Armenian News Network / Groong

Review & Outlook - 08/08/2016

Guns of July: Events that Shook the Armenian World to its Core

Armenian News Network / Groong
August 8, 2016

By Grigor Hakobyan


On July 17th, an armed opposition group stormed the Erebuni police
station in Yerevan killing one policeman and wounding several
others. They demanded the resignation of Armenia's President Serj
Sargsyan and liberation of their jailed leader Jirair Sefilian, a
former Artsakh Liberation War veteran and the leader of a small
opposition party called Founding Parliament. Furthermore, they
encouraged the public to organize street demonstrations in support of
their demands and vowed not to lay down their arms until their demands
were fully met.

As thousands of people responded to their call dozens of clashes with
the police have ensued leading to detentions and arrests of hundreds
of demonstrators. As a result of the events that have transpired,
dozens of civilians and policemen were wounded, and taken to hospitals
for treatment. A second policeman was shot and killed by an unknown
sniper toward the end of the standoff. Some protesters under police
custody suffered beatings and acts of humiliation while others were
incarcerated on questionable charges.


The government media was quick to point fingers at the attackers and
blame them for encouraging bloody street clashes between police forces
and demonstrators. However, a closer investigation of the events
preceding the takeover of the police station revealed that the true
causes for the dramatic developments that shook the Armenian world
were found in the political climate of Armenia. Specifically, active
suppression of political dissent through the use of violence and
intimidation and the disastrous performance of the government during
Four Day war in April were among the catalysts for this crisis.

Additionally, lack of real political and economic reforms and the
unwillingness of the ruling government to share political power with
more stakeholders, growing disparity in wealth between haves and have
nots and diminishing economic opportunities for greater numbers of
people forcing them to emigrate were contributing factors for the
turmoil in the weeks that followed.

Constant government propaganda about the necessity to make territorial
concessions or their inability to avoid making territorial concessions
in exchange for attaining peaceful resolution of the Artsakh conflict
through international treaties have furthered frayed the nerves of
nearly every Armenian residing in the country and abroad. Once again,
the ruling government appeared weak in the face of external pressures
and incapable of securing Armenian national interests in its own

The actions of the militant group calling itself Daredevils of Sassoon
were illegal without any doubts. Using illegal means to protest
illegal actions of the ruling government didn't make their actions any
better as other means of effective non-violent protest were available
but not exercised to their fullest. In fact, under such circumstances
both sides began to look alike which explained seeming apprehension
and indifference towards the events shown by the silent majority of
people in Armenia and diaspora. The actions of the group often seemed
incoherent and demands aired to the public at the beginning of the
standoff were often confusing and contradictory.

Merits for bringing the country to the brink of civil war and collapse
of the national statehood were questionable, while actions by the law
enforcement bodies were excessive and often illegal. No jurisdiction
of any modern country allows the policemen to assault unarmed
civilians using brutal force, nor are they allowed to torture
detainees in police custody. The rights of every citizen to public
assembly and free speech and the right to challenge one's
detention/arrest to demand recourse without suffering retaliation is
enshrined in the constitution of every modern state.


The events of July 17th and the two weeks that followed revealed that
political and economic polarization within Armenia has reached a level
of such proportions that the national sovereignty of Armenia has been
greatly damaged and is teetering on the verge of
collapse. Self-destructive processes taking place in Armenia must stop
immediately and cooler heads must make effort to prevail. Every
Armenian must realize that the Armenia that we want to see and be
proud of first and foremost begins from them, each and every one of
them. We must realize that we create and shape our own collective
reality that we cannot escape. To change the reality we live in we
must start thinking differently, avoid acting out of temper and
overcome our emotions with levelheadedness, clarity of mind and
precision of action.


It is self-evident that the challenges facing Armenia cannot be
overcome solely by the witts of the ruling government. A greater
coalition of political parties and organizations must be brought into
the fold and engaged in the decision making process. Diaspora must be
given a real voice in the present affairs of Armenian state and must
not be treated as a cash cow for pet projects enriching the few. Such
changes will entail electing representatives of Armenian diaspora by
diasporan Armenians or organizations that they are part of to be their
voice in the Parliament of the Armenian Republic.

Real and meaningful political and economic reforms must be carried out
in a consistent and robust matter to root out corruption and prevent
accumulation of significant political power and economic wealth in the
hands of the few stakeholders, even if that requires new elections and
formation of a new government. All political prisoners must be freed
and those responsible for crimes must be punished accordingly. Too
many injustices have occurred, thus justice must be restored. The
police forces in Armenia need to be retrained while those unfit for
duty must be brought to account and expelled from the force.

The security of Armenian people cannot be trusted to pieces of paper
and cannot be relegated to backdoor negotiations between a few people
who have lost touch with the mainstream reality of everyday people and
do not represent the majority view of the people they
govern. Simmering tensions and grievances must be immediately
addressed through a greater political discourse that is open to all
layers of society and all voices of the political spectrum. After all,
Armenia belongs to all Armenians around the world and no group or
subgroup has a monopoly over its fate. We need to build Armenia that
all of us can be proud of to call our home, our OJAKHK.

Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in
Phoenix, AZ and a former ANCA Fellow in Washington D.C. He is the
founder of a virtual think tank called Ararat Institute for Near
Eastern Studies. He was also a freelance writer for the Central
Asia-Caucasus Institute of John Hopkins University and has also
interned at the US House of Representatives for the Congressman Brad
Sherman researching ethnic conflicts and terrorism in Russia, Caucasus
and Central Asia regions and preparing summative reports for the
Congressman on subsequent topics.

Grigor also completed an internship at the International Center for
Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies where he
researched international terrorist networks operating in the Caucasus
and Central Asia regions and prepared congressional briefings for the
Director of ICTS on WMDs.

He holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from Arizona State
University and a teaching credential from California State University
Dominguez Hills. Currently he works as a teacher in Arizona.

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