Friday, 29 September 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Levon Aronian wins again
Grandmaster Levon Aronian Wins FIDE Chess World Cup for the Second Time
September 27 2017 

Armenia’s chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian wins the FIDE Chess World Cup 2017 (held in Tbilisi, Georgia), by defeating his Chinese opponent Ding Liren during tie-break games. In the first game Levon started with an advantage and defeated Ding in 30 movies. In the second game Levon started with a clear disadvantage but was able to turn the game around and win the second game of the tie-brake as well.

The final score became 4-2 and Levon Aronian won the FIDE World Cup for the second time (he was the winner of the World Cup in 2005) after which Aronian is rated world’s second best chess player. Both finalists have qualified for the FIDE Candidates Tournament, which will take place in March 2018.

He was applauded by the public with a standing ovation after his victory.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Government Upgrades Economic Growth Forecast
September 25, 2017
Tatevik Lazarian

Armenia's economy is on course to grow by 4.3 percent this year after
stagnating in 2016, Finance Minister Vartan Aramian said on Monday.

The Armenian government had forecast an economic growth rate of 3.2
percent for 2017 in its budget proposal approved by parliament just
over a year ago. According to official statistics, the country's Gross
Domestic Product beat that expectation in the first half of 2017,
increasing by roughly 5 percent in real terms.

"Expert analysis shows that by the end of the year we will have faster
growth than the 3.2 percent [rate] projected by the state budget,"
Aramian told a news conference. "We expect a real growth rate of 4.3
percent this year."

Data from the National Statistical Service (NSS) shows that first-half
growth was driven in large measure by a nearly 13 percent rise
industrial output. The NSS also reported a more than 5 percent
increase in retail trade.

The Armenian economy expanded by only 0.2 percent in 2016 not least
because of a downturn in agriculture which the government blamed on
bad weather. The agricultural sector continued to contract in the
first half of 2017 due to an unusually harsh winter and a summer

In its five-year policy program approved by the National Assembly in
June, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's cabinet pledged to ensure that
economic growth in Armenia averages 5 percent annually. The government
is supposed to meet this ambitious target by promoting exports and
improving the domestic business environment.

Aramian also said on Monday that despite faster growth Armenia's total
public debt will reach 58.8 percent of GDP at the end of this year.The
proportion stood at 56.6 percent in December 2016.

The minister defended continued government borrowing from mainly
external sources. "We have borrowed from abroad to make investments,"
he said.

Panorama, Armenia
Sept 26 2017
UK Minister of State for Europe issues message ahead of visit to Armenia 

UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan visit to Armenia on 26-28 September, the British Embassy to Armenia reported in a release, adding the minister is set to meet President Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karapetyan, Speaker of the National Assembly Babloyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nalbandian and other senior officials.

The release goes on saying the UK has been supporting the Government's reform programme, including helping the National Assembly prepare for its greater oversight powers, supporting the Ministry of Justice implement an anti-corruption strategy and working with the Ministry of Defence to embed European Human Rights standards in the Armenian Armed Forces.

In a speech to the National Assembly of Armenia, the Minister will champion the important role of parliament in a democracy, and in turn the role of parliamentarians in representing the people who elect them.

Ahead of his visit, the Minister of Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, said:
“My first visit to Armenia is an opportunity for me to celebrate the UK’s support to Armenia in its consolidation as a democratic, resilient and prosperous country. Over the 25 years since we established diplomatic relations, cooperation has flourished across a range of spheres – including political, commercial, educational and cultural.

We believe there are further opportunities to deepen our cooperation. I look forward to meeting President Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karapetyan, Foreign Minister Nalbandian and other high level officials in Armenia. I will outline the UK’s readiness to support Armenia’s efforts to embed democracy, good governance and human rights and explore ways to boost trade between our two countries.”

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 25, 2017 Monday
Armenian MP is convinced that decision to visit Baku was definitely right

Armenian delegates must be ready to counter Azerbaijan at any platform 
and format, Mane Tandilyan – Yelk faction MP, member of the Armenian 
delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, told reporters on 
September 25, reports Armenpress.

She visited Baku together with chairman of the parliamentary standing
committee on foreign affairs Armen Ashotyan to take part in the
session of the Euronest PA from September 21 to 23.

“Azerbaijani media were actively working, and the Armenian delegation
was in particular in the spotlight of everyone. Our delegation made a
decision to take part in that session, and I think it was quite a
right decision. I was more convinced on that when I saw how they were
trying to turn that session into an anti-Armenian propaganda. I
understood that we should not in general miss any chance and platform
to present Armenia since the Azerbaijani side is actively working on
the anti-Armenian propaganda. We should understand that they will use
any international platform for gradually reaching success. This
session also could turn into such platform if our responses and stance
were not restraining factors”, the MP said.

She said the war situation continues, and it exists in each platform.
“One must visit Baku to understand in what atmosphere he/she is and
acts. They have received a proper response to questions out of agenda,
and we managed to stop the actions which were gradually turning into
anti-Armenian ones. We had also talks with our European partners, and
they also stated that Azerbaijan tries to make each occasion an
anti-Armenian one or strives to that”, Mane Tandilyan said, adding
that she is ready to visit everywhere and present Armenia, especially
in Baku.

RFE/RL Report
First Toll Roads Planned In Armenia
September 26, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan

The government plans to introduce first-ever road tolls in Armenia in
a bid to complete an expensive project to upgrade the country's key
highways, Transport and Communications Minister Vahan Martirosian
revealed on Tuesday.

The project, supposedly launched in 2009, has fallen behind schedule,
with less than 10 percent of the national highways stretching over 550
kilometers to Georgia and Iran refurbished and expanded so far. Work
on two other road sections is due to be finished in the next few
years. These roadworks are mostly financed from loans extended to the
government by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Martirosian insisted that the government is committed to rebuilding
the remaining highways mainly passing through the mountainous Vayots
Dzor and Syunik provinces in the country's southeast. He estimated
that that will require as much as $1.5 billion in funding, a figure
equivalent to roughly half of the Armenian state budget.

Martirosian said the government hopes to attract the investments from
private firms, rather than seek more loans from the ADB or other
international lenders. "The decision has already been made and we are
working in that direction," he told a news conference.

This means, the minister went on, that the new highways stretching
over 350 kilometers from the southern town of Ararat to the Iranian
border would be toll roads operated by private firms. He said they
would run parallel to the existing toll-free roads.

Martirosian added that the government is already holding preliminary
talks with potential private investors but did not name them. As part
of the same effort, it plans to enact a new law on public-private
partnerships, he said.

The new figures cited by Martirosian raise the total cost of the
North-South transport project to more than $2 billion.Armenian
officials estimated it at less than $1 billion when they negotiated
the first loan agreement with the ADB in 2009. The Manila-based
development bank has disbursed $330 million to date.

The main official rationale for the highway upgrades is to facilitate
the landlocked country's access to the Georgian and Iranian ports. It
is also meant to enable Iran to use Armenian and Georgian territory
for large-scale freight shipments to and from Europe.

Open Democracy
Sept 26 2017
Armenia’s parents dream of having sons
Armine Avetisyan 

Armenia still has one of the world’s highest rates of sex-selective abortions. Here are the mothers’ stories.

This article originally appeared on Open Caucasus Media . We are grateful for their permission to republish it here.

Although their number is slowly decreasing, Armenia still has one of the highest rates of sex-selective abortions in the world. oDR’s partners at OC Media talked to a number of women who faced pressure from their families after falling pregnant with a daughter about the decision they were forced to make, and the consequences they’ve had to live with. An unexpected daughter

“I got married at the age of 17, and five months later I was already pregnant. The pregnancy was expected in our family, it was even considered late because my husband’s family subscribes to the view that the purpose of a bride is to have a baby, and that she should get pregnant after the first night of sleeping with her husband”, says Gayane (a pseudonym), a resident of Aragatsotn Province in the west of Armenia.

Gayane started to visit a local clinic with her mother-in-law to monitor the condition of her pregnancy.

“We went to the doctor very often — so often that [at one point] they wouldn’t even receive us telling me all my tests were fine. I was already ashamed to go, but my mother-in-law made me go, saying ’I’m afraid something will happen to my boy’”, Gayane recalls.

By “boy”, the mother-in-law meant Gayane’s baby — she was convinced that her daughter-in-law would have a boy. During one of the visits, when she was 13 weeks pregnant and the doctor was able to see the baby’s sex, Gayane was told she would have a baby girl.

“It was probably the most terrible day of my life. When my mother-in-law learnt I was going to have a girl, she did not say anything to the doctor and we returned home in silence. I felt there was going to be a quarrel at home. And there was. My mother-in-law was screaming that her son didn’t want a wife who was going to have a girl. She was shouting that she would be ashamed before her family, that she had already told everybody her son’s wife was pregnant and she was going to have a boy.”

“My father-in-law was listening silently, but from his look I could see he agreed with his wife’s words. Even my husband’s sisters, who were not married at the time, looked at me with disapproval. I was looking forward to my husband coming home from work so at least he could defend me”, recalls Gayane.

Gayane’s husband sided with his mother, claiming that he was not the kind of a man from whom a girl could be born

Gayane’s husband, however, sided with his mother. He claimed that he was not the kind of a man from whom a girl could be born. A family gathering was held, where they all discussed the issue of Gayane’s having a girl. Ultimately, they decided that the baby was not a desirable and should be removed.

Gayane had not been allowed to speak at the meeting.

“They forced me to go to the hospital... where I had an abortion. God has punished me for that day, but I am not guilty. They forced me!” says Gayane, bursting into tears.

Some 12% of Armenia’s population considers sex-selective abortion acceptable, according to the United Nations’ Population Fund report from 2016, “ Men and Gender Equality in Armenia ”. More women (13%) than men (11%) consider sex-selective abortion acceptable.

Approval of the practice is generally higher in rural areas — 18% of respondents in rural areas and 13% in urban areas consider sex-selective abortion acceptable. The report also links higher acceptance with lower levels of education. Complications

Six years have passed since Gayane had the abortion. Over those years Gayane has been trying to get pregnant again, but in vain. She has undergone many tests which found that she now has fertility problems due to the abortion, which prevent her from becoming pregnant. Gayane is now undergoing treatment.

“Now my husband and mother-in-law are paying a lot of money so I can at least have a girl. They are very sorry for what they did. And I’m still suffering because I couldn’t find the strength [to resist]. I killed my unborn baby with my own hands. I was a child, I was stupid.”

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Naira Vardanyan spoke with OC Media about some of the complications women face after having an abortion.

Adopting legislation isn’t enough while societal attitudes change so slowly

“After abortion, women face a number of complications: directly and indirectly. Direct complications occur during abortion or several days after it, such as uterine perforation, bleeding, remains of the embryo in the uterus cavity, acute inflammation of the uterus, and others. The indirect complications can arise over the years, and the most important one is infertility, as well as miscarriages and future complications in pregnancy,” explains Vardanyan.

[oDR editors’ note: according to data from multiple countries, an abortion performed by qualified healthcare professionals in hygenic conditions is widely considered a safe medical procedure, rarely leading to complications]

Two years ago, the government decided to combat sex-selective abortion. On 2 July 2015, the Armenian parliament approved a package of draft amendments to the law on “Human reproductive health and reproductive rights”. The law prohibits sex-selective abortion, applying penalties to doctors who carry them out. On 19 June 2016, the law was adopted by parliament.

According to Vardanyan, however, the law is vague and is difficult to apply. She says adopting legislation alone cannot be successful in combatting sex-selective abortion because societal attitudes are slow to change. “We broke up because I was going to have a girl”

“I was 34 when I got married. I loved my husband very much. We were so happy when we got married that I couldn’t even imagine breaking up, or that the reason for that could be a baby girl”, Zhanna Tepanyan from Gyumri told OC Media .

Zhanna explained that when her husband and mother-in-law learned she would have a daughter, they immediately ordered her to terminate the pregnancy. The reason they gave was that before marrying Zhanna, her husband had been married to another woman, and he had two daughters from the first marriage. He now dreamt of having a baby boy.

Zhanna Tepanyan with her daughter. Photo (c): Armine Avetisyan / OC Media. All rights reserved.
“I was told either I have an abortion or we would divorce. I chose the second option. Now my daughter is one and a half years old. I’m happy. Although I do not have a house and have very bad living conditions, there is a miracle living here with me. My parents help me out. Soon, I’ll take my baby to kindergarted and I’ll start to work. my child should live well”, says Zhanna.

Zhanna’s husband did not recognise the child as his own — his surname was not given to the girl. He saw her only once, about a year ago, but has since passed away.

“My daughter was eight months old when her father was dying. I took my girl to her father. He saw her. But there was no reaction from his family. Shortly afterwards he died. I have no contact with my mother-in-law. She doesn’t need us anymore,” sighs Zhanna.

While the number of sex-selective abortions in Armenia is now three times lower than it was in 2005, the current sex ratio is still one of the most unequal in the world

According to Armenia’s National Statistical Service, 112 boys were born for every 100 girls in 2016. Although the number of sex-selective abortions is three times lower now than it was in 2005, the current sex ratio is still considered one of the most unequal in the world. According to the CIA’s World Factbook , the number is also high for Azerbaijan and Georgia with 111 and 108 boys born respectively for every 100 girls. The world average is 103 boys to 100 girls.

Zhanna’s story is not uncommon in Armenia, which is why doctors try to work with men when they notice the warning signs that a future father is not inclined to have a baby girl. Usually, doctors ask women to attend a consultation with their husbands and during the echocardiogram, they start talking specifically to the men, showing them details of the baby’s body on the screen.

The doctors thus preparing the man for the idea that he is waiting for a miracle, that he is going to become a father — and that the baby’s sex doesn’t make a difference.

Aliyev Lies Before the Whole World
At United Nations Speech in New York
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier 

There were plenty of Azeri commentators and officials who criticized Pres. Sargsyan’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly last week, but I did not come across any Armenian commentators or government leaders who attacked Pres. Aliyev’s ugly speech at the U.N. on Sept. 20. 

The Azeri President’s lengthy remarks were full of lies and distortions: let’s try to set the record straight on some of them. 

The first line of Aliyev’s speech starts with a usual exaggeration and untruth, stating that “Armenia occupies 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions of the country.” The truth is that Armenia does not occupy any Azeri territory. Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) was never a part of Azerbaijan. It was an autonomous Armenian-inhabited region gifted to Azerbaijan by Soviet dictator Stalin in 1923. The Armenian population of Artsakh finally liberated themselves after decades of brutal Azeri occupation. Furthermore, the Azeri claim that Armenia occupies 20% of Azerbaijan is false, as the region liberated by Armenians is around 15%, not 20%. 

Pres. Aliyev then proceeds to state: “Nagorno-Karabakh is an ancient and historical part of Azerbaijan.” This is a complete lie as Azerbaijan did not exist historically as a state. It was created in 1918 with the help of the Turkish army. 

Aliyev’s next big lie is that there are one million Azeri “refugees and internally displaced persons” as a result of Armenian military action. First of all, it is not one million, but several hundred thousand, just like there were several hundred thousand Armenian refugees as a result of Azeri pogroms and ethnic cleansing. If there were a large number of Azeri refugees 25 years later still living in muddy camps, this is the fault only of the Azeri government which earns billions of petrodollars annually and does not spend any of these funds to resettle these refugees in comfortable homes! 

Furthermore, as we have seen in recent European publications, Azeri leaders, particularly the Aliyev family and its cronies, have stolen billions of dollars from the state oil revenues to pay for their lavish life-styles or bribe officials around the world to cover up their persistent violations of human rights. Yet, the President of Azerbaijan is not ashamed to proclaim that his country has “absolute transparency, zero tolerance to corruption and bribery.” 

Aliyev then repeats the biggest lie about the so-called “Khojaly genocide” of 600 Azerbaijanis by Armenian troops during the Artsakh war. There are various versions of what exactly took place in Khojaly during that conflict, including Azeri soldiers blocking the escape routes of their own population who were then trapped and became war casualties. But even if there were a shred of evidence that 600 Azeris died during that conflict, which would be unfortunate, Azerbaijan shamelessly denies the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by Turkey starting in 1915, and yet has no qualms of perpetuating the lie that the deaths of 600 Azeris were a genocide! 

Pres. Aliyev continues his series of lies, claiming that Armenia was the one that attacked Azerbaijan in April 2016. The whole world knows that Azerbaijan was the initiator of that attack. Exposing his own lie, he warns that Azerbaijan will attack again! 

Aliyev then boasts that Azerbaijan in 2011 was elected as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with 155 countries voting in favor. What Pres. Aliyev neglects to mention is that most of these votes were secured by lavish gifts to the U.N. Ambassadors, as we had exposed in my weekly column in 2011. 

The President of Azerbaijan shamelessly proclaims from the U.N. podium that the “development of democracy and human rights protection are among the top priorities of our government. All fundamental freedoms are fully provided in Azerbaijan, including freedom of _expression_, media freedom, freedom of Assembly, religious freedom.” Everyone knows that Azerbaijan is a dictatorship with corrupt leaders, and that its jails are full of human rights activists and independent journalists! 

Aliyev then goes on to announce that “representatives of all ethnic groups and religions live in Azerbaijan in peace and harmony.” Besides Armenians, who were victims of ethnic cleansing and are potential victims of a new Azeri Genocide in Artsakh, there are many other minorities in the country who are routinely discriminated against and jailed. Calling Azerbaijan a democracy and “one of the world’s most recognized centers of multiculturalism,” is an outrageous statement! 

The string of lies, distortions and exaggerations is so long in Pres. Aliyev’s U.N. speech that one needs to write an entire book to expose all of his falsehoods!
Marc Balakjian obituary
Rosemary Simmons
Wednesday 27 September 2017 

Marc (Mardiros Yacoub) Balakjian, artist, born 22 April 1938; died 10 August 2017 
Award-winning artist and printmaker who resurrected the obscure medium of mezzotint, once popular for reproducing Constables and Turners

Marc BalakjianMarc Balakjian’s enigmatic art was influenced by his family history dating back to the Armenian diaspora
Two months before his death at the age of 79, the artist Marc Balakjian visited Armenia for the first time to discover his cultural inheritance. His parents had fled to Lebanon from the genocide of Armenia, started by the Turks in 1915. The Armenian diaspora has lived with a sense of unfinished business and injustice ever since, and this history influenced Marc’s work.

He usually used a restricted palette of black and white, whether in small mezzotints or larger drawings and watercolours. His subject matter was enigmatic: a recurring theme was that of anonymous packages tied with knots of rope; sometimes there are prison bars in the background or piles of planks leaning against each other. The images are disturbing in their ambiguity.

He was born Mardiros Yacoub Balakjian in the village of Rayak, near Beirut, son of Hagop, a cobbler at the nearby French military base, and his wife, Haigoui. After finishing school at Djemeran college in Beirut, Marc intended to train as an architect, but a young friend returned from Italy with some etchings that he found intriguing. Marc visited Paris, Rome and London, seeking out more examples of printmaking. He decided to take a fine art degree at Hammersmith College of Art in west London , where there was a good department of printmaking.

This was not enough to satisfy his curiosity, so he embarked on a detailed study of the print collections at the V&A and the British Museum while also investigating techniques, tools and materials. He went on to postgraduate studies, specialising in printmaking, at the Slade. There he found some discarded mezzotint rockers used to prepare copper plates, as well as old manuals that described this obscure, but once popular, method of reproducing works by Constable, Turner and many other well-known artists.

It had fallen out of fashion when later artists, such as Gauguin and Munch, made their own printed graphics. Marc determined to resurrect this subtle, but taxing printmaking method, constructing his own tools where none could be found. He became known for his knowledge and demonstrations about the varieties of intaglio printing.
Balakjian and his wife, Dorothea Wight, ran an editioning workshop patronised by artists such as Lucian Freud.

When he finished his master’s, he met, by chance, Dorothea Wight , another former Slade student, who had opened an editioning workshop in 1968 to print artist’s work. Studio Prints had moved to new premises in an old Sainsbury’s store in Kentish Town, north London, and she needed another printer because interest in original artist’s prints was booming, both in Britain and for export to the US. Marc became a partner in Studio Prints in 1974 and three years later, he and Dorothea married. 

By the 1980s work was falling off, so they introduced in-house plate-making to serve the painters and sculptors who had little experience of printmaking. Artists such as Leon Kossoff , Frank Auerbach , Lucian Freud and Ken Kiff – all demanding characters – appreciated Marc’s attention to detail and his ability to anticipate their thoughts and intentions. He printed the most technically difficult plates to produce excellent results.

Meanwhile, the couple produced their own work, exhibited widely in Britain and at international shows, won prizes, taught printmaking and lectured. Their work was acquired by public collections including those of the British Museum, the V&A and the British Council. They were both particularly interested in the further education programme at Morley College in London, where Marc is fondly remembered for his lively conversations on aspects of art in society. He felt that printmaking was not appreciated, nor supported, in Britain.

In 2009, Dorothea fell ill and the workshop closed. She died in 2013. Marc is survived by their son, Aram, and daughter, Tamar.

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