A high-powered attorney, formerly associated with the Justice Ministry, was noticeably agitated as he spoke, saying, “The only honest person at the Justice Ministry, someone with a very high position, was asked to resign. When he protested that he had done nothing wrong, he was told, simply, ‘you have no choice.’ When he refused to resign, they opened a case against him, inventing charges that had nothing to do with reality. Now he’s no longer with the ministry.
“This is what’s going on in Armenia today. And under our current leadership, it’s getting worse. Why are there people leaving Armenia today, who have no financial problems, and are doing, in general, fairly well? Because of injustices like this. People who have talent, and this goes for all fields and walks of life, science, culture, you name it, are often under pressure to not speak up, to sit by and watch as untalented, dishonest people get to the top. It’s not easy for someone with talent and brains to sit by and watch as monkeys become kings.”
As we talked, Shant’s “Folk Dancing” competition played quietly in the background. The pairs, in their Armenian costumes, weren’t dancing according to the dance being played, yet, of course, were being praised by dancers and former dancers from the State Dance Ensemble, etc., those groups which in Soviet times choreographed folk dances to where very little remained of the original. Suddenly, our attention was grabbed as an Arabic song and dance was presented, as a dancer from Syria performed a dervish-style dance. I recognized the song from a cassette I had bought some 20 years earlier in Fresno, the song sung by a well known, at the time, Arab singer.
“This was the best song and dance of the night,” the attorney said. “It was pure Arabic. Whether it’s Turkish, Arabic, or Armenian, there’s nothing like the original. The Armenians tonight weren’t doing the original, and it was nothing, a failure. You see, this is another case of mediocrities in Armenia running the show, while real singers and dancers sit on the sidelines. I don’t know if Armenians were always like this, but that’s not really important. The important thing is for us to wake up, because if we don’t, when the border opens, Turkish culture will take over even more than it has already.”