About 237 people, peaceful protesters and journalists, detained in Armenian capital Yerevan  – The protests continue

On Monday around 5.000 street protesters marched toward the presidential headquarters protesting against rise in electricity price, but they were stopped by wide lines of riot police backed by water cannons in Central Avenue of Yerevan. Protesters then peacefully sat on the road, blocking traffic and ignoring police demands to leave (they got 10 minutes to leave). The reason for demonstration was to get the government to reconsider its decision to increase electricity prices for households by 17-22 %.

Hundreds remained in place overnight till the riot police broke up the protest early Tuesday by using water cannons. Some protesters resisted by throwing rocks at the riot police and they responded by beating protesters with Batons. Civil police agents also participated and assaulted many protesters in order to break it up. Riot police gave protesters 10 minutes to leave and after given ten minutes the police and their companions in civil clothes went in action. People were dragged on the clothes, thrown with insults and blows to the ground. All who filmed, including journalists, was taken and their cameras were destroyed. 237 people were detained. The civilian clothed police was particularly aggressive; they applied violence against the journalists. After dozens of civilians were taken to the police from the prospect Bagranjan, the police, the participants of the sit-ins began to pursue. The violent suppression of protests continued on Freedom Square and everyone who had not managed to flee was detained

Also on Freedom square the deputy police chief, the commander of the police army, Leon ranosjan, abused journalists of Radio Azatutjun wildly. At the same time his subordinates began abusing and bashing the journalists of Radio Azatutjun (Sisak Gabrieljan, Arthur Papjan and cameraman Garik Asibekjan). A video camera of Radio Azatutjun and other equipment (telephone) were destroyed, confiscated the memory card. The cameraman was taken into custody as well as other journalists. Same case with Internet newspaper Netk, the television station Gala and Armnjuz or newspaper Tert.am. In the attack on the journalists, the civil clothed police officers were particularly striking. They have specifically targeted the journalists, destroyed their equipment and confiscated the recordings.

Armenian Health Ministry stated that fifteen people sought medical treatment and seven of them were hospitalized.

The U.S Embassy in Yerevan voiced concern about reports of excessive use of force by police and has urged the government to investigate. Quote – ‘’We are concerned about reports of excessive police use of force to disperse the crowd on the morning of June 23, as well as several reports of abuse while in police custody. In addition, we are troubled by reports that journalists and their equipment were specifically targeted during the operation. It is imperative that the government conduct a full and transparent investigation of reports of the excessive use of force by the police to the full extent of Armenian law.’’

The street protests in Yerevan escalated on Tuesday evening with an estimated 7,000 people joining the new march on the presidential headquarters despite riot police had used water cannons to forcefully disperse demonstrators. Protesters placed trash containers as a form of barricade and number of riot police increased to block the protesters from moving further down the central avenue in Yerevan.

Yerevan’s deputy police chief, Valery Osipyan, informed the crowd that all of the estimated 240 protesters detained early Tuesday had been released.

100 years after Armenian genocide – how is this a way to mourn?

Brutal crackdown of social protests

Armenia, just as big as our state of Brandenburg and have only 3 million inhabitants. On the eastern tip of Europe. It’s surrounded by hostile neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Which both today do not recognize the genocide of the Turks against the Armenians exactly one hundred years ago.

The brutal repression of peaceful demonstrators, however degraded and the own state of this commemorative year.

Armenia is a very poor country, 35 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, suffering from hunger, nearly 60 percent (officially 35) are unemployed. Avrage salary is around 200 euros. Nevertheless, the state is going to raise energy prices. The new prices are probably the highest in the former Soviet Union countries. This means that the poorest pay the most.

The power grid has awarded to the subsidiary of the Russian energy giant Inter RAO Armenian state in 2006. This company has accumulated through mismanagement and embezzlement, hundreds of million euros in debt. Currently Inter RAO buys for example the nuclear power for 7 drams (Armenian currency) per kilowatt, and sells it, for example, 41 Dram and still wants to raise that price by a further 17 Drams. Originally, they have agreed on 7 Dram. Overall, the price of electricity is expected to cost about 55 drams (about 10 euro cents) from August, it is to be increased by about 17 percent. For an average household, the electricity would cost around 25 euros per month. The average heating costs this winter are at 180 euros per month. That is a month for electricity and heating for above 200 euros. By western standards no horrendous sums, on the contrary, it is a big sum for Armenian average income, with only 40 percent (official cell 65) of the population in general has a job.

In recent months, came mismanagement, corruption, embezzlement and involvement of the state to the subsidiary of Inter RAO to the public. The managers have monthly salaries of about or more than 50,000 euros a month. In short, a tiny elite that lives in the greatest luxury in Armenia.

So on this background, it is not surprising when thousands of Armenians go out to protest for months. Yesterday, June 22, there were 5,000 mainly young demonstrators. All the time they had let them grant.

But in the early morning of June 23 at 5:30 clock, state representatives struck the protesters. Special water cannon whirled people like dummies through the yards on air, special forces in civilian clothes destroyed specifically the technical equipment of media representatives, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were brutally thrown to the ground and arrested. Operation against all criminal proceedings, for hooliganism was launched.

However, the very next day it was decided nevertheless, to allow all detainees freely again. The demonstrations continue, now more than ever and they are growing and spreading. In the international, a beginning of an Armenian Maidan is mentioned, but such comparisons in Armenia are rejected by the protesters and media. This is a social and not a political protest.

Yesterday on June 25, the Armenian Prime Minister announced, that the government could no longer withdraw the price increase and promised to support around 2,000 poor families in the amount of 4 euros. This was “prosto smeschno” (“simply ridiculous”), so was the reaction of our Armenian section.

Photos Hetq.am

Bela Schikarijan. Frilans journalist. President of IGFM living in Yerevan. Följer nu protesterna.