Monday, 27 May 2019

Armenian News... A Topalian...14 editorials

Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt
May 22, 2019
Identity and faith abuse under Erdogan
by Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian
Turkish model of Islam under Erdogan is steering controversy and hatred, reports Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian
In the 12 May episode of "Iftar with Nihat Hatipoglu," aired on the Turkish ATV during Ramadan, a 13-year-old Armenian Christian child was forced to convert to Islam, in a live broadcast from Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Square, by performing the Muslim declaration of faith. "There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God," repeated Arthur after Hatipoglu.
The 13-year-old Arthur wished his name be changed to "Nihat" when Hatipoglu asked him if he would ever change it, the latter advising the boy to know the value of Islam and expressing hope he would undertake the Muslim pilgrimage in the future.
Alina, the mother of the child, made a statement to an Armenian Website saying that her child did not become a Muslim: "We are Armenians. I am a Christian. If I had known myself that my son would appear on screen, I would have been with him, but I did not know. He is an innocent child."
According to Arthur's mother, a Syrian friend told Arthur to go on the programme, saying they would "give us toys, and we will eat with the stars". "My son went with his friend. He's a child. He made a mistake, but he did not convert, nor was he circumcised," she told the Website.
"Even if parents had known that their child would appear on TV for religious conversion, it still would have been child abuse and illegal," Turkish writer Uzay Bulut told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Bulut thinks Islamists do not see it as child abuse or a human rights violation.
More than 20 guests have declared their conversion to Islam on the same programme over the past few years, thanks to the Turkish theologian Hatipoglu.
Nihat Hatipoglu, 64, whose birthday happened to be the same day the episode was aired, is from Diyarbekir city, one of the largest in southeast Turkey and often considered the unofficial capital of Northern Kurdistan.
Hatipoglu said the mother of the teen knew in advance what was to be broadcast, but later denied she did. It was said that one of the assistants of Hatipoglu tried to reach the mother before going live, but failed as her Turkish is not good.
The incident was made worse by subtle references to the country's past genocide of Christians. "While public conversions to Islam are a normal part of this show, in the case of Arthur, normal procedures taken to obey Turkey's laws were ignored. His parents never gave consent, and he was encouraged to convert through promises of food and gifts, all in front of thousands of people," International Christian Concern Organisation's Middle East Regional Manager Claire Evans told the Weekly.
Nihat Hatipoglu was appointed president of the Islamic Science and Technology University of Gaziantep by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Evans confirms that Hatipoglu maintains close ties with the Turkish government and that his programme on ATV continues with their blessing.
"This sends a clear, public message to others that the government will ignore violations of the rights of religious minorities," she says. If Turkey is truly concerned about human rights, as it continues to claim in its bid for EU membership, "then they must take these kinds of violations seriously and hold violators accountable for their actions according to due process of law," Evans told the Weekly.
The mother of the child contacted HDP (People's Democratic Party) member of the Turkish parliament for Diyarbekir Garo Paylan, and agreed to file a complaint of child abuse. Paylan, 47, is of Armenian descent who became a member of parliament in 2015, among the first Armenian members of the assembly in decades, along with Selina Dogan and Markar Esayan.
The Human Rights Association Commission Against Racism and Discrimination and the Diyarbakır Bar Association filed criminal complaints against both Hatipoglu and ATV executives indicating that Article 115/3 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Turkey is a signatory, governing freedom of thought, conscience and religion, have been violated.
For Armenians, the act reminds of genocide — the forced conversion of minors belonging to the minority, with neither the presence nor permission of the parents, is something the Ottoman Empire used to practise a century ago.
"We have an open wound for one hundred years. During the genocide, many relatives of mine were lost, disappeared and died on the migratory routes. Some of them joined Muslim families," Paylan told Bianet Website.
On Monday, Paylan tweeted a photo with Arthur. "I met Arthur, he is fine … I will always be with him, I will protect him as far as I can," he tweeted.
For some time, Arthur attended Istanbul's Hrant Dink school. Anonymous sources told the Weekly that Arthur suffered health and social problems; he changed school several times and couldn't finish his education under difficult living conditions. According to the source, his father's whereabouts is not known.
Meanwhile, Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK) has ruled for a rerun of local mayoral elections in Istanbul, scheduled to be held 23 June, as the AKP objected to the election results, claiming there were irregularities and discrepancies in the balloting.
At the time of the elections in April, the AKP clearly violated the Personal Data Protection Law 6698, in order to access private data to "prove" its case with the YSK.
Will this and the child abuse case affect the results of the upcoming elections rerun?
Bulut doesn't think so. "While both practices are illegal, they are not among the criteria that will affect the voting decisions of the majority of Turks. Also, there are laws in Turkey that are supposed to prosecute and try those accused of committing 'crimes against humanity', but they are not observed."
Bulut says the mentality in Turkey is such that no one would implement these laws. "The ruling AKP lost the election in Istanbul because Turkey's currency crisis has been pushing the Turkish economy into a recession. The country's economic situation is getting even worse, so many people are suffering as a result."
The government has ordered the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral elections for one reason only: "to win that city again". "So, the winner of the rerun has already been declared: the AKP," Bulut told the Weekly.
Istanbul's Acting Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateshian, who maintains close ties with the Turkish government and president, issued a written statement in which he described the conversion incident as "unfortunate" and "unacceptable" not only to the Armenian community of Turkey, but to the Muslim society too.
"We have respect to all religions. There is no doubt that you also have respect to other religions." Ateshian advised Istanbul's community to follow up on developments calmly, adding that the head of the Religious Affairs Department of Turkey, Ali Erpash, had promised to investigate the incident.
The Supreme Council of Radio and Television (RTUK) is the Turkish state agency for monitoring, regulating and sanctioning radio and television broadcasts. The RTUK was founded in 1994 and is composed of nine members elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
The pro-government ATV, or Aktüel Televizyonu, where the programme was aired, currently belongs to one of the largest media groups in the country, Turkuvaz Media Group (TMG). It is a nationwide TV channel in Turkey since 1993 and it became the country's fifth most popular channel since 2013.
"If Turkey does not enforce their own laws protecting the rights of religious minorities, then the government is sending yet another clear and public warning that it does not respect human rights and exploits media in doing so," Evans told the Weekly.
"At ATV, we are proud of our achievements, and continue to strive to bring you even more," reads the welcome message on the TMG Website.

Panorama, Armenia
May 24 2019
Garo Paylan slams portrayal of Armenians in Turkish TV series

Istanbul-Armenian MP Garo Paylan, representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has voiced concern over the film produced by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) for displaying an explicit partiality ahead of upcoming elections in Istanbul and Ankara. According to the report by, Paylan’s point of concern has been the various controversial messages and negative images delivered through historical-political drama series.

The Turkish-Armenian MP has specifically pointed to a Turkish historical television drama series named 

The Last Emperor (Payitaht: Abdülhamid), depicting historical events during the reign of the 34th Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II. According to him, certain episodes contain negative messages and direct threats to former Turkish President Gul and Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoghlu.

Moreover, in one of recent episodes the film has portrayed an Armenian named Garo as a traitor and villain. Paylan has reminded that numerous high-level Turkish officials were of Armenian origin, notably the mother of Sultan Abdul Hamid, which are not present in the film.

To note, the Washington Times reported earlier that certain portrayals and historical reproductions in the series caused controversy due to their message and historical revisionism even though the show reported itself to be "inspired by real historical events". It further noted that the series "promoted a worldview uncannily similar to that of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Daily Mail, UK
May 24 2019
Shots of vodka, live opera at dinner and very unusual décor! What sort of Airbnb you get in Armenia for £20
By Sadie Whitelocks for MailOnline

MailOnline Travel's Sadie Whitelocks checked into a £19 Airbnb while cycling in Armenia

She said the homestay was 'unusual but certainly memorable', with wacky interiors and a friendly host
The Airbnb is located in the small Armenian village of Arzakan and it features two bedrooms  

Booking an Airbnb is a bit of a lucky dip - you're never quite sure what you're going to get.

I certainly didn't expect however, after booking a £19 wooden lodge in Armenia, that the stay would come with home cooked meals, a tour of the local area, a spot of opera at the dinner table and flowing shots of vodka.

The wacky two-bedroom abode my friend Jane and I stayed in also featured some very interesting decor, with holes in the wall, a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acting as the bathroom mirror and a trippy picture of Armenian musician Sayat Nova hanging above one of the beds, which gave me nightmares.  
MailOnline Travel's Sadie Whielocks checked into a £19 Airbnb while cycling in Armenia. The Airbnb was located in the small Armenian village of Arzakan and it features two bedrooms. Above, the bedroom artwork that gave Sadie nightmares

After searching Airbnb for somewhere to stay, Sadie said she was immediately drawn to the listing for a 'charming wooden house in Arzakan', with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical

We had cycled just over 25 miles (40km) from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to the small village of Arzakan and quickly checked Airbnb en route to find somewhere to stay for the night. 

I was immediately drawn to the 'charming wooden house in Arzakan' listing, with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical. As we cycled into Arzakan we met up with our Airbnb host, Levon, and followed his car to our accommodation for the night. 
We soon realised after getting to Armenia that communication is tricky, as most people out of the main cities don't speak English.

Thankfully, Levon had a young neighbour who was able to roughly translate and the duo directed us to the wooden house we'd be staying in. 

It was certainly an unusual cabin, with an eclectic mix of furnishings making my head spin slightly.  After dumping our cycle packs, Levon insisted we go to the main house for some tea and coffee. After a long cycle it sounded ideal and we eagerly followed. 
The Airbnb hosts provided a homecooked meal. The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread
A plate of steamed white fish served as the main course for dinner 

The Airbnb hosts laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time (seen above), with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit

Levon's wife Eva had laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time, with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit. 

Jane and I felt slightly awkward with the friendliness of our hosts and the lack of a shared language, but we tried the best we could with the help of the translator. 

A music channel played away on the TV and we directed our attention there in moments of silence. Another source of entertainment were Levon's children, with his baby daughter softly gurgling and his toddler son excitingly flying around.

Going above and beyond, Levon then offered us a tour of the surrounding area and said that he would drive us to the neighbouring village of Bjni to see the 11th century Holy Mother of God church, but that extra would cost us 3,000 Armenian Dram (just £4.95). 

Sadie and her friend Jane seen fuelling up at breakfast before a day of cycling 
We took up the offer and drove around with him and his translator soaking up some of the local sights - including hot springs, a derelict night club and ancient fortress. 

As soon as we returned - still in our sweaty cycling gear - we were ushered back to the main house for a family-style dinner. 

It certainly seemed extravagant and we offered to do our own thing for dinner - we still had bread and peanuts in our supply packs - but Levon insisted we dine with them.

The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread. 

Eva then brought through a plate of steamed white fish while Levon doused our glasses with local wine and vodka.

It all felt rather bizarre but the alcohol certainly helped get everyone in good spirits and there were multiple 'genatzts' (the phonetic translation for cheers in Armenian) as we feasted. It also inspired Eva to serenade us with a spot of opera-style singing, which was beautiful and quite haunting. 

After dinner we rolled into our beds for the night. Luckily it was a warm night, so there was no cold seeping through the flimsy walls. 

The next morning Eva had made us breakfast, with some more of the delicious syrupy walnuts serving as fuel for the next leg of our cycle ahead.

All in all, our £19 stay at the 'charming wooden house' had been quite unusual but memorable to say the least.   

Click for pictures:

Public Radio of Armenia
May 24 2019
Prevention of Armenian Patriarch's election violation of religious rights, Turkish court says 
The Turkish Constitutional Court has ruled that the prevention by the authorities and different courts of the election of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople as violation of Armenians’ religious rights, Agos reports. 

The decision refers to a number of applications on organizing elections of a new Patriarch filed by the Armenian community since 2010 that have been rejected by different structures in Turkey.

The late Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan’s inability to perform his duties from 2008 prompted the 

Armenian community to initiate a process of election of his successor. However, the Turkish state declared in 2010 that a new Patriarch could not be elected as long as the acting Patriarch was alive and allowed to elect a General Vicar. Archbishop Aram Ateshyan was elected to the post that had never existed before.

After years of discord Ateshyan lost a re-election, but Istanbul Governor’s office declared the elections invalid.

Elections can now be held after Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan passed away on March 8, 2019. However, during the preceding 11-year period, a number of court decisions were made regarding the patriarchal elections that were appealed on the grounds of "violation of freedom of religion and conscience."
The decision cannot affect the current process of patriarchal elections, which started after Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan's death., Armenia
May 24 2019
Armenia PM’s wife to Azerbaijani reporter: War isn’t over yet, that’s why our son serves in Karabakh army

Within the framework of the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Armenian Prime Minister’s Anna Hakobyan responded to an Azerbaijani reporter’s query about the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict, and she stressed that her message as a mother and a woman is that this conflict should be settled through negotiations, rather than through war.

The Azerbaijani journalist remarked that the son of the PM of Armenia is carrying out his military service in Nagorno-Karabakh, in the case when the latter is not internationally recognized as part of Armenia.
In response, Hakobyan highlighted that she does not want to go into details and politics.

“I’m here as a woman and a mother, and I make my call, my message as a woman and a mother,” she said. “The war isn’t over yet; that’s why our son serves in the Nagorno-Karabakh army.

“So, my message is that we start trusting each other, start thinking about resolving this conflict through negotiations, not through war.”

Hakobyan emphasized, however, that the Armenian side has never started a war.
23 May, 2019
Yerevan to have new $15,5 million worth amusement park

The Government of Armenia has granted a company import customs and tax privileges for the construction of an amusement park in Yerevan.
Minister of Economic Development and Investments Tigran Khachatryan said at a Cabinet meeting today that Park Group is planning to build a family amusement park in Yerevan, featuring the latest generation European-made carousels and attractions.

The 1st stage commissioning will take place in Q4 of 2019.

Khachatryan said the company plans to invest around 7,5 billion drams (around 15,5 million dollars).

Moreover, 350 workplaces will be opened during three years.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan
 23 May, 2019
First ever Armenian made TVs to hit market soon in monumental and historic industrial leap

In a few days, a monumental and historic milestone will be recorded in the Armenian tech industry.
The first ever Armenian-made TVs will hit the market as the joint Armenian-Lebanese-Syrian International Manufacturing Group (IMG) is introducing its ADAMIAN flat-screen televisions sets.

IMG CEO Ramy Judy told reporters in the company’s assembly plant in Armenia’s Merdzavan that in a few days the TVs will be available in major stores across the country.

“We are currently assembling 100-150 sets a day,” he said.

According to the CEO, despite the factory’s inauguration having taken place in December of 2018, they began production only in May, since they were awaiting a governmental customs privilege for imports.

“We were waiting for the government’s issuance of customs privileges, because the price that we promised couldn’t have been provided if we were to pay customs duties. The government granted the privilege in April,” Judy said.

Now, the home appliances manufacturer is importing equipment and the TVs are assembled in Armenia. But IMG seeks further development.
In one and a half months, the company will start assembling air conditioners, and then also washing machines, refrigerators. The Armenian-made ACs, fridges and washing machines will be marketed under the AIO brand.

The Armenian-made home appliances will also be exported.

The market price and technical characteristics of the TVs was not immediately available.
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

Armenian Diaspora Survey
Press Release
London, 10 May 2019

Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian Appointed Director of Armenian Diaspora Survey

The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in partnership with the Armenian Institute of London, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian as the Director of the Armenian Diaspora Survey (ADS) project.
This initiative, launched and funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation, is implemented by the Armenian Institute.
Dr. Tchilingirian, who has been leading the project since February 2019, is a sociologist and Associate of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University, specialising in Armenian and Middle Eastern Studies, with a particular focus on identity politics, religion and homeland-diaspora relations. He is the author of many studies and publications and has lectured internationally.
The first phase of the Armenian Diaspora Survey, which was completed earlier this year, was led by Dr. Susan Pattie. Under her skilful guidance, over 1000 Armenians in four cities in the Diaspora took part in a first ever survey led by a team of academics, researchers and experts.
“We are delighted to have Dr. Tchilingirian lead this important project. We have collaborated with him previously on other initiatives, such as the ‘Western Armenian in the 21st Century’ project in Oxford and ‘Armenians in 2115’ seminar in Lisbon,” said Dr. Razmik Panossian, Director of Gulbenkian’s Armenian Communities Department. “We are looking forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration with the Armenian Institute and the team in London,” he added. 
The Armenian Diaspora Survey will continue in 2019 with a new set of selected cities.  The results of the pilot survey will be released to the public in June. For further details contact or go to the ADS website:

[the UEFA final is turning it to be a PR disaster for Azerbaijan], Armenia
May 24 2019
UK MP: It is scandal that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss final because he is from Armenia 
It is a scandal that Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the match of a lifetime next week because he is from Armenia and he fears for his safety at the Europa League final in Baku, UK MP Tom Watson said during the hearing in the parliament.

“It's also a scandal that Arsenal fans with Armenian names are being denied visas to Azerbaijan. It shows a deeply ugly side to the beautiful game and is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“If I was the secretary of state I would make it clear to the UEFA that this is completely unacceptable.  So will the Minister demand that UEFA ensures that countries that force players to choose between their sport and their safety and discriminate against travelling fans will never be allowed to host future events?” he wonders.
 22 May, 2019
Piers Morgan says Mkhitaryan situation is “disgraceful” racism, calls on Arsenal and Chelsea to boycott Baku

The uproar over Armenian footballer Henrikh Mkhitaryan not going to Baku with his team Arsenal for the Europa League final continues among commentators and the press.

English broadcaster, journalist, writer, and television personality Piers Morgan, a strong Arsenal fan, has once again denounced the “disgraceful” situation.
“So everyone in football wants to stamp out racism in the game - but stands by doing nothing as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unable to play in the Europa League Final because he’s Armenian? Disgraceful”, Morgan tweeted on May 22.

“You have many Armenian fans, Chelsea FC - are you going to stand by & do nothing about this Henrikh Mkhitaryan situation?????? If both teams refuse to play in Baku, UEFA will have to move the game. Substitute 'Messi' or 'Ronaldo' for 'Mkhitaryan' - still think we'd even be having this debate? UEFA would move the final,” he had tweeted earlier after Arsenal confirmed the Armenian midfielder will not travel with the squad to Baku due to security concerns.
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan, Nigeria
May 22 2019
Arsenal fans claim Hazard, Kante are both Armenian ahead of UEL 
by  Uchenna Ajah 

Arsenal fans are claiming that Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante are both Armenian as they are keen to stop the Chelsea stars from featuring in the Europa League final in Baku. 

Chelsea tackle London rivals Arsenal in the Europa League final next week, with the Gunners travelling without Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan. 

Arsenal eggheads decided not to make the trip without the Armenian over safety concerns in Azerbaijan.

And without Mkhitaryan on the pitch, Arsenal fans took to the social media ‘claiming’ that Chelsea stars, including the pair of Hazard and Kante as Armenian Citizens’.

One said: “The sad thing is Armenia is a great country.

“I was once there on holiday, I met Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kantè they were both there to visit their grandparents.” 

Another fan stressed: "Heard Kepa actually took one of those DNA test packages and came back 62 per cent Armenian."

And another responded: "Kim Kardashian is Kante god mother apparently? Any truth in this?"

Earlier, reported that N’Golo Kante has handed Chelsea a massive injury boost after returning to training ahead of their Europa League final. 

According to UK Sun, the French World Cup winner is now working on his fitness to be fit enough for May 29 Europa League final showdown against rivals Arsenal, in Baku’s Olympic Stadium. 

The courageous Kante joined Chelsea training session on Monday, May 20, ahead of set date as he recuperates from a hamstring strain, with the trip to Baku for the finale of his season. 

The Guardian, UK
May 22 2019
Amnesty: don’t let Azerbaijan hide human rights abuses behind football

Amnesty International has increased the pressure on European football’s governing body, Uefa, by saying Azerbaijan must not be allowed to “sportswash its appalling human rights record” by staging high-profile football matches.

Baku’s Olympic Stadium is hosting the Europa League final between Arsenal and Chelsea next Wednesday and is also the venue for four games in next year’s European Championship.

But the decision to stage the Europa League showpiece in the former Soviet republic has been strongly criticised by fans and human rights groups and, on Tuesday, the Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan said he would not travel to the game amid fears for his safety in a country that is locked in a simmering conflict with his native Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“We must ensure that Azerbaijan isn’t allowed to sportswash its appalling human rights record as a result of the football fanfare,” Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, said. “Azerbaijan is in the grip of a sinister human rights crackdown, with journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders being ruthlessly targeted. Unfair trials and smear campaigns remain commonplace.

“LGBTI people have been arrested, and even people fleeing the country have been harassed and pressured to return. Fans, players and backroom staff can help prevent Azerbaijan’s likely attempt to sportswash its image by informing themselves about the human rights situation behind the glitzy facade of Wednesday’s match.

“All too often, governments are using high-profile sporting competitions to distract attention from repressive policies and human rights violations, to instead project an image of openness. This couldn’t be further from the truth with the current administration, and the Arsenal-Chelsea clash is just the latest reminder of this.”

According to Azerbaijani human rights defenders, more than 150 people are in prison in the country on politically motivated charges, while mass arrests are used to silence the media and crack down on non-governmental organisations. The country, which has been run by the president, Ilham Aliyev, since 2003, is ranked 166th on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, the lowest ranking in Europe.

So far, however, most of the criticism of Uefa’s choice of Baku for the final has focused on how difficult and expensive it is for Arsenal and Chelsea fans to get there, as well as the large proportion of tickets that have been allocated to local fans and sponsors.

Uefa has pointed out it has an obligation to grow the game throughout the continent and there was no way of knowing that two London-based sides would reach the final when the decision was made in 2017. It has also said the ticket allocation was based on how many travelling fans it believed Baku’s airport could handle. The Azerbaijan Football Association has said it regrets Mkhitaryan’s “unwarranted” decision to stay away.

Daily Mail, UK
May 22 2019
Worst in Europe for LGBT rights and woeful on press freedom... Henrikh Mkhitaryan is just the latest victim of the shameful decision to give Azerbaijan the Europa League final
By Ian Herbert For The Daily Mail

Henrikh Mkhitaryan's pride and humility is in stark contrast to UEFA's cynicism 
At Manchester United he was heavily involved in local Armenian community 
Decision to hold Europa final in Azerbaijan makes you rage against governance 
The glad-handing of this would be laughable were it not so utterly dismal

It's the memory of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's quiet and understated pride in his own country which makes you rage against the way that football's governors - noses in the trough once more - have seen to it that he will not be playing in one of Europe's showpiece events next week.

Mkhitaryan's time in Manchester was not the happiest, though far less appreciated than his struggles with the brooding malevolence of Jose Mourinho was the story of the part he came to play in the life of the local Armenian community. 

It wasn't just his willingness to stop for photographs at the Armenia Taverna, on the city's Princess Street, but his interest in the lives of those in that community. In every way, he was one of them.

That kind of humanity is a very long way from sport's cynical willingness to be bought off by the despicable leaders of Azerbaijan - a country which imprisons journalists, persecutes dissidents and has displayed a breath-taking contempt for the rule of law when it comes to Armenia.

There are no diplomatic relations between the two countries because of a long-running dispute over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The case of an Azerbaijani army henchmen, Ramil Safarov, says everything about the  country which UEFA, in its infinite wisdom, decided was an appropriate venue for Arsenal's match against Chelsea.

Safarov was a borderline psychopath, breaking into the room of an Armenian army lieutenant, Gurgan Margaryan, during a NATO-sponsored training seminar in Budapest 15 years ago and axing the man to death. 

He was convicted of first degree murder by the Hungarian courts, dealt a minimum sentence of 30 years, yet somehow secured extradition to Azerbaijan. There, he received a hero's welcome, was pardoned by the country's  current president Ilham Aliyev, provided with an apartment and eight years' back pay.

This the kind of climate which lead to Mkhitaryan and Arsenal's confirmation, on Tuesday, that it is impossible for him to fly to Baku for this weekend's final. Yet money talks in a world when sportswashing is a now fact of life.

Baku was awarded the Europa League final, in 2017, just five months before it had been revealed that Aliyev and his odious elite were operating a £2bn slush fund, paying anyone they could to burnish the president's deeply tarnished image and promote a positive image of his oil-rich country.

There has been no shortage of takers. Azerbaijan has hosted the IAAF's European Games (2015), the World Boxing Championships (2010) and the under-17 Women's World Cup (2017). Taekwondo, gymnastics and chess have all piled in. The country's first Formula One Grand Prix took place in 2016.

The glad-handing would be laughable were it not so utterly dismal. When Tony Blair arrived to deliver a speech in Baku - estimated fee: £90,000 - the father of Eynulla Fatullayev, a prominent journalist held in solitary confinement at a freezing Communist-era jail, hoped to hear a mention of his son. None was forthcoming. Blair joked about the weather and praised a new £185m chemical plant.

This is the nation which ranks 177th out of 196 countries for press freedom. It has been ranked by a leading global gay rights organisation as the worst place in Europe to be LGBT. And, over the last 30 years, its leaders have allegedly engaged in the systematic destruction of traces of the country's Armenian heritage.

The nation's leaders declared a few days ago, without the faintest hint of self-awareness, that Mkhitaryan would be 'permitted' to play in the final. As if that were its remotest right. It almost goes without saying that anyone with an Armenian passport, or dual British-Armenian nationality, will not be able to attend the final.

It requires little imagination to know how Mkhitaryan's sister, Monica, who works for UEFA, feels about this. Or his mother Marina, who works for Armenian FA.

'I struggle to find words for how strongly I feel,' said Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham on Tuesday. 'We don't feel he can travel and it's 
extraordinarily sad. You don't get a chance to play in a major European finals often. I can't find the words. We made our point clearly to UEFA.'

The club ought to have known they were talking to the wall. UEFA is already cashing in on its next payday from Baku, which has been permitted one of the continent-wide Euro 2020 games.

Demands that the decision be reversed reached a new pitch on Tuesday but don't hold your breath. When the sense of collective indignation has subsided, the gravy train will move on.

May 22, 2019 Wednesday
It's the memory of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's understated pride in his own country which makes you rage against the way that football's governors noses in the trough again have seen to it that he will not play in one of Europe's showpiece events.
Mkhitaryan's time in Manchester was not the happiest, though far less appreciated was the part he played in the local Armenian community. It wasn't just his willingness to stop for photographs at the Armenian Taverna, on the city's Princess Street, but his interest in the lives of those in that community. He was one of them.
That kind of humanity is a very long way from sport's cynical willingness to be bought off by the despicable leaders of Azerbaijan a country which imprisons journalists, persecutes dissidents and has displayed a breathtaking contempt for the human rights of those from Armenia.
The case of an Azerbaijani army henchman, Ramil Safarov, says everything. Safarov broke into the room of an Armenian army lieutenant, Gurgen Margaryan, during a NATO-sponsored training seminar in Budapest 15 years ago and axed the man to death. He was convicted of first degree murder in Hungary, yet somehow secured extradition to Azerbaijan.
He received a hero's welcome, was pardoned, given an apartment and eight years' back pay. This is the country from which sporting organisations have queued up to take cash.
Mkhitaryan's sister, Monica, works for UEFA. His mother, Marina, works for the Armenian FA. Arsenal are incandescent.
They should have known they were talking to a wall.
UEFA has already granted Baku matches at Euro 2020. Demands that the decision be reversed have reached a new pitch but don't hold your breath. When the sense of collective indignation has subsided, the gravy train will quietly move on.