Saturday, 2 April 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian...
Tumo - the most Innovative center worldwide

French magazine “We Demain” has ranked Ten Best Schools worldwide with
Armenian Tumo Center for Creative Technologies on the top of the list.
Tumo has left behind such renowned educational institutions as
AltSchool of Silicon Valley, Fuji Kindergarten of Tokyo, and Steve
Jobs School.

The news came as surprise for the Center employees and those of
studying there. The head of Communication department at Tumo Center
told that the reporter of the mentioned journal visited
them in November 2015 and took an interview with Tumo director Marie
Lou Papazian.

“We are quite surprised at learning that the report came as a ranking
list. We rather expected an article about Tumo, without even expecting
such an evaluation,” Budaghyan said.

She then added the journal is not specialized in Innovative
technologies: “They rather reflected on the schools that work for the
public. We are pleased to see the ranking number one next to Tumo and
we deem their approach as a very positive and emotional.”

It should be noted that the center has never been included in similar
rankings so far, no studies of technological research have been
conducted to look into the Armenian school standing compared with
other similar institutions in the world. Nevertheless, judging from
the positive feedback of various international structures and
specialists, the increasing interest toward the school, the results
are satisfying and encouraging.

“They contact us from different countries, from France, Egypt, Russia,
Beirut. We are currently discussing the prospects of founding Tumo
Centers in other states. We try to understand its feasibility. Those
feedbacks might be regarded as symbolic assessments,” the
communication director said.

According to Budaghyan, the students’ successes and recorded results
are also speaking of the Center assessment, their record of entering
international universities, finding a job in the labor market.

“Despite their young age, our students and graduates work in the best
companies of Armenia. Now we have three start-up companies in the
center which were established and operated by our graduates and
students,” Budaghyan noted.

Tumo is a new kind of after-school learning environment where
thousands of students aged 12-18 are in charge of their own learning.

Tumo is a non-profit venture and participation in the Tumo program is
free of charge and open to all local teenagers. Tumo has four centers
located in Yerevan Gyumri, Dilijan, and Stepanakert having in total
10,000 enrolled students. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Offers To Host More Refugees From Syria
Emil Danielyan

Armenia is ready to receive more ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria
and hopes that its affluent Diaspora in the West will assist in their
resettlement, President Serzh Sarkisian said during a visit to the
United States late on Wednesday.

"Today the Armenian community in Syria stands on the brink of
extinction, with Armenian historical-cultural sites being destroyed
and looted," Sarkisian declared at a meeting in Boston with leaders
and members of the local Armenian community.

"Let us jointly help the bulk of [the Syrian Armenians] settle in
Armenia," he said. "Of course, it is painful for us to see the
destruction of an Armenian community in the Middle East. But maybe it
would be the least of evils if the overwhelming majority of that
community members established themselves in their [ancestral]
homeland. It would be something of a consolation to us."

"The loss of that once thriving community is really painful for us,
but we must do everything in our power to at least help those who have
left [Syria] relocate to Armenia," added Sarkisian.

Syria was home to an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians, virtually all
of them descendants of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide in
Ottoman Turkey, until the outbreak of the devastating civil war there
five years ago. Only up to 10,000 of them reportedly remain in the
war-ravaged country now. Many are said to be unable to flee the war

While swiftly granting them residency permits and even citizenship,
the authorities in Yerevan have until now refrained from openly
encouraging Syrian Armenians to take refuge in their ancestral
homeland. They have also resisted domestic calls for the evacuation of
the remaining Armenians in Syria. Sarkisian appears to have signaled a
change of this policy.

Sarkisian expressed readiness to accept thousands more Syria Armenians
even though his cash-strapped government is hardly able to provide
large-scale economic assistance to more than 16,000 such refugees
currently living in Armenia. Most of them are struggling to find
decent jobs and pay for their accommodation. Many also complain of
government neglect.

The Armenian president insisted that his administration is doing to
its best to ensure their "dignified life." "We quickly grant them
citizenship and help them receive free education and medical services,
set up businesses and establish themselves in Armenia," he said.

Sarkisian also praised Armenian-American charities for providing
relief aid to Syrian Armenians. But he clearly implied that they
should contribute more to the refugees in Armenia.

Yerevan also hopes to secure financial assistance to them from foreign
governments and international donor agencies. Foreign Minister Edward
Nalbandian appealed to the international donor community on Wednesday
when he addressed a United Nations conference on the Syrian refugee
crisis held in Geneva.
At Last Lake Sevan Level Increases
March 30, 2016

Today, as of 30 March 2016, the level of Lake Sevan made up 1900.33 m,
which is higher by 16 cm than the level of the lake one year ago, 30
March 2015, as the Ministry for Emergency States informs on its

We are only happy that the over-surface and underground water flows
into the lake promoted the recovery of lake Sevan this year. We expect
that the forecasts of the National Service for Monitoring and
Hydrometereology well become true and by 31 December the level of the
lake will be increased by 30 cm, if the water won't be taken for
irrigation and other needs more than it's set.
Passions Over St. Giragos: Turkish government decision to expropriate
Armenian church sparks controversy
By Gayane Mkrtchyan

The Turkish government has decided to expropriate 6,300 structures and
plots of land in the Sur district of Diyarbakir (one of the largest
cities in southeastern Turkey), which includes St. Giragos Armenian
church, one of the largest churches in the Middle East that belongs to
the Armenian community. The decision caused concerns and anxiety among
Armenians living in different parts of the world. In 2011, through
their donations, St. Giragos was reopened and consecrated.

Answering the Turkey-based Armenian Agos newspaper's questions, Adnan
Ertem, the General Directorate for Foundations Director, said: `This
expropriation decision is not about historical structures or civil
architecture. We want to preserve them.'

`Left to its own fate for years, the church was finally restored and
opened to worship after long lasted efforts. Sur is the only center
that has places of worship for non-Muslims. With the help of funding
campaigns started in the US and other countries, the church was
restored. About 2 million Turkish liras were spent for restoration.
Assyrian and Protestant churches have also been expropriated by the
same decision,' reads Agos.

Andranik Ispiryan, an expert in Turkish studies, said the authorities
set a ban to go out to streets in the Sur district due to possible
clashes with Kurdish active population. As a result, after the
prohibition, the Turkish security forces began active operations to
clear that part from armed Kurds. According to the expert, St. Giragos
was less affected because it had high walls and was well fortified
from outside.

`The Turkish government wants to clean up the buildings, which were
built at different times by the Kurds and dilapidated due to recent
clashes. Instead, the government wants to build new structures through
the means of the state's largest construction company. By this, the
government will clean the area from Kurdish population, which has
constantly been rebelling against it, and they will inhabit the place
with new people instead. Unfortunately the Armenian church has
appeared in the center of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The Turkish
officials made the decision of expropriation hastily,' the expert told

Nevertheless, the expert said that the expropriation of Kurds' houses
is a controversial issue, and it is possible that in the coming days
some lawsuits may be filed by Kurds against that decision, because it
violates a number of European conventions, including the right to

`St. Giragos is officially registered and owned by the Armenian
community. It is a historical and cultural structure. We did not have
precedent, but some abandoned and ruined churches were expropriated
previously. This will have a great response. The decision is not yet
clear and is highly controversial. First, to expropriate an operating
church, which belongs to a national minority, without legal
proceedings, even in Turkey is illegal. It is contrary to the
provisions of the Lausanne Treaty on the Rights of National Minorities
and Turkey's domestic laws,' said Ispiryan.

Speaking to Agos, Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural
Heritage Director Nevin Soylukaya stated that all churches and
properties belonging to the foundations are expropriated. Soylukaya
said that the municipality will initiate a legal action against the
government for expropriation of the properties that belong to it. She
also urged the owners of other expropriated properties to take similar
legal actions.

Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament from the
People's [pro-Kurdish] Democratic Party (HDP), has presented an
inquiry to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to clarify the
details of expropriation of a number of areas and structures in
Diyarbakir (former Tigranakert).

In his inquiry comprised of several points, which Paylan posted on his
Facebook account, the lawmaker asked Davutoglu to clarify whether the
expropriation decision affects the Christian, the Assyrian and
Chaldean churches. At the same time Paylan wanted the authorities to
clarify by what standards and laws the so called `under risk' areas
were selected.

Paylan also asked whether the decision to expropriate the properties
and churches of minorities does not contradict the legislation and the
Treaty of Lausanne.
March 30 2016
Armenia: When Freedom Causes Social Friction
by Marianna Grigoryan

The influx of Iranian tourists in March to celebrate Nowruz, the
traditional Persian New Year, is a major economic event for businesses
in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. But while plenty of restaurants and
clubs in the city display signs in Farsi, reports of discrimination
against Iranian visitors suggest that the tourism surge is a source of
social friction.

Most of the discrimination reports are hard to verify and are
generally spread by word of mouth. They include alleged confrontations
involving Yerevan residents and Iranian tourists, or stories of taxi
drivers, restaurants and supermarkets allegedly overcharging visitors.

Thirty-year-old tour guide Yasha Solomonian recently sparked
controversy on Facebook when he claimed that he had witnessed a staff
member at a toy store in downtown Yerevan deny an Iranian family

“They were pushed and yelled at, not letting them enter the store,”
Solomonian told “Meanwhile, Armenians entered with no
problems. When I came up to ask for an explanation, they said that
‘Iranians are thieves.’ This is an extremely stereotypical approach,
which is out of bounds for a country that claims tourism is a top

Employees at the toy store, Reima, declined to talk with a EurasiaNet

The head of the Economy Ministry’s Tourism Department, Mekhak
Apresian, indicated that the government is concerned about the
country’s reputation among tourists, although he did not specify any
measures that the officials might take to address the discrimination
reports. “Any discriminatory attitude toward a guest harms us, our
country, our image,” Apresian said. “Armenia has rich historical
cultural treasures, nature, but it is more important for a tourist to
feel welcome in our country. If we lose that, nothing else will matter

In 2015, Iranians accounted for just under 10 percent of Armenia’s
roughly 1.2 million tourists, according to official data –
approximately a 2 percent decline from 2014. That figure, though, is
open to interpretation. Armenia requires that incoming Iranians have a
visa, but border control cannot determine whether Iranians who enter
with a “visitor visa” have come for tourism or some other purpose.

Iranian tourists’ overall financial impact on Armenia’s economy is
also hard to pin down. But there is no doubt about the popularity of
Armenia for Iranians during the Nowruz holiday, which runs from March

Many Iranians see Armenia, their northern neighbor, as a comfortable
getaway destination, where they can drink alcohol in public and ditch
their chadors, yet still sense that they are in an eastern country.
“It feels very familiar in Armenia, especially that there are many
Iranians and we can have fun in all possible ways,” commented
28-year-old Saeed Assadi, who said, speaking in English, that he
traveled from Tehran to Yerevan with his friends “to relax a little
bit and have fun” during Nowruz.

Yerevan resident Narine Manukian, 27, alleged that often Iranian men,
particularly near Yerevan’s music-playing fountains, a popular venue
for families, try to flirt with Armenian women. Such activity can spur
animosity, particularly among Armenian men. “I can understand that it
is not that easy to be in freedom after living under a closed régime,”
Manukian said of Iran’s Islamic Republic. “And many are taken captive
by that freedom, get drunk, try to pick up Armenian girls.”

Citing unfriendly stares and what they believe are negative remarks
toward them, Iranian male tourists say they sense locals’ hostility.
“There are moments in stores, in public places, when people’s attitude
is pretty clear, and next time I will think twice before choosing to
come here,” Assadi said.

The Iranian Embassy did not provide a promised response in time for
publication. A hotline exists for tourists who encounter problems in
Armenia, but an operator told that it has not received
any calls.

Much of the criticism voiced in Yerevan about visiting Iranians
appears subjective. “Iranian girls dress so vulgarly, semi-nude, which
society clearly does not accept,” complained Manukian.

Although Armenian women do not necessarily dress conservatively,
locals in this patriarchal society take offense at foreign females
wearing bold makeup, extreme mini-skirts and décolletage.

Yerevan-based ethnographer Hranush Kharatian attributes any
intolerance toward Iranians to Armenia’s relative ethnic homogeneity –
97 percent of the country’s population of just over 3 million people
is ethnic Armenian. Foreign tourists, apart from Diaspora Armenians,
remain relatively few.

Iranians have been visiting Yerevan in large numbers for Nowruz only
for about 10 years. “Our society is unfamiliar with Iranian tourists,
their culture and behavior,” noted sociologist Aharon Adibekian.

History also plays a role. For centuries, the territory that now
comprises Armenia was part of the Persian Empire. “The word ‘Iranian’
is not perceived unambiguously among us,” commented Kharatian. “It was
associated with the enemy [overlord].”

Asked what prompts rudeness toward Iranian tourists, some Yerevan
youngsters joked that it was a response to the war elephants used by
the Persians in 451 during the Battle of Avarayr, a fight whose
origins were rooted in Persia’s persecution of Armenian Christians.

Ethnographer Kharatian and tour guide Solomonian emphasized that far
from all Armenians hold hostile attitudes toward Iranian tourists.
“Armenians are very hospitable and friendly, but sometimes you can run
into extreme situations,” said Solomonian.

Another Iranian tourist from Tehran, who gave his name as Shahin, said
that this year was his second celebrating Nowruz in Armenia, which he
described as a “liberal country.” He stressed that locals have always
treated him well.

“It is impossible that in all countries of the world everyone treats
everyone else with a smile,” the 31-year-old Iranian stated.

Editor's note:
Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor

New York Times
March 31 2016
Domestic Violence in Armenia: Covering the Crimes That Go Unreported
By James Estrin 

This week Lens is featuring photographers from around the world who
have been chosen to attend the fourth annual New York portfolio

Once Anahit Hayrapetyan’s girlfriends got married, they started
disappearing from her life. She was not surprised by that, as married
women in Armenia — a “highly patriarchal society” — sometimes have
little independence. One of her friends was forbidden to step outside
her home without her husband. Another couldn’t even make a phone call
without her husband being present. And her closest friend was
physically abused.

Domestic violence against women is commonplace in Armenia, Ms.
Hayrapetyan said, yet until recently it was rarely discussed in
public. Still, she knew the reality: Growing up, a neighbor girl’s
father had killed her mother, but it was discussed only in furtive
whispers, if at all.

“No one can say the real numbers of physical abuse cases because it is
considered normal and acceptable by most people,” Ms. Hayrapetyan, 35,
said. “The police often don’t record cases.”

In 2010, Ms. Hayrapetyan started photographing and recording the
testimonies of women who were victims of domestic violence, resulting
in “Princess to Slave,” published last year by Fotoevidence. Ms.
Hayrapetyan had little difficulty finding women who had experienced
spousal abuse — but many did not want to go public. She started with
women who were willing to show their faces in the photos to prove
“they are real women and the problem really exists.”

At times she was too late and had to photograph funerals.

In one case, she photographed family members gathered around the body
of Maro Guloyan at her wake at her parents’ home. As relatives checked
the body for marks, Ms. Hayrapetyan clearly saw bruises shaped liked
fingers grasping the neck.

For the family, the marks confirmed their belief that Ms. Guloyan was
murdered by her husband. He and his relatives had claimed she
committed suicide. The case was not brought to trial in Armenia, but
the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia took the case to the European
Court of Human Rights, where Ms. Hayrapetyan’s photos were entered as

When women marry in Armenia, Ms. Hayrapetyan said, they usually move
in with the husband’s family, which can leave them isolated from their
own family — and vulnerable to abuse by their husband and in-laws. Ms.
Hayrapetyan sees domestic violence as an outgrowth of a culture in
which mothers and sisters serve the boys, and when the boys grow up,
their wives serve them.

“Men never do housework and they never share in child-rearing,” she
said. “They think it’s normal to forbid women to do things. They think
it’s normal for women to only be in the kitchen and take care of kids.
This is how fathers teach their sons.”

Ms. Hayrapetyan has three young children of her own, and she has
photographed much of the project carrying at least one child in a
sling. She struggles to make sure that neither of her two boys nor
their older sister feels entitled or limited by gender.

Since she started her project, more women have begun speaking out
against spousal abuse in Armenia, but not much has changed, Ms,
Hayrapetyan said.

“The police are not doing anything and the government is not
protecting these women,” she added.

Not surprisingly, female photographers have struggled in Armenia. When
Ms. Hayrapetyan started in 2005, there were few successful female
photographers. After World Press Photo held workshops there from 2004
through 2006, more women entered the profession, but they often faced
discrimination: Two of her friends were rejected for news photographer
jobs explicitly because they were women.

Undeterred, Ms. Hayrapetyan helped start 4plus, a collective of
Armenian women, along with Anush Babajanyan and Nazik Armenakyan, who
will also attend the New York portfolio review this week. They hold
exhibits, lectures and workshops to develop documentary photography
and empower women. They are starting a photo festival in Armenia for
female photographers from around the world.

“We’re trying to not only take photos but help others,” Ms.
Hayrapetyan said. “The task is not to be the greatest photographer
alone. The task is to have an educated photography community and to
empower women in Armenia because they have so many problems here.”

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