samvel Harutyunyan, born 1979

Wounded at the intersection of

Mashtots Avenue and Grigor

Lusavoritch Street. Transferred

to Armenia Hospital where he

died on April 11, 2008, never

having regained consciousness.

Died of head injuries.

Samvel’s father took part in the Karabakh


Zakar Hovhanessian, born 1977

Wounded near the Closed Market

on Mashtots Avenue. Transferred

to Hospital No. 3 and died

later that day.

Died of 9 mm gunshot wound to

the abdomen.

Zakar’s brother was martyred during

the Karabakh war.

morgue, completely covered in

blood. Then my husband came and

said that Tigran had been killed. I

did not believe him as Tigran was

an ordinary citizen. Why would

they kill him? My younger son did

not believe his father’s story. He

and my husband once again went

to the morgue. Then my son came

and said the same thing; Tigran

was killed and drenched in blood,”

recounted Mrs. Hovhannisian.

After losing their son, the sole

aim of the Khachatrian family has

been to remove the “participant in

disorders” label, which the authorities

and pro-government TV stations

have given him.

“I truly believe that my son was

an innocent victim. I want to know

Hamlet Tadevosian, born 1977

Company commander (captain)

of Armenian police forces.

Wounded at the intersection of

Mashtots Avenue and Grigor

Lusavoritch Street.

Died of injuries sustained when

he threw himself on a grenade to

protect his men.

David Petrossian, born 1975

Wounded on Paronian Street,

Building No. 2.

Died of a 9mm gunshot wound

to the chest.

Armen Farmanian, born 1974

Wounded on Paronian Street,

Building No. 24.

Died of injuries to his head as a

result of a Cheryomukha-7 tear

gas canister.

Gor Sargsian, born 1974

Wounded at the intersection of

Mashtots Avenue and Grigor

Lusavoritch Street.

Died of shrapnel wound to his

lower body.

Hovhannes Hovhanessian, born


Wounded at the intersection of

Mashtots Avenue and Grigor

Lusavoritch Street.

Died of 5.45 mm gunshot wound

to the chest.

Hovhannes took part in the Karabakh


who killed my son, who gave the order,

why they killed him, and who

gave them permission to use outdated

special means. I demand and

expect a just investigation,” said his


A year after the tragic events of

March, Serge Sargsian, the president

of Armenia, lit 10 candles in

one of the churches in Yerevan, in

memory of the 10 victims.

“They did not immediately express

their condolences to us for our children

and presented everything in

a very bad manner. When I saw

President Sargsian lighting candles,

I regretted that all of this had not

taken place at the right time, but a

year later. However, that one candle

did somewhat comfort me.” f

n Continued from page 16

nated from the political agenda

of our country. In history there is

almost no instance of a revolution

that gave birth to democracy. As a

result of a revolution, usually, one

authoritarian state follows the

other, as an administration gained

through power can only be maintained

through power. Any given

change in power must take place

solely via the constitution, in other

words, through legal elections,

which is the only guarantor for establishing

a legal and democratic

state,” he said.

A year ago, Mr. Ter-Petrossian

had announced that he was leading

a revolution.

“After some time a new and more

beneficial situation will arise for

taking decisive steps and changing

the authorities. The moment of

maturity is not solely connected

to objective factors such as the

weakness of the authorities in

resolving the issues accumulating

in the country, but first of all the

maturity of society,” said Mr. Ter-


“Is it difficult to understand that

in a few months the authorities will

display their true condition? As a

result of issues beyond their power

and in-fighting, they will crumble

by themselves. The longer we manage

to remain calm, the sooner they

will collapse. The time, when the

already depleted reputation of the

authorities will become equal to

zero is not far away,” he said.

Recalling the 1988 movement,

Mr. Ter-Petrossian said that they

finally managed to defeat the

seemingly solid totalitarian state at

that time because of a consistent,

coordinated, long, and purposeful


“Let no one doubt that the current

pan-national movement will

once again win. There is no chance

that the pan-national movement

will fade away or weaken for objective

reasons as, with their unsuccessful

and wretched activities, the

authorities constantly feed it and

society recharges it,” said Mr. Ter-


The former president announced

that the next rally will take place on

May 1.


18 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009



the armenian


The time is right

Some people may think this is a brilliant plan: Let everyone keep quiet about the Armenian

Genocide for a few months until the fragile process now underway between Turkey and Armenia

bears results. Let Turkey agree to normalize relations with Armenia. Once that’s done, the

Obama administration and the U.S. Congress can quickly affirm the Armenian Genocide.

Alas, every aspect of that plan is flawed, beginning with the assumption that Turkey would

go along with it.

Are we really at the brink of a new era in Armenian-Turkish relations? Is Turkey about to

reopen the land border with Armenia, which – in an effort to suffocate Armenia – it has kept

closed since 1993? Is it about to consent, at last, to establishing diplomatic relations with

Armenia? Armenia has all along sought both outcomes, setting no preconditions.

Developments since last summer have raised hopes that Armenia and Turkey may normalize

relations. Normal relations would, of course, be a highly desirable outcome.

The raising of hopes began last summer at the initiative of Armenia’s then-new president.

He invited his Turkish counterpart to Yerevan. Turkey’s president accepted the invitation

and spent six hours in the Armenian capital in September.

Since then, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey have been suggesting that normalization

is imminent.

The talk about normalization is helping Turkey with one of its foreign policy goals: heading

off U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

So we know that Turkey has a reason to talk about normalizing relations with Armenia. But

the issue is whether it has convincing reasons to go beyond talk and actually open the border.

There are good reasons for it to do so.

First, in this global recession, the possibility of enhanced trade in Turkey’s easternmost

provinces is attractive. Second, by normalizing relations with Armenia, Turkey can enhance

Seeking solutions within

its stature as a regional power and a European state.

(A third reason does not survive scrutiny: The war in Georgia has made a case for developing

alternative transit routes, but that would require Azerbaijan too to open its border with

Armenia, which it will not do. Turkey already shares a border with Armenia’s other immediate


If these reasons are persuasive for Turkey’s leadership, then we hope it will proceed with

the no-brainer steps it should have taken 15 years ago: open the border and exchange ambassadors

with Armenia.

But the leaders of Turkey’s governing AK Party have a problem: if they proceed with normalization

of relations, they lose their excuse to hold off U.S. affirmation. Indeed, if Turkey

agrees to normalize relations with Armenia before U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide,

it will do so only if it can have a new, compelling excuse to hold off U.S. affirmation. That would

almost certainly be the formation of a commission by the governments of Armenia and Turkey

to study the “thorny issues” of history and delay indefinitely the political act of affirmation.

That is a nonstarter. It’s one thing for Armenia to establish relations with Turkey while

Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide. Armenia can do that. It’s another thing to ask Armenia

to participate in that denial by treating the Genocide as an open question yet to be

studied. That Armenia cannot do.

The United States can help with the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations by moving

quickly to affirm the Armenian Genocide. By doing so, the Obama administration and Congress

would clear the way for talks between Armenia and Turkey that are not burdened with this issue.

It’s time to contact members of the House of Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor

the House resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide. Tell them the

time is right.


by Vartan Oskanian

YEREVAN, February 26, 2009 – The official

statistics released in February simply reiterate

the inarguable truth: Armenia is heading

toward a recession.

Although these facts are not being hidden,

they are not being explained either. The government

continues to believe (and rightfully

so) in the importance of confidence as a key

factor of economic stability and is therefore

trying to inspire trust and faith. But it is doing

so without basing its oratory and encouragement

on economic realities, or without actions

which assure the population that steps

are being taken to ameliorate the situation.

These are unconventional times and require

unconventional remedies, including some

outside the IMF-World Bank prescription box,

not unlike those to which the major economies

of the world have already resorted.

I believe that several steps, taken together,

can minimize the economic decline.

Open dialogue

First, there is a need for open, courageous and

sustained public dialogue which is missing, and

which would go a long way to inspire confidence

and faith in the steps being taken to improve

the financial situation. Consumer confidence

regarding the government’s economic policies

are equally critical in this formula. Some of

the government’s actions raised doubts in the

public’s mind about the government’s ability

to respond to this crisis. First, there were the

early pronouncements about this global crisis

circumventing Armenia, which raised questions

about the government’s sincerity and

did nothing to meet the government’s concern

about not creating a panic. Earlier, the government

insisted on passing a budget based on a

high 9 percent growth rate even as the government’s

own numbers were already indicating

Vartan Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign

minister from 1998 to 2008, is the founder of the

Civilitas Foundation.

that this is not a realistic goal. They preferred

the politically desirable picture but instead got

an economically unrealistic scenario, counting

as they said they were, on a quick global rebound.

As a result, the compact between business

and government remains broken. The

confidence-inspiring rhetoric was not able to

transform reality.

Sustainable development

Second, it is important that the government

discuss the Russian Federation $500 million

loan with the public and engage it in a conversation

about its efficient use. There is no doubt

that Armenia needs this money to mitigate the

impact of the crisis. The challenge is that it

be used to ensure economic growth. Does the

Armenian government intend to use the funds

to meet its current budgetary obligations? Will

it loan at least part of the funds to local banks?

Or will it invest the funds in competitive sectors,

such as agriculture and mining, which

have growth potential and local social and

economic significance? In other words, shall

Armenia use the crisis to solve existential issues

and address the short-term challenge of

restraining social disenchantment, or should it

think about sustainable development?

Third, new money alone will not solve the

economic woes either. A step the government

must take, and is already late in taking, is to

let the dram find its normal market exchange

rate. Already, since early 2008, over $440 million

of Armenia’s reserves has been spent

to maintain this stability. This spending is

nearly equal to the $500 million we are going

to owe the Russians. This is not sustainable.

Sooner or later, the government will be

forced to adopt a more flexible exchange rate

policy. In fact a depreciated dram and more

realistic dram rate will boost the value of

foreign capital, will enhance the purchasing

power of the many who rely still on foreign

remittances, will stimulate exports, and will

promote tourism, which have already suffered

as a result of the high dram value.

Fourth, a government committed to tax

reforms must judge correctly not just the nature

of the reform but also its timing. While

taking the crucial step of modifying the tax

structure to help small and medium enterprises,

the government is at the same time

placing the heaviest burden on the smallest

taxpayer by insisting on cash registers for

the tiniest individual entrepreneurs, thus

driving many out of business. This step could

have been delayed. Taxes on the little guy can

and should be assessed, but only after the

real bottlenecks in our economy are lifted.

Monopolies and noncompetitive systems are

the real causes constricting our economy.

Government intervention

Fifth, the time is right to allow for a larger

budget deficit. In an economy where inflationary

pressures are low, when credit is tight,

when there is a clear economic slowdown, enlarging

the budget deficit is not only acceptable

but necessary. Armenia’s deficit has been

well within the internationally advocated 3

percent of GDP. Under today’s unusual circumstances,

the budget deficit can be allowed

to grow to even 6 percent of our GDP. That

additional emission of money can fund public

works, thus creating jobs, improving infrastructure,

and stimulating the economy.

Sixth, this is indeed the time to bring back

the best of government intervention on the

basis of public-private partnership. It was a

laissez-faire, nonregulated market that led

to this global crisis. Depending on more of

the same unrestricted market developments

now means tolerating the excesses of capitalism

instead of reining them in. That is what

the world has learned. In Armenia, if we were

hoping that at the end of this transition, the

pendulum that swung from abject communism

to extreme capitalism was to come to

rest somewhere in the middle between unrestricted

competition and total dependency,

this crisis allows, indeed forces the government

to take on greater responsibility for

wise engagement in the economy and at the

same time take practical steps to address social

problems and ameliorate the conditions

of the most vulnerable in society.

Repair politics

Finally, there is a seventh area of action that

cannot be avoided or ignored any longer and

that is our political reality. The economy

rests firmly on politics and law, on predictability

and consistency, on transparency and

equality. The political situation that exists

around us today does not provide space for

our economic dreams. It is not just the polarization,

it is not just the cynicism, it is

not just the lack of trust. It is also the insufficient

respect for property rights, it is the

sense of impunity on the part of those on

whom we depend to reinforce the rule of law,

it is the inarguable monopolies at the basis

of so much of our trade. The government’s

responsibility is to secure our economy and

our security. Both require a healthy domestic

situation. The government may not be solely

responsible for today’s mess, but it has the

sole capacity to bring the country out of this

mess. There is no way to withstand today’s

economic crisis without addressing and resolving

today’s political crisis. This crisis is

economic and domestic, but it will inevitably

affect our foreign relations and thus can

affect our security.

In other words, the global economic crisis

may have exacerbated the weaknesses of our

own economy. The domestic political crisis

may have come about as a result of bad judgments

on the part of all political actors. But

the solution must be sought from within.

Not from the diaspora, which is living its

own economic crisis. Not from Russia and

China, where money and political expectations

come together. But from our own small

economy whose problems we see, whose solutions

are within reach.

This is the time for responsive governance,

for a demonstrated willingness to share the

burden for the well-being of all citizens. This

is also the time to rally the brainpower and

good intentions of those in and out of government,

the experience of those in and out

of business, the insights of civil society, to

make the right decisions.


Armenian Reporter (ISSN 0004-2358), an independent newspaper,

is published weekly by Armenian Reporter llc.

Gerard L. Cafesjian, President and ceo

Publisher Sylva A. Boghossian

Office manager Lisa Kopooshian

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The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009 19


Living in


Gas stations, toothaches and trims

by Maria Titizian

The journey to acceptance

Receiving citizenship

in the country of my


by Heghinar Melkom


This is how my story goes. My father is Iranian-

Armenian. My mother was born in Syria but

raised in the UK. Me, my name is Heghinar

Melkom Melkomian. I was born in Manchester,

lived in Iran until the age of 7, and then

moved to Armenia. My citizenship is Iranian,

British, and in just a few days, also Armenian.

I was born to patriotic diasporan parents.

When Armenia gained its long-awaited independence,

my parents made, in my eyes, the

biggest decision of their lives. They moved to

Armenia and started a new life at their age in

a post-Soviet country with their four young


We arrived in Armenia in September 1991.

A few months later the harsh winter of Armenia

kicked in full force and brought with it the

so-called “cold and dark” years. Though I was

very young at that time, I remember those

days vividly and believe that all of us who

lived through those years and have memories

of those days grew older ahead of our time.

We survived the post-Soviet hardships with

those who continued to live in Armenia and

those who moved to Armenia. My parents

worked, we went to school, music school, and

then, when those days were in the past, we

went to university and now we have reached

the age where we all work in our family. We

lived in Armenia just like every other Armenian,

went through the same things as they

did, did the same things as they did, ended up

in the same places as they did, but continued

to be diaspora Armenians.

Dual citizenship was forbidden in the previous

Constitution, which meant you had to

hand in your other passport to receive Armenian

citizenship. Already being citizens

of two different countries, my parents did

not think it the best solution at that time

to hand in both our passports in return for

an Armenian passport. And so we lived in

Armenia from 1991 to 2009 as resident aliens.

It might sound funny and unrealistic, but it

is the truth: you go to kindergarten, school,

university, work, pay taxes, but remain an

“odar.” Not by attitude or by treatment toward

you, but de facto. I am 99 percent sure that

we might actually be the only family living in

Armenia for 18 years without being citizens.

However, this did not bar us from anything;

There are no self-service gas stations anywhere

in Armenia. If you want to refuel your

car, you have to rely on gas attendants to do

it for you. Suits me just fine. I’d rather not

get out of the car, especially on cold winter

days, to refuel.

When I pulled into the Mika gas station by

the Davitashen Bridge a few days ago, three

gas attendants ran out to greet me. After I told

them how much and what grade of gas I wanted,

I paid one of the attendants and waited.

I was checking messages on my phone, not

paying attention to where the attendants

were when I looked up and saw all three of

them standing by my window, which was

rolled down, staring at me. I looked at them

for a minute, wondering what they were doing,

just standing there, very nonchalantly,

looking at my car, looking at me. Had I been

anywhere else on the planet I would have

told them to back off. But there was nothing

sinister or threatening in their posture.

I don’t want to presume to know why they

were standing there. Maybe they thought

they were being courteous, respectful. Maybe

they were told that they had to stand by their

customer’s car window while they refueled.

Although I don’t recall them doing that when

my husband is driving and I’m the passenger.

The minutes were ever-so-slowly ticking

by, yet there were my three gas attendants,

all aglow in their green and neon yellow

uniforms, still standing there. One of

them nudged the other and said, “Avtomat

hamagark e, apper.” While the overriding majority

of cars here have a manual transmission,

mine is automatic. So their curiosity

was with the car. They started asking questions

– about horsepower, mileage, how

many cylinders, did it have four-wheel drive,

where did I get it, how much did I pay for it....

How much did I pay for it? Questions that I

wouldn’t give myself the right to ask them.

It’s a small country; shouldn’t we know each

other’s business?

Finally, with the tank full, I drove off. I

looked at my rear view mirror and saw all

three of them standing shoulder to shoulder

staring at me as I drove away.

What can you do. It’s a funny country.

A few weeks earlier my son had been complaining

of a toothache. It appeared to be his

wisdom tooth struggling to come out. I took

him to the dentist to have it checked out.

We’ve been going to the same dental clinic

for years. We initially started going to this

clinic when my son needed braces. We had

paid $800 in 2004, which would cover the entire

two-year treatment, including placing the

braces, regular checkups, maintenance, adjustments,

cleanings, removal, retainer, etc. I

can’t tell you how many times we have visited

that clinic for follow-up treatment, including

several repairs to the retainer that kept

“breaking” according to my active teenager.

almost anything. Year by year laws were adopted

for people like us to simplify our lives

in Armenia, which made us feel almost equal

to locals, apart from the fact that we could

not vote. We even had the 10-year special

residency permit, which superficially differed

from the Armenian passport only with a special

stamp on the first page. But when you live

in a country that you consider your one and

only homeland, your mother and fatherland,

and go through its hardships with its local

residents you tend to develop something of

a complex when you do not have a passport

and cannot say I am a Hayastantsi, and when

asked where you are from, you give the name

of a country where you used to live 18 years

ago and have almost no memories of. You feel

like an eternal diasporan. . . .


Once the country adopted a bill on dual citizenship,

my three sisters and I jumped at

the opportunity and went to Ovir, the passport

and visa office. Now if you have heard of

Ovir, you have heard horror stories. It usually

creates as many problems as it solves. My

father told us all the preparatory steps we

needed to take in order to present our papers

in Ovir. And so, the long journey began.

First, our baptism certificates were sent

from Iran. We went to the police station to

get a paper stating that we had not been convicted

of any crime in the past 10 years. Then

we went to our nearby polyclinic to undergo

a slew of examinations and present the state

of our health. And then we had both of our

passports and our birth certificate translated

and the translations notarized. We completed

forms, got our pictures taken, took papers

from our places of work, paid 1,000 drams at

the bank, and went to Ovir.

Entering the territory from Amirian Street,

I saw a long line, and my heart sank instantly.

My first reaction was to search for familiar

diasporans, but after standing in the line, I

realized that everyone was from Georgia. I

was shocked that so many people had come

to Armenia from Georgia in order to receive

Armenian citizenship. Well, I had naïvely

thought that the law was more for people

like us who had been living in Armenia under

a different passport, but the few times I went

to Ovir I was proven wrong!

First of all, when I say a line, please do not

imagine people standing in an actual line,

one behind the other, waiting patiently like

soldiers. When I say a line, I mean an Armenian-style

line: people huddled and pushing

one another. My sisters and I tried to stick

close together, and after being pushed and

yes, sometimes even pushing, we finally entered

a room where a man was sitting behind

A Yerevan gas station showing prices from August

2008. Armenian Reporter file photo.

The dentists and the rest of the staff are

extremely professional, courteous and helpful.

So it was natural for me to take my son

there to assess the situation with what I

assumed was his wisdom tooth. While one

a desk, registering the names and surnames

of those who entered. He called us in. We approached

and after making a joke on how the

first part of our surname (having a surname

that comprises two parts is very rare in Armenia)

sounded like welcome pronounced with a

v, “velkom,” he appointed inspectors for each

of us and told us to enter the adjacent room

and approach our respective inspectors.

Once I entered the room I heard a female

voice being raised, and looking in that direction,

I saw a young woman, probably in

her early 30s, attractive, with dyed blond

hair, literally screaming at a man standing

in front of her. My elder sister, standing next

to me, jokingly wondered who would be unlucky

enough to have her as their inspector.

I approached and asked someone where my

inspector was seated and was struck with

terror at the response. She, the screaming

woman, was my inspector. My sisters wished

me the best of luck and I silently stood behind

the man who was still being shouted at,

and waited my turn.

In just a few minutes, I was presenting my

papers, and she said that I had to have photocopies

of some of my papers. (This is not

mentioned in the document that states the

required documents). I went outside, photocopied

my papers, and returned. She looked

through them again and said that there were

other documents that also needed to be photocopied.

I asked her to take a look at them

all, tell me what needed to be done, so that I

can finish my paperwork and present it. She

threw a harsh glance at me, as if she had not

been appointed as my inspector in order to

help me, and went though my papers, giving

me instructions with contempt in her voice.

The next day I once again asked for permission

from my boss in order to go to Ovir,

and went with all my papers. After waiting

in the “line” for hours, their working hours

ended, and I returned to work angry, for I

had wasted half my day. The next day, almost

blushing, I asked my boss to leave work again

and went to Ovir again. This time I managed

to see my inspector again and after going

through my papers, she said that my baptism

certificate, which was an original document

in Armenian, needed a notary confirmation.

After consulting with my dad, I told her that

the notary would not confirm a document

that had not been translated and had no

original to be compared with, since it was

an original. She insisted that I needed to do

what I was told and, as she was about to raise

her voice at me, I decided to leave the room.

I walked out with my face burning from fury,

when the man sitting behind the desk and

simply registering those entering asked me

what the problem was.

dentist was attending to my son, another

doctor asked if I would like to see the clinic,

as they had moved to a new location. I don’t

know why he wanted to give me a grand

tour but I obliged. He showed me all their

new equipment, the new x-ray machine, the

new chairs, the bathroom, which he was

particularly proud of, and the kitchen where

they have their lunch, and then offered to

make me coffee!

Before I could make a decision about the

coffee, the attending dentist called me in.

She had pulled up my son’s dental file (a rare

thing in the medical profession in the country

). She compared the x-ray she had just

taken with one we had done several years ago,

told me it was indeed his wisdom tooth, gave

us instructions on what to do, and told me to

bring him back if it flared up again to take a

final decision on how to proceed.

Before we left, I asked how much I owed

them for their time, service, and x-ray. She

waved her hand and told me I didn’t have

to pay, “After all, what did I do?” she asked.

After I thanked her I told her she was crazy,

shook her hand, and walked out.

This is not an isolated incident with us. Today

my daughter went to the hairdresser to

get a trim and cut her bangs. After cutting

my daughter’s hair, she showed her to the

door, saying that payment wasn’t necessary.

“After all, what did I do?” she asked. “I just cut

your bangs.”

There you go.


Thinking he was just a guard, I furiously

related what my inspector had demanded,

angrily joking as to what she wanted the notary

to translate from: classical spelling to

the spelling used in Armenia? He smiled at

me and told me not to be mad, but to return

to my inspector and tell her to accept the

document. I went back inside and he stood in

the doorway and shouted, “Accept her paper

right now.”

It turned out the “guard” was actually the

head of that department dealing with dual

citizenship issues. My inspector asked for

the notary translation of my British passport,

which I had not taken, and said the next time

I returned I could hand in my papers. I was

back in Ovir in two days, with all my papers

in my hand, but with this weird sense that

she was going to say I needed another document.

I once again gave her my documents,

she once again want though them while I was

standing there holding my breath, and then

accepted them. She gave me a piece of paper

and asked me to go to room 401 with it. I

went to the other side of the building, found

room 401, entered, handed in my passport,

and was told my passport would be ready in 6

months to a year.

A Hayastantsi

Six months have passed and probably dozens

of officials have gone though my documents

during that time. Before the end of the year,

my case had been presented to the president

of the country, who confirmed that I, Heghinar

Melkom Melkomian, could become a

citizen of the Republic of Armenia. I do not

think the president personally went though

my papers, but it still feels nice to think that

a president of a country went though your

papers and announced that you deserve to

become a citizen of that country. Now, at the

end of February, only a few days before I go to

Ovir (hopefully for the last time in a very long

time) to receive my Armenian passport, it is

all actually starting to kick in. I feel nervous,

excited, scared, and proud; proud to be a diasporan

by origin, but a Hayastantsi de facto.

For me this is one of the greatest gifts. A gift

for moving to Armenia, sharing their hardships,

getting to know and accept those new

Armenians around me who had a completely

different character and mentality from what

I was used to, and finally, for defending and

loving endlessly and unconditionally a country,

which is my mother and fatherland, which

holds my past, my present, and my future. f

Many of the articles from Armenia that have appeared

in the Armenian Reporter over the last two

years were translated from Armenian by Heghinar

Melkom Melkomian.

20 The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009

The Armenian Reporter | March 7, 2009

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