Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Women in Politics

Years ago I thought of a way to open the minds of Armenians to the idea of women in power by conducting a mock campaign for myself: Arsineh for President. No one knew who I was, but the idea of a female name on a presidential bid in Armenia would have been a nice way to test the waters. Not for myself, I have no political aspirations. But I wanted to challenge the people to think about it. I never followed through for several reasons, mostly because campaigns are not cheap, and a mock campaign seems... anticlimactic.

I now see some interesting discussions taking place in the US post-Weiner sex scandal and wonder how they would unravel in Armenia. With the help of a dear friend who shares many of my views, I cam across an article in the New York Times (with these blogs you'd think I'm a regular reader, but I'm not at all).
“The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.”
Men behaving badly is an age-old story, but there are changes in Western society that are changing the way the public views these men. First, we are so much more exposed as social networks and media scrutiny dive further into the personal lives of public servants. Call it what you will, I'd prefer my public servants to be under a very big magnifying glass so we can see just who is representing us. That said, I really feel sorry for Weiner's family for the aftermath of this public lynching that has no business dominating worldwide headlines for as long as it has.

However, if this discussion opens us up to a better alternative, then so be it. Now the media is turning to women in power to see if they will better serve their constituents. The simple answer to that is yes, but this is not to say that any woman would be better than any man. In Armenia, we've seen our share of women who are just as bad if not worse than their male counterparts, as I'm sure has been the case in the US. It's possible that the environment is so male dominated that women have a harder time getting things done because the system is really just a power game rather than a structure that allows leaders to serve the people. According to the NYT article, women don't get into these positions to be somebody, rather to do something.

I did a little research on women in Armenian politics and came across an article by ArmeniaNow.com that exposes the unbalanced scales of gender in politics.
Armenia has one of the lowest percentages of female politicians in the world, a study has revealed. Despite having a high percentage of well-educated women who hold leadership roles in civilian life, Armenia is near the bottom in female political representation, according to a report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
There is a general view in Armenia that the workforce is dominated by women and that if you ever want to get things done, you hire women. It's rare to see an office with more men than women. Among my many friends who own businesses, there is also a realization that women are usually more productive than men. Some have said that men are less willing to do what the job requires because it belittles them (ego), whereas women are used to getting things done in the home or in the workplace because of society's expectations.

But the question remains, can women excel in executive and leadership positions. I'll be honest, I see very tough women with great qualities of leadership that would be fantastic in these roles. There are a few females in these positions, but the balance is so far off and there is a long way to go before women are treated equally.

So what of women in politics? Is Hranush Hakobyan setting the stage for more to come? Is this a society that feels comfortable with a government full of women?
...Voters will determine the role Armenian women will play in helping to solve these problems. Women currently comprise less than 5 percent of the country's parliamentary members, putting them among the most under-represented in the world.
As I've observed over the years, I have seen this country as a boys club where women have virtually no voice, and the concern of corruption has spread every year. Could this be the solution for much of Armenia's crippling problems, and possibly change the waves of violence against women with a sense of empowerment as well?

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Death of Doctor Death: The Greatest Human Rights Activist

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, 1923-2011.
I remember finding my respect for Dr. Jack Kevorkian when my father spoke of him in the early 90s. He had respect for the man as a doctor who is serving his patients' best interests. Since then, I have followed his career to understand how it is he came to believe so strongly in euthanasia.  I guess it was curious to me because I didn't really understand the argument against it and why people were so invested in their certainty that it is immoral.

He passed away today, and this weighs very heavy on me for two reasons. I know death is a natural part of life, as I learned most from Jack, but there is a very large void he leaves in this world as a unique human rights activist, and also as a true hero of mine.

This was a brave man who stood by his beliefs that every man is born with natural human rights and no one can take that away from us. You are born with your right to live and your right do die. Everything else in between is what is forced on us for the sake of others to control us. When asked once in an interview if he believed that heroin should be legal, he said yes. Simply because if someone wants to do such harm to themselves, it is their natural right to do so.

If the world has not learned enough from Dr. Death during his living years, let them learn from him now. Life is to short to waste on such trivial things and we have lost our ways, forgetting the differences between right and wrong. In his passing, I only hope that the rest of us can learn to live without fear, without lie, with respect for human rights and respect for honesty. Rest in peace Dr. Kevorkian, you have earned it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How Do You Prepare for War?

The New York Times has just published an article titled 'Frozen Conflict' Between Azerbaijan and Armenia Begins to Boil. The entire article is a pity piece for Azerbaijan's refugees who have been brainwashed by anti-Armenia propoganda to believe that the "cursed Armenians" are responsible:
Though conditions vary widely and some resettlement is now taking place, a visit to a dormitory in Baku found children growing up in squalor. Roughly 100 refugees were living along a dank, fetid hallway, on one floor of a former office building. Three rough, foul-smelling holes in the concrete floor served as toilets for 21 families, residents said. The hallway was open to the elements, exposing residents to bitter cold in the winter. In the summer, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water in the building’s basement, rising in a cloud to the floors above them, they said.
“They cannot stand it anymore, they want war,” said Jamila, 41, of her neighbors. “They don’t believe the promises anymore.”
The journalist either irresponsibly or quite intentionally neglected the Armenian side to this story. Unfortunately it seems to be the case where the side who screams the loudest for attention wins. Armenians don't want war, nor do they spew out hate propoganda towards the Azeris. Surprisingly, I find Armenians to be somewhat peaceful towards our neighbors to the East.

The irony is that every talking point the Azeris provide seem to be replicas of our own in our claims of genocide against Turkey. There's one big difference. We suffered genocide. Every legitimate historian in the world will agree, and some may provide evidence. Your refugees mirror our refugees who suffered the Sumgait pograms and escaped Baku. Azerbaijan did not suffer a genocide. The Armenian government did not order their men to find every man, woman and child of Azeri heritage and wipe them out, as did the Turks to Armenians. It was war. There were terrible losses on both sides which are all truly regretful.

The author did not allow comments which leads me to believe that he knows just what people have to say in response to his poorly written article, and he has no interest in hearing it. This with the bias portrayal of a highly complex conflict leads me to believe one thing: this is a planted article with the deliberate intent of sparking new conflict. It's very convincing, too:
It is tempting to forget about the “frozen conflicts.” The enclaves of Nagorno-Karabakh, Transdniester in Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia are among the most headache-inducing legacies of the Soviet Union. The Soviets granted them a sort of semi-statehood, a status that ceased to exist just as nationalism flared in the ideological void. But the 2008 war in Georgia serves as a reminder of how quickly and terribly they can come unfrozen.
No Ms. Barry, YOU serve as a reminder of how quickly and terribly they can come unfrozen by publishing such articles like this one.

No citizens wants war, I am sure of it. I guarantee you that absolutely no one in Armenia wants war. I'm quite sure if their government provided proper housing for the refugees, perhaps one of Aliyev's mansions around the world, the refugees would not want war either. So what is this article about? Is this a game being played out by the US and Russia? Does Aliyev need anger management? Whatever the truth is, the reality on the ground is that the people are bracing themselves for war, just 17 years after a ceasefire. And how does one prepare for war? What do you do? What happens to businesses, do they close down? Will the banks remain open? Do I need to arm myself? It amazes me that in today's day and age, I am actually thinking this way. I would have figured the human race would have found a way by now to make war obsolete.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Return to the Blogosphere: Dusting Off Armenia

I stopped blogging many years ago after a long run of what I think was productive blogging on cilicia.com. I guess I didn't think I had so much to say that was worth publicizing to the world. I was finally living in Armenia, and I was simply living life happily. End of times, nothing to report, right? Far from it. I haven't stopped having opinions about things around me and there are critical issues that do matter and need to be discussed on a global platform.

Only when I see a properly functioning society all around me can I say we've reached the end of times, and I haven't seen anything remotely close to functionality. My views may not be as politically driven as they were before, but they are just as important. So here we go again...

A daily conversation in Armenia often turns to the visual changes in recent years, both in commercial development (not necessarily progressive) and the brain drain of Armenia. It's clear to all of us why people are leaving, wether we want to accept it or not. Es aprelu tegh chi (This isn't a place to live) is what they all say. But my question to those people is this: where in the world is a place to live without problems, and why are we as a people not strong enough to face those problems?

I understand the struggle, I'm not a cold-hearted ignorant fool. I've seen first hand what people have gone through, especially this last winter. Thousands lost their jobs, corruption has extended it's arms deeper into our pockets, and prices have inflated drastically across the board. But what we've been doing until now isn't working, so maybe it's time for a change in our approach.

I'm not telling everyone to suck it up, rather dust yourselves off and stand tall. Progress and potential exist around every corner. No, it's not easy and yes a lot is at stake, but even more is at stake if we sit back and watch things deteriorate.

I wrote my book in the aftermath of the March 8 riots and struggled with the ending because I felt defeated after this dark time in Armenia. The entire book was written except for the last couple paragraphs. I didn't know how to end without such a negative outlook. But I was finally inspired and this is what I ended up writing. This is now my outlook on every day in Armenia (my apologies for quoting my own book, but I didn't know how to say the same thing twice):
This ancient culture of three thousand years is now face-to-face with a new era. Crime and violence are just as real today as potential and hope. Ambitions, both good and bad, exist everywhere and those who are ready to endure all the obstacles will be the ones who prevail in defining Armenia’s future. Though independence was born of a shattered nation, Armenia has seen rapid growth, seemingly without regulation. We are often our own enemy, but as I’ve seen throughout my life, comfortable complacency is the cause of apathy. We have a long road ahead to weed out the cancers of our society, and as history tells us, we always answer to the calling. Each new-born child with a fresh start to life, each diasporan I see walking on their land for the first time, shine light on new hope and potential for a modern age. I believe the best pages of Armenian history have yet to be written, as a nation and our impact on the world.
I'm done with sitting back as an observer. Let's get our hands dirty.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Amanpour Screams Bloody Murder... for some.

I guess not so bloody for others? CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour is know for her hard-hitting, ruthless style of journalism. She has covered some of the toughest stories CNN dares to tackle. It only makes sense that she take on the biggest human crisis known to man: Genocide. Tomorrow, CNN will broadcast her latest, Scream Bloody Murder of which Asbarez Daily Newspaper obtained a press screener and reports that In the almost 90-minute press screener, the Armenian Genocide was mentioned for about 45 seconds as an anecdotal reference to Lemkin's struggle for human justice. Using photographs now familiar to all Armenians and possibly obtained from Armin T. Wegner Collection, Amanpour illustrates the horror of the Armenian Genocide but does not delve into it in as in-depth and compelling manner as she does the other instances of Genocide. She also spoke directly with The Armenian Reporter, saying "... The fact that Turkey still denies it officially is a problem. We didn't find it so in our work, but it is an issue I know, especially for Armenia. We actually didn't focus entirely on the Armenian Genocide. The way we focused on it was to use it as this amazing opportunity to show where the word came from and what it actually infers; the Armenian Genocide infers to the words of Raphael Lemkin and that was incredibly important for us to highlight that. We focused a lot on the events that I've covered during my lifetime." I'm preparing to watch the program for myself, but given this much prior information, I have to ask. If you are going to cover the epidemic of genocide, starting with the campaign to criminalize genocide, continue to show the struggle so many have endured to (as you titled your program) "SCREAM BLOODY MURDER" while the world turned a deaf ear only to allow genocide to continue around the world, shouldn't you be talking about the biggest cover up of genocide, the very one which inspired Lemkin to coin the word, the very one which also inspired Adolf Hitler to follow through with the Holocaust? Afterall, it's this denial that scares CNN from ever using the word "Genocide" in their reporting on related matters. Thus, I turned my question on CNN. They are allowing the public to post questions in their ireport page prior to the program, of which apparently she will respond to during the show. Here's what I had to say:
Hi, My name is Arsineh Khachikian. I was born and raised in Washington, DC and I currently live in Armenia, the homeland of my ancestors. My grandfather was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, as are the grandparents of most Armenians across the globe. In fact, few of my friends have a family tree that extends beyond 3 generations. My question is this. What is the extent of research done by media outlets, including CNN, on the facts of genocide when covering a related story. In the case of the Armenian Genocide (as we saw in the coverage of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian Journalist Hrant Dink, as well as last year's controversial resolution passed in the House Foreign Affairs committee recognizing the Armenian Genocide), we rarely hear the genocide presented as a historical fact, rather as the "alleged" genocide, or "what Armenians say was genocide." How is that possible when a majority of historians worldwide site the Armenian genocide as a fact, providing amply evidence to support their argument. Isn't it true that by not presenting these facts, you are opening a forum for denial, which is the precedent that encourages other nations to follow the example, as Hitler followed Turkey's example when he said, "Afterall, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians." Later the Hutus in Rwanda, and now Sudan continue to follow the same example. My second question is this. What do you believe to be the media's role in post-genocide story coverage, as pertaining to the denial campaigns by the perpetrator, which is widely considered to be the continuation of genocide committed. Thank you for very important program on this global epidemic.
You can find more interesting posted questions here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Best of All Worlds

In response to my blog on Change in Armenia (made on my facebook page), two of my friends raised concerns for change in a direction that is misguided, and another example of Western influence that is not necessarily positive progress. I ended up writing a very long response that I though was worth a blog in itself. So here it is... my response. Arsineh Khachikian wrote at 12:00am Anoush and Daniel, I have to say I agree and disagree on some level, but I'm glad you guys raised the issue. I think at times, we (including me) start to talk about Western influence as a quickly spreading disease that is threatening Armenia's society. I agree that Armenia can not be a copy of Western democracies, but this should not be a complete rejection of practices that take place in the West. When I said things were better this time around, I specified kindness and willingness to follow up and assist. This is a sign of professionalism that fuels efficiency. The case of Armenia is a little different because the system that was in place before no longer exists and cannot exist anymore. The Soviet days are over and turning back to them is no smarter than following in the steps of democracy. I'm not fond of consumerism, but I do believe in a form of democracy. There are many cases where diasporans have come from the US and implemented practices they learned in the US to create companies and NGOs that work very well in Armenia and employ hundreds of people, and primarily serve Armenia and Armenians, rather than globalization. In fact, our closed borders may be a blessing for that reason. I agree that quality of life cannot be found in consumerism. Quality of life is in compassion, love, respect. These are three characteristics I feel have been squashed in Armenia over the last 20 years. Every day, I meet more and more people holding doors open for each other, saying hello with a smile, and laughing with each other, and not just people of their same background. I believe that this is a result of people having work, managing their lives, and restoring their dignity. But there is a fine line between managing one's life and being squeezed in a capitalistic society that spins out of control... Here's my vision. We need to take the best of each society and apply it to Armenia. If there is one good description of Armenians in this world, it is that we are resourceful, often with the narrowest means. We have experts in all fields all around the world, and we are accomplishing great strides in our homeland against all odds. The bottom line is this. The world is going in a direction that affects us whether we like it or not. The world is interconnected, and it's better for Armenia to build a strong economy that can work with the West, but also stand on its own. It's a delicate game we are playing here, but this is a vision I believe Armenians can achieve. Thank you for your feedback guys, would love more discussion on this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


My hope continues... Samantha Power is back, not only as part of Obama's trasition team, but as part of the State Department agency review team on the president-elect's official Web site. I hope she bites Clinton's head off. Now let's get a real position on Genocide. My next blog was interestingly enough going to be about my prediction on when the Genocide issue achieves recognition in the United States under an Obama administration. Given the inevitable appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, my hope was diminishing. I started to imagine a different scenario, one that would delay proper Genocide recognition into a second term, and eventually call for recognition without proper reparations (a risky precedent... admit genocide without risk?). But Obama has displayed good judgement once again. After the Clintonites he appeased with high positions, he's remembering those who gave him a moral standing in this politicized Washington. Dr. Power, I salute you. (See her message to the Armenian community earlier in the campaign). Pulitzer Prize winning author (Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide) and Harvard Professor Dr. Samantha Power speaks at this year's Annual Armenian National Committee of America, Eastern Region Banquet where she received the ANCA Freedom Award for championing human rights as they pertain to the Armenian Cause. PHOTO BY ARSINEH KHACHIKIAN © 2008 Arsineh Khachikian OBAMA ADVISER WHO CALLED CLINTON A 'MONSTER' BACK November 29, 2008 Posted: 01:41 PM ET From CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney Power resigned from Obama's campaign earlier this year. (CNN) — Samantha Power, the Obama foreign policy adviser who stepped down from her post earlier this year after labeling Sen. Hillary Clinton a "monster," is now working for the president-elect's transition team. According to the Associated Press, Power is part of a team of foreign policy experts tapped by President-elect Obama to help ease the transition at the State Department — the agency Clinton is expected to head up. Power is also formally listed as part of the State Department agency review team on the president-elect's official Web site. Power stepped down from the Obama campaign in March after she called Clinton — then Obama's rival for the Democratic nomination — a "monster" and someone who "is stooping to anything." The comments came in an interview with a Scottish newspaper. "You just look at her and think, 'Ergh,' " Power also told The Scotsman then. "The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive." Power quickly issued an apology for the comments, but resigned her post days later. "I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton," Power said in her resignation statement. The Obama transition team did not comment on Power's new role. Power is currently a professor at Harvard University and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. In 2004, Time Magazine labeled her one of America's top 100 scientists and thinkers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back to Blogging

Akh, it was inevitable. I had to return to say something about the complete transformation our world has taken in the last year. Let's review what has happened in the last year (and couple months). I say couple months because I want to start with the event that was the beginning of things happening that shocked me: 1) The Armenian Genocide Resolution passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, resulting in worldwide coverage of the issue, including my favorite, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 2) Riots broke out after the Armenian Presidential elections, sparking a State of Emergency and resulting in many horrific deaths, thus putting the citizens of Armenia in a state of fear, frustration, rage, and lack of hope. (I didn't say they were good or bad, I just said it was a transformation. 3) Serzh Sargsyan became president of Armenia and started with a bang, inviting Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the Turkey-Armenia fĂștbol match in Armenia. He accepted the invitation and was received peacefully. In addition, hundreds of Turks also attended, while paying a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum. The game was followed with diplomatic talks of Turkish-Armenian Relations, and continue. 4) Senator Barack Obama became the first African American President-Elect of the United States. He takes with him the promise to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. 5) My favorite, I published my first book and travelled to 13 cities to present and share the story and experience. That's just my own personal transformation. :) That's my top 5 major events of the last 14 months, stated to set the stage of my return to blogging. But if you've read my blogs before, you know full well I'm full of opinions, and not to fall short of my reputation, here's my first: OH HOW OUR STANDARDS HAVE LOWERED I'm just as happy as the next bleeding-heart liberal that Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States. I'm a firm believer that he will make the difference in proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide, despite the line up of advisors he's chosen. Yikes, these are not good friends. None-the-less, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and waiting until he has the opportunity to speak on the issue before attacking him. That said, I know he's not president yet, but he has already given a few press conferences. One of the things I loved most about Obama during his campaign was his articulate and poised speech. The last two days have shown another side of him that is not inspiring such strong confidence, and while I expected the media to prey on him for the first signs of a nervous and almost speechless Obama, they go on to clarify the points he was making for him. Again, proud of Obama, but when will the media do their job and properly question our leaders? If that were Bush (and I can't believe I'm defending him right now), the media would have chewed him up and spit him up by now. Anyway, I'll be in DC for the inauguration, so you know I'll be out celebrating with everyone else. I just hope that this is not a sign of a cowardly media sucking up to their precious new president. The fantasy is now over, let's treat him like we would any other president. CHANGE IS ON THE WAY... IN ARMENIA For the first time in years, I left Armenia for a solid few months of time in order to tour to promote my new book, My Nation: The Trails & Trials of an Armenian Repatriate. This gave me a chance to step away from Armenia, gain perspective and return with a fresh pair of eyes to see how much has changed. Boy has it. Customer care, entrepreneurs, major business endeavors, and serious marketing strategies have risen. My new high speed internet at a very low cost is not just the result of a competitive market, but also made possible by tele-marketing campaigns. Look, I hate tele-marketers, but how perfect was it that the day I was planning on researching internet package plans with Beeline, they happened to call offering home delivery service. Just days later, I had a technician trained to also setup internet on a Macintosh, knocking on my door with DSL in hand. All my questions answered, customer care hotline's provided, which I used almost immediately, and before I knew it, I was ready to go. Business aside, people seem nicer, more flexible, happier this time around. It's possible I'm just refreshed and now weeding out the positives around me, as opposed to before. But it's nice to come back to. For a while it seemed that the dynamic environment that attracted so many of us to move here was gone... replaced with tension and anger after the country took steps backward during the elections. It seems a positive energy is pushing us forward yet again. That's all for now. Stay tuned for more. I leave you with a pic of the week from my last stop on the 3 month tour: Dubai... not on my list of favorite cities... frankly, high on my list of cities I hate. Streets of Dubai. October 2008. © 2008 Arsineh Khachikian

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In Publishing

I recently decided to embark on a personal journey by preparing my first book of photography with a very interesting theme. I will release the subject when the release date approaches. Please stay tuned for sneak peaks at the first of many books.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The purpose of this page is purely to share my photography as I shoot. I have an archive website that displays all of my work: www.digitalrailroad.net/arsineh, but I also wanted something that highlighted my favorites as I take them. I also post them at http://cilicia.com/armo_life-log.html on occasion, but that's usually more for my verbal commentary. This page will be devoted purely to my photo favorites of the day/week/month, whatever and whenever I have something good to share. Stay tuned for many updates!