The leader of Armenia’s largest opposition group Armenian National Congress Levon Ter-Petrossian announced the start of one-week long non-stop rallies today, in a long awaited decisive move, following days of speculation as to what exactly the opposition will do when they see that the authorities have no intention of returning to dialogue.
Two members of parliament, a former foreign minister, a former deputy to Prosecutor-General among 19 or so other oppositionists, walked out of courts and were released from prison in a matter of 2 days as an amnesty put forward by President Sarkisian and approved by the National Assembly last Friday came into action.
The authorities have proposed the opposition to hold the near Yerevan’s “Dynamo” stadium, just outside the city center.
Artak Zeynalyan of “Hanrapetutyun” party had presented a formal notification to the municipality on February 9th about their intention to hold a rally in the area next to Yerevan’s manuscript museum – Matenadaran or the Northern Avenue, to be followed by a march to Myasnikyan statue – the location of March 1 violent clashes between opposition supporters and the police.
Today a protest action was held before the Georgian Embassy: the 10 – 15 participants of the action solemnly buried Georgian democracy in response to Georgian attempts to scrap signs of Armenian heritage from the Armenian St. Norashen Church in Tbilisi.
The action was organized and staged by Armenian bloggers.
“Georgia has always been a friendly country to Armenia. However, the experience of the past five years showed but one thing: that country has been moving towards fascism. We do not care for the reasons being mere complexes or the bitterness of the defeat. We care for only one thing: crimes, cases of obvious hooliganism, are being committed, graves are being dug, historical monuments are being razed to the ground”, – the bloggers told Echannel at the event.
The action was staged in protest of the continuous efforts by Georgian priests to “georganize” Armenian churches in the territory of that country. The recent incident, which stirred bloggers’ discontent was related to the attempt by Georgian priest Tariel Sikinchelashvili to demolish the graves of Armenian Tamamshyan family placed in the backyard of St. Norashen church in the centre of Tbilisi.
The participants of the action also presented the Embassy with Armenian wine that bore the label Norashen. The Georgian ending ‘i’ was added to it.
It has become obvious that the protesters of Northern Avenue can’t avoid incidents, that pursue an aim to restrict their constitutional right to freely express their opinion. People taken to the police station have become a usual thing, but no one expected the Police to see danger also in the posters fixed on the walls of the buildings.
On August 25, as people of Northern Avenue said at about 10:30 about 20 policemen intruded and started tearing the posters. There were very few people there at that time. Probably it was a planned operation, as the Police had chosen the time when most of the go home or to their workplaces. On hearing this news lots of people hurried to the Northern Avenue after the incident. Some of them said that the reason of this operation were recently added big posters (including the big poster of Robert Kocharyan).
We cannot surely justify the Police operation, as the poster is another way of expressing an opinion and as it’s written in article 27 of the Constitution “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression including freedom to search for, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of information regardless of the state frontiers”.
The big news at the start of the week was ex-president Robert Kocharyan’s interview given to Mediamax News Agency in response to ex-president Levon Ter-Petrossian’s speech on May 1st. Quite expectedly, Kocharyan talked complete crap, noting, that as he is not Armenia’s President anymore, he will be more unrestrained in his speech – not that he was ever restrained or anything.
Basically, while the great, educated egotist Ter-Petrossian was analyzing the situation in Armenia in nicely formulated sentences and trying to establish grounds for dialogue with current president of Armenia – Serzh Sargsyan, by laying most of the blame on Kocharyan, the Second president of Armenia chose to respond in the manner typical for his semi-educated egotistic self, calling the First president names, like “dumb” (տկարամիտ) and “deeply indecent” (խորապես անպարկեշտ), and saying, that it was the opposition who needed the blood and deaths on March 1st. [text here was edited, as the original post contained obviously biased points of views] Now, while I clearly recall at least one case, when Levon Ter-Petrossian spoke on the rallies, saying, that they will go till the end, that doesn’t mean, that human casualties can be blamed on the opposition. Moreover, in the situation, when the country disparately needs peace and reconciliation, and when the opposition has just attempted the first vague steps towards dialogue, Kocharyan’s words are rather unwelcome.
About 150 women had gathered in front of the general prosecutor’s office to demand fair trial and freedom for political prisoners. They also conveyed a letter to the prosecutor’s office.
“Today, we have not come here to celebrate our feast but we have come here to demand freedom for our husbands and men. Since they are in prisons, we cannot celebrate it,” says Heghine Harutyunyan, a participant of the action. That was included in the letter signed by the gathered women and conveyed to the general prosecutor’s office of Republic of Armenia.
E-channel has posted an analyses of March 1 events. There are a couple of key points in the analyses, which I want to draw your attention to:
- Actually, in the silent, uncompromising psychological struggle conducted between the authorities and fundamental opposition on February 20-29, the nerves of the authorities were the first to give out, on which the whole strategy of the opposition had been built.
- The authorities did not notice  the appeal of Ter-Petrossian towards the international public, according to which he was giving a ten-day period to Western democracies in order to define the future of Armenia.  Therefore, he had already defined a ten-day period for the movement led by him, which could be hardly interpreted as anything but a confession of actual failure.
- Actually, no facts or irrefutable proofs have been presented to date, confirming the statement or justification of the authorities that on March 1 the opposition was going to start wide-scope actions of protest, full of provocations. To date, the only justification has been the statement of law enforcement bodies, claiming that the disorders near the embassy of France after the noon were those very provocations, planned in advance. If it was really like that, it turns out that the measures of cleaning the Freedom Square were completely useless. Moreover, it was a most serious tactical blunder because with that the law enforcement bodies have instilled the opposition with new charges and pretexts, contributing further to heating up the atmosphere.
- Actually, if the blunder of the authorities were related to the measures taken at the Freedom square, the serious mistake of the opposition was not predicting the consequences of the spontaneous (according to them) gathering near the embassy to France. Taking into account the fact that a part of the members of Yerkrapah Volunteers union and almost the whole Trial of Spirit organization were with them, in case of demonstrating sufficient organizational skills, it would, perhaps, be possible and necessary to suppress or isolate the active participants of disorders, with the help of the above-mentioned resources. It did not happen, and it allowed the authorities to develop and, with the help of the further preliminary investigation, to support the approach that the disorders had been organized by one center. And it became a basis for presenting it as a coup d’Etat – that is, a danger immediately threatening the constitutional order.
The author of the analyses also suggests a very valid topic for discussion:
E-channel reports some details of the meeting of Peter Semnebi, the special representative of the European Union in South Caucasus with RA General prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan, who has told during the conversation that “8 people have died as a result of the disorders, 1 of them – a policeman – from an explosion of a grenade; 3 have died as a result of the special means applied (according to the initial conclusion of the experts); 4 have died of injuries caused by gunshot wounds. The bullets taken out of the bodies have various calibers, which allows to say that various types of arms have been used during disorders, and the preliminary investigation faces the task of revealing all those circumstances. 265 people have been injured, 210 of them being police officers. 68 cars have been set on fire, 10 objects of private property have been destroyed and robbed, including a pharmacy.”
The prosecutor has also informed Semnebi that “all the arrested and detained persons have been subjected to medical examination while being taken to location for keeping the arrested persons, as well as to criminal executive institutions, and all their injuries have been registered. 12 accused persons have been registered to have injuries, and expertise has been appointed in order to find out how they had been caused.”