Table of Contents
Hello, and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong.
This Week in Review we will focus on the catastrophic explosion in the Port of Beirut. The unprecedented destruction centered at the port, which is especially close to many Armenian community neighborhoods, has deeply affected the Lebanese Armenian community, leaving over a dozen of its members dead, hundreds injured and tens of thousands without means or shelter. The damage to Lebanon and its people is incalculable. For this story we turn to Asbed Bedrossian.
YouTube Apple Google Spotify Facebook
On August 4th a massive explosion hit Beirut’s harbor, completely obliterating the port and creating a disaster area with a 20-mile radius. While the investigation into the causes of the explosion is still underway, one thing is certain that Lebanon now needs major foreign assistance. With over a year of economic and health issues compounded, Lebanese society is on the brink of collapse. As part of the country’s socio-economic and political fabric, the Armenian community in Lebanon has also found itself on a crossroad regarding its future.
In this segment we explore the challenges and opportunities that Lebanon in general, and the Lebanese Armenian community, is facing amidst these turbulent times.
We have with us today:
Asbed Kotchikian who is a senior lecturer of political science and international relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts where he teaches courses on the Middle East and former Soviet space. Prof. Kotchikian is also a consultant for international organizations on issues of judicial reform, ways to combat radicalization and on ethnic and religious minorities.
Yeghia Tashjian, who is a regional analyst and researcher based in Beirut, with expertise in China’s geopolitical and energy security interests in Iran and the Persian Gulf. He is the Regional Officer of Women in War, a gender-based think tank and a contributor to various media outlets. Tashjian is the presenter of “Turkey Today,” a weekly program on Radio Voice of Van in Lebanon.
● See the links in the daily Headlines below.
The Turkey-Azerbaijan military exercises, named the TurAz Eagle Exercises, which started on July 29th and are planned to end on August 10 have had a very wide geographic scope: from Baku, to Nakhichevan, to Ganja, Kurdamir, Yevlakh. That’s basically all over Azerbaijan. There have been videos released on Twitter from the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense about these exercises which Armenia says it is following extremely closely.
What’s the message Turkey and Azerbaijan are sending, and what’s the message that Armenia and Russia are receiving?
This week Baku accused Serbia of selling to Armenia; then Serbia’s president replied that since Armenia was not under any sanctions, Serbia had sold arms to them, and then ten times as much more to Azerbaijan as well, in order to keep Serbia’s military industry alive. Since we’re talking about just a few million dollars’ worth of armaments. Is this something or is it Much Ado About Nothing?
This week the Mashtots Park came back into the headlines as mayor Marutian authorized the building of a new café. To me this incident was interesting because it is sometimes seen as one of the precursors or prototypes to 2018.
Alen, can you tell us more about what happened?
This week Cyber security specialist Samvel Martirosyan announced that Azerbaijani hackers had penetrated into government servers, getting access to 55 terabytes of information. The NSS investigation continues. What do we know about this intrusion? What should be our main concerns? And what steps can be taken towards securing the government cyber infrastructure?
On Wednesday president Armen Sarkissian’s office said that he had signed a new law governing media in the “public digital multiplex”. Among other things, the law restricts operation of foreign channels in public multiplex, and requires bilateral agreement between countries; it limits the number of channels that can be part of the multiplex, which raised concern from opposition media that the intention is to deprive pro-opposition media from license; it defines penalties for violating hate speech; and more.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Commission on TV and Radio stated that the dominance of foreign broadcasters in cable networks threatens the country's information and language security, but the commission does not take an anti-Russian position.
What issues arise with such laws?
Meanwhile, Turkey’s parliament passed a law regulating social media, that critics said will increase censorship and help authorities silence dissent. The law requires foreign social media sites to appoint Turkish-based representatives to address authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for removal of material.
Is media censorship on the rise globally?
● Armenia Adopts Law Limiting Broadcast of Foreign Media - SputnikNews.com
● Turkish parliament passes social media law to regulate content - Cyprus-Mail.com
A personal as well as regional reflection on the situation in Beirut post-explosion, and we touch upon Armenia’s strategy and response to the tragic situation there.
● In July Azerbaijan complained that Serbia sold arms to Armenia. Now the president of Serbia has informed that Serbia sold Azerbaijan ten times as much Arms as it did to Armenia.
● The Armenian Ministry of Defense has denied a press report that Turkish F-16’s were at one point “within striking distance” of Yerevan, “56 Km”, during their transit to Baku.
● Last week Armen Papikyan, Armenian Ambassador to the IAEA, gave an interview to Energy Intel. Ambassador Papikyan notes that he has briefed the IAEA Director General about threat from Baku to the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, and that the IAEA has not done enough to provide a nuclear threat-free environment, particularly when the threat Metsamor is coming from a member state of the IAEA.
● Famous archaeologist Gregory Areshian, who co-led discovery of world’s oldest winery, died at 71
● The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the second largest group in the Euro Parliament, has called to impose sanctions on Azerbaijani officials, as a sanction against Aliyev using the pandemic and war as an excuse to destroy his opposition.
● PM Pashinyan and Speaker Mirzoyan have proclaimed solidarity with Yezidis on the 4th anniversary of the Sinjar massacre in northern Iraq.
● The Justice Ministry has unveiled a bill on amending the Judicial Code and the Rules of Procedure of Parliament that envisage the creation of an Anti-Corruption Court.
● Armenian Ambassador to Latvia Tigran Mkrtchyan’s article “Armenia and Armenians worldwide will not tolerate another genocide!”
● The government is developing a legislative package to preempt the need to extend the coronavirus-related and currently active State of Emergency but still be able to implement required anti-pandemic restrictions when needed by declaring an “emergency situation”.
● DM Tonoyan told Lebanese PM Zeina Akar that Armenia will continue its military participation in UNIFIL.
● German Armenians rallied over the weekend in Berlin in front of the German Chancellor’s Office on Saturday to demand that Germany stop arms delivery to Turkey and Azerbaijan.
● Armenian Bar Member Lucy Boyadjian Solimon was appointed as Judge of the Second Judicial District Court, serving Bernalillo County by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
● A court in Yerevan denied law-enforcement to arrest Yerevan’s former deputy mayor Vahe Nikoyan, who is indicted in an ongoing criminal investigation into Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership.
● A major explosion rocked Beirut, killing over 100 people and injuring 4000. It appears to have been negligent storage of 2750 metric tons of Ammonium Nitrate for over 6 years that exploded upon a fire that broke out in a nearby hangar. The Secretary General of the Kataebs, Nazareth Najarian was killed in the blast. A young Armenian nurse was also killed. Antelias sustained was damaged. There is more damage in the community which HH Aram I visited later in the day. PM Pashinyan, and Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan both declared solidarity with Lebanon, and readiness to help. LHK/Bright Armenia party’s Anna Kostanyan is urging the government to help repatriate any Lebanese Armenians who wish to move to Armenia. Beirut has been declared a disaster zone.
● Ruben Hayrapetian, an influential businessman linked to the former leadership has been a Russian citizen since 2003, prosecutors in Yerevan said on Tuesday. As a result Russian may not be extraditing him to Armenia where he would face a string of charges.
● President Armen Sarkissian nominated Artur Vagharshian, chair of jurisprudence at YSU, to the Constitutional Court.
● Mashtots Park came back into the headlines as mayor Marutian authorized the building of a new café.
● Joe Biden’s Ethnic Engagement Director Has Ties Turkey and Erdogan.
● Dilijan Medical Center’s coronavirus unit was decommissioned as active cases have dropped in Armenia.
● The head of the Military-Industrial Committee of the Ministry of High-Tech Industry Artak Davtyan met with CEOs of the drone industry in Armenia. The recent experiences were discussed.
● NASA JPL granted license to Armenian company to make VITAL ventilators used for COVID-19 treatment.
● In the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut: H.H. Aram I visited the Armenian community in Bourj Hammoud, There is widespread community damage. The death toll is at 11, the injury toll is 250 in the Armenian community. Armenia assessing scenarios of potential humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Artsakh Republic has offered to repatriate 100-150 families from Lebanon immediately, and the Office of High Commissioner for Diaspora starts needs assessment of Lebanese-Armenian community. Meanwhile French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Beirut. According to nuclear scientist Areg Danagoulian the explosion amounted in strength to 10% of the Hiroshima bomb.
● Since August 1, there have been problems with the broadcasting of H1 in Los Angeles by PanArmenian TV. People have complained all the way to PM Pashinyan, and suspect political motives.
● Cyber security specialist Samvel Martirosyan announced that Azerbaijani hackers have penetrated into government servers, getting access to 55 terabytes of information. The NSS investigation continues.
● PM Pashinyan has submitted to President Armen Sarkissian to dismiss Deputy Chief of Police Hayk Mhryan and Deputy Chief of Police, Tigran Yesayan.
● President Sarkissian signed a law limiting the broadcast of foreign media in Armenia.
● Deputy PM Tigran Avinyan said Armenia will extend the state of emergency for another month, but will lift certain of the limitations.
● In the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut: Many more Armenian politicians have expressed solidarity and support with the people of Lebanon, e.g. Yerevan Mayor Marutyan. Armenia’s High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Zareh Sinanyan, will visit Beirut. The Hayastan All Armenian Fund launched a fundraiser for Lebanon. An Armenian emergency aid flight to Lebanon to take place Saturday, August 8. A third Russian plane carrying aid arrived in Beirut, with emergency doctors, rescuers and mobile hospitals. The European Commission has allocated over €33 million for Lebanon.
● BHK leader Edmon Marukyan has asked the government to address the issue of security of “huge amounts” of chemicals stored at the premises of the currently defunct Vanadzor Chemical Combine.
● Italy’s Chamber of Deputies ratified the Armenia-EU CEPA.
● The Armenian Government has allocated 278 million drams to rebuild Tavush towns after Azerbaijani shelling.
● The former head of the Public Services Regulatory Commission Robert Nazarian has been arrested on charges of having fraudulently issued privileges to a business operator which resulted in significant damages. Nazarian is also a former Mayor of Yerevan.
● Deputy Chief of Police Hayk Mhryan was dismissed.
● Ashot Zakaryan was appointed the new Chief of the Military Police of the Defense Ministry.
● New developments continued to be leaked surrounding the scandal around Hayk Sargsyan’s participation in a party at the White Shorja resort on the shore of lake Sevan. Romanos Petrosyan, newly appointed minister of Environment and Nature Protection indicated that the resort was illegal and all structures on it will be dismantled. He also said that there are hundreds of such illegal constructions that will also receive similar treatment.
● Anna Hakobyan, the prime-minister’s wife gave an interview to Azatutyun addressing questions from Facebook users.
● Former president Serge Sargsyan released a series of short videos addressing criticism of his handling of the 2016 war. He has promised a more comprehensive press conference after the state of emergency is lifted.
● The Prosperous Armenia, ARF, and Hayrenik troika of opposition parties held a press conference indicating that they will file a complaint in the courts against Armenian government and parliamentary majority My Step faction on several counts, including toppling of constitutional order. They also promised further legal action to defend citizens who have been fined for not wearing masks. Their argument is that if the government is mandating masks then they should be responsible for providing them free of charge to citizens.
● For the fourth day, protests against the development of the Amulsar gold mine continued; Earlier in the week Restructured Lydian, which is essentially the former Lydian Armenia, brought in cranes and removed the wagons installed by Jermuk residents and Ecofront activists and installed its own wagons, in an effort to begin the mining process. Protesters have now undone company installations while the standoff continues.The fact that the government is a no-show and avoids clarifying its position is complicating matters
● Add something about education reform (even if we’ll cover it in a separate segment).
● Last week, the SIS launched a criminal case against Arthur Danielyan for hooliganism as a result of the fistfight between him and Alen Simonyan. This week Simonyan gave an interview to Azatutyun, answering questions on the matter repeating the claim that he was provoked. Shortly after this, a video was leaked showing camera footage of the actual incident showing Simonyan clearly approaching Danielyan and physically attacking him. The video also contained audio of Simonyan’s 911 call where he claimed that he was attacked.
● Ministry of Health commented on the resignation of Mher Davidyants, head of the Yerevan infectious disease hospital, who resigned as part of the restructuring of Republican Center for the Prevention of AIDS and the Nork Infection Clinical Hospital into a single entity. Reportedly Mr. Davidyants first accepted, but later declined a deputy general director position in the restructured organization.
● On Friday, Covid-19 cases in Armenia topped 40,000.
Dr. Areshian passed away on August 1. He was the inaugural Director of the UCLA Research Program in Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography, who co-led the excavations that in 2007 unearthed the world’s oldest winery, Areni 1, in the village of Areni in Vayots Dzor. Areni 1 is estimated to be 6100 years old.
● Remembering Gregory E. Areshian - Asbarez.com
Mr. Najarian was the Secretary General of the Kataeb (Phalangist) party of Lebanon, and was killed by the Beirut explosion.
● Montreal businessman among victims of Beirut explosion - Montreal.CTVNews.CA
That concludes our program. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and even your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Please subscribe, like and share our content on your favorite social media platform to help us reach a wider audience. We're available on most popular platforms, including YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and Spotify.
I’m Hovik Manucharyan, and on behalf of everyone in this episode, I wish you a good week. Thank you for listening and talk to you next week.