Armenia’s new cabinet nearing 100th day in office

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan said at the cabinet meeting on Thursday that the newly-appointed ministers are nearing their 100th day in office.
He asked all the cabinet members to report the public through the mass media on the past period’s achievements and the activities planned.


Deadly act of sabotage on Karabakh-Azerbaijan Contact Line


Azerbaijan’s armed forces on Wednesday launched a deadly act of sabotage in the direction of a northern military unit on the Line of Contact.
After a strong resistance by the Armenian defense guards, the adversary was later repelled to the starting positions, suffering huge losses, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army says in a press release.
Two Armenian servicemen were killed in the violent shoot-out. A probe has been launched into further details.

Defense Ministry denies Azerbaijani infiltration attempt


A spokesperson for Armenia’s Ministry of Defense has denied the report about an Azerbaijani subversive group’s attempt to infiltrate through Armenian defense positions.
“That’s ruled out. The report about a subversive act is untrue. One person – a shepherd I think – is reported wounded,” Artsrun Hovhannisyan told the state news agency Armenpress.
Aygedzor village’s (Tavush region) mayor, Sasun Safaryan, has confirmed the report, saying that a 49-year-old Valer Tchagharyan was wounded in the attack.

Department of State’s religious freedom report not unbiased – opinions


The US Department of State’s 2013 Religious Freedom Report on Armenia is estimated as biased and untrue by religious circles and national minority representatives.
What particularly raises controversies is the allegation that minority religious groups face discriminations against the backdrop of wide privileges granted to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
“Religious organizations are obliged to preserve and protect their own belief instead of engaging themselves in soul hunting. Nobody prevents them from pursuing their own belief. Such a statement could have been made only by individuals, circles and groups that are interested in destabilizing of Armenia and contributing to the Armenian nation’s internal splitting. What is mentioned there is absolutely untrue,” Archimandrite Komitas Hovnanyan told, expressing his strong disagreement with the findings.
He said he is more than convinced that increased privileges to religious organizations are a major national security threat. “There are, so to say, religious minorities whose propaganda is based on plans to split the state institution. The youth, for instance, are called upon to avoid serving in the military, using weapons or protecting their country,” he noted.
Commenting on what the report described as privileges to the Armenian Apostolic Church, Mr Hovnanyan said, “The Armenian Apostolic Church does not actually have any privileges at all. It just follows that the publications on the Armenian Church contain no wrong records. The history of Armenian church is taught in schools by secular [teachers] not priests,” he added.
Hovnanyan said he believes that countries publishing such reports pursue specific interests, adding that Armenian state in turn is obliged to protect its own interests in such circumstances. “We must not let anyone speculate the concepts of freedom of conscience or speech by distorting their meaning. Freedom of conscience implies freedom of individual, not violence and coercion into adopting a belief of which the nation is not a follower,” he added.
Alexander Amaryan, the president of the Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Destructive Sects, agreed that granting wide privileges to the non-traditional religious groups is a threat to national security.
“All the data the Department of State publishes in the report are provided by local rights institutions which submit biased reports in an effort to extort grants. No other country is as tolerant as Armenia, as the laws here never place restrictions on religious organizations,” he added.
Amaryan said he thinks that restrictions exist in Europe not in Armenia, adding that the national churches in all countries enjoy certain privileges. “They all have begun assisting religious organizations and later complain about intolerance. That’s a bluff,” he said, describing the findings as an attempt to exert pressure on the Armenian authorities.
Aziz Tamoyan, the president of Armenia’s Yezidi community, also disagreed with the allegation that ethnic and religious minorities experience discrimination in the country. “We are free; nobody prevents us from preserving our national holidays and traditions. On the contrary, we here have our own schools, and it is thanks to Armenia that our culture develops around the world,” he said, adding that the Armenian Apostolic Church demonstrates respect for the Yezidis’ traditions.
“Why doesn’t [the United States of] America care about the disappearing Yezidi and Asyrian populations in the north of Iraq? Let them think of measures to prevent their Yezidis from changing their religion, as they are physically exterminated by Muslims,” Tamoyan noted.
The Jewish community’s president, Rima Varzhapetyan, also denied the reports about restrictions or violations against minority groups in Armenia.
Asked whether the community is concerned about the privileges granted to the national church, Varzhapetyan replied, “The Armenian Apostolic Church has always proven that it is very tolerant and progressive.”
According to Avetik Iskhanyan, Chairperson of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, the report is based on objective evaluations.
“Religious tolerance is really quite a serious issue in Armenia, as the media all the time conduct a one-sided propaganda. In secondary schools, the history of Armenian church is taught in an effort to conduct an anti-propaganda against other religious organizations. The children who receive such kind of education develop intolerance to other religious organizations,” he noted.
Asked whether it isn’t normal that the Armenian Apostolic Church has privileges as opposed to other religious groups, Ishkhanyan said, “International standards allow for granting privileges to a church, but that should not amount to a discriminatory attitude to other religious organizations. Our laws give the Apostolic Church monopolistic rights,” he added.
Asked whether higher privileges for other religious organizations would not be a national security threat, Ishkhanyan said he thinks just the other way about. “Religious intolerance is a real threat to Armenia’s security, as it splits up the nation on religious grounds,” he noted.
“Representatives of other religious organizations are oppressed in Armenia, because they never see themselves as full-fledged citizens. This is really a national security threat, because identifying an Armenian with the Armenian Apostolic Church really splits up the nation.”

Armenians prone to migration, says pollster


Reports by UNFPA suggest that Armenia’s population will decrease to 1,750,000 until the century’s end, a sociologist has said, citing a recent survey on the migration geography.
“Kotayk, an urbanized region that had dozens of plants which no longer operate, comes in the first with the number of potential migrants. For agricultural activity, the region is not favorable at all, so people chose migration as the only hope,” Aharon Adibekyan told a news conference on Thursday.
The pollster said he sees that 40% of the country’s population is inclined to leave the country forever, with only one in six families relying on the state’s support.
“Whenever I hear the prime minister say that it is necessary to assist small- and medium-sized businesses, I see that we are not able to do anything to restrain the exodus. To maintain a small- and medium-sized business, it is important to have a big one. So why doesn’t Nairit [the Yerevan rubber plant] work?” he said, calling for government efforts to restore the big manufacturing industries.

Birth, mortality rates up in Armenia this year


Recently unveiled official statistics reveal increased birth and mortality rates in Armenia.
The findings, published by the National Statistical Service, show that the registered births increased by 599 to 19,401 in January-July compared to the same period of last year. The death statistics was up by 619 cases (to 4,472).
Some 7,481 children were born in Yerevan in the first two quarters of 2014; the highest birth rate was registered in Kotayk (1,720).
The highest mortality statistics was recorded in Yerevan (4,844), the rate being the lowest in the Lori region.
Most of the deaths were caused by cardiovascular diseases, tumors and respiratory disorders.

Armenian president against plan to arm border regions

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has opposed to a poposal for supplying arms to the population in border villages.
The issue was actively debated at a meeting with members of the Public Council earlier today. The Council members proposed the initiative as a measure to strengthen security in the border regions. Dwelling on the capacities in the military, the president said that the national armed forces are efficient enough today to ensure the defense of the sensitive regions.
The meeting also addressed other issues of concern, including migration, its causes and consequences, Armenia’s Eurasian integration and its possible impacts, mining development etc. The Council also discussed its future plan of actions with the president.