YEREVAN — It was a hot Wednesday of demonstrations in front of the Armenian Parliament on September 16 as angry demonstrators from the opposition party Lusavor Hayastan [Bright Armenia] protested against Arayik Harutyunyan, Armenia’s current minister of education, science, culture, and sport.
Waving signs declaring “Education is our Right!,” “Arayik Resign!” and depicting Harutyunyan as an “pandemic for education,” demonstrators protested against what they saw as extreme reforms by the Ministry of Education, which “[threatened to] destroy the national values that represent the national identity of the Armenian people.”
Protestors at the rally did not mince words in denouncing Harutyunyan, with one demonstrator, Vahagn Chakhalyan, declaring that Harutyunyan “belonged in the trash.” Chakhalyan, the head of Kamq, an ultra-conservative activist group which also participated in the rally, was promptly arrested after this statement. Demonstrators allege that personnel in the ministry of education were inexperienced and may be compromised by foreign powers. They accused the Ministry of Education of attempting to institute “anti-Armenian” material into the curriculum. This protest formed yet another link in the chain of Bright Armenia’s opposition to the Ministry of Education’s reforms since 2018.
David Khazhakyan, a member of the Council of Elders of Yerevan representing Bright Armenia spoke at the rally, informing reporters that a resolution calling for Harutyunyan’s resignation had been presented to the National Assembly. He categorized Harutyunyan’s tenure as a “parade of failures” and argued that the Minister of Education would have resigned several times over “if he had been a non-partisan.”
Speaking at a press conference in August, Arayik Harutyunyan categorically denied the allegations made by the opposition, and insisted that claims that his ministry was instituting sex education programs, or historical curricula which erased Armenian historical leaders, were the product of misinformation. Furthermore, Harutyunyan characterized the prospect of his resignation as “not a matter of discussion.” Addressing complaints regarding the Ministry of Education’s policy requiring that all students wear masks in classrooms, Harutyunyan stated “I listened to parents concerns. The ministry is considering these concerns…” As of this report there has been no official response to the latest bout of protests from the Ministry of Education.