Tag Archives: protest

Standing Up for Their Rights: The Rise of #ElectricArmenia

The streets have been ringing with calls of miatsoum (Join us!) and alive with the excitement of the people who once again show hope in seeing a better future for days now. The hearts are beating, the eyes alight with a fire to see things change, and change for the good. This is no revolution, not in the sense that both Russian and Western media make it out to be. This is a call to those living in the country to stand up and show their own strength, for once feeling like they hold the power… and all of it done legally, peacefully, with heads held high and pride surging through their veins. The youth have awoken, this time coming to the streets better prepared to protest against a hike in electricity prices that essentially would make the poor even less likely to live a standard of life they are entitled to. As I see the crowds gathering in waves, waning during the peak times of day and the dead of night only to be bolstered with newcomers as the dawn breaks and dusk sets in, I hear myself singing a rather fitting song from Les Miserables:

Do you hear the people sing!
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

I most definitely am hearing the people sing, and dance as well! The unity among the people, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the MP and the waitress, the writer and the butcher – this is what Armenia is truly about. This is what #ElectricArmenia is about.

Armenians may divide among themselves, but as Gevorg Emin so aptly stated, when there is a threat, particularly from the outside, they will come together and fight alongside one another. In this case, the governing parties are not seen as one of the people; they are seen as enemies more so sometimes than Azerbaijan. While there are those uninformed who may call it an anti-Russian rally, or one which seems to take on the style of the Ukrainian revolution, the truth is that this is merely the local population grasping at an opportunity to make its voice heard, struggling for control over the way the people “elected” into power use the reigns given to them. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say. When the authorities begin to abuse their places, exploiting what is in their power for their own gains, or so it appears, those who initially dropped in their ballots will certainly rise to the occasion and remind said individuals that their power is truly not as absolute as they may think. In the meantime, they will certainly enjoy themselves to the maximum, including dancing Kochari in the middle of Baghramyan Street, sleeping on the hot asphalt, and playing chess while being cheered on by total strangers who feel suddenly like close family.

Raffi Suzy

Water Us and We Will Sprout and Grow

In response to the only show of violence seen throughout this protest, the 2.5 thousand became 10, and now we see ever increasing numbers on Baghramyan street, with new waves flowing in from Freedom Square. The diaspora stands in solidarity with those living in Armenia, raising its own voice to match the strength found in the boom that resonates throughout the country, beginning the hashtags of #ElectricYerevan, #ElectricGyumri, and #ElectricArmenia.

Of course, in response to the water cannons used to disperse the population camping out on the streets on June 23, those gathering on the 24th came in with their own precautions and entirely Armenian humour:

Setting the Record Straight

Ara

While we in Armenia know the truth, it appears that the police were indeed correct in stating that there are provocateurs among us in the crowds. These people include “journalists” spreading false propaganda:

Lilya

Russian media is abuzz with the false information being transmitted, not only by apparent Armenians who are only Armenian in name, but also Ukrainians and Russians themselves who are warping the stories to present the appearance of an Armenian Maidan, while Turks and Azeris are using the propaganda machine for their own interests, some even stating their stance of solidarity in the “fight against the Armenian government.”

Of course, there are images which have us amused to no end as well, as spread by Russian sources. Apparently our Dear Kanye West is a Western provocateur here to encourage unrest. I doubt I’ve ever seen anyone so happy to be arrested though!

Of course, no “revolution” would be complete without love blooming – whether we are talking about the sudden revolt in Vancouver when Canada lost a game or the love of comrades in Les Miserables, the love the spurs the fight against the English for Braveheart or any of the other love stories that have captured the hearts of freedom-loving individuals everywhere.

Strong images from the past few days include:

               Celebrating Birthdays While Protesting – © Narek Aleksanyan

This brings to mind another of Emin’s incredible works, the Dance of Sassoun. “As Sassoun danced, the world was enthralled; as Sassoun danced, the world understood that this is no dance, but a country’s history where even the losses count as prideful victory; where nothing can defeat this ancient people, who with their efforts and with their wills know how to dance…”

Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հիացավ,
Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հասկացավ,
Որ պար չէ սա, այլ մի երկրի քաջ պատմություն,
ՈՒր պարտությունն անգամ ունի հպարտություն,
Եվ չի հաղթի ոչինչ այն հին ժողովրդին,
Որ այս ջանքով,
ՈՒ այս կամքով
Պարել գիտի…
Հասկացան ու ասին ի լուր ողջ աշխարի,
-Հալալ է քեզ,
Սասուն, պարի…

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Dressed for Death

YEREVAN (A.W.)—On June 30, several hundred people participated in a candlelight vigil held at the Harsnakar restaurant in Avan, Armenia, where three military doctors were beaten on June 17. One of the doctors, Major Vahe Avetyan, died on June 29 from severe head trauma.

P1040078 300x224 Dressed for Death: Demonstrators Remember Beating Victim Vahe Avetyan

Photo by Anush Khachatryan

The demonstration was organized by a group calling itself the “Self-Determined Citizens of the Republic of Armenia.”

The demonstrators began the vigil on a sidewalk near the restaurant, holding lit candles and posters thatread “I am Vahe Avetyan” and “You can’t get away with it.”

Some attempted to approach the restaurant and place candles in the parkinglot, but were initially blocked by police. One of the organizers then convinced the police to let a stream of people slowly approach the lot.

Harsnakar is a grand-scale restaurant and function hall owned by Member of Parliament Ruben “Nemets Rubo” Hayrapetyan, a known oligarch. It is where the wealthy hold extravagant wedding parties. Hayrapetyan owns numerous business ventures, among them the Bjni mineral water company (which bottles Bjni and Noy), a hotel also called Harsnakar on Lake Sevan, and a bank. He is also the president of Armenia’s Football Federation.

Although Hayrapedyan maintains he had no connection with the beating, his personal bodyguard, Garik Markaryan, allegedly inflicted the fatal injuries on Avetyan.

The demonstration was peaceful, with people speaking to each other quietly and lighting candles, while others wept and prayed. Anahit Bakhshyan of the Heritage Party was visibly distraught when talking to Civilnet.am.

“I am really tired of this lack of accountability,” she said. “I am disgusted by this situation but…at this moment, I can’t find the words. I can’t find the way out, but I know this can’t happen. I know we have to do something, and if there’s someone who knows what to do I’ll stand by him. But right now, I feel empty.”

Armen Rustamian representing the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun also joined the demonstrators.

P1040058 300x224 Dressed for Death: Demonstrators Remember Beating Victim Vahe Avetyan

Rustamian (Photos by Anush Khachatryan)

“The upper echelons of the leadership must teach a lesson and certainly reiterate what is demanded by law—that an obvious murder took place in public sight,” Rustamian said. “If that is not explained, brought to light and condemned…they will have to do something so that [the issue] doesn’t become complicated.”

A few young people were able to approach the restaurant without gaining notice, and wrote words in red spray paint on the walls, such as “House of murder,” and the word “oligarchs” crossed out.

When the protesters realized that a wedding party was going on inside the restaurant, they approached the main entrance, which was guarded by law enforcement officers, including high-ranking members of the police department. When the police did not let the protesters enter the restaurant, they began to chant “Shame, shame,” chastising them for what was perceived as an act of protecting the oligarchic establishment. They also chanted the familiar slogan of the opposition—“Sergik go away”—referring to President Serge Sarkisian. The police responded by forming a human chain in front of the entrance and shoving the protesters away from the entrance.  Some of the people from the wedding party began to approach the entrance, which enraged the protesters even more.

The demonstration ended just after 10 p.m. and similar protests continued Sunday in front of the Presidential Palace and the prosecutor general’s office. A memorial service was held for Avetyan on Monday afternoon.

P1040074 224x300 Dressed for Death: Demonstrators Remember Beating Victim Vahe Avetyan

‘I am Vahe Avetyan’ (Photo by Anush Khachatryan)

That same evening, only a few hours after demonstrators left the scene, Vartan Samvelyan, a lieutenant colonel in the Armenian military, entered Harsnakar with the intention of blowing up the restaurant with explosives he was carrying, as reported by Tert.am.  He was arrested shortly thereafter by the police and is under custody.

Exactly what happened on June 17 between the quarrelers remains unclear. Words were exchanged at two separate times between the servicemen and staff over an apparent dress code violation, the second conflict occurring after Avetyan returned to the premises, having gone home to change out of his athletic clothing. Just why Markaryan felt obligated to severely beat Avetyan has yet to be revealed. Accounts from eyewitnesses have yet to come to light, probably due to fear of retaliation against them.

President Sarkisian was expected by many to publically convey his condolences to the Avetyan family. Ironically, on Monday the Armenian press published photos showing the president sitting side by side with Hayrapetyan at the Euro Cup soccer championship game held July 1.

source: http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/07/02/dressed-for-death-demonstrators-remember-beating-victim-vahe-avetyan/