Monday, 24 September

Raffi’s Hunger Strike Throws HAK, Regime, Off Balance

After Visiting Freedom Square around the Opera, you really can't avoid the zurna-dhol music blasting from the attraction ride not 10 meters away from where Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian is sitting on a bench, deep into his "fast for freedom".

The clamour sounds like a saw cutting wood. Stand there for just a few minutes and your brain feels like it is being sawed into pieces.

I know that Raffi can go without food but this grating noise is something else. The police haven't let him set up a small tent to ward away the night chill. They just say no – end of story. Naturally, the decision wasn't theirs to make. The president of the country was involved in the decision – tent or no tent. Talk about screwed up priorities.

After declaring his hunger strike, Raffi first became a prime enemy of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and only later that of the authorities as well.

Hovannisian's move threw HAK and the regime into an unexpected tailspin. No wonder the press controlled by both have seen fit to rip Raffi to pieces.

Levon Ter-Petrosian just cannot tolerate a situation in which he isn't the main attraction or player. The first president believes that naturally he should be the one held up as the hero of Freedom Square. Now, all this has been turned upside down. So much so, that Ter-Petrosian doesn't even contemplate visiting Raffi. Ter-Petrosian has more important affairs to attend to. He is paving the way to the parliament, to the business market.

I stood in the square, off to one side, and watched the people walking up to Raffi. You could say the flow was constant. Raffi's son was sitting on the bench reading something to his father. The clumps of visitors here and there seemed to be discussing this and that. In the noisiest group, I could make out a former guard from the Writers' Union. His voice was even drowning out the clamour emanating from the nearby attraction.

Two individuals in a group of young people were having a heated conversation.

"...Hey man, Levon ain't the one to organize a revolution. He'll flee the scene just like on March 1, 2008. Why would the leader of a revolution flee, can you tell me? And now he's come back and says the same thing, that there'll be one very shortly. Last time you said it would happen on March 17 and now you say in April. So don't mention Levon's name to me. Now he is saying that Raffi has made a mistake. OK, let's accept that Raffi has done wrong. But there are all those political prisoners. Levon should have gone on hunger strike. Why didn't he? He should have gone on hunger strike for Nikol. I am pointing out the way. Let Demirchian, Aram, Hovhannes Hovhannisyan and the others go on hunger strike. I'll follow them and strike. OK, will you be doing anything? Or are you just bringing these hungry people here and then telling them to go home?"

The other guy answered his friend by saying.

"You're talking nonsense. That's not a path leading anywhere. Hunger strikes don't accomplish anything. Levon knows that full well. Step by step, we will weaken the regime and we'll throw them out in one quick move. Now, there are rumours going around that Levon is cooperating with the authorities. They said so here. Man, how can you picture cooperating with criminals?"

They continued the back and forth debate. But I had to leave. I couldn't stand that damn zurna-dhol racket anymore.

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