Category Archives: Current Events

So what the hell happened today!?

I just got home from a long day of frustrated protesting. There was so much activity today and action, but the momentum wasn’t retained. The conclusion is bittersweet in that so many people seem committed to change, but so little came of it. Here is my best to give a recap of the events of today.

10:30am: A march of people from Yerevan’s regions gets hassled by the police.

10:45am: The student protest begins with students marching to Freedom Square. When the protesters arrived at the Yerevan State University Black Building, the guards locked the door, trapping the students (and me) inside. The rationale being that they need to protect the good students inside from the protesters.

11am: Raffi’s rally officially begins. This is Armenia, so it doesn’t really start until noon.

12pm: Raffi gives his speech. It was a speech similar to other speeches saying that he’s here for the people and that the people of Armenia are the ones with power. Also, Serzh Sargsyan should come and apologize to the people. The square is filled with people at this point. Rumor has it that Reuters estimates 12,000 people present.

1pm: At around one, Raffi gives his oath. It wasn’t the oath of presidency, but a “citizen’s oath.” Hetq has the details. Afterwards, he said there will be song and dance and to reconvene at 6pm. This is where I, thinking it was over, leave to go back to work, disappointed with the lack of content of his speech and how it sounded similar to all of his other speeches.

2-3ish: Raffi stayed in the square and people started complaining that he needs to do something. So, while half of the crowd has already left, Raffi starts leading a march in the city. He heads towards Haraparak and Tigran Metz, but suddenly switches directions and goes up Mashtots towards Baghramyan. This is where things get iffy because the police aren’t happy with the changed marching path. Some people are arrested.

3ish: At some point, Sargsyan has his inauguration where he says he will focus on emigration, unemployment and poverty (videos).

4pm: The police hold back the people on Demirchyan. Rumor has it, that it was done to give time for police to setup barricades on Baghramyan. They fall back within an hour.

5:30pm: A splinter group of protesters does a sit-in in front of the Presidential Palace and gets arrested. This news report says it happened at six, more notably, Zaruhi Postanjyan asked the protesters to go back to Freedom Square but they refused.

[Added:] 6pm: The crowd reconvened at Freedom Square where Raffi told the crowd that he would reveal his plan on Friday, the 12th. The crowd was angry and “booed and screamed” at Raffi to get him to do something. They convinced  him to march to Baghramyan.

6:30pm: Clashes occur with the police as Raffi starts leading people up Baghramyan. Raffi tries to push his way through the police, which leads to a madhouse. Raffi gets knocked down. Armen Martiorisan, Heritage’s candidate for Yerevan’s mayorship, gets roughed up by police and arrested and his nose broken (both visible in this video). [Incorrectly listed at 5pm in the original]

7pm: Raffi pulls his second WTF?? of the day by giving a short speech and asking people to go the Genocide Memorial. He leaves with most(?) of the crowd, but a large portion of the crowd refuses to leave. Many people are upset and feel like he is abandoning the people and the cause. [Incorrectly put at 5:30pm in the original]

8pm: Marshall Baghramyan metro stop was closed all day, so I walk to the protest coming from the North West. I’m able to get into the closed off center of the street and take some awesome photos (see below). I join the crowd at Baghramyan and Isahakyan.

8-10pm: Absolutely nothing happens as the people mill about. The crowd is constantly dwindling, decreasing from a few thousand to a few hundred by the end. Frustration with Raffi’s back and forth is increasing. Many people are saying that he, as a leader, failed the people.

9-10pm: The people are stopped in front of Baghramyan with Raffi talking to the head of police to allow them through. The police say no. Raffi then argues to let them walk on the sidewalk. It’s unclear if Raffi stayed with the crowd or was leaving and returning. Raffi doesn’t have a megaphone and the crowd couldn’t hear anything he said to the cameras, so there was lots of confusion.  Armenians have not yet discovered the People’s Mic[Incorrectly put at 7pm in the original]

Finally at about 10:30pm, the police allow the people to walk up the sidewalk of Baghramyan and open the street to car traffic. Almost certainly this came about from Raffi’s negotiation, but I can’t confirm. The plan was to sing the national anthem at the Presidential Palace, but no one felt like singing at that point.

Overall, many of the people I talked to are excited for the amount of energy and activism shown by Armenian people, while being frustrated with Raffi. Raffi did not have a plan for today, let alone a plan for the near future. While the people showed a lot of energy, that energy was lost by people waiting to see what Raffi would do and by his inconsistent comings and goings.
[Added at noon on 10 April:] ArmeniaNow has a good write up on the day. Also, my friend Ani has a (long) first-hand account of the day’s events from her perspective near Raffi’s family. She also has maps of the marching paths,  in case my description above is confusing.

The wall of cops at Baghramyan and Proshyan, stopping anyone from coming down Baghramyan.

The wall of cops at Baghramyan and Proshyan, stopping anyone from coming down Baghramyan.

The wall of cops at Baghramyan and Proshyan, stopping anyone from coming down Baghramyan.

The wall of cops at Baghramyan and Proshyan, stopping anyone from coming down Baghramyan.

The empty street of Baghramyan, between the lines of cops.

The empty street of Baghramyan, between the lines of cops.

A secondary line, in case the protesters get passed the first line.

A secondary line, in case the protesters get passed the first line.

A water cannon available to the police.

A water cannon

The main protest line. The police and the protesters were milling about here for hours.

The main protest line. The police and the protesters were milling about here for hours.

After sitting around for a while without going on, the police put down their shields.

After sitting around for a while without anything going on, the police put down their shields and relax a little.

The walk up Baghramyan and the police that followed the people up.

The final walk up Baghramyan, and the police that followed the people up.

[Edited for grammar the next morning. Edited again at 10:30am and again at noon to add extra content and corrections.]

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New: Flights from Yerevan to Van

The Eurasia Partnership Foundation has been working for years on bridging the Turkish and Armenian communities. They recently developed a major success with the introduction of flights from Yerevan to Van in Turkey. The two cities are so close that the flights are only 40 minutes, but the inhabitants of the two cities basically never communicate because of the language barrier and the geopolitical barrier of the closed border. Hopefully these flights will allow more cross-cultural exchange, increased tourism for both sides, and friendlier relations. Azerbaijan is unsurprisingly upset about this.

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Quick Update: Paruyr Hayrikyan will not Seek a Delay in the Elections

Hayrikyan’s lawyer announced today that the candidate will not seek a delay in the Presidential election. Hayrikyan has a constitutional right to seek a two-week delay because of the assassination attempt. One candidate views the decision as based on whether Hayrikyan thinks he will benefit in the polls because of the assassination attempt. Another thinks he was pressured into it by the authorities.

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Presidential Candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan shot, should Recover.

I apologize for not including this breaking news in my previous scheduled post on the elections. Presidential Candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan was shot late Thursday night and is currently recovering in the hospital. Hayrikyan believes the shooter was a foreign agent (a common believe) and is considering whether to ask for a delay of the election as is his constitutional right. While many people are talking about this, and there are a number of theories or statements made, in all honesty, not much else is known.

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Buy your own piece of Hraparak: (Former) Foreign Affair’s Ministry is up for Auction

A few months ago, there was a shock that the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s building on Republic Square (Hraparak) was sold to a foreigner. Obviously, people were upset. In a quick move to save face when they realized the shady deal would not be acceptable to the public, the government turned around and said that the building will be put for auction with the previous price being the initial bid for the building.

So here’s your chance to own a beautiful piece of architecture on the most famous intersection in Armenia, all for a starting bid of only $130,000 USD.

Republic Square Fountain and Clocktower

Republic Square

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Remembering Hrant Dink

January 19th marks the anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink in Istanbul. On Jan 19, 2007, an extreme rightwing 17-year-old shot Hrant Dink three times, killing him instantly. The reason Dink was killed was his outspoken support for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and recognition of the Genocide.

A lot can be said about Hrant Dink, more than can be said in this one blog post. The fact that over 200,000 people marched in his funeral speaks to the amount of love many people, including average Turks, had for him.

At his core, Hrant Dink fought for compassion and respect for victims and minorities, including Genocide recognition. Because of this, he was prosecuted three times for “insulting Turkishness.” This blatant anti-freedom of speech law has been used against a number of Turkish authors who write in support of Genocide recognition. As long as laws like this are still on the books, the conversations that must precede reconciliation cannot occur. This stifling of speech harms Turkish citizens by not allowing them to discuss a very important part of their history, perpetuating hate on all sides.

The domestic court found the shooter guilty, but also found that he acted alone. This was a shock to many, and many simply don’t accept that as true. Similarly to how Armenian courts found the parliamentary shooters acted alone, this assassination seems too important to not be the work of a larger conspiracy. One Turkish prosecutor believes he has discovered the hierarchy of the criminal network that killed Dink, and it’s possible the case will be re-opened.

Hetq has a copy of Dink’s final publication, published only a little more than a week before his murder.

The umbrellas of mourners remembering Hrant Dink. January 19, 2013.

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Imagine Armenia: A Presentation by Repatriated Armenians in Los Angeles on the 28th

A few repats are holding an event called Imagine Armenia. The core idea of the event is “What does Armenia mean to you?” Hopefully people will think that Armenia is a place and a people to engage as partners and not merely as the “the old country” or a post-soviet plutocracy. To get a good dose of the reality of living in Armenia—and see how you can engage with the real Armenia—you should come to the event in Los Angeles on the 28th at 7pm at 3245 Casita Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039.

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