Saturday, 17 September 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Peace Award for Ambassador...
Armenia’s Ambassador to the UN to be honored with Peace Award
15 Sep 2016 

Armenian Weekly – Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and peoples. On Sept. 22, the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP) and Meaningfulworld will celebrate The International Day of Peace at the majestic Down Town Association located in trendy Tribeca. 

This year’s theme is “Art for Peace” and the work of several accomplished artists will be available for sale through a silent auction. ATOP/Meaningfulworld will recognize and honor several organizations and individuals whose work deserves special recognition for their efforts made to achieve peace locally and globally. 

This year Meaningfulworld is also celebrating its 26th Anniversary of healing, peace-making, transforming pain and generational trauma, and establishing Peace and Forgiveness Gardens globally in over 46 countries and 20 states in the United States. 

Along with the auction fine art, distinguished guests will be honored with peace awards in recognition of their dedication and contributions to serving humanity and building peace. Distinguished peace award recipients include H.E. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) of the Republic of Armenia; Ms. Ashley Tobias, the developer of an anti-bullying educational program; and the International Institute of Peace. 

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, Mnatsakanyan is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and holds a Master’s Degree from Victoria University, U.K., in Western European Politics. 

Mnatsakanyan is decorated with the Medal of Mkhitar Gosh of Armenia (2011) for distinguished service in diplomacy. He is an advocate of human rights and an educator on genocide. He has played a critical role in the ongoing implementation of parliamentary resolutions, laws and declarations, which have led to the acknowledgement and assertion of the Armenian Genocide. 

On Sept. 11, 2015, after years of persistent diplomatic efforts, the Republic of Armenia succeeded in having the UN General Assembly adopt by consensus a generic resolution on all genocides. The resolution establishes Dec. 9 as the “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime. 

Ambassador Mnatsakanyan spoke about his “sense of duty” while presenting the proposed resolution to the General Assembly on September 11. Paying tribute to Raphael Lemkin who had coined the term genocide, the Ambassador stated “For the victims of our past inaction, the International Day will render dignity. The denial to millions of the sanctity of life is ultimate injustice. Justice denied haunts generations of survivors. We speak from experience.” 

Vestnik Kavkaza
Sept 15 2016
Is compromise on Karabakh possible?
Sep 15

To this day, the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have completely opposite positions, so it is still very hard to find a real compromise, which would satisfy both Azerbaijan and Armenia, representatives of the expert communities of conflicting republics said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza. 

Russian experts, in turn, pointed out the need to work with societies of the two countries in order for complete settlement of the conflict to become possible. 

Milli Mejlis deputy, political scientist Rasim Musabekov , who participated in the negotiation process on Karabakh, primarily drew attention to the difficulty of imminent settlement of the conflict based on compromise. "Those who believe that it is possible to resolve the problem in a short time and remove it from the agenda are wrong - this is impossible. The sides have completely opposite positions. The real question right now is will we be able to advance settlement of the conflict to a stage where there won't be a threat of full-scale war," he said. 

The expert noted that the resumption of large-scale war over Karabakh will have serious consequences not only for Armenia and Azerbaijan. "It can also harm Russia and Turkey," he noted. 

Director general of the Caucasus Institute, Alexander Iskandaryan , believes that there are no chances to achieve compromise on Karabakh even in the medium term. "The positions of sides are so different that the compromise is basically impossible. Azerbaijan says that Karabakh should be a part of Azerbaijan, without specifying what is meant by an autonomy that will be granted to it. Armenia and Karabakh don't want to hear anything about Karabakh being controlled by Baku," the expert stated. 

Director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov, speaking about the obstacles to compromise on Karabakh, mentioned patriotic sentiments in both countries and the instability of Armenian authorities among others. "Today, one of the main obstacles is the rise of patriotic sentiments within the republics, which makes it difficult to achieve a compromise using 'Kazan formula'. The situation is especially difficult in Armenia. Azerbaijan has strong authorities, Ilham Aliyev is very popular, so Azerbaijani leadership can achieve a compromise, but Armenian President is much less popular and the government is currently 'floating'," he thinks. 

Political scientist Andrei Yepifantsev agreed with his colleague. "Armenia and Azerbaijan are not ready to make a compromise. The problem is that the societies of two countries are not prepared for any compromises: the intensity of anti-Armenian and anti-Azerbaijani sentiments is so great that all the decisions will be perceived by societies as a betrayal of national interests," he stressed. 

Catholic Herald Online
Sept 16 2016
There’s a good reason Christians rarely take up arms in the Middle East
by Gerard Russell 

Christian militias are merely defending villages from an enemy that will show no mercy. But in doing so they must make dangerous choices 

We are accustomed to seeing Christians in the Middle East as always being victims of discrimination and violence. And so they are, and have been for centuries, suffering from laws (even now) which reject their claims to equal citizenship, and from sporadic but frequent and terrifying instances of persecution or mob violence. 

In recent years sectarian violence has approached such a crescendo that the very existence of Christianity in the region of its birth has been put in doubt. 

Why don’t Christians then take up arms, as some other persecuted groups have done? The Druze of Lebanon, who offend Islamic orthodoxy by their belief in reincarnation and liberal reinterpretation of the Koran, are famously ruthless fighters. The Alawites of Syria proved such effective soldiers that they took over first the country’s military and then its government. 

Leaving aside questions of principle – the region already has more than enough armed men – the pragmatic answer is that it usually wouldn’t work. Christians are too divided to form any kind of unified political party, let alone a military unit. There are more than 20 different Christian denominations in the region and not since the advent of Islam have they ever come together to act as one. 

Furthermore, most Christians are urban and many are middle class without military experience and with the option of emigration to the West. 

Finally, the precedents are so ominous that they would hardly expect anything good to come from putting their heads above the parapet in such an obvious way. 

Chief among those precedents is that of the Armenian and Assyrian Christians in the early 20th century. Both groups, living under Ottoman rule but accused of covert collaboration with the Ottomans’ Russian enemies, were subjected as a consequence to a genocidal campaign of massacre, rape and deportation. In the beautiful town of Mardin, southern Turkey, some years ago I took care to read the inscriptions on the lintels of the local restaurants and hotels; they showed that these had once been the homes of Assyrian Christians. None lives there now. 

The Assyrians were a tight-knit group, bound together by ethnic as well as religious ties. Survivors who fled to Iraq, then under British rule, hoped that the British would give them some form of autonomy, or even independence. Instead, history would repeat itself. After Iraq was granted independence, clashes between Assyrian and Iraqi soldiers led to a general massacre of Assyrians – an event which partly inspired the definition of “genocide”. 

Another more recent precedent is the Lebanese Civil War of the 1970s and 1980s between Lebanon’s former Christian ruling class and their Muslim opponents, which ultimately led to the country’s domination by its neighbour Syria. 

So what should we make of the existence of Christian militias in Syria, fighting alongside the Kurds to defeat ISIS? Many are composed of Assyrians, the same group that suffered in Iraq. Will it end differently for them this time? 

There are quite a few of these militias, all of them aimed at fighting ISIS. These groups are doing what most of us would do if we lived in such a lawless place: defending their villages from an enemy that will show them no mercy and brooks no compromise. 

In doing so, however, they enter a web of tangled moral choices. Such groups need weapons and support. Some find that by aligning with Bashar al-Assad’s blood-soaked regime. Others look to the rebel Kurdish forces operating in the country’s north-east. So they are unified now by a necessary war against radical Islam; but one day, if the Syrian state and the Kurds come to blows, they will be divided again. Life in the Middle East can often involve rawer, more dangerous choices than we will ever have to make. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Government, Opposition Sign `Historic' Election Deal
September 13, 2016
Nane Sahakian

Representatives of Armenia's government and three major opposition
parties signed on Tuesday a new agreement aimed at preventing possible
fraud in next year's crucial parliamentary elections.

The deal contains a set of anti-fraud amendments to the Electoral Code
that are due to be adopted by the Armenian parliament soon.

The most significant amendment aims to preclude multiple voting by
government supporters through the publication of the names of those
voters that have cast ballots, according to official
protocols. Opposition parties will be able to verify whether those
voters actually live in Armenia.

The government also agreed to ensure live online broadcasts of voting
and ballot counting in all 2,000 or so polling stations across the

Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian
National Congress (HAK), praised the government for displaying a
"political will" to reach the "historic" deal. "Despite our political
rivalry, we can't fail to acknowledge that," he said after the signing

Zurabian announced that Western donors have already agreed to provide
Armenia with about 9 million euros ($10 million) for the purchase of
equipment required by the amendments.

Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff, said the deal
bodes well for not only the proper conduct of the elections but also
the emergence of a more democratic political culture in
Armenia. "Political dialogue is the basis for a country's
development," he told a news conference.

Zurabian also cautioned: "I want everyone to keep in mind that this
alone is not a guarantee of free and fair elections. We need to keep
fighting for free and fair elections. But this is a foundation on
which we can build such elections."

Naira Zohrabian, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK),
similarly said that the agreed amendments will "substantially narrow
the room for fraud" in the general elections due in April 2017.

Mher Shahgeldian of the Orinats Yerkir Party, the third opposition
signatory, echoed that assessment. But he also expressed concern at
other Electoral Code provisions that restrict the number of observers
and journalist who can be present in polling stations.

Several Armenian civil society organizations also pointed to those
restrictions on Monday when they reacted cautiously to the
announcement of the election accord. They said the agreed anti-fraud
measures are "a necessary but not sufficient condition" for the
freedom and fairness of the polls.

The government and the three opposition parties had already struck a
similar deal in June. But it subsequently collapsed after the
government cited logistical problems relating to the acquisition of
expensive electronic equipment designed to prevent multiple voting.
Armenia’s Dasaran named among five best innovative enterprises in the world
15 Sep 2016 

Dasaran was recognized as one of the best 5 innovative enterprises in the final round of Accelerate 2030 – joint international initiative by the UNDP and Impact Hub.

For the first edition of Accelerate2030, applications were submitted by 177 ventures from across 4 continents, out of which the international expert jury selected five ventures clearly contributing towards the Sustainable development goals, and Dasaran is among the top 5.

Being among the best innovative enterprises, Dasaran was invited to represent Armenia at the inaugural Social Good Summit to take place in Geneva, Switzerland on the 6th of October, 2016.

“With our activities we aim to increase Armenia’s image abroad and promote it as a modern education-exporting country,” commented Suren Aloyan, Founding President of Dasaran Educational Program.
Armenia drops ten notches in FIFA rating 

YEREVAN, September 15. Armenia’s national football team has dropped ten notches in the current FIFA ranking to the 112th position between the Faroe Islands and Zimbabwe.

In the last two games Armenian football players lost to the Czechs in a friendly match with the score 0: 3, and 0: 1 to the Danes in the first of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

Armenia’s rivals are Poland (17th), Romania (32nd), Denmark (46th), Kazakhstan (83rd) and Montenegro (105th). The FIFA rating is topped by Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Columbia and Brazil. -0-
Sept 15 2016
Kirk Kerkorian’s Legacy: A Mainstream Feature About The Armenian Genocide
by Anita Busch 

EXCLUSIVE: What a fitting legacy for Kirk Kerkorian . Because of the late Armenian mogul, the first mainstream film about the genocide of Armenians at the hand of the Turks has finally been produced in Hollywood. Terry George ’s The Promise starring A-list talent including Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale had its its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday night and screens again tomorrow. The filmmakers are currently in conversations with possible distributors.

The film has been a long time coming and others who have tried to tackle the subject matter have tried and failed because of pressure put on them as to not anger the Turkish government. American foreign policy has been such over the years that our government refuses to acknowledge the historical genocide that began even before 1915 at the hand of the Turks. That genocide included rounding up learned leaders of the community and mutilating and murdering them, purposely starving women and children, and marching many Armenians to their deaths. It is estimated that 1.5 million Armenians died during that time.

That genocide is still denied today by the Turkish government and some in our own who wish to keep Turkey as a political ally in the volatile region. Armenian genocide deniers have already launched negative comments one after another on IMDb and Twitter railing against the film.

“We had the same problem with Philadelphia with homophobes,” said one of The Promise producers, Mike Medavoy , who was head of TriStar when the Denzel Washington-Tom Hanks movie about a man dying of AIDS came out. “We had a similar problem with Apocalypse Now which people felt came too early after the war, and the same was true with Coming Home.”

The Promise went through under the radar in only 72 days with Hotel Rwanda director George at the helm and producers Eric Esrailian , Medavoy and William Horberg shepherding. Robin Swicord scripted the love story set during this time frame and brings to light the cruelty of the Turks and oppression and murder of the Armenian population. That story is being told, courtesy of Kerkorian, who began talking about a doing the movie in 2010. Two years later, he would create Survival Pictures and put his trust with UCLA doctor Eric Esrailian to produce content about the Armenian culture on film. survivalpictures_logo_7-6-15_small

Appropriately, the logo for Survival Pictures contains the forget-me-not flower; the petals represent the parts of the world where the Armenians scattered after the genocide.

In addition, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell wrote the song “The Promise” for the film which contains the lyrics: “ No matter the price, a promise to survive, persevere and thrive and dare to rise once more. “

That rise in Hollywood — to give voice to those who perished — began in earnest in 2011, when Kerkorian and Esrailian started conversations about producing the film. That’s when they set out to find a producer to join in their vision. They ended up partnering with Medavoy — a seasoned producer who has navigated through Hollywood for many years, both as an agent and studio executive. Horberg ( Milk , Cold Mountain , The Talented Mr. Ripley ) also joined the fray. Medavoy worked as head of UA so the two knew each other.

Kerkorian died on June 15, 2015 at age 98 before the film was completed, but Esrailian, Medavoy and Horberg forged ahead to give a voice to a culture that has (shamefully) not been heard from — at least not widely on film. Although Atom Egoyan wrote and directed the Simon Abkarian-starring Ararat in 2002 about a man whose life changes during the Armenian genocide, the two-hour-plus film came and went; it did manage to make $1.5M at the box office in only 42 theaters.

In the 1970s, MGM ended up selling the movie rights it had acquired to Franz Werfel’s historical novel The Forty Days Of Musa Dagh after failed attempts to make the film. It was eventually made into a movie helmed by Sarky Mouradian, but again it went nowhere. Both Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone also wanted to make the film about the famous battle, but they were not made, reportedly after pressure from Turkish lobby groups. promiseJose Haro

“Kirk would periodically bring up his film career and say I really wish we would just make a movie like this. At the time, I was worried because of previous attempts to make a film and the pressure on this, and I wondered is this something that people would want to do?” said Esrailian, who began researching not only the subject matter but also historical dramas. As time went on, Kerkorian said he needed to do this film. That was 2011. The following year, they were underway.

“I feel an obligation and an honor to educate and tell the stories,” said Esrailian who called Kerkorian his mentor, but in talking to the doctor-turned-producer, it was clear that the mogul was more like an older brother. “We originated this story — and Kirk was the visionary behind the film. He was the one who said he wanted it to be epic. He was involved in the way he was involved in a lot of things: He had the vision but needed to find people he trusted to share this story. We wanted a powerful story about our culture and our heritage. He said to make it epic, to make sure it had a love story. He said he wanted it to have the best actors, which I think we have, and he said, ‘I really want it to remind me of the films that people considered great when I was growing up.’ ” Medavoy agreed with Kerkorian wholeheartedly.

The Promise, which employs an international cast including Charlotte Le Bon, James Cromwell, Marwan Kenzari, Jean Reno, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Angela Sarafyan, tells the story of a journalist (Bale) who falls in love with an Armenian woman (Le Bon) and the love triangle that forms with another man (Isaac) and their fight for survival during the end of the Ottoman empire and through the Armenian exile/genocide. The film includes one the most important and harrowing battles of resistance from the Armenians — Musa Dagh — in which they fought the Turks valiantly from the highest mountain, vowing death rather than “deportation” using the only weapons they had with them. the-promiseJose Haro

“It was a throwback to cinema, big elements, and it’s not easy to do, even with the financing and to pull it all together and at such a high level,” said Esrailian who shared every aspect of the project with his friend. “Kirk really enjoyed getting the updates. Every milestone we reached — he was very happy to hear. I’ll never forget telling him when our cast came together, seeing the look on his face and how happy he was.”

His relationship with Kerkorian went back several years. “We had mutual friends and basically Kirk is a legend in the Armenian community, and I was very fortunate to have been able to learn from him and he became a mentor to me in a way that is hard for me to summarize. He just did that with people. He has a long history of giving people advice over the years that has changed and transformed their lives. I was one of the fortunate ones. Outside of my own family, there hasn’t been anyone more influential. I knew him during some of the most formative years of my adult life and the last several years of his life,” said Esrailian, who became emotional while talking about him.

“Our wish — Kirk’s wish and mandate — is to be philanthropic with his legacy,” said the man Kerkorian entrusted. “First of all, to accomplish what we set out to do and do these stories. Finish what you started is what I learned from Kirk. It’s a unique situation to have a financier and philanthropic avenue with all revenue going to help others. That’s why I think a lot of people have been so supportive and responsive … our cast and crew. I can see it in their eyes. Even in our post-production offices with those who have worked in the industry for many years, I can tell that they really care about how this movie turns out. Many didn’t realize or know about the Armenian genocide, but yet, now that the door has been opened, they see it.”

Kerkorian’s name is at the end of the movie, something he wanted but just as a small mention. “I will never forget him saying, just put it way at the bottom in small letters,” said Esrailian, who said that the humble Kerkorian was always donating money anonymously, and in fact, donated more than $1B in that manner. “I said, no, we’re not going to do that. You are going to have it. He’s exec producer as a single card. Everyone who knows him sees that and gets choked up. I think it’s humbling that we were connected to something that his name is on.”

Rights for domestic distribution are being repped by WME.

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