Saturday, 8 December 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Karabakh Conflicts frozen

Panorama, Armenia
Dec 1 2018
Karabakh conflict’s frozen state in Azerbaijan’s interests, top Russian official says

What really matters in the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict is the fate of Karabakh, everything else is secondary, Ambassador-at-Large and Plenipotentiary Representative of the Russian President Vladimir Kazimirov said on Saturday at Lazarev Club’s first plenary session hosted by Yerevan.

Kazimirov, a former Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, said the key issue in any armed conflict is the cessation of hostilities, establishment of a ceasefire regime and their exclusively peaceful settlement.

He noted the Artsakh conflict has two features: the first one is the fact that it’s older than all the other post-Soviet conflicts. He recalled how the political movement launched in 1988 gradually turned into an armed conflict in 1991.

“Russia and Iran were the first to mediate. Later, the OSCE Minsk Group became a mediator. Russia convinced the conflicting sides to end the military hostilities, and we saw a ceasefire agreement signed,” he said.
As the second feature of the Artsakh conflict, he named its unique configuration. “All the conflicts of the post-Soviet territory have two parties, but this conflict is not just about two sides. Karabakh has its independent role; it participated in the negotiations since they decided its own future,” he said.

Kazimirov hailed the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Meantime, he blamed Azerbaijan for the current stalemate in the conflict.

“They demand the return of the so-called ‘occupied territories.’ Baku’s failure to make a compromise leaves an impression that they are interested in keeping the conflict unresolved. The Azerbaijani authorities seem to like this ‘frozen’ state, since it enables them to show their ‘patriotism’. The position of the Armenian side in the negotiation process is more or less clear. It looks for compromises and excludes the use of force,” the top Russian official said.

According to him, Baku is not prepared for mutual concessions, which means the country is not prepared for ensuring security. This, in turn, means the frozen state of the conflict is in Azerbaijan’s interests, he added.  

Arminfo, Armenia
Nov 30 2018
Starting from 2019, minimum old-age pension in Armenia will be raised to the threshold of food poverty
Naira Badalian. 

On November 29, the Government of Armenia approved the legislative initiative of the Ministry of Labor and on Social Affairs to raise the minimum pension to the threshold of food poverty of 25,500 drams. The government will amend the law "On State Pensions", following which starting from January 1, 2019, the minimum pension will rise immediately by 60% - from 16,000 to 25,500 drams.

As stated in the brief description of the bill, the purpose of the presented document is "overcoming extreme (food) poverty among pensioners". It is noted that according to the data of December 2017, in 2016, the threshold of food poverty in Armenia was 23,313 drams. As expected, in 2019, taking into account the 3% annual inflation, the figure will reach 25,500 drams. According to the document, as of June 1, 2019, the number of pensioners in Armenia will be 497,394 people, of whom 463,069 people will receive a retirement pension, 32,420 more will receive recipients of pensions through the power structures and 1905 military retirees.

Considering the abovementioned, the Armenian government proposed to introduce a new instrument in the state pension system - "the size of the minimum pension". "This tool will make it possible to make a more targeted policy in the area of retirees receiving a low pension," the document says. The authority to establish the minimum pension payments is proposed to be transferred to the RA government. 

"According to calculations carried out within the framework of budget processes, from January 1, 2019, the minimum pension is provided at the level of 25,500 (at the level of extreme poverty). If the project is approved, according to the RA Law on State Pensions, the pension lower than the minimum pension level from 1 January, 2019 will be paid in the amount of the minimum pension payments. It is noted that the corresponding funds are provided for by the program of medium-term expenditures of Armenia for 2019- 2021.

As of November 2017, according to the data of the Social Security Service of the Ministry of Social Affairs of Armenia, 524 thousand 485 pensioners are registered in the Republic of Armenia, of which 460 thousand receive a retirement pension (basic pension is 16 thousand drams, plus allowances for seniority - 800 drams for the first 10 years and 500 for the next) and 64 thousand pensioners receive an insurance old-age pension of 16 thousand drams. The concept and statistical calculation of the "minimum food basket" in the country was abolished in the late 2000s.

Aysor, Armenia
Dec 3 2018
Mortality rate in Armenia higher among male population

Armenia’s National Statistical Service has issued Armenia’s Social Picture and Poverty report summing up the information collected in 2017.

According to the information, as of January 1, 2018, the number of population made 2 million 972.7 which is 13,400 less as compared with the early 2017.

The report says male mortality rate is higher in Armenia than female mortality rate. In particular, 51,0% of deaths come to males and 49.0% females.

The report has registered that the death causes as well as average longevity indexes between man and women differ in Armenia.

In 2017 the average longevity for males made 71.9 years, for females 78.7.

As to the main mortality causes in Armenia, the report says they are mainly agreed with blood circulation system diseases and malignant tumors. These cases make 2/3 of general deaths in Armenia.

According to the report, the urban population is more inclined to acquire and die of these diseases than the rural one. Besides, women are much more inclined to acquire and dye of these diseases in Armenia.

As of early 2018, the specific weight of the urban population in Armenia made 63.8% and rural 36.2%. The 47.4% of the population are male and 52.6% female.

Dec 3 2018
At G20, Turkey's Erdoğan again denies Armenian Genocide 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan disputed the Armenian Genocide after a question from a journalist during a press conference at the G20 summit in Argentina, Armenia News reported on Monday. 
Erdoğan about the rights of minorities in Turkey by A journalist who described himself as an Armenian descended from people who faced genocide, Erdoğan said the question should be left to historians.

"It is impossible to say that Turkey carried out a genocide," Erdoğan said. "A total of 100,000 Armenians live in our country. They were never discriminated on the basis of citizenship, we have never deported any Armenians because of their nationality. We are very humane in our conduct, and we will keep on doing so."

Referencing Article 301 of the Turkish Penal code, which allows prosecution and imprisonment of intellectuals and historians speaking about the Armenian Genocide, Erdoğan's response was cynical, according to the Armenian National Committee of South America. 
Article 301 is a controversial article of law under the Turkish Penal Code which makes it a crime to insult the "Turkish Nation". 

According to PEN, the international writers' organisation, Article 301 has repeatedly marked writers, journalists and publishers out as targets for attack, making it even more urgent that this law is repealed. 

The Turkish-Armenian writer and editor Hrant Dink and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature Orhan Pamuk were charged under Article 301 for "denigrating Turkey" and "insulting Turkish identity" for referring to the 1915 massacre of Armenians as "genocide" in interviews.

The Armenian Genocide is seen as a process of the systematic extermination of the Armenian population in Turkey begun in 1915 and culminated in 1923. During those years it is believed that up to 1,500,000 Armenians, according to different estimates, died in a period beginning with the Ottoman Empire and continuing in the Republic of Turkey.

Erdoğan has repeatedly spoken out against the labelling of the suffering of Armenians during this period as "genocide," particularly around the April 2015 centenary. 

Before the arrival of the Turkish President to Argentina, the country's Armenian community held a demonstration  in front of the residence of the Turkish Ambassador on Nov. 26.

Financial Times, UK
Nov 30 2018
Slaughter of Armenians has been well documented
The Turkish ambassador’s denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915 was predictable ( Letters, November 24).

The history of the mass-murder of more than a 1m Ottoman Armenian and Assyrian civilians by their own government has been extremely well documented. The past couple of decades especially have seen a surge of groundbreaking studies by numerous Turkish and western academics that have meticulously unpacked this difficult history, explained its causes and analysed its effects. These include Donald Bloxham’s The Great Game of Genocide, Fatma Muge Gocek’s Denial of Violence and Stefan Ihrig’s Justifying Genocide, to mention just three.

The justification that “all sides suffered during the first world war” flies in the face of this vast established body of scholarship.

Furthermore, the ambassador’s calls for closer relations between Turks and Armenians are disingenuous at best, particularly when uttered at the moment when the state he represents is actively persecuting journalists and academics, and locking up members of civil society such as Osman Kavala, who have been tirelessly striving towards a desirable reconciliation.

Vazken Khatchig Davidian
Doctoral Candidate, School of Arts,
Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Dec 3 2018
Turkish historian launches digital archive documenting Armenian genocide 
Turkish historian Taner Akçam, a professor of Armenian genocide studies at Clark University in Massachusetts, has launched a digital archive of evidence collected by an Armenian genocide survivor  which documents the atrocities of 1915.

Akçam, the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Professor in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, worked with Turkish experts and graduate students on a digital repository comprised of  1915 Armenian genocide survivor and Krikor Guerguerian’s collection, for which he travelled the world to collect evidence.

Turkey has never officially acknowledged that events leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915 constitute a genocide, though many other countries do.

The Krikor Guerguerian Archive ( ) contains thousands of original Ottoman documents and Guerguerian’s unpublished writings, including the handwritten memoirs of Naim Bey, an Ottoman bureaucrat stationed in Aleppo who actively participated in the deportation and massacres of Armenians and documents from the Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate containing first-hand information about the Armenian genocide.

Ciphered telegrams sent by the Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha, seen by many as the principal architect of the Armenian Genocide, as well as army commanders, and the chief of the government’s paramilitary to governors throughout the Empire are among the most noteworthy materials of the archive.

“Access to these materials has the potential to change scholarly and political discourse as well as to destroy Turkish denial,” wrote Professor Akçam stressing that he sees it as his duty to make the ‘’evidence accessible for the world to see.’’

Sixty-five year old Akçam is widely regarded and criticised as one of the first Turkish academics to openly acknowledge and discuss the events of 1915 as genocide committed by the Turkish Ottoman government.  

Ynetnews, Israel
Dec 2 2018
40 doctors suspected of falsifying med school accreditation
Ahiya Raved
Police arrest 40 doctors, medical interns and pharmacists from the Arab sector on suspicion of presenting false diplomas from medical schools in Armenia in order to receive an Israeli medical license, even though they did not finish their studies.
The Israel Police arrested 40 doctors, medical interns and pharmacists from the Arab sector early Sunday who are suspected of presenting false credentials to the Health Ministry. 

The suspects allegedly presented diplomas from universities in Armenia, even though they did not complete the required studies there, in order to receive medical licenses in Israel.
Early on Sunday morning, police raided the suspects' homes across the country—from the Bedouin town of Lakiya in southern Israel to the Druze town of Majdal Shams in the north. 
Some of the suspects work at hospitals—including the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, and the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center (formerly Assaf Harofeh)—while others work at other public institutions. 
The police investigation was launched at the request of the Health Ministry after it received an anonymous complaint about the matter from a man who presented himself as a doctor. 
The investigation found that the suspects studied medicine in different institutions abroad—including in Jordan and Italy, among others—but failed to meet the requirements to receive a medical certification. 
They turned to a middleman—who also did not meet the requirements to graduate med school—who sent them to several academic institutions in Armenia: St Theresa Medical University, Yerevan Haybusak University and Mkitar Gosh Armenian-Russian International University. The suspects studied at those institutions for a short period of time, following which they received their diplomas without finishing the required studies. 
The police said the suspects, who knew they had a false diploma, presented it to the Health Ministry to receive a medical license in Israel. Some were even able to pass the accreditation exams and get public positions as doctors or medical interns at hospitals or other public institutions. 
One suspect, a resident of Ar'ara in his 30s who works as a doctor at Barzilai, was arrested while he was on shift. During the arrest of another suspect from Tira, the suspect's father was caught fleeing the scene with two firearms. A third suspect, a dentist who has his own clinic, previously served a prison sentence for security-related offenses. 

Police also seized leaflets in Arabic saying, "We happily announce to students having trouble completing their studies the option of transfer to a university in Armenia or Georgia without losing years. Career retraining from natural treatments and physiotherapy... to general medicine or dentistry." The ad also included contact details.
Most of the suspects will be brought in front of a judge Sunday for a remand extension. 

MediaMax, Armenia
Dec 3 2018
Armenian president receives British rescuer from Spitak search mission
 Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has received British firefighter, rescuer Paul Burns who worked in the search and rescue mission after the earthquake in Spitak in 1988.
According to President Sarkissian, the Spitak disaster received a strong reaction in Great Britain.
“Great Britain showed us great support, sending rescuers, firefighting brigades and ambulances. Aid Armenia helped raise funds for a school named after Lord Byron, and a hospital. Later British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher paid an official visit to Armenia. Our country will never forget that,” said the President.
“I often met Mrs. Thatcher when she retired from public service and worked in her foundation. Every time we talked, we recalled her visit to Armenia. One thing we both regretted in this regard was that she only saw the regions destroyed by the earthquake,” said Armen Sarkissian.

The Telegraph, UK
Dec 1 2018
Dutch church blocks blocks Armenian family's deportation with round-the-clock sermon 
A Dutch church has been holding continuous sermons day and night for five weeks as it exploits an obscure old law to protect an Armenian refugee family from deportation.

On Sunday, the service in Bethel church in The Hague will enter its 37th day with the help of 450 volunteer pastors – including Roman Catholics and lay preachers – to protect the Tamrazyan family from arrest with a running a continuous service.

Under a Dutch law originating from the Old Testament and common law in the Middle Ages, police may not enter a church during a service.
Theo Hettema, chairman of the general council of the Protestant church in The Hague, says that although 52 people have taken refuge in a Dutch church in the past decade, this is the first time that police have insisted they will only respect the sanctuary if a service is in progress.

“If they go on the street, they could be arrested,” Mr Hettema, who led the first service at 1.30pm on October 26th, told The Sunday Telegraph. “Their feelings go between hope and stress. They are supported by the many people who comfort them.

“From the start, we said with our church asylum, we want to create some space and time for you to show your case and the wider case of some 400 refugee children in the same circumstances to the government. We cannot guarantee success.”

The family, which has children of 21, 19, and 15, has been living in the Netherlands for nine years. Father Sasun Tamrazyan, 43, had been politically active in an opposition party in Armenia and claimed political asylum.

But although a residence permit was provided initially, Dutch prosecutors mounted multiple appeals and eventually overturned it.
The family, however, has asked for a “children’s pardon” since their children have been in the Netherlands for more than five years and are fully integrated.

After organising colleagues to lead the services immediately after him, Mr Hettema says he has been overwhelmed by offers of help. Between two and 100 people have been attending services, including delegations from areas like Friesland, determined to show their support.

The family had been living in an asylum centre in nearby Katwijk, and on hearing they would be deported in September, took refuge in their local church for a month.

The Protestant church organisation of The Hague agreed to organise a location that could conduct continuous services when police said they would not respect a “gentleman’s agreement” not to enter.

The case has happened in the context of a hardening of national views on asylum, and rise in support for far-right parties.

Earlier this year, two Armenian children who had lived for a decade in the Netherlands but faced deportation ran away, sparking a national man hunt and last-minute reprieve.

A spokesman for the Dutch immigration services Lennart Wegewijs said the government was fielding media requests from all around the world. “Our policy is the same as it always has been: we do not comment on individual cases,” he said.

Car of Armen Gyulbudaghyants, provided by FFA, robbed
November 29,2018 

31 year-old Yerevan resident Martin Kobalyan, who applied to the Arabkir Police division, informed that on November 27-28 November, the front lights of the Porsche Cayenne car parked in front of the building at Komitas Avenue were stolen.

As reported by shamshyan.comthis car is registered in the Football Federation of Armenia and it is driven by the head coach of the Armenian national team Armen Gyulbudaghyants.

Materials are being prepared in the Investigation Department of the Arabkir Police Division.

Public Radio of Armenia
Dec 3 2018
Armenia to face Italy in Euro 2020 qualifiers: 

Armenia will take Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, and Liechtenstein in Group E of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The top two teams from each of the 10 groups will qualify for the tournament.

The qualifiers, condensed because of this year's UEFA Nations League group games, will take place between March and November 2019.
The draw for Euro 2020 group stage qualifying was made in Dublin Sunday. Fifty-five countries entered the draw that generated 10 groups – 5 of 5 countries each and 5 of 6.

Euro 2020 will be hosted across 12 European countries from June 12 to July 12.

Full Euro 2020 qualifiers draw:
Group A: England, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo
Group B: Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
Group C: Netherlands, Germany, Northern Ireland, Estonia, Belarus
Group D: Switzerland, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Gibraltar
Group E: Croatia, Wales, Slovakia, Hungary, Azerbaijan
Group F: Spain, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Faroe Islands, Malta
Group G: Poland, Austria, Israel, Slovenia, Macedonia, Latvia
Group H: France, Iceland, Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Andorra
Group I: Belgium, Russia, Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, San Marino
Group J: Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, Armenia, Liechtenstein

ESC United
Nov 30 2018
Armenia: It’s Srbuk to Tel Aviv!
By  Sean Tarbuck 

Don’t panic everyone, but we finally have it – our first confirmed Eurovision artist for 2019! Armenia’s national broadcaster ARMTV has in the last few minutes confirmed that Srbuhi Sargsyan, better known as Srbuk, was internally selected and will represent Armenia in Tel Aviv!

The pop singer gained fame in her native country after finishing as runner-up in X Factor Armenia 2012, before taking part in The Voice Ukraine. Following her talent competition exploits, she released her debut single in 2016, “Yete Karogh Es” which was a hit in Armenia, and currently has over 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Last week, she announced her return to music with “Half a Goddess”, a fierce English language pop-dance song.

It is not currently known what song she will perform in Tel Aviv, nor how or when this will be revealed, however ARMTV are now accepting song submissions, with a deadline set for 10 January 2019. Any interested composers may submit their entries to ARMTV HERE.

Reacting to the announcement of her participation, Srbuk said “I am starting a new journey now, which, I am sure, will be full of new and pleasant emotions, challenges and amazing experiences! I am grateful to all of my friends and fans, who are always with me and have always wanted to see me on the Eurovision stage. I am grateful to the Public Television of Armenia for their trust. It’s an honor to represent my country in front of the whole world! We have an amazing journey ahead of us, and I hope we’ll succeed together!”.

Armenia are looking to get back to their previous successes in Eurovision after Depi Evratesil did not reap the rewards it promised, with a 17th place finish in Kyiv in 2017 for Artsvik compounded by Sevak Khanagyan’s non-qualification in Lisbon a year later. Can Srbuk bring Armenia back to the final?

30 N0v 2018
Kalavan, Once an Obscure Village in Armenia, Now Gaining International Fame

Who has heard of Kalavan? An insignificant and inaccessible village in the mountains of the Gegharkunik Province of Armenia, near Lake Sevan, with only 108 inhabitants, mostly survivors Sumgait pogroms who resettled to Kalavan in the early 1990’s.

Reversing the Trend and Revitalizing the Village
I was planning a trip earlier this month to Armenia and allocated three days to visit Kalavan and to understand the excitement about this village. The declining village population is a major challenge in Kalavan and other villages in Armenia. Some countries have been successful to reverse the trend by providing various types of incentives such as subsidized housing to attract young families to relocate to the villages. I don’t believe there are such programs in Armenia, however Kalavan could serve as an excellent case study of how a village, with their own resources, were able to reverse the trend and set an example. With few viable projects such as ecotourism, excavations, hiking and extreme sports Kalavan has proven that you could reverse the trend of village depopulation.

However, one man, Robert Ghukasyan, successfully placed Kalavan on the worldwide Archeological and Eco-touristic destination lists. Rubo, as the villagers call him, grew up and earned his primary education in Kalavan, and later obtained an Archeological degree and worked overseas in various countries. In 2013 he moved back to Kalavan to pursue his dream of revitalizing a dying and disappearing village.

Three elements helped Robert in his mission; First, the forests around Kalavan have several archeological sites with both human and animal bones that date back some 5,000 years. Second, the mountains and forests provide magnificent hiking and trekking options. Third, Kalavan is an unspoiled village without even a single retail store, reminiscent of the forgone era.

Bed & Breakfast and Home-stays
With Robert’s guidance, archeologists from Germany and Israel started visiting Kalavan for extended stays and local digs. This triggered the idea of providing visitors with basic Bed & Breakfast facilities and encouraged the building of extended restrooms attached to homes. The community also installed solar water heaters to provide hot water for overnight guests. Robert and the villagers are adamant to maintain the existing authentic village character while also offering basic comforts; the community is not interested in building modern and extended-stay hotels in Kalavan.

The traffic generated by visitors for scientific and archeological projects has generated such enthusiasm that there are currently no houses for sale in Kalavan. Dilapidated houses that you could have previously purchased for a mere $1,000, are currently worth over $20,000. Of the 31 homes in the village, eight offer B&B options with a total capacity of 40 guests. This has provided an economic stimulus to the villagers and has prompted modification of two additional houses to ultimately house 60 guests by the summer of 2019.

You should be warned that there are no local grocery stores, bakeries or any type of retail stores in Kalavan. All supplies must be sourced from nearby towns which is how the villagers would like to keep it.

The village school and the remains of the old Soviet-era House of Culture:
I visited the village school which was clean, however the classroom desks date back to the Soviet times, and walls show signs of humidity and decay. Two of the seven classrooms were recently renovated, and waterproofed but the remaining five rooms need new windows and weatherproofing. There are currently 19 students at the school; the principal was excited to share that there were eight births in the village last year, which means eight additional students in a few more years.

Adjacent to the school is the ruins of the House of Culture and the blue Volga, a reminder of a forgone era.

“Time Land Foundation” and the New Scientific Center
The most significant and notable achievement for Robert and Kalavan is the establishment of the non-profit “Time Land Foundation” and its two-story, 250 square meters (2,700 Sq. Ft.) new building which will serve as a scientific and research center for visiting scientists as well as serve as a library, cultural and community center for the local youth. The $150,000 project is being funded by USAID, UNDP, and private donors.

“Our kids don’t have to travel to Yerevan or other major hubs to be able to experience modern technologies,” Robert explains. He believes in providing local youth with a state-of-the-art learning facility which will help them stay attached to the village and not rush to relocate to Yerevan at their earliest opportunity.

Continuing Needs for the Village
Kalavan still needs help and support to continue with their initiatives to stabilize the village. The school needs repairs to make it a safe environment for both students and teachers and the town has adamantly requested for aid from the provincial government to repair the 7-kilometer dirt road connecting the village to the main road.

Currently you need a four by four vehicle and will take you around 40 minutes to cover the 7-kilometer dirt road. The villagers simply ask to complete to road repairs by compacting gravel which should reduce the travel time by half. With a $60,000 excavator/backhoe the villagers would be able to repair and maintain the dirt road, additionally provide basic irrigation channels for the local farms and build hiking and biking trails around the village

Kalavan, a truly unique town with ambition and opportunity. I encourage all to visit the village in the mountains of Lake Sevan to experience the excitement and growing projects. The new Scientific Center backdropped with breathtaking views provides an unforgettable experience.

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