April 16, 2018 | So what?
It’s a peaceful, quiet Sunday, 5:30 pm. I’m downtown, near Cascade, almost finishing a photo shoot for a friend’s gallery. I’m impatient to join Pashinyan’s daily rally. I get a call from my friend Anush, pack my camera and walk to the France square to meet her. What I see is about 100 people, several tents and a stage-like construction. Somehow I feel very proud to be there. The song “My Step” is playing around all the time. It’s a bit cold. Everyone is calm and relaxed. Disappointed by the number of people and the calmness of the protestants, I decide to walk down Mashtots street to meet Anush, hoping that by 6 pm more people will join. We greet each other and walk back the France Square. Now there are around 200 people. But who makes a revolution with 200 people? We both are very indifferent. We try to act as caring citizens but actually we do not understand what is the aim of the protest. The rally starts. We find a comfortable place and stand next to two old women. Some old guy takes the microphone and starts talking about Armenian stones, how profitable could those be and how bad is our government. We are listening to a boring, and pathetic speech very much like those in Soviet Union. The old women curse the government after every second word. They are funny though and seem to be more excited than all the young protesters out there. It is getting colder. Pashinyan has not spoken yet. We become nervous. It’s time to go home.
I barely find a marshrutka to get home. After a huge disappointment, I blame Pashinyan for blocking the streets and justify myself for leaving the rally, “At least you came, Arpine, you should not feel guilty anymore.”
But I keep asking this question, “ Dear Mr.Pashinyan, you have blocked the Freedom square, and you have been protesting for several days, so what? ” An hour later, he calls for massive civil disobedience starting the next day, April 17.
April 17, 2018 | Let’s do it
9 am, morning, I’m still on my bed. My hand automatically goes to my phone, I barely open eyes and my Facebook feed is filled with information about protests. The headlines say “Students have started mass protests, the streets are blocked..”
The whole city is shut down. All the streets that lead to the city center are blocked. I decide to join the students, and there is only one way to get into the Yerevan State University. I run to the bus stop, catch a marshrutka and drive to the upper part of the Cascade. As always, the marshrutka is packed. I turn on Azatutyun live and try to catch up with the events. The driver also turns on the radio. The whole marshrutka discusses the student protest. It seems like people are against it.
“These poor kids do not understand that they cannot change anything,” an old lady says, “it’s useless, this government will never change.” I want to argue, but I shout myself: it’s not the right time. Anush calls me. She is there. Hundreds of students are there.I get out of the marshrutka but immediately stop. God, Ararat is so beautiful. Even our mount wants us to fight for a better country. I decide to capture it.
Anush informs me that thousands of students are near the Yerevan State University. She’s very excited. While I run down the Cascade stairs, I try to catch up with live stream. 10 minutes later I’m there, with students. It’s hard to believe there are so many of us. I hug Anush tightly. I look at her eyes and say, “I’m starting a journey with you, and I’ll be with you till the very end.” She smiles. We start marching and calling people to join us. There is no such thing as an AUA student, Yerevan State University Student, or Conservatory Student. There is independence generation fighting for a better country. Independence generation wants to be independent. Hour by hour more students join. We do not stop marching. Women look from their balconies and cry. They seem to be very proud.
Hours later, we join Nikol Pashinyan. He leads us to the National Assembly. The Baghramyan street is blocked. The riot police are on the other side. And then there is an explosion…I see how grenades fall on people. My heart beats faster. Some of my friends start panicking. The second grenade exploits. Seconds later we see wounded people and blood. Ambulance sirens do not stop. I’m scared. Anush starts crying: she’s emotionally devastated. I don’t know what to do. Some of EVN report staff is right there, near the barricades. My parents keep calling me. There is chaos around. I do not feel anything. I somehow get home. I am psychologically devastated. My aunt calls me and starts blaming for being a protestor. I can hardly speak. My tears flow down my face. I start shouting at her. I cannot stop crying. I feel so detached from her. She is not my role model anymore. She does not believe in youth.
April 18-21 | I believe
My days start early. I don’t go to classes because I protest, and help EVN report to spread the English-language news. I don’t eat and sleep properly. There’s a massive rally at 7. Pashinyan speaks, and then thousands march through the city. And then we go home. This has become a daily routine. So many things happen at the same time. My friends and my professors are next to me. I doubt that Serzh Sargsyan will resign. But I believe in our generation. I believe Nikol Pashinyan and his vision. My country is facing a significant change, and I am proud to be a part of it. Emotions overflow me. Words cannot describe what I feel.
April 22, 2018 | Fear
It’s a rainy day. Nikol Pashinyan has been arrested. People do not stop protesting. It’s around 2 pm. I call Anush. We both cry on the two sides of the phone. We want to believe that everything will be fine, but we cannot. Our Roubina from EVN is wounded. I feel hatred towards our government. I do not want to live in this country…I cannot think, I cannot eat, I cannot drink. This chaos does not end.
There’s a big rally without Nikol. I walk down Komitas street. People have blocked the streets. A guy shouts, “ This is our people’s protests, and not Nikol’s, we will not stop protesting.” He gives me hope. It’s almost 7 pm. We don’t know what to think. Mr. Garbis joins us. There are thousands and thousands of people coming from different parts of the city. It’s unbelievable yet chaotic without Nikol. We don’t know what’s going on. I’m terrified. What’s next?
April 22, a rally without Nikol Pashinyan
April 23, 2018 | Welcome to the world, New Armenia
Finally, I decide to go to class. The streets city are blocked, and the only way to get to the university is to walk. I take my camera, and photograph people in the crossroads. Everyone seems to be strong beside the fact that Pashinyan and his supporters are arrested. I sit in the back, my phone on my desk, my eyes following the live stream. Regular rallies. Streets are shut down; people are protesting. Nikol Pashinyan is still arrested. No significant news. We are somehow very indifferent. AUA is very quiet. We go eat at the cafeteria, I look at my phone and shout, “Guys, Pashinyan is free.” Anush and I forget everything and run down AUA stairs. We look at police standing behind the barricades and shout, “Pashinyan is free, people, Pashinyan is free…” We do not feel ashamed. The policemen start packing their weapons. We smile. They smile back. We wave. They wave back. “Dears, it’s the end, Sargsyan has resigned, believe me,” a young policeman says. It’s hard to believe. There are not official news. But we smile. And they smile. We decide to walk down Demirdjian street: Pashinyan has promised to greet people at the Republic Square. Dozens of buses with police drive down that street. They all smile. There are no barricades anymore. From time to time Anush shouts, “Pashinyan is free, Pashinyan is free.” People look at us and smile.
We see our friends on our way. It seems that there are little invisible drops of joy in the air that make everyone smile. We proudly walk to the republic square. People hug the police. I cannot hide my tears. I take out my camera and try to freeze the moment. Everybody keeps talking about Sargsyan’s resignation, but there is not an official announcement. The Internet is not working. We decide to walk to Mashtots park. On our way, the taxi drivers look at us and say, “Serzh Sargsyan has resigned, it’s official, երեխեք ջան.” But still, we do not want to believe. We reach Mashtots park, the internet starts working properly, and we eventually see the official announcement on Facebook. Serzh Sargsyan has resigned, Serzh Sargsyan has resigned, Serzh Sargsyan has resigned. I keep repeating it as it’s hard to believe. The world freezes at that moment. I cannot stop smiling. I want to stop the time. And we run. We run to be with people; we run to hug everyone on the street, we run to celebrate our victory. We run to say, “Welcome to the world, New Armenia.”
April 23 :They finally smile
April 15, 2018 | The beginning
Tired after the play rehearsal, me and Anush were enjoying the spring sun and a soft breeze at Mashtots park. We have not talked for months. Something was wrong, and that was the day to understand what was going on in our friendship finally. We were supposed to have a long and tense conversation. And we finally had it. But April 15 was never exceptional for that conversation.
It was that crucial day when we decided to join Nikol Pashinyan and his supporters on French Square. It was the beginning of a journey full of love, hatred, fear, joy, disappointment and everlasting hope. It was the beginning of a journey full of doubts. It was the day we realized our importance as citizens. It was the day we felt responsible for our country and our future. It was the day we decided to stood up for our rights and fight for our parent’s stolen youth. It was the day we decided to spare no effort for a better Armenia…It was the day we believed.
*All photos were taken by me.