Armenian Dream Come True
Citizens in Armenia imagined a free country and took their responsibility to build it, says Haykuhi Harutyunyan, president of Protection of Rights Without Borders, who spoke to BlueLink Stories’ editor Pavel Antonov on May 16, 2018 during the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum General Assembly in Sofia. In April 2018 streets all over Armenia were flooded with people who stood for democracy. Armenian people believed they own their country, Harutyunyuan explained.
What we observed in Armenia during these last four weeks is a historical moment not only for Armenia I guess, but also for other countries and societies that aim to build democracy in the country.
The basic movement of the protests started in Yerevan lead by current prime minister Nikol Pashinyan who was a member of the parliament at that time. He started the movement and people were very much engaged in the protests because it was already ten years that the person who was holding the position of the president in the country, Serzh Sargsyan, aimed to take the position of the prime minister. And basically the whole system was occupied by the ruling Republican Party. They created a lot of economic suffering in the country for the people, injustice, impunity. And people were really dissatisfied by the policy that was implemented for a long time.
And this was a sparkle of civil movement in the country where citizens acted as real citizens and they take responsibility for building a new country. It was very interesting how this wave of civic movement passed around the country, in all regions, in all cities and towns. People started to organize themselves to have their opinions and views presented. And especially it was very important how people very active in demanding the government to leave its position. And the hope for this change was so strong, it really happened. So it was a very good demonstration of public power over the undemocratic regime that already had so long time to make any kind of improvement but failed. And people took this lead to build a new country.
Now by the demand of the public Nikol Pashinyan who was a leader of this public movement is appointed as a prime minister. New government was already formed and appointments of relevant ministers were done by the prime minister. And actually the country seems to be engaged in a new area of democratic developments where citizens feel and take responsibility for having their real commitment for economic and political development of the country. And I think it is very important demonstration also for all other countries and societies where people are dissatisfied by their regimes that actually take a lead of the society. They start and they kind of demand their rights to have more open democratic government and justice system in the country. We hope very much that we will succeed in building further democratic steps for the country and we hope that soon we will become the best example for other countries how democracy works.
Every voice matters
It was not only the civil society but also the words of each citizen in the country that contributed to this change. And it was because of this big failure that we faced for more than twenty years after the independence of the country. So it was this turn on point when every citizen felt responsible for the future of the country, the future of himself and the future of his family and children. They stood up and they took this responsibility. That was this very important point that the civic engagement was the basis for the success of this movement. Because many of these protests organized themselves – in some places were even no leaders to take the lead of the protest or the movement – it really demonstrated that the civic power is the best one kind to struggle against the authoritarian regime.
But it is not the end. We also know from other countries that have experienced such a change that it is only the beginning. You need to provide a continue with a good attitude and intend to go and to build further changes in the country. It is also very important that every citizen feels responsible and then they bring their contribution. Otherwise you will lose this momentum and citizens will start to take back from their position demanding everything from the government.
That was the rule that we lived with during the Soviet period and this is also the movement of youth and students. It started with a lot of supporting students who just stood up and they crossed the road demanding better future for themselves. We need to really engage those students and young people and show them that yes, they have the ownership of all the protests and they are the owners of the country. That was the main slogan of the movement – you are the owner of the country, not the regime but you, and make your contribution to have a better country. And it worked actually.
When the movement started it was not so positive as I described everything now. We had more than one thousand people detained in two weeks and kept in the police stations up to twelve hours without any legal support. Our organization and lots of human rights organizations in the country established a quick response team and were acting very quickly to support all who are detained in police stations. And this was also the best demonstration how corrupt the law enforcement, prosecution and justice systems are.
And now it is very important that we continue with these issues and we prioritize the independence and impartiality of justice, prosecution and law enforcement agencies in the first place. We build the justice system first whenever and whoever has a problem with the corrupt government, it is guaranteed justice will apply and the solutions that are delivered are really impartial.
This is the first thing we need to starts with. But unfortunately the legislation and its implication in a way already organized that it requires a lot of local and international organizations to contribute to change this corrupted system and lack of independence in the justice system.
But we are very focused and we wish that we can apply also this transitional justice period where all people engaged in corruption or violation of human rights, mainly coming from the previous regime, are held accountable and they are punished. So no such things are repeated in the country by the current government or the members of the government. So this is the main and important task for local civil society organizations and we will kind of try to engage our international partners to be successful with this issue.
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This journalistic article was published as a part of the project “Remembering Europe: Civil Society Under Pressure Again”, implemented by the BlueLink Foundation with co-funding from the EU’s Europe for Citizens Programme. No responsibility for the content of this articice could in any way be attributed to the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and the European Commission. All responsibility for the content lies with the BlueLink Foundation.