Tag Archives: revolution

Raffi’s ‘BAREVolution’

Raffi Hovannisian

On February 28 Raffi Hovannisian is expected to reveal his plan of action for his “fight for freedom” to his supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Opponents to the government, which comprise the vast majority of the Armenian population, are eager to learn just how he intends to topple the ruling regime lead by President Serge Sargsyan, who was reelected president on February 18 despite strong objections from the opposition. Sargsyan has received congratulatory messages from Russia, the European Union and the United States despite the contested vote.

Using actual polling results and reports of blatant fraud at numerous voting stations Hovannisian claimed himself to be the real winner, having won in Gyumri, Vanadzor, other major towns and parts of Yerevan. And he has vowed to achieve victory for the Armenian people by peacefully toppling the ruling regime in his so-called “BAREVolution,” which has spread throughout society as evident by the protests by students at Yerevan State University.

But kindness can only get you so far.  Sargsyan categorically rejected Hovannisian’s requests for new elections and snap parliamentary elections when they met on February 21. In the meantime, Hovannisian has been touring the country in hopes of garnering wide support for his movement to eventually dethrone the president. The problem is, the Republican party is not about to yield power because he is asking nicely. Despite the voiced assurance by Republican party leader Galust Sahakian on Tuesday that the authorities want to have a strong opposition and are unfazed by the protests, they ultimately won’t relieve themselves of the positions of power without putting up a fight, and that is exactly what will be needed for the opposition to take the reigns for leading the nation.

An inevitable clash will mean more persecutions, indiscriminate incarcerations and potential loss of life, perhaps more severe than what transpired in March of 2008. Hovannisian and those closest to him would be blamed for inciting turmoil and likely be imprisoned. So would some of his new allies, like the radical prominent member of the Armenian National Congress Nikol Pashinyan, who was released from prison in a general amnesty in 2011, and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, whose leaders could wind up in the slammer and face new or existing charges–it’s important to remember that the defendants of the “Trial of 31” were simply released from custody and not acquitted.

Backing down now will undermine all of their reputations ever more so, and public apathy will only widen in scope.  In short, Hovannisian and this newly forming opposition bloc has no choice but to persevere or else be forever demonized. They cannot afford to lose the respect of the public that secretly or outspokenly demands change.

How far are they really willing to take this revolution? Are they all quite prepared to serve jail time in this fight for freedom? What would be the public’s reaction to a new crackdown on civil liberties? Clarifications will be made on Thursday afternoon for an eager crowd of supporters expecting perseverance and a committal to the promise of victory. Let’s hope they are not disappointed.

Photos by Anush Khachatryan

No Revolution… Yet

Armenian opposition protests near the Opera, March 17
Armenian opposition protests near the Opera, March 17

I just returned from the vicinity of Yerevan’s Opera House where protesters who had been attending a rally given by Levon Ter-Petrossian’s Armenian National Congress up the street at the Matenadaran had congregated.

The protesters were able to enter Liberty Square after the Congress’s leaders negotiated with the police. There were policemen in riot gear shields in hand around the perimeter of the Opera park.

Everything there is peaceful. What had the potential of being ugly did not get out of hand. Having said that, there are still zero signs of revolution in the air. All the stores in the area were open for business, people were window shopping, walking their dogs, eating shawerma sandwiches. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. True, some protesters blocked off the portion of Tumanyan Street that spans alongside the Opera area, but that caused at the most 15-20 minutes of inconvenience.

According to RFE/RL, two political prisoners were released today. But I can’t help but wonder what difference that will make. If that has become the sole expectation from these rallies, it’s not enough to bring about change, the nature of which still has yet to be defined by whoever wants it. I really don’t understand who they are. I am not convinced that even the people who attended the rally, typically numbering at the most 10,000, if that, necessarily want any kind of deviation from the status quo. I couldn’t sense it from the people roaming along the sidewalks and certainly not from the middle-aged men standing around smoking and eating sunflower seeds in Liberty Square.

Can this be the ‘revolution’ people have been buzzing about lately?

Armenian opposition protests near the Opera, March 17
Armenian opposition protests near the Opera, March 17

Do Armenians Want a ‘Revolution?’

The Armenian Weekly just published an opinion piece that I wrote in which I discuss whether “revolution” is bound to happen in Armenia, given the opposition’s alleged encouragement by the events unravelling now in Libya and Egypt not too long ago. Here’s some excerpts:

A convincing, compassionate leader is needed in the opposition camp, a person who would be able to negotiate with the oligarchs from the start of a “revolution” to ensure that a somewhat smooth transition can be effective without much obvious turbulence. The oligarchic structure in place is deep-rooted in the economy, with certain families enjoying monopolistic control of staple foodstuffs or basic consumer goods; any abrupt rupture could feasibly cause the entire Armenian economy to collapse within a day.

Nevertheless, for change in the form of “revolution” to happen, it will mean massive upheaval as an indignant public attempts to transform an institution known to be undemocratic, corrupt, and unjust into one that satisfies their interests of proper government. As we’re seeing in North Africa now, change will also bring about violence, death, and more importantly, wild uncertainty. And no one who is living a relatively decent life today, especially those comprising the nouveau riche of Armenian society, is willing to take such a gamble—to risk their own lives and those of their loved ones without promises of a better future.

You can read the entire article here.

What do you think? Please leave comments here or on the Weekly’s site (or even better, on both sites).