YEREVAN (Asbarez/Weekly)—Two dozen protesters with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Youth Organization of Armenia were arrested this week for trying to enter the government building to meet with Armenia’s Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan. Harutyunyan has been denying a meeting with the group, which has been protesting his proposed changes to the country’s education system and demanding his resignation for the past several weeks.
In what started as a peaceful sit-in on Tuesday, protesters were soon approached by police about scheduling procedures with the minister. “We were told that we have to apply and if the minister finds it appropriate, he will meet with us,” said ARF Youth member Argishti Gevorgyan. “However, our chosen method is accepted around the world, and there have been precedents in Armenia. We are still constructive and will organize meetings ourselves.” Frustrated, the protesters broke through the police barricade outside the Education, Science, Culture and Sports Ministry. Video footage from the incident shows police shoving the protesters and dragging them on the pavement. The ARF Youth protesters called the use of force by law enforcement, which had also deployed a convoy of armored vehicles, excessive and illegal.
In a statement released Wednesday, the ARF Bureau also condemned the Armenian police’s use of force. “Such anti-popular attitude and behavior by the authorities in the republic establish an atmosphere of impunity, fear and violence,” read the statement. “Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan must realize that violence generates violence.”
The youth wing of the ARF has been calling for Harutyunyan’s resignation since his proposal to turn Armenian language and history courses from requirements to electives at the university level. “It is the sacred duty of all Armenians to protect the history, language and Christian faith of the Armenian people,” say party leaders. Harutyunyan has since marked the ARF as “undisciplined” and called for a change in the party’s leadership.
[Related: AYF-YOARF Stands in Solidarity with Armenia’s ARF Youth Wing, Calls for Resignation of Education Minister]
All 24 protesters were released by day’s end. The ARF’s Youth Organization has vowed to continue its campaign.