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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Another ‘sign’?..

Writing about the first authorised rally after the state of emergency, I speculated that this could possibly be considered “a first - albeit small but indicative - sign of upcoming changes”. I think the rally was pretty successful in what it aimed to achieve. Turn out was reasonable for the occasion: according to various estimates, from few thousands to 7-10 thousands (ArmInfo and Lragir). There were even songs and dances reminiscent to February post-election rallies in Liberty sq. Rally was led by women – wives of political prisoners. One of the most emotionally touching speeches came from Melissa Brown, wife of detained former Foreign Minister and prominent opposition figure Alexander Arzumanyan, who described daily life ‘routines’ of wives of political prisoners (in Armenian):

Մարտի 1-ի դեպքերից հետո կալանավորված Ալեքսանդր Արզումանյանի կինը` Մելիսա Բրաունն այսօր Մանկական այգում տեղի ունեցած հանրահավաքի ընթացքում մանրամասնեց այն կնոջ օրը, որի ամուսինն այսօր կալանավորված է իր քաղաքական հայացքների համար, այսինքն` քաղբանտարկյալ է:

՚Մենք բոլորս բարեկամներ ենք: Քաղբանտարկյալի կինը ամեն օր արթնանում է, պաստառ է պատրաստում կամ նամակ գրում, հետո երեխային տանում է դպրոց կամ մանկապարտեզ եւ վազում աշխատանքի, քանի որ տունն ինքն է պահում: Աշխատանքի վայրում էլ մի փոքր միտինգ է անցկացնում, այնտեղից էլ վազում է Հյուսիսային պողոտա եւ սպասում իր ամուսնու հետ հանդիպման: Հանդիպման օրն էլ գնում է բանտ` 7 ժամ սպասում է, որ իր ամուսնու հետ 1 ժամ զրուցիՙ,- իր խոսքը հայերենով սկսեց եւ ավարտեց տիկին Բրաունը: Հավաքված կանայք շարունակեցին նրա խոսքը. ՚Պայքար, պայքար մինչեւ վերջՙ:

Interestingly, according to reports from Yerevan, Public TV's main information programme Haylur - for the first time in ages - showed proper footage from the rally (not their usual "handful of people" before and after the rally), without biased reporting.

I am not ready yet to say that this is perhaps another sign of upcoming changes, but interesting nevertheless.

*photos via IA Regnum

13 comments:

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

The change has already happened. In Armenia, it happened the day the Electoral Commission validated the election results and Levon Ter-Petrossian took the microphone at Liberty Square and made the simple statement: "This has no bearing on our movement; our movement continues."

And with that brilliantly matter-of-fact statement Ter-Petrossian ushered in Spring. Spring, after a winter that lasted almost a century, a winter that the Armenian culture spent in hibernation.

Now the lion has come out of its cave and heard first the cry of the eagle high above...

And it's fitting that the hope that Kocharian tried to strangle with his tyranny should thus be nurtured back into vibrant health by the Armenian woman. This kind of feminism that can move mountains, you need a microscope to find in "the West."

grigor sargsyan said...

wow, I didn't know Levon's camp is full of poets. I only hope that Levon camp will use that kind of language next time around. Of course using isn't enough, but at least they would become more pleasant to the people in the middle. I personally would prefer less self-praising and no use of words like ``tyranny", but nonetheless, such posts are more pleasant than what we were getting some time ago from Levon's camp.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Myself and another journalist estimated those in attendance at as many as 3,000. However, I'll reserve judgment until I see other reports. For now, though, given the small asphalted area where people were gathered, 7-10,000 sounds way too many. I might have been ready to consider 5,000 with some reservations, but unless thousands turned up in the last 30 minutes when I wasn't there, I find anything more than that hard to consider. Still, I'll speak again to E-Channel (who also estimated 3,000 when I was there, at least) to see what figure they finally settled on.

reflective said...

grigor - this is exactly why any opposition movement would serve itself well to jettison the old hacks (Levon, Nikol) and evolve the nice rhetoric into some policies, led by new (not discredited) leaders.

Until then, these couple of thousand people will make no difference, not gain any momentum, and will be seen by the people as sour-grape complainers who lost out in the power struggle.

Onnik Krikorian said...

I just spoke with Internews / E-Channel and they say 2-3,000 people which is pretty much my estimation. Moreover, I have some concerns with the ArmInfo article / opposition claims in general.

Chairman of Levon Ter-Petrosyan's election headquarters, his former
press-secretary Levon Zurabyan said that when the rally started
electric power was switched off for 30 minutes, and now they have to
continue the rally for 30 minutes.


This isn't true. I got there at a few minutes after 3 when the rally was officially meant to start and there WAS electricity. Indeed, you can see that there was from the timestamps on some of my photos on Flickr.

People were talking through microphones when I started taking photos at about 3.10. However, there was a technical glitch and the sound went out for about 10 minutes until the organizers fixed the problem.

However, it was their technical problem and one can suppose that the rally should have therefore finished at 5pm and the organizers had no right to extend it. Didn't stay for the march (I was initially told there wouldn't be one when I left at 4.30) but there was no police presence at the demo.

There were however, police waiting just in case off Republic Square and by the Opera.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Reflective, I would be very happy if the radical opposition movement somehow turned into a pro-democracy movement not supporting any candidate but human and civil rights. While that would require new figures from all political walks of life, we can but hope.

Anonymous said...

Hey Onnik and other fence-sitters..

How do you expect the opposition to rally when all the leaders are in jail?? You people make me sick with your constant claims that the "radical opposition" is undemocratic, blah-blah....Many still see LTP as the figurehead around which to rally right now...
You can complain all you like but this is the reality of the political landscape in Armenian today.The movement will create new leaders if the regime doesn't jail them before they have a chance to prove their merits...

Onnik Krikorian said...

Anonymous, in a democracy people are allowed to choose their political positions, including not supporting this or that candidate.

However, your attack is once again representative of the knee-jerk reaction to people expressing their legal and democratic right to their own opinion.

This is why I do not see the movement led by Ter-Petrossian as a pro-democracy one. It is merely an anti-Sargsyan one mainly led by a former president who started Armenia's decline into authoritarianism.

As for "many" seeing Ter-Petrossian as the figure around which to rally, I'd suggest that the term is subjective. For sure it is not the majority of Armenians. Otherwise, when the leaders weren't in jail and able to do and say all they pleased they would have amassed hundreds and NOT tens of thousands in Liberty Square.

Anyway, long and the short of it is that until you guys show some tolerance for other people's opinions, claims that you represent anything remotely democratic are suspect at best.

As Alcee Hastings noted at last week's U.S. Helsinki Commission Hearing:

All of us note that Mr. Ter-Petrossian and his followers complained bitterly about Mr. Kocharian and Sargsyan and accused them of rigging elections and authoritarianism and corruption.

Now, one need not live but just a little while to remember the 1996 election, and the acknowledgement of the then internal minister that the election results were rigged, which by any logic would question the moral authority of Mr. Petrossian to raise question about rigged elections.


Anyway, I am allowed to express my opinion which is simply that if Ter-Petrossian is the only individual that the opposition can present to the electorate then god help us all. The constant personal attacks, abuse and intolerance shows it to be just the same as what it seeks to replace.

That's my opinion and your comment merely reinforces it. When that attitude changes then perhaps I can consider the movement in a more positive light. Certainly, a less emotive attempt to put your arguments forward might be a good first step.

Onnik Krikorian said...

It's also worth pointing out that Ter-Petrossian is just as responsible for the political system and new leaders as Kocharian and Sargsyan. Ter-Petrossian also set the precedent for banning political parties and jailing opponents. Please, let's get back to some sense of reality.

reflective said...

Onnik - it is worse than how you put it. To paraphrase Vazgen Manukyan from a few days ago: I have seen Ter-Petrosyan's presidency, and it was awful. I still have not witnessed Serj Sargsyan's.

While one *can* argue about the relative merits and/or detriments of the LTP or Kocharyan administrations, we have yet to see the good and the bad of Sargsyan's administration.

Cautious optimism is how one blogger put it; wait-and-see may be more prevalent. *This* is the reality of the political landscape today in Armenia, anonymous.

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

And what kind of an effect did 21 days of an illegally imposed State of Emergency have on your freedom of speech as a journalist and blogger, Onnik-jan?

Don't you think, then, that it is at least a little bit ironic that you would accuse a mere commenter on a blog of trying to take away your freedom of speech?

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

"Reflective" paraphrased Manukyan: "I have seen Ter-Petrosyan's presidency, and it was awful. I still have not witnessed Serj Sargsyan's."

That statement has a hidden premise that needs to be made explicit. The hidden premise is the following: There is no connection between Kocharian and Sargsyan.

Since we all know that that is patently false, we can put that baby to bed--albeit with the full expectation that it will whine repetitively all night long.

grigor sargsyan said...

[...]Reflective, I would be very happy if the radical opposition movement somehow turned into a pro-democracy movement not supporting any candidate but human and civil rights.[...]

I too would love to see this happening. It is, however, one of the saddest truths of our times that both opposition and the government somehow don't want this.

This is what I could never understand. Why is it that our government doesn't understand that being pro-civil liberties and pro-human rights would only benefit them? It is a mystery that they missed the trivial truth that if you treat others well you will also be treated well. Instead they came out and made outrageous comments hinting that we should sacrifice civil liberties and human rights at the expanse of security and stability. Why cannot the two co-exist? Why cannot the country be secure and stable and be pro human rights and pro civil liberties. At any rate, as much as I would like too see the emergence of a truly independent movement like the one lead by MLK or Ghandy, I think even without it there is a chance to improve. Both parties, the opposition and the government, have to understand that they will only profit if they create a society in which civil liberties are not violated so often and in which human rights are being vigorously defended. In such a society they will only make more bucks (which is what they want to do) and there won't be anyone calling them tyrants and etc (so they can sleep well at nights).

Eh, vek zivi, vek uchis, as the Russians say.