In the midst of all of the news regarding Raffi Hovannisyan’s hunger strike, the evolving relationship between Hovannisyan and the ARF, especially the Diasporan portion of the ARF, caught my attention.
When just recently Zharangutyun members were assaulted by police, the ARF was quick to make a point of defending Zharangutyun and condemning the police action. Interestingly, I do not remember any such defense of the HAK supporters who have been beaten and arrested numerous times, or of the numerous media outlets which the regime is trying to silence, or of the political prisoners.
On March 15, Raffi Hovannisyan began his hunger strike in Liberty Square, where just 2 days later, for the first time since 2008, opposition supporters were allowed to gather. The momentous occasion was everywhere in the Armenian news, in pro-opposition Diasporan papers such as Massis, and was even covered by international agencies such as the BBC, AFP and the Washington Post. ARF papers such as the Armenian Weekly and Asbarez (two of the main diasporan ARF publications) barely covered it.
Neither Asbarez nor The Armenian Weekly published any articles about Hovannisyan’s hunger strike between March 15th and 17th. The first mention of it is on March 18th, day four of the hunger strike — after HAK entered Liberty Square, after Hovannisyan was “snubbed,” and after his strong criticisms of Ter-Petrosyan increased noticeably– in The Armenian Weekly in “Hunger Strike in Yerevan Summons Support, Highlights Drift in Opposition.” It starts as follows:
The outpouring of support for Heritage Party chair Raffi Hovannisian continued today, while questions were raised regarding Armenian National Congress (ANC) head Levon Ter-Petrosian’s lack of vocalized support for his fellow opposition leader.
Since March 18th and March 21st, The Armenian Weekly and Asbarez, respectively, have each published four articles about Hovannisyan, ranging from neutral to extremely supportive (some of the articles are the same). Yegparian’s article, “So Now He’s a Christian…” (March 25) is published in both, full of misinformation and almost dripping with hatred for Ter-Petrosyan. The Armenian Weekly even published an “exclusive” interview with Hovannisyan on March 21st.
On March 22nd, Hovannisyan clarified his 15 demands, the most specific of which are the rejection of the Turkish-Armenian protocols and recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh. On the same day, Vahan Hovannisyan made statements unequivocally supporting Raffi Hovannisyan, criticizing the authorities for refusing to allow Raffi Hovannisyan to use an umbrella, and calling criticisms by some opposition members “disgusting.”
It seems the ARF has a newfound interest in Hovannisyan, what he has to say, where he is sitting, and in some of their similarities. Of course, there’s little background for their readers of the details of some of the demands; for example, why there even needs to be a demand for freedom, or just how severe unemployment, emigration and poverty levels are. In fact, Hovannisyan’s 15 demands don’t seem to be anywhere in either the Armenian Weekly or Asbarez.
Here’s what Hovannisyan had to say on the relationship between the ARF and Zharangutyun from the exclusive interview on March 21st:
I think there is great potential for cooperation, for closer coordinated political work in the future. I think we’re very far from reaching the capacity of that united work product. We cooperate very well together in parliament, especially after the ARF came out of the ruling coalition and joined the opposition. We welcomed that. It doesn’t concern us that there are those in the opposition field who are questioning the opposition credentials of the ARF because at one point it was in the coalition, and somewhat responsible for the ills that we see today.
It is becoming clearer to me that the ARF seems to be angling in on Hovannisyan not only for the present, but perhaps as someone they want on their side in the long run. A working relationship with someone like Hovannisyan, an Armenian with strong ties and a familiar name in the Diaspora, growing roots in Armenia, and growing support in both, (and now with 10 years of citizenship under his belt) could be of great benefit to them. And the well-organized and networked ARF could have great potential benefit for Hovannisyan: remember just how well organized the outcry against Serge Sargsyan and his support of the Turkish-Armenian protocols was when he visited Los Angeles.
I still haven’t gotten over that, in fact. That outcry wasn’t against fraudulent elections, March 1, political prisoners, lack of freedoms, or Sargsyan’s support of an oligarchic system which promotes massive emigration, including the export of young women from Armenian villages to become prostitutes in Dubai and Turkey to support their families. In fact, I have found very little coverage of these topics in the ARF media (though I’ve learned a lot about Pasadena, the AYF, Kobe Bryant, Bryza, and Kim Kardashian). No, what motivated (at least on the surface) the ARF to collect its supporters and yell “Serjik heratsir” was his support of the protocols.
It seems the ARF is courting Hovannisyan, and perhaps he is courting back. As far as I’m concerned, the ARF in Armenia and in the Diaspora have yet to establish themselves as opposition – quite the opposite. Zharangutyun, however, is a different story. And Hovannisyan’s position may be yet a third one. I for one will be watching the courtship closely. This could get quite interesting.
Tztizernak started blogging soon after the events of March 1, 2008, writing mainly on topics related to [the lack of] human rights and political prisoners in Armenia, and occasionally Diasporan issues…