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Rendahl: The Shame of Difference

Special for the Armenian Weekly

Armenia has been in the social media spotlight recently. According to a New Zealand man who is the father of a newborn with Down’s syndrome, his Armenian wife opted for divorce rather than to keep the child. It’s the stuff of scathing headlines and self-righteous online commentary.

The crowd-funding campaign by a New Zealand man brought Armenia in the social media spotlight recently.

The crowd-funding campaign by a New Zealand man brought Armenia in the social media spotlight recently.

I hesitate to add to the dialogue about this. I hesitate because I don’t typically comment on the kinds of headlines that spread like wildfire on social media. Maybe I should, but I don’t.

That said, now that this story is being discussed so widely, it creates an opportunity to talk about some difficult issues. To be of any value, though, it can’t be a reductionist “she’s a villain and he’s a hero” conversation. The woman is a product of her social environment. Most of us are. And sometimes that means we do things that contradict our stated values.

As anyone who’s read my other columns knows, I have great affection for Armenians, their culture, language, food, land, and hospitality. I’ve been warmly welcomed into more Armenians’ lives than I can possibly count.

This story, though, did not surprise me. The only thing that surprised me was that others were shocked.

These kinds of things happen all the time. As just one example, many children are given up for adoption around the world on the basis of a cleft lip or palate, a comparatively minor anomaly.

People are quick to criticize the above-mentioned woman, Armenians by extension, and all the others around the world who make this intensely emotional decision to send a child with a disability to an orphanage, rather than raise them. The people who make these harsh statements are, as an Armenian might say, “speaking from a warm place.” They speak without understanding the context.

The legacy of the Soviet Union is never far away in conversations about the social and political situation in Armenia and other former Soviet republics. For decades it was standard—mandatory, even—to institutionalize children who were considered defective. There was a stated intent to provide appropriate care, while perhaps the true intent was to hide those considered different and wrong. If you isolate the problem, you can make it disappear.

We can talk about the value of integrating people with disabilities into Armenian society without blaming and shaming someone who likely felt she wouldn’t have the skills or support to raise a child with special needs.

It’s unusual to see anyone with a visible physical or developmental disability in Armenia, even today, but things are slowly changing.  It was in the last 15 years that the sidewalks in central Yerevan were made wheelchair friendly. An increasing number of organizations are serving the needs of those with disabilities so they can thrive. Some years ago, I went skiing at Tsakhkadzor and was trembling at the top of the mountain when a group of Armenian amputee alpine skiers in uniforms whizzed by me.

Yet, many people—in Armenia and everywhere else around the world—still have rigid definitions of what is good and normal.

While in Armenia a few months ago, I saw a long-time friend trying to “correct” his young son’s left-handedness. Unable to stay quiet, I told him that was a “shat hetamnats mtatselakerp” (very outdated mentality). His wife readily agreed, and then I turned to the boy and said that the president of the United States is left-handed. No matter the kid’s political persuasion, that’s got to mean something.

I’ve mentioned in previous writings the notion of shame. Amot. Growing up, I had never thought about the word shame. Once I arrived in Armenia at age 21, I heard the word used all the time. Shame, I soon learned, is supposed to keep people in line, whether they like it or not. It demands that people make certain decisions in life, and holds them accountable if they don’t.

As a teenager, I babysat for a kid with Down’s syndrome and his two siblings. We made cakes and watched movies and stayed up past their bedtimes. One of the last times I saw that kid was at a street dance in my hometown in North Dakota. He’s a grown man who holds two jobs now, and he spun me around on the dance floor.

The world is full of complexes. It is not easy to live within a family, a community, a society, and an increasingly connected world. We can talk about the value of integrating people with disabilities into Armenian society without blaming and shaming someone who likely felt she wouldn’t have the skills or support to raise a child with special needs. And, in many ways, her assumptions were probably accurate.

Let’s focus on education before castigation. To do otherwise would be to miss an opportunity to create a kinder world. And that would be a real shame.

40 Comments on Rendahl: The Shame of Difference

  1. Great article!!!! Could not agree with you more!!!!

  2. avatar gregg dourgarian // February 9, 2015 at 5:18 pm // Reply

    Another beautiful column Kristi…the New Yorker should be begging you write for them.

  3. Nice story Rendahl. in 1915, countless babies were thrown into rivers because on a death March, mothers had no milk.

  4. avatar Steve Kurkjian // February 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm // Reply

    Thanks Kristi. Such a compassionate, intelligent response to a story that is fed by ugly and stupid.

  5. Balanced article Kristi Rendahl. Thank you.
    However, I did respond to a few self-righteous and uneducated
    comments. One commentator even told the rest that their emotional buttons were pushed by this article. A few also mentioned that they could not judge because they did not know the truth. I referred them to a few sites on Youtube. I think part of this anti-Armenian hype has something to do with Genocide Centennial. Western press are mostly biased.
    I worked with special needs people for three years, not all of them lived with their families. Actually, most of them lived in institutions or group homes. I was amazed that here we think all special needs children/teenagers are being taken care of by their parents. Two people even called me “idiot” and I told them they were running out of good vocabulary, and it showed they were brought up at home by their mother.
    Thank you again.

  6. Very interesting why this one story has made it into the international press because it happens every day in every country. While I’m always suspicious of the intentions of the large media outlets, I do think that this story does bring to open some taboos in Armenian society that eventually have to be looked at. The Soviet legacy really has left its mark as the author outlined, and as an example the large-scale use of abortion in Armenia for reasons of gender selection and birth control need to be addressed. The definition of the word ‘amot’ really needs re-defining naturally and organically within the context of Armenian culture and without the external push from NGOs or other institutions of social engineering. I remember a few years back it was amot for an adult to ride a bicycle or wear shorts. Glad to see there is change there and hope that positive change continues in all areas of Armenian culture, including situations like this.

  7. A very well written article that an Armenian friend directed me to after I read the story about the child with Down’s Syndrome. Having a disabled child myself and having a very warm loving Armenian friend, I could not harmonize the cultural notions about disabilities with what I knew of my friend. He explained that it was a vestige of the Soviet Union. As the parent of a disabled child, I knew that it is still very difficult to achieve acceptance and it is a cultural bias that must be overcome. For years, mothers were told by pediatricians to institutionalize their children. When my son was young, I happened to meet a mother of an adult son with Downs Syndrome who urged me to institutionalize my son. She was a product of a different culture and I bore her no ill will since we are all, in one way or another, a product of our cultural environment. Thank you for a very thoughtful piece.

  8. When I fist saw this story, it immediately roused my suspicion. Something about it stunk to high heaven. And I am sticking with my opinion, regardless of what is being claimed in the (anti-Armenian) western media.

    First of all, it is so awesome of the “media” to accuse, charge and sentence an Armenian mother right off the bat based on the claims of what it seems like, well, a loser. A fortune seeking unemployed loser that is. Let’s see, a foreigner goes to Armenia, marries a woman (who married him for God knows what reason), then promptly of course is freeloading off of her and her family and their meager income.

    Next a baby is born, and he claims the mother “gave him an ultimatum” and “he doesn’t have the money to return to New Zealand” and thus “he is in dire need of help”. Yeah that makes a whole lot of sense. A grown man who is taking on the responsibility of having a family not only isn’t working and is just a leech, but he can’t even raise a few dollars or put it on a credit card for a plane ticket. But he certainly had the money coming to Armenia though in search of a family to freeload off of.

    I don’t advocate abandoning children, but the mother’s explanation and counter-charge certainly needs to be taken into consideration, but then the damage has been done already against her, and a ‘father’ with questionable motives has had his big pay day from the sympathies of of a bunch of dupes who never knew the whole story.

    I’ll file this story along with all the rest of the barrage of anti-Armenian articles meant to put Armenia in a negative light that hit the media in the past few months, such as “antisemitism in Armenia”, “US should decrease aid to Armenia”, etc. compliments of all of our “friends”. A nice trick against Armenia as the centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide approaches.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm //

      Hagop,

      Not every bad news you read about Armenia is because of anti-Armenian conspiracies. The father made the situation very public by trying to raise money and that made it news. Unlike the “antisemitism in Armenia” articles, I don’t see a deliberate malice here.

      Besides, this whole thing has exposed an issue of social attitudes in Armenia, and that’s a good thing. This story should make people start talking about how disabled people are treated.

    • Hagop D – A couple of hours ago I read an article in the New Zealand Herald about Leo’s father. I also made a comment here but Armenian Weekly did not see it fit to publish it. Apparently, according to the NZ Herald, Mr. Forrest has four children in NZ, including one daughter with DS. He has not seen them for four years and is divorced from his wife and they are not to contact his family. Anyway, you can read the article yourself, The NZ Herald Baby Leo’s father has four more children………..

      I find this whole story very sad because it involves five innocent children. I always say there are to sides to each story.

    • Hagop D – My apologies to Armenian Weekly, they did publish my
      comments. Also, as I said, there are always two side to each story.
      I worked with special needs kids for three years and most of them lived in institutions and group homes. They are better off here, but this is USA wealthiest country in the world, but even here we
      still have a lot to do.

    • TO: Random Armenian

      But it is anti-Armenian conspiracy. Why do most articles highlight the fact the mother is Armenian? “Armenian mom abandons…” Why? There are worse things parents do like kill their child, do the articles say “Mexican mom” or “Black mom”?

      Fact is every negative article that has an Armenian involved, certain media have an anti-Armenian slant. When Kerkorian donated millions to UCLA, did the articles say “Armenian man”. That is one example.

  9. Thank you Kristi for another very touching but rational piece. Aprees.
    I am also touched by the generosity of so many people around the world who donated half a million dollars so far to help with the raising of this child.
    Looking at this story from a practical point of view, perhaps it is yet to have a happy ending: If a major worry of the mother was to be able to care adequately for the child, given the dire economic situation in Armenia and her unemployed husband, then perhaps she would reconsider her decision now that there is enough money to be able to afford to raise the child.

  10. avatar Bedros Zrdelian // February 10, 2015 at 2:21 am // Reply

    I wish the best for the child and I will pray in Jesus name for Leo’s healing. Amen.

  11. My brother with Down Syndrome was born in America more than 50 years ago. My father, born and raised in Armenia, initially struggled to accept his condition. However, my mother was determined to love her child and defy the odds of the physicians who urged her to “give him up.” She proudly brought him to church and ignored the stares and whispers of the ignorant and welcomed the warm embrace of those more open-minded and accepting. And there were many of each type. She was a determined mother who successfully breast-fed a disabled child she was told was physically incapable of doing so, and watched in awe as he walked on his own by 18 mos, further defying the odds. My father, drawing strength from my mother’s example, managed to get over his initial shame of having a disabled son, (his first!) and together, my parents devoted themselves to providing a loving home for all their children. He was never hidden away and was included in all family activities. There were difficulties associated with his special needs, but we learned to weather it together as a family. Now, as an adult with Down Syndrome, my brother has entered his ‘retirement years’ after having worked in specialized workshops for those with disabilities. He lives in a supervised group home with others like him, enjoying an active life with his ‘second family’, and regular visits home with mom and his sibs.

    This is just one Armenian family’s story of life with a disabled child. But this was in America. I suspect if we had lived in Armenia, the social pressures would have created a different scenario. Though the experience of growing up with my brother showed me that disability is not something to be ashamed of, I don’t stand in judgement of others who weren’t as lucky as I was. The mother of the baby in Armenia was driven by fear and social conventions that aren’t unique to Armenia. Even in America, the vast majority of mother’s who find out through prenatal testing that they are carrying a child with Down Syndrome, choose to terminate the pregnancy. As Kristi says, education is the key to erasing the fear and shame that is at the root of this sad and all too common story. And honestly, I am happy that this story isn’t ‘hidden away’ like an unwanted child, but has been brought into the light where we Armenians are forced to confront out-moded ideas. It will bring about positive change in the long run.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 10, 2015 at 2:09 pm //

      Your mom was ahead of the curve in social change and very brave. It’s hard to imagine how one will deal with such situations until confronted with it. Thank you for sharing your story.

      I think the best way to look at this is that the US and Europe area ahead of other parts of the world in attitudes towards disability. They went through the say issues that Armenia and other post-soviet countries are really dealing with right now. The Soviet Union held back progress in these areas. But hopefully the US can be an example to learn from and thus see social change faster.

  12. avatar Elizabeth zarian // February 10, 2015 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    I’m Armenian American..have no family in Armenia..never been there,,I was shocked to read this is normal routine in Armenia.
    But Armenians who have lived generations in America are extremely judgmental and critical of anyone who is difficult..could be as simple as a woman who had a divorce. Your gossipped and outcasted right away..which is why this story makes sense..you can only be different and accepted in Armenian community if you have $$$$ like the Kardashians. Sad but true

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 13, 2015 at 12:58 am //

      Elizabeth zarian

      You’re being anti-Armenian and falling for the international anti-Armenian conspiracy when you talk about negative things in Armenia. Just ask Hagop and others. Amot!

      And that goes for Vagharshak too.

      ;-)

  13. You bring up interesting points. What you do with them however, is also a matter of interest. One might think that you could bring up the fact that most infants in the U.S. who show conclusive signs of autism never make it to birth, but are cruelly murdered first (and as has been admitted in the case of France, sometimes have been murdered after birth). Or, it would have been worth mentioning that in our own country (U.S.) many children diagnosed with Autism or who have received similar diagnoses are given up for adoption (though this is even more common in western Europe).
    It will appear to all of us to be a very wrong thing to do for a person who lives in a great big glass house to throw any stones.
    And frankly, we could do with a little healthy shame. It is nothing to brag about that we are what seems by all accounts to be a shameless society.
    I wonder when we are busy rudely overstepping our bounds, do we understand that our friends are busy exercising much humility, patience, and love.
    We can blame social norms for the wrong that people commit (that also goes for that young man’s stupid selfishness and violation of his marriage vows), but in the end we’re all responsible for what we feel, and think, and do and say to whatever extent that we act knowingly and willingly.
    It may be better for us as Americans to look around us and see if people diagnosed with Autism are treated very well here; that is, are they seen as equal in personhood and worth? They aren’t, and we need to admit it, and stop blaming others for the very things we do.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 11, 2015 at 9:29 pm //

      “One might think that you could bring up the fact that most infants in the U.S. who show conclusive signs of autism never make it to birth,”

      Just to address that specific point, currently autism is diagnosed after birth. I don’t believe there is any method to diagnose it during pregnancy. So the statement that majority of infants with autism are aborted sounds false.

  14. I just read in The New Zealand Herald, February 11, 2015 that Samuel Forrest has four other children with his first wife, including one with Down’s Syndrom. He has not seen his children in four years, since he was expelled from the Exclusive Brethern church in Wanganul.

    It is believed he was ex-communicated from the church he was brought up in after divorcing his wife, preventing all contact with his family including his own parents. And it goes on…..

    I wonder how the world press is going to react to the new information. Their anti Armenian sentiments were, to say the least, shameful.

  15. I agree largely with what [Hagop D] wrote.
    And also agree that a lot of Anti-Armenian hysteria in the West is orchestrated, although in this case it appears to be spontaneous and fueled by the inflammatory statements about Armenia and the Armenian wife promulgated by Samuel Forrest to boost his fundraising.
    Which apparently worked quite well.

    Good find by [Tamara] about this guy.
    It adds to the baggage of this loser.
    It is said in the article that he has not seen his New Zealand wife or children in 4 years, after divorce there.
    He blames his Church, but it is not clear to me how would the Church prevent him from seeing his children.
    It appears the burden became too much for him, and he just abandoned them and decided to start a new life far, far away from New Zealand with an attractive young woman in Armenia.
    I am no doctor, but since he already has one other child with Down syndrome, is it not reasonable that his ‘contribution’ is the cause of Leo being born with that condition ?
    Was it not incumbent upon him to take that into consideration before starting a family with this woman ?
    And his other four children are aged 8 to 15: when did this guy start fathering children ? He looks pretty young.

    Ruzan Badalyan statement (only a part):
    {In Armenia every child is loved and respected and family is a high value, but in this country children with special needs do require special attention, huge financial resources and dedication.
    In the hardest moment of my life when my husband should be next to me and support and help to take the right decision, I could not find any support from his side. After that incident, he left the hospital notifying me hours later that he was taking the kid with him, that he is going to leave the country for New Zealand and I do not have anything to do with the situation. Without giving me any option and trying to find with me any solution in this hardest situation, he started to circulate the story on every possible platform without even trying to give me a voice accusing that I put him an ultimatum marriage or the baby, which is absolutely not true. I tried several times to communicate but he never tried to listen me and to find common solutions. The only response was the accusation from his part. Sam has never suggested joining him and bringing up the child together in his country. Neither did he tell me anything on the day we filed for divorce.}

    About Armenia.

    I accept that social mores in Armenia re handicapped people need lots of work.
    But the financial side of the equation appears to have been ignored.
    It is quite difficult and expensive to bring up even non-handicapped children, in any country.
    Even here in the US, with tons of State money available for such cases, it is still very, very difficult and a huge emotional and physical drain on the parents.
    To the extent that New Zealand society is able to accommodate handicapped people, it is in no small measure thanks to it being a relatively wealthy country.

    And before people* go on ragging on Armenia about this, here is a little trip down memory lane in our good old USA:

    {Historically in the United States, the majority of people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities were kept in inhumane institutions where they were deprived of education, healthcare and even plumbing. In the United States, until the 1980s and in some cases as late as the 1990s, the way in which people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities were treated represents a shameful chapter of inhumanity and discrimination in our country.}
    {It is important to remember people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities were a key target in the eugenics movement in the United States…}
    {It is important to remember up until 1984 doctors in the United States refused to provide lifesaving procedures to people with Down syndrome such as surgeries related to the heart. Even today, there are people with Down syndrome dying in their 30s or 40s simply because a doctor refused to perform the heart surgery when they were infants.}
    {It is important to remember there were doctors as late as the 1980s who categorized feeding a baby with Down syndrome as a “lifesaving procedure” and proceeded to starve babies to death with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities until all 50 state governors created legislation to ban this horrific practice}

    The excerpts are from ‘Global Down Syndrome Foundation’ website.

    Considering that both New Zealand and US have been wealthy, stable, safe countries for decades, and that Armenia has been under various forms of assault in her short existence since before its Independence**, we need to cut her some slack.

    One last thing: all those Anti-Armenian bigots ragging on Armenia about this, please read:
    [When Haredi mothers give up their Down syndrome babies]
    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/1.537206


    * I specifically do not mean or imply our Kristi.
    ** Massive earthquake that devastated the country and caused up to 50,000 deaths. Dissolution of USSR and complete wipeout of the social safety net, and the industrial base, causing massive unemployment and dislocation. War, blockades, threats of invasion……

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 11, 2015 at 9:58 pm //

      “I accept that social mores in Armenia re handicapped people need lots of work.”

      Yes agreed. Even with the examples and history you gave regarding discrimination against handicapped people in the US and the West, they are ahead of the post-Soviet countries by a few decades. The Soviet system did not allow for such progressive ideas to develop.

      But no doubt Armenia will develop positively in this area, that’s the trend globally. And with the US and other countries dealing with such discrimination in a positive manner and setting an example, Armenia will probably progress faster.

      I believe this news event can have a positive effect by opening up people to talk about. Yesterday Public Radio of Armenia had an audio program on regarding the events around the the down syndrome baby. In it the mother described how she felt pressure from the family and even the doctor to make a decision with a few hours after the delivery. Later on they had, I believe an Armenian doctor, saying that it’s not the doctor’s place to put any sort of pressure in such a situation. This piece was several minutes in length and was well done. So it’s encouraging and important that issues such as discrimination be talked about openly.

      Here’s the online article from PRA.
      http://www.armradio.am/en/2015/02/10/man-who-accused-wife-of-abandoning-their-down-syndrome-baby-has-four-kids/

  16. The problem with newborn disabilities is not only a hold-over from the Soviet era, it goes back much farther to survival of the fittest. The chances of a family’s prospects for marrying their other children would be jeopardized because of the thinking of the times that this was due to weak hereditary genes – shameful (amot) for a family or clan. In Soviet times the infant ended up in an institution. Before that, the infant would not have been allowed to live. I know this from stories of village life that my mother, a Genocide survivor, used to tell me.

  17. Dear all,

    There is no anti-Armenian sentiment in the Western Media. I live in the UK and I can assure you that Azerbaijan and Turkey are criticised far more than Armenia is. Furthermore, one of the reasons that aid may have been reduced by the US to Armenia is because most of it doesn’t; actually get used in such a way that would benefit society as a whole. While one may blame the Turkish and Azeri lobby as the reason for this; it is important to note that they have very little influence over political decisions. In the UK, for example, no reasonably important politician will go to Azerbaijan (except Tony Bliar but that is a different story all together) due to their vile human rights record and press censorship.The Azeri lobby has spend a vast amount of money and has achieved next to nothing. The western media is also very anti-Turkey at the moment due to their actions regarding ISIS. So, to say that the press is anti-armenia is both ridiculous and false.

    In the UK we have many many Members of Parliament, Members of the House of Lords and ministers who all have some kind of disability ranging from multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, blindness in both eyes and being wheel chair bound. Being disabled does not mean one cannot lead a fruitful, successful life and we must do more to help people whoa rent as fortunate as ourselves.

    Moreover, this case has absolutely nothing to do with the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Nothing at all. It will not take away from the memorial nor will it overshadow it.

    If you are to come out with comments like this then at least offer your opinion as to why, and do not merely state that it is the “anti-armenian media”. Again, not only is it false but also takes away from the issue at hand. Instead of blaming the media for this story we must look at ways in which we can ether educate people about disabilities. Yes, it may have something to do with culture but Armenians, especially those living in Armenia, must be more open minded if they are to truly make Armenia a better place.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 11, 2015 at 9:43 pm //

      “While one may blame the Turkish and Azeri lobby as the reason for this; it is important to note that they have very little influence over political decisions.”

      Not sure about other stuff but they seem to have influence when it comes to UK affirming the Armenian Genocide. But I suppose that’s an easy one since affirming something that happened back in 1915 does not have the same weight as having relations with Turkey.

      At least I’m glad to hear that in Turkey and Azerbaijan are getting the public criticism they deserve. And they’re giving more and more reasons for this everyday.

  18. Armenians are quick to judge and outcast anyone who is different. A divorced woman is starred and whispered about and this is in America,, I can only imagine what goes on in Armenia.. Oh if you have $$$ and you are deformed then your God.

  19. “Not every bad news you read about Armenia is because of anti-Armenian conspiracies…”

    Here to sanitize all the anti-Armenian discrimination and bigotry out there and put Armenia to a higher standard again Random Armenian?

    And yet, do you have an explanation why positive news from Armenia is ignored altogether, but they all jumped on the Armenia bashing bandwagon upon the release of a one-sided claim equivalent to a rumor by one who has now been shown to be a fraud?

    One, or two places who would publish the story I would not have a problem with, but as soon as this story hit the news, an endless number of sites, some of whom probably never even mentioned ‘Armenia’ in their history all had a stampede to show “how things are wrong in Armenia and their social values”. Even ‘People’ published this non-newsworthy story based on hearsay.

    In fact I find it downright hilarious coming from all these morally bankrupt western societies where typical news items include mothers killing several of their children each year, normal newborn babies thrown in dumpsters and sewers, fathers murdering whole families, youths shooting up their schools, and the list goes on. How many such incidents take place in Armenia?

    Oh but wait, allegedly a “heartless **Armenian** mother abandoned her down syndrome baby” and “in **Armenia** such things are a problem left over from the USSR”… never mind the countless down syndrome homes with thousands of abandoned down syndrome children throughout these same western countries where these hit pieces against Armenia are originating from.

    And now we see that Tamara’s revelation above is actually quite significant that he abandoned four children from a previous marriage, because not only is this Forrest character now a fraud, in fact he needs to be investigated to see if any laws have been broken or any crimes committed. The Armenian government probably should not let this con artist leave the country until everything is investigated correctly and sorted out. And as Avery said, being excommunicated from a church would not have anything to do with not being a part of your children’s lives.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 12, 2015 at 11:56 pm //

      “And yet, do you have an explanation why positive news from Armenia is ignored altogether, but they all jumped on the Armenia bashing bandwagon upon the release of a one-sided claim ”

      Hagop, positive news is not news, only bad news is news. That’s how the media works.

      Besides, Armenia is not the only country where good news is ignored from.

      So what sort of positive news from Armenia do you think should made news?

      Also, I think this news would have been reported if it happened in another country like Georgia or Romania. Romania has had reports in the media after the collapse of the soviet union about their horrible orphanages. That did not mean that there was anti-Romanian bashing. So no I don’t think this is somehow specifically anti-Armenian. What the Turks and Azeris do is anti-Armenian. This case is based more on ignorance and the media being stupid and sensationalist as usual.

      The father was publicly asking for money which naturally got attention from the start. And we now know about his four abandoned kids because it was also reported as news a few days later.

      So I respectfully disagree that how this event was reported is *maliciously* anti-Armenian as compared to what the Turks and Azeris do.

      I think you’re being a bit too sensitive.

  20. Zarian – Armenians live all over the world and hey do not
    outcast everyone who is different. I worked and lived in
    four different countries and, believe me, I saw a lot of
    those things in those countries, human nature.

  21. “One might think that you could bring up the fact that most infants in the U.S. who show conclusive signs of autism never make it to birth,”
    Just to address that specific point, currently autism is diagnosed after birth. I don’t believe there is any method to diagnose it during pregnancy. So the statement that majority of infants with autism are aborted sounds false.
    I can’t be responsible for how things sound to you, but I am not comfortable with the way you misrepresented what I wrote. There is in fact no current advertised (or publicly accepted) diagnosis of Autism of a baby in the womb. There are however a battery of other tests which depending on their results “show [what are widely and functionally considered to be] conclusive signs.” It is also common practice to diagnose DS before birth.
    It just seems to me that the beginning of ethnic unity among Armenians is to recognize when we have need of correction in our own feelings and thinking and behaviour, rather than in that of those with whom we disagree. I for one have no pleasure in the unrelenting condescension and criticism of Armenians who are not like us (wherever we or they are from).
    This particular article (though not written by an Armenian) shows some attempt at kindness. That said, the objective in the article as well as the comments is still the assimilation of the worldview of those we deem to be deficient. My point is this, that before we go around the world looking for other Armenians to enlighten, we ought to see whether or not we are what we credit ourselves with being. I know my post seems a little cantankerous, that is not my intention. It is hard to speak any unwelcome truth pleasingly.

  22. (Ben Smith // February 11, 2015 at 10:39 am // )

    {“ There is no anti-Armenian sentiment in the Western Media. I live in the UK and I can assure you that Azerbaijan and Turkey are criticised far more than Armenia is.”}

    Sure there is.
    I live in the US and can assure you that there is.
    When we say Western media, we also include US, btw.

    I will give you just one example of obvious Anti-Armenian bias in an official UK news site, BBC.

    [Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Azeris dream of return] (8 January 2015)
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30718551

    From beginning to end, the article is unadulterated Anti-Armenian, pro-Azerbaijani propaganda.
    If BBC were to present the proverbial “two sides*” in this case, I might convince myself, if I really tried, that BBC was trying to be ‘fair’, whatever that means.
    But what happened here ?
    The article came straight out of the Ministry of Truth of Azerbaijan.

    Here are two examples:

    1.BBC claim: {“Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the disputed, mountainous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s.”}
    False: Armenia did not fight Azerbaijan. The indigenous inhabitants of NKR, Armenians, fought the invading military of Azerbaijan.
    RoA helped NKR, the same as Turkey and the entire radical Islamic world helped Azerbaijan.

    2.BBC claim: {“For centuries there was rivalry in the region between Christian Armenians and Turkic Muslims.”}
    A subtle Anti-Armenian, pro Turkic strike, as if two equal sides had some kind of territorial dispute.
    What rivalry ? How about mentioning the Armenian Genocide; how about mentioning that Armenians are indigenous to the region and that Turkic tribes invaded from East and Central Asia.
    And that they wiped out, ethnically cleansed, forcibly Islamized and Turkified indigenous Christian Armenians ?

    I could fill pages and pages of comment documenting Anti-Armenian bias in the Western media.
    But the example I gave from UK should disabuse you of your comfortable fiction that there is no such thing, Mr. Smith.
    I do not know if you are of Armenian descent or Anglo-Saxon descent.
    But you need to be ‘actively Armenian’ to be attuned to these things, and be able to detect the subtle bias.
    Western media excels in this: it has been elevated to an art form. The propaganda is not crude and obvious, of course.
    It is very sophisticated.
    Often the bias is by omission.

    Where is the background in this story ?
    Why did BBC omit the massacres of Armenian civilians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), Baku (1990) ?
    Why did BBC omit the savagery and brutality visited on defenseless Armenian civilians living in those cities: Armenian women and girls gang-raped, their corpses mutilated. Armenians burned alive by Turkbaijani mobs, aided and abetted by authorities in Baku.
    Why did BBC omit the undeniable fact that Azerbaijan invaded the self declared NKR with full military force in 1991 ?
    Why did BBC omit the well known case of the brutal axe-murder of a sleeping Armenian man by an Azerbaijani psychopath who was spirited to Baku and treated as a national hero for murdering an Armenian ?

    No bias here. Nothing to see here. Move along.


    * Yes, of course, allegedly ‘fair’ British just _have_ to say things like “…Armenians claim it was genocide; Turks dispute that, and say both side suffered….”.
    But apparently in this case, allegedly non-biased BBC takes whatever Azerbaijanis claim and presents it as fact.
    Bias ? what bias ? We are British: we are the most unbiased people in the World.

    • Avery,

      You have hand picked certain articles that are not pro-Armenian. You could easily type in anti-Azerbaijan on Google and find vast amounts of coverage; far worse than the Anti-Armenian sentiment that you say exists. Of course there are some stories that criticise Armenia but that is to be expected. We have seen many prime time programmes on the BBC, with over a million viewers, that heavily criticise Azerbaijan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oea2XGsIbvI.

      The BBC are not going to actively and openly call the attrocities genocide because the British government does not call them so. Yes, they can say what they want, but they aren’t able to say things that would cause tensions between the UK/Turkey/Azerbaijan. This is not Anti-Armenian or Pro-Azerbaijan, it is common sense. The article below clearly states he was treated as a hero for his actions, and more.

      Furthermore, your comment that about the axe-murder is completely false http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19463968.

      You are right that it is more important to look at what isn’t there rather than what is. However, just because you have selected a few stories does not, in any way, show that the British Media is anti-Armenian. That is simply not true. You have picked a few articles to support your beliefs. The US media may well be anti-Armenian, but British media is not. Not only is your claim insulting it is untrue. Anyone can hand pick certain news items and say they are anti-Armenian. Overall, the British press is NOT anti-Armenian.

      I do sympathise with you. The Armenian genocide needs to be called a Genocide by all. However, why should a country state the events as genocide and as a result lose its ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan – that would be a very stupid thing to do. It is not Anti or Pro anybody, it is common sense and it is what is in the interest of the British state.

      Actually, as some one who is not Armenian but is very interested in the country I don’t see things through Armenian tinted lenses. I am able to offer an accurate picture of what the situation really is.

      Knarik: It was big news when it happens. More so after the trial started and she pleaded guilty. But still, when the original news came out it was a big story. Don’t imply it was the anti-Armenian press again. The fact that he raised so much money online was the reason it was such a popular news story. Crowd funding raised the profile of the incident, not the actual event itself.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 15, 2015 at 9:39 pm //

      Ben Smith,

      Some Armenians, and I’m sure many others in other cultures and groups who feel a very strong pride and connection to their history and group, have a hard time dealing with anything negative that makes it to the media. I don’t like it either and feel defensive about such things but don’t automatically assume an anti-Armenian conspiracy.

      “However, why should a country state the events as genocide and as a result lose its ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan – that would be a very stupid thing to do. It is not Anti or Pro anybody, it is common sense and it is what is in the interest of the British state.”

      We Armenians understand the real-politik very well because we’ve been at the receiving end of it since the Genocide.

      The thing is, Britain, as a party which defeated the Ottoman Empire and was deeply involved with the politics in the aftermath, has an obligation to call it genocide publicly. They were involved in the trials of the Ottoman leaders in Constantinople for the massacres of the Armenians. But towards the end, Britian released these people as part of an exchange with the leftover Ottomans. The West also started to sweep the Ottoman crimes under the rug in exchange for relations with a West leaning Turkey under Ataturk.

      Britain is not a lone third party here. She has a history connected with how the genocide was dealt with with the fall of the Ottomans.

  23. avatar Knarik Meneshian // February 14, 2015 at 1:17 pm // Reply

    I wonder why the following brief news item in the U.S. didn’t make it “big” for days and days in the international news media?

    “Utah woman pleads guilty to killing 6 of her babies” Over a period of 10 years, the woman, a methamphetamine addict, killed 6 of her newborn babies and hid their bodies in her garage.

    • I think it’s a cultural thing, which surely represents the average American mother. Such cultural norms are left over from the hippie era of the USA where people lost their values and moral guidance, to where today, Americans are just like that based on their evolved culture, druggies with absent morals.

    • Random Armenian,

      I agree with your sentiments and the British were very much involved with the Ottoman Empire during WW1. I would prefer it if all states accepted their wrong doings over the years as history will only repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. However, like you said, unfortunately politics plays a huge role in these things (oil too) and in order for the Genocide to be accepted worldwide, Turkey must accept it. Only then will the rest of Europe follow suit.

      This year will be decisive in Armenia’s history. Some states will recognise the genocide and other won’t. However, the use of Amal Clooney, Geoffrey Robertson qc Kim Kardashian and the rest of your diaspora to spread to message will only help the case for recognition. While every Armenian i know despises her, she is undoubtedly the most influential Armenian in the world. Ever.

      I wish you luck in spreading the Armenian message around the world. If you all pull together and sing form the same hymn sheet, it will happen.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm //

      Ben Smith,

      Our decades long dealing with Turkey, and in fact Turkey’s allies such as the US, shows that Turkey will not come clean (to put it mildly) about the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has not only denied what happened but deliberately trying to erase is from history. This was not something Turkey openly denied until very recently because the government of Turkey had managed to turn the subject into a taboo.

      And Turkey today persists in combating her history instead of facing it. The reason 1915 is relatively more openly discussed in Turkey in the past 10-15 years is the international recognition of the genocide by more and more countries and partly because of the incompletely reforms required to join the EU. This has led to an atmosphere where things have moved from taboo to open denial and open recognition by the more progressive elements in that country.

      I believe international pressure is still needed.

      Despite the gloomy history, I am still optimistic.

  24. (Ben Smith // February 15, 2015 at 8:56 am //)

    Sorry for the delayed reply, Ben.
    Was rather busy, old chap.

    I will address several of your assertions:

    1.{“ You have hand picked certain articles that are not pro Armenian.”}

    Your original assertion was this: {“ Dear all, There is no anti-Armenian sentiment in the Western Media……”}

    I gave you at least one counterexample from the official UK government media source, BBC, that clearly shows Anti-Armenian bias (sentiment).
    Your blanket assertion – “there is no” – was thus positively debunked by that one example from official UK government media source, BBC.
    I can find numerous others if need be: but the point was made.
    We can also play “what is the definition of ‘sentiment’ “ till the cows come home, if you like.
    Again, I showed with one concrete example from BBC that there is clear Anti-Armenian bias.

    Even the link you provided (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19463968) proves the Anti-Armenian bias @BBC.

    Here: {During his trial in Hungary, Safarov said that the Azeri-Armenian war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s, and insults from the Armenian officer were at the root of his actions.}. Full stop.
    Not one word by BBC that every one of axe-murderer Safarov’s allegations and excuses were proven false in an open Hungarian court.
    A person unfamiliar with the entire story who reads that, will go away thinking that the Armenian murder victim somehow ‘deserved it’: and that is why BBC left that paragraph dangling like that. Very clever; very clever indeed.
    How many ways can you spell Anti-Armenian bias/sentiment ?

    {“ Furthermore, your comment that about the axe-murder is completely false”}

    No it isn’t false: the person reading the original BBC article I cited about NKR will go away with the impression that Armenians are the aggressors and the bad guys in NKR. That too was very intentional by the ‘unbiased’ BBC.

    2.{“ Actually, as some one who is not Armenian but is very interested in the country I don’t see things through Armenian tinted lenses. I am able to offer an accurate picture of what the situation really is.”}

    No you are not: your so-called ‘accurate picture’ is attempting to convince Armenians that up is down and down is up.
    Who do you think you are dealing with here, children ?

    3.{“ Not only is your claim insulting it is untrue.”}

    What is the real insult is when an English bloke visits an Armenian site as in ArmenianWeekly, and tries to justify his Government’s vile official policy denying the Armenian Genocide.
    Bloody awful, mate.
    Be a good sport old chap and apologize to all Armenian readers of ArmenianWeekly for insulting the memory of their 2 million murdered ancestors (1894-1923), won’t you ?
    Please.
    Pretty please, with sugar on top.

  25. avatar Random Armenian // February 20, 2015 at 12:48 pm // Reply

    Another piece from a New Zealand paper on this story. It gives a little more background story:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11405517

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