As We See It
By Prof. Osheen Keshishian

Thank You Armenian Bar Association for Reacting to Noah’s Insulting Remarks

A few weeks ago, on January 8,2018, Trevor Noah insulted the Armenians during the television program “The Daily Show” by calling the Armenians “filthy Armenians”. He was criticizing US President Donald Trump for writing on Twitter the following. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like, really smart, not smart but genius and a very stable genius.” Fine, criticize the President or anyone you want. But don’t insult others at the same time. Trevor Noah said: “This is like really funny. Only Donald Trump could defend himself and in the same sentence completely undermine his whole point. It would be like someone saying ‘I am the most tolerant guy out there, just ask any filthy Armenian.’ said Noah.

Wow. He did not have to say the last part of his sentence and it would have been okay. I cannot answer because I am a clean Armenian like ALL Armenians and…nobody asked me and nobody will ask…

But, the Azeris, taking advantage of Noah’s untrue, impolite, erroneous, shameful and insulting remarks by Noah wrote three days later that Mr. Noah has “expressed one more time the real face of Armenians.”

Fortunately, the Armenian Bar Association was alert, immediately reacted in a polite manner and wrote two letters to the vice president of communications at comedy Central and asked for a meeting with the producers, staff writers, and Mr. Noah. Unfortunately, it has been three weeks and according to the Armenian Bar Association no answer has been received yet and the association will continue a feasible follow-up. We express our thanks to the association for being alert and responsive. Thank you.

The Daily Show should have apologized by now, yet there has been no response or apology on television. The Armenian community will continue to correct the statement and we hope that Comedy Central would apologize and announce that it has retracted the “Filthy Armenians” comment.

Posted in Editorials

Some Thoughts

When a year ends and a new one starts, individuals and organizations, I believe, sit down and ponder about the past year and the mistakes they made maybe inadvertently, or the accomplishments they recorded. But most people try to point the negative and try to improve the situation for the future. Naturally, organizations, groups, institutions, churches, political parties, government and others weigh their mistakes, sometimes objectively, and try to plan a better way or method to improve the situation for the following year. There are some who think they never made a mistake!

Of course, people do not have to wait for the New Year to think about improving themselves and change the way they carried on during the previous year. Nobody sets a deadline except for the persons involved. They do not have to wait for a weekend to change things on Monday, or the first day of the month, indeed, if they are serious, the can think about the situation any day and plant to change it the next day. In these cases, people should be more objective and more serious about vital issues.

We have to approach issues personally and ask ourselves, if we have been a member of a board of directors of an organization, political party, church, cultural group, school or any institution, were we honest with ourselves and expressed our minds and opinions politely during the meetings? Or, not to upset the chairman, or please him and others, we knowingly became a “Yes Man”, by agreeing blindly with the decisions taken at meetings without believing in them, thus burying our personality and honor in the mud. Naturally, others have their opinions, too, and we should respect their views and criticism.

There are so many people who were put out of committees or boards, because they usually expressed their views and politely criticized their decisions…for a better solution of an issue, but to no avail.

There are also individuals who cannot put up with the “dictatorship” within an organization and they quit and, unfortunately, sometimes, they do not get involved in Armenian life any more.

Did we bring our contribution (not necessarily financial) to the betterment of our organizations, churches, institutions, or our country or we kept farcically quiet and did not express an opinion? Were we honest with our opinions and had we done our homework before voting on an issue about which we did not know enough? We should be honest with ourselves and have patience to accomplish anything.

Self-criticism paves the way for the future and we should have been more attentive if we want to accomplish something.

Let us be more honest and truthful with ourselves and assist our family, our organizations, our country as much as possible for the betterment of our lives and the world.

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Donate to Armenia Fund to Rebuild Part of Armenia

Hayastan All-Armenia Fund was established in Los Angeles in 1994, the first Telethon was aired in 1996 with $2.5 million raised. The total collected funds in the past 20 years have over $350 million, thanks to the generosity and dedication of the Armenian people around the world.

The yearly collected funds’ total has gone up and down over the years. The highest raised was in 2008 with over $35 million and the lowest in 1998 with a total of $2.1 million. However, since 2006, the annual amounts raised have always been $10 million. From 2010 to 2013, over $20 million was collected each year.

It is very hard to analyze the reasons for these fluctuations. Nevertheless, the people of have showed their devotion to the Motherland and have contributed.

Hayastan All-Armenia Fund is a well established and well-organized entity. All the information is on its site. For instance, the completed projects and in progress listed on its site, are described in detailed fashion. There is a list of donors names. I have donated every year from the first year so my name is on the list. When I was checking the list, I could not find the names of some of my friends. Of course, I called them, and they gave me the song and the dance story, but promised they will contribute next year. I told them “if your name is not on the list next year….”

Actually, more than 700,000 people (families) have made donations to Armenia Fund from around the world — USA, Croatia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, Russia, Armenia and other locations where Armenians live. Several philanthropist have donated $100,000 all the way to more than $2 million. Generally, on average, people donate $120 annually ($10 a month) or $365 annually, whatever the amount is, they are contributing.

Whenever you visit Armenia, stop at the Armenian Fund office and get acquainted, visit the accomplished projects, and ones in progress.

Armenia Fund has completed 50,000 different large and small projects, including 650 kilometers of roads repaired or newly constructed, 580 kilometers of water pipes installed, 149 kilometers of gas pipes and 70 kilometers of electric lines installed, which means that some people in Armenia and Artsakh have lived without these vital survival means for years. Can you imagine, for years, in some villages there were no water pipes? And now, thanks to you, Armenia Fund has improved the lives of people in those villages.

Similarly, many innovations and projects in education, culture, and sports, have improved the peoples’ social life — 170 educational, cultural, and scientific programs have started. 360 schools and kindergartens were repaired or new ones were built, and 75 health centers, sport fields, music centers, painting and art centers, were opened thanks to you and me. There are more projects realized by Armenia Fund.

You can donate to Armenia Fund anytime, any amount and you do not have to wait for the telethon. Do your share and contribute to the rebuilding of life in Armenia and Artsakh, particularly in the villages and remote areas. You will be very happy for your good deeds and the beneficiaries will be very thankful to you, because you provided the opportunity, so they can live a normal life.

Preserve you culture and civilization, assist your compatriots so they can live a better life and continue their heritage.

Donate to Armenia Fund — or Armenia Fund 111 N. Jackson Street, Suite 205, Glendale, California 91206

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Historic Visit of His Holiness

His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, made a Pontifical historic visit to the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America from October 25 to November 4, 2017.

The visit was on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Western Diocese.

As part of the Western Diocese, His Holiness also visited Mexico where he also met with the Mayor of Mexico City, religious leaders and the members of the Armenian community.

His Holiness paid a visit to the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Armenian Day School in Pasadena, where students from the AGBU Manoogian-Demirjian School in Canoga Park students also presented a program. His Holiness was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, as well as other clergymen, Mr. Berge Setrakian, President of AGBU, Mr. and Mrs. Vatche and Tamar Manoukian and clergy. His Holiness blessed the students, philanthropists and the newly-renovated Performing Arts Center.

He also visited Ararat Home for the Aged in Mission Hills, presided over the dedication and consecration of the new wing.

His Holiness had cordial gatherings with over 1,500 students from Armenian schools and ACYO members in three days, delivered spiritual messages, talked to them and had a question-and-answer session. The youngsters were extremely happy, including my grandchildren, and felt spiritually enriched. His Holiness, who encouraged them to continue learning Armenian, attend church, get higher education, and follow their parent’s advice and stressed: “A nation without education is like a body without a mind.”

He had a cordial dinner-meeting with representatives of the Armenian Evangelical Union and the Armenian Missionary Association, as well as community organizations, and individuals. After the Hrashapar Service, he met with the community members at the Kalaydjian Hall of the St. Leon Cathedral of the Western Diocese. Similarly, and the Pontifical Banquet, he met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, elected officials, philanthropists, and parishioners. The cordial gatherings with the students and ACYO members were the most gratifying, fruitful, and important instilling the Armenian Church’s Christian faith in the youngsters, including my grandchildren. They were extremely happy and felt gratified meeting with His Holiness, who encouraged them to continue learning Armenian, attend church, get a higher education, and follow their parent’s advice.

A most important event was the meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church for the first time in Los Angeles from November 1st through the 3rd.

The visit left an indelible impression on the parishioners and community members as the Catholicos stressed several times to keep and enrich the Armenian heritage. He also spoke about strengthening the Armenian Church by eliminating the difference and uniting the Armenian Church.

Posted in Editorials

Do Azeris Buy Justice with Money?

Finally, news is revealing and spreading around the world as to how much the government of Azerbaijan is spending on lobbying to influence people. Azerbaijan has hired many lobbying firms in different countries by paying large sums of money to influence government officials, newscasters, journalists, and so on to cover up its crimes, corruption schemes and inhuman activities.

Money and money. Money talks. Money controls. You can buy politics and justice, unfortunately. But now that the secret information is revealed. Azerbaijan is gearing up to change the reality by spending large amounts of money to look good…I am not sure if it will work.

Here are a few unbelievable items.

On Friday, September 15, it was revealed that a former CNN news employee received $2.6 million from Azerbaijan to praise its government and not to talk or write about human rights violations, corruption, or anything negative. The task of the lobbyist is to bribe various politician and influential individuals to take positive stands and and vote in favor of Azerbaijan, when needed. The Danish newspaper Berlingske shared its findings with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which disperse the revelation, after checking the veracity.

These are just a few cases and there are so many more.

Azerbaijan spends a lot of money in the U.S by hiring several lobbying firms to connect Azeris with high level and influential Americans to support Azerbaijan’s actions. These lobbyists try to give a different story about human rights violations, and against free speech. Recently, Radio Free Europe journalists and other media representatives were harassed and beaten. To give a “positive” picture, an American firm receives more than $70,000 a month for “defending” Azerbaijan by presenting a positive picture. There are other firms also hired by Azeris.

A few weeks ago, a Hungarian news agency made public that Azerbaijan had spent $3 billion for the extradition of Ramil Safarov who had murdered Gurgen Markarian in Hungary 2014.

The newspapers Danish Berlingske, Belgian Lalibre, the British Guardian, Transparency International and other media outlets and organizations revealed during the second week of September that Azerbaijan has “bought” many, many people to negate the corruption news about Azerbaijan and people will do that for money.

Denmark’s Danske Bank processed most of the payments.

Jean-Paul Moerman, a Belgian Constitutional Court judge, is also named as Azerbaijan lobbyist, according to the Belgian Lalibre newspaper reported.

The European Parliament called for a comprehensive and in-depth investigation following some of these revelations to influence also European politicians in favor of Azerbaijan.

Will there be punishment following the investigations? We have to wait and see if proper justice is done.

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Hurricane and Fire Victims Need Help

Natural disasters take place very often in the United States and in other countries around the world.

And it is predictable sometimes, but at times, it takes place all of a sudden. And, it seems it is very difficult to stop them or get ready for them even when they predictable. Whether they are hurricanes, tropical storms, fires, floods, earthquakes or any other form of disaster, the damage caused is beyond comprehension.

In Southern California, the 7,003 acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains, in north of Los Angeles, fortunately was contained on Sunday by the firemen and the 210 freeway was opened for traffic. All evacuation orders in Burbank, Glendale, and Sun Valley were lifted.

The fire in Armenia was also contained.

Hurricanes are usually in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast, and they happened very often and they are given names — Hurricane Frederic, Maria, Otto, Tammy, Matthew, etc.

The recent Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana causing great damage. Almost everyone was affected and the U.S government, the Red Cross and other organizations are trying to assist the homeless, the sick and those who lost their homes.

In Houston, the parish of the Armenian Church St. Kevork has been hit hard, as many parishioners need relief.

Naturally, all the devastated cities need assistance for their population.

Eastern Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian made an announcement and asked assistance for those who were hit by Hurricane Harvey. The Western Diocese and all the churches have made calls for help. Every Armenian Church established a find for the disaster victims.

Those who would like to donate, and I hope there will be many people, should send their checks to: Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016 or send them to the church you attend to transfer the funds to New York. You can also send your donations to the Red Cross.

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A Positive Step Forward?

There was an interesting news from Armenia last week, unfortunately a negative one, but nevertheless it is an important news and I hope it will not stop there.

A former bank executive had embezzled large amounts of money, and finally was caught. The court sentenced him to 13 years in prison and will have to pay compensation and court fees.

Money laundering exists in every country, including the United States, as well as Armenia, and many individuals and elected officials are taken to court and sentenced to prison.

In Armenia, this case made news, and hopefully the Ministry of Justice will continue similar investigations, if possible, it is hard to charge the culprits in Armenia because most of them have ties and connections with the ruling authorities. Also, the authorities should not interfere in the daily work and decisions of the Ministry of Justice, and we hope that the Justice Ministry will stay within the law and enforce the laws and not be influenced buy the authorities. It will take some time, and the social life will have to change. Of course, changes cannot happen overnight.

It is a little but surprising that this news was spread and, I don’t know why and how, this case went to court and the court took such an important and historic decision. Maybe this decision may serve as a sign to other people who have expensive homes, and, in reality, they cannot even buy cars with their salaries. Naturally, there are also people who have made their money legally through their businesses and proper investments.

Now if this bank executive’s case will serve as an example, many, many cases should go to court from the top to the bottom.

Is this a start? Maybe. And it is hard to make a judgement. At least, it is a positive step forward and I hope it will not stop here for the sake of a better Armenia.

Posted in Editorials

Anything is Expected from Turkey

Last week, on July 21, Turkish Parliament Constitutional Committee passed a bill, which sounds childish or unbecoming of a supposedly democratic government. It is very obvious that the Turkish government is not democratic. A resolution was passed forbidding the use of the words “Kurdistan” or “Genocide” related to the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman government. During the debate, the Democratic People’s Party spoke against the issue and left the Parliament hall as sign of protest. But nothing changed.

Yet two far right political parties — Justice and Development Party (MHP) – spearheaded the incomprehensible proposal and they did not work very hard to pass it. However, there is a fine line, and that is…these words cannot be used in the Parliament during debates. Funny! How would they discuss the Kurdish issues in Turkey, when there are at least 15 million Kurds in Turkey, making it 13% of the population. How would they discuss Armenian issues, which have historical facts and documents.

From 1993 to 2009, five Kurdish political parties were banned — People’s Labor Party, Freedom and Democracy Party, People’s Democracy Party, and Democratic Society Party. The last report on the Kurdish population (ten years ago) stated that there are 10 million Kurds, which make 13% of the population. Recent international organizations say that Kurds make 18% of the Turkish population. The point is they do represent a large segment of the population and they are represented in the Parliament. There are famous Kurds who have contributed to Turkish culture.

Although the number of the Armenians is much less (if we do not count the Islamized Armenians), Armenians have contributed to the Turkish culture– the inventor of the modern Turkish Language Agop Dilachar (Martayan), the director of the Istanbul Opera is an Armenian, and so on.

Since Turkey has problems with the Kurds, issues with Armenians, how about other ethnic groups? —Greeks, Assyrians, Jews, and others.

Now that Germany an Turkey are not on good terms, will the word Germany also be forbidden? Who knows? How about other countries?

How can Western countries tolerate such happenings and how can they work and cooperate with such a nation which can change its mind overnight. Anything can happen and the Western “allies” can’t do anything. How can they work with a country, which can change its mind anytime and mess up everything?

Posted in Editorials

Will Corruption Be Lessened in Armenia? We Hope So

The Armenian National Assembly unanimously recently passed a law to establish an anti-corruption committee to investigate all kinds of illegal activities and, hopefully, punish the guilty.

Former Minister of Justice, Arpine Hovhannisyan, now vice speaker of the Parliament, introduced the bill.

Corruption is widespread in the world in various countries. The most corrupt countries are in Africa, Middle East, North Korea, South America, Nigeria, Libya, Sudan, and others.

The cleanest countries are in Northern Europe — Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, also Canada and New Zealand.

Corruption is in the judicial system, tax administration, police, government offices, education, and myriad other institutions. These conditions hurt (almost ruining) countries. Politicians and Oligarchs cooperate secretly, in conjunction with the justice system, so individuals amass wealth. Bribery is another tool. Bribe the police, bribe the politicians, bribe the judges, and so on. Corruption hurts political stability, hinders economic, social growth, and advancement, plus damages the educational system, creates poverty, and emigration and so on.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, Transparency International and other organizations try to halt corruption, but many times get small results, but at least, they are results and we hope it will be better.

Considering the former Soviet countries, Armenia has a fairly good record comparing with the countries of the Caucasus, Russia is the 35th corrupt country, according to records, and Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and others are worse than Armenia. Armenia is the 10th, just ahead of Georgia.

Cronyism, political and business relations, bribery and not reporting ownership of properties is widespread in Armenia’s upper layer. There are some rules, but they are never enforced, because the government failed to fund the program. Of course there are many clean individuals who mind their own business.

On a personal level, I had the opportunity to attend a court hearing about an American-Armenian friend’s business ten years ago. It may sound unbelievable, but I have 12 witnesses — when the judge opened the hearing, she said “I am not the judge who gives the verdict, I am the judge who reads the verdict.” We were amazed.

Armenia’s Justice Minister, Davit Harutyunyan recently announced that he will be “implementing slow but steady measures to do away with the roots of corruption and bribery within the court system.” He also pointed out that the government’s serious measures of restricting illegal personal enrichment and doing away with various categories of cash flow are already in the Parliament.

The U.S Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills met with the Prime Minister and discussed ways to combat corruption. Mills assured the PM that the United States authorities are ready to support the Government’s anti-corruption effort.

One major issue is that the corrupt people are never punished or jailed.

For the sake of the future of Armenia, let’s work hard on diminishing the corruption in Armenia and make Armenia a better country. Let’s punish the criminals and enforce the laws for everyone.

Posted in Editorials

Thank You City Hall, Thank You Committee

The Armenian Genocide Committee of Southern California deserves accolades for the well planned and executed events on the occasion of the 102nd commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

Composed of 18 Armenian community organizations — religious, political, social, philanthropic, cultural, compatriotic and others –the committee had organized a commemoration at the Armenian Martyrs Monuments in Bicknel Park, Montebello, California, and the March for Justice starting from Pan Pacific Park to Wilshire Boulevard, in front of the Los Angeles Turkish Consulate, where a platform was placed was placed and where a program was held. (Thank you City Hall for reserving the area for the commemoration by blocking a very busy road and providing police to check law and order).

Thousands marched and attended the events — young and old–in respect of family members and friends, Armenians Martyrs, who were brutally killed by the order of Ottoman Empire leaders.

During the programs several American statesmen and stateswomen were invited to speak, like four Congressmen: Ed Royce, Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Judy Chu.

California, which has a population close to 40 million (half of Turkey’s population), stood up and spoke at the Armenian Genocide commemoration.

California legislators — Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, State Treasurer John Chiang, State Senators tony Mendoza, Anthony Portantino, State Assemblypersons Cristina Garcia, Adrin Nazarian, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Councilmen Paul Krekorian, David Ryu, Paul Koretz, LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, Montebello City Councilman and former Mayor Jack Hadjinian, and others.

From Istanbul, Turkey, attorney Fethiye Cetin, whose grandmother is Armenian, from Sweden Assyrian Genocide Institute Director Sabri Atman, Artsakh Representative in Washington, D.C, Robert Avetisyan, Los Angeles Consul of Armenia, Amelia Shakarian and many others.

This enumeration may sound dull, but if you think who they are, what they represent in political life then you will be able to appreciate the work of the Committee for being able to bring together political elite, all of them asking for justice, recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Turkish government.

Thank you to all the participants who stand for justice.

Posted in Editorials