Monday, November 29, 2010

The Youth are Fundamental

Amongst some of the news regarding change of hands in the youth movements of HAK and HHSh, I read a sentiment which while perhaps obvious in the non-printed media, rumours and general atmosphere, is not stated or printed nearly enough...

That the youth are key to change in Armenia, that their strength and motivation is fundamental to the movement, to any movement, and by engaging in politics many are sacrificing so much of themselves...

And while those in prison, as far as I can remember, are all above 30 years old or so and considered among the older generation, it is mainly the youth who have been out there time and time again, often getting beaten and dragged off the police station, and in many cases off to court repeatedly...

Even during the period when there was a serious stagnation in the political arena, it was the youth, with their activities, who could keep that standstill alive... it's painful that our youth, putting its main problem aside, is forced to engage in politics...
I pity you, but I implore you, however much you engage in politics, don't forget your main issue. Your main issue is the problem of becoming educated, developed, intellectual professionals...
For us, you have two missions. First, to ensure the ideological legacy of the party, and second, to breathe down our backs, do not allow us to stagnate... (statements from LTP)

The youth are absolutely fundamental. I'm glad to see they are publicly getting at least some of the recognition they deserve.

The quotes are from articles 1 and 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lisbon and Self-Determination

Ditord has been kind enough to post my most recent piece

Guest Post: Lisbon Then and Now: Who was determined enough to stand for Self Determination?

Also, a quick update: there are some (relative) newcomers to the Armenian news world. Epress and, which I think are both great sources of info, and both in multiple languages.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Payqar, Payqar, Minchev Verj!

Update: hnazarian has posted another video of the same event, from epress, in which certain garbled segments can be heard more clearly than the one from a1plus below

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We'll do 'em like Khalafyan...

The other day, during what would have been a peaceful protest if the police hadn't been involved, there was a significant scuffle between opposition youth and the police. Four youth were taken in to the police department, beaten by police, and released later in the day, and immediately showed up at the opposition rally that was going on. The photo on the left is taken with permission from the facebook group ԸՆԴԴԵՄ ՈՍՏԻԿԱՆԱԿԱՆ ԱՊՕՐԻՆՈՒԹՅՈՒՆՆԵՐԻ(AGAINST POLICE VIOLATIONS) - the caption explains that these are the faces of two of the policemen who were among the most active in beating the opposition youth at the police station.

The regime's consistent response to youth practicing their fundamental human rights is to beat them, shove them in a police car, and beat them some more. There's nothing new in this.

But I had not yet heard the following yet, nor did I see it reported anywhere in writing.

One of the RFE/RL broadcasts after the release of the four youths had a short clip with one of the very active youth, Vahagn Gevorgyan. You can start listening around 7:30 min, he starts recounting what happened to them after the arrest at around 8:15 min - here is a rough translation and transliteration:

"Just after they got us through the entrance to the division, until we got to the on-duty section, having thrown us to the ground, they took us through beating us and pushing and pulling us, they weren’t asking us to do anything, they were just beating us, they were hitting us on our heads, too...

They hit Sargis Gevorgyan on his head a couple of times, I saw how they were kicking [us]...

From getting kicked in the head he [Sargis] hit his head on the floor and after that he couldn’t get up, he was dizzy...

When we had fallen on the floor, one of the policeman said,

'that’s enough, they’ll die like this.' And the other [policeman] said,

'Good good, we’ll make it like Khalafyan’s situation'


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Serzh-like attacks, or, Attacks a la Serzh

[pic borrowed from] Recently there were reports of Pashinyan being harassed and attacked in prison. He is basically being pressured, nay, told, to stop writing, and the regime is using just about everything they can think of to try to stop him, as throwing him in jail has clearly not worked. In fact, the regime is subcontracting out to the those who can get to him while he is in prison, other prisoners.
I don't remember hearing of these attacks during the first bit of his imprisonment, but we've now had reports of a few such incidents - this is the second or third, or maybe even fourth? I'll have to start keeping actual track. The most recent one was November 3rd, and there were some mixed messages in the news about what happened. Pashinyan wrote a piece on it on November 5 in Armenian Times, however, and there seems to be a promise of more writing to come on this topic. Below is my unofficial, somewhat coarse but hopefully understandable translation:

Serzh-like Attacks

Once again, the public received information regarding yet another incident organized against me at Kosh penitentiary. I will say right off, that the news does correspond to the reality of what happened, and what took place provides a good opportunity to explain more completely the incidents involving my person which have occurred up until this point at Kosh.

1. Here, my friend, a flag for you

The most recent incident took place in the evening of November 3rd. Those among the inmates who had the reputation of being ‘soldati’ were involved in the operation. The ‘soldati,’ as I already mentioned, are inmates with different assignments. They receive various assignments to use force, and then carry them out. The acts of violence and intimidation which are committed against the other inmates are carried out through these individuals

The operation began in approximately the following way: first, under various pretexts, potential eyewitnesses were removed from around my sleeping area, the entrances and exits were closed, and one individual came forward as a representative of the criminal world and began demanding answers from me in an aggressive tone, asking why I do not behave like a normal inmate. With a restrained hardness I countered by asking him to explain exactly to which pretenses he was referring. That is, what was it I was being accused of, if anything, and what was being asked of me, if anything. As I expected, what he had to say was unclear and vague. Many worthy people do not find my published, articles, my political activities, or my general behavior to be pleasing. Naturally, I said that I am not ready to discuss my articles, my journalistic and political activities, regardless of whether they are “worthy” individuals or unworthy. Having understood that the conversation could not continue with this theme, the noted head ‘soldat’ of the operation changed his tactics and uttered an extremely important sentence, “Haven’t you been told to take that flag down from there?” Dear reader, I ask you to pay close attention so that you can imagine fully the situation. The quoted statement of the head ‘soldat’ refers to the flag of the Republic of Armenia- red, blue and apricot-colored. But not a big flag, but a small, souvenir-sized one. It measures six by twelve centimeters.

I have hung this type of flag in my sleeping area, above my head, for the entire time I have been in prison, at “Yerevan-Kentron” penitentiary, “Nubarashen” penitentiary, and now at “Kosh” penitentiary. The ‘soldat’ was right; during a prior incident the attacking brigade had demanded that I get rid of the flag and that I not put it anywhere visible. The justification for this is not available, you will take it down and that is that, if you do not take it down, it will be bad. The last similar conversation had taken place about one month prior, and my flag has not been down for even one second. And so, with the organizers of the November 3rd incident having nothing concrete to say to me, they then aimed their activities at the flag, at the flag of the Republic of Armenia, demanding that it be taken down immediately, and never be put up again. Naturally, my response was unequivocal, and without question the flag had to stay above my head. It was on this topic that the conversation became more strained, and the head ‘soldat’ attacked me. As happens in such situations, a large number of people had gathered near my sleeping area, and it was hard to tell who was friends with whom. And despite the fact that the officers of the penitentiary come running and gather like flies at every inmate’s every sneeze, for the approximately fifteen minutes during which there was yelling and loud conversation, not a single officer showed up. The story ended with a “hesitant scuffle,” and the sides maintained their positions. The opposing side insisted that I no longer write articles in the newspaper, and that I must take down the flag of the Republic of Armenia from above my head. You now read an article which was written after the abovementioned incident, and the flag of the RA continues to hang above my head. And that is how it will always be.

P.S. In upcoming chapters I will reflect on other incidents that have occurred to me at “Kosh” and conversations about them that are circulating outside.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who owes whom?

[Addendum: edited for clarification purposes after posting]

I don't generally like commenting on Diasporan issues though I do from time to time because, frankly, it usually just frustrates and irritates me further. However, I just read a piece on Ianyan Magazine that made me want to post a comment on the article which already has a number of comments. Rather than blather on as a comment there, I thought I'd write my musings here.

The article, in the form of a Letter from the Editor, recounts the editor's interaction with and subsequent musings about an Armenian gentleman. It starts as follows:
“The motherland should be best loved from afar,” a man said to me the other day, “or else it will sting you.”

My reaction to the man's words were immediate, and of course developed further as I read the piece. The man's father was from Cyprus, the man himself had left Armenia in the 90's and moved to Hollywood, and had returned to the US in one year. So the story is not so simple - though we have no other information about him, he seems to have been of a Diasporan lineage that relocated at some point to Armenia, and he relocated back out in the 90s, and tried to go back. Two separate generations of moving to Armenia, which is 2 times more than most Diasporan families.

It seems clear in the article that the man did not necessarily want to leave, and in fact wishes he could have stayed, that he is sad to have (had to?) leave, for whatever reason. And this is a relatively common story on one level or another - families or businesses that try to start or relocate to Armenia meet with so much difficulty in terms of finding jobs or corrupt taxation or bureaucracy, that they end up unable to stay. I am not comparing the hardship of those who do live in Armenia to those who try to relocate. That is irrelevant to my point (which I will get to soon enough), and my purpose is not to compare or judge. There are those who have tried and succeeded in moving from the outside to Armenia, and some who have tried and failed.

What I would like to point out is his wording. To "love the homeland from afar", or "she will sting you." Of course it is a sentence of sadness. And perhaps in this context, thats all there was to it. I was not there for the conversation. The editor ends the article, it seems, curious, wondering, maybe a little sad herself, but saying "its worth the risk." I agree, it is worth it, but that is only the beginning... I would take it much further...

I have been in conversations where similar comments are made about Armenia. And in these contexts, as can be imagined for argument's sake may have occurred in this conversation, there is a sense of hurt. And that hurt is linked to a sense of something having been done to the speaker. Armenia should have been a certain way, it was not, and therefore Armenia caused someone pain/hurt. As though Armenia were a single entity, an entity which owes me, you, Armenians in general.
That is a sense of entitlement. To say, well, Armenia hurt me, so its better to stay far from it (to perhaps abandon it completely as a real place, and leave it only as an idea), to say that I will just glance at it from time to time because it hurt me and wasn't what it was supposed to be, because it did not live up to my ideals, that is entitlement.

And this sentiment was rampant in the 90s in the Diaspora, and is still rampant in a mutated form today. Because Armenia, to so many Diasporans, was and is not a land with an entire population, a people, who live and breathe every day. But rather, Armenia was and is a homeland, a pedestalized (perhaps no longer in the mutated version) 'homeland' where soil is fertile, flowers bloom without bees, streets pave themselves, and all is well and good. Undesired and frowned upon realities of any and all societies - poverty, violence, prostitution, 'immorality' - all those things to which people often say "Amot," the things that of course 'real Armenians' anywhere do not do, they did not exist in Armenia.

That was the imagined, the pedestalized Armenia that so many expected. And of course it fell short.

And so there have been since the early 90s and continue to be comments about Armenia, 'it's dirty, 'it's corrupt'... and stories about thievery and scams that happen to Diasporans... and comments like 'X is just soo bad in Armenia,'...

And when I hear that, what I was reminded of when I read the man's statement in the letter from the editor, is that sense of entitlement.

What I always want to say back when I hear such things, is well, if it so bad, what are you, as a self-identified Armenian, doing to make it better?
How can you possibly feel satisfied with visiting Armenia, leaving and criticizing, and then going back in two years and repeating the cycle all over again?

If you, and I, and all of us, if we are all Armenian, then we are all part of this great idealized nation; Armenia is not just a homeland, but a land of people, of the Armenian people - Armenia IS the people and population of Armenia, with millions of actual Armenians, not just an entity which exists to provide Diasporans with a sense of idealized homeland and a nice vacation spot.

I suppose that is what JFK meant when he said: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

If we truly want to be part of a great nation with a great Homeland, then it is not the Homeland that owes us, but we, as individuals of a nation, that owe and must build the Homeland.

The question of whether it is worth it is easy, but almost irrelevant.

The real question is, can we be worthy of the Armenia of which we all dream?