Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Viewing Ukraine from Armenia August 25, 2017

Prompted by the New York Times reporting that North Korea may have gotten some of its best missile technology from a factory in Ukraine, I realized there was a long-standing gap in my understanding of where that country fell in the Armenian scheme of things. So, I did a bit of reading, by no means exhaustive, which, combined with the snippets floating around in my head, resulted in what follows.
Historically, the Armenian-Ukrainian connection goes back to the times of Turkic invasions of our homeland. Not only did that trigger movement westward, resulting in the Cilician kingdom, but also northward across the Black Sea to Crimea, Ukraine, and Poland. Unfortunately, these communities ultimately assimilated and were largely lost. Of course, that wasn’t the end of Armenian migration to Ukraine. It must have continued, since today, there are anywhere between 100,000 and 350,000 Armenians in Ukraine. The lower number is from a 2001 census and includes only official residents, not temporary, migrant workers or those otherwise present. The higher figure is more recent and based on an Armenian organization’s estimate. How these figures are to be divided, with Crimea now separated from Ukraine is yet another question. Another more recent historical aspect was the cooperation between Armenians and Ukrainians in anti-Soviet efforts through the 1970s.
The upshot of so many Armenians living there is that at least two of them hold fairly high-ranking positions in government. This suggests that there’s not a strong anti-Armenian sentiment among Ukrainians. Naturally, these two are acting in the best interests of Ukraine. Yet, at least one Azeri columnist suggests writing Ukraine off as an ally of Azerbaijan because of their presence – a fine example of the anti-Armenian sentiments regularly inflamed by Baku clouding judgment so much as to hurt its own interests.
This begs the question – what/how are relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine? We hear niceties being exchanged between Yerevan and Kiev, but there seems to be an underlying tension. It seems to me that a big part of the problem rises because of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. There’s a pretty long history of conquest and antipathy between them. Thus, my guess is Kiev views much of the rest of its relationships through that prism, quite understandably – you know the mindset that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and “the friend of my enemy is my enemy”.
Couple this approach with Ukraine’s loss of Crimea and potential for losing more territory to Russia, and you can see why Kiev supports Azerbaijan’s “territorial integrity” argument when it comes to Artsakh. Unfortunately, this support predates Russia’s annexation, so there must be more to it. Ukraine has been and is Azerbaijan’s second (perhaps now third with all the Israeli sales) largest arms supplier after Turkey. Even if this is more attributable to Ukraine’s economic needs, trade and so on, obviously, it cannot be ignored by Yerevan.
Hence, it should have come as no surprise to Ukraine when Yerevan’s position regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea was less than supportive of Kiev. This naturally led to cooling of relations, but there does seem to be a thaw. Bilateral trade between Ukraine on one side and Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey on the other seems to be steady, which is a sign of good relations. Once again, Russia is a big factor and Ukraine wants to get energy from other sources to reduce its dependence, hence its need for Azerbaijani supplies. In fact, Ukraine was advising Turkey, in the aftermath of the latter’s shoot-down of a Russian jet (Fall 2015), to reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas to below 25% as a “safe” level. It seemed like Ukraine was trying to take advantage of the heightened tension between Russia and Turkey. Plus, Turkey-Ukraine relations are good enough to enable shipment of Ukrainian arms, courtesy of Turkish secret services and trains they chartered, to Daesh/ISIS in 2014, based on a recent report. This, too, runs counter to Armenian interests, both for the closeness demonstrated with Turkey and the damage inflicted on our compatriots in Syria.
Finally, there’s GUAM – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, later renamed ODED-GUAM (Organization for Democracy and Economic Development). It briefly became GUUAM when Uzbekistan joined, but later dropped out. This 1990s vintage grouping is currently quiescent, though I also encountered some commentary that it should be reinvigorated. It was clearly formed as a way to push back against Russia. These are all countries in which Russia supports “separatist” movements. Of course if all those movements are like our Artzakh liberation struggle, then it behooves GUAM to start treating its citizens better and not persecuting, even massacring (think Baku, Gandzak/Cantsag [Kirovabad, Ganja], Sumgait), them. This grouping did not become much of a military alliance. Ironically, had it done so, it might have elicited strong pushback from Russia, which would have run counter to its raison d’etre.
The upshot seems to be that Armenian-Ukrainian relations will, for the foreseeable future, remain hostage to/heavily impacted by the Russian factor.
I hope some good comes of this article. If you notice errors of fact or interpretation, please write.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Caruso Agrees to Advertise ‘Architects of Denial’ at Americana

"Architects of Denial," a documentary focusing on the denial of the Armenian Genocide
“Architects of Denial,” a documentary focusing on the denial of the Armenian Genocide
Also Says it Will Forge Relationship with Armenian Community
GLENDALE– Moments ago, the Armenian National Committee of America – Glendale received a letter from Caruso Affiliated Executive Vice President of Operations, Jackie Levy condemning “violence and atrocities of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of Armenians in our community.” The letter also states that Caruso Affiliated will work with the producers of “Architects of Denial” and the City of Glendale in an effort to display the advertisement at the Americana at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
The ANCA Glendale welcomes this important albeit delayed response as the first step in addressing a larger issue of insensitivity toward the Armenian-American community and utter lack of outreach and understanding. We look forward to working with Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated to further address the community’s needs and develop a positive and constructive relationship moving forward.
We especially want to thank the grassroots in our community who rose to the occasion by making our collective concerns heard on a larger scale. This outcome shows that when the community is activated, decision makers will hear its voice.
We are sincerely grateful to our elected officials – specifically State Senator Anthony Portantino who joined us on the ground from day one, members of the Glendale City Council who supported our position, as well as US Congressman Adam Schiff, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian for responding to the call for action and providing their staunch support that made this possible.
Below is the letter sent by Caruso Affiliated to the Glendale community.
August 17, 2017
To the Glendale community:
Over the past few days, we have reached out to, and heard from, many longtime friends in the Glendale
community, including those who spoke at the Glendale City Council meeting this week.
We have learned, through these countless conversations and exchanges, our position on human rights
has been misunderstood and for that we apologize. We have always condemned violence and atrocities
of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of
Armenians in our community.
While this advertising use is a violation of the city’s zoning, we will work with the producers of
Architects of Denial and the city of Glendale in an effort to display the advertisement at The Americana
at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
We have the utmost respect for and appreciate the deep values of the Armenian community in this
great city.
Jackie Levy
Executive Vice President of Operations

Monday, August 7, 2017

Uncle Boghos Biography


Sunday, August 6, 2017

ANCA Joins Yezidi Genocide Commemoration in Front of White House

A memorial to the Shingal attack
A memorial to the Shingal attack
WASHINGTON–Armenian National Committee of America staff and supporters took part in a candlelight vigil in front of the White House on August 3 to mark the 3rd anniversary of the ISIS attack on Shingal (Sinjar, in Arabic), which marked the beginning of the Yezidi Genocide in 2014.  Thousands of Yezidis were killed by invading ISIS forces, which faced no opposition from Iraqi government troops.  Thousands of women and children were also abducted and used as sex slaves by ISIS.  To this day, many are still held captive.
The vigil was organized by the Free Yezidi Foundation and the American Ezidi Center.  “The Yezidis have suffered so much for so long.  Today we need the international community to stand with us,” remarked Pari Ibrahim, Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation.  “We seek justice, security, and a brighter future for our people.”  The message resonated strongly with the audience, which also included Kurdish and Iraqi Christian community members.
ANCA Executiive Director Aram Hamparian at the Yezidi Genocide commemoration event
ANCA Executiive Director Aram Hamparian at the Yezidi Genocide commemoration event
In 2016, the United States House of Representatives voted unanimously to declare that “the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”  Similar motions passed unanimously in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Parliament.
In Armenia, the 40,000-strong Yezidi community – the nation’s largest minority group – is able to thrive by worshipping freely and providing Kurmanci-language education in local public schools.  The world’s largest Yezidi temple is currently under construction in the village of Aknalich, 14 km west of Etchmiadzin, in the Armavir marz.  Under Armenia’s new 2015 constitution, Yezidis are guaranteed representation in Armenia’s National Assembly, along with the next three largest minority groups: the Assyrians, Kurds, and Russians.
During the First World War, many Yezidis protected their Armenian neighbours from Ottoman troops.  Some were killed for their involvement.  On April 21, 2015, a monument was inaugurated in Yerevan to honor those “innocent Yezidi martyrs.”
According to one Reuters report, around 50 Yezidi families fleeing the Shingal region in 2014 have found refuge in Armenia.