Monday, 15 August 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... "Rebellion''

BBC Radio 4 

In case you haven’t heard this, a link to a report on the 'rebellion' 

in Armenia on ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Radio 4:

It is below from 17m30s for about 6 minutes : 

Huffington Post
Aug 13 2016
Police-Station Occupiers Also Shined Spotlight on Russian 
Subjugation of Armenia 
Armine Sahakyan

The 31 armed men who took over a police station in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan on July 17 made two demands that got widespread news coverage.

After the 20 men who were still in the station on July 31 surrendered, the group made another appeal to the public.

This time it wasn’t a demand. It was a entreaty that they embrace what they felt was another important political objective. That objective was for Armenia to stop being a Russian colony and become independent in fact as well as in name.

One of the group’s demands when it seized the police station was that the government release the man they considered their leader — Jirair Sefilian, head of the Founding Parliament fringe political party. Authorities had arrested Sefilian in mid-June on a charge of plotting a coup.

The other demand of the occupying group known as the Daredevils of Sassoun was that President Serzh Sargsyan resign.

The government wore down the Daredevils during the siege, cutting off their water, food, electricity and cellphone service, and wounding several of them with sniper fire.

Hardening authorities’ determination not to compromise was the fact that two police officers died during the occupation. One was shot during the initial takeover and the second by sniper fire halfway through the siege.

The Daredevils are now going through the justice process. They face long prison terms, but they are still defiant, maintaining that they are not common criminals but prisoners of war.

A longtime political activist decided on the very day that the Daredevils surrendered to try to increase public awareness of their contention that Armenia needs to stop being a Russian vassal.

Tigran Khzmalyan stood in front of a small group of Daredevils sympathizers outside Yerevan’s Opera House to read an online post the Daredevils had made.

“Today all the processes in our country are governed from outside,” he quoted the Daredevils as saying. “I am speaking about Russia.”

“We want the people, and the international community, to realize that this is a national liberation movement against Russian colonialism,” the Daredevils said.

Although the Daredevils represent a political fringe group, many Armenians believe as the Daredevils do that their country needs to cast off its Russian shackles.

Russia owns the country’s electrical system and supplies it with most of its gas, making Armenia beholden to the Kremlin for its energy needs. The Russian electricity company’s decision to raise electricity rates 17 percent last summer led to tens of thousands of people protesting nationwide.

Many Armenians also resent Russian President Vladimir Putin bullying Sargsyan into dropping Armenia’s plan to join the European Union and instead joining the Kremlin-led Eurasian Economic Community. Sargsyan’s about-face in the fall of 2013 was greeted with demonstrations in Armenia, and additional street protests when Putin visited the country later that year and in 2014.

Many Armenian intellectuals and young people in particular resented Putin’s interference in Armenia’s effort to shape a better economic future by looking toward Europe.

There is also growing resentment about what many Armenians see as Russia’s interference in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.

Putin has been personally trying to mediate a settlement of the longstanding dispute, which flared into open warfare in April of this year.

The ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh fought a war with Azerbaijan over the enclave from 1988 until 1994. Both sides continue to claim that the area is theirs, with flare-ups in fighting punctuating their claims.

Putin has said publicly that the two sides need to reach a compromise on the issue.

Armenians, who of course back their ethnic brethren in Nagorno-Karabakh, are afraid that Putin will demand, as one term of compromise, that the enclave cede some of its land to Azerbaijan.

Many of the Daredevils of Sassoun fought in the Nagorno-Karabakh War between 1998 and 1994, as did Sefilian, so they are dead-set against a settlement involving loss of land.

Many Armenians also resent the fact that in recent years Russia has been selling arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Russia has justified sales to both sides as an attempt at maintaining balance in the region.

It has also said that if it weren’t selling arms to the Azerbaijanis, somebody else would be. The gist of that cynical message: Why should we give up profits that we don’t have to give up?

No polls on Armenian public sentiment about Russia have been taken for at least two years, as far as I know.

So there are no figures to confirm the anecdotal evidence I’m seeing that indicates more Armenians are becoming tired of being a Russian colony.

Thousands of protesters turned out to support the Daredevils of Sassoun during the police-station siege, indicating that the group had succeeded in galvanizing opposition to the government that went way beyond the membership in the tiny Founding Parliament Party.

Will their movement also stoke a broader effort for Armenia to get out from under Russia’s thumb?

I wouldn’t bet against it.

Armine Sahakyan is a human rights activist based in Armenia. A columnist with the Kyiv Post and a blogger with The Huffington Post, she writes on human rights and democracy in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Tasnim News Agency, Iran
Aug 13 2016
Iran, Armenia Abolish Mutual Visa Regime 

August, 13, 2016 - 16:23
ایران ارمنستانTEHRAN (Tasnim) – Visa requirements for Iranian and Armenian citizens visiting the other country have been lifted, Iran’s embassy in Yerevan announced Saturday.

The removal of mutual visa regime between Iran and Armenia follows a relevant agreement signed recently between the two neighboring countries in Tehran, the Iranian embassy said in a statement.

The agreement for abolishing the visa regime came into effect on August 6, 2016, it added.

Earlier, Iran’s Ambassador to Armenia Kazem Sajjadi was quoted by the Armen Press news agency as saying that the issue had been discussed in a meeting between Iran’s Justice Minister and Armenia’s Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan.

Armenia announced in early June that it has approved signing an agreement with Iran to abolish the visa regime between the two countries.

The country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan was quoted by media as saying that the agreement will help develop relations between Iran and Armenia.

The agreement, signed June 5 during a visit to the Iranian capital by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, will allow Iranians and Armenians to travel to the two countries with citizens and diplomatic passports without a visa and stay there for maximum 90 days within a 180-day period, the media reported at the time.

August 12, 2016
Armenia's isolation grows as Azerbaijan moves to secure support from
regional powers

Russia's moderation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan
over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh will be more fruitful
than that of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed on August 11.

Following a line of anti-Western rhetoric that has accentuated since a
July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey to which the EU and US were
perceived to underreact, Erdogan accused the OSCE body in charge of
moderating the conflict of inefficiency, and said that Russian
President Vladimir Putin's mediation will be more effective, Aksam
newspaper reported.

Turkey is a long-standing partner of Azerbaijan, with which it holds
strong commercial and diplomatic ties. To show support for Baku,
Ankara closed down its border with Armenia in the early 1990s
following Yerevan's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven
surrounding territories. The Turkish head of state suggested that
Yerevan would have to return five of the seven territories surrounding
Nagorno-Karabakh that it currently occupies for "the process of
normalisation to begin in the region".

Meanwhile Russia, Armenia's traditional backer, has been increasingly
cooperative with Azerbaijan in recent years. Not only did the Kremlin
sell Baku over $4mn worth of arms that the latter used against Armenia
during a four-day open conflict in April, but its mediation efforts
have increasingly favoured compromise instead of Armenia.

In response to criticism that Russia sold weapons to Azerbaijan, Putin
said at a conference with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan on August
10 that Baku could have bought those weapons from anywhere. Russia and
Armenia are members of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty
Organisation (CSTO), which binds the former to defend the latter if it
is attacked. However, in April, Russia chose to mediate rather than to
take sides in the conflict.

Putin struck a more conciliatory note than Erdogan during the press
conference, saying that Russia was interested in a settlement in the
Caucasus that would not result in "winners and losers" and that it
would work within the framework of the OSCE to achieve that. He added
that, "for the sake of economic development and a higher standard of
living", Armenia had to solve the conflict with Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has been pulling diplomatic strings to further
isolate Armenia and enhance its standing in regional politics. On
August 8, Baku hosted a trilateral meeting between the Iranian,
Russian and Azerbaijani presidents to discuss regional transport
schemes and economic cooperation. Like Russia, Iran is a traditional
backer of Armenia, but unlike Russia, it has never provided military
support to Yerevan.

Earlier, Erdogan suggested that Ankara, Moscow and Baku are mulling a
trilateral cooperation format at a press conference in Russia on
August 9.

By tightening its ties with the three large powers in the region -
Russia, Iran and Turkey - and positioning itself as a physical and
diplomatic link among them, Azerbaijan is hoping to increase its
leverage in the peace negotiations with Armenia and to recover the
territories that the latter occupied in a war in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, faced with domestic instability and isolation in regional
politics, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan limited his reaction to
Putin's visit to Azerbaijan by praising Russia's role in the region
and its importance to Armenia, and thanked the Russian head of state
for "his personal contributions to the peace process".

Iran Daily
August 10, 2016 Wednesday
Art initiative launched to develop Armenia

Unemployment and emigration may be on the rise in Armenia, but a new
art initiative to be launched on August 22 aims to stem brain drain
and develop a roadmap for the country's cultural and economic

According to, the Dilijan Arts Observatory will
see artists, designers, cultural historians and environmental
scientists convene for three weeks in and around the ancient spa town
of Dilijan — once a favorite with composers Dmitri Shostakovich and
Benjamin Britten. The observatory will have its headquarters in the
former Soviet Impuls electronics factory, which formerly employed
4,000 people.

Participants — a third of whom are Armenians — will present their
research on local craft, astronomy and Soviet architecture, among a
myriad of other subjects, in a public event on September 10-11, which
will feature an all-night symphony, food tasting, performances and
exhibitions. The lineup includes the Armenian curator Vigen Galstyan,
the Lebanese artist Haig Aivazian and the Australian fashion designer
Misha Hollenbach of Perks and Mini.

There are plans to hold a second think tank next year, which will
culminate in exhibitions at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, in November
2017 and the Center Pompidou, Paris, in summer 2018.

"We didn't want to create a biennial or put pressure on artists to
produce works in three weeks, but we didn't want it to be a purely
discursive summit either," says Clémentine Deliss, director of the
Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main who is the curator behind the

Instead, the long-term plan is to establish an art academy in Dilijan
that will encompass what Deliss describes as 'life practices' such as
botany, medicine and law. As well as teaching and research, the
academy might also be a site for the production of goods.

"I'm interested to see if we can put our finger on a prototype; it
could be a plant-derived product like Moroccan argan oil," Deliss

"The idea is to create a model for an institution that could apply to
all parts of the world."

Vigen Galstyan said the idea of culture being a force for regeneration
in Armenia has existed since the population voted overwhelmingly for
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. "Culture as a form of
production has always been the nexus of Armenian life," he says. "It
is hoped the Dilijan Arts Observatory will come up with ideas that
will have a real impact on the region, which it so sorely needs."

The project is supported by the philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and
Veronika Zonabend, who founded the Dilijan Art Initiative, sponsors of
the Golden Lion-winning Armenian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in
2015. The Dilijan Art Initiative also supported 13 artists at last
year's Istanbul Biennial whose works related to the Armenian genocide
— an atrocity not recognized by the Turkish state 100 years on. The
couple is also behind IDeA (Initiatives for Development of Armenia)
Foundation and United World College Dilijan.

(the following article demonstrates that the murderous mindset 
of the Turkish government and its people has not changed since 
the Armenian Genocide. They will not tolerate anyone who is not 
Turk conforming to the values of whoever is in power and  the 
approved strand of Islam. The Armenians are held in utter contempt) 
Is Gulen an Armenian? 
Author Pinar Tremblay
August 12 , 2016 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly told the world and his people that the words “Islam” and “terrorism” should not be used together, because Muslims cannot be terrorists . Indeed, Erdogan has insisted that students who attend Turkey's religious imam hatip high schools would never become terrorists . Yet the man Erdogan accuses of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt is none other than the president's former close friend and ally, Fethullah Gulen, a Sunni imam. This has made the situation rather uncomfortable for the president and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Acknowledging that Muslims might deliberately hurt and even murder other Muslims is not easy in general for the majority of Turks, so what can be done to address this uncomfortable reality? 

The easiest solution would be to resuscitate an answer that Turks have used in the past — that is, declare the enemy to be non-Muslim and foreign. In this case, the Armenian has once again emerged as the imagined culprit, invoked to help Turks assuage their troubled conscience. 

Thus, several pro-government figures have concocted allegations to christen Gulen an Armenian. Such accusations were voiced prior to July 15 , but have since been embellished. For example, on June 6, the pro-AKP Ottoman Clubs (Osmanli Ocaklari) proclaimed Gulen an Armenian, citing branches in his family tree and his background. Others claimed that the so-called Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization, a term Ankara uses to refer to Gulen followers, was influential in the German parliament's June 2 decision to recognize the Armenian genocide. 

At a pro-democracy rally held July 19 , Kocaeli Buyuksehir Mayor Ibrahim Karaosmanoglu told attendees, “The fact that they [Gulenists] have infiltrated several key positions in the bureaucracy is a shame for us. They cannot be [trusted to be] teachers. They cannot be anything. … They hide themselves so well, they can even trade their honor to reach a key position.” 

Indeed, various figures , including the professed historian Kadir Misiroglu , have alleged that Gulen's father is Armenian and his mother is Jewish. Misiroglu also claims that Gulen belongs to a community in which Jews have (somehow) become Armenians. Ultra-nationalist figures have also contributed their share of such allegations . 

In addition, numerous newspaper opinion pieces continue to warn dubiously against the Gulen movement. For example, Yeni Soz columnist Can Kemal Ozer wrote, “Gulen's mother is a Jew, and [his] father an Armenian. He is the devil, who was brought up to seek revenge upon our people. He is not a Muslim, but a member of the Vatican Council.” Another columnist made mention of a few terror organizations , including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and argued that they are “Armenian establishments.” 

As these articles and others began circulating on social media, a few lone voices struggled to stand up against such hate speech. One anonymous person tweeted, “[To claim] Gulen as Armenian is not a nuance or observation. It is the foundation of a process known as elimination and extermination .” 

While watching the largest rally in Turkish history at Yenikapi, Istanbul, on Aug. 8, several observers tweeted about the deep-rooted xenophobia oozing from the rhetoric of the country's political leaders. One tweet, with a photo of religious leaders attending the Yenikapi rally, observed, “It is as if we have invited these men [in the photo] to offend them .” Nationalist Action Party leader Devlet Bahceli referred to those deemed to be the (non-Muslim) enemy and a threat to Turkey as “Byzantine seeds.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim resorted to “crusaders' army,” and Erdogan described them as a “flock of infidels.” 

The worrisome part is not only that Turkish leaders freely utter such hateful rhetoric, but that it has become normal in contemporary Turkey to do so. As abhorrent phrases filled the air, millions cheered in Yenikapi, and only a handful even realized the offense . Amid this feverishness, one must, however, ask, how could Armenians be culprits in the crimes for which an Islamist group, the Gulenists, has been accused? 

Murat Bebiroglu , a senior editor of the Armenian online publication HyeTert, told Al-Monitor, “Starting in 1878, the image of the Armenian community in Anatolia switched from a nation of trust to a nation of [a slur]. That is, if you want to belittle someone, you call them Armenian. If you want to badmouth someone, call them Armenian. 

“In a society where 99% [of the population] is said to be Muslim, it is seen as better to target your anger at 40,000-50,000 people rather than a larger group. Remember, when the PKK leader was caught, he was declared Armenian, [and] whenever PKK terror spikes, different papers start Armenian bashing. Whenever the going gets tough, Armenians become the easy and readily available target.” 

Bebiroglu, a member of the dwindling Armenian community in Turkey, clings to black humor. He remarked, “In a sense, we were relieved when we heard several commentators also claim that Gulen is Jewish, not just Armenian. Could there be a worse image in the eyes of Turkish society than being not only Armenian, but also Jewish? The sad part is these allegations are accepted by a significant portion of the society and fuel further hatred against the minorities.” 

So a sobering question remains: If you are not a Muslim, can you still be a Turk? The answer seems to be that in the view of some, anyone who is not a Muslim is a potential threat to society. 

Turkey has recently suffered from simultaneous attacks at the hands of the PKK and the Islamic State and allegedly the Gulenists, the latter two of which are openly Islamic entities. Pro-government pundits are spinning their wheels to find ways to undermine support for these groups. They still lack the means, however, to explain how strains of Islam can threaten society, so they take the easy way out by fanning the flames of xenophobia. In the short term, Armenophobia becomes a valuable accomplice. 

Without accepting full responsibility for its role in the expansion of the Gulenist movement in Turkey, and without acknowledging the organization's Islamic outreach at home and abroad, can the Turkish government truly take on the Gulenists? 

As convoluted as allegations that Gulen is Armenian might be, they are also quite scary when combined with the suggestion that the state and society will be wiped clean of all Gulenists. Turkish policymakers should surely recall from history the failures when states have tried to ensure domestic security by demonizing segments of society. The hateful rhetoric invoking Armenians — or any group unrelated to the Gulenists — will inevitably become the most difficult obstacle in the battle against curbing the Gulenists' strength.

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