March 25, 2008

Dim Prospects for Sargsyan After Armenia's Post-Election Violence

As is usually the case within the sphere of Armenian politics, one is forced to turn to non-Armenians for an objective analysis of recent developments.

Below, we would like to bring to the attention of our readers a recent article by Dr. Blanka Hacilova that appeared in "Diplomatic Traffic" online.

Dim Prospects for Sarkissian after Armenia's Post-election Violence

The violent suppression of the opposition rally on 1-2 March has opened up a gaping schism in the Armenian body politic. Following the deaths of several dozen protesters, the Kocharyan-Sarkissian duo is bound to lose some supporters, while some neutral voters may chose to join the opposition. The battle for power may be drawn out, and its conclusion is far from certain but, so far, it is evident that the foundations of the ruling regime have been profoundly shaken.

Click to see full text.

March 22, 2008

Large Police Presence Confronts Silent Vigil In Yerevan

Yesterday's silent candlelight vigil and procession to honor those who died during the March 1st civil protests in Yerevan should have been a time of healing and reconciliation.

Rather it appears that the ruling authorities wanted to seize the opportunity to make a show of force for all to see. Detachments of police and security forces, with helmets, rubber batons and stun guns, lined the procession route, in an overt display of power and intimidation.

All along Northern Avenue and down into Republic Square, officers in blue camouflage gear and other nefarious types wearing sunglasses, were brazenly video recording those participating in the event - mothers, teenagers and old men. Welcome to the new "Armenian Order"!!!

It was truly a tragic display of a government gone seemingly psychotic with fear and trepidation of its own citizens. And this is the backdrop against which the regime is calling for dialogue and mutual respect???

Luckily, it appears that the average Armenian wasn't fazed by this massive show of force. People were chastising those filming the crowd and ridiculing their efforts by saying - "Go and videotape everyone!!!" Others were declaring that, "This is where I live and I can go where I please."

All in all it was a hopeful sign, one day after the State of Emergency was lifted, that things will not go back to the bad old - good old days.

March 20, 2008


The Helsinki Association of Armenia has compiled a list of opposition members and activists in detention as of March 17, 2008. Other sources of those detained and/or arrested in the political witch hunts initiated by the ruling clique in Armenia following the mass social protests of the last few weeks put the number of these individuals much higher.

Please click HERE for complete listing:


March 19, 2008

Commissioner Hammarberg Highly Critical of Armenian Government's Recent Actions

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner on Human Rights, in his report after a 3-day visit to Armenia, has called on the government to lift emergency measures, ensure media freedom and initiate an impartial investigation into recent violent acts.

Rest assured that the Commissioner's findings will not be broadcast over the airwaves now effectively controlled and monitored by the Armenian government.

Please click HERE for the complete official statement.

March 18, 2008


We have just learnt from the Nazarian Blog that a Silent Protest Procession will take place in Yerevan this Friday, March 21st.

The Procession will begin at Opera's Freedom Square at 5 P.M. It will wind its way down Northern Avenue, through Republic Square and end up at Miasnikyan Square.

The notice calls on all citizens who wish to voice their protest regarding the tragic events of March 1st , the senseless use of force by the authorities and the continuing political repression of dissenting voices, to take part in this peaceful civil action.

It also calls on all those who wish to pay their respects to the memory of all 8 individuals who died that day to also participate.

March 17, 2008

Washington Post Publishes Letter by Serzh Sargsyan

Unbelievable but true. Below is an article penned by Serzh Sargsyan and Artur Baghdasaryan, his new partner in the coalition government to be foisted upon the country published in today's Washington Post. We were aghast at the hypocrisy contained within and the manner in which the social upheavals of the recent past were shrouded underneath the regime's hollow calls for dialogue and cooperation. This is damage control at it's most primitive level. Luckily many in Armenia have shown that they will no longer toleate such blatant attempts to mollify the righteous dissatisfaction that has surfaced among all segments of society. Hopefully, international readers of the Washington Post will also be skeptical of the views of a government that call for dialogue on one hand but muzzles the independent media on the other.

Moving Forward In Armenia

By Serzh Sargsyan and Arthur BaghdasaryanMonday, March 17, 2008

Armenia's reputation as a stable, democratic country in a troubled region has taken a battering recently. Although international observers gave an overall positive rating to the conduct of last month's presidential election, opposition forces took to the streets, seeking to overturn the people's will. Riots and armed demonstrations left more than 100 injured. Tragically, seven protesters and one police officer died.

Public faith in our economy and political institutions has been undermined. Simply put, we had a competitive election. Dragging this crisis on, literally through the streets, only hurts Armenia. For almost a decade -- since then-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan resigned -- our country has avoided civil uproars and armed violence, allowing for a period of internationally recognized democratic and socioeconomic progress.

But after he lost his bid to reclaim the presidency in February, Ter-Petrosyan resorted to a dangerous and profoundly undemocratic form of populism. He radicalized a part of the opposition and guided it into a standoff with the state, which led to the March 1 riots in which armed demonstrators confronted police. It was clear to all moderate political forces -- pro-government or supporters of the opposition -- that declaring a state of emergency was the only possible option to protect our citizens. We have until Thursday, when the state of emergency is lifted, to find political solutions and ensure that Armenia does not slide back into chaos.

The two of us were competitors in the presidential election. But we are united in our desire to end the current crisis and put Armenia back on track. Cooperation is the way forward.

The political alliance we have created, between the president-elect and the Rule of Law Party, is an effort to do things democratically and through compromise. Between us, we represent 70 percent of the votes of the Armenian people. This is a serious and solid mandate. On this basis, we will pursue ambitious but realistic reforms that will strengthen our democracy and our nation's socioeconomic progress. In this moment of crisis, we have agreed to assume responsibility for joint governance.

This form of government has not been imposed upon Armenia; we have chosen it as the best way forward. This new, grand coalition will guarantee that the people's will is reflected.

We insist, however, that continued progress is possible only through dialogue and reform. Violence has no place in democracy. Therefore, we ask those who are still promoting instability on the streets to join us in political dialogue and to help us guide our country toward prosperity.

Armenia faces a series of external challenges that we hope to address. First among them is the long-standing conflict over who should control the Nagorno-Karabakh region between our country and Azerbaijan; second is the normalization of relations with Turkey. Only a government with wide popular support, not one created through street violence, can successfully resolve these problems. We will also continue to ask the international community to recognize the Armenian genocide, though this issue should not prevent us from moving forward.

We do not assume that all of our country's ills will be solved through a coalition government. And we will certainly address the expectations of the several thousands of voters who are dissatisfied; we must do so to build consensus. But we must also recognize the expectations of the many more thousands of voters who chose the government that is in power. We will do our utmost to restore public trust in the electoral process and to unite the nation again.

Our priority is to run a transparent government and have a clear agenda, which we will announce. We will fight corruption head-on. We are confident that with the world's help, reason and responsibility will regain the upper hand in Armenia. We have no time to waste -- there is a lot of work to do. Despite recent events, our country is still moving forward. The international community has everything to gain through supporting a stable, transparent and elected government in Armenia.

Serzh Sargsyan, prime minister of Armenia, is chairman of the Republican Party. He is the country's president-elect. Arthur Baghdasaryan, a former speaker of Armenia's parliament, represented the opposition Orinats Yekir (Rule of Law) Party in the February election; he placed third.

March 14, 2008

U. S. Dept. of State Releases 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights

The United Sates Department of State has released its 2007 country reports regarding human rights.

According to its Armenia Report:

The government's human rights record remained poor, and serious problems remained. Citizens were not able to freely change their government; authorities beat pretrial detainees; the National Security Service (NSS) and the national police force acted with impunity; authorities engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention; prison conditions were cramped and unhealthy, although slowly improving; authorities imposed restrictions on citizens' privacy, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. Journalists continued to practice self-censorship, and the government and laws restricted religious freedom. Violence against women and spousal abuse remained problems, as well as trafficking in persons, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and societal harassment of homosexuals. There were reports of forced labor.

Pokr Mher: Let us remember that the report does not cover the February 2008 presidential elections in Armenia nor the events that followed.

European Parliament Condemns Violence Used By Armenian Authorities

Strasbourg, March 13, 2008

In four human rights resolutions adopted at the end of this week's Strasbourg session of the European Parliament, MEPs deplored the violence used by the authorities against opposition demonstrators following presidential elections in both Armenia and Russia. Here is the complete official text:

Violence following the elections in Armenia

In the wake of the presidential elections in Armenia on 19 February, a police crackdown against opposition supporters who were peacefully contesting the results left eight dead and dozens injured. A state of emergency was declared on 1 March and media freedom has been restricted. Parliament's resolution, adopted by 60 votes to 1 with 2 abstentions, deplores the loss of life, urges all parties to act responsibly and calls on the authorities to investigate the violence and take other measures.

The International Election Observation Mission stated that the elections were "administered mostly in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards" but also identified a number of concerns, in particular concerning the media’s commitment to providing impartial information.

In the resolution, Parliament "expresses its concern at recent developments in Armenia" and "calls on all parties to show openness and restraint, to tone down statements and to engage in a constructive and fruitful dialogue aimed at supporting and consolidating the country’s democratic institutions".

Call for inquiry, with punishment for perpetrators of violence

It also calls "for a prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation of the events of 1 March" and "for all those responsible to be brought to justice and punished for misconduct and criminal acts of violence". The Council and Commission should offer EU assistance to help with the investigation.

The Armenian authorities are asked to lift the state of emergency, restore media freedom and take all measures necessary to ensure a return to normalcy. In addition, they are urged "to release citizens detained for exercising their right of peaceful assembly".

EU support for Armenia to improve democracy and rule of law

Parliament points out that the EU's Action Plan with Armenia under the European Neighbourhood Policy covers the strengthening of democratic structures and the rule of law. In this context, it urges the Commission "to focus its assistance to Armenia on the independence of the judiciary and the training of police and security forces" and calls on the Armenian authorities "to implement swiftly all the remaining recommendations made by the International Election Observation Mission".

MEPs urge the Armenian authorities "to cooperate fully with the international community on finding an agreed solution" and they express support for the EU Special Representative to the South Caucasus and the OSCE’s Special Envoy.

Turning to Armenia's conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the resolution "deplores the recent loss of life on the ‘line of control’ during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces" and "calls on all sides to refrain from further violence and to return to the negotiating table".

Lastly, MEPs reiterate "the clear EU commitment to building closer ties with Armenia and the South Caucasus countries" but emphasise that "closer cooperation with the European Union must be based on real and tangible progress and reforms and a full commitment to democracy and the rule of law".

March 11, 2008

Reflections on Recent Events in Armenia

Below is an article that has been circulated in the Diaspora. We reprint it unedited and without comment.

Much has been said and yet not said about the recent presidential election in Armenia .

Protagonists of both sides try to point fingers towards their respective opponents for the tragedy that occurred on March 1, 2008 in the streets of Yerevan resulting in 8 people dead and many wounded. The authorities are in no retreat at all, but in damage control by misinforming the public; at least one leader of the opposition is widening the scope of demands calling for an “international” investigation of what transpired.

Individuals, organisations and church leaders are all in unison in trying to call for sobriety, and underlining the potential of further deterioration that could compromise the security and unity of Armenia itself. Diasporan Armenians are engaged in this process at least by voicing their opinions.

Probably we as a nation (the term loosely used) should not be surprised of what was to come. It was written on the wall and unfortunately we did not have the guts to intervene before it was too late. Hindsight is right it is said, but foresight is much in need specially now.

Blaming this or that faction diverts us from the path that will lead us out of the impasse. The present primary leader of the opposition and the oligarchs ruling the country were in many ways cut from the same cloth. The elections of 1995 were a foretaste of what to come and the present authorities had their first lessons of how to exercise fraudulent and rigged elections then; subsequent occasions served to refine the practice in violation of human rights and deepening the roots of authoritarianism in a fragile country that can survive only and only through the participation of the majority of its people in the process of governance. Unfortunately that was not meant to be and people felt disenfranchised and disempowered

Compared to countries of similar size and emerging from a system of state capitalism on a grand scale, Armenia to its credit registered favorable economic growth. However, the beneficiary was the small elite of oligarchs and kleptocrats. Time and again in subtle and not so subtle ways authorities were cautioned of potential dangers, but they chose to ignore well intentioned advice. Instead they continued their insatiable appetite for more by amassing new fortunes and leaving the vast majority of people to its own skills in poverty. The disparity that ensued bloated the ranks of frustrated people who would express themselves in whatever way whenever an opportunity arose.

Well intentioned Diasporan organizations and individuals since the earthquake and subsequently lent a helping hand in many ways. Caught in fervor of romantic patriotism people prayed, hoped and wished that a new democratic Armenia would evolve - a country that respects human rights and is respected in the international arena. Over the years many intricately laced relations developed. In the course anomalies were noticed. At times some were very critical of how Armenia as a society was shaping. Yet despite that effort overall Diaspora was timid in drawing the line in the sand, forcefully making clear where it stands and what its expectations were. In a sense by being a reluctant bystander it de facto sanctioned ongoing violations of human rights and looting of the bounty.

It’s deplorable to notice that people who were minor partners in the present regime are now talking about introducing changes that would ameliorate the situation in future. They knew very well what was wrong prior to this recent tragedy. They were enjoying having ministers. Where were they prior to this tragedy? Why did they not introduce legislation to prevent what was to come? Now they accept the status quo and extend an olive branch to the authorities. That is pure and simple jockeying to secure positrons in a future government.

Equally deplorable are statements by a person in the government who had earned the respect of many in Armenia and Diaspora. Prior to the elections he made allegations that a particular opposition leader would do anything to get to power. What about the present regime? Isn’t it using all its might, including firing on its own people to remain in power? Why is he remaining silent? Is it a service to secure a position in the next government? Does he buy the Chief Prosecutor’s spokesperson’s denying any shots had been fired by the police?

Over years much has been said about outside interferences and influences in the internal affairs of Armenia . Now, that factor is being twisted in so many ways in order to silence opponents, dissidents and confound the understanding of what’s going on. All what’s left is to declare that so and so has committed treason and is a traitor. It’s an advantage of any authoritarian regime to pull out this or that document from the past and present to the public out of context to prove its point. The regime already had discredited itself in so many ways and its integrity was tarnished prior to the elections that now such measures will fall on deaf ears of many.

Speaking of outside interference, it’s a touchy subject and hard to document. All what can be done by an outside amateur observer is to glean from certain facts and make an educated guess at best. Why a country as small as Armenia boasts of having the largest USA embassy in the CIS countries? Why Armenia needs such a vast land ceded to a foreign jurisdiction, when it processes only a handful of visa applications and other matters in a day? Wasn’t it during this regime that the embassy was built? What’s its purpose?

If history has any advice to us it is resisting outside infiltrations as best as we can. The call for an investigation by international bodies is at best an ill advised measure. It will further intensify and confound the present tense atmosphere and the security of Armenia .

After all said and done it is the responsibility of any country’s government to restore normalcy and it’s an inescapable part of that obligation to take responsibility for whatever crisis. Blaming the opposition is not the route and will lead nowhere. Earnest cooperation is the only venue as long as it is not understood as co-optation.

Dikran Abrahamian BA, MD
March 9, 2008
Ontario, Canada

March 10, 2008

Armenia: Vote Observers More Critical

The following article appeared in the New York Times on March 8, 2008.

By Sabrina Tavernise

An election observation team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a second report on the presidential election that handed an overwhelming victory to the prime minister, delivering a more negative assessment of the Feb. 19 vote and its recount than it initially gave. The report documented numerous cases of violence, including a case in which a domestic observer lost consciousness, and “implausibly high voter turnout” at a number of polling stations. It assessed the vote count at 17 percent of the stations as “bad or very bad” and reported “significant procedural errors,” including placing ballots on the wrong candidate’s pile.

March 09, 2008

Massive Cover-Up of the Facts Taking Place in Armenia

Today, in Armenia, the state authorities are engaged in a massive cover-up of the facts surrounding the events of March 1st. No sane person can deny this reality.

The ruling regime, by declaring a State of Emergency, has proven that it cannot and will not organize an objective, all inclusive, review of what transpired that day which resulted in the death of 8 individuals.

To date, official pronouncements from the State Prosecutor's office deny that law enforcement personnel fired on the protesting crowds. To date, no rational explanation has been given by the government regarding who fired on the crowd. All reports show that those who perished died from gunshot wounds.

There can be no independent inquiry of the facts when the government has effectively blocked any opposing point of view from being heard. The government says it is engaged in such an inquiry but no one, especially the average person on the street, believes that such an examination will be impartial.

Let us put aside, for the moment, all the finger-pointing and name-calling that is rampant in Yerevan today as to who was to blame for letting tensions reach such dangerous levels. The fact remains that people were killed.

The question remains did they have to die?

March 07, 2008

" DARK DAYS IN ARMENIA " - New York Times Editorial

The New York Times editorial of March 7, 2008 has described the present situation in Armenia as a " Brutal State of Emergency ".

Here's the link:

We ask that all of you contact the newspaper and urge that they continue to cover developments in Armenia since the current regime has imposed a blackout of all dissenting news and opinion.!!!!

March 06, 2008

Some Alternative Websites During News Blackout in Armenia

Here are some websites readers can turn to for information regarding developments in Armenia. It's only a partial list of course but we'll add to it when we get more addresses. Please let us know of other sites you might know of. ( VOA - in Armenian )

March 05, 2008


Below is a link to today's Washington Post which published a letter from Levon Ter-Petrosyan regarding events in Armenia:

Armenia's "Bloody Saturday"

(We reprint the following submission to us without comment)

36 years ago on January 30, 1972, British soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilian protestors in the city of Derry, Northern Ireland, who were demonstrating in defense of their civil and political rights. As a result, 26 people were killed. It took the British government decades to objectively review this tragic event and to take ultimate responsibility for what occurred. That day is remembered in contemporary Irish history as “Bloody Sunday”.

In Armenia, on March 1st and into the morning of Sunday, March 2nd, armed troops mercilessly beat and fired upon civilian protestors in the capital city of Yerevan, resulting in scores of injured and 8 civilian deaths. March 1st will be recorded in Armenian history books and in the collective memory of Armenians as “Bloody Saturday”.

On that fateful day in Derry the large Catholic minority were merely demanding equal rights and a stake in the government imposed by England. In Armenia however, the movement we have been witness to over the past two weeks was a much wider and deeper phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, challenging the very legitimacy of the ruling regime. Triggered by another in a series of fraudulent and manipulated presidential elections, a large segment of the populace felt that they had no other recourse but to voice their protest at “politics as usual” through mass public demonstrations.

Sadly, in Armenia, elections are the only formal avenue by which citizens can voice their concerns and discontent. When this only form of expression is effectively stolen from them they are left with no real alternative. Staged elections come and go, the people return to their difficult daily lives, and the governance of the country remains in the hands of those who wield the levers of power. This state of affairs has resulted in a palpable apathy within the majority of the society – a division between the governed and those who govern in their name and supposedly with their best interests at heart. People are disenfranchised from the very state structures that nominally exist to represent them. This has resulted in a lack of confidence that a change of government will improve their lives in a tangible way. Thus many are content with the fact that they have electricity round the clock and that their pensions have risen by a few thousand drams. A mentality reigns that its better to receive such crumbs rather than seek to struggle for a new, truly representative government for such an aim is one based on lofty, invisible principles rather than concrete, visible results. This is the state of political discourse and civic participation in Armenia today. It is personality driven and not based on ideology or conviction.

Whether you like him or not, whether you view him as an ambition-driven cult leader or not, whether you fault him for his past political actions or not, Levon Ter-Petrosyan understood the pent up frustration of the people much better that the authorities and tapped into it. Despite the fact that I wasn’t totally pleased with everything that Levon Ter-Petrosyan and his inner circle did or said during the rallies at Freedom Square, in terms of raising the hopes of the crowds that gathered for ten straight days, he effectively served as the symbolic leader of the movement taking hold. Whatever the statements of the ruling regime to the contrary, those tens of thousands who came to the rallies were not mislead or manipulated in any way. Rest assured that they clearly understood what was at stake and why they had to participate in those public expressions of protest. The absurd statements of the regime’s representatives, in the persons of National Assembly President Tigran Torosyan or Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian, are laughable if they weren’t so tragic.

The government attempts to justify its brutality and repressive measures to squash all freedom of expression and assembly, as set forth by President Kocharyan’s declaration of a State of Emergency, by raising the specter that a coup d’etat was in the works. They attempt to prove this by a handful of guns and metal pipes that were conveniently found at Freedom Square after the army attacked the peaceful crowd gathered there early on the morning on Saturday, March 1st. These “revelations” are all the more puzzling since the Freedom Square rally organizers constantly called for the crowds to remain calm and to refrain from clashes with the police. For ten days straight tens of thousands of Armenians, men, women and children, both rallied and marched through the streets of Yerevan without incident. What then triggered the bloodletting that occurred on March 1st?

The ruling regime, naturally, seeks to portray the demonstrators as people who were mislead and manipulated by a few populist demagogues. It would be folly for them to actually accept the fact that in the country they have ridden roughshod over for the past ten years there exist deep social cleavages. Their attempts to discredit ordinary Armenian citizens for openly expressing their concerns border on the ridiculous and merely serve to expose the contempt in which they hold the average citizen of Armenia. Then there are the armchair political commentators and social psychologists who spew out the standard rhetoric of a “psychology of the masses”. Of course Levon Ter-Petrosyan is blamed for stirring up the most base and primitive emotions in the people which ultimately led to the carnage and destruction of March 1st. No where, at least that I have seen, do they speak of the mentality that drove the ruling regime to resort to the actions that it felt necessary to take in the end, the “psychology of the besieged”. Hold up in their well barricaded institutions of power, the authorities fully realized what was developing in the streets of Yerevan. Their authority to rule was actually being challenged and in the end this was unacceptable. It did not matter that the movement was peaceful and sought to merely have the rigged presidential election declared null and void. Such a movement, if allowed to grow and develop, questioned the regime’s legitimacy and threatened its continued hold over the country. The regime had everything to lose and used all the means at its disposal to crush the movement in its tracks. It lashed out with its full force and left the protestors with no alternative but to defend themselves. It remains to be seen what role the government actually played in instigating and organizing the looting of a few stores that occurred in the melee. Clearly, the facts of what actually took place and who were responsible cannot be exposed given the current news blackout imposed by the regime.

That this was a popular movement larger than the personality of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and encompassing more than simple frustration regarding the February 19th elections must be clear to all. Those who lament the fact that Armenians came to blows with fellow Armenians or that such events only bring shame upon the nation need to open their eyes to the realities that surround them and to free themselves from such outdated stereotypical illusions. Contrary to the absurd proclamations made by Parliament Speaker Torosyan, such social and political processes have occurred in the historical development of many nations that are now held up as shining beacons of civilization and democracy. The French Revolution had it numerous beheadings of royalty, the civil rights movement in the United States was not totally peaceful and majority-rule in South Africa wasn’t achieved merely by sit-down strikes.

The illusion that Armenians are content to bow their heads before those who seek to violate their basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has once and for all been shattered by the thousands of ordinary Armenians who displayed the personal courage and determination to take the streets. Today, there are tanks and armed soldiers patrolling those same streets. If anything positive is to result from all that has transpired, those same people and thousands more will once again fill the streets resolute that their renewed struggle will finally create the conditions for true democracy to take hold in Armenia.

Personal Reflections of a Resident Spyurkahye
March 5, 2008