Armenia’s opposition mobilizes once again to oust Pashinyan

Opposition protest in Yerevan (Armenia Alliance, April 27)

The opposition factions in Armenia have launched a series of protests this week in preparation for a mass rally to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Vice President of the National Assembly and chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council of Armenia Ishkhan Saghatelyan announced on April 22 that nationwide protests would take place every day starting on April 25. 

“We are facing not only new concessions from the homeland, but also the real danger of losing statehood. These are not just words. This is the bitter reality,” Saghatelyan said in a video address. 

The movement, which is calling itself “Zartnir, Lao” in reference to the Armenian revolutionary folk song, emerged in response to a controversial speech delivered by Pashinyan at the Armenian National Assembly on April 13. Pashinyan received widespread criticism from political figures and civic activists from Armenia and Artsakh for his call to “lower the bar” regarding the status of Artsakh in negotiations on a peace deal with Azerbaijan.

“Zartnir, lao” banner at opposition rally in Yerevan (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, April 26)

“Today, the international community again tells us to lower the bar a bit regarding the question of the status of Artsakh, and you will ensure a great international consolidation around Armenia and Artsakh,” Pashinyan said during his address. “Status in the current situation is not a goal, but rather a means to guarantee the security and rights of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh.” 

Supporters of the Armenia Alliance and I Have Honor Alliance, the two parliamentary opposition groups, have held demonstrations in Yerevan and nearby towns for the past three consecutive days. 

On April 25, demonstrators marched through Yerevan, chanting “Armenia Without Nikol” and “Armenia Without Turks.” The police detained 11 protesters at the Civil Contract Party headquarters, according to I Have Honor MP Tigran Abrahamyan. 

It is already clear that Pashinyan has instructed the police, particularly the infamous structure of red berets, to prevent any protest action by the strictest means,” Abrahamyan wrote on Facebook. 

Another small group of protesters marched from Pashinyan’s hometown of Ijevan to Yerevan to join the rally. 

The following day, a group of ARF youth were detained by the police during a demonstration in Yerevan. 

The staff of the office of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia has visited 24 protesters from the opposition movement detained at various police stations. The detainees told the Human Rights Defender’s office that the police had used excessive force against them and arrested them without providing justification. 

More than 100 relatives of deceased soldiers from the 2020 Artsakh War also held a rally in Yerevan on April 26. They demanded that Pashinyan be prosecuted for the mass murder of the fallen soldiers.  

The rally responded to Pashinyan’s confession during his April 13 address to parliament that he could have prevented the 2020 Artsakh War. 

“It is my fault that in 2018, 2019 I did not stand in front of our society and did not voice that all, I repeat, all our friends, close and not so close friends, expect us to surrender the seven famous regions to Azerbaijan in one way or another and bring down our benchmark for the status of Artsakh,” Pashinyan said during his speech.

By surrendering, I might have saved thousands of lives, but by not surrendering, I actually became the author of decisions that resulted in thousands of victims,” Pashinyan continued. 

During the April 26 rally, the protesters placed t-shirts with bloody handprints on the steps of the government building then marched to the Prosecutor General’s Office to call for an investigation against Pashinyan. 

Relatives of deceased soldiers place t-shirts with bloody handprints on the steps of the government building (Tigran Abrahamyan, April 26)

Prosecutor General Artur Davtyan spoke with the families and said that Pashinyan’s statement alone is not sufficient to accuse him of murder.

“If we had ceded parts of our homeland without a fight, should there also have been an indictment by the same logic?” Davtyan said to the protesters. 

Nonetheless the families submitted two formal requests to the Prosecutor General’s Office to include Pashinyan as a defendant and the fallen soldiers as victims in an ongoing case investigating the causes of the “catastrophic war.” 

During a separate opposition rally on April 26, Armenia Alliance MP Gegham Manukyan announced that he would continue the march to the Prosecutor General’s Office in support of the families of deceased soldiers.

That same day, a 28-year-old pregnant woman died after she was hit by a police car that was accompanying Pashinyan’s motorcade at the Leo-Paronyan intersection of Yerevan. Armenia’s Investigative Committee has filed charges against the officer. 

Yerevan-based democracy activist Daniel Ioannisyan criticized what he described as the ongoing reckless driving demonstrated by Pashinyan’s police escorts. 

“Traffic police escorts have long been driving with unprecedented obscenity,” he wrote on Facebook. “All the policemen who have endangered people’s lives for these cases remain unpunished.”

During a rally hosted by the ARF on April 27, Armenia Alliance MP Kristine Vardanyan said that the spilled blood of the pregnant woman is their blood. 

The demonstrators poured red paint in front of the government building and “bloodied” their hands as a sign of the government’s “thirst for blood,” while chanting “Nikol, murderer” and “Nikol, murderer of Armenians.” 

Eighteen more protesters were detained during demonstrations that day, 11 of them at Republic Square and seven at Tumanyan St. 

Pashinyan has insisted in response to criticism of his April 13 speech that his government does not plan to surrender Artsakh.

“If we were to surrender Artsakh, we would not have spent tens of billions of drams to ensure the return of Artsakh residents to their homes after the 44-day war,” he said during an April 22 cabinet meeting. “Our strategy in the short, medium and long terms is as follows: to ensure a situation or solution whereby the people of Artsakh will continue to live in Artsakh.”

He did not specify what kind of status of Artsakh would be acceptable to the Armenian government. 

Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan has said that no document on the status of Artsakh is being discussed at this stage. Following a meeting with Pashinyan, Harutyunyan said that the two leaders have a clear agreement that “in case of any discussion on the future status of Artsakh at the international level, the position of the Armenian side must be agreed upon with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic authorities and people.” 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

13 Comments

  1. The sad truth is prior, during and following the war, all that the opposition wanted and wants is to take over the power. Even during the war when we needed a united front the opposition disagreed and showed discord,joined Putin/Russia, Turkey Azerbaijan and others and helped our archenemy win.
    Yes Pashinyan made mistakes and is making mistakes, but that is partly the result of disunity. When he more than ever needed the support of the opposition they turned their backs, therefore without their support and approval he could not have surrendered the 7 regions and avoid the war.
    Unfortunately this has been our downfall throughtout our history and we haven’t learned or learn even from our mistakes. Now in spite of the current terrible situation, and as mentioned in the article, at the possibility of losing our inedependance we continue to fight among ourselves.
    Khrimian Hairig has said. “Whatever kind of meat you want to eat, eat. But don’t eat each others meat”. And Vasgen Sarkisyan had said
    “Gentlemen fight for land not for seats/chairs so as you may have room to put your chairs. (My abbrevated translations) But who is listening?

    • Totally disagree Bedros. In fact I remember at the start of the war all political factions put aside their differences and were united. Pashinyan is not capable of governing Armenia into a secure prosperous nation. Hes a hack. He disbanded the seasoned Army generals one by one and installed incompetent people just like him. The war effort was a disaster. Not sure how you blame the opposition and claim they joined Putin, Turkey and Azerbaijan? Its Pashinyan that capitulated. Not the opposition. Its Pashinyan that claimed those lands weren’t Armenian’s anyway while Azerbaijan was parading Armenian captured soldiers. Its Pashinyan who agreed to release convicted Azeri murders.. While Azerbaijan was encroaching on Armenia proper he stays quiet yet goes after the opposition who call him out. Its Pashinyan that didn’t mobilize the army. Its Pashinyan that today doesn’t even go to Artsakh as a request from Azerbaijan. HE is a traitor pretender. His idea all along was to lose those 7 districts in a scheme that he believed would be proper for Armenia’s future. He is clueless and present and clear danger to the Armenian nation and cant even secure its safety anymore. What happened to the most potent army in the Caucus? The opposition ruined it? NO Pashinyan ruined it. He needs to be rid and yes pay for the deaths of 4500 Armenian youth killed by his gross treasonous actions. Lower the bar because the international community says so? Don’t blame the patriotic opposition. Blame the useless traitor PM.

    • I agree with your comment.Unfortunatley the opposition leadrs continue to use the tragedy of 44 days war for their personal glory, instead of showing with concrete actions (example financing Armenian military with bilions gained during the period of their governance) instead of trial to convince people that the only responsable of actual situation is Nicol.

    • Pashinyan hasn’t made any mistakes. He’s done exactly what his NGO masters put him in power to do: give away Artsakh and Armenia’s sovereignty.

      Clearly you haven’t taken your own advice about learning from mistakes.

  2. This article and the comments cause pain as I see Armenians fighting each other because they cannot deal with their difficult circumstances. It is useful at times like these to step back and look at the big picture and get serious about Armenian issues and how to overcome them:

    – Armenia is a post soviet state with a legacy of kleptocracy. There are several consequences of this – poorly run economy, inferior military equipment and armed forces(see Russian army performance in Ukraine), no incentive to excel except by emigration
    – It has few natural resources (one of the consequences of 1915 genocide) and is surrounded on both sides by enemies who want Armenians to disappear. This has resulted in about one million people leaving the country since independence
    – An immature political culture that has not allowed national consensus to be developed around fundamental issues – national security, Artsakh, relation with Russia, how to grow the economy, how to develop a meritocracy that gives individuals incentive to succeed in Armenia, and how to engage the diaspora with Armenia
    – Poor diplomacy especially in the handling of the Karabakh issue. Those who accused President Ter Petrossian of being a “traitor” in 1998, should now be wondering if he was right after all. Those who advocated no compromise in 1998 should have focused on building a very strong military capable of withstanding a NATO type force. The defeat of 2020 did not happen just because of President Pashinian. It was caused by the kleptocracy and hubris of the past 25 years.I am not aware of the opposition seriously addressing these points. Just calling for Pashinian’s resignation is not going to solve the Artsakh problem.
    – A western diaspora which has been rudderless in the past 40 years. Since 1980 there was a significant movement of Armenians from the Middle East to Europe and USA. Since 1989 they were joined by about 1 million Armenians from Armenia. Armenians have not figured how to live in nominally Christian countries with liberal western values, as an ARMENIAN community. A consequence of this is massive assimilation. Individuals and families are succeeding on a personal level but communities are failing. This in turn has consequences for the long term viability of Armenia.

    I think that there is an urgent need for serious thinkers to put forward proposals on how to address these fundamental issues. It will require hard work to revive Armenia and the diaspora. Shouting slogans, accusing this or that person of being a traitor does not help move forward the Armenian cause. As president Roosvelt said in 1900 “ Speak softly and carry a big stick”

    • “Those who accused President Ter Petrossian of being a “traitor” in 1998…”

      Are you seriously lending credence to Armenia’s greatest traitor??

      Please stop visiting asinine Russian propaganda sites like “arevordi”, all of its silly “Lenin Papik Was The Best” theories are now running through the gutter.

      The reason why all Armenians are currently suffering is due to Russian policy.

      Not Azeri. Not Turkish. Not EU. Not NATO. With the correct Russian attitude towards Armenia, all of these would be irrelevant. Except here we are. Our fake “ally” is singularly responsible why we are in the state that we are in.

      “Those who advocated no compromise in 1998 should have focused on building a very strong military capable of withstanding a NATO type force.”

      Based on WHAT INCOME SOURCES, given the THIEF MENTALITY and ANTI-PATRIOTISM that the Soviet Union taught for 70 years and the thirty years since of continuously ripping off the diaspora up to an including the 2020 so-called “war”? We already know that Russia is a decrepit back-stabbing so-called “ally” who abuses Armenia to the point of making little poor Armenia pay for a Russian base to defend RUSSIAN INTERESTS, and also dances with Turks and throws Armenians into the river. This cannot be denied, history has already been recorded. Russia is NOT the answer to Armenia’s problems, but the cause of it.

      Russia showed what a traitor it was to Armenia in 2020, what is happening now in Ukraine, where Russians and Ukrainians (cousins) are killing each other, must be the curse of the 4000 innocent dead Armenians who were trying to defend their ancestral lands.

      You like “American sayings”? Here is one for you: shoot first, ask questions later. If Armenia is not willing to cleanse itself from its traitors, given that it is in a state of existential emergency, then it deserves its fate. And the ignorant people of Armenia think that they have all the time in the world, where a disturbing amount voted for a traitorous loser a second time. You know what this means? It means a sizeable chunk of Armenia’s population is a low-quality band of uneducated and ignorant fools. Good luck to Armenia, it will need lots of it.

  3. I do not know what is Pashinian’s ability to run Armenia and manage a war,one problem is his incapacity to speak good english. Y saw him debate President Aliyev, who speaks fluent English and made his case while while Pashininian was helpless to respond with conviction. he may be a nice guy, but unable to express himself in an international language that is essential for a leader in conducting foreign policy.

    • First of all, Pashinyan should never use the English language in official meetings to express his political views and thoughts about anything that has to do with his nation because he has no real and professional knowledge of the language to speak clearly and effectively. He has no command of the English language and therefore when he speaks in that language all his thoughts and expressions become distorted. That is what professional translators are for. He should always and only speak in Armenian because only then you can clearly understand what he says but even then unfortunately his words are empty and hollow without any substance whatsoever. That’s why our traditional enemies are the first to speak out in support of him when they see his hold on power is in danger because they have found in him an unpatriotic and incompetent stooge they can exploit to the fullest.

      Pashinyan’s real problem is that he lacks any sense of patriotism and he is an incompetent leader who should never have been elected to run a country, let alone a country in a constant state of war for the last thirty years. He has been a failure since day one and for the last four years. Some of the things he has said are treasonous pure and simple. You could not even remotely expect someone off the street say some of the things he has said publically but to hear a so-called former journalist, who is supposed to have knowledge and depth, to say the things he says is beyond comprehension and contempt.

      That SOB Aliyev does not speak English fluently at all. He speaks broken and repetitively stale English and it is all for a show for spineless westerners just like his fake suit and tie are to falsely and cunningly portray himself as one of them when in reality he is a racist thug underneath that facade and a TRUE coward. If you are a TRUE patriot you will always be on top of things and will defend the interests of your nation regardless. Pashinyan is not and that is the real problem. A real Armenian patriot would have demolished that SOB thug Aliyev in front of the entire world by exposing his lies and racist character instead of acting like an idiot with his incoherent responses to that KGB MAFIA scoundrel!

  4. At Kojian,
    Abraham Lincoln, once said,” Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”.

  5. Thanks Lilian, Another good article from you.
    Iran’s ambassador once again reaffirmed Iran’s support for Armenia’s integrity, sovereignty and “inviolable borders”. Mr Badakhshan received direct instruction from the highest level of government “Supreme leader” to reaffirm Iran’s support. Minister for economy was sent by the Second highest level of government “President” to demonstrate full support of Iran for Armenia at all costs. Forces are mobilized within 20 Miles from Armenia’s southern border. They were given permission and instructed to act instantaneously upon any provocation and cross the border, till reaching Armenia’s Northern Borders as / if required. Considering current level of support from North and from Iran, no one can coerce Armenia to accept any one-sided treaty. To Armenians and Armenia’s government, Iran is alert and ready to unconditionally support Armenia. Armenia’s strength, sovereignty, and integrity are Iran’s strength, sovereignty, and integrity.

  6. No nation can claim territory that it cannot militarily defend by itself. Armenia can’t defend the republic, let alone Artsakh, without Russian soldiers. What planet are nationalists living on? Do you want a repeat of 1915 and lose everything due to maximalist goals of Armenia from sea to sea? We must work with what we have not what we wish to have. We cannot defend Artsakh against Azeris, Turks and ISIS mercenaries. 2020 proved that.

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