YEREVAN (A.W.)—Thousands of concerned citizens have continued their protests on the streets of Yerevan, against the government’s adoption of a 17 percent rise in electricity rates. The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) of Armenia unanimously voted on June 17 to raise energy tariffs in the country, which prompted activists to take to the streets of Yerevan to voice their discontent with the decision.
On the morning of June 23, more than 230 protesters were arrested while several sustained injuries as riot police broke up the overnight demonstration. Despite authorities’ harsh response to the peaceful civic protest, activists continue to occupy parts of Baghramyan Avenue.
Speaking to the Armenian Weekly, chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern United States Hayg Oshagan said that the discontent and civic demonstrations are proof that democracy must reign in Armenia. “Democracies are founded on the principle of popular participation and freedom of expression. We have all worked hard to make Armenia a more democratic nation, and the large civic protests against major energy price hikes were a powerful signal that democratic forces are taking hold in our homeland,” said Oshagan, adding that the actions of authorities on June 23 were unacceptable.
“The security response to this peaceful civic action, is unacceptable, and makes clear that repressive forces remain an obstacle to change. The main streets had been cleared and there was no reason to resort to violence and arrests by the police. Armenia’s government is now responsible to not only hold accountable individual officers for their violent behavior, but to also hold itself accountable for the authoritarian atmosphere that allows such violence to occur,” explained Oshagan.
When speaking about the role of the diaspora, Oshagan said that all Armenians should stand up for democracy and freedom in Armenia. “It is the responsibility of every one of us to reject oppressive policies, political violence, and human rights abuses everywhere, and especially in our homeland. Our communities will redouble efforts to support and lead the forces for democracy and freedom in Armenia, and we stand in solidarity with our compatriots there in their continuing struggle for social justice.”