September 3, 2009

Armenian political groups fume, but little visible opposition to Turkey protocols

As the international community applauds the presidents of Armenia and Turkey for making unprecedented progress in attempts to normalize relations, others are not so ecstatic. Indeed, while many consider the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders between the two estranged neighbours as crucial in establishing peace and stability in the region, opposition […]

August 31, 2009

Armenia and Turkey set to establish diplomatic relations

Following media reports earlier today that Armenian President Serge Sargsyan had "chided Turkey" for not seriously seeking to unconditionally open the border between the two countries comes unexpected news. Within the last few hours at time of writing, reports from the BBC, Reuters, AP and others now say that "domestic discussion" in the estranged neighbouring countries […]

August 26, 2009

Social media and conflict resolution in the South Caucasus

In the 15 years since the May 1994 ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, various peace proposals have faltered. But if Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, was forced to resign in 1998 by nationalist hardliners in his government opposed to a compromise settlement, […]

August 25, 2009

If you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

If you thought it couldn’t get any worse in Armenia and Azerbaijan then think again. As if youth activsts being detained in both countries while a defamation case is prepared against an environmental campaigner in the former, the situation as it pertains to human rights continues to deteriorate. Now, ultra-nationalist groups, edged on by their […]

August 23, 2009

Child abuse allegations lead to action against activist

A scandal over allegations of physical, psychological and sexual abuse in a boarding school for children with special needs has led to new concerns that youth activists in the South Caucasus have now been targetted by governments in Armenia and Azerbaijan. At the beginning of July, opposition youth activist Tigran Arakelyan was arrested and placed […]

August 19, 2009

Azerbaijan: Even more Eurovision stupidity

Music lovers the world over might consider it to be some kind of dumb competition where the most mediocre of talent gets its brief moment of fame, but for tin-pot dictators in the South Caucasus, Eurovision is taken very seriously indeed. Forget the spirit in which the competition was meant to be held, for Armenia, […]

August 17, 2009

Georgi Vanyan: Every family has the desire for peace

Fifteen years after the 1994 ceasefire put the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, reports that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan might be moving closer to a final peace settlement have caught many unaware. The last time international mediators were as optimistic about the prospects for peace was in 2001 […]

August 15, 2009

Armenian youth rally for detained activist

While the international community continues to follow the case of two detained video bloggers and youth activists in Azerbaijan, the plight of another taken into police custody several days earlier in neighbouring Armenia remains unnoticed. Despite his diminutive size, Tigran Arakelian is accused of assaulting three policemen at the beginning of July and, like Adnan […]

July 26, 2009

What’s in a name? Everything, apparently…

The South Caucasus is a fractured region divided by ethnic fault lines and devastated by three frozen conflicts. With most people in the region looking to the past rather than the future, writing on the three republics which make up the region can therefore be very problematic indeed, and especially with an Armenian name. Forget […]

July 22, 2009

Speculation, misinformation and irresponsible journalism rife ahead of possible Karabakh deal

Talk of a possible framework peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be cause for good news in most countries facing an uncertain future, but nothing is ever simple or even logical in the South Caucasus. Ethno-nationalism and distorted, usually subjective, versions of history are common and politically expedient forces will exploit any issue in order […]

July 12, 2009

Deja Vu: Youth activists, bloggers targetted in the South Caucasus

Estranged neighbours they may be, but it’s often been said that of all the countries in the South Caucasus and the surrounding region Armenia and Azerbaijan are the most similar. True, one is mainly moslem and the other not, but most outside observers would be hard pressed to find any other differences in terms of […]

July 3, 2009

Moldy cheese, medieval instruments, and just enough beer…

Walking through his hometown of Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city, 26-year-old Narek Barseghyan still attracts looks from fellow residents for his unruly hair and an earring worn in what still remains a noticeably traditional and conservative society. Gyumri is slightly different from the rest of the country, however, and is not only suffering from a […]

June 28, 2009

Nagorno Karabakh: Tragedy in the South Caucasus

The last time I visited Nagorno Karabakh was in 2006. Well, the intention had not been to visit Karabakh itself, but rather the strategic town of Lachin situated within what the international community considers sovereign Azerbaijani territory under Armenian control. However, despite years of working on a long-term photographic project in the town, I was […]

June 23, 2009

Armenia: Political prisoners freed, reported live via mobile

     It was for times such as this that I decided to follow the example of fellow Frontline Club blogger Guy Degen by getting myself a Nokia N82. After sitting at the Yerevan Opera uploading images taken with a Nikon DSLR, but  transferred to my phone’s memory card so I could ftp them via free wi-fi at […]

June 17, 2009

Armenia’s bleak pictures of the past

  As mentioned in two previous posts, I’ve been spending the past week and a half fixing for the BBC and photographing for The National. With all that work now having finished last Friday, the first article by journalist Daniel Bardsley accompanied by my portrait of the subject of his piece on Armenia-Turkey relations and […]

June 16, 2009

Student protest outside Iranian Embassy in Yerevan

  Following Friday’s disputed presidential election in Iran and clashes on the streets in Armenia’s southern neighbour which have left several people dead, Iranian students studying in Yerevan again protested outside their Embassy. Alerted to the small protest which eventually attracted about 50 people by Twitter, it also provided another opportunity to put the Nokia […]

June 14, 2009

Back from Karabakh

     After several days fixing for the BBC for a report on Armenia-Turkey relations and the conflict with Azerbaijan over the breakaway territory of Nagorny Karabakh, a photo commission from The National newspaper saw me return to the same topics no sooner had that work finished.  There’s much to be said about both subjects and […]

June 5, 2009

Tweeting and fixing with the BBC

     Relations between estranged neighbours Armenia and Turkey is big news at present, and not least since the August war between Russia and Georgia last year and Obama taking the presidency in the United States. That’s also good news for yours truly because in addition to fixing for Al Jazeera English covering the story, […]

June 2, 2009

Armenian opposition: Down, but not out?

Roads into Yerevan were reportedly blocked yesterday ahead of the first opposition rally staged after Sunday’s muncipal election, the first to indirectly determine the mayor of the capital in 15 years. Even so, that shouldn’t have made much of a difference in terms of attendance figures in a city with a population of well over a million and with […]

May 27, 2009

Mobile reporting from Yerevan municipal election rally

Finally a real opportunity to put the Nokia N82 to the test. Deciding to quickly pass by Yerevan’s manuscript museum to see if the 13th Century replica ship blocking the entrance to the main venue for the opposition to stage its rallies had been removed, I wandered into what can only be described as a swarm […]

May 25, 2009

All hands on deck: Yerevan sails into election week

If British folk-rock legends Jethro Tull materializing in the country last week — with the Armenian prime minister going hell for leather in his return from Kazakhstan so he could catch his favourite band perform live in Yerevan — was bizarre enough, then nothing could prepare anyone for the latest surreal development in post Soviet […]

May 23, 2009

Too old to rock ‘n’ roll? Jethro Tull perform in Armenia

Living in Armenia can be nothing if not bizarre, and just when you thought you’ve seen it all, something happens to remind you that in a former Soviet republic it’s always best to expect the unexpected. Who would have thought, for example, that the Armenian prime minister, Tigran Sargsyan, would be such a huge fan […]

May 16, 2009

Ethnic rivalry wins over kitsch in the Caucasus

Foreign Policy magazine called the Eurovision Song Contest the "giddiest, stupidest, campiest, silliest international competition of them all," but don’t tell that to anyone in the South Caucasus. Here, many take it very seriously indeed. With the opportunity on hand to perpetuate decades of animosity and years of ethnic hate, if Eurovision was meant to bring nations together, in this […]

May 9, 2009

Banned TV station resumes broadcasting… via mobile

In its annual worldwide survey on the media, Freedom House has once again categorized Armenia as "not free," a situation which has been the case since 2002 when the pro-opposition A1 Plus TV station was taken off the air. A huge question mark then hung over the future of the company as many of its […]

May 7, 2009

Paper ballot boxes, minor clashes, and another assault… Yes, it’s election time in Yerevan

No sooner does the ruling Republican Party of Armenia inform journalists that there is no mutual hatred or enmity between political forces contesting the crucial municipal election to determine Yerevan’s mayor on 31 May comes news of some minor clashes between opposition supporters and the police. Oh, and did I mention an albeit aborted violent […]

May 5, 2009

Elections in Armenia: Filling in the cracks?

   Local elections in Yerevan — you gotta love ’em. After years of being ignored, residents of the capital finally get a look-in during every campaign period with the distribution of vote-bribes or the sudden asphalting of back yards, something that happened this weekend outside my apartment building. With a pre-election campaign meeting by the […]

May 1, 2009

Nationalist party quits government, prepares for municipal election

Nothing is ever simple in the South Caucasus, and no sooner had world leaders hailed a ground-breaking announcement from Armenia and Turkey that might set the scene for the normalization of relations between the two estranged neighbors, than nationalists throughout the region became agitated. Here in Yerevan, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashanktsutyun, for example, […]

April 30, 2009

Nationalist party quits government, prepares for municipal election

  Nothing is ever simple in the South Caucasus, and no sooner had world leaders hailed a ground-breaking announcement from Armenia and Turkey that might set the scene for the normalization of relations between the two estranged neighbors, than nationalists throughout the region became agitated. Here in Yerevan, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashanktsutyun, for […]

April 4, 2009

Nagorno Karabakh: Blogs, social networking sites cross ethnic fault lines

In May, Armenia and Azerbaijan will mark the 15th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement which put the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian-populated autonomous oblast situated within Azerbaijan, on hold. Since then, international mediators continue to talk of a lasting peace agreement being in reach, but few following the […]

January 20, 2009

Who killed Hrant Dink?

Hrant Dink was shot dead on January 17, 2007 outside the Istanbul offices of Agos, the bilingual Armenian weekly where he worked as editor-in-chief. 20 suspects have been arrested for the killing of the Turkish-Armenian journalist. Eight remain in custody, but none have been charged. To mark the anniversary of Dink’s assassination this week hundreds […]