Police arrest hundreds of protesters demanding Pashinyan’s resignation

Police have detained hundreds of protesters during ongoing mass rallies demanding the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and warning against the concession of Artsakh to Azerbaijan. 

Over 10,000 people attended a demonstration at France Square in Yerevan on May 1, launching a week-long series of protests in the capital city and across the country. Sunday’s rally was the culmination of a series of smaller-scale protests organized by the opposition last week. Armenia’s opposition parliamentary factionsthe Armenia Alliance and I Have Honor Alliancelaunched the protests on April 25 to demand Pashinyan’s resignation. 

More than 10,000 protesters gather in France Square (Armenia Alliance, May 1)

Following a rally in France Square on Wednesday, opposition deputies, who have been boycotting parliament, marched to the National Assembly to present their demand for Pashinyan’s resignation. 

“He implements the ‘Karabakh is Azerbaijan’ propaganda and supports lowering the bar on the status of Artsakh, which reflects the Turkish-Azerbaijani perspective of recognizing Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan,” Armenia Alliance MP Armen Rustamyan said, reading from the written demand. 

Opposition deputies chant Armenia Without Nikol in the parliamentary chamber (RA National Assembly, May 4)

The opposition deputies started chanting “Armenia without Nikol” and left the chamber, while Pashinyan and the other members of the Civil Contract Party applauded their exit. 

PM Pashinyan and Civil Contract Party deputies applaud as the opposition deputies exit the parliamentary chamber (RA National Assembly, May 4)

Earlier that day, the National Security Service (NSS) said it had received “reliable information” that the protesters intended to seize the National Assembly during Wednesday’s parliamentary sitting. The NSS warned the organizers and participants of the protests to refrain from taking illegal actions, or else the organizers would bear full responsibility for what would follow. 

National Assembly Vice President and chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council of Armenia Ishkhan Saghatelyan denied that the protesters planned to occupy the parliamentary building or stage any provocations. 

Ishkhan Saghatelyan addresses protesters (Armenia Alliance, May 4)

The opposition movement 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. The opposition says that Pashinyan is prepared to cede Artsakh to Azerbaijan.

“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.” 

Police officers have been criticized by human rights defenders and civil society groups for the violent crackdown on the opposition protests. Police arrested at least 244 protesters on Monday and 169 protesters on Tuesday. 

Head of the State Protection Service Sargis Hovhannisyan attacked two journalists from news website Mediahub.am covering the protests on Monday. A video circulated online shows Hovhannisyan shouting at the reporter, Nare Gnuni, and hitting her microphone, then kicking the cameraman, Arman Gharajian. 

Police arrest a protester (Armenia Alliance, May 4)

Ombudswoman Kristine Grigoryan released a lengthy statement on Monday condemning the unlawful actions by the police officers. Grigoryan’s office, which has been visiting detainees in jail, recorded that the police have been apprehending citizens without presenting any demands and holding them beyond the legal minimum time limit. The Ombudswoman denounced the “use of disproportionate force” by the police against protesters and specifically called Hovhannisyan’s attack on the Mediahub.am reporters “unacceptable and condemnable.” 

President of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan said he deems the actions of the police in response to the demonstrations “proportionate.” 

Protesters clash with police (Armenia Alliance, May 4)

“I thank them for protecting the rights of other citizens and not allowing the various small activities taking place to disturb the rights of other civilians,” he told reporters on May 3. 

He also said that he does not believe the country is facing a domestic political crisis. 

“Those forces that lost the 2021 elections are now trying to promote themselves with the same actors, same phrases, same aggression, without presenting any concrete propositions to the people of Armenia. Yet it is clear that the people have made their decision and are trying to avoid such steps,” he said. 

Journalist Tatul Hakobyan has also criticized the violent crackdown on the protests. “Today’s violence is just as unacceptable as it was in 2016, 2008, 2004, and so on until 1991,” he wrote on Facebook. 

One day ahead of the mass rally on May 1, the NSS of Armenia released a statement warning of a “real danger of mass riots.” It said it would neutralize “any kind of actions destabilizing Armenia’s internal stability.” 

Saghatelyan announced the start of a “large-scale campaign of disobedience” to topple Pashinyan and his administration during his speech at Sunday’s rally. He called on workers to go on strike and students not to attend classes.

“Our struggle will take place by peaceful means, but we will be decisive to the end. The primary threat to the nation is sitting in the government building,” Saghatelyan said. 

Saghatelyan, who has emerged as a protest leader, appealed to the members of parliament representing the Civil Contract Party to use their “last chance to correct their mistake and stand by the people.” He also appealed to the armed forces not to follow the “instructions and illegal decisions of that crazy man.” 

“Nikol does not have a mandate to lead the country to new concessions,” Saghatelyan said. “We need to subject the capitulator to capitulation.”

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.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly. Editorial intern @DAWN_Journal. She/her.
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13 Comments

  1. So Pashinyan used to be the opposition and complained how he would be arrested but now he does the same thing to the opposition? Why not step down? He is destroying Armenia and making it vulnerable to its enemies.

    • Mira, I don’t see people get shot at like the previous regime. It’s okay to protest but if you break the law, you do the time. Seems like our government is growing in some places.

  2. If Pashinian and his government resign ,who do we have that will be able to bring back Armenia on its feet. As of now I don t see anyone in Armenia that is able to lead the country out of the mess they have created. First we shall need patriotic intellectuals who have a 4 year degree and experience in political science ,which have studied in Europe or the USA.Then we need to bring back our patriotic generals and form a stronger army under the commend of our armenian generals with modern equipments and not the junk that Russia sold us.,we need to arrest Kocharian and Serge Sarkisian and send them to jail until they bring back the stolen millons from the country ,and also arrest all the mafia gangs who stole money. Then have a constitution of laws which must be implemented for every body. And we need the diaspora to bring businesses into Armenia.

  3. Who’s THEY?
    Kocharyan or Sargesyan, may have stolen money , but who gives a rats ass, they most certainly kept our motherland safe and secure for over 30 years. On the other hand, Look at this Pashinyan deusch, a blood sucking leach, from hell. No further comment.

  4. Armenia needs a new bridge to the West via Turkey since the new cold war is at play now. Putting all eggs in one basket (Russia) can stall its development. Pashinian’s current foreign policy moves are beneficial for Armenia in the long run. Choices are hard. He is playing a beat-down guy for the sake of Armenia’s future.

  5. Armenians must respect the democratic system created by the people. Armenians have reached their respectable level in the free world in a volatile place like South Caucasus. The Parliamentarian system must remain in Armenia. Law and order should be part of their daily life regardless of who is leading the country.

  6. To reader:
    1. Turkey must be viewed as the second transit route to the West. If Russia doesn’t come to grips soon enough with its failed war with Ukraine and reverses the isolation, Turkey might become the only route for Armenia.

    2. Let’s be honest, despite its high inflation, Turkey has a well-rounded industrialized economy that is deeply tied to the EU. Besides, high inflation has a global spread at the moment due to the Covid aftermath and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

    PS: What alternatives the opposition can offer to the Armenian public except for the King Kong style chest beating and more of Russia?

  7. Inflation is high? Why don’t we start developing the economy? We claim that tourism is going to help us but guess what tourism alone, isn’t going to help us much when the rest of the world has no disposable income.

  8. To reader: For practical purposes, only the Russia/Iran and Turkey/Georgia tandems matter, both in terms of physical border/transit route and political clout/economy. The former is under severe sanctions, the latter more or less integrated with the West.

    Ok. Let’s forget about the latter and choose another 30 years of being with Russia because the Turkish inflation is high and Greece’s is low as if it’s of importance for Armenia, especially considering the way the Russian economy is nose-diving at the moment.

    While at it, let’s put the opposition in power, get into another war and lose it again.

    Just don’t expect the younger generation to stick around with Armenia for too long.

    • @ Naruto, Forget the economy, Armenia is in grave danger of becoming extinct. The current loser implant PM is incompetent and will bring more loss and ruin. His loathing for the Artsakh people will only destroy Armenia itself. Unfortunately hes too stupid to realize that. The people that fought and won the first Artsakh war knew this very well: Lose Artsakh and lose Armenia. Just a matter of time. He needs to be rid immediately. So who then? Anyone else as they cant be this bad. And no, I have absolutely no love for the past traitor thieves and the Armenia screw light Russia that can care less about Armenia and its well being. But lets be honest, Turkey is a genocide perpetrator that squats on Armenian soil and calls itself “Turkey”. The Ag BTW was basically for theft of wealth and property. So how do you reconcile that? How does one trust that? You don’t. Turkey in the last disastrous run war, professed to its total support of Azerbaijan to the determent of Armenia/Artsakh. And they are not about to change. Further, the Zionist world banking system wants Armenia totally gone since they themselves were the CUP and were the actual actors who concocted the AG, which BTW, is the “big secret”. They invested in Caspian oil in 1905 and wanted easier transit routes and therefore, the Armenians had to be removed. Now they want to choke and isolate Iran. So Armenia is in a bad spot. That is what the “west” wants. So real answer is total world wide Armenian unity working as one. An Armenia with a potent army. With real intellectuals, with real world thinkers who utilize the prosperous and influential diaspora. This requires real leadership. One that promotes and welcomes outside business and trade. Not a stupid hack that walks around like a dear in headlights who is a proven loser. For now, Armenia more then anything needs security. Its about to capitulate its rights, the injustice for the Ag and lose more of its historical lands as direct result of the insecurity and loss brought about by the idiot “in charge”. Like it or not, screw light Russia is the only avenue for its security. Turkey is not and will never be Armenia’s friend. Turks have no friends.

  9. To the reader:
    Please tell me how you plan to bypass Turkey to join forces with Greece ? You may not be aware that Greece is one of the most indebted countries in the world as of today with the debt to GDP ratio in excess of 215%. Their inflation being low mainly due to being a EU member

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