National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

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National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008NationalW3December 7, 198820 years onThe Spitak-88 Earthquake, 20 years laterProfessor MihranAgbabian remembersby Karineh GregorianOn December 7, 1988, at 11:41 a.m. local time,a massive earthquake with a Magnitude of6.9 struck the city of Spitak in Armenia, killingapproximately 25,000 people. Spitak wasdestroyed and nearby cities of Leninakan(later renamed Gyumri) and Kirovakan (laterrenamed Vanadzor) sustained major damageas well. The tremor also caused damageto many surrounding villages. Geologistsand engineers blamed the resulting damageprimarily on the poorly built structuresconstructed during the “stagnation” era ofSoviet leader Leonid Brezhnev – the periodof economic slowdown in the Soviet Unionthat started in the mid-1970s.Soviet officials were not ready for a disasterof this scale. They had insufficient rescueequipment, and faced freezing winter temperaturesand the destruction of most of thehospitals in the area during the earthquake.Despite the tensions of the Cold War, Sovietleader Mikhail Gorbachev formally askedthe United States for humanitarian help, thefirst such request since World War II. Countriesfrom the West, including Great Britain,France, Italy, West Germany, and Switzerland,sent substantial amounts of humanitarianaid to Armenia in the form of search teams,rescue equipment, and medical supplies.The Soviet government eased border restrictionsfor Armenia, and assistance beganto arrive from everywhere. The first internationalteam was from Georgia, followed byYugoslavs and others with medical personneland supplies. The U.S. National ScienceFoundation sent a team of American scientistsand engineers to work in cooperationwith Armenian and Russian counterparts.Mihran Agbabian, a professor at USC, andArmen Der Kiureghian, a professor at UCBerkeley, were the only two Armenian engineersin this American research team. Theyarrived in Armenia on December 11 in afreight plane carrying Red Cross assistance.When Dr. Agbabian was asked what he recalledabout being in Armenia 20 years ago,he responded, “Every one of us present at thedisaster region in the days that followed theearthquake will have memories of experiencesthat haunt us, remembering the humansuffering, and at the same time uplifting usas we think of the devotion of people whowere there to ameliorate the sufferings of thesurvivors.“The earthquake occurred at a time when Armeniawas in turmoil because of the Karabaghindependence movement, and many workerswere on strike. In hindsight, it is remarkablethat the country’s administration did notcollapse. The cooperation between the localworkers and the visiting teams was remarkable.Saving lives was the highest priority, butour responsibility was to perform scientificand engineering investigations of the causeand impact of the earthquake. We were inArmenia from December 11 to 18 on the teamof American scientists and engineers, sent bythe U.S. National Science Foundation. Therewere many other volunteer groups, especiallyfrom the medical profession, who were therefor rescue and recovery missions.”The outpouring of aid from both privateindividuals and governments around theworld was very generous, though much of ithad a great deal of trouble reaching Armeniathrough Azerbaijan, which was blocking anddamaging shipments.Dr. Agbabian was assigned as the chair ofthe investigation team, but appointed hiscolleague as chair once in Armenia. “For me,the suffering of the people took control of myfeelings more than my dedication to science,and I told a colleague of mine to take chargeof the investigation that I had been askedto chair. I remember that my thoughts duringour investigations were centered moreon the survivors than the technical aspectsof the disaster. Walking past a completelydestroyed multistory apartment building, Inoticed two grandmothers who had built afire and were boiling water in a pot. Theyinsisted that we share with them the tea thatthey had prepared. One of them said that wemust be tired and we needed to drink the teaDr. Mihran Agbabian in Spitak, 1988.that they were offering. They had lost theirentire belongings and some of their familymembers, but they had kept their Armenianhospitality,” Dr. Agbabian recalls.“In the ruins of a branch of the YerevanPolytechnic Institute, the State EngineeringUniversity of Armenia, I was told that acompletely destroyed building had been thelibrary and that more than 300 students andfaculty were killed on the campus. I pickedup a book covered with dirt, in Russian, andread its title, Resistance of Materials, an ironicreminder of what the architects and engineerswere being taught on the safe applicationof construction materials. I keep thatbook in my library as a reminder of the tragedybecause we know that the earthquake disasterwas as much the fault of human beingsas the fault of nature,” he says.Under the chairmanship of Prime MinisterFadey Sarkisian, the Central MinisterialCommittee of Armenia was in session discussingthe situation of the 160,000 refugeesfrom Karabakh and Azerbaijan to Armeniaat the time when the news reached themthat there was an earthquake in northernArmenia. Former Prime Minister Sarkisiandescribes in his memoir, Lessons of Life, thedevelopments following the news. He firstcalled the Medzamor Nuclear Power Stationand learned that it was still in operation. Hethen called the regions for a report. At thesame time, he received a call from the SovietUnion’s prime minister, Nikolay Ryzhkov,inquiring about the severity of the earthquakeand the magnitude of the disaster. Mr.Ryzhkov decided immediately to fly to Yerevanto inspect the conditions first hand.Mr. Sarkisian has praise for Mr. Ryzhkov,especially for his human character. He saidhe was weeping as he inspected the damageand heard the pleas of the people who weredigging through the rubble for survivors. Hekept hearing, “We need cranes” to lift theheavy concrete slabs. Mr. Sarkisian writes inhis memoir, quoting Ryzhkov: “Walking inthe city was painful. We could hear the peopleburied alive under the destroyed structures.The surviving persons were in vain trying tolift the heavy slabs to save their loved ones.It is so terrible being helpless in these circumstances.I had lost all hope. I was helplessas the prime minister of a suffering countryand for not being a wizard with Aladdin’slamp under my arm. I was crying as I walkedwithout embarrassment for my tears.” Mr.Sarkisian’s appraisal of Mr. Ryzhkov’s humanfeelings on the soil of Armenia was indeedshared by the Armenian population.Mr. Gorbachev also cut short his visit to NewYork City in order to visit the disaster area inArmenia immediately after the earthquake. Ithas been said he left the disaster area angrythat locals were asking him about freedom forKarabakh Armenians. He promised to have allof the damaged areas quickly rebuilt.Twenty years later Dr. Agbabian describeshis relief efforts experience with referenceto the novel of the French writer AlexanderDumas, Twenty Years After, where Dumasbrought together his Musketeers for arenewed dedication to their mission. “HisMusketeers came out of retirement and wereagain the heroes of Dumas’ imagination. As Ilook back 20 years, I note that the Armenianengineers, scientists, and health specialistsof the time did not retire but they continuedtheir work for safe structures and minimumcasualties during future earthquakes. Theseismic engineers named the earthquake“The Spitak-88 Earthquake,” and for a numberof years they focused their attention on thecause and effects of this tragic event in Armenia.Our own investigations culminatedin presentations at the International Seminaron Spitak-88 in Yerevan, in May, 1989,that was sponsored by UNESCO. I consider ita coincidence that the plenary sessions wereheld in the auditorium of the building that isnow the American University of Armenia.”Dr. Agbabian was the founding presidentand serves as president emeritus of the university.During the UNESCO symposium, attendedby 160 scientists and engineers, 56 paperswere presented and discussions were heldon the prevention of similar disasters. Thestatistics were awesome. It was reportedthat the earthquake affected a population of700,000 people in northern Armenia. The initialofficial estimate of fatalities was 55,000,later revised to 25,000 based on the count of24,944 bodies removed from the rubble. Theearthquake left 514,000 homeless, 31,000 injuredand 14,832 victims extricated from thedestroyed buildings. Over 21,000 residenceswere destroyed, as well as 83 schools, 88 kindergartens,84 hospitals, and hundreds ofstores and public buildings.The lessons learned were not surprising,neither to the Armenian experts nor to thevisitors. “In my presentation I summarizedmy conclusions stating that the prescribedseismic intensity zoning by the local buildingcode was low; the design details did not demonstratethe required ductility in the structures;certain sites had significant groundmotion amplification or possible resonancebetween soil and structure, and the qualityof construction was poor. I remember thatthe Armenian engineers were accepting thefirst three conclusions and they said theywere themselves appalled by the low qualityof construction, blaming it on the corruptpractice of builders,” said Dr. Agbabian.“Rumors were circulating that the disasterwas not due to an earthquake but to a nuclearbomb that the Russians detonated underground.In fact, the day after the earthquake,soon after I was interviewed by NBC in LosAngeles and had just returned home, I receiveda telephone call from an Armenian lady whoblurted out that I was all wrong, and that itwas a Russian bomb and not an earthquake.When I was in Armenia in November, 2008,twenty years later, I was asked the same question.This had come up so many times in theintervening years that I had taken the onlyreliable seismic wave record (the Gukasian record)to my friend, Professor Bruce Bolt, aworld-renowned seismologist whose expertisewas in the science of distinguishing betweenearthquake and nuclear weapons detonationrecords, and whose book entitled Nuclear Explosionsand Earthquakes: the Parted Veil waswritten to detect the differences between theseismic waves of earthquakes caused by natureand underground nuclear tests. He assured methat it was very clear that the Spitak-88 eventwas an earthquake record. Remote records inother countries had also proven that there wasno basis for the rumors that the earth shookbecause of a nuclear detonation on December7, 1988 at 11:41 a.m.,” Dr. Agbabian states.One specific research project Dr. Agbabianperformed with a colleague was on a 10-storybuilding in Armenia that had collapsed inLeninakan (Gyumri). The analysis showedthat lateral forces on the building were considerablyhigher than the lateral design forces,causing tension forces in the core walls atthe base of the structure, which combinedwith shear forces to cause the collapse of thebuilding. This was a lift slab structure with acentral core used to lift the flat plate floorsinto place during construction. The core alsoserves as the location of elevators and plumbing,ducting and electrical wiring. Columnsare also used in the periphery of the buildingand exterior precast panels enclose the structure.“It was a clever design that was veryhighly praised in the Soviet Union becauseall slabs were poured on the ground level andthen lifted individually to the designated levelby electro-mechanical jacks. Our analysisshowed that the effect of the tension stress atthe base reduced the shear resistance of thereinforced concrete, and since the structuredid not have the required ductility (abilityto deform without failure), the building collapsed.We used the seismic record at Gukasiannear Leninakan as a reasonable source ofthe earthquake shaking for this analysis,” Dr.Agbabian explained. This shows the structuraldesign of buildings used in the Soviet Unionlacked resistance to seismic forces caused byearthquakes, resulting in damage and collapseof buildings.Many severe earthquakes have occurred indifferent parts of the world since December1988, the latest being the magnitude 8.0 Sichuanearthquake in Wenchuan County, China,that occurred on May 12, 2008, killing 69,000people. Prior to this earthquake, the Spitakearthquake (Magnitude 6.9) was consideredthe second largest in terms of damage tohumans and infrastructure after the magnitude7.8 Tangshan earthquake of July 28, 1976(242,000 killed). Casualties in Sichuan (2008)and Tangshan (1976), both in China, weremuch higher than the Spitak earthquake, butconsidering the population base of Armeniaas compared to China, the impact of the Spitakearthquake was exceptionally severe.The January 17, 1994, Northridge, California,earthquake was also about magnitude6.9, same strength as the Spitak earthquake,but the damage was limited to parking structures,an apartment complex and freeways,and the casualty numbers were 72 personskilled and 9,000 injured. Dr. Agbabian commentson this comparison: “It is not fair toblame the Armenians for the extensive damageand praise the Californians for limiteddamage resulting from similar magnitudeearthquakes, but lessons can be learned.”One of the consequences of the Spitakearthquake was the formation of the AmericanUniversity of Armenia (AUA) as well as aheightened focus in Armenia on building seismicallysound buildings. The idea of an American-styleuniversity in Armenia was proposedto Prof. Der Kiureghian in 1989. The idea soonevolved into founding a graduate universitybased on the American model led by MihranAgbabian and Armen Der Kiureghian. AUAgained affiliation with University of Californiaand on September 21, 1991, the same day Armeniadeclared its independence, AUA beganinstruction with 101 students enrolled. Today,AUA offers graduate instruction leading to themasters degree in eight graduate programs:business administration, industrial engineeringand systems management, computer andinformation science, law, political science andinternational affairs, public health, and teachingEnglish as a foreign language (certificateand degree programs).Progressive-minded engineers in Armeniaare now working on current methods of designingstructures for safety. One such engineeris a professor at the American Universityof Armenia, Mikael Melkumian, whohas studied in Japan the new concept ofbase isolation for buildings and has alreadydesigned more than seven structures in Armeniathat are comparable to similar structuresbuilt in the United States. The conceptis to support a structure on high-strengthrubber bearings that decouple the superstructurefrom its foundation during earthquakes.“It is interesting to note that thisconcept may be used for new buildings aswell as for making existing buildings earthquakeresistant. San Francisco City Hall, L.A.City Hall, and other massive structures areretrofitted with base-isolated substructures.“Significant steps have been taken since theSpitak-88 earthquake by scientists, engineersand builders to limit the damaging effectof earthquakes. Mapping of potentialareas of earthquake occurrence, definitionof geological conditions, seismological studiesof characteristics of wave propagation,advanced criteria for the design of structures,more refined analysis of the responseof structures, design details that resist collapse,and techniques such as base isolationthat control the relative movement ofground and building are techniques that arenow available to Armenian scientists andengineers just as they are to American scientistsand engineers. Earthquakes cannot beprevented from occurring but their damagecan be controlled,” said Dr. Agbabian. f


2 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008NationalWashington briefingby Emil SanamyanU.S. considers Caucasusto Central Asia routeto supply AfghanistanforcesWith an increasingly unstable Pakistan,the United States is lookinginto the possibility of supplying itsforces in Afghanistan via the Caucasusand Central Asia, the WashingtonPost reported on November 18citing Pentagon documents. SincePresident-elect Barack Obamahas pledged to increase the U.S.military presence in Afghanistan,the need for additional suppliesmay add to existing concerns.There are currently 67,000 alliedsoldiers in Afghanistan, of whomabout half are Americans. Accordingto the Post, 75 percent of allsupplies to these forces, such asfood, gas, and military equipment,currently come from Pakistan orthrough its port of Karachi, fromwhere they are taken by truck intoGen. Duncan McNabb. Photo: AP.Afghanistan. Truckers have comeunder increased Taliban attacks inPakistan and Afghanistan.A spokesperson for U.S. forcesin Afghanistan denied the attackshave affected military operations.Nevertheless, the Defense Departmentdispatched head of the U.S.Transportation Command Gen.Duncan McNabb to Azerbaijanand Kazakhstan in mid-November.Since 2001, the U.S. has used theCaucasus to Central Asia air corridor,but not the land route whichwould have to start at one of Georgianports then cross Azerbaijan,the Caspian Sea, and one or moreCentral Asian states before reachingAfghanistan. Shipments wouldbe conducted by a contractor whowould need to hire local security.Pentagon documents cited by thePost suggest that the U.S. alreadysecured Georgia’s approval for whatit called a “northern route,” andwas in talks with Azerbaijan andKazakhstan. The Pentagon said itdid “not expect transit agreementswith Iran or Uzbekistan.”But according to a Strategic Forecasting(Stratfor) analysis publishedon November 19, the United Stateswill have to continue to rely on Pakistanfor most of its supplies, with amuch longer and more complicatedCentral Asian route potentially servingas a reserve option. In additionto the logistics of that route, theUnited States would have to takeinto account Russia’s increasinglyprominent role in Central Asia.According to the Post, this yearRussia agreed to facilitate nonlethalsupplies to pass from Europethrough its rail system into CentralAsia and from there by truck to Afghanistan.nato: contacts toresume with Russia;no new decisions onGeorgia, UkraineMeeting on December 2, nato foreignministers agreed to resumesome of of the alliance’s contactswith Russia, Radio Free Europe /Radio Liberty (rfe/rl) reported.The relations were suspended threemonths earlier over Russian militaryintervention in Georgia.The United States has pushed fora tougher international reactionto Russian treatment of America’sclose ally, leading to temporarysuspension of nato and EuropeanUnion contacts with Russia.But last month, shortly after theU.S. presidential elections, the EUresumed partnership talks withRussia over Georgian objections.(See this page in the November 15Armenian Reporter.)nato Secretary General Jaap deHoop Scheffer said this week thatnato’s “graduated re-engagement”with Russia does not mean that thealliance agrees with Russian policiesin Georgia.In another anticipated decision,nato officials again declined togrant Georgia and Ukraine membershipaction plans (maps). Atthe same time, they reiterated thenato’s Bucharest summit statementthat promised eventual membershipto both countries last April,and promised to continue to assistUkarine and Georgia to achieve“nato standards.”Reacting to these developments,Russian President Dmitry Medvedevsaid on November 28 that hewas “pleased that reason has prevailed,unfortunately only at theend of the current U.S. administration.But this at least ascertains thecurrent state of affairs.”Mr. Medvedev made his commentsin Cuba where he arrivedfrom Venezuela, whose forces justheld joint exercises with a Russiannaval group currently in the Carribean.Russia has strongly opposednato’s expansion into Ukraine andGeorgia.As Eugeniusz Smolar of thePolish Center for International Relationstold rfe/rl, “The Georgiawar, in the opinion of most natomembers, is not only an example ofRussian aggression – which it was.It was also an example of the irresponsiblebehavior of the presentGeorgian leadership.”Last week the Polish securityservice blamed Georgian leadersfor endangering the life of the Polishpresident on a visit to Georgiawhen his convoy abruptly turnedtoward Ossetian territory, causinga shooting incident. Poland hasbeen one of Georgia’s staunchestsupporters in nato and the EU.“In this context, many natomembers – and not just Germanyand France – say that they are notpolitically ready to defend a countrythat is behaving in such a manner,”Mr. Smolar said.But proponents of nato expansionsuggest the incoming administrationof Barack Obama couldhelp mend ties between the UnitedStates and Europe, probably atRussia’s expense.“If you imagine in three years’time, if we have a stable governmentin Ukraine, a different Georgianleadership, a Russia that ispreoccupied with its own problems,and a more popular American administration,nato expansionmight not look so crazy,” EdwardLucas, deputy editor at the Economist,told rfe/rl.Azerbaijan, Turkey seekTurkmenistan gas, ferrylink upThe presidents of Azerbaijan andTurkey were in Turkmenistan lastweek in another effort to encouragerouting of that country’s naturalgas exports via the Caspian, theCaucasus, and Turkey. The UnitedStates has long supported thetrans-Caspian gas pipeline, havingin August 2007 allocated funds tostudy its feasibility.But Azerbaijan and Turkmenistanhave had difficult relationssince independence, with their pastdictators Heydar Aliyev and SaparmuradNiyazov arguing overoffshore Caspian oil fields.In recent years, while disagreementsabout the maritime borderhave not been resolved, there havebeen more contacts. Last May Mr.Niyazov’s successor, GurbangulyBerdymuhamedov, went to Bakufor talks with Ilham Aliyev.On November 28–29 Mr. Aliyevpaid a return visit, with Turkishpresident Abdullah Gül arriving apparentlyto mediate the dispute betweenthe two “brotherly” nations.The three leaders agreed to reestablisha ferry link between Bakuand Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk),suspended since the collapseof the ussr, and to continuetalks on the disputed Kapaz/Sardaroil field in the middle of the Caspianand on a potential trans-Caspiangas pipeline.In December 2007 Turkmenistanhosted the presidents of Russia andKazakhstan and agreed to build anew pipeline to export additionalnatural gas through their territories.The Central Asian nation isbelieved to have fourth largest gasresources in the world behind Russia,Iran, and Qatar.Obama administration’s national security team takes shape Continued from page 1According to the Turkish dailyHurriyet, anonymous Turkish officialshave reportedly also welcomedthe president-elect’s choice.According to the newspaper, Mrs.Clinton is seen in Turkey “as anexperienced and centrist figurewith a positive understanding ofTurkey.”As a senator, Mrs. Clinton supportedcongressional measures toaffirm the U.S. record on the ArmenianGenocide and signed letters toPresident George W. Bush urginghim to do the same.A statement issued by Mrs. Clinton’selection campaign on January24, 2008, said, “I believe the horribleevents perpetrated by the OttomanEmpire against Armenians constitutea clear case of genocide.” Shepledged to “recognize the ArmenianGenocide” if elected president.In that statement, Mrs. Clintonalso promised “to expand and improveU.S.-Armenia relations,” includingan increase in U.S. aid “toArmenia and the people of NagornoKarabagh,” as well as helping reacha “fair and democratic resolution ofthe Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.”Sec. Gates as secretaryof defensePresident-elect Obama has alsoasked Defense Secretary Gates tostay in office for at least anotheryear. Mr. Gates was appointed byPresident Bush following the November2006 midterm congressionalelections, replacing the controversialDonald Rumsfeld.Last year, Mr. Gates participatedin the Bush administration’slobbying effort in opposition tothe House of Representatives’resolution on the ArmenianGenocide.In March 2007 Defense SecretaryGates co-signed a letter with Secretaryof State Condoleezza Riceto House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D.-Calif.) arguing that passage ofthe House resolution would “significantlyendanger U.S. nationalsecurity interests.”And in October of last year, Mr.Gates told a Pentagon news conferencethat a resolution, if passed,would damage U.S.-Turkey relations“perhaps beyond repair” and“do real harm” to U.S. troops in Iraq,The Associated Press reported atthe time.In the same period, Mr. Gatesspoke shortly after his meetingwith Serge Sargsian, who was Armenia’sprime minister at the time;both officials said after the meetingthat they did not discuss the resolution.(Armenian officials havehistorically refused to weigh in oncongressional debates, althoughthey have broadly welcomed internationalrecognition of the ArmenianGenocide.)In those comments, Mr. Gatesalso said that he “worked [theArmenian Genocide] issue” whiledeputy national security advisorto President George H. W. Bushin 1990, when a Senate resolutionwas championed by then-Minority leader Robert Dole(R.-Kan.)Gen. Jones as nationalsecurity advisorRetired Marine Corps GeneralJames Jones will serve as the incomingpresident’s chief aide onnational security matters. As nationalsecurity advisor, Gen. Joneswill coordinate the work of variousagencies such as the State Departmentand the Pentagon.Like President-elect Obama, Gen.Jones spent much of his childhoodabroad, in his case in France. Butgraduating from the GeorgetownUniversity School of Foreign Servicein 1966, Mr. Jones switched toa military career and service in theVietnam War.Gen. Jones last served as commanderof the North Atlantic TreatyOrganization (nato) from 2003to 2006. In that capacity he workedwith other nato governments andmilitaries, including those of Turkeyand nato partner states in theCaucasus.In a June 2003 interview withArmenia’s Mediamax news agency,Gen. Jones highlighted the importanceof Armenia’s hosting of theCooperative Best Effort exercisesin the nato Partnership for Peaceframework.And in September 2004, Gen.Jones canceled a similar exercisein Azerbaijan after its governmentSamantha Power is backHarvard University professor SamanthaPower, who resignedlast March from the Obama campaignafter calling his then-rivalSen. Clinton “a monster,” is nowback working for President-electObama’s transition team.A close Obama advisor, Ms.Power has been a strong supporterof Armenian Genocide affirmation.In a video address releasedby the anca last January, she encouragedArmenian-Americans tosupport Mr. Obama as someonewho has a “willingness to challengeconventional wisdom andconventional Washington,” andwhen it came to the Armenianbarred Armenian officers from attending.In his March 2005 testimony tothe Senate Armed Service Committee,Gen. Jones spoke of Armenia’sregion as “increasingly importantto [U.S.] interests.” Calling Armenia’sregion a “pivot point” for thestates of Central Asia and MiddleEast, he highlighted the importanceof Caspian energy resourcesand the Caucasus serving as a transitpoint for air-delivered suppliesto U.S. forces in Afghanistan. SamanthaPower, right,at CarlaGarapedian'sArmenianGenocidedocumentaryat Harvard in2007. HarvardNews Officephoto.Genocide “call a ‘spade a spade’;and to speak the truth about it.”According to www.change.gov,cited by Politico on November 28,Ms. Power is part of the President-elect’steam now studyingState Department personnel, operations,and policy, and workingto “ensure that senior appointeeshave the information necessaryto complete the confirmationprocess, lead their departments,and begin implementing signaturepolicy initiatives immediatelyafter they are sworn in.”It is unclear what, if any, formalposition Ms. Power may be offeredin the Obama administration.


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008NationalDecember 7, 198820 years onAn outpouring of support from Californiaby Lory TatoulianLOS ANGELES – Twenty yearsago this month, as the devastatingnews of the Spitak earthquakereached the diaspora, Armeniansthroughout the world respondedto the catastrophe with urgency.In the United States, the WesternDiocese, the Western Prelacy, andthe Armenian Relief Society (ARS)were some of the first communityinstitutions to rush to the aid oftheir brothers and sisters in Armenia.[The work of other organizations,including the AGBU and theEastern Diocese and Prelacy, is coveredelsewhere.]The Western Diocese organizedand sent assistance in the form ofmonetary and medical relief. An immediatepriority was to care for the12,000 children who had becomeorphans as a result of the earthquake.Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian,the Primate at the time, setup an orphan-assistance program,through which local communitymembers were asked to sponsororphans by donating $150 for eachchild. This amount would securethe orphans’ basic needs, from foodand clothes to school supplies.Longtime community benefactorsGeorge and Flora Dunaiansprovided the warehouse of theircompany, Western Medical, as acollection and processing centerfrom which humanitarian aid – includinghospital beds, wheelchairs,clothes, and medicines – wereshipped to Armenia.“Our main concern was to makesure that the victims were receivingadequate medical aid,” Ms. Dunaiansrecalled. “We used a lot of discretionwhen donations were givento us. We just didn’t want to sendused junk to Armenia. We madesure that we sent the best medicalsupplies so that medical personnelwould be able to make use of them.”During those early efforts, theWestern Diocese named Ms. Dunaiansas humanitarian chair of its orphanagefund, entrusting her withthe task of ensuring a seamless reliefoperation. Since 1990, Ms. Dunaianshas been to Armenia over 30times, overseeing assistance effortsfrom an office at St. Sarkis Churchin Yerevan, set up by the Dunaianswith the help of the late CatholicosVazken I.Dikran Dzoolikian, who becamethe main liaison at the Yerevanoffice, has for the past 18 yearsbeen in charge of distributing aidto orphans and economically disadvantagedfamilies alike.“There was complete transparencyin all of our work and I amhappy to say we had a really greatsystem going,” Ms. Dunaians said.“Everyone who has worked with ushas been very honest and accountable– we needed to make sure ourassistance reached those who werein desperate need. It was amazingto see the network of people cometogether and make it happen.”In addition to monetary contributions,a great many members ofthe Western Diocese helped mobilizethe Armenian community inLos Angeles. Setrak Kopoushianremembers going to his friends’homes and making phone calls tocollect as many donations as hecould. He stayed up late into thesmall hours of the night to worka forklift at the Western Medicalwarehouse, stockpiling medicalsupplies and food into shipmentcontainers. He also regularly drovea big truck to the Los Angeles InternationalAirport to deliver reliefsupplies, which were flown to Armeniaon planes provided by theArm & Hammer company.“I was willing to help in any wayI could,” Mr. Kopoushian said. “Itwas hard hearing the tragic newsand not being able to actually bethere to help, so here in my town,I rallied my friends and family andput in muscle work.”Rebuilding livesResponding to a call from CatholicosVazken I, the Western Dioceseand a number of benefactors endeavoredto help rebuild five earthquake-damagedcities and townsin Northern Armenia. As hospitals,schools, and entire blocks ofapartment buildings lay in ruins,the urgent aim was to restore theinfrastructure of the devastatedareas and begin rebuilding out ofthe rubble.Meanwhile, the Western Diocese’sorphanage fund continued togrow. Eventually rechristened theEchmiadzin Children’s Fund, theprogram expanded its mission tofocus not only on sponsoring orphansbut also helping poor families.Accordingly, basic sponsorshipamounts were raised from $150 to$250. Today the Echmiadzin Children’sFund, chaired by GayaneTatoulian, provides assistance tosome 12,000 children, with majorsupport from various Diocesesthroughout the diaspora.In the years following the earthquake,as the needs of Armeniaevolved from emergency relief tolong-term development, it becameapparent to Ms. Dunaians and otherbenefactors in Los Angeles thatmore emphasis had to be placed oneducation and vocational training,specifically in the areas that hadbeen affected by the earthquake.The changing priorities led to theestablishment of DevelopmentalServices for Armenia in 1993. Sincethen, the nonprofit organizationhas built numerous rehabilitationcenters, schools, homes for handicappedchildren, and the VanadzorHome for Abandoned Children.The Western Prelacy, along withthe ARS, has also played a pivotalrole in providing assistance to thousandsof Armenia’s earthquakevictims. The ARS leadership and anarmy of volunteers, including HasmigDerderian, who now serves aschair of the organization’s CentralExecutive Board, carried out the reliefeffort from the ARS headquartersin Glendale. For months followingthe Spitak tragedy, the women ofthe ARS and family members workedday and night at the ARS building onGlenoaks Boulevard, collecting donationsand processing shipmentsof medical equipment, medicines,clothes, and other supplies.“Our children would be therewith us, helping sort out the materialand bringing in money theyhad collected from their school forearthquake victims,” Ms. Derderianrecalled. “Everybody wanted tohelp. We would have people stop bythe headquarters to give what theycould. We even had non-Armeniansmake donations. It was ourresponsibility to make sure everyitem was sent to Armenia.”Furthermore, the ARS spearheadedseveral building and socialserviceprojects in the homeland.The organization helped rebuildthree towns in the earthquakezone and established urgentlyneededeye-care centers in Talin,Vanadzor, and Yerevan. As Derderianexplained, before the availabilityof the ARS’ eye-care centersin Northern Armenia at that time,residents needed to travel to Moscowfor eye exams or to obtaineyeglasses.“It took up to three months forthe eyeglasses to arrive from Moscow,”Ms. Derderian said. “Weknew that building eye-care centerswould greatly help those withsight problems.”The optical centers also organizedoutreach programs, withoptometrists visiting area schools,performing eye exams, and providingfree eyeglasses to studentsfrom economically-disadvantagesfamilies.In Vanadzor, the ARS also helpedrenovate a wing of the VanadzorUniversity and set up psychiatricclinics to treat earthquake survivors.Dr. Armen Goenjian, arenowned psychiatrist from LosAngeles specializing in post-traumaticstress disorder, was instrumentalin helping set up the clinics.He and a staff of psychiatrists fromLos Angeles evaluated and treatedhundreds of children in Armeniaand trained a number of local professionalsto carry out their workinto the future.Orphan assistance has been anotherarea of concentration for theARS. The organization establisheda sponsor-a-child program, with$120 sponsorships used to coverthe basic living needs of beneficiarychildren. In time, the programincluded orphans from Artsakh aswell. Today the ARS provides assistanceto some 7,500 children in Armeniaand Karabakh, meeting notonly their everyday needs but alsofunding their education. fU.S., Russia, France insist on peaceful solution in Karabakhn Continued from page no breakthrough had been expected.Asked by the Armenian Reporterabout Mr. Aliyev’s statement thatthe Moscow declaration does notpreclude a military solution to theKarabakh conflict, Mr. Bryza said,speaking in Russian, “In the nameof the OSCE Minsk Group I say thatthe conflict does not have a militarysolution. Aliyev does not wantwar. That was one interview, but ofcourse Aliyev does not want war.”Mr. Aliyev has repeatedly threatenedthe use of force against Karabakhand his government has beeninvesting heavily in offensive weaponry.Mr. Bryza added that he hopedKarabakh would one day formallyparticipate in the negotiations,“but it is even now part of the negotiationssince we visit Xankendi/Stepanakert and we listen to themembers of parliament and localpolitical operatives.”An Azerbaijani journalist askedwhether the visits and meetingsindicated that the United Statesrecognized Karabakh. “No, no, butin Karabakh there is an organizationthat is called parliament. Wemeet those people. It is necessaryto hear their views. I do not say weformally recognize Karabakh’s parliament.”Mr. Bryza, who has recently beenplaying up the preference of theinternational community for maintainingthe territorial integrity ofstates, and has been playing downthe right of peoples to self-determination,said, “Azerbaijan has itsview, and we say that the Karabakhpeace agreement must begin withterritorial integrity, because thatprinciple operates in the wholeworld. But there can be no agreementif it does not include pointsabout a certain level of self-determinationfor Nagorno-Karabakhand the principle of the nonuse offorce.” Later, in response to an angryprotest from the Armenian foreignminister, Mr. Bryza modifiedhis statement. (See sidebar.)by Tatul HakobyanArmenia’s Foreign Minister, EdwardNalbandian, speaking tojournalists in Helsinki on December4, responded angrily to a statementmade earlier in the day byU.S. Deputy Assistant Secretaryof State Matthew Bryza, the U.S.co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Groupmediating the final resolution ofthe Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.Mr. Bryza had said, speaking inRussian: “We say that the Karabakhpeace agreement must begin withterritorial integrity, because thatprinciple operates in the wholeworld. But there can be no agreementif it does not include pointsabout a certain level of self-determinationfor Nagorno-Karabakh andthe principle of the nonuse of force.”Mr. Nalbandian told journalists:“I want to believe that MatthewBryza has not made such an announcementbecause that is not astatement becoming of a co-chair,but of a person who does not wantthe negotiations to proceed in a correctand normal way. I hope that hehas not made such a statement, butit is necessary to ask him again. Heperhaps wished to say somethingelse, and this is what came out. Or,I’d like to believe, again, that he hasnot made such a statement.”Mr. Bryza spoke to Armenianjournalists again after this commentby Mr. Nalbandian. He deniedsaying that the agreement muststart with the territorial integrityof Azerbaijan. Rather, he said, allthree of the core principles of Helsinkifinal acts, Azerbaijan’s territorialintegrity, Nagorno-Karabakh’sright to self-determination, andthe nonuse of force are important.Mr. Bryza told the Armenian Reporter,in English: “Each PresidentParties to a conflictThe OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finland’sForeign Minister AlexanderStubb, said yesterday that the MinisterialCouncil would focus on twobig themes: the Caucasus – Georgiain particular – and European security.He added that he expected adeclaration on Nagorno-Karabakh.Mr. Stubb, in a recent statement,spoke of an “urgent need . . . to tackletensions . . . between Armenia andAzerbaijan.” The statement was notablefor its failure to mention Nagorno-Karabakhas a party to thetension over its future. At the OSCE’sBudapest summit in 1994, the organizationrecognized Nagorno-Karabakhas a full party to the conflict.Asked by the Armenian Reportertoday about the role of Karabakhin the peace process, Mr. Stubb said,“Negotiations should be conductedby France, the USA, Russia, Azerbaijan,and Armenia. That is the frameworkin which we discuss, and I amhappy that the process goes on andI think this is the best format, and Isupport Minsk Group process fully.”has their own sense of what themain principle needs to be to reachsettlement of Nagorno-Karabakh.For President Ilham Aliyev, hesupports territorial integrity asthe first principle. For PresidentSerge Sargsian, he supports selfdeterminationas the first principle.For me as a mediator, myopinion doesn’t matter. I am not adecision maker. What I can say iswhat we have been working on, weseek, is an agreement acceptableto both sides. And to be acceptable,the agreement has to includeall three of the core principles ofthe Helsinki final acts, which arenonuse of force, self-determination,and territorial integrity.”The United States had in thepast avoided language thatcould be deemed to prejudgethe outcome of the negotiations.Since the war in Georgia in earlyAugust, however, U.S. officialsThreats not helpfulEarlier on December 3, Mr. Nalbandianmet with Göran Lennmarker,who reports on Nagorno-Karabakhto the Parliamentary Assemblyof the Council of Europe. Theydiscussed the latest developmentsin the negotiations.Mr. Nalbandian said he attachedgreat importance to the November2 declaration. He said the documentis being misinterpreted in Azerbaijan.Misinterpreting and attemptingto ignore the principles agreedto will harm the effectiveness andprogress of the negotiating process,Mr. Nalbandian added.Mr. Nalbandian also met on December3 with OSCE Secretary GeneralMarc Perrin de Brichambaut.They discussed reforms within theOSCE. Mr. Nalbandian said Yerevanattached importance to the role ofthe OSCE in maintaining securityand cooperation in Europe. “The Europeansecurity system needs to beperfected, and the member-statesmust work together to make it moreactive and effective,” he said.The two also discussed the workof the OSCE office in Yerevan. fSenior U.S. official acknowledges importance of self-determination, nonuse of forcehave used language that tendsto gives primacy to territorialintegrity.In Baku on September 3, VicePresident Dick Cheney said theUnited States is “committed toachieving a negotiated solutionto the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict– a solution that starts withthe principle of territorial integrity,and takes into account otherinternational principles.” In ameeting soon afterward with Mr.Cheney, Armenia’s prime ministersaid the approach was “extremelydangerous.”“If territorial integrity is prioritized,the peace process – all ofthe work the mediators have done– becomes meaningless,” PrimeMinister Tigran Sarkisian told theArmenian Reporter’s Emil Sanamyanon October 14. “And thisalso provokes [Azerbaijan] towardwar.”f


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008NationalVisiting Erzurum Archeological MuseumHacking History IIby Ara Sarafian in ErzurumERZURUM, Turkey – Following mytrip to the Museum of AnatolianCivilizations in Ankara, I was curiousto see how Armenians wouldbe represented at Erzurum ArcheologicalMuseum, in eastern Turkey.I expected to see at least something,as Erzurum was the location of theancient city of Garin (Karin) in historicArmenia.I flew into Erzurum early in themorning and went straight to themuseum. In stark contrast withthe Museum of Anatolian Civilizations,this provincial museum wasa modest one-floor establishment.The staff at the museum seemedsurprised to see a visitor as soon asthey opened. They were very politeand got on with their job.The museum has several sections,starting from the Paleolithic. Theother sections are built around artifactsfound at a number of excavationsin the region, as well as some“emergency digs,” which were forcedby the building of the Baku-Ceyhanpipeline across Erzurum provincerecently. The museum also boastsa donation of Urartian artifactsfrom Igdir. The excavations formingthe core of the museum haveyielded Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk,and some Ottoman artifacts thatare displayed in the museum, butnothing Armenian is on display.There is also no mention of Armeniansin the historical explanationsprinted on large panels around thevarious exhibits, except for a specialdisplay related to Armenians.This display occupies almost a thirdof the museum.Ungrateful ArmeniansrelocatedThe special display starts by stating,“Anatolia was under the sovereigntyof Umayyads from the endof the 7th century, who were followedby the Abbasids till the endof the 10th century.” Then, we aretold, “Byzantium dominated thewhole of Anatolia starting fromthe end of the 10th century.” Thesuggestion is that this region wascalled Anatolia at that time andnot Armenia. The Byzantines, weare told, mistreated Armeniansuntil the Seljuk Turks conqueredthis region. “Seljuk Turks showedtolerance to Armenians and othernon-Muslim minorities.” This isthe first mention of Armenians inthe museum.The museum’s narrative continuesby stating that Armenians prosperedin the Ottoman Empire untilthe 19th century, when they beganrising against the state. It says thatArmenians formed revolutionarycommittees, provoked the 1895and 1908 incidents [massacres],and finally organized an Armenianuprising against the Ottoman governmentduring World War I. Becauseof these revolts, we are told,Ottoman authorities deported Armeniansand settled them in saferplaces in the empire.(According to creditable sources,most Erzurum-Armenians werekilled on their way to exile in June1915. Some caravans were killed inErzinjan, while others were wastedaway on forced marches southward.The American consul in Harputgives harrowing descriptions ofthe Erzurum exiles as they passedby Harput, before at least some ofthem were killed near Lake Goljuk.He identified such victims becausetheir identity papers could be foundamong their corpses.)This case at the Erzurum Archeological Museum is dedicated to artifacts said tobe from mass burial fields in Yesilyayla. Photos: Ara Sarafian. © 2008 GomidasInstitute. Used with permission.Then the main point of this specialsection is made: During WorldWar I Armenians committed atrocitiesagainst Turks in eastern Turkey.There are discussions of massacresat such locations as at ChavushogluSamanligi village in Ercis (nearLake Van) or Subatan village nearKars. These sites were excavated inthe 1980s and 90s. We are told thatin Chavushoglu Samanligi, the victimscould be identified as Turksbecause of forensic examinations,written data, or artifacts foundwith the bodies. “It is possible toidentify [the] race [of victims] bymeasurement, index, and morphologicalobservation of the skulls....We calculate that the cephalic indexwhich is the most prominentcriteria in race studies. We took themeasurements of the eight skulls.The indexes varied between 76 and89. The results showed that fourare mesocaphalic and the othersare brachycephalic... all skeletonsbelonged to [the] Alpine group towhich Anatolian Turks belong.”April 24, 1918In the case of Subatan village, weare told that a massacre took placethere on April 24 1918, when Armenianswere evacuating the area.This assertion is made on the basisof contemporary written records,plus an examination of the massgraves at the village. Subatan was amixed village of Turks, Armenians,and Greeks. According to the museum,570 people were killed there.Interestingly, the Subatan villagemassacre in 1918 is considered tobe “one of the excavations of themass-graves which aim sheddinglight onto the events happened inEastern Anatolia between 1915 and1918.” The inference is that the 1918massacre of Turks in this villagesomehow explains what happenedto Ottoman Armenians in 1915.(Kars was not part of the OttomanEmpire when World War Ibroke out. After the Russian revolutionArmenians controlled thecity. In April 1918 Turkish armiesadvanced against Armenians inKars and there was intercommunalviolence in the surrounding villages.It is possible that there was amassacre at the village of Subatanaround April 24, 1918, though therehas not been an independent assessmentof either evidence or circumstances.)The museum also claims, moreproblematically, a massacre at Zeve(in Van province). We are told thatthis massacre took place in 1915 (nomonth is given), when 2,500–3,000Turks-Muslims were brought toZeve from eight other surroundingvillages. These people weretortured and shot. “The most importantfindings of the excavationswere daggers, cartridges, pieces ofsilk clothes, necklaces with beadsdisplaying Sultan Reshad’s monogram,amulets covered with wax,copper coins and glass buttons.”Information about this claimed incidentcomes from an oral source(Ibrahim Sargin), but there is littlefurther evidence offered about theclaimed massacre, such as a moreprecise date of the incident andhow the number and ethnicity ofthe victims was established. It isalso not clear who the informantwas, where the oral testimonymight be found today, or who excavatedthe mass grave. If such amassacre took place after Russianoccupation of this region (Spring1915), we could investigate whatRussian military units (with variousArmenian, Muslim, and othersoldiers) operated in this region.The displays cabinets in this sectionpresent only artifacts related tomassacres. These include personaleffects, pieces of Muslim religiousThis section of the Erzurum Archeological Museum is dedicated to demonstratingthat Armenians committed atrocities against Turks during the First World War.Armenians are otherwise absent from the museum, located in the historicalArmenian city of Garin (Karin).Erzurum wasa center of theTurkish Warof Liberationin 1919. ThismonumentcommemoratesMustafa Kemal’scongress in thecity.texts, spent Russian cartridges, aswell as human remains and bullets.These exhibits are mainly from thevillages of Timar (Erzurum-Pasinler),Alaca Koy (Erzurum), andObakoy (Igdir).A surreal cameo roleErzurum city had around 2,500Armenian households in 1915, aswell as 40 Armenian-inhabited villagesaround it. Yet the museumsays nothing about Armenians inthis area. There is no mention ofArmenian settlements in the plain,churches, monasteries, and schools,nor anything about an Armeniancontribution to the social and economiclife of the province. The “Armenianatrocities” display appearsrather surreal, where Armenianssimply appear as murderers.The typical experience for Armeniancivilians during this periodwas to be “deported” and killed inJune 1915. If one took a sample ofArmenian clergymen, such as thoseof the Armenian Apostolic churchof Erzurum, one would find thatthey were all murdered after beingarrested and sent into exile by thegovernment in June 1915. (The Armenianclergymen from Erzurumwho were killed in 1915 were ArchbishopSmpad Saadetian, HmayagKahana Mouradkhanian, NersesKahana Vahanian, Zareh KahanaShisheian, and Zarmayr KahanaKevorkian.)Had the museum acknowledgedthe presence of Armenian civilizationin this region, or that Armenianswere deported en masse andsuffered a great deal during 1915,one might have taken the “Armenianatrocities” section more seriously.In no way could the massmurder of Armenians in 1915 serveto justify the murder of Turks,Kurds, or others represented inthe “Armenian atrocities section.”However, the destruction of Armeniansin June 1915 took place underthe auspices of the state, as partof a genocidal campaign. One cannotsay the same for the actions ofthose Armenians (or others) whomay have committed atrocities afterRussians occupied these regions.What one sees in the museum isdisturbing because it manipulatesthe suffering of Turks and Kurdsfor the vilification of ordinary Armeniansand the denial of Armenianhistory – including the ArmenianGenocide of 1915.The goddess AnahitAfter seeing the exhibitions I approachedsome museum officialsand asked them why they foundthe use of the “E” word so difficultto mention in the museum. (“E” isfor Ermeni or Ermenistan, that isArmenian or Armenia, in Turkish.)I was told that there was nosuch difficulty. It was just that theycould not present Armenian artifactsin the museum if no suchartifacts were found in the excavationsthey had undertaken. Theyalso said that they did not have anyartifacts on display less than 200years old. Presumably this assertiondid not include the Armenianatrocities section.I did not ask why there was nomention or discussion of Armeniaor Armenians in any of the discussionpanels.I asked how the British Museumhad obtained a bust of the ArmenianGoddess Anahit (circa 2ndcentury B.C.E.), from Erzinjan,near Erzurum, in the 1870s, whileErzurum Archeological Museumhad not found anything comparablein all these years in the wholeprovince. I was told that they knewof the Goddess Anahit exhibited inLondon, but they could not answerwhy they had not made similarfinds in the area.There was no point arguing aboutthe “Armenian atrocities” sectionof the museum. I don’t think theywere comfortable with their position.Both the museum and the“Armenian atrocities” section werebuilt over a decade ago, when thedenigration and denial of Armenianhistory was a more brazenstate policy.The museum authorities were polite,even kind, and this atmosphereremains a big plus. But the intellectualweakness of the position thesepublic officials find themselves inremains untenable. The questionthat occupied my mind was howone could come out of this impasse,with minimal embarrassment forsuch museum staff, even Turkishauthorities themselves. Afterall, our common purpose remainsa sensible solution to such problems.f


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 5CommunityEyeCare Project honors Nishan and Ruby Ann DerderianNEWPORT BEACH, Calif. –On November 9, the Friends of theArmenian EyeCare Project (aecp)celebrated the organization’s almost17 years of accomplishmentsand honored Nishan and RubyAnn Derderian with a LifetimeHumanitarian Award at its SeventhAnnual Newport Gala. Hosted byformer Governor and Mrs. GeorgeDeukmejian, the event – held atthe Balboa Bay Club in NewportBeach – also heralded the EyeCareProject’s 29th medical mission toArmenia.aecp President Roger Ohanesianpresented the Derderianswith the EyeCare Project’s LifetimeHumanitarian Award fortheir life-long commitment toArmenian causes. The Derderiansreceived their award before manyof their friends and family members.Married for 62 years, Nishanand Ruby Ann are dedicated totheir Armenian heritage and havedevoted their lives to the bettermentof Armenians throughoutthe world. Recipients of their timeand generosity include the St. PeterArmenian Church, which they havehelped found; the Ararat Home forthe Aged; the Armenian EyeCareProject, through which they havesponsored an aecp fellowship foran Armenian ophthalmologist; theArmenian Assembly; the agbu;and many other churches and organizations.Both first-generation Americans,Ruby Ann Derderian’s parentsarrived in the United Statesas infants, several years beforeNishan’s family. Nishan’s parentssurvived the 1915 Genocide andworked their way from Aleppo toMarseilles to La Havre and landedon Ellis Island in 1921. The familysettled in Worchester, Massachusetts,and later moved to NiagaraFalls, New York, where Nishanwas born the following yearand the family moved to Detroit,Michigan. Nishan’s maternal andpaternal grandfathers, priests inSivas, Turkey, were brutally murderedfor performing clandestinechurch services in their homesin Sivas. Ruby Ann Derderian’sparents – Anthony Alexanderfrom Everek and Virginia fromKharpert – arrived before the1915 Genocide, also settling inDetroit.Nishan and Ruby Ann have oneson, Mark. Together they are LifeStewards of the St. Vartan ArmenianCathedral in New York City’sEastern Diocese.In addition to the Lifetime HumanitarianAward presentation,the program included an EyeCareProject film, silent and live auctions,and performances by a fourpieceorchestra. The dinner party,held amid palm trees sparklingwith twinkle lights and strikingDr. Roger Ohanesian presents Nishan and Ruby Ann Derderian with a LifetimeHumanitarian Award.Project Advisory Board members and 2005 HumanitarianAward recipients Ken and Meredith Khachigian.Advisory Board member Marilyn Beck with son, Matthew.floral decorations, helped benefitthe Armenian EyeCare Project’sprograms to eliminate preventableblindness.Musical beats contributed to theambience of the evening, whichwas attended by close to 200 guests.The foreground piano music set thescene while everyone enjoyed cocktailsand hors d’oeuvres, along withgood conversation and a silent auctionwith nearly 100 items rangingLisa Kalustian, deputy to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, presents aspecial congratulatory letter to the Derderians.Honorary Chairpersons Governor George and Mrs. GloriaDeukmejian.Board of Directors member Chuck Barsam with wife, Peggy.from nights-on-the-town to sportspackages.Archbishop Hovnan Derderian,Primate, a close friend of theDerderians, provided the dinnerblessing.Following dinner, Dr. Ohanesianpresented a slide show aboutthe EyeCare Project’s 25th medicalmission to Armenia in October.The Mobile Eye Hospital deliversfree eye care screening andother ophthalmologic services tothose in need. A team of leadingU.S. ophthalmologists, headed byDr. Ohanesian, donates their timeand work jointly with their Armeniancolleagues to provide free lasertreatment and eye surgery tosocially vulnerable citizens.“I loved hearing Nishan and Rubytalk about the importance of theproject and what it has meant tothem,” Dr. Ohanesian said. “Theyhave been great friends of the ArmenianEyeCare Project.”Dr. Ohanesian added, “It was especiallygratifying to see so manyof our true supporters here tonight.So many people have devoted theirresources to the aecp becausewe are a program that works andmakes a difference in so many livesin Armenia. It is really a rewardingfeeling.”Since 1992, the Armenian EyeCareProject, a U.S. nonprofit organization,has been “bringing sight toArmenian eyes” through a comprehensiveophthalmology program.Dedicated to the elimination ofpreventable blindness and making21st-century eye care accessible toevery Armenian child and adult, theEyeCare Project’s Initiative is an integratedprogram of assistance focusedon strengthening the Armenianeye care delivery system andreducing preventable blindness inArmenia. The five comprehensiveprogram components include directpatient care; medical trainingand education; public education;research; and capacity building. connect:(949) 675-5767eyecareproject.comLet us know what’s on your mind.Write to us atletters@reporter.amCollege studentneeding cashfor books?Part-time salespositions available.Emailjobs@reporter.com


6 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008CommunityTHIS ARMENIAN LIFEby TamarKevonianEarly on a Wednesday morning, atabout 7:00 a.m., my phone rings.It is a school day and I am gettingready for a full day of classes at theuniversity where I am a student.It’s December 7, 1988.“Hello?” I answer before the secondring. The sound of the phonepierces the quiet of the room anddisturbs the routine of the morning.“Hi,” says Roger, a classmate.“What’s up?” It is unusual for meto receive a call this early in themorning and even more unusual toget one from Roger.“I’m calling to see if you’re okay,”he says. “Do you have any familythere?”“Where?”“Armenia.”“I’m not from Armenia,” I respondwith a slight laugh and attempt to,once again, explain the migrationpattern of my people.“Have you heard the news?” heasks.“No. Why?”“There was an earthquake in Armenia.”I don’t make much of this statement.I’m already late and quicklyhang up the phone and head toschool. Walking through the hallson my way to class, several peopleecho Roger’s sentiment and expresscondolences. Still unawareof the gravity of the events in myhomeland, I happily go about myday.Later, back at home, there is afrenzy of activity and the full impactof what has occurred finallydawns on me. The television is on,broadcasting the news.The facts are chilling. An earthquakewith a magnitude of 6.9 onthe Richter scale and aftershocksof 5.9 have rocked the town of Spitakjust after 11:30 a.m. The town isdevastated. Also affected are Leninakan(now Gyumri), Armenia’ssecond largest city, and Kirovakan.The death toll is suspected to bein the tens of thousands (the finaltally would reach 25,000);the injured number 15,000; andover half a million people are lefthomeless. Entire groups of people,like medical personnel andschool children, are wiped out asbadly constructed buildings havecollapsed and crushed them todeath. The country is still a partof the Soviet Union and PresidentMikhail Gorbachev is on his wayto the devastated area.“They need volunteers,” says myfather, referring to the relief effortsbeing organized here in town.The next day I report to themakeshift call center organizedat my former high school. I enterthe building from the second story,where our former lockers line thewalls and the balustrade overlooksthe basketball court below. The entirefloor is covered with piles ofclothing and an army of volunteersis making its way among them,sorting, folding, and boxing eachitem.I make my way to the teachers’lounge on the first floor. I openA little red bikinithe door to the hallowed roomand am immediately struck bythe frenzy of activity. The conferencetable is covered with a web oftangled cords from over two dozentelephones. Sitting on chairs infront of each one is a volunteertalking into the handset. There isa television in the corner tuned toa local news channel. Wheneverthere’s news of Armenia, the volumeis turned up and everyone’sattention is riveted on the anchorperson.She announces the reliefefforts being organized throughoutthe city and flashes a toll-freenumber for those who want to donate.The telephones immediatelybegin to ring, first one, then another,until the room is filled withan orchestra of sound.“Earthquake relief,” says the firstvolunteer as she places the handsetto her ear and begins to write downthe caller’s information. She passesthe form to the end of the table.The sheets of paper soon become apile, then are organized into a largestack, which is then delivered toanother room for processing.We spend hours on the phone,first answering the calls, then initiatingcalls to solicit donations.Our requests are rarely deniedsince every one has heard of thecatastrophe that’s taken place onthe other side of the globe. Theobscure little Soviet republic thatdominates my daily existence isbarely known in the world outsideof my community. “Armenia?Where is that?” is a refrain I’vecommonly heard, but now, withthe extensive news coverage, thisis no longer the case.Throughout the day, informationabout the progress made by theother relief centers throughout thecity flows into the conference room.The entire community, having setaside political, social, and religiousdifferences, is mobilized aroundthe goal of providing as much assistance,as quickly as possible, toour sisters and brethren in Armenia.Figures of collected items, donationtotals, and medical effortsare freely shared among the variouslocations.It is a highly charged day. We areelated by the impressive results ofour efforts and saddened by theever-increasing toll of victims. I amsad and tired and need a break fromthe noise and commotion. I wanderout into the gym for a change ofpace and walk among the heaps ofclothing. They are separated intocategories: women, men, infants,boys, and girls. There is also an areaof supplies for such everyday itemslike baby bottles, toys, and schoolsupplies. Medical equipment andprovisions are being collected inanother location. Each pile is beingsorted by a small team of people asthey separate, fold, and stack eachitem.“Look at this,” I hear one of thevolunteers say while she rummagesthrough a fresh pile of donatedclothes. Everyone stops and turnsto look at the item she is holdingin her hand: a bright-red two-piecebathing suit. No one says a wordat the sight of this absurd articleof clothing someone has seen fit tosend to an earthquake survivor ina land-locked republic. Then one ofthe volunteers begins to laugh andwe all join in. There is nothing elsewe can do.Energized by the brief interludeinto the ridiculous, I head back tothe conference room.Let us know what’s on your mind.Write to us at letters@reporter.amLifetime photography of RafaelHambardzumyan presented in GlendaleGLENDALE, Calif. – RafaelHambardzumyan’s exhibition,“Amazing World of Photography,”was presented at the Glendale PublicLibrary this week. The event,dedicated to Hambardzumyan’s60-year career, was organized byMashdots College.Hambardzumyan’s works havebeen displayed in more than 100group and individual exhibitions inthe United States, England, India,Austria, Hungary, Germany, andthe former Soviet Union. The recipientof numerous awards and medals,he has published more than 30books and placards.“People all over the world areamazed by his works of art andhave expressed praise regardingtheir uniqueness,” said a representativeof Mashdots College.“The silent portraits of famousand prominent people [such asMartiros Saryan, Yervand Kochar,Gourgen Janibekyan, Aram Khachaturyan,Charles Aznavour, andKarzou] show completeness andperfection.“His sharp attention to detailnever misses the beauty of nature,”LOS ANGELES – On the morningof November 22, over 75 youthsfrom the Armenian, Coptic, andSyriac Orthodox churches gatheredat the Angeles National Forestat Mt. Baldy for a day of prayer,workshops, and social activities.The event was held under the auspicesof the Council of Oriental OrthodoxBishops, which comprisesArchbishop Moushegh Mardirossian,Prelate; Archbishop HovnanDerderian, Primate; ArchbishopMor Clemis Eugene Kaplan(Syriac Orthodox Church); andBishop Serapion (Coptic OrthodoxChurch). The gathering was organizedby the Oriental OrthodoxChurches Youth Delegates Committee.The day began with morningprayers led by Very Rev. Fr. MuronAnizkian, Rev. Fr. Avedis Abovian,and Fr. John Mikhail, afterwhich youths from each churchsang hymns in their respective languages.In her welcoming remarks, SophiaAllaf, chairperson of theOriental Orthodox ChurchesGarni by Rafael Hambardzumyan.the representative continued. “Forexample, the ‘Yerevan at Night’photo was shot from an air balloon.Each Hambardzumyan shot,whether a portrait or a landscape,elicits emotions of pain as wells aspride and hope. His creative mindis seen everywhere in his portraits.Looking into the eyes of surgeonRuben Paronyan, in a portrait titled‘After Surgery,’ you see the spiritualvigor of a person convinced in hismission with self-determination,balance, and a firm disposition.Another masterpiece is the phototitled ‘Mother,’ which brings to thefore the feelings of a mother wholongs to see her son again.” More than 75 young people from the Armenian, Coptic, and Syriac Orthodox Churches gather at the Angeles National Forest.Youth from Armenian and other Orthodox churchesconvene at the Angeles National Forest at Mt. BaldyYouth Delegates Committee, spokebriefly about the committee’s background,endeavors, and mission,then introduced the committeemembers. Subsequently the youthswere divided into three groups forthe workshop session. One clergymember was assigned to eachgroup to lead a discussion on atopic related to the history of theOriental Orthodox Churches. Topicsincluded the three EcumenicalCouncils accepted by the churches,the similarities between the OrientalOrthodox Churches, and thedifferences between the Orientaland Eastern Orthodox Churches.At the conclusion of the workshop,the youths gathered forlunch, over which the discussionscontinued. Afterward the youthsparticipated in educational and socialactivities.The closing prayer was led by Fr.John Saif, youth director of theSyriac Church. Fr. Saif commendedthe youths from the three churchesfor having come together, and reiteratedthat “we are one church withone heart.”Closing remarks were offeredby Ms. Allaf, who thanked thedelegates for their hard work andefforts in the planning of the gathering,and thanked the youths fortheir participation.Need extra space at home?Sell your stuff with the Armenian Reporterclassifieds@reporter.am818-955-8407


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 7CommunityL.A. art event supports Doctors without Borders“Art Knows NoBorders” raisesawareness of effectsof war and ethnicconflictby Shahane MartirosyanLOS ANGELES - On the chillynight of Tuesday, November 18,Armenian artists joined craftsmenfrom various backgrounds indowntown Los Angeles for the “ArtKnows No Borders” benefit auction.The event’s purpose was toraise $20,000 for Doctors withoutBorders. The night’s organizer wasCrystal Allene Cook, author ofthe novel Bombardirovka.Doctors without Borders isa French organization that providesmedical assistance and psychologicalcounseling to victimsof atrocities in various war zonesaround the world. Doctors withoutBorders’ programs have madean enormous impact on Armenians,both in the aftermath ofthe 1988 Spitak earthquake andduring the Karabakh War, in theearly 1990s. Today the organizationremains active in Karabakh,where the effects of the war arestill being felt.To fully understand the overallgoal of the “Art Knows No Borders”event, it is crucial to look at thefundraiser from Cook’s perspective.There is a great personal historybehind her Bombardirovka, a bookabout the Karabakh conflict andthe human toll of war.Art and crafts auction raises funds for Doctors without Borders.It is intriguing to explore how ayoung woman from West Virginiaended up in Armenia and decidedto write about a war that mattersgreatly to Armenians all over theworld. As a high-school student,Cook was fascinated by the ColdWar. Her curiosity took her to EastGermany, where she witnessed thecommunist regime first-hand. Thisis where her world view changed.She recalls giggling around theSoviet guards who were sternlywatching over the eternal flame,when one of them winked at her.Knowing that those guards couldexpect to be severely punishedif they dared to disobey by movingor acknowledging anyonearound them, it shocked her thatthis particular guard could winkat her. Thus Cook was taken by asimple yet powerful manifestationof human ness and realized thatpeople everywhere have similar impulsesand propensities, regardlessof their politics.Cook’s desire to know moreabout the Cold War took her toMoscow a few years later, througha grant from the American Councilof Teachers of Russian. She lived inRussia in the last four months ofthe Soviet Union. After the collapseof the regime, she remained in Russiafor a few more months. In fact,she returned in 1998. Then, in 2004,a Fulbright Scholarship allowed herto conduct research in the Caucasus,including Armenia.Cook said that, ironically, shewished to go to Armenia to writeabout the Armenian Genocide, notthe Karabakh War. “My grandfatherwas in Istanbul in 1920, andhe took pinhole photos of Armeniansbeing hanged,” she said. Hergrandfather’s eyewitness accountsand his photos compelled Cook tostudy the Genocide further. Butthis did not happen.While in Armenia, she took aregular tour – “iskakan haykakan”(of the real Armenian kind), as sheArtsakh President Bako Sahakyan visits Prelacystated it – to Karabakh. While inthe mountainous republic, Cookmet many war veterans. Theirchilling reminiscences inspiredher to study the Karabakh Warin depth and write a novel aboutit. As she studied the aftermathof the conflict, Cook also kepthearing about the French doctorswho had provided psychologicalcounseling to the soldiers. Shesoon learned that the physiciansin question were members of Doctorswithout Borders. Most of thesoldiers whom Cook interviewedstated that although the economicaid had helped them greatly, theyvalued the psychological assistanceeven more.Following her Karabakh sojourn,Cook wrote Bombardirovka andsought to raise funds to help supportthe ongoing work of Doctorswithout Borders. It was to realizethis objective that she launched the“Art Knows No Borders” event.“I came up with the idea that arthas no borders,” Cook told the ArmenianReporter.As she spent months organizingthe benefit event, Cook thought50 works of art would be ideal forthe auction she envisioned. But theproject took off quite unexpectedly.On November 18, “Art Knows NoBorders” showcased 172 artworksand 40 products and services.“There was utopia in that room,”said Cook about the auction, referringto the diverse backgrounds ofthe artists who had donated theirworks to the event. The artists includedMiguel Osuna, from MexicoCity; Venezuelan-ArmenianLucy Hagopian; Iranian-ArmenianSeda Baghdasarian; Lebanese-ArmenianLidya Tchakerian;and Vera Arutyunyan, whosefamily is from Karabakh.Arutyunyan found the event veryclose to her heart, both because ofher background and the fact thatshe strongly believes in the humanitarianwork of Doctors withoutBorders.Tchakerian echoed Arutyunyan’ssentiments. “It’s an honorto help Armenians in Karabakh,”she said.All three of the Armenian artistssat in front of the stage withstacks of copies of Bombardirovkaand palettes of paint and pencils.Each drew or painted original imageson the front and back coversof the book. Surprisingly, Arutyunyan– whose usual style is abstractand spiritual – kept her designsvery simple and straightforward.She painted the Armenian flag onthe cover of the book and the Karabakhflag on the back. The uniquelypainted books were subsequentlydistributed to the attendees as theyleft the venue.“Art Knows No Borders” raisedless than what was expected. Itemsthat were not auctioned off will beput on sale at e-Bay, in hopes ofreaching Cook’s $20,000 fundraisinggoal. The e-Bay auction will beginin December.During the event, Cook went onstage and told the audience aboutthe people and events that have inspiredher to become an advocateof Doctors without Borders.“Art Knows No Borders” was agenuinely multicultural occasion,featuring music, dance, and artfrom all over the world as well asa dynamic, appreciative audienceunited around a wonderful cause ofuniversal significance. LA CRESCENTA, Calif. – OnNovember 25, Nagorno-KarabakhPresident Bako Sahakyan paid anofficial visit to the Prelacy. Thepresident was accompanied byArchbishop Barkev Mardirossian,Prelate of Artsakh; Mr. Vartan Barseghyan,Nagorno-Karabakh representativein Washington, D.C.; andother officials.Given that Archbishop MousheghMardirossian is currently atthe Vatican as part of the delegationof Catholicos Aram I for a visitwith Pope Benedict XVI, the presidentand officials were welcomedto the Prelacy by ArchbishopYeprem Tabakian, Central Executivemember Mr. Khajag Dikijian,Religious and Executive Councilmembers, Board of Regents membersand principals, and Ladies’Auxiliary members.The visit began with ArchbishopTabakian inviting Very Rev. Fr.Barthev Gulumian to deliver theprelate’s remarks. In his writtenstatement, the prelate welcomedthe guests, who had traveled toLos Angeles on the occasion of theArmenia Fund Telethon, and reaffirmedthe support of the Armenian-Americancommunity to theprogress of Artsakh. ArchbishopTabakian then welcomed the presidentand guests, and reiteratedthat the diaspora is committed tothe development and advancementof Artsakh.In his welcoming remarks, Mr.Dikijian stated that collaborationwith Armenia and Artsakh is onthe agenda of the upcoming GeneralAssembly of the Catholicosateof Cilicia, in which he will participate.Remarks were also offered byVery Rev. Fr. Muron Aznikian andExecutive Council Vice-chair Mr.Garo Avakian.Archbishop Barkev Mardirossianconveyed his thanks and appreciationfor the welcome and the expressionsof support. He assertedthat the liberation of Artsakh twodecades ago was due to the collectivesupport of all Armenians,stating that the same is neededfor the successful realization ofthe republic’s all future endeavors.The archbishop concluded that “wemust defend and strengthen Artsakhand prove that we are faithfulin our responsibilities so that Godwill grant us even greater opportunities.”Concluding remarks were offeredby President Sahakyan. He began byexpressing thanks for the prelate’sremarks and the support of theCatholicosate of Cilicia. He statedthat during his visit to the Prelacylast year, he had the chance to reporton anticipated projects andnow had the opportunity to reporton their successful completion. Thepresident said that Artsakh “stillneeds to heal old wounds and realizethe general advancement of thecountry,” and expressed confidencethat the republic will overcomechallenges with the support of allArmenians. The president concludedby urging all Armenians toremain united in the safeguardingand rebuilding of their homelandand to visit Artsakh “as it is theirhome as well.”Subsequently the presidentand the other guests were presentedwith mementos. Mr. MihranKeurdoghlian, a memberof the Armenian communityin Greece who was visiting LosPresident BakoSahakian wasaccompaniedby Abp. BarkevMardirossian,Prelate ofArtsakh,Nagorno-Karabakhrepresentativein WashingtonVartanBarseghyan, andother officials.Angeles, also presented thepresident with a memento. Areception organized by the Ladies’Auxiliary followed.


8 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008CommunityArmenian Educational Foundation completes third shipmentof school supplies to Armenia, Artsakh, and JavakhkGLENDALE, Calif. – The ArmenianEducational Foundation (aef)continues to support educationin Armenia through a number ofinitiatives, including scholarshipsgranted to university studentsthroughout the homeland. Annuallythe aef allocates $40,000 inscholarships to needy and deservingstudents. Another project is theongoing renovation of schools invillages in Armenia, Artsakh, andJavakhk.Over the past ten years, the aefhas renovated over 160 schoolsthrough the support of foundationmembers and other benefactors.Most recently, the foundationlaunched a project through whichstudents of the renovated schoolswill be provided with school suppliesand clothes. The project wasthe brainchild of aef School Supplyby Danielle HartounianPASADENA, Calif. - On theevening of November 16, theagbu Pasadena/Glendale Chapterlaunched Arvest Night, an annualcultural event designed to showcaseyoung artistic talent. Despitethe recent wildfires that devastatedparts of California, nearly 300 peopleattended the event’s debut, heldat the agbu Center in Pasadena.In his opening remarks, GlendaleCity Clerk and Master of CeremoniesArdashes Kassakhian provideda brief overview of Armenian culture,emphasizing the uniquenessof the Armenian language and musicand referring to luminaries suchas Gomidas and William Saroyan.Yerevan-born pianist MikaelOganessian opened the evening’sartistic program with a mesmerizingperformance of excerpts fromTchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”Oganessian’s rendition was followedby soprano Shoushik Barsoumian’sbrilliant performanceof “Varte,” an inspirational song byRomanos Melikian.Shahe Mankerian – poet, playwright,and principal of the HovsepianSchool in Pasadena – captivatedthe audience with his graciousand powerful recitation ofSaroyan’s “The Armenian and theArmenian.” Dina Deukmejian, oneof the evening’s youngest talents,Committee Chairperson Lily Savadian.The effort began after Savadianvisited schools in Armenia andwitnessed the great need for support.She and her family collectedsupplies and then packaged andshipped them out of their home garage.For the past two years, Savadian’senthusiasm served as an impetusfor other aef members andfriends to participate in the workof collecting and donating suppliesfor shipments.On November 15, aef members,friends, and Homenetmen scoutsgathered at a local warehouse topack and ship 62 boxes. Each boxhad the name of a specific schoolin a remote village in Armenia,Artsakh, or Javakhk, the numberof students at the beneficiary site,and a list of supplies that needed tosang a beautiful piece by Gomidas,titled “Gakav Song.” Next to takethe stage was a colorful and vibrantfoursome, the Yeram Dance Group(Sarel Azaian, Tanya Gulesserian,Arpi Ovayan, and Salpy Ovayan),which offered a fresh take on traditionalArmenian folk dances.After a brief intermission, thespectators were welcomed back witha string of wonderful performancesthat included another dynamicdance routine by the Yeram DanceGroup. Next, tenor Bakur Kalantaryanimpressed everyone withhis extraordinary voice as he performeda tantalizing “DicitencelloVuie” by Rodolfo Falvo and “Tu CaNun Chiagne” by De Curtis. ViolinistArmen Der Kevorkian displayedhis great talent with a rendition ofWieniawsky’s “Polonaise in D Major,”accompanied by his sister, Alice DerKevorkian, on the piano. Anotheryoung talent, Anush Avetisyan, sanga beautiful “La Promessa,” by Rossini,and offered a very touching renditionof Berberian’s “Anor.” Finally,Leo Hasserjian, the artistic directorof the program, performed a moving“Arpa Sevan,” by Edgar Hovhanessian,and concluded the evening by invitingall the participating vocalists tothe stage and having them sing togethera very emotional “Giligya.”A casual reception followed theprogram, giving attendees an opportunityto mingle and meet theinaugural Arvest Night’s featuredbe placed in each box. Included inthe supplies were backpacks, pencils,crayons, notebooks, art supplies,clothing, and much more.Though the scorching heat thatday registered 93 degrees and thewarehouse was dusty and hard towork in, the spirited volunteers,young and old, worked nearly sixhours non-stop. This was a taskthat brought much joy and fulfillment.The November 15 shipmentmarks the third one of its kind.Some of the volunteers have traveledto Armenia to personally deliversupplies or just meet withstudents and faculty to hear theirthoughts and share their excitementin receiving gifts from compatriotsin Los Angeles. Many studentsand staff have sent picturesof themselves with the gifts, asArvest Night showcases young talentartists. The collective reaction ofthe audience was overwhelminglypositive, optimistic, and supportive.More interestingly, younger attendeesand more mature classical-musicbuffs alike were so impressed by theevening’s performances that theywished the program was much longer.When the agbu Pasadena/GlendaleChapter began planning theArvest Night debut, the idea wasto keep the program short, to avoidthe risk of audience fatigue. “It’simportant to give the public a tasteof the classical scene, and equallyimportant to not lose their attention,”Hasserjian explained. “Weunderstand that classical music isnot appreciated by everyone, butI’m pleased to see that this eventhas left the audience wanting more!”In addition, the goal was to providea diverse program, comprised ofan assortment of performances includingsongs, dances, instrumentalpieces, and recitations. Above all,the organizers sought the participationof young and emerging artists– hence the optimistic reactionof the audience. Most of the ArvestNight performers are students currentlyattending usc or ucla.With the overwhelming successof Arvest Night’s debut, there is nodoubt that the event will be heldannually, and such remarkableyoung talent will attract audiencesof all ages.well as thank-you letters with movinginformation about how thesupplies were being used. Mosttouching was a comment in a letterthat stated, “We are thrilled tonote that our fellow Armenians inthe diaspora have not forgotten usand keep sending us gifts that willprovide us with greater educationalopportunities.”Some of the volunteers are educatorsin California public schools.When asked why they give theirtime and do so much for this project,one volunteer has said, “Wehave so much here, and we trulywaste quite a bit, yet our childrenin the villages of Armenia have solittle.” An example of this is theArmenian schools’ simple lack ofblackboards, bulletin boards, andmaterials needed to make teachingand learning come alive. Theaef Board meets withHranush HakobyanGLENDALE, Calif. – On November19, the Armenian EducationalFoundation (aef) Board ofDirectors met with Diaspora MinisterHranush Hakobyan and ConsulGeneral Armen Liloyan. aefVice-president Ara Shabanian welcomedthe minister, congratulatedher on her recent appointment,and wished her much success inher new position. Shabanian alsothanked Consul General Liloyan forhis participation and particularlyfor arranging this meeting.Neshan Peroomian, aef ArmeniaProjects Committee chair, briefedthe minister on the aef’s historysince its establishment in 1950 andprovided a short summary of thefoundation’s activities in Armeniasince the 1988 earthquake. Peroomianstated that the aef has renovatedover 162 schools in villagesin Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk,and provided desks, chairs, computers,and other school suppliesto remote village schools. He alsodiscussed the aef’s scholarshiplibraries have books that are so oldthat pages break as they are turned.In the United States, meanwhile,schools must regularly purge librarybooks that may be older thanfive to ten years. Many of the aef’sbenefactors have not only helpedrenovate schools in Armenia, Artsakh,and Javakhk, but continue tosupport beneficiary school by regularlyvisiting them and personallydelivering supplies. The project hasalso received considerable supportfrom various California schools.The aef Board of Directors thankedall Armenian and non-Armenianschools that have hosted collectionbins and filled them with gifts forthe children of Armenia. connect:(818) 242-4154aefweb.orgprogram for needy and deservingstudents.In her remarks, Minister Hakobyanthanked the aef for the opportunityto meet and stated, “Theaef has been a long-time supporterof educational projects in Armeniaand their work is much valued, bothwithin the [worldwide] Armeniancommunity and in Armenia proper.The aef is a vivid example of howa dedicated group of Diasporan-Armenians can introduce positivechange through renovating schoolsas well as providing scholarshipsand school equipment to a numberof local communities across theirhomeland. The work carried out bythe aef in Armenia is a commendablecontribution to the Armeniangovernment’s efforts to furtherpromote the quality of educationand [foster] a knowledge-based society.”connect:(818) 242-4154aefweb.orgVisit us at reporter.amLet us know what’son your mind.Write to us atletters@reporter.am


10 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008CommunityArmenian artistry shines in “Sunday at the Met”by Lola KoundakjianNEW YORK – A twelfth-centurykhatchkar (cross-stone) on loanfrom the State Historical Museumof Armenia was the centerpieceof the first-ever afternoonof Armenian arts and culture atthe Metropolitan Museum of Art,November 23.The standing-room-only audienceat the 708-seat Grace Rainey RogersAuditorium first heard lecturesby Nina G. Garsoïan, formerly ofColumbia University, on early medievalArmenian history; ThomasF. Mathews of the Institute ofFine Arts, New York University, onicons in early Armenia; and LynnA. Jones of Florida State Universityon pious ancestry and the decorativeprograms of the Church ofthe Holy Cross at Aghtamar.In their much-anticipated “Evocationsof Armenia,” actor NoraArmani and cellist David Bakamjianpresented poems by HovhannesToumanian, Paruir Sevak,Avedik Issahakian, YeghisheCharents, Gevork Emin, NahapetKoutchag, Mateos Zarifian, MissakMedzarents, Vahan Tekeyan, andthe pre-Christian author of “TheBirth of Vahakn.” The musical selectionsincluded Armenian sharagans(hymns) as well as works byGomidas, Alan Hovhaness, and Mr.Bakamjian.Ms. Armani chose most of thetexts of “Evocations” from Sojournat Ararat, the two-person play sheco-created in 1987 and performedfor years with Gerald Papasian.For this performance, she addedHovhannes Toumanian’s “Dove’sAbbey” and “Akhtamar,” as well asthe story of her grandmother.“Every time I am on stage performingthese pieces,” said Ms. Armani,“it is in memory of my grandmother,a Genocide survivor, forothers in the family who perishedin the Genocide, and for Armenianpoems and writers to live on.”Visit us at reporter.amFor Mr. Bakamjian, the program“was an exploration of my people’scultural past and the richness it offers,not just merely an expansionof my musical repertoire.” Armenianmusic, he added, “is universaland connects one to somethinglarger than oneself. It is humblingin that respect, and the pieces thatwe played dealt with such universaland moving emotions: homeland,being exiled, love, loss, [and] spirituality,and that makes it meaningfulon so many levels.”Both artists are preparing for anengagement in May 2009 at theGomidas Concert Hall of Armenia’sNational Museum of Literature andArt, which houses the composer’sGrand Royal piano, manuscripts,and personal artifacts in Yerevan.“The program was ambitious, educational,and moving. It was a delightto learn more about the richculture of the Armenian people,”wrote an audience member to eventorganizers. “The entire programwas a testament to the good worksthe Met has always and continuesto provide.” She added, “The superbperformance by Ms. Armani and Mr.Bakamjian gave me goose bumps.”Dr. Helen C. Evans, the Maryand Michael Jaharis Curator of ByzantineArt at the Metropolitan Museum,announced that beginningin January, the United Nations willloan another khatchkar as the U.N.building in Manhattan undergoesrenovation. Bishop AnoushavanTanielian, Vicar of the EasternPrelacy of the Armenian ApostolicChurch in America, presented Dr.Evans the Mesrob Mashdotz Medalin recognition of her scholarshipon Armenian art and culture. Actor Nora Armani with cellist David Bakamjian perform, Evocations of Armenia,at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo: Lola Koundakjian.


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 11CommunityArgentinean Parliament member Sergio Nahabetian visitsArshag Dickranian SchoolLOS ANGELES – During hisweeklong tour of Southern Californiaas the guest of State SenatorJack Scott, the Honorable SergioNahabetian, Argentina’s only Armenianmember of Parliament, visitedthe Tekeyan Cultural AssociationArshag Dickranian ArmenianSchool, on Monday, November 24.Accompanied by several membersof the Armenian RightsCouncil of America, the coordinatorsof his tour, Mr. Nahabetianwas first greeted at the schoolentrance by principal VartkesKourouyan and several membersof the Board of Trustees. AfterwardsMr. Nahabetian was led tothe conference room for a briefingabout Dickranian School – apre-k to 12th grade private schoolserving greater Los Angeles since1981 – and other Armenian dayschools in California.Hayk “Hayko” Oltaciremembers the dayhe realized he had apassion for rugs.by Silva HarapetianNEW YORK – “My grandfathergave me a Turkish rug when I was17,” he says. “It was damaged andwe gave it to a repairman. He dida terrible job. He ruined the rug.I remember thinking I could do abetter job.”Less than a year later, Haykoleft Turkey and moved to Franceto live, study, and work with hiscousin, who owned a carpet business.There, he tried going toschool but dropped out in his thirdyear and began working full-time athis cousin’s carpet shop. “I learnedhow to repair rugs,” he recalls. “Iliked knotting and repairing. It wasa hobby.”Hayko says he watched otherskilled rug weavers and restorationexperts and taught himselfand developed his technique bytrial and error. “The most importantpart of weaving and repair ismatching the thread color,” he explains.“You can have a restorationthat’s perfect, the weaving is perfect,but if it’s the wrong color, itwill show.Top-quality restorationis invisible.”Hayko’s work is on display in galleriesand auction houses all overthe world, but you can’t see it. Hesays that’s the point.At his shop, custom-mixed colorsare used to dye individual yarns tothe precise shade of the carpet, nomatter how old or faded it may be.“Imagine trying to match 300-yearold colors, fibers, and patterns soprecisely that the repair work iscompletely undetectable,” he says.It’s that passion for artistic workand perfection that makes Haykoone of the most sought-after finerugand tapestry experts in theworld.From his years in France tothe United States, from a hobbyto a business, Hayko has madea name for himself as not onlyan expert but also, as one customerdescribed, “a man of integrity.”Hayko opened his business,Hayko Fine Rugs & Tapestries, afew years after he arrived in NewYork. It’s been more than 15 yearsMr. Nahabetian also had theopportunity to mingle with thestudents at the playground whiletouring the campus. Subsequentlyhe joined the upper-grade studentswho had gathered at the Walterand Laurel Karabian Hall to meetand talk with the member of Parliament.The students were much impressedto hear the guest speakin their mother tongue about theArmenian community of Argentinaand its schools, cultural centers,and daily life. During the questionand-answerperiod, the studentsalso learned that, soon after beingelected to the Parliament, Mr. Nahabetianhad single-handedly securedpassage of a resolution recognizingthe Armenian Genocide. connect:office@dickranianschool.orgCrazy about carpetsHayko’s weaving circle.and he is still as excited as thefirst day he began.Today his establishment featuressome of the finest examplesof the ancient art of weaving to befound anywhere, in all price ranges– from museum-quality piecesworth hundreds of thousands toone-of-a-kind rugs including hispersonal and rare collection ofArmenian rugs. In Hayko’s store,rugs hang on all the walls fromfloor to ceiling. He says his customerscomment on “the wonderfularoma of natural wool yarns,a delicious scent that makes youfeel almost as if you have beentransported to the heart of theancient section of Istanbul.” HeLeft: Haykoteachingstudents rugweaving.has a workroom in the back, whereskilled weavers work on a varietyof projects.Teaching the craftHayko loves educating his customers.“You can buy a rug simplybecause you feel a special connectionwith it,” he says. “Fine rugsand tapestries are works of art;no two are alike. Each is as individualas a beautiful painting orsculpture. When you find theright one for you, it’s almost likefalling in love.” One client who recentlypurchased a very expensiverug said, “I bought my first littleSarouk from Hayko when we firstmet more than 20 years ago. As Ibecame able to afford more expensivepieces, I have always returnedto Hayko. I wouldn’t think of goingto anyone else. Hayko is a truegentleman, and absolutely honest.He once actually told me not to payas much as I was prepared to payfor a rug because it wasn’t as goodan example of its kind as I wanted.I have become what you might calla serious collector, and Hayko hasguided me every step of the way.”Recently, Hayko was able tomake one of his other dreams aSergioNahabetianflankedby ArshagDickranianSchool principalVartkesKourouyan,Armenianstudiesteacher KrikorSoukyasian, andupper-gradestudents.reality. “It has been a lifelong passionto teach the younger generationsabout the craft,” he explains.“I started 15 years ago, when acustomer asked me to teach hiswife how to repair rugs. She wasin the store once a week for fiveyears. She came all the time, butI was too busy to start classesback then. But I have dedicatedmy time to offering classes. Ithas always been my dream to runrug-weaving workshops from mystore and pass on the secrets ofrug-weaving.”Today Hayko holds weavingclasses once a week. He began witha small group of Armenians. Theclasses have grown into a popularpastime for people of all cultures.His customers love it and considerthe classes relaxing. Hayko alsoruns weaving circles. It’s an opportunityfor his students to learn,weave, and socialize.Hayko’s expertise, reputation,and passion for the art havehelped keep his business alive. Hischoice of career has not alwaysbeen good for his pocketbook.There have been times when hehas struggled to make ends meet.But his passion for rugs and thecraft, along with his perseveranceand determination, havetrumped the bottom line. “I lovedoing this,” he says. “You have tolove what you do, otherwise youcan’t be successful.”


12 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008Community“God’s greatest gift”: White Plains parish celebratesthe tenth anniversary of its churchA church built to lastby Gregory LimaWHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Thechurch in the New York countrysidestretches out on its patch ofgrass and stone like a somewhatexotic wanderer that has foundhome and settled in. Its distinctivearchitecture speaks to your eyesof its identity, the expression ofan unmistakable spirit and people,confirmed by the flag of Armeniaraised high before it.Here is the young Church ofSaint Gregory the Enlightener, oneamong the new churches that haverisen to the formidable challengeof extending sustainable roots inAmerica as a growing part of a hyphenatednew Armenia.On this December 6, St. Gregorythe Enlightener Church at WhitePlains in suburban Westchester,N.Y., celebrates the tenth anniversaryof its consecration. The occasiondemonstrates how people offaith can not only raise stone andmortar to create a spiritual home- a bridge of continuity over centuriesand continents - but also inthat process meet and interact toform a diverse and vibrant community.The manner in which this communityhas grown as an interactiveparish with mutually nourishingties to Armenia offers a hopefulportend of the future of the Armeniandiaspora in America.This church would not have beenpossible unless its formation answeredin a serious and sustainedmanner an emptiness and a need inthe people who became the parishioners.Nor would it have been possiblein the form it has taken withoutthe Reverend Father KarekinKasparian, his inclusive style andfocus on the Armenian heritage asa worthy and living part of beinga contemporary American in themodern scene.Here is modern Armenia of thediaspora - an elective Armenia - notparticularly tied to the heavy constraintsof the reality of the Armenianhomeland. It is consequentialnevertheless, with its own realityand constraints, tied forever to theeffects of the Genocide and theremade lives of the scattered survivorsand their children. We arenow in the era of the grandchildrenand their children. It has its specialchallenges.St. Gregory’s is first and foremostan Armenian Apostolic Church withall that the preaching of the gospelof Christ entails in liturgy and tradition,with an altar over which isinscribed God Is Love in Englishand Armenian. Here is a church ofbeautiful choral voices, the scent ofincense, rich vestments, and glowingcandles. But it is not a churchthat dwells little further than itsown walls. It started as a churchwithout a wall of its own decadesearlier, and it grew strong withoutwalls. Its strength, its freshness,and perhaps its mission lies in thefact that it was a true communityof Christians, even when at timesit had no place else to meet but ina synagogue.The idea of starting a church herebegan with the exodus from NewYork City to isolated private dwellingsin the distant suburban greenhills beyond the tangled urbanhighrise. Armenian families werepart of the trend that scattered oldneighborhoods, dissipating first,second, and sometimes even thirdFr. Karekin Kasparian shows elements of St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church in White Plains, N.Y., to Abp.Torkom Manoogian, former Primate (now Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem) and Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate.A parish picnic on Aug. 30, 1992, helped pave the way for the St. Gregory theEnlightener Church, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Dec. 6, 2008.generation interrelationships. Asmuch psychological as physical, virtualisolation created the felt needfor a more accessible new churchfor worship, a place to meet therites of passage and a school wherethe children could learn the Armenianlanguage and participate inthe culture that is its provenance.The project famously began seriouslyin 1971 when a small groupof Armenians each put up $50 asa start, and then scoured the telephonebooks seeking the names ofmore Armenians in the area to joinin. This early community development,the names of the people involved,the joint efforts, the volunteerlabor, and the fund raising hasbecome the stuff of parish legend.A substantial step in realizingthe idea of building a new churchsoon occurred with the discoveryof a group of Armenians residingat St. Vladimir’s, a Russian OrthodoxSeminary at New Rochelle,New York. The Armenians wererelocating their own seminary, St.Nersess.Hovhannes Kasparian, Dean ofSt. Nersess Seminary, had earlierinitiated Armenian heritage summerstudy seminars (continued tothis day) conducted at various locationsin the United States. Sponsoredby St. Nersess, the seminarsstressed Armenian history, rituals,culture, arts, and the spiritual imperativesof the Christian religion.He invited the community to joinin similar studies through monthlycultural/educational gatheringsand went on to set up Armenianlanguage classes with three of theseminarians as teachers.With his appointment by theDiocese as spiritual advisor to theArmenians in Westchester, the permissionto form a new parish wasreceived from Archbishop TorkomManoogian. Soon thereafterDean Hovhannes was ordained asFr. Karekin and in addition to hisother duties, he became the pastorof the new parish.With no church of its own, theparish had to find places to worship.Among the places they wouldgather was a Seventh-day AdventistChurch, for which they had toconstruct their own altar. They nowbecame a wandering church with afolding altar. When the synagogueat New Rochelle offered them theuse of the temple for Christian service,they added it to what was tobecome one of seven homes, thesixth of which, on their first purchasedproperty, was a three-cargarage the parishioners themselvesconverted to a church.It is the palpable sense of being achurch outside confining walls, ofbehaving in one’s heart and spirit asan Armenian Christian in daily andcommunal life that first attractedand still holds in common purposemany of today’s parishioners.To be a practicing Christian outsidethe walls of the church is aidedtoday by all that has found homewithin the church’s atrium, theauditorium, the offices, and in theclassrooms of the park-like churchcompound, starting with the ParishCouncil elected by the communityand whose vital role in thisachievement from its inception decadesago to this day needs a commemorativevolume of its own.The church bulletin, The Enlightener,provides detail on the facilitiesalong with the major donors,director names, chairpersons,teachers, deacons (Deacon Vasken,the first choirmaster of the churchis now Archbishop Avak Asadourian,Primate of the Diocese ofIraq), along with the myriad organizationsthat have been established,including information onthe bulging classes at the SundaySchool, the Armenian School, andthe many church-related clubs andservices that make the church compounda hub of daily activity.To be part of this church is to beenriched by the talents of a broadcommunity. The ability to create acooperative community of strongindividuals and generally overcomethe Armenian tendency toward divisivenesshas proved the abidinggift of Fr. Karekin. In doing so, heapparently has the ability to createa special, individual connection toeach member of the community, aconnection that makes the spiritualpersonal.One craggy old gentleman explainedit as follows: “Before, whenI saw a priest coming toward me, Iused to hold onto my wallet, lookaway, and cross to the other side ofthe street. Now look at me.” He impliedthat Fr. Karekin will cross tothe other side of the street and findyou. “He has the ability to makeyou feel he has been waiting justfor you to come by.”But that is only the beginning,Lisa Kouzoujian explained.Whatever your ability or professionmay be, whatever it is, Fr. Karekinseems to have very high success inpersuading people that they haveexactly what is needed and what infellowship they can supply. Beyondthat, “He is a dynamo” she said.Although the reverend father intrue humility would resist such adescription as a generator of highvoltageelectricity, and downplayshis own contributions, he has infact been an innovator and hismethods have become part of thecurriculum for new priests whenhe recently coordinated an orientationconference for five priests inpastoral internship. They were exposedto the structure of parish lifein the United States, looking intothe current financial and administrativeaspects of parish administration.In furthering this efforthe has talked on time managementfor busy pastors and especially onone of his favorite topics: helpingto make the church relevant andmeaningful in children’s lives.Among his many innovationsin the parish are deacon trainingprograms, which have involvedhundreds of youths. His Armenianstudies programs initiated in 1970at St. Nersess have over the yearsinvolved 30 day educational pilgrimagesto Armenia to introduceyouth to their spiritual heritageand cultural legacy. Many of theparticipants “have become our layleaders and some others have chosenthe priestly vocation and servein our parishes and other responsiblepositions in our Diocese,” hesaid.Fr. Karekin has been innovativein developing mission programsboth in America and Armenia. Thelocal goal has been to foster interestand participation in parish life andprovide tools for improving communityactivities throughout theEastern Diocese. He has chairedthe original HAVAD (spreadingthe Armenian Apostolic Teachings)missions to rekindle the spiritualneeds of people in Armenia.Fr. Karekin stated the church “isa unique place where we feel ourselvesto be truly Armenian, wherewe bond as true brothers and sisters,and where all our members areat home.” With its 10th Anniversaryat hand, St. Gregory the Enlightenerhas not only become wellestablished but is a still expandingspiritual home.According to this pastor andmany in his parish, “The ArmenianChurch is God’s greatest gift to theArmenian people.”Trustee contributions to the agmmFinancial contributions by former and current members of the Board ofTrustees of Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial (agmm) for thebenefit of the agmm as of September 2006.


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 13


14 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008CommunityFuat Dundar discusses instruments of power during the GenocideANN ARBOR, Mich. – Fuat Dundar,a Manoogian Simone Foundationpost-doctoral fellow at theUniversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor,presented a public lecture at the endof November, titled “Instruments ofPower during the Medz Yeghern (BigHolocaust) of Ottoman Armenians:Map, Census, Telegram.”Dr. Dundar summarized his lecturein the following way: “I triedto provide concrete examples ofthe use of modern instrumentsby the positivist cup (Committeeof Union and Progress) authoritiesduring the Medz Yeghern of OttomanArmenians during 1915–1916.“These instruments (telegram,census, map, and photograph)were also characteristic of the anti-Armenian demographic operationand as well as the Turkificationpolicy of the cup government,” hesaid.“Using tens of thousands of cipheredtelegrams, the cup executedits policy rapidly and secretly,”he continued.“The census was the main instrumentbefore, during, and afterthe entire operation,” Dr. Dundarexplained. ”All steps involved werecalculated and registered carefully.Not only the deportees, theconverts, the orphans, but eventhe dead were surveyed by the censuses.“The third instrument, the ethnographicmap, was produced tolocate the Armenian villages andused to ensure the total evacuationof the Armenian regions,”he said. ”In other words, thesemaps were produced for the perfectexecution of the demographypolicy.“The last and the most importantinstrument was thephotograph,” concluded Dr.Dundar. ”The main reason tophotograph Armenians was topersuade the ‘Western world’ thatArmenians had rebelled and thepolicy of the Ottoman authoritieswas only deportation, not destructionof the Armenian population.These photographs were producedfor the purposes of justifying governmentpolicy among the Turksas well, and that argument is stillused by the Turkish government.”The lecture was sponsored bythe Armenian studies program ofthe University of Michigan, AnnArbor.Dr. Dundar, who received hisdoctorate from l’École des hauteétudes en sciences sociales inParis, wrote a dissertation titled“L’ingénierie Ethnique du ComitéUnion et Progrés et la Turcisationde l’Anatolie (1913–1918).” He hasalso authored two other volumesin Turkish: on cup settlementpolicy of Muslims in Anatolia (Istanbul,2001) and on the treatmentof minorities in the Turkishcensus (Istanbul, 2000); this volumehas also been published inGreek. Dr. Dundar will be teachinga course in the History Departmentduring the Winter 2009 semesteron “Power, Peoples, Statistics:Nationalisms in the OttomanEmpire and Modern Turkey.” Sebouh Aslanian discusses 18th-century Armenian trade networksANN ARBOR, Mich. – SebouhAslanian, a Manoogian SimoneFoundation post-doctoral fellowat the University of Michigan,Ann Arbor, delivered a lecture titled“The New Julfa Merchants inthe Mid-18th Century and theirTrade Networks” on November18. The lecture was held at theAGBU Alex and Marie ManoogianSchool in Southfield and wassponsored jointly by the ArmenianStudies Program at Ann Arborand the Armenian ResearchCenter at the University of Michigan,Dearborn.Dr. Aslanian’s lecture began witha discussion of the global tradenetworks of Armenian merchantsfrom New Julfa, Isfahan (in the SafavidEmpire of Iran) and outlinedthe three circuits of the Julfan networkcovering the Indian Ocean,the Mediterranean, and northwesternEurope and Russia. The lecturedrew on archival sources in London,Venice, Isfahan, and elsewhere inexamining the role of informationnetworks and commercial correspondencethat glued together theJulfan network and facilitated itssurvival and prosperity.Vardan Azatyan named OrdjanianVisiting Professor at ColumbiaNEW YORK – Columbia Universityhas appointed VardanAzatyan of the Yerevan StateAcademy of Fine Arts as the Nikitand Eleanora Ordjanian VisitingProfessor of Armenian Studiesfor 2009. Dr. Azatyan will teach acourse, beginning in January, onArmenian medieval art as a casestudy in the politics of world arthistory.The course is built on the assumptionthat in art-historicalterms “Armenian medieval art” isa European and Russian construct.Students will explore the representationof Armenian medievalart in the art-history survey textsfrom the 19th century to the present,touching upon nationalism,orientalism, imperialism, culturalpolitics, educational policies, arthistorical methodology, and politics.Drawing on the history of constructionand representation of Armenianmedieval art in German andRussian art-history survey texts,Dr. Azatyan will address hithertounderrated developments of thediscipline that brought it to life. Tobe considered are the ways in whichArmenian scholars have continuedand reenacted the Euro-Russian interpretationsof Armenian medievalart; the course will also examine thedevelopments in Anglo-Americanart history after the Second WorldWar against the backdrop of theCold War.Registration, which is open toauditors and senior citizens, beginsJanuary 13. The class, held on Mondayand Wednesday afternoons,commences in the week of January20. To register online, log ontowww.ce.columbia.edu/auditing orcall (212) 854-2820.The visiting professorship programis made possible by an endowmentestablished by the lateDr. Nikit and Eleanora OrdjanianThe lecture focused on commercialletters written by Julfanmerchants working in the IndianOcean and Mediterranean regionsand outlined three categories ofnews that merchant letters circulatedacross the network includingpolitical/social news, commercialnews, and news on the reputationof fellow Julfan merchants. It arguedthat information sharing wasimportant not only for the dailycommercial affairs of merchantsbut also for maintaining the integrityof the Julfan trade network.The lecture examined the stylisticin 1998. Previous visiting professorshave included Levon Abrahamian,George Bournoutian,Seta Dadoyan, Helen Evans,Roberta Ervine, Rachel Goshgarian,Robert Hewsen, AraSarafian, and Khachig Tölölyan.This year’s visiting professorshipprogram received additional supportfrom a generous grant fromthe Armenian General BenevolentUnion.The visiting professorship is oneof several activities of the ArmenianCenter at Columbia, which raisedthe initial funds to establish a chairof Armenian studies at Columbiain 1979, and which continues toprovide funds for scholarships, libraryacquisitions, academic publications,lectures, conferences, andsymposia.connect:1-212-949-19951-212-851-4002properties of Julfan mercantilecorrespondence as well as the logisticalproblems of circulatingletters across vast spaces througha courier network that connectedthe trade settlements of the Julfannetwork to its nodal center at NewJulfa, Isfahan.Dr. Aslanian’s 2007 Ph.D. dissertation,From the Indian Ocean to theMediterranean: Circulation and theglobal trade networks of Armenianmerchants from New Julfa/Isfahan,1605–1747 (Columbia University),received a best dissertation awardfor that year from the GraduateSchool at Columbia. He is also theauthor of the forthcoming monographDispersion History and thePolycentric Nation as well as a numberof scholarly articles on the NewJulfa merchants.While focusing on research forhis next book, Dr. Aslanian is currentlyteaching an undergraduatecourse on the Indian Ocean tradein the 18th century and the roleof ethnic trade networks and willbe teaching a graduate seminar onperiodization in early modern Armenianhistory during the Winter2009 semester. Seta Dadoyan to teach modernArmenian history at Queens CollegeNEW YORK – The Armenian experienceand Armenian role in themaking of the modern Middle Eastwill be the focus of a new courseat Queens College, cuny, offered inthe spring term, 2009. Prof. SetaDadoyan of St. Nersess ArmenianSeminary, New Rochelle, will surveythe 17th century to the present.The author of five books andmore than 50 scholarly articles,Prof. Dadoyan was the OrdjanianVisiting Professor of ArmenianStudies at Columbia University inNew York during the spring termsof 2002 and 2006. From 1986 to2005 she taught cultural studies,philosophy, art, history of technology,and professional ethics at theAmerican University of Beirut. Previouslyshe also taught at HaigazianUniversity and the Lebanese-American University.The focus of her research andpublications is the study of Armeniansociopolitical and intellectualcultures in their interactive aspectsProf. Seta Dadoyan.within the Near Eastern world, bothmedieval and modern. In press at E.J. Brill is her major work, ten yearsin the making: The Armenians andIslam, which covers the 5th to the15th centuries.On January 27, Prof. Dadoyanwill lecture on “Islam and the Armenians:Paradigms of a Near EasternDialectic” at the University ofMichigan, Ann Arbor. ClassifiedsChildcare/Day Care DOLLY CHILD DAY CARELoving care & safe area, hotmeals, and C.P.R. Pre-schoolprogram. Music, art, dance. Lic#197415571 Located in ValleyVillage. (818)-763-0313 or (323)-788-1024Real Estate Glendale. 2 Bdrm., 1 1/2 bathapt., lower unit, wall A/C, newhardwood floors & paint. 1 prkg.419 Thompson #3. $1295. 9818-590-1295 Burbank. Store front, cleanneat space, $550. Vince (818) 383-5949 NORTHRIDGE $14252BR+2BA Apt. 2 wks. Free OAC.New crpt/air-ht, 1200sf, gatedprkg., pool. 818-893-1222 Subsandwich & frozen yogurtshop. 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The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 15CommunityCalendar of EventsNorthern CaliforniaDECEMBER 6 - AGBU YOUNGPROFESSIONALS NORTHERNCALIFORNIA. Location: Azul Barand Lounge, 1 Tillman Place - nearcorner of Grant/Sutter, San Francisco,CA. 9:00 pm - 2:00 am Admission:$20 prepay $25 door. Formore information contact AGBUYP NC, 415 845 7885; agbuypnc@hotmail.com.DECEMBER 20 - CHRISTMASBANQUET. Location: Calvary ArmenianCongregational Church,725 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco,CA. 6:00 PM Admission:$40 adult $25 youth. For more informationcontact CACC, 415-586-2000; cacc@cacc-sf.org.DECEMBER 31 - SF NEW YEAR’SEVE. Location: New Year’s Eve, 825Brotherhood Way, San Francisco,CA. Details to Follow Admission:Details to Follow. For more informationcontact Kef Night Commitee,415-751-9140; st.gregory1@sbcglobal.net.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEARSEVE CELEBRATION. Location:Saratoga Community Center,19655 Allendale Avenue, Saratoga,CA. 8:00pm Admission: $60Adults, $35 Kids. For more informationcontact St. Andrew ArmenianChurch & HomenetmenAni Chapter, Homenetmenani@gmail.com.JANUARY 18 - CAL PERFOR-MANCES: SERGEY KHACHA-TRYAN VIOLIN WITH LUSINEKHACHATRYAN, PIANO. Location:Hertz Hall, University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, CA. 3p.m.Admission: $46. For more informationcontact Cal Performances,510.642.9988; tickets@calperfs.berkeley.edu.JANUARY 31 - ANNUAL BAN-QUET. Location: Saroyan Hall, 825Brotherhood Way, San Francisco,CA. 7:30 PM Admission: TBD. Formore information contact Councilof Armenian American Organizations,; Shaheani@aol.com.FEBRUARY 20 - AGBU YPNCWINTER GALA GETAWAY WEEK-END - WELCOME MIXER. Location:Cossu Bar and Lounge, 1516Broadway, San Francisco, CA. 9:30pm - 2:00 am Admission: ticketinfo soon!. For more informationcontact AGBU YP NC, 415 8457885; agbuypnc@hotmail.com..MARCH 7 - HYE TAD EVENING.Location: Saroyan Hall, 825Brotherhood Way, San Francisco,CA. 6:30 PM Admission: TBD. Formore information contact ANC SF,(415) 387-3433; mail@ancsf.org.MARCH 15 - CRD BENEFIT CON-CERT. Location: California Palaceof the Legion of Honor, 100 34thAve, San Francisco, CA. 2:00 pmAdmission: TBD. For more informationcontact Support Committeefor Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division,(650) 926-4444; anahid1@sonic.net.MARCH 30 - TREX FRATER-NITY 3RD ANNUAL CHARITYGOLF INVITATIONAL. Location:Roundhill Country Club,3169 Round Hill Rd, Alamo, CA.12:30 PM Admission: $225.00. Formore information contact TripleX Fraternity, (925) 837-8414;v.hovsepian@comcast.net.APRIL 19 - AVETIS BERBERIANCONCERT. Location: BaysidePerforming Art Center, 2025 KehoeAve., San Mateo, CA. 5:00pmAdmission: TBD. For more informationcontact AGBU SiliconValley and Hamazkayin “NigolAghpalian” Chapter, 415-706-7251;nsarkiss@sbcglobal.net.APRIL 25 - CACC ANNUAL BAN-QUET. Location: Calvary ArmenianCongregational Church, 725Brotherhood Way, San Francisco,CA. 7:00 PM Admission: $75. Formore information contact CACC,415-586-2000; cacc@cacc-sf.org.Central CaliforniaDECEMBER 31 - NEW YEARSEVE PARTY. Location: FresnoCalifornia, 3757 N First St, Fresno,CA. 8:00 pm to 1:00am Admission:$50, under 12 $25. For moreinformation contact Hosted bythe Knights and Daughters ofVartan and the Fresno, 431-5259or 439-7910; rex@sti.net.Southern CaliforniaOCTOBER 30 - FEBRUARY12 - GLOBAL TRAVELER TOMBOZIGIAN INTRODUCES HISNEW FALL/WINTER ARME-NIAN/ GREEK DANCE SE-RIES: Location: Glendale CiviAuditorium, 1401 N. VerdugoRoad at Mountain Ave., Glendale.The class is held weeklyuntil the party Feb. 12, 2009.Late registration through Nov.6. Adults are $120 and Studentsto 23 years $105. Call 562-941-0845. Visit www.bozigian.com.Bozigian also presents his MiddleEastern Trio for your dancingpleasure.DECEMBER 5 - TOAST TO ARDYON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARYOF THE 21ST AMENDMENT.Location: The Art Compound @Casitas, 3171 Casitas Avenue, LosAngeles, CA. 8:00PM Admission:$30. For more information contactFriends of Ardy and Alcohol,yeradoabrahamian@yahoo.com.DECEMBER 5 - OUT OF THERUINS: 20TH MEMORIAL ANNI-VERSARY OF THE 1988 ARME-NIAN EARTHQUAKE. Location:University Student Union Theater,18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge,CA. 8:00 PM Admission:RSVP. For more information contactAid Armenia International,Email For Detail; AidArmenia1@Gmail.comDECEMBER 6 –7 MEDIA CITYBALLET PRESENTS THE NUT-CRACKER. Location: The AlexTheater, 216 North Brand Blvd.,Glendale, CA . 2:00pm & 7:00pmTicket prices vary, to purchasetickets call 818-243-2539 or www.alextheatre.org, for more informationcall Media City Ballet at818-972-9692DECEMBER 6 - WINE ANDCHEESE MIXER. Location: PrivateResidence of Mr. and Mrs.Amirian, 1530 Basso Terrace, Glendale,CA. 4:00pm to 7:00pm Admission:No Admission Price. Formore information contact Focuson Children Now, 818.554.8832;info@fcnorg.com.DECEMBER 6 - GREG PAPAZIANROCK PHOTOS. Location: Eddie’sShoe and Handbag Repair, 13716Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA.6pm Admission: free. For moreinformation contact Greg Papazian,bob.pool@latimes.com.DECEMBER 7 - OUT OF THERUINS: 20TH MEMORIAL ANNI-VERSARY OF THE 1988 ARME-NIAN EARTHQUAKE. Location:University Student Union Theater,Cal-State University, Northridge,18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge,CA. 8:00 - 10:00 PM Admission:Free. For more informationcontact Aid Armenia International,(818)-599-5993; raidiniantz@gmail.com.DECEMBER 7 - ARMENIAN AS-SEMBLY CHRISTMAS GATH-ERING. Location: Residence ofStella Derrostomian, Please Contactfor Street Address, Glendale,CA. 5:00pm - 8:00pm Admission:$50 per person. For more informationcontact Armenian Assembly,(626) 577- 0025; ykeshishian@aaainc.org.DECEMBER 8 - DIONICESS III -BEER & CHEESE PAIRING. Location:55 Degree Wine, 3111 GlendaleBlvd, Atwater Village, CA.7:30 PM Admission: $39.00. Formore information contact GevKazanchyan, 8182491428; dionicessgigs@gmail.com.Tickets onwww.itsmyseat.com.DECEMBER 10 - IN CONCERT– ELEMENT, GORE, MARIA AR-MOUDIAN AND MORE. Location:Side Bar, 1114 N. Pacific Ave.,Glendale, CA. 7 PM Admission:$25.00. For more informationcontact Maria Armoudian, 818832 1127; armoudian@aol.com.Tickets on www.itsmyseat.com.DECEMBER 11 - SO CAL PASMIXER. Location: SIDE-BAR,1114 North Pacific Ave., Glendale,CA. 8:00 pm Admission: $20. Formore information contact So CalPhysician Assistants, (818) 434-4771; want2heal@hotmail.com.DECEMBER 11 - WHITEWASHED,“WHITENESS” IN AMERICANHISTORY, WITH A SPECIAL FO-CUS ON MIDDLE-EASTERNERS.Location: Merdinian School, 13330Riverside Dr., Sherman Oaks, CA.7:30 pm Admission: Free/none. Formore information contact ARPAInstitute, (818)881-0010; info@arpainstitute.DECEMBER 14 - ST.JAMESCHURCH 67TH ANNUAL NAMEDAY. Location: St. James Church67th Annual Name Day, 4950West Slauson Ave, Los Angeles,CA. 10:00 am Admission: NA.For more information contactSt.James Armenain ApostolicChurch, (323) 295 - 4588; stjamesacla@earthlink.net.DECEMBER 14 - HANDEL’SMESSIAH. Location: Handel’sMessiah & The Christmas StoryAccording to St.Luke, 4950 WestSlauson Ave, Los Angeles, CA.4:00 PM Admission: Donation $30. For more information contactLadies Society of St. James ArmenianChurch, NA; stjamesacla@earthlink.net.DECEMBER 14 - CHRISTMASCHILDRENS CONCERT: Location:Glendale Public Library, 222E. Harvard St., Glendale, CA. 1:00PM Admission: $15. For moreinformation contact Hermine,818-248-9010; herminesworld@sbcglobal.net. Tickets on www.itsmyseat.com.DECEMBER 16 - TALINE,FRIENDS & SANTA. Location:CSUN Plaza Del Sol PerformanceHall, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge,CA. 4:30PM Admission:$22.50. For more information contactTalineMusic.com, (818)726-8748; taline@talinemusic.com.DECEMBER 18 - ANNUAL ANC-PN CHRISTMAS PARTY. Location:TBD, 104 N Belmont St,Glendale, CA. 8:45 pm Admission:$20. For more information contactArmenian National CommitteeProfessional Network, ; info@ancpn.com.DECEMBER 18 - IN HIS SHOESPRESENTS GOR MKHITARIAN“THE SPIRIT” CD RELEASE CON-CERT. Location: Zipper ConcertHall at the Colburn School, 200 S.Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA.8:00PM Admission: $25/$40. Formore information contact SuzieShatarevyan, (626)275-2636; suzie@inhisshoes.org.Tickets onwww.itsmyseat.com.DECEMBER 20 - YOUNG PRO-FESSIONALS CHRISTMAS DIN-NER IN NEWPORT BEACH. Location:Harborside Restaurantand Grand Ballroom, 400 MainSt, Newport Beach, CA. 5:30pmAdmission: $45. For more informationcontact AGBU YoungProfessionals of Orange County,agbuypoc@gmail.com.DECEMBER 21 - 67TH NAMEDAY ANNIVERSAY BANQUET.Location: 67th Name Day AnniversaryBanquet, 4950 West SlausonAve, Los Angeles, CA. Emailfor Info Admission: Donation $35. For more information contactSt. James Armenian ApostolicChurch, NA; stjamesacla@earthink.net.DECEMBER 24 - CHRISTMASEVE PARTY WITH ROBERTCHILINGIRIAN & JOSEPHKRIKORIAN. Location: AraratHome’s Deukmejian Banquet Hall,Mission Hills, CA, Mission Hills,CA. 8:00 p.m. Admission: $65.00.For more information contactGorun Kazanjian, 818 437 4008;girian1@aol.com.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEAR’SEVE. Location: New Year’s EveDinner Dance, 4950 West SausonAve, Los Angeles, CA. - Admission:-. For more information contactSt. James Church, 323 295 - 4588;stjamesacla@earthlink.net.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEAR’SEVE GALA DINNER-DANCE.Location: MGM (Glendale), 119S. Kenwood, Glendale, CA. 9:00p.m. Admission: 65.00. For moreinformation contact Rogari EntertainmentInc, 818 437 4008;GIRIAN1@AOL.COM.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEAR’SEVE CELEBRATION 2009. Location:Bagramian Hall, 900 WestLincoln Avenue, Montebello, CA.8:00 Admission: Adults: $60 presale.For more information contactHoly Cross Cathedral & MesrobianSchool, 323-727-1113;.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEARSEVE, DECEMBER, 31 2008 ANUNFORGETTABLE NIGHTWITH PAUL…. Location: PASA-DENA ARMENIAN CENTER, 740E WASHINGTON BLVD, Pasadena,CA. 8:30 PM Admission:$110.00. For more informationcontact VERGINIE PRODUC-TIONS, (818) 247-1717.DECEMBER 31 - NEW YEAR’SEVE CELEBRATION, Location:Bagramian Hall, 900 W.Lincoln Avenue, Montebello.8:00pm DINNER • DANCING •DJ • CASINO KIDS FUN ZONEIN TUMANJAN HALL. PresaleTickets by Dec 22 – Adults: $60• 12 & under: $25, At the Door– Adults: $70 • 12 & under: $35.Organized by Holy Cross Cathedral& Mesrobian SchoolFor Tickets Call (323) 727-1113or Shiraz (818) 399-0225Subscription Couponthe armenianreporterannual ratesU.S.A.: First Class Mail, $125; Periodicals Mail, $75Canada: $125 (u.s.); Overseas: $250 (u.s.)namestreetcity/state/zipJANUARY 3 - MELINEH KURD-IAN IN CONCERT. Location: HotelCafe, 1623 1/2 N. CahuengaBlvd., Los Angeles, CA. 8:00pmAdmission: $10. For more informationcontact Melineh Kurdian,info@melinehkurdian.com.JANUARY 4 - TALINE, FRIENDS& SANTA - ARMENIAN CHRIST-MAS SHOW. Location: Alex Theatre,216 N Brand Blvd, Glendale,CA. 5:30PM Admission: $20 - $30.For more information contact Talinemusic.comInc, (818)726-8748;taline@talinemusic.com.JANUARY 10 - THE WAGES OFSIN. Location: Glendale HighSchool Auditorium, 2000 W.BROADWAY, Glendale, CA. 7:30PM Admission: $15. For more informationcontact Albert Akopyan,(818)642- 0628; ararattvm@gmail.com. Tickets on www.itsmyseat.com.JANUARY 30 - USC-AGSA 7THANNUAL DINNER GALA. Location:Ararat Home’s “DeukmejianHall”, 15099 Mission Hills Rd.,Mission Hills, CA. 7 pm Admission:$70. For more informationcontact USC-AGSA, (818) 674-8597; info@uscagsa.com. Ticketson www.itsmyseat.com.FEBRUARY 27 - AGBU GENERA-TION NEXT 10TH ANNIVERSA-RY GALA. Location: CastawaysStarlight Ballroom, 1250 E HarvardRd, Burbank, CA. 7:30pmAdmission: $125/pp or $1000/Tbl.For more information contactAGBU Generation Next, (626) 794-7942; info@agbugennxt.org. Ticketson www.itsmyseat.com.FEBRUARY 28 - ANAHID FUNDANNUAL BANQUET. Location:Taglyan Cultural Center, 1201Vine St, Los Angeles, CA. 6:30 P.M.Admission: $75.00. For more informationcontact Anahid Fund,818-409-0655; Anahid_Fund@Yahool.Com.APRIL 19 - MIKHAIL SIMONYAN,VIOLIN. Location: Raitt RecitalHall: Pepperdine University,24255 Pacific Coast HWY, Malibu,CA. 2:00 PM Admission: $25. Formore information contact CenterFor The Arts, (212) 994-3540;tdorn@imgartists.com.Let us know what’s onyour mind.Write to us atletters@reporter.amCheck Enclosed OR Charge My:Mastercard Visa Amex DiscoverExp.mail coupon to: armenian reporterp.o. box 129, paramus, nj 07652orfax coupon to (201) 226-1660(credit card orders only)


16 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008CommunityPlaywright Nishan Parlakian receives St. Vartan AwardNEW YORK – Nishan Parlakianreceived the St. Vartan Award inrecognition of his lifelong achievementsin the performing arts. Over50 people, including many of hisformer students and academic colleagues,were present on Wednesdayevening, November 19, asArchbishop Khajag Barsamian,Primate of the Diocese of the ArmenianChurch of America (Eastern),bestowed this honor upon Dr.Parlakian.The speakers, including MaxBoudakian, Ph.D., Aram Arkun,Hagop Vartivarian, and LucyGirgiryan, talked about Dr. Parlakian’slife and his contributionsto Armenian theater. In the roomwere reproductions of posters andold photos of the plays Dr. Parlakiandirected during his rich career.“Dr. Parlakian has made countlesscontributions to the preservationof the Armenian culture and artsin our community. It is through individualslike him that the futureof Armenian theater will remainDECEMBER 7, 198820 YEARS ONvibrant among the next generationof Armenian-Americans,” the Primatesaid.Dr. Parlakian is emeritus professorof drama at John Jay Collegein New York, where he hasalso taught English literature andspeech for 25 years. His most famousplay is Grandma Pray for Me,which was produced in 1988 inNew York City and performed OffBroadway.As artistic director of the DiocesanPlayers at the Diocese of theArmenian Church, Dr. Parlakianstaged numerous plays by wellknown Armenian playwrights suchas Hagop Baronian, Gabriel Sundukian,and Alexander Shirvanzade.“I think this is a deserving recognitionby the Diocese and thePrimate. His contribution is substantialin Armenian theater andculture. He’s a unique individualin our community and one of theimportant individuals in our theatricalculture,” said Hirant Gulian,who was instrumental in organizingthis event.Dr. Parlakian said he was honoredto receive the recognition. “Iknew we were having the festivity,but it was nice to receive thisaward,” he said.Born in New York in 1925, Dr.Parlakian earned a Ph.D. in dramafrom Columbia University. He isan accomplished writer, director,professor, and playwright. With S.Peter Cowe, he edited Modern ArmenianDrama: An Anthology (2000)and Contemporary Armenian AmericanDrama: An Anthology (2004),both published by Columbia UniversityPress. He is also the authorof numerous articles on Armenianstudies, theater, and literature.Regarding the future of Armeniantheater, Dr. Parlakian is optimistic.“It’s going to be great,” hesaid. “Some of these Armenianactors come from the Near Eastand they’re excellent in Armenianlanguage and it’s good to havethat type of person acting.” Medical Outreach: 20 years have gone byAbp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church ofAmerica (Eastern), speaks with Nishan Parlakian during a reception held in Dr.Parlakian’s honor at the Diocese.by Mary NajarianLA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif.– The telephone next to my bedrang. I looked at the clock. It was1:00 a.m. I usually don’t pick up thephone at that hour, knowing well,that it is always the Glendale MemorialEmergency Room calling formy husband, Dr.Vartkes Najarian.But for some reason I pickedup the phone and heard from theother end, “Allo. We need medicalhelp, urgent, urgent” (shoodov,shoodov). I first thought it was aprank call. Someone was calling atthat hour of the night to scream inmy ear and annoy me.“Dr. Vartkes. We need Dr. Vartkes.This is Yerevan. Bababyan calling.”I handed the phone to my husbandand turned the lights on.“How many dead?” he asked.I knew this must be a seriousmatter. My husband was speechless.He put the phone down and ina trembling voice said. “There hasbeen a major earthquake in Spitak.Hundreds are dead.”We rushed and turned on theTV and tried every channel wecould. No news, No news, on theradio either. We could not sleep anymore. We sat and silently prayedand hoped that this was only a baddream. We tried to call Armenia butall the telephone lines were dead.By seven in the morning, thenews of a major earthquake of 7.6magnitude in Armenia was on allthe stations on TV. The estimateddeath toll was somewhere around 5and 10 thousand. By the afternoon,however, the number of fatalitieshad risen to 30 to 50 thousand. Noone knew the exact figure. But itdid not matter any more. It was ahuge catastrophe.The next day Vartkes was calledby the State Department to go toArmenia to asses the situation. Istayed behind to mourn.Since 1984 we had been to Armeniaseveral times a year andhad spent most of our time in thehospitals and the operating rooms.We knew the medical situation welland were very concerned. After myhusband left, I spent three days andnights in the Medical Outreach office,answering the telephone callsand calming down the walk-in Armenianswho were anxious to hearfrom their families. They wantedthe names of the dead and the injured.Many callers wanted to comeand volunteer. They wanted to doAmputees from the earthquake at the airport.something, anything, to help….Our telephone calls came from allover the world and asked many differentquestions. One call from theInternational Red Cross in Switzerlandwanted to know, “What wasthe electrical voltage in Armeniaand the type of electrical outlets?”Fortunately I knew the answer.World Vision, International Aid,Brother to Brother, Map International,and the American Red Crossstarted fund raising immediately.World Vision asked me to have a 30-minute TV program on ABC in theirBurbank studio with John Heartfor their fundraising efforts. I hadnot slept in days and was not capableto drive myself to the studio.Thanks to our friend Hagop Bashmakian,who came to my rescueand drove me to the station. I musthave looked awful. The make-up artistspent a whole hour to cover myred eyes and my puffy eyelids andbring some color to my face.The interview was all about Armenia,what the latest news was frommy husband, and if Soviet Armeniawas capable to handle medically acatastrophe of this magnitude.A surprising answerIt was a very emotional interview,with me trying to hold my tearsback and answer questions. “Mrs.Najarian,” he said, “you seem veryconcerned about the earthquake.How many relatives do you have inArmenia?”He was surprised when I said,“None.”We are so few that every Armenianis very precious to us. WeArmenians are one big family, andnow I feel like I have lost part of myfamily. I tried to hold my tears backbut could not….This was one of the many interviewsI had on local and nationalTV. Help for the earthquake victimswas coming from all over: Armenians,Americans, the rich, andthe poor.Vartkes was gone for seven days.He got through only once to call me.“Things are worse than you can possiblyimagine. The death toll is estimatedto be 25 to 50 thousand, andmany thousands are injured. Sendthe medical supplies immediately,”he yelled.A happy coincidenceIt was coincidental that only sixmonths prior to the earthquake,we were offered a warehouse fullof medical and surgical supplies:gloves, syringes, bandages, sutures,instrument sets, etc., valued at$200,000, for a mere $20,000. Ourgood friend Jack Buchakian madea donation of $10,000 and MedicalOutreach donated the other$10,000, and the whole warehousewas purchased and moved to anempty gas station’s storage roomon Foothill Blvd. in Sunland, Calif.But it had not ended there. Fora period of six months, every Saturday,we had gathered at the Sunlandstorage, sorted, packaged, andlabeled over 300 boxes. Many of ourfriends came and helped us in thisventure: Nubar Baker and familyfrom Fresno, Jenia Rezieh, ElizabethAghbabian and Michael,Dr. Ishkhan, my dear friend thelate Arpi Bessos, my children Ara,Armen, Raffi, and Maro, and ofcourse Vartkes. We finished thepacking but had no clue how wewere to get the supplies to SovietArmenia.The fifth day after the earthquake,late in the evening, I got a call fromMr. Vanagan of World Vision, informingme that agbu had a cargoplane, half full, leaving for Armeniathe next day. If Medical Outreachhad anything to send, we neededto bring them before midnight tothe airport, cargo section. I neededthree trucks to deliver the goods,but how could I do it in such a shorttime? I panicked. I called a dearfriend, Arthur Mangasarian, andexplained my dilemma.“Don’t worry,” he said, “I will takecare of it.”In just half an hour, three youngArmenian boys with their trucks arrivedat the warehouse in Sunland.We loaded the goods, my son Armenand I took our seats in the trucks,and were on our way to the airport.We got to the airport in time, andin less than an hour, we had loadedthe boxes in the cargo plane.The clock on the wall struck 12midnight.I thanked the young men fortheir work and sacrifice. “Please donot thank us. We want to thank youfor the opportunity you gave us todo something for our brothers inArmenia.” How touching. Armenand I did not go home and slept onchairs in the waiting room.Blessing the planeThe roar of the planes woke us inthe morning. We were surprised tosee a roomful of agbu members inthe room. They had come to see ahistorical event, “The first humanitarianplane taking off to Yerevan.”Archbishop Vache Hovsepianstanding tall in the group prayed forthe victims and blessed the planethat was to take off. All three localTV stations carried the event alive.I was happy, happy that the supplieswe had packed for monthswould reach their destination. I dohope that all our friends who hadcome to the warehouse on theirSaturdays and worked in the heatand the cold know that they serveda worthy cause.Vartkes returned a week later. Hecame directly to Hoover High Schoolauditorium, filled with anxious Armenianswanting to hear first-handwhat he had to say. I was in the auditoriumwhen Vartkes came on stage.He looked so thin and pale.With a clear, firm, and assuredvoice, he said, “We have lost 25,000to 30,000 of our brothers and sistersin Spitak, Leninakan, and Kirovakan.They need help and I haveno doubts we will all come forwardand help them. But at this time Iwant to say to you what Golda Meirsaid to the Israelis after the war:‘Go home and have more childrento make up for this loss.’”Twenty years have gone by sincethe earthquake. Our work in Armeniahas not ended. I have learneda lot. The satisfaction and the joyI have received from helping mypeople are overwhelming. I saw thegoodness, the kindness, and thegenerosity in people.Thank youOf course I will always treasure theappreciation I have received. Sometimesit was a little too much. It wasSeptermber 2006. I was in Yerevan.Rosdom, one of the earthquake amputeeswe had brought to Los AngelesOrthopedic Hospital for surgeryand prostheses, had stayed in myhouse for three months. He hadseen me on Yerevan TV and knew Iwas in town. He had taken the busin the morning from Spitak and hadarrived in Yerevan late in the evening.He had gone to the Marriott,Hrazdan, Erebuni, and Ani hotels,trying to find me. He had spent thenight on the steps of the MarriottArmenia Hotel, thinking that eventuallywe would show up.The next day at noon we returnedfrom Karabakh and were droppedoff at the Marriott. Suddenly I sawthis tall, handsome boy in a blacksuit come over and hand me a bouquetof flowers and a bottle of cognac.For a minute I did not recognizehim. Then I saw the beautifulhazel eyes. We hugged and kissed.He was no more the seven-year-oldkid I knew. He wanted to know howAra, Armen, Raffi, and Maro were.We had three amputee children inour house at one time. My childrenalways helped me feed them, and inthe evening the three boys wouldtake our guests to the pool fortheir physical therapy. We talkedfor a long time with Rosdom. Hehad quit school and was workingwith his father. As he was leaving,we hugged goodbye and with tearfuleyes he said, “Deegeen Mary, Icame to thank you one more time. Iwill never forget all you did for me.”The last and the most importantsatisfaction I have is that we havebecome role models to our children.All four of my grown children areinvolved serving the communityand we are so proud of them.The 20 years have taken their tollon us. Vartkes is retired and we havelimited our activities. Instead of 2–3times we only go to Armenia once ayear. The telephone rarely rings aftermidnight and when it does, I panic, infear that it could be Armenia calling,“Shoodov, shoodov, oknootun.”


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 17ArmeniaArmenia Fund announces $5 million in newpledges, donations during telethonby Sylva SevlianHOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Havingannounced pledges of $30 millionafter a fund raising dinner in Armeniahosted by President SergeSargsian on November 1, the ArmeniaFund announced an additional$5 million in pledges and donationsduring the annual telethonheld on Thanksgiving Day.The fund had announced $15million in pledges during the 2007telethon. The acting executive directorsaid $7.7 million of that moneyhad been received in Yerevan ayear later.This year’s 12-hour programwas broadcasted live from theKCET studios in Hollywood andfeatured musical performancesand appeals made by influentialmembers of the Armenian community.Greg Boyrazian, director of developmentfor the fund, said thetelethon experienced a 20 percentboost in participation.Key participants included France,Russia, Armenia, and the WesternRegion of the United States, hesaid.“It was the most successful telethonbecause the public’s participationwas the highest,” said SarkisKotjanian, executive director ofArmenia Fund (Western U.S.)The largest pledge, made Nov. 1,was a $15 million contribution fromSamvel Karapetian, who is basedin Russia. But the organizers of thetelethon were focused on involvingas large a cross-section as possibleof the worldwide Armenian community,with more modest contributions.“There is nothing more importantthan what Armenia Fund does,”said Mark Geragos, a member ofthe Armenia Fund InternationalBoard of Trustees. “All the organizationsbelong to it. Everyone hasa voice.”Mr. Geragos announced thetelethon’s progress, working with100 trained volunteers who wereby their telephones processing thedonations and pledges.“Armenia stepped up, the diasporajust stepped up,” he said. “Itis the most amazing feeling in theworld seeing all these kids whowere born in America spend therewhole day here.”Some of the money will be usedin Martuni for hospitals, healthcarecenters, schools, and water fordrinking and irrigation.“Think of it as a package. We gointo a region, we have our professionalassessments done by our expertsand they tell us the priority ofthe region,” Mr. Geragos said.The philosophy of the ArmeniaFund is that in one day you canunite the Armenian people aroundthe world, said Hranush Hakobyan,Armenia’s diaspora minister.“As diaspora minister, I feel thatit is not the amount of moneythat is donated but the quantity ofpeople that are participating,” shesaid. “How many people are livingand are inspired by the Armenianspirit. I feel that for those peoplewho have Armenian blood in theirveins, they need to be attentive andcollaborate with the fund and getorganized –even with 20 cents, 50cents, or a dollar.”Members of the senior classat AGBU Manoogian-DemirdjianSchool presented $35,370.87, whichthey had raised through a variety ofevents including a fashion show.“Small donations add up in theend,” said Diana Oganesyan, a seniorat the school. “There was a girlfrom the fourth grade at our schoolwho was saving money over thesummer in her piggy bank and shesaved $48. Even elementary kidsare thinking to donate to Armenia.”The mandate of the organizationis to strengthen Armenia and it isevident that Armenia is strongerand able to participate at a highlevel 11 telethons later with its recentdonation of $30 million, saidMaria Mehranian, chairperson ofthe Armenian Fund (Western U.S.)“After 11 years of telethons and 18years of the Armenia Fund, we maturedenough to truly become thisbridge to bring Armenia and thediaspora together,” she said. “It’s atwo way bridge.”“Whoever was in Karabagh 15years ago, 10 years ago, five yearsago, and now can see a great contrast,how we have many newachievements,” said ArchbishopPargev Martirosian, Primate ofthe Artsakh Diocese of the ArmenianApostolic Church.Armenia Fund has changed thearea by building new roads, renovatingschools, hospitals, pipelines,electricity lines, and building newbridges, he said. “The struggle isnot only for land, not only for ourlife, but for our identity and for ourfuture. It was a struggle for all Armenians.It’s not a local issue, it’san Armenian issue.”Vahe Karapetyan of BeverlyHills made the largest donationfrom Southern California, donating$365,000.Over the past six years, Mr. Karapetyanhas donated about $3 millionto Armenia Fund, this year hedonated $1,000 for each day of thecalendar year – a response to theorganization’s dollar-a-day campaign.“I’m not giving to an organization,I’m giving to my motherland andto our brothers and sisters who areliving there,” Mr. Karapetyan said.“Without our motherland we arenothing as a Diaspora. Our rootsare important and we should be anchoredby our roots.”fCascade Bank expansion continues withsecond branch opening in a monthProtesters opposed the takeover of Armenian church properties by theGeorgian Church in Georgia. Photo: Photolure.Thousands protest in Yerevanagainst Georgian vandalismBloggers first toblow the whistleon desecration ofArmenian ChurchYEREVAN – Thousands of studentsfrom 12 universities andrepresentatives of several nongovernmentalorganizationsstaged a protest in downtown Yerevanon December 3 at the UnitedNations building. The demonstratorswere there to present aletter to the Representative of theUN office in Armenia, ConsueloVidal, about the vandalism anddesecration of Sourb NorashenArmenian Church in Tbilisi. Ms.Vidal met with the young protestorsand promised that she wouldpass their letter on to the UNESCOoffice.The demonstrators then proceededto the Georgian Embassywhere they met with AmbassadorRevaz Gachechiladze to voicetheir concern at blatant violationsagainst the Armenian Church.A day earlier, a group of bloggersin Yerevan marched towardthe Georgian embassy carryinga black casket labeled, “TheNewborn Georgian Democracy,”protesting the “destruction anddesecration of Armenian culturalmonuments in Georgia.”The bloggers were the first toblow the whistle on the latestact of desecration of the church.A blogger by the name of Vestahad posted the following: “Today,on November 16th, fatherTariel Sikinchelashvili, alongwith several workers, started todemolish the graves of Tamamshyannsplaced in the backyardof Norashen church. The crowdof frustrated Tbilisi-Armeniansdemanded that tombstones bereturned to their original locations.”Fr. Sikinchelashvili earlierhad initiated the construction ofa fence, making sure to use symbolspeculiar to the GeorgianOrthodox Church. After a publicuproar, Tbilisi City Hall said thatthe fence was illegal and wouldhave to be dismantled. Howeverno action was ever taken. On thecontrary, Fr. Sikinchelashvili beganreplacing Armenian gravestoneswith Georgian ones asbloggers noted. The latest threatto Sourb Norashen is not new andwas reported on earlier by an Armenianblogger by the name ofPigh in June. Since then, anotherblogger, 517 Design, has started aFacebook group to protest the inactionof the Georgian authoritiesin preventing this violation. fYEREVAN – Four weeks after openingits first branch beyond its headquarters,Cascade Bank on December3 opened a second branch inYerevan.Like the bank’s headquarters nearRepublic Square and its first branchon Yervand Kochar Street, the newbranch, on Komitas Avenue, will beopen seven days a week to servecustomers.A third branch, currently awaitingfinal Central Bank approval, isscheduled to open after the Christmasholiday.Representing the Central Bankof Armenia at the opening ceremonyof the new branch were DeputyChairperson Vache Gabrielyanand Financial Supervision Departmenthead Hrant Suvaryan.“We anticipate growing demandfor our services,” said Aharon Levonyan,chief executive officer ofthe bank said in an interview. “Andwe have the resources to grow. Sowe are proceeding with our growthstrategy.”He noted that in 2008, “the bankhas seen a 38 percent increase inthe number of clients, a 51 percentgrowth in deposits, and a 60 percentgrowth in its credit portfolio.”The bank has significant resourcesavailable for small and medium enterpriselending, he added.The International MonetaryFund projects that Armenia’s economywill continue to grow, thoughnot at the double-digit rates of thepast seven years.Customer research indicates thatclients are pleased with the customerservice they receive at CascadeBank, “but they say, ‘we really wishyou were somewhere near wherewe need you,’” said JonathanStark, chairperson of the CascadeBank Board. “There are real soundeconomic reasons for doing this.”The new branches in Yerevanwill prepare the bank for expansionoutside Yerevan. The bank’ssister company, Cascade Credit,works closely with the Children ofArmenia Fund to provide credit tosmall businesses in a village clusterCascade Bank’ Aharon Levonyan, center, and the Central Bank’s Vache Gabrielyancut the ribbon for the new branch as Jonathan Stark and Hrant Suvaryan look on.in the Armavir Province. Mr. Starksaid that area is one of several thebank is considering as it preparesto expand beyond Yerevan.From cash-only toplasticMany people in Armenia are usedto working with cash only. Mr. Levonyansaid the ration of bankingdeposits to gross domestic productin Armenia is 30 percent, as against60 percent in Russia, 132 percentin Latvia, and 322 percent in Germany.“As the economy develops,more cash will come into the bankingsector. The ratio for Armeniahas been growing over the years,”he said.Cascade Bank’s advertising in Armeniahas emphasized the benefitsof using the bank’s plastic cards.Over 100 retailers offer discountsto customers using Cascade Bankcards. Mr. Stark noted that thebenefits of the cards make the useof the banking system more attractivethan cash – especially duringthe holiday spending season.Mr. Levonyan addressed concernsabout the world financialcrisis. He said, “Armenia’s bankingsector is very well capitalized.The equity multiplier for industryis about 4 or 5. If there were a recession,all the banks have the resourcesto survive.”In addition, he said, the governmentexpects to get a new $300 millionline of credit from the WorldBank for small and medium enterprises.These funds will be lentthrough banks, limiting the negativeeffects of the global financialcrisis.Cascade Bank places specialemphasis on lending to entrepreneurs,individuals, and smallbusinesses, helping them to growArmenia’s economy and createnew jobs. Working in cooperationwith USAID and the European Bankfor Reconstruction and Development,and with organizations likethe Children of Armenia Fund andHope for the City, Cascade Bank isproviding micro credits and smallbusiness loans tailored to the specialneeds of its customers.Cascade Bank is 100 percentowned by Cascade Capital Holdings,which is 100 percent ownedby the Cafesjian Family Foundation,with which this newspaper isaffiliated.f


18 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008ArmeniaFrom Armenia, in briefThe new Getar expressway in Yerevan. Photo: Photolure.Two Armenianpresidents participatein road openingFormer President Robert Kocharianand President Serge Sargsianparticipated at the opening of thenew 2.5 kilometer Getar expresswayin Yerevan on December 3. Theexpressway, which has five multileveloverpasses and three undergroundand overground pedestriancrosswalks, will help ease congestionand allow unhampered transportationon 10 key streets of thecity and significantly reduce travelfrom one end of Yerevan to theother. The major part of the roadsection will pass on the Getar river,which now flows underground.Moreover, all three bridges thatcrossed the river in the center ofthe capital were also replaced.According to Arminfo, the totalcost of the project was 8.5 billionAMD (about $28 million today) andthe work on the modification of theGetar river was about 5.4 billionAMD. State funds were allocated forthe public works, and constructionwas carried out by the Design InstituteYerevanproject, Griar Companyand Araratshin OJSC.Also taking part in the openingceremonies was Yerevan MayorYervand Zakharyan, who said:“In fact, now we have an alternativeroute of joining the northernand southern regions of thecapital. It means that the life ofYerevan residents will becomemuch more comfortable. I wouldlike to express my gratitude tothe incumbent and the previousauthorities of Armenia for theircontribution to development and“We have something to offer society”Celebrating theInternational Dayof Persons withDisabilitiesconstruction of these importantprojects.”National Assemblyapproves a bill onreferendumsThe Armenian parliament approveda bill to make changes and amendmentsto the existing law on referendums.The amendments stipulatethat a nonbinding referendumcan be conducted to gage publicopinion on critical national issuessuch as foreign policy, military andnational security.The bill was submitted to parliamentby the government.According to Arminfo, JusticeMinister Gevorg Danielian saidthat after studying internationalexperience and Armenia’s existinglegislation on referendums, thegovernment felt the necessity topropose changes in the currentlaw.According to RFE/RL, the governmentdrafted this amendmentafter the country’s president metwith leaders of 50 political partiesin November where he assuredthem that he would not sign anypeace accords with Azerbaijanwithout securing their approvalby voters. Artur Baghdasarian,the secretary of the National SecurityCouncil confirmed on December1, that President SergeSargsian is ready to place theKarabakh peace proposals on areferendum.The opposition Heritage partyvoted against the bill.Internationalconference onrepatriation to be heldin ArmeniaArmenia’s newly created DiasporaMinistry is organizing an internationalconference titled, “1946-1948Repatriation and Its Lessons: Issuesof Repatriation Today,” in theresort town of Tsaghgadsor fromDecember 12 to 14.The objective of the conferenceis to present and discuss the historicalfacts surrounding the repatriationeffort of the 1940s, learningfrom the errors made at thattime and examining present-daypossibilities of repatriation.According to the ministry, almost60 people will be taking partin the conference. They includerepresentatives from Armeniaand the diaspora. The diasporaministry, representatives of theNational Academy of Science andYerevan State University will bemaking presentations. From thediaspora, representatives fromArmenian communities from theUnited States, Greece, Argentina,Lebanon, Abkhazia and the Russianprovince of Krasnodar willalso make presentations.First ever “BestVolunteer of the Year”held in ArmeniaIn cooperation with the UN volunteerprogram, the Youth for theSake of Peace and Developmentnongovernmental organization(NGO) held an awards ceremony forthe best volunteer of the year. Theevent is dedicated to the InternationalDay of Volunteering.by Nyree AbrahamianAccording to Armenpress AnnaYeghoyan, head of programs forthe Youth for the Sake of Peace andDevelopment NGO said that almost50 individuals and organizationsapplied to take part in the event.The main objective is to helpcreate and promote the spirit ofvolunteerism in Armenia and instigatecooperation between differentNGOs, youth centers, social centersand organizations, which are basedon volunteer work.A five-member commission willchoose a winner in the followingfour categories: best volunteer ofthe year, best coordinator of volunteers,the most experience volunteerand the best organization ofthe year that deals with volunteerism.Armenia to take partin European FigureSkating championshipThe head of Armenia’s SkatingFederation, Samvel Khachatrianannounced on Wednesday thatArmenia will be taking part in theEuropean Figure Skating championshipsthat are going to take placein Helsinki, Finland beginning January17, 2009. Gegham and AniVardanians will be representingArmenia at that competition.More skating news...According to Samvel Khachatrian,there is a possibility that American-Armenian figure skater PierBalian might represent Armeniain the 2010 Winter Olympic Gamesscheduled to take place in Vancouver,Canada. At present, the issue ofPier Balian’s Armenian citizenshipis being resolved. Balian is trainedby well-known Armenian coach isRafael Harutyunian. fYerevan NGOs unite in a sea of red ribbons onWorld AIDS Dayby Betty Panossian-TerSarkissianYEREVAN – The International Dayof Persons with Disabilities wasmarked in Yerevan on December 3with twin exhibitions, one at theUN Armenia Office and the otherin the lobby of Yerevan’s City Hall.The two events were organized bythe Pyunic Armenian Associationfor the Disabled. While the firstexhibition featured paintings byten young disabled artists, thesecond presented arts and craftsmade by children with disabilitiesbeing trained within Pyunic programs.Ruzanna Sargsyan, the programmanager at Pyunic told theArmenian Reporter that the objectiveof the exhibitions was to presentdisabled youth and children asfull-fledged members of Armeniansociety.Pyunic was founded in 1989,in the aftermath of the 1988earthquake in Gyumri, to provideprograms and services tochildren who were orphaned anddisabled. It became achingly apparentthat children with physicaldisabilities in Armenia was aproblem kept hidden during theSoviet era and the need in thenewly independent Republic tomake disabled persons inclusivemembers of society was pressing.“In time, we concluded thatwe have to include people withall types of physical disabilitiesin our programs,” said Ms. Sargsyan.Art exhibition at the lobby of Yerevan’s City Hall.The International Day of Personswith Disabilities was firstcelebrated by the United Nationsback in 1992. Each year, Pyuniccelebrates the International Daywith various events to raise publicawareness, promote the rightsand the abilities of disabled peoplein Armenia.“I would love to be known by awider audience, to get to knownew people, to open up to theworld. And this exhibition helpsme achieve that,” said 24-year-oldHaik Kakosyan, who has a hearingdisability and studies art atthe Fine Arts Academy in Yerevan.For the past year, Haik has beenteaching disabled children artsand crafts at the Pyunic Arts andCrafts Training Center. He aspiresto become a painter.“Pyunic has helped me a greatdeal. It has helped me find myself,”said Gayane Balyan, 24, a volunteerassistant with the organization.Each year on May 28, Pyunic organizesa 50 km marathon for thedisabled from Yerevan to Etchmiadzin.Another annual event organizedby Pyunic takes place onSeptember 21 when young peoplewith disabilities climb Mt. Aragats(4085 meters), the highest mountainin Armenia. “Sometimes peoplewonder why a disabled personneeds to cover distances or climbheights. But we all have to understandthat this makes a disabledperson feel integrated in society,”explains Ms. Sargsyan.Ms. Sargsyan notes that althoughquite a lot positive changeshave been made in Armeniaregarding issues and rights ofdisabled persons, however thereis still a long and difficult road.“The most important thing is thatthere is movement. The ministryof labor and social affairs has beenattaching more importance to issuesrelated to the disabled. Lawshave been amended to improvethe situation of disabled people inArmenia and this is indeed importantprogress,” Ms. Sargsyan says.“We want to show society thatwe have something to offer,” concludedGayane Balyan, while peoplecrowded around her paintingsat City Hall.fYEREVAN – Human rights activismis certainly in the air in Yerevanthese days. On December1, just a week after the demonstrationfor the elimination ofviolence against women, a largegroup comprising a cooperativeeffort of several organizationsgathered to raise awarenessabout HIV and AIDS. December 1is World AIDS Day, and while thedemonstration that took placein Yerevan on that day may notcompare in size or scale to someof the events that took placearound the world, its effectivenesswas apparent.The afternoon’s events consistedof a march, during whichvolunteers handed out informationbrochures to passersby andstopped by the ministries ofhealth and education to deliverletters urging the Armeniangovernment to play a more activerole in educating the publicabout AIDS and other sexuallytransmitted infections andin eliminating discriminationagainst HIV-positive people.After the march, participantsheaded to Avantgarde Folk MusicClub for presentations, filmsand a rock concert.Participating organizationsincluded the Women’s ResourceCenter, Armenian Red Cross, RealWorld Real People (an NGO primarilyconcerned with providingcare and support for people livingwith HIV in Armenia) and PINKArmenia (Public Information andNeed for Knowledge).Decked out in a giant ribbon, avolunteer spreads a message ofawareness to passersby“The biggest misperception isthat AIDS is not an Armenian problem,”said Mamikon Hovsepyan,president of PINK Armenia, “So alot of discrimination stems fromthat.” But AIDS does not discriminate– not on the basis of race, age,gender, or sexual orientation. Inrecent years, the number of HIVpositivepeople in Armenia hasbeen steadily increasing and thereis a growing problem among migrantworkers who return to Armenia,only to infect their wives,and subsequently their children,with HIV. While the work of theorganizations that took place inMonday’s demonstration is highlycommendable, it’s up to the Armeniangovernment to address theissue of HIV and AIDS in Armenia,to ensure that sexual education isimplemented in the school system,and to provide accessible healthcareto people living with HIV. f


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 19ArmeniaStopping the cycle of silenceby Nyree AbrahamianWalkathon raisesawareness ofdomestic violenceby Maria TitizianDemonstrators taking part in a protest on the International Day for theElimination of Violence Against WomenYEREVAN – The International Dayfor the Elimination of ViolenceAgainst Women, designated by theUnited Nations in 1999, is recognizedeach year on November 25,and each year in Armenia, moreand more awareness is being raisedon the issue. As conversations areinitiated among men and womenin Armenia about this very realproblem, it is gradually becomingless of a taboo and abuse victimsare gaining courage to speak out.This year, the Women’s ResourceCenter of Yerevan organized itsthird annual silent demonstrationto address the issue of violenceagainst women. Protestors carryingplacards with messages like“Where are you women?”, “Stop thesilence” and “Real men don’t hit”walked through central Yerevan beginningat the Women’s ResourceCenter and ending up in front ofthe Government House in RepublicSquare, where they presented apackage addressed to Prime MinisterTigran Sarkisian containingresults from recent studies andsurveys and a letter concerning theneed for laws against domestic violencein Armenia.Currently, under the ArmenianCriminal Code, domestic violenceis not defined as a separate crimefrom other forms of assault, batteryor sexual abuse. Crimes of domesticviolence are prosecuted undergeneral provisions and no distinctionis made between strangersor family members perpetratingviolent crimes. In other words, thelaw treats a man who gets in a fistfightover a parking spot and a manwho beats his wife in the same way.And if the punishment is the same,then so is the support system thegovernment offers the victim – virtuallynonexistent. That’s whereNGOs like the Women’s ResourceCenter come in, linking victims topsychological and legal counselingand medical assistance.The government’s failure to addressdomestic violence is especiallyproblematic when it comes tosexual abuse. The notion that sexbetween marital partners may notYEREVAN -- U.S. Ambassador MarieYovanovitch led a group ofsome 40 people on a 5 km walkathonthrough downtown Yerevanto highlight the problem of violenceagainst women in the country onSunday, November 30. “Violenceagainst women, against children isan issue everywhere in the world.It’s an issue here in Armenia as well.I think it’s important, especially asa female ambassador to try andhelp raise awareness of this issue,”she told the Armenian Reporter. Theevent was organized with the supportof the U.S. Embassy, AmericanCouncils, IREX, and the AmericanUniversity of Armenia as part ofa worldwide “16 Days of ActivismAgainst Gender Violence” betweenNovember 25, the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Violenceagainst Women and December 10,International Human Rights Day.Elvira Dana, country director ofAmerican Councils, explained thatthe initiative came from the alumniof U.S.-sponsored programs. “Wehad very active girls who were interestedin showing that they werepowerful, which turned into anidea for a walk or a run,” she said.In connection with the 16 days ofactivism, Ms. Dana said, “It was anatural fit to have these very activeyoung women highlight a topic inArmenia, which people are hesitantor embarrassed to speak about.”While there were some youngalumni taking part in the walkathon,most of the participantsweren’t even Armenian. They wererepresentatives of local USAIDsponsoredNGOs and members ofAmerica’s diplomatic corps in Armenia.Emma Davtian, a younguniversity student emphasized theimportance of this protest. “Mosttimes it has to do with how we’vebeen raised. We have been taughtto be docile, to accept the circumstancesof our existence. It’s not alwayseasy to speak out about yourrights, not only as a woman, but asa citizen,” she said.Also taking part in the walk wasLala Ghazarian, the departmenthead of the Family, Children andWomen’s Department within theMinistry of Labor and Social Affairs.In an interview with the ArmenianReporter, Ms. Ghazariansaid that a working group, whichincluded specialists from the Ministryof Labor and Social Affairs,the Ministry of Justice, the PoliceDepartment, and civil society hasprepared draft legislation to havedomestic violence included in thecriminal code. At present thereare no specific legal provisions fordomestic violence in Armenia. Ms.Ghazarian is hopeful that they willbe able to submit the legislation tothe National Assembly this comingspring. “We have to find a way to‘Armenianize’ this law and ensurethat it works,” she said referring tothe strong sense of family in Armenia’sculture, which can act as animpediment to women’s rights.According to Ms. Ghazarian, anotherworking group has draftedlegislation on equal rights andequal opportunities, somethingwhich is not enshrined in Armenianlaw. “Simply acknowledgingthat these issues exist in our societyis a step forward,” Ms. Ghazariansaid, adding that her ministryhas also prepared a national actionplan on child neglect and childabuse, which was submitted to thegovernment for further study andrecommendations.Susanna Vardanyan, presidentof the Women’s Rights Center, oneof the few local NGOs taking part inthe walkathon said that the poorturnout was not surprising. “Therebe consensual and that a man mayrape his wife is not widely acceptedin Armenia, nor is marital rape definedin the law as a crime. “Talkingabout sexual abuse is still verytaboo,” says Tatevik Aghabekyan,Program Assistant of the Women’sResource Center. “When we talkabout marital rape, a lot of peopledon’t even know that it exists.”Ms. Aghabekyan, a co-founderof the Women’s Resource Center,which was established in 2003,has seen gradual changes over theyears in people’s awareness of andopenness to talking about violenceagainst women, but she knowsthat the issue will not simply beresolved with the passing of time.“For women to speak up, it doesis still such a taboo in Armeniansociety about these issues. I havebeen called a national traitor forsimply talking about domestic violence,”Ms. Vardanyan said whilewalking with a purple balloon in herhand along Abovyan Street, wherecurious passersby were looking atthe group of people walking withwhite T-shirts and gold and purpleballoons. The Women’s Rights Centerhas been operating since 1997.The main thrust of their focus isdomestic violence, including sexualviolence and women’s reproductivehealth. “Before 1997, we were calledthe Women’s Center and we workedtake time, but things don’t changeon their own,” she says. “We haveto take active steps to bring aboutchange. For example, at the protest,even if a lot of people do notparticipate by marching along withus, the issue of violence againstwomen is being brought into people’sconsciousness. They’re seeingthat they shouldn’t be afraid to talkabout it.”The objective of the protest wasnot only to reach out to abusedwomen, but to Armenian society asa whole. It was equally importantfor men to hear the message of theprotesters. Yetvart Sahaghian-Majian, a Birthright Armeniavolunteer from New Jersey, wasamong the handful of male participantsin last week’s protest. Theyoung activist pointed out the effectivenessof small-scale protestsin a city like Yerevan. “In comparisonto protests in the U.S., Yerevanis much smaller,” he said, “Sowhatever is done here has rippleeffects. The size of the pond, so tospeak, is not so big, so I think itwill be much more consequential ina way.” He observed that the majorityof passersby actual took thepapers handed to them and lookedat them, while in the United States,most people will dodge you if youtry to hand them a flyer.In general, the energy at the protestwas positive, and it was greatto see a spirit of peaceful activismgenerating in people’s minds asa viable vehicle for change. “I’mAmerican diplomats take to the streets of Yerevanprimarily in the field of humanitariancare. The needs were differentthen. After 1997, when we becamethe Women’s Rights Center, peoplewould ask, ‘Are women’s rights notprotected?’ They looked at us withdisdain. But we struggle on,” shesaid with a smile.The walkathon concluded at theAmerican University of Armeniawhere a reception was held andwhere participants got a chance tomeet Ambassador Yovanovitch whoacknowledged that the Armeniangovernment seems to moving in amore proactive direction, which inspireshope that domestic violenceglad that we have these kinds ofdemonstrations and I’m hopefulthat they will have a deep impact,both on the government and onthe people,” said Tsomak, an advocatefor women’s rights. “Youcan’t get anything done by sittingand talking. You have to be active.”Over the week, several otherinitiatives, including a roundtablediscussion, were organizedby the Women’s Resource Centerand other NGOs such as AmnestyInternational and the Women’sRights Center. Liza Foundation,which aims at protecting women’srights through the promotion ofculture and education, organizedthe Fifth Annual “Kin” InternationalFilm Festival, which ranfrom November 28 to December 2.The efforts of these organizationsin addressing issues like domesticviolence go far beyond the scopeof one week’s events. Recently,the Women’s Resource Center hasopened a Sexual Assault CrisisCenter and Hotline, where womencan receive free counseling and assistance.“Here are the two issues,” saysMs. Aghabekyan, of the obstaclesthat prevent women from exertingtheir rights, “Taboo and lack of information.”And while it may takea while for the Armenian governmentto address these issues andtake action, the Women’s ResourceCenter is taking a straightforwardapproach to combating both. . fis now, at least on the agenda. “Thestate and a number of civil societyorganizations are taking this issueon,” she said.The ambassador said that sherealizes that there is a strong cultureof a strong family in Armenia,which she sees as a very positivething, however, “that mitigatesagainst women speaking out ortheir neighbors speaking out andso clearly there are cultural aspectsas well. But what I would say is thatviolence against women is also violenceagainst family; you can’t havea healthy family when there is violence.”f


20 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008ArmeniaDecember 7, 198820 years onThe tragedy continues for the homelessThe “Artsakh” ofGyumri must beliberated frompovertyby Armen HakobyanGYUMRI, Armenia – The harshreality is that 20 years after thedeadly earthquake of 1988, thereare still thousands of people livingin “temporary” shacks in the devastatedcities in Armenia who havenot been given alternate accommodation.That “temporary” conditionhas lasted 20 years now. As long aseven one person is still without ahouse, you cannot claim that therepercussions of the disaster havebeen eliminated; especially whenthe disaster ruined not only buildings.The disaster is in the calamityitself, reflected by certain peopleand their destinies.“If a person lives in asmall shack, how canlife be ‘good’ for thatperson?”Fruits and vegetables are sold onthe pavement of Teryan Street inGyumri, by the fence of the famoushistorical-cultural Dzitoghtsentshouse. The statue of General Antranigstands in the middle of thesquare amidst this commercialhustle and bustle. The statue is ingood condition compared to thememorial to the victims of the 1988earthquake, erected on Victory Avenue.This second memorial is “lost”in the disorderly eastern bazaar ofstalls.I turn my face in the same directionthat General Antranig islooking. Somebody is selling firewood:soon winter, which is especiallyharsh here, will arrive. A littlefurther on, along the edge of theroad toward the city’s bus station,stretches a line of buildings, thewalls and roofs of which have beenpatched together with a varietyof materials. People live in them;if the word “live” is appropriate. Itis more accurate to say people findshelter in them. The name of theaccumulation of shelters soundslike an irony of destiny: Artsakhdistrict.I move toward the first smallshack. There are children’s clotheshanging in front of it; there issmoke coming out of the chimney;and 121/019 is written on the wall.Eight-year-old Martin Nazariangoes to school from here. Heis a second-grade student at SchoolNumber 9 in Gyumri. His familymembers say that he is a goodpupil. He hugs and shows off thedogs he takes care of – black Ronnyand white Zidan. He was born here.He lives with his 75-year-old grandmotherTamar Poghossian, fatherGagik, mother Armineh andtwo brothers, 2-year-old Volodikand 17-year-old Sergey.While his mother prepares batterfrom flour on the metal stove thatis heated by branches and piecesof paper, I start chatting with theoldest in the house, grandmotherTamar. “We began living here afterthe earthquake. What can I do? Iam an old woman. We have beenliving here for this long, but so farno one has visited us in order tofind out how we are doing,” shecomplains and adds that in the beginningit was easier since they receivedflour as aid. The entire familysurvives on the grandmother’spension and selling flour in a shop.Sometimes Armineh manages tofind a temporary job that pays 1000to 2000 drams a day by cleaning“the houses of the local wealthy.”Here everyday life is a strugglefor survival; a struggle for moneyfor daily bread and even for cardboardboxes, since this is the onlyaffordable “firewood” for winter. “Ifa person lives in a small shack howcan life be ‘good’ for that person?We do not have resources or jobs,”notes Armineh with a sigh and fallssilent. Without speaking it is obviousthat for this family the disastercontinues even after 20 years. Arminehassures us that their familyhas not been included in any listallocating apartments to thosewho suffered from the earthquake.Unlike most of the other childrenhis age who do not like attendingschool, Martin says, “I like school.Going to school is fun.” The wishesof the child are summarized in this“grown up” sentence, “We wouldlike to live well, have a house, earnMartin Nazarian (l) with his mother and brother. Photos:Armen Hakobyan for the Armenian Reporter.money for food, and afford to havea house.”“People live with thementality of stealingbread from one another”Teacher Hasmik Varanossian,who has many years of work experience,also lives in this districtwith her husband. Almost 70 percentof the house was damaged bythe earthquake. “You could see theoutside through the cracks,” shesays, but they have reinforced itwith their own resources. “At thattime, after the earthquake theycame and said that we should moveout of the house, live in a shack,and they would give us a house.However, to tell you the truth, wethought that so many people havelost their houses and have nowhereto live, they should be the first toreceive houses and so we somehowmanaged to live here. My husbandRazmik and I are teachers. Myhusband is unhealthy and we couldnot construct a new house. We livehere,” Hasmik says simply.Despite all this, she says that sheis an optimist. “My three childrenare the bright lights in my life. Wehave raised them at the cost of ourown lives. My daughter Karineh ismarried and lives in Moscow. Mysons graduated from university.My older son Armen graduatedfrom Yerevan State University andthen from the American Universityof Armenia. He works in an organizationdealing with certificatesfor apartment purchase and he isvery worried that people are receivingapartments but their shacksare not being removed and havebeen turned into garbage dumps.My other son Arthur works at theGulbenkian hospital. He is an anesthesiologist,”recounts Hasmikwith humble pride typical to mothers.Has much changed in Gyumriover these years? “The city, ofcourse, has changed. They were notthe ruins of Ani for them to staylike that. Yes, there has been construction.However, the mentalityof people has also changed. Theirhearts have not opened yet andthere is no profound happiness yet.I am not saying that they are sad,but the happiness that used to existin Gyumri, ‘the city of applauseand laughter,’ no longer exists.They are trying to forget, but greatgrief always requires a long time toheal. Grief remains in a person’ssoul. Some restoration works have,of course, been carried out, eventhough the works are not complete.I do not like talking negatively, butI am forced to because I cannot seethe realization of the overblownannouncements made from platforms.How can a citizen of Gyumribe happy when there are ruins atevery step? I do not understand.Yes, they have been destroyed, butisn’t it possible to clean those ruins?I do not understand why thecity is covered in waste. What city?It has turned into a village, a village,”says Hasmik and notes withgrief that the years of disaster havealso damaged people’s souls byturning many of them into beggars.“People live with the mentality ofstealing bread from one another. Itresulted in great destruction andthe lowering of a nations soul,” shesays.“I would rather seebetter things in thosearound me than in myown life”Hasmik Varanossian with her husband, daughter-in-law,and grandchildren.The observation of another residentof the same district, PetrosMovsissian, who lost his entirefamily during the earthquake is almostthe same. He is one of the fewpeople I met in Gyumri who has ajob. He works at the factory manufacturingstone-processing lathes;this is one of the few enterprisesthat function in the city, whichused to be proud of its industrialtraditions.During our conversation Petrosrecounted the history of the districtin detail, noting that therewas a time when the district wascalled the “Turkish District.” Laterit was resettled with immigrantsfrom Kars. During the nationalawakening in 1988, and with theefforts of his brother Haroutune,it was decided to rename the district“Artsakh.” When I start talkingto Petros about the people inGyumri and the current situationin the city, he measures each wordand says, “I see the general pictureof the city as gray. After the earthquakethe value system of residentsdrastically changed. You are aware,of course, that Gyumri was a city ofhumorous people. During the yearsfollowing the earthquake, peoplejoked ironically that for some therewas the earthquake and for somethere was the income quake. Thosewere years which for many passedon the border of life and death. Thislife has turned into hell for peoplewho had education, honor, principles,human kindness, and honesty.Those who can slither and shakebelieve that their era has arrived. Ifyou tour through the city and lookat people, what will you see? Happinessand smiles or grief and sadness?It is well known that a personis the product of society. You goout and stroll though the city inthe evenings and you will not seeanyone. People do not stroll. Theprevious character of Gyumri nolonger exists. The ferment whichcreated that character no longerexists. This is no longer the previoushappy city. It is a sad city. Theyused to say about our genius actorFrunzik Mkrtchian that he wasthe happiest and saddest person.Our city is in now like that. . . .“That happiness will not return. Itwill not return as the new generationhas a different mentality andworries. In order to restore the oldface of the city it is necessary toreview and reevaluate the old values.The current generation is notbeing brought up with a spirit fortraditions and high values,” he sayssadly.No matter how realistic the observationsof Petros and otherpeople who think like him are, anotherGyumri exists within Gyumri.There is a city where the currentgeneration is being brought up notonly with the traditional arts andcrafts, but they are also continuingthem.f


The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 21ArmeniaDecember 7, 198820 years onThe luminous face of tomorrow’s Gyumriby Armen HakobyanDecember 7, 198820 years onDance teacher Murad Torossian teaching the Sardarapat dance group.Andranik Minasian (l) with his friend Vahram.GYUMRI, Armenia – “I want to becomea goldsmith and I am learningto be one. I like it here. I havebeen coming here for a month now,but I have already learned manythings. Right now I am preparing apomegranate out of German silver.If you come a little later I will haveattached the leaf,” says young AndranikMinasian who is a residentof the Ani district in Gyumri. He isonly 16 years old. Andranik’s futureis already being shaped by mastersilversmith, Ara Haroutunian’sattentive and kind guidance. Whoknows? Maybe in a few years timehe will become an expert and a fewdozen years later, a renowned master.In any case, Andranik hopesthat in a few years time there willno longer be any ruined buildingsand people will no longer be livingin small shacks in his beloved Gyumri.Andranik is one of master Ara’s30 students in the Endanik (Family)Youth Creative Center, whichhas 1500 students. It is a center,which spreads its bright rays onGyumri by teaching the fundamentalsof arts and crafts to studentsand, at the same time, takes care ofthe promising seedlings of tomorrow’sGyumri. The center of the ArmenianMinistry of Education andScience, which was established in1991 with the caring help of kindpeople, at the initiative of psychologyPh.D. Knarik Aharonian andindividual benefactors, has traveledan interesting journey duringits 18 years. There are too manybenefactors and foreign humanitarianorganizations that cooperatewith the center to name. It ismore interesting to get acquaintedwith the children learning here andtalk to their teachers, in order tounderstand the importance of thework of the center’s founders.Zoubeyda Hovhannisian, whoteaches English at the center andGayaneh Minassian, the librarian,organize a small tour for me.They present the history of Endanikwith pride. They show me artworkby students, which are exhibited inthe hallway and the different sectionsof the center and introduceme to their colleagues and to studentsin class in different groupsat that moment. The center has recentlymoved to a new address inthe Ani district of Gyumri, street11, and functions in a new and stillpartly under construction building.Appreciating the significance of thecenter, about six years ago the stateallocated a semi-constructed buildingto the organization with its adjacent6,000 square meter territory.The interior of the building, whichis yet unattractive from the outside,is radiant without exaggeration. Inaddition Arthur Minasian, thedeputy director of the Center assuresus that by next year the buildingwill be unrecognizable.Master silversmith Haroutuniansays that he has been teachingYoung students learning how to sew.here for the last several years. “Thechildren are very good. They lovethis craft and their attitude is verypositive. And I pass on to them all Iknow and all I have,” he notes duringour brief conversation and addsthat a lot has changed in Gyumri,especially during the past 10 years.“There is improvement. What stillneeds to change? Firstly the livingconditions of the people mustchange; jobs are necessary and forthose who have jobs, there are salaryissues; the wages are very low.People cannot survive on them. Gyumriused to be the city of arts andcrafts and the living conditions ofpeople used to good. Now there arefew people who work in arts andcrafts. And when other such placesopen and more children visit andlearn there, they will find love inthemselves and they will start relatingto arts and crafts. If there areno such places, then where can theylearn? See, these are 10th and 11 thgraders and they come with pleasureand love coming and learning,”says the master.11 year olds Arman, Badal andSahak who have only been takingpart in the ceramic group for twoweeks, are molding the clay withinexperienced fingers, but have alreadymade very good saltshakers.Recently the number of childrenparticipating in the group has significantlyincreased and the center’sadministration has hired a secondceramic teacher, Naira Safarian.He notes that the director of thecenter has imported a large quantityof special clay from France, especiallyenvisaged for teaching andspecial paints. In the near future, alarge oven will be installed.An important fact is that educationin the Endanik Center isfree of charge. Apart from that,the center provides children withall the materials and tools necessaryfor the classes. More than adozen groups work here, includingdancing, painting, chess,wrestling,singing,carpet weaving, fine artsand costume making groups.“The most important thingis that the children are off thestreets. They no longer wanderaimlessly around. They come hereand learn something necessaryand beautiful,” notes my interlocutorand emphasizes another oneof the center’s missions: the activeinvolvement of children in need of“A very important thing has broken…”special care. The center has about40 such students.Hermineh Vahagian, who isthe sewing and needlework groupteacher noted, “The most importantthing is that this is free of chargefor the parents and their childrenlearn crafts. As renowned poet Shirazsaid, ‘Learn crafts, do not beweak, art is a person’s golden bracelet.’And what they learn here todaywill truly become golden braceletstomorrow, with the help of whichthey will at least earn their breadif they do not manage to receivehigher education. As far as the cityis concerned in general, first of allI would like for the people of Gyumrito have jobs. The people ofGyumri have honor and they wantto earn their bread. When are nojobs, many of them go abroad andchildren see their fathers once ayear. And so, firstly I would like tosee jobs,” Ms. Vahagian said.I spoke with 9-year-old MarinehHakobian. She says that she likescoming here. When I ask her whatshe would like to become, sheanswers with childish honesty,“Needlework teacher.” We all smile.The youngest students prepare forthe New Year’s show. Dance teacherMurad Torossian teaches theSardarapat dance group. I decidenot to disturb them and insteaddecide to observe what is happeningin the basement of the newbuilding. They have entered the finalstage of refurbishing and renovatingthe woodcraft and computerclass rooms. In just a few days theywill be ready to welcome students.Meanwhile, another group of childrenare getting acquainted withthe nuances of radio electronics bytrying to assemble the plan of a setof traffic lights.Unlike the place where only tradeis bustling, here, in the Endanikcenter located in the Ani district ofGyumri, life is bustling. It bustleslike a fantastic nucleus which willbring Gyumri’s tomorrow throughthe luminous and certain faces oftoday’s students, reflecting intelligenceand knowledge. After seeingthese children and their eyes, I wantto believe that tomorrow’s Gyumriwill be just like them: bright, colorful,luminous and prosperous. fby Armen HakobyanGYUMRI, Armenia -- SculptorVardan Tiraturian is from abranch of the Tokmajian dynastyof smelters from Karin. Unlikehis renowned ancestors whoselast foundry was destroyed bythe Soviets in the 1930s in Gyumri,Vardan chose the hammerand cutter. He also teaches at theEndanik (Family) Youth CreativeCenter. The symbolic family treeof the benefactors which stands inthe hallway of the center is alsoproof of his mastery and the talentin his hands. Vardan has engravedthe central figure of thesculpture from a block of felsites,which is considered a very capriciousstone.The axis of our conversation isthe 1988 earthquake.“20 years have passed. Can we saythat Gyumri’s backbone has beenrestored?” I ask.“No. Maybe the buildings andcommunications have been restoredbut the human factor nolonger exists; those people who weknew no longer exist. The balanceof people’s inner kindness, brightness,calm and peace has been broken.They have become lazy andirresponsible, waiting for help. Avery important thing has broken.Apart from that, a particular strataof people have left,” Vardan says.“Can similar centers bring a qualitativechance to the atmosphere?” Ipress on.“This center was establishedwith just such an aim; to continuetraditions. Many childrenwho have studied and maturedhere, now have work and positions;they are established in life.The center played a major role inthis, as those children did not remainon the streets, but startedlearning science and crafts,” hesays with a tinge of hope in hisvoice.“In other words, the center changesthe future path of people’s lives.Is it possible for them to changethe future path of the city?”“It is possible if they stay here.All the good and talented childrengo to Yerevan to learn and most ofthem settle there. We have threeDiasporas: Yerevan, Russia andabroad. If microstructures are establishedhere, many of them willstay. We must hinder emigration.For this we need a large numberof jobs. We love working. Now theentire city has turned into shops.The values and value system mustbe restored; little by little, withgreat difficulty. Cultural establishmentsmust be created and wemust reach a level where honestyrules over all human relations,both in business and official,” hesays emphatically.“It seems as if time hasstopped here”Our readers are acquainted withAvetik Yesayan’s name froma report about the IT center inGyumri a few months ago; he isthe founder and president of ShirakTechnologies Company. AvetikYesayan’s initiatives were notlimited only to the IT sector. “Itis not the first time that we areimplementing projects in the educationalsector in Gyumri. From2005, together with the ARF IncubatorFoundation, we foundedthe IT center in Gyumri, which is apostgraduate center,” Mr. Yesayansaid. He explained that they wereaware that this was not enough todevelop the IT sector in Gyumri.They decided to implement othereducational projects at the schoolincluding Bachelor and Ph.D. level.They hope to instill interest towardsthe IT and electronic sectorsthrough Endanik. “It is understandablethat children mightbe unable to comprehend manyof the nuances at that stage, butthe important thing is awakeningtheir interest towards this serioussector and giving then an initialidea,” he says.One of the repurcussions of theearthquake was that the city’s industrialsector was wiped out. ITsector is one of those areas whichcan be restored with very littleinvestment. “This is a good wayof stimulating that industrial potential.We can use our powersbest in that sector in this city bydeveloping the potential and jobs,”Mr. Yesayan explains. “We knowthat it is not difficult to achievesuch development in Gyumri; thisis conditioned by the governmentapproach.”The specialists says that comparedto the other regions of therepublic it seems as if time hasstopped here. “Introducing changesin not only important but vitalfor Gyumri. I believe that bringingchanges here is not easy. Being acity with ambition and traditions,Gyumri has always been the firstin many sectors, but it is currentlythe last in line. Probably a specialapproach is necessary for Gyumri.I see that special approach in thestate supporting this geographiczone,” he says“In the future it is goingto be more interesting”Shavarsh Gyonjian is a programmerand he is only 24 yearsold. As is particular to youth he isan optimist. It is important thata young man from Gyumri be anoptimist.“Unlike in Yerevan there are veryfew interests here for the youth.Job sectors are limited. It simplyneeds people, investors to openjobs in new sectors. There are veryfew places for strolling and generalentertainment for the youthand students; this why the youthgo to Yerevan and then on to otherplaces,” Shavarsh says.He does believe that change isbecoming more and more visibleand that the youth is also changing.“They used to think about trade a lotmore than they do now. Now theyhave started thinking about business.There is a group that wantsto become involved in science. Twoof my friends even want to writea book. As far as the future is concerned,then I am hopeful that thefuture will be more interesting.That is why I am here,” he says. f


22 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008EditorialCommentaryThe earthquake that shook our worldthe armenianreporterA full 20 years have passed since the earthquake that shook the Armenian Soviet SocialistRepublic on December 7, 1988.We are living in an era when the children who survived the earthquake are now formingtheir own families, as their surviving relatives look on with joy and solace.For young men and women who entered college this year, the earthquake is somethingthat happened before they were born, just as the Soviet Union is something they did notexperience. But like the Soviet legacy, the legacy of the earthquake is part of their lives inArmenia.Beyond the sheer scale of human loss – 25,000 dead, 500,000 homeless – one thing thatwas striking at the time was the shoddy construction of buildings in what was, after all, oneof the world’s superpowers. In an interview published in the Armenian Reporter’s November21 issue, Armenia’s deputy prime minister at the time, Vladimir Movsisian, acknowledgedthat corrupt practices and political failures led to the occupation of buildings that did notmeet existing safety standards. (Mr. Movsisian himself lost 57 family members in the earthquake.)Just as striking was the inability of the Soviet Union to provide adequate emergency response.This inability was as shocking to its people and to the world as the U.S. government’sresponse to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It left the despairing impression of a powerful statecrumbling.Most striking of all was something now indelibly recorded in the Armenian psyche: theoverwhelming humanitarian response to the disaster.The first – and perhaps least appreciated – response came from the people of Armenia itself.In a moving reminiscence, published in the Armenian Reporter’s November 8 issue, ourcorrespondent Armen Hakobyan recalls rushing to Leninakan (now Gyumri) on the day ofthe earthquake along with thousands of others to lift pieces of rubble and save lives.Assistance came from neighbors, including the Georgian republic, whose leader at thetime recalls taking a helicopter to the disaster zone within hours of the earthquake to helpout and arrange for additional aid (Armenian Reporter, Nov. 15).The Soviet Union asked for outside assistance, and Armenia was flooded with rescue workersand shipments of necessities from all over the world.Within hours of the earthquake, on college campuses across the United States, Armenianand non-Armenian students were holding buckets collecting money to send help. Armenianand non-Armenian charitable organizations were responding with immediate help and preparingmedium-term programs to continue assistance and aid in rebuilding after the initialrush to save lives. Armenian advocacy groups were quick to rise to the occasion and arrangefor more and longer-term assistance.The breadth of the response, and the establishment of the United Armenian Fund,which brought together (and continues to bring together) the major Armenian charitiesto airlift aid to Armenia, showed that in a supreme emergency, Armenians can and dowork hand-in-hand for the common good. That is something certainly worth rememberingtoday, 20 years later. (See reminiscences by Maria Titizian, Nov. 8, Sylvie Tertzakian,Beth Rustigian Broussalian, and Rubina Peroomian, Nov. 22, and articles in this week’sissue.)We are thankful to people, organizations, and governments around the world for theirhelp.As we observe the ritual of marking this somber anniversary, we must acknowledge theimmense progress that has been made in Armenia, and particularly in the earthquake zone,in the last two decades. We naturally think also about the families that are still displacedafter all these years: considering emigration rates in the 1990s as well as the amount ofconstruction, there is certainly enough vacant housing to accommodate them without enormousoutlays.We cannot avoid thinking also about the possibility that the earth will shake again. Isearthquake-prone Armenia ready to face another natural disaster? Many of the apartmentbuildings occupied by families and schools attended by children in Armenia were built tothe same specifications as the buildings that collapsed in the earthquake. Have they beenreinforced? Is new construction up to standard? The answer to both questions is yes and no.Some buildings have been reinforced. Much of the new construction is up to standard. Butthat’s not good enough.Officials acknowledge that not all new construction complies with building codes. Cityofficials are responsible for ensuring compliance.Alvara Antonyan, head of the Armenia’s National Seismic Protection Service, told theArmenian Reporter in an interview this week that if an earthquake as strong as the one thatshook northern Armenia 20 years ago were to occur in Yerevan today, 90 percent of allbuildings built before 1990 would collapse, and 20 to 30 percent of buildings built after 1990would collapse, causing perhaps 300,000 deaths.The stated commitment of the president, the prime minister, and all political leaders inArmenia to fight corruption and enforce the rule of law is welcome not simply as a matter ofgood governance. If the earthquake teaches us anything, it’s that these commitments are amatter of life or large-scale death.On this anniversary, as we remember the victims and as we celebrate our broad and unitedresponse, let us recommit ourselves to working together for the sort of good governance andaccountability that will allow us to look to the future with greater confidence.fDecember 7, 198820 years onA date to rememberby Tamar KevonianGLENDALE, Calif.7 – For every generation,there are defining events that are so momentousthat our actions at the moment of theiroccurrence are embedded in our memory forthe remainder of our days. Events like thebombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the assassinationof President Kennedy in Dallas,or the attacks on the Twin Towers in NewYork City. To this list of occurrences Armenianscan add the earthquake that occurredon the morning of December 7, 1988, witha magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale, andleveled Spitak, a mere nine kilometers fromthe epicenter. The 5.8-magnitude aftershocksdevastated Gyumri, Armenia’s second largestcity, and rocked Yerevan, its capital.“Everything started shaking and it lasteda long time,” says Lucine Aivazian, who wasa 12-year-old student in Yerevan at the time.“Even my teacher was shaken.”Arsen Serobian, ten years old and livingin Gyumri at the time, was at home whenthe tremors started. “I was doing my homeworkand noticed that the lights were blinking,”he says of the fateful moment. “Suddenlythe china cabinet started shaking andall the glassware fell out.” He yelled for hismother and both made a dash for the frontdoor. They opened the door but it slammedshut against them. Finally they managed toget out and run down the stairs. “The walls[of the stairwell] were crumbling,” he recalls.Once outside, mother and son noticed theFrom devastation...ten-story building next to theirs collapsingto become a heap of rubble. “Like in the cartoons,it started falling,” Arsen says. “I wasmesmerized but then I saw people jumpingout of the building [trying to escape] and Istarted to cry.”It was a troubling year in Armenia, thenstill part of the Soviet Union. In February1988 the worst case of ethnic violence hadbroken out between the Soviet republics ofArmenia and Azerbaijan when the Azerbaijanisrejected the plea to return Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Protestors in Karabakhtook to the streets and were supportedby thousands in Yerevan. The quiet demonstrationsoon grew into a massive event, withseveral hundred thousand people marchingthrough the streets of the capital. It was anoutpouring of support that encompassed awide variety of issues such as the Genocide,the loss of Nakhichevan, the fear over theMedzamor nuclear power plant’s safety, pollution,and government corruption.Although several other ethnic minoritiesthroughout the Soviet Union had begunto express displeasure at their situation, itwasn’t until the issue of Karabakh’s fate mobilizedthe Armenian population that theBaltic states began to better rally their peopleand push for independence. In September1988 tanks appeared in Yerevan and a stateof emergency was declared. When the earthquakestruck a few months later, the falteringSoviet Union was unable to respond appropriatelyand President Mikhail Gorbachev,cutting his diplomatic visit to the U.S. short,rushed to the affected area.Due to the scale of the devastation andthe government’s inability to properly respond,Gorbachev was forced to ask the U.S.and other nations for assistance. Asking forhelp and allowing access to foreign aid workerswas an unprecedented first for the SovietUnion and was an indication of its weakenedinfrastructure, which eventually caused itsdissolution.The extreme cold and the badly constructedSoviet-era buildings sharply compoundedthe destruction caused by the earthquake.The most affected were the hospital buildingsand schools, where much-needed medicalContinued on page 23 mArmenian Reporter (ISSN 0004-2358), an independent newspaper,is published weekly by Armenian Reporter llc.Gerard L. Cafesjian, President and ceoPublisher Sylva A. BoghossianOffice manager Lisa KopooshianCopyright © 2008 by ArmenianReporter llc. All Rights ReservedPeriodicals postage paid at Paramus, N.J., andadditional mailing offices.POSTMASTER: Send address changes to PO Box129, Paramus, NJ 07652-0129.The views expressed, except in the editorial, arenot necessarily those of the publishers.Editor Vincent LimaWestern U.S. Bureau Chief andArts & Culture editor Paul ChaderjianWashington editor Emil SanamyanAssociate editor Maria TitizianAssistant to the Editor Seda StepanyanCopy editor Ishkhan JinbashianArt director Grigor HakobyanLayout assistant Nareh BalianThe Armenian Reporter is your newspaper. We urge you to send us your news and yourviews.News. Please send your news to .Letters. Please send your letters to Letters should be no morethan 250 words long and may be edited for clarity. Please include your mailing addressand daytime telephone number.Commentary. Please send your essays to Essays and articlesnormally should be no longer than 900 words.Photos and artwork. We require high-resolution originals. 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The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008 23CommentaryLiving inArmeniaFrom earthquake theories to plane crashes,the art of spreading rumors in Armeniaby Maria TitizianTwenty years ago this year, Armenia wasrocked by a devastating earthquake. Somehowit made no sense. It was almost impossibleto understand why it happened. Naturehad reared its ugly head and beat down uponus so ferociously, that to give it any scientificexplanation would have been to minimizethe magnitude of the destruction. Oncethe shock wore off, rumors quickly began tocirculate. The word on the street was thatthe earthquake was caused by the Soviets bymeans of an underground nuclear explosion.They said that Soviet authorities wanted topunish Armenia for the Karabakh movement.Even though this theory is outrightlydiscounted by seismologists who say that anexplosion could not have caused the earthquake,it remains part of the Armenian collectiveconsciousness.Twenty years on, rumors continue. AlvaroAntonyan, director of the National SeismicProtection Service of Armenia at a pressconference in Yerevan had to publicly quellfears that a strong earthquake in Yerevanwas imminent. A few days ago, a “specialist”from the National Academy of Scienceswent on television and said that accordingto the information of their radon-measuringstations, the level of radon gas on the earth’scrust was above the normal range. This, hehad said, is considered to be one of the earlywarning signs of seismic tremors. Mr. Antonyansaid that they monitor more than 20radon-measuring stations throughout therepublic and that they were all within normalranges. He told reporters that it is impossibleto foresee an earthquake. “We can only assessthe current seismic danger at best,” hetold reporters. He went on to say that earthquakesare connected with processes whichtake place hundreds of kilometers below theearth’s surface and have practically no connectionwith atmospheric temperature.Every year for the past eight years, I hearrumors right around this time that say anotherbig one is going to hit. At this time ofyear, every year, a dense, heavy fog descendsupon the country. I know, I have been strandedat the airport many times because of thisA date to rememberrecurring fog. Twenty years ago on December7, 1988, it was a very foggy day. It never fails,every December, you can hear whispers ofimpending disaster.When Armavia Flight 967 (Armenia’s nationalcarrier) plummeted into the Black Seaon May 3, 2006, on a routine flight to theresort town of Sochi killing all 113 passengerson board, the country once again was thrustinto mourning. Disbelief and then outrageslowly crept in. Rumors began to swirl thatthe crash was not a result of bad weather,mechanical failure, or human error, but becauseof an exchange of gunfire on board. Thestory is that Aram Petrosyan, son of KarlosPetrosyan, the former head of the NationalSecurity Service, who was on board withsome fellow thugs, got into an argument andshot at a passenger. For days and weeks followingthe tragedy, as one body after anotherwas transported back home for burial, therumors were relentless. A friend of mine said,“Did you hear? They are not returning thebody of one of the flight attendants becauseit has a gunshot wound and that would onlyconfirm what authorities have been denying.We all know it’s true.”According to the findings of the Inter-StateAviation Committee it was a combination ofpilot error and poor weather conditions. Itseems when tragedy hits Armenia, authoritieslose all ability to assuage fears of its people.It is indeed a sad indicator that people donot trust their own government. This is whatleads to unreasonable thought processes,gossip, and the very active rumor mill.Following contentious presidential electionsearlier this year, mass demonstrationswere taking place daily at Liberty Square indowntown Yerevan. On March 1, as governmentforces tried to clear the square of protestors,riots broke out lasting well into thenext day. As a result 10 people died. I donot doubt that every Armenian heart in thecountry bled that day. We couldn’t afford tolose any more, but we did and this time at ourown hands. Amidst the chaos and instabilityin the following days, news began spreadingthat the actual death toll was much higherthan the official numbers being released byArmenian authorities. There was so much uncertaintythose first few days and we were insuch shock that most of us didn’t realize howfast the rumors had spread. They weren’t sayingthat only a few more died, they had beguntalking about numbers closer to 200 people.We are a small nation. It would have been impossiblefor authorities, even if they wantedto, to play with the numbers and keep all thefamilies and friends of the allegedly deceasedfrom speaking out. Rumors included bodiesbeing found thrown off bridges, found in theforests – and all of these were people whowere allegedly killed by government forces.On a lighter note, a few years ago rumorswere circulating that Armenia had exportedover 3,000 tons of bananas to the Bahamasand about 90 tons to Georgia. Curious,bananas obviously don’t grow in Armenia.But these figures were cited by Armenia’sState Council on Statistics. Everyone wastalking about bananas. As it turns out anArmenian firm had exported some 60 kilosof banana oil to the Bahamas from approximately750 tons of bananas imported on atemporary basis for reprocessing purposes.There you go.The one rumor that affected me mostacutely was the story of the scorpion andthe bride. We had just moved to Armenia.Construction on the massive Sourb KrikorLusavoritch Church in the heart of Yerevanhad just been completed. Armeniawas celebrating the 1700th anniversary ofChristianity. Religious leaders, includingPope John Paul II were in Armenia for thecelebrations and consecration of the newlyconstructed church. However, residentsof Yerevan didn’t take to the church. Theyfound it cold and barren, felt it was a misappropriationof funds considering the livingconditions of people right across the country.Why did we need a church when mostfamilies were going without the basic necessitiesof life including drinking water, heating,shelter, they asked. I recall the day myyoung daughter came home from school in afluster and said she had heard the most horrifictale. A young bride standing at the altarwith her groom, just married, had collapsedon the cold marble floor of the church anddied. The rumor was that a scorpion, hiddenamong the many layers of tulle and veil hadbit the young woman, killing her instantly.I was horrified but questioned the truth ofthe story; yet my daughter’s eyes were full ofso much conviction that I told her it was indeeda tragedy. That week the rumor spreadlike wildfire and everyone was talking aboutit. Of course, it never happened. The reasonfor starting that rumor I’ll leave to theimagination, but I suspect after that mostbrides checked to make sure there were nohiding scorpions in their wedding dresses.Spreading untruths can seem harmlessat first. Yet they create and shape publicopinion in countries where there is aboutone degree of separation, never mind sixdegrees. Everybody knows everybody else.One of the more tragic rumors was of threeyoung school children being kidnappedwhile leaving school in a suburb of Yerevan.The story was that a few days later,their bodies were found in a shallow ditchjust outside the city. Panic and fear spreadthroughout the city. Parents, already overprotective,were taking their children toschool and picking them up for fear of anotherattack. A woman I know who lives inthat particular area of the city told me theyoung boys were from the school in theirneighborhood. She said she had seen policeat the school and knew the teachers whotaught there. She was so convincing that Ibegan wondering if I should start drivingmy own children to school. I was mortifiedthat such a thing could happen in a countrywhich cherishes and protects children.While rumors continued at a fever pitch, afew weeks later Yerevan’s police chief hadto go on television to calm people’s fearsand reiterate several times that no suchcrime had taken place.I often wonder why rumors are started andwho starts them. It can be as innocent as onefriend talking to another friend about somethinghe heard from his girlfriend’s neighbor’suncle. Sometimes they can leave yousmiling or scratching your head in disbelief.Sometimes they contribute to fear and uncertainty.I doubt that they alter the destinyof nations. I also doubt that rumors will stopspreading among people with creative mindsand fanciful imaginations. If I had my way, Iwould prefer to believe that bananas grow inArmenia.fn Continued from page 22personnel and entire classrooms of childrenperished.The diaspora rallied quickly to contributeto the relief effort. Finally there was an issueand distinct course of action where everyonecould put aside their social, political, andreligious differences to help the homeland.Communities across the globe mobilized tocollect food, clothing, medical supplies, andequipment.Yervant Yeretzian organized the Italian-Armenian community and coordinated reliefefforts to deliver supplies through the Italianarmy. Taline Yacoubian, an exchange studentin Greece, helped her aunt gather a planeloadof goods. “I couldn’t do much while therebut I got involved in the relief effort once Ireturned home,” she says.For many in Spitak, Gyumri, and the surroundingareas, help arrived too late. DespiteGorbachev’s appeal for assistance, theSoviet bureaucracy still prevailed and medicalassistance and supplies were not allowedimmediate clearance. In all, 25,000 peopledied, 15,000 were injured, and more thanhalf a million were left homeless. “It wasworse than war,” Arsen recalls. “[Whereas]war has a target, this was complete destructionin 20 seconds.” He and his motherended up at a park, where they watched asothers ran and screamed frantically whilecrying for their dead kin. Arsen’s family waslucky because his sister jumped out of herschool’s third-story window and survivedwithout injury and his father, a professorat the university, escaped and helped saveothers in the process. “We spent two weeksin the dark,” Arsen says of the days immediatelyafter December 7.The news of the tragedy spread quickly inthe diaspora. “I was recently married and was... to hope.New apartmentcomplexes inGyumri. Photos:Photolure.putting up the Christmas tree,” says ArmineHovanisian. “CNN was in the backgroundand I heard it. It totally ruined my mood andI considered taking down the tree.” CharlesHardy read it in the newspaper while drinkinghis morning cup of coffee. “I was shocked,”he says but adds that he was heartened whenhis co-workers expressed sympathy and offeredsupport. Hilda Fidanian was waitingfor her husband, Hovsep, to return from theairport where he was picking up a group ofartists arriving from Armenia for a performancein Los Angeles. “At first I didn’t thinkit was anything huge,” she says. “Then, asmore information came through, I realizedwhat a big deal it was.” Mary Terzian didn’tlearn of it until she came home from work.“The magnitude didn’t sink in until a few dayslater,” she says.What surprised everyone was the outpouringof support and compassion manyreceived from their co-workers and membersof the non-Armenian community, many ofwhom used their year-end office celebrationsto raise money and contribute to the causethat was dear to their Armenian colleagues’hearts.In February, three months after the earthquake,Catholicos Vasken I appealed to all Armeniansto plan beyond urgent assistance byhelping replace the generation that perishedin Northern Armenia’s badly built schoolswhen the quake struck. A few, like Hilda andHovsep, took this call to heart and their sonAramazd was born the following November.“Time cures all,” Arsen says philosophically.He has now overcome his fear of buildingsover five stories high. “The fear is alwaysthere but you can’t walk around with that allthe time,” he continues. “I learned as a childthat anything could disappear in a second.Everything is temporary and we must enjoywhatever we have right now.”f


24 The Armenian Reporter | December 6, 2008

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