Thursday, 31 May 2007

"Dr Death" Jack Kevorkian will be out on parole this Friday and might travel to his native Armenia

Right of patients for dignified death

After 8 years in prison, Jack Kevorkian, 79, American pathologist of Armenian origin, famously dubbed "Dr Death", will be out on parole this coming Friday (1st June).

[picture - Time magazine cover, 31 May 1993]

He is a champion of patient’s “right to die” and his name became synonymous with the fight to legalise euthanasia.

Euthanasia (from Greek: eu, “good”, thanatos, “death”) - the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary)

More about the subject, including reasons given for and against euthanasia, here and here.

He claims to have helped more than 130 terminally or chronically ill patients die.

June 4, 1990: In the first reported assisted suicide, Kevorkian helps Alzheimer's patient Janet Adkins, 54, kill herself with an intravenous drug machine. Local prosecutor charges him with first-degree murder. However, district judge dismisses charges because Michigan has no assisted suicide law.

Jack Kevorkian’s friend told local press that after release he might travel to his native Armenia and visit a sister in Germany, providing that he gets permission of his parole officer.

According to Detroit Free Press, he will have some restrictions most parolees don't:

  • He cannot provide care for anyone older than 62 or who is disabled;
  • He can't be present at any suicide or euthanasia;
  • He cannot counsel people on how to commit suicide.

However, he can still be a vocal advocate of euthanasia, and, in fact, as that local paper reported, Kevorkian told friends that “he plans to continue his crusade to legalise assisted suicide”.

I am in favour of euthanasia. I believe that people should have a right for dignified death. It is a very sensitive, emotional and difficult issue, which may seem almost impossible to properly regulate since ‘mistakes’ will be irreversible. However, examples from handful of countries which allowed various levels and types of assisted death (see below) prove that it can be successfully regulated and dealt with. I am sure, in time, acceptance of euthanasia will be more widespread, and Jack Kevorkian will be remembered as a kind of hero who through personal sufferings and struggle, fought the way for the right of all patients for dignified death.

Which countries do allow euthanasia? (based on Guardian and BBC)

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia, in 2002, and it now accounts for between 4,000 and 5,000 deaths a year. The practice is tightly regulated and it is estimated that doctors - the only people allowed to perform euthanasia - turn down two-thirds of requests. Euthanasia is legal from the age of 12 but a new law before the Dutch parliament could extend it to infants, with their parents consent. The move is aimed at legalising the estimated 12 cases a year where Dutch doctors administer fatal doses of morphine to babies suffering from incurable and terminal illnesses.

Belgium also legalised euthanasia in 2002. Patients there must consciously make the demand and be under "constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain" resulting from an accident or incurable illness.

In the US, Oregon was the first state to allow lethal prescriptions. Doctors can prescribe lethal drugs to help patients commit suicide, but cannot administer them. At least 170 people have used Oregon's Death with Dignity Act to commit suicide since it was implemented in 1998.

The group based in Zurich, Dignitas, has caught the headlines as people with chronic diseases from around the world travel to Switzerland to ask for its help in committing suicide. Dignitas was founded in 1998 by Swiss lawyer, Ludwig Minelli, who runs it as a non-profit organisation. It takes advantage of Switzerland's liberal laws on assisted suicide, which suggest that a person can only be prosecuted if they are acting out of self-interest.

Further on this topic, I would strongly recommend this Spanish film (2004) by director Alejandro Amenábar:

The Sea Inside is the real-life story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro (brilliantly played by Javier Bardem), who fought a 30 year campaign in favour of euthanasia and his own right to die.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Good News and Bad News from South Caucasus

Good news was that Armenian and Azeri press clubs with a joint initiative launched common website Writers vs. Conflicts for literarily exchanges. As the website claims, it aims at providing a platform for a dialogue between sides using a literature to re-create some bridges between nations. In present climate of lack of communication and contacts, it will introduce current developments in the literature in respective countries to the Armenian and Azeri audiences. The site also provides a forum for discussions on various topics. They will present mainly modern authors from both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Later, other countries in the region may join too. Currently, the site operates in 3 languages – Armenian, Azeri and Russian. English version will become operational soon. The site is in pilot stages now, so more developed versions can be expected in near future.

I always liked the weekly South Caucasian programme in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where journalists from three countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) present reports on chosen social topic. That programme once again proved to me that along with differences, there are many similarities between us and what we lack are contacts and communication between ordinary people, civic society representatives and so on. Basically, simple human contacts... And I welcome the initiative of press clubs to try to re-establish some relations in the literature field.

One technical remark: I find the sound of the site animation annoying and difficult to get rid off; it disturbs reader from reading itself; it will be more user-friendly if by default that animation was soundless, with the option for a viewer to switch it on and off based on preferences.

And bad news... According to the results of the survey in Georgia, only 4% of respondents considered neighbouring Armenia a friendly country. I am not sure how representative this survey is, but assuming it reflects at least partly the reality, it shows how far we are from each other in terms of mutual understanding and trust, despite being so close geographically and culturally. I understand, there may be distrust and misunderstanding between neighbours, but this poll shows that complex regional and global politics are able to ruin neighbourly relationships without the need for war or direct conflicts. I assume that along with other factors, one of the main reasons of low trust in Armenia is that Armenia is considered the most pro-Russian country in the region – only 1% of surveyed Georgians considered Russia a friendly state, while Azerbaijan, Ukraine, USA and Estonia top the list of friendly countries, as voted by those surveyed.

Moscow anti-gay attack fuels western criticism over Russia's record on human rights and democracy

Released leader of GayRussia Nikolay Alexeev announced date for next year's Moscow Gay Pride - Saturday, 31st May 2008 and declared his MP ambitions

I've just learned that all detained gay right activists, including leader of GayRussia Nikolay Alexeev, has been released from custody. According to UKGayNews, within hours of being released by a Moscow Court, Nikolay Alekseev had met with others on the Moscow Gay Pride Committee to discuss the future.

“The Moscow Pride Committee has decided tonight that next Moscow Pride will take place Saturday May 31,” Mr. Alekseev said last night. And that was not all.

“I am planning to run next December in the Douma [Russian parliament] election. This could really change the course of next year’s Pride,” he added.

Alexeev expressed his gratitude to gay rights campaigners, various European governments and politicians that had made statements about the events during Moscow Pride. And in particular, he paid tribute to Germany, who currently hold the European Union presidency.

The incident prompted Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to announce she would raise the issue of human rights with President Vladimir Putin at next month's G8 summit in Germany. "It has been shown once again today that human rights are systematically abused in Putin's Russia," she said in a statement (Independent).

More info in Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Gay Rights Activists Attacked And Arrested at Moscow Pride

14th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia

Russian police detained gay protesters calling for the right to hold a Gay Pride parade in central Moscow on Sunday while nationalists shouting "death to homosexuals" punched and kicked the demonstrators (Reuters).

Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers threw kicks, punches and eggs at the gay rights group, chanting "Moscow is not Sodom" (BBC, Reuters).

According to the news agencies, prominent British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested, along with the leader of GayRussia, Nikolay Alexeyev, two West European MPs, and dozens of other gay rights activists in Russia, as violence broke out at a banned protest by gay rights activists.

Picture from AFP: Russian ultra-nationalist about to punch veteran British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at a protest in Moscow

Here are extracts from Peter Tatchell's keynote speech at the Moscow Pride conference in the Swissotel, Moscow (PinkNews):

"I bring you a message of comradeship and solidarity from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] human rights organizations OutRage! in London.Your struggle is our struggle. [...] We are in this fight for freedom together. [...] As long as gay people in Russia are not accepted and respected, then we are all diminished in all parts of the world. We are diminished regardless of whether we are gay or straight. An attack on one is an attack on all.When gay rights are suppressed, it is a loss to the whole democratic and human rights movement. Conversely, when lesbian and gay people win victories, it is a victory for all lovers of freedom and liberty.

[...] When human rights activists pick and choose which freedoms to defend, they undermine and compromise the whole human rights agenda. Human rights are universal and indivisible. [...]"

From the statement released by detained leader of GayRussia Nikolay Alexeev (PinkNews):

"[...] There is no such thing as human rights light in which you can just avoid LGBT issues.There is no place in Europe for people who do not respect the rights of their citizen. European democracies should ban Mayor Luzhkov and his people to enter their countries as they did to officials in Belarus. We ask for your help and support. Probably now, more than ever."

For detailed info, pictures and link to the video, see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Friday, 25 May 2007

Frederick Forsyth on Russia today

Quote of the day

"Russia, a country where you never hear of the gangsters of the Russian Mafia any more. Why? Because they are now all in office."

best-selling writer Frederick Forsyth

Source: BBC Newsnight newsletter

P.S. applicable not only for Russia...

Please, do not burn the flag!

AFP confirmed (23 May 2007) that Greek prosecutor has pressed charges against unidentified persons who burned a Turkish flag during Greek-Armenian April 24 demonstration in Salonika to mark the anniversary of 1915 Armenian Genocide.

Again… I felt angry and disappointed, not with the Greek prosecutor, but with the fact of flag burning - the way I felt right after the demonstrations in Yerevan on the eve of April 24, when during the candlelight march some people burned a Turkish flag. Back then, Zarchka was one of the first to voice her dismay about these facts. I supported her, leaving the following comment:

I am glad that more and more Armenians are expressing their disappointment about facts of flag burning. I was looking at the pictures of the [Yerevan] march (I support the idea of candlelight march per se, I think it has nice symbolism in it), but felt extremely uncomfortable and distressed when came across the flag burning… Violence should have no place in civilised world; it’s against the very essence of THE DAY. I wish there is a widespread condemnations of these facts (vain hopes?) so that Dashnaks (and not only) will get lessons for future…

After the news on possible charges, I wanted to repeat these comments and ask all political parties in Armenia and Diaspora, and ordinary people, to refrain from flag burning. I assume that these actions are on the edge or outside the law in Armenia too, and Armenian authorities need to make sure that this ‘tradition’ will no longer be tolerated. On the other hand, inaction from the authorities so far may imply that they turn a blind eye to the whole situation.

I understand that emotions are very high in relation to the Genocide issue, especially on April 24… I know that Armenian flag also gets burnt by Turkish nationalists in Turkey or elsewhere… But it does not mean that we should ‘revenge’… by flag burning. We need to keep THE DAY clean!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Yerevan: Candlelight March to the Police HQ

Human rights activists have joined family members and media who want to see a thorough and independent investigation into the death last Saturday (May 12) of Levon Gulyan, who died in police custody, where he was summoned as a witness to a murder. Read more about this case in ArmeniaNow

Video via A1+

Thursday, 17 May 2007


International Day Against Homophobia

On the 17th May 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. Now International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) exists to provoke actions to end Homophobia, to demand rights and equality.

More than 70 countries still punish women, men and children because of their sexuality.

This picture of two Iranian gay teenagers who were hung two years ago shocked the world. These Iranian teenagers – one 18, the other believed to be 16 or 17, were executed for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality. They were hung because they were gay – the most horrific reminder of state level crime fuelled by homophobia and widespread in many parts of the world.

In Armenia, gay men and women are mainly ‘hidden’. There is widespread prejudice, misinformation and homophobia in Armenian society. Total lack of education and ignorance in relation to sexuality. And it's not only within straight majority. I came across with ignorance among Armenian gay men too. There is big issue of dealing with sexual identity. Living in a society with traditionally strong male dominance, ‘macho’ culture, any diversion from what is considered to be “man” is regarded unacceptable, not only for society, but also on personal, emotional level. I am not even talking about revealing sexuality (“coming out”) to parents, friends or work colleagues. This is almost non-existent in Armenian reality, either in Armenia or Diaspora.

Under the pressure of Council of Europe, Armenia decriminalised gay sex at the end of 2002. It was an important step, we should not underestimate it. In fact, as examples from western countries show, this normally serve as an essential legal basis for further development of gay rights and equality. However, things are moving (if moving) very slowly in Armenia. But there are some good news too. I specifically want to mention the establishment in July 2006 of the first Armenian NGO Menk (WE FOR CIVIL EQUALITY) which deals with the issues of sexual education and promotion of equality towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Armenia. It remains to be seen how successful this or other initiatives will be in promoting all-inclusive equal society in Armenia. Certainly, progress cannot be achieved and considered in isolation from the development of democracy in Armenia. More democratic Armenia will mean more rights for everyone, regardless sexuality.

…Today I launch my second blog:


This blog will deal specifically with gay related issues. It will be personal and not so, ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ – topics ranging from, say, men whom I consider sexy to gay rights and equality. I hope it will be of interest not only for gay men and women. And yes, I put “gay” next to “Armenia”, “gay” next to “Armenian”, we’ve got to get used of it. There are gay Armenian around us, even if they are mainly ‘hidden’, there is gay Armenia, even if it’s mainly ‘hidden’, as yet…

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

£12 T-shirt with 'hidden' neo-nazi slogan from Russia

Guardian reported that one of London’s popular retailers – Burton, had been fooled into selling T-shirts with a slogan which read: “We will cleanse Russia of non-Russians!” (see picture)

Spokeswoman of Burton told the Guardian that the company had bought 6,000 of the T-shirts from one of their regular suppliers. At the time Burton was told the slogan translated loosely as "Be proud of Russia", and bosses thought it was 'harmless patriotism'. As soon as they were alerted by Russian speaking staff member to the gaffe, T-shirts were withdrawn from in- store and on-line site. No news yet of any enquiry or responsibility of “regular suppliers”.

This is a slogan of Russian skinheads and neo-nazi who were behind of recent killings of immigrants and ‘non-Russian looking’ citizens of Russia. This is the phrase which frequently painted on foreigners' homes by Russian neo-nazi, as Guardian rightly indicates.

This is an example of how modern neo-nazi may use “lost in translation” to reach out their audience and targets even way beyond their conventional catchments areas. This is the call for vigilance of retailers and shoppers alike.

Police in Yerevan Accused of Deadly Torture

"I've heard that my brother wasn't the first victim [of police torture] and that there have been such cases before," Ghulyan's grieving sister Marine told RFE/RL. "I don't know what the relatives [of other victims] did. I am appealing to them to join us in fighting against such injustice." "Let my brother be the last victim," she added.

Levon Ghulyan died in mysterious circumstances on Saturday [12 May 2007] while being questioned by the police as a presumed witness of a deadly gunfight in Yerevan reported earlier last week. The police claim that during the interrogation the 30-year-old father of two tried to escape through a window but slipped and fell to the ground from the second floor of a police building in Yerevan. Ghulyan's close relatives strongly deny this version of events, saying that he was tortured to death by police interrogators. State prosecutors have launched a criminal inquiry into the incident which has cast a fresh spotlight on the problem of police brutality in Armenia. Local and international watchdogs say the practice is widespread.

RFE/RL (Radio Liberty Armenia): Armenian Police Accused Of Deadly Torture (in English)

Golos Armenii: Who will be accounted for his death? (in Russian)

Armenian blogger Kornelij Glas launched email campaign demanding police to provide with information on steps to reveal those reponsible for the death of Levon Ghulyan.

«Պարոն Ոստիկանապետ,
Այսօր կարդացի «Գոլոս Արմենիի» թերթի հետևյալ հոդվածը՝ , և կուզեի իմանալ ինչ քայլեր են ձեռնարկվում Լևոն Ղուլյանի մահվան հետ կապված դեպքի մեղավորներին պարզաբանելու և պատժելու համար։_____ / _____» (date, your name)

(via tirami su and Bekaisa)

Today relatives, friends, human right activists gathered in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Yerevan condemning murder and demanding justice. Tirami su published pictures from this demonstration:

I want to express my solidarity with relatives, friends, anyone who value human rights in voicing the following demand:

We urgently demand from the RA police and from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to provide detailed infomation about the last three dayes of Levon's life he had to spend in their custody. It is necessary to allow an independant medical examination of Levon´s body in order to determine the cause of his death.

US disagree with the EU that Armenian elections "on the whole" met international standards

In a stark contrast with the EU officials' tone, White House was very cautious in its reflection of Armenian parliamentary elections conduct, stressing the need for authorities to investigate observed irregularities. US administration welcomed elections as "an improvement over past elections", "a step in the right direction towards meeting international standards". However, White House made very different from the EU conclusion based on the same observers' statements: "it did not fully meet international standards".

Below is an intriguing extract from the State Department daily press briefing in relation to Armenian elections. I wonder, will Armenian Public TV publicise it?

Unfortunately, I doubt that White House statement has anything to do with the desire to promote democracy in Armenia. They had numerous chances in past, but failed to do so due to 'strategic', 'geopolitical' interests, as always. This may be intentional move from US administration side, with or without agreement with the EU, to have 'flexibility' in dealing with Armenian government.


Press Release:
US State Department Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC May 14, 2007

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the elections in Armenia?

MR. CASEY: Anything on the elections in Armenia? Well, I've got a little bit on that, I think. Basically, we do congratulate the Armenian people on their parliamentary elections and share with the international observers who were present the view that the election infrastructure has been greatly improved and that this is a step in the right direction towards meeting international standards. We do hope, however, that the Government of Armenia will aggressively investigate allegations that are there of electoral wrongdoing and prosecute people in accordance with Armenian law. So all and all, I think this is an improvement over past elections; though certainly if you look at what the observers said, it did not fully meet international standards.

QUESTION: So you essentially disagree with the European Union statement, on the whole meeting the standards --

MR. CASEY: We, again I'd note that the comments that have been made by the various observers that this was an improvement, just not if you look at what the OSCE observers have said. There's still some ways to go before you would have an election that fully meets all the international standards.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Verka rocked Eurovision, but Serbia’s depression won over the hearts of Europe

I know Verka’s song was not even a song, hardly a music, with no lyrics, but altogether the performance was great, she rocked the contest. I was watching Eurovision with a bunch of friends and multinational crowd. As soon as Verka started, her vibes were inflammatory and everyone around started following his ‘dance’ routines. Serbia’s Marija had good voice, but it just did not do for me, too depressing… In any case, congrats Serbia and Marija!

Top ten for Armenia in Eurovision 2007

My congrats to Hayko and Armenian delegation for securing top ten! Hayko delivered very good performance, he sang good, performed good, the stage was tastefully decorated. As I mentioned in my earlier post, song itself does not stand out much, but it grew on me, and with excellent stage show (one of the best in Helsinki) it made touching impression, indeed. Blood on the shirt at the end of performance was a bit too much, but well, Hayko did really good.

Of course, the most exciting part was the voting results announcement, as always. By the way, my compliments to Sirusho, presenter of Armenian votes. She looked amazing. I have not seen her for ages, and could hardly recognise her – if there were a contest, she would have won Miss Eurovision Vote Presenter 2007!

Turkey: 12 points to Armenia in final 2007; 10 points to Armenia in semi-final and final 2006

Armenia – ‘null’ points to Turkey in finals 2006 and 2007; but 2 points to Turkey in semi-final 2007

And then… speculations on Turkey’s 12 points to Armenia began. From ordinary fans to politicians from both sides and further – everyone is discussing the ‘underlying meaning’ of it: political, reconciliatory gesture; ‘hidden’ Armenians in Turkey; Kurds and other minorities; or simply Turkish viewers liked the song.

By the way, no one mentioned that Armenians also gave points to Turkey, 2 points, in semifinal – first Armenian votes for Turkey in Eurovision! Here is the link to the official semi-final scoreboard. So, in fact, despite some Turkish and Azeri commentators, Armenian public is able to award points to Turkey. What we are losing in this sort of discussions is the most important point – was Turkish song good enough? In my opinion, this year’s Turkish entry was the worst in years, trying very hard and failing to copy Ricky Martin, and very tacky, indeed. And I am glad that Armenian viewers did not vote for Turkish song in the final, not because it’s Turkey, but because the song and performer/performance was very bad, really, really.

I was discussing with my Armenian friend the possibility of Armenia winning Eurovision, say next year. Would be fantastic, no doubt, but would Armenia be able to cope with it, in terms of facilities, concert hall etc? Imagine, contest starting at midnight local time…

Sunday, 13 May 2007

...on the road to European integration?

EU welcomes "fair" conduct of Armenian parliamentary elections:

The European Union's German presidency issued on Sunday a statement welcoming the fairness "on the whole" of Armenia's elections, but said isolated irregularities needed to be fixed before the next [presidential] election in January.

"The presidency of the European Union is very much in favour of intensifying cooperation with Armenia," the statement added.

“Triumph” for Kocharyan, or Opposition that failed people

Men look through a list at a polling station in Yerevan 12 May, 2007 Source of picture: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Preliminary results of Armenian parliamentary elections came as no surprise. Opposition lost. On the surface, there were no serious irregularities. The elections day per se went ‘smoothly’, as international observers would say, “mainly in accordance with international standards”. It was the first time since independence from Soviet Union that western observers “hailed parliamentary elections in Armenia as a major democratic breakthrough for the ex-Soviet state, now set to be run by a coalition of pro-government parties that swept the vote” (AFP). AFP also stated, that “[this] conclusion was a triumph for president Robert Kocharyan and his government”.

Based on media reports, I felt that this time we made a step forward towards democracy. The overall “positive” conclusion of international observers may prove this, although there are some speculations that this was done taking into account some geopolitical interests, and in particular, potential concessions of Armenian side in Karabakh talks.

However, this time, under the intense monitoring of international community, the authorities used less obvious ways to influence the votes and get the results they wanted. They simply offered bribes, and many people actually went for it. There were numerous reports of vote buying, even outside the polling stations, and there were even reports of quarrel between bribers and bribed over the sum of money (!)… simply disgusting, to say the least!

But the ‘evidence’ presented by one of the leaders of Impeachment block Pashinyan about hundreds of thousands (!) false passports (of dead people or those who live outside Armenia now) printed out before the elections, used by authorities for voting and then destroyed… It seems just too much from fantasy field (even for Armenian authorities’ standards). Unless Pashinyan can actually present real evidence of these ‘facts’ and act upon them, he’d rather shut up. It’s a loser’s attitude. Did they frankly believe that they could win these elections? During the whole election campaign, they were disorganised, without clear political platform, sunk in leadership battle, and therefore failed to unite, ‘looking forward’ to ‘fraud’ elections, instead of working on mechanisms to make the elections clean and monitor them properly and so on and so on.

Opposition lost the elections; they did not get support of international observers. But most importantly, they failed to win trust and support of Armenian electorate, even considering electoral fraud. There are presidential elections on a horizon, and time is running out for real actions, or otherwise there will be another lost election.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Will there be end of Armenia’s ‘potato democracy’?

I wanted to post this last part of my “pre-election thoughts” yesterday, but then... breaking news on pre-election violence against peaceful protesters in Yerevan preoccupied all my thoughts... Last night events (and not only) made it clear that the situation we are in is the reflection of the state of ‘democracy’ we are in, ‘potato democracy’, as some will call it. And suddenly my brief thoughts written a day before the events seem very current now.

My pre-election thoughts (part 3)

Potato? Potato!

If people get potatoes and go to the elections with them, these people will have a potato government and a potato democracy.
Armen Rustamyan, one of the leaders of the Dashnaktsutyun party

When I first read
this article couple of months ago, in the run-up to the Armenian parliamentary elections campaign, I felt uncomfortable reading “potato democracy” next to “Armenia”. I felt ashamed, to be honest. But the truth is frequently uncomfortable, we’ve got to face it.

People are buying votes; people are selling votes. It became so common... frighteningly common!

Sugar, wheat, money, ‘charitable’ initiatives... and, yes, sure, potatoes – everything can go. Some fresh examples were provided by

But the most hilarious example of facing up the truth and actually acting upon it was demonstrated by guys from Sksela youth movement. Few days ago they organised
‘election fair’ in Yerevan, where everything was on sale, from the ‘post of prime minister’ to the ‘monopoly in telecommunications’, even the ‘soul’, for ‘very good price’. Apparently, there is some light at the end of the tunnel to hit back.

Ever growing number of
Armenian blogs is another positive sign. They are not many, have no much audience or real power, as yet, but I can see them ‘happening’.

(Lack of) Trust in authorities

Lack of trust in authorities is the key issue. In this environment, whatever government does, will be met with suspicion. And no one will trust them, say with regards to recent arrests and interrogations of ex-ministers due to ‘money laundry’ allegations, even if they (theoretically!) true.

Instead of epilogue

I wish I could believe in fairy tale...


Is it that essential in the aftermath of last night events?

We've heard different opinions from all sides, and one of the frequently discussed points was WHO PROVOKED WHOM? I do not think this question is essential in the circumstances of peaceful demonstration. Even if there were few provocateurs among demonstrators, police should be able to deal with them in civilised manner, protecting the safety of others and respecting their right to protest. But, instead, what we evidenced was the brutal display of power and violence against protesters, PEACEFUL PROTESTERS. It is also essential for me that there were no independent reports or evidence (even in formal press release issued by police) on armed people among demonstrators. There can be no justification for using physical force in these circumstances!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007




Armenia in Eurovision 2007

Rehearsals stage

Armenian stage design was very tasteful, in distinctive style, somehow magical, with a ‘bleeding heart’ and a ‘moving tree’ with white ribbons. Very impressive, indeed. Andrey Sichov from Russia, who directed stage design, certainly knows his job!

While video from Hayko’s rehearsal performance only partly captures stage’s magic, the pictures give better idea of the whole experience.

Source of pictures: Richard West-Soley from and Alain Douit from

Hayko’s rehearsals and Armenian stage design proved to be a success with overwhelmingly positive critical reactions throughout Eurovision related sites and blogs. Many Eurovision fans now call Armenia a ‘dark horse’ of the contest.
After first rehearsals, Hayko got epithets of “master of ballad” (!), “solid” and “professional” performer and “flawless” performance. Read some of the reviews here, here and here.

I think Hayko is talented performer, with pleasant voice, and I quite liked his improvised versions of old Yerevan songs in past.

When I first listened to this song Anytime You Need, I thought this song per se (without considering stage design and performance) is unremarkable. While music is OK, the lyrics are weak. And I do not particularly like music video, find it boring and prefer live clip from the national final selection. But my favourite part is the transition from English to Armenian at the end of the song, Hayko sounds really good in that part. One of the commentators called it
“a stroke of genius”.

I should confess that, with all reservations, this song grew on me. I always thought that this song may have a chance to get high points only if accompanied by memorable stage show. Now we have it, and the whole performance seem very different.

By the way, I was surprised to discover that Hayko is not fluent in English. I thought he could speak English, since I remember he lived quite some time in US doing recordings etc. But during his interviews, Diana Mnatsakanyan (head of Armenian delegation) is acting as translator, and not only. In one interview, when asked about what he wants to try in Helsinki, Diana (after translating the question) actually suggested Hayko the answer in Armenian; Hayko agreed smiling, and the answer was “Finish saunas”. This won’t get noticed by foreigners but was quite funny and amusing for Armenian listener.

In another twist, Hayko gained some following among gay men. His appeal to gay fans of Eurovision was apparent when over last couple of months in various internet forums he got nominated and appeared among top ‘hot’ male performers of Eurovision. Even those who do not like his song, consider him ‘hot’, and this may help him gain additional votes. Wonder, what his reaction would be on these revelations?

Well, good luck Hayko!

Some other interesting and curious facts about Armenian delegation in Eurovision:

-Hayko’s song is a part of the soundtrack of the new TV novel commissioned by ArmTV Don’t Be Afraid.

Source of poster: AGprint

- The white ribbons tied to a tree which is used in Hayko's performance is a symbol of hope or a wish for something one really wants to come true. It's an old Armenian tradition to do such a thing. (esctoday)

- {Yes, this is curious one!} Armenian Diaspora together with Armenian-Finnish Union, have invited Hayko for a meeting and surprised with a ‘present’: now the nameless island visible from the meeting place Villa Voosanta is officially named after Hayko and this brand new name will appear on all the maps in two days! (Eurovision Song Contest – Armenia website)

Monday, 7 May 2007

Deutsche Bank to be tried over Armenian Genocide compensation claims

According to Iranian IRNA agency, US-Armenian legal team is to meet with German officials over Armenian Genocide compensation claims

Previously, the European Armenian Federation called the descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, defenders of human rights, European leaders, and all Euro citizens to protest Deutsche Bank's refusal to accept responsibility for the crimes it committed in 1915 and continues to profit from today. It's worth reminding, that New York Life insurance company and French insurance company AXA recently accepted their responsibility and launched payment of compensation to Armenian Genocide victims' heirs for around $8 million and $17 million, respectively.

Here is an extract from IRNA's breaking news (Berlin, 7 May 2007, 23:27 BST):

A group of US-Armenian lawyers are scheduled to meet with German officials on Thursday in Berlin where they are to hold talks with German officials on a lawsuit which charges two major German banks - Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank - of preventing the recovery of millions in money and assets deposited by Armenians prior to World War I and the Armenian Genocide, DPA reported Monday.

The US-Armenian legal team is due to discuss the high profile case with the director of the international law department of the German foreign ministry, Goetz Schmidt-Bremme.
The lawsuit also claims that the banks accepted "looted assets" taken by the Ottoman Turkey government during World War I and the Armenian genocide.

The lawyers are also hoping to meet with representatives of Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank.
Both Germans banks have yet to agree to attend Thursday talks between the legal team and the German foreign ministry.

According to a class action suit filed at a US court, it is estimated that the banks took more than $22.5 million in looted assets based on the value of US dollars in 1915.

Germany's parliament passed a resolution in 2005 urging Turkey to face up to its role in the Armenian massacre but fell short of labeling it a genocide. The motion also stressed that Germany was saddened by the role it played in the massacres of 1915 as then-imperial Germany was allied to the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Western democracy and Armenian pop stars

My pre-election thoughts (part 2)

Western democracy

I was following the results of French elections last night, and although some of my French friends are very critical of Sarkozy and accused him in controlling media and being authoritarian, you could feel the pulse of democracy there, you could feel that people’s vote counts. On the other hand, even Britain gets hit by
voting chaos and irregularities, but this is a separate story.

The other day I was looking at this picture from 168 Hours.

The accompanying comment was that on surface, Armenian electorate campaign started resembling western one, but it’s only on surface, and what we lack is resemblance in substance. Cannot agree with it more!

Armenian pop stars

By the way, French also use their pop stars in election campaigns (and not only French, it’s everywhere), so it’s not something specific Armenian, and we probably need to get used of these facts. In fact, among others, I spotted Mireille Mathieu singing in support of Sarkozy’s victory.

Now back to Armenian reality. Truly said, my first reaction at looking at this collage from 168 Hours was: “Armenian hall of shame”?

But then… my problem with this is not the fact that our singers ‘support’ some political parties (well, mainly pro-governmental) and want to rally in their support either ‘free of charge’, for a fee or in return of favours. My problem is that we never see these Armenian pop or other stars (‘celebrities’) to stand out against human rights violations, social injustice, in support of democracy and so on. I wonder:

When will we see Armenian ‘Rostropovichs’?

Do not kill electorate soul!

My pre-election thoughts (part 1)


It may be wise to gather on 13th May to discuss election results, but to suggest meeting 13th May because the elections WILL BE falsified, just a sign of weakness of opposition and its inability to get organised to fight for clean vote and free elections.

Couple of days ago, Aram Sargsyan, along with some other opposition leaders, appealed for people to gather on 13th May because he is SURE that the authorities WILL falsify the elections. I have problem with the verb “will”; would rather hear “will try to” or “may try to”. If people keep hearing from opposition leaders that the election results will be falsified and their participation, in fact, has no impact on election results, then they may as well think: “WHY BOTHER?”

Instead of killing electorate soul, opposition leaders should encourage active participation and discourage authorities’ efforts to make people feel hopeless and dependant. They should have thought of mechanisms on how to make current elections better, how to lessen vote rigging etc. I know, this may sound naïve but what is the alternative? The ‘external’ environment is more in favour this time, due to relatively high international pressure (which is far from enough). But probably they do not believe in themselves too. The history of electoral fraud in Armenia proved that opposition leaders were unable to confront authorities, were disorganised, lacking proper direction, and never kept their ‘promises’ to people that they will stand up for their votes. During each election they keep saying that, but we see… nothing. People need to know that opposition leaders have real strategy for this year, they are tired of populism and empty rhetoric.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

You may dance again, Levon!

"Yerevan shocker" - that's how one German chess web site reported Aronian's results.

Armenian Olympic chess champion Levon Aronian wins the rapid chess match in Yerevan against world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik with 'shocking' (for Kramnik) scores - winning three games in a row, something that Kramnik never experienced before!

Levon Aronian in 'action' during party time at the Turin 2006 Chess Olympiad, which bring Armenia a Gold Medal in chess.

I like the way they look at each other, at the dinner party in Yerevan, a day before the match.

At the dinner party in Yerevan, Kramnik is accompanied by his wife, French journalist Marie-Laure Germon; Aronian - by his girlfriend, Australian chess player Arianne Caoili, whom he met at a party in Turin.

*Source of pictures:

Friday, 4 May 2007

Armenian film among winners of prestigious New York Tribeca Film Festival

Best New Documentary Filmmaker
A Story of People in War & Peace
Director: Vardan Hovhannisyan
Prize: $25,000
Art Prize: Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, South Africa 1995 by Bruce Weber
Source: Tribeca Film Festival

Watch trailer here:

The link to my previous post (18 April 2007) about this film: "... casualties of peace"

Thursday, 3 May 2007

So why "Homosexuals are Hidden in Armenia"?

Armenian media continues to stigmatise gay community

Blogrel posted a letter of a member of Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians (AGLA) in France in response to the article Homosexuals are Hidden in Armenia published recently in one of the popular Armenian newspapers – Aravot daily. Here is the link to the original article (in Armenian only). In his open letter, AGLA member asks Aravot “to be more critical on articles that can endanger and stigmatise any group of our society”. And rightly so.

I honestly believe that the subject of sexual minorities is not a concern of a minority group. It is about tolerance for the society as a unity of all people, who can be minorities and majorities in many relations.
Grigor, AGLA France member

Yesterday I tried to leave a comment in Blogrel but it was not possible to post it (it remained unpublished), possibly for technical reasons. Since the issues raised in that article and following comments are important in terms of understanding Armenian reality in relation to (lack of) gay rights and equality, I decided to post my comment here, with some additions:

Thanks for bringing up this article to the attention. Actually, I am not surprised re Aravot daily. I can recall TV comments made by Aravot’s editor-in-chief Abrahamyan years ago. He could not hide his “disgust” towards gay people and, although stating that he is against violence and discrimination, suggested that gay men and women should remain in ‘closet’. And this is one of supposedly ‘liberal’ Armenian newspapers – a newspaper, which played an important role in promoting free speech in Armenia!

To hear these sorts of comments from ordinary people who live in Armenia would not surprise me; there is a huge lack in education on sexuality, homosexuality and related issues in Armenia. But here we are: ‘liberal’ newspaper, journalist and an ‘expert’ sexopathologist. There is either absolute silence in Armenian media on gay issues or incredible ignorance, like in case of this article in Aravot.

The only rightly made point in this article was that gay men and women hide themselves in Armenia, forced to get married which result in unhappy families (to say the least!). However, instead of developing this issue (which is reflected in the title itself), the article reinforces existing clichés on gays working as hairdressers and so on. It made ludicrous statements and inferences, widespread in Armenian society and ‘supported’ by ‘specialist’ sexopathologist, that being gay is a matter of choice, a pathological condition or that gay people need pity since they ‘become gays’ because of ‘childhood trauma’ or ‘horrific upbringing by father’ (?!).

It goes on further to suggest that lesbians ‘recover’ from homosexuality and “forget” their female lovers after being pregnant and after sleeping with the “real” man - the most ridiculous statement I read in years!

While I agree that it is important to start discussing gay issues in Armenia, to actually acknowledging the existence of gay community in Armenia (and in this context I am pleased that there is some sort of discussion going on in one of Armenian blogs), I strongly disagree with the suggestion that we should “applaud Aravot for finding the space… to address a social problem, which is definitely not popular, doesn’t bring any money in election days”. I do not think that addressing important social problem mean (again and again) miseducating people about the very essence of the problem, reinforcing existing clichés and leading to further stigmatisation of gay community in Armenia.

This type of articles is one of the reasons why gay men and women in Armenia prefer to hide themselves, remain in ‘closet’. It’s time to break this vicious circle!

P.S. I will certainly comment further on the issues raised in this article and related issues in my blog very soon.

Armenian 'YouTube'

I was pleasantly surprised to come across to this first Armenian Video Sharing Network on the web:

It's very new, still in early stages, but my first impression was that it could be very promising development.

Hrant Dink on Turkey-Armenia, family and gay issues

Here is one of the uploaded videos which caught my eyes. It's a rare interview (in Armenian and French) with Hrant Dink (The Independent named him "Armenian champion in Turkey"), a prominent Turkish-Armenian editor who shot dead on 19 January 2007 in Istanbul for his stance on Armenian genocide and human rights in Turkey. This interview (autumn 2005, Paris) is exceptional, since here, along with Turkey-Armenia relationships, a prominent Armenian spoke out in support of gay rights (an exceptionally rare move in current Armenian reality). When asked, what would be his reaction if his son or daughter came out as gay, Hrant Dink said that he would provide with support:

You should live your life, If you ever have any problems, I will be beside you, I will support you!

I wish I could say "We are all Hrant Dink!"...