The face of Ararat Arzoumanyan, a second year international relations student at Yerevan State University (YSU), has been splashed in the pages of the press and internet of late.
Arzoumanyan was at the center of an incident that took place between striking students and the YSU administration on February 27. The student was caught on film hurling curses at the strikers assembled outside the school.
Arzoumanyan was one of a group of students from Akhalkalak that Gevorg Melkonyan, Assistant to the YSU Rector, called upon to square-off against the strikers.
Hetq caught up with Ararat Arzoumanyan and asked him the following.
Ararat, some people say you were used by the YSU administration, while others noted that your behaviour that day was unacceptable. What exactly happened?
I was talking to Tigran, one of the strike organizers. I wanted him to point out that girl who has giving us the middle finger. I demanded to know who that gesture was directed towards. Tigran said he didn’t know and that the group assumed no responsibility for it. At that moment on of our friends joined the conversation and said that if such girls exist they should be ashamed for the “milk they have drunk”. In response, one of the strikers said that he would take that milk and pour it on our heads. The video footage erased that first part. What they presented was pure provocation to turn Akhalkalak people against each other. If you look closely at the video, you will note that I am making urging the students not to get into a fight. I said that I would shut the mouth of anyone who tries to curse again. Imagine just how much they got me riled up to say something like that.
How did you show up at the center of the incident? Were you called or was it by accident?
No, it wasn’t by accident. We knew about the strike and how they came to the school. We came out to say that we wouldn’t join the strike. What’s the problem in that?
I am a student. So what if I’m from Javakhk? Don’t I have the right to express my opinion? We were against that strike. We stood there peacefully. No one told us to go out there and oppose the strike.
So what did the rector’s assistant mean when he called for the Akhalkalak guys to come out?
At the time, there was a clash with the strikers. The assistant called for the police and Akhalkalak students to divide the two sides. It just came across differently. The videos were edited in such a way to make it seem that he was calling for the Akhalkalak army to come to the rescue.
So what were you doing outside if you opposed the strike? Why weren’t you in the classroom?
I requested that all our boys stay inside and attend class. Otherwise, there would have been 1,000 students outside opposing the strike. It’s just that some of us were between classes and were outside. There were only 5-6 Akhalkalak students.
Do you believe the election was free and fair? Is that why you opposed the strike?
I am not a citizen of Armenia and thus do not presume the right to offer an evaluation of the election.
After the incident, you were castigated by many Javakhk Armenians for putting them to shame. How would you answer this charge?
Those who make such a charge should look in the mirror and ask what they have done for Akhalkalak.
I have done my fair share. I participated in the demonstration outside the U.N. office in Yerevan calling for the publishing of Armenian books and for the teaching of Armenian history lessons in Javakhk. I took part in the demonstration outside the Georgian Embassy. I have friends who were present at the incident. I call on them not to believe what the uninformed are now saying.
Do you regret that such an incident took place?
I regret it to the extent that I didn’t control myself at the time. However, when people are cursing at you, it’s hard to control oneself, no matter how many cameras are recording the incident. I am happy that I didn’t mouth other curses.
Yes the expression that I used, “get the hell out”, is regarded as a curse word by many. In our dialect, a friend can say it to another friend.
We are trying to get our hands on a video of the entire incident in order to show people what the other side was saying. We haven’t located such a video as yet.
That expression of mine was directed at those girls in the strikers, who shamed the depiction of an Armenian woman and gave the middle finger outside the YSU.
Photo: Sona Simonyan