Ara K. Manoogian

Ara K. Manoogian

Ara K. Manoogian

The Truth Must Be Told is a web project, where Ara K. Manoogian publishes reports on key issues concerning government corruption and human rights violations in Armenia and Artsakh.

Ara Khachig Manoogian is a human rights activist, an investigative journalist, Artsakh representative for the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation and a member of Policy Forum Armenia. He is critical of human trafficking, illegal adoption practices, army abuse and government corruption in Armenia and Artsakh. His activism has been widely covered by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Hetq Investigative Journalists of Armenia, Keghart, Hraparak and other media. Ara K. Manoogian, together with Edik Baghdasaryan of Hetq, is the author of Desert Nights (2006), which uncovers a large international sex business network functioning in Dubai and involving representatives of the Armenian and UAE law-enforcement agencies.

Ara Khachig Manoogian was born in 1965 in Pasadena, California, to immigrant parents, Khachig Evan and Sylva Natalie Manoogian. His maternal grandmother was a direct descendant of the Bagratuni Dynasty, who ruled over the Armenian Nation from the 9th to 11th century. Ara’s maternal grandfather was Shahan Natalie, one of the mastermind behind the executions of the Young Turk leaders responsible for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and those that conspired with them. He is also the nephew of His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Ara traveled to Armenia for the first time with his parents in 1989 as a videographer to document a project that the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America and the American Library Association had undertaken in Armenia’s 1988 earthquake zone. Concerned by the hardship of the Armenian citizens, Ara made numerous subsequent fact-finding trips to Armenia and Artsakh from 1992 to 1997. For the most part, he documented on video, in photographs, and journals the daily lives of common people to better understand their needs and find ways to make their lives more bearable. Thanks to his active stance in addressing socio-economic issues in Armenia, as well as the long and frequent visits to Armenia, Ara K. Manoogian was elected the Presdent of the Monte Melkonian Fund in 1995 and served until 1997.

In 1998 Ara moved to the town of Martuni, Artsakh, where he coordinated and monitored a number of aid distribution initiatives. At the same time, he has been whistleblowing on government corruption both in Armenia and Artsakh, helping common citizens benefit from their civil rights without having to pay bribes to public officials.

In 2000 he became the Artsakh representative of Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc. (SNFF), a California non-profit public benefit corporation, established by the members of the Natalie/Manoogian family in 1999. With the primary mission of dealing with social, economic, cultural, and educational issues, the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation became the third Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) ever to be registered in Artsakh, following the Red Cross and the «Hayastan» All-Armenian Fund, since its independence proclaimed in 1992. One of the major charitable projects implemented by the Artsakh branch of the SNFF was Hand-to-Hand in 2006, intended for the relief of the people of Kashatagh, Artsakh.

Ara K. Manoogian’s activism has been thoroughly recorded in his blog, Martuni or Bust! established in 2001. His first major quest was to curb corrupt adoption practices in Armenia in 2003 (click here to learn more). Posing as a potential adopting parent, Ara was able to uncover an entire mechanism of prospering illicit adoption business. Thanks to his findings, the Armenian National Assembly adopted new laws to enhance the adoption process regulation.

In early 2004, joining with the Hetq Investigative Journalists of Armenia, Ara began investigating the trafficking of women and children from Armenia to the United Arab Emirates (click here to learn more). Exposing their lives to danger, Ara K. Manoogian and Edik Baghdasaryan eventually succeeded in setting a number of victims of human trafficking free and preventing thousands from treading on the same path by raising awareness through Desert Nights, a widely distributed book and a documentary by the two journalists. «The most important work on human trafficking for sexual exploitation is Desert Nights,» writes the OSCE in its report on Human Trafficking in Armenia (in Armenian). As a result of the investigation, numerous cases were  filed  against  pimps and traffickers, more than a dozen were jailed. The investigation also implicated Rafayel Gyulnazaryan, the head of the anti-human trafficking department at the United Nations in Yerevan, as a part of the trafficking ring. With the help of the U.S. State Department, he was dismissed from his post. The evidence provided by Ara K. Manoogian and Edik Baghdasaryan about the involvement of the Armenian law-enforcement in the human trafficking network has been denied by the Armenian authorities since 2005. However, on February 18, 2011, WikiLeaks released cables  of the U.S. Embassy to Armenia, dating back to 2006, which  proved the evidence.

Ara K. Manoogian has played an active role in resolving the violent murder of Nazareth Berberian, an American-Armenian philanthropist and businessman, in Yerevan, in April 2009. With the intention of getting to the bottom of the truth about the high-profile murder case, Ara dedicated months to a parallel field investigation, which led to uncovering corrupt practices within the Armenian Police system, as well as gaping drawbacks in forensic examination (click here to learn more).