- Weathering The Storm: “Cancer Of Corruption”, Richard Giragosian
- There Are Problems, But Cooperation Is Possible, David Petrosyan
- Turkey And Azerbaijan: Passion, Principle Or Pragmatism?, Hurriyet, Göksel Bozkurt
- Armenia May No Longer Follow U.S. Lead on Some Issues After Aid Cut-off By Harut Sassounian
- We Get Angry At Sarkozy And Punish Ourselves, Mehmet Ali Birand
- Police Law ’Reform’ Turning Turkey Into Wild West, Yusuf Kanlı
- Should Armenia Withdraw From Turkey Talks? Alisa Gevorgyan
- Nothing Funny About Genocide, Patrick Azadian
- Response To Mr. Moscovici And Weill, Claude Mutafian
- Barouyr Sevak , Eddie Arnavoudian
Weathering The Storm: “Cancer Of Corruption”, Richard Giragosian
For many years, the challenge of corruption in Armenia has been widely accepted as an indisputable fact. But there have been relatively few objective studies actually assessing the state of corruption in Armenia. One of the more notable exceptions to this lack of neutral analysis, however, has been the work of the Transparency International (TI), a global civil society organization leading a network of some 90 local partners and affiliates in fighting against corruption.
In a recent report entitled the “2009 Global Corruption Barometer,” and released on 3 June 2009, Transparency International revealed the findings of a global public opinion survey (available at: www.transparency.org), which found that some 54 percent of respondents believe that “the private sector uses bribes to influence public policy, laws and regulations or, in other words, captures the state.”
Such a perception was even more strongly held within the former Soviet countries, with more than 70 percent of the surveyed pointing “to the existence of state capture in their countries.” For this category, Armenia was second only to Azerbaijan in sharing this perception of “state capture” by corruption. Armenia was also identified in the report as be one of the countries to be “most affected” by “petty bribery,” with some 46 percent of respondents admitting that they or someone in their household “paid a bribe” within the past year.
Yet at the same time, a majority of Armenians also expressed a desire to sacrifice more to fight against corruption, even vowing to “pay more” to buy from “corruption-free companies.” But such optimistic idealism was matched by a realistic sense that the Armenian government was largely ineffective in combating corruption, according to 48 percent of Armenians polled. Moreover, one-third of all respondents named the judiciary as the most corrupt institution, although a significant number of people also expressed the perception that the country’s public official and civil servants, as well as parliament, were also seriously affected by corruption.
The “Cancer of Corruption”
In a broader sense, this specific report merely reveals a deeper problem. Specifically, the real problem centers on the challenge of corruption, not only as an impediment to economic development and good governance, but as a factor in weakening public confidence in the state and its institutions. And coupled with an already entrenched political “crisis of confidence,” the more fundamental relationship between the state and its citizens has become infected by the “cancer of corruption.”
Over the longer term, corruption also weakens the state and its institutions themselves, by undermining legitimacy and eroding credibility, encouraging even greater mistrust of government policies. There are also negative economic implications from corruption, as it denies the government essential tax revenue necessary for vital social spending on education, health care, and pensions, affirming that it is in no way a “victimless crime.” Thus, from this larger perspective, it is corruption that poses one of the most serious threats to Armenian national security and statehood.
But there are some important responses available to the Armenian state to confront the “cancer of corruption,” although any such measures must be bolstered by a sincere strengthening of the rule of law and require the implementation of a careful combination of measures to enhance the independence and accountability of state structures, starting with a focus on creating and strengthening regulatory agencies and bodies.
In contrast to blanket measures endowing the state with more powers, however, the fight against corruption must be carried out by oversight bodies empowered to supervise privatization, the emerging securities markets and to police the economy for monopolies, cartels or trusts. Such regulatory bodies should be independent from, but accountable to the government and governed by norms of transparency and strict oversight. But in reality, the paradox in the Armenian case is the fact that the state itself has already become infected with the cancer of corruption, thereby questioning the viability of such an orthodox prescription.
And given the current reality in Armenia, such a policy prescription can only be effective within a new context of “good governance,” reflecting the prerequisites of transparency, ethics, accountability and competent administration. While these prerequisites are notably lacking in Armenia, it is clear that institutions matter, and judicial independence and meritocracy over favoritism in governance are essential not only to cure the “cancer of corruption” but to also forge a more durable democracy.
Richard Giragosian is the director of the Yerevan-based Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS). “Weathering the Storm" is a weekly column exclusively for ArmeniaNow.
There Are Problems, But Cooperation Is Possible, David Petrosyan, June 15, 2009
The visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on Eurasia Philip Gordon to the South Caucasus region was one of the significant events in the political life of the region and Armenia, in particular. The American diplomat recently appointed to the high post met with representatives of the ruling administration, as well as with the parliamentary opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian in Yerevan. At the press conference the Assistant Secretary of State in a very unequivocal manner made understand that the negotiations on Nagorno Karabakh settlement and on normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations "...cannot go on endlessly." It follows from this that Washington has set some time parameters for settlement, first of all, of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. According to that logic, it can be supposed that other decisions will be made after the expiration of some term "x."
What is the essence of official Yerevan's position:
- the Armenian side agrees to continue the negotiations on the basis of the "Madrid principles," the content of which is only known to a small circle of people in Armenia, not more numerous than the number of fingers on one hand,
- official Yerevan reiterated its position that it agrees to normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations "without preconditions." At that, almost two months ago it was announced that at the negotiations in Geneva, the sides came to an agreement over some "road-map" on normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations, the content of which is also kept secret. Meanwhile, official Yerevan declares that Ankara has no relation to the Nagorno Karabakh settlement. We have very strong doubts that it is the case, as the statements of Turkey's first figures say the opposite.
At the press conference, P. Gordon made clearly understand that nations' right of self-determination, principle of territorial integrity, as well as non-use of force are the basis of the "Madrid principles."
Meanwhile, the Azeri side, at the level of President's administration made an official statement that it is not satisfied with the result of the last I. Aliyev - S. Sargsyan meeting in Saint Petersburg. Though as far as we remember, Baku's first responses on the meeting results were absolutely different.
Such an uncertainty and contradictory character accompanied by absolute secrecy peovide no basis for optimism in the issue of the Nagorno Karabakh settlement. As to normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations, it is only possible if official Yerevan agrees to establish a commission "on historic issues," that is, renounces the demand to recognize the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey in the years of World War I.
Not only the large Armenian Diaspora, but also the opposition, both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary represented by parties Zharangutiun (Heritage) and ARF Dashnaktsutiun, and by the Armenian National Congress (ANC), respectively, are concerned with the later circumstance.
These and other circumstances confirm the fact that these three political forces can establish cooperation on a number of issues.
After the Council of Elders elections in Yerevan, some Zharangutiun members (Zaruhi Postanjian, Armen Martirosian) publicly criticized ANC declaring that it is "not a fully-fledged political force." Meanwhile they blamed ANC that the extra-parliamentary opposition "failed to defend its votes" and called ANC representatives for taking their Yerevan Council of Elders mandates. If these statements were criticism, which the opposition no doubt needs, that criticism, was, to put it mildly, counter-productive.
Zharangutiun leader Raffi Hovannisian also realized this to some extent, as in his recent speech at the parliament, he made an attempt to mitigate the tension that emerged after his fellow party members' speeches. Unlike them, Hovannisian kept in mind the elections at majoritarian electoral district N 15 in the Aragatsotn region two years ago, when by the voting results he even was not among the top three and received only 1220 votes. No one said then that he is not a fully-fledged political figure, as all people of sense in Armenia understood how the elections proceeded at that majoritarian district.
Another thing is important: in his speech R. Hovannisian called the three real political forces in Armenia, ANC, Zharangutiun, and ARFD for cooperation.
Cooperation between Zharangutiun and ANC was formed as early as in 2008 February, during the election campaign on presidential elections and in essence was not interrupted. It is a different matter that ANC as a structure was founded 8 months later, last August. In our opinion, cooperation between ANC and Zharangutiun can be effective in the following spheres:
- restoration of legality and Constitutional order in the country,
- investigation of the events of 2008 March 1 in Yerevan, when 10 people (including 8 civilians) died,
- release of political prisoners and protection of their rights,
- restoration of the completely destroyed electoral system,
- a common or close position on issues of Nagorno Karabakh settlement and Armenian-Turkish relations can be worked out.
One of the disagreements is that Zharangutiun recognizes, true, with some reservations, the legitimacy of President Serzh Sargsyan, whereas ANC categorically does not.
The issue of ANC's cooperation with ARFD is more difficult, though the representative of the latter did not sign the final protocol on Yerevan Council of Elders elections, that is, de facto the party took a step towards restoration of the destroyed electoral system and non-recognition of the results of Yerevan elections.
We do not exclude either, that a common or close position between ANC and ARFD can be elaborated on issues regarding the Nagorno Karabakh settlement and Armenian-Turkish relations.
The disagreements follow from the fact that ARFD is not a radical opposition and continues to efficiently cooperate with S. Sargsyan's administration in a number of important political spheres. In particular:
- ARFD without reserve recognizes Serzh Sargsyan's legitimacy;
- last week ARFD representative Hrayr Karapetian was elected head of the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security, though its previous head, Lieutenant-General Artur Aghabekian, also elected by the traditional party's lists, had renounced his post earlier. Meanwhile the committee is to exercise parliamentary control over the actions of the Police, which does not like the opposition, first of all ANC;
- ARFD representative Armen Rustamian remains Chairman of the NA Committee on Foreign Relations, that is, bears his share of responsibility for policy both on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh settlement and on the whole spectrum of Armenian-Turkish relations;
- ARFD leadership and its parliamentary faction act together with the ruling coalition members in the issue of blocking disclosure of all circumstances of the 2008 March 1 bloody slaughter in the center of Yerevan. This cooperation is based on the fact that, in the opinion of ANC, ex-President R. Kocharian was mainly guilty of this terrible crime, and ARFD had been supporting him for ten years and has not broken off its relations with him up to now. De facto ARFD's cooperation with the ruling coalition in the issue of blocking real investigation of the 2008 March 1 events proceeds within the framework of the parliamentry committee headed by RPA member Samvel Nikoyan,
- the position of member of the PACE Armenian delegation Armen Rustamian on issue of official Yerevan's fulfilling PACE Resolutions NN 1609, 1620, and 1643 indeed hardly differs from that of representatives of ruling coalition parties,
- ARFD does not recognize as political prisoners those ANC supporters (more than 50 people) who are in imprisoned and does not demand their release within the framework of PACE resolutions. Moreover, last week member of the Public Council under the President, famous actor and ARFD member Sos Sargsian (he was presidential candidate from the traditional Armenian party in 1991) stated that the imprisoned opposition supporters are "ordinary criminals."
Thus, it is quite obvious that, in spite of the above mentioned rhetoric of Zharangutiun members, objectively its approaches are closer to that of ANC than to the position of ARFD. It is obvious that Zharangutiun's cooperation with ANC would be closer and more effective than cooperation of these two with ARFD. However, we do not exclude that the traditional Armenian party can still revise its position on some of the above mentioned points, which will contribute to further rapprochement of these three subjects of the opposition political field.
"The Noyan Tapan Highlights" N23, June, 2009
--David Petrosyan is a political analyst in Yerevan, Armenia, and writes a regular weekly column in Noyan Tapan. He also provides weekly analyses to the Armenian service of SBS Radio in Australia, and written for a variety of Russian language political newspapers.
Turkey And Azerbaijan: Passion, Principle Or Pragmatism? , Hurriyet, Göksel Bozkurt
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, five Turkic nations became independent and Turkey postured to fill the power vacuum. Mostly, this backfired. Eager for independence, these new nations did not want to be patronized and Turkey was ill prepared to understand the power dynamics and social affinities in these countries. Moreover, domestic political and economic problems consumed Ankara throughout the 1990s, making Turkey a confusing partner to deal with. The country’s coalition government changed on a yearly basis, each with a different vision for the region: A Turkish nationalist party representative would travel with a pan-Turkic agenda while a member of Parliament from an Islamic party would advocate religious unity.
By the end of the decade, the Turkish military was viewed as the most reliable and predictable counterpart in the country. It did not take long for Russia to reconsolidate its position, leaving Turkey with a limited sphere of influence. But there were also successes. As a counterbalance to Russia and Iran, Turkey’s presence in the region was largely supported by the United States. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline was a major accomplishment in this sense and Turkey’s overt intent to become an energy hub has since become a significant part of its strong relations with Azerbaijan.
In Central Asia, though, most of the momentum fizzled. This is the backdrop against which a Turkish NGO leader said last week, explaining why Turkey should not allow relations with Azerbaijan to spiral downward: "Azerbaijan is the last one left. Central Asia has been long lost. If Azerbaijan slips away too, it will be the final and complete blow to the Turkic solidarity rhetoric sounded so boldly by Turkey in the early 1990s."
It is important to recognize that the recent questioning in Azerbaijan of Turkey’s central standing reaches beyond the feeling that Turkey has betrayed Azerbaijan in its dealings with Armenia. Many politicians, diplomats and analysts have also been taken aback by other shifts in Turkey’s foreign policy in areas such as energy and Black Sea politics. Turkey is expected to use its pivotal position to counterbalance Russia in the region Ğ to at least protect the existing equilibrium rather than tilting the balance further in favor of Moscow.
However, Turkey has moved on to a new paradigm in foreign policy, with more case-by-case basis pragmatism and new ambitions toward being a stand-alone regional power. Lessons have been learned after Turkey blatantly confronted Russia’s interests in the region and, as a result, lost more ground. Moreover, there is skepticism within the Turkish diplomatic corps about the long-term prospects of Western leverage in the region. The continuing emotional rhetoric of absolute unity of purpose between Turkey and Azerbaijan has masked the gradual, but growing divergences.
Disappointment was the most pronounced feeling one could ascertain on the streets of Baku after the Aug. 2008 Russia-Georgia war. "Azerbaijan is not strong enough, but we thought Turkey had the clout to speak out louder about the strangling nature of Russia’s policies in the region," one Azerbaijani said.
Months later, another young Azerbaijani commented: "Who is Turkey courting and why? It is so hard to understand. When [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan took a strong stance on Gaza and stormed out of the panel with President Peres in Davos, was this passion and principle, or was it pragmatism Ğ and which of these apply to us?"
If the card of shared religion is to be invoked as a uniting factor, one again enters a gray area, as local authorities do not necessarily receive Turkish religious initiatives in Azerbaijan positively. In the town of Sheki in northern Azerbaijan, the only Turkish presence is a school founded by the Gülen movement and locals are divided in their opinions about this establishment.
On the other hand, Turkey’s staunch secularist circles have not left a positive impression in Azerbaijan either. Apparently addressing students in Baku, a Turkish education minister underlined the threat of girls wearing headscarves in university, a comment that triggered a rebellious reaction: The next day, there were many more young women wearing the headscarf in class. "You are exporting your problems to us, not solutions," one diplomat commented. Whether this is an accurate depiction of reality or not, the articulation of Turkey’s influence is telling.
Though there have been successful examples of collaboration in the business sphere, many commercial endeavors have been based on crony relationships and have brought the worst business practices of both countries to the fore, damaging reputations in the process.
Azerbaijani opposition sympathizers from time to time express the grievance that Turkey disregards the real interests of the people by not advocating on human-rights issues or supporting opposition movements in Azerbaijan. In fact, in the 1990s, when Turkey did meddle in Azerbaijani domestic politics Ğ in some cases, using fascist tactics Ğ it was in support of Turkic nationalists that did not have the capacity to survive the domestic and regional challenges they faced at the time.
Azerbaijan has also made questionable choices when it comes to nurturing close relations with people in Turkey. For example, among the ultra-nationalists who are now in dire straits as Turkey cracks down on shady gang-like structures, there are a disproportionate number of advocates of Azerbaijan. Turkey’s domestic power balance has been changing dramatically since the turn of the century. Choices of arguments to make and individuals to liaise with in Turkey made in the 1990s are no longer optimal in Turkey’s current setting. The new realities require a new approach.
Few Azerbaijanis grasp the role the Armenian issue plays in Turkey’s ongoing social and political transformation. And few Turks are aware of how unpredictable Turkey has come across over the years when viewed from Baku, or how Turkey’s various policy moves affect Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. This is why, when faced with the prospect of normalization between Turkey and Armenia in April 2009, negative rhetoric could be so rapidly sparked in the public debate in both Turkey and Azerbaijan. The rhetoric of the two countries being indivisible has prevented an acknowledgement that mutual understanding must be worked on, and has set the stage for mutually unreasonable expectations. Recent tensions should be a wake-up call to various layers in both countries’ policy communities.
Nigar Goksel is a senior analyst at the European Stability Initiative and editor in chief of Turkish Policy Quarterly. This piece was published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or GMF, as part of the "On Turkey" series on June 4. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the GMF or the Daily News.
Armenia May No Longer Follow U.S. Lead on Some Issues After Aid Cut-off By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier
For more than a year, Armenia ´s leaders have been operating under the false impression that accommodating Washington on some issues would provide economic and political benefits, shield them from accusations of democratic shortcomings, and convince the West not to support their domestic opponents.
Based on such wishful thinking, the Armenian government made repeated efforts to please the United States . For example, last year, when Marie Yovanovitch was nominated by Pres. Bush to become the next Ambassador to Armenia , State Department officials asked Armenia to use its contacts in Washington in order to facilitate her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. They feared that she would suffer the same fate as her predecessor, Richard Hoagland, whose nomination had been blocked by the Senate at the urging of the Armenian-American community. The Armenian government obliged, probably hoping that the new Ambassador and the United States would reciprocate by showing goodwill towards Yerevan on certain critical issues.
Another issue on which Armenia went to great lengths to accommodate Washington was engaging in negotiations with its historic arch-enemy Turkey in order to open the border and establish diplomatic relations. While Yerevan believed that doing so was also in its own best interest, U.S. officials were the driving force behind these negotiations, particularly after it became apparent that the Turkish government had no interest in carrying out honest discussions with Armenia and no intention of opening the border. Both Turkey and the United States benefited greatly from the false impression created by these negotiations. Turkey managed to undermine Pres. Obama´s campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide on April 24. In return, Washington was able to secure Turkey ´s commitment to support U.S. policies in Afghanistan , Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Armenia , on the other hand, received no tangible benefits. In fact, its repeated optimistic pronouncements regarding the progress of the negotiations helped both Turkey and the United States to look good in the eyes of the world. Besides not gaining anything, the Armenian government jeopardized the support of its powerful Diaspora and large segments of its own population. Furthermore, the ARF -- one of the four parties constituting the Armenian government -- left the ruling coalition following a joint public announcement by Armenia and Turkey on the eve of April 24. Pres. Obama cited the supposed progress made in Armenian-Turkish negotiations in his April 24 statement in order to avoid making an explicit reference to the Armenian Genocide.
It is now clear to the Armenian government that Washington had no intention of accommodating Armenia either on economic and political matters or on its democratic shortcomings. The amount of foreign aid recently proposed by the Obama Administration for Armenia is 38% less than last year's. Another U.S. aid program, provided by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), was reduced by almost one third -- $67 million -- citing the country´s failure to comply with its eligibility criteria. The MCC bases its aid decision on 16 different indicators which recipient countries are committed to uphold.
It is distressing that such standards have to be imposed on Armenia by a foreign country. Raising the living standards of the population is in the Armenian people´s own interest. It is the obligation of the Armenian government to make such improvements, without waiting to do so, under the threat of losing foreign aid.
The most immediate impact of the cancellation of the MCC´s rural road program will be felt by Armenia ´s destitute farmers who need an improved infrastructure to grow, transport and sell their produce.
It is not known what direction Armenia ´s leaders will follow as a result of the above setbacks. Will they strive to improve their compliance with the MCC criteria or will they completely give up on that program?
This latest development may have far reaching and unintended consequences beyond Armenia ´s farmers. Armenia ´s leaders may conclude that catering to the U.S. is going to neither provide a cover for the regime´s shortcomings in the area of democratic governance nor result in any tangible benefits to the country in terms of opening the border with Turkey .
The negotiations with Turkey , already stalled due to unacceptable pre-conditions advanced by Ankara , may now be completely disrupted.
The Armenian government may formally abandon its nominal policy of complementarity between east and west and rely more heavily than ever before on Russia and Iran .
Finally, it is unfortunate that the MCC decision comes on the eve of Amb. Yovanovitch´s first trip to Armenian communities in the United States , later this month. During her visit, she is likely to encounter public resentment that the U.S. government is practicing a double-standard by lowering proposed foreign aid levels to Armenia and increasing those of Azerbaijan which enjoys huge oil revenues and is in no need of U.S. handouts. There is also a double-standard vis-à-vis Georgia , as the latter remains the recipient of MCC aid despite its lack of compliance with several MCC criteria.
Amb. Yovanovitch may also face criticism from large segments of the Armenian-American community, given Pres. Obama's failure to keep his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide. This is not the Ambassador´s fault. However, given the fact that she represents the United States , she will automatically become the target of all criticism directed at the Obama Administration.
We Get Angry At Sarkozy And Punish Ourselves
French President Sarkozy now constantly uses Turkey as material for domestic politics. He is looking for a way to receive votes from the extreme right wing by opposing Europe’s expansion and intimidating foreigners. And a short cut to this goal is to oppose Turkey’s full membership. This scenario was repeated in the European Parliament elections.
Prime Minister Erdoğan became very angry over this.
And he is right in showing this reaction.
But this time he sent the message to the wrong audience.
He reacted to the "Turkey Season" that will start on July 1 in Marseille and continue until 2010.
President Gül supported the prime minister and cancelled a dinner that was planned to collect lots of money from companies and organizations.
This program that will cost millions of euros and includes 352 different shows ranging from concerts by Dede, to sultan’s robes at the Louvre museum, to Ramadan nights full of entertainment.
The majority of the expenses were to be covered by the French government and the private sector.
There was no important contribution by Turkey. In summary, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I can neither accept the prime minister’s nor the president’s method of punishment.
I agree with Erdal Şafak at the daily Sabah and İsmet Berkan at the daily Radikal.
The initiator of this project, aiming only to promote Turkey, is former President Chirac. The purpose of this project is to change Turkey’s former image and to popularize it in the eyes of the French.
Sarkozy first opposed the "Turkey Season." He planned to cancel it but with the interference of influential people like Pierre Lellouch he backed off.
Now if the prime minister retreats from this project, who will win and who will lose?
The French probably won’t feel sorrow for not having the chance to get to better know Turkey.
The prime minister complains that France is acting like "they are being so kind."
A very wrong attitude.
Let Sarkozy work against Turkey for his domestic politics or his country’s long-term benefits in Germany.
And Turkey will in exchange do its own math. But it is extremely wrong to punish Sarkozy in a different area, knowing this will turn against Turkey.
This means to "punish oneself and cut the branch you sit on."
I hope our dear prime minister changes this attitude.
Note: when this article was about to be produced I saw an announcement in the daily Radikal that read, "Head Negotiator Egemen Bağış convinced Prime Minister Erdoğan in this matter and the ’Turkey Season’ project in France will proceed."
This announcement signed by Hilal Köylü is definitely correct. And for this I congratulate Egemen Bağış as well.
Mehmet Ali Birand © Copyright 2008 Hürriyet
Police Law ’Reform’ Turning Turkey Into Wild West
The Turkish Human Rights Foundation, or TİHV, has released a new report documenting the great strides Turkey has achieved since the law covering the "duty" and "powers" of the police was "reformed."
According to the report, the new "shoot to kill" law has made Turkey a more "secure" place to live. If some "cannot" manage to stay alive in this "high-security country," could that be a failure of the police? I used an extensive summary of the report provided by the "independent communications network" Bianet on its Web site, www.bianet.org, and checked the facts over the phone.
The report alleges that over the past two years, a total of 13 Turks died at detention houses, while 40 people were fatally shot by bullets fired from police guns. In other words, a total of 53 people lost their lives to alleged police violence. Confrontations during police raids on residences were said to have wounded an additional 53 people.
Naturally, as the TİHV report highlights as well, under international norms, police have the right to use weapons only when there is a close and serious threat either to the life of the officer or the life of other people. However, with the June 2007 "reform" made to the law on the duties and powers of the police, the powers of the police force were expanded so "liberally," and these powers so liberally applied, that there are widespread claims of Turkey turning into the Wild West.
Besides the 13 deaths that occurred under detention, the 40 deaths by police bullets and the 53 people wounded, there are claims of 416 cases of torture and mistreatment by police during the past two years. These cases includes 230 accusations of brutal beating, 57 of insulting, 47 of gassing, 34 of threats, 11 of the use of cold or pressurized water, five of death threats, three of keeping detainees in cold and dark places, two of depriving them of food and water, two of rape with truncheons, two of forcing people stay motionless on their knees, two of forcing people to wait naked and several of insulting verbal attacks. The list continues.
According to the TİHV report, what is even more painful is the unfortunate fact that 168 of those alleged cases of torture and mistreatment by police did indeed happen on the streets, while 109 cases happened in detention houses.
"It is being understood from these data, examined together with the individual case stories, that the security forces, while trying to stop people or conducting a search, asking for identity cards or in taking preemptive measures to prevent a crime, in the transportation vehicles or during detention have been frequently applying excessive and disproportional force, engaged in acts of torture and ill-treatment," the foundation underscores in its report.
Over the past two years, the report says, a total of 331 "incidents" happened in 47 provinces. Consequently, a total of 1,605 people were deprived of their various rights, which were thus violated by the police, the report alleges.
The foundation’s report also underscores that the violation of individuals’ rights since the changes were made in the law on the duties and powers of the police in June 2007 demonstrates that those violations were not "exceptional," but indeed were "systematic" and widespread throughout the country.
Why was the law on the duties and powers of the police amended? The police were complaining that their powers had been curtailed due to the European Union reforms and that their fight against crime had thus been compromised. "We are working day and night, capturing thieves, but after the EU reforms, courts are releasing the thieves," top police officers complained at the time. "We cannot fight crime with this law."
So they were given more power. Perhaps they were given excessive power and the law was turned into "shoot to kill" legislation. What was the end result? Common crimes still continue to increase, as do complaints of excessive and disproportionate use of force by police, and allegations of police killings.
Will the government reconsider after this latest report whether it was a mistake to make the "reform" to the police law in 2007? If not, how many more people need to be killed for such a reassessment to be made?
Yusuf Kanlı © Copyright 2008 Hürriyet
Should Armenia Withdraw From Turkey Talks? Alisa Gevorgyan, "Radiolur" 19.06.2009
Armenia should refuse from the negotiations with Turkey in order to come out of the current situation with minimal losses, since the normalization of relations "without preconditions" is obviously failing, Head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau's Hay Dat and Political Affairs Office Kiro Manoyan and political scientist Yervand Bozoyan told a press conference today. They are assured that Armenia has only suffered in the process, while the situation is rather advantageous for Turkey.
According to Kiro Manoyan, after the joint statement Armenia and Turkey released on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the Turkish steps have been countering the spirit of that declaration, since the later has declared many times that ratification of any document on the establishment of diplomatic relations is impossible until the settlement of the Karabakh issue.
Kiro Manoyan considers that today Armenia has serious grounds to declare that it is withdrawing form the talks: Turkey does not adhere to the principle of establishing relations without preconditions.
Political scientist Yerevan Bozoyan is also confident that continuing the talks with Turkey under these conditions is senseless and dangerous.
According to him, one should not ignore the fact that Armenia-Turkey relations are asymmetric, and obviously the ou ter pressures will impose concessions on Armenia first. He is assured that the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations is already frozen, and today it's only Turkey that benefits from the process.
Nothing Funny About Genocide Patrick Azadian, Glendale News Press June 16 2009 CA
Last month, Bill Handel, the KFI AM 640 radio talk show host, got himself into a little tangle because of how his show unfolded.
During the "crazy over-the-top" parody show, it was argued that if we had 50% fewer people in this country, some of our economic problems would be solved. The tired old clichÃ© of closing the borders to solve all domestic problems was on the agenda.
According to Handel, "If we practice, for example, really enforcing our borders," we may all be able to improve our standards of living.
Immigrants, or those who are perceived to be immigrants, can be great scapegoats. To some, whether it is the grand mismanagement of the economy, crime, the overburdened health-care system or unemployment, those who look a little different than the majority are easy targets.
During this particular show, Handel chose to jump on the bandwagon of the "blame game." And somehow, the Armenian Americans were chosen as the source for some of the social, economic and health-care problems of the entire country. Funny, indeed.
The show and Handel went on to claim: "Get rid of, let's say, Armenians and sell Glendale, we'd be in better shape."
Apparently, Handel and his crew need some help in math, as getting rid of Armenian Americans would not reduce the population of the United States by 50%. Perhaps he would have been better off picking on a more populous and more established minority group. But then, that may have been costly for his career.
After receiving a complaint from a listener, Handel was still unrepentant and took his tasteless joke to yet another level. Referring to the Armenian Genocide, the show's board operator, Lara Hermanson, said "What the Turks started, Handel will finish!"
I understand the attempt at the crazy, over-the-top humor. I get it, but I still think it was tasteless and too risky. And the immediate aftermath did not help resolve the matter.
Handel continued to be unapologetic, hiding behind his past support for official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. To demonstrate his point, he shed some light on his trip to Turkey, where he "almost" got into a fistfight when a tour guide questioned whether the Armenian Genocide happened.
I am not sure what "almost" suggests, but as a person whose grandparents were victims of the Holocaust, nothing less should be expected from Handel. His outrage at the denial efforts of the Turkish state is no excuse for irresponsible remarks on his show.
Jokes on mass murder are not welcome, nor should they be tolerated.
It took Handel and Hermanson just about a month to issue official apologies after a meeting with the representatives of the Armenian community. For now, everyone is on the same wavelength -- genocide is no joking matter.
There is a silver lining in all this. The dialogue established with KFI may lead to a commitment to public education regarding all acts of genocide.
I don't personally believe that Handel is a bigot. But sometimes, it doesn't matter what goes on in someone's head when the words can be perceived as bigoted and energize individuals who are looking for an excuse to be intolerant. As a media personality, Handel's words have more power than others' and the consequences of his show can influence large groups and communities.
Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide gets a fair amount of attention during City Council meetings in April, but Handel's statements of intolerance should also be addressed officially, diligently and in a timely manner.
Handel had potentially insulted a good number of the city's residents, so where was the City Council? Individuals should not only take responsibility, but also understand the consequences of their statements -- and their silence.
â~@~BPATRICK AZADIAN is a writer, Glendale resident and the director of admissions at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia.
Response To Mr. Moscovici And Weill, 6 June 2009, Ara / armenews
In Le Monde dated 2 June 2009, MM. Moscovici Weill and engage in a heartfelt plea, common in European Socialists, for "the integration of Ankara in the EU". Of course, if the right is opposed to this entry in Europe is waving arguments mainly geographical and religious because our authors have denounced. That said, the Socialists are wrong: it is not because the reasons given by the right are inadmissible that we must blindly take an opposite view. Such a view ignores Manicheism other positions, such as Turkey in Europe, why not, in principle, but not the present-day Turkey. However, the "accession criteria set by the European Union," as we read briefly at the end of the article are largely inadequate. Start with the tune of Turkey "only secular state in Muslim-majority world." It does not withstand the most elementary analysis. In the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal founded the nation state on two concepts. The first was actually secularism with the burner of Islam, but this positive Kemalism is daily trampled upon by the current power, openly Islamist - not Islamic, the difference is size - even if forged, to give good conscience, the concept of moderate Islamism without wanting to realize the blatant contradiction between the two words. Does not undermine Islam as the famous writer Nedim Gürsel is sued? The number of women who wear the veil, often leaving shows that the slot of the eyes, does he not one day to another in Turkey? They are more numerous on the shores of the Bosphorus to Damascus! Why MM. Gül and Erdogan are they not accompanied by their wives in the European visits, if not because they are veiled? Afraid, by showing, to hinder their European supporters who could not longer veil ... eyes? The secular Turkey is well and truly in agony, but it is worse blind as those who will not see.
One looks in vain in this article a few words that could hamper the advocacy of writers, such as Cyprus, Kurds, Greeks or Armenians. Thus, as an argument against the objection geographically, they prefer to invoke curiously Malta, a member of the Union that "geographically closer to Africa than to Europe, rather than Cyprus, yet classic and much better, which is most eastern longitude Ankara. Is it to avoid having to mention an island militarily invaded by Turkey only 35 years? Since 1974 the northern third of this republic member of the European Union is still occupied by Turkey, who carried out the almost total liquidation of any Greek presence.
This is the second founding concept of Kemalism, which is much less glorious than the first: Turkey for the Turks. This slogan implies ethnic cleansing accompanied by falsified a rewriting of the history of Asia Minor, a land largely multiethnic there is still a century, particularly with very large populations Kurdish, Greek and Armenian present for millennia, although before the arrival of the Turks. What are they like? If there are several million Kurds, they have since the late 1920s, victims of a bloody political repression and assimilation, which continues today and thousands of their villages have already been destroyed. The Greeks themselves have been totally wiped off the map, expelled and / or exchanged after the Great War. The fact remained that a more significant minority in Istanbul in September 1955 when false rumors gave the signal for a new massacre, followed by the exodus of the survivors, it reduced the trimillénaire Greek presence in Asia Minor to a few hundred individuals. The article should better take into account the history when they rely on Homer and the churches of Cappadocia to say that Turkey is not "culturally alien to Europe: the remains of the culture of a people massacred and expelled under their feathers become evidence of the assimilation of this culture by his executioner!
As for Armenians, MM. Moscovici and Weill can not ignore that they have also completely disappeared from Asia Minor, they were victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century and still fiercely denied by both the Kemalist secular Turkey that the Islamist current power. The fact remains that tens of thousands in Istanbul, and most famous, Hrant Dink, was murdered in the street in broad daylight and there are more than two years. Since then, the authorities are doing everything to frustrate the inquiry: would they be afraid of the truth?
Should the authors make a trip to Turkey punctuated by two hits. In Istanbul, on "Freedom Hill" overlooking the Bosphorus near the Florence Nightingale hospital, they will see two mausoleums built respectively in 1943 and 1996 to honor the memory of the two main perpetrators of this genocide, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pacha. In Igdir, in the eastern part of the country, they can read in memory of 90 000 Turks massacred by the Armenian bands at the foot of a high column, which was officially inaugurated in 1999 and defy the descendants of genocide survivors who live in Armenia neighbor.
The Turkey in Europe? No thank you.
Claude Mutafian Doctor of History
Barouyr Sevak , Eddie Arnavoudian, June 15, 2009
PART ONE: the poet as political activist
`I am a postcard, addressed to the world!
Do not envelope me, do not shut and seal me!'
Barouyr Sevak (1924-1972) has been acclaimed as one of the great Armenian poets of the 20th century. But he has also been judged a mere versifying propagandist and even a miserable plagiarist. Not surprisingly partisan dispute continues well into the post-Soviet age. A roaring celebration of human creativity and passions, Sevak's poetry is at the same time a forthright assault on the moral corruption of all social elites that distort the existences of men and women, suppressing their creativity and reducing them to passivity. Sevak's offensive that was so telling against the corrupt Soviet elite remains as powerful against those of today whose immorality, greed, egoism and indifference to the fate of the common man and woman often puts their predecessors in the shade.
As with any prolific and socially committed poet Sevak is hugely uneven. But at his best he is a sort of Herbert Marcuse of poetry devoting himself to the business of humanising a dehumanised world, to the business of liberating alienated individuality and recovering a lost sense of communal solidarity. He dreamt that we would one day `return to ourselves, we...to ourselves' so that once again `humans can be human to humans'. Announcing himself as `a builder of joy', a `salesman of deep delights', a `corner shop of healthy laughter' and a `half closed store of smiles' Sevak set about `smashing all the chains that restrain the spirit'. Driven by the instinct to challenge and risk he was ready to even `leap and dance upon even the wobbly collapsing bridge'. `No lines of mine will imprison thought'. Even if my `hand is denied a pen', it `makes no difference' `I will not stop singing... to refute the lie' so that `man and woman, with spirit free, can nurture and cradle their hopes for the future'.
Sevak wrote primarily to contest the abuses of the Soviet elites. But in poetry that has a remarkable capacity to focus essential human relations free of all ephemeral detail his better poetry speaks to the 21st century man and woman as effectively as it did to his own contemporaries. Propelled by an overwhelming love of his fellow man and woman, by `love before everything, and love after everything, always love' Sevak assails all that is inauthentic and the false. Today above the racket of consumerism that threatens to silence the music of the soul we can still hear his powerful call to arms. In opposition to the contemporary transformation of emotion into commodity, to the hypocrisies of our politicians, the deceits of commercialism and the lies of its advertising agents Sevak's song of authentic humanity is as beautiful and as wise as it ever was.
I. BATTLE AGAINST THE USURPERS
Barouyr Sevak could hardly restrain from expressing his abhorrence for the morally degenerate Soviet bureaucrat, the apparatchik, the sycophant:
`The thousand believers, all false believers
The thousand believers, all lying believers'
Well before the post-Stalin Soviet thaw he had noted something amiss in Armenian society, hinting clearly at the decay, the falsity and the fraudulence that was afoot:
`It was the same old monastery
But it did not look saintly anymore
It was the same bell that sounded
But there was falsehood in the resonance.
Sevak was to thereafter devote himself to exposing those responsible - the political elite, the party leadership and their henchmen all of whom concealed ugly selfish ambition with the ideology and rhetoric of those collective principles of life they were themselves destroying. Their professions of socialist faith were nothing but self-legitimating deceptions, `endlessly recited and calculated prayers learnt off-by-heart to delude not themselves but you!'
Ideological declarations were fabrications and slogans of social solidarity and internationalism mere clouds that spread a `darkness that without thread and needle has sewn up our eyes, and even mixed its colour into our blood.' The men in power, at the head of the state, in control of the media, publishing, industry, culture, education:
Speak in the name of the sea of society
But flow towards their private lake.
They are all `burdens upon the back of the world' removed from the lives of the common people. They `never risk or sacrifice', and have `never once experienced sleep on a damp floor'. Cruel and greedy graspers they:
`would wreck another's home
for the for the sake of a single beam
they want for themselves'.
To secure their own privilege they made of society a system of `poisonous moulds in which men and women have been forced to live'.
As heartless and selfish as their masters are the army of fawning sycophants ready to even interrupt and tell `a child mourning his parent's death with some sorrowful tone' `that he sings out of tune'. The lot of them, bureaucrats, opportunists, careerists and sycophants are:
Liars. They love neither their father nor their mother
Neither child nor grandchild is valued
More than anything and above all else
He loves in love, his status/chair
Reserving the utmost contempt for those who remained passive in the face of this abuse, for:
`...the dog, who though
Ceaselessly kicked by a vicious master
Licks this master's feet,
Instead of biting the beating torturing limb
He merely moans
Sevak called on all to join him in `disputing the label that is not appropriate but still sticks stubbornly and refuses to be removed'. He urged all to challenge illicit privilege - that `legacy that has been purchased not inherited', to expose fraudulent ideological legitimisation - `the paint that merely covers but does not renew' and to expose the self-appointed guardians of society - those `lookouts that sleep instead of watch'. To live within the `moulds they have fashioned' and `to buy their false goods' with `their false money' was an insult to one's dignity and integrity. Sevak refused to `shut his eyes endlessly, helplessly and simple-mindedly as if dead'. (76:12).
I am no longer prepared to participate in this
Not in the game
Nor in the sacrificial offering
If that which is being skinned
For the health of the `sea of society' Sevak sought to eradicate the egoisms of power, to put an end to secret selfish plots, to hypocrisy, opportunist careerism and obsequious crawling. He prayed for the elimination of this stratum:
`If you are God
Blow out all their candles
Extinguish all their lanterns
Put out all their fires
So that there can be light!
Light, so that men and women can be free to flourish, so that from `the heat of the light and from its silent beat, every dream yet to be fired can burst forth to bloom'.
For all his angry criticism of the Soviet elite Sevak was not however an anti-socialist dissident. He did not question the political, the economic or the ideological foundations of society. His focus is the behaviour, the moral conduct, of the elite that he held responsible for subverting the egalitarian principles that underpinned Soviet society. Sevak's ambition was not revolutionary transformation of existing structures and foundations but their cleansing.
`Do not fear
To scrape clean the rusted mug
The mug will not be destroyed.'
This rust is defined clearly as the pitting of the corrupt elite's narrow, minority selfish interest against that of the broad collective and common interest. Reminding us of the medieval Armenian poets, Sevak's own moral passion represented a formidable threat to Soviet officialdom, not only because he was not an anti-socialist and could not therefore be dismissed and persecute Sevak as a counter-revolutionary but because he wove in his poetry and persuasively so both a vision of possibilities outside the `poisonous moulds' and an affirmation of individual and collective potential and capacity to reach beyond.
II. THE POWER AND POTENTIAL OF THE HUMAN
Sevak had unshakeable `faith in men and women's dreams'. `Dreams are called dreams and they are deemed impossible only because they are yet to be realised.' With `no respect for resurrection that ends only with ascension' to heaven rather than `with a return to life' he insisted that:
`Man/woman could feel the beauty and the delight with him/herself
That was akin to the grand music in the cathedral
That was like the light on a master painting
Like the toy in a child's hand.
To the horror of the bureaucrat of his day Sevak communicated this conviction contagiously and as unquestionable truth.
In the faith and the optimism there was nothing bookish. It was born of witnessing those colossally creative and energetic efforts of men and women rebuilding and celebrating life even as they crossed its cruellest paths. Witnessing human striving to surmount barbarism enabled Sevak to see beyond the ugliness and the alienation, the prostration and the defeat.
I not only know
That it is impossible to imprison the sun
In his early poetry he registers the recovery of the Armenian people from the 1915 Genocide and the recovery of the Soviet people from the barbarism of Nazi invasion. Here Sevak brought freshness to subjects dulled by mediocre handling and by the prevailing formulaic and turgid didacticism. In characteristically unusual and catching images he depicts the Soviet Armenian state as the `surviving and enduring witness to slaughter', as the `sands that have absorbed' the `waters of sorrow'. The new Armenian state in its strength and stability is a rebuff to the Young Turks:
A limpid eye when the crying has stopped, and
The imposing testimony to justice
Though not old enough to fight at the front during World War II, Sevak's reaction was poetically and politically sophisticated. `The Fallen', with touches that recall Daniel Varoujean, echoes no arid abstractions of national glory but the vital, immediate life preserving dreams of the common man and woman. They fight the war not for the glory of the abstract flag but so that:
Henceforth there be not a single chair
Either at tea-time or dinner
In any family whatsoever
That cries out its emptiness
They fell so that:
Instead of the thunder of grenades
Instead of the awesome flame of fires
They would hear
The sound of the silver spade
And the hot whisper of longing
The Genocide and World War II certainly registered the destructive and the brutal in the contradictory structure of man/woman. But neither could eradicate or fatally suppress an opposite potential for grandeur. Genocide and Nazism had freed Sevak of illusions but they did not cause him to `despair in human lapses'. However dark the past and even the present, men and women by their very nature retain the `potential to cleanse themselves the way the ocean cleanses itself'. They have indeed shown that they `know how to destroy', but they have also shown that they `know how to build'. `With one hand they will extinguish the light of life, but with the other they will light the camp fire'. `The same hand that thrust in the knife writes a novel'. The `same hands that pen the notes of betrayal also produce the richest of gifts' (57:6) for its neighbour.
Post-Genocide and post-Nazi recovery generated his `hope in human nature' and his faith in the `endlessly repeated renewal of humanity in the image of its children. They `armed' Sevak's hope `in the living man and woman and even more so in their child yet to be born'. In its rich abstraction an early poem dedicated to the Armenian revival can be read as his credo of the durability of intrinsic human nobility.
`You are like your grapevines and your grapes.
They have broken you up and buried you in the soil.
But when the cold of winters passed
Your buried roots have burst powerful shoots.
Your bent branches are again erect
And if you bent again, then
With the weight of those diamond grapes
That are cracked open from your sweetness
Whilst your bitterness...has become wine.
The same conviction is registered in a later poem honouring the ones:
Who have faltered and fallen
Fallen, but never brought down to your knees
But have crawled back to scramble from peak to peak
III. POET OR PAMPHLETEER?
It is often argued that socially engaged, polemical and didactic poetry, however brilliantly written, is condemned to remain meagre as art having little purchase beyond the era of is composition. Sevak himself gives encouragement to the aesthetic disqualification of committed poetry in a comment on 19th century Armenian poets Smbat Shahaziz and Kamar Katiba. Noting their immensely valuable social and patriotic contribution, he adds nevertheless, that given the `publicist' character their poetry `it would be stupidity...to insist that...it had any artistic merit.'
Whatever Sevak's qualifications, he himself however `could not reject publicist poetry, even if I wished to.' He was after all first and foremost a man of action and social being. He hurled himself with unbridled enthusiasm into public life driven by a sense of duty to community and society. For him the artist, the writer, the poet and the person of exceptional talent could not remain indifferent to the fate of his/her fellow beings. The poet he writes must be `a willing servant of the people' ready to risk everything, even at the expense of being `condemned to eternal darkness'. At the service of the people the poet as `a new ambassador of the ancient gods working:
`So that you attain sight of the shores of truth
So that you realise the treachery of the concealed lie
So that you do not fear nor falter
And whip the face of injustice
In its essence poetry and literature in general is framed by terms of social morality and social responsibility.
That which is called literature
Is not a diplomatic mission
Where you feel and think one thing
And say another.
And if you are an ambassador
Then an ambassador for life,
To be sure for life today,
But more so for life in the future
It is in the name of this future that the poet must be an eternal, perpetual critic. The poet:
Cannot, in any way what so ever love
The kings of any and all ages
Who seek to destroy them not only by exile and imprisonment
But by inviting them to the palace
And...declaring false love.
For Sevak such intervention and engagement is assumed in the very act of creativity. Even as the artist `sits alone, she/he talks with the whole of humanity', helps `free ourselves from ourselves', `unites us with ourselves' and then `unites us with the grandeur of the unknown.' Such views do not of course make Sevak's poetry popular with intellectual and artist elites of our day who are not inclined to challenge kings and quite the contrary happily rest in his royal court consuming the rich crumbs from his table.
In our own times the poet as political activist has become rather unfashionable, reflecting perhaps contemporary elite fear of and contempt for the collective and public sphere. Yet the pubic, social and collective sphere, despite claims of the elite's ideological fashion designers, remains as central to human and individual existence as that of the private. The fundamental reality of human interdependence remains. To live genuinely demands an engagement with the community in which one exists, with one's fellow men and women and with the fortunes of society of which individuals are part. The world of art would be that much poorer if literature and poetry are disqualified from the battle to uphold collective, communal social solidarity as a condition of all life.
Sevak, along with countless others walks in the tradition of Milton, credited in a recent biography to have `almost single-handedly created the identity of the writer as a political activist'. A reviewer's remark on this biography by Anna Beer could with necessary qualification apply to the best of Sevak's as well, noting as it does a: `...fully armed assault on corruption' characterised at its best with a `peerless combination of imaginative reach and political analysis...and its marvellous organ-blast hymn to (and vigilant support of) liberty.'
IV. SEVAK THE POET
Baroury Sevak's particular achievement was to be simultaneously poet and pamphleteer, artist and social critic. He successfully removes barriers between art and politics, between emotion and reason, between the private and the social to produce poetry that with its critical edge is also a glorification of all life - social, communal and individual. This merging of the public, political and social polemic with a celebration of life is thrilling because it draws its strength not from some intellectual system, not from the desire to impose some alternative political or social theory but by the impulses of passion, creativity and pleasure. As he raged against suffocating oppressive authority and its immorality, he insisted that `even with the coldest fingers' he would continue playing:
...the ancient lyrics
Of love and
And lyrics in honour of the craziness of the spirit
There is in his best poetry nothing dry, rhetorical or formal. Sevak called the bureaucrat and state official to account and denounced and exposed them as heartless inhuman egoists not in the name of abstract political principle but in the name of intellectual, creative and emotional freedom. Immorality and vice are not condemned for contravening a finished formal system of moral law but for staining, dulling and deforming the harmonious flourish of individual and social creativity and passion. Political and social criticism was not programmatic criticism but the affirmation of life and creativity.
Sevak's poetry has in addition a rich all-embracing abstraction. With a single metaphor, simile or image he readily captures the fundamentals of a corrupted social relation that gives his poetry a resonance beyond the phenomena that first inspired it. Denunciations of the bureaucrat, the censor, the crawling sycophant, the abuser of power, the illegitimate pretender and the egoist capture the essential substance that fashions even the villains of our own day. Sevak's poetry floods forth not just against Soviet bureaucratic socialism but against all the ossification and corruption, the deception and hypocrisy, the sycophancy and lack of integrity that we are witness to in our own day. It exposes all forms of power that are beyond the control of communities and individuals. It exposes as illegitimate, as a diminishing any form of power that is beyond authentic democratic and collective determination.
Enhancing Sevak's poetry is his almost unrivalled mastery of the Armenian language. His linguistic versatility and his capacity for word creation adds a whole body of new images, metaphors, imaginative constructs and forms to the Armenian poetic thesaurus. Halted in their tracks by what at first sight appear as combinations of the utterly inappropriate, extraordinary and even incongruous word constructions readers are then delighted to travel fresh paths as extraordinary writing hurls them into thinking upon and considering, evaluating and judging possible meanings. In this there is nothing of the inauthentic posturing that passes itself off as `higher order' art whose complexity is but the pretence of wisdom and sensibility apparently beyond the common person. Even in his almost unorthodox imagery Sevak remains close to life. Where Medzarents draws from nature his richest metaphors Sevak enters the realm of the ordinary artefacts of life, transforming the apparently mundane - the finger nails, tight shoes, hearing rain - into images rich with meaning and significance.
It is in this poetic brilliance that Sevak's voice sounded so crisp and fresh in his day of decaying bureaucratic socialism. For the same reasons it echoes as distinctly in our own days of decaying democracy. In the charade of our own parliamentary chambers, editorial and executive offices and at the pulpit of public sermonising, we encounter the same selfish grime, the same egotistic muck that Sevak sought to cleanse in his time. Denouncing those who `force us all to sing with the voice of another' he brings into sight the corrupt messiahs of modern consumerism and advertising. It is poetry in which we hear the hollow echoes of our own times and feel the passion to resist. Be yourself, his poetry cries out:
Take off your masks
So that you can breathe a little easier
Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England.