Abetting the Criminal Gang in Yerevan

Sahag Toutjian, 26 December 2010

Mr. Toutjian’s  piece originally appeared as a comment on Keghart.com. Our Editorial Board decided to run it as a self-standing article because it tackles a crucial challenge which Armenians have to face in Armenia and in the Diaspora.  Mr. Toutjian is on the staff of "Massis" weekly in Los Angelos and he is the author of
  Արեւը Լեռան Ետին, Հայրենական օրագիր, Առասպել և իրականութիւն: Editor
At first I was inclined to disregard Nardos’ disruptive tirades on a few irrelevant subjects with no bearing on my response to Keghart.com’s call for Nicol Pashinyan’s freedom. But then I thought it would be instructive to briefly comment on this unhappy occasion.

Sahag Toutjian, 26 December 2010

Mr. Toutjian’s  piece originally appeared as a comment on Keghart.com. Our Editorial Board decided to run it as a self-standing article because it tackles a crucial challenge which Armenians have to face in Armenia and in the Diaspora.  Mr. Toutjian is on the staff of "Massis" weekly in Los Angelos and he is the author of
  Արեւը Լեռան Ետին, Հայրենական օրագիր, Առասպել և իրականութիւն: Editor
At first I was inclined to disregard Nardos’ disruptive tirades on a few irrelevant subjects with no bearing on my response to Keghart.com’s call for Nicol Pashinyan’s freedom. But then I thought it would be instructive to briefly comment on this unhappy occasion.

I refuse to be dragged into the vortex of false challenges "offered" by Mr Apigian (apparently hiding behind halloween masks like Njdeh and Nardos etc just to distract — knowingly or unknowingly but apparently as directed — those who are fighting for a cause — freedom — so close and dear to the heart of any Armenian, including, I presume, Mr Apigian) to discuss a number of matters unrelated to the central issue of freedom of speech presently raised.

Even the fact that so many different names are being used by the same person renders his disruptive comments highly suspect as to its origin and purpose. Mr Apigian, or Njdeh, or Nardos, or whoever you really are, I am sorry for any person acting as the advocate of the criminals hiding behind the gang that murdered the political leadership of the newly established Republic of Armenia in 1998, who organized the slaughter of innocent and peaceful March 1 demonstrators in 2008, and who are now plundering for their selfish splurge the meager wealth that belongs to the impoverished people of Armenia.

You prefer to arbitrarily deny this sorry state of affairs, as do Armenia’s present rulers whom you have chosen to blindly endorse. The members or abettors of this murderous gang, whom you have chosen as your mentors, have decided that Nikol Pashinyan is a common criminal, to which you have echoed "Amen!" for reasons I do not comprehend. I call for the freedom of speech of everybody, including that of Nikol Pashinyan, and you say he is a common criminal based on the unilateral decision of our nation’s murderers or their abettors.

Then you go on, rhetorically challenging me whether "I can tell you about the murders before 1998", and about "democratic elections in 1995 and 1996", and then bombastically asking me if I have the courage to tell who murdered mayor Galstyan and chief of railway station Ghandilyan and members of Hayots Azgayin Panag at the railway station.

What you are really doing, Mr … Njdeh, is trying to disorient and distract people from the core issue of press freedom by throwing in unrelated peripheral questions to bog down a healthy debate and appeal. Does this ring a bell, Mr … Nardos? Whether consciously or unconsciously, you are using exactly the same methodology, wiggling through the same deceptive mental process and manipulation of words whereby the Turkish government denies the perpetration of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman authorities.

By means of their sly use of the lexicon as reflected in the infamous Protocols, they proposed to settle the Genocide issue through the debates of historians representing both sides. I’m almost sure you agree that the real aim of the Turkish "historians" was meant to kill and bury the Genocide issue in endless Byzantine hairsplitting discussions dragging ad nauseam. Intentionally or just objectively, your baseless and cocksure "verdict" of Nicol Pashinyan being a common criminal aims, similarly, to kill a voice of free speech — a scream in the solitary darkness of a detention cell — as the first stage for his "physical liquidation" announced long ago and pursued relentlessly by the respective authorities.

In the presumably free and independent Armenia which we all have dreamed about, the billionaire robber barons who fear free speech more than the plague, are at this very moment, as confessed by them since March 2008, planning to murder an innocent journalist because he dared to perform his duty in defiance of their threats. If you and I and all the Armenian people of good will and sound mind disown those who voice for freedom from external and internal enemies, we all will wake up one of these days and hear that Pashinyan or Hatsbanian or one or more of the valiant political prisoners have died of sickness or suicide — in fact, cold-bloodedly murdered by one of those "bravely" black-masked black-robed spider-men (in practically real terms) who killed the peaceful demonstrators of March 2008.

Courage, my friend Whatever Your Name, is not hiding behind quaint names of our venerable figures of the past — as I am left to assume in the absence of clarity of your real identity — for blurring your traces. It is not to blindly jump to the defense of rulers of the day who do not really need any help since they have the almighty brute force on their side, in their hands, and against their own people and freedom fighters. It is to stand firm against brute force and the unworthy rulers of the day as Nikol is doing — never mind if you agree with his opinions or not. I am, at this very moment, acknowledging that same right to everybody, including you, by virtue of this dialogue with you.

Under undemocratic rule, obviously the dissident is always at a disadvantage, while the authorities are, officially, always right since they have the exclusivity of might.

You say my comments are not objective, and you are definitely free to say so. But please listen carefully to what we are saying. We are simply demanding the freedom of Nikol Pashinyan. We are not saying that we support his views; that’s beside the point; we are simply demanding his freedom.

Oh yes, I temporarily overlooked your claim that he wanted to create mass disorders. I am quite sure he did not, because a well disciplined human mass of much more than 100,000 people in the compact heart of Yerevan, by their sheer presence, would have paralyzed government centers and services, and would thereby realize their objectives. And, I would remind you (I’m sure you already know), many of the opposition allies were alienated precisely for this reason of not passing to action when the moment was ripe.

The authorities have penalized the demonstrators for this restraint. Thanking them for it would have been more appropriate. Instead of asking me to have the courage to answer a number of your appropriate but ill-timed questions about past events and possible injustice including crimes, I sincerely invite you to display the intellectual integrity (courage, if you so prefer) to stick to the immediate task and join us in demanding Nikol Pashinyan’s freedom as a matter of principle, despite your total disagreement with his views.

Time may be running out.
  1. Nikol along with LTP played

    Nikol along with LTP played the roles of so many other so called democracy leaders in the former USSR, and all in the name of ‘democratic reform’.  I am of course referring to the ‘Color Revolutions’ that took place in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgzstan.  LTP was for sure not sincere, and it is highly dubious that Nikol was a true champion of democracy.  I have no doubt that both men were and still are agent provocateurs. 

    Now you speak of freedom and freedom of speach.  Ideals that I strongly agree with.  However, there is a limit to what the State can tolerate in any nation, regardless of how democratic that State may be.  Calling for a revolution is not free speech, and calling this out to a large and unruly crowd is no longer covered by free speech.  It enters the realm of political speech. 
    You can not show me one nation where a man or women calling for such a thing in broad daylight to a large group of people (a mob) would not be a target of the authorities of that State.  Yes, even Canada, the U.S. or wherever you may reside would indeed arrest the provocateur(s).

    Now I am not inclined to say that Nikol should rot in jail, and maybe he should serve a shorter sentence, however, what assurences does the RA government have that he will not return to his work as a radical at best, and a member of a fifth column at worst?  The former may be tolerated up to an extent, but the latter would make him traitor, and traitors get death.

    One last thing.  Before you put labels on the politicians and government officials in Armenia, please closely consider and scrutinize the politicians and government officials of whatever nation you currently reside in, and I hope you come to the same conclusion that many a rational person comes to…

  2. An Extreme Title

    "Abetting Criminal Gang in Yerevan" is an extreme title, if not outright insulting. I am not sure if there is a misuse of the word in the title. Abetting means "encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong, in particular, to commit a crime or other offense". No reader or author possibly encourages assisting a crime. In broader sense, this essay is a positioning of an alleged right against an alleged wrong, in the absolute sense of the words.
    Two years ago Hezbollah peacefully encamped in downtown Beirut. They brought their tents and their johns and created a life in downtown Beirut that lasted 15 months, if not more. This peaceful demonstration caused major disruptions in the country. No reasonable individual can possibly accept that’s what democracy entitles a group to do.
    The Lebanese government did not disperse the peaceful demonstration. No reasonable individual can possibly accept that the Lebanese government was respecting Hezbollah’s right for free expression. The Lebanese government was simply powerless to resort to law enforcement to exercise its duties to safeguard law and order in the country.
    The organizers of March 1, 2008 demonstrations exceeded their entitlement as citizens of Armenia and became disruptive in marshalling and dragging on the demonstrations, without an end in sight. The organizers of the demonstration–whether our first nationally-elected President LTP, or journalist Nikol Pashinyan could not have taken for granted that they could return to their homes without bearing any responsibility under the law. I am not going to comment whether their sentences were extreme or not, or whether the authorities were lenient in placing LTP under house arrest and incarcerating others. I leave that to the Armenian Bar Association in America, to present a position paper regarding the enforcement of the laws of the country as it relates to the March 1, 2008 demonstration leadership.
    That the government exceeded its authority in enforcing law and order and acted with outright criminally is a given, too. The authorities naturally should have done a thorough investigation of the events that led to the tragedy. However, they did not. No one in authority has been held responsible for ordering or doing the shooting. However, the government’s unacceptable conduct cannot mitigate the demonstrator’s responsibilities under the law. The two are not linked.
    Those of us in Diaspora, whose day-to-day livelihood is not affected by what goes in Armenia, whose actions and conducts are not subject to the laws of the country should abstain from such extreme positions or allude that the opinions of others amount to "abetting criminal gangs in Yerevan" but foster free exchange of ideas without undue labelling.
  3. Silence and complacency abate the crime
    Thank you for taking the stance, Mr. Toutjian.

  4. A la King Arshag

    It is interesting that Diaspora Armenians, be it in the U.S, Europe, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt would not dare, out of common courtesy or whatever consideration, call the government of the country they live in as a gang and its officials gangsters.
    Many centuries ago King Arshag was summoned to the palace of the Persian King to seal his loyalty to Persia. To assure King Arshag’s sincerity, the Persian King had brought Armenian soil and hidden it under a rug in the palace. Walking in the palace with the Armenian king, the Persian king noticed that whenever King Arshag stepped on the Armenian soil, his psyche changed and his old enmity against the Persian king became all too evident. As a result, the Persian king put King Arshag in an iron cage and had the cage hang from the palace wall.
    They tell me that it is prudence that dictates the rightful, native born, third or fourth generation citizens of Armenian descent to act cautiously in the Diaspora country they live in. Or is it out of indifference towards their governments? However, when it comes to the Government of Armenia, I leave up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusion, if addressing the corrupt Armenian Government as a gang is the reflection of the Armenian Government or a matter of duplicity and a fault in national character.
    I maintain, there are more constructive ways to criticize–costlier but less alienating of the young and the upcoming Armenian generation: To expose corruption in Armenia and to fight corrupt Armenian Government officials, instead of pouring cheap ink and proclaim that the nationally-elected Armenian Government in Yerevan is no more than a gang and its officials, by extension, criminals.
  5. “the nationally-elected Armenian Government in Yerevan”?

    Vahe, where do you get your facts from? The rest of the world views 2008 election as largely fraudulent. Please consider reading Policy Forum Armenia’s Report on "Armenia’s 2008 Presidential Election: Select Issues and Analysis"  for a detailed statistical analysis of the official election data. Would it make any difference in what you are saying above if the gang actually imposed itself on people of Armenia by illegal means? Would that make a difference for you? 
    1. Can’t rule out Naïveté’ (my)

      David, incidentally you are my son’s namesake whom we call Tavit.

      Granted that in many ways I am naive. However, this is the way I look at the election. All the parties that went into the election had ample time to safeguard against fraud. However, that is not a guarantee that fraudulent voting did not happen on either side. I also am not sure what was meant by fraud. Were ballots cast on behalf of absent voters? Were ballot boxes stolen from voting boots that may have leaned towards the opposition? Were ballot boxes from boots in areas leaning to the opposition destroyed? Was there counting fraud?  Were representatives of the opposition bared from some voting boots or from the counting offices?  However, if the Robert Kocharian’s government sent its feelers out to the government officials and employees, army conscripts to vote for the candidate that he and his government support, does that constitute fraud? Were then the voters barred to make their final choice in private, behind closed curtains?

      As far as I know there were no reports of documented evidences of voting fraud to any such voting irregularities that may happen. Not knowing any better and being far I accept the election as legitimate and whoever gets over 50% of the vote carries the election and is then empowered to form a government representing the country. According to Winston Churchill – Democracy is the worst form of government but there isn’t any better.
      As to the sources that observed the election, well beauty is in a gazer’s eye. This is quotation for a source, whose link is attached. Granted that I do not know what all the fancy acronyms represent.

      Quote from Regnum:

      "According to preliminary assessment of international observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), the OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), the European Parliament, the presidential election in Armenia mostly satisfied the international standards, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Vice President, Senator from Belgium Anne-Marie Lizin said at a press conference on February 20."  

      1. Honestly, I am surprised

        I have enjoyed reading Vahe Apelian’s articles and wait for his next contribution. He always presents well researched informative material, although too much of a particular area, i.e. Kessab. That’s fine with me, and I wish others would write about their birthplaces and ancestors. After all these are gems and tell us about our folklore and people.

        However, reading his comments about what happened in 2008 in Armenia gives me the impression that he has been out of touch with contemporary developments. Otherwise how can one explain his constant and relentless manner of questioning matters about which information abounds on the net? Alternately, may be he is deliberately poking to elicit responses like David Grigorian’s, to refresh a debate that raged following the fraudulent election and ensuing tragedy of March 1. To what purpose though one wonders.

        I can’t speak for others; for me it’s a settled matter. Whether there was a perceived "danger" of "coloured revolution" or not is immaterial. The authorities behaved in the crudest possible way.  The whole tragedy (election-March 1) took place under the watchful eyes of an establishment, within a defined jurisdiction. Ultimately the buck stops at the doors of the authorities. In that sense they are responsible and it’s their duty to expose what happened; something they are not willing to.

        What conclusion can be drawn when the so called "elected" authorities are intransigent and will not undertake a transparent process bringing the culprits to justice? Why, if they were not responsible?

        1. All in Good Faith

          It is encouraging to hear that some readers like my writings. As to the questions I have posed, they are not meant to "poke" at readers as much as questions that pop in my mind which I share on this forum.
          The last presidential election in Armenia pitted the former defense minister and the out-going prime minister with all his day-to-day visibility in the media and with the tacit, if not outright, support of the government with all the resources in its possession against a resurrected former political heavyweight, LTR, the former prime minister. It was bound to create controversy in the best of the circumstances. However, I have yet to conclude, maybe because of political naivete, that the orchestrated massive demonstration by the opposition on the allegation of massive fraud, was the wise and justified response to less-than-a perfect election in a landlocked country that is falling apart due to external pressures.
          My reasoning is that, at most, Sarkissian’s 862,369 votes which amounted to 3% vote over the 50% decisive figure on the first ballot would have been questioned, but not likely that the LTR’s 21.5% (351,222 votes) could have risen to over the 50% mark; neither a repeat of voting was an assurance of a different outcome. A fraud at the scale of 30% of the participating voters would have amounted to the manipulation of 364,077 votes per my calculations. I have had difficulty in reconciling myself that fraudulent voting took place at such a scale.
          As a sidebar, I want to point of the only leader of men I have come to know of in my lifetime is Nelson Mandela. After long incarceration, he could have easily turned South Africa into a bloodbath with a single TV speech, but instead, South Africa was blessed with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We were not as fortunate to have our version of Mandela in these trying times in Armenia. LTR, the first nationally-elected president failed to live up to his historical trust.
          Three years is a long time in this fast-paced age. I hope some good will come from the tragic experience. It is time to move on and put the issue at rest.
    2. PFA like the AAA is a tool of
      PFA like the AAA is a tool of the US State Dept. and is used whenever the latter wants Armenia to comply with its mandates.  Don’t read too much into what the PFA has to say.

  6. Truth needs to be told

    Dear Vahe:
    Thank you for your comment. Your remarks tell me you haven’t looked at PFA’s Election Report as provided in my previous comment. Please do so when you get a chance and go through at least Chapter 4 carefully. The Report is the single most comprehensive account of what took place on the election date (and subsequently March 1-2) and contains a sizable body of both direct and indirect evidence of fraud that took place, including material provided by the international observers and embassies. Citing from all relevant election observer reports, it shows how the opinions of the observers had changed from the initial assessment to the final report (most notable of them is the OSCE). The body of evidence reported in the PFA’s study and elsewhere shows large-scale vote rigging through ballot stuffing, “creative” voter accounting, voter intimidation, vote buying, and military voting. While, as stated in the Report, no election in Armenia since the first one in 1991 was fraud-free, the one in 2008 was notorious for the use of the administrative resources and power that Robert Kocharian and Serge Sargsyan resorted to in order to secure the outcome we are all painfully familiar with now. The fraud was not marginal and was not committed by both sides (look at the charts carefully, please). The opposition in this case simply had no resources not only to commit fraud but to defend the votes they received (which in many cases—again, as shown in the Report—were counted illegally toward Serge Sargsyan).
    It is your right to believe or not to believe any of this evidence. No one has the right to tell you what opinion to form and how to form it. But if I may suggest one thing (without infringing on your right to do what you please): if you are trying to influence public opinion and are making statements in public fora like this one, it may be prudent to do some research before doing so. Another way to form opinion and collect evidence (albeit anecdotal) would be to ask people—including Diasporans—who were in Yerevan during those days. I am sure you will get a similar picture of what took place and how.
    Why do I think talking about these things is important almost 3 years after it happened? The answer is simple. Keeping quiet or worse spreading disinformation really aids and abates those who committed the crimes of election fraud and killing of demonstrators on March 1-2, 2008 in downtown Yerevan. It frees their hands in doing whatever else they have been doing since then, which is not much except for engaging in self-enrichment at the expense of Armenia’s needy, sick, military, national security, and future developmental prospects. And please, spare me the propaganda. I am well informed and am following developments there on daily basis. The very poor record of Armenia’s performance on many fronts in the past 20 years since independence should have been enough for the Diaspora to take a different position on these matters instead of just giving the benefits of its doubt to these people with questionable records and capacity to take the country where it needs to be in the 21st century. Indeed, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Most of us should feel that shame now for allowing this gang to fool us all these years…
    For whatever it’s worth, I will be happy to continue this exchange if only you would care to browse through the Report to get some background on what took place in 2008 in Armenia. Otherwise, it was a pleasure talking to you here.
  7. Hashing and rehashing old grudges

    I have been reading all the comments and I see people hashing and rehashing old grudges.  This is very sad indeed.  This reminds me an old story from Armenian History.  I don’t remember the names but I do remember the story which most of you seem to forget.  It was during the Pakradouniats Dynasty or Arshagouniats Kingdom, we had a very weak King.  So all the princes went to see the Gatoghikos and asked him to de-throne the king and have a Persian prince to replace him.  The Gatoghigos very wisely said: "I do not replace my sick sheep with odar’s healthy monster" (yes im hivant votchkhares odarin aroghch kazanin hed chem pokher). 

    To give you another example:  we have a terminally ill patient who desperately needs an operation to save his/her life, and instead of helping the patient, the doctors are arguing who should perform the surgery.  In this case the patient is Armenia!

    Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Let us learn from our mistakes and move-on. 

  8. Mr. Keusseyan: I am not sure

    Mr. Keusseyan:
    I am not sure I see the relevance of your story here. Who/what is the equivalent of the ‘Persian prince’ here? Who do you think is advocating for a take-over by a ‘Persian prince’ at this juncture?

    Related to this, you are saying that we should learn from our mistakes and move on. Do you think we have learned from our mistakes? Could you tell me please exactly what you have learned from 2008 and what followed since? Instead of telling your story here, why not listen to Garegin Njdeh, whose main patgam to the nation was "look inside for the source of all your problems; once you do, there you will also find the force that will help you get rid of your problems"? How long is it going to take us to understand that supporting some folks just because they are "our sons of bitches" (to borrow from President Reagan) is not the right way to go? We do have a lot of good people who could lead the country and the nation to a brighter future. Why aid those who are neither capable nor are willing to do that?

    Indeed, one thing I agree with you: we haven’t learned from our mistakes and therefore are bound to repeat them. People who say "let’s forget and move on" make me sick….because they remind me the Turks, who have been saying this same thing for the past 95 years and pretty much any crook and murderer, who wants to see his deeds be forgotten. Not a chance, Mr. Keusseyan!

    As I said before, complacency aids the thieves and crooks in Yerevan and pushes the Diaspora away from people of Armenia; it makes our nation weaker as a result. You decide what you want to do and where you want to be on that scale–I aleardy made my choice.

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