AGBU Magazine |February 2016

The Changing Landscape of the Middle East

Upheaval and Uncertainty

From the balcony of his family’s modest apartment in Aleppo, confined to a wheelchair, Manuel Tanigian contemplates the desolation of the empty streets of Nor Kyugh, the heart of the Armenian community in Syria. Caught in the crossfire between government forces on one side and opposition rebels on the other, Nor Kyugh is a disaster zone where the rubble of demolished cafes and shops lies amid the ruins of derelict buildings stretching into the distance.

The Forgotten Armenians of Iraqi Kurdistan

On a Friday afternoon in early May, Father Artoon Khalatian busied himself with preparations to deliver mass in the Assyrian Church in Ankawa, a Christian-populated suburb of Erbil—the capital of the autonomous region of Iraq controlled by the Kurds more commonly referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan. Inside the church more than two-dozen Armenians were seated awaiting the ceremony—remnants of a once well-established Armenian community from Mosul, fifty miles to the West.

Seeking Refuge in an Ancient Homeland

To help the new arrivals transition and settle in Armenia, the Ministry of Diaspora, in partnership with AGBU Yerevan (as a main partner) and other non-governmental organizations, established the Center for Coordination of Syrian Armenians’ Issues NGO. Over the past four years, AGBU has coordinated dozens of programs and initiatives including providing financial assistance and medical aid to families in need, and in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, tuition to Syrian Armenian students studying at Armenian universities.

Coping with Crisis

Over the past five years, Chairman of the AGBU Syria District Committee Nerses Nersoyan has been instrumental in coordinating the activities of AGBU’s Syrian Armenian relief efforts and for the Syrian Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation. An agricultural specialist with more than two decades of experience as an associate scientist for the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Nersoyan also served as CEO of the East Mediterranean Olive Oil Company in Aleppo.

Building Bridges

The recently inaugurated AGBU Vahe Karapetian Center stands as an important symbol of unification between the Armenian homeland and the diaspora. The impressive 5,500-square-meter building located at 1 Zakaria Kanakertsi Street in Yerevan was donated by the Armenian American philanthropist and entrepreneur Vahe Karapetian to AGBU to serve as a residence hall that will foster closer ties between Armenia and diasporan youth from around the world.

AUA Welcomes a New Kind of Giving

On November 9, an elite group of business executives, government representatives, and intellectuals attended a reception at the American University of Armenia’s Akian Art Gallery to learn more about AUA’s programs, opportunities, challenges, and vision for the future. The atmosphere was jubilant as a large crowd of st  udents gathered in front of AUA’s main entrance to greet the guests and usher them inside the Akian Gallery, following a tour of the campus. AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian and VP of Operations Ashot Ghazaryan delivered speeches welcoming the guests, alongside AUA Trustees Vasken Yacoubian and Adam Kablanian. 

AGBU Elects Ruben Vardanyan to Central Board of Directors

During the Central Board of Directors meeting in January, AGBU elected Ruben Vardanyan to the Central Board as its newest member. Mr. Vardanyan is a highly successful Armenian-born entrepreneur, an internationally recognized expert in the economy of Russia and emerging markets, and an international philanthropist. Among his major business achievements is the prominent Troika Dialog investment bank in Russia, which Mr. Vardanyan built in the period 1991 to 2012, and sold to Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia.

A Shattered Truce

In the villages along Armenia’s eastern border, as the leaves take on shades of deep red and fiery orange, the crisp fall air that heralds the autumn harvest also signals the seasonal laborers and farmers here to the sinister threat of sniper fire that has tragically come to define the harvest season. The fall of 2015, however, ushered forth an even greater danger as an emboldened and more aggressive Azeri military amplified their attacks with mortar and rocket fire, jeopardizing the livelihood of many farmers who will no longer risk growing their grapes.

A New Constitution

For the third time in its history as an independent republic, Armenia held a referendum to amend its constitution. Slightly more than half of the nation’s eligible voters, 1.3 million Armenians participated in the December 6 popular vote. Among them, nearly two-thirds—or 63.4 percent voted in favor of amending the constitution to transform Armenia from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic.