Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Armenians Scream CNN Murder of their Genocide

Too short for Armenians and too long for the Turkish government, a two-hour CNN documentary by Christiane Amanpour on genocide includes a 45-second mention of the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenian population. Premiered on December 4, 2008, Scream Bloody Murder has made many Armenian bloggers angry, leading them to recall Hitler’s rhetoric for impunity, “Who, after all, remembers the Armenians?”

Armenia-based blogger, photographer and designer Arsineh had concerns even before watching the documentary. Writing on Ars Eye View, she says:


I’m preparing to watch the program for myself, but given this much prior information, I have to ask. If you are going to cover the epidemic of genocide, starting with the campaign to criminalize genocide, continue to show the struggle so many have endured to (as you titled your program) “SCREAM BLOODY MURDER” while the world turned a deaf ear only to allow genocide to continue around the world, shouldn’t you be talking about the biggest cover up of genocide, the very one which inspired Lemkin to coin the word, the very one which also inspired Adolf Hitler to follow through with the Holocaust? Afterall, it’s this denial that scares CNN from ever using the word “Genocide” in their reporting on related matters.


She also posts a video question to CNN.

Writing in detail, West of Igdir says a previous CNN press release suggested the coverage of the Armenian Genocide was going to be more intense.


The release specifically mentioned Armenia as one of the cases of genocide it would be examining. This naturally created some excitement that finally a major news organization would be dedicating a program partly to the so often overlooked Armenian Genocide of 1915 and inform a nationwide audience about it.


I had been feeling hopeful about the documentary and might have given it more of a pass on this omition until I saw this interactive map on the section of Scream Bloody Murder section of CNN’s website about the world’s killing fields. It appears that despite the fact when it had first been announced Armenia was prominently mentioned as one of the examples of genocide that would be covered, it was overlooked as being pinpointed on the interactive map as an example of genocide.


Clearly the documentary did not go unnoticed in Turkey, despite the fact it says almost nothing about the Armenian Genocide, as the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet yesterday declared “Genocide feature worrisome.”


Sevana at Life in the Armenian Diaspora is also unhappy.

When will this second class genocide victim status end? I guess CNN is afraid that CNN-Turk will be cut off the air if they include the Armenians… how very, very sad.

Another diasporan voice, Seta’s Armenian Blog posts an action alert by the Armenian National Committee of America to protest CNN’s almost exclusion of the Armenian Genocide.

The full post is available at Global Voices Online.

Armenian Bloggers Hail Power Return

While most people know Samantha Power as an Obama adviser who has called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” many genocide awareness and prevention activists consider the Harvard professor a hope they can believe in. The Associated Press has noticed that Power, who officially resigned from Obama’s campaign during the Democratic primaries, is on US President-elect Obama’s transition team. This news has encouraged several Armenian bloggers who now feel assured that the author of “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” (2002) will remind President-elect Barack Obama to keep his promise of officially recognizing the WWI Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman Turks.


Back with Obama, Power has reignited hope among many Armenians. But some have wished for more. Joseph at the ArmenianGenocide forum:

Samantha Power is back on the Obama team and will be working at the State Department. This is good for Armenians, as she will give a direct challenge to Hillary Clinton { Hillary WILL betray us} and will be a honest broker in a institution where honesty and integrity is a very rare commodity. Still, would have loved to have Samantha Power as our Sec. of State.

The full post is available at Voices without Votes.

Nagorno-Karabakh: From Ideal to Real Solutions

While I have been silent on the recent developments of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, it doesn’t mean I have not been following the news. My silence reflects a complicated mixture of cautious optimism, confusion, excitement, fear, cynicism, and a busy schedule (which includes observing the US presidential elections). We live in historic and unpredictable times. These unknown globalized waves can translate into almost anything in Nagorno-Karabakh – from long-term solutions to further conflict.


Internationally, Obama’s election, Georgia’s unsuccessful bid for South Ossetia, Turkey’s continuous struggle to join the European Union, and international – particularly US and Russian – interest in the South Caucasus have contributed to the recent developments in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process, which was vocalized in a set of principles that Azerbaijan and Armenia signed in Moscow in early November 2008. One can only hope that Armenian and Azeri leaders will make tough choices and negotiate for a solution. Locally, both countries have a great chance to make the piece.




For those of you who don’t know, Nagorno-Karabakh is an indigenous Armenian region (called Artsakh by locals) within the country of Azerbaijan. This small territory declared its independence from Soviet Azerbaijan in 1991, less than seventy years after USSR chief Joseph Stalin gave Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. The conflict escalated into a war between Armenia/Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, killing thousands of people and leaving many more homeless.


Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally unrecognized republic with a common border with mother Armenia. Nationalist sentiment is at peak high in Azerbaijan where most people see Armenians as invaders and aggressors. The sentiment was reflected in December 2005, when a contingent of Azerbaijan’s army reduced the largest medieval Armenian cemetery – Djulfa – to dust. (Official Azerbaijan until this day denies the destruction, even though it was videotaped.) While most Armenians are nowadays much less antagonistic against Azerbaijan, during the war, in 1992, armed Armenian groups massacred a few hundred Azeri civilians when fighting in Khojalu, although both official Armenia and some Azeri sources question some of the facts of the tragedy: particularly suggesting that Azeri forces deliberately banned Khojalu’s residents to leave through a humanitarian corridor the Armenian army had left for civilians. Furthermore, Armenians claim that the conflict itself started in Azerbaijan when mobs attacked hundreds of Armenian citizens, killing several dozen, in their homes in Sumgayit in 1988 while the Police stood by. Azeris claim that there were riots against their kin in southern Armenia at the same time.


Armenian and Azeri Attitudes:


In short, both Armenia and Azerbaijan see themselves as the victim and the enemy as the aggressor in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And while abuses by both sides have been almost always symmetrical in the conflict, official Azerbaijan – until recently – has been using both verbal threats and disproportional acts of destruction. Threats have included official statements by Azerbaijan’s president to win Nagorno-Karabakh back by any price, including by war, and predictions by a senior Azeri military chief that Armenia will not exist in several years. Disproportional acts of destruction by Azerbaijan have included  total elimination of all ancient indigenous Armenian monuments on its territory, especially in the exclave of Nakhichevan (another region granted to Azerbaijan by Stalin). This is not only inconsistent with Azerbaijan’s self-promotion as “the world’s most tolerant country,” but is also an act of cultural genocide (what I call “genocidal vandalism” in my honors thesis) which in no way contributes to the peace process.


Armenia’s diplomacy in the conflict has been more moderate, which may be a reflection of the following: Armenia’s victory in the early 1990s war, oil-rich Azerbaijan’s military boom, and limited open international support for Armenia in the conflict. Moderate diplomacy, nonetheless, hasn’t resulted in worldwide condemnation against Azerbaijan for blockading Armenia (although until George W. Bush, the United States didn’t give military aid to Azerbaijan). And in general, the world has been very careful not to take sides in the conflict (neither in the case of the Khojalu massacre by  Armenians nor in the recent case of Djulfa’s destruction by Azeris): an approach which is difficult to determine as productive or not.


Ideal Solutions and Militant Positions:


One reason why it has been difficult to defend one position or another has been the polarized Armenian and Azerbaijani demands, a “normal” situation in every conflict.


Azerbaijan wants to return its borders to pre-1991, entirely reversing what the bloody war did before the 1994 cease fire. It says that Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will be Azerbaijan’s citizens, but that they will never have the right or the option to succeed from Azerbaijan. In short, the legal concept of “territorial integrity” has been the supreme law and the sacred doctrine in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has about a million refugees who live in horrible conditions. Azerbaijan hopes that all these people will return to their homes, now under Armenian control. Armenians say and an Amnesty International report agreed last year, that Azerbaijan is deliberately ignoring its refugees and making their lives even miserable in order to gain international support.


Armenia says that Nagorno-Karabakh’s return to Azeri control would mean giving 150,000 Armenian lives into captivity. If Azerbaijan reduces unarmed ancient Armenian graves to dust, what will it do with live Armenians? Many, if not most, Armenians insist on also keeping the seven regions around Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian forces gained control of during the war. While not many Armenians lived on these lands during the war, there are hundreds of ancient monuments that Armenians see as proof for their historic claim to the land. Some Azeris criticize Armenians for capitalizing on history and, thus, denying Azeri inhabitants the right to return to their homes. Some Armenians respond that Azerbaijan is trying to capitalize on rewriting history, and denying indigenous Armenians their right to self-determination.


On surface, Azerbaijan doesn’t agree to any solution that will let Nagorno-Karabakh be separate from it. In the same way, many Armenians consider the possibility of giving much of the seven surrounding territories back to Azerbaijan a loss. Neither party considers all the damage that has happened – and will continue to happen – to people in both countries because of the unresolved conflict. Nationalism has overridden cost-benefit analysis (with a human rights perspective) or mutual respect for the rights of the other.


Undemocratic regimes in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have perhaps contributed to the conflict. Wars unite populations, and perhaps the conflict has worked well for both Azeri and Armenian political elites. A few months ago, a former Azerbaijani serviceman (now studying in the United States) told me that Azerbaijan’s economic elite is using nationalism to hold power in the country. While Azerbaijan’s economy is booming due to oil exports, ordinary people are not experiencing change in their lives. Hatred against Armenia, some Azeris say, is the perfect tool for Azerbaijan’s rich class to distract the majority’s attention. And in Armenia, between 1992 and 1994, people would die from hunger and economic desperation. While the government was blaming everything on the war, several government-protected families were illegally becoming superrich. According to widespread claims, independent Armenia’s regime (both Levon-Ter Petrosyan’s and Kocharyan’s) elites stole billions of dollars from the people of Armenia through neoliberal privatizations of several industries and by other means.


Time for Change?


But even undemocratic regimes can solve problems, especially when their hegemony and reputation is at stake. In the last few months, there have been interesting developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. First, Azerbaijan’s ally and Armenia’s historic enemy Turkey demonstrated diplomatic will to cooperate with Armenia. Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul accepted his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan’s invitation to watch a soccer match between both countries in September 2008. The historic event, deemed as “football diplomacy,” was followed by recent meetings brokered by Moscow between Armenia and Azerbaijan where, for the first time, leaders of both countries seemed to be pleased. More surprisingly, Turkey has been reducing its pro-Azerbaijan rhetoric while trying to become a mediator between its two South Caucasus neighbors.


Many Armenians, who are usually skeptical in international relations given their experience of genocide, are discouraged with the recent development. Skeptics see Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan, who came to power following a bloodshed during the March 2008 post-election protests, as trading his own presidency for a solution unbeneficial for Armenia. Turkey’s involvement in the process is less encouraging for the residents of Armenia, a country that Turkey has been blockading since the Karabakh conflict. 


While Turkey may not be a friend of Armenia, it sure has its interest in helping the Nagorno-Karabakh process. Turkey is under enormous pressure to open the border with Armenia (which Turkey thinks will help persuade US president-elect Barack Obama to back off from his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide). It will be very hard to open the border, though, without solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Thus, by helping to broker a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey’s current regime would silence the United States (and also its own ultranationalist deep state), have better prospects for joining the European Union, and make a claim to sort things out in the region (Turkey has surely expressed interest in brokering a deal between the United States and Iran, and unsuccessfully tried the same with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).


Azerbaijan may be more interested in solving the problem now than in the past. Authoritarian leader Ilham Aliyev, the son of Azerbaijan’s former, now deceased, president Heydar Aliyev, just won  a second (and final term) with the opposition boycotting the election (and giving him a perfect argument for a democratic victory). Not having to worry about reelection, Aliyev may be more interested in toning down his militant rhetoric. More importantly, the recent Georgian-Russian escalation over South Ossetia has likely demonstrated to Azerbaijan that war is not as good of a choice as Azerbaijan thought it might be. After all, Georgia not only didn’t win South Ossetia back, its attempt to get international sympathy faded away, if not being replaced with anger and distrust toward Tbilisi. Furthermore, the United States may want to partner with Azerbaijan even further more, especially in the case of an escalation with Iran, if it solves its problem with Armenia.


Armenia may be more inclined to change not only due to alleged pressure against president Sargsyan, but also due to the fact that an open border with Turkey will be a great asset for Armenia (Turkey thinks it may not be able to afford the border without a Karabakh solution). Furthermore, in two years, there won’t be many 18-year-olds in Armenia to qualify as soldiers. That’s because 1992-1994 are Armenia’s “dark and cold days,” when few families had children. So if there is to be war in the next four years, Armenia will have few bodies to fight. 


A fight between Armenia and Azerbaijan, nonetheless, is not desired (at least at this time) by any of the superpowers, especially by the United States. Back in July, when I met with the acting US Ambassador to Armenia, I heard extremely nice remarks about president Serzh Sargysan’s offer of watching football match with his Turkish counterpart. The United States is seeking stability, especially with the mess that the Iraq war has created. Russia is also interested in stability between Armenia (a strong ally) and Azerbaijan (an ally), especially since Moscow’s interest in the Baku oil. Thus, internationally speaking, prospects for a peaceful Karabakh deal are possible, if not real. 


Realist solutions:


Both sides need to accept that no solution is going to be perfect for either side. I don’t want to suggest what the solution should or will be, but it is clear what the solution cannot be. Azerbaijan cannot recover all the territories that it had before 1991; Armenia cannot retain all the territories that it gained after 1991. This is not a simple cliché, but a psychology that Azerbaijani and Armenian governments must start embedding in their populations. Any solution, though, would be a hard-sell both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The governments in both countries might want to employ the same tactic they have used for a long time – information wars. Instead of dehumanizing the enemy this time, Armenian and Azeri TV channels (both are government-controlled to a large degree) should broadcast stories that rehumanize their neighbors. This strategy hardly needs to be called ‘affirmative propaganda,’ because there are so many true stories of mutual help and respect that can help in bringing change. One thing that is clear is that a peaceful solution at this time would be great for Armenia, Azerbaijan, their neighbors and the world.

Russia: Putin Website Removes Riot Image

According to Oleg Kozlovsky’s blog, Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party’s new website featured a computerized image showing riot police shooting at civilians. The image has been removed after bloggers noticed it.

Amnesty Int’l Reports Violence Against Women in Armenia

An 8-page report by Amnesty International documents widespread domestic violence and sexual abuse of women in Armenia. According to the findings, while one in four Armenian women are physically violated by family members, many more are psychologically abused.

Worst of all, violence against women is a taboo in Armenia, with all-male government agencies reluctant to investigate “private matters” and women afraid to report abuse in the first place. Moreover, the report says that many women in Armenia help perpetuate the widespread abuse by treating violence as normal. Amnesty quotes an infamous Armenian saying that translates, “A woman is like wool; the more you beat her, the softer she’ll be.”

The government of Armenia in essence denies that domestic abuse is an issue in the Republic, although there has been some talk by officials about change. There are still no laws that deal with the issue.

This conventional violence in Armenia, as the report carefully suggests, has translated into people not carrying about human trafficking.

In the U.S. Embassy in Armenia

As diplomatic as the head of the U.S. Embassy Joseph Pennington is on record, America’s Chargé d’Affaires in Armenia cannot hide his love and sorrow for the tiny ex-Soviet republic he’s been working in since July 18, 2007. He is amazed with the Armenian people’s hospitality, and, without doubt, has many friends in the capital Yerevan. Equally, he resonates with ordinary peoples’ outrage against blatant inequality before the law – explaining that institutionalized change in the public sector will make people more tolerant and patient toward economic improvement. He also has to admit that the post-election March 1 clash between opposition supporters and the police, as a result of which at least 10 people died, has “complicated the relationship” with Armenia’s government. Yet he is hopeful; and regards current affairs as “good” and “productive.”


Pennington’s wife and my good friend Amberin Zaman, a journalist for The Economist, was also present at this special interview with the chief of the U.S. mission in Yerevan on July 28, 2008. 


Pennington’s desk is well organized with Armenian newspapers laying there. “Can you read Armenian?!” Pennington blushes “yes.” The well-trained diplomat’s office looks to the barely visible chapel of Yerablur – burial grounds for Armenian soldiers who fought in the Karabakh war. Pennington hasn’t been to Yerablur and, until our meeting, doesn’t know that the minute object on a hill several miles away is part of Yerablur.


Unlike in the case of the monument, Pennington recognizes the tragic consequences of the conflict with Azerbaijan. I ask him about the destruction of Jugha – the largest medieval Armenian cemetery reduced to dust by Azerbaijan in 2005. I know that Pennington has watched my film (Amberin told me so a long time ago), and I know that he cares. But as a U.S. diplomat, he has to give me the same answer – “As a general matter, we encourage countries to preserve cultural monuments.” 


The young diplomat seems open to change, but until U.S. policy shifts, neither he nor any other person in his place will use the word “genocide.”  Instead, they will continue to speak of “mass killings, ethnic cleansing” or simply “the events of 1915.” As a political science major, I understand where he is coming from. Yet I play devil’s advocate and press on. The beautiful Amberin Zaman jumps in and asks her husband to tell me about their experience at the “Genocide Memorial and Museum” in Yerevan, which Pennington calls Tsitsernakaberd like locals do. The g-word is not the only way of acknowledging a history that haunts today’s reality.


Pennington tells me how he and Amberin spent four hours at Tsitsernakaberd two weeks ago. Hayk Demoyan, the Museum’s director, showed them a recently arrived shipment from the US of lace, art work and toys made and used by Armenians – including survivors who ended up in orphanages — before the Genocide. I read pain in Pennington’s voice – pain for an entire people and its culture lost — and perhaps also regret for not being able to speak about these events more directly in his official capacity.


Amberin Zaman reminds me to ask about the Turkish-Armenian relationship, a topic dear to her heart. (I had encouraged her to advise me during my interview as a professional journalist). Pennington gets excited. He says that the rhetoric in the last six months between Armenia and Turkey has been very positive. He calls Armenia’s president Serge Sargsyan’s invitation to Turkish president Abdullah Gul to watch a football match in Yerevan between both countries “a brilliant idea.” Then he asks me if I have roots in Anatolia. I smile and start the list: Urfa, Diyarbakir, Istanbul, Bayazet. He says that he hopes that the border will open soon – I nod in a hopefully romantic agreement. 


While Pennington enjoys his job, he also has his worries. A few days after our meeting, the opposition will hold another protest on August 1, 2008. I ask Pennington whether George W. Bush ever congratulated Sargsyan for his election. He says “no,” and I understand that Armenia’s president is standing on somewhat shaky ground. Like another friend suggested later on that day, perhaps Sargsyan can use March 1 as an opportunity to rethink political power and bring change to Armenia – such as eliminating monopoly.


Seemingly tireless, Pennington is actually tired of one thing– having to do the duties of the Ambassador. After the firing of John Evans, America’s last Ambassador to Armenia who used the word “genocide” in public, Congress hasn’t been able to confirm an envoy (until August 1, 2008 when Marie L. Yovanovitch was confirmed as Ambassador) due to pressure by many Armenian-Americans. This was a topic I didn’t bring up. But as I had entered the Embassy, I saw a photo of John Evans, along with other former Ambassadors to Armenia, hanging on a wall. I looked at the photo with much pride. Speaking truth to power had place, although small, in a building representing the United States. But commitment can work in other ways too.  


There are many things about Pennington that cry love for Armenia. Large, framed photographs of pomegranates, books about Armenia and its history are all over his office. Turkish researcher Osman Koker’s magnificent collection of Turkey’s Armenian heritage in old postcards is on his table – an invitation to guests to browse through a history that is thought to be forever lost. You can feel the Armenian spirit in an office that is sponsored to represent what America’s current administration defines as U.S. interests. Diplomatic or otherwise, Pennington has been the right guy for Armenia.

Azerbaijan: New Exclusions in “The Most Tolerant Country”

In a step closer to totalitarianism, the government in ex-soviet Azerbaijan has imprisoned another journalist not in line with official views of the establishment that praises the oil-rich country as “an example of tolerance.”

According to the Associated Press, editor of the minority Talysh Sado Novruzali Mammadov was sentenced to10-years in prison for “treason.” The agency reports that “[p]rosecutors accused [Mammadov and the administrator of the newspaper, Elman Guliyev] of Talysh nationalism and undermining Azerbaijan’s statehood. The Talysh live in the south of the former Soviet republic and have close cultural ties to neighboring Iran. Guliyev acknowledged in court that the paper had received $1,000 per month from Talysh organizations in Iran.”

The conviction of indigenous Talysh activists comes a week after a Christian priest was arrested in Azerbaijan. According to Baptist Standard, “Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor in Aliabad, Azerbaijan, was arrested June 20 [2008].”

Azerbaijan’s ironic self-image of “heaven of tolerance” is dimming day by day, especially that oppression in the Muslim country has shifted from being exclusively anti-Armenian. Editor of the now-banned Real Azerbaijan Eynulla Fatullayev, who had indirectly challenged Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian rhetoric, is serving an eleven-year sentence for charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. Emin Husseinov, director of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, was badly beaten last week in Azerbaijan. The Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety was founded by Idrak Abassov, the independent Azeri journalist who confirmed for a British publication a few years ago that the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa had disappeared in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave.

While arrests in Azerbaijan in the name of anti-Armenianism have received little coverage in the West due to the sensitive conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, the ongoing oppression in Azerbaijan against the Talysh and other minorities suggests that the fascist nationalism is not simply a reaction to losing the 1990s’ war to Armenia.

But as Azerbaijan pumps a lot of oil in the face of a $4/gallon gas crisis in the United States, democracy may be the last thing America would care about in Baku.

“G” Factor: Did Genocide or Gay Trouble U.S. Envoy?


In a few hours, the U.S. Senate will vote on Bush’s Ambassadorial nominee to Armenia. We predict that Marie Yovanovitch will be confirmed. And the question is whether the previous nominee was denied because of not using the word genocide or because of being gay.

Making clear that she can’t use the word ‘genocide’ in referring to the Armenian extermination of WWI due to Bush’s foreign policy not to use the term, ambassadorial nominee Marie Yovanovitch’s Senate hearing became quite stressful last week.

She will most likely get the Senate confirmation given her honest hint that ANY Bush nominee would follow the order not to use the term genocide. Yet it wasn’t easy to deliver this message.

A photo posted (surprisingly) by the State Department sponsored Voice of America’s Armenian page, shows Marie Yovanovitch cleaning her nose during the hearing. More interestingly, the Armenian report refers to the Armenian genocide without quotation marks – something that U.S. State Department officials are not allowed to do themselves.

While it seems like Yovanovitch will be confirmed as the Ambassador despite that she follows her employer’s orders, one wonders whether the Genocide issue was the decisive factor in previous nominee Richard Hoagland’s failure to get the confirmation.

On January 12, 2007, the Armenian-language Hayastani Hanareptutyun (Republic of Armenia) wrote of some concerns in Armenia about Hoagland’s open homosexuality. According to the newspaper, the editor of Armenia’s Azg Daily, Hakob Avetiqyan (Hagop Avedikian), said during a press talk seating along with an ARF (Dashnaktustyun leader):

«Շատ անխոհեմ նշանակում էր սա՝ անկախ ցեղասպանության հարցից։ Անխոհեմ, քանզի Հայաստան, որտեղ ավանդապաշտությունը բավական կարեւոր գործոն է, ուղարկել մեկին, որը ոչ ավանդական սեռական կողմնորոշում ունի, չի բխում նաեւ Միացյալ Նահանգների շահերից»։(This was a very inconsiderate appointment [nomination] despite the question of the genocide. Inconsiderate, because sending somone who doesn’t have traditional sexual orientation to Armenia – a country where tradition-worshiping is a quite important factor – is not in the interests of the United States.)

As unzipped reported last year, Armenia’s anti-Semite and homophobic leader of “Armenian-Aryans” Armen Ayvazyan thanked those who ““freed the Armenian nation from the sad perspective of having a sick Ambassador, who was also denying the reality of the Armenian Genocide.” While Ayvazyan is not, to say the least, a popular figure in Armenia, Azg Daily editor’s open announcement that it is not a good decision to send a homosexual ambassador to Armenia seems worrysome.

Indeed, the editor was seating next to one of the leaders of the ARF (known as ANCA in the U.S.), the organization which heavily campaigned against the Hoagland nomination in 2007. This year, interestingly, ANCA hasn’t been actively campaigning against the new nomination. One reason might perhaps be the recent image-damaging violent post-election protest in Armenia. The new ambassador might be a compromise for continuous U.S. assistance to Armenia despite the recent poor democratic record.

Hoagland’s G-factor still seems important. Was it his refusal (without another choice) to say “genocide” or him being gay that cost him his job? Or maybe because tensions were high given the firing of Ambassador Evans – the only U.S. official in the Bush administration who openly recognized the Armenian Genocide?

NYC: Armenians and Progressive Politics, May 30-31, 2008

As I have mentioned before, I will be on a panel discussing the post-election unrest in Armenia this weekend. I hope I will meet some of you in New York during the symposium. For those of you who cannot attend, below is an abstract of my talk:

When Armenia erupted in violence earlier this year, many were hesitant to believe reports of deaths and destruction. Few expected violence in a tiny republic that has been harshly affected by an ongoing economic blockade and a recent war with neighboring Azerbaijan.


But the assumption that Armenians are united given their collective experience of oppression was challenged on the streets of Yerevan. With cries for “Justice,” many Armenians in their homeland protested corruption and a perceived conspiracy by government officials, most of whom were from the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Many Armenians in the Diaspora, concerned with their historic homelands image and national security, viewed the movement as one destabilizing Armenia.


While it is correctly argued that many of the protestors hoped to receive personal gain by supporting the opposition, the Levon Ter-Petrosyan team for many others seemed to be a medium to express outrage against unaccountable and unresponsive government. The opposition was the mean and not the end. Conversely, much of the outcry has been expressed in regional hatred, raising the question whether injustice can bring about justice.

More specifically, one wonders whether a government can change without a change in the society. What’s the relationship between institutions and the society? Which one holds the lead in transforming politics and traditions?

U.S. Elections: Hillary Accused of Playing the Race Card

From Chicago Sun-Times:

A disturbing trend has emerged from the long Democratic primary. Whenever Sen. Hillary Clinton is trailing in the polls, a racially divisive issue pops up.

Clinton loses 11 consecutive races, and the photograph of Sen. Barack Obama in Somalian garb shows up.

Clinton falls behind in pledged delegates and gets caught in a lie about her Bosnia adventure, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. story reignites.

The fallout over Obama’s “bitter” comment fits that same pattern.

He’s quoted as saying: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama was apparently referring to rural voters, a demographic he has had difficulty reaching.

The comment is being characterized by some pundits, Clinton and the GOP nominee John McCain as “elitist,” and evidence that Obama is “out-of-touch” with ordinary Americans.

But during his bus tour through Pennsylvania two weeks ago, Obama made the same point at several town hall meetings and crowds applauded.

Although he may not have used the exact same words that have caused such a furor, he offered the same assessment: When people believe they are getting a raw deal, they become bitter.

Here we go again

With polls showing that Obama has begun to narrow the gap in Pennsylvania — a state Clinton was predicted to win by double digits — Clinton is stirring up a backlash that her campaign hopes will net her some swing voters.

“Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them,” Clinton told a crowd in Philadelphia.

Her campaign has fueled the controversy, with supporters passing out “I’m not bitter” stickers in North Carolina.

But Clinton and McCain’s outrage has more to do with the demographic Obama called bitter than the words he used.

Indeed, neither of them said a word when Obama used harsher language to tell a predominantly black audience in Beaumont, Texas, that they needed to do a better job parenting.

“We can’t keep on feeding our children junk all day long, giving them no exercise. They are overweight by the time they are 4 or 5 years old, and then we are surprised when they get sick,” Obama said, drawing loud applause.

Obama also chided parents for letting their kids eat “potato chips for lunch or Popeye’s for breakfast.”

He gave a similar speech at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, and black people applauded along with everyone else.

Obviously, it is tough for African Americans to be called out on a subject that is rarely discussed publicly, let alone in mixed company.

But blacks in the audience took the attitude that Obama wasn’t talking about them — he was talking about their cousin.

At least one expert, Bart Landry, a sociology professor of the University of Maryland, criticized Obama for his remarks, saying he gave black parents a “bum rap.”

But there wasn’t anywhere near the blowup that happened after angry sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, were looped on the Internet.

Obama takes the high road

Indeed, given that Gov. Ed Rendell, who is leading Clinton’s campaign in Pennsylvania, has said publicly that “conservative whites” would not vote for Obama because he is black, Obama could have had a lot more to say about the mind-set of rural voters in that state.

Instead, throughout his campaign across Pennsylvania, Obama took the high road. He left race out of the conversation, and focused on the issues that voters raised during town hall meetings.

Clinton, who not once has challenged Rendell’s disgraceful stereotype of Pennsylvania voters as racist, has consistently seized upon polarizing issues in an effort to boost her campaign.

Obama has tried to end this latest battle of words, saying: “If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.”

He had no reason to apologize.

In attacking Obama as “elitist” and “arrogant,” Clinton is again appealing to the lower nature of voters.

She has once again proved that she is willing to feed the ignorance of voters like the ones Rendell has described.

But worst yet, Clinton is now communicating to these voters that she that can put an “uppity” black man in his place.

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