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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 Outdated and false justifications based on “religion”, “culture” and “values” can no longer cover for hatred, violence and intolerance against Armenian LGBT persons.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.

 

 


Summer Missive

 

 

 

My father, who had been suffering with congestive heart failure and related complications for two years, passed away in his sleep at home on Friday, July 13. It has been a sad time for our family, and particularly hard on my mother, who is now learning to live alone after a sixty-year marriage. My father’s obituary ran in the Armenian and local newspapers in Watertown, and I wrote a eulogy that is now posted on my author site. He was a beloved member of his community so the church pews were filled and people were in the balcony and standing at the back during his funeral service, and at the post-funeral luncheon, many people told sweet stories of his kindness, generosity, and humor.

It was a strange experience to read on his official death certificate that my father’s parents’ place of birth was specified as Turkey (I would have put Cilicia or possibly Ottoman Empire), but even more disorienting was to see that his “Expanded Race” was listed as WHITE and his ethnicity was AMERICAN. There were a number of legal decisions in the early part of the 20th Century that admitted Armenians to the coveted category of “white,” so I won’t argue that point, but I would argue that my father’s ethnicity, as he or anyone else would have described it, was Armenian.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about race and ethnicity in America. I just finished listening to the audio book version of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. In the book, Kendi argues that there are three main channels of thinking about race: segregationist, assimilationist, and anti-racist. Only the last one challenges racism and white supremacy, and there is no such thing as “non-racist” thinking in America. I’m currently listening to Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism. DiAngelo argues that “racism is a structure, not an event,” and suggests that “the full weight of responsibility rests with those who control the institutions.” Katy Waldman, in a review of the book in the New Yorker, says, “DiAngelo sets aside a whole chapter for the self-indulgent tears of white women, so distraught at the country’s legacy of racist terrorism that they force people of color to drink from the firehose of their feelings about it.”

I see the structures of white supremacy at work all around me (and in me), and through my volunteer work with the New Sanctuary Coalition, I see racism’s cruel hand in the immigration policies of this country. The unconscionable heartlessness of the Trump Administration’s separation of parents and children at the Southern border has stirred outrage, but the deportation machine and the terrorism of ICE predate Trump’s election. It’s time to abolish ICE, but also to stop tearing families apart with deportation.

And here, I will pull back from personal sadness and political distress to leave you with an anecdote and an image.

A few days after my father died, my mother and I were walking near my parent’s condominium on Bigelow Avenue in Watertown when we heard a cardinal loudly singing. According to my mother, my father, who was adept at birdcalls and whistles, used to imitate the cardinal perfectly, and he and the bird often called back and forth to each other. I looked up and saw that on the top of the Armenian Memorial Church steeple there was a cross and on top of the cross was the bright red cardinal belting out his song. I said to my mother, “If you believed in reincarnation, you might think that was Dad.” She laughed.

The weekend after my father’s funeral, James and I were at our house in Columbia County with our younger daughter Djuna and her friend Hannah. While we were eating supper on the porch, we watched storm clouds approach from the south. The storm rolled in, dumping down rain on the garden and lawn, and then rolled out leaving behind a rainbow. Djuna and Hannah ran out into the yard and did a joyous dance under the spectacular double rainbow.

 

Nancy Kricorian, New York City 2018

 


Remembering Eddie Baba

 

“Words from the Family”: Eulogy delivered on 23 July 2018

I want to thank Pastor Calvin Choi and the congregation of the Watertown Evangelical Church for welcoming us all here today to honor the memory of my father, Ed Kricorian. I want also to thank them for the warm and loving community that they have provided to my parents over the years.

Armenian Genocide survivors founded this church in 1937. It was then called the Armenian Brethren Church, and my grandparents Leo and Mary Kricorian were among its founding members. My father and his siblings grew up in this church, as did my sister and I. My grandfather’s funeral service took place here in 1962, and my grandmother’s in 1985. And we are here again today to say farewell to my father.

My father started driving the delivery truck for his father’s Lincoln Market when he was ten years old and could barely see over the steering wheel. He loved driving, and it was a hardship to him this past year when his poor health meant that he could no longer be behind the wheel. He never admitted that he wouldn’t drive again; he just said, “I’m not driving right now.” When he was no longer steady on his feet, we bought him a top-of-the-line walker, and after he got over his initial reluctance about using it in public, he called it the Lamborghini and offered passersby a chance to take it for a spin for a mere dollar. When he needed a transport chair, he called it the Cadillac Eldorado. And when a few months ago, he needed a mobility scooter, this he called the Rolls Royce.

In May my father was hospitalized for five days, and when he came home he was unable to walk. The physical therapist told him that if he worked hard enough and could walk down the hall to the elevator, and then walk through the garage to get to his Rolls, he could take it for a spin. This was Eddie’s goal, and despite the pain in his legs and his shortness of breath, he was determined that he would drive the Rolls again.

And he did. On the Thursday before he died, my dad took the Rolls out, with Calvin trotting at his side, and they came over to the church to see the finally finished new steps, steps that were sadly impossible for him to climb. My dad wanted more than anything to come inside this church again. He said to Calvin, “Do you think some of the guys could help me up the stairs?” Calvin said, “Sure, Eddie. And if they can’t, I’ll put you on my back and carry you up myself.”

My father had been praying for God to take him home since last October. He said he was ready to go, but I think he wasn’t quite ready until this month. He wanted to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with my mother, whose devotion he treasured and whom he adored. They marked that milestone in April. And he wanted the reconstruction of the church steps to be completed so his service could be held in this sanctuary. He had said on more than one occasion that he prayed he could go to sleep, and then open his eyes in heaven. On Friday, July 13, he fell asleep in his recliner and that’s exactly what happened.

We all miss him—his kindness, his stubbornness, his harmonica playing, his funny stories, and the messages he wrote for us on bananas and melons. But he’s not suffering any more, and as the Armenian proverb puts it,

The water goes, the sand remains; the person dies, the memory stays.

 

Nancy Kricorian

 


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

 


The Sun Will Rise

 

It’s finally spring here in New York City. The appearance of the early spring flowers—crocuses, Lenten roses, daffodils, and hyacinths—makes me feel that there is hope. Hope for what? On the absolutely mundane level, it is a belief that the tulips will open very soon, and that after them the lilacs will appear. It reminds me of the Armenian proverb, “The sun will rise whether the rooster crows or not.”

 

When I walk the dogs early in the morning now, the trees are alive with birdsong. I recognize the songs of the cardinals, the robins, and the blue jays. I hear other songs that my sadly unmusical hear has not yet learned to identify, but I’ll be starting up again with my NYC Audubon classes next week and will expand my repertoire.

 

When I write to or talk with friends now, asking them how they are doing, I say, “Aside from the devastating political dumpster fire in which we are living, I hope you and yours are okay.” How do we do this? How do we wake up each morning to ever more cruelty, venality, and greed—each time I think we’ve hit rock bottom, I’m stunned to learn that it’s possible to go lower still—and still manage to go on with our daily routines? I have to count myself among the lucky ones who can carry on with my work and my relationships in relative peace while the unlucky ones, to paraphrase Wally Shawn, who are undocumented, or poor, or live in a country devastated by our wars and occupations, are struggling mightily. I hope for us all that we can organize to vote a bunch of these jerks out of office in the fall before they do even more damage.

 

These are sources of solace: flowers, birds, knitting, baking, walking, reading, talking with friends, and doing one act of resistance each day—phone call, letter, political organizing meeting, sanctuary accompaniment, street demonstration, donation, or a spontaneous gesture of kindness. May we all find moments of happiness and satisfaction that will give us energy for the work ahead.

 

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City 2018


Radical Kindness and Adamant Resistance

 

Happy International Women’s Day! Earlier this week I received an invitation from an editor at Aras, my publisher in Istanbul.

For International Women’s Day, we’re asking our women writers for a message directed to women, but of course particularly to the women of Turkey. We will share them on March 8 via social media posts. And since it’s social media, it should not be something longer than three or four sentences.

I thought about it overnight, and then sent her back the following:

In these cruel times, may we be known for our radical kindness, and also for our resistance to those who attack our most vulnerable neighbors. As American feminist writer Grace Paley put it, ‘The only recognizable feature of hope is action.’

When I turn the pages of the newspaper each morning, I feel as though I’m being hammered by the stories of unremitting brutality: the physical violence of war around the globe; the systemic economic assault on the poor and working people of this country and our public institutions; and the heartless rounding up and deportation of undocumented immigrants, which are separating families, tearing apart communities, and sowing terror.

I think the story that hit me the hardest last week was the one about the mother from the Congo who applied for asylum upon arriving in Los Angeles. She was put into a detention facility in San Diego and her seven-year-old daughter was sent to a detention facility for unaccompanied minors in Chicago. The only way we heard this story was that the ACLU filed suit against the U.S. Government for this act of blatant cruelty, which seems to be part of a new unstated policy designed to discourage parents from seeking asylum because of fear of such forcible and wrenching separations. How many more such children are there?

But in the face of all this, I take heart when I see the humanity and the militancy that are rising up in response. The striking teachers of West Virginia prepared breakfasts and lunches for their students who receive meals at school and would otherwise have gone hungry. And, with broad support from people around the country, they WON their wildcat strike! Some student organizers from Parkland High School in Florida, where a horrific massacre occurred last month, went to meet black youth in Chicago to talk about how they could work together on gun control and address racism. Christian Clergy in Jerusalem were able to halt Israeli legislation that would have allowed for state seizure of church property by closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for three days. And Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California, a sanctuary city, gave the public a fair warning about imminent ICE raids in the Bay Area.

And somehow in the midst of all of this, I’ve been managing to write! Gamatz gamatz*, as my grandmother would have said, I’m getting this novel written.

*slowly, slowly

 

Here are some readings for your pleasure and edification:

A fascinating piece about shared Armenian and Turkish idioms.

A rare yellow cardinal was spotted in Alabama.

How Neoliberalism makes anxiety and depression worse, and what you can do about it.

A beautiful essay by Viet Thanh Nguyen on refugees.

 

 

 

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

 


The Harvey Effect

 

In the past few weeks I have read close to 90% of the articles about Harvey Weinstein—a man I have known and loathed for twenty-five years—starting with the New York Times piece about his decades of sexual harassment settlements, and Ronan Farrow’s bombshell article in the New Yorker with accounts of rape. Once those two hit, the proverbial floodgates opened with more and more women coming forward with accounts of harassment and assault. After having heard dozens of stories about Harvey’s cruelty and physical violence from traumatized former employees, both men and women, I always knew that he was a monster, but I did not know the extent of the sexual harassment that went on, nor did I know that he was a rapist.

 

Because of the deluge of testimonies by many prominent women, his reign of terror was put to an end as Harvey was forced out of his company, was booted out of the Academy, and France is moving to strip him of his Legion of Honor. His crimes are currently being investigated in New York, London, and Los Angeles. For those of you who are interested in reading more, David Hudson at Criterion’s The Daily provided a great roundup of the news and analysis, and has been adding updates since the piece posted last week. Two of the funniest responses—and at times we do need to laugh amidst the horror—were Alexandra Petri’s Harvey Weinstein and that ‘different time’ when hostile workplaces were totally okay, and Samantha B’s video riff. Brit Marling’s piece in The Atlantic on the economics of consent was also great. I encouraged my spouse James to return a call from the Hollywood Reporter, and Oprah Winfrey then cited James’s remarks in her Facebook post about Harvey. And of course, when asked for his opinion, Woody Allen, who would have been better advised to decline to comment, said that he was worried about a “witch hunt atmosphere.” In response, Lindy West penned a sizzling op-ed entitled Yes, this is a witch hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m hunting you. Lo and behold, it was then reported that Woody Allen’s new film, currently shooting in New York, features a sexual relationship between a 44-year-old man played by Jude Law and a 15-year-old ‘concubine’ (what does this even mean?) played by Elle Fanning.

 

The “Harvey Effect” has subsequently taken down prominent men such as Amazon Studios Head Roy Price, Nickelodeon showrunner Chris Savino, screenwriter James Toback (who has now been accused of sexual harassment by over 200 women), celebrity chef John Besh, fashion photographer Terry Richardson, the publisher of Artforum Magazine Knight Landesman, political journalist Mark Halperin, and writer and editor Leon Wieseltier. We can only hope that these dudes will continue to fall like dominoes.

 

As an antidote to that cavalcade of jerks, I wanted to share this profile of Greg Asbed, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow who has spent most of his professional life fighting horrific labor abuses. Asbed was asked, “What was your path to this work?” and his answer was inspiring. “I’m a first-generation Armenian-American,” he said. “My grandmother moved to Syria from Turkey, but not of her own volition. There was the Armenian genocide; she lost her whole family except for one sister. She managed to survive the genocide by being bought and sold twice by the age of 13 — once to the Kurds, then by the Kurds to an Armenian family, which was my grandfather’s family. I have always felt a certain responsibility, as a bearer of DNA that was forged in the crucible of genocide, to the idea of universal human rights.”

 

As we say in Armenian, Abrees!

 

 

Nancy Kricorian


Poem for My Father’s Voice

 

Visiting my parents in Watertown this week, after my father’s return from a recent hospitalization, reminded of me of this poem I wrote many years ago. Thought it was a good moment to pull it from the archive. 

 

Poem for My Father’s Voice

“Show me,” I’d say, “show me
exactly where in the Bible
it says that dancing is a sin.”
He wouldn’t argue, and even if
I made it to school dances,
my body was lead; I couldn’t move
hearing his long silence.
I never gave up, though; I’d worry
him like a dog worries a squirrel
up a tree, going crazy for wanting
a fight. When I was in college,
I’d take Vermont Transit home
and cross Harvard Yard to meet him
at the store; he peeled off the red
apron and white coat, ran upstairs
to punch out on the clock, and
on the ride home, we’d talk.
His favorite topic was the weather,
until it became a joke between us,
like the popsicle-stick cathedrals
he wanted to build when he retired
until I embarrassed him out of it.
I imagined him gluing and placing sticks
for hours at the table, looking
like an overgrown camper.

Years away from home sanded the edges
off anger; on our rides to and from
the airport or the train, he talked,
and now I didn’t know what to say.
He told me his whole life had been
a waste, except for my mother.
Another time he said, “When I get
to heaven, God will make me perfect,
and I won’t be stupid any more.”
His father had called him
“mentally bankrupt” when he was
a kid working at the family market,
driving deliveries at ten, the cops
kept off with bribes of meat and
butter. “It was during the war,”
he told me, “meat was scarce.”

The last time I came to town, he
explained the doctor wanted to take
a vein from his leg. When he stands
at the block, my father works the knife
in his right hand, leans into
the left leg, and now blood
seeps through the vein making
brown patches under the skin
near the ankle. He pulled up
his pant-leg and rolled down the sock.
He said, “It makes me think of my father.
They took his foot, his calf, then
the leg, and I know it’s not the same,
but I can’t help thinking of it.”

I imagine the dreams at night,
his father’s lost leg hovering
near the ceiling, and his mother’s
heart, so small and tight, moved
into his body. Her pills are now his,
nitro-glycerin under the pillow
of the tongue. I remember times
when I yelled at him, “I hate you,
you’re so stupid.” I liked the sound
of my voice tearing into him, and
wanted to bury him with words. He’d say,
“Shut up. Do you hear me? Shut up.”

 

 

 

Originally published in RIVER STYX Literary Magazine, Number 32, Fall 1990

 

Nancy Kricorian