An examination of the deep wound that remains at the heart of
`Save Closed Market': Yerevan residents have to launch new initiative
`Save Closed Market' initiative spread an announcement yesterday
midnight which tells the roof of the Yerevan Closed Market on Mashtots
Avenue is destroyed.
`Vandalism is going on in the Mashtots Avenue, Closed Marked. Though
the officials ensured that the constructions are stopped in the market
but yesterday in the evening the architectural monument of Yerevan was
damaged for the next time.'
The members of the initiative spread the information on Facebook
social network and invited everyone to come and protect the market
from the final destruction. They launched a meeting at the Closed
Market today at 11 o'clock. `Let's gather and discussed our further
actions', the announcement calls on.
Now nearly 30 people are at the market and the activists managed to
stop works of the constructive machines. As one of the witnesses
informs Times.am now the work is stopped and the situation is calmer.
The activists plan to gather at the market on the next days as well.
Remind that Armenian Parliament deputy Samvel Alexanyan has bought the
market and he is going to construct the next `Yerevan City'
supermarket here as well.
Armenian Pressure Group Sees Improved Road Policing
Road policing and safety in Armenia has improved further this year
thanks to the growing use of surveillance cameras by the traffic
police, a pressure group defending drivers' rights said on Friday.
`By and large, there is now law and order,' said Eduard Hovannisian,
chairman of the Achilles non-governmental organization. `That law and
order can be enhanced. But you can see that work is being done in that
The first cameras designed to detect and punish traffic violations
were installed on key streets and road intersections in Yerevan last
January as part of a gradual introduction of a centralized road
surveillance system. The Armenian government plans to have some 280
digital devices installed across the country by 2017. It says they
will make road policing more objective and efficient and complicate
Until this year the Armenian traffic police used only mobile radars
and digital cameras placed in cars patrolling streets and
highways. Officers are required to turn them on while on duty.
According to Hovannisian, traffic has become more orderly
since January. The Achilles chief said video policing has already made
Armenian motorists `more disciplined and attentive' and reduced
arbitrary practices among police officers patrolling streets. In
particular, he said, the latter are now doing a much better job of
properly documenting traffic violations with tickets handed to
delinquent drivers on the spot or sent to them by mail.
`Whereas in the past there was virtually no [punitive] decision in
which we couldn't find any violations, now it's all the way around,'
Hovannisian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Achilles has a more than decade-long history of drivers' rights
advocacy, having lobbied for police reform, campaigned against
corruption and helped hundreds of car owners to file lawsuits against
the traffic police.
The installation of cameras is part of a broader five-year plan to
make Armenian roads safer that was launched by the government in
2009. The plan's implementation began with a significant toughening of
traffic fines and a crackdown on the widespread and long-standing
non-use of safety belts.
Some of those fines will become even heftier with the entry into force
on June 2 of amendments to Armenia's Code of Administrative Offense
approved by the parliament earlier this year.
Hovannisian criticized the measure, saying that the existing financial
penalties are already strict enough. `Nothing will change. There will
just be more complaints and lawsuits,' he said, adding that the police
are mainly concerned with collecting additional revenue partly used
for rewarding police officers.
Norik Sargsian, a senior police official, denied that. `Our job is not
to raise our extra-budgetary funds but to ensure road safety,' he told
RFE/RL's Armenian service.
Armenian Currency Loses More Ground
Sargis Harutyunyan, Emil Danielyan
After months of relative stability Armenia's national currency, the
dram, has resumed its steady depreciation against the U.S. dollar,
losing almost 4 percent of its nominal value since the beginning of
The process accelerated this week, with the exchange rate set in
inter-bank currency trading reaching nearly 407 drams per dollar on
Friday, down from 392 drams per dollar on Monday.
The dram was trading at an average of 389 per one dollar in
mid-January, making it more than 6 percent weaker, in nominal terms,
against the greenback than a year ago.
The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), which plays a key role in the
authorities' exchange rate policy, on Friday declined to explain the
renewed dram depreciation, saying that it will comment later on.
Hrant Bagratian, an economist and senior member of the opposition
Armenian National Congress (HAK), said the current slide would have
been steeper without the CBA's hard currency interventions in the
local financial market. He claimed that the bank has spent $300
million for that purpose in recent months.
Some currency retailers in Yerevan said that Armenians have increased
dollar purchases in recent days. `Demand in the dollar is increasing,'
Lusine Chalabian, the owner of one currency shop, told RFE/RL's
Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Bagratian attributed the exchange rate fluctuations to what he
described as slowing economic growth and a modest increase in
remittances from Armenians working abroad. He alleged that the
increased dollar demand is also the result of large-scale vote bribes
distributed across the country ahead of and during the May 6
The former prime minister estimated that their total amount is an
equivalent of $100 million. `That money is now also being converted
into dollars,' he told RFE/RL's Armenian service.
The Armenian authorities have repeatedly denied allegations of vote
buying made by opposition politicians, challenging them to come up
with factual evidence of the illegal practice.
The Armenian currency dramatically appreciated against the dollar and
the euro during several consecutive years of double-digit economic
growth that came to an end in late 2008. The global financial crisis
caused it to fall sharply in the following months.
The dram rallied against both hard currencies as the country began
recovering from recession in 2010. In a December 2010 report, the
International Monetary Fund warned that it has grown overvalued by
President Serzh Sarkisian acknowledged in March 2011 that the dram's
strengthening in 2010 and before had a negative impact on Armenian
manufacturing firms. Sarkisian predicted its `very slow and stable
depreciation' in the months to come. The dollar was worth 368 drams at
`In general, dram depreciation is not bad for exports,' Bagratian
said. `But it would not have led to severe socioeconomic consequences
[for ordinary Armenians] had our economic competitiveness risen
parallel to it, had the economy gotten rid of monopolies. But since
that is not happening I think that the Central Bank will continue to
fight against this depreciation [with dollar sales.]'
Eurovision re-opens old wounds in the Caucasus
Published on May 1, 2012 by Onnik Krikorian
Azerbaijan's hosting of the event on 26 May has caused tensions in the
region as Armenia pulls out.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are sworn enemies, locked into a bitter stalemate
over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. Around 25,000 people died
and a million were forced to flee their homes by fighting between the two
former Soviet republics in the early 1990s. Lasting peace remains elusive,
despite a ceasefire agreement signed in 1994. Scores of conscripts die each
year in cross-border skirmishes, but recently the conflict has moved to a
new and unlikely battleground - the Eurovision Song Contest.
The kitsch and glitzy music competition has had its fair share of scandals
since its inception in 1956, despite the original intention to draw
countries from the European Broadcast Union (EBU) closer together. However,
the recent inclusion of post-Soviet states has taken national rivalry to
Armenia entered Eurovision in 2006, followed by Georgia in 2007 and
Azerbaijan the following year; bitter rivalry between the countries of the
South Caucasus was evident from the outset.
In 2009, in the wake of its August 2008 war with Russia, Georgia pulled out
after its song, apparently mocking President Vladimir Putin, was considered
In 2009, Armenia ruffled Azerbaijani feathers with a promotional video that
featured a statue in the contested Nagorno Karabakh region. This falls
under Armenian control, but is considered sovereign Azerbaijan by the
international community. Forced to drop the video, Armenia defiantly
displayed the offending statue as the main image for its slot during the
international tele-voting, which was broadcast live to millions.
Later the same year, in perhaps the worst incident of petty bickering
between the two countries, 43 Azerbaijanis who voted for Armenia during the
competition were called in for questioning by National Security Service
No wonder, then, that when Azerbaijan won the competition last year,
earning itself the right to host the event in its capital, Baku, in 2012,
alarm bells rang in Armenia. Given that citizens of either country cannot
visit the other under normal circumstances, additional security guarantees
for Armenia's delegation were sought from the EBU, which said that it would
not intervene. Armenia formally withdrew from the competition on 7 March.
The problems are not confined to a spat with Armenia. Online activists and
journalists are facing intimidation, detention and imprisonment in
Azerbaijan, prompting international human rights and other organizations to
cast doubts on the country's suitability to stage Eurovision in the first
place. Both local and international groups have flagged up the forced
eviction of homeowners to construct the Crystal Hall Stadium where
Eurovision will be held.
But some activists disagree. They argue that the international spotlight
may result in much-needed reform and change. For now, however, the omens do
not look good.
How much fine will Armenia pay for not participating in Eurovision in Baku
May 27, 2012 | 23:55
In all likelihood, the Public Television of Armenia will have to pay a
fine of approximately 120,000 for not partaking in the Eurovision
Song Contest 2012, which was held in the Azerbaijani capital city
Baku, and not informing the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in good
time of its respective decision.
This, however, is an unofficial amount based on the information with
respect to the amount Malta had to pay to participate in Eurovision
2010. In that year, Malta paid 80,000 as membership fee.
Also, and again in line with unofficial data, Romania had to pay
112,000 for not participating in Eurovision 2012.
As Armenian News-NEWS.am informed earlier, Armenia would have avoided
the fine if it would have done that by the deadlines set in the Rules
of the Eurovision Song Contest, Communication Coordinator for the
Eurovision Family of Events Jarmo Siim said in response to the
He also added that there is no ground to hamper Armenia's
participation next year, if it broadcasts the contest, pays the fine,
and preserves the rules for next year's participation.
The fine for Armenia's decision to withdraw from the Eurovision 2012
is aimed to preserve the rules and not to punish, head of the Armenian
delegation to the Eurovision Gohar Gasparyan earlier told Armenian
`As you know, Armenian Public Television wanted to participate in the
song contest despite the anti-Armenian environment in Azerbaijan.
However, we decided to withdraw after the Azerbaijani President
declared that all the Armenians in the world are number one enemy for
Generally both the participation fee, as well as the fine, which is
half of the fee, is aimed to respect the rules and not to punish. In
addition, as the EBU has not made public the sum, we do not think it
is correct to make any comments on the issue,' Gasparyan said, adding
that Armenia is obliged to broadcast the contest, otherwise the state
will not have the right for the 2013 participation.
Earlier, a group of Armenian singers have turned to the Public
Television calling not to participate in the contest in a state like
Azerbaijan, which is notorious for having slaughtered Armenians in
1988. Afterwards, Armenia withdrew its candidacy of participation and,
instead, had to pay fines.
GAY RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK IN ARMENIA
Firebombing of bar, and the approval it met with, are telling indicators
of hostility towards sexual minorities.
By Karine Ionesyan
Attacks on a bar in central Yerevan and trouble at a march in support of
tolerance show just how far away Armenia is from the equality its
constitution proclaims, activists say.
The DIY Club, known as a gay hangout, was firebombed on May 8.
In a second incident on May 15, swastikas were sprayed on the bar’s
Two young men were arrested in connection with the firebombing,
but were later released on bail.
Leading politicians from the opposition as well as from the ruling
Republican Party spoke out in defence of the two suspects. This
outraged civil right activists, who said the statements contributed to
inciting attacks that took place on a diversity march that followed.
The demonstration was held to mark World Day of Cultural Diversity
on May 21, and included refugees and ethnic minorities as well as
However, its opponents were convinced it was a gay pride parade,
so they staged what they described as an “anti-parade”, which ended
with them confronting the marchers. Skirmishes between the two
groups did not escalate into wider violence.
“There have always been clashes, it’s just that no one talked about
them. And on Diversity Day, there was an even bigger clash,” said
Mamikon Hovsepyan, one of the organisers of the diversity parade
and head of the PINK group, which campaigns for public awareness
of gay rights issues.
“After the club was attacked, those arrested were released on bail.
And then this happened. It basically means that terrorism has
support from Armenian politicians.”
The DIY Club has been under police guard since the day of the
It had been boarded up after the two earlier attacks, but on May 21,
rioters broke in and smashed it up.
No one has been arrested for this latest attack, although police say
they are investigating it.
“My club was burned, everything was broken, and I continue to get
threats saying they will burn, kill me and so on,” said the bar’s owner
Armine Oganezova, a well-known rock musician who uses the stage
name Tsomak. “All these specific, deliberate steps are against me,
since I hold liberal views and I’ve been to Turkey to give a rock concert
and attend a gay parade.”
Oganezova said she heard that the young men arrested on suspicion
of carrying out the firebombing had their bail paid by Artsvik Minasyan
and Hrayr Karapetyan, two members of parliament from the opposition
Both Minasyan and Hrayr Karapetyan deny paying bail, but they have
spoken favourably of what the suspects are accused of doing.
“I am sure these young men acted in accordance with our public and
national ideology, and that they acted correctly,” Minasyan said in an
interview with the website www.panorama.am.
Eduard Sharmazanov, deputy speaker of parliament and a leading
member of the ruling Republican Party, also spoke positively about
the alleged attackers in a post on his Facebook page.
Artak Kirakosyan, head of the Civil Society Institute, an NGO that
promotes democracy values, said comments of this kind from
politicians were very worrying.
“The atmosphere of immunity that is spread by Sharmazanov and
the representatives of Dashnaktsutyun is very dangerous,” he said.
“They themselves do not know what horrors will be awoken, and in
future they won’t be able to stop it,” he said.
The “anti-parade” participants whom IWPR interviewed, such as
Armen Aghayan of the nationalist youth group Hayazn, did not
support the firebombing, but said they would continue to battle
attempts to secure wider rights for gay people.
“Whether the constitution permits homosexuality or not, it is my duty
rather than my right to call it amoral. I must protect my child from
everything of this kind, and tell him it is deviancy,” he said.
The anti-gay activists base their views on the Bible, although they
have not won approval from the Armenian Apostolic Church.
“We do not hate people, we hate the sin itself, not the sinner. It is
necessary to find a civilised solutions,” Father Shmavon
Ter-Ghevondyan said. “All violence creates more violence, and you
cannot resolve any matter that way.”
Armenia’s constitution sets out equality for all before the law, but
the country only repealed a law against homosexuality in 2003,
under pressure from European institutions.
According to a 2011 report from the Armenian Office of the Helsinki
Civil Assembly in 2011, homosexuals face violence and
discrimination from police, and within the army and the prison
system. As a result, they tend not to report crimes committed against
them, since they worry they will only face more abuse.
The office of Armenia’s official human rights ombudsman has
designed a strategy to protect sexual minorities, including legal and
procedural reforms ensuring access to justice. It has also proposed
ways to prevent violence against homosexuals in prisons, to prevent
discrimination in the workplace, and to bar anti-gay propaganda
from the media.
Karine Ionesyan reports for the Civil Society Institute in Armenia.
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