Armenian Minister Panned after Criticizing Diaspora, Serj Tankian

hranush-hakobyan (1)

Armenia’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Hranush Hakobian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian has come under fire from opposition figures and even some government loyalists after declaring that Armenian communities around the world have not done enough to ease socioeconomic hardship in Armenia.

Hakobian made the controversial statement on Monday in response to renewed criticism of the Armenian government voiced by Serj Tankian, the outspoken lead singer of the U.S.-Armenian rock band System Of A Down (SOAD).

Tankian addressed tens of thousands of Armenians on Thursday as the SOAD gave a first-ever concert in Yerevan dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. The open-air show was broadcast live by Armenian television.

“We have come a long way in 20 years of Armenia’s independence but there is still a lot of work to do,” he told the ecstatic and mostly young crowd. “It is the responsibility of the government of the Republic of Armenia to bring in the principles of egalitarian civic society, get rid of the institutional injustice around and stop the depopulation that is occurring.”

“Criticizing is the easiest thing,” Hakobian told, commenting on Tankian’s statement. “Why are our compatriots leaving the country? If they were paid well they wouldn’t leave. So please be so kind as to help develop the economy here and thereby keep people from emigrating.”

“Let all [Diaspora] gentlemen, one million people, open $1,000 bank accounts in Armenia, not give that money to us. The banks will get more money and become stronger,” said the minister charged with coordinating ties with the worldwide Armenian Diaspora.

Hakobian’s comments triggered a chorus of disapproval and ridicule on social media networks used by many in Armenia. Some opposition politicians added their voice to the criticism, saying that she failed to acknowledge the large scale of various charity projects implemented by Diaspora groups and individuals in the country since the early 1990s.

Zaruhi Postanjian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun party led by a U.S.-born politician, claimed that Hakobian’s remarks were indicative of the government’s attitude to the Diaspora. “From their perspective, the Diaspora must only provide aid and have no say in political decision-making,” she said.

However, a top representative of that government strongly defended Tankian. Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the chief spokesman for President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), spoke of his admiration for the 47-year-old rock star.

“Let everyone, including myself, do a fraction of what Serj Tankian has done for our country,” he said. “Guys, Serj Tankian and the System of A Down have done a great job.”

Sharmazanov stressed that the SOAD vocalist therefore has a legitimate right to criticize the authorities in Yerevan in good faith. “By recognizing our mistakes, we will only get stronger,” he said.

Tankian similarly called for boosting the rule of law and combating corruption in Armenia during his previous trip to his ancestral homeland in 2011. He also deplored serious fraud that was reported during Armenia’s last presidential election held in 2013.


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  1. April 24 @ 24/7/365 said:

    The epidemic of Soviet style cronyism must end and replaced with a meritocracy system. A system which holds that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively according to their merit.

  2. ARI Hayg said:

    The current translation of what happened or better yet what Mrs. Hakobyan said and meant doesn’t do justice to the reality. It is very important to point out the fact that she deliberately stressed the word “ baron or baronner “ when addressing diasporans, she did so at least two times if not more. This factor will help illuminate why the whole thing was so outrageous, especially Given the fact that it is not very common to use the word ( baron / Paron) when addressing each other in Armenia and the word started to be used just after the fall of the communist rule there some 25 years back, ( in communist times to address someone with “baron” or “digin” was considered a capitalist thing and everyone was commonly addressed as “enger”/ comrade / friend) It is obvious that Mrs. Hakobyan stressed the word “baronner” intentionally, directing and targeting specifically diaspora Armenians, western Armenians or better yet “AXPARS” ( derogatory way locals in Armenia use to and still address western Armenians).
    Unfortunately, Mrs. Hakobyan and her character are embodiment of people with such crude mentality. This is not the first time that she allows herself to take the tone of “benevolent “, “charitable” guardian of the homeland who is doing a favor to the diaspora Armenians by “ selling” their homeland on them and doing a big favor in the process.
    It is a high time that the president revisits her appointment in that important position. Mrs. Hakobyan’s appointment in that important position is a disgrace and an insult to all Armenians may they be living in Armenia or diaspora. Armenian nation, government, society deserve better than that.

  3. Zareh said:

    I certainly agree with Mts. Hagopian about diaspora Armenias opening bank accounts in Armenia. When I was in Armenia few weeks ago I opened a bank account at Ameria Bank and deposited few thousand dollars. One year CD in dollar deposit gives you 7% return and if you deposit in Tram the rate is even higher. Also to let the diaspora Armenias know that there is 5000 dollars if deposit insurance by the government as opposed to 250,000 dollars in the United States.
    In a previous post I mentioned that the Central Bank of Armenia should increase the deposit insurance to a much higher level so the diaspora Armenias feel comfortable in depositing in Armenian Banks.
    Also I suggest Armenian Banks especially Ameria Bank, Converse Bank and HSBC to have small branches in Los Angeles and New York to ease the process of depositing for diaspora Armenias just like Leumi Bank of Israel. When I opened my Bank Account in Armenia the paperwork was all in Armenian. I suggest the Armenian Banks to have English and Russian and French language documents as the new Armenian generation in the diaspora hardly reads or writes in Armenia.
    The bank officer in Armenia her name Lilit was very helpful at the Sayat Nova branch of Ameria Bank. I called the Ameriagroup in Glendale about a question about my account few days ago and Lilit called me from Armenia and answered my question. By the way she speaks fluent English. Ameria Bank also sends my monthly email statements of my bank account and I can check my accounts online with a secured system.
    So again I fully support Mrs. Hagopian about her suggestion and actually increase the amount above 1000 dollars to at least 5000 dollars the ceiling for the deposit insurance. I suggest Armenian visitors to Armenia this summer to have their first national duty to open a bank account in any Armenia bank. they also give you a debit card so you can use them in any restaurant or shopping place. It is much safer than carrying real money in your pocket.

  4. Zareh said:

    Let me say another thing.
    WhenI was in Armenia I asked many questions to the regular folks in the street and everywhere I went. A lot of them told me they make 5,6,7 dollars a day. Yes a day. The Hotel I stayed was Ani Plaza Hotel. They charged me around 120 dollars a day, similar to an average hotel in the United States but they pay 7 dollars a day for the people,who change your sheets. Now let’s get real. The minimum wage in America is 7 dollars an hour for a hotel worker of similar daily room rate. So,the owners of Ani Plaza Hotel are abusing the hard working Armenian workers.
    The government should pass laws about minimum wage on certain profitable businesses like hotels to at least 7’dollars an hour. By the way the toilet paper at the hotel is of very low quality, almost like sand paper.
    So I decided to buy some toilet paper from a grocery store. The price of the toilet paper of a little better quality was the same as Cosco toilet paper however half the number of sheets and not double paper.
    I am saying these to let the readers understand that the cost of living for food and necessities in Armenia is similar to America however the wages are eight to ten times less. No wonder the country is depopulating.
    I don’t blame any Armenian who leaves the country. The first responsibility of a parent is to feed his family and not patriotism. Diaspora Armenias have relatively a good life. Some Armenians who come to America make more money from welfare without working than the Armenias who work in Armenia. This has to change by changing the minimum wage in Armenia.

  5. Jove said:

    Well said by the minister. The diaspora must do more and more. If we want a homeland, then we must pledge ourselves to help and keep helping. Enough is not enough. The diaspora does not realize that the homeland is in a state of war. While the diaspora feasts and dances, young soldiers die in the front lines. Open your purses, and instead of opening 1000 dollar bank accounts, open 10 000 dollars bank account. As a matter of fact the diaspora should create a programme where aid and monetary grants by individual Armenians should be tax deductible.

    • Serop said:

      The diaspora has tried everything to engage these criminals in government. EVERTHING
      We are treated as Odars when we we want real citizenship not some bland version of an Armenian passport that is only good for trips to Armenia.
      These leeches in power who control every aspect of the economy with fear and should someone like Hrach Muradyane stand up against them they kill them.
      I have done 10 trips and more, taken investment opportunities to them and all they want is WANT MORE for themselves, not for the people.
      Family friends purchased a large farm, spent $200K on improvements and new technologies, no one would purchase their produce because some corupt sitting politician owned the surrounding farms and had warned everyone not buy from the Odars…
      Sorry I have had enough, I have warned all my business relations to stay away from these thugs and murderes, untill there is real change in Armenia then I dont hoipe much hope for the ordinary people there, only more pain & suffereing while the leeches drive around in groups of black 4WD’s and every second army officer is a General with an entrage of 20 young fools behind them..
      This Hay is no longer willing to be a fool. Our Political parties from the diaspora are toothless tigres, with all the decades of Azad Yev Ankhagh Hayastan, now that we have it it is not Azad, it is a slave to a half dozen Mafia families who re sucking the nation dry.
      As for our CORRUPT Kathoghicos and his equally corrupt sourpazan brother who drives around in a Bently given to him by a CRIMINAL all I can say is that I am so ashamed its not funny.
      We deserve better than these blood suckers, and its about time our Diasporan leaders bare some teeth and take action before our nation is sold again by the davajans in power

  6. Serop said:

    This attitude that prevails amongst most Armenian leaders is also present in some of the population who have relatives in the diaspora.
    I petitioned the Armenian government to provide a similar citizenship program as does Israel for all Armenians, and they laughed. Their comments were very disturbing, all they wanted was economic aid and aid for their own pockets and without any involvement from the diaspora.
    Unless Armenian leaders change their clan like attitude and think about their people first I am not holding much hope for the nation to progress. An infrastructure investment of USD $200M fell apart when every politician involved wanted a small cut, or wanted a family member involved or wanted to control the project.
    We need change and we need it soon
    These group of leeches must first be got rid off, before real change can come. And the only way it can happen is mass immigration of Armenians back to Armenia.

  7. Saaten Maagar said:

    It’s time for this Bureaucratic minister, who does not know the first thing about the diaspora to pack up and leave her job and resign. I bet she will be on the next plane out of the country to enjoy her days somewhere other than Armenia. She will not even put a thousand dollars in an Armenian bank, is she for real? Is this what a minister in her position should say? What a joke!!!

  8. Stepan said:

    Serj Tankian is a hero and patriot. His love of Armenia and its causes has inspired many to help. Be used his celebrity status and talent for the benefit of the homeland. Speaking out on the issues that Armenia must address to improve is being responsible. Diasporans must be encouraged to participate in nation building without impeding the sovereignty of Armenia. Let our love of Armenia guide us.

  9. Dennis R Papazian said:

    Hranush Hakobian It is said by some to have sticky fingers. She often demands that donations be made through her office, and only God knows what that means. She would be funny if she were not such a sad and inadequate figure. A former leader of the Komsomol, apparently she finds it difficult to throw off bad habits from Soviet times. It is people like her who discourage the diaspora.

  10. David Dilachian said:

    Serj Tankian, is right raising the employment ( He is not the 1st ) if government members also move as Sharmazanov agrees diaspora will do more. On numerous occasions diaspora Armenians have been discouraged elsewhere. Past and current regimes have not received or encouraged diaspora. Better late than never do it now. Mrs. Hakopian why don’t you put forward a couple of thousand ??? and be an example,
    again better late than never.

  11. vartan said:

    Its time to say good by miss minister, pleas ask all those thives of ex or present government bring back all those stolen money , so you will not need any diaspora assistance . think before you speak

  12. amb said:

    I was at the concert and I also didn’t like the self-righteous tone of Tankian’s pronouncement. In analyzing Armenian and Armenia issues we have to start from the given premise that Armenia belongs to all Armenians and so we all share the responsibility of its survival and advancement. There are many shortcomings in Armenia, as there are in the Diaspora, and all Armenians, in Armenia and Diaspora, share the burden for it, and if they care, have to take action to rectify it.

  13. Hrant A. said:

    Ms Hagopian needs to step down. She operates the same way as her predecessor Mr. Dallakian
    dealt with the diaspora during Soviet Armenia. She is not evenhanded and she has no respect for diaspora Armenians.

  14. mahmouzian said:

    all thoses crook from the government are waiting for money .give to bank for project and the big guys will be in charge .you guess what will happen they will rob it clean it and nothing will be done she know it. lady take a lon g vacation you want money clean your government firt