05 February 2011

3214) Armenian Mafia Restricts Shuttle Traders Between Turkey & Armenia / Education: Children Of Turkish-Armenian Couples in Turkey

Shuttle traders between Turkey, Armenia decry cargo price hike
February 1, 2011, VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU, ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

Armenian traders, Turkish bus companies and stores in the heart of the shuttle-trade business in Istanbul are suffering from a price hike by a leading road freight company operating on the Yerevan-Istanbul route over Georgia. The dispute also reflects in prices in Armenia. Traders and bus companies are worried the continued prices could affect business

A 100 percent increase in cargo prices by the main Armenian transportation firm operating between the capital city of Yerevan and Istanbul has caused a halt in the shuttle trading between the two countries, sources said.

Armenians held demonstrations last month to protest Karlen Cargo-Transportation, a local monopoly, for raising per-kilogram cargo prices from $4 to $8 at the beginning of the year, said Maya Y., the executive of an Armenian company who declined to give his full name due to security concerns

Armenian shuttle traders transport goods to Istanbul on buses owned by nearly 20 Turkish bus companies on a 36-hour route over Georgia due to border disputes between Turkey and Armenia. They purchase goods in Istanbul to bring back to Armenia, for which they then arrange cargo truck transport in Istanbul before they return home via the passenger buses.

Traders with budgets varying from $500 to $2,000 were able to send goods to Turkey twice a week before the price hike by the company, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learnt
. . .

“Armenians are worried and waiting for a resolution,” Maya Y. told the Daily News in an online interview.

“The mafia in Armenia has turned into a monopoly that restricts our lives,” he said. “Armenians cannot afford these high customs costs. They can hardly make a living. Life has almost stopped in the second big city of Gyumri [as the goods from the shuttle trading are not arriving].”

Textile prices have particularly skyrocketed, Maya Y. said.

Along with Karlen, three more Armenian transporters – Azad, Kaya and Çınar – also have offices at the Aksaray international bus and cargo terminal but the Daily News observed that their operations had halted.

Ruzanna Harutyunyan, an Armenian trader, said: "We cannot afford the price-per-kilogram they demand. The market suffers from the monopoly of the mafia.”

The passenger fare for buses from Istanbul to Armenia, which cooperate with the cargo carriers, is between $50 and $70.

Not only Armenian traders are affected by the price hike. Turkish bus firms and traders in Istanbul’s Beyazıt and Laleli neighborhoods, the heart of shuttle trading in Istanbul, said they have experienced great losses.

Executives of the Turkish bus firms declined to name their companies or their own identities.

Noting that he has been driving passengers to Armenia for 18 years, Ali, a driver, told the Daily News that the cargo terminal in Aksaray has turned into a “ghost town” since the price hike.

“Like the Armenians, we also suffer from the problem,” he said. “We are worried.”

According to data from the terminal officials, there were 1 million Armenian shuttle trade visits arrived in Turkey last year. Driver Ali said Armenians whose visas have expired were being sent back to their countries via Tbilisi with Georgian buses under very difficult conditions.

More than 50 trucks carry 17 tons of cargo to Armenia from Istanbul via Georgia each week, the officials told the Daily News.

Some 20 Turkish bus firms may go bankrupt if the transport dispute continues much longer. “We will be forced to close our stores if the Armenians do not keep on trading,” said Mustafa Kamiloğlu, a shop owner.

“The merchants in Laleli make their living from trading with Armenians. If this situation continues, it is inevitable that we will go into a crisis.”

Calling on the two governments to open their mutual border gates, Kamiloğlu said, “The mafia is making the use of an authority gap, and we suffer from this.”

Karlen Mıgırdiçyan, manager of Karlen, declined to respond to the Daily News on the issue



Armenian schools open doors to a different audience
January 30, 2011, VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU, ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Armenian schools in Turkey are set to begin admitting students according to a new policy in light of the increasing number of children born to couples of mixed Turkish-Armenian and non-Armenian descent.

A number of children born to intercultural couples are already attending a variety of the 18 Armenian schools in Istanbul.

Previously, for a child to be allowed to register at an Armenian school both parents had to be members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, however the Education Ministry recently issued a notice stating that only one of the parents had to be a church member.

Principal Karekin Barsamyan of the Private Pangaltı (Mıhitaryan) Armenian High School told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently that a number of the school’s students were registered as Muslim on their identity cards, while some were registered as Syriac and others were registered as having Turkish-Greek parents. “Regardless of what their identity cards say, these kids are receiving an Armenian-Christian education and they will decide upon their identities themselves in the future,” Barsamyan said.

Mıhitaryan High School has been the “coordinating school” of all Armenian Minority Schools since the first years of the Turkish Republic, according to an official notice issued at the time.

Parents are content

While intercultural parents who send their kids to Armenian schools in Istanbul were mostly reluctant to speak on the record about the issue, Hacer – unwilling to reveal her surname – told the Daily News that she had a very happy marriage with two kids, aged 12 and 6, who both attended Armenian schools. “I am learning Armenian together with them,” she said.

Aylin, also unwilling to reveal her surname, said her heritage was in the eastern province of Muş, adding that her parents chose to convert to Islam in 1915. Her family members were all very devout Muslims, she said. "My family is extremely conservative, but they did not say anything against me marrying an Armenian man,” she said. However, her 9-year-old son is having trouble with his identity.

“He is asking me how I became a Christian and married his father, while my parents were Muslim,” Aylin said. “I wear a headscarf and go to a mosque when required, but I also attend mass at church. This is very confusing for him. I am trying to explain the situation to him as best I can.”

Answering a question about why she decided to send her son to an Armenian school, she said: “I could not learn about my language and my culture. I want him to at least have a notion about it.”

Elif Baharol, who told the Daily News she was about to divorce her husband for economic reasons, said her child would continue to receive an Armenian-Christian education “as it is supposed to be.”

The new Education Ministry regulation opens the way for children of the Armenian immigrants who have come to Turkey since 1988 to also be educated at these schools.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, Armenians who have already obtained work and/or residence permits can have their children registered in these schools, according to Barsamyan.

Mıhitaryan High School officially applied to the Education Ministry to be allowed to admit children born to intercultural couples in the past because of the great number of Armenian kids being deprived of their right to an education, Barsamyan said, adding that the request was granted without fuss. “Most probably, we will be admitting these kids next year,” he said.

Barsamyan believes the new situation might help the currently strained relations between Turkey and Armenia. “I am keeping an eye on how well the kids from intercultural marriages and Armenian parents relate to each other,” he said.

“It is really promising. This will absolutely contribute greatly to establishing sound relations between the nations in the future.”

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