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Armenia


Solace

In Central Park last week, on a bird walk in the North Woods led by an Audubon Society naturalist, we saw a Cooper’s Hawk perched regally in a tree, an immature Great Blue Heron fishing in the Loch, four Northern Flickers, and a half dozen species of warblers that were passing through on their way south, in addition to the abundant Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, European Starlings, and American Robins that call the park home. The fall wildflowers—Canada Goldenrod, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, White Snakeroot, Spotted Jewelweed, and several varieties of Aster—were in bloom. When the cruel and venal doings of human animals are cause for despair, I take solace in the natural world.

 

I was considering delaying this post until after the Kavanagh “situation” had resolved itself one way or the other, assuming that we will be flattened by despair when the Republicans steamroller the Democrats and the rest of us. It has been almost eviscerating to watch the hearings and then follow the sham FBI probe, and the change in tack by the Republicans to undermine and insult the women who came forward with accusations. I have been “triggered” by Kavanagh’s words, his gestures, his petulance, and his arrogance. I wasn’t alone—tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of women were angry, distraught, and horrified by the spectacle of ruling class white male privilege and power that played out in the Senate hearings and in the political maneuvering that followed.

 

Each day there is a new assault on our values and the most vulnerable among us—migrant children warehoused in a tent camp in Texas, gay diplomats’ partners denied visas, the planned weakening of mercury regulations, and revisions to the Department of Justice web site reflecting a harsher stance on kids who are accused of crimes, to name just a few.

 

But we can’t let them beat us down into apathy and hopelessness. We have to remember the great Soviet Jewish writer Vasily Grossman’s admonition: “In the cruel and terrible time in which our generation has been condemned to live on this earth, we must never make peace with evil. We must never become indifferent to others or undemanding of ourselves.” Grossman lived through World War II, he was a journalist traveling with Russian troops as they liberated Treblinka, his mother was murdered during the massacre at Berdichev, and he survived Stalin’s purges, although his masterwork, the incredible World War II novel Life and Fate, was “arrested” by the Soviets and was not published until after his death.

 

As Grossman put it: “Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness.” I am not so sanguine as to think that individual acts of kindness are enough in the face of the systemic violence and the cruel policies that we are confronting, many of which are just harsher and unapologetic versions of policies that were put in place during previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic. But while we do all that we can through making irate phone calls to elected officials, joining in strategic electoral organizing, supporting grassroots campaigns run by unions and groups on the front lines, and volunteering with local organizations advocating for the most vulnerable people, creatures, landscapes, and institutions, we can also try to make the world a little less dismal by being kind.

 

Charles Aznavour, French-Armenian singer, songwriter, actor, and philanthropist, died this week, and I leave you with an old blog post about his family’s small role in the French Resistance and a video of a classic performance of his song “La Bohème.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Open Letter on LGBT Rights in Armenia

 

20 August 2018

Letter to the Armenian Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, Minister of Justice, Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Armenian political parties, and global Armenian organizations:

(Press release here.)

The recent attack on nine people, among them LGBT activists, in the village of Shurnukh in the Syunik region of Armenia reflects a disturbing and persistent pattern of hatred and discrimination against the Armenian LGBT community. Reportedly, the police have launched an investigation, questioned the victims and detained several suspected attackers on 3 August, releasing them the next day, but apparently have not brought charges against anyone. It is particularly disturbing that at least one member of parliament, Gevorg Petrosyan, from the Tsarukyan Faction, called forthe expulsion of LGBT persons from Armenia on his Facebookpage. While the statement of the Office of the Human Rights Defenderwas a welcome gesture, alone it is insufficient.

The Armenian government urgently must address the policies, laws and social and political climate that continue to foster intolerance and violence against the LGBT community of Armenia. Without a clear plan for legislative and policy reform and education, such attacks will continue and the Armenian government will have failed to protect the LGBT community from violence and discrimination.

The law in Armenia fails to provide equal rights to LGBT persons in Armenia (see statement from Amnesty International). Armenian law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, or social benefits, nor does it sanction as hate crimes attacks against LGBT persons. The new government of Armenia has brought hope to many around the world that there will be true reform in the country to address issues of transparency, fairness, and equality. Reforms in the LGBT arena should be part of this promise for a new age. Outdated and false justifications based on “religion”, “culture” and “values” can no longer cover for hatred, violence and intolerance against Armenian LGBT persons.

We call on the Armenian government:

* to establish an agenda and timetable for legislative reform to grant LGBT persons in Armenia equality under the law;

* to propose a plan to promote tolerance and respect throughout society for LGBT persons, including through the issuance of public statements and the establishment of a public education program;

* to issue a statement condemning all attacks against LGBT persons and a commitment to investigating and punishing perpetrators and providing protection for LGBT persons.

We call on Armenian political parties to clearly express their support for such a reform agenda and plan, and to issue their own condemnations of attacks against the LGBT community. Every Armenian voter is entitled to know where each party stands on these issues.

We call on international Armenian organizations, including Armenian churches of all denominations, to clearly express their support for such a reform agenda and plan, and to issue their own condemnations of attacks against the LGBT community. Every Armenian around the world who supports these organizations deserves to know where they stand on these issues.

Signatories

Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia)

Association Hyestart (Switzerland)

Charjoum (France)

Collectif de Soutien aux Militants Arméniens Jugés à Paris (France)

GALAS (Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society) (U.S.)

Nor Zartonk (Turkey)

PINK Armenia (Armenia)

Women’s Resource Center (Armenia)

Women’s Support Center (Armenia)

Lena Adishian; Nancy Agabian; Liana Aghajanian; Lara Aharonian; Areg Anjargolyan; Michelle Andonian; Michael Aram; Nora Armani; Sophia Armen; Mika Artyan; Sevag Arzoumanian; Sebouh Aslanian; Anna Astvatsaturian-Turcotte; Dr. Arlene Voski Avakian; Sona Avakian; Manuk Avedikyan; Leslie Ayvazian; Dr. Art Babayants; Miganouche Lucy Baghramian; Sarkis Balkhian; David Barsamian; Anthony J. Barsamian; Nanore Barsoumian; Houri Berberian; Vahe Berberian; Paul Boghossian, FAAAS; Eric Bogosian; Chris Bohjalian; Haig Boyadjian; Deanne Cachoian-Schanz; Hovig Cancioglu; Talar Chahinian; Patricia Constantinian; Sylvia Dakessian; Tad Demir; Andrew Demirjian; Adrineh Der-Boghossian; Silvina Der Meguerditchian; Ani Eblighatian; Lerna Ekmekcioglu; Dahlia Elsayed; Ayda Erbal; Shant Fabricatorian; Linda Ganjian; Lenna Garibian; Houry  Geudelekian; Yeriche Gorizian; Rachel Goshgarian; Veken Gueyikian; Dr. Kaiane Habeshian; Maral Habeshian; Avedis Hadjian; Nonny Hogrogian; Mamikon Hovsepyan; Rafi Hovsepyan; Tamar Hovsepian; Arminé Iknadossian; Asthghik Iknatian, MS, CRC, LCPC; Dr. Armine Ishkanian; Rupen Janbazian; Audrey Kalajian; Makrouhi Kalayjian; Ani Kasparian; Nina Katchadourian; Olivia Katrandjian; Nora Kayserian; Nishan Kazazian, AIA; Alice A. Kelikian; Shushan Kerovpyan; Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan; Vivan Kessedjian; Amy L. Keyishian; Harry Keyishian; Michelle Khazaryan; Kyle Khandikian; David Kherdian; Anna Spano Kirkorian; Taline Kochayan; H. Lola Koundakjian; Nancy Kricorian; Susan Kricorian; Anaid Krikorian; Stephanie Kundakjian; Helen Makhdoumian; Marc Mamigonian; Shahe Mankerian; Christina Maranci; Elodie Mariani; Jeannie Markarian; Armen Marsoobian; Alina Martiros; Maro Matosian; Anna Mehrabyan; Markar Melkonian; Astghik Melkonyan; Sonia Merian; Ara H. Merjian; Takouhie Mgrditchian; Oksana Mirzoyan; Tro Momajian; Mark A. Momjian, Esqu.; Rachel O. Nadjarian; Carolann S. Najarian, MD; Arthur Nersesian; Marc Nichanian; FIlor Nighoghosian; Aline Ohanesian; Dr. Janice Dzovinar Okoomian; Norayr Olgar; Sevana Panosian; Hrag Papazian; Susan Pattie; Natalie Samarjian; Karineh Samkian; Caroline Saradjian; Alex Sardar; Nelli Sargsyan; Razmik Sarkissian; Aram Saroyan; Judith Saryan; Audrey Selian; Elyse Semerdjian; Anna Shahnazaryan; Lori A. Sinanian; Thomas Stepanian; Vahe Tachjian; Anoush F. Terjanian; Dr. Anita Toutikian; Scout Tufankjian; Anahid Ugurlayan; Hrag Vartanian; Dr. Nicole Vartanian; Armen Voskeridjian, MD; Chaghig Minassian Walker; Raffi Joe Wartanian; Sarah Leah Whitson; Anahid Yahjian; Laura Yardumian; Grigor Yeritsyan; Michael Zadoorian; Laura Zarougian; Lena Zinner, UCSD ‘18

Armenian:

20 Օգոստոս 2018

Բաց նամակ Հայաստանի վարչապետին, Հայաստանի Հանրապետության Ոստիկանապետին, Արդարադատության նախարարին, Սփյուռքի նախարարին, Հայաստանի քաղաքական կուսակցություններին և միջազգային հայկական կազմակերպություններին.

Հայաստանի Սյունիքի մարզի Շուռնուխ գյուղում վերջերս տեղի ունեցած հարձակումը ինը հոգու վրա, որոնց մեջ կային ԼԳԲՏ ակտիվիստներ, ԼԳԲՏ համայնքի նկատմամբ ատելությունը և խտրականությունը պատկերող անհանգստացնող և ցայտուն օրինակ է: Համաձայն հաղորդման՝ ոստիկանությունը հետաքննություն է սկսել, ըստ որի օգոստոսի 3-ին հարցաքննել է զոհերին և ձերբակալել է մի քանի կասկածյալների և հաջորդ օրը ազատ է արձակել նրանց, սակայն, ըստ երևույթին որևէ մեկին մեղադրանք չի ներկայացվել: Մասնավորապես մտահոգիչ էր այն, որ Ազգային ժողովի պատգամավոր Գևորգ Պետրոսյանը (Ծառուկյան դաշինքից)իր ֆեյսբուքյան էջում կոչ է արել Հայաստանից հեռացնել ԼԳԲՏ անձանց : ՉնայածՄարդու իրավունքների պաշտպանի գրասենյակի հայտարարությունըշատ ողջունելի ժեստ էր, սակայն միայն դա բավարար չէ:

Հայաստանի կառավարությունը պետք է շտապ քայլեր ձեռնարկի այն քաղաքականության, օրենքների և սոցիալ-քաղաքական մթնոլորտի փոփոխման ուղղությամբ, որոնք շարունակում են խթանել Հայաստանի ԼԳԲՏ համայնքի նկատմամբ անհանդուրժողականությունն ու բռնությունը: Առանց հստակ օրենսդրական, քաղաքական բարեփոխումների և կրթական ծրագրի, նման հարձակումները կշարունակվեն և Հայաստանի կառավարությունը չի կարող պաշտպանել ԼԳԲՏ համայնքը բռնությունից ու խտրականությունից:

Հայաստանի օրենսդրությունը չի ապահովում Հայաստանում ԼԳԲՏ անձանց հավասար իրավունքներ (տես՝ Amnesty International- ի հաշվետվությունը): Հայաստանի օրենսդրությունը չի արգելում խտրականությունը ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատնամբ աշխատանքի, բնակարանային կամ սոցիալական նպաստների հարցերում, ինչպես նաև չի սահմանում որպես ատելության հիմքով իրագործված հանցագործություն (hate crime) ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատմամբ իրականացված հարձակումները: Հայաստանի նոր կառավարությունը շատերին հույս է ներշնչել, որ երկրում կլինեն իրական բարեփոխումներ թափանցիկության, արդարության և հավասարության հարցերի շուրջ: ԼԳԲՏ հիմնախնդիրների  բարեփոխումները պետք է լինեն այս նոր խոստումների մի մասը: «Կրոնի», «մշակույթի» և «արժեքների» վրա հիմնված հնացած և կեղծ հիմնավորումներն այլևս չեն կարող քողարկել ատելությունը, բռնությունն ու անհանդուրժողականությունը Հայաստանի ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատմամբ:

Մենք կոչ ենք անում Հայաստանի կառավարությանը.

  • սահմանել օրենսդրական բարեփոխումների ժամանակացույց և օրակարգ, որպեսզի ԼԳԲՏ անձանց տրամադրվի օրենքով սահմանված հավասար իրավունքներ.
  • առաջարկել ծրագիր, որը կնպաստի ԼԳԲՏ անձանց նկատմամբ հասարակության մեջ հանդուրժողականությանն ու հարգանքի խթանմանը՝ հրապարակային հայտարարությունների և հանրային կրթական ծրագրերի ստեղծման միջոցով.
  • հանդես գալ ԼԳԲՏ անձանց դեմ ուղղված բոլոր հարձակումները դատապարտող և մեղավորներին հետաքննելու, պատժելու և ԼԳԲՏ անձանց պաշտպանելու պարտավորությունները կատարելու հայտարարությամբ:

Մենք կոչ ենք անում Հայաստանի քաղաքական կուսակցություններին հստակ արտահայտել իրենց աջակցությունը նման բարեփոխումների օրակարգին և ծրագրին, և  դատապարտել ԼԳԲՏ համայնքի դեմ հարձակումները: Հայաստանի յուրաքանչյուր ընտրող իրավունք ունի իմանալ, թե ինչ դիրքորոշում ունի յուրաքանչյուր կուսակցություն այս հարցերի շուրջ:

Մենք կոչ ենք անում միջազգային հայկական կազմակերպություններին, ներառյալ բոլոր դավանանքների հայկական եկեղեցիներին, իրենց աջակցությունը ցուցաբերել նման բարեփոխումների օրակարգին և ծրագրին, և  դատապարտել ԼԳԲՏ համայնքի դեմ հարձակումները: Աշխարհի յուրաքանչյուր հայ, որն աջակցում է այս կազմակերպություններին, իրավունք ունի իմանալ, թե ինչ դիրքորոշում ունեն նրանք այս հարցերում:

 

Ստորագրող կողմեր ​​

«Հայ առաջադեմ երիտասարդություն» ՀԿ (Հայաստան)

Association Hyestart (Շվեցարիա)

Charjoum (Ֆրանսիա)

Collectif de Soutien aux Militants Arméniens Jugés à Paris (Ֆրանսիա)

GALAS (Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society) (ԱՄՆ)

Նոր Զարթոնք (Թուրքիա)

PINK Armenia (Հայաստան)

Կանանց ռեսուրսային կենտրոն (Հայաստան)

Կանանց աջակցման կենտրոն (Հայաստան)

(ստորագրողներիամբողջականցուցակը՝տեսանգլերենբնօրինակում)

 

French:

20 Août 2018

 

Lettre au Premier ministre arménien, au ministre de l’Intérieur, au ministre de la Justice, au ministre des Affaires de la diaspora, aux partis politiques arméniens et aux organisations internationales arméniennes :

L’agression récente perpétrée à l’encontre de neuf personnes, dont des militants LGBT, dans le village de Shurnukh, dans la province de Syunik en Arménie, s’inscrit dans un schéma inquiétant et persistant de haine et de discrimination à l’encontre de la communauté LGBT arménienne. Selon certaines informations, la police aurait ouvert une enquête, interrogé les victimes et détenu plusieurs agresseurs présumés le 3 août, les libérant le lendemain, mais n’a apparemment pas porté d’accusation contre quiconque. Il est par ailleurs inquiétant qu’au moins un député, Gevorg Petrosyan, du groupe parlementaire Tsarukyan, ait appelé à l’expulsion des personnes LGBT d’Arménie sur sa page Facebook. Si la déclaration du Bureau du Défenseur des droits de l’homme était opportune, elle n’est pas suffisante à elle seule.

Le gouvernement arménien doit en effet s’attaquer d’urgence aux politiques, aux lois et au climat social et politique qui continuent de favoriser l’intolérance et la violence à l’encontre de la communauté LGBT d’Arménie. Sans un plan clair de réforme législative et politique et d’éducation, ces agressions se poursuivront et le gouvernement arménien n’aura pas réussi à protéger la communauté LGBT de la violence et de la discrimination.

La législation arménienne ne prévoit pas l’égalité des droits pour les personnes LGBT en Arménie (voir la déclaration d’Amnesty International). Elle n’interdit pas la discrimination à l’encontre des personnes LGBT en matière d’emploi, de logement ou d’avantages sociaux, et ne sanctionne pas non plus les crimes de haines visant les personnes LGBT. Le nouveau gouvernement arménien a donné l’espoir à de nombreuses personnes dans le monde qu’il y aura une véritable réforme dans le pays pour régler les questions de transparence, d’équité et d’égalité. Les réformes dans le domaine LGBT doivent faire partie de cette promesse d’une nouvelle ère. Des justifications obsolètes et fausses fondées sur la “religion”, la “culture” et les “valeurs” ne peuvent plus servir de paravents à la haine, à la violence et à l’intolérance à l’égard des personnes LGBT arméniennes.

Nous appelons donc le gouvernement arménien à :

  • mettre en place un programme d’action et un calendrier pour une réforme législative accordant aux personnes LGBT en Arménie l’égalité devant la loi ;
  • proposer un plan visant à promouvoir la tolérance et le respect des personnes LGBT dans l’ensemble de la société, notamment par le truchement de déclarations publiques et la mise en place d’un programme d’éducation publique ;
  • condamner publiquement toutes les agressions contre les personnes LGBT et à s’engager également publiquement à enquêter et à punir les auteurs et à assurer la protection des personnes LGBT.

Nous appelons les partis politiques arméniens à exprimer clairement leur soutien à  un tel programme d’action et à une telle réforme législative. Nous les appelons également à condamner publiquement les agressions visant la communauté LGBT. Chaque électeur arménien a le droit de connaître la position de chaque parti politique sur ces questions.

Nous appelons les organisations internationales arméniennes, y compris les églises arméniennes de toutes confessions, à exprimer clairement leur soutien à un tel programme d’action et à une telle réforme législative. Nous les appelons également à condamner les agressions dont sont victimes les membres de la communauté LGBT. Tous les Arméniens et toutes les Arméniennes qui, de par le monde, soutiennent ces organisations ont le droit de connaître leur position sur ces questions.

 

 


Find the Helpers

Last week 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated ten-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District in what TIME Magazine called the biggest political upset of 2018. Ocasio-Cortez had the support of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, and The Intercept (cited by a CNN commentator as a decisive factor!). In an otherwise DISMAL political scene this is a HUGE victory. She ran on a platform calling for Medicare for All, the abolition of ICE, and she denounced the killings of protesters in Gaza as a massacre. I’m awestruck. I also loved reading about the revolutionary posters designed for her campaign.

 

If you’re looking for a natural pick-me-up, watch Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign video, or watch CNN’s clip from election night when she realizes that she has won! “We met the [Queens Democratic] machine with a MOVEMENT!” she said. (Note the dude right behind her wearing a Democratic Socialists of America T-shirt.) Or watch her answer Stephen Colbert’s question, “What is Democratic Socialism?” I think I’ve watched that last video six times—whenever I’m in despair about the state of the world, I just watch it again.

 

In response to Ocasio-Cortez’s victory and those of other young progressives, Michelle Goldberg, in a piece entitled The Millennial Socialists Are Coming, opined, “These young socialists see themselves as building the world they want to live in decades in the future rather than just scrambling to avert catastrophe in the present.”

 

And while the political situation in this country is growing grimmer by the minute, I’m not going to remind you of the details right now as I’m making a concerted effort to do what Mr. Rogers’s mother told him, “Look for the helpers.” (As an aside here, I haven’t yet seen the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, but it’s on the top of my movie going list.)

 

While I’ve read at least forty articles about the traumatic, criminal, and unconscionable (there are no adjectives dire enough for what they’re doing!) consequences of our government’s “zero-tolerance policy” at the border, resulting in the abduction of thousands of migrant children, the article I will highlight is about a courageous Honduran woman who is organizing mothers inside an ICE detention center in El Paso, Texas. While the U.S. has a long history of child snatching, I was inspired by this story about librarians and academics who used their library science skills to map the locations of the facilities where separated migrant kids are possibly being held as a way to help parents find their children. I also aspire to have the courage this woman did when Border Patrol Agents boarded the Greyhound Bus she was on. She realized that because they were not within 100 miles of the U.S. border, the agents did not have the right to question everyone on the bus about their immigration status. She stood up and started shouting, “You don’t have to show them sh*t!” She then used Google translate to find out how to say it in Spanish.

 

People are standing up to the Trump Administration’s cruelties. Members of The United Methodist Church have charged Methodist Jeff Sessions with child abuse over the family separation policy. Members of the Democratic Socialists of America DC Metro Chapter protested the Secretary of Homeland Security while she was dining in a Mexican restaurant. “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace,” the protesters shouted. Nearly 600 women were arrested in D.C. last week during protests against Trump’s immigration policies. The protesters chanted “Abolish ICE” and their hashtag was #WomenDisobey.

 

This is a time to be disobedient, fierce, loud, and as creative as these young Palestinian dancers in Gaza. We’re heading to the Socialism 2018 Conference in Chicago this coming weekend to meet up with several thousand people who feel the same way. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

P.S. This year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival in D.C. turns a spotlight on Armenia. Check out the Feasting schedule, as well as my friend Liana Aghajanian’s piece about Armenian food.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City 2018


Choose Your Lane


 

If you turn your head in any direction, you will see direct evidence of the cruelty, venality, and greed of the current administration. Everything and everyone appear to be under assault: public education, the environment, undocumented immigrantstransgender studentswomen’s health care, the expression of dissent,  and the list goes on and on and on. It’s hard to know what to do in response, but last week organizer Mariam Kaba posted a Tweet that gave me some comfort.

She said, “There’s so much happening across the world. Just a reminder for all of us that we cannot be engaged in every single thing. Even if we care about everything. You’re just one person. Pick your lane(s). Do your best. Fight.”

Since 2009, one of my “lanes,” so to speak, has been Palestine. After doing some months of self-education, I visited Palestine twice, have worked on four different targeted boycott campaigns, and will continue my organizing, advocacy, and activism for Palestinian rights. I watched in horror a few weeks ago when Israeli snipers killed over 60 unarmed Palestinians, including children, medics, and journalists, in Gaza in one day, and resolved to redouble my efforts.

In the past few months, after identifying undocumented immigrants as among the most vulnerable and targeted groups in the United States, I’ve chosen a new lane: support for immigrants’ rights. The first step was doing a little research on which organizations in New York City were working on immigration issues, and then deciding to join the New Sanctuary Coalition. I did their Accompaniment training, and started to accompany “friends,” as we call them, who were going to 26 Federal Plaza for ICE check-ins and immigration hearings. Recently I did the Asylum Clinic training, and this week I volunteered at the clinic for the first time.

In the meantime, horrific reports emerged of the Trump Administration’s new policy of separating parents and children at the border, something that had been happening for six months but has now made an explicit policy directive. The truth is that the Obama Administration deported more undocumented immigrants than any other administration in history, and immigrants’ rights groups referred to Obama as “The Deporter in Chief”.

But the Trump Administration is pushing the system to new depths of cruelty. When asked about the effects of separating children as young as eighteen months old from their parents, White House Chief of Staff John Kelley said, “the children will be taken care of, put in foster care or whatever.” Our White Supremacist Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them over the border illegally.” Someone needs to explain to Sessions that in order to apply for political asylum you must be in the United States, which often entails crossing the border without authorization.

If you’re interested in working on immigrants’ rights in your area, you can check out the list of local organizations on the Informed Immigrant web site. Whatever lane you’re in, the main thing is to keep moving. As Gracy Paley put it (and this is, as you probably know, my motto), “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.”

P.S. As not to end on a total DOWNER, here’s a piece about the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, and how crucial women were to its success.

 

Nancy Kricorian

 


Building the Nest

Mural in Nor Hadjin

 

When I arrived in Beirut on the evening of October 27, I took a taxi to Baffa House, a guesthouse in Mar Mikhael where I would be staying for two weeks. The goal of my trip was to become familiar enough with the nearby Armenian neighborhoods of Bourj Hammoud and Nor Hadjin where the characters in the novel I’m currently writing reside so that I could thoroughly inhabit those streets, buildings, schools, and churches in my imagination. I had started writing the novel, but then got stuck. I wrote a scene in which Vera Serinossian, the narrator and protagonist, was walking from her school in the Armenian “suburb” of Bourj Hammoud, a 1.5 square kilometer municipality just outside Beirut city limits, to her home in Nor Hadjin, a small Armenian neighborhood of about four square blocks on the other side of the river within Beirut’s boundaries. As she was crossing the bridge, Vera sees an elderly Arab man lying dead on the pavement. He has a sniper’s bullet hole in his forehead.

 

After I wrote this scene, during an interview that I conducted at the end of this past summer with someone who had lived the war years within these precincts, I had been told that this bridge between Bourj Hammoud and Nor Hadjin was called “The Death Bridge” because of the snipers that targeted people who crossed it. The Phalangist militia was on the hill of Ashrafiyeh within shooting range, and to the north the Leftists and later Syrian troops posed a similar danger. It occurred to me that my idea of having my family cross that bridge from home to school and back on a daily basis during the war years might make no sense. I needed to go to Beirut to find out.

 

The guesthouse in Mar Mikhael was a five-minute walk from Nor Hadjin and Khalil Badawi, another Armenian neighborhood adjacent to Hadjin. It was another ten minutes on foot to Bourj Hammoud. So each day of my stay I walked those neighborhoods. Through my network of Armenian friends in Beirut and in America, I had the good fortune to meet and to interview a host of people who had lived through the war years and had stories they were willing to share. I met the editor of the Ararat Daily Newspaper who told me about the night the Phalangists had set off a bomb in the newspaper’s offices in 1978. I visited Dr. Garo, the sole physician in Nor Hadjin, who had treated everyone from survivors of the Karantina Massacre to wounded Palestinian fighters in Naba’a to local Armenians who had been injured during various rounds of shelling. I interviewed the principals of two Armenian Evangelical schools—the Gertmenian School in Nor Hadjin and the Central High School in Ashrafiyeh. I attended Sunday services at Sourp Kevork Church in Nor Hadjin.

 

My friend Antranig, who grew up in Nor Hadjin, gave me a tour of the neighborhood, pointing out the ironwork on the facades of some of the houses, knocking on doors so he could show me the beautiful original tile work in some of the apartments, and explaining how Nor Hadjin had been a completely self-contained Armenian village within Beirut. “We had everything we needed. There were three schools, a church, a dispensary, grocery stores, a compatriotic union, and all kinds of artisans and craftsmen. The only thing missing in the early days was a confectioner, so the leaders of Hadjin convinced one to move from Ashrafiyeh to open a sweet shop.”

 

He also told me a story about the Death Bridge. During a ceasefire, Antranig and his friend took bikes and crossed the bridge to Bourj Hammoud. The two teenagers had just made it to Bourj Hammoud when shooting broke out between the Syrians and the Khataeb (Phalangists). The boys ditched their bikes and jumped into a building where they waited out the shooting, which went on for over five hours.

 

Antranig’s father, who could make out the bridge from his balcony in Nor Hadjin, called a friend in Bourj Hammoud to find out what had happened. There were dead bodies on the bridge, he was told. So he went down to the bridge to check the bodies to make sure his son was not among them.

 

By the end of my two weeks in Beirut, I had accomplished what I had set out to do. The Serinossians would not be crossing the Death Bridge on a daily basis. I had decided to situate my family in the small, self-contained neighborhood of Nor Hadjin, with extended family living across the river in Bourj Hammoud. I had determined which school the children attended, the church in which the family worshipped, and even the house in which they lived. In addition, like a bird assembling twigs, twine, and grasses for a nest, I had collected dozens of anecdotes, stories, and historical details that would help me in pushing forward with the novel.

 

Nancy Kricorian

 


Land of Armenians

 

Lawn sign in Watertown, Massachusetts, 6/16

Last week I returned to my hometown of Watertown, Massachusetts to visit my parents, to do research for my novel in the archives of the two English-language Armenian newspapers, and to attend a board meeting of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (otherwise known as NAASR). While skimming back issues for articles about the Lebanese Civil War, I found a small item in the Armenian-Mirror Spectator about myself: “Nancy Kricorian, a 9th-grade student at the East Junior High School in Watertown, was the winner of the recent Bicentennial Poster Contest and her poster becomes the official Town of Watertown Bicentennial Poster.” At the offices of the Armenian Weekly I fell upon an absolute treasure trove of reports about what was going in the Armenian precincts of Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War.

 

My parents and I had dinner on Friday evening at the Armenian Memorial Church’s annual fair, where I saw some old family friends and classmates. On Saturday when I walked two miles from my parents’ apartment complex to NAASR’s offices in Belmont, I passed a lawn sign that said, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” The message was printed first in Armenian, second in English, and third in Arabic. (I’m happy to report that because of my regular Armenian lessons I was able to read and understand the Armenian text.) On Saturday afternoon I stopped to pick up some fruit at Armenian-owned Arax Market, where I loved the Armenian conversations going on around me, and then I went to Armenian-owned Fastachi (they do mail order!) to purchase some nuts and chocolates for my family. I really hit peak East Watertown nostalgia on this trip, and felt deeply Armenian.

 

My compatriots are in the news lately. The New York Times ran a profile of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, “our midfield Armenian” who plays for Manchester United. Heno (his Armenian diminutive) is also called “the Armenian magician,” and you can see why if you watch this video of his breathtaking “scorpion kick” goal, which was ranked as the number one goal of the season. Forbes Magazine profiled Carolyn Rafaelian, the billionaire founder of bangle brand Alex and Ani. The Ajam Media Collective ran a piece about singer Seta Hagopian, the “Fairuz of Iraq.” Smithsonian Magazine featured an Armenian cosmetics company that is using ancient botanical recipes in their products. The Armenian Weekly posted a beautiful and moving tribute to Sarkis Balabanian (1882-1963), who risked his life to save hundreds of Armenian children during the Genocide. Michael Winship wrote a piece entitled “The Internet Won’t Let Armenia Go Away” that covers the propaganda war being waged by Turkey against The Promise, an epic Armenian Genocide film funded by the late Kirk Kerkorian.

 

Winship also mentions last week’s firestorm over Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Washington, D.C. The meeting between Trump and Erdogan did not garner much press attention, but Erdogan’s bodyguards’ assault on peaceful protesters sure did. Around two dozen Kurds, Armenians, and leftist Turks, including young women, older people and children, had gathered to protest outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence during Erdogan’s visit. Erdogan’s security detail with the aid of some right-wing counter-protesters violently attacked the protesters, leaving eleven people injured, nine of whom were hospitalized. There was some speculation, based on several videos, that Erdogan himself had ordered his bodyguards to attack the protesters. Everyone from the Washington Post editorial page to Senator John McCain weighed in. The Turkish government went on the attack, blaming the D.C. police for their ‘aggressive actions’ and demanding an apology from the U.S. government. It is almost laughable that the Turkish government, which spends millions of dollars in the U.S. each year for lobbying and propaganda, a great deal of it focused on preventing efforts at Armenian Genocide recognition and a good part spent on demonizing Kurds, has generated so much ill will in such a short time.

 

On the literary front, the Palestine Festival of Literature has just finished its latest season, and next month its tenth anniversary anthology entitled THIS IS NOT A BORDER will be published by Bloomsbury. Having participated in PalFest in 2010, I was invited to contribute to the anthology and wrote a short piece called “Stories from the Armenian Quarter.” In advance of the launch of her second novel (twenty years after the publication of her first novel THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS), Arundhati Roy was profiled in VOGUE. She will be doing a nine-city North American tour in support of THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS. We will be going to the Brooklyn event at BAM.

 

On the film front, I will shamelessly plug two films produced by my spouse. If you haven’t already, you should watch Kitty Green’s brilliant, disturbing, and moving “hybrid documentary” CASTING JONBENET on Netflix. James has just returned from the Cannes Film Festival where Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s PRAYER BEFORE DAWN, which will be released in North America by A24 later this year, received a ten-minute standing ovation at its midnight premiere.

 

And that’s it for my newsy news report (in which I have not until now mentioned glowing orbs, Russia, or cruelty budgets).

 

P.S. If you’d like to receive this type of post as a newsletter in your inbox, you can sign up here.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

 


The Women’s March and the Long Struggle Ahead

 

To be part of a crowd of over half-a-million people is an experience both intimate and abstractly large. Three moments during the speeches at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. particularly held that balance for me. Sophie Cruz, a six-year-old girl whose parents are undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, moved us all to tears with her beautiful and elegant words, spoken in English and then in Spanish, saying, “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage, so that our families will not be destroyed.” African-American civil rights activist and revolutionary Angela Davis told the assembled, “We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance.” Linda Sarsour, an organizer from New York City and one of the national co-chairs of the march, declared herself “unapologetically Muslim-American, unapologetically Palestinian-American, unapologetically from Brooklyn, New York.” She went on to tell us, “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where to go, because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people, for all our communities.”

 

It was an exhilarating, exhausting, and empowering experience to take to the streets with hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children who are determined to fight against the Trump Administration and its assaults on women, the disabled, immigrants, the indigenous, LGBTQ people, our public educational system, our environment, and our civil and human rights. I couldn’t help but remember other mass mobilizations I have joined. In 2003 millions of people took to the streets around the globe in attempt to prevent the Iraq War. George W. Bush dismissed us then, saying he didn’t pay much attention to “focus groups.” We were unable to stop the Iraq War, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destabilized the entire region, and led eventually to the horrible carnage and destruction we have been witnessing in Syria. Marches and rallies are important sources of strength and inspiration—but that strength must be used for the long struggles that follow.

 

I was pleased to learn from newspaper reports that the huge defiant crowds only steps from his seat of power enraged Donald Trump, and I have to believe that if we are able to harness the passion and determination of so many people taking political action for the first time, that we will be able to protect our most vulnerable individuals and organizations. If we succeed, our cities will become sanctuaries for the undocumented, our states will enact legislation mitigating the harms coming from Washington, and our mass civil disobedience against gas pipelines and other projects that threaten our air and water will engulf and stop corporate pillage. We will wrest control of the Democratic Party from the neoliberal establishment that backed the disastrous candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and put accountable elected officials into office. But I have to be honest. I’m afraid, and I’m unsure of exactly where best to focus my energies when the attacks on the values and institutions I care about are coming not daily, but hourly.

 

For now I join the ranks of my friends in Palestine, where Trump’s collaboration with the Israeli right wing will cause untold suffering. I join my friends in Armenia, who struggle every day against the kind of kleptocracy Trump now installs here in the U.S. I join my friends in Turkey, where harshly repressive measures are targeting journalists and academics, and in its Kurdish region, where violence has destroyed much of the architectural heritage of Diyarbakir’s Sur and where many communities have been subject to state terror.

 

I join a global community that struggles against tyranny and amplifies the humane in the human. As American writer and activist Grace Paley put it: “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” I hope, because I act.

 

Nancy Kricorian

January 2017

New York City

 

Written for Agos Turkish-Armenian weekly
https://web.archive.org/web/20170126065707/http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/17561/trumptan-sonra-umut-ve-eylem

 

 

Nancy Kricorian


Armenian Feminists respond to “Global Armenians” advertisement in the New York Times

 

adrugArmenian feminists say they are tired of exclusion and tokenism in community institutions. “One is not enough.”

 

The below open letter and pledge were developed by a group of Armenian feminists residing in the United States, Canada, England, and Armenia in response to a full page ad underwritten by the IDeA Foundation of Armenia that ran in the New York Times on 28 October 2016. (The text of the ad and the list of its signatories can be found here.)

 

Over 80 Armenian feminists, both women and men, from Armenia and throughout the Armenian diaspora, decried the gender disparity in the “Global Armenians” advertisement signatories list, which they see as symptomatic of the sidelining of women in Armenian communal institutions. The New York Times ad was signed by 22 men and one woman. As a means to address the ongoing exclusion and tokenism represented by the ad, and which they say is endemic in Armenian organizations around the world, the feminists pledged to condition their involvement in Armenian community forums on the presence of other women. Those who signed the pledge come from a variety of professions and hail from cities ranging from Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York to London, Paris, Berlin and and Yerevan. Among the signers are prominent feminist activists from Armenia, including Lara Aharonian and Maro Martosian; producer and actor Arsinee Khanjian and filmmaker Atom Egoyan from Canada; novelist Chris Bohjalian, human rights leader Sarah Leah Whitson, journalist Lara Setrakian, and photographer Scout Tufankjian from the U.S.; and Berlin-based artist Silvina Der Meguerditchian. Academics from the U.S., U.K., and France are heavily represented.

Rachel Goshgarian, one of the signers who also helped draft the feminist statement, said, “Both women and men play integral parts in Armenian communities, but it’s too rare that we see women in important leadership roles within our community organizations and too often that we see women being ‘invited’ to contribute as token members of our community and then barely listened to or heard.”

Armine Ishkanian stated, “I think it is high time this issue of excluding Armenian women was called out because despite past criticism about the gender imbalance in Armenian circles, things are getting worse.”

TEXT OF FEMINIST LETTER PLUS SIGNATURES

On October 28th, a full-page advertisement appeared in the New York Times claiming to represent “Global Armenians” and sounding a call for unified action.  It was signed by 22 men and one woman.  Armenian women are leaders, thinkers, artists, teachers, and philanthropists around the world, but with one exception, these women were not among its signatories. While it is an open letter and invites others to join, the discrepancy in participation between men and women cannot be ignored. The letter itself calls upon the government of Armenia to adopt “strategies based on inclusiveness and collective action,” but the process of drafting and publishing the letter should have modeled those same ideals. In an effort towards preventing this kind of exclusion and tokenism, we the undersigned pledge to condition our involvement in Armenian community forums on the participation of other women. One is not enough.

 

Signatories (as of 1 November 2016)

If you would like to add your name to this letter and pledge, please sign here.

Nancy Agabian (U.S.) Liana Aghajanian (U.S.)
Lara Aharonian (Armenia) Michael Aram (U.S.)
Nora Armani (U.S.) Sophia Armen (U.S.)
Mika Artyan (U.K.) Sebouh Aslanian (U.S.)
Shushan Avagyan (Armenia) Lily Balian (U.S.)
Dr. Karen Babayan (U.K.) Peter Balakian (U.S.)
Houri Berberian (U.S.) Nvair Beylerian (U.S.)
Zarmine Boghosian (U.S.) Eric Bogosian (U.S.)
Chris Bohjalian (U.S.) Vicken Cheterian (Switzerland)
Silvina Der Meguerditchian (Germany) Lerna Ekmekcioglu (U.S.)
Atom Egoyan (Canada) Ayda Erbal (U.S)
Sarah Ignatius (U.S.) Armine Ishkanian (U.K.)
Anna K. Gargarian (Armenia) Olga Ghazaryan (U.K.)
Carina Karapetian Giorgi (U.S.) Rachel Goshgarian (U.S.)
Houry Geudelikian (U.S.) Ani Ross Grubb (U.S.)
Veken Gueyikian (U.S.) JoAnn Janjigian (U.S.)
Dr. Ani Kalayjian (U.S.) Sossie Kasbarian (U.K.)
Silva Katchigian (U.S.) Maral Kerovpyan (France)
Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan (France) Shushan Kerovpyan (France)
Arsinee Khanjian (Canada) Ani Kharajian (U.S.)
Taline Kochayan (France) Dickran Kouymjian (France)
Lola Koundakjian (U.S.) Stefanie Kundakjian (France)
Nancy Kricorian (U.S.) Marc Mamigonian (U.S.)
Armen Marsoobian (U.S.) Maro Matosian (Armenia)
Markar Melkonian (U.S.) Barbara Merguerian (U.S.)
Muriel Mirak-Weissbach (Germany) Khatchig Mouradian (U.S.)
Joanne Randa Nucho (U.S.) Carolyn Rapkievian (U.S.)
Aline Ohanesian (U.S.) Ara Oshagan (U.S.)
Susan Pattie (U.K.) Jennifer Phillips (U.S.)
Nelli Sargsyan (U.S.) Judith Saryan (U.S.)
Elyse Semerdjian (U.S.) Lara Setrakian (U.S.)
Anna Shahnazaryan (Armenia) Tamar Shirinian (U.S.)
Jason Sohigian (U.S.) Ronald Grigor Suny (U.S.)
Anoush F. Terjanian (U.S.) Lori Megerdichian Terrizzi (U.S.)
Karina Totah (U.S.) Sara Janjigian Trifiro (U.S.)
Khachig Tololyan (U.S.) Scout Tufankjian (U.S.)
Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte (U.S.) Anahid Ugurlayan (U.S.)
Hrag Vartanian (U.S.) Nicole Vartanian   (U.S.)
Dana E. Walwrath (U.S.) Seta White (U.K.)
Sarah Leah Whitson (U.S.) Lilit Yenokyan (U.S.)
Linda Yepoyan (U.S.) Meldia Yesayan (U.S)
Houry Youssoufian (U.S.)

 


Urgent Appeal from Women in Armenia

 

Police and Barbed Wire Blockade in Yerevan, 7/16

Police and Barbed Wire Blockade in Yerevan (Photo by  Babken Der Grigorian, 7/30/16)

 

I received the below appeal from a friend in Armenia. The stand-off between the police and the “Daredevils of Sassoun” who have occupied the Erebuni police station has drawn crowds of civil society activists into the streets. For background on the situation read this article from Open Democracy. For an account of Friday night’s events, read this from The Guardian.

 

The anger and despair in Armenia about the oligarchs (also known as gangster capitalists) who are running the country are at flood levels. While many disagree with the methods of the men currently blockaded in the police station, there is a widespread disgust with state violence used against civil society activists and the unchecked corruption and venality of the current government. The women signatories of the below message are calling for action and support from Armenians in the Diaspora, as well as from global citizens.

 

****

Dear Friends,

Please take into consideration and disseminate this call from the women signatories based in Armenia to the Diaspora.

 

PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS MESSAGE NOW!

 

Yesterday, on July 29 2016, an act of State terror was organized in Erebuni (Yerevan) where people have been protesting for the last twelve days. The local media documented numerous incidents of torture and ill treatment by the Police of RA and its special units, including kidnappings, unlawful detentions, enforced disappearances, setting people’s houses on fire, intimidation and violence against children and elderly. The police also stormed into random people’s homes, terrorizing and beating them and their family members, severely brutalized injured people who were seeking help in hospitals, and beat hundreds of people held in police stations.

 

To adequately address these acts of police brutality and mass violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we, civil society members in Armenia, NEED the following SUPPORT from the ARMENIAN DIASPORA:

 

  • We need PUBLIC FIGURES to COME TO ARMENIA to raise awareness and to stop the violence unleashed by the regime against the peaceful citizens of Armenia (we are specifically calling on Loris Tjeknavorian, Rakel Dink, Serj Tankian, Cher, Margaret Ajemian Ahnert, Garry Kasparov, Atom Egoyan, Patrick Devedjian, David Barsamian, and other influential Armenians and non-Armenians);

 

  • Sensitize the Armenian diasporan media and demand that the media TELL THE TRUTH, covering what is actually happening in Armenia NOW to effectively stops state violence;

 

  • SENSITIZE THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA to start covering the state terror in Armenia;

 

  • Organize RALLIES in front of ARMENIAN EMBASSIES, block the events with the participation of Armenian officials, do other actions to delegitimize everything done by Armenian officials;

 

  • Organize RALLIES in front of INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS, notably the UN;

 

  • Put pressure on all Diasporan entities, including individuals to cut funding for the Armenian government or government-backed projects;

 

  • Put pressure on international institutions that fund the government through loans and grants;

 

Any other support by which the Diaspora can help to deprive the current regime of authority and reputation, funding resources and the psychological and authoritative support of institutions, states, etc.

 

WE NEED YOUR PRESENCE!

 

Gayane Abrahamyan

Anahit Simonyan

Lara Aharonian

Gayane Hambardzumyan

Anna Shahnazaryan

Lusine Talalyan

Arpi Adamyan

Shushan Avagyan

Zaruhi Hovhannisyan

Maro Matosyan

Nvard Manasyan

Arpine Galfayan

 

********

UPDATE: On the night of 31 July 2016, the “Daredevils of Sassoun” surrendered to police, ending the 15-day standoff. All 20 were arrested. One of them said, “We have done our part, now it’s the people’s turn to ensure fundamental change in Armenia.”

On August 1st, 2016 Human Right Watch issued a report on the Armenian police’s use of excessive force at the July 29th protest.

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Neapolitan Pizza and Armenian Art

 

Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Treasures, 2015

Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Treasures, 2015

 

My Ferrante Fever has abated, but for those of you still in the throes of it, you might want to make Neapolitan pizza or the pistachio creampuffs mentioned in My Brilliant Friend. You might have missed this piece on The Neapolitan Novels as the “anti-epic Epic,” or this one from the Los Angeles Review of Books comparing them to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me.

Now that I’ve left Naples behind, at least for the moment, I’m back in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. I’m currently reading B as in Beirut by Iman Humaydan Younes. One of the four women narrators says, “Men’s fingers stay on the triggers while women look for a safe place for their children.”

Sad to say this piece is the fruit of my final collaboration with Enas Fares Ghannam through the We Are Not Number project. She has a new mentor, and I will start with another young writer in January. But I’m thrilled for her–this is her first ‘official’ publication, and it’s a beautiful essay: “A Neighborhood Ripped Apart in Gaza.”

I’ve been enjoying my semester as Writer-in-Residence at the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. The writing workshop has one more session to go, I did my outreach program presentation for high school teachers last week, and the public event is coming up on November 9th. For those of you in New York City, I hope you will join us on November 9th at the panel discussion entitled Art And Memory: Looking Back and Moving Forward on the Centennial of Armenian Genocide. “Art critic and Hyperallergic editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian will moderate a conversation about art making, identity, and memory with visual artist Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, photographer Diana Markosian, and novelist Nancy Kricorian.” There will be an associated exhibit of works by Silvina and Diana that will be on display at The Kevorkian Center from November 9th until February 5th.

For the 30th Anniversary celebration of the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Artists Fellowship Program, my novels will be on display as part of Stacks: Three Decades of Writing Fellows with an Installation by Anne Munges. I’ll be at the opening on November 13th, and if you’re in the city, I hope you’ll stop by.

And finally, here is a video by the Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila. It took some work and the help of friends, but James and I managed to snag two tickets to their sold-out show at Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday, October 31. Now that will be some fun.

 

This is the late October issue of my author newsletter. If you’d like to be added to the distribution list, send a note to nkbookgroup@gmail.com.

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City