July 18: Fares for public transportation by bus or minibus are scheduled to increase from 100 to 150 dram. The owners of 48 companies operating privatized transportation routes had filed petitions with the Yerevan municipality to increase the fares, citing high maintenance costs and price increases in liquefied gas imported from Russia, which is used to fuel minibuses. Electric trolley bus routes, favored by senior citizens because of the cheaper fare, will also go up from 50 to 100 dram. The fare hike is the first in well over a decade. The announcement is made by Henrik Navasardyan, head of the Yerevan Municipality’s Department of Transportation.
July 19: Young activists protesting against the slated price increase congregate in front of Yerevan City Hall. Protesters at one point are seen throwing 50-dram coins in the direction of the main entrance, which is heavily guarded by policemen. One coin accidentally lands on the head of Mayoral Advisor Albert Gevorgyan while he is talking to journalists.
July 20: The new fare prices go into effect. Three young activists, Davit Haroutyunyan, Sona Msryan, and Arsen Ohanyan, are detained for passing out flyers that call on commuters to refuse to pay the new fare. At bus stops, protesters tape flyers to the windshields and windows of buses instructing people to continue paying the 100-dram fares. They also hand them out to passengers when buses pull up at bus stops. Announcements are made with bullhorns urging citizens to continue paying the same fare. Activists claim that the new fares are unjustified since the bus routes are owned by government officials or individuals with close ties to the government, and are thus lucrative businesses.
July 22: The citywide protests continue to gain followers. More activists are detained. Celebrities who sympathize with the movement begin offering free rides to people waiting at bus stops. Bus drivers continue to accept the 100-dram fares, some begrudgingly, as reports of quarrels with passengers come online. The social media, specifically Facebook, is being used as a main channel for creating awareness and disseminating information about the situation on the ground.
July 23: Protesters face resistance from riot police, and six more activists are detained. They are released shortly after hundreds of people swarm in front of the police headquarters. Small protests continue at bus stops throughout the city center. Meanwhile, Hetq Online publishes an article claiming that Navasardyan owns a Yerevan bus route, and that one of his sons runs a company that sells advertising space on public transportation vehicles. The news story stirs even more controversy and outrage.
The movement’s name, “I Will Only Pay 100 Dram,” is revealed with the announcement of a rally scheduled at Mashtots Park—a symbolic site of civic protest.
July 24: An innovative carpooling initiative goes online on a new website called freecar.am, where motorists who have spare seating offer their services to people who cannot afford to pay the new fares. (As of July 28, 269 drivers have signed up.)
Karen Andreasyan, an Armenian human rights defender, in a statement putting pressure on Yerevan Mayor Taron Markaryan, says that the price hike is unjustifiable without public debates and a signed order by the mayor instating the new fare. Markaryan himself announces that he signed the order on July 19, only one day before the new fare price went into effect. Per Armenian law, it is illegal to put new directives into force without prior notice.
Purported overtures made by the Heritage and Prosperous Armenia Parties to lend sponsored support to the movement are rejected by its leaders.
July 25: In a move signaling the understanding that the civic movement has no political undertones, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan—during opening remarks of a meeting with his cabinet—hails the initiative, stating that civil society is taking shape and the government must do more to address public concern.
Activists continue their protests unabated. Some are seen in Republic Square distributing flyers printed with articles on public transportation per Armenian law.
Just before 6 p.m., Mayor Markaryan announces that he is temporarily suspending the fare hike, but makes no mention of when prices may increase in the future. Hundreds of activists take to the streets in celebration, marching through Liberty Square and down Mashtots Street, the tricolor in hand.
July 26: Activists continue to congregate en masse in front of Yerevan City Hall, calling for the dismissal of Navasardyan and Misak Hambardzoumyan, the director of Yerevan Trans Ltd., a transportation operator. They are met by a persistent wall of police, but remain peaceful. Activists also demand that commuters obliged to pay the higher fare over the last week be reimbursed.
July 27: A sit-in protest continues in the evening at Yerevan City Hall, where activists strategize to determine the direction the movement will take. A similar gathering is held at Mashtots Park.