Hundreds of Syrian-Armenian Students Receive Scholarships in Armenia

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(Armenpress) – For the 2016-2017 academic year, 70% of tuition fees for 436 Syrian-Armenian students were paid for by the Armenian government, AGBU, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and the Fund for Armenian Relief, 

Armenian Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan noted at a year-end press conference.

“There are three main directions of work with the Diaspora. We continue working in the direction of preservation of Armenian identity. That is, we do everything for the Diaspora to remain more Armenian, we work on issues of language and culture of education. The next one is discovering potential, using it for the economy. And naturally, we are designing programs to make Armenia more recognizable especially for the youth, that is to help in recognizing their Fatherland, and perhaps in the future they might decided to relocate here,” Hakobyan added.

According to the Minister of Diaspora, Syrian refugees in Armenia are socially, culturally, and educationally integrated, unlike many other countries where Syrian refugees live.

“Regarding employment and accommodation issues, you won’t find a single Syrian-Armenian without a home. This is a key issue, which we are attempting to solve with the assistance of the Diaspora and Pan-Armenian structures. Works carried out with Syrian-Armenians are legal, political, economic, educational, social, cultural, etc.,” she stated.

About 18,000 Syrian-Armenians were granted Armenian citizenship and 1,800 received resident status, Hakobyan said.

“The bombardments of Aleppo in late September of 2016 were foreseeable, but not to such extent. Naturally, the alertness of our work towards Syria and Syrian-Armenians was even more heightened. I would like to especially mention the work of Armenian Church structures, which although is not being noticed so much, since the large part of works is carried out in Syria,” she continued.

An Interview with Selina Doghan on Turkey’s Elections

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Selina Doghan is an Armenian member of the
Turkish Parliament representing the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Interview by
Arevelk.am
, edited by the Armenian Assembly of
America.

1. Can you comment on these elections,
especially since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a surprising
victory? Do you think that the results mean a victory for AKP?

Since the last elections, we passed through an extraordinary period.
The president didn’t accept or respect the electors’ will and forced the public
into a re-election. He exhausted the alternative coalition and used cruel
methods to regain sole power and not share it.

We lost around 900 people in various attacks in the last 4 months.
The economy is suffering. We couldn’t even mourn together after the massacres
because part of society is demonized against the other.

It is important to note that the rule of law is seldom
respected.  Freedom of expression,
freedom of the press, the nonpartisan status of the presidency of the republic
are hardly respected
.  All this was done
for the election of 400 deputies. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
personally confessed it in a TV program.
Only 20 % of the public has any trust in the judicial system. AKP has
managed to sway the public opinion to gain votes. It wasn’t hard for them since
they are dominating almost the half media and the juridical system in Turkey.
 

After all the attacks, they managed to lump the Kurdistan Workers
Party (PKK), Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and Damascus (IŞID),
and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the same magic box. They strongly
emphasized religion and nationalism in their speech. The average AKP voter
believes that PKK is the reason behind the Ankara massacre. They aren’t even
questioning what IŞID is looking for in our country and how that would put our
lives at risk. The AKP took hostage society’s mind and moral conscience.

They attacked media groups and twitter accounts, imprisoning
whoever criticized President Erdoğan in Turkey. They pumped hate speech to all
“others” and encouraged illegal activity by the police against all
types of oppositional manifestation, sometimes including peaceful
demonstrations.

So, yes. It is a big victory for them because they managed to apply
the illusion very successfully. They are pretending that coalitions are cruel; without
a government with one party as sole power Turkey would live in a chaos; and the
economy is suffering because AKP is not the governing party.

They didn’t even expect such a result themselves. None of the
investigative companies could assume this result. In addition to this, the
Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) understandable policy served them well.

2. After the elections, will AKP be able to
form a government alone? Will it put an end to the political crisis which
started on June 7?

Yes, according to the arithmetical result, they have enough votes to
govern alone. But fortunately, not enough to establish the presidential system.
If AKP doesn’t handle the solution process regarding the Kurds question, I’m
afraid in the short term we won’t reach a convenient solution to reestablish
the rule of law and the democratic mechanisms again.

3. What projects and plans do you have, as an
Armenian parliament member from the CHP party, especially now that you are one
of the Armenians who, for the first time, entered the Turkish parliament?

My challenges remain the same, actually. As an Armenian deputy,
of course, I will fight against all kinds of discrimination and human rights
violations. But, I wouldn’t like to be limited to my identity. I’m Armenian,
but a deputy of Turkey. So, my responsibility concerns every citizen in Turkey.
In this sense, I feel that my duty is harder now because unfortunately the
polarization increased deeply in the last 4 months. Today, whoever is not an
AKP supporter is considered an “other.”

4. Armenian-Turkish relations have been in a
coma for a long time. In this context, do you see positive signs? Do you expect
a positive change in the relations?

Please let me correct your question. Turkey’s foreign policy is in a coma!  The European Union process has
been almost frozen, as well as our relations with the Middle East.

As a deputy of the opposition party, my duty is to establish
positive bridges between two people. As you may remember, the first day after being
officially elected I encouraged Turkey not to demonize the Armenian diaspora.
They are Turkey’s diaspora, as the prime minister mentioned on his way back
from Armenia
, and they are not our enemies. They are Anatolian people in a Turkish
nostalgia. We should find a way to gain their trust.  As CHP, we even
inserted in our election book to return nationalities to those who lost it as a
result of forced migrations. Also, I am ready to work for the borders to be
opened.

My candidature and existence in both the party and the parliament
made a positive change in the party and towards public opinion. As long as we communicate
with each other and respect our fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression,
we can make big changes in policy.

5. Do you think that the clashes with PKK and
other organizations will continue after the elections? Or will there be a
solution?

AKP used the PKK attacks against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
and tried to marginalize them. As a result, those HDP voters who used to be AKP,
CHP or even MHP voters doubted the Kurds practicing civil politics in
parliament. In addition to all the facts I mentioned above, electors voted for
“stability.”

So it all depends how the AKP will handle the solution and peace
process again this time.