On March 25, Armenia’s speaker of parliament, Hovik Abrahamyan, visited Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian, who has been staging a hunger strike in Yerevan’s Freedom Square since March 15, urging him to stop the strike.
Abrahamyan acknowledged that Armenia had “many problems” and asked Hovannisian to seek change through parliament. Though expressly touched by the gesture, Hovannisian said he would continue his “freedom fast.”
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Party leader Vahan Hovhannisyan and ARF parliamentary bloc member Artsvik Minasyan also visited Hovannisian.
A day earlier, Hovannisian’s supporters erected a tent for him, which he was finally allowed to keep.
On March 22, the ARF criticized both the authorities and the opposition for their treatment of the Heritage leader. Standing before fellow parliamentarians, Vahan Hovhannisyan called on the authorities to allow a tarp to be put over Raffi Hovannisian’s bench. He then criticized the opposition papers for running negative commentaries against Hovannisian.
“What’s the deal? Would Raffi’s umbrella ruin Tamanyan’s architectural composition? Those ridiculous inflatable castles that they have filled the square with—that doesn’t ruin a thing. But suddenly, if you put a tent-like-something on [Hovannisian’s] head, that wouldn’t be acceptable, would it? That the police with all its might must seize and forbid it!” said Hovhannisyan, referring to an incident days earlier when police tore down a tarp being secured over Hovannisian.
Three days earlier, Raffi Hovannisian drafted a list of demands, which included recognition of Arsakh, end to corruption, and power to the people.
Meanwhile, Hovannisian’s wife, Armenuhi, told ArmeniaNow that when she expressed her gratitude to the police for allowing her husband to keep the tent, one officer replied, “He is an honest man, we love him, too.”
Fearing a ‘gypsy camp’
On March 24, hours before the tent was set up, Armenia’s police chief, Alik Sargsyan, said he had received information that the opposition was watching the authorities and the Heritage Party, waiting for the opportune moment to set up tents across the square. That was the reason, he told Slaq.am, that authorities did not permit a tent for Hovannisian.
Sargsyan also said he feared that the area, a historical and cultural monument, would turn into a “cypsy camp.”
“We do not oppose a tarp. We, in fact, allowed it… And let me tell you this, Mr. Hovannisian is very pleased with us. It’s a wonder why those around him are dissatisfied! However, tents are very dangerous. I am very well aware of what goes on inside those tents! We would not allow it!” he was quoted as saying.