Sunday, 8 January 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Appeals for volunteers

A Plea for support from a UK based volunteers
working with children in Spitak for many years. 

Click on attachment.

A Date for your diaries
London Chamber Music Society
Chilingirian Quartet: Mozart–Bartók–Beethoven
6.30pm Sunday, 2nd April 2017 


Mozart String Quartet No. 17 in B flat, K.458
Bartók String Quartet No. 5 (1934)
Beethoven String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18 No. 4
A year after 2,5 00 Syrian refugees arrive, Toronto Armenians celebrate
05 Jan 2017 

By Mike Adler, Inside Toronto – Canada promised to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees. Toronto’s Armenian Community did not know a tenth of that number would be coming to them.

Days before the first planeload landed on Dec. 10, 2015, a committee of volunteers at the Armenian Community Centre straddling North York and Scarborough were told they would be meet the first group of Armenians from Syria.

The centre’s church at Hallcrown Place holds 500 people at most, but in a year more than 1,000 of its members privately co-sponsored and settled more than 400 Syrian Armenian families.

Most arrived within a few months, and caring for them pushed the centre’s resources to the limit, people involved in the effort there said.

“We used to bring, maximum, 40 to 60 people in a month. All of a sudden, we are going to have over 100 in one day – not in a month, in one day,” said Marianne Davitjan, master of ceremonies at a celebration last month marking the centre’s year of success.

But during the first weeks and months, the volunteers apparently could get little information from offices of Immigration and Citizenship Canada.

“They didn’t even answer the phone. I mean, we were left alone. We had to decide what to do,” recalled Apkar Mirakian, the man in charge of the resettlement program.

Armenian real estate agents scoured the area for housing, and volunteers scrambled to make other arrangements when families arrived and co-sponsors were away.

So many private sponsorships saved the government millions, he said, while the centre spent itself into “a dire situation,” enrolling students in its school for free and extending hours as it overtaxed the donor base it depends on.

But the settlement was a great success, both mobilizing and revitalizing an Armenian community, concentrated in Scarborough-Agincourt, Markham-Unionville and Don Valley East, built on waves of immigration.

“They didn’t become a so-called burden on the system here,” Mirakian said of the new arrivals.

Over 90 per cent of job seekers among them are now working, “paying their rents,” said Ohannes Tchamichian, an Armenian Syrian who arrived last Dec. 15, on the second plane.

Tchmichian, his parents and sister were sponsored by a grandfather’s cousin, a man they hadn’t met, who “didn’t hesitate to do it for us” and is now a neighbour in Agincourt.

Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria’s largest and most devastated city, Tchmichian said the country needs 30 years to rebuild, and the war has spread beyond its borders.

“The infrastructure is destroyed, the history is destroyed,” he said. “They are not calling it World War Three, but it is.”

Vanig Garabedian was on the first plane last Dec. 10, with his wife and three daughters. He was met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Pearson Internation Airport.

”All the way here we felt the utmost dignity and humanity,” said Garabedian, who said newcomer’s role is to integrate, like someone “once again reborn,” learning the language, the streets, the culture.

He’s sure this wave of newcomers will make Canada a better place.

RFE/RL Report
Sarkisian Awards Medal To Notorious Police General
January 04, 2017

President Serzh Sarkisian has awarded a state medal to the
controversial commander of Armenian interior troops who played a key
role in last July's violent dispersal of an opposition demonstration
in Yerevan.

General Levon Yeranosian, who is also a deputy chief of the national
police, received the Medal for the Excellent Maintenance of Public
Order through a presidential decree publicized late last week. The
decree noted his "significant" contributions to "law and order" in the

Yeranosian was among high-ranking police officers that personally
ordered and oversaw the use of what many in Armenia consider excessive
force against scores of people who took to the streets to voice
support for opposition gunmen occupying a police station.

Late on July 29, the protesters marched to Yerevan's Sari Tagh
neighborhood close to the besieged police facility in the Erebuni
district. Firing stun grenades and tear gas, riot police dispersed the
crowd after it ignored their demands to leave the "dangerous" area and
go back to the city center.

More than 60 people were injured and hospitalized as a result. As the
crowd fled Sari Tagh at least 14 journalists were ambushed and beaten
up by a large group of plainclothes men wielding sticks.

Armenia's leading opposition parties as well as local and
international human rights groups strongly condemned the
crackdown. The Armenian police responded by launching an "internal
inquiry" into the violence. Five police officers, including
Yeranosian's brother Lernik, were suspended as a result.

The Sari Tagh violence broke out moments after Yeranosian shouted
abuse at Zaruhi Postanjian, an opposition parliamentarian and one of
the organizers of the protest.

"It's hard to characterize [the award] with decent words," Postanjian
told RFE/RL's Armenian service ( on Wednesday. "If I were
a man, I would publicly swear at the one who awarded [the medal.]"

Avetik Ishkhanian, a prominent human rights campaigner, also deplored
the medal given to Yeranosian. He said the notorious police general
was awarded for his loyalty to the ruling regime, rather than
professional qualities.

"It is widely known that our country and is not democratic. And the
police defend the interests of the authorities, rather than the
public," charged Ishkhanian.

But Hakob Hakobian, a pro-government lawmaker, defended the
presidential decree. "As a policeman, Levon Yeranosian fully performed
his duties," he said. 

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, Italy
Jan 4 2017
Armenia: Let's hope it's (not) a girl
Emanuele Cassano 

Armenia is the second country in the world for the number of selective abortions because of an obsessive desire for male children

Mariam is 31 and the mother of three daughters. She comes from Armavir in western Armenia. Even after the birth of her second daughter she continued to follow her dream, trusting in the probability theory: to have a male child. Hence, when she discover that she was pregnant again with a daughter, she decided to have an abortion. "I feel guilty about making this decision, but I still hope I'll have a boy. I don't want to discover once again that I'm expecting a daughter and have to have an abortion again, I can't...I keep telling myself that next time will be the good one."

In Armenia many women like Miriam often resort to selective abortion in order to have male children. They are convinced to do this by husbands or by family members, thus seriously risking their health and the demographic equilibrium of the country. Among the first in the world for the number of selective abortions

According to the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report , Armenia is the second country in the world after China for selective abortions. Tarik Hayrapetyan, representative for UNFPA Armenia (UN agency for family policies) the sex of the foetus is the reason for 10% of all induced abortions in this country where every year about 1,400 female births are interrupted. The problem of selective abortions came to light with the independence of the country in the nineties. Even though abortion was widely used in Armenia as a contraceptive since the period of the Soviet Union (the first country to legalize abortion in 1920).

This problem is not only seen in Armenia but it is common in all of the Caucasus . This is confirmed by the presence, in the first ten places of the countries with the highest number of selective abortions, of Azerbaijan (5th place) and Georgia (8th place).

According to a 2013 UNFPA Armenia report, the country also has the highest male birth rate in the world and a sex ratio of 113-115 male births to 100 females while the world media is 105 male births to 100 females. This same research shows how this gap progressively increases according to the order of the births: while the relationship between sexes is relatively well-balanced with the first births, it increases to 173 males to 100 females at the third child. What is the cause?

According to Ani Jilozian, an activist with the Women's Support Centre in Yerevan, this is mainly due to three related factors. The first is the preference for male children derived from the family structure in which girls and women have a social, economic and symbolically marginal role and subsequently have fewer rights. Sons are a security for every family as they are charged with looking after their parents and helping them in their old age. Whereas once the daughters are married they usually go to live with the husband's family. A second factor is the development of technology which allows parents to know the sex of a child before birth. Finally, the low birth rate in Armenia (where each woman gives birth to 1.7 children), reduces the probability of having a male child in a small family, thus increasing the necessity for selecting the sex.

Although a statistical evaluation by UNFPA Armenia in 2012 shows that 70% of abortion cases were chosen by women, they were not always in a position to freely make this decision. According to a qualitative study done by Ani Jilozian and based on a series of interviews with women who used selective abortions, the majority of women interviewed, also claiming to have originally chosen to have selective abortions, later admitted to doing so because of strong pressure from husband or family to have a male child. Sometimes it is the husband who makes the decision for his wife, often resorting to psychological pressure. An ineffectual legislation

According to Armenian law, a woman can have an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, a period when it is impossible to tell the sex of the child, which shows that most of the selective abortions are both illegal and dangerous. Only 57% of women are aware that this process is illegal and that it entails high risks for their health.
Recently the Armenian government introduced a new law to combat the selective abortions. Before having an abortion, a woman must consult with her doctor and then wait three days before receiving authorization for the procedure. According to the government this law should help to raise awareness among the women to the risks involved and to allow them to make better choices.

However as Ani Jilozian explains, this law is inadequate as it limits the woman's reproductive freedom and puts her health at risk. Making selective abortions illegal is not an effective solution to the problem. It does not remove the main reasons behind the sexual preference which are deeply seated in Armenian patriarchal society. The attempt to limit access to abortion without facing the main cause for the preference of the sex is likely to increase the demand for illegal and unsafe abortions, especially in women from marginalized communities.

Even though selective abortions have slightly decreased in recent years, some predictions foresee that if this issue is not properly addressed, by 2060 the country will experience a deficit of women of about 93,000, or rather 3% of the present population. This would consequently cause a migration of a part of the male population who would look for a partner outside of the country, thus putting the demographic equilibrium at risk.
Arsinee Khanjian: We, Armenians from Diaspora, remain guests in Armenia

An interview of Armenian with the Canadian actress and producer Arsinee Khanjian about relations between Armenia and Diaspora, Diaspora's participation in Armenia's domestic life, the attitude toward the Armenians from Diaspora in Armenia, and other issues.

What should be the relations between Armenians living in Armenia and Diaspora? To what extent should Diaspora be involved in Armenia's internal political processes? Is it possible to ensure the full involvement of Diaspora from outside or there should be established mechanisms for them to return home and participate in Armenia’s domestic developments?

“It seems, that the Diaspora made efforts to return and settle in Armenia, after Armenia had declared independence. The Diaspora made those attempts; some people returned to Armenia, but conditions did not allow them to stay. First, they weren’t citizens, and, as it seems, they visited to participate in Armenia’s activities like guests. Unfortunately, they have remained guests. When I go somewhere with an intention to get involved in a process, there are always people who make me feel like a guest. It means, that I either have to accept the situation to be allowed to stay, or say, that I ‘will help myself’ and soon will go back.

I think, that Diaspora is currently in a difficult condition, because of different experiences we have had together, interacting with each other for 25 years or without it. I have some ideas, in this regard. However, I do not want to reveal them, since they need to be well developed, and first of all developed with the will of the colonies and the people who are there. It should be made clear, what return to Armenia means, and how people can come to Armenia. For the new Diaspora, it’s a return, whereas for the historical Diaspora, it’s their first visit. But, in which way? For example, the Prime Minister urges and allows the Diaspora to come to Armenia and get involved in business activities. Is it the only participation of the Diaspora, though? Shall it be the business sector only? Doesn’t Diaspora in Armenia have a role other than that?

I think, it is a narrow-minded approach towards Diaspora’s duties and capacities. We have resources, which Armenia needs. It is not true, that Armenia still survive alone. Armenia has founded itself in a very difficult situation, taken into account the Armenian reality, not only individual interests but the interests of Armenia – accepting, that there are people and their voices should be respected. And, this is because of internal pressures.

Over the last 100 years the history of Armenia and Diaspora has been manifested in different forms. Why can’t we create a relationship with each other? Look at the example of Israel. Today Israel, being an independent country, is called Israel, not the Jewish state. There are many Jews in Diaspora, but these Jews, regardless of their citizenship, French or Italian, apart from providing material support, fully enjoy the created conditions, in which their opinion is respected.

How can these circumstances be molded? There are many forms. The Ministry of Diaspora, which was established in 2009, has been unable to develop any, though. All the created platforms are cosmetic and, in general, rather weak to unite Armenia and Diaspora.

I believe, that the reason is not the weakness, or ignorance. There exists a policy beyond it, which does not necessarily imply the importance of uniting, but the position, that ‘you can only take part in this way, and when we honor you, you must feel delighted.’ This approach is no longer tolerable. It is not a matter of powers’ coercion, but of national survival.”

What is your vision of the future of Armenia, taken into account nowadays’ Armenian reality?

25 years is a long period. A child turns into 25 years old during this time and becomes an independent person, who should make decisions for his/her future. There took place a lot of good things in Armenia, but there are still a lot of problems. I think, that there can be [a positive change], if relationship becomes ‘modest’ from both sides. I say it ‘modest’, because, apparently, there is an issue of glory. Everyone wants to establish and maintain its strength and will.

It cannot be the case. Armenia's authorities should address this issue for the sake of the people and the state, so that the state, the people, and the government have their own identity and independence. There should be a relationship between them, which is not enforced, but rather clean and clear.

If the Armenian government refers to this issue, it should be the same in Diaspora. The Diaspora institutions should also realize, that we have a lot of young people who are Armenians, but they do not want to be instructed, how to prove their identity. Today, there are many ways of proving it, but also necessary conditions should be created. I think, that in the next 25 years, the situation will either improve or get even more complicated.

Why do I think so? Look at the history and development of humanity. We shouldn’t think, that if we are Armenians, we are different. In fact, we aren’t different, and it’s us, who inflict the most damage to us. I hope, that we will be able to create an environment, in which we will be able to listen to each other without a fear of danger.

It is unacceptable, when we are offending each other. I say it directly, since what I witnessed… I saw people, citizens around me, who would approach and say: "Please, go back and tell Diaspora not to send us financial assistance. We do not need your assistance." When I hear this, I cannot leave my responsibilities.

My best experience over the years in Armenia has been with people, who on different occasions approached me in the street and said: ‘Mrs. Khanjyan, we all love you very much.’ What a beautiful phrase is it, I thought. It is the greatest gift, that I have ever received. The word ‘love’ is very delicate and beautiful. Then, I thought, that I should have an answer. I replied, that I was grateful, but I didn’t feel, that it was enough. Today, I can say, that I am very fond of you. I am very fond of my people, because I feel, that Armenia is my country, no matter if I am granted a right, have an Armenian passport or not. I do not know, whether it creates discomfort for the government, but I think, if one lives with a sense Armenian identity, one should also feel free to express oneself.

Now people are approaching and saying: "We love you very much" as well. But, they also have a message, which they didn’t before. And this message is addressed to the Diaspora. They feel, that the Diaspora is an inseparable of Armenia. A large number of people from Diaspora have Armenian citizenship; they have families in Armenia. Therefore, it should be make clear, that if I preserve the right to speak, I am doing it not for myself, but because I feel people's expectations.

If I can feel these expectations, there is no way, that the government doesn’t know about them. I am neither a governmental representative, nor have a wish to be. However, if I have a possibility to address this issue, how can I refrain from doing so, and how the government can refrain from listening and addressing the needs of the people.”

Do you feel in Armenia like a guest, or like a citizen?

“I do not feel like a guest in Armenia. In the first years of independence, when I was coming to Armenia, I was like a guest, since I knew, that I should return. Being a western Armenian, I don’t feel I belong to somewhere specific in the world. I’ve lived in Canada for more than forty years. I am a Canadian citizen and have an Armenian identity. Thus, no matter, whether I am in Lebanon, the US, or France, I feel that my identity is different.

When I come to Armenia, I feel, that I am in a natural environment, although there is still much to learn to understand, what it really means to live in Armenia, by live everyday Armenian life. I don’t know, if I will ever have a chance to come and live in Armenia; there are people, who did it. I would never think, that today I could be here and talk about these things. I also feel, that I belong to Diaspora. This relationship is a major of me, and it is this relationship, which I now develop.”

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