The Armenian authorities punish Vahe Avetyan for telling the truth
VAHE AVETIAN RECEIVES THREATS FROM HIS COMPATRIOTS
Day.Az interviews a Swedish political analyst and human rights activist, a journalist of Armenian origin Vahe Avetian.
— How can you assess the results of the recent presidential elections in Armenia, and the fact that all the key ministerial posts were left behind the scenes?
— My greetings to Azerbaijani brothers and sisters. I would like to answer your first question merrily, with a joke. I remember an old anecdote about a Caucasian, who asked the other one, how it is written — Tusday, Tuezday or Tuesdey and got the answer — write Wednezdey, do not disgrace the nation.
And this is what we’ll have. What’s the difference — Tuezday or Tuesdey, Wednezdey or November…
The criminal world has 2 reasons to remove someone from their posts: he either wronged the godfather or was fooled and carted. Usually the latter are called those who wronged “the godfather”.
— What do you think Armenian citizens can expect from the new presidency of Sargsyan?
— The old usurper has remained in power, nothing new to be expected.
— And how did you react to the protest movements in Armenia? Was there any chance that the public would make Sargsyan to resign?
-A massive play was performed in Yerevan with another clown starring who let steam from the social boiler, ready to explode at any moment. A real revolution will sweep them all down the drain, so they just periodically organize folk festivals, bring up local punks, anarchists, activists, artists and all sorts of informal groups no matter on state or foreign payroll.
— Is there a possibility of renewing the hot phase of the Karabakh conflict soon?
— I don’t think so.
— How would you evaluate the current efforts of the OSCE Minsk?
— If Armenia and Azerbaijan could ever resolve the conflict on their own, they would be able to bring those mediators to justice in their own courts.
Exclusive interview with Vahe Avetian
Please Allow Me to Introduce Vahe Avetian (writer, publicist, and politician) in this exclusive interview. I hope you find the interview as captivating and fascinating as I do.
Lara Kaplan — Editor
20 September 2010
Vahe, Please tell us about your family and yourself
I was born as an Armenian in Yerevan and was thoroughly brainwashed as such by parents, elders, relatives, all kind of local authorities, teachers, statesmen and clergy. I was born again, as a Swede this time, in Stockholm, and was thoroughly brainwashed by the respective authorities and people of my second tribe, Swedes. I died as both in Washington D.C., USA, and since then I am trying to preserve myself as a human being instead, as much as I can.
I was born in a family of a philosopher and a journalist. That has something to do with my writing skills probably. Both had linguistic background, so did my numerous aunts and uncles. In such a big family the news about me “becoming” a writer was considered natural. I have three Swedish sons who are going their own ways and a wonderful wife with 3 university degrees, so I have the best ever possible critic nearby and as such the best friend who makes sure I won’t sink…
When and why did you begin Writing?
My first essay “Brighton Beach” was born in Brighton Beach, New York, at a very special night, when I suddenly realized that I don’t know a single politician in the world who is not a crook (and I knew and know plenty of them personally). It was in 2003. It probably had something to do with the magic of the place, The Brighton Beach. Many writers were born there. One of them was Dovlatov, one of my favorites and “teachers”. I started to write when no book had been published in Armenia for 2 years. I suddenly felt fear for my tribe, Armenians. A nation, which does not create literature, dies. I could not demand from anyone around me to write, so I started to write myself. I was saving my tribe’s spirit, I might say…, or I had an illusion of doing so. Anyway, the feeling was so genuine, that it does not make a difference if I was wrong or right: I would have died of shame if I wouldn’t have come up with something… There is (was) another component in the complexity of one’s writing in general and in my case in particular: people, women and men, were bitten, persecuted, executed, tortured physically and worse, psychologically in Armenia when they dared to write or pronounce a single word of truth in written, audio, video, TV/radio media. It was clear then that the “task” of a free speech lies on the shoulders of those Armenian citizens, who were far away from KGB executives, and lived in democracies and enjoyed freedoms and security. In my understanding it was a civil duty of any citizen who had a protection, to speak up for his or her sisters and brothers in homeland.
So did I…
Please tell us about your books
I have 8 of them. Two were published, “Independence Army” and EstablishMENT“, the third publication was stopped in the printing house, the first ones were thrown away from the bookstores and, ever since, the public has no other access to them except through the Internet. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about the literary qualities of my books: let literary critics do that. As a politician for 25 years now, I’ll tell about the political consequences of writing books: I was charged with a crime in Armenia and became a persona non grata since the publications and I was also charged in the US by ARF representatives (a coalition partner of the Armenian government) for simply speaking up the fact that there are exiled writers from Armenia. I was forced to stay by judicial decree and fight a trial for almost 2 years and by doing so I was held from participation in the parliamentary elections in Armenia. They caused to hinder my entrance to the country so I would not be elected.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Nothing that hasn’t been said a long before me by noble daughters and sons of humanity as well as by numerous Armenian writers. The problem with Armenians is that they have produced more writers than readers. So, if there is something specific in my books it is probably the style, the form.
How did you decide to move to Sweden and how it has affected your writing and political views/experiences?
I didn’t decide. It was the Soviet intelligence that took the power back in 1992 in Armenia that decided. Sweden was just the country that issued me a visa and a political asylum later. I would call it a coincidence if I would believe in such a concept. I don’t. I just have no logical explanation for being in Sweden. It just happened so. “Non logical” explanations that I have are not presentable to a wide public. Being in Sweden changed me a lot of course, especially when I became a Swede. Being full-time Armenian and a Swede at the same time was an extraordinary practice where each of these identities of mine was sharply critical of each other. I shaped myself in that double critical stance. My current political views were also shaped in that inner dialogue, but I can’t tell that they are popular in any of my countries. However, in the case of Sweden I should tell that in spite of ideological differences and a constant critical attitude towards the Swedish establishment, I have been twice nominated as a candidate for the parliamentary elections by my fellow Swedes.
What happened in Glendale when you decided to go to USA and why?
I attended a literary evening organized in honor of the Armenian writer Vahe Oshagan; let him rest in peace, where the ARF establishment gathered from all over the world. I couldn’t find a better place among Armenians to declare that there are writers in the motherland who were politically prosecuted and exiled, and that it is the duty of every public organization and gathering to condemn human rights violations. They violently attacked me from all sides and arrested me in the library, where the event was taking place, by American policemen with Armenian surnames (both ARF supporters as I found out later); two other Armenians (also ARF members) brought battery charges against me. This happened with the full cooperation of the attendants, who shut down their ears while their women at the helm of their voice released an endless lu-lu-lu-lu, like the ones you hear during a Middle Eastern marriage ceremony, so that they silence my voice. I went through a trial for a year-and-a-half in the US until the charges were dropped, and I came back to Sweden in 2008.
What can you tell about Exiled Armenians Writers, the Facebook group you have initiated and what reaction you have?
The Union of Exiled Armenian Writers was founded in 2006. Facebook became just one of those places where exiled writers placed their (our) declarations. More people got the information as a result, especially since no Armenian newspaper, TV channel, political or public organization, civil/human rights defender wants to speak about this phenomenon.
Why all political and public organizations, figures, journalists, human rights defenders in Armenia and Diaspora keep silence about exiled writers?
Good question. One need to know the modern post Soviet history of Caucasus and other post Soviet republics as well, to be able to understand why those above-mentioned in Armenia keep silence. The history of the republics, which were not welcome to join the European family, went different from East Germany’s or Baltic republics’ or the countries which collectively are called often “former Warsaw Pact members” or “east – European neighborhood.”
The other 12 former soviet republics were left under the patronage of the newly established Russian Federation which never denounced or reorganized the former security structures of USSR: KGB, GRU, and so on. As a consequence, in 1992, all former member republics were taken over back, so for the wide public and world community these countries were and are “independent”, but in reality all public and civil jobs, posts, the media, businesses and everything else in countries were and are driven by former KGB officers and network of undercover informers. All presidents, prime ministers, ministers, local leaderships were and are implemented by those structures through voting manipulations and organized crime.
As soon as the above mentioned organizations, public servants, journalists and human rights defenders pronounce a declaration through the media, an international recognition and international debate will follow, where those driven out writers will get an open auditorium; and when this happens, the people will see new concepts, so thoroughly hidden from them by the junta. And those concepts will force to step down that junta, and the entire corrupt establishment.
All the above-mentioned are the part of that establishment. They can’t provide international recognition to those who are not hiding their intention to bring down the criminal gang and send them to the courts, and those above-mentioned with them too, for participation in organized crime.
How did you get involved in politics and tell us about your experiences in your participation in founding of The Republican Party of Armenia? Is the Party still part of the Armenian election process?
It all started back in 1989/90 when some solders and commanders of the Independence Army decided to create a political party which will defend the country’s independence against the main aggressor, the USSR that time, and develop a prosperous and self-sufficient state. Since we were just a bunch of ethno-provincial young enthusiasts (and I was the youngest) with no knowledge, experience and tradition of state and governance, we concluded very easily that it is a task not beyond our capacities: And there it goes: it became the largest party today, has the majority of the seats in the parliament, a prime minister, a president. I had the number two party ticket.
For me everything went wrong in 1992, and here am I, in Sweden, since that time. I was nominated to parliamentary elections the first time in 2002, the second time in 2010. This last time I stepped down for personal and other reasons, which is a different topic of discussion about Swedish matters. Here we’re talking about Turkish-Armenian business.
What can you tell us about the ARF? and How did you get to be a representative of them in Scandinavia?ARF is a coalition of small and relatively wealthy dealer-wheeler bunch of uneducated and brainwashed dupes as majority and some very sophisticated, well educated agents of KGB.
I was young then and was out there to save the world, which was the motherland and nothing else. Marukhian, the leader of the party then and exiled from Armenia that time, visited Sweden, where we met, talked a lot. He told me that the party wants to modernize itself and become a traditional social-democrat one, to quit all kinds of secret activities and voodoos. He asked me to join them and help them to start it all over from the scratch, since I already had experience with the republicans. I was thinking then, that Armenians need to have several established parties to be able to form democratic governance, so I agreed to help them until it starts rolling, and leave them then. I was republican. My only interest was to help to build up the plurality in the newborn political field of Armenia.Sometime later, almost at the same time, two main leaders of the ARF died in very strange circumstances: To be more exact, one of them suddenly fell into a coma, remaining in that condition for quite long time, and died without waking up. And I was suddenly elected as the vice representative of the Scandinavian brunch. Since the day of the elections I haven’t seen any of those ARF members. Another exiled writer, who in exactly similar circumstances had joined the party then, had become witness to an official decision by the party Bureau to sack the Scandinavian branch. This was an extraordinary event in the history of the party to sack an entire organization. You need to have strong justifications. Their excuse was, according to my exiled friend that the Scandinavian branch was a few members short than a fully operating branch requires. This was hogwash, especially since the ARF, dying to recruit new members all over the world, has always allowed much smaller groups to operate, especially in regions where there aren’t that many Armenians like Lebanon or California. The real motive was, of course, to distance me and free-thinking with me and our Scandinavian democratically-minded Armenians, from the party. No ARF member has ever questioned the corrupt and criminal practices of its Middle-Eastern minded leaders who want to operate in total hegemony. It was some of these same people who tried to send me to jail in California, with false accusations, as if I kicked some two ARF buts.
What is the agenda of ARF, whether they have any contribution or hinder any positive steps etc. ? No agenda except growing bellies, buts and thick heads. Shish kebab, Ishli kufta and ghavurma are the agenda of a dashnak.
How much do you follow developments in Armenia, and in what way you are optimistic about the future developments?
I have access to information through my very unique sources and I could probably tell that I am often able to make quite thorough conclusions and speak harshly and nastily, even in public sometimes.Optimism is the luxury of the citizen, who trusts his governance to administrators, with all right to believe that they know their business, exactly as passengers have the right to believe that the bus driver they are boarding on has a driving license, or the pilot of the plane they are boarding and so on. This are the words of my lovely teacher, friend, brother Ara Baliozian.
What are your experiences with Turks in general ?The first Turk I met in my life was Tahibeh, a wonderful woman, mother of several kids, my neighbor. She knocked on my door the same day I moved to my apartment in Stockholm and offered some new home baked bread. I was very much surprised and told her that I don’t need bread. She insisted. I accepted it. The bread was delicious. Her explanation of the move was that it is in her tradition to share bread with neighbors and I enjoyed that tradition of hers for many years until she passed away. May she be blessed and rest in peace. She was my introduction to my personal experiences with Turks. Later I had a couple of dozen pupils with Turkish origin in my studios and got to know their parents. I am honored by the title “abi” daily by the Turkish kids and youngsters of the neighborhood, and believe me, it is not a word with which they honor many. I can definitely tell today that my personal experience with Turks is very different from the “official line” and the brainwashing about Turks by the Armenian state, academicians, Diaspora, parents, grandparents, all kinds of authorities and priesthood.
Do you see any marked differences between present-day Armenians and Turks? If so, how ? None: Turks probably are more open-minded now, I guess. Turkey is a democracy, weak yet, but a democracy. And not less important: Turkey is an independent state. Armenia is far away from two mentioned concepts yet.
How can the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation be achieved if you were to be an independent negotiator?
Our countries are not in the shape today to let independent people be elected to negotiate. Our countries are not democracies yet. No one who is reasonable will be allowed to negotiate today. Both our governments keep the status quo and are in a total harmony with each other. If one day we become democracies for real, the personalities of negotiators will not play a big role, because the concepts will negotiate for themselves: concepts of human rights and dignity.And those concepts are universal, for all human beings.
Do you think an Armenian-Turkish consensus is a possibility in our lifetime? What can be done to speed it up ?Develop democracy farther and farther, plant human rights awareness all around on daily basis.
What are your current projects?
To wake up in the morning, see the blue sky and the uprising sun and glorify the Lord in appreciation. That is my project of each day. Those thoughts that have something to do with longer periods of time than tomorrow morning, I call dreams, not project. I have dreams, plenty of them and the most complicated one is the life in the Caucasus with dignity.
The first declaration of the Union of Exiled Armenian Writers
ALARM, Los Angeles, 2006