Saturday, January 30, 2010

On Freedom of Expression, and yes, Bazaz!

This was a couple of days ago now, but it keeps coming back into my head, so I thought I'd post it.

This past Friday, opposition youth held a protest march. They peacefully walked through the streets, and laid flowers in recognition of the victims of March 1. Below are some pictures (a1plus, HZH).

Now, the police apparently didn't like this, which is no surprise. But, apparently something was different. Robert Melkonyan, known by the nickname Bazaz, known for, well, having no moral center or conscious and beating women and the elderly, seems to have lost it. He went to the HAK center and apparently was yelling and screaming so loudly and incoherently that all folks understood of what he said was that the protesting youth were causing a problem. He was asked either to calm down and speak intelligibly, or leave. Which, while sad, is absolutely hilarious.

It is not surprising that those who are questioning the authorities, who are demanding basic human rights, and freedom for political prisoners, are the ones laying flowers and marching. These are the voices calling for change. And they do so calmly, and coherently.

It is the minions of the regime, the perpetrators of violence who, when they need to, cannot express themselves except through unintelligible outbursts. Freedom of expression is a great thing - and when it is allowed, we see just how different the people and the regime, truly are.

And this just topped it for me- its aimed at Armenian journalists in Yerevan (thanks to Ditord from Haik newspaper)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Observers, the Free Society Institute, and the Cayman Islands

Now, it was no surprise when the ruling regime used violence, fraud, and intimidation to keep votes going their way, and other voters and journalists away from polling station, during the recent District #10 elections in Yerevan.
The elections did, however, bring to my attention an NGO known as the "Free Society Institute" (FSI). I first read about them in one of the a1plus articles which was reporting on the election, and mentioned that someone named Armen Sahakyan, supposedly an observer from the FSI NGO, was swearing at and physically threatening a journalist. This fellow and a "colleague" of his, David Simonyan, also from the FSI, were mentioned in a later article as well.
I have to admit, I was someone surprised that someone masquerading as an observer would be so hostile - or, vice versa - someone so hostile would masquerade as an observer. So I did what I always do, I Googled the Free Society Institute. And, aside from one incident where it seems the Free Society Institute was confused with the Soros foundation Open Society Insitute (very different, but with understandably confusable names), here is what I found:

-There are numerous Free Society Institutes, including in Eastern Europe and South Africa. They seem to be completely unrelated, and I could not find a website for the one in Armenia.

-The name that come up most often with the organization when Googled is Edgar Hakobyan, who was, at least several years ago, the chair of the organization. Anahit Daniyelyan is the only other name that came up, and she is/was apparently the head of the branch in Stepanakert.

-I did find that this Free Society Institute has been sending "observers" to elections Armenia for several years. And, for the mostpart, they like what they see:

- Regarding the May 2007 Parliamentary elections, Edgar Hakobyan stated that they had 1405 observers, there were no gross violations, and that it met international democratic standards.

-During the presidential election of February, 2008, "army officers dressed in civilian clothes are sitting as observers, which is a violation of the Electoral Code." They were registered with FSI.

-Regarding the January 10, 2010 elections, Hakobyan was quoted as saying "No violations, no emergency situations have been registered... The voting is very civilized, the turnout is very high."

Being curious by nature, I emailed the two emails I could find, to Mr Hakobyan and Ms Daniyelyan, asking for more information, or at least to be pointed in the right direction for more information, about the organization. It has been over a week. The emails did not bounce back. I have not heard a thing.

FSI has obviously been involved for quite a while. In fact, Edgar Hakobyan himself has been to the Council of Europe Summer School for Democracy, as the head of FSI. And, the FSI, and their observers are cited in at least one OSCE report about elections in Armenia.

Now, getting a lot of information about individuals in Armenia on the web is difficult, as many of the names are common, which makes verification difficult.

And maybe I am about to get an answer back. I would in fact really appreciate that. I would like to be able to either realize that there has been some misunderstanding and they are one of many grass roots organizations in Armenia aiming to instill democracy and Human Rights, or, know that this organization does for the banditocracy what an account in the Cayman islands does for a banker.

If I ever do get a response, I will absolutely post it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Next Seminar in just a few days for PFA

Policy Forum Armenia is having their next seminar on January 25th. I haven't had time to delve into their website as I would like, but they seem to be an interesting group and I do read their reports - interesting to me because they are among the few organizations that popped up just in the past few years, that is mostly outside of Armenia, seems very professional, seems not to be related to any political party, and is openly critical of the authorities, especially the elections. This combination is what is interesting to me.

The facebook link, for those so inclined, is here.

Kessedjian Murphy Seminar/PFA

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Speaking of Gala TV...

The station in Gyumri I referred to in the previous post, which has fought and won its own battle against this banditocracy, is continuing its actions in support of Pashinyan...
Check out

Copied directly from (20/1/10)

On January 19, Gala TV channel decided to hold an action against the verdict of the editor-in-chief of Haykakan Zhamanak daily Nikol Pashinyan which still continues. Today too, at 21:00-22:00 only Nikol Pashinyan’s photo will be shown on Gala TV and names of people and organizations who join Gala’s action will appear on the screen. Those who want to join may write to electronic post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sargsyan's Nightmares

The other day I was asking myself a question that I ask just about every day, what would it take now to change this regime? What has been done? Where to go from here?
What does it take to revive Hope?

And my brain came up with my usual answers, but for some reason fixated on something which is obvious, that there is minimal to no opposition, or at least non-government, coverage on television, there is no a1plus or the like (as far as I know, there is only the local Gyumri station, a victory story in and of itself). This is nothing new - nor is the importance of having such media representation just dawning me. But in a world where there is limited trust in printed news (including opposition printed news), and limited radio coverage, and web access is limited to a cluster of the population, television is not just important, it is overwhelmingly important. Just HOW different would things have been if, say, a1plus, were not illegally stopped from broadcasting?

Which of course then makes it that much more important for SS and his banditocracy to keep a1plus (and any other similar representation on TV) quiet. Because it could very well be a big part of the puzzle.

The reason we see the same youths and the same journalists get harassed and beaten time and time again is because they are out there every time, they don't give up - they are keys to change. The more pivotal the organization, the idea, the person, the longer they're illegally beaten, subdued, kept quiet, imprisoned. Which is why to no surprise, Pashinyan was found guilty, and given 7, not 6, years. Its SS's way of saying, I'm calling the shots. And its his way of saying, he is petrified of Pashinyan.

I wonder who visits Sargsyan more in his nightmares, Kocharyan, or Pashinyan?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Arman Grigoryan talks to HZH about PACE

Below are rough translations of two brief articles in Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times)about the upcoming PACE meetings - they talk to Arman Grigoryan, the ANC's representative to PACE, about these issues.

Major undertaking, high sponsporship? HZH article here

Arman Grigoryan, ANC’s representative to PACE, made an astounding revelation while speaking with our correspondent yesterday. He was informed by a PACE official, he said, that the visit of PACE co-Rapporteurs to Armenia planned for November-December did not take place because PACE did not want to exert additional pressure on the Armenian authorities at a time when the entire political oxygen was being used up on Armenian-Turkish relations, and PACE did not want to disrupt the process of resolution of Armenian-Turkish relations.

The planned November-December visit had been postponed till January, but it has now become clear to our correspondent yesterday that that meeting, too, has been postponed. As PACE explained to Arman Grigoryan, the visit of the corapporteurs will take place when the “essential attention is not concentrated on other issues.” This means that the corapporteurs will come to the Republic of Armenia only when some of the issues related to the Armenian-Turkish—which also means those related to the Nagorno Karabagh issue—have been disentangled. Perhaps this very approach is the reason why the authorities of the Republic of Armenia announced that the issue of March 1 is closed and that the Republic of Armenia no longer has any problems with PACE, etc. Seemingly, the authorities of the Republic of Armenia hope that Armenian-Turkish relations will continue to sap all the political ogygen and PACE will just not have its turn.

On the other hand, the processes underway since early January testify to the fact that the “concentration” on the Armenian-Turkish issues is coming to its end, after which PACE will have no restrictions in terms of working with Armenia. After that, if PACE suddenly retreats—using some excuse or another—from the current political prisoners in the Republic of Armenia, from their stern positions to reveal the circumstances surrounding the events of March 1, and postpone future visits and deliberations at monitoring sessions, it will become obvious that the price for the Armenian-Turkish relations and the resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh issue are the 15 political prisoners now detained in prisons and that the deal has been made under the high auspices of the Council of Europe.

Confidential Report to be Discussed HZH Article Here

At its upcoming session on January 24, PACE’s Monitoring Committee will examine the confidential report on Armenia, presented by co-rapporteurs John Prescott and Georges Colombier at the preceding session.
Let us remind you that the preceding session of PACE’s Monitoring Committee held in Paris on December 17 had become somewhat scandalous. First, the issue of our country had entered the agenda quite unexpectedly, and it was announced that the well-known report of Nikoyan’s committee was to be examined. But on the day of the session, the co-rapporteurs for our country failed to appear, with some inane excuses, making it impossible to examine the issue.
It later became known, however, that the co-rapporteurs had presented a confidential, secret report on Armenia, and which was made public, here in Armenia, by Armen Rustamyan, member of both the ARF and of the Armenian delegation to PACE. The confidential report was quite harsh and described Nikoyan’s report as “insufficient.” Remember that the co-rapporteurs had deemed the investigation of the death of the ten victims as insufficient, and had stated that at least 3 individuals were killed by special methods used by the police, but that the guilty have not yet been punished. They had also mentioned that after March 1, a large number of opposition supporters were imprisoned and persecuted, and to date there are no clarifications, and that the reference from Nikoyan’s committee on that issue is insufficient. It is also mentioned that there are multiple contradictions in the report submitted by the Nikoyan’s committee, meaning that the analyses contradict each other. At the end of the report it was stated that the monitoring committee continues to monitor Armenia and will return to the issues of our country during the next meeting of the committee. Arman Grigoryan, ANC’s representative to PACE, in an interview with us yesterday informed us that the above-mentioned report of the co-rapporteurs will be discussed at the upcoming meeting. «As to what will happen during discussions, it’s hard to predict. It seems to me, of course, that our delegation will try to soften some of the theses of that report and change others. But I hope they won’t succeed and the basic assessment of that report remains intact,” said Arman Griogoryan, who answered a few more of our questions yesterday:

- The December 17, 2008 report of the monitoring committee was extremely harsh, and had included the “term political prisoner.” Later, they removed that term from circulation, despite the fact that currently there are 15 political prisoners in the Republic of Armenia. In your opinion, are the reasons for such a softening of their assessment again have to do with the Armenian-Turkish and Nagorno Karabagh processes?

- I can’t confirm that with 100% certainty, and there may have been other reasons. But I also can’t be sure that such consideration has not played a role. I am not surprised that they made certain concessions to the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, among them taking the term “political prisoner” out of circulation, because that, and a few other things, were the price they would have to pay in order to have at least a few of the political prisoners released in June.

- Do you have any information about their views on the remaining 15 political prisoners?

- They are still attentive to the issue of political prisoners, despite the fact that the term has been removed from circulation. Even if there are no open deliberations about it, I know that they don’t consider the problem of political prisoners resolved. There have been communications about that issue with me; we are in communication on a continuous basis on the issue of political prisoners. PACE has requested certain information with which they have been provided, and I know that negotiations between PACE and the Armenian authorities continue regarding the remaining political prisoners. Unfortunately, at the moment, it is difficult to speak of any concrete results, but this is not a closed subject for PACE.

- Mr. Grigoryan, will the recorded violent acts and fraud during the January 10 elections during the 10th electoral district be considered in any way at the sessions of the monitoring committee?

- To tell you the truth, I’m not sure that they will get around to discussing the topic this time at the session of the Monitoring Committee because the agenda is prepared previously, and the issues to be discussed are agreed upon ahead of time, and, there is the issue of time. But that they will be informed of the outrageous elections of January 10, there is no doubt.

Second article by Lucine Barseghyan, January 16, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

The house special at today's election is your classic intimidation with a side of beating...

Through fraud, beatings, and intimidation, again the authorities have managed to make it through another election. According to their count, Pashinyan came in second.

But I have to give it to them, it was slightly less violent than in the past. They're trying to use intimidation, seemingly to prevent violence (does that count as violence prevention?). RFE/RL published a video online that really is more like a cartoon.

The guy in the black coat, pacing back and forth, is a proxy for Ara Simonyan. He doesn't say too much. He does seem to greet every voter who comes in, maybe he thinks he's the Maitre D' - which is what I'm going to call him. I keep expecting Bugs Bunny to come out of nowhere and kiss him.

The guy in the yellow shirt I think is the chairman of that site. While the women working at the site have a mouthful to say about the Maitre D', the chairman somehow is oblivious to any problems that this man may be causing, eventually checks the Maitre D's ID and announces that the Maitre D' is in fact one of Simonyan's proxies, but does not read aloud the name, nor allow the camera to record the ID.

The Maitre D' seems to also know the local military guy who is in a room there. Not surprisingly, all three men seem to have similar proportions - i'll leave it at that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Elections Today

The elections for the MP seat for District 10 are today - significant not just because its another election, but becuase Nikol Pashinyan, voice of opposition to the banditocracy even before March 1 2008 and before the presidential election of 2008, is now running for the seat from behind bars. As LTP and so many other have said since Pashinyan's decision to run, the authorities have handled Pashinyan's case, from the arrest warrant on him, to his arrest, imprisonment and candidacy, in a way that broke just about every democratic law and every human right possible.

We'll see what happens today.

I wish safety to the proxies, campaigners and media representative out there today.
I wish safety to any who dares to voice their opinion, including the voters, because we have learned what happens to them in today's Armenia.

HIMA is posting live videos from today at the HIMA website.