13:49, February 26, 2018
To the mayors of Volgograd, Stavropol, Nice, Rostov-on-Don, Antananarivo, Beirut, Bratislava, Isfahan, Carrara, Los Angeles, Cambridge, Chisinau, Marseille, Tbilisi, Buenos Ayres, Montreal, Odessa, Sao Paolo, Venice, Riga, Amman, Novosibirsk and Antony
CC: Ambassadors and/or honorary consuls of Russia, France, Lebanon, Slovakia, Iran, Italy, USA, Ukraine, Brazil, Latvia, Jordan in Armenia
CC: Local media outlets of Volgograd, Stavropol, Nice, Rostov-on-Don, Antananarivo, Beirut, Bratislava, Isfahan, Carrara, Los Angeles, Cambridge, Chisinau, Marseille, Tbilisi, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Odessa, Sao Paolo, Venice, Riga, Amman, Novosibirsk and Antony
The website of the Yerevan municipality, capital of the Republic of Armenia, states that your city is one of Yerevan’s twin cities. The municipalities of the two cities have signed an agreement of friendship, partnership and mutual support.
On February 13th, 2018, unprecedented public violence was perpetuated against 2 oppositional members of the Council of Yerevan at the council meeting chaired by mayor Taron Margarian. Marina Khachatryan and Sona Aghekyan of “Yerkir Tsirani” oppositional party intended to draw the attention of the municipal council and particularly Mayor Taron Margarian on the years-long neglected issue of the residents of Nubarashen District. At the request of fellow citizens, in glass jars they brought samples of the sewer water that was leaking from inside the prison of Nubarashen into the residential areas spreading intolerable odor. The aim was that the council members and the mayor temporarily feel the dire conditions in which the residents of the prison and the residential district lived in and to temporarily give a solution to the long-standing issue. At the herding of Mayor Taron Margaryan, other male council members and staff of the municipality (including Artur Gevorkyan, Davit Ohanyan, Sergey Mkrtchyan, Hovhannes Avanesyan, Edmond Kirakosyan, Vaspurak Martirosyan, Gor Vardanyan) literally assaulted Marina Khachatryan and Sona Aghekian, publicly beat them, manhandled them, threatened and used sexual swear words against them, exerted sexual abuse and other forms of violence.
Not only did mayor Taron Margarian not assume responsibility for the violence perpetuated at his command and in his presence, but he subsequently continued exercising various administrative repressions against the oppositional women council members. After the violent incident, the municipality has also decided from now on to illegally restrain and bar the presence of media at municipal council meetings.
10 days have passed after the perpetrated violence, however the Republican Party holding majority seats both at the municipal council and in the parliament of Armenia, has not condemned the violence. On the contrary, it has justified the brutal acts blaming the women council members and making uttery sexist statements. Some media outlets also continue publishing articles directly justifying gender-based violence and sexism.
Armenia’s law enforcement bodies reacted to the acts of violence with a great delay under the influence of public outcry and demand. The criminal investigation will be held under Articles of the Criminal Code of Armenia implying mildest publishment.
With this open letter, we, the undersigned, are pleading with you to unilaterally sever or suspend the agreement of friendship signed with the Municipality of Yerevan until the perpetrators of violence and the incumbent mayor Taron Margaryan are held responsible and the current municipal council is changed. Having a sister-city with a violent and corrupt mayor and council members does no honor to the administration and population of any city, therefore with call upon you to share our concern and renounce cooperating with a structure perpetrating violence.
Vanadzor Citizen’s Assembly, NGO
Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri Municipal Council member
Women’s Rights House, NGO
Women’s Support Center, NGO
Society Without Violence, NGO
Real World, Real People, NGO
Mayranush Davtryan Gevorgyan
For Equal Rights, NGO
“Women in Black, Armenia” Initiative
Women’s Rights Center, NGO
Ecolur Information Center, NGO