Tankian Calls for End to Corruption in Armenia

Serj Tankian speaks at a public forum on Monday in Yerevan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Serj Tankian, the world-famous Armenian-American musician, on Monday called for boosting the rule of law and combating corruption in Armenia, saying that is key to addressing the country’s fundamental problems.

Speaking after his latest solo concert in Yerevan, the lead singer of the California-based band System of a Down also criticized a controversial mining project fiercely opposed by local environment protection groups.

He at the same time emphasized his belief that Armenia has done “pretty well” since gaining independence two decades ago.

“I think we need to establish the rule of law in this country,” Tankian told a public discussion organized by the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank, and the local office of Counterpart International, a U.S. civic development agency.

“I think having a rule of law in the country from top to bottom will alleviate a lot of concerns, whether it’s traffic tickets or taxes or wages or how many hours someone should work. It’s all connected to this one thing of enforcing the rule of law,” he said.

“And the efficiencies created by the lowering of corruption will actually really spur productivity in this country … and that will make it easier for foreign and local investment.”

Tankian drew rapturous applause from the audience when he singled out the need for a strict separation between business and politics. “In Armenia we have business and politics in the same seat,” he stated. “So one of them has got to get off the seat. You know, they can’t be sitting in the same space. Otherwise, it looks like an orgy.”

The rock star, who has mainly performed as a solo artist in recent years, addressed more than 200 civil society members at the end of a nearly weeklong visit to the country of his ancestors. The main highlight of his trip was an open-air concert late on Sunday dedicated to the inauguration in Yerevan of an information technology education center set up by a U.S. businessman of Armenian origin.

Tankian met with President Serzh Sarkisian at the sprawling TUMO Center for Creative Technologies ahead of the concert attended by some 10,000 fans. He received a medal of honor from Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian at a separate meeting on Friday.

An Armenian government statement cited Tigran Sarkisian as praising his vocal campaign for official U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. It said the premier, himself a rock fan, also pointed out that Tankian’s visits are important for promoting rock music in Armenia.

Tankian said on Monday that he discussed with Tigran Sarkisian plans by an Armenian mining company to develop Teghut, a massive copper and molybdenum deposit in the northern Lori region covered by a 357-hectare forest.

The Teghut project, if implemented, will lead to the destruction of 128,000 trees. Critics say that would wreak further havoc on Armenia’s green areas that have already shrunk dramatically since the 1990s.

Tankian heaped praise on Armenian environmentalists campaigning against the project. “I think they are doing a great job,” he said. “I fully and firmly agree with their stance.

“I think open-pit mining is very dangerous in this country and everywhere else. I think we’ll be poisoning our lives by opening up that mine in the Teghut forest.”

The outspoken singer revered by Armenians around the world went on to advocate Armenia’s transformation into “a lot more self-sufficient” country because of its geographic location and uneasy relations with neighbors. He called, among other things, for more government subsidies to farmers and a strict ban on genetically modified agricultural products.

Tankian, who will turn 44 next Sunday, cautioned, however, that Armenians should be “patient” in expecting positive changes in their country. “We are a 20-year-old country and in retrospect, if you look at the whole situation, I think we are doing pretty well, despite everything that we talked about,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people. There is a lot of potential, there is a lot of energy.”

Tankian was also “really excited” by the ecstatic and mostly young crowd that turned up for his concert broadcast live by an Armenian TV channel. “It was something I’d never experienced before … It was a level of high that I’d never had before,” he said.

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49 Comments

  1. Avetis said:

    Serj said a lot during his interview… yet the CIA operatives of RFE/RL only picked up on him calling for an “end to corruption in Armenia”?! The title of this article is essentially anti-Armenian propaganda and it has a clear political agenda. It’s revealing that Asbarez has been in the habit of regurgitating Washingtonian disinformation and psyops regarding Armenia. Although it’s very funny that people are actually eager to hear what a mere rocker thinks about politics and the world, I nevertheless do agree with Serj – with some reservations. Armenia needs political evolution – not a Western funded/inspired revolution! When Armenians do finally open their eyes they will see that the evolution I speak of has already begun. But Rome was not built in a single day, so wasn’t the US for that matter. When it come to Armenia, Armenians need to be proactive, Armenians need to be objective, Armenians need to be farsighted, Armenians need to engage in constructive criticism and Armenians need to be patient.

    • Satenik said:

      All these “need to be” would do very nicely indeed if powers that be in far away lands kept their noses out of Armenia and let the nation evolve at their own pace and in the right direction, instead of meddling and stirring things in Armenia! Hands off Armenia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anait said:

      Are you denying that Armenia = corruption in EVERYTHING and everywhere? Where do you live? On Mars?

      • Arto said:

        Anait, do you think that corruption doesn’t exist in the US or Europe? It exists to a much larger extent, only some of it is legal and much of it is invisible. What planet do you live on? Leave Armenia alone instead of bashing it all the time.

    • Arsineh said:

      We don’t have enough time to wait for Armenia to figure it out, by the time we do, all of our natural resources will be obliterated. Sorry, but the message is important and if it takes Serj Tankian’s voice to echo the work of the environmentalists in Armenia, TAKE IT! If a Diasporan inspired revolution and put fire under our asses, let’s take it. No, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but things move a lot faster these days and we have fallen faaaarrrr behind on many fronts, not in becoming Westernized, but in becoming a sustainable and advanced nation that protects the interests of the people… Teghut and all our forests are in the people’s interests.

  2. Vacheh said:

    Mr. Avetis,

    The oligarchs are looting our homeland. 50000 people a year leave Armenia for good. Poverty level is at 34%. There are two enemies, one in the Eastern border and one in Western border, ready to walk over us and eliminate rest of us. I don’t know if you are living in Yerevan, Moscow, or in a KGB office. Your admiration of the mafia-based government in Yerevan has no buyer anymore. Most of your comments is useless text with no sense of reality on the ground.

    • www.Voskanapat.info said:

      Here is the problem Vacheh – each “rose” revolution brought by the Western political technologists caused more corruption and poverty to the target countries like Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, etc. then the previous evil regime. They ride the wave of anti-establishment only to bring worse people to power.

      This is unfortunate, but this is the fact! The West DOES NOT CARE about democracy in these “banana” republics – it’s oil & gas games and it’s CHEAPER for the West to buy oil & gas & transit from the corrupt puppet regimes then share the revenues with the general populations of these countries…

      I’m all for transparency and anti-corruption movement in Armenia but the people who are supported by the West and promoted as democratic are NOT anywhere close to the ideal!

      In fact, here in the US we are getting closer to the corrupt regimes we are so eager to overthrow. So, for Armenia, my test is – what did the candidates to the leadership do during the Artsakh liberation war? Did they risk their lives under Azeri bullets or were they sitting in safety selling Armenian freedom to the highest bidder? It is unfortunate, but that’s what it boils down to.

      Until the general public stops supporting corruption by giving bribes to “take care of the problem faster” the fight against corruption is doomed. The problem is inside each person’s mind where they criticize the corrupt elites but would do the same if their clan was in power. You can see the same situation happening inside the diaspora communities… Again, to me the test is “will you send your son to fight in Artsakh when it comes to the life or death question, or will you continue stealing from your community and litigating against your fellow Armenians?

    • Armanen said:

      Why are you parroting figures that have been shown to be misinterpreted, particularly the 50,000 number?

      If you live in the US, I hope you are just as concerned with the horrid government there.

      • Vacheh said:

        Anyone who comments on this website is not necessarily living in U.S. I thought that you are a soldier who has fought in Karabagh to liberate Shushi and defend our homeland. How can you justify the social problems in Armenia. Forget about the U.S. Are you more concerned about U.S. or Armenia. Is the topic of this article about corruption in Armenia or elsewhere.

        • Armanen said:

          You must have me confused with someone else. I do care about both nations. My point is that Armenia needs to evolve and as we all know evolution takes time. What Armenia surely does not need is a revolution, which would set things back, and even lead to Armenia’s destruction!

    • Avetis said:

      @Vacheh

      What’s your excuse for parroting Western propaganda? There is no excuses to be politically illiterate, ignorant or stupid these days. And as far as I’m concerned, your kind is worst for Armenia’s long-term well-being than Armenia’s so-called oligarchs or Turkey’s nationalists. You are the enemy “Vacheh”.

      • Vacheh said:

        @Avetis,

        Ignorant people like you are the main cause of Armenians leaving Armenia and not wanting to look back, as they see their ansectral homeland in the hands of incompetent soviet-minded people who can only sophocate the ordinary people with the excuse that everyone else is a CIA member. You must be afraid of your own shadow. What a pathetic operative you are. Good luck to your boss who is sitting on the same branch that he is cutting it with a chain saw. Admire the soviet system as much as you like. Turkey is sharpening its teeth to occupy your home when there is no one left to defend.

        • manooshag said:

          Vacheh, abrees. I agree… 20 years of incompetent leaders of fledgling
          Haiastan… of course Armenians leave Haiastan. Elect the patriots to office just as the patriots from our Armenian history… Do not elect to office those incompetents with the USSR communist mentality – whose pockets now full
          are stealing from our ctizens of Haiastan – are stealing from our nation of Haiastan!! Shame!!

          • Armanen said:

            Perhaps, manooshag, you should move to Armenia and walk the walk instead of criticizing from afar.

          • Vacheh said:

            Dear Armanen,

            You are my brother whether or not you like it. Devisive comments from people like Avetis is precisely what Turks would like to see among us. We should have the maturity to respect alternate opinions. Even though it may not 100% match our own opinion. There still might be a merit in those opinions. I agree with you that Armenia does not need a violent revolution. If the political knowledge of the ordinary people grows enough to realize that the looting and robbery continues with incompetent leaders, people themselves will come up with necessary measures. We don’t need to be pushed to the edge of annihilation, before we act decisively. Please keep writing your opinion, as I am sure you deeply care about our ancestral homeland. God bless you my brother.

          • Armanen said:

            Well opinions are one thing but as we all know all to well they often lead to bad actions. Therefore while opinions in and of themselves are fine, the (often) resulting actions induced by opinion can have catastrophic results. And wouldn’t you agree that there is a societal problem with Armenians which the politicians are a reflection of?

  3. Aramik said:

    Here we go again. Limousine liberal Tankian discussing what is right and what is wrong. What works and what doesn’t. Maybe he can tell Armenians about his vegan diet and how crucial it is for the safety and well being of mother earth without taking into consideration the fact that he probably spends more on his stupid food in one day than what these people make in a year. Good job Serj!!!!!!!!!! Ohhhhh and keep smoking cigarettes because that clearly doesn’t hurt ones body and earth.

    • manooshag said:

      The peoples leaving Haiastan choose to do so due to the dishonesty in all the leaderships in all these 20 years… Bring honesty back to the government and many will return… Our citizens outside of the Yerevan are the backbone of our Armenian nation… do not discount their continued efforts for our fledgling Haiastan! Getzeh Haiastan!

    • manooshag said:

      Aramik, perhaps you might agree… that Serge Tankian is the voice from the diaspora that the citizens are now able to ‘hear’… I admire his honesty, and his love for his homeland… donot negate Serge – for your own reasons… He stands tall amongst Armenians, and, too, the world.

  4. Razmik said:

    I don’t know about the Teghut project but any project that brings capital to the local Armenian communities is greatly needed. The project needs to be run by honest Armenians that bring a benefit to the country and not some foreign company that milks Armenians. As for the trees, I understand, but there is always mitigation as they do in the United States – every tree removed gets replanted elsewhere at a 2 to 1 ratio.

  5. aramik said:

    Why was my comments regarding this issue not posted? I don’t believe I said anything that was offensive therefore I would appreciate an answer from asbarez. Disagreeing with someone’s point of view is not detrimental asbarez. If it was, I would think that many of the articles written on asbarez would never have been published so why would you not allow me to share my opinion???

    • manooshag said:

      aramik, don’t panic… I replied to you.. see ‘reply’
      Too, not all ‘opinions’ can be printed… even yours.

  6. Vaheh said:

    Mr Vacheh,
    Lets go to street burn some cars, agitate people. It will increase population of Armenia and it will make Armenia wealthy. Lets call them Karabakhtsi gangasters.Lets sell out Karabakh. In that way dady Soros will be happy and Armnia will be free.

    • Vacheh said:

      I did not suggest the idiotic ideas that you have listed in your comments. That is your own narrow-minded interpretation and lack of proper reading.

      At the same time the people who claim that the “situation in Armenia is the best that we can expect” are bunch of fools or operatives of the oligarchs.

      Armenian young people between ages 20-30 are far more clever than Avetis not to recognize the extremely wide gap between rich and poor. A Master’s degree engineers makes 200-250 Dollars a month in Yerevan, if she/he can find a job. An oligarch drives a 50,000 Dollar SUV together with his mistress on the Mashtots street and near by shops. Be there at 6 PM and watch with your own wide eyes. Do you call this a Honky Dorree situation to be proud of. Have you ever seen the poor elderly man digging through the garbage can to find a piece of “madnakash” bread, because he cannot afford 30 cents to buy a fresh bread.

      • Vaheh said:

        You are just calling others idiot and fool. You do not know what you want.
        Yes in Armena some people are hungry. Every where in the world is like that. Even in the US there are some hungry and homeless people what do you think LA police will do if they start to shout in the street and burn the cars. living in Armenia will become easy when mentality of her people is changed not by burning cars. Levon,Serj,Robert and others are not from Mars they reflect the society.

        • manooshag said:

          Armenian society/voters wake up… you must choose patriots with love for the young Armenian nation… All leaderships until today have been as the same as the communistic mentality… take/steal what you can… and to hell with ALL our own citizens of our young nation – Haiastan.

  7. The Truth said:

    First of all we have to be proud of our small nation in Armenia- I say “sam nation” because ‎given the collapse of Soviet union, Earthquake, imposed war, and finally enmity of Turks to ‎our east and west- Our small nation in Armenia has created in may miracles- our problem is ‎the ruling elite (including opposition and all political parties)- Our nation deserves much ‎better political forces! Political forces which would have the encourages to respect the nation, ‎instead of looking on daily basis for new ways how to cheat the nation and make fool of ‎them !‎
    ‎ ‎
    US and every other European nations – were Armenia” – having facing such challenges and ‎having such problems as the small nation in Armenian today, neighbors in such countries ‎would have started killing each other to survive and would have started long ago a civil war ‎long ago! – history of Europe and some European countries is full of such examples! ‎

    To be honest the whole bureaucrat system is biased on doing each other favorers by making ‎the rest of folk either to accept the sad reality or lo looks for ways of survival (starting from ‎the head of villages till top officials). ‎

    President has created a “ Diaspora ministry” and appointed a Diaspora Minster – busy calling ‎‎“come back home” – ignoring the very simply fact that the same officials are issuing ‎thousands of paper allowing people to leave for Russia , Poland – using special programs! etc! ‎
    We know that there is an Armenian community in Aleppo- for this there is no need of ‎‎“Diaspora Ministry”” waste of budget and so on!

    ‎ Unfortunately, The ruling elite has accepted „immigration” as a tool and way for solving ‎social problems. Government has not even managed to organize a simply system to buy the ‎products / fruits form villagers or simply try to solve the issue of irrigation for small farmers. ‎Shortly after new election a Minster is traveling some villages and offering the villagers his ‎‎“Mobil number” – so what? How about the feudal system created by the same officials? Or ‎take an airline like “Armavia” is dealing with people, instead offering a realable service and ‎creating jobs, instead think of short-term profit!? ‎
    ‎ Beside this officials have NO idea of tourism and protection of environment. Armenia is a ‎small country and Tourism should not be set equal to build ever where possible “hotels ‎restaurants, disco and casino “ – at end there will be no place remain for people to rest and ‎enjoy the countryside ! ‎

  8. Jesse said:

    Avetis, es Hay chem–Amerikatsi em bayc voch CIA. RFE/RLi tesakety Amerikai koxmic e, hamadzayn em, bacy da chi nshanakum vor Tankiani asacy sxal e. Ays hodvacy karavarutyan dem che–yndhakaraky: Tankiany cankanum e vor karavarutyuny matuci bolor Hayerin, voch miayn harustnerin/oligarxnerin. Aydpisi karavarutyunn aveli amur klini sparnoxneri dem, vorovhetev amboxj bnakchutyun kpashtpani dran. Du chisht asecir: “the evolution I speak of has already begun”, bayc Hayastanum orinakan shrjapaty mnum en katak. Cankacac zhamanak oligarchnery karox en dzer biznessy sepakanacnel, aranc vaxenalu, vorovhetev irenk kam irenc ynkernery kaxakakan xekavarnern en. Aranc ujex orinakan shrjapati, dzer erkri zargacumy chi aragana, ev bnakchutyan mec masy chi paxchi axkatutyunic.

    Bolor bolor divanagetner, luboi erkric, ovker galis en Hayastan kam inmanum en Hayastani kaxakakan iravichaki masin hamadzayn en Tankiani asaci het, uxaki nrank chen karox da bacoren asel. Tankiany chi nerkayacnum voreve karavarutyun, ev shat urax em vor ays hanrahayt mard ir lsvac dzaynov voroshel e chshtmartutyunn hraparakel.

  9. Anait said:

    He should be our president! Very clever man. And yes, end of corruption in Armenia will solve very many problems! But is it ever possible?

    • Ashot said:

      Are you out of your mind? How many times has he been to Armenia- like 3? He should try to write songs and talk less (sing more).

  10. manooshag said:

    Hye, Serj, you spoke the truths and you were heard by the citizens of Haiastan… Only 20 years, but in all these years the leaderships have been of the communistic mentality – filling their own pockets and to hell with our citizens of Haiastan. Patriots are needed, as we have had in our past history… Patriots, to advance our Haiastan… who, might be, as the Switzerland of the Caucasus…

  11. Marine said:

    Armenia is such a small country – and torn among so many political parties and so many ambitions of some ten – twenty ruling and powerful people who are, in fact, both the law writers, the decision makers, and the doers at the same time. It is funny and very sad…

  12. Norin Radd said:

    Tankian has absolutely no reason to have to be this involved, he could live care free for the rest of his life, it is highly commendable that he puts his Armenian identity and cultural values above his professional motives and aspirations. Other Armenians in his position of privilage, including his band mates, should and could learn from his example.

    I’m not a SoD fan, but I am a fan of Serj as a person and he engaging approach to his own identity and Armenian culture. Bravo!

    • Gabe Korajian said:

      All the power to you Mr. Tankian! You are brave and a truthful person who speaks his mind. What you have said about corruption in Armenia is very true. It exists in a perpetual state with denial that is eroding the fabric of this small and insignificant country. However, this small but insignificant country for others happens to be our motherland. If our leaders don’t wake up and smell the coffee, Armenia will soon seize to exist as a country. Our leaders please understand that public duty and business do not mix. It simply creates and nurtures a platform for CONFLICT OF INTEREST and robes the average citizens a level playing field. Much more can be said but I will stop here. Time has come to understand that enough is enough!

  13. Elena said:

    2012’s presidential candidats are Serj Sarksyan and Serj Tankian
    I will vote for Serj this time Tankian

  14. Artin said:

    Next year we have to choose either SS or ST as our president
    I fear SS so I will choose ST

    • www.Voskanapat.info said:

      Artin and Elena,

      I hope you paying taxes in Armenia – otherwise you should not be qualified to vote. This is one of the major problems – everybody in the Diaspora is eager to toss in their “vote” but when it comes to taxes, most Armenians turn out to be paying for arming NATO-member Turkey that illegally blockades Armenia, and for training Azeri snipers who kill Artsakh soldiers.

      • manooshag said:

        Perhaps I do not pay any taxes in Armenia, not being a citizen there… But donot divert the truths that the diasporans have been, too, are the life-line for the fledgling nation of Haiastan… All the diasporans dedication and support for our homeland is immeasurable.
        As for NATO… All the nations of NATO should remove themselves and create a NEW
        nato – composed of like-minded nations (USA included) of nations of the North Atlantic
        ONLY!!

        • www.Voskanapat.info said:

          Unfortunately, it’s impossible to form a “new NATO” – it belongs to multinational corporations concerned about their profit margin only.

          For them, bringing oil & gas from Azerbaijan to EU is more important than freedom of Artsakh or the very existence of Armenia. I also do not pay taxes in Armenia (and do not ask for a vote), but I started to allocate 1.915% of my income to the Armenian Cause every April 24th – this is much better then relying on some rich but moody American Armenian billionaires for our future.

      • Vacheh said:

        Mr. Voskanapat,

        Two points for your attention:

        1)- Don’t use taxes as a divisive argument. What you are pushing is to create division and have the Diaspora Armenians feel disgusted. You should not be surprised to see Diaspora Armenians not having anything to do with RoA. You are doing precisely what Turks would like to see.

        2)- When it is guaranteed that the 2/3 of taxes will not end up in Mafia’s pocket (as I have heard from Armenian’s of homeland), then you can have the expectation of Diaspora Armenians paying taxes to the government of Armenia.

        • www.Voskanapat.info said:

          I agree 100% – we need to stick together – didn’t mean to be divisive. However, the “old” diaspora has to realize that it risks to become irrelevant because, in fact, Armenia and Artsakh are getting more assistance from the new diaspora while the old diaspora is bogged deep in divisive arguments that the new generation doesn’t care about. Add intermarriages and low church attendance – it will indeed have nothing to do with RoA or anything Armenian very soon.

          Regarding your second point, what is the percentage of taxes paid in the US going to (yes, much more civilized) US mafia? I’m sorry to ruin your day, but believe me – nepotism, favoritism, and outright corruption are widespread in the US government and even worse on the state level. My point is that every Armenian should first start allocating a percentage (I call it Armenian Tax) of their income and spend it on the Armenian Cause (not to the government of RoA) and then start asking for accountability from the organizations receiving the funds. The right to vote should only come with moving one’s physical residence to Armenia!

  15. vacci said:

    Tankian should not be president, I think he is good in his public speaking… but to deny what he’s saying can not be fathomed. The reality of Armenia’s state of being started back after the Karabagh war, when every known post-intelligence puppet was put in position to lead the country. You should be asking why did they assassinate top cabinet members, not why is their corruption? The answer is quite simple, the powers at be want Armenia to be in a weak position in order to have their way with it. Unfortunately Armenia is a transit to Europe, which means more narcotics, crude oil, and currency will exchange in Armenia in the near future. What’s better than an ORGY government and legislative body dictated by 12 families. End result, take up your own arms and settle in Armenia or expatriate. I think we will be a lot better off working in Dubai than working for families that could give a rats behind who you are and what fabric you come from within the mosaic of the Armenian identity.

  16. Khajag said:

    Will everyone here stop labeling these Armenian oligarchs as Soviet/Communist or having that mentality. There mentality is pure unadulterated unregulated Capitalism. Short-sighted, bottom-line worshipping, screw-thy-neighbor, greedy, anti-intellectual Capitalism. How I wish some socialist/progressive thinking was reintroduced to the opposition in Armenia along with a healthy dose of patriotism (not nationalism).

    • www.Voskanapat.info said:

      Thank you – this is a very good point. No Soviet/Communist/Socialist bonze would ever think of such things! This is the pure wild capitalism mixed with the world’s prevalent Western imperialism that we have to thank for such a pity situation.

  17. Sella said:

    To all those people here that vividly criticize Serj for raising concerns about mining issues and corruption. It is every Armenian’s right to raise those issues regardless his/her birth place. And also for those who do not want diaspora Armenians to be involved in political and economical life in Armenia how come you do not ask them to stay away from helping Armenia and refuse to take their donations? Why are you dividing Diaspora and Armenia when in reality we are one unity and have one goal i.e. make our home land prosperous, decrease immigration and promote migration? Why not simply say that Serj is a great and patriotic Armenian who contributed to Armenia tremendously and the issues that he is raising are of great concern?

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