Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Wild Frontiers

Channel 4 TV on Sunday at 8pm
From Russia to Iran crossing Wild Frontiers reaches Armenia 

Past episodes (including Georgia and Azerbaijan) can be accessed by clicking


21 September 2017, 6-9 pm 
26th Levantine Heritage Foundation dinner gathering in London, with guest speakers Dr Jonathan Conlin, senior lecturer in modern history at Southampton University
on ‘Very Loyal Subjects and Friends of Our Country’: 
The Gulbenkians and Ottoman/Turkish Economic Development, 1880-1935 

and Nicholas Pelham, author and Middle East correspondent of The Economist, on his Alexandrian and Levantine background 


Program Notice 
Հայաստանի Հանրային պատկերասփիւռի կայանը՝ Հ 1- ը յատուկ ծրագիրով պիտի սփռէ Համա - Հ . Մ . Ը . Մ . ական 10 րդ մարզախաղերուն իրադարձութիւնները ։
Սփռումը պիտի կատարուի Շաբաթ , 9 Սեպտեմբեր 2017 ին , Հայաստանի ժամով 17 ։ 50 ին ( London -i ժամով 2.50-pm )

Response from Canada to item that the British Government owes millions to Armenia;
I have a question re Britain owing Armenians.

Levon VI (also known as Levon V) and his family were captured by the Memluks and taken as prisoners to Egypt. After a number of years as a "free prisoner" in Egypt, he managed to leave for Europe when his relatives/friends in Europe raised the ransom money the Memluks demanded. In other words, Levon was penniless and depended on the charity of European nobility for his freedom. His wife and daughter had already died and are buried in St. James Armenian Cathedral in Jerusalem.

So how could he have the treasures of Armenia?

Byurakan fire reaches residential area, engulfs trees and houses
September 6, 2017

Arayik Harutyunyan, Chairman of the Yerevan Council’s Committee on Culture, Education and Social Issues, has left a post on his Facebook page and posted photos showing the devastating fire near Byurakan village in Aragatsotn marz.
“The fire has engulfed the trees near Verin Aghbyurak district. Several houses are on fire,” he wrote.

RFE/RL Report
Karabakh Leader Sworn In For Another Term
September 07, 2017
Hovannes Movsisian
Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh's president, was sworn in for another
term on Thursday almost two months after local lawmakers voted to
extend his decade-long rule.

Sahakian, 57, was reelected after serving two consecutive five-year
terms. He was not allowed to stay in power longer before Karabakh
enacted a new constitution in a referendum held in February.

The new constitution calls for the Armenian-populated region's
transition by 2020 to a fully presidential system of government which
will lead to the abolition of the post of prime minister. The
authorities in Stepanakert say this change will put Karabakh in a
better position to cope with the unresolved conflict with
Azerbaijan. Their opponents maintain, however that Sahakian is simply
keen to cling to power.

Sahakian will continue governing Karabakh as an interim president
until 2020. His candidacy for that post was backed in July by 28 of
the 33 members of the Karabakh parliament representing three political
parties allied to him.

Sahakian pledged to implement democratic reforms, strengthen
Karabakh's security and ensure continued economic growth of the local
economy in his speech at an inauguration ceremony held in
Stepanakert. "We are going to do everything to protect the honor and
dignity of the Armenian people," he declared.

The Karabakh leader again did not clarify whether he will run in the
next presidential election due in 2020.

Vitaly Balasanian, the secretary of Karabakh's presidential Security
Council, suggested in July that Sahakian is unlikely to seek another
reelection in 2020.

A retired army general, Balasanian was the main opposition candidate
in Karabakh's last presidential ballot held in 2012. 

RFE/RL Report 
Hungary Denies Money Motive Behind Azeri Axe-Murderer's Extradition
September 07, 2017

The Hungarian government has reportedly denied any connection between
newly revealed cash transfers from Azerbaijan to Hungary and the 2012
release from prison of an Azerbaijani army officer who hacked to death
an Armenian colleague in Budapest.

The revelation is part of an extensive international report which
found that Azerbaijan's ruling elite used a $2.9 billion slush fund to
pay off European politicians, buy luxury goods, and launder money. The
report, released by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting
Project (OCCRP) on Monday, says thousands of payments were channeled
through four shell companies registered in Britain between 2012 and

According to the OCCRP, more than $9 million was transferred to
Hungarian bank accounts of Velasco, an offshore company owned by a son
of Azerbaijan's Deputy Prime Minister Yaqub Eyyubov, from
2012-2013. "The company was dissolved at the request of its Hungarian
formation agency in 2015, and it is not clear where the money ended
up," says the report titled "The Azerbaijan Laundromat."

The report says that the first $450,000cash transfer to the Velasco
account with the Budapest-based MKB Bank was wired on July 19, 2012,
just over one month before the extradition to Azerbaijan of Ramil
Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who was serving a life sentence
in a Hungarian prison. A Hungarian court had convicted Safarov of
axe-murdering a sleeping Armenian officer, Gurgen Markarian, during a
NATO training course in Budapest in 2004.

Immediately after the extradition, the Azerbaijani lieutenant received
a hero's welcome in Baku. Safarov was not only pardoned by Azerbaijani
President Ilham Aliyev but also promoted to the rank of major, granted
a free apartment and paid eight years' worth of back pay.

Safarov's release provoked a furious reaction from Armenia and strong
international criticism. Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with
Hungary in protest. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian charged in
September 2012 that corruption was at the root of the
"Azerbaijani-Hungarian deal" on Safarov.

The Hungarian government has repeatedly defended its decision to send
Safarov back to Azerbaijan, saying it stemmed from a European
convention and was not aimed at offending the Armenian people.

The transfer of Azerbaijani money to the Hungarian bank exposed by the
OCCRP has rekindled suspicions that the authorities in Budapest were
paid to repaatriate the convicted murderer. Hungary's controversial
Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Baku in June 2012.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto rejected suggestions
linking Safarov's extradition to cash flows from Azerbaijan at a news
conference on Wednesday.

"In the firmest possible way, I reject any inference or insinuation
which makes a connection between Hungarian foreign policy decisions
and the aforementioned international criminal actions," Szijjarto
said, according to "The Budapest Beacon" daily. "I really hope we
uncover the truth of what happened very soon."

Thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest in September 2012 to
condemn their government's decision to hand over Safarov to
Baku. Ferenc Gyurcsany, a former Hungarian prime minister, accused
Orban's government at the time of "selling the country's honor for 30
pieces of silver." Orban brushed aside the accusations.

IMTJ: International Medical Travel Journal
Sept 8 2017
Cosmetic surgery drives Armenian medical tourism 

Cosmetic surgery is the driver for medical tourism to Armenia from Kazakhstan and Russia.

Medical tourists seeking nasal and abdominal wall surgery, and facial tension and rejuvenation, benefit from prices that are lower than in most nearby countries .

Local company iMed has created a mobile app so people globally can connect with Armenia’s cosmetic surgeons . The users can search and find any doctor via the app. The app also has other tools, such as the user can change the form of the nose and see how they will look with another nose. Thereafter, the user can discuss it in-detail with the doctor via the app. The app is available in Armenian, English and Russian.

Kazakhstan is leading in terms of number of medical tourists. Next come Armenians and Russians from Russia, 90% are Russians. There is also business from Australia and the Netherlands, where the majority of the visitors are Armenians. The number of people from European countries is small but cosmetic surgery tourists have arrived from France and the UK.

Local surgeries can see potential but seek government help in marketing Armenia as a destination.

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 7, 2017 Thursday
George Clooney persuades spouse not to visit Azerbaijan for security risks

World famous Hollywood actor George Clooney admitted that he it was 
he who persuaded Amal Clooney not to  visit Azerbaijan, 
ARMENPRESS reports the actor told The Hollywood
Reporter. “We had agreed with Amal that we will not allow any job to
put us under risk”, George Clooney said.

In September 2015, Amal went to the Maldives to try to get President
Mohamed Nasheed out of jail, that's the former leader, imprisoned on
terrorism charges that were deemed bogus by the U.S. State Department.
"The Maldives has the highest per-capita rate of recruiting ISIS, so
it was a very nerve-racking time, and as Amal was coming into town,
her co-counsel [Mahfooz Saeed] was pulled off a motorcycle and stabbed
in the head as a warning”, Clooney told.

He admitted that he had to make a deal with her wife to keep her away
from Azerbaijan. “When she finally got out of there, she had another
client in jail in Azerbaijan," added Clooney, "and I said, 'I'll tell
you what, let's make a deal: I won't go to South Sudan and you don't
go to Azerbaijan. How is that?' And she said, 'For now, fine.' "

Famous British lawyer Amal Clooney defended the interests of
Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismailova who has been jailed in Baku
for 7.5 years. Clooney took the case to the ECHR. She has also
defended the interests of the Armenian side in Perinchek’s case.

Armenian Destruction for Profit
A Non-Expert’s Observation of Mining in Armenia 

A few years my wife and I visited the monastery of Akhtala, a 10th-century fortified Armenian Church with impressive murals in Lori province. The church is situated on a hill above the Debet River. Near the river there was a toxic pool of waste from nearby copper mines. As my wife was photographing the church from below, a large black SUV pulled up. Two burley, well-dressed men (“hastaviz” – “thick necks” in local parlance) exited the SUV and asked my wife if she was photographing the pool of mine waste. “No,” she answered, “I’m photographing the church. Is it illegal to photograph the church?” “No,” they replied. They lingered for a few minutes and left. They were concerned, of course, about negative publicity about the mining waste situated next to the Debet River.

Traveling to a neighboring village we passed a valley with whitish-yellow mine waste dumped onto the valley slopes. I asked a villager if there was a plan to clean this up. “The mining company says they’ll plant trees, but who’d eat fruit from such trees?” he said. When I questioned locals about the quality of the drinking water, they were uneasy about the question and quite hesitatingly and unconvincingly said the water was ok.

From the hills above the Debet River valley near the once bustling industrial city of Alaverdi, in Lori province in Armenia’s north, we could clearly see smoke from the refinery in Alaverdi filling the valley. The owner of the refinery, Valex, had posted signs on the lamp posts in Alaverdi stating “Valex Loves You,” but smoke continued to fill the valley. Valex also owns Base Metals, which has a factory in northern Artsakh along the shores of the Sarsang Reservoir. During my first visit to that area a decade or two ago the water of the Sarsang Reservoir seemed normal. During a subsequent visit a few years ago, with the Base Metals plant operating above the reservoir, the water had a greenish tint to it. Upstream from the plant, on the Trtu River which feeds the reservoir, the water was clear and appeared normal. The plant obviously was the reason for the green color of the water. What was in the water? I cannot say.

Also in northern Armenia not far from the town of Odzun is the village of Ardvi, a site of extraordinary beauty containing the tomb of Catholicos Hovhannes Odznetsi (Catholicos from 717-728). My wife and I spent hours admiring Ardvi’s beauty while being amazed at the agility of mountain goats scaling Ardvi’s seemingly unscalable cliffs. Azatutyun newpaper reported that on June 26 villagers blocked the road to the village preventing a visit of mining officials from a newly registered mining company. The mining company wants to establish an open pit gold mine nearby which villagers fear will pollute the area and spoil the regions beauty.

A few years ago on our way to Kapan, in Syunik province in southern Armenia, as we descended from the mountains towards the city, there appeared a large “lake” in the valley to the right. This “lake” was a toxic dump of mine waste with a bluish green surface, but also reflecting a number of other colors as well. A man and woman we met nearby both told us of children getting sick and of difficult-to-breath, foul-smelling air periodically coming from the mining operation. Families, fearing for the health of their children, were leaving; for Yerevan if work was available there, or if not for Russia. This year, 2017, the greatly enlarged toxic lake consumed nearly the entire valley.

From Kapan we headed towards Geghivank (Geghi church) in the village of Geghi. On the Geghi River there is a large dam holding back green tinted water. We were told that this was from a copper mine. As we traveled along the road alongside the valley, another valley opened up towards our right. But this valley entrance was blocked by what appeared to be a large man-made berm or wall of earth and rocks. Presumably the valley beyond the wall is also intended to store mining waste, but I can’t be sure. Such structures appeared elsewhere as well.

Proceeding towards Meghri on the Armenia-Iranian border we took a wrong turn in Kacharan, passing the Molybdenum mining facilities. Near the factory was a good size mountain, with a good part of the mountain missing, as if a giant beast had devoured it.

Heading back towards Yerevan from Meghri via the new highway (M-17), passing through the villages of Shivanidzor and Srashen, we entered the Shikahogh Reserve which was stunningly beautiful. We neared Kacharan from the hills to the east. Two thirds of a deep valley to our left was filled with solid waste, presumably from mines, piled at least 5-6 stories high; much higher than the few trees which remained on the not yet filled in areas on the valley floor.

The current Republic of Armenia is a small country. With a 3,000-year history the sense of time here is in millennia, not in years or hundreds of years. When we Armenians think of the future we should think of the legacy we will leave 100, 200, 500 years hence. Yet those exploiting Armenia’s minerals apparently think only of short term profits, of their expensive cars, their palatial villas in and outside of Armenia, and profits at the expense of Armenia’s environment and survivability. Such greed will turn Armenia into an uninhabitable wasteland. Given modern mining equipment, greed, a lack of environmental enforcement, and indifference – it will not take long to turn Armenia into such a wasteland. Of course mining companies do make some improvements in some villages such as repairing roads and renovating a few buildings, but these improvements are short term. Environmental destruction is long term, maybe forever. Government officials, the judiciary, investors, industry, and Armenian political parties must protect the environment. They must honestly survey the damage, publicize the results, and take remedial action for the damage already done.

The August 2, 2017 edition of the English language newspaper Noyan Tapan, published in Armenia, is dedicated entirely to the Amulsar gold mine project under the headline “AMULSAR: Gold mining under criticism.” Three technical articles by experts describe the ensuing environmental disaster should the AMULSAR gold mine in the region near Jermuk begin operations. An additional article is about the investors this project.

Noyan Tapan’s front page includes the following plea, highlighted in red:

“Dear Reader. This special issue is completely dedicated to the Amulsar Gold Mine. We hope it will attract the attention of our readers including RA officials, heads of international organizations, foreign ambassadors, and the international Armenian community, and together we will be able to prevent the disaster.”

Ferdosi Market

On July 19 with only hours of warning, city workers arrived at Ferdosi Street, a narrow passageway near Republic Square, and tore down the booths of Ferdosi Market. Shops which were in small, private garages were allowed to remain, at least for now. Workers also dug up a part of the street to discourage passage.

This was the site of an old Persian community from the time of the Persian occupation of Yerevan. Two Persian aristocrat brothers had had a large house here, with a harem. I am told when Persian Shah Abbas visited Yerevan he stayed here. The opulent house remains, but in partial ruins, displaying a small remnant of its previous splendor.

During the Karabakh war and the initial days of Armenian independence, when trade with all of Armenia’s neighbors except Iran was disrupted, Iranians supplied Armenia with inexpensive merchandise, setting up a market here. Armenians joined in as well. A while back Iranian merchants constituted perhaps 40% of the business here. The market is now, or at least was until its destruction, entirely Armenian. The market was called “Ferdosi Market” or, more colloquially the “Persian Bazaar.”

Ferdosi Market was like a typical middle-eastern market, like some other markets here in Armenia, or like “flea markets” in the U.S. – only more crowded and chaotic. Apparently the government, publicly citing the poor image this market presented, decided to tear the market down. Coincidently, there also appears a plan to develop a large shopping complex here with underground parking, all financed by large business interests perhaps including some of Armenia’s oligarchs. 

Merchants here operate on a shoe-string, selling inexpensive merchandise to customers who cannot afford to shop at many other places. Many customers live within walking distance of this down-scale community. Ferdosi Street, really an alley, is off of Tigran Mets Street near the Republic Square metro station so it is easily accessed from other parts of Yerevan as well. A pair of shoes, for example, can be purchased here for 3,000 dram, about $6. Many merchants borrow money from the bank to finance their inventory, which they pay back when the goods are sold. One woman said she owes $5,000 to the bank. Now that the market is closed she has no idea how she will pay back the bank. Merchants pleaded with the government to delay the destruction of the market until September, allowing them to sell their current inventory and take advantage of parents shopping for their children prior to fall school opening. But these pleas fell on deaf ears.

Rumors say the market will be moved elsewhere, but few believe promises from the government. If the market is moved, in all likelihood the existing customers will not follow and probably merchants’ expenses will rise making their merchandise unaffordable to existing customers.

Shops in private garages on Ferdosi Street are currently allowed to operate… for now. But people say these too will be outlawed as government officials or oligarchs have their eyes on the whole neighborhood. Selling merchandise from homes is against the law and is a punishable offense.

Locals complain that property is often taken by eminent domain, ostensibly for the public good, with owners inadequately compensated and thus unable to relocate. The confiscated property is often sold to private interests for profit.

This action by Yerevan’s city government reinforces, once again, the belief that government is indifferent to the problems of many of Armenia’s citizens and caters only to moneyed interests. After all, most visitors to Armenia equate the flash and glitter of Yerevan’s center to progress, and are oblivious to the difficulties that many, if not most, of Armenia’s citizens face.

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