Trump bans Armenian Austrian pianist

This classical music video from Armenia says about itself:

Nareh Arghamanyan: Khachaturian – Piano Concerto, Part 1


Yerevan, Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall

Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra (APO)

Eduard Topchyan, conductor

Nareh Arghamanyan, piano

By Norman Lebrecht:

Austrian pianist cancels US tour due to visa issues

January 30, 2017

The outstanding young pianist Nareh Arghamanyan has just posted this message:

I am very sorry to tell that due to unforeseen visa and border circumstances, I am forced to cancel the upcoming tour in the USA and Canada.

Sad for her, sad for the orchestras and audiences.

Nareh is Armenian by birth, Austrian by residence. Still in her 20s, she is extensively recorded.

Ms. Arghamanyan states: “I am holder of an Armenian passport (still waiting for my Austrian citizenship). The problem is that my Schengen visa is still in process (applied in November) and the usual traveling document which the Austrian government is giving to travel across the Atlantic is not being accepted by US border anymore, and I had to fly to Canada after the US and come back to Vienna via the US”.

Performers in the classical music field have joined the widespread protest over the Trump administration’s attempt to ban the entry of refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries that he has branded the sources of terrorism. Symphony orchestras in major US cities (and many smaller cities as well) have large and growing numbers of immigrants in their ranks, and the music they perform is international in scope and history. Visiting orchestras, of course, consist almost entirely of non-US citizens: here.

The cases of Aaron Gach, Mem Fox, United Vibrations, Soviet Soviet and others: Artists, writers, musicians detained and bullied by US customs and border officers: here.

Artists who were harassed at the US border speak out: here.

Afghan all-girl engineering team denied US visas while robot granted entry. Students mystified by decision and forced to watch competition on Skype as US caught in wrangling over President Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim travel ban’: here.

‘Turkey’s Erdogan stoking Armenia-Azerbaijan war’

This video says about itself:

Human rights controversy surrounds European Games in Azerbaijan

14 June 2015

In Azerbaijan, a leading critic of the government has been escorted out of the country by Switzerland’s foreign minister.The activist has spent 10 months at the Swiss embassy, trying to avoid arrest. Meanwhile, there are calls to boycott a big sporting event because of the country’s human rights record. The European Games have just opened near the capital, Baku.

By James Tweedie in Britain:

Turkey ‘urging war’ to settle Nagorno issue

Saturday 23rd April 2016

Russia slams Ankara’s role in Caucasus dispute

RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Turkey yesterday of stirring up war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

He was speaking after meeting his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandyan to discuss the recent renewed conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“The statements of the Turkish leadership are absolutely unacceptable,” Mr Lavrov said. “These were the calls not for peace but for war. These were calls to resolve the conflict by military means.”

“Unfortunately, we have got accustomed to such ‘twists’ of the current Turkish leadership,” he said.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Minsk Group of Russia, France and the United States of “inaction” on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

Mr Nalbandyan said the recent fighting had pushed back talks over the contested territory.

“A serious blow to security and stability was dealt,” he said. “But one should think about how to overcome these consequences, although some things are irreparable — the deaths.”

“These events have pushed the negotiating process backwards,” he said.

The two former Soviet republics have been in dispute over the majority-Armenian oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan since 1988, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The two countries went to war in 1994, since when the region has been under Armenian jurisdiction.

Fighting flared up again on April 2, with dozens killed as Azeri forces tried to reoccupy the area. Turkey backed Azerbaijan’s position.

Russia, which has treaty obligations to Armenia and a military base in the country, joined the US, France and Iran in mediating a truce.

Last summer, the Armenian capital Yerevan saw weeks of anti-government protests in an apparent attempt at “colour revolution.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr Lavrov laid a wreath at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian genocide memorial, a move sure to antagonise Ankara.

Turkey does not accept that the killing of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman empire, beginning in 1915 and lasting several years, was an act of genocide.

Earlier this week the pro-Turkish group drew fire when it took out full-page newspaper and prominent billboard adverts in the US, including in the Wall Street Journal and New York’s Times Square, implying that Armenia and Russia were lying about the atrocities.

Ecotourism to save Armenia’s wildlife

This video says about itself:

Bird Migration Challenges in Armenia

30 September 2011

Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds founder Luba Balyan explains why bird migration is down around the world and tells us what humans can learn about their own migration from birds.

From BirdLife:

Using ecotourism to save one of Armenia’s most biologically diverse regions

By Samvel Grigoryan, Tue, 12/04/2016 – 09:08

The best way to get local communities to protect nature? Show them it’s in their best interests.

A perfect example is the Dsegh Important Birds and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Located in northern Armenia, not far from the border with Georgia, it is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the South Caucasus. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded in the IBA’s 18.500 ha, including magnificent birds of prey such as Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon. The European Roller, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Corncrake, Caspian Snowcock and Caucasian Grouse can also be spotted.

Stretching from River Debed south towards the foothills of the Halab mountain range in the Lori province, the IBA encompasses the land between the rivers Pambak and Marts and provides habitats from mountain steppes with prominent rocky outcrops to dense forests with closed canopies, and subalpine and alpine meadows. Because of this diversity, the region faces diverse threats, such as overgrazing, intensive agriculture, mining and logging.

To bridge the gap between Dsegh’s wildlife treasures and nature lovers, as well as to improve conservation with locals’ support, the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB, BirdLife in Armenia) is developing ecotourism in rural areas and has established a Nature Visitor Centre in the Dsegh IBA.

The purpose of the centre was to have local communities provide services and activites as ecotourism in the Lori region where Dsegh is located. This in turn supports and helps to improve their socio-economic status, as it provides numerous services to the tourists. In a virtuous cycle, the latter motivates these rural communities to play an active role in conserving natural resources and offering ways to solve problems by creating a balance between nature and human development.

After five years of hard work, ASPB opened the Dsegh Nature Visitor Centre to the public on 12 November, 2015. The centre was established with financial support from SVS (BirdLife in Switzerland), the UNDP’s GEF Small Grants Program in Armenia, the Rhône-Alpes Regional Council in France and ASPB, as well as in close partnership with Biotope, a French consultancy.

The centre includes a meeting and cinema hall, and a space with state-of-the-art exhibits on Dsegh’s wildlife. The centre also provides tourists with detailed and comprehensive information about the region and local sites (including bed and breakfasts run by locals where they can stay) as well as annual events, all of which will enhance the visitor’s understanding of the unique environment of Dsegh.

For the more outdoor-inclined, the centre incorporates tours and two hiking nature trails that people can hike themselves or explore with the help of local guides. “In designing and installing our trails, ASPB worked hard to have the lowest level of impact on the land possible while providing access to these special places,” said Luba Balyan, co-founder of ASPB. “We look at the forest as our home, as someplace that we want to protect and revere.”

ASPB believes that the Nature Visitor Centre in Dsegh will inspire the establishment of other information eco-centers in the country and South Caucasus region. ASPB hopes this innovative network will support not only the protection of nature but also the livelihood of all local communities across the region and will bring Armenia one step closer to nature.

Azerbaijan dictatorship tries to intimidate Dutch parliament

This video says about itself:

Tortured in Azerbaijan for peaceful protest event on Facebook

14 May 2014

Shahin Novruzlu and fellow youth activists from the pro-democracy movement NIDA campaigned for democracy and against human rights abuses and widespread corruption in Azerbaijan. In March 2013 they created a Facebook event calling for a peaceful protest against injustice in the country.

Shortly afterwards, Shahin and seven other NIDA activists were arrested. Some of them were tortured. As a result, Shahin, who was 17 years old at the time, lost four of his front teeth. His friend Mammad lost hearing in one ear.

Shahin and the rest of the activists are currently in detention on false charges of illegal firearms possession and plotting mass disorder. They were all sentenced for between 6 and 8 years on the same day that Azerbaijan was declared as the next Chairman of the principal human rights institution in Europe, the Council of Europe.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Socialist Party MP touches raw nerve Azerbaijan

Today, 12:52

Azerbaijan has objected to the participation of the Socialist Party MP Van Bommel in a conference on the Nagorno-Karabakh region. At the Free University in Amsterdam there will be coming weekend a meeting about that region, under control since 1994 by Armenian troops and militias.

In a letter to parliament the embassy of Azerbaijan writes that they deeply regret Van Bommel’s presence at the congress.


“Pure intimidation and propaganda,” Van Bommel called the letter. He says he does not care about it.

The embassy expects that the “authorities will ensure that Van Bommel at the seminar on non-recognized countries will act in accordance with international law.” When asked to clarify this the embassy remained silent. …

MPs announced that they will jointly express their displeasure towards the embassy.

Also translated from NOS TV:

In Azerbaijan, major oil companies, such as BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron are active.

Dutch government deports Azeri refugee, arrested two days after arrival in Azerbaijan: here.

Syrian brown bear cub at Armenian camera trap

This video says about itself:

Surprised bear cub in Armenia

17 July 2015

A young Syrian Brown Bear is surprised by a camera trap but soon musters enough courage to take a closer look.

From Wildlife Extra about this:

Rare footage of a Syrian Brown Bear surprised by a camera trap in Armenia

A rare young Syrian Brown Bear was taking a walk in the woods of Armenia’s Caucasus Wildlife Refuge when he came across a camera trap that first startled and then intrigued him.

The rare footage was caught by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) on a camera installed with funding from the World Land Trust (WLT).

There are only around 150 Syrian Brown Bears surviving in Armenia and the populations are being monitored and their behaviour studied with the help of the camera traps.

In the Caucasus Refuge there are thought to be as few as two or three bears, which is also home to Bearded Vultures, Bezoar Goats and the endangered Caucasian Leopard.

The main threat facing Syrian Brown Bears in the area are habitat loss to agriculture, mining and quarries, and conflict with farmers over bee hives and fruit growing.

Two new areas of mountain habitat were recently purch[a]sed with the help of WLT, to further extend the potential safe havens for the bears.

Improve Turkish-Armenian relations, Dutch parliament says

Turkey and Armenia

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The Dutch government must continue to call on the Turkish government to seek rapprochement with Armenia and to seek reconciliation. An overwhelming majority of parliament voted for a motion to that effect. Only the PVV and the Kuzu-Öztürk group voted against.

Geert Wilders‘ xenophobic PVV party hates everyone who is supposedly ‘racially impure’, whether that person is from Poland, Romania, Turkey, Armenia, Morocco or Suriname.

The Kuzu-Öztürk group are two MPs of Turkish ancestry, elected for the PvdA party (junior partner in the Dutch coalition government). They split from the PvdA because of differences on various issues (eg, they are more sympathetic to the Erdogan government in Turkey than the PvdA is).

The immediate reason for the motion is the commemoration of the Armenian genocide on April 24th.

Bird paradise in Armenia in danger

This 28 May 2013 video from Armenia says about itself:

Pan of one of the many fish ponds at Armash showing large numbers of White-winged Black Terns, Coots and Pygmy Cormorants, 9th May 2013.

From BirdLife:

Beautiful bird paradise in Armenia at risk after misuse of water resources

By Alessia Calderalo, Wed, 26/11/2014 – 08:54

Imagine a place where the Armenian, Turkish, Iranian and Azerbaijani borders converge on the banks of the Araks River, a place home to 220 bird species, a place full of water, plants and animals. This place, well known for its natural richness and beauty, is the Armash, one of the 18 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Armenia and among one the richest ornithological hotspots in the Caucasus. Sadly, it has recently been declared in danger.

Originally, Armash IBA was a semi desert area, but thanks to a series of man-made changes and the introduction of fish farming practices, the IBA developed a unique assemblage of habitats including water channels and ponds with wetland vegetation that gave the area its great conservation value. Armash is home to Globally Threatened species like Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck, and hosts rarities like Eurasian Spoonbill and the graceful White-tailed Lapwing, which cannot be found elsewhere in Armenia.

Armash was recognised as an IBA of global importance due to its exceptional natural richness and its importance for migratory birds that cross its national borders during Spring and Autumn. Unfortunately, over the last decade, water resources have been misused and the water springs used for drinking and irrigation in the villages of Ararat province have begun to dry up the area, threatening its unique wildlife.

The Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB; BirdLife Partner) has been working for several years to save the area. The organisation has collaborated with the US Embassy, USAID and the Armenian Nature Protection Ministry to find solutions [for] its conservation. As a result of this collaboration, several alternative schemes of channelling water to Armash fish ponds have been proposed and developed.

However, despite these efforts, the water crisis persists and many ponds in the Armash IBA are quickly drying out, and are being replaced by farming lands. This is creating a transformation of the whole ecosystem in the area. Which gives an alarming prospective; if the authorities do not tackle the issue of waste water by adopting and implementing more restrictive laws, it is likely that species such as Marbled Teal will disappear.

ASPB hopes that the Armash IBA will be preserved as the natural paradise it has been for many years, and that the surrounding countries will actively contribute to this conservation.

For more information, please contact Tsovinar Hovhannisyan, Conservation Officer at ASPB.

Over 40% of marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (marine IBAs) in Europe are not protected, and two thirds of EU countries only protect 3% or less of their marine area (Territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zones). These are some of the shocking findings of Birdlife’s report “Marine Natura 2000 Progress Assessment released today. The report assessed the progress of 23 EU coastal countries in designating Special Protection Areas, using as reference BirdLife’s marine IBAs: here.

New film on Armenian genocide during World War I

This video is called The Cut; 2014 Official Film Trailer in English [about the] Armenian Genocide.

By Hiram Lee in the USA:

The Cut, a story of the Armenian Genocide

28 October 2014

The latest film from Turkish-German director Fatih Akin (Head-On, The Edge of Heaven, Soul Kitchen) takes place during the darkest episode of the First World War—the Armenian Genocide.

Beginning in April 1915, the Ottoman Empire, which had entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, launched a campaign of extermination against its Armenian population. The bourgeois nationalist Young Turks, who had come to power in 1908, now found themselves surrounded by the Allied powers. They had suffered significant defeats at the hands of Russia in the Caucasus Campaign of 1915, thwarting attempts to reclaim territories previously lost along the Ottoman Empire’s eastern borders.

Claiming the defeats were the result of support given to Russia by the predominantly Christian Armenian population within the Empire, the Young Turks set out on a program of mass murder and forced relocation of the Armenian people. As many as 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have perished.

Akin’s film opens in Mardin, a city in southeastern Turkey. It is 1915, and the first imperialist war is raging. We are on the eve of the Armenian Genocide. Upon returning home from work one evening, blacksmith Nazaret Manoogian (Tahar Rahim) and his family worry that the violence of the war will finally reach them. They hear news of Allied forces arriving in Gallipoli. That night, their worst fears are realized.

Turkish soldiers round up the men of Mardin and march them into the desert. Told that all men over the age of 15 have now been conscripted into the military, they are forced into slave labor and made to build roads. Many are worked in the hot sun until they collapse and die.

The worker-prisoners witness large groups of women and children from the city of Kharput, in eastern Anatolia, marched away in front of them, part of the forced deportations carried out through death marches into Mesopotamia.

Nazaret and the other captive Armenians work until they are, one day, led away from their camp. Tied together and forced to kneel, all but Nazaret are executed. He is only spared because the soldier chosen to murder him hesitates and cannot bring himself to kill his prisoner. A wound in his neck, however, will prevent Nazaret from speaking for the remainder of his life.

Taken for dead, Nazaret is able to escape his captors and begins a long journey to reunite with his twin daughters, believed to be the only remaining survivors of his family. His search will take him to Syria, Lebanon, Cuba and the United States.

Akin’s film is a kind of Odyssey of the Armenian Genocide, in which a lone hero floats from episode to episode within the horrible event. This leads to many significant moments, but on the whole the different parts of his film don’t feel entirely connected or worked through. One is given glimpses of things, but a fuller picture remains somewhat hazy. It is a sometimes moving but often disappointing work.

Among the most disturbing sequences in Akin’s film is Nazaret’s journey to the death camps of Ras al-Ayn (on the Syrian-Turkish border today), where those who have not yet been killed lie starving to death. Such moments are brutal and at times difficult to watch. One does not feel, however, that Akin has filmed them in an exploitative manner. His approach during these sequences is generally sympathetic and sensitive. The performance of Tahir Rahim is also quite strong. The actor is able to communicate a wide range of emotions though he does not speak during the second half of the film.

Sequences depicting genuine warmth and even humor between survivors of the genocide, as they gather together to watch a showing of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid in Aleppo, Syria, make a strong impression. This is also true of the scenes inside a soap factory used as emergency housing for Armenian refugees. In their own way, these scenes bring out the horror of what was done to these people far more than the scenes of brutality and violence could alone. One feels the liveliness, the culture, the different attitudes and sensibilities of people.

To his credit, Akin has also not simply made all the Turkish citizens depicted in the film into monsters or supporters of the genocide. In one scene, after witnessing the anguish in the faces of a Turkish mother and her young child being cursed and stoned by a bitter group of survivors, Nazaret decides he can take no part in the violence against them.

Unfortunately, the second half of the film, following Nazaret’s search for his daughters, is considerably weaker than the first. While there are moving moments to be found, one senses the scope of the film growing increasingly narrow. The story gradually becomes more and more a tale of one man’s determination to find his children, a tribute to the spirit of a strong-willed individual up against tremendous odds. The genocide and its meaning drift more and more into the background.

Akin is perhaps overwhelmed by the history involved and the scale of the horror produced during the genocide. He has tried to include a great deal in his film, but he also passes over too much too quickly. The fate of Armenian survivors across the world, their experience as immigrants in new and different countries is a worthwhile and interesting theme. But these later sequences, in which Nazaret travels from country to country, don’t carry the weight of the events in the film’s first half. Here one tends to feel as if one were peering at an historical event through a keyhole. Too much is left out.

Many of the more interesting threads from the film’s first half are also left dangling. Nazaret had earlier expressed his anger over the gap between the rich and workers like himself. Nothing comes of it; yet it is a central question. What was lurking behind the brutality of Turkish nationalism and behind the First World War itself? What forces and social pressures set all of this into motion? Why, in other words, did all of this happen? The questions one is left with at the end are those the filmmakers did not themselves begin to address.

In the end, behind Akin’s epic of the Armenian Genocide, there is just too much conventional thinking and storytelling.

Origins of ISIS, by Noam Chomsky

This video from the USA, from the MIT Armenian Society, says about itself:

Professor Chomsky Lecture with MIT Armenian Society

4 October 2014

An interview of Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT by David Barsamian. The interview takes us on a general overview of the state of the Middle East, and the role that Turkey has played in it. Covering the origins of ISIS all the way to the Kurdish issues in Turkey, Professor Chomsky gives us a glimpse of the complex politics of the area and his opinion on the future moving forward.

Kurds in Norwich, England demonstrate against Turkish governmental pro-ISIS policies

Despite denials from the White House, pressure is mounting for the United States to commit ground troops to Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to stem the advances of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militias: here.

Obama’s new oil wars. Washington takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia: here.

As Vice President Joe Biden warns it will take a “hell of a long fight” for the United States to stop militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.” We talk about how the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that helped create the threat now posed by the Islamic State: here.

Australian government censorship about corrupt politicians

This video from the USA says about itself:

Wikileaks Turkish Bribes To Deny Armenian Genocide Part 1

27 March 2008

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds is accusing the FBI of covering up improper contacts and financial dealings between certain Turkish nationals and the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. We speak with Sibel Edmonds and Vanity Fair journalist David Rose.

And this video is the sequel.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

WikiLeaks reveals Australian gagging order over political bribery allegations

Superinjunction reported to have been issued on 19 June to block reporting of claims involving international politicians

Robert Booth

Wednesday 30 July 2014

A sweeping gagging order issued in Australia to block reporting of any bribery allegations involving several international political leaders in the region has been exposed by WikiLeaks.

The prohibition emerged from a criminal case in the Australian courts and applies throughout the country. It was issued by the criminal division of the supreme court of Victoria in Melbourne “to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations that may be caused by the publication of material that may damage the reputations of specified individuals who are not the subject of charges in these proceedings”.

The Australia-wide gagging order is a superinjunction, which means it also contains a clause insisting that the terms of the order itself should remain secret. It was issued on 19 June and states: “Subject to further order, there be no disclosure, by publication or otherwise, of any information (whether in electronic or paper form) derived from or prepared for the purposes of these proceedings including the terms of these orders.”

In a statement published with the leak, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said the gagging order relates to a case that “concerns the subsidiaries of the Australian central bank”.

He said it was the first blanket suppression order of this nature in Australia since 1995. “With this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public,” said Assange, who is himself Australian. “This is not simply a question of the Australian government failing to give this international corruption case the public scrutiny it is due. Foreign minister Julie Bishop must explain why she is threatening every Australian with imprisonment in an attempt to cover up an embarrassing corruption scandal involving the Australian government. The concept of ‘national security’ is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere. It is in the public interest for the press to be able to report on this case.”

Australian court’s gagging order condemned as ‘abuse of legal process’. Lawyers and media condemn ban on reporting in full on bribery investigation involving banknote company Securency: here.

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors announced bank-related charges against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday, accusing the 73-year-old Illinois Republican of withdrawing $952,000 in cash in a way that evaded the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI: here.