Two Hits in Seven Days

 Editorial, 15 December 2015

The last week of November was seven dismal days for Armenians and two of their top charities. The United Armenian Fund (UAF), which has sent, since its inception, some $720 million worth of assistance to Armenia and to Artsakh, announced that it had shuttered its operations. A week earlier, the All-Armenia Telethon had announced that it had raised $10,378,000—the lowest amount since 2005 and a far cry from the glory days of 2011 ($31,000,000) and 2008 ($35,000,000).

The UAF board of directors stated that it would concentrate its efforts on other projects in Armenia and in the Diaspora. It’s an open secret that the death of long-time philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian and the winding down of his Lincey Foundation would severely impact the UAF.  The board is composed of representatives from the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Relief Society, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.

We will address the UAF demise at a later date.

The steady decline of moneys contributed to the All-Armenia Fund, the charity which has raised somewhere between $250 million to $300 million, is a painful fact. It deserves the attention of every Armenian.

Why the sharp decline in the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund contributions? The reasons cited by pro and con fund sources are various. Pro-fund people point out that in its heyday almost one-third of the contributions came from a small group of wealthy Armenians in Russia. The severe economic downturn in that country has almost dried up that important source of contribution. As well, some traditional sources have switched their attention to the Armenians of Syria. Several individuals who have been major supporters of the fund have passed away in recent years. A fourth explanation is that the first generation of immigrants was more involved in Armenian affairs and supported the fund. Their assimilated or partly-assimilated progeny do not have the same closeness or commitment to the nation. Finally, when Armenia and Artsakh became independent and Armenians were resisting Azeri attacks there was an enhanced spirit of patriotism. Some people have since become blasé about Armenia and Artsakh while others don’t know of a time when there was no independent Armenia.

All-Armenia Fund critics put the largest blame in the decline of the contributions on the close links the fund has with the corrupt Republic of Armenia government. Whether the RoA was headed by Levon Ter-Petrossian, Robert Kocharian or Serge Sargsyan, the government and its cronies have dipped their fingers into the fund till, critics allege. In addition, they say, there has been mismanagement and incompetence (for example, badly-constructed buildings which required repairs a few years after they were built).

Ara Manoogian, a vociferous critic of the fund, reports that in 2010 fund Executive Director Sarkis Kotanjian admitted to him, in a taped conversation, that the fund reeked to high heaven. According to activist and gadfly Manoogian, Kotanjian said: “You know all kinds of things have occurred in the fund’s history. Again, very frankly, openly I’m talking to you: they’ve stolen money, eaten it, and what not. It has happened.”

Critics have accused the fund of having a high overhead. While individual “chapters” have been scrupulous about administrative expenses (the Toronto branch has no payroll, no rent, no printing expenses for its newsletter and no travel expense), the Armenia head office hasn’t been as responsible. There have been scandals going back to the Ter-Petrossian regime.

Some diehard supporters of Sargsyan claim the big contributions of Moscow Armenians were partly due to Sargsyan’s lobbying and attendance at the annual dinner where huge sums of money were raised. Some supporters also say that the money raised by the fund is so miniscule (1% of RoA’s budget) that regime’s hangers-on wouldn’t consider it worth fleecing. A weak argument, but nonetheless part of the give and take.

Armenians are ever-ready to raise their voice about how much they love their nation and their homeland, but most of them fail to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to helping Armenian causes. “Let Kirk Kerkorian do it… let the AGBU donate…they have millions” they huff and puff while paying big monthly fees for their indispensable Netflix membership and for wasteful luxuries. They don’t think twice about coughing up $50,000 for a BMW SUV or a high-end Toyota but flinch at donating a few hundred dollars a year to their brothers and sisters who are living in terrible conditions and face daily attacks from the enemy.

There are about 3.5 million Armenians, not counting those living in Armenia, Artsakh, and Russia. If we divide 3.5 million by the average four members per family, we get 875,000 families. How much did these 875,000 families raise before the Armenians of Moscow began to pitch in and before people began asking questions about the management of the fund? A grand total of $7,700,000! You do the math as to how much that is per family. You do the math as to how much is that per 3.5 million Armenians.

And year after year–to add to the shame–it’s the same people who donate. While Toronto is one of the lucky communities (its dollar numbers have grown substantially in the last five year), it’s the same individuals who continue to donate year after year. The pattern is the same across the globe: of the 875,000 families it’s only 25,000 families who bother to help their impoverished brethren in Armenia and in Artsakh.

There was a time when critics questioned the organization’s audits. It’s safe to say that the audit is no longer an issue: Hayastan All-Armenia Fund Yerevan (the head office) financial audit is done by the well-known firm of Grant Thornton and a physical audit of its home page is performed by an independent engineering company in Yerevan. Representatives of the latter go to every major project site while they are under construction. A third audit–internal–is done by Ara Aslan of Nice.

Migirdic Migirdicyan, the founding chair of Hayastan Foundation Toronto, says: “We have no choice but to increase the standard of living of the Hayasdan and Artsakh by building humanitarian infrastructure so that they can have a normal life and stay on their ancestral lands. After all, it is those villagers’ children who are defending our lands.” Migirdic’s dedication is understandable and admirable but his argument has so far failed to impress most potential donors.

Assuming the above reasons as to why there has been a sharp decline in the donations are valid… assuming that the auditors are on the ball… and assuming that the thieves of Yerevan have in recent years failed to shave the donations… Where does that leave the All-Armenia Fund? What will be its future? Will next year’s telethon contributions continue to go south? To point out that 3 to 4 million Diaspora Armenians managed to raise no more than $10 million dollars must make the ghosts of Gulbenkian, Manoogian, and Kerkorian wonder as to why they bothered to help their nation in the first place. Another fact is that many Diasporans have attended heavily-subsidized Armenian schools.  They have received elementary and even secondary school education because the Gulbenkians and the Manoogians of this world, in addition to individual Armenians, donated to the Armenian schools in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, etc. Do the graduates of these subsidized schools remember the times when their principal waited anxiously for that much-needed check to arrive from New York or Lisbon?

To reverse the decline in donations, the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund leaders should come up ASAP with a new game plan. The current situation is untenable. If the fund maintains its current vector, it risks becoming irrelevant. Considering the dire need for increased donations and considering the millions of Armenians who live comfortably in the west, it should not be difficult for the fund executives to come up with a new battle plan, a new approach that will resonate with the Diaspora public. The old ways aren’t working. The need in our homeland is urgent.

Let’s not waste our time listening to excuse seekers. There will always be people who will find an excuse not to open their purse. They will talk about the depressed economy, the cost of filling their giant SUV’s gas tank, the high cost of macchiato. The Armenian language has a ringing slap for them: “We saw you in the summer and we saw you in the winter” (Kezee amarn al dessank tsmern al dessank). We honor them when we call them Armenian.

32 comments
  1. Transparency is needed

    The Editorial is a bit confusing because it does not provide clear and precise answers to the questions/concerns raised, nor does it make specific recommendations for actions to be taken.

    The All Armenia Fund is an extremely important and critical entity for the fabric of Armenia/NKR. What is the game plan being proposed? What does it have to do to regain the trust and confidence of donors? Chastising them will not do.
    Here are some thoughts:

    1- The $ 300 million raised. Where was it spent? What were the major projects? Were they successful in achieving their goals? An accounting of the $ 300 million will shed light on the worthiness of the specific projects and make the donors gratified.

    2- Publish and circulate the audited reports. Make them available and explain the contents to the people. Most people are not accounting savvy and cannot fully comprehend  audited financial statements.

    3- Outline and provide details of projects that are being studied/considered. Broad statements are not sufficient. To garner enthusiasm and open up peoples' wallets
    the importance and need of each project should be explained.

    Vart Adjemian
     

    1. The bottom line is the declining donations

      I disagree with Vart. The editorial provided a detailed background of the history–particularly the recent history–of Himnatram.

      It made it clear there's lots of contradiction, confusion and disagreement about the situation. Since the bottom line is the declining donations, it recommended that the Himnatram convene ASAP and come up with a solution to the problem. It would be safe to assume that when it does, the executives and the chapter managers will have no option but to address the corruption and other allegations which we have all heard in the past few years.

      Vahakn

  2. What happened this year

    The proposed plan for this year was to build housing for veterans with 5 or more children. This was the least attractive vision ever for the fund. Compare this plan with building vital roads, hospitals and schools and you will see why not many people did not get interested or motivated to help. Also, why build only houses for big families only, which sounds discriminatory, instead of having a more imaginative and equitable way of finding families in need. For example finding would be owners by the number of veterans and wounded in their families?
     

  3. Transparency is needed

    I believe that Vahakn, instead of disagreeing with me, is in agreement with me.
    I agree that the editorial clearly covers the contradictions, the confusion and the disagreement about the situation.

    What the editorial does not do , is to provide any clarification of the contradictions,
    the issues underlining the disagreements and help eliminate the confusions.
    It is easier to criticize. Constructive suggestions, other than broad statements, are insufficient.
    Vart

    1. Dear Vart

      Dear Vart,

      After reading your comment, I went back to the article and read it again. Contrary to what you wrote–that it doesn't provide a solution or recommendation–the fact is in the final paragraphs the article does just that when it says that Himnatram executives should convene to come up with solutions which would reverse the downward trend in funds collected. The editorial also stresses the urgency of the situation by saying Himnatram executives should get together ASAP.

      Incidentally, the article has already done a commendable job by spotlighting the dire situation.

      Vahakn

  4. Audits

    The All-Armenia Fund (AAF) audits show that the money collected was spent on the project.  To my knowledge there has never been an audit of any AAF project to address the issue of whether a particular project is overpriced.  It is the potential disappearance of funds up the pyramidal steps of the oligarchy to the top through this overpricing that is the main concern, and the one never-audited aspect.

    When the chairmen of the AAF, their relatives, and their party members become hundred-million and billionaires, when over time diasporans working on the ground in Armenia witness the pyramidal mafia-style oligarchic system of governance in all spheres, when the judiciary is patently not-independent, when the AAF chairmen steal elections and referenda, when the AAF chairman is thus an impostor on the AAF board… obviously questions arise and donations sink.

    If the AAF board wants to salvage the enterprise they should ask for independent audits of the money spent on projects compared to what it should have been based on market price.  I am not holding my breath… 

    1. “When the chairmen”

      "When the chairmen of the AAF, their relatives, and their party members become hundred-million and billionaires,…."

      Do you have any proof, or you are just recycling the misinformation and lies you picked up here and there gossiping ?

      "… obviously questions arise and donations sink."

      Obviously donations did not, quote,  "sink".
      Questions have been raised since Day 1 and donations have gone up, and gone down, and gone up, and gone down. 
      Care to guess why?

      Diaspora Armenians who want to donate, will donate no matter what. Those who do not want to donate will always find an excuse. 

      1. Widespread Image Problem

        AAF has a widespread image problem. That is how I perceive. Avery perceives otherwise. Do I have proof? No, I do not. Does Avery have proof to back his rebuttal? I have no reason to believe that his is also no more than a perception.

        Audits are necessary but they cannot dispel suspicion. After the earthquake of Spitak, there circulated a joke with the irons claiming that that they cannot be blamed for they were not where they were supposed to be to reinforce the buildings made of concrete. I bet the constructions of those houses were also audited to make sure that the proletariat money was not exploited.

        Surely Armenians in the Diaspora do contribute and will continue to contribute. Our sentimental ties to our motherland transcend our concerns. Persons like Berge who share they concerns are driven by such sentiments, otherwise they would have retreated in their cocoons that is their lives, careers, jobs, families and vacation time on the hospitable shores of Americas.

        I also continue to harbor suspicion much like Berge does.  As far as I am concerned, much like governance in Armenia, the AAF has an image problem. It is to the AAF to heed to these concerns and do more to put dispel these concerns.

        1. Proof for Rebuttal

          Vahe asks "does Avery have proof to back his rebuttal? I have no reason to believe that his is also no more than a perception." I don’t have proof. I don’t have proof that  “…the chairmen of the AAF, their relatives, and their party members become hundred-million and billionaires”. Neither I nor anybody else can have proof, because it is impossible to prove a negative. Is it not the common law in Anglo-Saxon countries that the accuser must prove his/her case against the accused? Is it not true that one is innocent until one is proven guilty?

          Where is the evidence of the accusers? My rebuttal is based on logic: how is it possible for people to accumulate “hundred-million” and be “billionaires” and there is nobody other than poster [Berge] who knows about it? Let’s see the names of those alleged billionaires. Where are those alleged AAF billionaires?

          By citing Ara Manoogian,and repeating his words (“Ara Manoogian, a vociferous critic of the fund, reports that in 2010 fund Executive Director Sarkis Kotanjian admitted to him, in a taped conversation, that the fund reeked to high heaven.”) Keghart.com contributes to the perception. Manoogian says there is a  taped conversation. Let Keghart.com obtain that conversation from Manoogian and let us listen to it and make up our minds re the fund. Did Kotanjian say what Manoogian claims he said? By the way, if Manoogian taped his alleged conversation with Kotanjian surreptitiously, he committed felony.

    2. Vahe, Berge, Varuj …

      Vahe, Berge, Varuj, Vahe… What can I say but repeat Avery's words: You will find any excuse not to donate to any Armenian cause. You know what? Don't donate! Your donation is not needed. You go out of your way to complain criticize, denigrate without providing any proof because you are frustrated at your own failure in attracting community support other than a couple of people at the Armenian Renaissance. The fact that you try to find even non-existent flaws within the AAF when you know very well that most American or Canadian charities, which raise billions, spend most of the money towards anything but the actual cause they're raising money for. Shame on you.

      The only mission of the Armenian Renaissance is to poison and divide Diasporans and seed hate in them towards the Armenian authorities. No one said the RoA authorities are perfect, but I don't doubt their patriotism one little bit. And on the other hand, you just need to look at the Armenia leaders that the Renaissance supports: Raffi Hovannisyan, Sefilian, Chugaszyan, and the rest. After monitoring what they have done in 2015, I'd like to mention that they tried to create discord in Artsakh; they tried to start a revolution on April 24, another one on December 1 all of which had comical endings.

      I thank God for Serj Sargsyan. We are more than lucky to have him at the helm. Just look at the alternative: I wish they can finally go home and get real jobs. Even if they're not qualified to work as circus clowns, the least these people can do, instead of their meaningless "Panchounee" tirades and "revolutions", they can go and stand beside our brave soldiers who are defending the borders.

      Take your money; get off your comfortable couches and go to Armenia-Artsakh and spend your money on our heroic soldiers. The rest of your talk is simply a waste of cyber space. You're doing nothing but harm while feeding your egos. I wish you more wisdom in 2016.

      1. Artur jan, Thank you

        Artur jan,

        Thank you for your wishes of more wisdom for me during 2016. I have never considered myself wise, so that should help.

        At present, as you would guess I consider the oligarchy that is in charge of Armenia to be a disgrace and the biggest threat for our nation. But, I will be very happy to admit that I was wrong in my judgment, if in the future, Armenia, under their rule becomes a prosperous and lawful country. That will be a worthwhile price to pay.

        One thing that bothers me though is those street gangs (taghin dgherke) that act as election observers for the oligarchy. There are many videos showing them spitting on a young girl journalist, threatening them with physical violence during the referendum. They remind me of a close protege of Sargsyan, the Sunik mayor, who is also known to physically attack female journalists. I know those are small details and not worthy of cyberspace as you say. Anyway, when those boys get married, I am sure they will not treat their wives and daughters in similar fashion.  After all they do not carry Turkish genes. So, the traditional Armenian family will flourish with the blessings of our church.

        Lastly, I would like to act on your advice about how I should spend my money on heroic Artsakh soldiers. I have one condition though. I would like those in the ruling party, say the very wealthy mayor of Yerevan, who has never served in the army,  visit the families of those recently killed soldiers and explain to them why he himself  does not qualify to being a heroic soldier.  

        Allow me to wish all of us a better moral judgment for 2016.

        1. Copy/Paste Comments

          Varuj, 

          Your comment could have been copy/pasted from the comments of the numerous other self-hating Armenians flourishing on social media. I call the attitude ինքնահաստատման անհույս փորձեր: Usually the sentence starts with "I have one condition" or "when the day comes", etc . This goes hand-in hand with the Hovhannisyan-Sefilian act, when they start preaching: "Նոր Հայաստանում, Հայը ապրելու ա…" (you fill in the blanks).

          Putting forward utopian visions of virtual reality to excuse the attacks, boycotts and "revolutions"… I will assure you of one thing: with this attitude you will not contribute anything to Armenia. Hence my first comment: we don't need your donation! Because it will always be accompanied by մուննաթ. The best you will accomplish is to feed your ego with excuses and justification for your "heroic" boycotts. That's the difference between you and a Sam Simonian of Tumo fame or Ruben Vardanyan and numerous other patriots, who build, instead of casting stones . That's the difference between Armenian Renaissance members and true patriots involved in the AAF, or COAF (for example) or many other organizations which do good for Armenia DESPITE knowing all the flaws of oligarchy or the corruption. Their legacy will live forever, while your comments and complaints will end up in the dustbin of cyberspace.

          Since you live the United States, I suggest you concentrate on protesting against the American oligarchy–the greatest democracy in the world. Why don't you complain about it? Because you've been taught that it's legal. So it's OK. Besides, it's always easier to attack your relatively weak ancestral homeland. The gap between the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans versus the remaining 99 percent is $1,303,198 versus $43,713, a gap of roughly 30 to 1. What makes this possible? The politicians who are in the pockets of the top 1%. If that's not oligarchy what is?

          Moral judgment? Why don't you start with yourself? Stay away from excuses which never built a country nor have left a legacy. Selfless devotion has.

          1. US Democracy

            Well said, Artur.

            On US democracy ("rule of the people"),  how many posters constantly ragging on Armenia and its imperfect democracy know about the SCOTUS Citizens United ruling? The US Supreme Court ruled that corporations can legally 'buy' elections and politicians. Indeed, corruption and theft are institutionalized in US, but you never hear the same people complain because they have been told it is "legal".

            The Supreme Court's 5-4 First Amendment decision in 2010 that extended to corporations for the first time full rights to spend money as they wish in candidate elections — federal, state and local. American oligarchs aka corporations can buy and sell politicians legally. There you go.

          2. Self-Hating Armenian

            If calling someone who holds different views from what you believe a "self-hating Armenian" makes you calmer, I am happy for you. I am taking it as a compliment.

          3. Still Calm

            I would never disturb my calm for the "self-hating Armenian". I feel sorry for that type of disorder and treat it as comic relief, because the repetition of the same statements, complaints and apocalyptic requiems are staggering, and funny. But I make a point of refuting their gossip with the truth for the simple reason that more people aren't infected by it.

          4. You Are Saying

            It's good that you are saying whatever you think is right, but try to do it in a civilized way. It is so easy to try to denigrate others by calling names. But that only shows one's character and nothing more.

          5. Do Me a Favor…

            Varuj,
            Do me a favor and check again what has been said about the president of the RoA, the Catholicos, and Armenian leaders, in some of the articles and comments on this website. You will then discover the true meaning of what denigrating is. In comparison, what I say about the so-called opposition and Renaissance,  is too soft and kind. I truly believe "self-hating Armenian" is a mild psychological disorder, which might have its roots in the after-effects of the Genocide, with no insult meant to you or the other ones who have it, on this forum. Consider it an observation and a wake-up call for self discovery.

          6. Self-Hating Armenian

            Dear Artur,
            You mention "self-hating" Armenians in your letter. Can you please elaborate on that? Who do you consider a self-hating Armenian? What kind of behavior or utterance is considered self-hating by you? What are your qualifications in diagnosing what you label self-hating as a mild psychological disorder? Does it have a long history (Vassag, for example) or is it a recent phenomenon? Thank you.
            Mesrob

          7. Artur’s Oligarchs

            Artur Mazmanian rightly points at the large gap between the incomes the 1% vs. 99% in the United States, but he errs when he alludes that the Armenian-American does not seem to mind that gap but is consumed by the oligarchy in Armenia. Should readers make Keghart.com a forum for the societal ills of the greater society they live in, Keghart.com may end becoming a veritable Babylon. The issue we discuss on this forum pertains to Armenia and Armenians and hence to Armenian oligarchy and not American or Russian oligarchies.

            Having said that I would also admit the following: When I walk on the streets of New York City it never crosses my mind that each domestic and commercial square footage of the bustling city is owned by someone and the Trumps among them own millions of such square footage. But when I walk on or envision the streets of Yerevan that thought crosses my mind.

            Why is that I think of such things while promenading on the streets of Yerevan but not on the streets of New York City? I think of such things because I know that not even 25 years ago the people of Armenia, through the state they had instituted, owned real estate that is Armenia lock, stock and barrel, so to speak. Surely there was a class–the so called nomenklatura  whose members passed their inheritance by placing or appointing their children to the lucrative posts of the state but they did not possess capital. According to all indications, nowadays a small select group, may be the former members of the nomenklatura, just do so these days. They own considerable capital and hence exercise undue influence on the economic, social and political lives of the emerging country.

            I also admit that history is more likely to be on the side of Artur Mazmanian for there grows a generation of thirty years and younger whose only recollection is the present reality. The Soviet era with its cherished ownership of the proletariat, I bet, is not even taught in schools. A generation of Diaspora Armenians has two to three decades to make the younger citizens of Armenia aware of the injustice that has been rendered to their parents whose labor made Armenia a functioning entity. Their parents and hence they were disfranchised by the new order and robbed of what was rightfully theirs also.

            Should that awareness and activism not take hold in the younger generation the Artur Mazmanian mindset would have carried the day to the detriment of the citizens of Armenia but not of the Armenians living in the Diaspora whose economic, social and political well-being are not affected by what goes on in Armenia.

        2. Wealthy Yerevan Mayor

          Re the comment:  “…the very wealthy mayor of Yerevan, who has never served in the army,  visit the families of those recently killed soldiers and explain to them why he himself  does not qualify to being a heroic soldier."

          If you can explain why is it that BarevaLeader Raffi Hovanissian, who was in Armenia at the time and was about 30, did not participate in the NKR War (1991-1994), we might be able to find out  about the Yerevan mayor. Also, if you can explain why is it that while their father is agitating for war with Azerbaijan, his four draft-age, strapping sons have avoided serving in the military of either the RoA or the NKR. Thank you.

          1. Raffi and Serving the Armed Forces

            As far as I know those from Diaspora who opt for dual citizenship be it while they continue to reside in Diaspora or not, such as refugees from Syria or Iraq in case of the latter, are exempt from military service if they are past certain age even not 30 yet. As far as I am concerned the individuals past that age who have dual citizenship should pay a penalty for not having served in the Armenian armed forces.

            For all I remember Raffi Hovanissian was catapulted into his historic role as the Third Republic's first foreign minister when was not even a citizen of Armenia. Interestingly  he encountered considerable obstacle when he applied to become a citizen.  Raffi may have been excused for serving for those reasons: not being a citizen and old enough not to serve. 

            As far as Raffi’s children are concerned, they should have served the Armenian armed forces–so should the children of a mayor or president or whoever. It would be no surprise if a reporter searching the reasons for the pampered children of the wealthy in Armenia–who have not served the armed forces–finds some mitigating “health” reason for exempting these otherwise healthy young enjoying the trappings of  their dads' newly-gotten wealth.

            Avery, I expected you to fault the “wealthy mayor of Yerevan” and Raffi or whoever instead of resorting to the defensive and uncalled for rebuttal.

            I met Raffi, for the very first time, before he became foreign minister, when he gave his youthful moving testament of his recent visit to historic Western Armenia. It must have been in the early '80s. During his testimony, he even sang a couple of lines from a nationalistic song whose lines I still remember: "kele lao yertank mer yergeer". I had newly arrived in the U.S. with some antiquated notion of a "lost" Armenian-American youth. His testament was an eye-opener. Raffi is an ardent Armenian but that does excuse his children from serving the armed forces. I do not think he would have avoided doing his civic duty under the law.

          2. Raffi’s Citizenship Woes

            Raffi was told he could not have Armenian citizenship unless he gave up his US citizenship. The USA told him that forgoing US citizenship is not reversible.

            Raffi had just left the All-Armenian Fund when he refused to participate in stealing that was proposed to him by the Kocharyan regime. When Raffi said he is prepared to let go of his US citizenship, Kocharyan told him he will not give him Armenian citizenship. Notwithstanding, Raffi went to the US embassy and officially, and forever, abandoned his US citizenship, and became stateless. At the time, the pressure on Kocharyan from the Diaspora was very strong on this matter, and the regime did not yet feel it had the impunity it now has, so Kocharyan gave in and Raffi received Armenian citizenship.

            Today, one of the main liberators of Artsakh, Jirair Sefilian, still has no Armenian citizenship, and is followed, harassed, wantonly thrown in prison and beaten up. 

          3. Acknowledging the Four

            At least you acknowledge that Raffi Hovanissian's four sons should have served in the army. When all four serve, we can discuss the pampered sons of others. 

            Hovanissian went to Armenia in 1988: to his credit. Karabagh fighting already started around 1988. Volunteer squads were already forming. Hundreds of Diaspora Armenians, who were not RoA citizens, fought in Karapagh, and quite a few were martyred. Not being an RoA citizen was no obstacle to volunteering.  Hovanissian was foreign minister from Nov. 1991 to Oct. 1992. Ceasefire was signed in May 1994. The point is, he did not participate in the NKR war and today is agitating for war while his four sons are not in the army. Hovhanissian may have been excused from serving because he was not a citizen and too old to serve, but many men in their forties and fifties fought and were KIA. Many had multiple small children. 

            Hovanissian is no "ardent" Armenian: he is a disruptive demagogue.
             

          4. Raffi is a Diasporan

            Raffi is a Diasporan Armenian who let go the comforts and security of the United States, including a great career and dedicated his life to Armenia. He was one of the earliest Diasporans to directly experience the institutionalization of corruption in Armenia and the grave risk this posed to our nation. He extricated himself from the regime and has been a crucial voice of  peaceful opposition against a brutal murderous regime.

            Knowing what we all know about the state of the military in Armenia (do not misinterpret this onto the brave young soldiers), I would myself have serious qualms about placing my sons in the clutches of the regime's armed services. As dual citizens, these young men have every right not to join the military in Armenia. That is the law. They are adults who themselves decide what to do, and I suspect concerns over their safety is what kept them out. 

            Bottom line: Raffi is not a perfect person. He is a father, and an Armenian who has sacrificed greatly and dedicated his life to making Armenia better. Comparing him to those who grabbed power, rob a nation and destroy its chances for a future makes no sense. This whole thing is not about Boghos versus Bedros. It's about do we want an extractive regime of governance that cripples the economy and drives emigration, or inclusive governance that would fire up the economy, reduce emigration, encourage foreign investments and donations, and raise Armenia to outstanding status in the region. 

            The defenders of the regime should ask whether they want to be with the status quo or status grow.

          5. Dual Citizens

            Berge, re Raffi Hovhanissian's four sons you wrote "as dual citizens, these young men have every right not to join the military in Armenia. That is the law." No. Quite the opposite. Like your other claim about billions of dollars, this is not true.

            Please note that there is a mandatory two-year military service requirement for all Armenian males. Dual nationals are also subject to this service requirement and can be expected to be detained and required to fulfill their military service obligation. (source: armenia.usembassy.gov)

            Happy New Year.

          6. Right and Wrong

            Avery,

            For the millionaires-billionaires bit, you know I am right.

            For the Hovanissian boys, I will look more into this. Maybe you can help in the meantime: Do you have any idea why were they not detained and required to fulfill their obligation?

            Thanks.

  5. Reductio ad absurdum

    TOTALS
    Telethon 2004 $11.4 million
    Telethon 2005 $ 7.7 million
    Telethon 2006 $13.7 million
    Telethon 2007 $15.3 million
    Telethon 2008 $35.0 million ($30 million pledged by about 120 individuals and businesses)
    Telethon 2009 $15.9 million
    Telethon 2010 $20.8 million ($8 million from Russian-Armenian businessmen)
    Telethon 2011 $12.3 million
    Telethon 2012 $21.4 million ($12.1 million from Russian-Armenian businessmen).
    Telethon 2013 $22.7 million ($12.3 million from Russian-Armenian businessmen).
    Telethon 2014 $12.4 million
    Telethon 2015 $10.4 million.

    Since inception, the total collected is about $200 million.
    Let us assume every last dollar was stolen by the AAF: going beyond what Berje alleges. What kind of investment turns $200 million into “billions” over 10 years?
    At a fantastic, unrealistic, compound interest of 10%, your investment will double in 10 years: to about $400 million.
    Assume every last dollar was stolen by AAF, and nothing was built. And that all those photographs of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. are fakes. Maybe Berje can tell the readers of Keghart how to turn $200 million into billions in 10 years.

    Reductio ad absurdum
    Latin for – Absurd.

    1. Total Collected

      According to the Himnatram website (Google it), the money collected is more than $250 million.

      1. The numbers I listed for 2004
        The numbers I listed for 2004 thru 2015 are from himnadram.org site. Under Events – Annual Telethons.
        The numbers are ‘pledged’. If more was ‘collected’, so much the better.

        Does not change the logic of Reductio ad Absurdum: “At a fantastic, unrealistic, compound interest rate of 10% per annum, your investment will double in 10 years: to about $500 million.” (doubled from $250 million)

        Where are the alleged $Billions ?

    2. “Reductio ad absurdum” Indeed

      Avery,

      Your citing and summing the funds raised by AAF year after year is impressive, much like the Latin term you quoted whose meaning you justly felt is needed to be explained to the uninformed readers. It, however, is also no less an exercise in Reductio ad absurdum,and presumptuous because  it misses the spirit of the exchange.

      We all know that the trustees of the AAF sit at the apex of the social and political  strata in Armenia and have the upper hand in leveraging economy of the country. It is not hard to fathom that they also direct the use of the funds raised along, since the Soviet days entrenched, Kh-Tz-P; that is to say Khnami (in-laws),  Tzanot (acquaintance) and Paregam (friends). I wonder if they resort to competitive bidding.

      Also bear in mind that Berge never alluded, although liberally to drive his point, their being millionaires or billionaires necessarily and only  through AAF let alone in Green Bucks ($) but could very well had TRAM in mind and we know the TRAM is  no less corrupting the MART in Armenia.

      1. Figures in Dollars

        Vahe,
        I can't read poster [Berge's] mind. Maybe you can. However, he is posting from Canada. Keghart article sites all figures in dollars: there is no mention of RoA tram/dram. Based on that, I am certain Berge meant US$ or Canadian$. 

        I am familiar with ԽԾԲ (Խնամի, Ծանոթ, Բարեկամ). Neither I nor anybody of like mind claims or has claimed everything in RoA is pure. 

        Do I deny there is ԽԾԲ leakage from the Fund: of course not. But roads, schools, hospitals, water mains….have been built. The evidence is there for all to see. 
        Would it be better if there was no leakage? Sure. But it is human nature. It's the same as here in the US, in Europe, everywhere.  

        When someone makes an outrageous claim about alleged accumulated billions of dollars, there must be a challenge. I am thankful to Keghart.com for allowing me to do just that. My only regret is that there are more among us here who believe the nonsense about alleged billions of dollars, despite the utter impossibility of the claim. 
         

         

  6. Some questions to think

    Some questions to think about;

    How long one should financially support a heroin (not to mention gambling) addicted relative?

    Under the present system, what would change in the life of ordinary Armenians if Armenia fund collected 100 million dollars every year?

    Can the present government in Armenia survive without enslaved farmers who cannot sell their grape? street thugs that attack election observers, young journalists? hungry grandmothers that are ready to sell their soul for a piece of bread?

    So, who benefits from the present dire situation in Armenia, if not the criminals (and their relatives) that run it?

    Armenia fund? Cui Prodest? Support it if that makes you feel good.

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