The Region in Brief

Armenia

Turkey has lifted its ban on air cargo shipments from Armenia. The agreement was reached following four rounds of negotiations on the normalization of relations last year. Armenia and Turkey appointed special envoys for the talks in December 2021. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that the crossing of the land border by citizens of third countries, another agreement reached during the talks, will also be implemented soon. Turkish governments have banned Armenian imports since closing the border in the 1990s in support of Azerbaijan during the first Artsakh War.  

Several prominent non-governmental organizations have criticized the appointment of Vahe Ghazaryan as the head of the Armenian Interior Ministry. The Union of Informed Citizens, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and Friend of the Driver say that Ghazaryan has “actively resisted” police reform, including by “attempting to fire patrol officers who pulled over the cars of high-ranking officials” and “awarding the rank of officers to acquaintances and relatives.” They pulled out of an official police reform council to protest his appointment. “We believe that this appointment will inevitably lead to new flourishing of patronage and other forms of corruption,” a January 10 joint statement reads. Ghazaryan and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan are reportedly childhood friends. Ghazaryan has been the chief of Armenian police since 2020. 

Azerbaijan

Leading opposition activist Tofig Yagublu has been on a hunger strike for a week to protest poor prison conditions. Yagublu was detained on December 23 at a protest demanding the release of political prisoner Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Yagublu’s daughter, who has joined the hunger strike, said that the prison provides very little food to detainees, and the food they do give is of such low quality that it is “better not to eat it.” Yagublu’s wife and eight other opposition activists have also announced that they are joining the hunger strike in solidarity. 

Georgia

An audio recording of Georgian opposition figure Nika Melia allegedly criticizing the founder of his political party has been circulating on social media. In the recording, Melia uses obscene language against former Georgian president and founder of United National Movement (UNM) Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili has been imprisoned since October 2021 and faces acute health issues after a lengthy hunger strike. UNM members say that the recording is fabricated. One UNM politician suggested that the recording was created by Georgian Dream, Georgia’s ruling party, to “incite conflict, division and slander.” The UNM has said that Melia will not be commenting on the recording. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly.
It's been over six weeks since #Azerbaijan closed the #LachinCorridor and blockaded #Artsakh. Gas and electricity s… https://t.co/vibVON7bSU - 5 days ago
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