Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Armenian News...This is one post which must be read! A Topalian... Garo Paylan

If you missed the BBC Radio 4 program on The 40 Days of Musa Dagh, or want to watch if again, click on: 

An excellent program from historical background, the writer, the book, personal aspects (including from our own Srpazan) through to the Turkish government's successful efforts to kill the movie. 

Armenpress News Agency, Armenia
January 26, 2018 Friday
Garo Paylan speaks out against Turkish military operation in Afrin
Member of the Turkish parliament of Armenian origin Garo Paylan, 

representing pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, has spoken out 
against the Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin called Olive Branch, ARMENPRESS reports  Paylan twittered.

“Supporters of war are also accomplices to war. Say “no” to Afrin war,
do not be part of that crime”, the MP urged, addressing the public.

“The authorities try to silence individuals voicing the truth and
supporters of peace. Striving for peace is not a crime”, Garo Paylan
added, drawing attention on the crackdown against journalistic and
intellectual circles voicing against the Afrin incidents.

The Turkish army launched military operations called “Olive Branch”
against Kurds in Syria’s Afrin region on January 20. 72 military jets
bombed the positions of the Kurds that day, following which the
Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border.

RFE/RL Report
Russian Envoy Details New Deal On Karabakh Truce Monitoring
January 26, 2018

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is to deploy
seven more ceasefire monitors in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone
under an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement finalized last week, a senior
Russian negotiator said on Friday.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers agreed in principle to
expand an OSCE mission monitoring the ceasefire regime along the
Karabakh "line of contact" and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border when
they met Krakow, Poland on January 18. The measure designed to prevent
truce violations was proposed by the U.S., Russian and French
mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group and backed by
Armenia. Azerbaijan has been reluctant to accept it until now.

"There are some technical details that still need to be worked out,"
the group's Russian co-chair, Igor Popov, told the Azerbaijani APA
news agency. He said the OSCE mission will be boosted by an
"additional seven observers."

The existing, largely symbolic mission headed by a Polish diplomat,
Andrzej Kasprzyk, is similar in size. Its members travel to Karabakh
and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border once or twice a month to briefly
monitor the parties' compliance with truce agreements reached in 1994
and 1995.

The tentative agreement on the expansion of Kasprzyk's team reflects
some progress that seems to have been made in Armenian-Azerbaijani
peace talks in the last few months. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian
and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov met twice, in the
presence of the mediators, after an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held
in Geneva in October.

Popov said that he and the fellow co-chairs from the United States and
France will again visit Baku and Yerevan early next month for further
discussions on the proposed measures to minimize truce violations. He
said they also expect to "ascertain" the conflicting parties'
positions on details of a Karabakh peace plan put forward by the

"We are making efforts to propose to Baku and Yerevan variants
acceptable to them and this is what we will be talking about in the
region," said the Russian envoy.

In a joint statement issued in Krakow on January 18, the three Minsk
Group co-chairs said they discussed with Nalbandian and Mammadyarov
"core sensitive issues contained in the working proposals currently on
the table." They did not disclose those issues.

Popov also told APA that it is too early to say whether Presidents
Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev might been again soon.

Sarkisian will complete his final presidential term on April 9. He may
well remain in power as Armenia's prime minister.
Jan 29 2018
Survey: Armenians' Attitudes Toward Azerbaijan Increasingly Hardening 

“Non-compromising attitudes have become mainstream in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These attitudes jeopardize the prospects of peaceful resolution.”
Joshua Kucera Jan 29, 2018

People in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh are increasingly opposed to making any concessions to Azerbaijan in their long-running conflict, and are also increasingly pessimistic about the chances for peace, a new study has found.

Hardening attitudes in Armenia have been anecdotally observed for the last several years, a trend that accelerated after the heavy fighting in April 2016 in which Armenians, for the first time since the ceasefire in 1994, lost some territory. But the new survey , from the Yerevan think tank Caucasus Institute, fleshes out those impressions with some data.

A 2004 poll, for example, found that two-thirds of Armenians expressed support for some sort of concessions to Azerbaijan in the name of peace. But a 2017 survey, the report found, “shows that readiness for compromise has drastically decreased,” with only eight percent expressing support for some concessions.

“Non-compromising attitudes have become mainstream in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” the report's authors wrote. “These attitudes jeopardize the prospects of peaceful resolution.”

The idea of friendship with individual Azeris also has declined. According to surveys in 2009, 30 percent of Armenians said they considered friendship with an Azerbaijani to be possible, while only one percent of Azerbaijanis said the same thing about Armenians. “This is a huge gap, which, sadly, has been closing in recent years,” the Caucasus Institute reported.

The report doesn't give a new number to support that claim, but it does show a significant decline in the number of Armenians willing to do business with an Azerbaijani, from about 35 percent in 2009 to about 17 percent in 2015. (The numbers for Azerbaijanis willing to do business with Armenians has, like the numbers for friendship, remained vanishingly small over those years.)

The trend has only become worse since the heavy fighting two years ago, one unnamed expert told the report's authors: “Since April 2016, radicalization of attitudes has been manifest. People want to give payback to Azerbaijanis if they start a war again. On one hand, we have lost territories, on the other hand, many people want revenge and would like to resolve the issue through war once and for all.”

One telling detail: apparently children in Karabakh used to divide up in teams of “Armenians” and “Turks” (“Turk” and “Azerbaijani” are often conflated in Armenian discourse), “but now the hostility is taken so seriously that the practice went away.”

While that hardening of opinion is the big takeaway from the report, there are a lot of interesting nuances. Pessimism about the chances for war is greater among people who live closer to the border with Azerbaijan or Karabakh than those who live farther away. While most Armenians don't support a military “solution” to Karabakh, those who do are disproportionately young (between 18 and 24) or between 45 and 54, “the generation that participated in the Karabakh war in 1991-1994.”

One effect of the pessimism: people in Karabakh and in the areas of Armenia close to the Azerbaijani border emigrate abroad at greater rates than other Armenians. But there are mixed emotions about this, the report notes: “Leaving Nagorno-Karabakh is a chance to improve one's living standards, or, at least, to minimize risks. However, since there are no exemptions from conscription in Nagorno-Karabakh, departure of men is often seen as equivalent to desertion. Regardless of gender, people who emigrate feel that they are letting everyone down.”

Armenpress News Agency, Armenia
January 26, 2018 Friday
Smoking to be banned in public areas in Armenia, fines to reach 1500$

The healthcare ministry aims at tackling smoking with a new bill which plans strict limitations andrestrictions for tobacco use.

Article 7 of the bill bans the use of cigarettes, tobacco products,
and similar products in enclosed and public areas.

Smoking will be banned in public locations ranging from hospitals,
educational buildings, cultural locations, sports structures, public
food areas, in special nature preservation areas, in state buildings,
transportation etc. The sale of tobacco is also banned in the
abovementioned areas. Moreover, the bill also bans the use of
discounts in selling tobacco products. The bill also stipulates
banning advertisement of tobaccos.

High fines are planned under the bill for smoking in restricted areas
ranging from 100$ to 1500$.

Advertising tobacco will be fined with 1000-1500$.

The fine for smoking in a vehicle will be 100$.

The initiative aims at boosting the anti-smoking campaign.

It is expected that the bill will come into force from November 1, 2018.

Pan Armenian, Armenia
Jan 27 2018
Armenia smokers to protest proposed smoking ban 

Smokers in Armenia will gather at the Republic Square in downtown Yerevan to protest a draft law prohibiting tobacco smoking in public spaces on February 1.

The government has recently presented the proposal for public discussions.

“We respect the rights of non-smokers, no fines beget respect,” the We Must Smoke movement said in a Facebook event.

The bill unveiled just recently imposes major fines for smoking in public catering facilities, hotels, cars, medical, cultural, entertainment centers and other spaces prohibited by law.

A great number of social media users have taken to Facebook to express their discontent with the decision.

Pan Armenian, Armenia
Jan 27 2018
Export of Armenia’s agricultural produce grew 21% in 2017 

Export of Armenian agricultural produce increased by 21% in 2017, while imports from abroad grew by 17% in the reporting period, minister of agriculture Ignati Arakelyan said at a meeting with prime minister Karen Karapetyan on Friday, January 26.

Agricultural sector accounted for the 15.9% of Armenia’s gross domestic product in 2016, reaching 21.6% the next year, the minister said.

“The level of self-sufficiency of primary foodstuffs stood at 64%, with 338,000 people involved in the sector overall," Arakelyan said.

According to him, 9 million litres of wine were produced in the country throughout the previous year against the 7 million litres produced a year earlier. Export of wine, meanwhile, increased by 30%.

Transportation Monitor Worldwide
January 25, 2018 Thursday
Yerevan to get rid of minibuses as part of new transportation network

A draft for a new transportation network has been developed for
Yerevan in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles operating in the
capital. The aim is to increase the number of buses and trams, to
promote active use of the metro as well as to do away with minibuses.
The number of routes and means of transport will be reduced almost

There will be 42 routes instead of 115;

The number of vehicles will be reduced from 2039 to 939.

The initiators of the project are confident that the various transport
methods in the new system will be operating so as to complement one

Transport will be equally available for all districts of the capital,
providing safe, reliable and decent passenger services. To the
consulting companys credit it should be noted that it has done
thorough work on developing the new project, said Vahe Nikoyan, the
First Deputy Mayor of Yerevan.

In his words, passenger transit will be carried out by articulated
buses that are 18 meters in length and are designed for up to 150
passengers, along with 12 meter long buses with a capacity of 90-100

A uniform e-ticketing system will be introduced to ensure efficiency.
There will be mobile apps with special e-schedule software as well as
ticket machines and payment terminals. Some advanced technologies will
be implemented to monitor travel fares, said Nikoyan.

It is the first time that a professionally substantiated public
transport network strategy is being developed in Armenia. WYG
Consulting Co. initiated the project. 2017 Global Data Point., Armenia
Jan 28 2018
Armenian presidential candidate pays tribute to memory of fallen heroes in Yerablur Pantheon 

Candidate for the President of Armenia, Armenia’s Ambassador to the UK, former prime minister, Armen Sargsyan visited the Yerablur Military Pantheon to pay tribute to the memory of Armenian heroes fallen for the independence of the Homeland on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Army, Armenpress reported.

Armen Sargsyan laid flowers at the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier, the graves of Commander (Sparapet) Vazgen Sargsyan, Commander Andranik and the memorial of volunteers and soldiers fallen at the Artsakh war.

Earlier the top leadership of Armenia and Artsakh visited the Yerablur Military Pantheon.

ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
January 26, 2018 Friday
Armenia thanks the Arab sheiks for the renovation of the monastic complex
Alexander Avanesov. 

On the margins of the Davos summit, Prime Minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan met with the head of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, the Emirati company, on January
25, Budur al Qasimi.

According to the press service of the Armenian government, during the
meeting the Prime Minister presented the process of reforms
implemented in Armenia, which are aimed at improving the investment
environment and creating favorable conditions for business. The head
of the Armenian government expressed gratitude for the reconstruction
of the monastery complex, financed by the Kasimi family several years
ago in the community of Haghartsin.

Budur al Qasimi, in her turn, noted that in the UAE the Armenian
market is considered attractive, it is also a good platform for
entering other large markets. Ms. Kasimi also stressed that she is
impressed with the cultural heritage of Armenia and is glad that her
company took part in the restoration of one of the most beautiful
places of the country.

Arab Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qassimi, a few years ago, donated
money for the restoration of the ancient Christian monastery
Haghartsin in Armenia. According to the Armenian media, this is about
$ 1.7 million. Restoration and construction work was conducted in the
monastery and around it for several years. The new road to Haghartsin
was opened in October 2013. Sheikh visited Haghartsin in 2005.
According to eyewitnesses, entering the main monastery church of the
Holy Mother of God, he stated that "the word of God is really heard
here." Then he offered to pay for the renovation of the ancient

Monastery Haghartsin, located in the Tavush region of Armenia, was
founded in the X-XIII centuries of our era. The Church of the Holy
Mother of God was built in 1281. On the territory of the complex are
preserved and more ancient buildings: the church of St. Gregory and
St. Stephen, as well as the refectory.

Upgrade to Armenia's Financial Rating
According to Rating Associate Hector Alvarez:

«The upgrade of Armenia’s SGC ratings to ‘BB-’ and CCE ratings to ‘B+’ reflects the consistent and sustained improvement in fiscal metrics, better economic growth prospects and prolonged stability of the banking system. Moreover, the monetary policy has had better transition to the economy and the external sector metrics have slightly improved, despite the economy remaining highly dollarized. However, government debt remains high, although expected to decline, the competitiveness of the economy remains subdued and the economy remains highly exposed to external shocks. Going forward, Armenia’s monetary policy effectiveness could be further harmed if the current levels of dollarization persist..»

Additional information about ratings:

The sovereign government rating reflects the Agency's opinion on the government's ability to meet current and future financial obligations.

The country credit environment rating is a measure of the systemic credit risks of the country in comparison with other countries of the world. The rating level of the credit environment reflects the Agency's opinion of the level of risk of non-return of investments in public or private debt instruments of issuers of a given country.

Rating of the creditworthiness of sovereign governments:

BB - Sufficient level of creditworthiness: c apability to meet obligations in the long run is sufficient. Moderate level of credit risk on obligations.

B - Moderately low level of creditworthiness: capability to meet obligations in the long run is moderately low. Moderately high level of credit risk on obligations.

Rating-Agentur Expert RA GmbH (RAEX-Europe) is an independent European rating agency affiliated with the international group of rating agencies RAEX, which has more than two decades of experience in the rating industry.

Since 2015, the Agency has been accredited by the European Regulator for Securities and Markets (ESMA) and has the official status of the Institute for External Credit Evaluation (ECAI).

The Agency's office is located in Frankfurt am Main (Germany).

The purpose of the Agency is to assign ratings in accordance with the most stringent regulation and ethical code to non-financial companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, regions and countries

The 40 Days of Musa Dagh

If you missed the BBC Radio 4 program on The 40 Days of Musa Dagh, or want to watch if again, click on: 

An excellent program from historical background, the writer, the book, personal aspects (including from our own Srpazan) through to the Turkish government's successful efforts to kill the movie. 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Rockets aimed at Armenian populated Qamishli

Reminder for January 27:

ICA,The Mall, London: 
Screening of Paradjanov's The Colour of Pomegranates

Pan Armenian, Armenia
Jan 24 2018
Rockets land on Armenian-populated Syrian city of Qamishli 

Rockets were fired towards the Armenian -populated Syrian city of Qamishli from an area near the Turkish border on Tuesday, January 23 morning, Kantsasar newspaper says.

One of the rockets exploded on a residential building injuring two children aged 2 and 3.

The city on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River is currently controlled by the Syrian government troops.

Those areas are outside the scope of Operation Olive Branch, launched by Turkey on January 20., Armenia
Jan 24 2018
Newspaper: Armenia tycoons troubled by ruling party presidential candidate nominee 

The tycoons of Armenia are worried that a new tycoon competitor, ambassador to UK Armen Sarkissian—whom the ruling party has nominated as its presidential candidate—will appear in the country’s business life, according to Zhamanak (Time) newspaper.

“They are convinced that President [Serzh] Sargsyan will attempt to get business domains for himself, and that is possible solely at the expense of others.

“In the near future, the oligarchy [of Armenia] could put information discrediting Armen Sarkissian into circulation, and which will force him to give up his presidential ambitions.

“And such [information], according to our source, exists,” wrote Zhamanak.

[have a laugh!]
PanArmenian, Armenia
Jan 24 2018
Hysteria over garbage cans ‘painted in Azeri flag colors due to Armenians’ 

A photo of garbage cans allegedly painted in the colors of the Azerbaijani flag and installed at Mega shopping center in Moscow has been spreading through social media. The waste container also has the inscription "The color matters" on it.

The picture raised hysteria not only among ordinary Azerbaijanis, but also in political circles, and reached the point of absurdity with the Azeris accusing Armenians of deliberate insult and provocation. By the way, the garbage cans look quite ordinary and are divided into three colored sections - blue for paper, red for plastic and green for other waste.

“We are worried about garbage cans painted in the colors of the Azerbaijani flag. This is insulting. I think Russia will soon solve this problem,” said Azeri lawmaker Aydin Mirzazade .

“Those who committed the provocation seek to raise discontent with Russia in Azerbaijan. Perhaps the reason for this is the purchase of new weapons from Moscow. Diasporan Armenians are thus trying to spoil the friendly relations between the two countries.” 

PanArmenian, Armenia
Jan 24 2018
Medieval Armenian manuscript to be digitally restored in New York 

The early 13th-century parchment manuscript was written by the scribe Grigor of Tarsos.

The fragile manuscript traded hands during the Armenian Genocide in 1915  (?), and came into the Memorial Art Gallery’s collections in 1950, where conservators have treated it in hopes of preserving it for generations to come," the university says.

"In a related effort to preserve cultural heritage objects, Rochester researchers are using multispectral imaging to digitally restore such ancient manuscripts."

Public Radio of Armenia
Jan 24 2018
Armenia donates cross-stone to the Council of Europe 

Today President Serzh Sargsyan handing and official souvenir – an Armenian khachkar – to the Council of Europe. The model-plate of the khachkar was unveiled by President Serzh Sargsyan and CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

At the end of the ceremony President Sargsyan showed the three-meter-high khachkar, situated in the yard, at the entrance of the Council of Europe building, to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, as well as Prime-Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who also participated in the ceremony.

“In line with the well-established and fine tradition and to mark the 65th anniversary of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in force, today Armenia donates to the Council of Europe a vivid token of Armenian nation’s historical and cultural heritage, a khachkar, a cross-stone. It is an honor and privelege for us that it will be erected in the heart of Strasbourg, under the protection of human rights and democracy, in order to signify our unswerving dedication to those values,” President Sargsyan said at the ceremony.

“The two-milenia long history of the art and craft of making cross-stones is also a manifestation of the contemporary Armenian culture: today the craftsmen continue to develop the historical tradition; they continue to skillfully reproduce and renew it, they continue to creatively review the tradition and introduce it anew,” he said.

“It is no coincidence that the art of the Armenian cross-stone, which creates an impression of eternity on a limited surface, is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. This monument reflects the values that are the founding pillars of the Council of Europe. All the monuments of the cultural heritage in the Council of Europe area, undoubtedly, should benefit from the universally applied mechanisms of protection. And such a commitment should be guaranteed by any State that deems itself part and parcel of the values of civilization, Serzh Sargsyan said.

“Today’s ceremony, I believe, bears great symbolism for all of us, including the Armenian French community of Strasbourg, Alsace region and Armenian citizens employed here since it is the first Armenian monument erected in this part of France. Let it remind the visitors of this beautiful park of the inalienable and integral nature of the founding values of this organization,” he concluded.

Thorbjørn Jagland said, in turn, that “Marking the 65-th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights entering into force, this present will act as a daily reminder of why we are here. To protect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law to the benefit of over 800 million citizens across all 47 of our member states.”

“The cross-stone and your personal presence here today President Sargsyan-are also a clear illustration of Armenia’s commitment to our values and to our pan-European legal space. In today’s challenging times for Europe, that attachment is all the more important and all the more appreciated,” the Secretary General said.

He noted that “since joining the Council of Europe in 2001, Armenia has taken significant steps to implement its obligations through a series of comprehensive domestic reforms.”

This process is still ongoing but significant progress has already been achieved. Among the latest developments, we have seen welcome constitutional reforms and we have noted the government’s determination to protect and promote women rights. This was illustrated by the recent adoption of a law on preventing and combating domestic violence. That in turn has paved the way for the signature of the Istanbul Convention,” Mr. Jagland said.

“Armenia also demonstrated sound leadership within the Organisation during its first chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in 2013. During its term of office some major initiatives were carried out to reinforce our Court’s system, through the adoption of additional protocols to the European Convention,” the Council of Europe Secretary General said.

“So, as Armenia continues on the path to fully meeting its membership obligations and commitments, its people and authorities can count on the support of the Council of Europe. Meanwhile, we accept this gift with pleasure and gratitude,” he stated.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Tax Revenue Up In 2017
January 23, 2018
Emil Danielyan

Armenia's State Revenue Committee (SRC) reported on Tuesday a more
than 7 percent rise in the amount of taxes and customs duties
collected by it last year.

The increase, which SRC officials have primarily attributed to
improved tax collection, helped the Armenian government to cut the
state budget deficit.

The Finance Ministry reported last week that the deficit shrank from
at least 5.2 percent of GDP in 2016 to 3.3 percent in 2017. It said
the government's overall budgetary expenditures rose by only 3.8
percent. The extra spending was fully channeled into government-funded
capital projects.

At 1.16 trillion drams ($2.4 billion), the government's tax revenue
was equivalent to almost 21 percent of GDP. The proportion is quite
low by international standards, reflecting the scale of tax evasion in

The tax-to-GDP ratio stood at less than 18 percent in 2012. It rose by
0.5 percentage points last year, the SRC said in a statement.

Prime MinisterKaren Karapetian praised the SRC's performance when he
met with the leadership of the national tax and customs service on
January 15. "You accomplished a lot in 2017 but you still need to
accomplish a lot," he said.

The current SRC chief, Vartan Harutiunian, is a figure close to
Karapetian. Harutiunian has repeatedly pledged to crack down on
widespread tax fraud and corruption among tax officials since he was
appointed to run the SRC in late 2016.

The International Monetary Fund praised the Armenian authorities'
"efforts to improve tax administration" already in June 2017. It said
that they have"contributed to the higher-than-projected revenue

The improvement has been particularly visible in the Armenian customs
service, which has long been reputed to be one of the country's most
corrupt government agencies. Import duties collected by it soared by
over 23 percent in 2017, according to the SRC statement.

The tax authorities were also helped by faster economic growth
estimated by the Finance Ministry at around 7 percent. Continued
growth anticipated by the government should also help the SRC achieve
a further sizable increase in tax revenue envisaged by the Armenian
state budget for this year.

The SRC can also count on additional revenue resulting from new and
controversial tax legislation that took effect on January 1. It raised
the income tax rates for Armenians earning 280,000 drams ($580) a
month and more as well as excise duties collected from alcohol, fuel
and tobacco.

The new Tax Code has been strongly criticized by opposition groups and
economic analysts critical of the government. They say that it will
push up key consumer prices and encourage private employers to
underreport their workers' wages. Government officials have defended
the higher taxes, however, saying that they are needed to boost public
spending without increasing Armenia's debt burden.

RFE/RL Report
Government On Defensive Over Price Hikes
January 23, 2018
Tatevik Lazarian

Senior government and Central Bank officials downplayed the impact of
recent increases in the prices of fuel and some foodstuffs in Armenia
during parliamentary hearings held on Tuesday.

The leadership of the Armenian parliament organized the hearings at
the initiative of President Serzh Sarkisian, who expressed concern
over the price hikes earlier this month. Sarkisian discussed their
possible causes at an emergency meeting with top state officials.

Some of those officials spoke at the hearings attended by not only
lawmakers but also representatives of non-governmental organizations
and opposition parties not represented in the National Assembly. Just
like Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, they insisted that the increased
prices of the essential products have not significantly pushed up the
cost of living in Armenia.

Artur Javadian, the governor of the Central Bank of Armenia, said that
consumer price inflation in the country stood averaged only 2.6
percent last year. "In terms of fiscal-monetary policy, inflation is
under control," he said, adding that it has been much higher in
neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Javadian also complained: "Inflationary expectations seem to be
intensifying for unfounded reasons, making the ongoing fiscal-monetary
policy more costly. And irrational public behavior stemming from that
will hurt the public itself."

Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken opposition leader, questioned the
official inflation rate, pointing to recent months' double-digit rises
in the prices of butter, meat and potatoes which the authorities blame
on external factors.

"Why did the authorities organize these hearings? To say that there is
no inflation in Armenia," said Pashinian.

Roland Avetisian, who leads an NGO defending pensioners' rights, also
hit out at the government. "Pensioners have a really hard time getting
by and meeting their basic needs," he said.

The prices of petrol, diesel and pressurized natural gas, used by most
vehicles in the country, went up by around 10 percent following the
entry into force on January 1 of higher excise taxes. Vakhtang
Mirumian, a deputy head of the State Revenue Committee, insisted that
these price hikes will not have a serious impact on consumers and

Mirumian argued that gasoline now powers only a small minority of
Armenian cars and is practically not used by manufacturing firms. He
went on to play down the higher price of pressurized gas, saying that
it now equals the gas tariff that existed in 2015. The cost of public
transport and other services and goods will not rise as a result, he

Diesel fuel is used by tractors and other agricultural
machinery. Hence, widespread fears that agricultural products grown in
Armenia will become more expensive.

Agriculture Minister Ignati Arakelian told the hearings that the
government may well subsidize the diesel price for villagers and wheat
farmers in particular. "A plan of subsidizing diesel fuel is already
under discussion," he said.

 Watch Arsenal’s blitz interview with Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Thursday, 25 January 2018



‘The Old Testament seen as the body without the head, the New Testament’, Ludwig Wittgenstein noted. US Vice-President Mike Pence is no philosopher but he professes to be a Christian. In Tel Aviv, addressing the Israeli Knesset, he sadly proved he cannot notice the NT head missing from the OT body. A culpable blindness.

Pence’s speech was full of quotations from the OT. Truncated, headless stuff. Because he invoked King David but forgot Jesus ‘the son of David’, so described in seventeen NT verses. That means that Jesus, the Christ or Messiah, fulfilled and completed the OT prophecy about ‘the seed of David’ (II Samuel 7:12-14). To suck up to his hosts, Pence also mentioned Abraham, coming ‘4000 ago from Ur of the Chaldeans to Israel’. A Christian Vice-President might just have remembered that in St John’s Gospel Jesus declares: ‘Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I am’. That is, Abraham came into existence, he was mortal, but Christ pre-existed him. The Messiah existed before time, before creation, in his divine nature, with his Heavenly Father. Thus, Jesus is incomparably greater, superior to old Abraham.

Judaism has its own integrity and the rabbis are entitled to their own take on the OT. Pence, however, is not a Jew. Raised as a Catholic he later embraced Evangelical Protestantism. A brand of Christianity that, perversely, has sometimes privileged the OT over the Gospels. Tantamount, Wittgenstein would opine, to having a body without a head: a useless freak. The so-called Christian Zionists – an expression as self-contradictory as a round square or a four-sided triangle – are the most virulent example of such syndrome. The return of Jews to the Holy Land and the 1948 proclamation of the state of Israel accord with Biblical, millennial prophecies about the Second Coming of Christ, they claim. Had Pence stuck to Catholicism, he would have been saved from these brainless babblings.

‘My country’s very first settlers saw themselves as pilgrims, sent by Providence, to build a new Promised Land’, the Vice-President told the Knesset, suggesting a comparison with the Jewish colonisers in Palestine. Did he realise the enormity of the sinister, pseudo-providential parallel? Because the white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxons settlers gradually exterminated the native inhabitants of the New World, the ‘Red Indians’. The colonists robbed native Americans of their own lands and then drove forcibly the survivors into small territories termed ‘reservations’, where they still are today. ‘You will be like the Red Indians’: a fine prospect Pence was holding out to the Palestinians!

Prior to the Reformation, mainline Christian thought did not countenance the fantasies of a mass Jewish gathering in Palestine. Insofar as the OT speaks of the Hebrews being restored to the Holy Land, it pertains to their return from exile in Babylon. Something realised when, five centuries before Christ, the Persian Shah Cyrus freed Jews from captivity and sent them back to Palestine. References to Israel’s future glory mean the Christian Church. The Church is the new Israel or the ‘Israel of God’ as St Paul puts in Galatians (6:16). The Apostle of course was painfully aware how many of his people had not recognised Jesus as the Messiah. In spite of that, in Romans St Paul predicts that in the end ‘all Israel will be saved’. An excellent prophecy. Nothing about any idiotic ‘return’. Indeed, neither the RC Church nor other sensible Protestants, like Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians teach any version of non-Jewish, ‘Christian’ Zionism. Even the Church of England, with
all its feebleness and stupidity, draws the line at such malignant and heretical doctrine.

‘Jerusalem is Israel’s capital’, Pence said, sinking back again on the OT body and leaving out its true head, Jesus Christ. Who was not always radiant about the city of his royal ancestors. ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and those who are sent to you! How often I desired to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under their wings, but you were not willing!’ The last of seven apocalyptic warnings that Jesus pronounces against the religious hypocrites opposed to him. Wicked men who feigned piety while plotting to destroy the Son of David. And one of the murdered prophets was Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, a scourge of idolatry, whose last words were not forgiveness but ‘May the Lord see and avenge’.

Jerusalem was the destination of Jesus’ last journey while on earth but his people’s authorities refused to hear his message of love and, in concert with Pontius Pilate, had him crucified. In the year 70 the prophecy came true. The Roman armies burnt the Temple to the ground and obliterated Jerusalem from the map of Palestine. Many, like the poet Dante, saw Jerusalem’s ruination as divine chastisement for the execution of the Messiah. Today, in recognising the city as the capital of Israel, President Trump has disqualified himself as honest broker in any peace plan. Had he been astute, he would have placed the word ‘West’ before the city’s name. That would have hinted at East Jerusalem as the possible, future capital of Palestine. Unfortunately, the Donald blundered. Too bad.

To be fair, as a Christian politician Pence has some good points. He is opposed to abortion and to weirdoes in the US military. His wonky Protestantism is the trouble. A conception untrue to the Bible and to the divine purpose. Because, as the great philosopher rightly implied, having a body without a head is a monstrosity.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenians in Egypt/Armenian Scholarship

Armenians in Egypt / Հայերը Եգիպտոսում 

Armenian Scholarship on Oxford (in Armenian)

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan to attend Davos World Economic Forum
January 19,2018 

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan will be visiting Switzerland on January 22 to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.

On the sidelines of the Forum, the Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings with Heads of State, representatives of international organizations and business companies. Karen Karapetyan will also participate in the informal gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL).

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Recognizes Genocide Against Iraq's Yazidis
January 16, 2018

Armenia's parliament unanimously passed on Tuesday a resolution
recognizing as genocide the 2014 mass killings of Yazidis in Iraq
which were committed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

The National Assembly also called on the international community to
track down and prosecute those directly responsible for the killings
and "take measures to ensure the security of the Yazidi population."

Thousands of Yazidis were seized by IS when it overran Iraq's
northwestern town of Sinjar in August 2014, and most of them remain
unaccounted for. The town was regained from IS in late 2015 and 30
mass graves of Yazidis have since been found there. But an unknown
number of the ethnic minority, which practices a unique religion that
IS considers heretical, was moved to neighboring Syria.

The U.S. government officially declared in March 2016 that IS is
"responsible for genocide" against Yazidis as well as Christians and
other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. A subsequent
report released by United Nations investigators similarly concluded
that the Islamist militants' actions against Yazidis meet a 1948 UN
convention's definition of genocide.

The main sponsor of the resolution is Rustam Makhmudian, the
parliament's sole ethnic Yazidi member representing the ruling
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Presenting the document to fellow
lawmakers on Monday, Makhmudian drew parallels between the 2014
atrocities against Iraqi Yazidis and the 1915 Armenian genocide in the
Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Turks also killed and displaced many Yazidis during the
First World War. Thousands of them fled to what is now the Republic of

There are an estimated 50,000 Yazidis living in Armenia at present,
making them the country's single largest ethnic minority.

President Serzh Sarkisian condemned the mass killings and deportations
of Iraqi Yazidis shortly after they were first reported in the summer
of 2014. Sarkisian instructed Armenia's Foreign Ministry and
diplomatic missions abroad to "redouble their efforts to adequately
raise the issue in the international arena."

The move followed a series of street protests staged by Yazidis in
Yerevan. They said that the Armenian government is slow to react to
the atrocities.

In April 2016, leaders of Armenia's Yazidi community inaugurated a
memorial in downtown Yerevan to Yazidis and other people massacred by
the IS extremists. Said Avdalian, the leader of a Yazidi youth group,
hailed the Armenian parliamentary resolution on Tuesday as a "historic

Panorama, Armenia
Jan 20 2018
Paylan’s Armenian phrase over Hrant Dink replaced with ‘X’ sign in Turkish parliament’s records 

Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has referred to murder case of journalist Hrant Dink on the 11th anniversary of his assassination in his address to Turkey’s Majlis (parliament).

At the parliament session held on Thursday, Paylan and his party submitted a proposal to the Majlis calling for an investigating of the developments following Dink’s murder and preventing such acts, however HDP’s proposal was not included in the agenda, Ermenihaber reported citing T24 news agency.

The Turkish source noted that at the end of his speech dedicated to Turkish-Armenian intellectual, editor-in-chief of Agos newspaper, Hrant Dink, who was shot dead with three bullets on Jan. 19, 2007 in front Agos’ then-headquarters, Paylan used an Armenian phrase, “Asdvadz hogid lusavi” (God bless your soul), thanking him in Armenian. However, an 'X' sign was used instead of his Armenian remarks in the parliamentary records.

Earlier the Arabic and Kurdish language phrases addressed to the Turkish parliament were also replaced with the 'X' sign in the records.

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
January 19, 2018 Friday
We know very well why Dink's murderers haven't been discovered until
now – MP Selina Dogan

Ethnic Armenian Member of Parliament of Turkey from the Republican 
People’s Party Selina Dogan released a statement on the 11th anniversary 
of death of Hrant Dink, mentioning that even after many years the Turkish-Armenian scholar isn’t forgotten, and will not be forgotten.

“His crime was great, he was putting efforts to make what happened to
the Armenians of Anatolia of the past and present days visible to the
wide circles of the society. His “crime” was so great, that we was
targeted in the beginning. Articles were published against him,
judicial cases were opened. Eventually they gave a weapon in the hands
of a 17 year old child and killed him outside Agos itself, which Dink
had raised like a child.

11 years passed since the murder. It is still unclear who are behind
this carefully plotted crime. Justice once again failed to prevail.

As lawyers, activists and politicians we know very well what it means
that the guilty aren’t discovered until now.

As much as Turkish authorities point to another direction, they can’t
escape from the political respondilbity of this crime. Instead of
discovering the perpetrators of the murder, the authorities have
created a political conjuncture, similar to the one which led Hrant
Dink to his death. Hate speech continues to gain pace, discrimination
is higher than ever in the society.

This atmosphere of hate can be overcome only through unification of a
democratic society.

We haven’t forgotten, we will not forget…”, she said in the statement.

Lack of snow to have affect on harvest
January 16,2018

In 2017, 77,000 tons of grain wer harvested in Shirak province, in 2016, 157,000 tons of grain were harvested, which was two times higher than previous year’s figure.

The passing year was unfavorable for the region.

Also, the lack of snow would have affect on the expected harvest in 2018., Armenia
Jan 19 2018
The Economist analyst projects 3.8% growth for Armenia’s GDP 

The projection has come from Maximilien Lambertson, The Economist Analyst for Russia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia.

Lambertson has stated that the growth in remittances will slow this year and the expansion of exports is unlikely to be sustained at the current level.

“In the medium term, we do not expect Armenia to achieve the high rates of growth seen before the 2008 financial crisis, much of which stemmed from rapid and unsustainable expansion in the construction sector. While further growth in investment will be assisted by some pro-growth policies undertaken by the government, a strong rebound is unlikely,” said Maximilien Lambertson, pointing out that high financing costs and a difficult business environment will continue to weigh on investment and future growth prospects.

According to the expert, the Armenian real GDP grew by 6.8% in 2017, supported by a recovery in remittances and export revenue.

“The Armenian economy exceeded expectations in 2017, rebounding strongly from the 2015-16 regional slowdown brought on by the collapse in global oil prices. Private consumption, investment and export all drove the recovery in growth in 2017. The renewed growth in investment is especially welcome as it had declined from about 40% of GDP before the 2008 global financial crisis to less than 18% in 2016,” noted Maximilien Lambertson.

RFE/RL Report
Karapetian Downplays Price Rises
January 17, 2018
Karlen Aslanian
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian played down recent increases in the
prices of fuel and some foodstuffs in Armenia on Wednesday, insisting
that inflation has remained low in the past year amid faster economic

"Everything must be put into context," Karapetian said during the
Armenian government's question-and-answer session in the
parliament. "Our official inflation rate [in 2017] is 2.6
percent. It's 6.7 percent in Georgia and 7.9 percent in Azerbaijan."

"You are saying that inflation is terrible, but I'm saying that it's
not," he told opposition lawmakers who again expressed serious concern
about the price increases and blamed the government for them.

Karapetian specifically made clear that he sees "no big problem"
arising from more than 10 percent rises in the prices of gasoline,
diesel fuel and liquefied natural gas that followed the entry into
force on January 1 of new tax legislation mandating higher excise
duties on fuel.

The premier claimed that gasoline sold in Armenia is still cheaper
than in Georgia. He suggested that those Armenians who cannot afford
it switch to liquefied gas which already powers most vehicles in the

"If I'm not mistaken the gas price rose by 25 drams # and the [higher]
price that existed in 2015 has been restored," he went on. "It's not
good that the gas price went up. It would have been good if it had
remained unchanged." But the increased price is "not a new challenge
in the market," he added.

Karapetian did acknowledge that the higher diesel price could push up
the cost of domestically grown agricultural products. He said the
government is considering providing more subsidies to farmer using
diesel for their tractors and other equipment.

The premier also defended the higher taxes on fuel as well as alcohol
and tobacco, saying that the government needs more revenue to boost
its expenditures and repay foreign loans without widening the budget

"Obviously raising the tax burden is not a pleasant thing," he
said. "But we have external loan [repayment] obligations. We have the
task of developing the economy. We need additional means."

The remarks were denounced by deputies from the opposition Yelk
alliance. One of them, Edmon Marukian, accused Karapetian of ignoring
the socioeconomic impact of the price hikes.

"You are close to saying that there is also an alternative to public
transport and people should commute on foot," said Marukian.

Another Yelk lawmaker, Ararat Mirzoyan, argued that food products such
as butter and meat have also become considerably more expensive in
recent months. Karapetian countered that their prices have soared all
over the world.

Yelk announced on January 8 that it will rally supporters in Yerevan
on January 19 to protest against the increased cost of living. Two
days later, President Serzh Sarkisian held an emergency meeting with
senior officials during which he voiced concern at the price
hikes. Sarkisian told anti-trust regulators to consider taking
"drastic measures" against a small number of companies importing fuel
and basic foodstuffs to Armenia.

Karapetian was officially on vacation from January 8-12 and did not
attend the meeting held in the presidential palace. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Opposition Supporters Rally Against Price Hikes
January 19, 2018
Karlen Aslanian

The opposition Yelk alliance rallied hundreds of supporters in Yerevan
on Friday to protest against recent increases in the prices of fuel
and some foodstuffs which it blames on government policies.

The price rises were caused, in part, by new tax legislation mandating
higher excise duties on fuel, tobacco and alcohol. The cost of
gasoline, diesel fuel and liquefied natural gas used by most vehicles
in Armenia rose by over 10 percent immediately after it went into
force on January 1.

Yelk leaders demanded that the authorities reverse the higher taxes
when they addressed the crowd before it marched through downtown
Yerevan, chanting "Reduction!"They said that the price hikes are
increasing poverty in the country.

"We are saying no to price hikes and demand a reduction of the tax
rates that led to the higher prices of basic products," said one of
them, Nikol Pashinian. "We are demanding price and tax cuts."

Pashinian repeatedly urged Armenians to take to the streets in larger
numbers and heighten the pressure on the authorities. But speaking to
reporters, he downplayed the relatively poor attendance at the protest
and said the Yelk campaign will gradually gain momentum. The outspoken
oppositionist claimed that Yelk will soon hold "the biggest and most
decisive rally in Armenia's history."

Another Yelk leader, Aram Sarkisian, insisted in a speech that the
opposition bloc will pull larger crowds in March and April after many
Armenians feel the impact of the higher prices more acutely. The next
Yelk rally is scheduled for February 5.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian downplayed that impact when he
answered questions from Yelk leaders on the parliament floor on
Wednesday. He insisted that consumer price inflation in Armenia
remains low. Karapetian also defended the increased tax rates, saying
that the government needs more revenue to boost its expenditures and
repay foreign loans.

For his part, President Serzh Sarkisian held on January 10 an
emergency meeting with senior state officials to discuss ways of
mitigating socioeconomic consequences of the price hikes. Sarkisian
also initiated parliamentary hearings on the issue which will be held
on Tuesday.

Other, more radical opposition groups refused to join Friday's
protest, saying that Yelk is not campaigning for regime
change. Pashinian rejected that criticism. He said that the opposition
cannot seriously threaten the authorities' hold on power without
forcing them to scrap the rate hikes first.

ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
January 18, 2018 Thursday
French University of Armenia opens the fifth faculty - the Faculty of
Informatics and Mathematics
Marianna Mkrtchyan. 

The French University of Armenia (FUA) opens itsfifth faculty 
- the Faculty of Informatics and Applied Mathematics - a direction 
quite in demand in the republic. This was announced by the
Ambassador of France to Armenia Jonathan Lacote at a press 
conference in Yerevan on January 18.

The diplomat informed that the faculty will start functioning from the
beginning of the 2018 academic year. "Another not less important event
is the start of a new preparatory stage at the French International
School, where candidates will be prepared for the Faculty of
Informatics and Applied Mathematics of the FUA.In both institutions,
graduates will be given French diplomas.This view, both the FUA and
the French School - are important institutions that stimulate the
French language in Armenia, "Lacote said.

At the same time, he stated that more than 80% of the graduates of the
FUA find work after graduating from the university, and their
overwhelming majority continues to work in Armenia. According to him,
in light of the forthcoming 17th OIF summit in Yerevan this October,
the opening of a new faculty and a new stage in these two institutions
are additional assistance in popularizing the French language in

Meanwhile, the RBA rector Jean-Marc Laveste noted that the decision to
open a new faculty was made after careful analysis. According to him,
the sphere of Information Technologies is quite developed in Armenia
and there is a great demand for training in this direction. "Despite
the fact that this sphere is rather developed in Armenia, the staff
deficit is obvious, 2000 vacancies are still vacant every year."
According to statistics, in 10 years 20% of Armenia's GDP will come to
this sphere. "Taking into account the full demand for this direction,
we decided to make and its feasible contribution to the development of
the IT sphere in Armenia, "said the rector of the FUA. At the same
time, he added that in 2018 academic year 50 entrants are expected to
enter this faculty, and in 2019 their number will increase to 100. He
also informed that now the possibility of granting scholarships to
well-educated students is being developed, which can stimulate an
increase in the number of students from regions of Armenia.

The FUA was established in 2000.

The first cooperation agreements were signed on February 15, 2001,
including with the University of Jean Moulin Lyon 3. From the first
day of existence, the FUA is a beacon of cooperation with France and
the support of Francophoe in Armenia. To date, 1100 students are
studying at the FUA, 2000 students have already left the university.

At the French International School in Armenia, 182 pupils are trained
today, education is carried out in French under the program of the
Ministry of Education of France. Admission applications for training
in high school will begin in March this year. Tuition fee forms 650
thousand per year. 

Armenpress News Agency, Armenia
January 18, 2018 Thursday
Turkey MP Paylan counters false newspaper article on Istanbul Armenian
Patriarchal Election
Ethnic Armenian MP of Turkey Garo Paylan has countered the article 
published by Turkish Aksam, a pro-Erdogan newspaper, which accused 
the Armenian lawmaker in manipulating the Armenian Patriarchal elections
of Istanbul, Agos reports.

“Like the article mentioned, we, Armenians of Turkey, are waiting for
the patriarchal election for a long time. I have presented various
initiatives as a lawmaker to immediate start the electoral process
which has met many obstacles, and to hold in according to the rules.
I’ve met with members of the government numerously regarding this
matter. I have brought this issue to the agenda in the Parliament of
Turkey on various occasions. As a representative of the Armenian
community, I have struggled for the election to be held, as a result
of which our patriarch will be known through voting. However, unlike
the article mentioned, I haven’t announced till now whom I am
endorsing from the candidates. For me the important thing is for any
candidate to be worthy of respect from the public, who will duly
implement his duties”, Paylan said.

He stressed that the Armenian community will decide the next patriarch
as result of voting.

“In democratic systems, crises are solved through democratic
elections. The Armenian community must focus on the issue of holding
the elections, the right of which we have. Having a strong Armenian
community must be a goal for each of us. I will continue making
understand in various platforms that this stems from the interests of
Turkey also”, he said.

Earlier the Turkish newspaper reported that Paylan, through
cooperation with the Armenian Diaspora, wants Sebouh Chouljian,
Primate of the Diocese of Gougark, to be patriarch.
Historic Ordination of a Deaconess in the Tehran Prelacy
Ani-Kristi Manvelian was ordained a deaconess by the Tehran Prelate

The Prelate of Tehran ordained a young woman as a deaconess in Tehran’s St. Sarkis Mother Church on September 25, 2017. Even as the office of deaconess had existed in Armenian Church convents for centuries, this was a historic first. It is the first time that a lay woman, not a nun, was ordained a “parish deacon.”

Twenty-four year old Ani-Kristi Manvelian, an anesthesiologist by profession, was ordained — along with Mayis Mateosian — by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Primate of the Diocese of Tehran.

“What I have done is in conformity with the Tradition of the Church and nothing else,” said Archbishop Sarkissian. This was his personal initiative as a diocesan primate in order, as he explained, “to revitalize the participation of women also in our church’s liturgical life,” adding, “do not be surprised, a woman could also become a servant of the Holy Altar.”
Ani-Kristi Manvelian on the altar at St. Sarkis Church in Tehran

Ani-Kristi Manvelian on the altar at St. Sarkis Church in Tehran

Deaconess Ani-Kristi has been involved in the life of the church in Tehran since she was very young. She used to perform the duties of an acolyte (դպիր) during church services, such as reading the psalms and carrying the ceremonial candle.

In explaining the purpose of the ordination, Archbishop Sarkissian said: “Today, our Church is confronting the imperative of self-examination and self-critique. It is imperative to rejuvenate the participation of the people in the social, educational and service spheres of the Church. It is our deep conviction that the active participation of women in the life of our Church would allow Armenian women to be involved more enthusiastically and vigorously, and would allow them to be connected and engaged. They would provide dedicated and loving service [to the people]. The deaconess, no doubt, would also be a spiritual and church-dedicated mother, educator, and why not, a model woman through her example. It is with this deep conviction that we are performing this ordination, with the hope that we are neither the first nor the last to do it.”

According to the Prelate, parish priests in Tehran are watchful and keen to recruit more women who fit the profile of prospective deaconesses.

What is special and novel about Deaconess Ani-Kristi Manvelian’s ordination is that she is a “parish” deacon — that is, she is not a member of a convent or a religious order, like the Kalfayan Sisters in Istanbul or Gayanyants Sisters at Birds Nest in Jibel, Lebanon, who have a few sisters among their ranks and are not ordained deaconesses.

Like her male counterparts in the Armenian Church, if and when Deaconess Ani-Kristi marries, she will continue to serve as a deaconess.

Deaconesses have been part of the Christian tradition from the early years of the faith. There are numerous references in the Epistles and early Church writings.

In the Armenian Church tradition, the development of the office of female diaconate is divided into four historical periods according to Fr. Abel Oghlukian, the author of a study on the subject: (a) 4th-8th centuries in Greater Armenia; (b) 9th-11th centuries in Eastern and Cilician Armenia, where the term “deaconess” is included in the book of ordination (Մաշտոց); (c) 12th century and on, where there are “literary references and rites for the ordination of deaconesses in liturgical texts in Cilicia and eastern Armenia; and (d) 17th century renewal of female diaconate.

The last ordained monastic deaconess in the Armenian Church was Sister Hripsime Sasounian in Istanbul. The late Patriarch Shnork Kalustian of Constantinople ordained Sister Hripsime of Kalfayan Sisters (established in 1866) as a deaconess in 1982, using the canon of ordination used for male deacons (Ձեռնադրութեան Մաշտոց). Damascus-born Deaconess Hripsime was 54 years old at the time. She passed away in 2007.

In North America, Seta Simonian Atamian was the first adult women ordained as an acolyte (դպիր), a lower rank, by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Western Diocese in 1984 at St. Andrew Armenian Church, in Cupertino, California. However, when in 1986 she moved to the East Coast of the United States, she was not allowed by the local diocese to serve on the altar in the Armenian Church.

Even as this is a most welcome step by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian and the Prelacy of Tehran (under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia), the Armenian Apostolic Church has yet to formally restore the office of female diaconate.

Today the question is how to revive the female diaconate for the pastoral life of local parishes rather than in monastic settings or convents, which are virtually non-existent as viable institutions.
Iran to Register Armenian Cathedral in Isfahan as UNESCO World Heritage Site 

TEHRAN—After registering three churches as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites in Iran, the government is looking to register the Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly referred to as Vank Cathedral, in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, reported the Iran Front Page news site.

Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), Mohammad Hossein Talebian, said that there is a list of Armenian churches, three of which inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list.
Isfahan's Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly known as Vank

Isfahan’s Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly known as Vank

Addressing the closing ceremony of the joint exhibition of Iran and Armenia held at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, Talebian noted that Iran is doing its best to add other important Armenian churches, such as Vank in Isfahan, to this list.

Vank is one of the most famous cathedrals in Iran and the largest one in Isfahan province in central Iran. In terms of historical paintings and decorations, it is known as the most beautiful church in Isfahan.

It is a combination of Iranian and Armenian architecture, and this has made it a unique structure in the world.

Established in 1606, the cathedral was dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618.

Today, the Vank is the center of communication between the Armenians of Isfahan and the southern regions of Iran with the world and is of great importance to the Armenians.
The life and times of Zabel Yesayan
The life and times of Zabel Yesayan

‘Zabel' tells the story of Zabel Yesayan, an Armenian writer, feminist and activist whose life was shaped by the events that eventually led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The play takes us on an emotional journey, from her happy childhood in Üsküdar to the political turmoil after the Young Turk revolution, her Parisian exile and eventually her arrest in Yerevan, the place she had hoped to finally call home

First staged in 2015, "Zabel," a play about the life and times of Zabel Yesayan, has returned to Istanbul audiences for a limited number of performances this season. Written by Aysel Yıldırım and Duygu Dalyanoğlu and performed by an all-female cast, the play manages to take the audience through the different decades of Yesayan's life as she tries to make sense of the country that is crumbling around her.

Zabel Yesayan, author several books including 'Among the Ruins', 'The Curse', 'Shirt of Flame' and 'The Gardens of Silihdari' was born in 1878 in Üsküdar. Her childhood and youth was shaped by the several revolutions and counter-revolutions that took place in the Ottoman Empire, and these remained the experiences that marked her writing. She studied literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne, and then moved to settle in Armenia as professor of literature in 1933.

The life and times of Zabel Yesayan

The play starts in a solitary cell in Yerevan, where a young blonde woman in Soviet officers' clothes is interrogating a much older one dressed in a dark somber dress, with angular facial features to match her predicament. From the very first moment, Aysel Yıldırım as Zabel commands the stage both with her physical presence and her unforgiving voice and accent. She is as defiant as can be in the face of this piece of Stalin's state machinery. The officer asks her to denounce her friends; Zabel refuses and is condemned to more time in solitary confinement. The novels she has written are brought as evidence against her, and she manages to hold on to one of them, the autobiographical account of her childhood in Üsküdar. When the door is locked on her, she starts recalling the events she has described in the book, and thus peoples her solitary cell. The light changes, and we are in her childhood home in the company of her mother and aunts at the moment when her mother is about to give birth to her. The grown woman Zabel walks toward these apparitions and becomes the baby, as her mother, aunts and grandmother pat her and check her limbs. The audience sees the cold and terrified woman in the cell relax and be pampered like she hasn't been in a long while. The moment when the three women swaddle her and put her to sleep is very touching, and with great acting and lighting the play earns its pathos from this very early scene. The audience has been firmly swaddled with Zabel and an unbreakable emotional bond has been forged.

The birth takes place with the sounds of cannons in the background as the Ottomans are preparing for war against the Russians. The Greek midwife, a funny figure who seems to belong more in the traditional Karagöz-Hacivat shadow play, tells Zabel's family that she herself is looking forward to a Russian takeover to which Zabel's grandmother, "yaya," says she trusts the Russians even less than the Ottomans. This statement resonates throughout the play with the scenes in Zabel's cell where she is being accused of being anti-Stalinist and an Armenian nationalist in Armenia to all purposes run by Russians. The midwife responds to yaya's doubts by saying that the Armenians have not managed to shake off the name of "milleti sadıka" (the loyal nation), a name that still haunts the history of the Ottoman state's treatment of its Armenian subjects.

The life and times of Zabel Yesayan
Aysel Yıldırım as Zabel commands the stage with her physical presence, her unforgiving voice and accent.

This birth scene also establishes several other things about the universe that the play operates in. There is much talk about why Zabel's husband is absent at this important moment. The men, cut out of the action at this moment of birth, never quite manage to get on stage for the rest of the performance either - except when Zabel is returning home late one night with a friend, and we see the silhouette of a man behind the beautiful screen that provides the backdrop to Zabel's story. We see his distorted and amplified shadow on the screen, as he remains a specter. Zabel and her friend suspect him of being a "jurnalci," that scariest of men who listen in to people's conversations to report to the Sultan - and these young girls have indeed been talking marginally about politics.

Another scene of early childhood informs the audience about relations between the various millets further by introducing a Jewish copper-plating man (a dying trade that one can still see in the back streets of Istanbul) that the family watch through the window. We see that yaya - that well of wisdom - is not immune to being pulled into racist discourse. She is scandalized that a Jew, a "Jesus- killer" has come near their house, and as she rails against the Jews her daughters try to stop her speaking like that "in front of the child." Zabel, precocious as she is, asks if her Jewish friends are also evil. When her mother says that as in all communities, there are good and bad people among the Jews, Zabel asks, "What about the Turks?" As her mother tries to pacify her she raises her fist and starts imitating her teacher's angry anti-Turkish rhetoric but is again stopped by her mother. There is, we understand, much "stopped" and bottled up emotion and grievances in the Ottoman Empire and the audience knows full well how it will all end.

Just as many of us have come to the theater with hearts fluttering, excited to learn about a female pioneer in our own tradition, Zabel, too, as a young woman, goes to visit an imposing female writer, Sırpuhi Düsap. Düsap has stopped writing, and one possible explanation given is the harsh criticism of male writers, including from that other giant of Armenian literature and indeed the Ottoman stage, Hagop Baronyan. The scene is played for laughs as Zabel and her friend try to impress the unimpressible Düsap, but the underlying sense is that there have always been other female figures that inspired the ones that inspire us. It reminds us that when we talk about a female pioneer in a field - and they often come later than their male counterparts - we have to be aware that there probably was another before her, that women's (silenced) history in the arts goes back further than male-written histories will allow for.

The script of the play becomes very topical at times, not least when Zabel, who has set up an orphanage in Adana, is trying to convince the wife of the new governor why it is a bad idea to house the children in an "Ottoman Orphanage" where the official language will be Turkish. Zabel tells her that if the children are brought up in such an environment not only will their religious freedom be at risk, but also that soon they will forget Armenian and won't even be able to read the script on their parents' tombstones. This is exactly the same and unfairly ridiculed argument that critics of the Turkish alphabet revolution put forward when they lament the fact that Turks can't read the Ottoman script anymore.

The play's use of music, dance, light and attention to detail transport the audience to the end of the Ottoman Empire, and in the end, when her verdict for execution is turned to life imprisonment, Zabel lets her memories free as she bids farewell to one of the doctoral students she has mentored when in Paris. It is to contribute to the cultural life of the Armenian state that Zabel leaves Paris - just as she found it impossible to leave Istanbul, while her daughter and husband continued to live in Paris. Zabel says, quite openly, that her work makes sense in an Armenian literary community; that it is in such a community that she can realize her true potential. The Armenian language itself is one of the characters in the play; a language whose specter has haunted the Turkish stage for a long time and whose reappearance is nothing short of an event that has to be celebrated

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland Armenian Church News E-newsletter Latest E-Newsletter Volume 4, Issue 2 20 January 2018

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ACT UK held its annual general meeting at Navasartian Centre on 14 January 2018, during which Bishop Hovakim Manukyan and other guests talked about the achievements in the past year, and the vision and plans for the future. He also summarised his work in various areas such as Youth, Diocesan Life, Ecumenical Life, Parish Life, Publications, etc. Read the whole speech on the website.
On 13th of January, ACYO members gathered together with a purpose to deliver Christmas baskets for our senior people. During the delivery of baskets, we visited 8 seniors at their places. All team members had a great experience, moreover, it was a pleasure to meet our elderly people and spend such a wonderful time with them. The baskets delivery finished about 5 pm, after which both groups went to celebrate the successful evening, full of great emotions, where both groups shared their experiences from the delivery. More details and images in the full version of the newsletter. 
By the order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the Feast of St. Sarkis the Captain and his soldiers-companions is proclaimed day of blessing of the youth.

Captain St. Sarkis is one of the most beloved saints among the Armenian nation. Together with his 14 soldiers-companions he was martyred for the sake of Christian faith.
Read more in the full version of the newsletter.
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