Thursday, 3 April 2008

Sargis Hatspanian: “This year spring did not come to Armenia” (eyewitness account - 1 March, Liberty sq, Yerevan)

I received Sargis Hatspanian diary via email from a reader of this blog. I was assured and various signs suggest that this diary is genuine and does belong to Sargis. In there he describes his ordeal and provides detailed eyewitness account of police violent crackdown on peaceful protesters - many of them still asleep in their tents - early morning 1 March in Liberty sq.

Sargis Hatspanian was born in Turkey. He is a French citizen and has been living in Armenia since the early 90s. He is a Karabakh war veteran. He voiced his support for Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan and has been an active participant of opposition movement evolved in Yerevan Liberty sq.

On 27 February 2008 police representatives tried to take him to a police station for questioning, supposedly for “for his interference in Armenia’s political life”. However, their attempt was unsuccessful due to intervention by opposition and human rights activists, as well as his refusal based on foreign citizenship. Noyan Tapan reports that “he made a speech in front of the supporters of Levon Ter-Petrosian and participants of opposition movement gathered in Liberty sq before that and introduced his motivations for joining the movement. He also stated that he has become aware of the fact that the RA Police has planed his detention. In this respect Sargis Hatspanian declared that he "was put into prison in France, Germany, Turkey" for his position devoted to his nation "and is now ready to be put to prison for the same position in Armenia as well."

As Sargis Hatspanian mentioned in “Introduction”, his actual diaries chronicling daily events in Liberty sq (20 February – 1 March) were lost/burnt down or got confiscated by police during the dispersal. In this new diary written on 5 March 2008, he describes police brutality in such an emotional way that only a person been there could express, and only a person who is devoted to his motherland could express.

What makes this eyewitness account remarkable is not just persona of Sargis Hatspanian, Karabakh war veteran and well known public figure in Armenia and Diaspora, but the readiness expressed by the author to testify before an independent inquiry (if that ever happens).

He is in hiding now.

I am publishing below those pages from his diary which relate directly to the early morning events of 1 March 2008, Liberty sq, Yerevan. Diary is handwritten in Armenian. Click on pages to read (English titles of pages – mine, based on their content).

Page 1 – “Intro”

Page 11 – “Alarming call and disbelief”

Page 12 – “Wake-up, Sargis…”

Pages 13, 14 – “Police brutality” – “Ready to testify”

Pages 15, 16 – “I thought Ter-Petrosyan was killed” – “The end”

Page 17, last page – “This year spring did not come to Armenia”

*photo of Sargis Hatspanian - by Onnik Krikorian/Oneworld Multimedia 2008


Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

Translation pt. 1 up:

artmika said...

Armen, thank you so much for thoughtfully (with your introductions, copied below) presenting an English version of a published diary.

Part 1

"Here is yet another extraordinary document coming out from Armenia. It is a hand-written account--hand written, mind you--of the events of March 1st by an Armenian intellectual, war veteran, and political prisoner in three different countries, and one who is today in hiding for fear of arrest and god knows what else. If you've ever imagined what it would have been like to have participated in those demonstrations between February 20th and March 1st, when like-minded people for ten days lived side-by-side in tents in Liberty Plaza for the sake of the common cause of freedom, decency, and the rule of law, the kinds of public political gatherings that make one aware of the possibilities accessible to us, real people in the world, and then to have come-to, after a police beating, lying on the ground, thinking that you're floating and that all is lost, and feeling that the police are going to be taking you to your certain death, then this is an answer to your questions. He lived through this. More power to Unzipped for publishing this, and you can find the photographs of the original documents there."

Part 2

"This is the second part of Sarkiss Hatspanian's chronicle. My opinion about its authorship is that he probably did write it. It has a certain, unmistakable quality, style-wise, that belongs to the Armenian school of writers in the France of the 1920s and 30s that Hatspanian is no doubt very familiar with. There are passages in his writing, for example, where he strings together present participle, continuous action verbs set in the past that evokes a dream-like quality so distinct that only people with his background could have written it. And as far as I know there are no other people like that there who, on top of that, would be aware of all the details about the war, the protest, and Armenia in general that he as a long-time resident is privy to. So, yes, he wrote it.

But the literary quality not only helps establish the piece's authorship, it puts the piece's status as a chronicle into question. I'm not saying that what it says happened, didn't happen. On the contrary, I don't think there is one made-up thing in there. What I am saying is that, strictly in terms of identifying its genre, you can't call it a chronicle because it is also a work of art. It's a work of art in its plotting, which follows the classical realist novel's progression from an initial, happy state, to something happening that throws everything into disorder, to some meaningful occurrence (the hero or heroine "learns something" as the middle class always likes to point out on yahoo book reviews) that resolves the conflict and re-establishes some kind of stability, good or bad. Hatspanian's anticipates a tragic end, but has to stop with him on the way to his fate because, of course, the piece is a chronicle, too.

It's also a work of art in its characterization: he takes one essential thing about a person and characterizes them that way: the young men saying they'll defend him but being a little naive, ironically so; L.T.P. shown walking with and talking to the people; the soldiers falling on their knees after they're allowed to stop beating (and it's particularly significant that they kill a young man, just like themselves); the shefs, ignorant, mean spirited, and pathetic. The figurative language that it uses sparingly is quite beautiful, too; when he describes the sun dimming, for example (I mean the description is beautiful, not the event, of course), or when he talks about the desire to be freed from the earth where the sacrifice has taken place, an idea which has philosophical implications. I'm not saying Sarkiss Hatspanian is another, I don't know, Balzac (or maybe he is more than a Balzac--such a judgment can't be based on one short piece), but he has taken a moment in history and pointed out its essential meaning, very artfully and very elegantly. Not everybody can do that, and that is why this piece is special. And again, everything it says happened, happened, and, too boot, he is willing to testify in a court of law.

There is a kind of inspiration in the air, driving Armenians to realize extraordinary things, in politics, in art, and in daily life. Hatspanian's piece is one of its results. And, yes, I think Levon Ter Petrossian has been a key part of this rebirth. The conditions necessary for this Renaissance that is about to flower take a very long time to develop. L. Ter Petrossian is not responsible for them; he, himself, in fact, is their product. What he did do, however, is pull the trigger, particularly through his speeches--just like Obama. The coincidence is rather amazing, but we'll get to that."

Anonymous said...

Bravo Sargis. I have heard him speak a couple of times before the elections and the sit-in in Libertty square. Even then he was saying what he later repeated in Liberty square.
He remains a hero all the time. And his manuscript is and will be apiece of Armenian history for Liberation struggle.
I would like it to be published in many newspapers here and in other counttries so that people who still hesitate in events of March 1 see their the full picture of the clan.

artmika said...

French-Armenian oppositionist and Karabakh war veteran Sargis Hatspanian faces deportation from Armenia