Monthly Archives: March 2013

Well that was fast: Flights from Yerevan to Van Cancelled

I reported earlier about the new flights from Yerevan to Van that will beginning in April. It seems that those flights are now cancelled. The official rationale for the cancellations is they were cancelled because of a low numbers of passengers, which is an odd explanation as the flights have yet to start. I personally know a dozen people interested in taking one of the first flights (including myself). And, I’m sure as the tourist season begins in Armenia, more and more tourists would make the trip to Van as well. The official agency that killed the flights is the Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which makes it almost certain that it was high-level politics that killed them.

In further bad news, Armavia, the national airline of Armenia, declared bankruptcy and grounded all their flights starting tomorrow.

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Filed under Regional Politics

A great analysis of the styles of Raffi and Sargsyan. Politics has been a private affair among elites for years (decades?) in Armenia. Raffi is forcing transparency into the system and won’t budge on meeting Sargsyan anywhere but in the open at Freedom Square.

Caucasus Elections Watch

Political horse-trading before, after and in between elections is a common feature of politics in many countries, but none more so than in the South Caucasus were deals are cut behind the scenes, usually by leaders of parties or groups, without any reference to their political supporters, let alone the voters. It is one of the features that has helped discredit politics in the region. Often political support is traded for government positions, on some occasions in the past it is alleged that also big sums of money were involved. Despite their totalitarian streaks governments in the region have in the past found it useful to engage in such practices as a means of widening their support, and sometimes to isolate political opponents who refused to be bought and had become difficult.

Armenia has been particularly vulnerable to this sort of murky politics and most political forces had been engaged…

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Filed under Uncategorized

The Birth of the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation

Yesterday, the phenomenal Homeland Handicrafts project grew up and became the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation. This project was started by honorary consul Timothy Straight—an awesome, awesome guy. A video of the launch is available here (skip ahead to the three minute mark).

This Foundation will provide the legal support to the hundreds of village women that have started to become self-sufficient through the Homeland Handicrafts project. The project took the skills the women had and provided them an avenue to use those skills and receive a profit. Many of these women have never had the experience of good work being rewarded monetarily. Some of the women are still resistant to change (e.g. one woman has too many orders for a product she sews, but she won’t tell other women how to sew it to keep her mini-monopoly). But, the more opportunities villagers get to be self-sufficient, the more this stubborn mentality will change.

Enough talking, go buy something! Or if you’re overwhelmed by the options, check out the product that started it all: the Berd Bear. They ship to the US and will customize your order, so you have no excuse now!

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Filed under Social / Culture

“Leave Civilitas Alone!”

While it wasn’t said in so many words, that was the message the ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Switzerland as well as the honorary consul of Norway and Finland gave when they met with the Civiltas Foundation yesterday and called it a reliable partner.

As mentioned earlier, Vartan Oskanian, the founder of Civilitas (and possible would-be presidential candidate), has been investigated by the National Security Service for possible money laundering. While the ambassadors were not willing to call this investigation politically motivated, US Ambassador Heffern did say that “We (the US) believe that there is nothing to be investigated by the NSS or anybody else and certainly nothing of a criminal nature.”

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Filed under Corruption

Gearing up for the Defender’s Office’s Annual Report

The Human Rights Defender’s Office, where I was a fellow at last year, puts out an annual report on Armenia’s human rights situation. I contributed in the final push for publication for last year’s report.

This year’s report is being developed, and as a “sneak peak,” the Defender’s Office releases key summaries of human rights violations in different sectors. The final report should be available sometime around May.

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Filed under Human Rights

The Post-Election Dialogue Continues

On Friday, Raffi submitted a list of demands to Sargsyan. He would recognize Sargsyan’s victory in exchange for, among other things, 1) parliamentary elections, 2) electoral reforms and 3) his people in top government positions. See Raffi’s full list of demands here.

Unsurprisingly Sargsyan said no, but acknowledged that the letter is at least the basis for future dialogue. Sargsyan suggested that Raffi end the hunger strike, rest for a few days and then they can get to business “without fanfare.” Raffi will undoubtedly reject this offer as he’ll lose his two main advantages: the hunger strike that puts pressure on the government to act quickly and the public support that comes with his transparency.

Raffi will give his response today, but his hunger strike must be making his planning and strategizing much harder. At the beginning of these rallies, his style was much more of him taking outsider input but of him being the leader. He must depend more and more on aides as he grows weaker. And, in fact if Sargsyan met with Raffi without the “precondition” of ending the hunger strike, it’s unknown how well Raffi would be able to operate.

Also, Armenian Weekly has a phenomenal analysis of Raffi, as described by US cables. It shows how complicated (and unpredictable) Raffi has been and negates the idea that Raffi is merely a “western puppet.”

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Filed under Elections

Pictures: Tiflis’s Revenge

I had a great trip up to Tbilisi this weekend. It was particularly nice because this trip I got to avoid most of the typical tourist places and went with a friend who was very well acquainted with Tbilisi’s Armenian history. Go check out the rest of the pics.

Wrought Iron Armenian letters

Redone Soviet art

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Filed under Personal, Pictures