Monday, December 26, 2016

Hagop Nalbandian and the American University of Armenia

It was sometime in 1915, in Marash, Cilician Armenia. The Armenian death marches were being held up for unknown reasons. They were waiting for newly discovered Armenians who were hiding from Turkish authorities. Sobbing mothers, entire families, young girls in groups were being betrayed. The Turkish authorities were running around like children finding hidden toys. There was an Armenian man who was betraying his fellow Armenians. The Turks were promising him riches and anything he wanted from the newly emptied Armenian homes. When the Turks were satisfied that they had found enough Armenians hiding from certain death, or worse, the Turks took the Armenian traitor and put him prominently at the front of the deportation group. The man violently protested to his Turkish overlords, yelling, “I did what you wanted.” The Turks said, “Yes you did, but how can we ever trust you again if this is what you do to your own people.” It's not known what “his” people did to him.

Hagop Nalbandian is not a traitor, but, wittingly or unwittingly, his statements seem identical to those that might be made by an agent provocateur. Twenty years ago he accomplished what no Turk could have. Using email and access to the Unix UseNet User Groups he single handedly killed a near decade-long effort to educate Turkish students and others on the genocide of the Armenians. At the time, it was the single longest-running debate on the internet (today those User Groups are called Google Groups). Nalbandian wanted that education done his way or no way. It ended up no way for he didn't have a way. Today, we find Nalbandian demanding education in Armenia be done his way or he will slander the Armenian higher education system. In an era of fake news, fake analysis, photoshopped images, this narcissist has found a new calling.

Nalbandian is now spearheading a campaign against the American University of Armenia (AUA). His charges are very serious and require a response. This is not an official AUA response, by any means. It is my response based on facts and references. Nalbandian posts his hatred of this institution on Facebook. He calls the AUA a pro-CIA/US/NATO nest of spies serving a Turkish agenda. He makes such claims with no proof to an otherwise unsuspecting audience.

Hagop Nalbandian claims, among other things:

1. The AUA is a CIA/US/NATO hub. As the basis for this claim Nalbandian says the idea for an AUA was initiated by Americans as well the western funding of reports and studies by the Political Science and International Affairs (PSIA) Program of the AUA. Even if the idea of the creation of the AUA were suggested by Americans – which it was not -- so what! I would ask Nalbandian for a list of those American AUA progenitors and have them state that it was their idea and not one which was suggested to them by local prominent Armenians. The following quote is taken from Wikipedia and has been there long enough for it to be edited and corrected. This information can be verified by contacting Armen Der Kiureghian, the current president of the AUA.

In 1989, Yuri Sarkissian, then rector of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, suggested to Armen Der Kiureghian, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, that an Armenian technical university based on the Western model ought to be established to foster educational progress in Armenia.” Thus, Nalbandian is wrong.

Why shouldn't the AUA accept funds for projects and studies that come from western sources? Has Nalbandian demonstrated that the AUA has rejected funding from non-western sources which could be evidence of pro-western bias? No, he has not. Nalbandian also needs to show that AUA's publications are used to influence the thinking of Armenians or the Armenian government. Nalbandian may claim the AUA has such influence, but we need to see his detailed survey data. Where is it?

Does any of what I have written just above prove that the AUA is not a nest of western spies? No, it does not. Nor has Nalbandian demonstrated that the AUA is a nest of spies. I would ask Nalbandian to compare the number of anti-Armenian studies and reports that come out of western institutions and compare that number to what he claims the AUA has purportedly generated. Part of the AUA record can be viewed here.

2. The AUA is anti-Yerevan State University (YSU) and anti-other Armenian universities. One need only review the number of professors and lecturers who teach at both the AUA and places such as YSU to begin countering this Nalbandian claim. A convenient place to start is here. Nalbandian should compare the cooperative record of the AUA, the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University and the French University in Armenia before stating foolish conclusions. One can also look at an article on AUA-YSU cooperation on the YSU's own website: Clearly, Nalbandian does not know what he is talking about.

3. The AUA receives donations from American-Armenians whereas if the AUA didn't exist such donations would go to other institutions. We would need to see a double-blind survey of donor intention regarding this issue and salary spreadsheets of pay scales of the respective universities as a requirement to reach such a conclusion. Without such documents, Nalbandian's claims are again, baseless.

4. The AUA receives proceeds that would have gone to the AGBU Melkonian School in Cyprus, shutdown in 2005. Again, Nalbandian offers no proof for this claim. We would need to see AGBU's accounting records. If Nalbandian has them, we need to see them. There are news reports on the subject, but the conclusions made do not follow AGBU's statements made in this specific article. Nalbandian cannot base a claim on a guess and then have us assume his claim is accurate.

5. The AUA is corrupt and is a reflection of the general decadence in Armenian governance. I demand Nalbandian produce an example of a bribe or similar transgression indicative of systemic corruption at the AUA. There is a reason the AUA is a western accredited institution associated with the University of California system. If one wants to see a 2004 Wikileaks document on the subject, it is here or a study by Michigan State University. Nalbandian's claims fall short, again.

Finally, I am a lecturer at the AUA. One of the courses I teach is The Scientific Method and Critical Thinking. At less than half of Nalbandian's age, my students could easily rip Nalbandian's anti-Armenian arguments to pieces and be proud of doing so. Another self-serving Armenian, a reporter for the Kyiv Post, Armine Sahakyan, who also has nothing good or accurate to say about Armenia, was challenged to a debate by my students. She declined claiming she is not an expert. In her case, the goal is not to inform but to obfuscate and perhaps to pick up a convenient paycheck.

I ask members and readers of Nalbandian's Facebook page to ponder his motives. Why would he do this? What could he gain from such massive misinformation? In this era of mainstream media propaganda and fake news, knowledge and thinking is required, not jumping on some bandwagon.

I would invite Hagop Nalbandian for a debate in my class and take his place prominently at the front of the class and see what “his” people do to him.

David Davidian
Yerevan, Armenia

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Arsinee Khanjian: Open Letter to the Armenian Diaspora

The response below was not published by Massis Post even though it was send via their article submission page and directly to its editor. This response was in reaction to an article in Massis Post entitled Arsinee Khanjian: Open Letter to the Armenian Diaspora.. Freedom of expression is demanded in Armenia, but California-based Massis Post seems to have another policy.

Arsinee Khanjian: Open Letter to the Armenian Diaspora

David Davidian
September 29, 2016

In 1968, John Lennon wrote in a song, “You say you got a real solution, well, you know we'd all love to see the plan”. This refrain in one form or another has been heard throughout human history. The solution to Armenia's problems as enacted by the Pre or Founding Parliament group was to attack a police station, kill Armenian policemen, and take Armenian medical and negotiator personnel hostage. This was the operational definition of their “plan”. I would not want any of these people and their “plans” governing Armenia. Not only has this group been completely discredited, they achieved nothing politically. This is worse than bad planning; it is not an expression of human rights advocacy, and, moreover, does not demonstrate a path to replacing the existing plutocracy in Armenia. To the contrary, it became the group's political suicide.

The naive among us, especially diaspora Armenians, erroneously viewed and justified this armed action as political protest. It was not! It was a crime scene, just as it would be a crime scene if an armed group attacked a police station in downtown Toronto. At the scene, people milled around, taking photos and yelling (including at the police) in support of the armed actions. These people would be considered violators of police lines or even co-conspirators in many cities in the democratic “west”. I was in Boston when the Tsarnaev brothers were running through east Watertown, Massachusetts. I assure all readers here that any overt public expression of support for the marathon bombers would have resulted in immediate arrest. Anybody who dared leave their house would immediately be apprehended by the police in east Watertown. It was indeed a police state lock-down. Yet, when the equivalent takes place in Armenia, everybody's human rights is claimed violated, the government is faulted unequivocally for everything, and its elimination demanded.

I am sure it was humiliating for Arsinee Khanjian to both be arrested by the Yerevan police and not be recognized as a Canadian-Armenian actress. However, this is not a movie scene, it is reality. Reality must take into account the possibility of getting what one wishes for. I, for one, do not wish for an armed group to dictate the future of the state of Armenia. One need only view how the overthrow of the Shah of Iran by secular revolutionaries was usurped by a theocracy. Yes, the Shah was overthrown, the wish granted!

If one thinks critically about the two-week standoff, minus all the romantic notions, a leading hypothesis explaining the event is that it both enabled Armenia to suspend further negotiations with Azerbaijan and to discredit the Pre or Founding Parliament group and its supporters. We do not know if this was planned by the Armenian government or not; however, the results speak much louder than this armed group purportedly representing Armenia's salvation.

To address those who will inevitably claim I am nothing but a lackey for the current Armenian government, I am not. This is just as incorrect as claiming that Arsinee Khanjian supports armed attacks on police stations. I doubt she advocates attacking police stations in downtown Toronto.

Yerevan, Armenia

David Davidian lives in Armenia, is an Adjunct Lecturer at the American University of Armenia, and a former Technical Intelligence Analyst for major international IT firms.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Nuclear facility in Armenia

An article appeared in the English-language Korean Times entitled, "Nuclear facility in Armenia". I emailed the Korean Times inquiring how to submit an Opinion or Letter to the Editor. Their web site does not provide a way to respond to Opinion pieces other than a very limited, 150 word length reader comment. The Korean Times never responded to my simple inquiry.

I subsequently forwarded the Opinion piece below to the Korean Herald, a competitor of the Korean Times. The Korean Herald clearly provides an email address for Opinions/Letters to the Editor. The Korean Herald, also, never responded to my submission email or published my submission. While my Opinion perhaps is not as important as the Samsung S7 recall, the article I am responding to was published with massive errors. I am left with posting my response in this blog.

Pyongyang is not in Armenia

David Davidian*

An English-language newspaper in Korea, that doesn't seem to respond to email, published an Opinion on 2016-09-12, entitled “Nuclear Facility in Armenia”. The author was attempting to equate the recent nuclear weapons test in North Korea with unsubstantiated claims that the country of Armenia has nuclear weapons and is a major trafficker in nuclear materials. These are baseless claims.

Just a little research, such as a quick glance at Table 2, shows less than 1 nuclear transport incident a year associated with Armenia or Azerbaijan, 2/yr for Georgia, 4/yr for Turkey, 6/yr for Ukraine, and 15/yr for Russia. These numbers alone call into question the reason for such an Opinion piece being written with Armenia as the target and not Russia or Ukraine.

If Armenia has somehow magically “gone nuclear” or has old soviet nuclear weapons, it would not be a secret regardless of what some disgruntled former PM said. The lack of veracity in his claim is having made it at all, and further, he has not been able to prove what he claimed. Yet the author of the Opinion uses that as a basis for his article.

Among other things, the author claims Armenia's only nuclear plant is the source of such material, yet neglects to note that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has deemed safety at the Armenian nuclear plant as adequate. Read what the US government's RFE-RL Armenia service had to say on the subject:

In addition, it is claimed the Armenian nuclear reactor is a Chernobyl carbon-moderated design. It is not. It is a pressurized water nuclear reactor, the same primary technology used in the Kori, Hanul, Wolsong, and Hanbit power plants in Korea.

The author claims that some unnamed Armenian group was attempting to sell a quantity of U-238 without noting that natural Uranium ore is composed of 99.284% Uranium-238, none of which are used in fission weapons or dirty bombs.

Perhaps the reason the Opinion piece in The Korean Times appeared was due to a request by Azerbaijan, now in a frozen conflict with Armenia. Azerbaijan has extensive hydrocarbon and real estate dealings with Seoul.

If the Korean media wishes to extol the benefits of trade between Korea and Azerbaijan, or any other country, that is great. However, there is no reason to engage in baseless anti-Armenia propaganda. Good Armenian-Korean relations need not suffer.

Yerevan, Armenia

* David Davidian is an Adjunct Lecturer at the American University of Armenia.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Armenian monument to Nazi collaborator draws criticism

The Jerusalem Post declined to post my reader response, with reasonable content, while allowing other posts with nasty comments in response to Armenian monument to Nazi collaborator draws criticism. Below is what was declined by Jpost:

Perhaps the Armenians are playing catchup with Azerbaijan. One finds the face of Mahmad Amin Resulzade on the Azerbaijani 1000 manet bill, a statue of him in Baku, Baku State University is named after him as is a high school in Ankara, Turkey. Resulzade was in Berlin during WWII, encouraging Azerbaijani POWs to fight for Nazi Germany after the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Hussein, approved the formation of Muslim Turkic battalions. This resulted in the formation of the Kaukasisch-Mohammedanische Legion as part of Htler's Osttürkischer Waffen-Verband der SS, which was sent to Poland where it fought the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw uprising, being attached to the SS-Regiment Dirlewanger.

Yerevan, Armenia

Note: The Garegin Nzhdeh "event" has been posted on various Azerbaijani embassy sites, thus, the tone of my response.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Turkey's Islamists, nationalists both silent on Israeli weapons flow to Azerbaijan

Al-Monitor continues ignore, not ban, any of my reader comments while posting trash from others. Since my attempt to comment, other posts have been approved. No problem, you can read my comment here:

This is my comment on: Turkey's Islamists, nationalists both silent on Israeli weapons flow to Azerbaijan

David Davidian • a few seconds ago Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East.

A correction to "Israel is Azerbaijan’s main arms supplier". Israel is Azerbaijan's main high technology weapons supplier, but I believe Russian arms make up the bulk of Azerbaijan's arsenal. Indeed, EurasiaNet reported that 85% of Azerbaijan's weapons are from Russia. Of course one has to define what weapons are. Is Azerbaijan's large contract with Israel to update their T72 tank fire control systems a weapon or just an upgrade? Yerevan, Armenia

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Separatist forces lose 50 troops in four days of Nagorno-Karabakh fighting

This is yet another one of my reader comment that never passed moderation. Several hours ago I posted the only reader comment on Separatist forces lose 50 troops in four days of Nagorno-Karabakh fighting, published in Pakistan's Daily Times.

Below is that comment:

David Davidian • a few seconds ago Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Daily Times.

It is interesting how there is no mention at all of Azerbaijanis losses, which at a minimum are in the hundreds, and if if you believe "separatist" Armenian sources it is in the thousands (including dead, wounded or missing). At a minimum, one can count at least 50 Azerbaijanis dead in publicly available photos that have been released by the "separatist" Armenians. Curiously, Azerbaijan hasn't updated their losses in days.

Since we are talking about complete information I also note the Daily Times of Pakistan neglected to mention reports of unknown numbers of Pakistani mercenaries killed fighting against these "separatist" Armenians in the north of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yerevan, Armenia

Friday, December 4, 2015

Turkey-Russia: The inevitable clash of the titans

This is a reader comment that never made it past Al Jazeera's moderators. I attempted to post this and for two days while other comments appeared, including some with profanity, this never made it past Al Jazeera moderators. This reader comment has nothing so profound as to upset the government of Qatar, but in any case here it is. The original Opinion piece is Turkey-Russia: The inevitable clash of the titans.

While one could conclude the current belligerence as being sourced by the personal leadership of Turkey and Russia, this is the view at 1000 feet. At 50,000 feet the situation is rather different.

The Su-24 shoot down was an offensive political act, with a hypothetical spectrum of outcomes ranging from declarations of war to some back room deal, each with its calculated probable outcome. The actual result: Russia upped the ante, Syrian airspace in Russian control. It was only after the ante was jacked up that London decided to start bombing ISIS.

Obama and the Pentagon provided somewhat better than tepid support for the Turkish downing. This was entirely expected as anything less would prove lack of resolve for Washington's allies especially coming only days before Montenegro's NATO invitation. Ultimately, these are not the designs of local titans, just as the creation and nurturing of ISIS were not parochial actions.

Turkey won't blink first because it has more to lose than Russia, due to the depth of its institutions as suggested by the author. The stakes are not defined by an Ottoman revival or not. Bernard Lewis's rehash of Huntington's Clash of Civilizations was not a venture in historical determinism but rather a convenient blueprint.

Yerevan, Armenia