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California Courier Online, March 25, 2004

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  • California Courier Online, March 25, 2004

    California Courier Online, March 25, 2004

    1 - Commentary
    Armenia Finally Protests British
    Ambassador's Denial of Genocide

    By Harut Sassounian
    California Courier Publisher
    ************************************************** ************************
    2 - Alumni Upset at AGBU for Reported
    Closing of Melkonian Institute in Cyprus
    3 - ARF Dro Gomideh Event Raises
    $50,000 for Mesrobian School
    4 - Rep. Schiff Names Aida Yeghiazarian
    As Woman of Year for 29th. District
    5 - WAAA Armenian Summer Games
    Returns to Central California
    ************************************************** **********************
    1 - Commentary
    Armenia Finally Protests British
    Ambassador's Denial of Genocide

    By Harut Sassounian
    Publisher, The California Courier

    The Armenian Foreign Ministry joined last week with hundreds of Armenian as
    well as non-Armenian individuals and organizations from throughout the
    world to protest the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the British
    Ambassador. The Armenian Public (State) TV, broadcast to Armenian
    communities worldwide, devoted close to 5 minutes of airtime to the
    controversy surrounding the British Ambassador.
    In response to the flood of e-mails and the media coverage as well as the
    public condemnation issued last week by Levon Lazarian, the leader of the
    ARF Parliamentary faction, the Armenian Foreign Ministry finally lodged an
    official protest with the British Ambassador for her denial on January 20th
    that a genocide was committed against the Armenians in 1915. The Agence
    France Presse quoted the following very mild statement of foreign ministry
    spokesman Hamlet Gasparyan: "we regret the position" taken by Amb. Thorda
    Abbott-Watt. "Every country has a right to make up its own mind on this,
    based on their own strategic interests. But on Armenian soil, the
    ambassadors have to be more sensitive and delicate."
    In addition to the flood of e-mails sent by individuals, Armenian as well
    as non-Armenian organizations from 17 countries (Armenia, Australia,
    Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania,
    Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United
    Kingdom) have issued statements seeking a public apology from the British
    Ambassador and urging her withdrawal or expulsion from Armenia. Protest
    e-mails have been sent not only to Amb. Abbott-Watt, but also to the
    British Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and to the Armenian
    Foreign Ministry.
    The e-mail campaign has already had a desirable effect on Amb. Abbott-Watt.
    Last week, when an Armenian TV reporter approached her, she declined to
    make any further comments on the Armenian Genocide. Consequently, other
    Ambassadors in Yerevan, having become aware of the reaction of the Armenian
    people and the government on this issue, would be more circumspect in their
    future statements on the Armenian Genocide. As April 24 is approaching,
    protest demonstrations should be organized in front of the British Embassy
    in Yerevan, the British Foreign Ministry in London, as well as all British
    Embassies and Consulates throughout the world.
    In the meantime, everyone should continue sending e-mails to the British
    Ambassador ([email protected]) asking her to make a public
    apology for her offensive remarks on the Armenian Genocide. E-mails should
    also be sent to Michael Jay, the Under-Secretary and Head of the UK
    Diplomatic Service ([email protected]) and to Prime Minister Tony
    Blair through the following web site
    (, click on select a subject,
    select "international affairs," and then click on the "go" button), asking
    them to withdraw their Ambassador as she can no longer effectively carry
    out her diplomatic duties in Armenia. Please send copies of your e-mails
    and any responses to the Armenian Foreign Ministry
    ([email protected]) and to [email protected].
    To review articles and correspondence on this issue, please check the
    following web site ( The latest update is the
    blistering statement issued by Ara Abrahamian, the Chairman of the World
    Armenian Congress. He described the British Ambassador's conduct as
    unbecoming of a diplomat and called for her immediate expulsion from


    The L.A. Weekly, in its Feb. 20-26, 2004 issue, published a notice for an
    upcoming multi-ethnic, inter-faith concert. The announcement contained the
    following very offensive statement regarding Armenians:
    "SACRED SOUL features The Yuval Ron Ensemble (with Najwa Gibran) and The
    Gwen Wyatt Chorale. 'An outreach for the Israeli, Jewish and
    African-American communities in L.A.' No Armenians allowed. WILSHIRE UNITED
    METHODIST, 4350 Wilshire Blvd., Sun., Feb. 22, 4 p.m. (818) 505-1355."
    The L.A. Weekly received complaints from many of its 200,000 readers as
    well as a letter from Jay Shanker, the attorney of Mr. Yuval Ron demanding
    that the "paper print an immediate and prominent retraction and apology for
    the statement in this coming week's issue." The lawyer characterized the
    publication's wording as "intentionally and provocatively hateful and
    inflammatory." Shanker also stated, "a large number of the anticipated
    audience for this event elected not to attend based on this offensive
    notice. Your full and timely cooperation in this regard will greatly
    influence my client's and his associates' decision as to whether any
    further action should be taken against your paper."
    In response, the L.A. Weekly, in its Feb. 27-March 4, 2004 issue, published
    the following "apology" at the end of its Letters to the Editor section:
    "The Weekly sincerely apologizes to the performers, concert promoters, and
    anyone else upset by the Feb. 20-26 concert listing for the 'Sacred Soul'
    event at the Wilshire United Methodist Church. Although the brief
    commentary was intended solely as a joke, we recognize it may have offended
    some readers. For that, we are truly sorry."
    The above statement satisfied neither the Armenian community nor the
    organizers of the concert. Mr. Yuval Ron wrote to the L.A. Weekly on March
    1, 2004, to express his "disappointment of the half hearted apology." He
    demanded "a direct and more detailed letter of apology," otherwise he
    threatened to take "further public and/or legal actions" against the
    In response, Laurie Ochoa, the Editor in Chief of the L.A. Weekly, wrote to
    Mr. Ron, expressing the paper's "most sincere regret about the insensitive
    commentary, a tasteless attempt at humor by those who compile our concert
    On March 5, 2004, Rev. Franklin D. Sablan of the Wilshire United Methodist
    Church wrote to the L.A. Weekly, stating that he "was deeply offended" by
    "the racist comments." He charged that the paper "maligned the name of the
    Wilshire United Methodist Church."
    Last week, several Armenian community representatives, including this
    writer, met with the L.A. Weekly. The editors disclosed that Libby
    Molyneaux, the Associate Calendar Editor, was the one who inserted the
    anti-Armenian remark in the concert announcement, "as a joke." While the
    editors expressed sincere regret for the offensive insertion, they felt
    that their published apology ended the controversy. They said that they
    could not dismiss the offending employee due to restrictions by the labor
    When the Armenian group insisted that the published apology was inadequate
    and the Armenian community may consider legal action, the editors said they
    would rethink their position.
    Given the large circulation of this publication and the offensive nature of
    the inserted statement, readers are urged to send e-mails to the Managing
    Editor, Sharan Street ([email protected]), to express their outrage,
    demanding that a more elaborate and prominent retraction be published and
    disciplinary action be taken against the offending employee.
    Armenians should also consider, after consulting with lawyers, filing a
    lawsuit for the violation of their civil rights under Federal and State
    ************************************************** ************************
    2 - Alumni Upset at AGBU for Reported
    Closing of Melkonian Institute in Cyprus
    By Jean Christou
    Cyprus Mail
    NICOSIA, Cyprus - The Melkonian Educational Institute in Nicosia is to
    close from June 2005, the New York-based foundation that administers
    Armenian schools worldwide announced last week.
    The move by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), which said only
    three months ago that the 78-year-old school was not for sale, has angered
    the 3,000-strong Armenian community on the island.
    They said yesterday they planned to stage a demonstration on March 24
    against the closure of the school, while the Melkonian's alumni hope to
    take legal action.
    In November, the AGBU denied reports that the loss-making school, sitting
    on a 40 million plot in the capital's commercial district, was up for
    grabs by developers and would be sold.
    But in its announcement yesterday, the AGBU said that after "extensive
    deliberations and thorough assessment," the Central Board had resolved
    unanimously to discontinue the school in June 2005.
    "The Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI), as a significant and historical
    institution within AGBU, has been a concern of the Central Board over many
    years. This decision is based largely on the Board's conclusion that MEI no
    longer meets the challenges of its mission in the present context of the
    Armenian world," the AGBU said.
    "The ultimate objective is to lay their hands on the land and take the
    funds out of Cyprus," Shavasb Bohdjalian, head of the alumni, told the
    Cyprus Mail yesterday.
    Since the controversy began, the Armenian community has managed to have the
    Melkonian declared a listed building and has persuaded the Forestry
    Department to file an application to declare the wooded area
    in the grounds as a protected forest. Legal action is now being considered,
    Bohdjalian said. If there is a case, it is likely to be fought in the
    Cypriot courts, he said.
    In a paid ad that appeared in local papers 10 days ago, Gordon Anderson,
    the American representative of the AGBU, said that "several options are
    being considered" to accommodate the 200 or so students at other schools so
    that they can gain an education "that will have an Armenian component."
    The AGBU administers 22 Armenian schools worldwide, including the
    Melkonian, which was founded in 1926 and is today the only secondary school
    in Cyprus for the Armenian community.
    "It is not just a matter of the sale of the land and the flight of some 80
    million dollars to the US in violation of a 1926 will by the founders," the
    alumni said. "It's also abuse of the rights of Armenian children who are
    being deprived their human right to a fair education based on their
    cultural heritage," they said, adding that
    the AGBU Central Board had refused to discuss ways to save the school
    because their main aim was "to take the money and run."
    The AGBU said the Central Board fully recognized and honored the continued
    legacy of the Melkonian Brothers, and "is determined to perpetuate their
    memory through new educational programs to be implemented within and
    outside Cyprus, in line with the spirit of their donation to AGBU."
    However, the alumni said the AGBU's talk of co-operating with other
    institutions, research centers and even universities was a public relations
    gimmick that aimed to mislead the Cyprus government into allowing the sale
    and subsequent export of the funds.
    ************************************************** ************************
    3 - ARF Dro Gomideh Event Raises
    $50,000 for Mesrobian School
    MONTEBELLO - For the second year in a row, a dinner dance organized at the
    Montebello Armenian Center by the A.R.F. San Gabriel "Dro" Gomideh on March
    6 netted the Mesrobian Armenian School of Pico Rivera a resounding $50,000.
    Nearly 400 guests were on hand, representing local civic and youth
    organizations, to show their support for the educational institution and
    the local Gomideh.
    Master of Ceremonies Nazareth Sadorian welcomed the guests and the
    dignitaries, which included Holy Cross Armenian Cathedral's pastor Very
    Rev. Hrant Yeretsian, and Rev. Khoren Baboushian, and representatives from
    the ARF Central Committee, including Chairman Hovig Saliba.
    The highlight of the evening featured a tribute to long-time educator and
    one of the charter instructors at Mesrobian School, Roubina Pakradouni, who
    retired last year after 50 years of devoted and caring service to Armenian
    education. With distinction, she taught Armenian elementary students,
    first in Lebanon for 12 years, and then for 38 more years at Mesrobian
    The well-respected educator was presented a plaque to a standing ovation
    from the guests, acknowledging her selfless service.
    Pakradouni spoke briefly and emotionally, thanking the Gomideh for the
    honor, and also thanked members of her family for their support, her former
    teachers and, in particular, her 94-year-old mother, Manoushak Nakashian
    Pakradouni, who was present to witness the presentation of the plaque.
    Appreciative remarks were presented by her former Mesrobian colleague, also
    a long-time educator, now also retired, Marie Ohanessian.
    Remarks were also made by Mesrobian School Principal Hilda Saliba.
    In his remarks, "Dro" Gomideh Chairman, Sarkis Sassounian reiterated the
    Gomideh's commitment to the Mesrobian School and the spirit that embodies
    Armenian education, civic dedication, and the pursuit of the national
    aspirations of the Armenian nation.
    The other highlight of the evening came after popular singer Karnig
    Sarkissian began his long-awaited performance of revolutionary songs.
    Galvanizing the substantial number of members present from the Armenian
    Youth Federation, and friends, the inspirational and traditional songs also
    elicited requests and accompanying donations, which by evening's end rose
    to $42,000, including a generous contribution of $12,500 by the Nourian
    Family. To round out the number and match last year's amount, the "Dro"
    Gomideh added $8,000, bringing the total to $50,000.
    "The amount contributed was just as impressive as the community spirit and
    unity demonstrated this evening," one of the guests remarked afterwards.
    "It was truly an inspiring evening."
    The evening's musical entertainment was provided by Bedig Yeranosian and
    the Knar Band.
    ************************************************** ************************
    4 - Rep. Schiff Names Aida Yeghiazarian
    As Woman of Year for 29th. District
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - To commemorate Women's History Month, U.S.
    Representative Adam Schiff announced last week that he has named Aida
    Yeghiazarian of Glendale, California as one of the Women of the Year for
    California's 29th District. Yeghiazarian was honored at a "Women of the
    Year" luncheon hosted by Rep. Schiff on March 22.
    "Over the years, Ms. Yeghiazarian has been an active volunteer in Glendale
    and advocate for better education programs for Armenian children in
    Southern California," Rep. Schiff said. "The entire community joins me in
    thanking Aida for her continued efforts to make the 29th Congressional
    District a
    more vibrant and enjoyable place in which to live, and for her devotion to
    those in need."
    Yeghiazarian was born in Tehran, Iran in 1955. After attending Reza Shah
    High School, she took accounting courses at a local college for one year.
    Although her studies in Iran were interrupted when she and her family
    immigrated to the United States in 1977, Aida took many courses in the
    United States over the next few years, including management of commercial
    properties, business and real estate law and English. In 1979, Aida married
    her husband, Vahe, and they moved to Glendale. In 1980, Aida obtained her
    real estate license, and with her husband, bought a franchise of the Re/Max
    Real Estate Agency. They have 2 daughters, Sevan and Anie.
    While maintaining a full-time career, Aida volunteered at all of her
    daughters' schools, including the Verdugo Gymnastics School, Flintridge
    Preparatory School, the Champion Gymnastics School and Van Nuys Gymnastics
    Olympica. Formerly active in the PTAs of Tufenkian Pre-school and Chamlian
    Armenian School, she still assists Chamlian School in its fundraising
    Yeghiazarian has been on the Glendale Board of Realtors for over 24 years,
    serving on their commercial real estate advisory committee. She is a
    member of the National Association of Realtors and a member of the
    California Association of Realtors. Because of her real estate experience,
    Aida feels fortunate to be able to help financially struggling families
    with their financial planning, often by working without commission.
    Yeghiazarian spearheaded the successful fundraising campaign for the
    Glendale Police Memorial Fund, raising over $35,000. She is a former
    President and 12-year board member of the Armenian Educational Foundation.
    She also serves on the Armenian National Committee of America Western
    Region, is a member of Homenetmen, and the Armenian American Chamber of
    ************************************************** ************************
    5 - WAAA Armenian Summer Games
    Returns to Central California
    FRESNO - This year marks the 34th year of athletic competition hosted by
    the Western Armenian Athletic Association. The events will include men's
    basketball, women's volleyball, tennis, and track and field.
    The games, which are an opportunity for athletes of Armenian descent to
    showcase their skills, will be held June 18,19 and 20 at Buchanan High
    School in Clovis.
    This modern complex has outstanding facilities, including a 9,000-seat
    stadium with an all-weather track. Track and field events on Saturday will
    be open to people of all ages and be contested in age groups. Tennis will
    also be held on Satuday and will include singles and doubles competition by
    age groupings. Two campus gymnasiums will be home to the basketball and
    volleyball tournaments.
    WAAA President Van Der Mugrdechian and Vice President Marty Bohigian are
    looking forward to a successful return to Central California from the Bay
    Area. Several activities are being planned in conjunction with the sports
    events to help make this a weekend everyone will enjoy. Entry forms and
    details of activities will be available soon.
    For more information, contact Der Mugrdechian at (559) 298-2371
    [email protected] or Marty Bohigian at (559) 297-7887,
    [email protected].
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    ************************************************** ************************