The large unsanctioned opposition rally has started in Yerevan

Despite warnings from the police, that the first opposition rally since the tragic events of March 1, is unsanctioned, by 6 o’clock the crowd had started to gather around Yerevan’s Manuscript Museum (Matenadaran – a traditional location for rallies) and after negotiations with the police, who were initially blocking access to the free areas in front of the museum, the opposition had been allowed to hold the rally.

There had been technical difficulties – from what I understood, the opposition had been denied access to electricity outlets or electricity had been cut off ‘unexpectedly’ and they were busy installing a diesel electricity generator to power the sound equipment. By the time I got there – at about 19:30, the rally hadn’t started yet, some people had started to walk away because of quite unpleasant summer sun. Here and there groups of young people with flags were shouting “Miatsum”, “Hima” and warming up the crowd immediately around them. Riot police had chained the Mashtots avenue, keeping the street free for traffic. As the amount of people was too big to fit around matenadaran, many had stationed on the pavements around the Mashtots and Koryun avenues. The crowd stretched all the way down to Nairi Cinema theater, becoming more sparse as it went.

Levon Ter-Petrossian’s arrival at the scene was met with cheers and shouts. The rally started at around 20:00 with a short greeting and the remix of “Payqar, Payqar-Qochari”, sounding nostalgic after the February discotheque-rallies, the first speeches were about the A1plus victory at the European court and forecasts, that the PACE hearing on Armenia next week will note the lack of willingness by the Armenian authorities to resolve the situation and engage in dialogue with the opposition.

Estimating the crowd size is rather hard. According to RFE / RL – the head of Yerevan Police Department Nerses Nazaryan has stated 10,000, while Aram Z. Sargsyan estimated a figure of up to 50,000. From the rallies I’ve seen in the past, I’d say the crowd is clearly much bigger then the 10,000 figure – I think around 20,000 would be a realistic estimate.

Anyway – the size of the crowd is not important. What is important, is that the rally is peaceful, and hopefully there won’t be more violence. Really – please, please – we can’t afford another March 1 now. On the positive side though, re-establishing the right for peaceful rallies in Armenia is also a necessity and this rally has already achieved something significant – we, the free people of Armenia have the right to rallies, despite any amount of idiotic laws on rallies and demonstrations, and we also have the strength to reclaim our right, despite all efforts of police. That is exactly why I’m planning to go back to the site of the rally and re-claim my share of that very right to gather for people demonstrations!

Podcast: A1plus won in European Court of Human Rights

The 17th issue of the “Armenian Blogosphere” Radioshow – Podcast is now available. The 5 minute 2mb mp3 file of the program can be downloaded here. The issue brings a review of blog-posts about the A1plus victory at the European Court of Human Rights announced this week. The full Armenian text of the review is available at the Armenian language version of this blog – here. The podcast also features an interview with Uzbek bloger Tolkun – made at the Caucasus Barcamp.

HENQ – one more youth initiative

The youth initiative – HENQ, abbreviation from their longer Armenian name “New Young Citizens of Armenia” started their second action in Yerevan today – gathering in front of Tumanyan House-Museum at 18:30, the group of about 10 students divided the tasks among themselves and got going.
The action, called “Vonts, chuneq?” (“You don’t have it?”), is based on principle of “We are the State”, according to HENQ. The point of the action was – to go around bookshops, newspaper shacks, DVD stores, movie theaters in Yerevan and ask for non-existing books, movies, newspaper titles, plays, e.g.: “We are the state” film by Carla Garapedian, the director of the “Screamers“, “The country is a country” by Paulo Coelho, “A citizen is wanted” by HyeFilm Studio.
Henq 005
HENQ Prepare for action | Originally posted at The Caucasian Knot ©  Photo: Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008
The group were supposed to stir interest about the content of the particular play, book, newspaper and engage in a discussion about issues like: ‘the government does not exist in vacuum’, ‘we are responsible for our state’, ‘we have to take responsability ourselves and try to correct the wrong we see’, ‘we should follow the rules, giving a bribe and saying this country is no good won’t solve anything’. The action that started today will go on for a week. Many of the bookstores, movie theaters will be visited repeatedly in the hope, that rumors will circulate about these new ‘hit’ films, etc. – which everybody is talking and interested about. Continue reading “HENQ – one more youth initiative”

Beeline on the ground, underground and even 3G!

It seems the days, when I would remember Armentel (now rebranded as Beeline), only with curses and complaints are over. As a very mobile person (many think – too much), I carry two mobile phones with me at all times – this is a reminder of not-so-distant past, when Armentel mobile connection was so bad, that I had to buy a ‘backup’ Viva mobile phone, to make sure I have a working mobile at all times, but also had to keep the Armentel one, because that was the contact number printed on my business-cards, published booklettes and various other promotional materials I had at that point. Continue reading “Beeline on the ground, underground and even 3G!”

A1plus wins in European Court. Meltex Ltd and Mesrop Movsesyan v. Armenia

imageI just heard the best news for the Freedom of Speech in Armenia in the course of the past 7 years! A1plus has won the case against the RA Government in the European Court of Human Rights. Check out the text of the official judgment. Congratulations – A1plus.
The Armenian authorities will have to pay EUR 30,000 to A1plus – which is of course very little, but what is more important, is the precedent. Admittedly, the Armenian government has been loosing case after case in the European Court of Human Rights in the recent months. Here’s more from A1plus:
http://a1plus.am/en/?page=issue&iid=61705
http://a1plus.am/en/?page=issue&iid=61709

RFE/RL: Belgian Goes on Hunger Strike in Armenian Capital

Hunger strikes have become a fact of life as of late – nobody seems to pay any attention to them any more. People go in an out of hunger-strikes every day. However, this one story carried by RFE/RL is certainly one of special interest – a 51-year-old citizen of Belgium, Luc Vandevale, who is married to an Armenian and is based in Armenia – working in the construction industry, has gone on an open-ended hunger strike in Yerevan, protesting ‘the presence of political prisoners’ in the country. According to RFE/RL, the Armenian wife of the Belgian hunger-striker is not affiliated with any political party or organization in Armenia. The Belgian himself claims he is a ‘pacifist’ and is not campaigning for any particular force in Armenia, but simply wants to see Armenia as a democratic country.

Luc Vandevale, a 51-year-old builder currently based in Armenia, told RFE/RL he meant his hunger strike in the Armenian capital’s central Northern Avenue as a demand for the release of political prisoners in Armenia.

“It is not acceptable to have political prisoners in a democratic country. It means it is not a democracy,” Vandevale said to RFE/RL in French. “Armenia that represents the Council of Europe must release political prisoners.”

The Belgian said he could not plan for how long he would continue his action, but added that it depended on “the state of democracy in Armenia.”

Clearly this is moral-rising for us – the people concerned with the state of democracy in Armenia. On the other hand, I hope no political dirt comes out of this story, although given the fact, that the state-propaganda have chosen to keep silent, comes to assert, that the Belgian and his wife are indeed genuinely concerned with democracy and are not affiliated with any political force in the country.

Armenian politics: anticipation of tempest

The political atmosphere in the country remains charged with uncertainty, week after week are passing without bringing any substantial change or relief.
Looking at the overall picture, I see more attempts by the government to look good and innovative in the eyes of general public: by holding a government session outside of Yerevan – in Gyumri, continuing to push for the vague idea of public council – which was finally established today by a presidential decree and pumping up the word-flow about anti-corruption fight and education reform. All that is potentially good and interesting – however, the trials and strange verdicts against opposition activists continue, neither the newly created special committee nor the newly adopted amendments to the “RA Law on Rallies, Protests and Demonstrations” seem to go beyond mere imitations of addressing the recommendations of PACE Resolution 1609; there are still no real attempts of dialog between the the authorities and opposition. Here are some highlights: Continue reading “Armenian politics: anticipation of tempest”

Podcast on the First Caucasus BarCamp

The team of Armenian bloggers have returned back from the Caucasus BarCamp which took place in Tbilisi on June 7-8. This Podcast which will be broadcast by Radio Hay tomorrow – on Saturday morning, features an introduction to the concept of BarCamps in general, tells about the Tbilisi Barcamp, and features interviews with Evgeni Morozov, an expert in new media and internet, interviews with Uzbek and Latvian bloggers. Feel free to download and listen to the mp3 version.

Podcast: That empty phrase called "Human Rights" in Armenia

The Podcast of the radio program made by the Echannel.am team, to be broadcast this Saturday on Radio Hay, is now available in mp3 format here. The program features a blog roundup of reactions to attacks on human right’s activist Mikayel Danielyan and opposition youth leader Arsen Kharatyan. The full Armenian text of the roundup is available at the Armenian version of this blog.
The Podcast also features and interview with one of the rare Armenian language bloggers – Christina from Mi or… blog.

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