Kuwaiti Armenian School's 50th anniversary fiasco

Kuwaiti Armenian School's 50th anniversary fiasco

How to spend community money on a bubble event?

Is the newly appointed Bishop Shahe Panossian going to be another “tourist” Bishop?


The Armenian School of Kuwait in Al Surra area is the focal point of the Armenian community. Together with the Armenian Church in Salmiyah they represent the two pillars of the community life.

It is interesting to know about the humble beginnings of the School and the Church. According to the records (Hasg publication of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, January 1961, researched by Archbishop Goriun Babian) Very Reverend Father Krikor Pidejian of the Catholicosate of Cilicia visited the Armenian Community in December 1960 to attend New Year and Christmas celebrations. He found there a committee called “Community's Board of Trustees” which was already operating a small school and was hoping to get the necessary support from the Catholicosate to have a place of worship. Father Pidejian reports that there were 5.000 Armenians in Kuwait. His visit was few months before the country's independence from Britain (June 1961). 

The devotion of the early Armenians in Kuwait is very inspiring. They managed to expand the school and move it to a new building in 1972. Year after year they added new facilities. Almost all the benefactors in Kuwait had their share in this school, which at times (in the late 1980s) had some 800 students. After the Iraqi invasion and the subsequent liberation of Kuwait the number of student shrank to less than 200, but in the recent years it has regained half of its past capacity with around 450 students.

In December 1961 the first priest of the community Father Barouyr Sarkissian was sent from Lebanon. In 1980s Very Reverend Father Oshagan Choloyan (now Archbishop) came to Kuwait and by 1994 he managed to organize Kuwait and Gulf States (UAE) as a separate Prelacy. He remained in the region until 1998, the year that witnessed the opening of the Armenian Church in Sharjah.

Archbishops Sebouh Sarkissian and Yeprem Tabakian who served the period 1998-2002 faced major problems with the Kuwaiti Armenians and they “escaped” when the first opportunity arose. They were nicknamed “tourist” Archbishops, as they were always visiting the Prelacy for limited time, attending special occasions and hardly staying in the premises. The Prelacy premises were not maintained properly, most probably to discourage the Archbishops from staying in Kuwait, a tactic that Archbishop Goriun Babian managed to change. He said from the first day “I came here to stay” and he acted accordingly. He completely renovated the Prelacy premises, including the church, the yard, the reception and meeting rooms, etc.

After 50 years since the humble beginnings of the Kuwaiti Armenian school, several people in the community (mainly brothers Hagop and Harout Bedirian and Dr. Jano Bebejian) decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary in an unprecedented manner. Using their authority in ARF party they decided that the community deserves once-in-a-lifetime 50th anniversary extravaganza event. They used available mechanisms to create the appropriate committees for this exceptional show-off opportunity.

They managed to galvanize 200 community members for two years around the noble cause of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school through series of mammoth events that superseded the community capabilities. Besides the human resources, time, energy, etc, some considerable amount of money was wasted in a lavish style. About 160 thousand Kuwaiti dinars (US$ 580.000) were collected through several big sponsors and numerous hard working ordinary Kuwaiti Armenian. The money was spent on inviting artists from Armenia (such as Arman Hovhannisyan, Ruben Matevosyan, Arminka, Arshakyan Sisters, etc.). Part of the money was spent on ARF media (Voice of Van from Beirut and Yerkir Media from Yerevan). Big cash was spent also on a massive monument erected in the schoolyard, where the names of more than ten benefactors appeared in big fonts (each paid at least US$35.000), although some of them have never been involved in community life before. 

On the opening day (17 May 2011) the official ceremony had speeches by more than 10 dignitaries including Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I, Minister of Diaspora Mrs. Hranush Hakobyan, ex-Minister of Labor and Social Security in Armenia Mr. Aghvan Vardanyan, etc. The name of mega benefactor Melik Meliksetyan and other small benefactors were mentioned more than 30 times. After one hour, the dignitaries withdrew from the opening ceremony and the 50th anniversary committee continued the celebration by granting more than 200 trophies to a group of randomly invited and nominated people. This was one of the funniest prize awarding ceremonies in the history of Diaspora Armenians. More prizes were awarded during the next two days, probably in an effort to rectify the mistakes. Nevertheless, many important people were left without proper recognition. The same trophy was given to someone who served as a teacher for 20 years and to a journalist who has been invited in an all-paid media trip.

None of the four Archbishops who served the community were invited. Several earlier school principals were not invited nor were their names mentioned. Tears were seen in the eyes of many educators and workers who were present in the ceremony but their work was ignored. Members of the community were heard sympathizing with them. 

The controversy is that while the community “leaders” wasted US$580.000 in three days of mega celebrations they forgot that they are facing the danger of losing once and for all the plot of the Armenian Church in Kuwait. The outgoing Archbishop Goriun Babian had managed to collect US$360.000 as part of the estimated US$2.1m plot price. The irony is that Archbishop Babian gathered the money from the Armenians in UAE, while the Kuwait Armenians chose to spend their own money on publicity stunts. “It is like having a picnic in your backyard, while your house is on fire”, said someone who knows things from inside. “By this act the Kuwaiti Armenians proved that they are the most short-sighted community in the Armenian Diaspora”, he added.

As if this scandal was not enough, recently obtained information show that, the same “leaders” managed to squeeze out from ordinary community members and operating committees another US$60.000 for the purpose of donating a luxury car to the newly established Embassy of Armenia. The irony is that after allocating the money it was discovered that the Kuwaiti government has already donated three cars to the Embassy.

We believe that the newly appointed Catholicosal Vicar to Kuwait and Gulf Countries Bishop Shahe Panossian will have a rough time with Kuwaiti Armenians, unless if he chooses to stay as a “tourist” Bishop. 

Photos by “Venus Photos”, specially invited from Aleppo.

  1. I grew up in Kuwait and attended this school (73'-78') when it was newly built.  Shame on those members that did this.  If they only knew the true roots of that community.  Then again why be surprised, this is how Armenia is run by most of its leaders.  I am disappointed, ashamed, and lost for words to see this happening. 

    Henry Margossian

  2. The article is gorgeously written, but reveals too small number of names responsible for the organizing the events or spent big amount of money.  Mentioning only 3 names, i.e. Hagop and Harout Bedirian and Dr. Jano Bebejian is not enough.  Some parts of the narration look like imaginary, e.g. the writer mentions that ?Many important people were left without proper recognition?, but the writer does not say who.  The writer raises the issue of ?The same trophy was given to someone who served as a teacher for 20 years and to a journalist who has been invited in an all-paid media trip? but the writer does not reveal names.  To convince some picky readers you need to give names.  That would make the article even more powerful.

    The writer sarcastically says that the organizers managed to galvanize 200 community members for two years ?around the noble cause of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school through series of mammoth events that superseded the community capabilities.?   An adversary opinion to this sarcasm can argue that galvanizing 200 community members for 2 years is in fact a community serving mega effort to unite people of the community and to gather community members around one goal in that part of the nation or that part of Diaspora. A united Armenian community is one of the national goals and a vital means to keep the Armenian Spiourq alive.

    The writer claims that the community “leaders wasted US$580.000 in three days of mega celebrations?.  The writer should really weigh in the amount of money earned versus the amount spent and should show the reader whether the events brought income more than the expenses or if costs really superseded the earnings.  For example the writer speaks about 10 benefactors who donated $35,000.00 each, which adds up to $350,000.000 amount and he mentions the name of mega donor Mr. Meliksetian.  Without numbers or facts, the argument is useless.  To support his/her opinion the writer should have brought forward statistics. I know that statistics are not easy to bring forward, but without statistics your argument is too weak to sustain. 

    There is nothing wrong in erecting a monument for people who donated big amounts of money.  After all the donors are giving away very precious asset, i.e. money and they deserve to be praised with a monument even if some of them have never been involved in community life or even if they seek to be glorified by their donation.  There is nothing wrong in carving their names on a monument or mentioning their names repeatedly from the stage. After all, other than own life, money is the most important thing for human beings after spouse and children.

    The writer claims that the prize awarding ceremony was ?One of the funniest prize awarding ceremonies in the history of Diaspora Armenians. More prizes were awarded during the next two days, probably in an effort to rectify the mistakes?. I share the writer?s opinion that it must have been a funny and endless awarding ceremony, but we have to acknowledge that the organizers were alert to make ?effort to rectify mistakes? of the past.  It?s a good moral character sign on the organizers? behalf when the writer admits that they were trying to correct mistakes of the past.

    I agree with the writer that, if it really happened, it was inappropriate to ignore the names of former archbishops, principals or people who served, but the writer should be able to show the reader whether the former archbishops and principals were not invited or they were invited but not willing to make long trips to attend the anniversary. I wish the writer were able to demonstrate that he/she acquired the information from genuine sources, specially when the writer says ?Tears were seen in the eyes of many educators and workers who were present in the ceremony but their work was ignored. Members of the community were heard sympathizing with them?. I believe in this case names of individuals who shed tears or individuals who sympathized with them should be mentioned, otherwise, the dramatic and spectacular description of shedding tears will be received as fictional and self-serving information that is not based on solid facts.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank the writer not for bringing forward reliable information but for opening a forum for free speech.

  3. I think this article is written with aggressive hate. The representative of the website was spotted in the main event evening, moving  between the audience, asking  questions, recording their voices (with hidden recorder) without any permission from the organizers, unlike the press that were there, which the writer said  ?The same trophy was given to someone who served as a teacher for 20 years and to a journalist who has been invited in an all-paid media trip?, without mentioning that this press was advertising and publishing all the events on their media (TV, Radio, Newspaper, Satellite) FREE of charge for more than one and half year?

    I?m asking the publisher why he mentioned only these three members names?, (I know why?) in Armenian community of Kuwait there are many other names who can take decisions, and they took that decision as the publisher said ?they decided that the community deserves once-in-a-lifetime 50th anniversary extravaganza event?  what?s wrong in that?  Yes, Armenian School of Kuwait deserves that.

    Regarding the numbers that the publisher gave for the WASTED DOLLARS, first, that numbers were totally wrong, and he forgets to mention the profit that gave that ?WASTED? money, which will be ?WASTED? on the school and on the CHURCH

    I wonder how the publisher saw ?Tears were seen in the eyes of many educators and workers who were present in the ceremony but their work was ignored? and I know that special invitations were sent only to the educators and workers who were decided to be honoured and those who were decided not to be honoured no invitations were given to them. So how non-invited educators and workers came to the ceremony? It?s really week point?

    I don?t agree with the writer that the names of former archbishops, principals or people who served were ignored. I know and I?m sure that everybody was invited, and even re-invited several times?

    The publisher ignores more than 2000 people who love Armenian School of Kuwait, disregarding minds of Armenians in Kuwait with his desperate article, depending on non official sources and definitely on his sponsors and ?loyal? friends in the Armenian community?

  4. Hello, fellow Armenians (Hayrenagitsner)

    Let's be honest with ourselves at least once in our lifetime, shall we? Agreed? If yes, continue reading, else, please Delete or ignore this message.

    I have attended this school for 15 years (3 kindergarten and 12 regular). When I was in 4th grade, I was invited by one of my teachers for the end-of-year ceremony as he told me I was top of my class. I went there and waited for the teacher who called me, but he never showed up. Then I met a classmate of mine who told me he was the one who finished top. I went back home in a state of a shock. That teacher never came back to this school, by the way. Then I realized that indeed I had scored 14 points less than my classmate and admitted defeat. Only to realize a few months later that our classroom supervisor had made a mistake in calculating the total in the sheet. He missed 20 points. Had these points been given to me (rightfully so), I would've definitely finished top.

    When I graduated from the school, I was clearly the one who had finished top of my class as all newspapers published the scores the very next morning. Not only that, but I also scored what used to be a record-breaking percentage (that's how it's measured here in Kuwait). During the final ceremony, however, my name was not even mentioned, when I knew from reliable sources that the school already knew my score and knew I was the top of my class and had shattered the previous score. Why wasn't I mentioned? Simple: I'm the son of a peasant, unlike my true friend and colleague who finished the class as second, but got all the accolades and attention, as he is the son of one of the members of the so-called board of trustees.

    Being the son of a minimum-wage father, I had no choice but to stay in Kuwait and do my best to succeed in any possible area. To his credit, the principle of the school called me in and asked me about my plans. When I told him I was aiming to continue my education in Kuwait University, he tried to put me down and convince me that I was only dreaming and that this was not possible at all. He asked me to apply to Armenia and I did. My 3 selections for a major were: Biomedical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science. A few months later, I got accepted in Armenia (trivially so), but I was accepted in the major of Nuclear Physics. I was surprised by that result and asked to see my application. To my greatest surprise, my application was torn (by the principle himself as he admitted) and replaced by this one. Why? “I thought your credentials are higher than Biomedical Engineering” said the principle. So now, the “Board of Trustees” is deciding my own future.

    This didn't stop me from honoring my school; it just showed me clearly that the “Board of trustees” cannot be possibly trusted. I had to make choices and must admit none of them were to the benefit of the “Board of Trustees”.

    I managed to attend Kuwait University and graduated with honors. I then helped my brother to graduate from the Gulf University of Science and Technology in Kuwait and have a successful career. No thanks whatsoever to the “Board of Trustees”.

    During the celebrations for the Silver Jubilee, I was also stunned at the fact that, I received a “Special Invitation” to attend the ceremony, but not my brother, who is also an honor graduate from this school. Not only that, but the person who called me asked me for a KWD 25 as a participation fee. At that moment, and sorry if this would irritate you guys, I decided to let my ego kick in. What? I've been an honor student for such a long time and represented the Armenian Community in Kuwait in the best possible manner and instead of having my name engraved in there with the rest of the people, I had to pay in order for my name to appear.

    So, if you guys want hatred, here's my few cents of hatred. Whoever wants to believe me thanks. Others who want to remain doing the same-old, same-old, please don't be deterred whatsoever by my lines above, please keep doing the same stuff you always do, as I honestly don't give a damn to this school or Armenian community or the “Borred of Un-Trustees” any longer. In fact, if I were able to give away my Armenian identity (which will never happen), I'd be the first one to do it. This community sucks big time and I seem to be the only person alive who admits it.

    If you guys think that this way we can force Turkey to admit “Yeghern”, or that we have a chance to return to our homeland one day, I wish you all the good luck in the Universe. Personally, I don't think that we can achieve those noble goals using these dirty, cheap and cunning methods.

    Arguably the only Armenian in Kuwait who admits he was betrayed by his own people.

  5. Community Member (one more time) December 7, 2011, 10:03 pm

    What is posted by The Hawk is very sad phenomenon and reoccurs every now and then.

    Even though it is irrelevant to the school 50th anniversary, but it is good to address such bitter issues. 

    I wish The Hawk revealed names of the principal, the board of trustees names, the students names, the date and other relevant issues, but honestly.

    Community Member

  6. Spent US$580.000 and couldn't spend some on the broken and filthy school toilets, which the school and kindergarten students are often too disgusted to use?

  7. Ունիմ կարգ մը հարցումներ՝

    Ո՞վ է յօդուածագիրը:

    Ի՞նչ են ձեր աղբիւրները, ո՞ւր են ձեր փաստաթուղթերը, կը զարմանամ թէ ասքան շատ թիւերով ու տեղեկութիւններով լի յօդուած մը, աղբիւր մը կամ վերագրութիւն (reference) մը չունի: Կարծեմ աւելի ճիշդ պիտի ըլլայ որ փորձենք գտնել հաշիւի ու ծախսերուն ցանկերն ու տուեալներ, ու անոնցմով դատենք իրական պատահարը, եւ չհիմնենք մեր կարծիքները միայն ասոր անոր ըսածով: Տուեալ ըլլալով որ այս ծախսերու ցանկերը ոչ անպայման ըլլան բոլոր հրապարակութեան դիմաց, այլ ներկայացուին միայն անոնց որոնք անձնապէս հետաքրքրուած են, ու անձնապէս կը մօտենան վարչութեան այս տեղեկութիւնները ունենալու:

    Իմ նպատակս մէկ տարուան նիւթ մը կրկին բանալ ու անոր մասին խօսիլ չէր, արդէն քիչ մը կը կարծեմ ժամանակավրէպ եղած է, ու օգտակար չէ կրկին այս նիւթը խօսիլ երբ նիւթին ծիրը արդէն ուրիշ ծալքեր ունեցած է:

    Իմ կարծիքովս, հարցը շատ աւելի վատ է, ներկայիս, վտանգ կը սպառնայ մեր եկեղեցիներուն, ծոցի երկիրներուն մէջ, մէկ դի թողնելով ով ինչ դրամ գողցած է կամ հաւաքած է, պէտք է քաջալերել, որ փրկենք այս եկեղեցիները:

    Շնորհակալութիւն կը յայտնեմ ամէն մէկ անձի որ հայկական եկեղեցիի մը բաց պահելու համար կ'աշխատի, նոյնիսկ եթէ այդ կը նշանակէ ծախսեր դնել, ու PR ընել այս կամ այն յայտնի անձնաւորութիւնը (օրինակի համար վերջերս մեր եկեղեցին այցելած Շէյխա Ֆրայհան) հրաւիրել:

    Նանօր Մոմճեան


  8. Hrach Kalsahakian April 4, 2012, 4:59 pm


    Սիրելի՛ Նանօր,

    Որպէսզի յօդուածին մէջ տրուած տեղեկութիւնները հերքուին կամ հաստատուին շատ ճիշդ առաջարկ ըրած ես՝ ?փորձենք գտնել հաշիւի ու ծախսերուն ցանկերն ու տուեալները, ու անոնցմով դատենք իրական պատահարը?: Համաձայն եմ եւ կը խորհիմ թէ այդ պէտք էր ըներ Քուէյթի Ազգային Վարչութիւնը (կամ Թեմական կազմը): Բայց ինչո՞ւ մինչեւ հիմա չըրաւ: Ինչո՞ւ մինչեւ հիմա հաշիւները չբացայայտուեցան: Ինչո՞ւ չներկայացուեցաւ դպրոցի յիսնամեակի հաշուեկշիռը: Գոնէ Քուէյթի հայ հանրութիւնը իրաւունք ունի գիտնալու թէ իր դպրոցին անունով եղած նուիրատուութիւններն ու հանգանակութիւնները ինչպէ՞ս գործածուեցան:

    Ես բնաւ չեմ թերագնահատեր Քուէյթի գաղութին հայեցի (աւանդական հայախօս իմաստով) եւ կազմակերպուած ու կեդրոնաձիգ դիմագիծը: Իմ առարկութիւնս դրամի մսխումին մասին է, որ անկարեւոր հարց մը չէ, մանաւանդ որ առնչուած է եկեղեցւոյ հողը հայութեան սեփականութիւնը դարձնելու կարեւոր առաքելութեան հետ:

    Իմ կարծիքս այն է որ որքան ատեն հարց մը չէ լուծուած կարելի պիտի չըլլայ զանիկա փակուած նկատել: Նախ պէտք է Վարչութիւնը (կամ այս հարցով զբաղող գերագոյն մարմինը՝ Թեմական կազմը) հաշիւները թուաբանականօրէն ներկայացնէ հանրութեան, որպէսզի առիթ տայ որ վերլուծենք պատահածը, սորվինք սխալներէն եթէ դիտմամբ եղած չեն կամ հեռացնենք յանցաւորները եթէ դիտմամբ մսխած են ազգին գումարները: Այն ատեն միայն կրնանք փակել հարցը: Եթէ այդպէս չվարուինք պիտի միշտ նոյն սխալներուն ականատես դառնանք:
    Քուէյթի հայութիւնը իր դրամով յիսուն տարուան ընթացքին շատոնց եկեղեցւոյ հողը գնելու կարելիութիւնը ունեցած պիտի ըլլար եթէ հաւաքուած գումարները ցուցամոլութեան պատճառով մսխուած չըլլային: Նուիրատուն ինք պիտի չ'որոշէ թէ դրամը ո՞ւր պիտի գործածուի այլ առողջ ղեկավարութիւնը պիտի կարենայ նուիրատուութեան ղեկը ճիշդ հունի մէջ դնել:

    Ինչ կը վերաբերի Շեյխայ Ֆրայհային վերջերս կատարած այցին այդ պէտք էր ըլլար քաղաքավարական եւ բարեկամական այցելութիւն մը՝ հայ գաղութին եւ հայ քաղաքակրթութեան ծանօթանալու նպատակով: Եթէ մենք կարենայինք ճիշդ տնտեսել մեր ազգին դրամը պիտի անխոհեմօրէն այսպիսի աղմկայարոյց վիճակի մը մէջ չյայտնուէինք եւ չհասնէինք այն աստիճան որ ամբողջ Քուէյթը խօսի մեր եկեղեցւոյ հող ընծայելու կամ չընծայելու մասին մինչդեռ մենք անաղմուկ այդ հողին տէրը շատոնց եղած կրնայինք ըլլալ: 

    Իսկ հիմա Շեյխայ Ֆրայհային այցով մենքզմեզ թիրախ դարձուցինք ծայրայեղականներուն եւ վտանգեցինք եկեղեցւոյ հողին տիրանալու մեր տասնամեակներու երազը:

    Հրաչ Քալսահակեան



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