Table of Contents
Hello, and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong.
This Week in Review we have a panel of scholars, journalists and activist from Armenia and Azerbaijan discussing the violence between the communities in cities around the world, and who initiated a call for peace on twitter with the hashtag #WordsNotSwords, which gained many notable signatories online.
We also discuss the interview that former president Robert Kocharyan gave to three media outlets in the Armenian press.
We close with a quick lightning round of questions to our resident panel for analysis from Headlines from the past week.
From July 12 to July 17 Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed on their border, killing tens of servicemen and civilians from both sides. In the following week the press and propaganda from both sides picked up in an effort to align international opinion and sympathies on their side, and some demonstrations in cities around the world got out of hand, resulting in violence between protestors, injuries and arrests.
Even more worrisome, the violence spilled over to ordinary citizens and businesses in some diaspora communities. According to media reports restaurants and other businesses in Moscow were attacked by groups from opposing sides. Individual Azerbaijanis and Armenians, including children, were targets of random attacks. In some cases, humiliating videos of the victims being beaten were posted on social media. In Moscow police arrested over 30 people connected to the violence. We also read reports of vandalism of an Armenian school in San Francisco, attacks against individuals and businesses around the world, including Turkey, Germany, other places in Europe and in the US.
Observers indicate that this level of animosity between communities did not exist even during the worst days of war. The violence in the diaspora led some scholars, both Azerbaijani and Armenian, to call on their respective communities to renounce from street violence and re-engage in peaceful activism.
We are joined today by some of the initiating signatories of that call:
● Dr. Artyom Tonoyan - Originally from Gyumri, Armenia, Dr. Artyom Tonoyan is a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, where his research is focused on the nexus of religion and violence.
● Arzu Geybulla - Arzu is an Azerbaijani columnist and writer, with special focus in digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, CODA and more. She is a contributor at Open Democracy, IWPR, and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso.
● Ulvi Ismayil - Ulvi is a historian and researcher, based in Washington, D.C. and originally from Baku. He works with international development organizations such as UNHCR and USAID and has been involved in Azerbaijan-Armenian peace-making multilateral projects since 2004. He has written on the subject and has even developed his own peace proposal. Ulvi was a co-author of a joint petition drafted in 2014 calling the sides to observe peace along the line of contact.
● Emil Sanamyan - Emil Sanamyan, who is a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan. He is a regular contributor to ANN/Groong.
● Diana Yayloyan - Diana Yayloyan is a Research Associate at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, working on Armenia-Turkey civil society dialogue supported by the European Union. She is also a Ph.D. Candidate at the Middle East Technical University with a focus on Gender & Peacebuilding.
● Artyom Tonoyan’s tweet on #WordsNotSwords
● Dr. Katy Pearce’s geovirtual spread analysis on #WordsNotSwords
On July 29, former President Robert Kocharyan gave an interview to 3 news sources (5րդ Ալիք, Հ2, and Yerkir Media) where he talked about issues ranging from internal politics to NKR conflict and regional developments.
We are joined by our resident panel, Asbed Kotchikian, Emil Sanamyan and Alen Zamanyan.
Dr. Kotchikian is Professor of political science and international relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Emil Sanamyan is a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
Alen Zamanyan is a software engineer in Los Angeles, and has been consistently following and analyzing Armenian affairs for over a decade.
Our initial take on the interview.
This week the SIS brought charges against Arthur Danielyan for the fight with Alen Simonyan in the streets of Yerevan. No charges have been leveled against Alen Simonyan.
A faction of ANC members and supporters of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan have criticized the government’s nominee to the Constitutional Court, Vahram Avetisian. They say that his father was linked to former regimes, passing several judgements on cases related to the March 1, 2008 events which Vahram Avetisian has never condemned.
The Supreme Judicial Council elected Yervand Khundkaryan, who is currently chairman of Court of Cassation, as their nominee for one of the three vacant seats in the Constitutional Court.
And Gor Hovhannisyan, a German legal scholar who was already nominated once for the constitutional court in 2019, has said that president Sarkissian’s office had reached out to him again.
We discuss these nominations.
Prime Minister Pashinyan this week declared that the situation over coronavirus has significantly improved in Armenia. He has also expressed hopes that the state of emergency can be lifted by September. This perception is based on data from recent days when the recovery rate has outpaced new infection rate. Do the statistics support the Prime Minister’s declaration?
This week the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Zareh Sinanyan, is in Los Angeles on vacation. However back in Yerevan the Prime Minister fired most of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs. What’s going on?
● Armenia’s economic activity index declined by 4.7% in six months. The downturn is attributed to the pandemic.
● Over the weekend Vahram Avetisyan was nominated for the position of judge of the Constitutional Court.
● Responding to concerns about Armenia’s newly adopted National Security Strategy (NSS), Artsakh secretary of National Security Samvel Babayan put out a statement. Excerpt: ”...There is no alternative to the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. The security of Artsakh cannot be put for an auction...” Some of these issues were discussed in ANN/Groong’s Week in Review last week (Episode 4, 7/26/20).
● Erdogan’s AKP ruling party proposed a law strengthening state control over social media, threatening press freedom.
● Moderna has launched large-scale Stage 3 trials of COVID-19 vaccine.
● PM Pashinian responded to Margarita Simonyan’s accusations, in an interview to RBC, a private Russian TV channel.
● Renovation of homes damaged from Azerbaijani shelling launched in Armenia’s Tavush province
● Hate Among Us – a documentary co-produced by David McKenzie, Dean Cain, Montel Williams and Sergey Sarkisov has received a Daytime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Directing Special Class category.
● Armenians continued protesting Azerbaijani aggression in London, Montevideo.
● Mayors of a number of French cities have issued a statement expressing solidarity with Armenia and supporting peace in the South Caucasus.
● Azerbaijan accuses Azerbaijani activists abroad of having ties to Armenia.
● Turkey and Azerbaijan have launched large-scale joint military drills this week. Exercises are scheduled in Baku, Nakhichevan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh. Russia and Armenia are closely following the exercises, which came as a direct response and pressure on Armenia following the Armenian-Azerbaijani border conflict earlier this month.
Defense Minister Tonoyan said the tactical nature of these drills is not concerning, but they could turn into provocative actions near the borders, defense structures and other infrastructures of Armenia.
● Armenia gave notice that it will suspend the CFE-required military inspections by Turkey on its territory. Armenia consider Turkey to be a security threat, which supports direct military aggression against Armenia.
● Guatemala’s Congress committee adopted a resolution on Armenia-Azerbaijan border situation.
● FM Mnatsakanyan called on Israel to stop deadly weapons deals with Azerbaijan. He says these weapons are being targeted at civilians and civilian infrastructure, and that he will pursue this issue vigorously.
● PM Pashinyan declared that the situation over coronavirus has significantly improved in Armenia. This perception is based on data from recent days when the recovery rate has outpaced new infection rates.
● Minister of High-Technology Hakob Arshakyan announced that the government will improve Digital TV network, communication and Internet access in Armenia’s border villages.
● Armenian Ambassador to the US, Varuzhan Nersesyan’s op-ed in Newsmax.com.
● The Armenian government is supporting a local program that includes $64,000 for installing solar stations in the wider Noyemberyan region. The program is funded by the USAID.
● Armenia has confirmed its participation in the Army-2020 forum to be held in Russia August. This is a large-scale military Arsenal exhibit.
● Armenian winemaker cellars are 70% full amid coronavirus.
● Armenia’s Demanding Applicant initiative files two lawsuits in court. These are the high performing students who were not admitted to universities.
● Yerevan Appellate courts have twice now denied motions to arrest Mikayel Minasyan, son-in-law of former president Serzh Sargsyan and former Ambassador to the Vatican.
● Turkish actress Songul Oden, 41, has married ethnic Armenian Arman Bichakchian (Arman Bichakci)
● Kanye West’s Yeezy Foam Runner named “Ararat” was in instant sellout and hit with Armenian Americans.
● Burbank Police Department has increased police patrols around Armenian Centers in the city in order to prevent possible acts of vandalism or violence. LA city councilmember Paul Krekorian warned the LAPD of a potential surge in hate crimes against Armenians.
● The UK’s former envoy to Turkey, Richard Moore was named MI6 Director.
● A faction of ANC members and supporters of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan have criticized the government’s nominee to the Constitutional Court, Vahram Avetisian. They say his father was linked to former regimes passing several judgements on cases related to the March 1, 2008 events.
● Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to the Russian RBC TV channel in which he rebutted Margarita Simonyan’s Facebook posting last week, as well as addressed other topics.
● A TUMO center will open in Tavush region.
● Japan to provide grant to Armenia for purchasing ambulance vehicles.
● Azerbaijanis attack Armenian-owned hookah bar in Cologne, Germany.
● Carpet production drops in Armenia by 72․4% in 2020 year over year.
● Agos, an Armenian media outlet, has reported three recent incidents targeting Armenians living in Turkey as a result of the conflict involving Azerbaijan. Agos editor Bagrat Estukian and Turkish Armenian MP Garo Paylan are quoted in this article by Armenpress.
● Ten members of the staff in the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs were fired by the Prime Minister. The High Commissioner, Zareh Sinanyan, is on vacation in Los Angeles. The reasons are yet unclear and unverified.
● The Supreme Judicial Council elected Yervand Khundkaryan (currently chairman of Court of Cassation) as their nominee for one of the three vacant seats in the Constitutional Court. It is now the president’s turn to offer a nominee. Gor Hovhannisyan, a German legal scholar who was already nominated once for the constitutional court in 2019, stated that president Sarkissian’s office had reached out to him again on the topic of nomination for one of the current CC vacancies. He indicated that he declined the president’s office twice on the grounds that he doesn’t believe the removal of three judges was constitutional.
● Georgia announces suspension of rail services with Armenia for 16 days due to maintenance.
Arman Bichakchian (Arman Bichakci) Turkish actress Songul Oden. He is a businessman, working with uncle, jeweler Sevan Bichakci. His father, Zaven Bichakcian, is an Armenian clergyman in Istanbul.
Kanye’s Yeezy Foam Runner named “Ararat” was an instant sellout… ‘nuff said?