Notes From Hairenik
December 16, 2006
A few interesting things have developed during the last seven days or so which are worth mentioning.

A restaurant owner by the name of Zhirayr Sefilian was arrested in Yerevan on the grounds of allegedly plotting a coup d'etat. He is a member and I believe has a leadership position in an organization called the Protection of Liberated Territories, which had a special meeting last week in a hall at Yerevan State University. During the meeting the subject of government change was discussed, whereby Sefilian suggested that the only way to weed out corruption and perceived thievery was to assassinate the leading officials in power. What that would accomplish is not understandable to me, as you still have to worry about who will take their place. And since there are no viable potential leaders anywhere in site saying anything of real significance, this concept would be a failure, unless murder is indeed the ultimate goal of this group. But just for speaking his mind, Sefilian was taken away. Various rumors have been in circulation as to his whereabouts—one report read that he was being "banished" from Armenia (he is a Lebanese national) and another suggested that he is simply being detained until further notice. He supposedly owns a Lebanese restaurant on Deryan Street—the only one that I know of there is Nury, but I can't say if he is the proprietor. He also played an instrumental role in the capture/liberation of Shushi during the Karabagh war in 1992. Although he has lived in Armenia for several years and valiantly served his nation he has been denied citizenship for whatever ridiculous reason OVIR has or whomever has final say. His imprisonment is yet another blow to the perceived lack of democracy since it is in direct violation of freedom of speech. Then again, I've never known an Armenian that did not retaliate in some manner when an opinion was expressed that significantly differed from his/her own. But although I should be mindful of what I write on this blog, this incident won't stop me from jotting down whatever I have to express. Thus I hope Sefilian is released as soon as possible.

Last Sunday citizens of Karabagh voted on a constitutional referendum, which was overwhelmingly passed by the majority of the 80,000 eligible voters who went to the polls. This is a loud wake-up call to the world community, especially to the European Union and the United States, that screams Armenians in Karabagh will never give up their right to self determination, self governance, and, indeed, national independence, as they rightfully should continue refusing to relent. A stupid organization in my modest opinion called GUAM, comprised of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, lambasted the Armenian authorities for allowing the referendum to take place, and the criticism was met by an irate Prime Minister Vartan Oskanian who told them to mind their own damn business, which he rightfully should have done. Some other pinhead I think on behalf of the OSCE's Minsk Group which is overseeing the peace negotiations or of another incompetent organization said in an announcement that the referendum is essentially meaningless. At this point I would really love President Robert Kocharian to tell President Illham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to go to hell and walk away from this supposed "deal" that is on the table. Karabagh citizens just held a referendum on how they wish to have their lives lived and on what terms as a nation. The reason why yet another referendum would be expected to be held 10 years after a supposed peace deal is signed to determine Karabagh's final status is far beyond me, and considering it anyway is by all means totally illogical.

Apart from those two interesting events life is generally fine in Armenia, as always. Despite my frustrations and tribulations the fatherland is still the only place I really want to be at this point in my life, although I am off to Boston for the holidays. The main reason of my trip actually is to be with my father as he recovers from triple bypass heart surgery performed shortly after suffering from an attack last Saturday. I write this entry from the E terminal of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as I wait to board my flight. I'll be back in Yerevan in a few weeks but will keep posting in the meantime.


Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
I never heard any reports of Sefilyan calling for assassinations and he's not being charged with plotting to cause murder. He is, however, accused of plotting to overthrow the constitutional order i.e. he said that if the parliamentary elections are falsified he and his group will react.

This is what got him into trouble, although he has been in trouble ALL year for speaking out against the Armenian Government's position in talks with Azerbaijan, especially their agreement to return all of 7 territories with the exception of a 40km wide corridor through Lachin.

Anyway, those were the reasons for his arrest and still no evidence has been shown. I found it funny that the KGB raided a restaurant to get him which seems a bit over the top especially as the head of Vivacell was there at the time and forced to lie flat down on the ground, presumably at gunpoint.

He also DOES own Nury like I told you. One pro-government newspaper even mentioned it last week in an attempt to discredit him. However, the main issue is this -- by what right does anybody have to say who or who should not be in government and if they would be better or worse than what went before?

You say such things, but your forget the most important of all. It doesn't matter who is in power and even if they're complete imbeciles. What matters is that they are the choice of the people and if they can be voted out of office when the electorate have had enough.

That is called democracy, and that is what we lack in Armenia. Instead, violence is and will continue be used to determine the outcome of elections here. And sure, if Sefilyan represents a threat to the constitutional order he should be prosecuted.

However, there needs to be evidence, and the process needs to be transparent and open. So far, his problems this year have amounted to three issues and in March he was threatened by the KGB with deportation for the first 2.

i) Speaking out about the situations of Armenians in Javakheti.

ii) Speaking out about the Armenian position in negotiations with Azerbaijan, and also criticizing Serzh Sarkisyan for his comments about returning the territories around NK.

iii) Threatening to prevent ballot box stuffing and falsifications in next year's parliamentary elections.

If you want the background to this case then please see my article for Eurasianet here.

Anyway, hope your dad is feeling well. Pass on my best.

Blogger Ara said...
I too never heard about Safilyan calling for assassinations. I have heard many natives over the years calling for Kocharian and Sarkisyan's assassination, but for the most part Diaspora Armenians don't talk much about killing Armenian government workers. But even if he did call for assassinations, but I don't think that is good reason to arrest someone. If people in America were arrested for calling for Bush's assassination, Ameirca's jails would be overfilled.

Good luck to your Dad. I hope he is doing well.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
I misinterpreted the accusation that Sefilyan "planned to interfere in the upcoming political processes [2007 parliamentary elections] with the use of force..." as meaning "a suspected plot to assassinate." I admit that was a bit extreme on my part.

In terms of what right anyone has to say who should or shouldn't be in power and whether people would be better off depending on who was in office, the last time I checked such an opinion would be considered freedom of speech in a true democracy. Such talk occurs probably on a daily basis in media outlets in the US at least as well as by ordinary citizens and politicians--I can't say whether in other democratic countries. Obviously this is not the case in Armenia.