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Hrant Gadarigian

Yerevan Calling: Joint Opposition Rally Attracts Thousands; and More Random Musings

Oct. 10 – Regime Change Once Again; Opposition Parties Stage Joint Rally Skimpy on Specifics

Thousand packed Liberty Square in Yerevan this evening to hear representatives of three parliamentary opposition parties (ANC, Heritage and Prosperous Armenia) call for regime change in Armenia.

There were few, if any specifics, on how they planned to achieve this.

The demonstration was the largest in recent memory and the crowd appeared ready to storm the presidential palace if given the order from the dais.

I’ll cut through the rhetoric and make this short.

The original justification for the rally was the 12-point list of demands the opposition had filed with the government calling on it to make immediate reforms on a number of socio-economic and political issues. But the rally went far beyond in its scope.

Regime change was placed on the agenda as the primary objective.

After Raffi Hovannesian (Heritage Party leader) tool the microphone and called on the people to keep their “leaders” accountable, the second bigwig took the stage – Gagik Tsaroukyan, who heads the Prosperous Armenia Party.

The ARF chose not to participate even though it is one of the nominal opposition “quartet” in the National Assembly.

The crowd went wild, cheering and applauding this former arm wrestling champ and major businessman, as if he was the second coming of Christ, J. Paul Getty and John F. Kennedy all rolled into one.

It merely reinforced my view that many in Armenia are looking for a savior, a man with doukh (cojones) and the power to take on Serzh Sargsyan and his circle of cronies.

In a well-staged tactic to keep the people coming back to the next rally (and there will be more) the barrel-chested Tsaroukyan said he would answer all the people’s questions at the next demonstration.

It was then time for Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan (LTP) to take the stage in his role as the avuncular statesman and intellectual.

Usually LTP has a tendency to drag on with a detailed analysis of the country’s situation - from domestic policy to foreign affairs and everything in between.

Luckily, he kept his statement short. In a nutshell, he declared the launch of a new popular movement to be spearheaded by the parties on the stage.

The ultimate goal will be regime change via constitutional means – public rallies, sit-down strikes, pickets, etc. I didn’t hear him use the phrase “civil disobedience”.

As in the past, I walked away with more questions than answers. Once again, this appears to be a top down program with little room for popular initiative. LTP dais as much himself – “Follow our leadership and do not stray from the path.”

Despite the calls from the party leaders for unity between the politicos and the people, I don’t see how this latest “movement” will differ from previous ones.

The same tired faces on the dais with little new to offer the people down below.

Oct. 8 – Opposition Parties Stage Rally in Gyumri …Deja-Vu Again

Three opposition political parties (Heritage, ANC, and Prosperous Armenia) staged a joint rally in Armenia’s second largest city – Gyumri. The rally, held in a city that voted overwhelming for Heritage Party leader in last year’s presidential election, was a lead-up to a rally scheduled for Yerevan on Friday.

Combined, they have 47 deputies in the National Assembly. The two other nominal opposition parties, ARF and Rule of Law (5 MPS) each are a no-show.

The several thousand people who showed up were again showered with the same old tired rhetoric – the country is going to hell in a hand basket, the authorities are cowering in their boots, the opposition is going all out for regime change, etc.

In fact, Heritage Party spokesman Armen Martirosyan promised the crowd that the opposition would follow the same path towards regime change as last year, which failed miserably.

Don’t these guys listen to themselves before speaking from a public podium? You couldn’t come up with a bigger rhetorical blunder if you sat down and tried. It’s as if these opposition leaders merely pull out a bunch of well-worn phrases from past speeches and automatically repeat them. Reminds me of certain priests who can ad lib sermons on whatever the topic of the day might be – love, faith, living a Christian life. They’ve said it all before on countless occasions.

No one mentioned exactly how they envisaged achieving regime change. Not even a vague reference to tactics.

I expect the people will be “privileged” to hear the same on Friday in Yerevan.

Oct. 9 – Dashnaks Make Demands Re: Syria; A Case of “World Player” Delusions?

You really have to give chutzpah points to the ARF party in Armenia. Reading a statement the Dashnaks released today on events in Syria, one truly understands how delusional they are.

After claiming that Turkey is planning to “capture northern Syria”, the ARF declares “its solidarity with all forces resisting” such Turkish aggression and “demands” that the international community take all measures to halt such aggression and guarantee the safety of the peaceful population.

Let’s get real here folks. Does the ARF actually believe anyone takes the party seriously when it comes to pontificating on international affairs and making demands on the world stage? It’s laughable.

The ARF only has a support base of 5-6% of the electorate in Armenia. Outside Armenia, the party has long ago been relegated to a community-based group that organizes dinner parties, cultural events and the odd political forum. In Syria, where the party once played a minor political role, its structure has been nearly demolished as a consequence of the civil war. Its last bastion of political influence in state governance remains in Lebanon, but that too has degraded over the past decades. The same can probably be said for its political role in Iran.

Nevertheless, the party bravely puts on the face of a player in world politics. My advice is that it should stick to issues closer at home – Outside Armenia lobbying and organizing April 24 demonstrations; in Armenia – confronting the socio-economic problems of the country.

To do otherwise for an organization calling itself the Armenian “Revolutionary” Federation sounds somewhat presumptuous. (Or is the word I’m looking for pretentious)

Oct. 6 – First Chess, Now Mandatory Robotic Classes to Spur Innovation

The head of Armenia’s Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE) told reporters over the weekend that robotics study groups will be launched in all schools in Yerevan at a cost of US$5-6 million.

The program, aptly called “Robotics Starts from School” has yet to be approved by the government.

UITE Director Karen Vardanyan said the aim is to make robotics a mandatory class, like chess.

Now, I’m for getting students interested in science, and tinkering with robots might be a good way to get them interested, but what’s with the mandatory part of the equation.

The core question that needs asking is whether the current educational system in Armenia, from grade 1 to college, engenders innovative thinking.

My cursory familiarity with schools in Armenia, apart from a handful, leads me to believe that they are   merely seen by educators and instructors alike as “exam factories” where rote instruction is the name of the game.

Does chess engender innovative thinking – probably; but this is merely on the individual level.

Innovation, in the sciences and technical fields especially, requires a team approach, and this too seems absent in Armenia’s schools.

It’s a top down system where the students sit, take notes, and regurgitate what they’ve been taught. Straying from the accepted syllabus is regarded as a no-no.

So, launch all the robotics classes you can, if the overall educational environment remains closed and highly regimented, averse to diversity of thought and opinion, innovation seems a distant possibility.

I have no objections to teaching robotics, but when learning itself remains a highly “robotized” processsuch an initiative will remain yet another glitzy public relations stunt looking better on paper than in practice.

Oct. 6 – Government Decrees Airport Screening for Ebola; Track Record Not Encouraging

While not wishing to plug Hetq, I must point out a very interesting and potentially disturbing article that we published regarding the potential risk that the Ebola virus poses to Armenia.

Recently, the Armenian government stated that it has imposed a ban on certain animals (primates, duikers, bats and hairy pigs) from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria – countries now battling against the Ebola virus.

You may ask so what’s all the fuss about; these are just valid preventative measures, right?

It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Hetq readers may remember a recent series of articles regarding Armenia’s role in the worldwide illegal trade of endangered animals. It turns out that certain species of animals have been imported to Armenia from several African countries now affected by the deadly Ebola virus.

And the importation, as far as we can gather, took place unbeknownst to a variety of Armenian agencies that are supposed to monitor such transactions.

I’m being overly kind here to the Armenian agencies mandated with monitoring the importation of animals.

Hetq has revealed that a total of 66 primates have been brought into Armenia, from the DRC and elsewhere in Africa, that were never registered with the Veterinary Department of the Food Safety Inspectorate.  Never registered means they were never monitored.

So now we are to believe the government’s assurance that all animals posing a health risk will be screened for the Ebola virus and quarantined if warranted.

Given the past track record of these agencies, I’m hard pressed to take them at their word.

(Hrant Gadarigian is the editor/translator of Hetq's English section)

Comments (1)

I wish the ARF could come back to reality a bit. They have great ideals and a lot of dedication to the Armenian people but they need a dose of reality. They should join ranks with Heritage & ANC party and push for change. I don't understand what Heritage and ANC are doing with Dodi Gago's Prosperous Armenia. This is the last guy we should have ruling Armenia. He is as corrupt or maybe even worse then the current heads of state. At least the folks at the top at the moment like Serzh and Robert seem to be intelligent human beings. Gago is just a thug and the sooner he is gone from Armenian politics the better it will be for all of us. Unfortunately, Raffi screwed up the last election and there isn't any strong candidate we can look for. I hope to God it's not Dodi Gago who takes control of our country in the future.

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