Thursday, 5 January 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... New Patriarch of Constantinople for 2017
Armenian Church Patriarchy of Turkey to elect new leader

The Armenian Apostolic Church Patriarchate of Constantinople will 
have a new leader in 2017. The severe illness of incumbent Patriarch 
Mesrob Mutafyan hasn’t allowed him to perform his functions since 2007. 
In October 2016, the Supreme Council decided to appeal to the relevant
authorities for the election of a new patriarch. The elections will most
likely take place in spring, said Bagrat Estoukian, the editor of Agos 
Weekly Armenian edition in an interview with Armenian .

“The campaign has not even started, and it is difficult to say who are 
the likely candidates. At the moment, there are four registered 
candidates: Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateshian, Bishop Sahak Mashalian 
of the Religious Council, head of the German Diocese Archbishop 
Garegin Bekchyan, and head of Gugark Diocese Archbishop Sepuh 
Chuldjian. In my opinion, the final struggle will be between two out of 
four candidates, as two others will give up,” he said.

According to Bagrat  Estoukian, it is hard to say exactly, which 
candidates will compete at the final round. He did not exclude a 
scenario, when Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateshian abandon the 

“Ateshian’s candidacy is out-of-date, and I hardly see people vote f
or him,” he added. Estoukian replied to the question about a possible 
interference to the elections by the Turkish authorities. “It is impossible, 
that the Turkish authorities intervene, because if they try something 
like that, it will have an opposite effect.”

The Armenian community in Istanbul has long been divided over the 
choice of the patriarch. Patriarch Mutafyan is unable to perform his 
duties due to health problems. However, according to the regulations 
of the Patriarchate, the patriarch is elected for life. Most of the 
community was demanding new elections, while the other part
of the community stressed that ecclesiastical law prohibits the selection 
of a new patriarch, while the incumbent is alive.

During these years, the functions of the patriarch have been carried 
out by the Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateshian. Part of the Armenian 
community of Istanbul does not accept Ateshian and consider him a 
person appointed by Erdogan.,
Aram I to Spend Armenian Christmas in Aleppo

ANTELIAS, Lebanon—His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia will spend Armenian Christmas eve and day in Aleppo, his first to the city, since the Syrian conflict began six years ago and since the cease fire was declared after government forces reclaimed it.

According to the press service of the Catholicosate, Aram I will arrive in Aleppo at 1 p.m. Thursday, January 5 and will be greeted by clergy and the community at the St. Mary’s Church.

On Friday, January 6, the pontiff will celebrate Christmas Mass and present a sermon at the same church. Following Mass, the Catholicos will meet parishioners and accept Christmas greetings.

On Saturday morning, the Catholicos will visit community institutions and churches to acquaint himself with their condition and gain first-hand perspective on the situation.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Catholicos will visit the Holy Trinity Armenian Catholic Church, after which he will visit the Bethel Armenian Evangelical Church. He will meet parishioners and community members at aforementioned churches.
Catholicos Aram I Meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus
January 4, 2017

DAMASCUS, Syria (A.W.)—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia in Damascus on Dec. 4, reported Syria’s Sana news agency. During the meeting, which was also attended by the Catholicosate’s delegation, Catholicos Aram I offered congratulations to President al-Assad and the Syrian people over the liberation of Aleppo by government forces.

“His Holiness offered his sincerest hopes and prayers for the [full] liberation of Syria from terrorism so that peace and security would prevail in Syria as soon as possible,” read a part of the Sana report.

During the meeting, President al-Assad affirmed that the terrorist war that has been targeting Syria and the entirety of the Syrian people for years has failed in achieving one of its most dangerous goals, which is undermining the Syrian people’s unity and harmony.

“[T]his war has made Syrians more steadfast and more determined to remaining committed to their identity and civilization which is based on diversity, and plurality, something what has been a defining attribute of Syrians’ history throughout centuries,” said al-Assad, according to the report. 

IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
Dec 29 2016
Armenia's Physics Research Legacy Saved through Pixels
Laura Gil, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication 

More than 1000 destroyed research papers on high-energy physics and astrophysics have been recovered in Armenia thanks to digital copies saved at the IAEA’s International Nuclear Information System (INIS).

For over 25 years, without sufficient government funds to support the library of the Yerevan Physics Institute (YerPhI), the thousands of research papers it held were locked away in dusty storage rooms. They have become so dirty that it is impossible to clean them without causing damage.

“In the 60s, 70s and 80s we distributed our research papers among all large laboratories and transferred them to the IAEA,” said Ashot Chilingarian, Director of YerPhI. “Fortunately, INIS had digitized and preserved all the archives, which are now accessible to us in digital form. They have been literally saved.”

In May this year, right after YerPhi was granted the status of National Laboratory, its management asked the IAEA for help to reconstruct the old archives. IAEA staff provided them with the research papers in digital form and assisted them in setting up a digital scientific repository. Through the repository, the team has made all the recovered research papers available via a dedicated web site .

Scientists at YerPhI conduct research in the fields of high-energy physics and astrophysics and collaborate with international partners using the world’s biggest accelerators and cosmic ray detectors, Chilingarian said. They have been collaborating in international experiments since the 1980s. Today, YerPhI publishes approximately 30% of Armenia’s research papers and plans to add all new research publications to the repository.

“The project has not only allowed YerPhI to acquire and reuse the lost scientific information, but has also introduced modern technologies to support the operation of Armenia’s research facilities,” said Zaven Hakopov, INIS coordinator at the IAEA. Based on Armenia’s example, the IAEA plans to assist more Member States in creating national nuclear information repositories to stimulate research and development, he added.

The IAEA hosts one of the world's largest collections of published information on nuclear science and technology with four million bibliographic records accessed by over two million users world-wide every year. It gathers nuclear data, information and knowledge resources on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and makes it available to its Member States, contributing to advancing research and development and helping countries achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

RFE/RL Report
Sarkisian Vows Positive Change In 2017
January 02, 2017

In his New Year's address to the nation, President Serzh Sarkisian
promised that his recently reshuffled government will press ahead in
2017 with "visible and tangible" reforms that will improve the
socioeconomic situation in Armenia.

"We are entering the new year with serious and realistic programs,"
said Sarkisian. "We all will feel in the near future positive results
of consistent and large-scale changes in the economic and other

"I do believe that the new government will succeed in doing that," he
added, standing in his office against the backdrop of an Armenian
national flag and a Christmas tree.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian echoed these assurances in a
congratulatory message that was also aired by Armenian television on
New Year's Eve. "I promise you that the government, my teammates will
spare no effort and will be working day and night to bring to
completion those initiatives and programs that are necessary for our
people," Karapetian told Armenians.

"Hard work is awaiting us ahead," he said. "Please be assured that we
are sincere in our aspirations, and we will fight until the end."

Sarkisian cited the need for sweeping reforms that would "give new
impetus to economic development" when he announced his decision to
appoint Karapetian as prime minister on September 8. He said the
longtime business executive has agreed to "lead a great wave of
changes" that will address popular disaffection with the socioeconomic
situation in the country.

In its policy program approved by parliament in October, Karapetian's
cabinet promised a tougher fight against corruption, better tax
administration and "equal conditions" for all businesses. The program
says that "conventional approaches" can longer address Armenia's
socioeconomic problems.

Opposition politicians have dismissed this reform agenda as a
publicity stunt. They say that the government reshuffle is only aimed
at mitigating public discontent with the Armenian authorities ahead of
the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2.

Sarkisian said in late November that Karapetian will stay on as prime
minister if his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) wins the
elections. But he has yet to clarify whether in that case he will
change the premier after completing his second and final presidential
term in April 2018. Armenia will switch to a parliamentary system of
government after that.

In his December 31 address, the president also reiterated that his
administration is committed to ensuring that the upcoming polls are
democratic."We need the kind of elections that will enable the ship of
our state to avoid hitting underwater snags known from the past," he

Azeri morale has risen for the first time since the setting up of the 
Karabagh Republic 
Extract from Aliev's End of
Year Message to his People: 

"Year 2016 will also remain in history as one of our glorious
victories. For the first time since 1994, Azerbaijan has managed to
liberate a portion of its lands from the aggressors. By preventing an
Armenian armed provocation in April, our army dealt a devastating 
blow to the enemy and freed a portion of our occupied lands. 
Thousands of hectares of lands in Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts
have been freed from the aggressors. The Azerbaijani army is currently 
in control of tens of thousands of hectares of land.

We did have martyrs. May Allah rest their souls in peace. The
Azerbaijani people, the  Azerbaijani soldiers and officers demonstrated
true heroism. Our flags currently fly over the freed territories of
Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts. While visiting the liberated
lands, I said under the Azerbaijani flag again that the people of
Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani state would never allow a second
Armenian state to be established on our lands. The April battles are a
glorious page in our history. The April battles are a historic victory
for us. This victory brings a settlement of the conflict closer. "
Azerbaijan: Deepening Economic Crisis Stimulating Brain Drain
Jan 3 2017
by Lamiya Adilgizi 

People at Moscow’s Multifunctional Migration Center, where immigrants apply for Russian citizenship, permanent residency or work permits. Many Azerbaijanis leaving their homeland to look for a better life head to Russia, home to the world's largest Azerbaijani diaspora community. 

Even when Hasan Suleymanov had a steady job, he could barely get by on his salary of less than $300 per month as an architect and designer. Then, Azerbaijan’s economy started to nosedive, forcing his employer – which he asked not be named – to close down in 2015, making his situation untenable.

Suleymanov suddenly was no longer able to pay off a debt he had incurred to buy a computer, and the bank that gave him the loan was threatening to sue him. He tried to go to the State Employment Service, which helps unemployed Azerbaijanis find work, but they could not find him a new job. Stress kept him awake at night.

Finally, he decided to leave. He now lives in a 15-square-meter room in Cologne, Germany, working as an intern at an architecture firm.

“No one wants to leave his hometown, loved ones, all his memories and childhood behind for something totally new and unknown,” Suleymanov said.

Suleymanov is part of a growing trend. According to government statistics, the number of Azerbaijanis permanently leaving the country doubled from 800 in 2014 to 1,600 in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. While the numbers are relatively small for a country of over 9 million, the official figures likely dramatically undercount the real number of emigrants, said Alovsat Aliyev, the head of the Azerbaijan Migration Center, in an interview with (Aliyev himself is an émigré, currently seeking political asylum in Germany). And with the worsening of the country’s economic woes in 2016, it is reasonable to assume the pace of emigration is picking up.

The state’s permanent migration figure relies on migrants registering either at the Passport Registration and Migration Department or at Azerbaijani consulates abroad. Most migrants do not do that, and as a result, official statistics “highly underestimate the real outflows from the country,” European Union researchers concluded in a 2012 report.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that there has been a large increase in permanent migration since the beginning of Azerbaijan’s economic downturn. While temporary labor migration, in particular to Russia, is nothing unusual during the post-Soviet period, it is now becoming permanent as the economic situation has declined, said Aliyev, the migration activist.

“Before it was only political activists who were leaving the country, but now the people who cannot pay their debt to local banks because of the economic crisis and poverty in Azerbaijan leave the country too,” he said. Many of these claim to be political asylum seekers in order to gain residency in the West, Aliyev said. According to his records, in August alone 647 Azerbaijani citizens applied for asylum abroad, and the number appears to be increasing.

The rise in migration poses yet another challenge to Azerbaijan’s image, as it undermines a message promoted relentlessly at home and abroad by the government that the country has a prosperous and vibrant society. 

There is no disputing that abundant energy exports have enabled Azerbaijan to come a long way since the 1991 Soviet collapse. The country’s GDP per capita grew from under $400 in 1995 to nearly $8,000 in 2014, according to World Bank data. In 2015, however, that per capita figure dropped sharply to about $5,500. And the distribution of wealth is wildly uneven, with a relatively small group of individuals possessing a disproportionately large portion of assets in Azerbaijan. 

The issue of migration has been a particular point of emphasis in Azerbaijani government rhetoric. Trying to score points in a propaganda struggle relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani officials often go out of their way to call attention to the high level of outmigration from Armenia, Baku’s neighbor and enemy. The two states have fought for control of Karabakh for almost three decades. In a speech last April, President Ilham Aliyev contrasted Azerbaijan as a “modern, stable, predictable, self-sufficient country,” to Armenia, which he portrayed as beset by “economic difficulties, isolation, migration, [and] poverty.” 
Armenia still has much higher levels of migration than Azerbaijan. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, in 2015 about 24 percent of Armenians lived outside of Armenia, while 11 percent of Azerbaijanis live outside of Azerbaijan. 

As Azerbaijan’s crisis has deepened, government officials have warned that the country must brace for harder times. Despite such exhortations, popular patience seems to be wearing thin. In the city of Goychay, for example, protests broke out recently after a young man tried to kill himself, saying he could no longer provide for his family. One Azerbaijani MP, Aqil Abbas, responded bluntly to the protests saying: “If the government doesn’t provide you with work, it’s giving you land – go sow some onions and provide for your family.”

Another MP suggested in December that hard times could have benefits for the population. “There are people who don’t eat bread, meat, or fish because they want to stay in shape – if there is little food, eat less and stay in shape,” said Huseybala Miralamov.

A few officials have taken aim at Azerbaijani economic migrants. After protests over power cuts and clashes with police in the region of Bilasuvar, an MP representing the area compared the protesters there to Azerbaijani labor migrants in Russia, describing both as the “scum of society” in a December 24 interview with Radio Liberty. The statement caused a good deal of outrage among Azerbaijani migrants in Russia, who took to social media with statements explaining that they had to migrate because they could not find work in Azerbaijan. The MP, Astan Shahverdiyev of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, later apologized.

Meanwhile, Suleymanov is trying to build his life in Germany. He is learning German and working on building his architecture career. And he has no plans to go back to Azerbaijan. “I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t feel so helpless and hopeless,” he said.

Editor's note: Lamiya Adilgizi is a freelance Azerbaijani reporter.

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