I wrote up a post on the twin challenges of emigration and a low birthright for publication in Hetq. Today it came out: Reversing the Depopulation of Armenia: People Need Reasons to Stay.
Monthly Archives: November 2012
Just an FYI: the Armenian youth NGO Free Society created a new manual on labor rights. Most people in Armenia don’t know what rights they have, and this manual will hopefully educate them on that point. While some will criticize that this manual is pointless as rights are not respected in Armenia, people’s rights are only respected when the people demand respect. And, the only way to demand that your rights are respected is to know what they are.
The Women’s Resource Center is coordinating a march tomorrow for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. A number of other NGOs are joining including PINK and Bridge of Hope. Everyone in Yerevan should attend.
Political activity and university campuses have gone hand in hand since at least the 1960s. Major universities in the United States, including Berkeley and Columbia, held massive student movements discussing and protesting an assortment of political issues. Internationally, France had a massive protest, and first wildcat general strike, that started with student occupation, and Iran’s Green Movement had the University of Tehran as one of its cores.
This history feeds well with OSCE’s work to promote student activism through debates. The OSCE is coordinating university debate teams to challenge each other on important social issues in Armenia. These debates will help train the next leaders of Armenia with nuanced understanding of key issues while educating (and hopefully entertaining) audiences.
On the flip side, the Minister of Education has banned political activity on university campuses. This ban will continue until the presidential elections and applies to all parties. While facially neutral, in reality this will harm the opposition as it strips one of the key sources of political energy, universities, from them. While it does the same for the Republicans, the Republicans don’t need to hold rallies to win; the Republicans just need to stop the opposition from holding rallies to win. The deck is already heavily stacked against the opposition and this is just one more method the government is using to cement that advantage.
My friend and fellow Birthright Armenia volunteer Taleen Moughamian recently finished her volunteering stint at the Children of Armenia Fund. Her latest blog post is about the challenges women face in many of the villages in Armenia. The situation is heart wrenching (especially the use of cytotec to induce abortions). Taleen’s work was phenomenal and involved providing IUDs, free screenings, and general counseling. Go read the details over on her blog.
Hetq has continued its series of calling out public servants who magically have millions in unaccounted money in their tax fillings. This time around we have:
- The Minister of Justice declared 3 million in “other revenue,” above his salary of 3.7 million.
- The Minister of Emergency Situation’s bank account went from 4.8 million to 34 million in two years when his revenues were only 7.2 million.
- An appeals court judge’s wife bank account grew 34 million more than her stated income.
- A member of parliament has a few million in undisclosed revenue.
- And, an assortment of governors whose bank accounts grew suspiciously.
Yesterday, the Human Rights Ombudsman delivered his recommendations to Parliament on the draft Domestic Violence Law. I don’t have a list of all the recommendations, but I know my work made a substantial impact on the recommendations provided. For instance, the “24 hour hotline” recommendation the article mentions was based on the draft law simply saying “a hotline” without giving any further details. Our worry was that the hotline would run only during working hours and thus be useless to victims at night when they are more likely to be abused by a spouse coming home from work.
I wrote a post for the Armenian Volunteer Corps’ blog. It tries to give a sense of what my work was like, both in terms of the content and the difficulty. I want to note for the record that I did not take that photo nor did I see it before the blog post went up. Also, wearing a suit while needing a shave is not a good look.
This report is unverified, so scale the level of doubt accordingly. Hetq is reporting on a letter written to them by prisoner Arman Davtyan, who says he will take his life if the letter is not published. In the letter, he says that prison officials broke his fingers, shocked him, and assaulted him, his wife and friends. All for the purpose of making him plead guilty. Because of the severity of these claims, the Department of Justice or the Human Rights Ombudsman must act immediately to investigate them.
To provide some context, this type of torture is becoming more and more uncommon in Armenia. In Armenia’s July 2012 review by the Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations, it discussed issues of excessive pre-trial detention (Para. 19), overcrowding of prisons (Para. 20) and the absence of a genuine complaints mechanism if abuse occurs in detention (Para. 14), but never mentions a systemic problem of actual acts of torture. Admittedly, one issue the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office has fought against is the practice of police calling suspects into the police station and beating them until they confess.
Al Jazeera made a short video about the 80,000 Syrian Armenians that have decided to stay in Syria. It’s a good video, and assuming the footage they used was from the Armenian communities in Syria, it demonstrates the havoc and destruction surrounding the community.
One of the points that was not mentioned in the video is that many of the Syrian Armenians want to leave but simply can’t afford it, especially with the increase in ticket prices from this summer. I have a friend in Yerevan who was working odd jobs and receiving a stipend from his family in Syria to survive as a student. Suddenly, his family was asking him for money, which created a huge amount of stress for him.