California Courier Online, October 7, 2004

1 - Commentary
Turkey Becoming More Repressive
On the Eve of EU Accession Report

By Harut Sassounian
California Courier Publisher
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2 - FAPC Harvest Festival Celebrates
Blessings of San Joaquin Valley
3 - Armenian Youth Volunteers
Clean Little Armenia Streets
4 - 2004 ARPA Film Festival
Begins Screenings Oct. 5
5 - Atanian's Art Works on Exhibit
Nov. 6-7 at St. Andrew Church
6 - St. James Ladies Are Cooking
For Annual Luncheon, Oct. 30
7 - Spending a Summer in
Armenia as a Nurse's Aide
8 - USC's Institute of Armenian Studies
Plans Inaugural Banquet for Feb. 6
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1 - Commentary
Turkey Becoming More Repressive
On the Eve of EU Accession Report

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Several unexpected developments took place in rapid succession last week on
the eve of the European Commission's critical report, due on October 6, on
whether Turkey is finally ready -- after a long wait of 40 years -- to
begin talks for admission into the European Union (EU).
Prime Minister Receb Tayyip Erdogan has made the start of EU accession
talks his number one priority. To accomplish this, he has left no stone
unturned. He has made countless lobbying trips to various European
capitals. He has enlisted the help of the United States to pressure the
European countries into making a favorable decision on Turkey. He has also
whipped his party's parliamentary majority into action at breakneck speed
to pass a large number of laws to comply with EU requirements, even though
most of them have not been implemented.
Just when Erdogan seemed to have all his ducks in order, he surprised
everyone by proposing an unexpected addition to the Turkish penal code --
the criminalization of adultery. He was severely criticized for that even
by his most ardent European supporters. Making mattes worse, Erdogan then
decided to withdraw the whole penal code from the Turkish parliament's
agenda. Shocked EU officials strongly denounced his actions warning him
that unless the parliament immediately approved the revamped penal code
without the offensive adultery clause, Turkey would have no chance of
getting a date for EU accession talks.
Erdogan angrily rejected EU's criticism as "interference in Turkey's
internal affairs." He bragged: "We are Turks, and we will make our own
decisions. EU membership is not indispensable." EU officials did not back
down. They told him that Turkey had to adapt to Europe, rather than the
other way around. Erdogan immediately flew to Brussels and agreed to have
the Turkish parliament hold an emergency session and approve the new penal
code without the adultery clause.
Even though Erdogan was harshly criticized both at home and abroad for his
brash behavior, some analysts believe that he made a very shrewd move. EU
officials were so pleased and relieved by his backing down on the adultery
clause, that they immediately declared that Turkey had met all the
requirements to have a date set for the start of EU talks. By relenting on
the one issue that he had adamantly sworn that he would not, Erdogan was
able to trick the EU officials by diverting their attention away from
Turkey's many other deficiencies in the fulfillment of EU requirements.
The EU commissioners turned a blind eye to the anti-democratic articles
found in the new penal code. These repressive clauses severely restrict the
Turkish citizens' freedom of speech. For example: It is a criminal offense,
punishable by a lengthy jail term, to praise a person who has committed a
crime; to incite hostility against a particular group of people; to make
propaganda for a criminal organization; to reveal confidential information
related to a judicial inquiry; to insult the president, the parliament, the
government, the courts, the military, the flag, the national anthem, etc.
The most shocking restriction, however, is included in article 306 of the
new penal code that prescribes a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone who
receives a benefit from a foreign source to carry out activities against
the national interest of Turkey. The Parliamentary Committee of Justice
that had drafted this clause said that it would be illegal, for example, to
call for the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from Cyprus or to declare that
the Armenians were actually subjected to "genocide following World War I."
This article reveals the extent of the Turkish government's intransigence
on the subject of the Armenian Genocide. At this most critical juncture,
when the Turks are supposed to be on their best behavior on the eve of the
release of the EU report setting a date for accession talks, they brazenly
pass a law making it a crime to speak of the Armenian Genocide! As if this
new draconian law was not enough, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul announced
last week that his Ministry had set up a committee to promote the denial of
the Armenian Genocide and to counter the planned commemorative events on
the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
All those na´ve European and Armenian officials, who mistakenly believe
that by joining the EU Turkey would be a more democratic state, and
therefore, more willing to recognize the Armenian Genocide, now have to
explain why Turkey is becoming less tolerant about freedom of speech and
more eager to jail anyone who dares to speak about the Armenian Genocide!
If Turkey is not willing to recognize the Armenian Genocide at a time when
it is trying to impress the Europeans with its "impeccably democratic
credentials," what incentive would it have for doing so once it is already
a member of the EU? Furthermore, if Turkey did not become a democratic
state decades after joining the Council of Europe and a becoming signatory
to scores of international treaties and covenants, why would it be more
democratic after joining the EU?
The blame must be equally shared by EU officials who had an absolute fit
over the adultery issue, but did not say one word against the law that
muzzles people from speaking about genocide. Apparently, Europeans are much
more troubled by the limitations placed on sexual escapades than denying
mass murder! Furthermore, the Turkish leaders, who are fond of saying that
historians and not politicians should deal with the Armenian Genocide, have
now made it impossible for Turkish historians to objectively study this
issue for fear of being locked up!
The European countries should not allow Turkey to join Europe until it
fully complies with all the requirements of the Copenhagen criteria. This
is not an ethnic, religious or geographic issue. The European Community is
a community of values. Until and unless Turkish society upholds these
values, they have no place in Europe. The mere act of adopting European
laws does not make a country European. The government of Turkey must fully
implement every one of these laws.
Finally, imagine if Germany had refused to acknowledge the Jewish Holocaust
and had passed a law making it a crime to even talk about it, would it have
had a chance to become a member of the EU? Turkey should be held to no less
a standard.
When the Turkish public adopts European values, Turkey could then qualify
to join the community of European nations!
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2 - FAPC Harvest Festival Celebrates
Blessings of San Joaquin Valley
FRESNO - The First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno will host its
Third Annual Harvest Festival on October 31, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the
Church Fellowship Hall, 430 S. First Street, Fresno.
Admission is free and open to the public.
The Festival is designed for children ages Pre-School through the Sixth
Grade, their families, and for the young at heart. Activities will include
a gourmet hot dog dinner with accompaniments, bounce house, carnival games
with candy prices, nonstop popcorn machine, face painting, and contemporary
music. Children and adults are invited to wear friendly costumes and the
evening will include a Bible costume contest.
Chartered on July 25, 1897, FAPC is a member congregation of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North
America, an ecclesiastical confederation of churches, missions, and
fellowships in the United States and Dominion of Canada.
Reverend Mgrdich Melkonian is the Senior Pastor of the Church and Annette
Smurr is the Harvest Festival Coordinator.
More details about the October 31 celebration are available by calling
(559) 437-8704 or the church offices, (559) 237-6638.
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3 - Armenian Youth Volunteers
Clean Little Armenia Streets
LOS ANGELES - Hundreds of Armenian youth gathered in Little Armenia on
Sept. 25 providing their volunteer service to the AYF's 2nd Annual Little
Armenia Cleanup. Volunteers from all over Southern California and even
Fresno helped remove thousands of pounds of trash from major streets in
Little Armenia.
Organized by the Armenian Youth Federation and cosponsored by Los Angeles
City Councilmember Eric Garcetti's Office, the cleanup attracted volunteers
from the public at large and community organizations such as the AYF,
Homenetmen Los Angeles Chapter, and the ARF Badanegan Organization.
Before the clean up began, Rev. Fr. Vicken Vassilian, representing
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Armenian Church, blessed
both the effort of the AYF and the volunteers' willingness to serve the
Councilmember Garcetti thanked the volunteers for their efforts and
welcomed the initiative of both the
volunteers and the AYF. Relaying the AYF Central Executive's message,
Razmig Haroun encouraged the youth to display their ownership of Little
Armenia by increasing their involvement in the improvement of the
"The AYF strives to serve the Armenian nation and Armenian people by every
possible means at its disposal," said Shant Baboujian, Chairman of the AYF
Western Region. "The Little Armenia Cleanup is one of many such projects to
make this home away from home more reflective both of the Armenian people
and our homeland."
In the coming weeks 24 "Welcome to Little Armenia" light-post banners will
be added to the existing 39 erected last year. With the depiction of the
Tri-color, Sardarabad Monument, and Mt. Ararat; banners have added a touch
of Armenia to the community.
Official sponsors of the Little Armenia Clean-Up were: Adin of California,
Asbarez Daily Armenian Newspaper, Arbat Grocery & Deli, Horizon Armenian
Television, Nor Hayastan Daily Newspaper, USA Armenian Life Magazine,
Closet World, Color Depot, Donoyan Insurance Agency, St. Vincent Jewelry
Center, Carpet Show, Aramco Imports, Jons Market, Eric Garcetti's Office
and staff, and the A.R.F. Hollywood Karekin Njteh Gomideh.
To learn more about the AYF, log on to
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4 - 2004 ARPA Film Festival
Begins Screenings Oct. 5
LOS ANGELES - The 2004 ARPA International Film Festival will be held
between Oct. 5-10 at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood.
This year's festival theme is "Films Without Borders."
The festival will feature over 60 films from 20 different countries,
including the United States, France, Italy, India, Iran, Germany, Croatia,
Mexico and Armenia.
Produced annually by the Arpa Foundation for Film, Music and Art (AFFMA)
the Film Festival is dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding and
global empathy, creating a dynamic forum for international cinema with a
special focus on the work of filmmakers who explore the issues of Diaspora,
exile and multi-culturalism. It also celebrates the ideals of independent
thought, artistic vision, cultural diversity and social understanding.
Founded in 1995, the non-profit AFFMA promotes the arts and enhances the
cultural environment of the community, especially providing support to
filmmakers exploring subjects of social and cultural importance.
For further information about AFFMA, visit
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5 - Atanian's Art Works on Exhibit
Nov. 6-7 at St. Andrew Church
CUPERTINO, CALIF. - The St. Andrew Armenian Church Cultural Committee is
sponsoring a solo art exhibition sale of the works by Armenian-American
artist from Los Angeles Vladimir Atanian, on Nov. 6-7 at the Church's
Amerian Hall, in Cupertino.
The opening reception will be held Nov. 6 from 6 to 10 p.m. One work
Special Auction will take place at 9 p.m.
The exhibition will continue Nov. 7 from 12 non to 4 p.m.
Free admission. The church is located at 11370 S. Stelling Road, Cupertino.
For more information, call the Church office (408) 257-6743 or Viola
Uzunian-Choupak (408) 739-3888.
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6 - St. James Ladies Are Cooking
For Annual Luncheon, Oct. 30
LOS ANGELES - The members of the St. James Ladies Society are canning,
cooking and collaborating on the variety of delicacies and gourmet items
that will be featured at their 37th Annual Luncheon and Country Store, Oct.
30, at the church's Gogian Hall, 4950 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles.
The event opens with a champagne reception at 11 a.m. followed by the
luncheon at 12 noon.
Leann Stepanian, chair of the Ladies Society, said that the Country Store
and Annual Luncheon is always well attended. "We have been fortunate that
people look forward to purchasing our simit, choereg and apricot jam,
faithfully coming back year after year to support our efforts.
The Country Store is chaired by chefs Alice Gondjian and Arpi Barsam, the
Julia Childs of St. James Ladies Society. Guests have to come early to
purchase Gondjian's choereg and Barsam's simit.
Lucille Bogossian, chair of the Luncheon Committee, has selected a Western
Theme, and a menu that reflects western-style cooking, with an Armenian
The Raffle Committee, chaired by Madeline Taylorson (310) 337-1783; Stella
Marashlian (310) 473-5142; and Jeanette Rakoobian (310) 641-0162) promise a
selection of beautiful prizes, as well as a First Prize of $300. cash;
Second Prize. $200.; and Third Prize of $100. Tickets are six for $5 and
can be obtained by calling any of the three co-chairs.
Tickets are $25 and reservations can be made by calling Jean Barsam (310)
541-8406 or Alice Yacoubian (310) 546-3703.

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7 - Experiences of a 16-year-old
Spending a Summer in
Armenia as a Nurse's Aide
By Nathalie Astrid Kolandjian
As a 16-year-old Armenian-American from Houston, Texas, I embarked on a
unique adventure last summer. I volunteered to work at the Arabkir
Pedriatic Hospital in Yerevan.
I was afraid that I would be unable to communicate with anyone at the
hospital, since I spoke English and French, but no Armenian. My first day
at work was quite an experience. I was put in the hemodyalisis department.
Fortunately, two of the nurses, Amalya and Hasmig, spoke French. They
showed me around the patients' rooms and introduced me to everyone.
Those on hemodialysis machines don't have fully functioning kidneys. They
have to come to the hospital three times a week for four hours and have
their blood filtered by a machine. Since organ transplants are only legal
between family members, it is a rare occurrence. All the nurses become very
attached to their patients, because they see each other several times a
week. The atmosphere on the floor was surprisingly always happy. The
patients were surrounded by their families and almost everyone was cracking
jokes and making conversation.
As a nurse's assistant, I learned to clean and set up the machines, take
the patients' blood pressure, fill needles, and give small injections. I
stayed in the department for about three weeks, and in that time became
very close with everyone there.
>From the stories my father had told me about rushing in dialysis machines
for earthquake victims, I was hardly expecting such a hospital. From four
dialysis machines, and 5 doctors in 1988 the hospital now employs a medical
staff of 500, with four new Armenian doctors hired every year.
Out of three separate institutions (The Arabkir Pediatric hospital,
Republican Pediatric Hospital, and Centre of Uronephrology and Pediatric
Surgery), the "Arabkir" Joint Medical Centre and Institute of Child and
Adolescent Health was established.
The patients' medical bills are covered either by state subsidies or by the
"Arabkir" United Children's Charity Foundation. The hospital now
encompasses branches from pediatric intensive care to radiology and
neurology and serves as a national standard for renal and urological
disease diagnosis and treatment as well as for neo-natal and pediatric
surgery. The hospital, through Dr. Ara Babloyan's leadership and his
dedicated staff, along with the assistance from donors overseas, has come a
long way.
Amalya told me that when she first started as a nurse eight years ago, she
had seven people die in one year in her department. Now, due to better
technology, and better techniques, there is not even one death per year.
The key to the hospital's success was the dedication of the medical staff
and their cooperation with other countries. Much of the development of the
hospital would not have been possible without the help of several generous
people. Switzerland, Belgium, France and many other countries have set up
foundations and exchange programs with the hospital. Many of the people who
work there could easily have chosen a different line of work or simply
moved out of the country as many do to Russia and America. Instead, they
chose to stay and help their own people. Dr. Ara Babloyan especially, could
easily have chosen to move to another country, but he hasn't. He hasn't
because he loves Armenia. He is a perpetually optimistic man who sees the
bright future that Armenia has in store.
Although the hospital has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.
In the joining of the three separate institutions, the department of
pathology became independent before the Joint Centre was formed. They very
seriously need a pathology lab. There are many services that require a
pathology laboratory (surgery, ENT, Pulmonology, Gastroenterology,
Rheumatology, etc.). A new Pathology lab would also provide services for
other medical institutions such as St. Nerses G. Medical Centre. Also, the
newly established Epilepsy department needs a lot more funding if they are
to afford the latest drugs. Now they are using outdated Russian drugs.
Hopefully, with the same cooperation and dedication, this problem too will
be conquered. The huge growth of this hospital shows that what started out
as seemingly small connections, or attempts to help can blossom into
full-blown projects.
If you would like to help, contact Dr. Ara Babloyan at: [email protected]
or visit the Arabkir website at:
It is places like this hospital that illustrate what a bright future
Armenia has in store.
Nathalie Astrid Kolandjian is a 16 yr. old Senior at St. Johns High Schoo
in Houston, TX.
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8 - USC's Institute of Armenian Studies
Plans Inaugural Banquet for Feb. 6
LOS ANGELES -- Preparations are underway for the Inaugural Banquet of USC's
Institute of Armenian Studies to be held on February 6, 2005 at Town and
Gown on the USC Campus.
The Steering Committee, led by Charles Ghailian, and the Banquet Committee
chaired by Savey Tufenkian, are hard at work planning for this grand
occasion that would involve the Armenian community, USC Alumni, supporters
and students.
In preparation for this festive event, committee members will be soliciting
gifts and donations toward an endowment in perpetuity, which would support
the Institute's multifaceted activities for the present and future
Additional details about the February 6 Banquet will be made public in the
coming weeks. Banquet Committee members are: Elizabeth Agbabian, Sylva
Bezdikian, R. Hrair Dekmejian, Charles Ghailian, Hermine Janoyan, Mary
Kassabian, Shant Minas, Nora Sahagian, Harut Sassounian, Angele Sinanian
and Savey Tufenkian.
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