Students Hold a Rare Political Protest Action

Hundreds of students skipped classes today in sign of protest against the results of the February 18 presidential elections and in a show of support for the opposition candidate Raffi Hovannisian.

Students from various Yerevan universities and institutes reported attempts by their university management to hinder student participation in the protest action.

The protest started in front of Yerevan State University. Their procession went around various Yerevan universities and ended in front of the Central Electoral Commission.

I totally loved the picture above. It is common knowledge, that the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) in Armenia is known for manipulating the final figures of the elections, or so to say “painting them” as Armenians often call it. So the sign calling the CEC as “Central State Art Gallery” is rather becoming (and yes, I sort of mistranslated it when tweeting).

Rare Student Activism

The protest was rather small in scope given the fact, that there are tens of thousands of students in Armenia who didn’t join the action.  So in this regard it didn’t accomplish anything.

However, this protest action was very important in its uniqueness.

Over the past decade the incumbent authorities have in a sense ‘infiltrated’ all educational institutions in Armenia and largely spoiled them with a carrot and stick policy.

More specifically, all key Republican figures in Armenia have over the past years become heads of this or that educational institution. The incumbent president Serzh Sarkissian is, for example, the head of the Yerevan State University council, PM Tigran Sargsian is the chairman of Yerevan State Teachers’ Training University, Minister of Education Armen Ashotian is the chairman of  Yerevan State Medical University. In this way key officials have direct control over all major universities.

They have also made sure that Republican youth are heading the student councils, which are these days akin to the Komsomol (the youth wing of Communist party) of Soviet times. These student bodies are meant solely to support the authorities and report on dissent among the ranks of the students. There are, of course, rare exceptions in the form of youth structures of Dashnaktsutyun, Armenian National Congress and Hnchaks, but they are not very influential. Meanwhile, the authorities also have instituted “Baze” camps and certain Youth Foundations and semi-political structures, like Miasin movement, “Hayoc Artsivner,” which are tasked with garnering support for the authorities by providing youth with incentives for supporting the ruling party.

So well done, students, I’m really proud of your courage! I myself have come to Yerevan from Gyumri with fellow-students in 1996 to protest the elections in which Levon Ter-Petrossian stole presidency from Vazgen Manukian, so I’m really happy that after decades of brainwashing, there are still brave young people among students, who are ready to stand up for their rights.

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