Archive for May, 2009

UAE: Discussing Human Trafficking

Denying the existence of human trafficking seems no longer the case in the United Arab Emirates. Gulfnews reports:

Sharjah: The UAE courts saw 36 suspects tried in 20 cases of human trafficking last year, according to the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT).

“In 2007, we had 10 cases tried for human trafficking based on Law 51. There were five convictions, with sentences of between 3 to 10 years’ imprisonment, for aiding and inciting human trafficking,” said Dr Saeed Mohammad Al Ghafli, Executive Director of the Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs and Secretary of NCCHT.

Al Ghafli announced the statistics at a symposium on human trafficking held at the Training and Judicial Studies Centre at Sharjah University City.


Armenia: Chemical Plant Explosion

Asbarez reports about the Nairit explosion in Yerevan, a plant that Armenians closed due to environmental concerns toward the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the plant reopened in 1992, demands to close it down had died due to economic depressions. Will the new incident reignite the environmental movement?

Two explosions within the spam of about five minutes rocked the Nairit chemical plant in southern Yerevan at about 6.40 pm Thursday.

The explosions reportedly followed a huge fire at a chloroprene production shop at Nairit, the region’s largest synthetic rubber producing plant. The two explosions could be heard by residents living in the nearby area.

Sixteen fire-fighting vehicles reportedly rushed to the scene soon after the incident and were fighting fire late on Thursday. The fire rated as ‘huge’ was reportedly localized.


Several ambulance vehicles were rushing into the area. According to unconfirmed reports, there are at least three deaths and over a dozen injuries.


According to A1Plus, there are five deaths.

Armenia: Odnoklassniki Killing

tigranA May 13, 2009 Associated Press wire, carried by hundreds of newspapers around the world, reads:

Police say an Armenian teenager was killed after a dispute on a popular social networking Web site.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sayat Shirinian said Wednesday that 17-year-old Tigran Tadevosian died in a hospital shortly after being assaulted by four teenagers on April 26.

He said Tadevosian was attacked after he insulted a young woman in a chat room on, a widely popular Russian version of Facebook.

Police have arrested one suspect in the attack in the western city of Gyumri. claims to have more than 35 million users in Russia and other former Soviet republics., writing in Armenian, says it has received a letter from the dead teenager’s family who say that the “insult” was “gna qo…” (“go your…”) which, if said entirely, could be “go you, motherf***er” or “f**k off.” According to a user of an Armenian forum, though, the teenager only said “gna Q” – intending to say “go” and add a smile, but got a Q instead.

Hetq, the Investigative Jouralists of Armenia, details the killing with some shocking information. Apparently, Tigran died 12 days after the beating. The day of the beating, his mother went to the police station to get Tigran (who, despite horrible health conditions), had only been treated by a nurse.

At the station, his mother was forced to write a statement that Tigran had “fallen.” While unaware of the real details, the mother wanted to get her son home as soon as possible. On the way to their home, Tigran told his mother that he had been beaten by four men. When four young men (Sergei, Samvel, Valerik and Edgar) attacked him, Edgar recalled, he tried to escape. The four men, nonetheless, got on the taxi and followed Tigran.

Finding out the truth, Tigran’s relatives took him to the hospital where he lived on for 10 days. There, he was visited by the assailants’ seven relatives leaving with him several hundreds of dollars worth money.

After that, police officers showed up at the hospital – they wanted Tigran’s mother to change the initial statement by saying that she had not picked up her son from the police station but from the street.

For the second time, Tigran’s traumatized mother was forced to write another false testimony. This time, the statement had already been written by the police – she only had to sign it.

After Tigran died in the hospital, according to Hetq’s information, only one assailant Samvel, had been questioned by the police.

Samvel is the boyfriend of Lida Yedigaryan, the young woman who had her four male friends “avenge” Tigran’s Odnoklassniki message.

This tragic story speaks to many problems in Armenia: a culture of violence, uneven relationship between men and women (where the latter often seek “protection” from other men), and a failed police system.

It would be unjust to use this story to generalize Armenia, but there is a pattern of violence in the society whether starting online or in real life. Several years ago, for instance, an acquaintance at the time from Gyumri (the city where Tigran was killed) told me about his friends’ online “heroism:” straight men, posing as gay, would find online hookups, make a date with the real gay guy, show up with a gang and assault him. In Armenian chat rooms, men start “fighting” or “defending” a girl and then meet up for fights.

Azerbaijan: The Afghan Mujahedin in Nagorno-Karabakh

Just came across to an interesting research on the Islamic fighters, recruited by Azerbaijan, during the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Christian Armenia in the early 1990s.

Speaking of the number of the Islamic fighters, researcher Micael Taarnby writes:

Whatever the true number of Mujahedin, even the most conservative estimate of around 1,000 represents a considerable influx of foreign fighters. Unlike the parallel situations in Bosnia or Chechnya where individuals or smaller groups of foreign fighters made their way into the theatre of war, the scale of operations in Nagorno-Karabakh required a very different logistical setup, complete with a sizeable airlift capacity. The foreign Mujahedin were flown in on chartered civilian aircraft and this considerable traffic resulted in the joking reference to an unknown company called Afghan Airlines.

Ironically, according to the author, the Afghan fighters had more respect for their Christian Armenian enemies than for their Muslim Azeri bosses:

In spite of the official Azeri position that Afghan Mujahedin did not exist, such individuals were easily spotted in tea-shops in Baku because of their tribal dress and full beards. Apparently discipline broke down occasionally, even requiring young Azeri conscripts to be moved to other sectors of the front to avoid their killing by the Mujahedin. Insubordination became a problem, probably because of two characteristics specific to Afghan Mujahedin: fearlessness and the concept of loyalty. Apparently they cared little for their Azeri relations, who were considered inadequate paymasters and poor soldiers but also, and perhaps even worse, as only nominally Muslim.[24] They did, however, respect their adversaries, the local Armenian Karabakhis, who had an intimate knowledge of the terrain and the ability to exploit this advantage on a tactical level. Often the Mujahedin would find themselves outmanoeuvred or fired at from multiple directions, not even knowing where the enemy was placed.[25]

Speaking about particular involvemenet of the Afghan fighters, the author writes:

Many atrocities were committed during the conflict, including decapitations and the ritual mutilation of civilians, although it is not known what role the Mujahedin played in this respect. However, their presence at the frontline and the style of fighting reminiscent of the Afghan theatre increase the possibility of their involvement. Eyewitness reports have confirmed that villagers had had their heads sawn off by advancing Azeri troops, although no unit identification was presented.[26]

Where did the fighters go after the war? Mostly to Chechnya, since Shamil Basayev – the Chechen Islamist fighter – was himself fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia: Expatriates Return

In contrast to emigration, Armenia’s immigration history is not rich. But with Armenian expatriates finding themselves unemployed in host countries such as Russia due to worldwide economic downfall, many of them are returning home.

The Wall Street Journal has the story.

Neo-Ottomanism and its official chief

Photo: The Armenian Reporter

Amid attempts to establish relations with Armenia and further its influence in much of the Middle East, Turkey has a new Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ahmet Davutoglu.

In the words of The New York Times:

In a major cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, Ahmet Davutoglu, the official who has shifted Turkish foreign policy toward a greater focus on the Middle East, was made foreign minister. Mr. Davutoglu previously served as a foreign policy adviser to the prime minister.


According to the Turkey-based Hurriyet, “Ahmed Davutoğlu advocates a foreign policy based on ‘zero problems with neighbors’ in line with what he terms the Ottoman identity of Turkey’s past.”

While ‘zero problems with neighbors’ suggests normalizing relations with Armenia – which has been blockaded by Turkey for almost all of its post-USSR existence – Davutoglu may not be the moderate some media make him to be.

In fact, Foreign Policy makes the claim that Turkey is attempting to become a cultural hegemon in the Islamic world and a regional power in the ancient Ottoman boundaries:

…Not only is Turkey sending emissaries throughout the region, but a new vogue for all things Turkish has emerged in neighboring countries. The Turkish soap opera Noor, picked up by the Saudi-owned MBC satellite network and dubbed in Arabic, became a runaway hit, reaching some 85 million viewers across the Middle East. Many of the growing number of tourists from Arab countries visiting Istanbul are making pilgrimages to locations featured in the show. In February, Asharq Alawsat, a pan-Arab newspaper based in London, took note of changing attitudes in a widely circulated column, ‘The Return of the Ottoman Empire?’

The article calls now-Foreign Affairs Minister Davutoglu the person behind “neo-Ottomanism:”

The mastermind of this turnaround—‘neo-Ottomanism,’ as some in Turkey and the Middle East are calling it—has been Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister’s chief foreign-policy advisor. In his 2001 book, Strategic Depth, he argued that in running away from its historical ties in the region, Turkey was also running away from political and economic opportunity. His strategy has paid off, literally, for Turkey. Trade with the country’s eight nearest neighbors—including Syria, Iran, and Iraq—nearly doubled between 2005 and 2008, going from $7.3 billion to $14.3 billion. And, from being on the verge of war with Syria a decade ago, Ankara is now among Damascus’s closest allies in the region […].

Nationalism is nothing new in Turkey. Yet for much of the last century, it has meant rejecting the country’s Ottoman history. Today it means claiming it.

Is solving the problem with Armenia – the darkest spot of the imperial heritage – the return to the future of Ottomanism for Turkey?

Whatever the case, the Armenian issue is a priority for “neo-Ottomanism.” In fact, it was Davutoglu himself who perhaps convinced President Obama, despite latter’s adamant stance up to that point, not to use the g-word while talking about the Armenian Genocide. As the Armenian Reporter detailed in March 2009:

Ahmet Davutoglu, senior foreign policy advisor to Turkish leaders, last week met with U.S. officials to discuss President Barack Obama’s visit to Ankara and Istanbul on April 5-7.

After meeting Mr. Obama’s national security advisor Jim Jones on March 19, Mr. Davutoglu told Reuters that he could not say what the Obama administration’s intentions were with regard to the president’s pre-election pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide […]

Mr. Davutoglu suggested that U.S.-Turkey relations were ‘in a historic era where our policies are almost identical on all issues,’ Associated Press reported him as saying on March 19. He added that the Armenian Genocide issue ‘could be debated from a historical perspective, but should not hijack the strategic vision of Turkish-American relations or Turkish-Armenian relations.’


During a visit to Washington shortly before the presidential elections, Mr. Davutoglu insisted that Turkey wants ‘to have best relations with Armenia,’ and ‘good relations’ with Armenians in the diaspora.

Davutoglu comes across as a moderate, but was he appointed to this position because he was able to convince Obama not to use the g-word?

Much of the discussion about the recent development of Turkish-Armenian relations has been about ‘strategic culture.’ That is, annalists look at foreign policy as a dynamics of internal and external developments: how societal moods – in this case nationalism – reflect or shape discussions, how leaders make decisions based on national interest as defined or contested by different groups, etc. More importantly, questions of whether Turks or Armenians are “honest” in the developments or whether a piece is “really possible” amid the history of genocide are often raised. Culture, and its implications on policy, are taken for granted.

It is common for foreign policy analysis to think of state actions as a “group” action, deeply reflective of domestic change or conflict. Much of this may be true for the Armenian-Turkish developments, given that more Turkish citizens seem to be open to dialogue, that Turkey wants to broaden its influence in the region, and that Armenia seeks a more economic viable future. All of the above, and other factors, are true, but strategic culture creates stereotypes, homogenizes governments, and leaves little room for change. Armenians talk whether they should trust “the Turks,” vice versa.

Individuals like Ahmet Davutoglu seem to be influential and leading the charge. He is, what researchers call, a goal-driven leader who clearly has a vision of making Turkey an uncontested regional power – even if such an attempt includes normalizing relations with ancient foe Armenia. But Turkish leaders, for that matter leaders of regional-hegemon-wanna-bes, are commonly instrumentalist – using nationalism to advance their often personal goals. It remains to be seen whether Davutoglu will be willing and able to broker an opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, which will hopefully open the door for Turkey to face its past in order to have a better future.

Perhaps it is in the interests of ‘neo-Ottomanism’ to recognize the Armenian Genocide?